Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14) by Jacqueline Harvey

clementine rose 14.jpgTitle: Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 145

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

~*~

Six-year-old Clementine Rose lives with her mother, step-father, step-bother, aunt and grandparents at Penberthy House. It’s school holidays, and Clementine has all kinds of plans to have lots of fun. But her family home, Penberthy Hall, has been chosen to host the Great Village Bake Off – and all Clementine’s activities are put off. That is, until she decides to participate in the bake-off. Disheartened to find out she is too young, Clementine convinces those in charge to run a mini junior bake-off as well, and she sets about finding the perfect cake. If only her mother wasn’t so sick. But then Clementine and her brother stumble across nefarious activities and goings on with at least one bake-off contestant after they notice all the other contestants’ bakes are always going wrong – but who – or what is behind it and why? It is up to Clementine and Will to find out – and to stop cheating in the junior bake-off as well!

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I came to Jacqueline Harvey earlier this year with Kensy and Max – and thoroughly enjoyed the first two in that series and am keen for the next ones when they come out – hopefully soon. But this was my first adventure with Clementine Rose, a series aimed at younger readers who are just starting to read alone, and gain confidence in their reading abilities. This is book fourteen in the series, and I found it utterly charming. Clementine is a delightful little girl, who partakes in activities such as baking and ballet, but shows a determination to do things on her own and with her brother, like investigating the strange goings on at the bake-off, and uncovering the secrets behind the catastrophes. What will they uncover, and how will people react?

I loved this book – it was charming, and a quick read for young children, or anyone who wants a quick and fun read at any time of the year. Clementine Rose is the kind of character that shows children of all ages and genders that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it – she doesn’t let anything stop her, but she still knows to ask for help when she needs it, but that’s what makes her great – she knows what she can do on her own and knows what her limits are and this shows kids that they can be just like her. I loved Clementine Rose, and I enjoy Jacqueline’s style of writing.

Booktopia

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

have sword, will travel.jpgTitle: Have Sword, Will Travel

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams, comes this hilarious, action-packed adventure featuring a very unlikely knight, an admirably stubborn girl and a sword with attitude.

When Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, something very unexpected happens … the sword starts to talk! Much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight. Eleanor would love to become a knight – but she’s not the one with the sword. Unearthing Biter is only the start of their troubles; soon boy, girl and sword must depart on a noble quest to save their kingdom from threats – in both human and dragon form.

~*~

In a new series that started last year, Garth Nix has teamed up with Sean Williams to create a medieval-esque world, filled with knights and dragons, and dark creatures threatening to take over the kingdom, as well as enchanted swords that talk back to those who wield them. What could be more fun? Well, a world where girls have as much of a chance to become a knight as the boys do! In the beginning, we meet Odo and Eleanor as they are undertaking daily tasks for their family and village, looked after by Sir Halfdan, and often teased by twin brothers, Aaric and Addyson. During these tasks, they discover a sword lying in a pool of water, and pull it out, thinking it belongs to Sir Halfdan. When it begins to talk after Odo’s blood awakens it, and introduces itself (or himself, as it turns out), as  Hildebrand Shining Foebiter, Scourge of Scourger, Daragonslayer, and becomes known as Biter the Dragonslayer, or Biter, for short, by Eleanor and Odo, who are on a quest to supposedly save the people of their country from a devastating dragon known as Quenwolf, who is feared throughout the land. Biter knights Odo before the quest, where they come across a female knight known as Sir Saskia, and another magical sword known as Runnel – Biter’s sister.

But all is not as it seems with the dragon, the quest, or Sir Saskia – and Odo and Eleanor must journey across the lands and meet Quenwolf, to find out what is happening before they can return home.

In the few Garth Nix books I have read, the female hero is front and centre, and breaking the mould of what a princess or female fantasy character is expected to do. She is daring, and eager, yet not perfect. She longs for adventure and becoming a knight, whereas Odo, knighted by Biter, would rather stay home in safety, and is a rather reluctant knight, but with Biter and Eleanor’s help – which he doesn’t always want – will become braver, but still desires to return home.

In this story, we have everything: a gutsy girl, a reluctant hero, a kingdom under attack, spies, dragons, magic, dark creatures, and of course, magical, talking swords that don’t shy away from being snarky or sarcastic when it is called for. It is a world that is in many ways, familiar – a low-tech world with magic, dragons and knights, yet with a newness that carries the story in leaps and bounds as Odo and Eleanor travel across the country, to keep out of harm’s way, and save their village and the kingdom from the dark forces that threaten to take over and who start seeking to hunt them down as the story settles into a flow that will continue into the next book, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, which will hopefully be reviewed during the week, as I am, at the time of writing this post, nearly finished it.

I’ve got a few Garth Nix books to read in my many stacks of books and will eventually be getting to them to see what other spectacular characters he has written for all readers to enjoy and relate to. A great start to a new series for younger readers – well, readers of all ages if I am being honest. I’m now looking forward to what, if anything, follows Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.

Booktopia

Book Bingo Twenty-one – A funny book, A book that scares you and a book of short stories

Book bingo take 2

This week marks my twenty-first post for the year of my Bok Bingo challenge, which has been chugging along well. So well in fact, I’m whipping through my second card quite rapidly, with a few squares to be decided and written up. For this post, all three books are by Australian women, scoring a hattrick for the post and overall Australian women writers challenge. In fact, many of the books for this year could have ticked off the book by an Australian woman over sixty times. At this stage, I have read and reviewed sixty-four books by Australian women, with more to come.

Book bingo take 2

Rows Across:

Row #2

 A book with a yellow cover:

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 Row #3:  –

 A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book:

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1

Row #4

 A forgotten classic:

A book with a one-word title:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title:

Rows Down:

Row #4 –BINGO

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

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First off, is a picture book, and this fills in the square for a funny book. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, published by Elephant Tree Publishing, slots into this category nicely. When Archibald decides to go to the local zoo, he is quickly spotted by the zoo keeper selling tickets and is told to behave himself – poor Archibald tries to be good, but he always seems to be getting into trouble – whatever he tries. At the zoo, all he wants is for the animals to be able to play with each other. What happens next is charming, hilarious and so magical, children will delight in reading this with someone or on their own as they learn to read independently. A story well worth trying to get your hands on.

what the woods keep

Second up is a book that scares me. This one is a debut novel by Katya de Becerra – What the Woods Keep, and for those who embrace the macabre, it is perfect. Filled with hints of science fiction, mythology and dark fantasy, it compels you to read on, lulling you into a false sense of safety until you hit Promise, and quite literally, all hell breaks loose. The woods are a terrifying place, where big bad things happen. People go missing or die. They are swallowed up whole by the environment and never heard from again. It is a chilling, intriguing book that will keep you awake at night, wondering what to expect next. Though you’ll want to set it aside to recover from what has just happened, you will also want to continue reading to see how it plays out for Hayden and to finally feel your heart start beating at a normal rate again. Horrifying and intriguing, this is a great book for those in search of a spooky tale.

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fairytales for feisty girls

Finally, we get to what has to be one of my favourite books of the year, because it combines feisty girls and fairy tales, and my little nerd heart couldn’t have been happier, having studied fairy tales at university, and developing a love for them in their raw, unabridged forms, with the lopping off of limbs, dancing in red hot shoes and thorny punishments, to the various retellings that have sanitised them or taken them to the absolute extremes, to the fairy tale retellings that are coming out in abundance these days in various genres, in particular the fairy tale infused historical fiction written by Kate Forsyth. So for the short story square, Susannah McFarlane’s book, Fairytales for Feisty Girls captures this spot. Susannah has taken well known tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Thumbelina – fairy tale girls who have previously been acted upon, and passive in the original oral tales and Brothers Grimm versions – and allows them to act for themselves. Rapunzel is an inventor, using the things Mother Gothel brings her to create things to help around the house, much to Gothel’s horror. Red Riding Hood and her grandmother outwit a wolf, Thumbelina finds her way home and Cinderella makes her own fortunes with the glass slipper. Each girl does something using the key aspects and symbols of the original tales to save herself, showing girls of all ages that they can be who they want, do what they want and that they don’t need to wait for the prince or woodsman (who, funnily enough in this story, has lost his axe), to save them.

 

Wrapping book bingo 21, and moving onto book bingo 22 in a couple weeks.

Booktopia

Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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Secrets Hidden Below (The Adamson Adventures #1) by Sandra Bennett

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Title: Secrets Hidden Below (The Adamson Adventures #1)

Author: Sandra Bennett

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Elephant Tree Publishing

Published: August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 140

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The Adamson family are set for a surfing holiday in Bali they’ll never forget. Dad wants to surf all day and Mum wants to shop. Zac is eager to explore a sunken WWII shipwreck. Luke is keen to cause mischief wherever he goes. Clare on the other hand, just wants to stay out of trouble.

But while building sandcastles on Kuta Beach, the kids unearth a surprising find that dramatically changes their holiday. Curiosity leads them on a dangerous path to an adventure where difficulties lurk around every corner.

Secrets Hidden Below takes the reader on an intriguing treasure hunt around an exotic tropical island that includes plenty of rotten-egg gas, a guardian snake and a volcano spirit you definitely don’t want to anger.

~*~

Zac, Luke and Clare are on a family holiday to Indonesia – where they are looking forward to swimming, snorkelling and diving with Dad on a World War Two wreck – but the kids are left very much to their own devices as Dad spends his days surfing and Mum spends her day shopping at the markets. So, the kids are left to play on the sand – that is, until they discover a map that leads to a secret treasure near a volcano, and a mystery that has been buried for hundreds of years, ever since Indonesia had been a Dutch colony.

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Following the map and the clues, Zac, Luke and Clare head off on an adventure – Mum and Dad are there, but are clueless as to what the children are really up  to – and begin to seek out the legend, and treasure and the volcano spirit they must appease before they can find what they seek, and also contend with someone else who wants to the treasure as well – but for what purpose? And what will the children find? It is this mysterious treasure hunt, filled with colourful characters, who also want the treasure, that make this book the exciting story it is, and that will engage younger readers as they read. The fast pace of the book ensures there is always something happening, and that things are not going to slow down any time soon, which made the story go faster, and allows the reader to be swept up into the action.

The first in a new series to be published by Elephant Tree Publishing in Canberra, Secrets Hidden Below is aimed at children aged eight and over, and as it uses Indonesian phrases, is a great way for beginner students to see the language they are learning being used in a practical setting.

The adventure that Zac and his siblings, Luke and Clare go on is fun, and engaging, with a decent pace for all readers of the story, to keep them intrigued, and interested in what is happening, whilst at the same time, exposing them to a new language, country and culture. It is a quick, light read, yet at the same time, filled with excitement, a bit of danger, and a treasure hunt that any kid would enjoy as they explore an island filled with culture and history, and sandy beaches.

With Zac in charge, Clare and Luke follow him on his quest to find the treasure, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It is Zac’s ability to translate and speak Indonesian that helps them, and brings an element of excitement and interest

to the novel. Having learnt Indonesian in high school, most of it came back as I read, and I was able to understand it – the glossary of every day terms in the back was useful to refresh my mind, and is also useful for those just starting out, and needing to check a word or two.

This book is the first in a series, it will be interesting to see what other books in the series have to offer, and what other adventures the Adamson family go on. It introduces children to adventure, a new language and culture, and with its spattering of Indonesian, is ideal for students learning the language at any level, to reinforce usage and how the language works – in a fun and inviting way.

Booktopia

Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky

NJ1802-ETP-Archibald-book-1-pdf-1030x824.jpgTitle: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo

Author: Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky

Genre: Fantasy, Picture Book

Publisher: Elephant Tree Publishing

Published: August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 32

Price: $19.95

Synopsis: Archibald is the naughtiest elf in the whole wide world, who loves nothing more than doing extremely mischievous things, all with very good intentions.

Archibald has decided to visit the Zoo and chat to all the animals. But the Zookeeper is a bit worried – what possible mischief could Archibald get up to?

Come discover new worlds and ideas as you follow Archibald on one of his many exciting adventures.

~*~

Archibald, a very naughty elf (he wants to be good, but he can’t quite help being naughty), is off to the zoo. He wants to visit the animals there, and he promises the zoo keeper who lets him in that he will be very good and not let the animals out of their cages. But Archibald doesn’t like that the animals can’t play together like they did in Africa, and he knows that he has to be good – but he can’t, and when he releases the animals from their cages, chaos reigns and the zoo will never be the same again.

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I was approached via my blog to review this and two other books by Elephant Tree Publishing, and was drawn to them because of their plots, and will be reviewing the other two soon.

Archibald was the first one I read off the stack – it being the shortest, and cutest, I couldn’t resist those naughty eyes and freckles. His cheeky look is inviting and fun, and he gets up to mischief and takes adventures that are magical and fun – where he takes children and adult readers alike to all new places, using magic and his naughty and cheeky self.

In this adventure, he heads to the zoo and meets talking animals, who delightfully, are all the best of friends and want to spend their days together. This is the first book in a new picture book series, and it will be exciting to see where Archibald takes us in his next adventures and with his exquisite charm and brand of magic that creates turmoil and laughter wherever he goes.

I hope readers of this book enjoy it and have a lot of fun with Archibald on his wonderful adventures.

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

the dinner list.jpgTitle: The Dinner List

Author: Rebecca Serle

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:If you could invite anyone at all to a fantasy dinner party, who would be on your list?

‘We’ve been waiting for an hour.’ That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetisers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

~*~

The Dinner List is a surreal novel, where each chapter of a distant yet recent past is sandwiched between a dream-world dinner. Sabrina is on the cusp of turning thirty, and her thoughts turn to a list she made years earlier: the five people she could invite to a dinner party if she could: her father, best friend, Audrey Hepburn, a former professor and the man she almost married. Throughout this dinner, discussions flow back and forth for four hours, leading into the chapters that fill in the story, with each section carefully omitting certain pieces of information as the reader seeks to discover what is happening, who is who and where they fit into Sabrina’s life.

Together, they traverse a myriad of topics, including love, life and what had brought them each to their respective places in their lives and at the time of the dinner. Sabrina is their anchor, and they each have something to impart or share with her to help her come to terms with recent events. As the novel slips in and out of reality and the surreal, dream dinner world Sabrina has created, life and magical realism collide to create a unique and unexpected story of friendship, hope, love and loss in the world of a millennial as she finds out where she belongs in the world, with a unique ending for what seems to be a romance-based novel, where things might not end up as happily ever after, but with a sense of closure and finality, and perhaps a sense of the reality of how life can really turn out for us, rather than riding off into the sunset together.

Sophisticated in its delivery, and surreal, but eloquent in its style, the mystery of who is who, where they fit in and why they are present at the dinner is slowly revealed to both reader and Sabrina, in a moving, funny and touching way that makes it a romantic story, but a realistic one that touches on the obstacles and tragedies we face in life.

This was a surprise delivery, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, yet the premise was interesting enough that I decided to give it a go. It’s an intriguing  take on the people that come in and out of our lives and what they mean to us.