The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Published: 29 January 2019 (print)/29 January 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harlequin Australia/Harlequin Audio
Pages: 440/10 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…

This is a fantastic story if you know the history of Henry VIII and his wives and even if you don’t it is an amazing, complicated drama about high school politics which can only be told in the setting of an American school. Even if you don’t understand the entirety of the Tudor history Capin still tells an engrossing story and provides enough clues without ever breaking from the present day reality.

Not only is the premise brilliant, but Capin is a master with her metaphors. She doesn’t throw them in your face right from that start but when they come out they are the ideal representations of who these character were and the roles they played in history. The comparisons are not exact for obvious reasons, but Capin is incredibly close with her high school student equivalents and the more I thought about the historical events and the events and characters in the narrative I was even more in awe.

Our narrator Cleeves is a budding journalist and the use of journalistic chapters is a clever touch and while it does put everyone in their high school boxes, it works as an additional storytelling tool from Cleeves’ perspective. I love Cleeves because she has a journalistic mind but she is also passionate about what she wants and while she is a “good” character, she isn’t afraid to step outside the lines for a bit of fun either. She is a feminist and a fighter and the amount of girl power in this book is so fulfilling. Capin via Cleeves isn’t afraid to point this out and I loved how Cleeves isn’t afraid to speak out.

I loved everything about Cleeves, she isn’t pure but she is malicious either. Her friendship to Henry is solid and seeing her react to the things around her and the events that unfold is marvellous. Capin draws you in and once you are in deep to this stunning tale of drama she starts to plant her seeds and despite knowing the history you still aren’t entirely sure about what will happen. It’s an incredible journey to go on.

There is a strong chance I love this book more because of the ties to history. I got quite excited when I realised who characters were representing and what roles they were playing as the story unfolded. I can see how this might be too dramatic and convoluted for some people and overly dramatic, but if you read it as a modern Henry VIII then it becomes just as dramatic as history has always made it out his life and relationships to be, perhaps compressed into a few months rather than over years.

What makes this a strong story I found was that it wasn’t even much of a stretch. When I thought about Henry VII and his relationships, it easily translated into high school drama. While some of the historical events have been excluded, there is still enough to see the events of Henry and his court unfold in the modern day. Capin includes key aspects of Henry’s life and the lives of his wives, and while not everything is translatable, the references that are there are creative and true to her characters.

As I say so much comes back to metaphors and Capin’s ingenious weaving of history into a modern setting which works so ridiculously well. I never even thought I needed a retelling of Tudor history but now that I have it I’ve realised what magic I have been missing out on.

You can purchase The Dead Queens Club via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Billy Connolly by Pamela Stephenson

Published: 2002Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction/Biography
★   ★   ★  ★  ★  – 5 Stars

1427408The inside story of the one of the most successful British stand-up comedians, as told by the person best qualified to reveal all about the man behind the comic, his wife of over 20 years – Pamela Stephenson. Once in a lifetime, there strides upon the stage someone who can truly be called a legend. Such a person is the inimitable, timeless genius who is Billy Connolly. His effortlessly wicked whimsy has entranced, enthralled – and split the sides of – thousands upon thousands of adoring audiences.

He’s the man who needs no introduction, and yet he is the ultimate enigma. From a troubled and desperately poor childhood in the docklands of Glasgow he is now the intimate of household names the world over. How did this happen, who is the real Billy Connolly? Only one person can answer that question: his wife, Pamela Stephenson. Pamela’s writing combines the very personal with a frank objectivity that makes for a compelling, moving and hugely entertaining biography. This is the real Billy Connolly.

This is a great biography of the best comedian by the most suitable person. Who better than Billy’s own wife to write a well deserved and respectful biography.

When I read this it was before I really got into Billy Connolly. I had seen a few bits and pieces and loved what I saw but I didn’t have access to see anything else. Reading this book gave me so many more insights into his life and work and made me respect him all the more.

Billy’s life was not perfect by any means and he had a rough upbringing. The stories and memories Stephenson explores break your heart, make you laugh and actually don’t make you close the book pitying Billy at all. You see where he has taken this pain and what he has done with it and you applaud him for pressing on and pushing through it.

There are so many sides of Billy explored in this, from his childhood to his music and comedian days as well as his life with Stephenson. This book is filled with jokes and humorous anecdotes that soften the darker aspects but a true biography is never all smiles and laughter. A brilliant book and an engaging, emotional and entertaining read.

The Great Garden Mystery by Renee Treml

Published: 1st September 2014 by Random House AustraliaGoodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Illustrator: Renee Treml
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

Someone is stealing the beetroots, who could that somebody be? Join us in the garden and we’ll unravel this mystery. A mix of clever Australian animals examine the clues, but can they catch the thief before he strikes again?

Filled with a great range of native Australian animals, as well as a few introduced ones, this story explores the great mystery that has come to the garden. The rabbit and the fox mingle with the koala and the possum over who has eaten all the beetroot. What I thought was creative was how Treml has made it entertaining as well as educational, each animal using their natural abilities or features as a means to exonerate themselves.

The story is told in rhyme, but not such intense rhyme that you sing it, it reads like a regular story with casual rhymes to finish off the page. Treml’s illustrations are vibrant on different coloured backgrounds with beautifully realistic sketches of the animals in and around the garden.

In the end I found it a bit harsh that the suspect is chosen because she ran away. This doesn’t get resolved so I’m hoping there is an unwritten sequel where the poor creature isn’t accused anymore, forced to flee her home at being accused of a crime she didn’t commit. The true culprit is revealed only to the reader and it does make for a cheeky ending I’ll admit.

You can purchase The Great Garden Mystery via the following

QBD

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Published: 17th February 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Starscape
Pages: 246
Format: Sci Fi/Fantasy
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. 

It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed.

Her only hope for survival is to keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

This is the book which introduces us to Carmody’s world after the Great-White but aside from a brief mention and a few other references you don’t get a great sense of what it is like.

Elspeth is a nice character, sweet, no real substance despite her magic powers and the first person narration. A lot of the characters have little depth but they progress the story and fill a gap. The dialogue is stilted and there is a lot of telling but since the whole book is like this you find yourself just putting up with it and moving on.

The plot itself was interesting, it was just simple and poorly explored. It took a little while to get into the story as Carmody gradually brings us into the world but it was enjoyable in its own way. I didn’t dislike it and there were moments of mystery and intrigue but I wasn’t wowed. But, with seven books in the series it’s obviously going to be a wide world that gets slowly developed. I hope it lives up to my expectations because I want to enjoy it and now that I have finally started, I want it to make me regret not starting it when I was first told about it 20 years ago.

I wasn’t instantly grabbed but I didn’t dislike it enough to make me stop. Based off this first book I will start the second. The narrative picks up further into the book and leaves us with somewhere to go. Even though it isn’t the best, I’m trusting it’s a story that needs unpacking slowly. Just not too slowly.

You can purchase Obernewtyn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson | Fishpond | Wordery

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

AWW 2019 Update: Jan-Mar

March has ended which marks the first quarter of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. As I mentioned in my starting post I am aiming for 30 this year and I am going really well looking at the numbers but also feel like I could be doing better since so many of these books are picture books. I am not deterred, however, I will use this pit stop as a boost and it gives me a goal to strive for in the next quarter. It’s not only picture books though, I have read a range of books by a variety of women so far with non fiction and fiction thrown into the mix.

My reviews are fairing a lot better, a lot of these books have reviews scheduled to post in the coming weeks so I will update their links on the next update. For now though, it’s a start and definitely a motivator for a better number next quarter. I can already see my goal being raised so that’s a nice bonus.

AWW19 BOOKS Jan-Mar

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Review

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – Review

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer – Review

It’s Not Scribble to Me by Kate Ritchie

December’s Wish by Karly Lane – Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachel Johns – Review

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

It’s A Long Way to the Shop by Heidi McKinnon

Did You Take the B from my _ook? by Beck and Matt Stanton

Millie Loves Ants by Jackie French

Sorry Day by Coral Vass

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney

The Easter Bunny’s Helpers by Ann Mangan

We Love School by Lucie Billingsley

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Austin Sheehan

 

AWW19 TOTAL

Read: 19/30

Reviewed: 5/20

 

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