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.

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,

Booktopia

The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky

the blue cat.jpg

Title: The Blue Cat

Author: Ursula Dubosarsky

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: From the multi-award-winning author of The Red Shoe comes a haunting story about a boy who can’t – or won’t – speak about his past in war-torn Europe, and his friendship with a young Australian girl.

A boy stood in the playground under the big fig tree. ‘He can’t speak English,’ the children whispered.

Sydney, 1942. The war is coming to Australia – not only with the threat of bombardment, but also the arrival of refugees from Europe. Dreamy Columba’s world is growing larger. She is drawn to Ellery, the little boy from far away, and, together with her highly practical best friend Hilda, the three children embark on an adventure through the harbour-side streets – a journey of discovery and terror, in pursuit of the mysterious blue cat …

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky is a glimpse into a world affected by war through the eyes of children. The main character, Columba, is a dreamy, curious child, who notices the strange boy, Ellery at school during the early part of 1942. A blue cat, sleek and mysterious, has appeared at her neighbour’s house. The arrival of Ellery and the cat spark a curiosity in Columba that has her asking more questions, wanting to know more about the world as she tries to become Ellery’s friend. Columba’s friend, Hilda, is the realist, the pushy one out collecting money for the war effort, and isn’t as dreamy as Columba.

Ellery’s arrival hints that war is closer to home than everyone thought. He is mysterious and quiet, and doesn’t speak English – through the eyes of a child, he is strange, a mystery and yet, someone that Columba sees is in need of a friend. Though they do not talk, they become friends, something Ellery’s father finds pleasing for his son, lost in a new world without a mother. The story culminates in a search for the mysterious blue cat, and events that bring the war and the realities of what that means closer to home for Columba.

The Blue Cat is dreamy, and has a fairy tale feeling about it – as though the blue cat is not quite real. This fits with the dreamy sense I got from Columba, and also the childlike ways of understanding the war – You-Rope for Europe, said phonetically perhaps, as a child might say it. I found there was a sense of magic about it – the threat is real, especially during the air raid siren practice when Columba and Ellery are out walking, and yet, it retains some of the innocence of childhood, though it is scarred by a war that is so far away yet in other ways, so close to the characters.

The Blue Cat combines history with a sense of dreaming, placing the characters in a world where sometimes their imaginations help to get them through the day, but at the same time, the reality of war will always be there. Prisoners of war, bombs and people like Ellery, hiding away, hoping for safety away from the dangers of a nation far away. Throughout the book, Ursula Dubosarsky incorporated primary sources from the time period, which added to the reading experience and gave Columba’s story an authentic feel, and added to the gravity of the situation and reality that the characters were living. An enjoyable novel showing war through the eyes of a child, and a good read for children aged ten and over.

Booktopia

The Last McAdam by Holly Ford

Title: The Last McAdam

the last mcadam.jpgAuthor: Holly Ford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 22nd February, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This romantic, irresistibly entertaining novel tells the story of Tess Drummond, who’s been sent to turn around the fortunes of a remote sheep and cattle station her employer has taken over. What Tess hasn’t counted on is coming up against the station’s handsome and charismatic head stockman, Nate McAdam, whose family owned the property for generations…

Passed down through the same family for over a century, the remote sheep and cattle station of Broken Creek has recently been taken over by global agribusiness company Carnarvon Holdings. Now Carnarvon has sent its best troubleshooting manager, Tess Drummond, to turn the property’s failing fortunes around – fast.

When Tess arrives to take the reins of Broken Creek she’s faced with a couple of nasty surprises. For starters, her head stockman, Nate McAdam, happens to be the same gorgeous stranger she hooked up with – and ran out on – a few weeks before.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nate was supposed to inherit Broken Creek until his stepfather ran it into the ground. Now the last McAdam on the station leads a team of men whose bonds have been forged through hell and high water and whose mission is to see off Carnarvon and Tess so he can take his rightful place.

A genius with farm work – and women – but a disaster in the office, Nate is everything Tess believes a farmer shouldn’t be. Determined not to give in to her growing attraction to him, Tess sets out to do her job, but she soon finds herself caught up in the battle of her career.

This irresistibly entertaining novel combines romance, suspense and an unforgettable cast of characters.

 

~*~

A rural romance isn’t my first choice when looking for new reading material – it’s never really been a genre I enjoy. So when I started this novel, I didn’t think it would be what it turned out to be. I may never read it again, but it will have an audience out there.

Tess Drummond works for a company – Carnarvon – that takes over farms that are in trouble and replaces the staff where necessary. It is a job where she has to move around a lot in New Zealand, and at the beginning, has no real ties to a place or that many people, something that preoccupies the thoughts of her mother and friends. Tess brushes these off – it is a side affect of moving around all the time for work, and is merely one aspect to her character – albeit one revealed quite early on as to what she feels others expect of her. The story opens with Tess at a wedding for friends, where she hooks up with someone, and then never sees him again. Until she arrives at his farm – Broken Creek. Nate McAdam is struggling with the impending loss of the farm, and his friends, and at first, Tess and her cold, business-like nature alienate Nate, Mitch and Harry at first, until she proves to them that she is trying to help – and a relationship with Nate slowly develops – starting with mutual respect.

Tess must balance the needs of the farm with the demands of her company, and what they are expecting from her. This conflict results in a few arguments that add to the tension they are all feeling. However, the action is a little slow to pick up, and it’s only towards the end of the novel that two accidents start to bring them closer together as a team, and for Tess to reconsider her role and place at Broken Creek.

I felt that the resulting romance wasn’t necessarily needed, because I quite liked Nate and Tess as friends who would end up working the farm together. However, it was a nice, fluffy conclusion. The characters had flaws, and at least the idea of who should be liked and not liked wasn’t forced – as there were times when I wasn’t sure what a character’s true motives were.

I’m still not a convert to romance or rural romance novels, but this one showed me that it can be done well and everything can be given the attention it deserves to give the story a well-rounded and complex plot. A good book for people who enjoy romance, friendship, and farming, it’s not too detail heavy, and a nice light read.

Booktopia

Pounce by Seth Casteell

pounce.jpg

 

Title: Pounce

Author: Seth Castell

Genre: Photography/Non-Fiction

Publisher: Sphere/Hachette Australia

Published: 25th October 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 112

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Photographer Seth Casteel’s underwater photographs of dogs and babies have captivated an international audience. Now, Seth has found the perfect way to capture our other best friends: cats!

 

 

A beautiful, funny gift book with more than 80 previously unpublished photographs, Pounce reveals adorable cats and kittens as they pounce and jump through the air, arms outstretched – all in Casteel’s signature up-close, mid-action style.

 

~*~

 

Pounce is 112 pages of kittens leaping, pouncing and playing across the pages, their tiny claws out, and eyes wide. It is one of those books that one can dip in and out of, or sit down in one sitting, and slowly page through the images. The images tell the story of each kitten or cat on their own, no words are needed, apart from the names beside each image. This delightful book was quick to look at, or read, and imagine the stories behind each kitten image, or given them their own stories – what are they doing, and why?

 

This book is ideal for cat lovers, and the delight in the eyes of each cat or kitten is evident as you go through the book. Seth Castell has managed to catch the playful innocence of the kittens, some caught mid meow, all caught mid leap or pounce, showing their playful side and the love that they have for the world around them, and their natural curiosity that has them crouching down amongst grass, eager to pounce.

 

 

A delightful little volume that is enthralling and fun to look at, it will make you fall in love with cats all over again.