Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

Published: 27th October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Simon and Schuster
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

This book is a combination of adorable and heart-warming and will totally break your heart before putting it back together with sticky tape. It is an incredibly sweet book about being excluded and finding a place to belong.

The story is filled with morals and lessons about being a good friend and a good person told through an engaging narrative. It is a wonderful comparison to the beginning of the book where the young boy and his pet elephant are discriminated against. As you read you see how not to behave and then Mantchev reinforces the correct behaviour all in a wonderful story about a boy and his love and friendship for his pet tiny elephant.

Yoo’s illustrations are so adorable. The colours are bright and realistic and they fill most of the page, leaving just enough room for the text. Seeing the tiny elephant go for walks is the cutest thing and I loved the illustrations how they matched the text adding that extra bit of storytelling. Yoo’s use of colours is also fantastic because different tones are used to highlight things and single things out on the page, drawing your eye to their significance.

The ending of the book promotes kindness and acceptance and makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s also humorous because the pets the other children have are not your typical pets but they are all welcome nonetheless. This is also where Yoo shines because seeing his illustrations of these unique animals is a fantastic ending to the book.

You can purchase Strictly No Elephants via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Thanks, Mum by Matt Cosgrove

Published: 1st April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove
Pages: 23
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Snuggling up for a bedtime story. Kissing a sore knee to make it better. Pushing the swing as high as the sky. 
There are a million different reasons to say… thanks, mum!

This Sunday is Mother’s Day here in Australia and to celebrate I am looking at Matt Cosgrove’s new book all about the wonderful things mum’s do for us.

What I love about this story is it goes a bit beyond the simple “I Love You Mum” kind of stories you see around Mother’s Day. I love this one because it is funny, relatable, and one that shows off just how much mum does for you all with humour, rhyme, and adorable illustrations. It is sweet without getting sappy and shows appreciation without being too serious.

In true Cosgrove style the illustrations are bright and colourful, with absolutely adorable characters. There is a mix of Australian and other animals and there is even a sneaky cameo of our friend Macca the Alpaca.

The story is lyrical with fantastic and creative rhymes and whether reading out loud or to yourself it’s hard not to get swept up in the melodic tone.

This is a must for all Macca and Cosgrove fans and it is an ideal book for everyone because it’s a great story and one that is easily read and appreciated every day of the year but especially around Mother’s Day.

You can purchase Thanks, Mum! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

Wilt (#2) by Nikki Rae

Published: 30th June 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 233
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

When she was sold to Master Elliot Lyon of House Chimera, Fawn could have never imagined he was the same person as Elliot, the man beneath a well-placed mask. A victim. Just like her. She would have never thought he was grooming her for the Wolf she’d already escaped once. That he planned to deliver her to the beast’s jaws in exchange for his wife.

Master Jäger will stop at nothing to have her—even if that means using others as collateral. With more than just their lives on the line, Fawn must become someone else, and Master Lyon distances himself further from Elliot as her transfer looms. 

The roots of the Order run deep within them, but Fawn is beginning to realize another bond has formed between her and her Owner, a man she vowed to destroy along with the rest of their tangled branches. 

In a world where trust is just a tool and love isn’t meant for people like them, Fawn is determined to beat the powerful at their own elaborate games of make-believe. Even the man who Owns her. 

Wilt is the second book in The Order series and Rae draws us back into this dark, dystopian underworld of control and passion with Fawn and Elliot not long after we left them in Bloom. Bloom was such an emotional, conflicting experience I was eager and excited to see where the story went and thankfully I was not disappointed.

The narrative is an intense, captivating read that even when things aren’t necessarily happening, you feel drawn in by Rae’s words and the layers of meaning and emotion behind them. The language implies a lot but there is also descriptions, some more vivid than others. The promise of a dark romance rings true and while there are occasional moments of brutality as a demonstration of control and power, there is purpose to them and are not there just for show.

I love Rae’s writing style because it pulls you in and you feel like you are being sucked into the book. I found myself subconsciously trying to get closer and closer to the pages as if I was going to fall directly into the book. The writing is amazing at creating mood. Her words have the power to control a moment, you can tell slow, sensual, intimate things are happening with her words. Even if nothing explicit is mentioned. She doesn’t rush and it makes it captivating. This never affects the pace of the story at all. It has these moments where time slows down but the story never does. We are taken on this journey alongside Fawn as we take this next stage with her, following along the aftermath of her actions in book one, trepidation over what will happen to her in book two.

With the introductions and establishments out of the way in the first book, Wilt allows us to explore more the relationship between Elliot and Fawn as well as her plans for the next stage. With a complicated emotional and romance style plot you aren’t left unsatisfied as Rae is clever in moving the story forward while still giving us the passion and romance and conflict we love from this series. Seeing the personalities of Fawn and Elliot develop was fascinating as each tried to mold the other to their desires. It was also an emotional ride as each plot twist emerged and you realise to never assume anything in this household.

This is not a subject or genre I generally read but there is something about Rae’s words that are wonderful. They are restrained but brutal and her imagination is fascinating. I don’t ever think I would have thought I’d enjoy this type of story but it certainly fascinates me and as I get deeper into the lives of these characters and the complexity of the world I find myself unwilling to pull away. I have grown to love this series more through this book and while I loved the first one because it was shocking and totally different, and even because it was uncomfortable at times, I adored this one further because I was captivated by Fawn and could see her growth and strength, even if it hid behind her fear.

Even though the cliff hanger lets us know partially where the story will go, I have no idea where Rae is going to take this story for the next book because I cannot even fathom how she plans to follow this. It’s fantastic.

You can purchase Wilt via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Digger by Mike Dumbleton

Published: March 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Robin Cowcher
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The poignant story of a toy kangaroo that goes to war with a young man who doesn’t come back.

When her brother, James, went to war, Annie stitched the name Digger onto her toy kangaroo and gave him to James as a farewell present.
‘A Digger for a digger,’ she said, hugging her brother.
‘I’ll keep him safe,’ James promised.

Digger is the story of one toy kangaroo, one Australian soldier and two girls, in two countries on opposite sides of a world at war. It’s a quiet reminder of the casualties of war, and a tribute to the French schoolchildren who once tended the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

I think these kinds of picture books are absolutely fantastic. Based off true stories, photographs, or personal family histories are beautifully pure and honest, even if they are a bit heartbreaking. From reading the dedication alone I teared up.

Crowcher’s illustrations are roughly sketched but beautiful watercolours that match the tone of this story incredibly well. The subdued colours and the outlines capture the story without needing to be finely detailed. They express beauty and peace, and show the chaos of the battlefront without ever needing to show anything traumatic.

Digger’s point of view conveys a lot of the actual conflict, his experience of the noises and the sensations. But Dumpleton doesn’t stick with this perspective as it shifts from Annie, the James, to Collette on the other side of the world. This was incredibly clever because it flows seamlessly and fits in not only with history, but with engaging storytelling.

Even though you may know the outcome, it remains a touching story because it is based on truth. It is based on these boys who went to fight in a war, who were far from home, found care in unexpected places, and the importance memories of home were.

There is nothing explicitly mentioned about injury or death, but the implications are there through other characters. I really liked this approach because it actually felt more impactful to have a different soldier bring Digger to be sent home, to have a simple sentence saying James had given instructions that had to be passed on. It felt real, it felt suitable, and it was heartbreaking.

This is a timeless book because while it focuses on WWI, it still is about soldiers who fought for this country and who are still fighting, as well as those who never got to come home.

You can purchase Digger via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Published: 29 January 2019 (print)/29 January 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harlequin Australia/Harlequin Audio
Pages: 440/10 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…

This is a fantastic story if you know the history of Henry VIII and his wives and even if you don’t it is an amazing, complicated drama about high school politics which can only be told in the setting of an American school. Even if you don’t understand the entirety of the Tudor history Capin still tells an engrossing story and provides enough clues without ever breaking from the present day reality.

Not only is the premise brilliant, but Capin is a master with her metaphors. She doesn’t throw them in your face right from that start but when they come out they are the ideal representations of who these character were and the roles they played in history. The comparisons are not exact for obvious reasons, but Capin is incredibly close with her high school student equivalents and the more I thought about the historical events and the events and characters in the narrative I was even more in awe.

Our narrator Cleeves is a budding journalist and the use of journalistic chapters is a clever touch and while it does put everyone in their high school boxes, it works as an additional storytelling tool from Cleeves’ perspective. I love Cleeves because she has a journalistic mind but she is also passionate about what she wants and while she is a “good” character, she isn’t afraid to step outside the lines for a bit of fun either. She is a feminist and a fighter and the amount of girl power in this book is so fulfilling. Capin via Cleeves isn’t afraid to point this out and I loved how Cleeves isn’t afraid to speak out.

I loved everything about Cleeves, she isn’t pure but she is malicious either. Her friendship to Henry is solid and seeing her react to the things around her and the events that unfold is marvellous. Capin draws you in and once you are in deep to this stunning tale of drama she starts to plant her seeds and despite knowing the history you still aren’t entirely sure about what will happen. It’s an incredible journey to go on.

There is a strong chance I love this book more because of the ties to history. I got quite excited when I realised who characters were representing and what roles they were playing as the story unfolded. I can see how this might be too dramatic and convoluted for some people and overly dramatic, but if you read it as a modern Henry VIII then it becomes just as dramatic as history has always made it out his life and relationships to be, perhaps compressed into a few months rather than over years.

What makes this a strong story I found was that it wasn’t even much of a stretch. When I thought about Henry VII and his relationships, it easily translated into high school drama. While some of the historical events have been excluded, there is still enough to see the events of Henry and his court unfold in the modern day. Capin includes key aspects of Henry’s life and the lives of his wives, and while not everything is translatable, the references that are there are creative and true to her characters.

As I say, so much comes back to metaphors and Capin’s ingenious weaving of history into a modern setting which works so ridiculously well. I never even thought I needed a retelling of Tudor history but now that I have it I’ve realised what magic I have been missing out on.

You can purchase The Dead Queens Club via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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