The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective agency #19) by lexander McCall-Smith

Mma Ramotswe 19.jpgTitle: The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective agency #19)

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Crime, literary fiction, mystery

Publisher: Hachette/Little, Brown

Published: 11th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 231

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The new Botswana book from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, this is Mma Ramotswe’s nineteenth wonderful adventure.

 

Mma Ramostwe’s friend will persuade her to stand for election to the City Council. ‘We need women like her in politics,’ Mma Potokwani says, ‘instead of having the same old men every time . . .’ To be elected, Mma Ramotswe must have a platform and some policies. She will have to canvas opinion. She will have to get Mma Makutsi’s views. Her slogan is ‘I can’t promise anything – but I shall do my best’. Her intention is to halt the construction of the Big Fun Hotel, a dubious, flashy hotel near a graveyard – an act that many consider to be disrespectful. Mma Ramotswe will take the campaign as far as she can, but lurking around the corner, as ever, is the inextinguishable Violet Sephotho.

 

At the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe is pondering the meaning of her life and whether in fact there is one. A meeting with Mma Potokwani – who runs the local orphan farm – provides unsettling inspiration.

 

It is Mma Ramotswe’s instinct for selflessness, her calm and rational thinking, Mma Potokwani proclaims, that make her a perfect candidate for a newly vacant seat on the local council. Who better than Precious Ramotswe to defend the community against corruption and injustice?

 

Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is assigned a troubling case. He is keen to prove both his ability to his superior, Mma Makutsi, and his worth to Queenie-Queenie who has captured his heart; and Mma Makutsi is confidently in pursuit of a ruthless property developer.

 

The path to triumph, however, is beset with problems for Charlie and Mma Makutsi, while Mma Ramotswe comes to recognise that it is not political power that gives her life its vital purpose – it is simply her inherent desire to understand and support those who need her most.

 

~*~

 

Heading back to Botswana with Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and their friends and families is a welcome respite from the world we live in today. In the latest instalment, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, takes a back seat from investigations as she begins to run for the local council, with one goal, and spurred on by the woman who runs the Orphan Farm her two children – Puso and Motholeli – came from: to prevent a big business owner and property developer, Gobe Maruti – from building the Big Fun Hotel right next to a cemetery where the late loved ones lie. Mma Potokwani, like others in the community, fears that the once the Big Fun Hotel is a success, developers will want to disturb those resting in the cemetery – and Mma Potokwani is convinced that Mma Ramotswe will be able to do something about it. As Precious works on her campaign, part-time detective Charlie must look into an elderly man getting hit by a car, and the mystery of the absence of a car that colour, whilst trying to impress a young woman called Queenie-Queenie. Mma Makutsi investigates the property developer to assist the campaign and find a way to discover the motives behind her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, from the Botswana Secretarial College, who is also standing for council and supporting the development of the hotel. Mma Ramotswe is not sure politics is for her, but with her team rallying around her, she decides to let things happen as they do.

 

Each character has obstacles and challenges to overcome in their daily lives as detectives, and Charlie as a mechanic with Tlokweng Speedy Motors and Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, grapples with his own case, and the mystery of a car that ran down a doctor and hasn’t been seen since. As they plot to prevent to construction of the hotel, each case somehow intersects a little, apart from the case of the car that has been missing since running Dr Marang over, which has links to other characters in the story.

 

As each plotline intersects, the race to be a councillor begins to make Mma Ramotswe wonder if politics is the place for her – doing so is the right thing for her community, however long she is able to serve on the council. In Mma Potokwani’s eyes, Precious is the perfect candidate to prevent the Big Fun Hotel being built next to a graveyard – seen as disrespectful by many, and in Mma Ramotswe’s gentle, firm way, she agrees to help stop the construction – and speak out against the council that seeks to disrupt Gaborone, and its gentle citizens going about their lives. Within these books. Africa leaps off the pages in sight, sound and smell, and is vivid and inviting to readers new and old.

 

The Colours of All the Cattle makes a wonderful addition to the series, and there will hopefully be more to come.

 

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is one of those series that is fun and comforting and a light, gentle read with a sense of simplicity and tradition yet at the same time, explores the ways societies and people change, but also, want to stay the same, without disruption to lives. It is a charming series, and the most recent novel is no exception, filled with the places and people that readers have come to know over the past twenty years and nineteen books. The charm in this series is in the simple beauty these characters see in their world, and the connections they make, as well as the understanding they have for each other, a world where they do not begrudge friends and family mistakes. Not all characters are perfect – they have their flaws and make errors in judgement at times. But the case will be solved, and all will be right in Zebra Drive and Gaborone.

 

 

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.

Kensy and Max #2: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max 2.jpgTitle: Disappearing Act (Kensy and Max #2)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Spy stories, children’s fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Kensy and Max are now agents-in-training at Pharos, a covert international spy network. Christmas break sees the twins back at Alexandria for training and a celebration like no other, but where are their parents and why can’t they come home?

Thankfully, a school trip to Rome provides a welcome distraction. Amid the history and culture of Italy’s capital, they discover a runaway boy and whisperings of Mafia involvement. It looks like Kensy and Max’s harmless excursion may just turn into their very first mission.

~*~

The second instalment of the Kensy and Max series sees the twins in training with the fellow Pharos agents in training, who are also their school friends from the Central London School and their teachers.  After rigorous training and a spectacular Christmas, Kensy and Max head off on a school trip to Rome with their classmates and teachers – most of whom are involved in Pharos. Whilst there, they receive more coded messages from their parents, and the Prime Minister’s son goes missing. Kensy, Max and their friends become embroiled in a mission to save him and stop a plot to undermine the prime minister.

But Kensy and Max miss their parents and Fitz, and are wondering where they are, and why they haven’t made contact since the last coded messages hinting at their whereabouts. As the teachers try to keep a modicum of control, one of the children, Misha Thornhill, has another, ongoing assignment related to Lola Lemmler, the school bully who seems determined to ruin the trip for as many people as possible.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Travelling through Rome, Kensy and Max spend more time on ciphers and the mystery of the missing boy, than taking in the art, history and architecture of Rome, despite their teachers’ best attempts to ensure they stick with their groups and don’t reveal the existence of Pharos to the few students on the trip not part of the organisation.

As twins go in literature, these days Kensy and Max are definitely my favourites, and this is probably something I would have enjoyed as a child – fun, interesting and filled with adventure, travel and a cipher to unravel. It is exciting and engaging, and the loyalty that Kensy and Max display towards each other and their friends is one of my favourite things about the book and series.

This time, the Pigpen Cipher is used for the chapter headings, and readers of all ages will enjoy the challenge of unscrambling these to discover what each chapter is called.

I am now eagerly awaiting the third instalment to see where Kensy and Max head off next!

Book Bingo Eighteen – A Book with Themes of Culture

Book bingo take 2

First day of Spring, and another book bingo – number eighteen of the year, and the seventh square of twenty-five marked off on my second card – only eighteen to go! I may have to mark off a couple of squares in one post sometime to fill the card by the end of the year.

Book bingo take 2

This week I am checking off the square – a book with themes of culture. A new release, that has just come out, I used Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim, the first in a series called Children of the Dragon. It has Chinese and Eurasian characters at the forefront, engaging in #OwnVoices and diversity in life and literature – and this was something I really enjoyed seeing – a different cast of characters engaging with a mythology and using it in a way that is unique to some readers, but traditional to others, and entirely engaging.

relic of the blue dragon

Harley Spark’s life is rather ordinary. He lives alone with his mother, whilst his father is apparently in jail. When he discovers an old vase on his way home, he has no way of knowing what he is about to unleash from within – a world of dragon daughters and family fighting  – where he is whisked across the world by his father, who is involved in something much more than just organised crime and robberies. With his father, Qing and his father’s associates, Harley is set forth on a quest to help the Daughters of the Dragon.

This novel opens a series that is going to be full of fantasy, dragons, myth and adventure, and filled to the brim with diversity. I thoroughly enjoyed it – I love dragons and mythology, and this combined these interests. It is engaging and gives voices to characters not often seen in literature. I hope this engages readers of all ages and backgrounds, and takes them on an adventure – it certainly took me on one and I finished it just as I felt I had started reading – meaning, it didn’t take me long to read this and I wanted more immediately after! Such is the dilemma of starting a new series – the waiting!  My full review is here, published on the 25th of July, and I look forward to the next books in the series to see where this takes Harley.

Across:

Row #2 –

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

Down:

Row #5

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

Booktopia

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

sisters and brothers.jpgTitle: Sisters and Brothers

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets

Emma
, a nurse and busy mother of three, has always dreamed of having a sister.
Michelle, at 46, wonders if it’s too late to fall in love and find her birth parents.
Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses.
Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife.
Adam can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.
These five very different people are all connected but separated by secrets from the past. Sisters and Brothers will both break and warm your heart in a way that only bestselling Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer can.

‘Her books are tear-jerkers and page-turners’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better’ RACHAEL JOHNS

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSisters and Brothers  by Fiona Palmer explores the intricacies and complexities of family, and what happens when a family grows unexpectedly and has to face a crisis together. Bill, aged seventy-two, has recently lost his wife, and isn’t well – so it falls to his daughter, Sarah, to look after him. Just before his surgery and hospital stay, he discovers another daughter, Emma. At first, Sarah resists her new sister, Emma, yet at the same time, finds comfort in her, and confides in her, allowing her to become part of the family. At the same time, Adam, whose success as a florist and with his new life is taking off, starts to look for his father, and discovers a whole new family along the way.

As Emma, Sarah and Adam find their way to each other, Michelle, who has always wondered about her birth parents, begins to look for them, yet for her, finding a way to be happy is more important as she ventures into new territory with her cake-making business.

The love story in this novel primarily centres around family and the different ways love manifests with siblings, spouses, friends and children, mothers and fathers and everything in between. It explores family dynamics and what it means to find siblings as an adult, and how this can affect you and everyone involved. It is a powerful novel about family love, and the changes that sometimes come later in life to us and our families, and how we deal with them.

With each new revelation, Sarah begins to accept the larger family she had always wanted as a child but never had. When Emma finds out after her father’s accident that Bill is her father, the initial shock wears off after she meets Bill, and eventually Sarah – with whom a bond soon forms, and she helps Sarah with the stresses in her life and overcoming them. Two sisters, who never knew each other, are soon caring for each other, each other’s families and Bill as they each gain something, rather than lose something in the wake of tragedy.

Adam’s discovery of his father and sisters brings a new dynamic – with his partner, they are looking to grow their family with a child, but never expected siblings, nieces, nephews, and the father Adam never knew plus more, whilst Michelle seeks answers to her adoption, keen to find her birth mother and perhaps someone to love.

What I enjoyed about this novel was that it focussed on familial love and friendship in all its variations and inserted a few romantic subplots that evolved from the family-oriented plot line. It is always refreshing to read these kinds of books that acknowledge more than just romantic relationships and place family and friends at the forefront of the plot line. By exploring these relationships, and issues such as adoption, single parenthood and familial conflict, Fiona Palmer has created a story that will hopefully resonate with many people.

Another lovely, moving and poignant offering from Fiona Palmer, published by Hachette Australia.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

cherry tree.jpgTitle: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

Author: Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier/Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. A moving, empowering tale of courage and determination that will inspire young and old.

~*~

Mafalda is going blind – she knows, at nine years old, that she has six months left until her world changes forever – her house, what she can do now and what she will have to give up when she loses her sight, and the changes she will have to make. At home, she has her cat, Ottimo Turcaret, and her parents. At school, a counsellor called Estella, who is hiding a dark battle of her own, and her new friend, Filippo, who helps her navigate a world that is slowly descending into darkness. As she ventures towards her new reality, each part measuring the distance she can see until her whole world is taken by the darkness, Mafalda crosses off everything she can no longer do on her list and prepares to live a new life. However, Mafalda doesn’t really want things to change, and as her sight diminishes, the other changes in her world become more apparent as well.

Translated from Italian, and inspired by the life story of the author, who has Stargardt disease like Mafalda, the novel explores what it is like to live with a disability that is constantly getting worse, that has no cure, and impacts on everything Paola and Mafalda are able to do. It a story about friendship, family and hope, but also about how disability can affect the life of the disabled person and those around them, and how family and friends choose to act, the roles the must take on and what they do when the disability becomes more apparent or perhaps difficult for them to understand.

Through her experience of an encroaching disability, Mafalda finds friendship in an unlikely place with Filippo – someone she never thought would be her friend, but it is Filippo and Estella, the school counsellor, who help her through the encroaching darkness and whose loyalty proves she can still be who she is, just a little bit different to before. Having a friend like Filippo helps her through the changes she is going through.

The disabled experience is not often explored in books – and if it is, not always allowing the disabled character to be disabled -they must be healed or freed somehow. So what I liked about this book was the reality of Mafalda’s disability and how it will change her life, how illness can affect people and take them away. It is all seen through the eyes and feelings of a child, Mafalda, but is still very powerful. It allows people of all ages who are disabled to see themselves reflected in literature – to see how a disabled person navigates and must learn to adjust the way they navigate the world they live in are real experiences for disabled people that differ from person to person, and through Mafalda, some of these struggles can be seen.

A very powerful book about family, friendship and identity that will stay with you long after you finish.

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer

amazing australian womenTitle: Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Author: Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer

Genre: Children’s Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette/Lothian

Published: 28th August 2018

Format: Hardback

Pages: 32

Price: $26.99

Synopsis: A bright and colourful look at twelve incredible Australian women who helped shape our country, from politics and the arts to Indigenous culture, science and more.

Meet twelve amazing Australian women who have changed the world, in small ways and large.

Some of them are world famous, like Annette Kellerman and Nellie Melba.

Some of them are famous in Australia, like Mary Reibey and Edith Cowan.

All of them deserve to be famous and admired.

These women are the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.

The featured women are:
Mary Reibey, convict and businesswoman
Tarenore, Indigenous resistance fighter
Mary Lee, suffragist
Nellie Melba, opera singer
Edith Cowan, politician
Tilly Aston, teacher, writer and disability activist
Rose Quong, actress, lecturer and writer
Elizabeth Kenny, nurse and medical innovator
Annette Kellerman, swimmer and movie star
Lores Bonney, aviation pioneer
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, artist
Ruby Payne-Scott, scientist

~*~

History is filled with amazing people and stories that for some reason, we’ve never heard of, never read, and never seen. Whatever the reason, many of these previously unknown or hidden stories and figures are being revealed now, and it is making the study of history that much more interesting – though I have always loved it, knowing some of the stories coming out now would definitely have made things more interesting to dig into and discover. As part of this movement, especially in promoting the histories of women in all walks of life, Hachette have released this picture book today by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History.

 

The women included in this new book cover each state and territory in Australia and come from various backgrounds, and occupations, covering recorded Australian history from 1788 onwards. Mary Reiby, a convict and businesswoman opens the book, and from their it moves onto Indigenous women like Tarenore, an Indigenous resistance fighter – a story I would like to know more about and that should be taught in history because it is a part of our history as well as the usual facts and events we learn about. There suffragists such as Mary Lee – not as well-known as other suffragettes such as Edith Cowan or Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, but no less important, and many other lesser known women whose stories might not have been shared before. In fact, of the twelve in the book, the only two I had learnt about through my own reading and studies were opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, and Sister Elizabeth Kenny -nurse and medical innovator. So, finding out a little bit about these other women was refreshing, and any of these women – had I known a bit more about them – would have made for excellent research projects in history courses and classes where topics and questions for essays were not pre-determined.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

This book runs the spectrum of scientists, artists, political activists and businesswomen who all had a role to play in shaping our country into what it is today. It is these stories that need to be told in history class alongside what we are already taught about the ANZACs, the world wars, Federation and other aspects of Australia’s history from 1788 onwards. It tells unknown and known stories, sparking an early interest in history, but also, acting as a starting point for research so anyone wishing to read more has a starting point for names and dates to track down more on people they might not have heard about otherwise.

Adding lesser known stories to history – especially when it comes to groups often ignored by the official records or at least, marginalised by them – allows history to become richer, and more complex and much more interesting, diverse and more of a shared history, because it allows us to explore a world beyond what we have been taught. Pamela Freeman writes historical fiction for adults as Pamela Hart, with strong female characters who do not let the confines of what is expected of them define who they are, and they forge their own paths through their lives – yet still have to work within some of the confines imposed upon them, they manage to break out of some. Exposing children early – whatever their gender – to these sorts of stories about people who weren’t what society expected of them not only shows that the stereotypes are not real, but that history is actually diverse and interesting.

A great picture book and introduction to significant women who contributed to Australian history and society.