Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 3.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off

Author: Delphine Davis

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin/Puffin

Published: 2nd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Grab your favourite booth at the Turtleville Tearooms and join Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell, Willow Wave and Olivia Ocean for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

Chloe’s holidays have started with a BANG – and not a good one! With the Tearooms closed for the holidays and an unexpected rival back in town, the besties need a MERMAZING PLAN to save the day.

Prepare for a underwater bake-off like no other!

~*~

The third book in the Mermaid Holidays series sees Chloe, Sophia, Willow and Olivia back at Turtleville for the school holidays. While they are making plans for their time together before they go off to their separate schools again, they meet Chloe at her grandmother’s cafe, the Turtleville Tearooms. However, their plans are set aside when the kitchen of the Tearooms is destroyed when the oven explodes.

With her grandmother faced with closing it or paying lots of money to fix it, Chloe and her friends plan to raise money to save the tearooms – all while trying to outwit an old rival of Grandmer Carol who is determined to get her hands on the tearooms, and turn it into one of her own cafés.

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So the friends set to work, raising the money through a bake-off, so they can save their favourite hang-out from the clutches of Barbara Barnacle.  Can the girls save the day?

In their third outing, told from Chloe’s perspective this time, it is about friends uniting for a good cause, and displaying teamwork. This is an engaging, and fun to read series for early readers, and I am enjoying seeing what is on offer for kids these days, who have a myriad of Australian authors to choose from, which is exciting, and I love exploring these stories – not only because I love reading, and Australian fiction, but because it is so refreshing to see so many Australian authors around these days competing with international authors. Australian authors are getting much more attention these days, so Australians get to read their stories in a variety of ways.

I am looking forward to see how this series ends later in the year with the final book in the series.

While You Were Reading by Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg.jpgTitle: While You Were Reading

Author: Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Published: July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Words are messy. Love is messier.
A hilarious, insightful new novel from the creators of Books on the Rail

Meet Beatrix Babbage – 29-year-old dog-earer of books and accidental destroyer of weddings.

After ruining her best friend’s nuptials, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start, including meeting new people, living life to the fullest and finally pulling off balayage.

But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.

​Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel, inscribed with notes. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author … and along the way, she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle.

Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, the value of true friendship and, most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it … Often.

A love story for book lovers that celebrates much more than romance.

~*~

Another offering from Book Ninjas, Ali and Michelle, While You Were Reading is another love letter to readers, books and the friendships forged through a love of reading. Beatrix Babbage is at her best friend’s wedding when everything in her life falls apart. She inadvertently ruins the wedding and is cut off from her friends. So, she moves to Melbourne to start over, and gets a job with a marketing agency, and befriends a poet-barista called Dino, his business partner, Sunday, and Mystery Writer, whose inscriptions in a book called Meeting Oliver Bennett guide her through her time in Melbourne. Yet her life stagnates, and her only regular contact is with Dino, her books, and her cleaner, Ramona, and the girls at the bookstore at the centre of Ali and Michelle’s previous book, The Book Ninja (there’s no need to read them in order, as they are both stand alones – more on this later.)

As the book moves on, Bea takes herself on a journey to discover who the Mystery Writer is, charting this online as Frankie did in The Book Ninja, and some of our favourite commenters pop up in her mentions, providing another delightful link back to The Book Ninja. Yet a chance meeting with Zach, another with Ruth and her unfolding friendship with Sunday, see her embroiled in a love quadrangle – with various people and books, as well as her constant attempts to reach out to her friend from Perth, Cassandra with disastrous results at one of her Next Chapter nights.

With Next Chapter – speed dating for books – Bea hopes to find Mystery Writer and connect with other readers – but her sister, Lizzie, an ex-Bachelor contestant, has other ideas that involve dating, romance and things Bea would rather not conflate her idea with.

The journey Bea takes has its ups and downs with people, work and books – leading to a fantastic result towards the end that gives her an amazing drive, and gives her much more to search for than romance. Instead, she makes friends with a group of people she least expected – of these, I think Mia was my favourite. followed closely by Sunday, because she followed her passions.

While You Were Reading is a cleverly written rom- com – the kind that is as much an ode to romantic love as it is an ode to friendship, knowing and loving yourself, and most importantly, for me, a love of books and the written word. It is driven by the marginalia of Meeting Oliver Bennett, leading to an author and connection that came as a complete surprise to me – and even though this is a well-used trope, the way it is executed is original and ensures the mystery is kept up to the final pages.

2019 BadgeIt is filled with bookish and popular culture references that I appreciated, and I love that the title refers to a certain movie starring Sandra Bullock from the nineties. Having a book where I can relate to the character, and where many of the references are at my fingertips, is wonderful, and I loved that the list of books mentioned is given at the back – many of which I have read and have on my shelves.

I adored that it referred back to The Book Ninja, and in a way, follows on several months after the end of that book. However, as it is a passing mention, it is not necessary to read that one first, but it is fun to be able to pick up on the references and nods to that book, and the way both books use narrative (mainly) interspersed with blog or Instagram posts and messages, and notes. Because these are interspersed with the prose, they enrich the story and are given context and cues to help the reader navigate the story.

Books about books are something I love – most books with a hobby or something people enjoy tend to be about sport – so for book lovers like me, this is refreshing because it allows us to see what we enjoy celebrated, and I look forward to more from these authors.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke

the secret dragon.jpgTitle: The Secret Dragon

Author: Ed Clarke

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘So if you’re not an animal that’s alive today, and you’re not an animal that’s extinct either, what on earth are you?’

Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven. So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden enough to study it.

Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers.

~*~

Since her father died when she was five, Mari has kept mostly to herself, in a world of fossils and dead things, rather than the world of living animals and the farm she lives on with her mother, Rhian. Mari longs to become a scientist, like her father, and leave the farm life behind. While looking for fossils one day, as she dreams of becoming like Mary Anning, she discovers a baby dragon. After meeting the new boy at school, Dylan, she agrees to let him help her study the dragon and keep it a secret.

Bu the little dragon has other ideas, constantly trying to escape to get back to the beach where Mari found it, not caring who sees it or finds out about it. Mari is determined to keep things strictly scientific, yet as she gets to know the dragon and Dylan she discovers that sometimes, friendship is more important than science, and friendship can’t be measured by science either.

The first in a new series set in Wales, The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke brings together the real world and fantasy, in a small Welsh town where dragons exist. It explores themes of friendship through Dylan and Mari, and families as the two kids fight to save Gweeb, the dragon and keep her safe from those who want to harm her, like Ffion and Dr Griff. At its heart is the mystery of Mari’s father as well, and her desire to find something – fossils, science, naming the dragon species and sharing an interest with Dylan. Though at first, they come at it from separate perspectives, they begin to build a friendship that is charming and delightful.

Reading the first book in a new series is interesting, and delightful, because you get to meet the characters as they are, and watch them grow through the book and series, heading off on their adventures with Gweeb. I loved this story, set in the wilds of Wales with a dragon, and new discoveries that start out as science, but become much more.

I also loved it because it’s about friends, with a female lead who wants to follow her passions and makes friends along the way. This is important to show because it shows all kids that their abilities and passions are important, whoever they are, and that they can be friends with whomever they want to be friends with. Also, the presence of dragons makes everything fun and chaotic, a chaos which is balanced nicely with the rest of the novel and the calmer moments, exploring the strained relationship between Mari and her mother at the start of the book.

I am looking forward to seeing where Ed takes Mari, Gweeb and Dylan in the rest of the series.

Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

the magic pearlTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

Genre: Children’s fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Willow decides to celebrate the first day of the holidays by throwing a MERMAZING slumber party! The besties are so excited. But when Willow discovers a beautiful shimmering pearl, some very strange things start to happen that none of the mermaids are prepared for.

Could this pearl have magical powers?

~*~

Mermaid Holidays continues in the latest addition to the new series by Delphine Davis This time, the story is told from Willow Wave’s perspective as she hosts a sleepover for her friends, where they make necklaces. Willow makes a pearl necklace, and afterwards, her octopus companion, Frida, tells them the story of a magical pearl and the creation of their home, Turtleton by Tobias Turtleton. When Sophia works out that her pearl is the magical pearl of the story, she makes a wish that could see the end of their home forever.

Willow meets the merhag of the old story of the pearl appears and tells her she needs to find a way to fix things, Willow sets about setting things right for the whole of Turtleton.

2019 BadgeThis is the second in this series that started this year, with the third due in September. Aimed at the same audience as the first book, for both new and returning readers, we get to see Turtleton and the adventures the four friends have through Willow’s perspective. Willow’s book is blue, and her tail is shown as blue in the illustrations to show she is the primary mermaid in this book, with her octopus companion, Frida. It is yet another story of friendship and working together. Yet at the same time, learning and growing as an individual to find a solution to a problem that Willow inadvertently causes.

This was another fun kids’ book, and a great addition to the series. It’s fun to see how the author has created the characters and stories to be fun yet at the same time, teach young kids about responsibility in a fun and subtle way.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

the flatshare.jpgTitle: The Flatshare

Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Quercus/Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 394

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A quirky love story from a fresh new talent. The MUST READ book for 2019

‘The new Jojo Moyes … This has all the ingredients of Me Before You‘ COSMOPOLITAN

‘Funny and winning … a Richard Curtis rom-com that also has its feet firmly planted in real life. A real treat’ Stylist

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

~*~

When it comes to rom-com movies and books, I find that I enjoy the clever ones, and the light-hearted but real ones – where the characters have unapologetic flaws, and are quite human, or that almost satirise the traditional elements of romance in a fun way. I like it when it does so in a way that the tropes are present, yet can sometimes be revealed for how silly they are and this leads to the romance having more oomph for me, where the lead characters don’t have to change for the other, have their in jokes and are shown to be human.

Movies that come to mind that do this are the Bridget Jones films, and several English ones – where sacrifice might be made yet not at the expense of losing a sense of oneself. So when I received a copy of Beth O’Leary’s book, The Flatshare, I was intrigued as to how a rom-com between two people who don’t meet until well into the book (let’s face it, this was inevitable from the get-go, but when it happened, it was no less amusing) would happen. But happen it did.

When Tiffy breaks up with her boyfriend, Justin, she has to move out – and when she sees Leon’s offer on Gumtree – a flatshare where she has it nights and weekends, and he has it in the day – she jumps at the chance. And so begins a strange friendship, where Tiffy and Leon communicate through a series of Post-It notes as they navigate the strange life they lead – sharing a flat but not knowing each other.  At first, the notes are awkward requests, as they try to negotiate terms and space – and each chapter is told alternately – one by Tiffy, the next by Leon, each chapter revealing something about each flatmate, and unfurling a growing friendship, that becomes cheeky and eventually, flirty.

It has the humour of good British  movies like Love Actually, Bridget Jones and a fast paced wit that comes from Gilmore Girls, yet is a uniquely formed story and cast that all have their own strengths, and flaws – and the way that they all come together when someone needs help is lovely – it has a real feel of family and friendship to it, and I felt that having Tiffy and Leon’s relationship grow from awkward strangers to a friendship, and eventually, to love, gave the book a realistic and well-rounded feel that many readers will relate to.

The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stainton

the bad mothers book clubTitle: The Bad Mother’s Book Club

Author: Keris Stainton

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Trapeze/Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 266

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This book club only reads wine labels – the laugh-out-loud novel from ebook bestseller Keris Stainton

Since moving to the Liverpudlian seaside after her husband’s career change, Emma Chance’s life consists of the following: long walks on the beach (with the dog), early nights (with the kids) and Netflix (no chill).

Bored and lonely, when Emma is cordially invited to the exclusive cool school-mums’ book club, hosted by Head of PTA and footballer’s wife, Jools Jackson, she thinks her luck may finally be about to change. She soon realises she may have made a grave mistake when she realises it’s all about books, and less about wine and gossip – but it’s always better to stick things out, isn’t it?

Or not.

After a few months and a few awkward moments involving a red wine on white carpet accident and a swear-word incident involving Jools’s daughter, Emma is ungraciously kicked out of the book club. Exhausted and exiled, she decides it’s about time she fights back against the shame and humiliation. Enlisting the help of some similar-thinking mums, Emma sets up her own book club – no cleaners, polite conversation or reading required: this is the BAD MOTHER’S BOOK CLUB.

 

~*~

 

Living near Liverpool after moving for her husband’s new job as a football manager, Emma Chance finds herself in a new environment to navigate – school parking politics, the PTA and managing to be herself whilst at the same time, putting a good face forward for her husband as he works with the footballer husband of Jools Jackson, who invites Emma to her exclusive book club. However, this book club turns out to be more than what Emma bargained for, and an incident involving Jool’s daughter sees her kicked out. So with fellow mum’s – Beth and Hanan – they start their own book club – The Bad Mother’s Book Club as they all try to navigate school, being a mum and the delicate politics of the PTA and surviving Jools – that is, until something Jools has been trying to hide comes out and she finds that letting Emma in is only going to help her.

In a refreshing story about female friendship, this novel combines light-hearted elements and humour with the struggles that we don’t always want others to see, but that we can’t always hide and eventually, need to ask for help with. It is not depressing, though has a few moments of gravitas that hit home that anyone can be vulnerable and imperfect – but it shows that these moments are okay because whoever we are, we all have them.

It is a great read for anytime – for sitting at home, a holiday or just a touch of light reading – there are many layers in this book to be enjoyed and it is nice to see imperfect characters of all types who acknowledge their flaws and where characters are allowed to be themselves and have concerns, and talk them out without being dismissed. Between mystery appointments and school, the women of the book club, Emma Beth and Hanan must also manage to find a way to raise their children and ensure each child is not ignored. For Emma, this means doing whatever she can to help her son settle in at school, ad watching him struggle, whilst her daughter, Ruby, pushes herself with more work and stress than Emma first realises until each family joins together for a trip for a school project and barriers are broken down and they come together to help each other – another element of the book I enjoyed, showing that everyone is different and has a different path, but no matter what these differences in race, gender or sexuality, friendships can be formed through common bonds of parenthood and hobbies – in the case of this novel.

I enjoyed taking a break from my usual hefty reading in historical fiction, fantasy and literary fiction to explore this world, where friendship is the key to the story, and it is something that we need more of for all readers – whatever their age or gender, and wherever they are at their stage of life.

Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia_3D-Cover.pngTitle: Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: “When Day and Night combine and fight against one Enemy, then Dark and Light shall meet mid-strike and set the Captives free.”

In the wake of loss and devastation, Alex must cast aside her grief to seek aid from those who banished the Meyarins long ago. But the proud Tia Aurans care little for the woes of mortals and demand that Alex—and her friends—undergo the Gates of Testing to prove their world is worth saving.

With an ancient prophecy looming, Alex must confront the secrets of her past if she is to survive long enough to see the future. For if she returns to Medora without the Tia Aurans by her side, all hope will be lost.

In this explosive conclusion to The Medoran Chronicles, the fate of Medora hangs in the balance as Alex readies herself to face Aven one final time.

Who will survive, and who will fall?

“If, however, darkness wins, there is no strategy to keep from all that will be lost, and so will always be.”

~*~

Alex’s journey to save Medora from Aven Dalmarta is about to conclude, and the question of whether or not she will succeed hangs in the air as she faces yet more challenges and tragedies. Within days after the final events of Graevale, Alex and her friends are thrust into the Tia Auran world, where they must face the Gates of Testing together over a week. In undergoing these tests, Alex hopes to prove to the Tia Aurans that the humans and other mortal races of Medora are worthy of assistance from the Tia Aurans in their fight against Aven – which at the opening of the novel, feels as futile as it has for the past four books and the recent novella. As they venture through each of the gates, tested beyond their individual and collective limits, they are unaware of what is happening back home with everyone that they love and hold dear. Throughout the series, there has been a foreboding and trepidation with what is to come, and the prophecy has always lingered in the back of Alex’s mind. And finally, we are going to get our answers – will Alex and her friend succeed, or will Aven rule over all?

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I’ve been with this series since the beginning, way back in 2015 when I undertook an internship with the publisher, Pantera Press, and it is to this series, its author, Lynette Noni, and Ali and the gang at Pantera Press I have to thank for getting me wholeheartedly into my book blogging journey, which keeps me pretty busy these days. Anyway, back to the book! I was expecting it to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for some of those chapter cliff-hangers that cropped up – and that kept me reading to make sure everyone would be okay – if only for a chapter or two until the next time. There are many heart-pounding moments, and many moments that had me staring at the page hoping the worst would not happen. During one of the trials, one of my favourite lines in the whole series cropped up, spoken by Alex in defiance of the Tia Aurans:

“The surest way to become a monster is to follow in their footsteps.”

 

 

At this point, Alex reveals her strength and vulnerability – her strength of resisting the adhere to sadistic, cold desires of an immortal race, who seem to care little about the world they are part of, and her human vulnerability of love for those she holds dear, even someone she has known for a mere week whilst in Tia Auras. This is what I love about her – that she has flaws and she even embraces them at times, and jokes about them with her friends. Yet she knows that there is strength within love – and it is her love for her family, friends and Medora that will spur her on to the end, even when all seems lost.

The final climactic chapters are so fast paced, it feels like they are flying past, and to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, I flicked back once or twice – worried I had missed an important aspect of the battle or a move Aven had made – or even just to make sure I had read something correctly, as the next lines sometimes came as a  huge shock – in more ways than one. There’s laughing, tears, and everything in between – with moments of momentary peace between the trials and battles as friends and family regroup and come to terms with the changes in their world, the changes to come. It is a perfect ending to the series, where all the threads from the rest of the series are all brought together in a finale that ensures wrapping up the series gives closure for readers and will always be a favourite.

Vardaesia is out on the 18th of February in paperback and e-book from Pantera Press.

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