Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish – Josephine Moon

The Cake Maker’s Wish

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN:  9780143792017

 

Description:

Life in the village isn’t always sweet and simple . . .

 

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

 

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

 

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

 

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options, she didn’t even know she was craving.

 

An uplifting and heart-warming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.

 

 

My View:

If you are anything like me at the moment you appreciate a piece of heart-warming escapism in your reading choice and this book based on cake making is the perfect, temporary antidote to the ills of the time.

 

I love the ideas of the “Renaissance Project”  and the narrative successfully transports us to modern day English village lifestyle and times, the trials and tribulations of being an “outsider” and demonstrates how to mend bridges by simply showing an interest and caring about those around us.

 

This book is packed with “themes” for you to unlock and consider, and a love story or two and a bit of history/mystery for you to ponder.

 

 

 

 

Review: No Never! : Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn-Jarman Illustrated by Mel Pearce

No Never! A Cautionary Tale

Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn- Jarman

Illustrated by Mel Pearce

Hachette Australia

Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734418906

 

Description:

A cautionary tale about a little girl who drives her parents up the wall when she starts answering ‘No! Never!’ to all their requests – and what happens when the tables are turned on her.

 

There was a child,

The sweetest ever,

Until she learned these words:

‘NO! NEVER!’

 

Georgie is a sweet little girl who always makes her parents happy… until she discovers one powerful phrase: No! Never!

 

It suddenly becomes her answer to every request, from tidying up her toys to going to bed. Her parents are at their wits end, but what happens when they decide to try saying No! Never! themselves?

 

A lovely, lively look at the Terrible Twos (or Threes, or Fours, or Fives…) from mother-daughter team Libby Hathorn and Lisa Hathorn-Jarman, with debut illustrator Mel Pearce. Perfect for any parent dealing with tantrums, defiant behaviour or communication issues.

 

 

My View:

This is a delightful tale with a wonderful moral/lesson in the story that all carers, parents and young children can appreciate. With simple almost gleeful imagery and wonderful rhyming prose, this book is sure to be a hit.

 

Highly recommend for pre-schoolers, pre-school libraries and all who play with, care for and help little minds grow.

 

 

 

Review: The Mummy Animal Book – Jennifer Cossins

The Mummy Animal Book

Jennifer Cossins

Hachette Australia

ISBN:  9780734419897

RRP $9.99

 

Description:

An adorable and informative picture book about mummy animals and their babies from the author of THE BABY ANIMAL BOOK and 101 COLLECTIVE NOUNS.

 

Did you know that a mother peacock is called a peahen and a baby peacock is called a peachick?

 

THE MUMMY ANIMAL BOOK is an adorable and informative picture book about mummy animals and their babies that is perfect for Mother’s Day, from the author of the CBCA Notable THE BABY ANIMAL BOOK.

 

 

My View:

This is another delightful book from one of my favourite children’s authors and illustrators.  Jennifer Cossins once again delivers a children book that is engaging, beautifully illustrated and educational. You are sure to enjoy the time you sit with your pre schooler sharing this beautiful book.

PS Anyone looking for a gift for the many kindy parties your child will be attending, this book is perfect. Be assured that you will be giving a gift of learning and joy; encouraging reading is such valuable habit to inspire and it is a bargain too.

 

 

 

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Guest Review: Colombiano – Rusty Young

Colombiano

Rusty Young

Havelock & Baker Publishing

ISBN: 9780143781530

 

Description:

In Colombia you have to pick a side. Or one will be picked for you . . .

All Pedro Gutiérrez cares about is fishing, playing pool and his girlfriend Camila’s promise to sleep with him on his sixteenth birthday. But his life is ripped apart when Guerrilla soldiers callously execute his father in front of him, and he and his mother are banished from their farm.

Swearing vengeance against the five men responsible, Pedro, with his best friend Palillo, joins an illegal Paramilitary group, where he is trained to fight, kill and crush any sign of weakness.

But as he descends into a world of unspeakable violence, Pedro must decide how far he is willing to go. Can he stop himself before he becomes just as ruthless as those he is hunting? Or will his dark obsession cost him all he loves?

Colombiano is an epic tale of rural villages held to ransom, of jungle drug labs, cocaine supermarkets, witch doctors and buried millions, of innocent teenage love, barbaric torture and meticulously planned revenge.

Superbly told and by turns gripping, poignant and darkly comic, Colombiano is the remarkable story of a boy whose moral descent becomes a metaphor for the corruption of an entire nation. Both blockbuster thriller and electrifying coming-of-age story, Rusty Young’s powerful novel is also a meditation on the redeeming power of love.

Brenda’s Review:

As fifteen-year-old Pedro Gutierrez was forced to watch his father being murdered, he vowed he would do everything in his power to get vengeance against the men responsible. Grieving, angry and determined, Pedro and his best friend Palillo joined the Autodefensas – opposition to the powerful and brutal Guerrilla, the group that the men he would kill belonged to. Pedro had been a naïve teenager whose love for his girlfriend Camila, his mother and father, as well as fishing with his Papa had kept him innocent. His life would change dramatically in the two and a half years he was with the Autodefensas.

Pedro’s obsession with finding his father’s killers overrode any common sense he might have and Palillo did all he could to keep Pedro from doing crazy things. But would the world of violence he had descended into turn him into a killer as well? Would he turn into one of the monsters he was pursuing?

What an incredible tale, told by Aussie author Rusty Young after his seven years in Colombia where he interviewed special forces soldiers, snipers, undercover intelligence agents and members of the brutal gangs which were at war in the country. The child soldiers were the ones who tore his heart apart, and so, in telling their story, Colombiano was born. Blending fact with fiction, this story – at 820 pages – is a long one, but one well worth reading. Pedro was an excellent character as was Palillo and I was captivated by the story; by the heartache and poignancy which saw a coming of age story along with a thriller like none I’ve ever read before. A superbly told story, Colombiano is one I highly recommend. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Orange Grove – Kate Murdoch

The Orange Grove

Kate Murdoch

Regal House Publishing

ISBN: 9781947548220

 

Description:

Blois, 1705. The château of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies. The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in love and domestic politics strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The Duc Hugo d’Amboise had a wife, the Duchesse Charlotte and several mistresses who all lived together in his chateau which was surrounded by beautiful gardens and the orange grove. It was 1705 in Blois, France and the politics of the household was rife with petty jealousies, anger and enemies. When a new mistress arrived, the young and beautiful Letitia, Charlotte was intensely jealous. The duc wanted a son; Charlotte was unable to produce one therefore the duc’s mistresses felt the pressure to give him what he wanted. The problem was, the duc’s affections for Letitia overtook his affections for anyone else, including his wife.

Henriette and her daughter Solange lived quietly in the chateau, with Henriette high up in the realm of mistresses. But that was to change when she befriended Letitia. Charlotte was bitter and angry, looking for anything that would remove Letitia from her husband’s affections. What would happen in the chateau as tensions escalated and rivalries flared? And how was tarot card reader, Romain de Villiers involved?

The Orange Grove by Aussie author Kate Murdoch is set in France in the early 1700s where it was normal for men to have mistresses, for wives to know and even approve in some cases. What a horrible time to bring up your children! As a woman, you’d need to be on your toes, fully aware of what could – and probably would – go wrong any time, day or night. And as a young woman, to be sold to ease your family’s financial woes, to a duke who was willing to pay money for a pretty young face and body – I’m glad I wasn’t born back then! Filled with intrigue, The Orange Grove is one I recommend. 4 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Year the Maps Changed – Danielle Binks

 

The Year the Maps Changed

Danielle Binks

Hachette Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734419712

 

Description:

‘I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that’s another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.’

Sorrento, Victoria – 1999

Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.

A middle-grade coming-of-age story about the bonds of family and the power of compassion for fans of The Bone Sparrow, Wolf Hollow and The Thing About Jellyfish.

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Winifred was eleven and living with her adoptive father Luca – a policeman – and until recently her Pop. But then Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son Sam moved in and suddenly Winifred (who was called Fred, Freddo and Winnie) felt her house was crowded. She’d lost her mother Maria when she was six and still missed her terribly and didn’t want Sam or Anika in her house. Pop was at a Rehabilitation Centre recovering from the fall he’d had, and Winifred visited him every weekend, and Wednesdays after school.

Winifred had a few friends at school and was close to Jed who lived next door. Aiden was another friend and soon Sam joined the group. Their teacher, Mr Khouri taught geography and maps which Winifred was fascinated by, and he always told them “Not all those who wander are lost” which stuck in Winifred’s mind. But more was to take their interest when they found out 400 refugees were to be arriving and housed in a “safe haven” nearby. As events changed around them, Winifred felt cut adrift. But she felt inside that she had a purpose and when a particular person made an impact on her life, she went with what she felt was right. What would be the result of the year that changed everything for Winifred?

The Year the Maps Changed by Aussie author Danielle Binks is set in the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and gives us a look at one turbulent year in a young girl’s life in which things change, family merges, sadness and tragedy occurs, and she begins to mature. A story of family, love, compassion and right from wrong, The Year the Maps Changed is a powerful middle grade novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended. 5 stars

 

With thanks to Hachette Children’s Books AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fool Me Once – Karly Lane

Fool Me Once

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529246

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Karly Lane has a wonderful way of creating a sense of place – These are books I know I can fall into and be transported.’ – Noveltea Corner on Return to Stringybark Creek

 

Farmer, Georgie Henderson manages a cattle farm in the New England region of NSW, but her dream has always been to buy back her family property, Tamban. Her every waking hour for years, has revolved around planning to make this dream become a reality.

 

When an unlikely meeting with Michael Delacourt at a rowdy B&S Ball sends them on a whirlwind romance, Georgie can’t believe it’s possible for life to be this good and her dream of buying back Tamban has, for the first time, taken a backseat to happiness.

 

But her world shatters when she discovers the shocking secret Michael has been trying to keep from her.

 

Can Michael convince her they still have a future? And after having her heart so thoroughly broken, can Georgie ever trust anyone again?

 

 

My View:

If you are looking for a read that will take you away from the everyday, from the covid -19 isolation stress, then this book is for you. This is the perfect escapist read.

 

I was drawn to the small-town settings, the B & S ball (I went to something similar when I was on school holidays staying at a friends in the country), the farm stay tourist venture…it all seemed very credible to me. This is the book that will transport you to outback Australia, the dust and the cattle, the windmills and water pumps…and the dramas that beset this small-town woman.

This is a very easy read and by that, I mean you turn the pages quickly; the characters leap off the page and into your imagination, the settings are vivid, the narrative is fast moving and dramatic, the resolution satisfying. This is armchair travelling at its best.

 

 

 

 

Review: Mammoth – Chris Flynn

 

 

Mammoth

Chris Flynn

University of Queensland Press

ISBN: 9780702262746

 

Description:

Narrated by a 13,000-year-old extinct American mastodon, Mammoth is the (mostly) true story of how the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy and the narrator himself came to be on sale at a 2007 natural history auction in Manhattan.

 

Ranging from the Pleistocene Epoch to nineteenth-century America and beyond, including detours to Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, Mammoth illuminates a period of history when ideas about science and religion underwent significant change. By tracing how and when the fossils were unearthed, Mammoth traverses time and place to reveal humanity’s role in the inexorable destruction of the natural world.

 

My View:

This is not my usual sort of read – in fact it is probably unlike anything I have read before or will read again😊. The narrator is the voice of an extinct mammoth – one with a very droll sense of humour and a melodious story telling style. Simply put, I felt like I was a child, snuggled in a chair (or bed) being told a rambling bedtime story about the world as it was and how the hominids wreaked havoc and destruction on the environment.

 

The book is full of thought provoking and enlightening anecdotes, one that is a standout is the mammoth’s reflection on ownership. “Ownership is a strange, uniquely human notion. The bipeds are obsessed with staking their claim over places, people and things. I cannot understand it. No beast of air, land or sea ever asserted the right of possession over another creature, except to devour it. The hominids don’t even eat each other anymore.” p37.  Such a simply stated yet relevant observation, Mammoth is such a brilliant observer.

 

To complete this unusual read is a cast of curious (deceased, extinct, mummified or fossilised) creatures; the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy. I particularly liked the irreverent voice of the Tyrannosaurus bataar.

 

This unusual book is the perfect read for these unusual times

 

 

 

Review: I’m Staying At Richard’s – Bernadette Agius

I’m Staying at Richard’s: Raising the Exceptional Son I Never Expected
Bernadette Agius
Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501174568

 

Description:
This inspiring, heartfelt, and powerful memoir by a mother of a child with Down syndrome explores the incredible blessings and challenges of raising a child with disabilities.

When Bernadette Agius—an ambitious career-focused woman—became pregnant, she imagined her unborn child attending the best schools and dazzling everyone with his impressive wit, charm, and intelligence. But when the doctors placed her baby boy in her arms and told Bernadette he had Down syndrome, those dreams instantly disappeared.

While her first impulse was to fight against this new reality, she soon found the strength to become the champion her son, Richard, would need and deserved. With the help of her husband and a newfound village of professionals, Bernadette forged a new life, discovering along the way that everyone has a different version of normal. Ultimately Richard, now thirty, was able to defy expectation and become an independent adult.

Grounded in love, offering a message of hope, and told with humor and honesty, I’m Staying at Richard’s shines a light on the fierce, unwavering love of a mother for her son.

 

My View:
This is a very powerful story of unconditional love. Reading this memoir felt a lot like stepping into somebody else’s shoes and for that insight I am grateful.

If you want a powerful, heartening, optimistic and joyful (mostly) story about finding your path and yourself when life throws the totally unexpected at you, read this poignant story.

Review: Phosphorescence – Julia Baird

Phosphorescence
Julia Baird
Harper Collins Australia
Fourth Estate
ISBN: 9781460710890

Description:
A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?

And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?

Absorbing, achingly beautiful, inspiring and deeply moving, Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times.

My View:

A deeply personal yet universal message of optimism and self-reflection on what is important in our busy modern lives. Trauma is something that the author has experienced first-hand – loss, and her recent health issues have awakened a desire to reconnect with her community and nature; the beach, swimming, the comradery of her fellow swimmers, those enjoying a coffee together afterwards, chatting…the connection of a shared experience and her personal mission to explore what brings her awe and joy.

Awe and joy – what a wonderful state to be in and what sublime timing – in this world of Corona Virus pandemic never has the power of awe been more necessary. Julia Baird is in awe of the natural phenomena, phosphorescence. Have you ever experienced/observed it it? “Living Light…glow worms, ghost mushrooms, fireflies, flashlight fish, vampire squid…glowing missionaries of wonder, emissaries of awe.”
(prelude) What do you find awe inspiring?

Phosphorescence, discover this read and reignite your own passion and joy of life.

 

PS I love the cover art.