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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Catch the hapless Greg Heffley as he navigates his way through family and school life with his best friend, Rowley, by his side in a brand new "Wimpy Kid" adventure!

The Wimpy Kid is getting older and his friend has his first spot! Gramma is waiting to have 'the talk' with him and new lessons, 'the facts of life' are starting at school.

I enjoyed this book and think it would be suitable for children 9+, although the subject content above may appear for older chidlren, there are no great revelations or life's mysteries revealled within the book.

The book is in the style of a diary, with text looking like handwriting. The text is broken up with many illustrations, cartoon style. I found myself laughing constantly throughout this book.

I think that this book would appeal to boys everywhere, although girls could enjoy it too. The language is that of a modern day child, appealling to their humour.

I recommend this to 9 years + everywhere.

Thank you to Jayde Lynch of Penguin for sending me this book to review.

Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen

A gorgeously romantic, funny and heartbreaking read for anyone who's ever run away from home - and found their way back...Liza Haven couldn't wait to escape the small village where she grew up with her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. Her life in LA as a stunt woman is reckless, fast and free - and that's just the way she likes it. But when a near-fatal mistake drives her home, she finds Lee gone and everyone in the village mistaking her for her twin sister. Liza has to deal with her ailing mother, the family ice cream business, and Lee's dangerously attractive boyfriend. Liza's always been the bad twin, but as she struggles to keep up the masquerade and puzzle out where her sister has gone, she realises it's not so simple. She's spent her whole life getting away with it - is it finally time to face up to who she really is and where she really belongs?
I have never read any of Julie Cohen's books before, but this will definitely not be the last I read either! I really enjoyed this book, devouring half of the book on Christmas Day.
As it true in modern day life, many people want to drop everything and disappear from their everyday life. When Lee saw a villagers car left unattended with the keys in the ignition, that is just what she did! When her identical twin sister, Liza, arrived, late for a fundraising party, organised by her sister, a split second decision left everyone thinking she was Lee and it was her time to prove what everyone thought of her, as the bad twin, to do right and be a success.
I warmed to the character of Liza straight away, leaving home as soon as possible and her career as a stunt woman leading her to LA. An argument at home, following her mother's diagnosis of Alzheimer's and refusal of drug treatment led to problems within the family. An accident caused by her believing she knew best left her unable to work. She returned home to attend a party organised by her sister, however her sister was no where to be seen. A mistake by one of her sister's friends led Liza to take on the part of Lee, the organiser. The party was a success but the next morning when her sister contacted her to say she would staying away for a while, Liza had to make a decision of whether to admit who she was or to pretend to be Lee and take on Lee's day to day routines.
The book was an easy read, the characters easy to befriend, and the concept of identical twins, leading separate lives, individual with their own traits, was one which I was interested in. There was reference to the books series Sweet Valley High and it was great to have a blast from the past with Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, who also had similar lives.
The idea of Liza taking over Lee's day to day life was good, Liza was able to relive old memories, understanding how Lee's life had been since she left home, her mother's illness developing - however Liza went against her mothers wishes about seeing her old friends, something which Liza was able to encourage her mother to have visitors and brighten her day. Liza was able to see the responsibility Lee had in the village, running her mothers business while also overseeing her mother's care.
Lee and Liza's mother was a proud lady, who was headstrong., having started her own business following the slaughter of the families livestock during the foot and mouth epidemic. She is a strong woman who has been hit by a cruel disease which is taking control from her. I enjoyed reading how Julia portrayed her in the book, especially as she was the only one who knew Liza had returned and was pretending to be Lee.
The book is 500 pages long but I did not find it too long, the story continued at a good pace throughout the book and the characters were all people you could imagine living in a country village, the busybody, the local shop, the community who look after each other.
I recommend this book to all who enjoy a good read, something you can loose yourself in for a few hours.
Thank you to Julie Cohen and Headline for sending me the book to review.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Let's have a bite! A Banquet of beastley rhymes by Robert L Forbes. Drawings by Ronald Searleq

If you haven't heard, the whole animal kingdom is roaring its approval for "Let's Have A Bite!", this collection of delectable rhymes about animals naughty and nice. With thirty-three delicious poems by Robert Forbes and zany illustrations of each featured creature (look out for a secret critter peeping out from each page) by a master cartoonist Ronald Searle, these wildly playful rhymes and charmingly intricate illustrations will keep readers seven to seventy coming back again and again. Naughty lion cubs, chocolate bunnies, monkeys, idle pandas, a buffalo named Biff, lemurs, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, and even an inchworm named Sprint feature in this timeless collection.

This is a great book! One to pick up when you are feeling a little down, need cheering up or just need a giggle. There are over 30 rhymes, all with an animal theme. Each rhyme is accompanied by a great hand drawn illustration. The illustrations are all comical, with lots of detail and energy and complement the rhymes really well.

The rhymes vary in length, some are 4-5 lines long while others are 4-5 verses long. They are suitable for more ages but some are more complicated and suit an older age group.

A great book to have on a shelf, to open in times when laughter is needed.

Thank you to Suzannah at Duckworth Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Sew! by Cath Kidston

Sewing is the new shopping! In these cash-strapped times it's more fun to get together with friends and stitch something handmade and special, whether for yourself or a friend, than to go out and spend that hard-earned money - plus to be given a gift that someone has created and spent time making is always heart-warming. Following the huge success of Make!, Cath Kidston has now put together a treasure trove of fabulous simple sewing projects for stitchers to get their needles into. Included in this fantastic book are full instructions for over 40 fun and useful projects - bags, cushions, quilts and many more ideas - which are all designed to be made with her popular printed fabrics. All the sewing techniques featured are clearly explained in an introductory section so that even an absolute beginner can be sure of success, together with details of how to embroider, applique and adorn your items in other ways. This brilliant little book has stunning photographs, a colourful contemporary design and step-by-step illustrations to make all the projects absolutely clear and user-friendly. The package also contains a pattern sheet, templates and an exclusive Cath Kidston Needlecase.

Book details

Quadrille Publishing Ltd


As always with Cath Kidston books, brilliant photography, superb ideas and copious amounts of inspiration to keep you going for ages!

The book starts with a Sew Basics section - including essential equipment, sewing machine basics, descriptions on making the patterns, hems and edges, seams, fastenings, applique and quilting and decorative details. All the instructions and explanations are clear, easy to understand and complete. There are photographs or drawings to complement each sections, with many useful hints along the way. This section is an informative read for novices to assist them throughout the book.

The projects, of which there are over 40 included in the book, include cushions, quilts, mobiles, bags, toys and aprons and are all made from Kidston's beautiful fabrics however could be made in whatever fabric you have or desire. Each project starts with a complete list of what you will need for the project, instructions for drawing up the pattern and what you need to cut out.

The book includes 7 templates for the motifs used throughout the book, a pattern sheet for all the projects in the book and a beautiful needle case and needles.

I have a number of Cath Kidston's books and find ideas and inspiration in each book to try. I would recommend this book for both novice and advanced sewers as there is something in the book for everyone.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishers for sending me this book to review.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

It starts with a trip to a local amusement park. David Harwood is hoping a carefree day at Five Mountains will help dispel his wife Jan's recent depression, black moods that have led to frightening thoughts of suicide. Instead, a day of fun with their four-year-old son Ethan turns into a nightmare. When Jan disappears from the park, David's worst fears seem to have come true. But when he goes to the police to report her missing, terrified that she's planning to take her own life, the facts start to indicate something very different. The park's records show that only two tickets were purchased, David and Ethan's, and CCTV shows no evidence that Jan ever entered the park at all. Suddenly David's story starts to look suspicious - suspicious enough for the police to wonder if she's already dead, murdered by her husband. To prove his innocence and keep his son from being taken away from him, David is going to have to dig deep into the past and come face to face with a terrible childhood tragedy - but by doing that he could risk destroying everything precious to him.

I have read all of Linwood Barclay's previous books after discovering him through the Richard and Judy Book Club book. Each book is a different story and are all as good as each other, Linwood never lets the reader down!!
I was really looking forward to reading this book and once I had started it, I was drawn into the story, feeling sorry for David when Jan when she disappeared, when interviewed by the police and then for Ethan as he constantly asked for his mum not understanding what was going on. As the story continued, I was drawn in and could not guess the ending - a great read.
As each chapter was read, more was revealed although Linwood was still keeping us guessing throughout the book with twists and turns throughout the book leading to an explosive end.
A well written book by Linwood, can't wait for the next one to be released!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Charmseekers Books 1-3 by Amy Tree

Thirteen precious and magical silver charms have been lost in the kingdom of Karisma. But Sesame Brown will track them down and YOU can be a Charmseeker too! In THE QUEEN'S BRACELET, join Sesame in her first adventure as she explores the enchanting world of Karisma. The race is on to find the charms, and Sesame is determined to win! In THE SILVER POOL, Sesame and her best friend, Maddy, must outwit the evil sorcerer Zorgan and his wicked pixie puppets, Nix and Dina. In THE DRAGON'S REVENGE, Sesame and Maddy are up against fire-breathing drakons and the Queen's wicked sister, who wants all the charms for herself. Can Ses find the silver shell in time?

This is a compilation of books 1, 2 and 3 of the Charmseekers series. The series are set around thirteen lost silver charms which are magical and precious. They have been lost around the kingdom of Karisma. The books also have a website associated with the series at and it is this which I think sets this series higher than the popular rainbow fairies books. This series will appeal to girls who have enjoyed the rainbow fairies, and are ready for the next step in reading. These books are at a higher reading level and the stories are more in depth.

A good read for girls about 7+ years. Recommended to all.

Thank you to Nina Simon from Orion Books for sending me the book to review.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon

Juliet’s been in hiding. From her family, from her life, but most of all from the fact that Ben’s not around anymore.

Her mother Diane has run out of advice. But then she insists Juliet look after her elderly Labrador and it becomes apparent that Coco the dog might actually be the one who can rescue her daughter.

Especially when it leads to her walking dogs for a few other locals too, including a spaniel, Damson, who belongs to a very attractive man...

Before she knows it, Juliet realises she has somehow become the town’s unofficial pet-sitter. A job which makes her privy to the lives and secrets of everyone whose animals she’s caring for.

But as her first winter alone approaches, she finally begins to wonder if it’s time to face up to her own secrets? To start rebuilding her own life? And maybe – just maybe – to fall in love again?

I absolutely loved Lucy Dillon's previous book, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, and so was looking forward to her next offering. As her last book, this one is also centred around a lady who has a dog and spends her days with him, walking him round the local area.

Juliet has recently lost her husband, to a heart attack, very early in life, with no warning. Not surprisingly, she is very upset, lost and it is up to her mother and sister, married with a young child, who is returning to work following her maternity leave, to bring her out the other side and back into 'normal' life.

I really enjoyed the story, there are many twists and turns in the story. The characters are all likeable and ones I could see myself being friends with Juliet. The story focuses on the many different stories and secrets throughout the book. I has loving the stories, and became drawn into the characters lives, however there were secrets in the book, waiting to be released which I thought i had guessed but was surprised to find my thoughts were completely wrong.

There were times of laughter, times of sadness within the book but most of all was everyday life and how people cope with sadness and grief and how they also rebuild their lives and begin to live and 'love' again. There is also the story of how people can forgive others, rebuild relationships and begin to live for themselves. It touches on how grief affects whole families, how families pull together and go forward.

I really enjoyed this story, Lucy Dillon is another excellent author who I recommend to my friends and will continue to recommend and look forward to her next book with anticipation. It is a great book to curl up with and devour in these cold nights.

Wild Rescue Avalanche Alert by J Birchett and S VOgler

Ben and Zoe's skills are put to the test when they are called to the rescue of those most elusive of creatures, a snow leopard and her cub. Following an avalanche, the big cats have been cut off from their territory and are surviving by eating sheep from a village. But now the locals have plans to protect their livestock by poisoning the leopards. It's down to the children to brave the sub-zero temperatures and treacherous slopes of the Himalayas, and lead mother and cub to safety.
This is great for animal lovers who want something more than the cute and cuddly animal stories which are flooding the book market.
Ben and Zoe's uncle runs Wild, a top secret organisation that looks after the wild, and endangered, animals in the wild. Wild has its own top secret, spooks like equipment, which help in their expeditions to save the world's wildlife.
In this book, Ben and Zoe are off to save a mother snow leopard and her three cubs which have been separated due to an avalanche. They set off to reunite mother and cubs, before the local village poison the animals who need to eat, before they get their livestock.
I found the book to be interesting, learning about the leopard and the story was well written. The rescue of the animals was slightly unbelievable, the gadgets more suited to an episode of Spooks for animals. I think children aged 7-9 would enjoy the adventure side of the story.
The book ends with a couple of pages of facts about the snow leopards which were very informative and interesting and I would like to read some of the other books to see how Ben and Zoe rescue other animals in the series.
Thank you to Jane at Stripes Books for sending me the book to review.

The Grunt and the Grouch Big Splash by Tracey Corderoy

The Grunt and the Grouch are two of the most disgusting and badly-behaved trolls in the world - and the most fun! They keep bogies and ear wax in jars, and they never, ever have a bath! This brand-new series of three-in-one storybooks will bring out the troll in all girls and boys! Dive in with The Grunt and The Grouch as they gatecrash the opening of the local swimming pool, get all tangled up on a camping trip and come face to face with a little troll horror when they're left to babysit Grunt's mischievous cousin.
Grunt and Grouch are trolls, who love nothing more than rolling in mud, not showering for weeks on end, hoarding bodily gunk and causing trouble.
There are three stories contained within this book: a trip to the swimming baths, looking after, reluctantly, their young relative and a camping trip. Each story is short enough for a bedtime story or for a youngster to read over a few nights. The language and style of story is perfect for 5-8 years, early readers. The stories will be perfect for young boys, although many young girls will also enjoy them too. There are pencil sketch illustrations which add to the story and they depicted the grunt and the grouch how I imagined them. The stories are disgustingly good and made us giggle throughout the book.
Thank you to Jane at Stripes Books for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Winter's Night (A Heart-warming Treasury of Animal Stories)

A heart-warming treasury of Christmas animal stories, prefect for sharing for sharing when the nights draw in. As the snow falls and children sleep, a young reindeer witnesses the magic of the Northern Lights for the first time, a lonely owl searches for someone to share Christmas with, and Santa is in for a surprise when he encounters a playful puppy on Christmas Eve...

Ten stories, all set in winter, some Christmassy and all beautifully written. Each story can be read as a standalone tale. An ideal book to have as a bedtime story book. The authors are some of Stripes books most popular authors: Michael Brand, Julia Green, Guy Bass, Elizabeth Baguley, Penny Dolan, Caroline Pitcher, Karen Wallace, Holly Webb, Malachy Doyle and Narinder Dhami.

Although the stories are all on the theme of winter and of animals, there are many styles of story. Some include wide animals, others soft toy animals, a mystical story and others of pets. They are all lovely stories which children of all ages will love to read themselves or maybe cuddle up with and listen to others reading to them.

This book would be a lovely gift for a child of any age to either read themselves or listen to other read the stories.

Thank you to Stripes books for sending me this book to review.

Ian Marber How not to get fat

The principle behind How Not To Get Fat is simple: the most effective way to manage our weight is not to get fat in the first place! Instead of dieting, we need to learn how to eat, and in this follow-up to HNTGF, Ian Marber shows you how to eat in a way that helps you to manage your weight, enjoy your food, keep up your energy levels for longer and reduce hunger pangs. In Your Daily Diet Ian summarises his theory and then puts it into practice with a wealth of ideas for meals and snacks so that readers know exactly what they can eat on a daily basis without getting fat. He provides essential information on 50 healthy foods - including advice on how to buy, prepare, cook, and flavour them - and gives over 200 suggestions on how to turn them into easy yet enticing meals and snacks. There are also delicious recipes, each photographed in colour, to show how tempting your food can be. Ian has also devised 10 food planners, focused on different ages and lifestyles, each with daily meals and snacks to show readers how easy it is to eat well without gaining weight. How Not to Get Fat: Your Daily Diet is the ultimate good-eating book that guarantees you will never get fat.

This book is The Food Doctors latest offering. It is split into three sections - how food becomes energy, 50 foods to eat and food planners. The book appears to cover the confusion which I know I have when dieting - are 'healthy foods' nutritional? Am I eating the right food to loose weight, but also to gain the right nutrients and vitamins. As the introduction states: "there is another way to eat, one that enables you to manage your weight, promotes energy, reduces hunger, and still provides all the good nutrients that you might require."
Ian Marber, himself, uses this diet and has for many years been tweaking and perfecting it to the result, which is this book!

Section one takes us back to school, learning about how the food and drink we intake turns in to energy within our body. I found this section really informative and it is written in clear English - may have to show my 8 year old daughter as she is going through stage of not eating her dinner at school. It also explains how the eating plan works and sounds like a manageable plan.

Section two talks about the different food groups and then suggests, all you need to do is choose one item from each food group to make a snack or meal. Each food has plenty of advice and also includes general cooking and serving instructions. I really like this section, 50 foods are included, and includes a description/introduction, followed by three simple cooking techniques, meal suggestions and snack suggestions. There are also recipe ideas for each food. There are some great ideas in this section which i will definitely be trying. I am not a very good or confident cook but this book includes ideas that I think I can try.

Section three includes fictional characters, who represent various ages and stages of life, their typical diet and the mistakes they are making. Ian Marber has also devised meal plans for each of them, explaining how their eating habits can be changed for the better. The fictional characters include families, single men, single women, university students living away from home for the first time, vegetarians, and people in the later stages of their lives. Included are suggested meal plans which look achievable and not filled with highly priced ingredients.

The book is full of colour, easy to look around and the photos accompanying each recipe are of high quality and the food looks appetising and appealing throughout.

I really think this book is a great idea, getting people away from high priced, highly advertised products for dieting and will be looking at this as a way of life and change in eating habits. May even give it a go after Christmas!

A good book to buy if you want to change your eating habits and getting a healthier lifestyle.

Thank you to Quadrille for sending me this to review.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo

A stunning and moving new novel from Michael Morpurgo, the nation's favourite storyteller -- featuring the bravest dog in all the world! This is the story of Aman, as told in his own words -- a boy from Afghanistan fleeing the horror of the Afghan war. When a western dog shows up outside the caves where Aman lives with his mother, Aman is initially repulsed -- it is not customary for people to keep dogs as pets in his part of the world. But when Aman and his mother finally decide to make a bid for freedom, the dog Aman has called will not leave their side. Soon it becomes clear: the destinies of boy and dog are linked, and always will be!
Michael Morpurgo's books are always on subjects which are relevant and thought provoking. When I first picked up this book I was expecting a book about a dog and its owner, however as soon as I started the book, I realised I was in for a completely different story.
The story is told from three points of view: Matt, an English boy who befriends Aman, Grandpa, Matt's Grandfather and Aman; an Afghanistan illegal immigrant who came to England and claimed asylum. At the start of the book, Matt and Aman attend the same school and are friends. Matt is spending the summer at his Grandpa's house which is near to the detention centre where Aman is being detained, along with his mother before being sent back to Afghanistan. Matt and his Grandpa set out to get them released and be allowed to stay in England.
The book focuses a lot on Aman and his mother, their life back in Afghanistan, their journey to reaching England, the violence and the crime of the officials in Afghanistan, and their meeting with 'Shadow' a dog trained to search for IED's. It also tells of the fight Aman and his mum had to stay in the country.
This book has led me to start to understand why so many people are trying to come to England and why they subject themselves to the terrible journeys, risking their lives along the way. It also talked about the strong bond between a person and their dog.
I really enjoyed reading the information pages at the end of the book - which talked about Michael Morpurgo's inspiration for the book, and also about the places included in the book about the detention centres and the history of the war in Afghanistan.
Throughout the book are some stunning pictures, pencil sketches illustrating the story, and enabled me to imagine Aman and Matt in my mind.
I would recommend this book to both children and adults and would be a great introduction into lessons about war zones and asylum seekers. It has left me with much to think about and also about my opinions on the subject of asylum seekers in general.
Thank you to Sarah Benton at Harper Collins Children's for sending me this book to review.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cooks Journal by Hilary Mandleberg

A delightful present for keen cooks, Cook's Journal is divided by food type into seven sections: Soups, Salads & Vegetables, Pasta & Grains, Fish & Shellfish, Meat, Poultry & Game, Puddings & Cakes. Each begins with basic know-how and invaluable information, followed by a selection of delicious recipes with mouthwatering photography, ranging from simple stocks to more adventurous dishes like Duck with Campari and Rosemary and Caramelised Orange. There are also descriptions of the different cuts of meat and tips for buying fish and a guide to choosing the right type of poultry. There is a handy pocket in each section to organise those tear-out recipes from newspapers and magazines picked up along your culinary travels. With practical advice on buying, storing and freezing, conversion charts, store-cupboard essentials, a party planning section, and a unique, easy-tear notepad for your shopping list, this classic journal is the perfect addition to anyone's kitchen shelf.

This is a great gift for cooks of all levels. The book is spiral bound, meaning the book will lay flat on worktops. The file begins with a useful section of useful hints which includes store cupboard, fridge and freezer staples and conversion tables and is then split into seven sections: Soups, Salads and Veg, Pasta and Grains, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Poultry and Game and Puds and Cakes.

Each section is then filled with great hints, tips and advice, recipes and blank pages to make your own notes and recipes. The sections are split by sturdy dividers which include a pocket to keep safe those scraps of paper we all jot recipes down on.

There are sharp, crisp, colourful photographs throughout the book which complement the content perfectly.

There are buying tips, basic cooking methods, guides on cuts of meat and roasting guides as well as descriptions of different grains and cereals and suggested quantities. A real necessity for cooks everywhere.

I recommend this to cooks of all standards - the novice through to the cook who likes to create their own recipes. A great present - and it will look good in any kitchen!

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for sending me this to review.

The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton (10 Exciting Adventures)

This box set includes books 1-10 in the popular Enid Blyton series about seven friends who create a secret gang who solve mysteries around their village.

When I was younger, I was a big Enid Blyton fan and when I was given the opportunity to review this box set I jumped at the chance!

The first thing I noticed was the covers - they are very modern, the characters look like they have come out of one of the latest animated movies. The books I had as a child, had covers with photographs of real people. I think that this modernised cover is one which does not fit with the books, the books are set in times when children were left to roam around the countryside all day, climbing trees and visiting the circus camp when the circus came to the village green and not in the 21st century where parents are reluctant to let children our of their sight.

I did however enjoy rereading these books - so much so that I was part way through the books and would remember how the mystery was solved. The books have lost none of their magic - the stories that were written over 50 years ago, but would still be a great read for children today. My children are enjoying the stories and I look forward to sharing more of their adventures with them as we read each book.

I have said that the covers do not match the books but this may be me being sentimental and nostalgic and please do not let this stop you from sharing these brilliant books with your children. It is a great box set and none of the magic Enid Blyton created all those years ago is still about now.

The Enid Blyton Secret Seven Collection, 10 Books in a Slipcase is only RRP £18.99.

Kids IQ Books are specialists in children’s books, with a wide array of heavily discounted sets and individual titles that will benefit anychild’s education and help make reading a pleasure.

Thank you to Kids IQ Books and PJP PR for sending me the book to review.

All I Want For Christmas by Amy Silver

Twelve days and counting...It's Bea's first Christmas with her baby son, and this year she's determined to do everything right. But there is still so much to do: the Christmas menu needs refining; her cafe, The Honey Pot, needs decorating; and, she's invited the whole neighbourhood to a party on Christmas Day. She really doesn't have time to get involved in two new people's lives, let alone fall in love...When Olivia gets knocked over in the street, however, Bea can't help bringing her into The Honey Pot and getting to know her. Olivia's life is even more hectic than her own, and with her fiance's entire family over from Ireland for Christmas, she shouldn't be lingering in the cosy warmth of Bea's cafe. Chloe, on the other hand, has nowhere else to go. Her affair with a married man has alienated her friends, and left her lonelier than ever. But Christmas is a magical time, and in the fragrant atmosphere of The Honey Pot, anything can happen: new friends can be made, hearts can heal, and romance can finally blossom...
I really enjoyed this book - another book to curl up with on a cold winter evening.
The book is based around three people: Bea, a widower who owns The Honey Pot and has a small son, Luca; Olivia, has recently got engaged and is a magazine columnist and Chloe, going out with a married man, a legal in a firm of solicitors, who has no other real friends. The three women start chatting in The Honey Pot after Olivia nearly gets ran over outside by a cycle courier and Bea and Chloe fall out over Chloe's loud mobile phone call in The Honey Pot.
The story that follows is one where the women slowly become friends and offer each other support throughout difficult times. All three women must make a decision about their relationships in this book - but what will they decide??
The chapters are actually days in the women's lives and each women has her own section on each day. The book is an easy read and one which soon gets you interested, I was eager to find out what happened next and soon finished the book. Bea is told in the first person and both Chloe and Olivia are in the third person. I soon found myself feeling sympathy for Bea and I thought that her story was beautiful and one which young widowers could identify with - when is it right to find a new love following your partners death. The other two women also must make decisions - should Chloe split with her married lover and has Chloe made the right decision in accepting her partners proposal?
This book is set around the festive period, it actually ends on Christmas Day but is not a traditional Christmas read and therefore do not expect one full of Christmas celebrations, this book is more than that - a beautiful, wintry tale about three different women coming together and forming a great friendship.
I would recommend this book to those who would like a great read to curl up with on these cold wintry evenings.

Spy Dog Secret Santa by Andrew Cope

Lara is a Spy Dog for life, not just for Christmas ...But this December Lara (that's Licensed Assault and Rescue Animal to you) and her pups Spud and Star are hot on the trail of an evil computer hacker. Stanley Strange plans to hijack Christmas! Can the super spies catch Stanley before he goes crackers and makes an explosive getaway?

This is a great book which i am sure will be loved by both girls and boys of all ages.
LARA is a retired Licensed Assault and Rescue Animal and is a very clever dog who now lives with Ben, Ollie and Sophie and two of her pups Spuds and Star.
The story begins with carol singers going around the village, when a car nearly runs them over. who was driving the car? The driver is later seen again when they are visiting one of the houses in the village.
A trip to London turns into a rescue mission when a naughty Santa Claus takes the place of the real Santa in a top London store grotto and attempts to steal lots of money. Can LARA and her pups save the day??
I really enjoyed this book, the story is recommended for 7+ and i think younger children will enjoy listening to the story too. The illustrations throughout the book are really good and detailed pencil sketches and add to the story!
Thank you to Puffin for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Ping and Pong Splash by Amy Trevaskus

Ping and Pong live in a Grandfather clock. Lucy opened the door to wind the clock and there they were, smiling back at her.... Join Lucy and her friends as they splash in puddles, grow carrots, learn about space and laugh their way through life...there from the beginning.
This is a new series to hit the book shelves. The author has planned a series of ten books, of which splash is the first title.
Ping and Pong live in a grandfather clock in the hall at Lucy's house and in this book Lucy takes them for a trip to the park, in their wellies to go on the slide, swings and most importantly, to splash in the puddles.
The story is one which children everywhere will love and can identify with - how many children love splashing in puddles and visits to the park. A great story to start a new series.
This is a lovely book, the story is great, the illustrations, by Alison Heath, are excellent and one which children will love to listen to again and again. I would recommend this book for slightly older children, 5-8 year olds, as there is alot of text on each page.
Thank you to Amy Trevaskus for sending me this book to review. Good luck to her for this great new series.
The illustrations, by Alison Heath, are beautifully drawn

Thursday, 2 December 2010

April Underhill, Tooth Fairy by Bob Graham

High in the sky above Parkville, toothfairies April and Esme Underhill are on their way to collect their very first tooth...April and Esme Underhill have never collected a tooth before. Mum and Dad always do it. But tonight it's their turn. So, equipped with a bag, a coin and a mobile phone, the sisters head for Daniel Dangerfield's house, and a very unusual first tooth visit! "How to Heal a Broken Wing" (9781406325492) won the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Greenaway Medal.

Stories about the tooth fairy are very popular and I have read some with my daughter recently who has recently began to loose her baby teeth. I found this book to be of a different style, to others i have read on a similar subject, more of a modern twist. Who knew tooth fairies carried mobiles with them when on their nightly missions???

The story is one which will appeal to children who are interested in fairies and the tooth fairy in particular.

The pictures throughout the book are beautifully drawn. They are of a cartoony nature but are not too cartoony, I am sure grandma will remind many children of their own grandma's.

I would recommend this book for children everywhere, especially those who have wobbly teeth.

Thank you to Walker Books Limited for sending me this book to review.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Two diverse countries and cultures are linked with warmth and charm in this two-in-one picture book. This innovative picture book comprises two stories designed to be read simultaneously - one from the left, the other from the right. Page by page, we experience the lives of two little boys - one from an urban family in Sydney, Australia, the other from Morocco. From busy motorways to desert landscapes, these worlds couldn't be further apart. Yet with the journey of a homemade Moroccan carpet into the Australian boy's home, we can see how these separate lives become intertwined. At the book's conclusion, the family in Sydney can be seen enjoying their new purchase together while the Moroccan family are surfing the Internet. A powerful book, "Mirror" illustrates how our lives reflect each other and that we are all, even in some small way, connected. It features innovative dual-book format, effectively communicating the way people's experiences and values are shared, despite geographical and cultural differences. The essential story is conveyed wordlessly, while the short introduction and author's note appear in both English and Arabic. There is a keystone in the vital bridge across the East-West gap
This book is two books in one. The book is opened as usual and each cover has a book attached to it. The books are based in Australia and Morocco and tell the same story - each reflecting life in that country.
The book provides a pictorial comparison of life within the two countries. The pictures have a collage appearance to them, they are not photographs and at the back of the books, the author describes how each page started as a drawing, which is then constructed on a baseboard where each layer/component is added using combinations of materials to construct the picture. The pictures are really cleverly constructed with details included.
The book reminds us of the stark contrast of life in the two countries and will be a great talking point for groups or classes who are studying life around the world.
I really enjoyed looking at this book and plan on finding other books written by Jeannie Baker and looking in awe at her stunning collages.
Thank you to Walker Books Limited for sending me this book to review.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

This is a stunning, wordless version of one of Aesop's best-loved fables, from one of America's most acclaimed artists. This Aesop's fable is a favourite and familiar one: a mouse inadvertently disturbs a lion, who lets the mouse go...and is later himself freed by the mouse from a poacher's trap. Jerry Pinkney's jaw-droppingly gorgeous new wordless treatment is irresistible, its wealth of visual detail offering huge scope for the pages to be turned and the story retold over and over again. It is spectacular.
When I opened the envelope that contained this book I was immediately drawn to this cover.
The artistry on the cover, and subsequently throughout the book is stunning; the drawings are so realistic and the attention to detail spectacular. There are elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, lions and countless birds along with mice depicted throughout the pages.
There are no words in the book to tell the story but it is based on one of Aesop's Fables and so is a story known by many. However, the omission of the text is not a problem as the story is told very clearly in the pictures.
This is a book I would recommend as a keepsake present, one for when a baby is born or christened and a present is wanted for the child to treasure and keep. I am blown away by this book and can not think of words to praise this book highly enough.
Thank you to Walker Books Limited for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Want to know a secret by Sue Moorcroft

Money, love and family. Which matters most? When Diane Jenner's husband is hurt in a helicopter crash, she discovers a secret that changes her life. And it's all about money, the kind of money the Jenners have never had. James North has money, and he knows it doesn't buy happiness. He's been a rock for his wayward wife and troubled daughter - but that doesn't stop him wanting Diane. James and Diane have something in common: they always put family first. Which means that what happens in the back of James's Mercedes is a really, really bad idea. Or is it?
When two policemen arrive in your kitchen Diane Jenner knew that something had happened to her husband, however little did she know the secrets that were about to be revealed.
This is the first Sue Moorcroft book I have read and as soon as i started the book it drew me in. Secrets are revealed from the start and more secrets are found out throughout the whole book. There are love triangles, heartbreak, greed and jealousy along with a pregnancy, teenage depression and self harm.
The book is not a traditional love story, it is true to life with believable twists and turns throughout the story and leads to the readers feeling for the characters.
There is a twist towards the end of the book which completely changes the course of the book. When I finished the book I was left hoping a second book may be in the pipeline as I want to know what the future will hold for the characters.
I would recommend this book to all, a great read for getting lost in on those long, cold winter nights, the type of book you pick up to read a few pages at night and three hours later you are still devouring the pages.
Thank you Choclit Publishing and WHSmiths for sending me this book to review.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven goes digging to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery. Only Steven's Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it's too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he'll do it. So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer.

This is Belinda Bauer's debut novel and she is an author I will definitely be following and look forward to reading more of her work.

Blacklands is a book with a hard hitting storyline - a family who have a unsolved disappearance to deal with. Billy was a young boy who went missing one day, his disappearance has been connected to a serial killer but the family still have no body to bury. The serial killer is in jail but refuses to admit responsibility and let the family bury their boy.
Steven was Billy's nephew, not even born when Billy disappeared but Steven is determined to find Billy's body and try to relieve some of his nan's trauma. He does the unexpected, contacts
Arnold Avery in prison.
Their communications are brief and cryptic - the guards who sensor the mail see no problems with it and when Steven's mother intercepts the post, she assumes it is from Steven's girlfriend.

I will not speak anymore about the storyline as I hate to ruin it for any readers but this book will stay with me for a long time. I felt momentarily uncomfortable reading some of the book especially when Arnold realised that SL was a young boy but the story also had a way of enticing me and I had to find out what happened.
Belinda Bauer has successfully seen the story from both sides - the family of missing Billy, especially Steven, wanting to solve the mystery for his nan, spending hours each weekend digging the moors for the body, and Arnold Avery, who is in prison, but is intrigued by the letters SL sends him.

As I have previously said, I was uncomfortable reading parts of the book, however Belinda does not write a traditional 'child-killer' story. She has thought and described perfectly the tale of the two sides, writes about the atmosphere in the prison, in the home of Steven and his family and also on the moor.

Although the subject of this book may initially put people off reading this book, I would urge you to read this book for yourself, when I think you will see past the storyline and recognise what a stunning debut novel Belinda Bauer has written.

Thank you to Ben Willis from Transworld Publishers for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Speed Reading Book by Tony Buzan

To survive in this fast-moving, ever-changing world we all have to move fast and think fast to keep up. With so much to do and less and less time to do it, our free time is an increasingly precious commodity. So, if there was a simple way to save hours, days or even months of your time, you'd probably want to know about it right? Well there is, and it's Speed Reading. Imagine the time you could save, and all the amazing new information you could consume, if you were able to read at speeds of over 1000 words per-minute. And we don't mean just simple skim-reading, but also properly and completely comprehending, understanding and retaining the information you've read. This fully revised and updated edition of the powerful book from the world-renowned authority Tony Buzan, will show you exactly how you can quickly start to read at amazing speeds. Speed Reading is simple to follow, easy to understand and fun too. You'll find out how fast your reading speed is now and then discover how you could be reading dramatically faster in no time. And you won't just improve your reading speed, but your concentration and comprehension levels will soar too. The techniques in the book are ideal for teachers, students or executives indeed, anyone who wants to improve the speed, comprehension and quality of their reading. The benefits of speed reading are numerous, no matter where or why you read. You'll be able to zip through whole novels in one sitting; you'll speed through newspapers and magazines in minutes; you'll be the envy of your colleagues as you consume and understand business reports in record time. Speed Reading will revolutionise the way you read. You'll save days, weeks even months of your precious time; you'll learn more efficiently and quickly; and you'll be left marvelling at your new-found speed-reading abilities.
As a Open University student I was intrigued when i received this book to review. There is plenty of reading to do and I have tried different techniques to speed reading but was interested to read other suggestions.
The book is split into four sections and begins with an introduction which explains how we may have been taught to read and also how and why Tony Buzan has developed his techniques.
The book recommends it is used as a course manual and explains the initial assessment and the different sections and techniques included in the book. however, after looking through and reading sections of the book it does seem like it is the first part of larger course - suggesting you read other books by him for further techniques and methods that could be used.
The techniques seems like it will take some time master and therefore I am unsure whether this will be a technique I look further into until my current course finishes next summer.
Thank you to Michael from My School Run forum for sending me this book to review.

Brownies Christmas Cheer by Caroline Plaisted

Meet Charlie, Katie, Grace, Jamila and Ellie - they're five best friends and they've just joined the Brownies! Christmas is coming, and the Brownies are getting into the spirit of things! With presents to make, festive goodies to bake for the unit Christmas party, and a trip to the local pantomime to look forward to, the girls eagerly set about setting up Christmas Cheer. Now, if only it would snow...
I was a Brownie when I was younger and enjoyed my time spent there, however I was in the Elf six, but reading this book it would appear that the Brownies have been completely modernised since my time there.
This book is the seventh in the series and has a Christmas theme. While reading it, I did find number of current themes and good ideas included within it, thinking of Christmas as a time for giving and also for thinking about people less fortunate then ourselves (shoebox appeal and the people of Haiti) and raising money for charity (singing at a Christmas fayre).
The book also has a modern twist, embracing the subject of inclusion and equality for all with a disabled child and a child who has moved from Poland. I also liked the idea of the Brownies learning a new skill (knitting) and the mums getting involved too, sharing skills and getting together for evenings of knitting.
I think this book was a great read and as others have also said, something different to all the fairy books that are around for this age group. It also gives people an insight into Brownies and I am sure it will interest many young girls into joining the Brownies.
Thank you to Jane at Stripes for sending me the book to review.

Usborne 1001 Things to Spot at Christmas by Alex Frith and Terri Gower

This is a jolly puzzle book stuffed full of Christmas things to find and count. Busy scenes, including Christmas Land, a snowball fight and Santa's workshop, burst with things for children to find, count and talk about. It helps develop vital word and number skills.

These books are like the Where's Wally books for children. Bright, busy pictures, although no where as busy as the Where's Wally picture, with lots of details on each double page spread. Each double spread also has a list of things to find.
The pictures are of a cartoony style but they are still very cleverly drawn and very detailed and children will love spending time looking at the pictures trying to spot the listed items.
This is another great book to give as a gift to a child - they will love searching each picture for all the individual details the book lists.
I recommend this to anyone buying a book for a child this Christmas.
Thank you to Amy at Usborne for sending me this book to review.

Usborne Flap Books Farmyard Tales Christmas by Heather Amery and Stephen Cartwright

This book is a new edition of this festive favourite. It is another charming tale from Apple Tree Farm as the Boot family prepare for Christmas and Poppy and Sam wonder whether Santa will bring them what they asked for. It offers an interactive reading experience for young children, who will love to lift the robust flaps to find out what Christmas surprises are hiding underneath. It features the cosy illustrations of Stephen Cartwright.

When my children were younger, their favorite books were lift the flap books. They loved listening to the story, turning over the pages looking and waiting for the flaps to lift up. We have also read many of the books about Apple Tree Farm, with Mr and Mrs Boot and their children Poppy and Sam with Rusty the dog.
This book is the latest book in the Apple Tree Farm and it is a great book, perfect for a Christmas present. The pictures are beautiful, colourful and full of interesting detail and with flaps included to add further interest. Being a Christmas story there is also some beautifully foiled details included within the pictures.
I particularly liked reading these books with my children as the stories were good but with not too many words per page, making them perfect for when they were learning to read themselves and we could revisit books they had loved for them to read to me and now my son has been reading some of his old Apple Tree Farm books to me. The first page of the story has many words but the remainder of the pages include shorter sentences, with clear and bold type, perfect for early readers.
This book is a perfect present for a young child who will love the lift the flap concept of the book or for children who are learning to read. I would recommend it to all people who have young people to buy for.
Thank you to Amy at Usborne for sending me the book to review.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Secret Santa, Agent of X.M.A.S by Guy Bass COMP WINNERS

There are four, signed copies of Secret Santa by Guy Bass in my competition and therefore the winners are:
  • iddybooks
  • Mandyjhardy
  • lovely treez
  • Phyllgerry

Please contact me asap by email or twitter with your address and i will get the books in the post to you as soon as possible.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Explore, Dream, Discover ..... by Charlotte Samiec

This is a travel-diary, memory-maker, doodle-pad, brain-engager, boredom-stopper, idea-waker, picture-keeper, captain’s log. A thought-provoker book!

Author:Charlotte Samiec
Illustrator:Andrew Pinder
ISBN:978-1-84666-789-3EAN:9 781846 667893
Publish Date:1st February 2010
■Book Size: 202mm x 282mm
■64 pp
■full colour throughout
■foiled title graphic
■sticker sheet
■die-cut games counters
■integral storage pocket
■Ages 7+

This is a fantastic book to give to a child going on holiday! It is a complete log of their travels, their journeys, the information and facts they have learnt, their thoughts and also things for them to think about or imagine at those times when they have lost interest or are bored. Things like designing a comic strip, design and write a postcard and places to keep photographs. The book does not only ask questions about what is seen, but also uses all senses - what can they see, hear, smell, feel and taste.

There are also games to play, a press out dice and counters, a snakes and ladders board, a place for sketches and doodles.

I am really impressed with this book. when i was young I had a holiday fun book, which included a bingo card of what you can spy on your journey to your destination and some games to play but this book is completely different. It is a place for a child to put all their imagination to, a great resource to take back to show relatives, friends or school teachers about what they did on their holiday. I would say this is for children aged 7+ as some of the activities do need some imagination and concentration but I think that children will love completing this over their holiday - especially if you are visiting places of interest or beauty.

Thank you to Lorna at Top That Publishing for sending me this brilliant book to review!

Sticker Funny Faces - Monsters by

Additional Info
ISBN:978-1-84956-238-6EAN:9 781849 562386
Publish Date:10th August 2010
■Book size: 203mm x 203mm
■12 pp text
■Full colour
■Reusable stickers
■Ages 3+

This book is a great one for young children who love making funny faces. The book has thick, sturdy pages (paper not cardboard) and have a coating which make them harder to rip - perfect for young artists who keep changing their mind. There are two pages covered with reusable stickers of noses, mouths, teeth and eyes to added to the many monsters which are on the other 12 pages.
Each page has a different monster with some amusing text and all need their facial features added. Some very amusing creations can be made by your young artists!!

This book will be great for children with creative imagination or those who love stickers, and I personally know that all children love those. I would also think this a great gift for children or one to keep in a cupboard ready for those long holidays or rainy days - it is sure to raise a smile!

I would also recommend this publishing company's website for a place to go to find fun activities - how to draw, competitions and how to cook, to do with your children.

Thank you to Lorna at Top That Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Dirty Bertie: Fangs by Alan Macdonald and David Roberts (Illustrator)

Dirty Bertie - the boy with nose-pickingly disgusting habits - is back for another helping of comic chaos! Join Bertie as he attempts to reveal grumpy Mr Grouch as a vampire, finds himself modelling the latest catwalk fashions and gets a serious scare-cut at the barbers.

This book is the perfect book to get boys into reading! A young boy and his friends getting into mischief. There are three stories within the book, one where they decide that the school caretaker is a real vampire, one where Bertie does not want to go to the barbers for a haircut and persuades his friend to trim it instead and the last being a trip to a department store looking for new shoes and ends up as a model in a fashion show.

The stories are funny and easy to understand, the text is easy to read and I think boys everywhere will enjoy this book. It is also part of a series and so there are plenty of other books to continue your sons new found love for a character!

Thank you to Jane at Stripes books for sending me this to review.

A Winter's Wedding by Sharon Owens

Love in the bleak mid-winter ...Emily loves Dylan. And Dylan loves Emily. Their relationship is rock solid. Everyone says they are meant to be together, it's just a matter of when - not if - Dylan's going to pop the Big Question. There's just one tiny fly in the ointment: Emily hates weddings. Which is fair enough seeing as she was jilted at the altar years ago by Alex, her supposed soul mate. Still, Dylan isn't Alex. He's gorgeous and sexy and scruffy and kind - and more than worth taking a chance on ...But what happens when the ghost of Emily's Christmas past threatens to ruin everything? Can Dylan convince the love of his life he's different and that their wedding day will be remembered for the right reasons? After all, with a sprinkling of snow and a touch of magic in the air, there's nothing quite like a winter's wedding to warm the soul...

A good, old fashioned, love story between Emily and Dylan runs through the book with relationships of those important to Emily also being told. Her parents, her best friend and her work life are all explored within the book, however the focus always remains with Emily and Dylan.

The book starts and ends in Winter, with snow on the ground and the Christmassy atmosphere all around. The rest of the book is the year as it unfolds, Emily finds a new relationship, while the relationship of her best friend breaks down and she is left to cover for her in her role of editor of a national magazine.

I really enjoyed this book, a traditional boy meets girl, girl and boy fall madly in love etc, however there are also many other relationships and life's ups and downs covered within the book.

I was not a real fan of Sharon's previous book, seven secrets of happiness, but found this book a great read and one which i will be recommending to all my friends. I would also recommend it all who would like an easy read for over the Christmassy period to curl up with in front of a roaring fire.

Thank you to Matt at Penguin Books for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Win Signed Copy of Secret Santa, Agent of X.M.A.S by Guy Bass

I have previously reviewed this brilliant book ( and the great people at Stripes Books have given me 4 copies of the book, signed by author Guy Bass, to giveaway on my blog.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy:
  1. become a follower of my blog and comment on this post only (1 entry)
  2. tweet about the competition (1 entry) (please include me in the tweet @sbroadhurst) and add a link to the comment below.

Winners will be drawn at 6pm on Tuesday 23rd November 2010.

Thank you to Jane at Stripes books for sending me the books to giveaway.

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

Kay Scarpetta has been training at the Dover Port Mortuary, mastering the art of 'virtual autopsy' - a groundbreaking procedure that could soon revolutionise forensic science. And it is not too long before these new skills urgently need to be put into practice. A young man drops dead, apparently from a heart condition, eerily close to Scarpetta's home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked inside the cooler. When the revolutionary 3D radiology scans reveal more shocking details about internal injuries unlike any Scarpetta has ever seen, Scarpetta realizes that this is a case of murder - and that she is fighting a cunning and uniquely cruel enemy. Now it is a race against time to discover who and why before more people die. But that time is running out ...
Book details
PublisherLittle, Brown
Scarpetta is back!! I am an avid Patricia Cornwell fan and as my birthday is in October, top of my list is always the new Cornwell book. This year it was the same although I was lucky enough to receive a copy to review.
The previous few books have lacked something for me and I think it was Scarpetta's own voice. This book has gone back to how Scarpetta was originally told, in Scarpetta's voice, written from her point of view. I must admit I prefer it written like this and opening the book and reading was like putting on a favorite pair of slippers.
The book was a good read and I really enjoyed it, however there was lots of technical jargon and this was difficult to follow. However there is also an insight into Scarpetta's past life, before she became a top forensic pathologist and met Marino and Benton Wesley which I enjoyed, she was able to put right some wrongs in her past which I think was something she needed to do.
The main story is about a young boys murder who was killed in his back yard by nails being hammered into his head while his parents were inside the house and the death of a young man who dropped dead near to Scarpetta's home apparently from a heart condition which just doesn't add up. When Scarpetta returns from Dover Port Mortuary, where she has been training in new techniques of 'virtual autopsy' there is also the disappearance of Fielding, the man Scarpetta left in charge while away. The story which follows is the investigation into the three cases with shocking results.
I won't go into story details any further as I don't want to ruin the story for other readers but I would recommend it to you all, Scarpetta is back and she is as good as ever, with intrigue and suspense built into the story from the word go!
Thank you to Kate Wright-Morris from Colman Getty for sending me the book to review

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I Love Curry by Anjum Anand

In India, a curry is any dish whose sauce is flavoured with a harmonious blend of spices. In this deliciously spicy book, Anjum Anand, recently voted Personality of the Year at the British Curry Awards, presents an eclectic choice of her favourite curries. These include regional dishes, favourite restaurant classics and many original creations - in all, 50 great curries and 25 accompanying dishes. As with all Anjum's recipes, they are written to suit a lighter, healthier way of eating; but every dish bursts with the flavours of India. Some are hot, some are mild, although all can be adjusted to taste. Some are simple one-pot curries while others recreate the multilayered flavours of restaurant classics. Divided into chapters on Fish and Seafood, Poultry and Game, Meat and Vegetable curries, there is a final chapter featuring the usual accompaniments: vegetable side dishes, breads, rice, chutneys and raitas. This will be the essential book for all lovers of Indian food, whether they are confident cooks or novice enthusiasts.

I am not a curry eater, however my husband loves them and this will be the ideal present for him.
The book starts with a useful section on the secrets of making a great curry and how to serve a brilliant Indian meal. Anjum Anand describes herself as the Indian who will stand alongside you while you cook a great curry, giving you all the tips you need. She details the process to go through to cook a curry and then how to balance the final dish - if you want to add heat, tame the heat, add sweetness or 'perk' things up.

The recipes, over 50, are split into three sections - the bites, the curry's and the accompaniments. The bites include pakoras and cakes along with chutneys and dips. The curries are further split into vegetable, fish and seafood, poultry and meat and includes favorites like bhunas, madras and rogan josh. The accompaniments include vegetable side dishes, breads and rices and salads and raitas. Each recipe is given an introduction by Anjum in which she gives a quick history of the dish, accompaniments or variations favoured by herself. Many of the recipes are also accompanied by colourful, inspirational photographs of the finished dishes.

The final section is a very important section, a list of ground and whole spices along with Anjum's top ten unusual spices and some websites with further information.

I think this book will be a great present for cooks and curry lovers alike and will be a well used recipe book in no time!

Thank you to Quadrille for sending me the book to review.

Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion

If you have ever dreamed of picking fresh salad leaves for the evening meal, gathering vine-ripened tomatoes or pulling up your own sweet carrots, this is the book for you. Follow in the footsteps of a much loved cook and food writer as she reveals the secrets of rewarding kitchen gardening. Be encouraged by detailed gardening notes that explain how adults and children alike can plant, grow and harvest over 70 different vegetables, herbs and fruit, and try some of the 250 recipes that will transform your fresh produce into delicious meals. Families can learn together with this book, which is, in part, a result of Alexander's work in establishing kitchen gardens in primary schools. Her idea is that children who know how to grow and cook their own food will have an interest in healthy, fresh food for their entire lives. Whether you have a few pots on a balcony or a large plot in a suburban back garden you will find everything you need to get started in this inspiring and eminently useful garden-to-table guide.

This is one big book - it has nearly 750 pages but each page is full of either high quality photography or crammed full of useful information, hints and tips. When my postman bought me the parcel I opened it immediately and was wowed by the gorgeous tactile cover - it reminds me of tradition hessian sacks and is over stitched - a beautiful and unusual book to adorn any kitchen or book shelves.

The book starts with some great sections on getting started and equipment needed in both the garden and kitchen. There is a list of basic equipment along with ideas for further additions to your tool kits if desired. There is also a useful section on both gardening and cooking with children. The author, Stephanie Alexander, has worked in her native Australia to establish kitchen gardens in Australia's primary school and passes on some of her finds to her readers in this section.

The rest of the book is dedicated to Ingredients - in alphabetical order Stephanie details 3 different vegetables, herbs and foods and also includes about 250 recipes which uses these ingredients. On looking through the book there were several ingredients I have never heard of; Amaranth, a leafy vegetable and Myrtle, a shrub, to name but two. Each ingredient has a comprehensive section of its own, including a full page, colour photograph, information with regards to growing it, including soil type, climate, position, water requirements, details how to grow, harvest periods and quantities to plant for a family of four (a very useful section). There are also instructions on growing and harvesting, container planting, because Stephanie is known for advising on gardening in large backyards, in pots on balconies and everything in between. She then discusses preparing and sharing the ingredients when it reaches the kitchen and tips especially for children growing the ingredients. Recipes containing the ingredient follow before the next ingredient is introduced. There are not photographs for every recipe, however there are lots of photographs in the book and they are of a very high quality. The recipes all appear to be straightfoward and look to be good family food ideas.

I would recommend this book as a great gift for both gardeners and cooks and would be loved by all who receive it. It will be a book that will be a resource for many years to come and one which will be frequently delved into. I know my husband has his eye on this book and is looking forward to looking at it in detail.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Emotional Learning Cards

20 cards for stimulating creative exploration. Who are you? Where are you going??
This is a box of 6x6" cards which could be used by anyone who works with groups of people, one to one with people and can be used for any age. The cards have a variety of pictures included. All the pictures are photographs and cover a wide variety of subjects - to name a few: chopsticks on traditional sushi rolling mats, the hollow shells of two abandoned ships, a head sculpted from plastic lizards and plants.On the back of each card is a summary of the artwork along with some questions that could be asked. There is also a handy information sheet included in the box which gives other useful general hints about using the cards.Although the cards say that they can be used with people of all ages I find it difficult to see how Early Years and young primary school children would understand the cards however, i know that young children have their own viewpoint and opinion on things and so teachers may be able to use them. They also give examples of working with them in therapy sessions.I do think these are stunning cards and would be a beautiful resource to use for professionals working with people of all ages.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run for sending me the copy to review.