Book Bingo Six 2020 Themes of Crime and Justice

Book Bingo 2020 clean

Welcome to the June edition of Book Bingo with Theresa Smith Writes and Mrs B’S Book Reviews. This time around, I am checking off Themes of Crime and Justice with the tenth book in the Rowland Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill, A Testament of Character.

Book bingo 2020

Rowly and his friends take a detour on their way home from China and find themselves in America looking into the death of an old friend of Rowly’s. As the story progresses, Rowly and his friends fall deeper into a mystery of deaths, and who killed Daniel, as well as who Otis Norcross is, and where he is. In terms of justice, it has more to it than just solving the crime. The justice system that gives certain people preferential treatment or deems certain proclivities criminal – and how Rowly and his friends help those they are working with deal with these issues in 1930s America. These issues are not always overt, but they are bubbling there and hinting at what is to come and why things are the way they are.

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I’m finding this book bingo a bit easier. It means that there is the chance that all books will be read, reviewed and scheduled long before December, which is a bonus in trying to get through it all easily.

 

Books and Bites Bingo Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted something for this book bingo – I have been reading but many of the books I have been reading haven’t managed to fit into many of the squares at the moment, and finally, I found one. I thought I was going to have a few other options for this, but I think they’re coming later in the year, and I thought I had better update this challenge.

Some future books could possibly check off multiple categories and boxes in this challenge, and I may have to make a decision about how I will tackle books like that when I come to them.

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For this post, I am marking off the square Has ‘the girl’ in the title. I chose new release, The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn, published by Pantera Press on the 31st of March 2020. Books with ‘the girl’ in the title appear across genres, and styles, and there seems to have been a trend in these sorts of titles over the last few years. Though maybe we have passed the peak, as I feel like this is the first, I have seen in at least twelve months as a new release.

This was an interesting book – at first glance, perhaps not what I would usually pick up off the shelf, yet it has an intriguing plot that is relevant to the Me Too movement and imbalance of power and the way some people abuse their power and responsibility.

The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

TGSW_3DTitle: The Girl She Was

Author: Rebecca Freeborn

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published:  31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 392

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: ‘She’d long ago stopped wondering whether anyone would find out what she’d done. It was in the past, and Layla didn’t dwell on the past.’

At the cafe in the small town of Glasswater Bay where she works after school, seventeen-year-old Layla enters into a volatile relationship with her married boss.

Twenty years later, she receives a message from her former boss’s wife.

As Layla relives the events from her youth that have shaped her present, her past starts to infiltrate her life in a way she can no longer ignore.

She’s run from her town, her friends and the memory of what she’s done. Now she must face them all.

~*~

At thirty-seven, Layla feels she finally has her life under control. She’s married, has kids and a good job – she has come a long way from her final year in Glasswater Bay and the affair with her boss at the café – and the events that led to her family fleeing the town shortly after she graduated high school. She has spent the past twenty years running from that, until a message from someone in Glasswater Bay appears – I know what you did­ – and Layla’s memories begin to resurface.

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As she grapples with what happened, and with facing the people she left behind, Layla finds who she can really trust, and starts to face not only what she did but also what happened to her, and how she and everyone around her, everyone who was affected by it, feels.

In another novel – my third this month at least – that pings back and forth between present and past, this one uses a different tactic to tell Layla’s story. Each chapter is clearly labelled then and now – to delineate where we are in Layla’s story, and the ‘then’ chapters are told in first person, in Layla’s perspective of what happens, and the ‘now’ chapters in third person, but also through Layla’s eyes. Because it is told in this way, the reader gains a good understanding of who Layla is, who she was and why, how and what led her to each of these stages. It deals with some pretty heavy stuff, which comes out much later in the novel, and is a topic that might upset some readers, so just a heads up if you are sensitive or can find it difficult to digest stories centered around possible abuse and power imbalances. The novel also celebrates female empowerment and friendship, new and old, that form as a result of something – or someone – pulling people together over unexpected experiences and circumstances.

This is a powerful book that hints at issues surrounding the #MeToo movement as referenced in the author’s note at the end and assures the reader that speaking out can help – and trusting in the people who love you can help. It also deals with the issue of not being sure what to do, and what happens when people question themselves. Layla shows that it is okay to be scared and reluctant, and also shows what it can feel like when finally admitting what has happened, and how doing this can start healing wounds and repairing relationships.

 

A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

ATOC_3DTitle: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 3rd March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: In fear for his life, American millionaire Daniel Cartwright changes his will, appointing his old friend Rowland Sinclair as his executor.

Soon murder proves that fear well founded.

When Rowland receives word of Cartwright’s death, he sets out immediately for Boston, Massachusetts, to bury his friend and honour his last wishes. He is met with the outrage and anguish of Cartwright’s family, who have been spurned in favour of a man they claim does not exist.

Artists and gangsters, movie stars and tycoons all gather to the fray as elite society closes in to protect its own, and family secrets haunt the living. Rowland Sinclair must confront a world in which insanity is relative, greed is understood, and love is dictated; where the only people he can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a passionate sculptress.

~*~

Rowland Sinclair is back with his companions – Milt, the Jewish, Communist poet, Clyde Watson Jones, the painter, and Edna Higgins, the beautiful sculptress who adores the three men she travels with. At this point, Rowly and his friends have been travelling for several months outside the British Empire – in China and America so far, and has previously spent time in Germany – about a year before this story. Along the way, Rowly has met many historical characters and seen what the encroaching Fascist forces are doing in Europe. The rise of the Nazis is bubbling near the surface of this book, even though Nazi Germany feels far away, there is no doubt that the ongoing political tensions impact how this story occurs.

Rowland is on his way back to Australia – summoned home by brother Wilfred, when he finds himself in America and discovers an old friend, Daniel Cartwright has been murdered, and Rowly is the executor of Daniel’s will. Instead of Nazis or ruthless political parties, Rowly and his friends find themselves confronted by Irish and Italian gangs in Boston and New York, and they encounter the 1930s racism when they head into the Carolinas in pursuit of someone known as Otis Norcross.

AWW2020As with the previous nine books, historical and cultural figures of the time such as F. Scott Fitzgerald are woven into the narrative, and the Australians are met with various ideas in America that are foreign and bewildering to them – such as the detective who seems to confuse Australia and Austria which gave me a little chuckle. Rowly is as ever a gentleman – ready to defend his friends and help those in need even at great risk to his own life. America seems safer in some ways after Germany and China, yet as always, there are people who wish harm upon Rowly and his companions and will do whatever they can to gain the upper hand, even though at the end of the day, Rowly will overcome these threats.

This book is a turning point in several ways – and it is mainly in the second half that most of the shocks come out – but in this way, they work very well with the storyline and show, as the other nine books have done, what kind of people Rowly, Ed, Milt and Clyde are – and what they are willing to sacrifice to help people who need their help. Their actions and words link back delightfully to the title, A Testament of Character, and prove what kind of people they are. There are many other ways the title makes sense – but I will let you read that to find out what it is!

Overall, I think it fits nicely in the series, and Sulari has delivered a spectacular story again. High stakes in many ways, but also, at times, sedate enough to allow the heroes to breathe. Yet it does not meander, and nor does it shy away from the realities of the 1930s and impending war. As readers in 2020, we know what is coming. Hitler gaining further power in Germany. More anti-Jewish Laws. The abdication of Edward the VIII, which led to the current Royal Line we have today. Kristallnacht, World War Two and The Final Solution. All are to come, and with that knowledge, it makes me wonder what Rowly will do in the coming books and years – how he will cope with it, what he will do, and what the growing political unrest will do to his family and friends. This is a part of history that seems to be repeating itself today – and books like this are a stark and much needed reminder not to turn away, and Sulari is doing this exceptionally well, and her research gives such great authenticity to the period, and I love the inclusion of the newpaper articles of the times.

Ten Years of Rowland Sinclair

Ten years ago, a small publisher, Pantera Press, and as yet unknown author, Sulari Gentill, came together with the publication of the first in a mystery series set in the 1930s, The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, about a gentleman artist from a wealthy family who always seems to find himself embroiled in the investigation of crimes and other political games, caught between two extremes during the Great Depression, and leading into what will become World War Two. The adventures of this dapper detective began in 2010 with A Few Right Thinking Men and this year, the tenth outing, A Testament of Character is published on the third of March. Happy tenth birthday, Rowly, and welcome to double figures! And may we present to you this diamond encrusted tie pin, and this aluminium paint brush holder to protect your paintbrushes on lengthy journeys.

Congratulations Sulari and Rowly on ten books, here’s to many more in the series over the coming years.

To celebrate this anniversary, this post will combine all my reviews and posts so far about the Rowly books, and I will add in my review for book ten when it is released. Rowly has also featured in several monthly and yearly roundups, and challenge roundups, but I have captured the most important posts about Rowly here.

Book Reviews:

A Few Right Thinking Men
A Decline in Prophets
Miles Off Course
Paving the New Road
Gentlemen Formerly Dressed
A Murder Unmentioned
Give the Devil His Due
A Dangerous Language
All the Tears in China
A Testament of Character

Five Years of Rowland Sinclair

January 2020 Round-Up

Best Books of 2010-2019 (entry as a series)

The first nine can be purchased individually from the publisher or all good booksellers. Alternatively, all nine are offered in this pack from the publisher:

The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries
Sulari Gentill
The Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series
Book 1: A Few Right Thinking Men
Book 2: A Decline in Prophets
Book 3: Miles Off Course
Book 4: Paving the New Road
Book 5: Gentlemen Formerly Dressed
Book 6: A Murder Unmentioned
Book 7: Give the Devil his Due
Book 8: A Dangerous Language
Book 9: All the Tears in China
The Award-Winning Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series by Sulari Gentill is a charming historical crime series, set in the 1930s in Australia and overseas. Each novel can be read as a stand-alone story, or as part of the series.
Rowland, the youngest of the respectable and influential Sinclair family, has a talent for scandal. His family consider him the black sheep, because he is an artist and associates with the ‘riff raff’ of society – Milton, Clyde and of course Edna, the beautiful bohemian sculptress (and his love interest).
These four companions continue to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time – playing amateur detectives while stumbling across murder and mayhem, all set to the glamourous and darkening backdrop of the 1930s.

2019 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Completed,

2019 Badge

At the start of the year, I pledged to read fifteen books across the year, and ended up reading one hundred, and reviewing about ninety-seven of those – as some were read for my job as a quiz writer and I didn’t get a chance to review them all.

Of the one hundred, it is hard to choose a favourite, however one highlight was meeting the author of the Ella and Olivia books, and the Puppy Diaries books, Yvette Poshoglian, and getting to read and review a book I edited earlier this year. I read quite broadly, in various genres, as well as kids, young adult and adult books.

I completed the Matilda Saga this year – and hope to reread the entire series back to back soon. It was a journey of one hundred years of the people of Gibber’s Creek, and has to be one of the most well written and well-researched series I’ve ever read. Below is my list, and linked reviews.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed

  1. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  2. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  3. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  4. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne– Reviewed
  6. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed/Revisited post
  7. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  8. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  9. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  10. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  11. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  12. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  13. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer– Reviewed
  14. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor– Reviewed
  15. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte– Reviewed
  16. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  17. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  18. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  19. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  20. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career Began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  21. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  22. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  23. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton– Reviewed, Interview
  24. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  25. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  26. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip– Reviewed
  29. Life Before by Carmel Reilly– Reviewed
  30. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green – Reviewed
  31. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley – Reviewed
  32. The Lost Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  33. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss– Reviewed
  34. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  35. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin – Reviewed
  36. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee – Reviewed
  37. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda– Reviewed
  38. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  39. Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  40. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers– Reviewed
  41. Eco Warriors: Microbat Mayhem by Candice Lemon-Scott – Work book, not reviewed.
  42. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer – Reviewed
  43. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  44. Fled by Meg Keneally – Reviewed
  45. The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8)– Reviewed
  46. The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins– Reviewed
  47. Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #6)– Reviewed
  48. Deltora Quest: The Maze of the Beast by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  49. Deltora Quest: The Valley of the Lost by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  50. Deltora Quest: Return to Del by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  51. Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  52. Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – Reviewed
  53. Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail– Reviewed
  54. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey– Reviewed
  55. Firewatcher #1: Brimstone by Kelly Gardiner – Reviewed
  56. The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades– Reviewed
  57. The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus– Reviewed
  58. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  59. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  60. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  61. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  62. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  63. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson– Reviewed
  64. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  65. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed
  66. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  67. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan– Reviewed
  69. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett– Reviewed
  70. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – Reviewed
  71. Whisper by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  72. The Glimme by Emily Rodda-Reviewed
  73. The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch – Reviewed
  74. Weapon by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  75. Total Quack Up Again by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  76. The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  77. With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story) – Reviewed
  78. The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  79. Christmas Lilies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  80. The Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  81. The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  82. Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  83. Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  84. The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  85. The Drowned Kingdom (Impossible Quest #4) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  86. Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  87. Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  88. Ella and Olivia: Reef Explorers by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  89. Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  90. Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  91. Gom’s Gold by S.L. Mills– Reviewed
  92. Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  93. Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  94. Mermaid Holidays #4: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  95. Ask Hercules Quick by Ursula Dubosarsky – quiz book, not reviewed
  96. Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest: Shadowlands #2) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  97. The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  98. Deltora Quest Shadowlands Omnibus by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  99. Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell – Reviewed

Next year, I am aiming to read twenty-five – and will post my official sign up post soon.

Best books of 2010 to 2019

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In compiling this list, I had to go back to all my reading log lists – which I began in about 2006, and to date have over 1300 on my combined list. But in doing this, I discovered it was quite difficult to narrow things down to just a handful of ten or fifteen like Theresa did. In fact, there was one series that had one book a year from 2010 to 2019 that could have made up my entire list – but instead, it has comprised one entry as a series.

So, in no particular order:

The Matilda Saga (2010 – 2019)

The Matilda Saga began with A Waltz for Matilda in 2010 and ended this year with the ninth and final book, Clancy of the Overflow. It tells history from a different side – the voices often silenced based on race, gender, class or a combination of these, and other factors such as disability, and other experiences that are not always recorded in the history books. From 1894 to the 1980s, the series spans nearly one hundred years of changes in Australian society – from cars to Federation, to war and the social movements of the sixties and seventies. This is a series well-deserving of a place on this list.

Miss Lily series (2017-2019)

Miss Lily begins just before the outbreak of World War One and has taken us so far to the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression that would lead into Nazi Germany and another war that would see millions killed in concentration camps, and on the battlefield. With book four due out in 2020, this is a series I am watching keenly to see where it takes us and our beloved Sophie. The Miss Lily series also has three e-books set at Christmas, one of which I am yet to read.

Medoran Chronicles (2014-2019)

This has a place as a whole series because this is the series that got my blogging journey started seriously – when the publisher was looking for reviewers for the first book, Akarnae. I said I would, and from there, the blog grew, as did my love for the series, reviewing each subsequent book for Pantera Press over the years until the final one earlier this year, Vardaesia. From wonder to heartbreak, and everything in between, this series has it all, and the way certain aspects are executed are exceptional and done in a way that is heart-warming, heartbreaking, and very, very fitting for the characters.

Rowland Sinclair Mysteries (2010 – 2019)

Ahh, Rowly. I was introduced to Rowland Sinclair by the NSW Writer’s Centre when they were seeking reviewers with book two, and since then, have read the entire series and sent the reviews to Pantera Press. I am looking forward to reading more of these books as they come out. Poor Rowly has been through many beatings and been caught up in investigating many murders, attacks and with politics that are quite the opposite to his brother, Wilfred. Accompanied by sculptress, Edna, fellow artist, Clyde, and communist Jewish poet, Milton, Rowly travels the world and Australia during the turbulent 1930s as Europe hurtles towards yet another war, twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars.

Kensy and Max (2018-2019)

I have read all four available Kensy and Max books, and love them all. They’re fun, and engaging, and filled with danger, wonder, intrigue and friends. As spy kids, Kensy and Max – twins – are training with fellow students at Pharos, whilst trying to keep the kids who aren’t spies at school from discovering what they are up to, and travelling across the world on various missions. From London to Sydney, Rome and Paris, it seems trouble will always find Kensy and Max – but they will always manage to find a way out of it and get back to their family.

2010

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Now by Morris Gleitzman

2011

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

2012

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

2013

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

2014

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The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

2015

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

2016

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

2017

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Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

2018

Pippas Island 2

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

488 Rules

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

Again, many of these are Australian authors, some with multiple entries but their books just stayed with me and wouldn’t let me rest, for a variety of reasons. Of course, some appeared on my list for this year – as the books for the year, but these are the ones that made deep impacts on me, and the ones I can actually remember being published in these years – some I wanted to include I wasn’t sure but I loved them anyway and may need to write something about other books I have enjoyed at some point when things calm down. As for the ones with entries in both – these were ones that had such impact, it was difficult to choose which book from the series to include.

So rather than one per year, I probably now have closer to up to five for each year, and many are fairly heavy in what they deal with, but some are lighter, and filled with humour. It was very hard to decide – I wanted to include everything possible! Okay, 2016 has two entries – but for very different reasons. Upon reading the reviews you will see why. So there you have it. The books that made the biggest impressions on me for many, many reasons over the past ten years. Some authors get multiple mentions – because they wrote books that had many impacts on me and they created worlds I never want to leave, and worlds I will have to revisit.

 

Best Books of….2019

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

As the year comes to a close, many in the book blogging and reviewing community, and the book community in general – radio shows, podcasts, authors – have been posting and recording about this. And let me tell you, it is hard, and often, so many good ones are left off, and to me, ranking them is just mean because how can you rank books? Especially all those ones that stayed with you.

I had hoped 2019 might be easier to start with – not only do I have the list with me now, but for 2010-2019 I need to go back into other lists and hope I have those records. Or at least be able to work out what books I read that were published between those dates. 2019 seems to be the easiest place to start – as I have that list easily at hand for now. Out of 196 read so far, I found fourteen I loved – and the majority are by Australian women. Of course, these are in no particular order of favouritism, simply the order I read them throughout the year as that was easier to copy across.

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Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

the french photographer

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

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Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

women to the front

 Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee

the blue rose

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

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While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

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Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

there was still love

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

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Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

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The Glimme by Emily Rodda

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Weapon by Lynette Noni

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Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

The Lily in the Snow

The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French

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Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

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All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

Even though we still have two weeks left in December, I’m trying to get as many of these posts ready as possible – with my full wrap up posts appearing at the very end of the month or early in the new year, as well as the start of all my reading challenges in 2020 as well.

Choosing best of lists is always hard – there are often so many good books, but this year I went with the ones that stood out for me. Some that did were published earlier than 2019 and will possibly make it onto the 2010-2019 list – which of course, is bound to be longer and have entire series on there as I simply cannot choose only one from each year. It feels like a betrayal to a whole series to do that!

So there you are – for once I was able to choose fourteen favourites!

 

Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Updated-CTL-2018.pngTitle: Crossing the Lines

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Literary Fiction, Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Winner of the Ned Kelly Best Crime Fiction Award 2018

When Madeleine d’Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who’d never lower himself to read the story in which he stars, amuses her.

When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d’Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled.

As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other’s story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

This is a story about two people trying to hold onto each other beyond reality.

“…a pure delight, a swift yet psychologically complex read, cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed.” – Dean Koontz

“A tour de force!…a brilliant blend of mystery, gut-wrenching psychological suspense and literary storytelling… a shining (and refreshing) example of meta-fiction at its best – witty and wry, stylish and a joy to read.” – Jeffery Deaver

~*~

What happens when author and character write about each other, each thinking that the other is their own creation? Sulari Gentill explores this in Crossing the Lines, as Madeleine d’Leon contemplates writing something so different to what she usually writes, the limb she goes out on with Ned McGinnity begins to bleed into her life – and Ned begins to write about her. Leaving behind her much-loved and sought-after private detective, Madeleine delves into the world of Ned McGinnity, a serious novelist writing about Madeleine the crime novelist, who writes quirky, whimsical mysteries.

Yet as Ned and Madeleine write about each other – a crime novelist writing about a serious novelist, and a serious novelist writing about a crime novelist – the lines between reality and fiction, writer and character begin to blur, and their worlds begin to meld. Madeleine seems to fall into Ned’s world more than him into hers, but there is a feeling of connection beyond creation between the two – where the author becomes the character and the character becomes the author, and two worlds begin to collide.

2019 BadgeSulari Gentill has stepped away from Rowland Sinclair here – yet as she also as the Young Adult Hero Trilogy, it is interesting and fun to see the different things she can do with her characters and how they each remain faithful to their own books and works. Here, she has cleverly explored the relationship between character and author, and the act of writing and where it can take the author – sometimes to places that the author least expects, as happens to Madeleine in this book.

Filled with the complexities of the relationship of character and writing, this book has a feeling of meta-fiction to it – where the author character is writing about her character, and vice versa. It can be a confusing concept to try and understand, it is in essence, a piece of work of fiction, where the author uses parody, or departs from the traditional conventions of the novel. In this case, using the fictional author’s character to tell story as well as the fictional author, in an attempt to look at the various ways genre can be explored and how authors respond to genre.

This was a fun read – a few people Sulari knows make cameos, adding to the metafiction feeling, and showing that there are many ways to tell a good story, and many ways to write a story. It is an intriguing read for all, and one that I managed to read in one sitting, and now I must wait for my next taste of Sulari’s work with the tenth Rowland Sinclair next year.

Blog Tour Part Two: Interview with Author, Lynette Noni

 Hi Lynette, and welcome back to the Book Muse! Last time I interviewed you, I think Akarnae had just come out and it was my very first interview as a book reviewer, so this is very exciting to have you back.

 

 

The Whisper duology is quite a departure from the Medoran Chronicles – what inspired you to venture into a different genre and plot?

 

I wrote Whisper when I was waiting on edits for the second book in my Medoran series. I had itchy fingers, so to speak, and I was desperate to be writing something, but I knew it made little sense to start drafting the third Medoran book without first knowing what might change in the second. Instead, I began to dabble with something new. At first, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was doing, but the voice of the main character really spoke to me (ironic, really, given that she doesn’t speak at all for the first half of the book!). All it took was the prologue — a page and a half — for me to be ensnared by “Jane Doe”, and filled with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she locked up underground in a secret government facility? Why did she consider herself a monster? And so the questions went, until I was desperate to unravel her mystery. So the simple answer to your question is that I was curious, and I needed answers.

 

 

Both Whisper and Weapon are filled with secrets – which drive the plots and ultimately, give Alyssa her drive to discover the truth after she starts to Speak. How hard is it when writing like this to hold things back until they need to be revealed?

 

In Whisper, it was quite easy, since I had no idea what those secrets were and was only uncovering them as I went along, so I held nothing back as I wrote. In Weapon, however, I knew that the plot was going to twist and turn in such ways that I needed to sit down and map it all out so that I didn’t end up with one huge mess. Seeing everything laid out visually (I use a whiteboard with different coloured markers) helped me pinpoint the moments when things needed to be revealed to the greatest effect, so it was quite “easy” (relatively speaking) to make sure things happened in the right timing.

 

 

With so many characters lying, I never knew who to trust – was this your aim for readers as well as Alyssa, and what drove this aspect of the novels?

Interestingly, it’s actually very rare that any of the characters lie outright. I’m very careful about this in my books since I have massive trust issues in real life and don’t like people who lie, so I get a bit nose-wrinkly about characters who do the same. Instead, I make it so they misdirect the truth, answering something honestly but incompletely, making the main character — in this case, Alyssa — jump to the wrong conclusions. There is a lot of this misdirection in Weapon, and you’re right that as those revelations come out, it becomes hard for Alyssa (and readers) to know who to trust. That was my intention, so I feel as if my work here is done!

 

 

It’s so exciting to read books set somewhere I’ve been like Sydney – I recognised all the sites you mentioned and loved her jaunt to Taronga Zoo which I guessed was a Vivid trip in May or June. Does Sydney have the potential for so many hidden sites like you created, do you think?

 

I think that with a little bit of imagination, any city has the potential for hidden sites. I decided on Sydney because it’s somewhat familiar to me, but also because it has iconic landmarks that people from across the globe would recognise. And for the super passionate readers, I wanted people to be able to walk the paths my characters travelled, should they so choose to go on that kind of adventure.

 

 

Going on from the last question, I can now never see Sydney the same – I’ll always be imagining hidden entrances or facilities underground. What kind of research into Sydney and its hidden histories or sites did you do, and what are some really good resources to explore?

 

I do a lot of author events in Sydney, and my publishers are based there, so I visit a number of times each year. When I do, I make sure to get out and about and see things, which in turn mean I learn things. A few specific examples:

  1. I’m friends with Australian fantasy author, Traci Harding, and when I mentioned to her that I was writing a book that has a few scenes at Taronga Zoo, she said she knew one of the senior zookeepers there. So the next time I visited Sydney, Traci met up with me and her zookeeper friend, who took us behind the scenes at the zoo and shared all kinds of interesting things. Many of those things didn’t end up in the books, but they still helped lay a map in my mind of what I later stretched creatively into fiction.
  1. While on a visit to Sydney for the Supanova convention, the guest services manager (a Sydney local) took me on a night-time tour of the harbour area, and as we were walking through The Rocks, she explained the history (and the origin of the name), which led me to research further into it, with much of that information ending up in Weapon.
  1. I met up with some Canadian friends in Sydney for a short holiday, and we did a heap of touristy things, including heading out to Quarantine Station for a ghost tour. For the sake of being careful with spoilers, all I’ll say is that a lot of that Q-Station experience (and history) worked its way into Weapon.

So basically, when I see, do, or hear things that inspire me, I go back home and do deeper research into them, but also use a lot of creative license to turn them into fictional settings/ideas.

 

When researching, what is the first thing you do – read, plan or another tactic to begin the journey?

 

Oops, I think I jumped the gun on this question and answered previously!

 

 

Both books deal with the power of words – is this an important message for you, about using your voice, and what drove it?

 

Absolutely. Words are incredibly powerful, and the can make or break a person — or the world. An encouraging word can brighten someone’s day, just as an insult can ruin it. But in Weapon, and even in Whisper, the message goes beyond the words. It’s our thoughts that have the true power. Because our thoughts give power to our words, and our words give power to our actions, so we have to be so incredibly careful about what we think, what we say, and what we do. But… that power works both ways. We all have the capability and therefore the responsibility to use our voices. So let’s use them for good!

 

Whisper and Weapon suggest that the Xanaphan and Speaker Generations was limited in Sydney. As the author and creator, do you imagine a wider world of Speakers throughout Australia or the world? And would there be other groups like Lengard, the Remnants and SCARs?

 

There were a number of different ways I could have gone about this, but for the sake of limiting the series to a duology, I had to simplify things and contain them to one place. But it’s entirely possible that the drug was tested in other countries. Indeed, Australia could have been one of the last countries to enter the drug trial, for all we know! Without having gone down that path in the series, there’s no certainty with my answer, but I like to think there are other Speaker communities out there!

 

 

When writing this duology, what was your writing process?

 

This is a terribly basic answer, but it’s also the truth: one word at a time! (The same for any book or series!)

 

 

Cami and Arryn were my favourite characters – they felt like they were the most genuine, apart from Alyssa. Was this done on purpose, or did it evolve organically, and what other characters did you feel were genuine and wanted the best for everyone?

 

All of my characters evolve organically. I never set out with labels on my characters as I write them, I just start to get to know them through their actions and dialogue and it shapes who they become. But I’m also a big fan of healthy female friendships, so it was important to me in Whisper to have someone there for Alyssa, and that helped mould Cami’s character. With Arryn, I knew there was something different about her all the way along, and I had fun uncovering that, while softening her towards Alyssa (and vice versa) as they got to know each other better, building their relationship on mutual trust and respect. As for other characters, there are plenty who were genuine, with only a few who weren’t, but given how much happens in this fast-paced duology, it was difficult to give too many characters a lot of screen time. And for the sake of spoilers, I think it’s best I don’t name names!

 

 

When you started this duology, had you finished The Medoran Chronicles, and what inspired it?

 

Oops, this is another question I jumped the gun on earlier, sorry!

 

 

Some of the surprises worked really well – are those sorts of things hard to cultivate?

 

As mentioned earlier, I was very careful in mapping out the twists and turns, especially in Weapon. That made it relatively easy to know when and how to work in the “big reveals”.

 

 

If you could Speak, what do you think you’d like to be able to do, and what would you Speak into existence?

 

I’m not entirely sure, but I guess the most obvious answer is to say I’d like to be a Creator, so that I could do anything I wanted? BUT I also quite like Cami’s healing power, so maybe that? Then again, I could still do that as a Creator… So let’s stick to my original answer!

 

If Alyssa had a favourite Disney Princess, who would it be, and would the others have favourite Disney characters as well?

 

Maybe Mulan? Who doesn’t love Mulan! And it would depend on which other characters you had in mind. Cami would likely be a huge Disney fan, and I feel like Smith would be secretly obsessed. Ward would indulge them all (while being amused); Kael would just raise an eyebrow and roll his eyes while stealing all the popcorn; Enzo would be the first to press “play” and sit right up close to the screen; Arryn would be checking to make sure they weren’t in any danger while they watched, and would be taking notes on fighting techniques (to later demonstrate with Enzo); Riley would be leaning back and enjoying being with them all; Schrödinger would be dozing in the corner… It would be quite the scene!

 

Similar to the last question: Can you sort the Remnants and the main characters from Lengard into Hogwarts houses?

 

That’s a lot of characters, so I’ll just stick with the ones I mentioned above (minus Dinger). And I feel as if a lot of them are crossover houses, so you’ll have to bear with my indecision here!

Alyssa: Ravenclaw x Gryffindor x Slytherin

Cami: Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Ward: Gryffindor x Ravenclaw x Slytherin x Hufflepuff (SORRY!! He has elements of them all!)

Enzo: Gryffindor x Slytherin

Kael: Ravenclaw x Slytherin

Arryn: Slytherin x Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Smith: Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

Riley: Gryffindor x Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

 

 

Finally, what’s next for fans? Can you tell us about any future projects?

 

Aside from The World of Throne of Glass which I’m working on with Sarah J. Maas, I have a few things in the works, but since I don’t know when this Q&A is going to be posted, I’m unsure if any announcements will have been made. So all I can say is to keep an eye on my social media accounts for very exciting news of what’s coming next!

 

Any further comments or anything I’ve missed?

 

I think you got it all! Thanks so much for having me!