Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell

pippas island 4.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 2nd April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Pippa and friends are off to a tiny tropical island for school camp – but what happens when their group are split up?

The students in class 5M are heading off to school camp. Pippa has never been away on camp before, at least not to a deserted tropical island! The Sassy Sisters look forward to five blissful days together exploring Shipwreck Island’s beaches and lagoon. But when the teams get regrouped, Pippa has to learn to cooperate with Olivia and the other girls.

Mrs Marshall promised challenges and adventure, but she forgot to mention the pranks. After one too many of the boys’ tricks, the girls decide to take their revenge.

Will class 5M survive Camp Castaway?

~*~

Pippa is off on her first real camping trip – five days away on a deserted island with her class, and the Sassy Sisters. All seems to be going well until Mrs Marshall and Zoe change the teams around – splitting up the Sassy Sisters and putting Pippa and Meg with Olivia and her friends. They must learn to work together for the next few days – with Meg and Pippa making an effort to include everyone, but Olivia taking charge and thinking everyone should do what she says. All the while, the boys are playing pranks on the girls – and when they get pushed too far, they decide to take revenge, leading to a bonding experience between Pippa and Olivja.

2019 BadgeThe fourth Pippa’s Island book is my one hundredth book by an Australian Women Writer for 2019. This is a delightful series, and I have one book left to read in it before I have read all that is available. These books capture what it is like to be twelve, and to be the new kid, and what it is like trying to fit in and make new friends, but also, trying to understand different people when forced to work together, which is the focus of this book.

I started reading this series a couple of months ago, and now that I am one away from finishing what is out, I am hoping there will be more to come, as they really are lovely stories with universal themes of friendship and feeling like an outsider – things that we have all felt at some point, whatever our age, race, gender, sexuality, and many other aspects, such as having a disability. These stories are universal and diverse in many ways and allow kids to see a bit of themselves in each of the characters.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the new year – I really want to see Pippa’s house finished and what happens next for her family – I feel like there are many things that could happen with this series, and it will be one of those key series for girls of a certain age and their friends. Another great Belinda Murrell book, and I am looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

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

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Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

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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

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The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

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Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

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

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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

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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!

 

Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 4.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Sign up for Sea Star Reef Summer Camp and join Olivia Ocean, Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell and Willow Wave for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

The mermaids are off on a summer camp adventure. Olivia can’t wait! She loves camping under the waves, eating sea cucumber sizzles and EXPLORING. But when the besties find themselves on the wrong side of the reef things start to go very, very wrong.

Buckle up for a rip-roaring reef rescue!

~*~

In the fourth Mermaid Holidays book, focused on Olivia Ocean, the four friends – Willow, Chloe, Sophia and Olivia are back for the summer holidays, and this time they’re off on a summer camp adventure under the sea, next to a reef. They are determined to have fun and adventures, and to look for a creature called the Dumbo octopus!

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But with an angry camp director leading the explorer activities, Olivia and her friends decide to head off on their own, to explore the reef. When they find themselves in the out of bounds area of the reef, lost, and not sure how to get back to camp, they must work together to get back to camp before anyone can notice they are gone!

This was the fourth, and I believe, final book in this series, and it is just as charming as its predecessors. Each mermaid is unique and the activities they choose at camp reflect what they all enjoy and have enjoyed individually and as a group in the previous three books.

This series celebrates friendship and girls doing what they like and enjoy without relying heavily on gender stereotypes, and can be enjoyed by all ages. It allows each character to be herself but also shows that not everything will always work out  – and working together is sometimes the best outcome for everyone.

A great series for younger readers who are starting to gain confidence reading alone, or to read with children learning to read, and enjoy the stories together.

 

Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell

Pippas island 1.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A gorgeous new series about friendships, family and seaside adventures, from our beloved bestselling author Belinda Murrell!

Pippa has just arrived at a new school, in a new town, and even living on a gorgeous island isn’t cheering her up. Her arrival causes ripples at Kira Island Primary School – but Pippa soon starts to make friends with eco-warrior Meg, boho-chick Charlie, and fashionista and cupcake baker Cici.

Pippa’s mum plans to buy a rustic old boatshed and start a bookshop cafe, and Pippa worries they’ll lose all their money in this madcap venture – until her new friends come to the rescue to help get the grand opening back on track.

Will Kira Island ever feel like home?

~*~

Starting a new school is always scary – but for Pippa Hamilton, she has had her entire life uprooted, moving from all she has known in England, to a small island in Australia called Kira Island. In between school, she is helping her mum get the beach café/bookstore ready while she lives in a caravan with her mum, brother Harry, and sister, Bella, behind their grandparents’ house. Yet it is school that poses the real challenge: though she meets four really cool girls who will become her best friends – CiCi, Charlie and Meg – Pippa still feels isolated by popular girl Olivia, who seems nice enough, yet when Pippa starts doing better than her, tensions arise.

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At the same time, Pippa is trying to deal with what has happened between her parents, keeping things close until she learns she can really trust her new friends. Pippa is relatable, and fun, and filled with such joy that she shines off the page and dances around. Her story is engaging for all ages over nine. What I loved about Pippa’s Island was the uniqueness each character brought to the series and the way it all unfolded – in a classy, fun and stimulating way that wasn’t too complicated or too simple, and perfect for reading anywhere – on the couch, in bed, at the beach.

There were times when I felt like I was on Kira Island, and living near a beach, it was easy to imagine that some of the things that happened could have happened at the local beach as well – a bookshop café would be awesome to have where I live! So, once I get the chance, I will be heading to my local bookstore to grab the next two or three in the series to follow  Pippa’s adventures on Kira, and these will make for great summer reading.

 

The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher

christmasaurus winter witch.jpgTitle: The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch

Author: Tom Fletcher

Genre: Fantasy/Christmas

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 15th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: The magical new story from bestselling author of The Christmasaurus and The Creakers, Tom Fletcher.

‘She is the best-kept Christmas secret of all,’ whispered Santa Claus. ‘Which is surprising, because Christmas itself would not exist without her. She is older than time itself, yet still as young as tomorrow. She is known only as the Winter Witch.’

One year has passed since William Trundle’s incredible adventure with the most extraordinary dinosaur: the Christmasaurus. Now, William is swept back to the magical North Pole, where he meets the mysterious, icy Winter Witch – whose power to control time allows Santa Claus to make the long journey all around the world every Christmas Eve. And when they learn that the fate of Christmas itself hangs in the balance, William and the Christmasaurus must work with the Winter Witch to protect it . . .

Full of magic and music, humour and heart, and a friendship like no other, The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch is the most enchanting Christmas read for the whole family.

~*~

Christmas stories are always fun, and I love discovering new ones, and reading them, as well as the classics like A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker during December if I can to get in the mood for Christmas as we decorate and bake for Christmas, and listen to the music and watch the movies and sometimes, the Christmas episodes of my favourite shows. I’ve not yet read the book that introduces the Christmasaurus, but I have added it to my list, as I feel it would be interesting and fun to read.

This is the second book, and starts when William, his father, Bob, stepmother, Pamela and stepsister, Brenda, are starting their Christmas break, and getting into the Christmas spirit completely – from what they wear, to what they bake and many traditions that Bob and William have enjoyed over the years. What is different this year, is that they are taken up to the North Pole to see Santa and the Christmasaurus.

Here, William is given a special bean and a wish as gifts – and he decides to save them for something special, until he notices the bean has disappeared when they arrive home, after Brenda has to go to her father. What happens next threatens Christmas’ very existence – and it is up to William and Christmasaurus to find a way to save Christmas, with the help of the Winter Witch, and ensure everyone goes on believing.

There are many things I love about this book. First, CHRISTMAS! Christmas stories are delightful, cheery and make readers feel good and bring joy to the holiday and show that there is more to it than what we are led to believe. Each story has its own magic and mythology that imbibes Christmas with its very magic and joy that we should all be able to experience with those we love. Second, the main character is disabled! This may not seem important to some readers, but for wheelchair users or who use mobility devices or are limited in some way due to a disability, this is fantastic! William is able to do things in his wheelchair, his family and Christmasaurus adapt for him so he isn’t left out and most importantly, he’s just disabled. I haven’t read the first book, but I want to so I can see how Will does things in that book as a wheelchair user, and the other challenges he faces, which are not shied away from here, but also, I felt, not dealt with as impossible. Nothing big is made of it, he just is. He’s his own person, not an object of pity, or passively treated character as some disabled characters are. And he is allowed to be disabled. This is fabulous – it shows that disabled kids and adults can be and do things like everyone else. We just have to find a different way to do it.

Third – a new take on Christmas with Christmasaurus. Combining dinosaurs and Christmas is a wonderful idea, and very creative. I loved that William and his father were so welcoming to Brenda and her mother, and that they wanted Brenda to stay for their family Christmas. Mostly, I just like a good story and this one had so many elements that worked for me and was so funny that I just gobbled it up and loved the way it incorporated lines and references from songs sung or played around Christmastime. And the Winter Witch’s role in Christmas – that was a new, and unique take on it and seeing how it all worked was a lot of fun in the end, and I hope kids and other readers find this book entertaining and wonderful as well.

A good book to read in the lead up to Christmas or at Christmas, or even as a Christmas gift from Christmasaurus himself. I recommend this for all ages!

The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

book of dust 2.jpgTitle: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth

Author: Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House/David Fickling Books

Published: 3rd October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:784

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Master storyteller Philip Pullman continues the incredible journey of Lyra Silvertongue in the second volume of The Book of Dust.

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost ten years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .
The second volume of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed. Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.
The Secret Commonwealth is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself, to grow up and make sense of the world around you. This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.

~*~

The long-awaited second volume of The Book of Dust picks up twenty years after La Belle Sauvage and ten years after the events of His Dark Materials, where we left Lyra and Will in their respective Oxfords, in the same botanic gardens as a way to connect. The Magisterium is still a threat in this book, in the shadow of Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel dying in His Dark Materials, and as readers might recall from The Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Pan discovered they could do something that no other person in their world could – which forms the part of the backbone to this book, and what drives the narrative along with the threat of the Magisterium, daemons and the mystery of Dust, that has been infused throughout each book in the sequence.

Old friends from La Belle Sauvage and His Dark Materials return – Alice, Malcom and Hannah are back, and helping a now adult Lyra as she navigates a world where she is no longer welcome at Jordan College, and where the factions once thought to be defeated rear their ugly heads in new and uneasy ways. As Lyra and Pan, as well as their friends work separately for the same goal, Ma Costa and Farder Coram return to help our Lyra, a heart-warming sequence because it feels as if Lyra has truly found a home as she travels across the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia, seeking a city of lost and haunted daemons. But it is the trials that Lyra and Pan face along the way, the people they meet and the judgement they receive that sharply mirrors our world.

Refugees – ripped from their homes as trade in a special rose threatens their livelihoods are turned away, forced onto boats, and where some people look away, whilst Lyra and others try to help. It mirrors our world in that we have refugees fleeing war, climate crises, and many other things seeking safety in countries that so far, are untouched. The reactions are the same – those who wish to ignore the crises are heard more than those who wish to help. Yet those affected by these issues and other issues related to Dust and daemons that make people turn away in fear are the ones who are the voices heard in this book. There is dissent against the Masters of Jordan when Lyra is thrown out. People are trying to use their power and influence to achieve their means and ends, and we see that the things that occupied Lyra’s mind as a child have changed. Yet Dust still occupies her thoughts, and as the book moves on, nothing will ever be the same.

In true Philip Pullman style, we do not get everything answered. People are not reunited quickly, or perhaps at all,  and as everyone works towards the same goal and location, the end hints at how the third book might open and what we might expect – and I do hope that my feelings about who might meet up at the start of the third book are right, because it is a reunion I had been hoping for since the beginning of this book. Throughout the book, we are reunited with Lyra, Pan and other familiar characters, but perhaps not in the way we might expect.

Throughout the book, revelations that cleverly link back to His Dark Materials and La Belle Sauvage emerge, so I would advise reading these first, starting with His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and then La Belle Sauvage before delving into this volume. Even though chronologically, His Dark Materials takes place between La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth, the delight is in reading those three first, before the Book of Dust, and making the connections. However, having read them, it might be an interesting experiment to read La Belle Sauvage, followed by the three His Dark Materials books and finishing with (for now) The Secret Commonwealth.

 

I am eagerly looking forward to seeing how this all concludes and where Lyra goes next – and how it changes her just as her experiences in this book and His Dark Materials changed her. An excellent addition to this series and a must read for the fans.