Challenge Participant


Friday, 20 October 2017

My First Bath Book

My First Bath Book: Baby Bath Book (Hardback)

Watch the body parts change colour as they are put in water. A great, interactive way for children to learn the names of basic body parts at bath time.

Publisher: Shade 7 Publishing Limited
ISBN: 9780957636460

This is a great book for young children to look at, share and enjoy both in and out of the bath. It is a plastic coated book with squashy pages which are suitable for little hands to hold, squeeze and (inevitably) chomp on!

The book cleverly has the technology for the body part pictures within the book to change colours before your eyes when immersed in water.

It is a great starting point for teaching your child their body parts. Point to the picture and then point to either your or the child's hands, feet, mouth or nose (to name but a few, although I notice eyes are not included for some reason) and lots of fun games can start.

This is a great book for young babies and children and I am sure that it will be a popular bath toy that will last for a long time.

Thank you to Shade 7 Publishing for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Blog Tour - The Little Village Christmas by Sue Moorcroft

Today I am pleased to welcome Sue Moorcroft to my blog to celebrate the publication of her latest book, The Little Village Christmas. I really enjoy Sue's Christmas books each year and eagerly await each one. They often feature strong women with interesting careers and in this one we, the reader, are introduced to ALexia Kennedy, an interior designer. I was first introduced to this career watching Changing Rooms or other programmes where professionals are
brought into transform dreary drab rooms into beautiful living spaces. In The Little Village Christmas I think there is also an air of Challenge Anneka about it as local companies and residents are encouraged to help support her project. Another character within the book is Ben Hardaker, a man who works in the woods of the local big house, but it is also his pet, a cute owl he rescued with an injury, a broken wing, and who he is nursing back to health, although he can never be returned to the wild. 

Another fantastic element of the book is the village setting, Middledip, which readers of Sue's previous books will recognise and several previous characters return in this book too. 

As readers can probably tell, I really enjoyed this book and I don't want to give any spoilers away as I would love you all to get engrossed in the story too. Suffice to say this is a great book to start one's Christmas reading. I wish I could live in a village like Middledip and get involved in village life too.

The #1 bestseller returns with an irresistibly festive tale that you won't be able to put down!

Alexia Kennedy - interior decorator extraordinaire - has been tasked with giving the little village of Middledip the community cafe it's always dreamed of.

After months of fundraising, the villagers can't wait to see work get started - but disaster strikes when every last penny is stolen. With Middledip up in arms at how this could have happened, Alexia feels ready to admit defeat.

But help comes in an unlikely form when woodsman, Ben Hardaker and his rescue owl Barney, arrive on the scene. Another lost soul who's hit rock bottom, Ben and Alexia make an unlikely partnership.
However, they soon realise that a little sprinkling of Christmas magic might just help to bring this village - and their lives - together again...

Settle down with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine as you devour this irresistibly festive Christmas tale. The perfect read for fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008260019         


Avon Books and Sue have very kindly given me a short extract from The Little Village Christmas to share with my readers. Enjoy ..............

Alexia settled on the rug with her back against an armchair so she could feed the dancing fire as Ben poured the whisky.

He settled himself against the opposite chair. ‘So you’re completely done, you and Sebastian?’

She was suddenly conscious that his legs had come to rest close to hers. She took a sip of the neat whisky, feeling its fiery kiss in her throat. ‘Completely. Jodie always said I’d settled for him because he was nice and kind. Maybe she was right.’

Ben snorted. ‘I’m pretty sure most men would hate that description. Might as well say “dull and boring”.’ His eyes glittered at her over the rim of his glass, the reflection of the fire flickering like flames in the whisky.

She took another sip, feeling lassitude weigh her limbs as it combined its effects with the beer she’d drunk earlier. ‘Aren’t you “nice and kind”?’

‘Not so you’d notice. Why did you “settle” for Sebastian?’ He shifted slightly and their legs brushed.

Alexia felt a tightness in her belly. Was he doing it on purpose? ‘The boyfriend before him was “high maintenance and awkward”. It was exhausting.’ She circled back to the question he’d side stepped. ‘I’d describe myself as “bright and bubbly”. Your turn.’

He screwed up his face in a mock-ferocious frown. ‘I’m “prickly and disorientated”.’ The frown faded. After several moments he added, thoughtfully, ‘And horny.’

Alexia, taking a sip of whisky, choked.

Ben flushed fierily, giving a laugh that ended on a groan. ‘And cringingly out of practice! Sorry, that was dire. Wipe it from your memory. I’ve obviously forgotten how to do this.’

Alexia giggled. Despite his show of embarrassment, she

noted that his gaze didn’t drop entirely, hinting that he was interested in her reaction.

His legs still grazed hers. Heat reached her through the fabric of their jeans, a heat Alexia doubted came from either stove or alcohol – though the latter probably encour­aged her to be more airily direct than she would usually have been. ‘You haven’t, erm, put in any “practice” since your marriage ended?’

He sobered. ‘I needed recovery time. And now I’m floundering.’ He smiled ruefully. ‘Hints and clues gratefully received.’

Alexia was entertained by his frank request. ‘Well,’ she mused, lounging a little more deeply against the armchair. ‘Bringing the tea and whisky on one tray was smooth but not pushy, allowing me the opportunity to choose whether to drink more alcohol. And mirroring the way I’m sitting is supposed to be the right thing to do to make me trust you, isn’t it? So you’ve got that right as well.’

‘Ticks in two boxes.’ His eyes smiled.

Alexia turned her expression reproving. ‘But, seriously, if you invite a girl home to see your barn owl, you really ought to have one.’

He jerked upright. ‘Barney! He’s in his box. I haven’t fed him yet.’

He dumped his glass on the tray, scrambled up and shot into the next room.

Rolling to her feet more slowly, possibly because the room was getting a little fuzzy, Alexia followed him into his kitchen in time to see him ease an open box of translucent white plastic out from under the counter. An indignant rustling came from within. Carefully, Ben posi­tioned the box on the red quarry tiles. ‘Alexia, meet Barney. Barney, you just wait in your tub for a minute while I get your supper. Alexia’s going to keep you company.’

Ben busied himself elsewhere in the kitchen while Alexia sank down beside the tub and peeped inside. ‘Ohhhhhh . . .’ she breathed. Peeping back was a pair of round black button eyes topping a hooked beak that looked way too big for the little plate-flat face and ball-of-fluff body. One wing hung badly, like an empty sleeve.

The beak opened and emitted a surprisingly loud HEHHHH, like gas leaking under pressure.

Delighted, she laughed. ‘You are so gorgeous.’ Extending a cautious finger, she touched the off-white fluff of Barney’s chest. ‘As soft as down.’
Thank you to both Avon Books and Sue Moorcroft for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Blog Tour -Christmas at the Log Fire Cabin by Catherine Ferguson

It may only be October but the Christmas books are coming through thick and fast and I am really enjoying featuring them on my blog. Today I am pleased to welcome Catherine Ferguson to my blog with her 2017 festive title, Christmas at the Log Cabin. As the name suggests this is a truly festive white Christmas read and I would love to escape to the cabin this Christmas!

Christmas at the Log Fire Cabin (Paperback)

When Poppy's boyfriend Harrison proposes the week before Christmas and gives her twelve days to decide, she doesn't know what to do. With the festive season in full swing, it's make or break time for the couple and the clock is ticking...
Meanwhile, Poppy's best friend Erin is desperate for the pair of them to fulfil their dream of setting up a dinner party catering company - and when an opportunity arises at a luxury log fire cabin, the girls take their chance to impress. But they hadn't bargained on the owner of the cabin being quite so attractive - or having quite such a sexy voice.
As the twelve days tick on, will Poppy realise that Harrison is the one for her? Or will it be love in the lodge when the new year comes?
Lose yourself this Christmas in the new novel from the brilliant Catherine Ferguson, perfect for cosying up with by the fire.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008274597

Catherine Ferguson and Avon Books have kindly shared with me an extract to share with my blog readers .....

Sitting up, I hold the duvet around me and run my hand admiringly over the smooth skin of his back. ‘So, you really think I should take the bull by the horns and just do it?’

‘Give up the restaurant? Yes, of course. They don’t appreciate you anyway.’ He smiles and leans down to kiss me. ‘Not like I do.’

My heart expands with love. ‘I’m so glad you think that. I mean, obviously I’d start small. And I won’t be earning a great deal at the beginning but I’ve got savings, so—’

He shakes his head. ‘Don’t worry about that. We’ll easily manage.’

I sink back onto the pillows happily. I can’t believe he’s being so supportive! But I should have realised he would be. I don’t know why I doubted it. We’re a team now and that’s what partners do – they root for each other.

‘When I get my promotion, it will mean a big step up in salary,’ he says. ‘So, the fact is, we’ll more than manage. In fact, you won’t need to work at all.’ He beams at me as if this will be music to my ears. ‘You can just stay at home. Look after the house.’ He winks, getting to his feet. ‘And me.’

He zips up his jeans, picks his shirt up off the floor and walks out, just as the music downstairs announces the early-evening news.

My mouth opens but nothing comes out.

A minute later, I scramble into my dressing gown and follow him downstairs. This is far more important than the news.

Blood is rushing through my veins, urging me on. I’m normally so mild-mannered, any sort of confrontation makes me feel physically sick, even if I’m only an observer. But having my hopes and wishes discarded so easily by Harrison – with no attempt by him to understand what they actually mean to me – has really touched a nerve.

I don’t yet know if I have the courage to branch out in a new direction, but it suddenly seems massively important that I let Harrison know where I stand on the subject. I’m not quite sure where meek and mild Poppy has disappeared to, but something deep inside is urging me on and it’s not the steak pie I had for dinner!

‘Harrison? Question: what about my career?’ I stand squarely between him and the TV. I might sound calm but my whole body is shaking.

He looks taken aback by my directness and I almost feel guilty. But irritation is expanding inside me. Why is it okay for Harrison to be focused on his brilliant future career at the accountancy firm, but not me?

‘You can still do your cookery thing,’ he says magnanimously, trying to peer around me at the TV. ‘If you really want to.’

Suddenly, I’m doing a petulant little dance, moving from side to side, so he can’t see the newscaster. Eventually, he gives up and sits back, looking mildly puzzled.

I take a shaky breath, hoping to quell the nausea. ‘I want to work, Harrison. I’m not the type to be a lady of leisure. And you know what cooking means to me. I really think I need to do this. If I’m brave enough.’

‘And so you can,’ he soothes. ‘A little job here and there?’ He winks. ‘As long as you’ll still be here most nights cooking up a storm for when I come in exhausted from work. You look after me so beautifully, Puss.’

A little job here and there? Is he actually listening to a word I’m saying?’

‘Harrison, If you cared enough, you’d realise this is important to me. If the course tutor thinks I can do it, then why not? Perhaps I really can make a proper career out of cooking.’

There’s a tense silence.

Harrison, I can tell, is bemused by my taking a stand. I’m actually quite shocked myself. And I’m determined not to back down like I usually do.

He sighs and gets up off the sofa. ‘Okay, okay. Maybe you can.’ His voice is gentle, if a little patronising, but I decide to ignore that. He pulls me into his arms. ‘Just as long as you don’t go rushing into something you’ll regret,’ he murmurs, close to my ear.

‘What do you mean?’ My voice is muffled by his sweater.

‘Well, what you have to realise is that, long-term, working full-time probably won’t be possible. That’s all I’m saying.’

I pull away and stare up at him.

Why won’t it be possible?

Am I missing something here? He’s not making any sense.

He shrugs. ‘When the children arrive …’

‘Children?’ Confused, I turn and glance out of the window, half-expecting to see a school bus park up outside and a load of kids pile out.

‘Yes. The children we’ll have.’

He takes my hand. ‘I can’t believe you think I don’t care enough about you, Puss. I care very much indeed. In fact, I’ll prove it. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Since last Tuesday, in fact.’ He stares into space, his brow faintly knotted. ‘No, it was Wednesday. The day the Footsie plummeted five hundred points.’ He shakes his head. ‘Anyway, that’s not the point. Obviously, I would have preferred to wait for a more romantic setting, but since you seem to need reassurance that I’m here for you –’

Abruptly, he falls to one knee, still grasping my hand, and for a second, I think he must have spotted another snag in the carpet.

Then my heart starts to gallop like a husky across the snow as I realise what’s about to happen.

Harrison clears his throat.

‘Poppy Valentina Ainsworth, will you marry me?’

I hope you all enjoyed the extract and you too visit the Log Fire Cabin this year.

Thank you to Catherine Ferguson and Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Blog Tour - The Angel by Katerina Diamond

Today I am really pleased to welcome Katerina Diamond to my blog to celebrate the publication of her latest book, The Angel. 

The Queen of grip-lit is back...

The Angel: A Shocking New Thriller - Read If You Dare! (Paperback)
When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There's no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there's more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn't commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel's every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge.

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008209131

Katerina has shared with me a great guest post, with a hard hitting subject matter, entitled 'Why no one should just accept casual sexual assault' ......  

Today I want to talk about something a bit more serious. Casual sexual assault. The one we all accept and just ignore as ‘part of life’. The recent case involving Taylor Swift is a perfect example of casual sexual assault. So, she is posing n a photo with a man and he takes it upon himself to put his hand up her skirt and touch her backside. He lost his job and there has been some suing and counter suing. Taylor Swift won in the end though and was awarded a dollar, which was all she asked for. I’ve heard people saying that she is making a big deal out of nothing, and he shouldn’t have lost his job over it. I tell you what he shouldn’t have done, he shouldn’t have put his hands up her skirt without her permission. Maybe going to court over it is a big deal, but isn’t sexual assault a big deal? I expect every woman I know has a story similar to this one, I have a few of my own.

I asked my friends on Facebook, the response I got was overwhelming, including people asking to email me about their experiences and people inboxing me with stories. None of them were particularly harrowing, although quite surprising in their volume. I did have one female friend who was maced after refusing a man’s advances! I’m not for a moment trying to imply this kind of thing doesn’t happen to men. It may happen to some men, but for women it is just a part of life. Most of my male friends were completely shocked by the sheer volume of response that I got, they had not realised that it was so endemic. They hadn’t realised of course because it’s not something they would ever do, because it’s not something a decent person does. However, it was suggested by one of my (male) acquaintances that this new ruling makes life harder for young men trying to woo a lady. Well I’ve got news for you buddy, you’re doing it wrong.

As I get older it becomes less of a problem but it still happens. I remember going to a concert in Exeter when I was in my twenties and a man behind me took it upon himself to put his hands up my shirt, I was wearing a bra but he just kept his hands on my breasts for the entirety of a song and I did nothing about it because I didn’t want to cause a scene. When I first started dating my husband we were in a pub and a man was sat on a stool behind me, he slid his hand in between the top of my thighs, grabbing me momentarily. I had trousers on and it was over very quickly but it was upsetting and quite a shock at the time. I mean, what on earth would possess a person to do something like that? Is that kind of behaviour ever greeted with anything other than anger or fear? What exactly was the end game? I genuinely can’t even remember all of the little incidents like this that have happened in my life, but there are many many more.

Instead of just brushing these things off as something that happens, we need to make sure everyone knows that it’s not OK. How many young women will put up with that kind of behaviour in the future? Either because they don’t want to make a fuss or because they genuinely don’t want a confrontation. One of the reasons sexual assaults often feature in my books is because of how rife it is. I have friends from all walks of life who have experienced anything from a jokey grope in the street to violent sexual assault and its about time we let people know that neither of these things are acceptable.

I really enjoyed The Angel and although the story line is hard hitting and at times uncomfortable, it is a fantastic read and one which is going to start conversations on a topic which can, in everyday life, be easily swept under the carpet.

Thank you to Avon and Katerina for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: The Driftwood Inn by Phillipa Ashley

Today I am pleased to welcome Phillipa Ashley to my blog to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles.

Phillipa Ashley has written a number of books and I really enjoy her series' of books where the reader is able to feel a part of the community and The Driftwood Inn is the reader's introduction to life of the Little Cornish Isles. I really enjoyed this book and am already looking forward to my next visit to the Little Cornish Isles very soon.

Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: The Driftwood Inn - The Little Cornish Isles 1 (Paperback)

Christmas has arrived on the Cornish Isles of Scilly, bringing mistletoe, surprises and more than a sprinkle of romance . . . Fans of Poldark and Carole Matthews will love this brand-new festive read from the author of the bestselling Cornish Cafe series.
For Maisie Samson, this Christmas is going to be different. After years working in a busy Cornish pub, she's moved back to quiet Gull Island where she grew up, to help her parents run the family inn.
But even though she can't wait for the festive season to arrive, Maisie cannot shake the memories of what happened to her last Christmas - the day she lost everything. She keeps herself busy, setting up the tree and hanging mistletoe ready for her first proper family Christmas in years.
Until a new arrival to the island walks into her bar and changes everything. Australian backpacker Patrick is looking for a job for the low season. When Maisie takes him on, she doesn't expect him to last the week, but to her surprise Patrick is the perfect fit. Charming and handsome, could Maisie allow herself to hope that she and Patrick could be more than just colleagues?
As Christmas approaches, Maisie finds herself dreading the spring, when Patrick is due to leave. With the help of a little Christmas magic, can Maisie get the happily ever after she always dreamed of?

Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles is the first in a stunning new series from Phillipa Ashley. The perfect book to snuggle up with this Christmas.

The publishers, Avon, have given me a short extract to share with my blog readers ..........
Extract Twelve from Chapter Seven, pp 42-43
Patrick McKinnon. It was a nice, normal name that suited him well. She shook his hand briefly but firmly then stepped back to maintain her distance. Her heart was beating much faster than she wanted it to.
‘I appreciate it’s an unconventional way of going about things and if you don’t like the look of me or can’t stand my cheek, then fair enough, but I do have plenty of experience. I’ve worked in half a dozen pubs and bars in my time, including one in Melbourne for the past five years as bar manager. I can even turn my hand to some cooking if it’s basic. I can get references that’ll prove I’m not about to run off with the takings or the customers.’
‘OK. I’ll admit that sounds tempt . . . I mean satisfactory, but how do I know you have the right to work here?’ Maisie said, recovering her composure a little. ‘Gull Island may be the back of beyond and, yes, rules are broken, but I can’t afford to be in trouble with the powers-that-be.’
Patrick smiled. ‘I have the right to work here, rest assured, and I can prove it.’
‘It can get lonely here in the winter,’ she said. ‘Lonely and monotonous. Seeing the same old faces day after day, being stuck on the isles – on Gull Island – for days at a time when the weather closes in. This island can send people nuts, believe me.’
‘All the more reason to have a fresh face around the place, eh?’
For me, thought Maisie, but maybe not for you.
‘That flyer had been up so long the sun had almost faded the words away. You need someone urgently and from what I hear, staff are in short supply on Gull Island. I can help you in the pub and kitchen but I can also help you in other ways.’
His eyes twinkled. Maisie went all shivery. ‘Such as?’ she said, as prim as a maiden aunt.
Undeterred, Patrick pointed at the pub. ‘I could help your dad re-slate that roof and paint the woodwork that’s peeling off. The place will need a new coat of render before spring by the look of it and that terrace furniture needs re-varnishing. Your dad’s not been too well, I hear, so perhaps he could do with a hand.’
The Driftwood Inn sign creaked in the wind. The seagull picture was so weathered it might have been a penguin and the lettering was starting to dissolve. Maisie pursed her lips but her stomach did a flip. She’d winced when she’d seen her dad struggling with the roof earlier and she knew her mum was worried sick. Everything Patrick said made sense. Too much sense, so why was she hesitating? She desperately tried to get a grip and think rationally about the situation.
‘OK. I accept you have experience and we do need some practical help around the place as well as in the Inn but I don’t know anything about you. I only learned your name five minutes ago. If I’m to take you on, it’s only fair that I interview you properly and check all the paperwork’s in order.’
‘Fine. Is now a good time?’
‘As good as any as you’re not going anywhere in a hurry.’
Patrick held out his hand to let her walk ahead of him across the terrace. ‘Bring it on, then.’

Thank you to Avon and Phillipa Ashley for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Hats of Faith - Medeia Cohan

Hats of Faith

This book is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the shared custom of head covering.  Using accurate terminology, phonetic pronunciations and bright imagery, Hats of Faith helps educate and prepare young children for our culturally diverse modern world.

A beautifully drawn and colourful book which celebrates a number of cultures from around the world and the hats that they where as part of their religious beliefs. The cultures included are: Sikh, Muslim, Rastafarian, Orthodox Jews, African Christian and Muslim. Each page is a simple hand drawn picture of a member of each faith wearing their hat. The words are short and to the point, with the name of the hat (written in words and also phonetically) and who wears it. 

This is the ideal book for any classroom or library to have, being the perfect starting point for a conversation about religions of the world and how we are unique. It is a board book which will withstand both toddlers and pre school children and is perfect for a book to share to storytime, or during circle time to begin a discussion.

Thank you to the Ben Cameron from Cameron Publicity and Marketing Ltd for sending me this book on behalf of the publishers, Shade Publishing, in return for an honest review.

Game of Thrones House Lannister Lion

Game of Thrones Mask: House Lannister Lion

Join the noble houses of Westeros and proudly wear or display the official Game of Thrones House Lannister Lion 3D Mask & Wall Mount series. This fabulous full size 3D mask, designed by the amazing Steve Wintercroft, uses the official house sigil and is easily assembled to create a stunning full-head mask. You can then assemble the wall mount and display it proudly on the wall as a glorious trophy. They say a Lannister always pays their debts - show you do the same with this fantastic mount, perfect for any Game of Thrones fan's home. 
Publisher: Carlton Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781780977799

The first thing I should say is that I am not a Games of Thrones fan, I have never watched an episode or read a book. However when I was asked to review this book I jumped at the chance to review this book to find out more about the television series and to make the mask.

The book is made up of all the pieces needed to create a fantastic 3D mask which can be wall mounted using the back page as a mount. The mask is made using strong card and each piece is pre-scored and fantastically coloured. There is an introductory page which explains all things to do with construction. The mask is easy to construct, with each pre-scored fold being matched to its corresponding number and there being one tab marked for gluing and one non-gluing tab which ensures that all glued tabs are on the inside of the mask. It is all really well planned and the pieces all push easily out of the pages, but are all well secured into the book until needed. The pieces are all clearly numbered and labelled and the tabs are large enough to easily glue and attach to each other. The book comes in a stylish slipcase which gives that extra special expensive feel and is a great way of ensuring all pieces are kept together until needed.

The finished mask looks fantastic and it would look great on a wall for all die-hard Games of Thrones fans. 

There is also a house family tree and information about the family within the book giving fans extra details about their favourite houses within the series.

This would make a great gift for any Games of Thrones fans this Christmas time, either as a book and kit for them to make - all that needs to be added is strong glue (I would recommend a PVA glue rather than a glue stick) or as a pre-made model.

Thank you to the publishers, Carlton Books for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.