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 Time Travel Diaries #1 by Caroline Lawrence

Time Travel Diaries 1.jpgTitle: The Time Travel Diaries #1

Author: Caroline Lawrence

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, History

Publisher: Piccadilly/Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:From the million-copy-selling author of The Roman Mysteries comes a nail-biting time-travel adventure in Roman London – where past meets present.

From the million-copy-selling author of The Roman Mysteries comes a nail-biting time-travel adventure in Roman London – where past meets present.

Billionaire Solomon Daisy is obsessed with the skeleton of a blue-eyed girl from Roman London. He has managed to invent a Time Machine so that he can go and find her, but it’s estimated that for each hour spent in the past, the time traveller’s life will be shortened so Solomon recruits a potential child time traveller: Alex Papas, a twelve-year-old boy who knows a smattering of Greek and Latin.

Alex’s mission is to go back to Londinium through a portal in London’s Mithraeum and find out all he can about the blue-eyed girl.

There are just three rules:

1. Naked you go and naked you must return.
2. Drink, don’t eat.
3. As little interaction as possible.

But Time Travel is no picnic – and Roman London is far more dangerous than anyone could have known.

~*~

Alex Papas lives with his grandmother and goes to school every day. He loves history, Latin and Greek. He’s going about his life at school when a teacher calls him in to see her, and soon he is recruited by billionaire Solomon Daisy to travel back to Roman London – Londinium in 260 AD. However, when he goes back, Alex is followed by Dinu, the new boy at school and a bully. Arriving in Londinium, they must find a way to blend in and follow the rules set forth by Solomon relating to time travel. On a quest to find the blue-eyed girl with the ivory knife, Alex and Dinu mustn’t communicate with people – yet other forces have other ideas. One small change in the past is said to change the future – and nothing can come back with them.

So as Alex and Dinu seek the blue-eyed girl, Londinium of 260 AD is revealed, and Alex gets to use his Latin – and readers get to learn a little too, and realises that everything he has been told or seen. And, he has to try to stay alive so he can get back.

Finding the girl proves to be easier than Alex thought – but trying to get home is harder, especially when Dinu goes missing and Alex must find him and get them both home safely. But can he succeed, and what awaits them in the future?

This book combined fantasy, history and Latin – in a fun, and easily accessible way for all readers. Knowing some basic Latin, I was able to understand some of the Latin. Having the English translation is good, as it is included seamlessly and allows readers to go on without going to a translator.

As the first in a series, I am looking forward to seeing how this progresses and where else Alex gets to go, especially after the ending of this one. I never saw it coming and it is an amazing away to end the first novel, and has me excited to see where it takes us.

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.

A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino

A Dream of Italy.jpgTitle: A Dream of Italy

Author: Nicky Pellegrino

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 26th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The No. 1 bestselling author makes southern Italy come alive in her most captivating, delicious drama yet

Here is your chance to buy your own home in southern Italy for less than the price of a cup of coffee. The picturesque mountain town of Montenello is selling off some of its historic buildings for just ONE EURO each. To be considered as a future resident of Montenello contact the town’s mayor, Salvio Valentini. 

Many people read Salvio’s advertisement with excitement. Elise is in her twenties and desperate to get on the property ladder. Edward wants to escape a life he finds stifling. Mimi is divorced and starting afresh. And there is one person whose true motivation won’t be clear for some time.

These four people all have a dream of Italy. And it’s going to change their lives. The passionate and gorgeous new novel by Nicky Pellegrino, the bestselling author of A Year at Hotel Gondola.

~*~

I had never read Nicky Pellegrino’s books until I received A Dream of Italy. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I knew it was going to be the intertwining stories of several people who purchase run down homes in an Italian village for one Euro under a cunning plan by the town’s mayor to repopulate Montenello.

Elise, who longs for more than what she has, heads off on her own, leaving her fiancé when he refuses to follow her. She is joined by Mimi, divorced and looking for something of her own. A gay couple from Australia join them, and a fourth whose true motivation isn’t clear. What is clear is that they each have dream of a life in Italy – but what these dreams are might not be clear to them when they arrive.

Reading is my way of travelling to different times and places, and this one took me to Italy where I really want to visit one day. For now, I will read about it and travel that way.

It is hard to pin down a favourite character, as I liked them all and they all had something unique to offer to the story and each other. I can say that I liked that the friendship bonds that formed between the characters across the story were more important than romance, and when there was a hint of romance between two characters, it was not forced or pushed when it didn’t work out. For me, this added an air of realism that I have, in the past, found romance novels do not always have, and the relationship is forced, and feels stifled. This one did not, and the relationship that does eventuate is not the one that is expected, making for a delightful twist.

This is one that I enjoyed, but perhaps won’t read again. It is one I know people will enjoy and look forward to sharing it with people, and passing it onto others who will enjoy it.

Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (illustrator)

the talent show.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (illustrator)

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:120

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Sophia, Willow, Chloe and Olivia have been best friends since they were merbies. Even though they don’t go to school together, whenever they come home to Turtleville for the holidays, they are inseparable.

This holidays, something super exciting is happening  Turtleville’s first Talent Show! Sophia can’t wait. She was born to perform! The besties enter as a group, but will Sophia’s love of the spotlight ruin everything?

Whatever happens, the show must go on!

~*~

The start of a new series – for any age group – is always an exciting thing as a book reviewer, and getting to review the very first book is something I love doing, especially when it captures the imagination and proves itself to be magical and exciting, and hopefully, have a very wide appeal to younger readers. This month sees the release of the first title in a new series about four best friends who are mermaids – aimed at younger girls but anyone can read it if they want to.

2019 Badge

Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show is the first in the new series by Delphine Davis and illustrated by Adele K Thomas. It looks as though each mermaid is going to be given a different colour, which is highlighted for that mermaid in the colour of the book, pages and the illustrations. In this case, pink for Sophia Seashell, who takes a starring role in the first book as she convinces her friends to participate with her in the local talent show during their school holidays – but when Sophia decides it will be a mess to showcase all their talents, and not just singing, they might never make it to the show at all. Can Sophia and her companion seahorse, Smedley, find a way to make it work for everyone, so they have a chance at the prize?

This was a fun read that younger readers will enjoy reading with a family member, or by themselves for the first time as they explore friendship, and the ups and downs of having friends, ultimately showing that having fun is more important than winning. And that sometimes, doing things you’re unsure about can be as much fun as doing the things you are familiar with. The most important thing is to have fun with your friends – and this is a good message to send to kids of all ages and genders, to teach them to appreciate people.

Adults can also learn from children’s books like this, and might learn the same lessons, and might have ideas reinforced or be reminded of what being a child is like. Overall though, it was a fun read and one I hope other people enjoy when it comes out.

Booktopia

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

x99-percent-mine.jpg.pagespeed.ic.EFt0ZzX-3G.jpgTitle: 99 Percent Mine

Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Piatkus

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game , which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach… 

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

This next hilarious romance includes a special PS section with two Happily Ever Afters one for this novel featuring Darcy and Tom and the other, an epilogue featuring fan favourites Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman from The Hating Game! 

~*~

I was attracted to Sally Thorne’s first novel The Hating Game because it was a cleverly written romance, where the characters were three dimensional, had lives beyond wanting to date, and many things happened that led to them to grow from hatred, to respect. And then from respect to friendship, and finally to love. Not only that, the characters were allowed to be who they were as individuals, and the story was filled with so many aspects that allowed the characters to grow as they explored more than just their relationship.

And, in 99% Mine, we have a couple in a similar situation – where being together has been fraught with issues and obstacles – Darcy couldn’t say i love you as a teen, Tom is engaged, and to top it all off, Tom, and Darcy’s twin brother, Jamie, are constantly worrying about Darcy and her heart condition: has she taken her medication, Darcy, you can’t over exert yourself. In these moments, I felt Darcy was at her strongest, showing her conviction of character, and her refusal to let her disability define her, though it has restricted her in the past, as she recounts throughout the novel, which is told from her point of view.

2019 Badge

Darcy has been in love with Tom for years, but both seem to have avoided the issue since they were eighteen, and Darcy has spent time jetting off around the world, working as a photographer and in a bar to make ends meet. When Tom is set to start work on her grandmother’s old cottage to sell, Darcy finds her feelings are bubbling again. Whilst Loretta, Darcy and Jamie’s gran has instructed them to sell, Darcy wants to keep the house and live there. This adds another layer of tension as Darcy becomes involved in the renovations, putting her health at risk.

The romance in this novel is more overt – because the characters are more obvious about where they want it to go, but much like The Hating Game, they take their time to fall into it. Here, they need to navigate the complexities of prior friendship, and a fiancé and Darcy feeling like Tom is overprotective or hiding something from her – or both – that need to be worked through before the inevitable can happen. When couples get together towards the end, it feels more satisfying, because as a reader, I get to go on the journey with them, and see what led to them wanting to be together. It is also refreshing to see characters who have things of their own that they might share with the other. One final thing I liked was that it was lots of tiny things that made Darcy, Tom and Jamie work as characters and friends, and family, not just one – they were who they were individually and together, giving each reader something different to connect to.

An enjoyable second novel from Sally Thorne.