Pop Sugar Challenge Wrap Up 2019

In 2019 I also participated in the Pop Sugar Challenge. I missed out on completing this by one, mainly because time just ran out and I never got to it. Below is my list of categories that I completed. I am thinking of trying a different one this year, as I feel the categories are getting too specific and I may struggle to find books to fit some of them, if not many, and whilst it is meant to help expand my reading, I’d be too worried about finding something to enjoy the process. So all of these have been read, and many reviewed in 2019.

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – 20th Anniversary House Editions
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
  13. A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title: Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
  17. A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors: The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins, While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Split edited by Lee Kofman – recommended by Myf Warhurst
  29. A book with LOVE in the title: With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story)
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl, Explorer’s Academy: Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
  36. A ghost story: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game: Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale: The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth – based on Chinese fairy tale, The Blue Rose

2017 – A steampunk book: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book: Choose Your Own Adventure #2: Journey Under the Sea by R.A. Montgomery
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season), The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green (parts are set during Autumn), While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus (Winter), The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel (Winter)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights – Open Sesame
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas

the-nutcracker.jpegTitle: The Nutcracker (Barnes & Noble Leather-bound Pocket Editions)

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Barnes and Noble Inc/Fall River Press

Published: 1st September 2018

Format: Leather bound

Pages: 152

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Discover the real story behind the Disney holiday film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and the famous Nutcracker Christmas ballet, as told by Alexandre Dumas

‘How could you imagine, silly child, that this toy, which is made of cloth and wood, could possibly be alive?’

The nutcracker doll that mysterious Godfather Drosselmeyer gives to little Marie for Christmas is no ordinary toy. On Christmas Eve, as the clocks strike midnight, Marie watches as the Nutcracker and her entire cabinet of playthings come to life and boldly do battle against the evil Mouse King and his armies.
But this is only the start of the tale.

Read on for enchantment and transformation; enter a world by turns fantastical and sinister, a kingdom of dolls and spun-sugar palaces, and learn the true history of the brave little Nutcracker.

~*~

The Nutcracker is one of those stories that is inexplicably linked to Christmas, whether it is the E.T.A Hoffman version, Tchaikovsky’s ballet, one of the many movie adaptations, including the upcoming Disney film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and finally, the version being reviewed here, by Alexandre Dumas, who also wrote The Three Musketeers. Marie, or Mary as she is referred to in this version, is given a nutcracker doll for Christmas by Godfather Drosselmeyer, but unlike her doll, Clara, is magical, and when the clocks strike midnight on Christmas Eve, Marie watches the Nutcracker and her dolls come to life, battle the evil Mouse King, and take Marie/Mary on a journey through a world of magical dolls, and sugar-spun palaces, and many more realms that show the fantastical and sinister world that the Nutcracker is truly a part of.

The Nutcracker is one of those stories – whether in the written form, a movie or as the ballet – that is quintessentially linked with Christmas, much like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and the associations with a world of magic and toys often sung about in a myriad of Christmas songs, and is one of those stories that sets the mood for Christmas perfectly and nicely. Originally published in 1847 as The History of a Nutcracker, this new edition introduces people to the Nutcracker anew as they go in a journey with Mary/Marie (depending on which translation and author you read) through the world that the Nutcracker, the toys and the Mouse King inhabit – a magical world of wonder and joy, where Mary/Marie is destined to help the Nutcracker bring order back to the world and kingdoms she enters in her dreams.

For a long time, I only knew of the Nutcracker as a ballet by Tchaikovsky, and have the score, or at least, the main piece of music, somewhere. I also knew about it from a movie I once saw, so when I found it as a novel, I knew I had to read it, and I was not disappointed. It really sets the mood for Christmas and is entertaining – though Mary is admonished for staying up after midnight on Christmas Eve, it is the magic of the world Mary/Marie enters, and that the reader enters too. Reading this book has really put me in the mood for Christmas and the new Nutcracker movie coming out later this month, just in time for Christmas.

I’m getting ready to do some Christmas reading of other books and the usual movies, but read this one early so I could see the movie after reading it. I look forward to seeing the movie and reading this book again soon.

Booktopia

A.A. Milne’s Birthday – Winnie-the-Pooh Day

Today marks A.A. Milne’s birthday. One hundred and thirty-four years ago, on the 18th of January 1882, Alan Alexander Milne was born in London. He attended Trinity College at Cambridge University before writing for Punch, and serving in World War One. A pacifist at heart, Milne served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, followed by the Royal Corps Signals, and was discharged in 1919. A.A. Milne is most famous for the Winnie-the-Pooh novels and poetry books, written during the 1920s, after his son, Christopher Robin was born in 1920, seven years after marrying his wife, Daphne.

Of all of Milne’s works, the most famous are the Winnie-the-Pooh books, written between 1924 and 1928, and were written for his son, and were published in the following order:

When We Very Young (1924)

very young

Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)

IMG_0565

Now We Are Six (1927)

now we are 6.jpg

The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

winnie the pooh

Anniversary editions:

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus (2009)

return 100 acre

The Best Bear in the World (2016) 

best bear

Of these, the novels, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner are the most well-known, though all are still in print today, over ninety years after publication, with The House at Pooh Corner turning ninety this year. Milne based the adventures of Pooh and his characters on his own son and his son’s toys, and the books were illustrated by E.H. Shepherd, and even today, are the benchmark in my opinion, for Pooh illustrations.

Milne’s birthday, the 18th of January, is also known as Winnie the Pooh Day. It is a wonderful day to relive the magic of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends.

Though Milne wrote other pieces of work during his career for Punch and a detective novel, The Red House Mystery (1922), and worked on stage play adaptations for The Wind in the Willows, he will always be best known for Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the gang, and the 100 Acre Wood and the adventures of his son, Christopher Robin.

Further Reading on A.A. Milne:

HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY (As Owl might say Happy Birthday)

A.A. Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite

Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Ann Thwaite

 

Booktopia

Book Bingo 2018

At the start of this year, I had decided to undertake the annual Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge. As I will read some books that will work for both, this shouldn’t be a massive undertaking, apart from a few categories that won’t coincide with the #AWW2018.

AWW-2018-badge-rose


Whilst perusing some of my favourite blogs today, I came across a Book Bingo, that Theresa Smith Writes and Mrs B’s Book Reviews are taking part in. I decided to give this a go, deciding that I would be more casual, and try to fill as many squares as I could. Rather than actively seek out all the squares, I am aiming to see where books for the other challenges fit into them to make it easier for me. I do have some books that won’t fit the #AWW2018 but might fit this and the other challenge I can do.

As today is launch day, there is no review for today. I aim to have one up on the 20th though, possibly scheduled. Keep an eye out for it and a note about which square it has filled.

To try and keep involved with Theresa and Mrs B, I will aim to complete a bingo review on the first and third Saturday of the month, whichever square happens to be have been filled at that time, and that will be the review I post.

I will be aiming to complete this over the course of the year, however, if I miss a few squares I won’t worry, though filling them all would be a very cool achievement. As part of this year’s reading journey, being able to use books across a few challenges will help me complete as many reviews and as many categories as possible.

If I double up with Theresa and Mrs B, that will be entirely coincidental, but also rather fun and interesting to see how we manage to fill the squares, and as some categories are open, what we choose to read for these ones.

My focus is of course, the #AWW2018 challenge, but this is just a bit of added fun.

Here is the bingo below, and ping-backs to Theresa and Mrs B are in the second paragraph.

book bingo 2018.jpg

If you want to join me, as a blogger, ping back this and the other posts, and share your reviews!

Booktopia

Christmas Reads

Christmas Reads

There are many things that I enjoy about Christmas – decorating the tree and house, buying and making new decorations each year, counting the Santa collection and watching it grow year to year, and watching favourite Christmas movies such as Love, Actually, Home Alone, The Santa Clause movies, and The Holiday each year. Amongst these traditions there is another that I have started – reading Christmas stories.

There are many Christmas stories for all ages, and across all genres, though for adults, I have mostly seen romance novels, and as these don’t always take my fancy, I have delved into the wonderful world of Children’s and Young Adult Christmas stories, short stories and the classics.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

christmas carol

Every year, I either read or watch – sometimes both – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have three movie versions, and attempt to watch them all. Published in 1843, it has been touted as Dickens’ most popular story, and perhaps the most well-known story. The mere mention of the title evokes images of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jacob Marley. The book opens with the line: “Marley was dead: to begin with.” And from this opening line, we are invited into nineteenth century England during Christmas, to witness a man who goes around grunting “humbug” at those who wish to give Christmas greetings, and whose greed leads to the ghost of Marley warning him, and being taken on a journey by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to implore Scrooge to change his ways and keep Christmas in his heart all year around. A classic that has been reimagined many times, still with the same base story, A Christmas Carol is said to have reinvented Christmas, something explored in the book by Les Standiford, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Some links about Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol:

 

https://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/

 

http://time.com/4597964/history-charles-dickens-christmas-carol/

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

 father christmas beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett is a new purchase this year for me, and the first of Pratchett’s books I have read – with some others on my pile to read at a later stage. It caught my eye in the bookstore window, and it has been published posthumously – Pratchett passed away in March 2015, and many of these stories were published under different titles or without titles. As I am still reading it, I have decided to leave my full review until I have completed it but so far, I am enjoying it. Full of all the Christmas themes we know and love but with a unique twist, I am looking forward to the remaining stories and tracking down a copy of Hogfather after Christmas. These short stories are funny, and full of imagination and intrigue that make Christmas fun. I admit to having been savouring these stories a little to try and finish over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – and as this, and A Christmas Carol, and Murder on Christmas Eve are my main Christmas books so far, I have had to stretch them out – but it has been enjoyable to do so.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

 hogfather1.jpg

This is one that I am hoping to buy in the next few weeks, and read as soon as I can for the first time. It has been recommended to me by good friends, and I have searched for it instore, as my preference is to support my local business. Pratchett’s website describes it as including every secular Christmas tradition but with a few twists. As this is one I am yet to read, I have included the synopsis and look forward to reading it when I find it.

“Susan had never hung up a stocking. She’d never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t believe in such things. They didn’t need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn’t.

There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…”

From reading this synopsis from Pratchett’s website, I am looking forward to reading this!

Crime: Murder on Christmas Eve – edited by Cecily Gayford

 murder on xmas eve

In this collection of some of the world’s most well-known crime authors, previously reviewed here, have had stories published or written new stories for this collection, set at Christmas across the decades, interrogating the human mind and what could drive someone to commit crimes at Christmas. A slightly different, darker and grittier take on Christmas stories, it is still fun and enjoyable to read. Much like the previous books, the theme of Christmas is in each story, and is more obvious in some, but nonetheless, each story encapsulates the good and the bad that Christmas can bring out in people.

 

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

 

Another classic Christmas story about the true meaning of Christmas beyond the food, and decorations and traditions we participate in is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. It tells the story of the lonely Grinch living above Whoville, disgusted at the cheeriness of the Whos. The premise and reasoning of this is speculated about – that his head may not have been screwed on just right, or that his shoes were too tight. The narrator’s most compelling reason though, is that his heart was two sizes too small. Aimed at children, it uses rhyming and fantastical creatures who celebrate Christmas to teach children the lessons that Scrooge learnt in A Christmas Carol. It also has many film versions, and each draws upon the basics of the story, with some expanding on some aspects of it, but keeping in Seuss’s style.

 

Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me

These three books by Matt Haig, released in recent years, were written for his children, who wanted Christmas stories and had asked questions about what Santa had been like as a boy, a girl who wakes up on the first Christmas ever, and must save Christmas, and the latest one about the adopted child of Santa.

boy who saved christmasA Boy Called Christmas

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.

It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

girl who saved christmas

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is my second children’s Christmas book. It’s the sequel to A Boy Called Christmas and tells the story of Father Christmas’s quest to find Amelia, the first child to wake up on the first ever Christmas morning, and stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .the only person who can bring back the magic of Christmas.

father christmas & meFather Christmas and Me

It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas.

For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs everyday – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests. Also it can get very, very cold.

But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .

A series that should be good, I am looking forward to getting these to add to my Christmas reading.

Other Christmassy stories

 

Of course, there are many other stories that have Christmas within them. The Christmas holidays play a pivotal part in the Harry Potter series, and in Nevermoor, where it is a month-long celebration, where in chapter seventeen, Saint Nicholas and The Yule Queen “battle” on Christmas Eve – for the fun of the citizens and Morrigan, based on a legend about Christmas in Nevermoor. There are many other examples, such as Little Women, where the opening scene is Christmas. Each story that includes Christmas as part of the plot illustrates the cultural impact of the holiday on literature today.

I look forward to reading the books mentioned that I have not read and reviewing them here, in a special Christmas category.

Merry Christmas and have a great holiday season!

Booktopia