Beyond Belief by Dee White

beyond-beliefTitle: Beyond Belief
Author: Dee White
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 264
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of Muslims who saved the lives of Jewish children in the Second World War.

In 1942, in the Grand Mosque in Paris, 11-year-old Ruben is hiding from the Nazis. Already thousands of Jewish children have disappeared, and Ruben’s parents are desperately trying to find his sister. Ruben must learn how to pass himself off as a Muslim, while he waits for the infamous Fox to help him get to Spain to be reunited with his family. One hint of Rubens true identity and he will be killed. So will the people trying to save him.

But when the mosque is raided and the Fox doesn’t come, Ruben is forced to flee. Finding himself in the south of France, he discovers that he must adjust to a new reality, and to the startling revelation of the Fox’s true identity.

~*~

Most Holocaust stories revolve around the camps, or the Jewish ghettoes and areas of Europe invaded by the Nazis. Whilst some stories tell of people who flouted Nazi rules to hide Jews, there are other stories not told. Dee White has sensitively and evocatively told one of these stories in Beyond Belief with careful research, and interaction with Holocaust survivors, Muslims who knew the history explored in the novel, and sensitivity readers.

In 1942, the Grand Mosque in Paris is more than just a mosque – it is a safe haven for Jewish children, hidden from the Nazis as they wait to be reunited with their families, saved from the horrors of the camps – known people at the time, but the true horrors and events were not something they knew about, at least Ruben, Daan, Amra and the other characters. They know they are separated from their families and do not know when they will be reunited.

It is both hopeful and filled with the harsh realities of the war and the Holocaust. Paris is held by the Nazis, who make their presence known, storming into the mosque and searching for Jewish children. The Imam protected them, up until the mosque is raided and Hana, Momo, her brother, and Ruben make a dash for their lives with Evette and Fida, and run into people they never thought they’d see again and set out on a journey that will reveal who the Fox is…and unite them as family.

AWW2020Learning these stories enriches our understanding of the history we know, and the history we do not know. Until I read this book, I knew nothing of the role mosques and Muslims, in particular the Grand Mosque in Paris had in hiding and helping Jewish children survive the Holocaust. It is an important story, as it shows the humanity in the world, and teaches us that whilst Judaism, Christianity and Islam are separate religions – yet they worship the same God, and this is what Ruben learns in the mosque – that humanity and the kindness of people will get him through, and to trust those around him – to trust Evette and Fida.

I came to love all these characters and initially, I thought I would savour this book, yet I inhaled it in two or three sittings – it was one that was compelling, where I needed to know what happened next, who survived, how they escaped and so many other threads and events that take place in the latter half of the novel that are crucial to what happens. I loved Amra and Hana, they were wonderful, in the face of great tragedy, faced everything that came towards them bravely with Ruben.

This is an important book – we need to know this history and this book has the header ‘Heroes of the Holocaust’ – I hope this is going to become a series because I think it would make a really good one, especially if it explores lots more lesser known stories and histories of this time period.

Book Bingo Five 2020 – Coming of Age

Book bingo 2020

May, and round five of 2020 book bingo with Amanda and Theresa! Many of the posts have been from books I have read in January and earlier in the year, yet something about checking off the categories during the quieter times of the year is really satisfying, as I know that by checking off the ones I can easily fill in, that by the time I get to the harder ones, there’ll be less pressure to get through it all and make sure it is done. Also, when it comes to my Book Bingo wrap up post, I won’t have to add in links as I go, I can do it all at once.

For my fifth square, I chose coming of age. For this square, there will be many books, and many ways this story can be told. For this one, however, I chose a book that came out in February that Scholastic asked me to review, and one that even though I knew it was for review, I kept thinking of quiz questions for.

ella at eden

The book is the first in a new series, that is part of the Ella and Olivia family, where each stage of Ella’s life is focused on by a different author. This new series is about Ella as a teenager at a boarding school called Eden. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking shows Ella on the brink of becoming a teenager, where she starts at a new school, far from home. Here, she will discover more of who she is and what she likes, and Eden will help her do this.

As the teenage years are a time of big change for people, this is why it works as a coming of age – Ella is starting to discover who she is separate from her family, and for those who have read Ella and Olivia, and the Ella Diaries, it is a great continuation from these series, and having written some Ella and Olivia quizzes, I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to more in the series.

Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina (illustrator)

ribbit rabbit robot high res-minTitle: Ribbit Rabbit Robot

Author: Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina (illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st April 2020

Format: Hardcover Picture Book

Pages: 32

Price: $17.99

Synopsis:

This lamp is enchanted and I am the genie. I will grant all your wishes, but don’t be a meanie… When a friendly frog, a greedy rabbit and a robot with a short fuse discover a magic lamp, chaos follows…and friendship is found.

  • A hilarious tale about kindness and always reading the fine print

  • Stunningly detailed illustrations paired with simple alliterative text – perfect to read aloud

  • Themes include selfishness, greed, and friendship and the importance of paying attention.

~*~

Frog, Rabbit and Robot find a lamp with a genie who grants them wishes – but they’re warned not to be selfish. As Frog ribbits and tries to work out the rhyming riddle, his friends, Rabbit and Robot make wishes that are what they want and don’t seem to pay attention – they just want their wishes! But Frog is more thoughtful – and through Frog, we learn that rushing into something like Rabbit and Robot did isn’t always the way to go.

Frog teaches patience and the art of paying attention to young children through alliteration and rhyming, and the wonderful illustrations by Sofya Karmazina – it is truly a book that cannot be read without appreciating these beautiful pictures, as they contribute immaculately and perfectly to the story. Scholastic did a fantastic job pairing Sofya with Victoria’s story – Victoria talks about the process of working with Sofya in an interview here as part of Isolation Publicity.

AWW2020Picture books often result in shorter reviews – I’m not quite sure why, but perhaps it is because it is much easier to be succinct about picture books. They are something that needs to be experienced hands-on, and in person – you need to interact with them and absorb the images with the story, as they tell just as much of the story as the words do.

This is a great book for early readers and younger children who are not quite at the stage of learning to read yet. It can be read to all ages as well, as there is something magical about the rhyming that is evocative and soothing, and allows the reader or person being read to feel the rhythm of words, and discover the joy of what language and words can do. It is a lovely book, and captures the magic of reading and words.

 

Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian and Phil Judd

great toy rescueTitle: Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue
Author: Yvette Poshoglian and Phil Judd
Genre: Junior Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st July 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Price: $9.99
Synopsis: Hi! I’m Archie! I’m a Schnoodle puppy and I love writing all about my PAWESOME adventures in my diary!

Read all about my puppy pals at doggie daycare and all the adventures we go on together! Archie is going to his first day of doggie daycare. He meets a whole gang of new friends and loves playing in the garden. But Archie’s most favourite toy, Foxy, goes missing! In fact, all his friends’ toys have gone missing too! Can Archie help his puppy friends find the missing toys?

~*~

I’ve had this book on my shelf to read for a few months now, ever since meeting the author, Yvette Poshoglian at my local independent bookstore, BookFace Erina, where she signed my book for me. Archie is a schnoodle puppy, off to his first day at doggy daycare. Here, he meets new friends, and has to uncover the mystery of where everyone’s favourite toys have been going, all whilst avoiding the cat next door, Geoffrey.

Archie and his friends embark on a plan to get the toys back – but will they succeed?

AWW2020This is one of the most adorable books ever, and I have the next two ready to go as well. This is perfect for readers who are growing in confidence and can be read alone or with someone. It is also the perfect read if anyone of any age wants a quick and fun read. I read this in between lots of books that I have for review over the next few weeks here on the blog and will be doing the same with books two and three, and eventually, four, when it comes out. it’s a simple story, and simply told, yet the engagement is there and the illustrations by Phil Rudd contribute something amazing to the story that the words cannot always communicate. Illustrations can be just as important to the narrative as the words are, and fill in the gaps where the words are not present. Phil and Yvette have done a marvellous job bringing Archie and his friends to life in this series.

I loved this book, and it was a delightful introduction to a new series. It is filled with fun, laughter, and of course dogs. And who doesn’t like puppies? Puppies are always welcome in books, and I am keen to see what adventures Archie has next.

A great book for early readers or readers of any age.

Phoenix (Firewatcher Chronicles #2) by Kelly Gardiner

phoenix-coverTitle: Phoenix (Firewatcher Chronicles #2)
Author: Kelly Gardiner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: 1st February 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: May 1941.
The German bombing campaign is reaching its fiery climax, and Christopher and the firewatchers battle against the flames and huge bombs through the worst night of the Blitz.
Christopher tries to go back to 1666; to find his new friends and learn more about the power of his phoenix ring.
Instead, he finds himself in a deserted city, overlooking a smaller, older river port town known as Lundenwic, where the Anglo-Saxon community faces an invasion by the dreaded Vikings.
Christopher must discover why the ring has brought him here, and how to get back to his own time. But there are Viking ships on the Thames, and their warriors threaten to burn the city and conquer the whole of England.
~*~

As the Blitz rages on, and Christopher’s father arrives home, injured and discharged, London will never be the same. As the war rages on and his mother volunteers to help fight fires instead of watching for the bombers, Christopher finds himself mourning friends and neighbours, in between attending school, watching for bombs and looking for treasures with his friends by the Thames. During one of these hunts, Christopher finds a pendant with Thor’s Hammer, that transports him back to the ninth century, where Vikings are threatening to invade the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Lundenwic. Whilst here, he encounters the Vikings, a girl named Elda and is thrust back and forth between their conflict, and German destruction of London. Christopher can’t stop the German bombs coming but he can find a way to stop the Vikings attacking an empty town.

As the novel moves back and forth between 1941 and at least a thousand years in the past, and hints at London’s history, and the layers of history that lie beneath the streets of modern London are hinted at in an accessible and exciting way for young readers, aged eight and older. Aimed at middle grade readers, it combines history, time travel, action, mystery and adventure, the second book in this trilogy alludes to what came before, and the role fire has played many times in shaping London and its history.

AWW2020I waited a long time for this book to come out, and I ordered it into my local bookstore and waited for it to arrive – and managed to read it within two days.
This is a trilogy worth reading – filled to the brim with amazing diverse characters – with disabilities, who aren’t white and the women in history – the Vikings, and Elda, Molly and Christopher’s mother and teacher – who are exceptional in many ways and do not fit the supposed gender norms or expectations of their times, or what history assumes they did. I loved this aspect of the book, and the hints at history we don’t know about – it opens it up for readers and leads them – hopefully – to researching it further. Because, how can we know what is out there if we don’t look and if there isn’t anything like this fabulous series to guide us? It certainly led me to looking up Saxon women, Lundenwic and Vikings – leading me down many research rabbit holes whilst writing this review.

This is one of my favourite middle grade trilogies – we have some fantastic authors in Australia writing for all age groups, and we should be supporting them as often as we can, if not all the time. When a novel like this combines history and time travel, and adventure, it makes history fun for kids, and can introduce concepts, ideas and knowledge that they may not get elsewhere or that become facts that are picked up because they are there. At the same time, this novel confronts ideas about gender and race in the 1940s, but briefly and is shown to illustrate that these ideas existed, but that they can be challenged and people can change their perceptions and attitudes, and prove that history is more complex than previously thought and even more complex than the way we are taught at school.

This is another reason these historical fiction novels when learning about history – they introduce a new side to history that is hidden in a variety of ways, and doing so through fiction makes it exciting and relatable. With the third book out later this year, I can’t wait to see how this trilogy ends.

Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

ella at edenTitle: Ella at Eden: New Girl

Author: Laura Sieveking

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st February 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: Ella has started at her new high school, and Eden College is everything she hoped it would be. She is getting to know her new friends and enjoying everything Eden has to offer. Until things start to get complicated. She accidentally insults Saskia, the school diva, there could be a ghost in the dorm and items have started to mysteriously disappear.

Can Ella catch the Eden thief?

Join Ella in the first book of this exciting new adventure.

 

~*~

Ella is about to start a new school – a boarding school, which means being away from her sister Olivia, brother Max, and the rest of her family. Going to Eden College means being with her best friend though, and Ella can’t wait to spend time with Zoe and her new friends. Yet there are other girls like Saskia who don’t seem to like Ella. And soon, things start to go missing – around the time Saskia tells her about the school ghost. Determined to find out what happened and write a stellar story for the school newspaper, Ella decides to investigate what is happening.

Scholastic contacted me to review this – which is always exciting and having worked on some of the Ella and Olivia books by Yvette Poshoglian, one of the authors who works with Ella and Olivia for Scholastic, I knew it would be a lovely and interesting read. I knew the characters – so it was interesting to see Ella at another stage of her life, and it is always fun to start a new series. However, as a quiz writer, whenever I read a review book from Scholastic, I start thinking about quiz questions – which is quite fun but not necessary for a review book.

AWW2020

I really enjoyed this book. It starts a new series that will allow those who have read the earlier books with Ella and Olivia to grow with Ella and her sister, and also, gives enough information for new readers to Ella’s world to enjoy it and engage with it and the other characters.  Told in the first person, we see the world through Ella’s eyes and experiences, which are fun to read about and experience with her in this new and adventurous world she has been thrust into, the same world she is keen to explore.

Ella’s friendships grow throughout the novel, and I love the way she works to make friends with Violet throughout the book, whose story is also very interesting and finding out what about Violet’s secrets strengthens their bond and Ella discovers she has a new friend. This book is filled with ideas and themes of friendship, coming of age and growing up, as well as finding out who you are separate from what you have known up until when something changes dramatically, and for Ella, that is heading off to Eden College.

This looks to be a promising series, and I look forward to more about Ella at Eden and what she gets up to with her new friends in her new school.

Deltora Quest #2 Bind Up

Deltora Quest 2.jpgTitle: Deltora Quest #2

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 2007

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 384

Price: $24.99

Synopsis:  Here, for the first time, the three books of the international best-selling fantasy series Deltora Quest 2 are brought together in one superb volume.

The Shadow Lord’s evil tyranny over Deltora has ended. But thousands of Deltorans are still enslaved in the Shadowlands, the Enemy’s own terrifying and mysterious domain. To rescue them, the three companions from the original Deltora Quest–Lief, Barda and Jasmine–must find a weapon powerful enough to combat the Shadow Lord’s magic on his own ground.

According to legend, the only thing the Shadow Lord fears is the Pirran Pipe. But does it still exist? And if it does, will its ancient magic still prevail against the Enemy’s sorcery? Filled with doubts, the companions move on, knowing that whatever happens, their quest will end in the darkness and horror of the Shadowlands itself.

2019 Badge

~*~

The Second Deltora Quest series consists of three books, and continues the story of Lief, Jasmine and Barda trying to protect Deltora and save the Deltorans still enslaved by the Shadow Lord from his evil prison. Each book is linked below:

The Cavern of the Fear

cavern of the fear

The Isle of Illusion

isle of illusion

The Shadowlands

shadow lands

I read this as part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge this year, and I hope to read the third bind up next year. This was an engaging series, and one that worked very well on its own and as a follow-up. However,  I would recommend reading the others because there are things in them that are hinted at in this one as well, and they follow each other seamlessly.

The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3) by Emily Rodda

shadow lands.jpgTitle: The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st May 2002

Format: Paperback

Pages:

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Lief, Barda, and Jasmine have come to the final test – to get the Pirran Pipe to free the Deltoran slaves from the evil Shadow Lord. But first they must make it through the harrowing, perilous Shadowlands. Here, they will take on the Shadow Lord as they try to free thousands of Deltorans still enslaved.

Lief, Barda and Jasmine travel to the emerald isle of Keras. The Pipe is their only chance of saving the thousands of Deltorans enslaved in the Shadowlands, for it is said to be the only thing the Shadow Lord fears in his own domain. But can the Pipe be made whole? And if it can, will its ancient magic still prevail against the enemy’s sorcery? Or are the companions walking into a trap?

Lief, Barda and Jasmine are filled with doubts they move on, knowing that, whatever happens, their quest will end in the darkness and horror of the Shadowlands itself.

~*~

Lief, Barda and Jasmine have come to Keras to complete the pipe – and to face the Shadow Lord for the final time. Yet without anyone trusting them, are they simply walking into a trap? With so many questions, all three companions must face dangers and challenges they’ve ever faced before as they finally work towards defeating the Shadow Lord and rescuing the enslaved Deltorans, and helping the Plumes, Aurons and Kerons as well, ensuring their safety and that of Deltora – and uncovering secrets that they had never known before that could change the fate of Deltora for years to come.

2019 BadgeIn the final book in this trilogy, Lief, Barda and Jasmine must face an enemy they thought was defeated, and whom they thought they’d never have to face again. Yet here they are, face to face with the person who tried to destroy Deltora all those years ago.

Together, and united, with the Pirran Pipe and help from the Plumes, the Aurons and the Kerons, they must find a way to defeat the Shadow Lord and return to Deltora with the enslaved people – but at what cost, and what has been happening in their absence? Is Deltora in good hands with Sharn and Marilen? Or do more threats await the heroes at home?

Back home, something has been happening, and a secret has been kept that will change the way Lief and his friends live their lives forever – if they ever return. As they battle the Shadow Lord, everything will change for all of them.

The final in this trilogy wraps it up nicely, an d gives the impression that the story is complete – yet with a third series that follows this one, perhaps there is more to the ending than meets the eye, and it is something that will only become clear when IU start to read the next set – which I hope to do in 2020, and like this set, and the first, each book will get a separate review and a full omnibus review as well.

I look forward to reading more about Lief and his friends in the third Deltora Quest series, and for now, will let them rest until I get there with the great ending we were given in this book.

The Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #2) by Emily Rodda

isle of illusion.jpgTitle: The Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #2)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st March 2002

Format: Paperback

Pages: 132

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Lief, Barda and Jasmine are desperately searching for the three parts of the fabled Pirran Pipe, their only hope of saving the thousands of Deltorans held captive by the evil Shadow Lord.

They have already risked their lives to gain the first part of the Pipe. Now they must find the second.

As their loved ones left behind in Del struggle in a thickening web of rumour, suspicion and treachery, the companions move on to the mysterious island of Auron. They have been warned that terrible dangers await them.

But nothing can prepare them for the reality of what is to come.

~*~

Lief, Jasmine and Barda must now venture from the Plumes into Auron to retrieve the next piece of the Pirran Pipe, before they can journey onwards to take on The Shadow Lord and free the Deltorans still enslaved by him. As they venture into Auron, in search of the Pipe and the Piper who holds it, Lief, Barda and Jasmine find themselves hoping all is okay at home – and the stories of Sharn and Marilen and woven throughout this book, alternating with Lief, Barda and Jasmine as they go on their journey.

What this means is, those who are usually only spoken of, are given a voice, and we get to see how they are coping as the companions seek to protect Deltora from the Shadow Lord. It brings a new dimension  to the story, and shows what is happening in their absence.

2019 Badge

As Marilen finds her way in Del, working with Sharn and waiting for Lief’s return so they can wed and secure the Deltoran throne and an heir for Deltora. Yet, more threats and challenges will keep them apart until Lief can defeat The Shadow Lord. And to that, he needs to reunite the Pirran Pipe and gain the trust of those who hold the pieces of the pipe.

This is a great addition to the series – it furthers the story and mysteries set up in previous books and pushes Lief further along his journey as King of Deltora. What is said though, about Marilen and their marriage, sometimes feels a bit too convenient – as though there is more to come in the third book in this trilogy in relation to this, and I am sure there is.

Another excellent book from Emily Rodda, and my 97th book of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. I have read many different books this  year, including entire series and lots of children’s books for myself and for work. So bring on 2020 and more reading!

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.

vardaesia_3d-cover

Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

the french photographer

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

kensy and max 3

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

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

Kensy and Max 4

Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

there was still love

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

rebel women who shaped australia

Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

TheGlimme

The Glimme by Emily Rodda

Weapon_3Dcover

Weapon by Lynette Noni

tilly 2

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

clancy of the overflow

Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

3D-Cover_C-format_ATTIC

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!