Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

esmes wishTitle: Esme’s Wish

Author: Elizabeth Foster

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Odyssey Books

Published: 30th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 248

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: This was her last chance.
Her hand twisted high in the air.

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the actions of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about Ariane, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

~*~

aww2017-badgeEsme Silver has spent years without a mother, and now, as she watches her father marry Penelope, her stepmother, she feels betrayed, and begins to object. Yet, with her protests dismissed as easily as her feelings about losing her mother are. Esme feels isolated from her father in their Picton Island home, and when he sails away with his new wife, Penelope, and leaves her to the mercy of his wife’s sister, Mavis, Esme travels to Spindrift, where a cottage belonging to her grandmother sits vacant. From the waters nearby, Esme is transported to Aeolia, a world that is beneath the waters it seems, and a world that will hopefully help Esme find the answers to her mother, Ariane’s disappearance several years ago.  Together with Lillian and Daniel, Esme settles into life in Esperance and Aeolia, and begins a journey that she hopes will get her the answers she has sought for so long.

Esme’s Wish, and Aeolia feels reminiscent of a fairy tale or mythological world, and I loved the references and connections I was able to make to Greek mythology and fairy tale tropes, coupled with the unique world that Elizabeth Foster has created. Connecting Esme’s Aeolia with Ancient Greece was clever, and made for an engaging story. It invites the reader into the world accessed by a magical pool, and on a journey with good friends. The underwater world inspired by Greek mythology reminded me of Atlantis and the blown-out centre of Santorini, where the Minoans lived thousands of years ago. Whether it was inspired by this or not, Elizabeth Foster has created an engaging story for young adults that I hope many will enjoy reading over the summer break, as it had a delightful summery feel to it as well.

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Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways (Rose Raventhorpe #2) by Janine Beacham

raventhorpe 2Title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways (Rose Raventhorpe #2)

Author: Janine Beacham

Genre: Children/Mystery/Crime

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 25th July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 245

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey

It’s a bitterly cold winter in Yorke and Rose Raventhorpe and her butler Heddsworth are stuck with Rose’s unpleasant cousin Herbert, and his equally horrible butler, Bixby.

When an orphan boy named Orpheus interrupts the Cathedral’s Mistletoe Service, saying that his sister has been kidnapped, Rose vows to help. Solving the mystery will be a lot better than accompanying ghastly Herbert! But the investigation is more complicated than Rose has anticipated and will lead her and her butler friends through fancy tea-rooms, horrible factories, secret underground passages and more…

Fireplace pokers are much more dangerous than you might imagine . . .

~*~

Christmas is coming, and Rose is excited: apart from the presence of her annoying cousin, Ghastly Herbert, and his butler, Bixby, both of whom seem determined to ruin the cheer and suck the joy out of Rose. When Herbert starts speaking about firing Heddsworth, Rose’s loyal butler, and marrying her early on, Rose is infuriated. But the arrival of Orpheus at the Mistletoe Service at Yorke’s Cathedral sets in motion a series of events that result in murder and disappearances. Combined with Ghastly Herbert’s determination to buy her a ring, and get her fitted for a dress (both scenes where Rose’s disdain ensures a comedic outcome), Rose is determined to find a way out of the marriage that Herbert claims her mother would celebrate and that her father assures her may never happen, it is a mystery where the suspect is not who Rose or the Silvercrest Hall Butlers expect – and where little hints are dropped along the way, the subtlety of these hints allowing the reader to discover the secrets along with Rose.

aww2017-badgeThis is the second book in a series, and the characters are just as awesome as in the first. Rose is wonderfully written, the perfect balance of a young woman who knows her responsibilities but strives to use her standing in society to advocate for others and who would rather fence and be part of a butler secret society than sit for portraits and attend dress fittings.

Rose’s father plays a much larger role in this book, and I enjoyed getting to know him. Unlike Lady Constance, Lord Frederick is friendlier and calmer, and much less rigid in what he expects from Rose. He is rather lax in enforcing these rigid ideals, and when Ghastly Herbert insists on marrying Rose throughout the book, it is her father and Heddsworth who reassure her it may not happen – and it is the conniving and deception that Herbert and Bixby bring into the household that lead to events that force Herbert to thankfully call off the wedding.

I enjoyed this, the mystery and humour combined nicely, and Rose’s Yorke evokes what could be a parallel world to the real York, with a touch of magic in the air surrounding the cat statues of Yorke that are supposed to come to life, an inventive system of communication between butlers and sweeps, mixed in with Victorian history and settings. It is an immersive story and setting, and as a reader, I felt like I was there with Rose much of the time, and was on her side about Herbert and his attitude – Herbert is the kind of character I think people will love to hate, and I was rather pleased whenever he was humiliated or received his comeuppance, as it seemed to illustrate he wasn’t as superior as he thought he was.

Each character in this series is well written and I love that the head of the butler secret society is a woman, and one of the top butlers, Bronson, is too. It breaks with the tradition many books set in this era would use, and this break with tradition is a shock to the rather traditional and uppity Herbert too – illustrating that what some people thought was proper was something to be questioned and turned on its head. I think this is a series that will continue to turn Victorian traditions on their heads, in a fun and informative way for the reader.

The mystery of Orpheus’s missing sister and a murderer who has disappeared twice without a trace, and the tension between the formerly allied butlers and chimney sweeps is the meat of the story, and of course, Ghastly Herbert is caught up in it all, driving Rose batty, and with Orpheus by her side as a new friend, Rose can face anything – even her Ghastly cousin and his demands of how she behaves before their wedding in several years. She is only twelve, after all, and has much more important things to handle. Being an honorary member of Silvercrest with her own Infinity Key comes with responsibilities that trump marrying cousins.

 

Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups with text by Sophie Hamley

five go down under.jpgTitle: Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups)

Author: Sophie Hamley

Genre: Humour, Parody

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 106

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The Famous Five have gone on their greatest adventure yet – a trip Down Under to Oz for some gap year fun.

Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy head Down Under for some relaxing holiday fun. But will it be the adventure they had hoped for?

Setting up camp in Bondi they soon meet the Sydney Six, a couple of guitar-strumming Kiwis and a rogue South African and find themselves in the thick of Sydney’s real estate perils and the attempts of their omnipresent cousin Rupert Kirrin to buy up the local media.

But when the sun, surf and bluebottles have their revenge and things don’t quite go to plan, it’s time to head for the country for a spot of sheep-shearing and quad-bike riding. Will the country be kinder to them or will their close calls with the Australian wildlife have them heading back to the city before you can say decaff soy latte?

~*~

In Five Go Down Under, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy decide to take a year off of work and the cold of England, and travel to warmer climates. They choose Australia, warm enough year around and far enough away to warrant a long trip, rather than heading to the usual destinations in Spain they’re used to. Of course, nothing will prepare them for the heat, the killer wildlife and the strange linguistic differences and slang that will greet them upon their arrival in Australia. And what will they make of their neighbours in Bondi, the trendy beach suburb of Sydney famous with tourists from all over the world?

In Australia, the Famous Five will encounter ferries, and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sheep shearing and the harsh sun that burns without prejudice. They encounter things they never thought they would, and find that all their dreams of life in Sydney might not be quite what they thought it would be, as they try to navigate the culture that in some ways is similar yet so different from what they are used to. In a madcap series of events, they will come to find that the Australia that the Sydney Six are determined to show them is not quite the Australia they imagined, and that no country is immune to the evils of the world. As laid-back as the Australians they meet might be, the Five soon come to realise this only the surface – and their journey in Australia has just begun as they seek work during their gap year.

aww2017-badgeUsing Enid Blyton’s popular characters, Australian author Sophie Hamley has written a text that beautifully reproduces the original style and characters, whilst balancing this with new characteristics they displays as adults, and contrasts this with the current generation and the Australian way of speaking. She seamlessly weaves in references to current diet trends and the stereotypical Australians, as well as references to politics and popular culture – in true Australian satirical style, poking fun at the things about our country that need to be laughed about. Sophie Hamley’s text is accompanied by illustrations originals by Eileen Soper, who illustrated other editions of the original Famous Five stories, which gives a sense of character and nostalgia to the texts.

Using tongue-in-cheek humour, Sophie Hamley’s text is uniquely Australian whilst keeping the tone of the original stories intact, if not somewhat exaggerated for comedic impact. The Famous Five For Grown-Ups Series brings the beloved childhood characters back to life for adults, and into an unknown world, where poking fun at current trends and cultural phenomena all play a part in creating a fun read.

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Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers (Rose Raventhorpe #1)

rose raventhorpe 1.jpgTitle: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers

Author: Janine Beacham

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown Books/Hachette

Published: 28th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 263

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey

When Rose Raventhorpe’s beloved butler is found (gasp!) murdered in the hallway of her own house, she’s determined to uncover the culprit. Especially since he’s the third butler to die in a week!

Rose’s investigation leads her on a journey into a hidden world of grave robbers and duelling butlers, flamboyant magicians and the city’s ancient feline guardians.

Knives aren’t just for cutting cucumber sandwiches, you know . . .

 

~*~

 

aww2017-badgeIn the City of Yorke, butlers are dying and cat statues are going missing. Rose Raventhorphe, daughter of a prominent figure in Yorke, living in the Ravensgate area, sets about uncovering the murderer and thief after her beloved Butler, Argyle, is murdered in her own home. Argyle’s murder is the latest in a series of attacks on butlers in Yorke, and it seems each murder is accompanied by the disappearance of a cat statue from one of the Gates in Yorke. Each murder brings Rose closer to the truth, and into contact with a secret society of duelling butlers, protectors of Yorke. To investigate and help the butlers, Rose must escape the watchful eye of her mother, whose idea of what a young lady of Rose’s upbringing should be doing does not include hanging around graveyards and befriending butlers.

 

Rose’s Yorke is a fictional, almost magical version of the real York. It has the same sense of mystery and intrigue that some of the small streets and alleyways of the real York has, and in a Victorian setting, shrouded in mist and lit only by gas-lamps, the city feels even more mysterious. The shadows of the city that Rose encounters add to the mystery she needs to solve. Where Rose’s mother demands she do the ladylike thing of practising her piano and sitting around daintily to preserve an image of high class upbringing, the butlers who seek to find the Black Glove murderer, are protective and concerned about Rose in a more loving and caring way – and in the end, this is why they allow her to help them as much as she can.

 

Rose’s instincts aren’t always spot on, and like any investigator, her initial suspicions are not what she expected, and her desire to find the truth is constantly at the heart of the story, making her a likeable, flawed and realistic heroine whom I look forward to seeing develop across the series as she straddles the line between doing what is expected of her and what she desires.

 

The Rose Raventhorpe series is a charming way to introduce younger readers to the thrills and chills of the crime and mystery genre that so many love. For me, it was a quick read but hopefully will be one that is accessible for many, and enjoyed by many. With book three out in January, I am catching up on books one and two before I read it, and thoroughly enjoying my journey,

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

nevermoor.jpgTitle: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Author: Jessica Townsend

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 10th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 451

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut Australian author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn’t seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

~*~

Step Boldly.

aww2017-badgeMorrigan Crow, daughter of Corvus Crow, an important official of Jackalfax, is cursed. Born on Eventide, she is set to die at midnight when she is twelve – except Eventide has come a year earlier, and with it, a mysterious stranger who whisks her away from a family that has tried to distance themselves from her and the hounds made of black smoke that hunt cursed children. This figure. Jupiter North, is a citizen of the safer and magical city of Nevermoor, where she will enter a series of trials to determine whether or not she gets a place in the coveted Wundrous Society. To pass, it is said she must exhibit an extraordinary talent – but what talent does Morrigan – known as Mog to Jupiter – have? Jupiter whisks her away in a mechanical spider, and travels to Nevermoor, where everything is colourful, and nobody fears Morrigan. A cursed child, once blamed for all that went wrong, must now find her place in this new world, against a threat that wants to engulf Nevermoor, and use Mog for his own means. Together with Jupiter, his nephew Jack, her new friend from the trials, Hawthorne and a Magnificat named Fenestra, who runs the Hotel Deucalion, Morrigan will find her place and push through the trials, lest she be forced to return to Jackalfax and meet her fate there. But what does Jupiter North have up his sleeve? And is the grey, ghostly man she keeps seeing just an assistant, or somebody more sinister, who wants Mog for himself?

Nevermoor is the kind of novel that once you start it, it’s impossible to put down, and the decision to devour it or savour it is a very hard one to make. I wanted it to last forever, and at the same time, find out how Mog got through her trials. With so much to discover about Nevermoor and the Hotel Deucalion, where I now would love to stay, and see the growing chandelier, I hope the next book in the series reveals more about the world to readers. There are many amazing and interesting characters in Nevermoor. And Fen, the Magnificat who runs the Hotel Deucalion became my favourite – she refused to take any of Jupiter’s nonsense, which seemed to delight and encourage him – much like a beloved Headmaster in Harry Potter, Dumbledore – and though she showed a tough exterior, she truly cared for Mog and those who stayed at the hotel. Each chapter was full of excitement and delight as Morrigan encountered a world where umbrellas help you travel, Santa, or Saint Nicholas and the Yule Queen are real, and bring Christmas delight to an already wondrous town. It is too hard to choose a favourite scene or chapter as they were all so enjoyable, and I do look losing myself in Mog’s next adventure when it comes out.

Nevermoor is aimed at readers aged from nine years, and can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good fantasy adventure, where the world isn’t always what it seems, and your friends are your family. Step boldly, and enter the world of Nevermoor. Don’t forget to pick up your umbrella!

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The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia by May Gibbs

snugglepotTitle: The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia

Author: May Gibbs

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2017 (Originally published in 1918)

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 272

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie combines in one edition May Gibbs’ much-loved classics, the Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (first published in 1918) and its two sequels, Little Ragged Blossom (1920) and Little Obelia (1921).

Quintessentially Australian, these delightful tales have never been out of print; indeed the fantasy world of May Gibbs has been a source of continual fascination for generations of children. May’s is a world filled with fears and excitement and adventures both extraordinary and everyday. A world peopled with small creatures, where the real mixes tantalisingly with the imaginary and provides a window to the magic we all believe exists in the bush.

In this new edition, all of May’s original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned and the illustrations look as exquisite as the day May put down her paintbrush all those years ago. A fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these three stories makes this new edition a delight to rediscover – or read for the very first time.

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn 1918, a post-war generation of Australian children were introduced to the magical bush world of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Whether this was done on purpose, or coincidentally, the timing of the conclusion of World War One (The Great War) and the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie presented an ideal world to escape to, as many children’s books do. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are two Gumnut brothers, whose curiosity and sense of adventure got them into many a scrape that their friends Mr Lizard, Mr Kookaburra, and Mrs Possum help them out of, in an idealised bush community, bordered by the Big Bad City, where all manner of evil can befall the young Nuts. Together, they venture into the city, obtain clothes, and find a new friend, Little Ragged Blossom. They attend a picture theatre and are always running from The Big Bad Banksia Men and Mrs Snake, devious characters whose desire to harm Snugglepot and Cuddlepie drives the tension, but these characters will always come to a sticky end, with the Nuts managing to escape and save their friends.

These bush fairy tales are unique to Australia, and May Gibbs, as a contemporary of Beatrix Potter, and au author within the same vein of using nature to inspire, and her own words and drawings to tell a story – I think is the Australian Beatrix Potter, as both worked in conservation to preserve the native wildlife and nature they adored and lived amongst. They were amongst the first Australian stories I was exposed to, and some of the first children’s stories that most Australian children have been exposed to for the past one hundred years. In these stories, May Gibbs takes the Gum Nut and bush flower babies introduced in 1916’s Gumnut Babies, and create stories using them as characters that introduce children to the Australian bush, in a world where technology competes for their attention. These beautifully written and illustrated stories establish a love for the Australian bush, and are one of many books by Australian authors published in the history of Australian publishing that establishes what it is to be Australian. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are a part of the Australian psyche and culture, accessible to anyone, and full of fun and whimsy.

Books are a part of a culture, and the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books are amongst the most popular in Australia, and perhaps some of the most significant books that have shaped the nation – there are many others that have done so over the years, and in doing so, have contributed to a valuable literary culture that thrives to this day, which is where the Tales from…. series published by Scholastic and that I have also reviewed on my blog come in – introducing Snugglepot and Cuddlepie to a new generation.

The Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books and characters are delightful to read and are aimed at older children, aged eight and older who can read on their own. However, they are also appropriate to be read to children of any age, if they are interested. The world of May Gibbs is a treasured one in Australia, and one that I hope generations continue to adore, and that will continue to stay in print for the next hundred years – as it has never been out of print since the initial 1918 publication.

Buy Snugglepot and Cuddlepie here:

https://www.maygibbs.org

Tales from the Camp Fire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam

tales from the campfireTitle: Tales from the Camp fire

Author: May Gibbs and Jane Massam

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Picture Book

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st November, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 24 (32 Self-ended)

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Join Snugglepot and Cuddlepie round the camp fire for stories of friendship and adventure in the Australian bush. Around the camp fire, they will encounter a human, go to a picture show, and discover a cave! Gather around the campfire and get ready for stories of friendship and adventure with May Gibbs’ classic characters.

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn the fourth book in the Tales from series written by Jane Massam,  using May Gibbs’ characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are ready to gather around the camp fire and share their new adventures with you. First, they awaken by a camp fire, and set out on an adventure to find out what a Human is like. Will the Human be kind or mean? Their next adventure takes them to the Lilly Pilly Picture Show, after meeting actress Lilly Pilly, and have an interesting encounter with her pet Bull-Ant. These two stories are reminiscent of stories in the original 1918 Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and are still charming, as they use the original artwork from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, especially with Lilly Pilly, and I think this adds a certain charm to the new and old stories. The final story takes place on a ship, and a Banksia Man – who isn’t bad in this book, but takes them on a journey that leads them to a mysterious cave, with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as trainee sailors.

These stories, written for younger children, and a modern audience, are, as with the first three in the series, a great way to introduce a new generation to Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and the Gumnut Babies, and the Australian Bush, full of mystery and magic, a landscape that May Gibbs adored and sought to conserve as new developments moved in on it. These four books make excellent companion volumes to the original early twentieth century tales.

Pre-order this book at one of these websites:

https://www.maygibbs.org

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