Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14) by Jacqueline Harvey

clementine rose 14.jpgTitle: Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 145

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

~*~

Six-year-old Clementine Rose lives with her mother, step-father, step-bother, aunt and grandparents at Penberthy House. It’s school holidays, and Clementine has all kinds of plans to have lots of fun. But her family home, Penberthy Hall, has been chosen to host the Great Village Bake Off – and all Clementine’s activities are put off. That is, until she decides to participate in the bake-off. Disheartened to find out she is too young, Clementine convinces those in charge to run a mini junior bake-off as well, and she sets about finding the perfect cake. If only her mother wasn’t so sick. But then Clementine and her brother stumble across nefarious activities and goings on with at least one bake-off contestant after they notice all the other contestants’ bakes are always going wrong – but who – or what is behind it and why? It is up to Clementine and Will to find out – and to stop cheating in the junior bake-off as well!

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I came to Jacqueline Harvey earlier this year with Kensy and Max – and thoroughly enjoyed the first two in that series and am keen for the next ones when they come out – hopefully soon. But this was my first adventure with Clementine Rose, a series aimed at younger readers who are just starting to read alone, and gain confidence in their reading abilities. This is book fourteen in the series, and I found it utterly charming. Clementine is a delightful little girl, who partakes in activities such as baking and ballet, but shows a determination to do things on her own and with her brother, like investigating the strange goings on at the bake-off, and uncovering the secrets behind the catastrophes. What will they uncover, and how will people react?

I loved this book – it was charming, and a quick read for young children, or anyone who wants a quick and fun read at any time of the year. Clementine Rose is the kind of character that shows children of all ages and genders that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it – she doesn’t let anything stop her, but she still knows to ask for help when she needs it, but that’s what makes her great – she knows what she can do on her own and knows what her limits are and this shows kids that they can be just like her. I loved Clementine Rose, and I enjoy Jacqueline’s style of writing.

Booktopia

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

the stolen child.jpg

Title: The Stolen Child

Author: Lisa Carey

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 10 January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 325

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: On an island where dreams can come true, be careful what you wish for

St Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed – by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

~*~

The Stolen Child opens almost where it ends, though this finale is still shrouded in a fog of mystery that slowly unravels as the novel proceeds. Twin sisters Rose and Emer have spent their lives on the island, Rose quite happy with her brood of twin girls and husband, Emer longing to get off, and holding her only son, Niall, close to her. The arrival of a stranger brings a series of events and tragedies to the island. Gradually, these events lead to something devastating, and slowly drive wedges between friends and family who were once all close, connected by the island, blood and friendship, and the bonds they share become frayed, by whom though, nobody can agree.

The stranger, Brigid, is at first shunned and gossiped about by the women, her connection to the island and her presence questioned. As time goes on, barriers break down, Brigid’s story is revealed through flashbacks, and she comes close with Emer, and her son Niall, slowly chipping away at the walls Emer has built around her due to fear. Emer though, still holds onto old traditions and superstitions about fairies, “the good people”, and curses, and magic, despite the weekly visits to Mass made by the island. When she is trapped on the island with her brother in law during a dark storm that traverses three days, one event sets the wheels in motion for tragedy. The dangers that they will have to face, and the realities of Brigid and her presence, soon impact the lives of everyone who lives there.

A captivating yet eerie story, with a touch of gothic literary characteristics mixed in with old Irish traditions and a struggle against what is known and the unknown of the modern world, The Stolen Child evokes the fear of loss – loss of love, of family, of friendship and of self. It evokes the creation and breaking down of relationships and has characters that question the conventions and expectations that surround them. The relationships in this novel are mainly between women: there are male characters, though other than Niall, they are secondary to the women, and what they feel for each other. The various relationships between Rose, Emer, Brigid and Rose and Emer’s mother, are the ones that dominate the novel, the ones that give it the power and emotion for the reader. Brigid and Emer’s relationship builds out of distrust into a sort of respect, where Brigid slowly coaxes Emer from her shell, and into friendship, with the possibility of something more.

What I liked most about this novel was that I didn’t know what was coming with each chapter. It allows for the characters to grow and be complex, whilst still allowing the essence of who they all are to shine through. It has a mystery within that requires being read to the final page to be solved, and yet still has an air of wonder once the final page has been turned.

A moving and tender read, where the sea and the island are as much characters as the human characters, the givers and takers of life that these island women live by, It evokes emotion, and weaves a tale that illustrates the realities of prejudice, isolation and fear, and how these can change at the drop of a hat at times.