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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Usborne Activities - Christmas Sticker Book

This enchanting sticker book will keep children busy in the exciting weeks before Christmas. With over 800 stickers, including lots of shiny foil stickers, they can decorate a Christmas tree, fill Santa's sack with presents, build funny snowmen and have lots more festive fun. There is also a sticker advent calendar to complete.
Within this book there are 12 pictures to decorate with the included over 800 stickers. There is an advent calendar included which has corresponding stickers to count down the days until Christmas. There are stickers which are relevant for each picture, however I am sure not all of them need to be added to the pictures within the book. There is also a double spread of gold foil stickers which are included but are brilliant to be added to handmade cards or decorated presents.
I love the idea of this book, and I could see my children really enjoying adding the stickers to the pictures - all of which are beautifully drawn and include many scenes; bears making gingerbread treats, penguins playing on the ice, decorating a tree and the elves in Santa's workshop to name a few. Children of all ages will have fun using their imagination to complete the pictures.
This would be a great book to give to children of all ages as a present and would be a great gift for over the festive period or during the Christmas holidays to while away a few hours.
Thank you to Amy of Usborne for sending me this book to review.

The Usborne book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring for Christmas

There's lots to draw, doodle and colour in this creative book filled with wonderful Christmas scenes, from jolly pictures to colour in to doodle-starters from which drawings can grow and grow and grow until they cover the whole page. Doodlers can complete the scenes however they want and the craft paper quality pages make this book ideal for drawing in.

As soon as I opened this book I wanted to run and grab some felt tips or pencil crayons and get colouring. There are so many different activities in this book; shapes to turn into pictures, pictures to colour and backgrounds to add doodles to. There are activities for all ages, with some pages being suitable for youngsters and adults, the art student or doodler. I was pleased to see that there were some of the intricate colouring pictures included (with the striking black outlines and backgrounds) which will look great coloured in bold colours. There was also an advent calendar double spread which included 25 small pictures to colour in the countdown to Christmas.
There are also many different styles of drawing - the modern, stylistic reindeer's, modern shadow trees. childlike images, whimsical, sketchy outlines and the modern take on the nativity scene.
There are a wide range of images, Father Christmas, Nativity, Snowflakes, Stockings etc but also less Christmassy designs - traffic jams with trees strapped to them, creatures hiding in the snow and town scenes.

I was also impressed with the weight of paper used in the production of the book. It appears to be of a heavy weight which should prevent ink bleeding through to the other side and ruining the picture.

I loved this book and will be using pages to entertain my children over the festive period, and I am sure I will join them in this activity as there were many pages that caught my eye. I will be looking at other books in this range as ideas for presents for children.

Thank you to Amy at Usborne for sending me this book to review.

Usborne very first words Christmas -

Little children will love learning their first Christmas words as they enjoy each delightful festive scene. Scenes include decorating the tree, getting ready for Santa and Santa on the roof, all enchantingly illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet.

This is a lovely, brightly coloured book full of bright pictures which will attract young children's attention. It is a board book and therefore suitable for even the most youngest of children.

There are six double pages: Christmas is coming, Decorating the tree, Ready for Santa, Santa in his sleigh, Santa on the roof and Opening presents. Each double page picture has a large picture with many individual details labelled. There are many children included within the pictures and they are from many ethnicity.

This book would be an ideal gift for a child celebrating their first Christmas or for a slightly older child who is beginning to understand more about the festive period and begins to learn words. I like these books as they encourage children to learn new vocabulary and be able to vocalise their thoughts. As a mum who has a child with speech difficulties, I personally like these books as they have lots of elements in the pictures which can be talked about with the child, encouraging them to speak.

Thank you to Amy from Usborne for sending me this book to review.

Personally I Blame my Fairy Godmother by Claudia Carroll

The fairytale ending was just the beginning! Jessie Woods absolutely believes in fairytale endings. So would you if you had a recession-proof career as a daredevil TV host, a palatial pink mansion, and the dream boyfriend. But, quicker than you can say Cinderella, her life falls to pieces and suddenly her prince isn't quite so charming, her party-loving friends disappear and even her faithful friend Visa no longer loves her! Utterly heartbroken and jobless, Jessie is forced back home, to live with her step mum and two evil stepsisters. Is it time for her to give up on the dream - or will Jessie learn that happy endings can come in the strangest of places? Avon's hot new acquisition presents a tale of princes who turn out to be frogs, Manolo Blahnik glass slippers and not-so-happily-ever-afters!

I have not read any of Claudia Carroll's previous books and when I received this book I liked the synopsis and was looking forward to reading it. However, I when I started the book I found it was at a very slow pace.

I did enjoy the story - a girl who had the dream job on a television programme alongside one of her best friends. However, due to a lapse in judgement, Jessie looses everything - her dream job, which led to a decline in income meaning she looses her home and along with it her boyfriend, friends and lifestyle.

The story continues as she is forced to return to her childhood home, now inhabited by her stepmother and stepsisters - usually only seen at the annual memorial of her father. However, Jessie earns her keep by doing household chores and takes stoke of her life. after a hard hitting realisation that her ex-boyfriend, Sam, does not wish to rekindle their relationship, she takes stoke of her life and along with new friend, step sister Sharon, she finds a job, which leads her to finding another job through an old friend.
The story continues predictably with another turn of fortune and leaves Jessie looking at her life and working out what is important.

The book has many similarities to Cinderella and is right to be compared to a modern day Cinderella - there is the evil step-mother and the two wicked stepsisters, although they do change by the end of the book and Jessie who is left slaving at home while the step family are out at work.

Although i thought the story was a good one, I was not so keen on the authors style of writing. It was slow in places and i found myself wanting to skip pages to get to the next part. I also predicted how the story would progress. However, I did enjoy the modern day Cinderella twist to the story.

Thank you to Charlotte Allen of Harper Collins for sending me the book to review.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mr Big by Ed Vere

Mr Big is strong, Mr Big is tough, Mr Big is ...well ...big! He has just one small problem - because of the way he looks he just can't get people to stick around. How can he show them that although he may look a little scary, he is just a great big softy inside? With his trademark bold colour and masterful graphic simplicity, Ed Vere sensitively and humorously tackles the universal and current subject of inclusion, reminding the reader that to get to know someone you need to look beyond their exterior. This is the third picture book from an exciting new talent, whose previous titles "The Getaway" and "Banana" have received great critical acclaim.

I have not seen the other books by this author, but I may just have to go and source them!
The cover of this book is brightly coloured and would attract the attention of a youngster within a display. The story is just as good, bright, bold pictures with doodle details to pictures. The pictures are simple but striking.
The message of the story is to look beyond the physical characteristics of a person and see their inner beauty and talents.

In whole this is a great book who I would recommend to parents of children under 5 years.

Thank you to Michael from MyChild forum for sending me the book to review.

Billionaire Boy by David Walliams

A hilarious, touching and extraordinary new fable from the author of The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink. Joe has a lot of reasons to be happy. About a billion of them, in fact. You see, Joe's rich. Really, really rich. Joe's got his own bowling alley, his own cinema, even his own butler who is also an orangutan. He's the wealthiest twelve-year-old in the land. But Joe isn't happy. Why not? Because he's got a billion pounds! and not a single friend. But then someone comes along, someone who likes Joe for Joe, not for his money. The problem is, Joe's about to learn that when money is involved, nothing is what it seems. The best things in life are free, they say -- and if Joe's not careful, he's going to lose them all!
Money can buy you happiness... or can it??? This is the latest book by David Walliams and he has written another cracker! I loved it, full of humour but still had an important message to give its readers.
The first thing i noticed about this book was the change of illustrator. Quentin Crisp illustrated the first two books but this latest book is illustrated by Tony Ross. The illustrations are just as good though.
The main character in the book is Joe Spud, son of Mr Spud, the man who invented and manufactured 'Freshbum' and made his billions. Joe wanted for nothing, top school, expensive presents, his own racetrack with his own formula one racing car. Except Joe did, he wanted love and attention and to be able to go about his every day life where no one knew he was the son of a billionaire.
Joe transferred to the local comprehensive school and enjoyed the anonymity, which lasted until his father used his private helicopter to drop Joe's forgotten homework into school for him. As soon as the school realised who Joe really was, he was being asked for money constantly. However, Joe made another mistake, thinking he could buy his friends friendship, to stop bullies, to make friends and to clear up any problems with people. Mr Spud also used to money to solve problems, to hire friends for a party, to get a teacher who put Joe on litter duty the sack and to buy an actress to be Joe's new best friend.
However, the end of the story showed them both the error of their ways.
I really enjoyed this book and found it a great read. The book is geared towards the 9+ readers and I think children of this age will love it. It will give them the message that money isn't everything.
Walliam's style of writing is one which is very like him. The book is full of humour and wit as well as humorous lists of lists of lessons at Joe's posh school and a list of names teachers should not have!
I thoroughly recommend it to adults and children who want a light read along with a few giggles.
Thank you to Michael from MyChild forum for sending me this book to review.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Trade Winds by Christina Courtenay

Marriage of convenience or a love for life? It's 1732 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and strong-willed Jess van Sandt knows only too well that it s a man's world. She believes she's being swindled out of her inheritance by her stepfather and she's determined to stop it. When help appears in the unlikely form of handsome Scotsman Killian Kinross, himself disinherited by his grandfather, Jess finds herself both intrigued and infuriated by him. In an attempt to recover her fortune, she proposes a marriage of convenience. Then Killian is offered the chance of a lifetime with the Swedish East India Company's Expedition and he's determined that nothing will stand in his way, not even his new bride. He sets sail on a daring voyage to the Far East, believing he's put his feelings and past behind him. But the journey doesn't quite work out as he expects.

I really enjoyed this book. When i started it, I didn't think it was going to be a book I would be shouting to every one to read but now i have finished it and I am - read it!!! It has something for everyone - a gorgeous hero, Killian, a feisty heroine, Jess, and a stepfather who is doing everything he can to swindle Jess out of her inheritance. The result is an adventure she never imagined being a part of.

The story also has a historical part to it which i found very interesting. It is based on the first trading voyage of the Swedish East India Company to China and it was obvious the author had done alot of research to ensure correct details were included. It was a time and subject I have not read about before and i found it an interesting backdrop to the story.

There are many themes throughout the story including adventure, fueding, passion and betrayal. I really enjoyed the story and kept getting lost within the story, wanting to continue reading to see how teh story developed. The characters drew me into the story and i really cared for their journey throughout the story.

In brief, i recommend this book to all historical book fans and ensure you have put by a day to read it as you won't want to put it down once you have started it!
Thank you to Choc Lit books for sending me a copy to review.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde

One girl: Vida is nineteen, very sick, and has spent her short life preparing for death. But a new chance brings its own story, because for Vida to live, someone had to die. One man: Richard has just lost his beloved wife in a car accident. He hasn't even begun to address his grief, but feels compelled to meet the girl who inherited his wife's heart. Someone else's heart: In hospital Vida sees Richard and immediately falls in love. Of course he dismisses her as a foolish child. But is she? Can two people be bound by a second hand heart?

I have read a number of Catherine Ryan Hyde's previous books and I have been looking forward to her new release for many months.

The book is split into sections, each section being written from the point of view of one of two people: Vida (the heart recipient) and Richard (the donors husband).The book is written in a journal form and has short chapters within each section. The book is an easy read and I found myself getting lost in the story as the book progressed.

The book starts with Vida as a very ill young lady, who receives the call that everyone on the donor register dreams of, that an organ is available and maybe a match. Following the operation, which was a success, we are introduced to Richard who emails his mother in law talking about his dead wife and trying to decide about wanting to know about the donors his dead wife has saved.
The story follows Richard as he makes the decision, against his mother in laws advice, to visit Vida. As soon as they meet Vida thinks she has fallen in love with him and tries to get to know him more, although Richard is very admirable, and confused, and decides to stay away.
Vida recovers from the operation and starts to live life, wanting to get away from her mothers protective clutches and explore.
Without wanting to give any of the story away I loved the ending of the book. I liked the adventure Vida went on, her trip with her elderly friend and her driver and the following trip which she had to complete for her closure on a part of her life.
There were some interesting subjects addressed in the book, especially on the subject of organ donation and cellular memory. I am not normally interested in the subject of life after death or communication via psychics but I found this book to be sensitively written and completely different. Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote this story using details from a friends heartbreaking memories of waiting for a donor heart for her daughter who was never given this life changing opportunity. The story is not about Richard communicating with her dead wife but Vida having memories of things she had never done or seen in her life - but had the donor?? where is this beautiful scene that she can see when her eyes are closed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend this to all fans of women's fiction everywhere and fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde's previous books who love a great read!

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

Pieces of my Heart by Sinead Moriarity

The modern woman is a Jill of all trades - wife, lover, mother, daughter, friend, fixer, boss's never-ending. Ava is juggling a life that seems to have too many pieces. First, there are her chalk-and-cheese daughters, Alison the angel and Sarah the tearaway. Then there's husband Paul. Unfortunately, he seems more interested in work than home - which might explain why her sex life is practically on life support. That certainly can't be said about her Viagra-popping Dad, a loveable rogue who is determined to grow old disgracefully. She would envy her best friend Sally, sassy single singleton-about-town, if she didn't know that behind her polished exterior Sally is as vulnerable as a kitten. Somewhere in there is Ava herself, trying to do her best for all of them but lately feeling like she's running on empty. But that's before she notices Alison is in deep trouble. Now she knows there's no such thing as empty - not if she is to hold on to the most precious pieces of her heart...

I have read many of Sinead Moriarty's books and I can honestly say this is my favourite of her books so far. This book is a great read.
The story is about Ava, her husband and two daughters, along with her father who is twice widowed and living with them temporarily, while his new appartment is finished. The story starts as a basic story of family life but soon turns to a more storyline when her eldest daughter, Ali, is dumped by her boyfriend, leading her to develop a serious illness, anorexia.
I was surprised that this was not mentioned on the book as it is a great read for showing how this cruel illness affects not only the sufferer but also the whole family and their struggle to treat her in the family home before admitting her to a eating disorder clinic, where Ali stays for several weeks and it is a time of great sadness for her after friendships are formed.
Although the story is of a serious illness, there are times of humour surrounding Ava's father and his Polish girlfriend and also Ava's other daughter, Sarah and her continual spray tanning and adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in modern times.

I found this book a great read and wanted to continue to read until i had finished. the chapters are quite short and these lend themselves to an easy read. The topics within the book are of a serious nature but as I said above, there were also times to laugh with the characters aswell as cry with them too.

If you are a fan of Sinead Moriarty's books I would recommend this to you all.

Thank you to Penguin Books for sending me a copy to review.

Magic Spirit the Dream Horse by Pippa Funnell

Tilly is an adopted child with a passion for ponies. The only clue to her past is a bracelet made of plaited horse hair. But when Tilly helps to rescue Magic Spirit, a rescue horse who has been so badly treated by humans that he won't let anyone close, everything changes. She's invited to Silver Shoe Farm to help with Magic Spirit's recovery, and Tilly's special affinity with horses is clear to everyone. Soon the stables become like a second home and that's when Tilly's adventures really begin. For every girl who has ever longed for a pony of her own, these delightful, warm and engaging stories are packed with Pippa's expert advice on everything you ever wanted to know about horses.

I have never been interested in horses and horse riding and was therefore unsure about this book. It has been written by Pippa Funnell, Olympic Medallist, and champion rider. However, I really enjoyed the story.
The book is based around Tilly, a young girl, adopted while young who arrived at her foster parents with an unusual bracelet, a plaited braid of horse hair. She has always had an interest in horses but has never been able to ride. However, when out with her mum, she rescues a runaway horse and when the owner of a local livery yard arrives to rescue the horse, she offers Tilly the opportunity to visit the yard and help with the horses. Tilly accepts the offer and is soon found to have a bond and trust with the horses.

The book included some useful information about looking after and grooming horses and included in the back of the book are Pippa's top tips. There are also a number of websites mentioned in the book which will be popular with young horse lovers.
I would recommend this to children everywhere who have a love for horses - a great encouragement to young readers everywhere to get into reading books as this is just one title in a number of books written by Pippa Funnell.

Thank you to Nina Douglas of Orion Books for sending me the book to review.

The Silver Chariot by Lucy Coats

Atticus the Storyteller is on a quest. As he travels, Atticus tells tales of fabulous beasts, gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines. Now it's your turn to meet: Hermes - the messenger of the gods Narcissus - who loved only himself Pan - the god whose music was memory The Fates - who weave the tapestry of life Brought to life with Anthony Lewis's vivid illustrations, read the next instalment of Atticus's thrilling journey.

I was a great fan of history when i was at school, however I could never get interested in the Greeks. I think it was all the long and complicated names. Anyway, I really tried to clear my head of all these negative thoughts before I sat and read this book.

Unfortunately, i still was not enticed into this book. The book starts with a boy called Atticus who is a storyteller and he goes around the area telling stories to the people he finds. I found the names difficult which I think will put some younger, newer readers off the book, however I also think that some children will enjoy the book because it does have some good stories within the book and many children do enjoy the Greeks. I would recommend it as a book to give to someone who is interested in the Greeks and history.

This book is part of a series of books called Greek Beasts and Hereos of which this is book 5.

Thank you to Nina Douglas of Orion Books for sending me this book to review.

The Three Little Pirates by Georgie Adams and Emily Bolam

Trixy, Tammy and Trig are three little girl pirates who live aboard The Lucky Lobster with their pets Mullet the dog, Kipper the cat and a seagull called Gulliver. When the nasty pirate, Vanilla Cringe, kidnaps mermaid princess, Mo, and her friends, it's up to the little pirates to save the day. But can they outwit Vanilla? A delightful splash of ocean fun and adventure. Perfect for reading aloud or for children to enjoy alone, with lots of bright funny pictures, maps to follow, clues to find and puzzles to solve.

This is a great book for children of all ages. It has been classed as an early reader and I think it will appeal to both boys and girls.
The book is about three pirates, who set sail in their pirate ship to rescue Mo the Mermaid, the daughter of King Kodswallop and Queen Pearl, from a mean and greedy pirate-lady, Vanilla Cringe.
The story is told in a number of chapters, with each page having a combination of prose and also brightly coloured pictures, many annotated with further dialogue to tell the story.
I would recommend this book to both boys and girls and although this is classed as an early reader, i would suggest it is suitable for a more confident early reader as it has a number of harder words within it. However, the use of chapters make it easier to split the story into manageable sections for reading sessions.
Thank you to Nina Simon from Orion Books for sending me the book to review.

Spider School by Francesca Simon

Snakes and snails and spiders for dinner! Kate was having a bad day. Her first morning at her new school and already her clothes have gone missing, her best friend has disappeared, and her new teacher is a comic-reading gorilla. Something is very wrong Francesca Simon brings every child's worst nightmare to life in this funny, original story brought to life with Tony Ross's inimitable illustrations.

My children and I are all big fans of Horrid Henry's and when I received this book to review I was intrigued to find out if Francesca Simon could write other books as well as Horrid Henry, he is a hard act to follow! Well my answer is a YES!!!

What happens when you get out of bed the wrong side?? Kate found out on her first day at school - she got up late, couldn't find her uniform, had to go to school in dirty, too small clothes and was in a class taught by a gorilla and given snakes, snails and spiders for dinner.

The story is as great as a horrid henry story and will appeal to both young girls and boys. It is full of great pictures (illustrated by Tony Ross) which tell the story easily. The story is told in 'easy words' and great for an early reader to gain confidence in reading to their peers.

I would recommend this to both boys and girls alike, who may like to listen to the story being read to them or to read to their peers.

This book is in the new 'Early Reader' format. My son has been reading the Horrid Henry books in this format and has been able to read them quite easily - he is a new reader but has found these books great to read and has built up his confidence in reading through these books.

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

Thursday, 16 September 2010

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

One night a year, Santa J. Claus delivers presents to the children of the world...but for the rest of the time, he's protecting the world as the top secret agent of the Xtremely Mysterious Agency of Secrets (X.M.A.S.), dishing out his own brand of justice to the world's most dastardly criminals. Santa and his Little Helper, newly qualified X.M.A.S. agent Jingle Bells, are on the trail of Dr Cumulus Nimbus, who's hell-bent on creating a new ice age...and Santa hates snow! Can they stop the evil plot before the world is snowed under?

What does Santa do for the 364 days he is not delivering presents?? Welcome to the world of X.M.A.S and to the new graduates of X.M.A.S academy.

This book is such a great read and I think it will appeal to young boys everywhere. Although the book has Santa Claus as the main character along with S.L.H. (Santa's Little Helper) Jingle, the book is not about Christmas Eve and delivering presents, but about saving the world from the Naughty List, of which Nimbus and the Weathermen, an arch enemy of Santa Claus's who is afraid of chocolate (??), is the top of. Will Santa be able to save the world from their hands??

The book would be suitable for children 9+ due to some of the complicated words involved in the text, along with several acronyms used throughout the book, however younger children would like it to be read to them. There are several pictures within the story, hand drawn pictures which describe the scene well. There are also several annotated diagrams which depict the hi tech vehicles and weapons available to Santa Claus throughout the story which will interest boys everywhere.

More can be found out about Secret Santa on the author, Guy Bass, website -

I really enjoyed this book and will be reading it to my son who i am sure will absolutely love it too. I hope Guy Bass continues this story and writes another one about Lantern Jack soon.

Thank you to Jane from Stripes Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Reversal - Michael Connelly

When Mickey Haller is invited by the Los Angeles County District Attorney to prosecute a case for him, he knows something strange is going on. Mickey's a defense lawyer, one of the best in the business, and to switch sides like this would be akin to asking a fox to guard the hen-house. But the high-profile case of Jason Jessup, a convicted child-killer who spent almost 25 years on death row before DNA evidence freed him, is an intriguing one - particularly since the DA's determination to re-charge and re-try him for the same crime seems doomed to failure. Eager for the publicity and drawn to the challenge, Mickey takes the case, with Detective Harry Bosch on board as his lead investigator. But as a new trial date is set, it starts to look like he's been set up, with the renewed prosecution merely a tactic to prevent Jessup from successfully suing the state and county for millions of dollars. To avoid humiliation, Mickey and Harry are going to have to dig deep into the past and find the truth about Melissa Landy and what really happened to her all those years ago.
Mickey Haller was introduced in The Lincoln Lawyer and then was reintroduced into The Brass Verdict alongside Harry Bosch. Now in The Reversal Haller is back to work on the retrial of Jason Jessup, following 24 years of incarceration for the crime which he still denies committing. However, Haller is approached to prosecute the case, working for the 'otherside' and sees him crossing the court room and working alongside his ex-wife. They also hire Harry Bosch to work as a private investigator behind the scenes.
I am a great fan of Michael Connelly's books and really enjoyed the Harry Bosch series, aswell as Mickey Haller book and each October I eagerly wait for the new book to be released. This year I was so pleased to receive this book early from the publishers and i was not disappointed when I read it!!!
I found this book to be a slightly different style. Each chapter starts with a date and time, which becomes important during the trial. The books starts off with Mickey Haller being offered the 'move to the other side of the court room' and follows the process through to the end of the trial.
In this review, I do not want to give away any of the book, besides to say it is as great as ever. I had thoughts as to the ending and although i was correct on one part, others remained a surprise.
I would recommend this book to all, and do not believe you need to have read previous books by Connelly to follow this book.
Thank you to gaby young from Orion Publishing for sending me a copy of this book.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Winnie in Space by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Winnie is fascinated by space and she decides the time is right for a little space exploration. Wilbur is not so sure. Winnie's magical rocket is quite tricky to steer through the universe and poor Wilbur can't even bear to look. He feels a little less anxious when they land on a faraway planet and Winnie unpacks their special space picnic. The inhabitants of the planet are small, with long ears and twitchy noses. They're curious and friendly but these space rabbits have rather strange eating habits - they munch on metal! And, for the space rabbits, Winnie's rocket is particularly tasty. So when it is nibbled clean away, Winnie has to use some quick thinking and some magic to keep the rabbits happy and to rustle up an alternative means of getting home. This glorious galactic picture book takes Winnie and Wilbur on an amazing journey into outer space. But however exciting flying saucers, shooting stars and space rabbits might be, Winnie's a witch who knows there's no place like home!
When i was asked to review this book, I was quick to reply. As my children have grown up, we have read many of the Winnie the Witch series together. This latest book in the series sees Winnie and her cat Wilbur visit space. Winnie and Wilbur decide to take a picnic into space and find a planet to share their picnic on. They finally choose a planet which is inhabited with space rabbits, who have a strange diet of metal leaving Winnie and Wilbur needing to find a new method of travel home.
The book , as with all Winnie the Witch series, have great pictures on each page, they are very detailed pictures and I found myself seeing new details every time i looked at the picture. The attention to detail in the pictures is very high. Each double page spread also has one of the planets drawn, along with its name, introducing children to the planets. The story also introduces children to some of the language used to discuss space and space travel, e.g. asteroid, satellite.
I would recommend this book to children everywhere. As i have previously said, I have read many other books in the Winnie the Witch series, and this book definitely does not disappoint. It is a great introduction into the space theme, giving children the names of the planets, amongst an excellent story which will capture children's imagination and attention at story time!
Thank you to Liz Scott for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Red Queen - Phillipa Gregory

The second book in Philippa's stunning new series, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

I am a fan of Philippa Gregory's books and last year I was lucky enough to attend one of the events Philippa held following the release of her new book, The White Queen. This was the first book in her new triology set in The Plantagenets era. During her talk, Philippa gave a few clues to this book and I was really looking forward to this being released.

The Red Queen tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII and gives background information for why she has been never been a liked person in history. She was married at 12 years and had a child at 13. Margaret Beaufort was a small character within the White Queen but takes centre stage in The Red Queen.
The White Queen was written about Elizabeth Woodville, who was on the York side of the War of the Roses whereas The Red Queen was about Margaret Beaufort, who was on the Lancaster side. Both books are about the same period of time, but are from two different sides, through the eyes of two powerful women of the time.
Although i studied history at school, few of my studies were on these times and I am glad that we have Philippa Gregory to make reading about history a more enjoyable time. She spends many months researching her books and this is evident in her books with many hisorical events included.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book and again I am looking forward to the next installments of The Cousins War.

As with many history texts, there were several Richard, Edward, Margaret and Elizabeths, however, Gregory has a family tree included in the front of the book, which i found very useful for keeping track of who was who.

Tall Story - Candy Gourlay

Be careful what you wish for ...Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs. Then Andi's biggest wish comes true and she's minutes away from becoming someones little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he'll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he's tall all right. But he's not just tall ...he's a GIANT. In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

This was a nice story, having many messages within the story. Andi (real name Amandolina) lives in London with her Philippine mum and English father. Andi's half brother lives in The Philippine's with his aunt and uncle. His name is Bernardo and is eight feet tall.Bernardo and Andi's mum left Phillipine when Bernardo was a small baby to work as a nurse in England to cover high medical costs incurred following a mosquito bite which killed her husband and made her very ill in Phillipines.

In The Philippines, Bernardo lives in a village called San Andres, which is has many tiny tremors. Bernardo is seen as a giant, a protector of the village, because teh tremors stopped when Bernardo was born The villagers believe if he leaves, the village will be hit by a large, devastating earthquake. They believe Bernardo to have the spirit of Bernardo Carpio.

The story follows Bernardo and the beliefs of the Phillipine villlage he lives in and his move to England.

I enjoyed this story, it was something different to what is avaliable for children today. I am unsure of the age this book is recommended for but i would guess it to be 9+. The book highlights many issues from the world today but also passes the message about being careful what you wish for. The story also highlights gender inequality, prejudices due to medical problems and bullies and their comeuppance! The story was also funny in places, while in others sincere and true to life. Recommended to all!

Thank you to Michael from for sending me this book to review.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Big Ideas that Changed the World

Discover the big ideas that changed our world. From matches to mobiles, antibiotics and the flexible drinking straw - some inventions don't just change the way we do things but change the world. Marvel at some of the world's most amazing discoveries that have made a sensation, from the first wheel to satellite navigation. Kids will love the incredible facts and info, such as why the tin can was invented 60 years before the can opener? Read on in wonder at the stories behind each ground-breaking discovery - the people, ideas and knock on effects. Some of the biggest ideas covered include the Model T Ford, Edison's light bulb, Cats eyes and the first Apple.
This book includes ideas and inventions from many areas of modern day life and draws on science, industry, exploration, transport and popular culture. The book details the story behind many ground-breaking discoveries including the people behind the ideas and also the knock on effects following their introduction.
The book is split into six sections: Genius, Great Gizmos, Handy Gadgets, On the Move, Explore and Culture. The sections include inventions on some of the most important items invented but also on small, but very useful inventions. For example, the on the move section includes the invention of helicopters and the steam locomotive, but then also includes the invention of cats eyes.
There are also more detailed 'articles' about some of the inventors included in the book.
I think this book would appeal to a child who wanted to learn about the modern world has developed. There are many inventions included and i found it really interesting to see how the initial invention evolved and how it has been further developed. The book gives the basic information, clearly, which would allow anyone who wanted to investigate further to search on the Internet for further details.
The language in the book is very easy to read and understand. The book gives the basic information in a very accessible way and each page has colourful and interesting pictures which will draw children's attention to looking further at the information given on the page.
This book is a great book for children and adults alike and I will be looking out for other books in this style.
Thank you to DK for sending me this book.

Bear's Magic Pencil - Anthony Browne

"Bear was walking in the forest. Suddenly!" What happens next? Winners of the children's competition featured in The Sun decide! Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne, has collaborated with budding author-illustrators, aged 8 and under, to create an exciting and unique picture book -- combining Anthony's character -- the bear with the magic pencil -- with art and stories from the winning entries. Wherever Bear goes he takes his magic pencil with him. If ever he has a problem he just draws his way out of trouble -- whatever he draws becomes real ...Anthony Browne started the story of a bear with a magic pencil, and children aged eight and under were invited to join in and complete the story. Working with The Sun team, Anthony has selected the best ideas, and used them to create the rest of the story. The result is this fabulous picture book!
This book is the end result in a national competition ran by The Sun Newspaper where young children were invited to to complete Anthony Browne's white bear story in which the bear constantly finds himself in peculiar situations and uses his magic pencil to get out of them while wandering through a forest.
The book is full of beautiful, child drawn pictures which have been added to the background picture of the forest. The forest is also hand drawn and the children's pictures look great added onto this backdrop. The children's pictures do not look as if they have been enhanced or altered at all and i am sure all the children will be very proud to see their drawings in print.
Anthony Browne has created a good story from the wide range of children's drawings he chose as the winners. I was especially pleased to see that he managed to give a message to his readers about the plight of the world's animals, with many becoming endangered due to their natural habitat being destroyed.
I think this is a great book which will be loved by children of all ages.
Thank you to Michael from My child forum for sending me this book to review.

This book is the end result of a competition ran by The Sun newspaper in 2010, where children were

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A Weekend with Mr Darcy - Victoria Connelly

Katherine Roberts is fed up with men. As a lecturer specialising in the works of Jane Austen, she knows that the ideal man only exists within the pages of Pride & Prejudice and that in real life there is no such thing. Determined to go it alone, she finds all the comfort she needs reading her guilty pleasure - regency romances from the pen of Lorna Warwick - with whom she has now struck up an intimate correspondence. Austen fanatic, Robyn Love, is blessed with a name full of romance, but her love life is far from perfect. Stuck in a rut with a bonehead boyfriend, Jace, and a job she can do with her eyes shut - her life has hit a dead end. Robyn would love to escape from it all but wouldn't know where to start. They both decide to attend the annual Jane Austen Conference at sumptuous Purley Hall, overseen by the actress and national treasure, Dame Pamela Harcourt. Robyn is hoping to escape from Jace for the weekend and indulge in her passion for all things Austen. Katherine is hoping that Lorna Warwick will be in attendance and is desperate to meet her new best friend in the flesh. But nothing goes according to plan and Robyn is aghast when Jace insists on accompanying her, whilst Katherine is disappointed to learn that Lorna won't be coming. However, an Austen weekend wouldn't be the same without a little intrigue, and Robyn and Katherine are about to get much more than they bargained for. Because where Jane Austen is concerned, romance is never very far away!

When i received this book I couldn't wait to start it. As with many women I love anything Jane Austin!!
The main character of the book is Katherine Roberts, an English Professor, who also writes books about Jane Austen. She is asked to speak at an annual Jane Austen Conference and falls for a male attendee of the course, who has a secret to conceal.
The other main character is that on Robyn who also loves Jane Austen and is attending the convention, looking forward to an weekend spent with other people who love Jane Austen just as much. She has planned the weekend away from her boyfriend, but he has other ideas.

I absolutely loved this book, and read it within two days, which is very quick for me. I enjoyed the story but also loved the insight i had into Jane Austen's novels. Throughout the book there was reference to many of Jane Austen's novels, the television adaptions and also Jane's life. I saw from the authors website that Victoria reread the books and rewatched television adaptions aswell as visiting the places in teh book and from reading the book I could see all the background work the author did, to ensure the book was factually correct.
I also enjoyed this book because when i read this book I could imagine being at the convention, Victoria's language was very descriptive and set teh scene well for the scenes. It was evident that Victoria was enjoying telling the story, aswell as ensuring that the story was a good read and factually correct.

I am looking forward to the next installment from Victoria which was previewed in this book.

I would recommend this book to Jane Austen enthusiasts as it won't disappoint, however i would also recommend it to readers who woud just like a good old love story to curl up with too!

Thank you to Charlotte Allen at Harper Collins for sending me this book.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Famous Last Words - Annie Sanders

Lucy spends her days beavering away at her sewing machine, making divine, flamboyant clothes that express all the passion and flair that she cannot, and at night she sits alone with her latest creations, fretting over her struggling business. Her life is one of unfulfilled ambitions and missed opportunities. Then one evening Lucy meets the beautiful, fey and enigmatic Micah, who has an uncanny knack for foretelling fortunes, and manages to convince even the cynical Lucy. So when Micah tells her that her future isn't looking too rosy - in fact she doesn't have one - Lucy embarks on a spree of 'what the hell and why not'. She faces her demons, confronts those that have annoyed her, and takes risks for the first time in her life, convinced that the accident he predicts will befall her. When the day of her prophesied demise comes - and goes - Lucy storms round to challenge Micah, who sheepishly admits he must have got it wrong this time. The appalled and angry Lucy has a hell of a mess to put right now, and demands that Micah help her do some damage control. So begins an edge-of-the-seat, race-against-time to repair Lucy's reckless actions. But halfway through Lucy asks herself if everything is worth mending? Has she inadvertently improved her life just as she thought it was about to end? And why is Micah so reluctant to help her untangle her biggest gaffe of all?

When Lucy Streeter attended a fundraiser with her friend, Tam, who was having struggle conceiving, she was sceptical when a male performer told Tam that she was pregnant. Lucy was so outraged that someone would get Tam's hope's up when Tam had made teh heartbreaking decision to stop trying, however Lucy left with more than she bargained for when Michah told her he saw no future for her, past the following Friday!
As i previously said when reviewing Annie Sanders previous book, I am a great fan of their work (Annie Sanders is actually Annie Ashworth and Meg Sanders), however i was unsure on this book as I, like Lucy am very sceptical with the whole area of psychics and foretune telling in general. As with all Annie Sanders books i was quickly drawn into the story and was able to 'forget' my personal views on the subject.
Lucy's character used the news she had received as a way of changing her life, having a mad morning at the hairdressers, cutting and colouring her hair, wearing clothes she would never normally wear. She used her time to air old grievances with her parents about how her father treated her when she became a teenage mum. The story told of how Lucy dealt with these issues, lived life to teh full - even climbing the church bell tower after a night on the town, silencing the bell with her own jeans
The story is told in Annie Sanders excellent style, and I found myself getting drawn into the story - i wish i could take hold of life like Lucy did and become carefree, looking after those i care for, ironing out any issues which have which have been hanging about not being cleared.
The story does have a twist at the end and i won't spoil it for other readers but it was a great ending with the story ending how i wanted it to end. Although i will admit, i had other twists i though may happen, but i much prefer Annie Sanders ending.
Another book which i recommend to all!!
Thank you to Meg Sanders for sending me a copy to review.