Memory Jars by Vera Brosgol

Published: 25th May 2021 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Illustrator: Vera Brosgol
Pages: 48
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

 A young girl finds a clever way to keep her favourite things–and people–close to her forever.

Freda is devastated when she can’t eat all the delicious blueberries she’s picked. She has to wait a whole year before they’re back, and she doesn’t want to lose them! Then Gran reminds her that they can save blueberries in a jar, as jam. So Freda begins to save all her favourite things. But it turns out that saving everything also means she can’t enjoy anything, and Freda realises that some things are best saved as memories.

This was a surprising book because what I thought was going to be a fun book about wanting to keep all the special things in jars, it actually manages to have a great lesson at the end. There isn’t a great focus on the lesson, it wraps up fairly quickly, but there’s enough there to provide a satisfying conclusion.

It is certainly a relatable feeling wanting to capture all the good things and experiences and look back on them again and again but Brosgol shows us that if that were possible, not only does it mean others can’t enjoy them, but if you enjoy it all the time the magic of those moments is lost a little too. You even see from a few of Brosgol’s illustrations that Freda’s desire to capture all the good things means she actually never gets to enjoy them. Unplayed with toys, uneaten lollies, and other pleasurable experiences aren’t actually being enjoyed because they are being safeguarded in a jar.

The full page illustrations are detailed and colourful, reflecting the accompanying text on the page. We see Freda’ story play out and Brosgol shows us each of Freda’s preservations in colourful images. There is a sense of magical realism because of course you can’t put the moon and the stars in a jar anymore than you could a cloud or your friend, but it doesn’t take away from the story as we follow Freda on her mission.

There is a sense of not wanting things to change, and if it was kept in a jar it will remain just as it was, but seeing Freda realise that once she has captured everything in a jar it isn’t as wonderful as she thinks is a great lesson. It’s a great book to help kids understand fleeting moments like special occasions, good moments and other enjoyable things don’t always last, and helping them to see that even if the moment has past that the memory of the good times and the special feelings still remains and gives them something to look forward to.

You can purchase Memory Jars via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st August 2010
Publisher:
Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 264
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.

Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.

Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it.

Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.

An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.

Crowley has written a sweet and intriguing story of 24 hours of adventure and discovery and what I love about it is there’s established relationships so instalove isn’t a real issue given no one is professing love quite yet, but there are certainly connections and second chances.

Crowley captures the teenage friendship and interactions well, the story highlights that teens can have deep thoughts and dreams and ambitions. They aren’t just the outward persona they project to the world.

I liked the alternating points of view because it shows how the same experiences are seen through different eyes. I liked being in Ed and Lucy’s head and seeing their perspectives. The recapping on chapters was interesting. Often you’ll see with alternating voices the scene flips instantly but the small recap is repetitive but I didn’t mind because it brings a new perspective to the latest moment or event and then follows through with a new voice.

This story cemented my love for 24 hour stories. Stories and lives evolved and changed by a mere 24 hours can be so profound and powerful and Crowely does something phenomenal with this story in exploring the lives of these kids and their intricacies, passions and their friendships.

I would reread this in a heartbeat because it is short but powerful and getting to explore the city of Melbourne through the eyes of these characters again would be wonderful.

A Bittersweet Murder by Kaz Delaney (#1)

Published: 22nd March 2022 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Tule Publishing
Pages: 294
Format: ebook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

In the small town of Airlie Falls, Texas, everyone knows everyone’s business, and newcomer carer and wannabe-baker Rosie Hart may be surprised to find herself the sole attendee at the funeral of her client, Miss Alice Auchinschloss, but she’s shocked when she discovers she’s also Miss Alice’s sole heir. When reports confirm Miss Alice was actually murdered, Rosie becomes the potential small town hero for killing off the unpleasant woman–and prime suspect in her murder.

In a chance meeting with a helpful and handsome cowboy, Rosie discovers her newly-inherited home is ransacked, and someone is going to great effort to conceal their search. Rosie has no idea who is involved, or why, or what they were looking for, but when she’s questioned by the town’s sheriff, it becomes obvious that if she doesn’t prove her innocence, nobody else will.

With the help of her new friend, Jonah, his family, and a nosy but canny group of snack-loving ladies in the local retirement home, Rosie conducts her own investigation to clear her name and reveal the true identity of the murderer. Discussions over mouth-watering treats bring the motley investigative team closer together – and closer to solving this intricate puzzle, but when another elderly person winds up dead, it becomes apparent that this small town is full of secrets that someone is prepared to kill for in order to keep buried. Rosie must sift through her list of clues in order to serve up the truth – before she becomes the next victim!

Note: A Bittersweet Murder was previously published under the title Chocolate and Lace. I was provided with a copy of the new edition for review.

I have adored Delaney’s young adult novels in the past and now I can confirm that I adore her mystery novels as well. This was a delightful cosy mystery and one I finished in a single sitting. There is a great narrative voice and you fall into the story quickly, pulled along page by page with endearing characters and numerous twists and unexpected nefariousness.

Delaney’s writing style is to be commended. There is humour and warmth, and her ability to shift a scene with a few words means you are always being surprised and intrigued by what’s to come. The mix of twists and surprises is balanced perfectly with great characters and well established settings. From the beginning we are drawn into Rosie’s life and her current circumstances and it’s not long before we are caught up in the unexpected situations and evolving drama alongside her, eagerly turning pages to see where it’s all headed.

There are wonderful moments where we understand the significance of something Rosie has yet to connect which is always a satisfying feeling in a mystery. The urge to rush ahead and see where your own theories lead is high but like any great mystery writer Delaney leaves it to the very end to make us realise we missed a myriad of other clues being left behind. The mystery itself is unique and detailed in a fantastic way, and seeing Delaney pull all the threads together at the end was marvellous as you realise how even with the answers in front of you, there are still surprises in store.

Delaney has balanced the mystery and small town charm perfectly that brings a lot of light heartedness to this mystery which is what you expect from your cosies. The characters feel well rounded and even the few minor characters felt like they had depth and their own lives outside the pages. Being the first in a series getting to come back to this town and these people is inviting and Delaney has established enough that we can see Rosie making a future in the town. Having thoroughly enjoyed Rosie’s first crime solving misadventures in Airlie Falls I am primed and ready to jump into the next one.

You can pre-order A Bittersweet Murder via the following

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Check Kaz Delaney’s website for further purchase sites once released

Long Lost Review: The Colour of Magic (#1) by Terry Pratchett

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 18th January 1985 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Corgi
Pages: 287
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it’s carried through space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown).

If you’re new to the Discworld don’t worry, you’re not alone . . . Twoflower is the Discworld’s first tourist, he’s exceptionally naive and about to get himself into an array of dangerous and fantastical situations on his travels.

And if that didn’t sound fateful enough, it’s the spectacularly inept wizard, Rincewind who is charged with safely chaperoning Twoflower and his Luggage (a walking suitcase that has half a mind of its own and a homicidal attitude to anything threatening) during his visit.

Safe to say chaos ensues…

I’ve wanted to start reading the full Discworld series for years and finally started. They can be read in any order but I’m not one to read things out of order so I’m starting at the beginning. This is a great introduction in that you get introduced to the world but also you get thrown into this bizarre reality and have to make sense of how things work there.

Pratchett’s writing is wonderful in that it’s quirky, strange, and incredibly funny but also makes a lot of sense in the right circumstance. It has a similar tone to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, and even in some way The Never Ending Story. I loved this absurdist, fanciful world where things are magical but based in some reality, and logic comes into play but it isn’t the right sort of logic you’re used to.

Twoflower is an ideal character because he brings his own quirks on top of trying to navigate Discworld as the first tourist and with Rincewind acting as guide the pair of them have some fantastic encounters which are chaotic in different ways.

It’s easy to fall in love with these characters and this world Pratchett has created. The humour is brilliant in its absurdity and the whole book is a fun little adventure that makes you want to dive right into the next one.

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (#15) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st December 2005 (print)/10 June 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 256/6 hrs and 10 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Infuriated that her holiday was ruined by a mugging, Agatha Raisin decides to open up her own detective agency. The romance-minded sleuth is thrilled by visions of handsome fellow gumshoes and headline-making crimes—but soon finds the only cases she can get are a non-glamorous lot of lost cats and an errant teenager. But when a wealthy divorcée hires the agency to investigate a death threat against her daughter Cassandra, Agatha thwarts a vicious attack on the heiress bride. Now Agatha is in hot pursuit of the culprit. But when the groom’s father turns up dead, Agatha must untangle a growing list of suspects, from Carsely’s quiet village lanes to Paris’ most fashionable streets. Soon the wilfully undaunted Agatha is in trouble with French and British police; on the outs (again) with old friends—and dead in the sights of a murderer.

Finally a breath of fresh air and a new direction for the characters to go in. After 14 books there’s something new happening and a real chance for Agatha and these characters to grow and develop, hopefully without being flung back into bland, one dimensional people on a whim.

It was a fascinating decision to have the main story not be the focus of the book, instead there’s a lot of character interaction and small details that fill the pages instead. This could be in part because there are so many new characters and new situations to unfurl, but it was also a nice change to focus more on characters and delve deeper into their relationships and lives. It’s often the more pleasing parts of these books when done properly.

With the creation of the detective agency we aren’t stuck on the single case now either and Agatha has slightly more legitimacy to butt in everywhere. There are lots of different cases to focus on too which allows good side plots away from the main one and means there doesn’t need to be useless fillers in between key discoveries.

I loved the new influx of characters we get to know and love how the old characters remain and are incorporated into the story. The story felt real and I loved that the new employees felt genuine in their work roles, even without getting a lot of depth. If this agency remains I can only imagine they’ll develop as the series goes on.

I enjoyed how murderous everybody became through this story, it was fun and added some of the eccentricity that’s been lacking. Agatha grows up a bit in this book which has been needed for a long time. She is less vain and focuses more on her work.

It isn’t a perfect book though by any means, Beaton still includes some standards of opinionated characters that moan about the state of society – complaints about Americans and swearing, about “youths” and other remarks. Previously these have often come from Agatha and I took it to be one of her fun quirks we had to deal with but these come from a lot of different characters which makes me think these are coming from the author instead, inserting her opinions because sometimes it feels out of character.

The formula is there though slightly more detailed. Agatha can’t solve anything without being put into peril herself but I appreciated that there was a more complicated and decent plot after the mess the last few books have been. It was a much more enjoyable experience and makes you remember that these books, while never perfect, didn’t used to be so terrible.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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