May 2020 Round Up

In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 -53/25
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165

May – 20

Book Author Challenge
The Monstrous Devices Damien Love Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, AWW2020
An Alice Girl Tanya Heaslip Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daisy Runs Wild Caz Goodwin and Ashley King Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal Anna Whateley Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Her Perilous Mansion Sean Williams Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Monday

 

Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes)

 

Petra Hunt Reading Challenge, AWW2020,
The Power of Positive Pranking Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda at School Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda in the Outback Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Giant and the Sea Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, STFU Reading Challenge
Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by

 

Julie Hunt and Dale Newman Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Orla and the Serpent’s Curse C.J. Halsam Reading Challenge
Elephant Me Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
A Treacherous Country K.M. Kruimink Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Eloise and the Bucket of Stars Janine Brian Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women  Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Book Bingo
Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition

 

Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble Reading Challenge, AWW2020
On A Barbarous Coast Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

In June I am hoping to read more and get further on top of all my reviews – look for more great books by Australians and especially kids and young adult books to come in the next few weeks.

Peta Lyre

On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick

barbarous coastTitle: On A Barbarous Coast
Author: Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick
Genre: Speculative Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: On a Barbarous Coast is an alternative retelling of Captain James Cook’s story co-written by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick in the tradition of imagined histories.
We were becoming the wild things we most feared, but could not see it at the time.

On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A small disparate band of survivors, fracturing already, huddle on the shore of this strange land – their pitiful salvage scant protection from the dangers of the unknown creatures and natives that live here.

Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed – or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to do more than watch and to be the one to find out what exactly they are.

Fierce, intriguing and thoughtful, On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.

‘Australia’s “origin” story brilliantly re-imagined, in which Indigenous Australians rightfully assume their central place.’ Susan Johnson, author of The Broken Book

~*~

We all know the story of Captain Cook and the Endeavour, and from there, the story of the First Fleet and colonisation. We know it mostly from the perspective of those who were in power and recorded their version of events at the time – the official record. What we don’t know is how the people whose names and voices often ignored or not heard saw these events and interacted with those in power and with each other. What would have happened to our historical record if these voices had been given a chance to share their stories? Alternatively, what if Captain Cook’s story had a different ending?

This is what Craig Cormick – a non-Indigenous author, and his co-author, Harold Ludwick – an Indigenous author (Guugu Yimidhirr and Kuku Yalanji descent) have posited in their book, On A Barbarous Coast. Using historical figures and records, and oral stories, the story takes a different tack – where the Endeavour is shipwrecked, Captain Cook injured and the survivors splinter into two groups – the armed marines, and the unarmed botanist – Joseph Banks, and several other crew members. Craig tells the white man’s story through the eyes of Magra, and the struggle to survive – the fear of the unknown, and the feeling of not knowing what to do or expect from anyone – except those in his group. He’s even scared of Judge and the other marines and hopes to try and communicate to the Indigenous people these fears.

Harold tells the Indigenous perspective through the eyes of a young boy named Garrgiil, who spies on these white strangers and reports back to his clan and family. They are just as cautious of interacting as the book moves along, and both groups are curious. Yet there are layers of what one group understands as right and wrong in their contexts. This is shown through alternating chapters. Each character is given a unique voice, and authentically shows their different understandings of the world – for Garrgiil, it’s the sacred land that the newcomers are sheltered on. For Magra and his fellow crewmates, they are just glad to be on dry land, and are not sure who they will encounter or where – or indeed how.

Much of the novel revolves around their observations of each other and quest to survive and maintain the way they live. For Magra and his group, it is the hope that someone will find them and be able to take them home. What happened in the years following 1770 and 1788 could have been very different if the newcomers and the Indigenous people had been able to work together and find a way to live together peacefully – which is what this novel posits. It is an interesting thing to consider – how different might Australia as we know it have been if everyone was given the chance to contribute to how the country was run and formed, and how developments and changes might have happened differently. What would have changed and how, isn’t expanded on in this novel beyond the integration of those from the Endeavour and Garrgiil’s people – that is left up to the imagination and what we know of history. This what if type novel explores themes of history and integration and looks at how things could have been very different if attempts at communication had been made and attempts to understand each other and the first people here were made. We cannot go back and change the past – we can only change how we interact and understand each other going forward, and part of doing this is to learn about the stories that are not often heard and that were often ignored or left out of the history books used for many years in education. What this book offers is a different way of looking at our history and understanding of how our nation was formed.

In collaborating and finding two very unique and distinct voices that both stood out as individual people but also melded together to create an engaging story, Cormick and Ludwick have looked at the stories and records from both sides – oral and written, to bring this speculative historical fiction to life that explores first contact, misunderstandings and differing world views that illustrate how each character sees the world and where they realise they might be wrong – or might just need to work together towards an understanding of each other, even though each will always be different in some ways.

This was a unique story, told in a unique and collaborative way that made me wonder if our historical record would be richer if we had always had that collaboration, and if we did, and it was hidden, whether it would have made a difference to how we understand and relate to the history of Australia as we know it.

Orla and the Serpent’s Curse by C.J. Halsam

orlaTitle: Orla and the Serpent’s Curse

Author: C.J. Halsam

Genre: Magical Realism

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 1st June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A spooky adventure set in Cornwall; Famous Five with a twist.

A long-dead Cornish witch to thwart and a curse to stop  it’s just another family holiday. Orla thought she was in for a relaxing break, but when she finds a mysterious glowing necklace in the woods, it turns out there is a slight possibility she may have uncovered a witch’s ancient curse. After meeting a coven of suspicious old ladies, it becomes clear that Orla’s arrival in Cornwall is no longer a coincidence. The curse is poisoning the land and destroying everything it touches, and Orla is the one person who can stop it. But she’ll need help from the only other member of the family with good instincts – Dave the dog.

  • A witchy 10+ children’s debut from Sunday Timesjournalist C. J. Haslam.
  • Orla is a budding conservationist and the curse in the book manifests itself through poisoned and barren land.
  • Has an incredibly appealing character in Dave, the grumpy Jack Russell who thinks he’s a member of Special Forces. Orla has two older brothers and a newly acquired friend called Raven – together, they make a great modern-day Scooby Doo gang / Famous Five.

~*~

Orla Perry is off to Cornwall with her mum, brothers, Tom and Richard, and faithful dog, Dave. They arrive at the cottage – but their holiday is far from relaxing. After Orla begins to explore their new surrounds and meets Mrs Spark and her friends, after she finds a mysterious necklace in the woods. This is only the beginning of her problems. As the story moves along, Dave distances himself from Orla, the old ladies Orla has met begin to tell her of witches and curses, and a woman called Pedervander Masey, and a mystery surrounding the area that is slowly revealed as Orla and her brothers and their new friend, Raven, seek to uncover the truth behind all the darkness of the area.

To save the land from the curse, Orla, Raven, Tom and Richard must follow a strange set of directions and an unusual path with items from one of the resident witches, or pellers, as they are called in this novel, to prevent the curse from poisoning the land – even if this means travelling back in time. What is it about the mysterious glowing necklace that draw Orla to it – and what trouble is it causing? With dark magic at work, Orla is drawn to the desire to investigate and find out what is going on – and stop the curse from destroying those she loves, and anyone else in the area. She’s a gutsy girl, and seeing the breadth of the types of characters children can relate to these days.

Set in the same area as many of the Famous Five books, this is a fresh tale on the idea of adventuring and gallivanting children – minus the lashings of ginger beer with added magic and spells. It is filled with wonder and danger, and can be scary in some parts, in particular the climax, which is where the high stakes scenes take place in most books. This is a fantastic book, and one I loved to review for Walker Books Australia – the middle grade landscape these days is a wonderful array of books, and there are many more that I am going to be exploring in coming reviews.

We all need a bit of magic in our lives, and in this book, it is delivered in spades. Tragedy happens in some places, and the kids go off on the adventures as they do in The Famous Five, but there is still a parental figure around, though she’s got no idea what Orla and her brothers are up to during their holiday.

This world really came to life – everything had an element of magic within in, and for someone who has never been to Cornwall, but would like to one day, the sense of place in past and present, from the cottage of the sea, and the surrounding countryside and forest. The setting is as much a character as the human characters, and Dave is one of the best characters – an astute dog who knows who he can trust and who to help, it is instincts that will help save the day.

Filled with magic, mystery, humour and the thrill of the cashes, Orla and the Serpent’s Curse is a delightful middle grade novel for readers aged ten and over.

The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley

the austen girlsTitle: The Austen Girls
Author: Lucy Worsley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Published: 19th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Would she ever find a real-life husband? Would she even find a partner to dance with at tonight’s ball? She just didn’t know.

Anna Austen has always been told she must marry rich. Her future depends upon it. While her dear cousin Fanny has a little more choice, she too is under pressure to find a suitor.

But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing?

The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?

In this witty, sparkling novel of choices, popular historian LUCY WORSLEY brings alive the delightful life of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before.

~*~

Everyone knows Jane Austen’s books – the most famous of which are probably Emma and Pride and Prejudice, and there are many retellings, and many books both fictional and non-fiction that feature or are about Jane Austen in some way. But Lucy Worsley has taken Jane Austen’s nieces – Fanny and Anna – and told their story, which involves Jane in a new and interesting way.

Set in 1809, it is time for cousins Anna and Fanny to enter society and begin the search for a husband – as society dictates for young ladies at the time. For Anna, marrying rich is a must – there is pressure from her family to make the right match and for the right reasons. Her cousin, Fanny, has a little more choice, yet, both are under extreme pressure to marry from their parents, but Aunt Jane is always there to offer advice, help and reassurance for everything.

Lucy Worsley has a talent for taking the stories of women in history and giving them a voice, and an identity beyond being daughters and wives.

Her previous three novels have focused on royal houses – here, Lucy explores the early nineteenth century and Jane Austen’s life. It is fresh and fun – as readers, we get to see Jane as more than just an author. As an aunt, a sister and a daughter. It is an example of how historical fiction about someone’s life, where what we know is filled in with the possibilities of what could have happened, and extrapolations of events based on the names, dates and facts available. Lucy has used these basic facts to bring history to life for her readers, in a way that is informative, accessible and entertaining. Told through the eyes of the younger girls, Jane’s nieces, the novel illustrates societal expectations, and how even in one family, ideas of wealth and status can differ, and inform what is expected of a teenage girl. At the same time, it also explores what happens when the oldest girl in a family needs to take on certain responsibilities – and doesn’t shy away from the realities of the time, yet presents them in a way that isn’t overly confronting for readers, but also, in a way that can still be understood clearly.

I love Luc’s work – she includes all the relevant and interesting details and shows us a world that whilst very far in the past, at times, can explore universal themes, and she brings history to life for a wide audience. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

Books and Bites Bingo Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

books and bites game card
My next square is the one for book to movie. For this option, there were many, many options from Harry Potter to Jane Austen, The Book Thief and Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), which is now a television show and will be marking off my book to television category later this year in another challenge.

As luck would have it, I received the new bind-up edition of Nim’s Island, celebrating twenty-one years since it was first published, and I have seen the movie, so this worked for this challenge and another that had a book to movie adaptation choice.

NimsIsland_roughs

I chose this because it was a fun read as well, and I’m trying to see how many review books work for my reading challenges, and how many they crossover into as well – in doing so, across the first few months of the year, I have managed to knock off quite a few categories and squares. Some books have filled in more than others.

I need to watch Nim’s Island again sometime but for now, I’m trying to focus on the reading. Before I used this book, I had The Book Thief earmarked for this category. It’s one of those categories that is open and can change – and those are the ones I am aiming to mark off first, as some are more specific, sometimes down to the author or the book, and some specific to a month – so I have to wait until then to fill them in.

One category that comes up in two challenges I might have trouble with is the book you haven’t finished or that you have said you’ve read but haven’t – as I finish the books I commit to. So those could be a challenge, but I might find some way to tweak and stretch them so it works for my means.

Books and Bites Book Bingo Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

books and bites game card

 

A travel memoir is one area I wasn’t sure what I would find – but as with all my challenges, I have been finding fun and inventive ways to interpret the categories I thought I might struggle with. This time I am marking off my thirteenth square and gaining a BINGO for the first row. I have checked off travel memoir but done something a little different and bent a fictional book with travel in it to work here.

 

books and bites game card

I used The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski – the review went live on the 28th of April. When Flick discovers a travel agency unlike any other and is invited to join the Strangeworlds Society. With all the travelling Flick and Jonathon Mercator do, it feels and reads like it could be a travel memoir – as we experience the journeys as they do. In this way, it has a sense of travel memoir, even if told in third person and the action takes place as we’re reading and isn’t described after the facts as one typically finds with a travel memoir.

strangeworlds

 

It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but in the current isolation climate, I’m finding I could be doing that a lot over the next few months – and I’m trying to use new reads as much as possible, and will slot re-reads in where I need to.

 

Books and Bites Bingo Progress Report One – First Bingo

I should be doing this for each bingo line I hit – with the regular book bingo, it is being included in the relevant post. For this one with Monique, I am trying to update as I complete a line.

books and bites game card

 

My first BINGO of the sheet is the top lime – which I actually completed last month but have only just managed to find time to write this brief post. This was possibly the easiest line – some squares I am still finding books, or waiting for a release, or am, not sure what I will use. Luckily, these are fairly broad categories and I can go with anything for many of them, so when I find something that fits, that is what I will use. This is my overall challenge strategy and I am finding it less stressful as it allows me to read what I have and if it fits, that’s a good thing.

This was a challenge I signed up for later than the others, but am having fun with it nonetheless. Of the books I used in this challenge, I loved them all and there were so many others that could have worked here. I admit to stretching the travel memoir category – using a fictional book with travel that felt like it could be a travel memoir – I expand on this more in the post, however.

I look forward to filling the rest of the squares and reporting on them in the coming months.

Books and Bites Bingo
Set in Europe:Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt

Friday barnes 4Title: Friday Barnes: No Rules

Author: R.A. Spratt

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 7th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:  256

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: What if every clue points in the wrong direction?

Friday Barnes has been deported to Switzerland! With their in-school detective gone, Highcrest Academy has descended into chaos. Someone’s fired all the teachers!

The Headmaster claims it wasn’t him, and suspicion soon turns to Ian Wainscott, but Friday won’t stand by and let her favourite nemesis take the blame. Apart from being innocent (probably), he’s seriously good-looking. There’s also the problem of the new vice principal and his questionable teaching methods. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they wear tie-dyed t-shirts. Can Friday save Ian’s scholarship? Can she find the prankster before they bring down the school? Can she run the cross country? She’s certainly going to try . . . to do the first two, anyway.

~*~

The fourth Friday Barnes book begins with Friday being deported – she was born in Switzerland and her parents forgot to apply for Australian citizenship for her – so her name is Swiss too. It doesn’t take long before she gets home though and is faced with a school in chaos. All the Highcrest teachers have been fired, and VP Pete has introduced new teaching methods that are at odds with the other teachers. But is he hiding something, and what does he have planned for Highcrest? Only Friday Barnes can find out!

Friday and Melly are back at their investigative tricks – trying to find out who would want the teachers fired and why they would frame Ian Wainscott – whom Melanie insists is Friday’s boyfriend.

I love Friday’s attempts to get out of cross country too – and the mystery thickens when the trail causes trouble – can Friday reveal the real culprit and convince the Headmaster he’s wrong about Ian?

With her usual humour and bluntness, Friday interrogates students and investigates side cases for other students, and negotiates payment and her ability to stay at Highcrest with the forever suffering Headmaster, who relies on Friday to investigate what is happening yet at the same time, wishes she’d keep her head down – and on that, they are constantly agreeing. Friday’s one constant parental figure is Uncle Bernie, who is always ready to help Friday in her shenanigans.

 

AWW2020

I’m loving this series – it’s great to see a female character be who she is – awkward, shy and into school and all kinds of subjects from history to science, and is always ready with facts as needed. Characters like Friday expand what we expect from our literary heroes and show that every experience and every type of characters can work effectively and tell a good story. It also shows kids that there are people like them – that the world isn’t divided into popular and unpopular kids. There are so many different types of kids and personalities.

This series brings boarding schools, mystery and so many things together for readers to life and ensures that the journey is never ending – it is a series that definitely needs to be read in order. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

World Book Day 2020

Happy WORLD BOOK DAY

Today, the 23rd of April, we celebrate World Book Day, and William Shakespeare’s birthday. It is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day, and the National Library of Australia notes that it also marks the deaths of William Shakespeare (I know, he died the same day he was born, about fifty-two years later), and Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I’ve done the tour of three of the historic houses linked to the playwright.

World Book Day celebrates a love of reading, and this year, they are encouraging people to share the love of reading from home – while we’re all in isolation and unable to head out. I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment – mostly for review and working on a series called Isolation Publicity series which is highlighting as many Australian authors as possible, especially those impacted by the cancellation of events, festivals and launches of their upcoming releases – some are debut authors, and some have had many works published. Yet they all need love at the moment and blogging about books and sharing books is a small way we can #StayAtHome during #WorldBookDay and share the love of reading.

So on World Book Day, grab a good book if you can and read!

Today, I have several books on the go:

The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive (out 28th of April 2020)

Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love (Out 19th May 2020)

The Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

All four will be reviewed on my blog in the coming days or weeks, and I have many more to get through – the scheduling tool is super helpful here. You can follow progress of readers in this time via the hashtag #AustraliaReadsAtHome as well.

In relation to World Book Day, in September, The Australian Reading Hour with Australia Reads  is coming up in September, but instead of one hour, there are seventeen days of fun leading up to the main event on the 17th of September, where the aim is to have one million people reading the same book at the same time. Each year there is a different book for National Simultaneous Story Time. Your own individual hour can take place whenever and wherever you wish.

I linked these two events in today’s post because they both highlight the importance of books, reading and literacy, and so you can prepare for the September event! More information will come about this event later, about what will be happening during the first two weeks of September.

Books and Bites Bingo Written by someone called Jane

books and bites game card

Ticking off another square – this time a book written by someone called Jane. It might seem a touch obvious to go with Jane Austen – which I did. But in a pinch, it worked, and as I am working on getting some discussion around Jane Austen’s books in a reading group. And Persuasion was our first pick – hopefully, with the others to follow.

persuasion

As Jane Austen’s final completed novel, Persuasion is quite different to something like Pride and Prejudice – yet both contend with social pressures of making the right match, and concerns about money and appearances in society. Both involve love, yet it is more about the journey than the end goal – and this is perhaps what makes these novels so appealing and timeless – everything leads up to the end goal – marriage, love, the right thing to do in terms of society. The rest is a social commentary on why these are goals and why someone might be more acceptable than someone else.

Hopefully I can get through the rest of her books over the next few months – this square could have any book in it – well, as long as the author is called Jane! I am at least making progress in ticking the squares off, and am looking forward to getting to some of the other squares soon.