REVIEW: The CATawampus Cat by Jason Carter Eaton & Illustrated by Gus Gordon

Published: 21st March 2017

Publisher: Penguin Viking

Pages: 32

Format: Hard cover Picture book courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $33.49/$24.99

5/5 Stars

A tilted tale about a cat who sees the world from an unusual point of view, written by the hilarious Jason Carter Eaton (How to Train a Train) and illustrated by the equally humorous Gus Gordon (Herman and Rosie).


catawampus (cat-a-wam-pus) n. 1. Diagonal or at an angle. 2. Askew, awry.
The catawampus cat walks with a slant. And his skewed point of view has everyone in town looking at everything with fresh eyes. Even Bushy Brows Billiam who never notices anything, including what time class is over, spots the catawampus cat, and now he s a star student! And when the town librarian sees the catawampus cat, she pulls the wrong book from the shelf, sending her into a life of adventure. The catawampus cat is in town and everything is about to change.”

The CATawampus Cat is a super cute and powerful read that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

When the CATawampus Cat arrives in town walking on a angle, he sets of a chain reaction. Before too long the townsfolk are all tilting their heads and viewing the world from a completely different angle and perception and loving what they discover.

The CATawampus Cat is perhaps one of the most powerful picture books I’ve read in 2017. It speaks to our desire to be like everyone else, and yet points out through a quirky cat that sometimes we aren’t better off that way. This book highlights differences and individual quirks that people have. It speaks of the power that being different and your own person can have – some people find love, others see things they haven’t seen for while, while other’s minds are simply opened to vast possibilities and opportunities that they had never considered before. It’s a timely reminder that while the world might like to demand that we all ‘be” the same, sometimes our strengths come from being ‘different’.

Jason Carter Eaton’s text is simple, direct, but funny as well, while Gus Gordon’s illustrations are cartoon-ish, quirky and really bring the book to life. Together the pair have created a one of the kind book that kids will reach for time and time again; it’s funny, easy to relate too and just that tiny bit different to everything else on the market that it’s going to be noticed quickly. What’s more it’s featuring a cat, which while it pains me to admit (I’m a massive dog person),  pretty make ensures the book is going to be a hit all round!

The CATawampus Cat is a book the celebrates and encourages diversity and thinking outside the box. It’s a book that speaks to our basic primarily urge to be liked, while confirming that inner voice that it’s okay to be who we are. It’s pretty much the most perfect book that 2017 needs right now and one I highly recommend everyone gives a go.

 

To purchase a copy of The CATawampus Cat, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Books Australia | Booktopia | Book Depository | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld | Dymocks

 

To learn more about Jason Carter Eaton, visit the following social media sites:

Penguin Books Australia | Facebook |

 

To learn more about Gus Gordon, visit the following social media sites:

Penguin Books Australia | Gus Gordon’s Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 

REVIEW: A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart

Published: 14th march 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 368

Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $29.99 (print)/ $12.99 (ebook)

4/5 Stars 

Inspired by the life of the world’s first woman war correspondent, Australia’s Louise Mack, the most gorgeous love story yet by Pamela Hart.

1917, Italy. Australian journalist Rebecca Quinn is an unconventional woman. At the height of World War I, she has given up the safety of her Sydney home for the bloody battlefields of Europe, following her journalist husband to the frontline as a war correspondent in Italy.

Reporting the horrors of the Italian campaign, Rebecca finds herself thrown together with American-born Italian photographer Alessandro Panucci, and soon discovers another battleground every bit as dangerous and unpredictable: the human heart.

A passionate and poignant love story set on the beautiful Italian coast by the bestselling author of THE SOLDIER’S WIFE and THE WAR BRIDE.

Every now and then there comes a novel that is so utterly irresistible that you instantly devour it in one sitting. A narrative where the characters capture your heart immediately and whisk you a way within a heartbeat of opening the book. One where time passes you by without you knowing it. Where the content challenges the way you think and opens your eyes to a whole new world of understanding. Where you are left feeling blissfully content at the end of the book, and yet the characters and the story remains in the back of your mind for long after the final page. A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart is one of those books.

A Letter From Italy is an eye opening and totally mesmerising read. The book’s I’ve read this year have been so far removed from the realm of this book, that is was not only a refreshing read, but an educational one. For you see, I’m a lover of history, but I don’t recall ever learning about Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent, and the troubles she encountered. Although I know  that societies perceptions of women were completely different and constantly being challenged during the wars, I’d never really considered what it would be like to be a female war correspondent. I’m ashamed to even admit that in the back of mind I probably just even assumed they were all male. Needless to say this narrative blew my perceptions of journalists of the time out of the water and opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of what it would have been like to be a woman fighting for her place in a man’s world.

Inspired by the strength and determination of the first female war correspondent, Louise Mack, A Letter From Italy is a testimony to the courage and persistence of women during that period of time. Hart’s heroine Rebecca Quinn is a young Australian journalist who has followed her husband Jack to Italy to report back on the war. When Jack runs off foolhardy into a story leaving Rebecca behind she learns just how hard it is to a be a women alone in a world where women are still believed to be inferior and delicate creatures to be protected at all costs. Butting heads at every turn against societies perceptions of women and the industries restrictions (women were not allowed in press conferences), Rebecca is forced think outside of the box to gain information and to earn her own stripes on the front. These unconventional means lead her to Alessandro Panucci, an American-Italian photographer with a baggage of confused identities. Together the pair develop the most unlikely of alliance as they pursue what is perhaps the story of a lifetime.

Hart has a real talent for writing strong female leads who reflect the nature of their time in such a honest and breathtaking way. Rebecca Quinn is no exception, in fact in many ways I think she is pretty much perfect. Here is a women who believes she is equal to men, who knows she has what it takes to do a ‘man’s’ job and she defies anyone to tell her that she is not worthy. She will not be held down. And yet behind this strong and capable exterior is a women battling with her own perceptions of what she should be and what she wants to be. The depth of character that we glimpse over the course of the novel is astounding, and I loved the way Hart balanced the two sides of her character. Especially the way in which Rebecca remained true to her own morals and convictions despite everything that was thrown her way.

With the focus well and truly on women’s involvement in the war and their fight for equal rights, the subtle hints of romance crafted throughout the story was like a cherry being placed on top of the most divine and intricate of desserts. When the book opened with Jack literally running off the page, I was confused. I couldn’t comprehend why our hero was running away and I read the first few chapters eagerly awaiting his return. And then Alessandro  appeared and I became even more confused … until it all made sense. The true partnership between Rebecca and Alessandro was inspiring, and the slow burn of the romance was unexpected and so gratifying because of that. Here is a book with so much heart without even trying.

A Letter From Italy is not only an inspiring and uplifting read, but it’s so eloquently written. From very early on in the narrative it’s evident just how much research Hart has put into the story; so much so that the words simply dissolve on the page as 1917 Italy becomes alive before your very eyes. What’s more the  entire book was so eloquently written that I found myself returning to passages time and time again, not because I missed something, but because I wanted to relive those moments again.

A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart celebrates the fight and contribution women made during the wars. It’s a true testimony to the strength of character that our fore-mothers bore so that we could enjoy the lives that we are so accustomed to now. What more it’s simply a mesmerising story that will transport you back to 1917 in heartbeat. It is not a book you can put down easily.

 

To Purchase a copy of A letter from Italy visit the following online retailers:

Hachette Australia | Booktopia | Dymocks | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Amazon UK |

 

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To learn more about Pamela Hart, visit the following social media pages:

Pamela Hart Website* | PAMELA FREEMAN WEBSITE | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest |

*Note: Signing up to Pamela’s newsletter on her website means you get a free short story! What are you waiting for, sign up now 🙂

 

REVIEW: Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky by Robert Newton

Published: 27th February 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 219

Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $17.99

4/5 Stars

From the Prime Minister’s Literary Award winning author, Robert Newton comes a novel full of heart, warmth and friendship.

A violent incident sparks an unlikely and surprising friendship between a young girl and an old man, leading to an adventure that brings both drama and understanding to their lives in contemporary Melbourne.

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky is a delightful and compelling tale with a strong sense of contemporary multicultural Australia and a vivid cast of characters.

 

As an avid reader, I read hundreds of books, but never has there been one quite like Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky by Robert Newton.

Relatively speaking, Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky, is a super quick read at only 219 pages long. But don’t be fooled by the low page count, because this book is a hidden gem that packs quite the emotional punch.

Coming it at a mere 219 pages, it is easy to fooled by Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky, for looks can be deceiving, and sometimes the sweetest of stories are laid bare on the page.

Simply put, Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky, is a coming of age story. It’s a narrative about finding yourself, learning who you are and accepting (and creating) your own family (both biological and the one you choose) for who they are. In a world that is often bleak and walled in, this book is a shinning light of hope for those in need.

It’s a book about finding yourself in a world that rushes past. About finding those special people in your life, the ones that instantly make you ‘you’ and the world a better place to be. About overcoming obstacles both seen and unseen, and about realising your dreams.

At the very least, Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky, is a road trip through the highs and lows of life. It’s the Australian answer to stories like Paper Towns by John Green and Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. Instead of the infamous highway 59, we have the Hume Highway. Instead of two love birds, we have a group of mismatched kids and an old man who are trying to find that ‘thing’ that makes them alive again. That makes them who they are.

If you are looking for a light and fluffy read, this is perhaps not the book for you at this time. For while relatively short, the narrative itself deals with some pretty heavy themes: mental illness, alcoholism, drug dependency, bullying, dementia and abandonment. Yet despite these bleaker moments, Newton employs the right amount of humour and escapism that  allows the reader to lend their mind outside the immediate possibilities and suspend disbelief in some of the more outlandish things the kids get up to, so that you are taken on a journey that even you couldn’t predict.

Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky is a book about finding your people in the world, about finding hope, friendship and family in the most unlikely of places.

 

To purchase a copy of Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Books Australia | Dymocks | Booktopia | QBDAngus & Robertson’s Bookworld | ibooks AUS | Amazon AUS | Kobo | Google Play

 

 

REVIEW: Florette by Anna Walker

Published: 27th February 2017

Publisher: Penguin Viking (imprint of Penguin Random House)

Pages: 32

Format: Hard cover, courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

When a little girl moves from the country to the city, she is sad to leave behind her beloved backyard garden. But then she makes a magical discovery near her new home and soon friendships as well as flowers are blooming.

Florette: meaning a small flower, and the Latin name for a Roman goddess of flowers.

Anna Walker never ceases to amaze me. Not only has she written the sweetest little picture book, but she has also illustrated some of the most stunning images that I’ve ever seen; Florette is a true piece of art.  What’s more the combination of Walker’s simply but elegant text and her beautiful illustrations ensure that the story’s heart and gentle nature is capture perfectly on every single page.

Florette is a book about change, patience, persistence and adaptability. Here is a small child whose whole life has been surrounded by luscious gardens and space now confined into a small apartment in a sprawling urban city. With the loss of her beloved garden, Mae tries to reconnect and recreate her oasis to no avail. Until she finds a new one, all of her own making.

It’s a book that speaks from the heart; a sweet book about a young girl’s desire for her beloved garden and the road she takes to establish one of her own. It’s a perfect learning tool for young kids, and one that will hopefully inspire others.

Walker’s illustrations are second to none, and some I find myself often seeking out time and time again. No matter how many times I’ve read this book now, there is always something new and exciting to discover within the folds of the pages. It’s a sensory overload of the best kind.

With subtle environmental notes, Florette is an extraordinary tale for young children and adults alike. Here is a book that speaks of childhood innocence and longing, about our place in the world and the love and care we have for it. It seeks to illustrate how limited our relationship with nature has become and all it takes is that one spark for hope to grow.

Florette is a beautiful and one of a kind picture book that will leave you with a smile on your face and a desire to harvest your own picturesque garden in no time.*

*As a girl with no green thumb, post reading this book I’ve found myself gazing at the smallest of pot plants and watching it slowly but lovingly grow.

 

To purchase a copy of Florette, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Random House Australia | Booktopia | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld | Dymocks | QBD

 

To learn more about Anna Walker, visit the following social media sites:

Penguin Random House Australia | Anna Walker’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

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REVIEW: Me And You by Deborah Kelly & Illustrated by Karen Blair

Published: 27th February 2017

Publisher: Penguin Viking Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hard cover Picture book courtesy of the Publisher

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

A delightful rhyming picture book that celebrates all the special relationships and fun-filled activities in a child’s life, their special bonds with parents, grandparents, cousins, neighbours and pets, as well as all the wonderful fun-filled days they enjoy together: from beach and baking days, to cycling and footy-kicking or simply lazy days. This is a joyous, accessible picture book perfect for sharing with children.

Me And You is a superb new picture book from Deborah Kelly and Karen Blair that seeks to celebrate children and those special people in their lives.

What I love most about this book is just how inclusive the story it is. As the title suggests, the book is about the reader and the child in many ways; to the point that it’s the way Me And You celebrate each day. Deborah Kelly has gone about and beyond to make sure there are NO references to name, gender or any other title that might limit the books appeal or approach, and while Karen Blair’s illustration do provide hints (i.e. a picture of Dad on a bike), it still remains fully approachable and friendly to children of all walks of life.

Karen Balir’s illustrations are super adorable and life like that reading the book and looking at the illustrations is akin to seeing some of your favourite family snaps from your very own personal photo album.  In fact the beauty of the book, is that the entire story is like that – an all inclusive photo album of little moments and people that make us who we are.

Me And You is the kind of book made to be read aloud by a parent or loved one. It’s a picture book that ensures that cuddles, kisses and laughs will reign supreme and that countless memories will be relieved by both parties. When the final page has been turned, and the cover closed post reading, the reader and the child will feel like they have been engulfed by a big warm and cheery, one of a kind hug.  With themes of love, friendship and acceptance, this book is sure to be a winner.

 

To purchase a copy of Me And You, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Random House Australia | Booktopia | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld | Dymocks |

TO learn more about the author, Deborah Kelly, visit the following social media sites:

Penguin Random House Australia | Author website | Facebook

 

TO learn more about the illustrator, Karen Blair, visit the following social media sites:

Penguin Random House Australia | Website | Facebook

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REVIEW: The Golden Child by Wendy James

Published: 1st February 2017

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia

Pages: 348

Format: paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $32.99

5/5 Stars

Can bad children happen to good mothers? A totally absorbing novel, for readers of Liane Moriarty, Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas.

Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …
Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.
This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it

Simply put The Golden Child is one hell of a gripping and chilling read. It’s the kind of book that grabs your attention and holds you hostage for 348 pages. 348 pages where you feel constantly uneasy, where it’s not unusual to break out in goose-bumps or to grip the book tighter in shock. Where you will find yourself feeling physically sick with the cruel games teenagers play on social media.

What Wendy James has achieved in this book is nothing short of a miracle. She’s taken a well know reality – cyber bullying pushing kids too far – and brought it into every readers home. As readers we glimpse every side of the issue: the spiteful and horrifying bully, the victims families and any who are close enough when the collateral damage is dished out. It’s truly horrifying, superbly written, but horrifying for what it represents; many people’s every day reality.

When I opened this book, I had a vague idea of what to expect. James is a master of blurring the lines between the morally and emotionally right and she has this effortless way of presenting every day ‘victimless’ crimes with so much scope and insight that you become shaken to the core. What I didn’t expect however was the way that I would react to this book. Like the book itself, when I started reading I was smiling, eager to dive in the books pages. Then came that uncomfortable feeling where you just know you can’t trust your narrators any more, that there is something terrifying amiss just below the surface, that space where you know what is being projected is not the rosy reality behind the scenes. Until finally my skin was crawling and my mind screaming at the injustices. I wanted to scream at key players to wake up and realise what the hell was going on and I was so damn disappointed and terrified and just so, so unprepared.

As far as the plot goes, I’m not saying a thing. This is a book you will viscerally react to. One that I think every person, young and old, teen or parent, needs to read. It’s a book about those hard truths that we sometimes try to deny at a cost greater than any of us can pay.

I know it’s only February and there are still some astounding books to come out this year, but hands down I can already tell you that The Golden Child will be a book in my top ten this year. It’s a book that haunts me. It’s a book I can guarantee you will not be able to put down.

To purchase a copy of The Golden Child, visit the following online retailers:

Harper Collins Australia | Booktopia | Kobo | Dymocks | QBD | ANgus & Robertson’s bookworld

 

To learn more about Wendy James, visit the following social media sites:

Wendy James’ Website | Harper Collins Australia | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

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REVIEW: Valentine by Jodi McAlister

Published: 30th January 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 395

Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $19.99 (or $9.99 fro the ebook)

4/5 Stars

Valentine is the first in a smart, witty and page-turning YA series with a paranormal twist for fans of Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.

Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her.

Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too.

Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about . . .

Jodi McAlister is a natural born storyteller. Right from that first sentence she had had me hooked until the very end of the book. So much so that I devoured it in one sitting and have been contemplating the characters, the situation and the world ever since. While there are a few niggling issues for me with the book, on the whole I can say that the story is totally and utterly addictive. The world Valentine inhabits is mysterious, crazy and so full on that it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. The characters, albeit a bit immature at times, are engaging and charismatic and the setting is so vivid and believable that I felt as though I transported through the pages to the town of Haylesford itself. That doesn’t happen often.

The thing that stands out the most for me in this book, is the relationship between Pearl and Finn. It would have been so easy for McAlister as a debut author (or any author for that matter) to have a simple enemies-to-lovers relationship between the two and yet what McAlister has done is so much more than that. Even after the two are forced together neither character is complacent, nor all that accepting of their new found ‘relationship’; they fight like cats and dogs and question everything and anything. I can not stress to you how relieved I was with this turn in events, especially since there was no insta-love between any of the characters in the book. What’s more, the blurred lines of uncertainty hovering around Pearl and Finn makes their warring tolerance of one another so much refreshing. Here are two very confused and overwhelmed kids who are allowing themselves to be confused and overwhelmed and not rushing into anything head first. It was a refreshing and brilliant move on the author’s part.

I really enjoyed Finn’s character and his complexities and look forward to seeing him grow more (and gain more page space) as the series continues. As for Pearl, she is a bit hysterical for my tastes, and rather over the top. Because of this it took me a while to warm up to her personally, but I did really enjoy her character. After all, anyone is entitled to be that hysterical and overwhelmed given the shit she’s seen and the situations she’s faced. I really enjoyed the unique family atmosphere that Pearl has having been raised by her older twin siblings and I’m rather intrigued as to the mystery regarding this family and what it could spell for future books.

I read a lot of fantasy and fey books, and I want to thank Jodi McAlister from the bottom of my heart for filling a gap in the market and writing fantasy YA novel that rivals those coming out of States. Aussie YA has a strong place on the market, and yet for some reason there are very few Australian fantasy based YA novels that deal with the fey. Not going to lie, reading this book made me smile like an idiot, as only a book set in your own backyard can. There’s just something about having local settings that just enhances a book, don’t you think?

Valentine by Jodi McAlister was like a breath of fresh air. Personally I can not wait for the second book in the series, Ironheart, to be released as I have so many questions and theories surrounding Pearl and Finn that I just really need to get them out!

Ideal of fans of Holly Black, Julie Kagawa and Sarah J Maas.

 

To purchase a copy of Valentine, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Random House Australia | Angus & Robertson’s BookworldAmazon AUS | Booktopia | Dymocks | Google Books | ibooks AUS | Kobo | OBD |

To learn more about Jodi McAlister, visit the following social media sites:

 Goodreads | Penguin Random House Australia | Twitter | Tumbler |

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