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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Magic Secrets Box: The Silver City Ballet by Sue Mongredien

When Megan winds up her antique music box for the first time, she hears a tiny voice calling over the sound of the music - it is the Fairy Queen of the Land of Eight Kingdoms, a magical place far away! She has been imprisoned in the box by the evil enchanter Sorcero, and needs Megan's help. Megan will need to venture into the magical land to break the spell imprisoning the Fairy Queen - all the while keeping her identity a secret. In this first story, Megan is called to Madame Swann's Ballet Academy in Silver City, where a rather unusual student has turned up for a dancing lesson.

This is a new series of books by Sue Mongredien which I am sure will be loved by young girls. The cover includes a 'press me' heart which when pressed plays 
the music from the magic secrets box.

When I started reading this book I was unsure if I would like it; the prologue tells the story of Sorcero, an old enchanter, who waves his wand and recites a spell and the Fairy Queen disappears from the kingdom of Sunny Meadows. However, when I started the story I was quickly swayed.  

Megan, a young girl, is drawn to a music box in an old junk shop, and is sure she saw the fairy inside it move. As the music box does not play when the shop owner tries it, he sells it to her for £1. However, when Megan gets home and tries it, the music plays and the fairy queen asks Megan for help to release her from the box. Megan is transported to Silver City where a giant, Olaf, has had a spell put on him to make him dance, but all he manages to do is to trash the city. Along with a friend, Jessica, Megan teaches the giant a dance, to lift the spell.

Sue Mongredien has written a lovely story which young girls will enjoy. A great book for girls gaining confidence in reading alone, but younger girls will enjoy sharing it with their peers. There are great pictures which accompany the story, along with a map of 'The Land of Eight Kingdoms' and girls will enjoy collecting the books to visit each kingdom within the land.  

Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending me the book to review,

Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda

I hadn't even sat down yet, one buttock still hovering, my hand on the car door, and already my sister-in-law was on the attack: "At last! Didn't you hear the horn? We've been waiting here for ten minutes!" "Good morning," I replied. On the car journey to a family wedding, Garance reflects on how adult life, with its disappointments and responsibilities, has not always gone to plan for herself or her three siblings. But just around the corner lies the chance for them to revisit their younger, carefree selves in a delightfully unplanned escapade.

A novel, originally written in French and then translated. The book is a story of one day in a family's life, a car journey to a family wedding and the relationship between the family and their extended family.

I must admit that I did not enjoy this book. It was very cleverly written and a wide range of emotions and feelings were explored.  The importance of family bonds is also investigated and all of these are very important to me and it was interesting to read about another family and the troubles they encounter along the way.  However, I did not find it a book that I enjoyed, nor would I be quickly recommending it to a friend.

The book is only 142 pages long, one which can be easily read in an afternoon sitting. Although it is a quick read, the book will stay with you much longer as you remember the subject content.

I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine programmed.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Junior How To Draw: Cars, Trucks and Planes and Wild Animals (Top That Publishing) by Kate Thomson and Barry Green

Would you like to draw amazing pictures of cars, trucks and planes or wild animals? Now you can! This book will guide you step by step through the drawing process with clear instructions, diagrams and top artist tips to help you create brilliant instructions!

These books are perfect for the summer holidays, great rainy day activities, as I am sure there will be a few this year! There are four books in the series so far: cars, trucks and planes; wild animals; baby animals; and fairies. Recommended Retail Price is £2.99 and I think that is a great price for something that will give children hours of fun.

The books work on the basis of using basic shapes and are broken down into four easy to follow steps, starting with outlines using the basic shapes before adding detail and definition. There are many different animals and vehicles included in both books, plenty to keep the children (and adults) occupied for hours. There are also instructions for drawing vehicles from different perspectives in the book. Included within both books are also useful facts included about each thing being drawn.

I definitely recommend this series of books as a must buy for this summer's school holidays. Well priced, great set up and plenty to keep children occupied. The four books will have something for everyone to learn to draw that they like.

Thank you to Top That Publishing for sending me the books to review as part of the Yummy Mummy Review panel.

Ninja Meerkats The Eye of the monkey by Gareth P Jones

Hidden in the remotest reaches of the Red Desert, in a place called Mystic Rock, legend tells of an elite fighting force of meerkats - The Clan of the Scorpion. Under the guidance of their mentor, the wise (and cryptic) Grandmaster One-Eye, and armed with ninja-know-how, these four warriors are sworn to protect the world from the evil plans of their age-old enemy, the Ringmaster...An enormous precious stone, rumoured to possess the power of invincibility, has disappeared from a mine in India, and The Clan set of to investigate. On their arrival, they encounter the ancient guardians of the lost stone, the Shaolin monkeys. But are they friends or foes...?

The second book in the new Ninja Meerkats series. In this book they are in Delhi, looking for the Delhi Llama, and together they search for the missing Eye of the Monkey Emerald.

As I said previously when reviewing the first book, The Clan of the Scorpion, this series is a great book for boys, reminds me of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and is something different on today's market of books for boys. 

The style of writing and language used is perfect for young readers who are gaining confidence in reading alone or for younger children to share with their peers. 

Throughout the book are illustrations capturing the key moments within the story. At the end of the book there are also four pages which introduce the reader to each of the Ninja Meerkats.

Perfect idea for boys who love martial arts or action packed adventures.

Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon

'He's not mine, is he?' That's the question I fear the most. You see, I have a secret. My son is not fathered by my boyfriend, but by one of the most famous rock stars that ever lived. And he doesn't even know it. One-time celebrity personal assistant to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg Stiles is now settled and living in the south of France with her doting boyfriend Christian and their son Barney. But they're living a lie - a lie that will turn their lives upside down and inside out - because as Barney reaches his first birthday, Meg can no longer deny that her son is growing to look more and more like his rock star father every day, and less and less like Christian, and sooner or later, the world is going to realise ...

I this is one of the most anticipated books in the chick lit market this year from the tweets and blogs I have read from chick lit lovers. I like many others have loved all of Paige Toon’s previous books and at the end of Johnny Be Good I was left wanting to know what happened next, well now after reading Baby be mine, I do and it was worth the wait!

The main character is Meg, who lives with Christian and their son; however he is not the father, that is rock star Johnny Jefferson. Meg has kept this secret for a long time however, it is finally about to come out in the open and the 
book is about the outcome and upset caused.

Follow up books can sometimes not live up to expectations; however this book definitely does not fall into that category. The book has so many ups and downs for Meg and is true to real life. Although not everyone may have a child who was fathered by a rock star, there are children who may not be aware of their real fathers or fathers who are not aware they have a son or daughter. I really think that Paige has considered the implications upon everyone involved; Meg, Christian (the assumed dad); Johnny (the real dad); Meg's parents; and also Christian's parents.

The story begins slowly; however, it soon speeds up and also moves around the world. The story starts in France, but soon moves to LA and finally England where a great ending happens. There are the three main characters, but there are also other strong characters within the story - Meg's old colleagues and acquaintances in LA being important.

I enjoyed the scenes in LA. It was great to have an insight into a pop star's life in LA. This part of the story is fast paced and full of energy, as I am sure life would be there, before the pace slows down when Meg moves to the English countryside.

I read this book very quickly and really enjoyed Paige Toon's writing style, written through Meg's eyes. It is full of dialogue although there is enough description to be able to picture the scene perfectly.

Although this is a follow on book I do not believe you need to have read Johnny Be Good to be able to enjoy this book, there are plenty of reminders (or catch-up) of the back story to enjoy it to the max.

So, I hope you can see that I loved this book and I definitely recommend it as 
one of this summer’s must have reads!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.

A Grave in the Cotswold by Rebecca Tope

Thea Osborne and her loyal spaniel Hepzie are still pursuing their occupation as house-sitters, despite the disastrous incidents of the past. At the moment they are staying in the late Greta Simmonds' house, which is currently between ownership. But when a body is discovered in a nearby field, Thea finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation once again. After befriending undertaker Drew Slocombe, she soon finds she's aligned herself with the police's only suspect. Believing him to be innocent, Thea works together with Drew to clear his name, although it slowly dawns on them that in a village simmering with secrets, a means and a motive could be laid at anybody's door.

I was first introduced to Rebecca Tope's books set in the Cotswolds, which is near to where i used to live, during the Worcester Literary Festival, and was lucky to meet her by chance in a local charity bookshop. I reviewed the first book in the series, A cotswold killing, earlier this month. It was in this book that the readers were introduced to Thea Osborne and her loyal spaniel Hepzie, a house sitter and her dog who travels around the Cotswolds looking after  houses for owners while they are away.

The first book was written in the third person and had Thea as the main character, however I was surprised to find this book was written in the first person, the undertaker, Drew Slocombe. However, once i had got used to this, which didn't take too long, I enjoyed the book. As I have already said in my review of  the first book, I enjoyed the slower pace of the book, being similar to a Midsommer Murder rather than a Silent Witness or Reubus.

Drew Slocombe, an alternative undertaker, who specialises in natural burials, in non religious services, has been asked to conduct the funeral of the late Greta Simmmonds. Following the service, Drew finds that there is a problem with the ownership of the land of the field that Greta has been buried in. Drew meets with the council official who oversees the dispute, but is later considered a suspect when the official is found dead in a field that Drew walked through alone earlier in the day.

I really enjoyed Rebecca's descriptions of the villages, the landscape and surrounding area. The village sounds like typical country village and is full of the usual characters - the nosy neighbours, the gossips and local. I did not like Drew as  the main character, I missed following Thea as she solved the murder, in this book it all came at the end. However this will not put me off reading other books from this series as I find them perfect to pick up when i want something easy to read.

Thank you to Allison and Busby for sending me this book to review.

Jack Splat Dog's Dinner by Lou Kuenzler

This is a hilarious new series, told from the fly-on-the-wall perspective of our death-defying hero Jack Splat as he goes about his daily business - landing on tasty bits of food and spreading germs. But there is danger everywhere for a small fly, and Jack must dodge dastardly attempts to bring his life to a swift end! Jack is thrilled when he and his little cousin Flo come across the world's biggest, smelliest dog poo! Can he track down the dog, whilst keeping Flo away from the Jaws of Death?

Another book by Lou Kuenzler in the Jack Splat series. This will appeal to anyone interested in, to put it bluntly, POO!

Jack Splat is back, the fearless fly hero is trusted to look after his (pesky) little cousin, Flo. Jack decides to show Flo some of the awesome places he knows, however he ends up showing just one place, the park, and to it's speciality, dog poo!

Now, this sounds a revolting book but it isn't really. Children will love it and there are funny bits in the book, along with many facts about poo, and not just from dogs, but from many different animals in Jack Splats Encyclopoodia which is interspersed throughout the story.

A great book to encourage children, especially boys i think, who are reluctant to read. It is likely to grab their attention and those little facts throughout the book will interest them too.

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

The Clumsies make a mess at the zoo by Sorrel Anderson

The Clumsies are back in their fourth hilarious and very messy adventure ...Everyone's favourite biscuit-munching, tea-drinking, talking mice are back and this time they are making a mess of the zoo. Quality writing and side-splitting humour combine in these 
brilliant stories that will be loved by children and adults alike.

Howard and the Clumsies are excited about their trip to the zoo, but when they arrive the animals are in hiding, Raspberry the giraffe is missing, and much to Mickey Thompson's horror the ice-cream kiosk is closed! Can the Clumsies sort out this mess - or just make a much bigger one?

Ever since my daughter wrote to Sorrel Anderson and invited her to visit her class during a special month where the school were doing lots of book related activities she has been waiting for the next Clumsies book to be released. And now the wait is over......

This book tells the story of a day when Mr Pullerton has Nervous Exhaustion, Ortrud the Elephant is too loud and cumbersome to stay in the office and so everyone decides to visit the zoo where something is wrong - is Mr Pullerton to blame? The book is a great read and I would recommend it as the perfect book to buy the children for the summer holidays.

As with the other Clumsies books I love the style of the book. Most books for this age group are full of text with illustrations dotted throughout the book on a few pages however, Sorrell and the illustrator, Nicola Slater, another very clever lady, have planned the pages with interest on ever page. The interest may be a pencil drawing, interesting type face on specific words, words becoming part of the pictures or striking borders around the page. Looking through this book is encouragement to read it to find out what the pictures etc are referring to in the story. There are not only pencil drawings either, there are also some photo images interspersed too - another great quality of the book layout.

Sorrel Anderson's books are all perfect for children who like to read alone but they are also great for younger children who like to share a story. With the added page interest on each page for children to look out while they listening to the story and also are ideal for early readers who are becoming more confident to have a go at new books and try to read the next level of books.

I would like to thank Sorrel Anderson for sending this book to my daughter, but also for taking time out of her busy writing schedule and visiting my daughter's class. They all enjoyed it thoroughly and I think there are now more Clumsies fans in Worcester. 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Excess all Areas by Mandy Baggot

When the going gets tough Freya Johnson gets going! Humiliated by her boyfriend the day she turns 30, Freya boards a last minute flight to Corfu to visit her best friend Emma. Little does she know that this holiday will change her life forever. Enter Hollywood film star Nicholas Kaden whose entourage is stirring up the village of Kassiopi while filming his new movie.

Caught up in a media frenzy, feeling unwelcome and uncomfortable in Nicholas' movie world, Freya battles with the ghosts of her past and the uncertainty of her future. Can she help Emma? Can she keep her own big secret? And can she find out what Nicholas is hiding before she feels the urge to run away again?

A great book to add to a beach bag or to pick up to read stretched out in the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon or curl up with on a cold winter’s day.

A strong female led cast, with Freya, a girl who after hearing her then boyfriend describing her to a waiter in a restaurant as a large and ordinary looking girl, hot footed it to the airport and flew to Greece with only her passport, which she kept in her handbag at all times. Meeting up with her friend there, who works and lives on the island, she decides to stay there for a while. The next morning, after a strange meeting in the bakery where an American tries to buy Freya’s four rolls for ridiculous amounts of money, she finds out a film is being filmed there and a chance meeting at her favourite restaurant, where her favourite table has been taken by the film crew and cast even though Freya and her friend have booked it, Freya meets Nicholas, the lead male, and what follows is a love story, but not ordinary  love story.

However, this is no traditional love story. Both Freya and Nicholas have secrets in their past – Freya’s bigger than most. I will not spoil it here but will say that it was not what I expected and what followed was a great story.

Mandy Baggot is a self published author and I really enjoyed her writing. I was drawn into the book straight away, wanting to know why Freya ran to Corfu and from then I was hooked.  I really enjoyed the descriptive qualities of the narrative, enabling me to build up a picture of the scenery in my mind while reading the book. There are many witty parts to the book and there were many characters in the book that I could identify with and they were also likeable, giving us an insight into the life of film stars and their colleagues.

I would recommend this book to lovers of chick lit or women's fiction as the perfect accompaniement to a lazy afternoon or long flight.

Thank you to the author for sending me this book to review.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ninja Meerkats - The Clan of the Scorpion by Gareth P. Jones

Hidden in the remotest reaches of the Red Desert, in a place called Mystic Rock, legend tells of an elite fighting force of meerkats - The Clan of the Scorpion. Under the guidance of their mentor, the wise (and cryptic) Grandmaster One-Eye, and armed with ninja-know-how, these four warriors are sworn to protect the world from the evil plans of their age-old enemy, the Ringmaster...When the world's rarest tiger is stolen from a locked cage, the meerkats set about tracing the thief. Their search takes them to China, where a circus is about to unveil its latest performing animal, which apparently has special powers - could this be the latest venture of the evil Ringmaster?

What is with the sudden love for meerkats?? They started out on that tv advert and now they are everywhere!! Here they are hitting the high street book shelves in their latest hit on market dominanation!

When I received this book, I was immediately reminded of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, but this time with four ninja meerkats who are 'The Clan of the Scorpion'.
In this book they are trying to find a missing tiger and must travel to Hong Kong to search for him.  There are parts of the story full of adventure, times of trouble when they are trying to rescue the tiger but also comical parts - i loved the disguise they had when getting through the airport, an adapted scruffy brown suitcase. There are illustrations dotted through the book too to add to the story.

I think this book would be great for young boys, gaining confidence in reading alone or sharing with others. It would appeal to fans of martial arts or boys who want to read about something other thank football and cars.

The book also finishes with four pages dedicated to the ninja meerkats, to enable to reader to find out more about the characters.

A great idea for a new series of books, the second book in the series, The eye of the monkey, has already been released and will be reviewed on this blog soon.

Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.

As soon as I opened this book I was captured by its contents.

This book has been stated as being the ‘most talked-about debut acquisition of 2010 and will be the publishing event of 2011’. I can really see this as being true. The book is set in the present day, but there is also an underlying story of the main characters past. Victoria spent her younger years being passed from foster home to foster home before being placed in a care home until she reached 18 when she had a home for three months at The Gathering House, after three months if she had a job and could pay the rent she could stay, otherwise she was evicted and left to fend for herself. Victoria disappeared from the house the night before her social worker was due to evict her. The story which follows tells of Victoria’s journey of life, finding herself somewhere to sleep, a job and home before becoming a mother herself and the difficulties she had in adjusting to life, allowing others to love her, comfort her, offer support and love, before motherhood and the issues that incurred. Throughout this story, interspersed, is the story of Victoria’s childhood, when she found someone to care for her, who she respected, before they were separated.

Throughout this book, Victoria has a gift; she understands the language of flowers and works in a florist, before setting up her own business, as a florist for weddings, events, baby showers etc. The floral arrangements she produces all have a message within.

There are sad times within the book; Victoria does have many bad times in her life, none more so than following the birth of her child but there are also many happy times too.

The language of flowers is mentioned throughout the whole book and I really enjoyed this, including the inclusion of Victoria’s dictionary of flowers at the end of the book. It would have been lovely if some of Catherine’s sketches could have been included as well. A book about flowers does not sound like a book that would keep me gripped however I learnt lots from this book and really enjoyed the story as well. I read it in two days, which is very quick for me and I think that the author must have researched very deeply into this ancient art and has used her research to create a book which I think will be one talked about for years to come.

I recommend this to people who are interested in the language of flowers but also to people who want a book to read that has a great story, about how someone who has had a bad childhood uses their knowledge to create a new life for themselves and then also improve the life of others.

I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

When Mrs MacCready visited Waterstones, Worcester

Julie Fulton visited the local Waterstones as part of the Worcester Literary Festival for a book signing and reading. My daughter went along and we both met Julie, a lovely lady, who spent time with my daughter, talking to her about the book. There were also activities for the children to do; colouring pages, word searches and the opportunity to design a plate of food for Mrs MacCready which she may eat. My daughter had great fun designing weird and wonderful food ideas including magical rainbow tomato sauce, where each mouthful had a different taste and magical peas and sweet corn which changed colour. Julie loved some of the ideas that she came up with and recommended that she carried a notebook around with her to note down any ideas she may have – a budding author in the family?

We both had a lovely time talking to Julie Fulton and look forward to seeing what her next book will be!

Julie Fulton is the author of Mrs MacCready was ever so greedy and her website has lots of photographs from lots of her author events.

Mrs MacCready was ever so greedy by Julie Fulton

Mrs MacCready was ever so greedy by Julie Fulton

Mrs MacCready is ever so greedy.

Her neighbours do what they can,

But she gets bigger and bigger

Till nothing will fit her.

And then ......everything ends with a BANG!

Another book written in rhyme and this one is so much fun!

The book is full of brightly coloured illustrations which accompany Julie Fulton’s text perfectly. The story is funny and will appeal to children of all ages. The brightly coloured illustrations accompany Julie Fulton’s text perfectly.

The story, as previously said, is written in rhyme, but it is more than simple rhyme. The words are well written and, as Julie Fulton is also a music teacher, I believe this book should be set to music – a great rhyme for children to dance to!

Mrs MacCready is a great gift for any young child; it is a great book to share and also introduces children to the idea of healthy eating and portion size! Young children will enjoy listening to the story being read to them, the rhymes will encourage children to join in the story. The book would also be good for early readers.

Thank you to Maverick Art Publishers for sending me the book to review.

The Fearsome Beastie by Giles Paley-Phillips

The Fearsome Beastie is searching for something to eat and children are at the top of the menu. Will they be fooled by his clever tricks or can Pete's Granny save the day?

The Fearsome Beastie is a brand new title by poet Giles Paley-Phillips. Written in rhyme, this story is reminiscent of the cautionary fairy tales of the past but with a happy ending!

This book will appeal to any children who like monsters and beasts rather than fairy tales. A great gift for little boys who don’t like the nice, happily ever after tales we grew up with.

I read this book and when I was halfway through when Granny arrived with the axe I was shocked, horrified of what might happen however I turned the page and liked the twist at the end.

I think children will enjoy this book because it is told in rhymes, the illustrations are of a very high quality and superbly coloured. The moral of the story is a good one and its gruesomeness will appeal to children of all ages.

However it is also a great book to share between an adult and child – there are so many talking points: feelings and emotions, the pictures show a wide range of emotions from the children, and this is down to the illustrations of Gabriele Antonini, a brilliant illustrator.

I would recommend this book to children who like monsters and beasts and want something different to fairy tales, princesses and other popular genres within children’s books.

Thank you to Maverick Arts Publishers for sending me this book to review.

The Dog Detectives, Lost in London by Fin and Zoa

Great Britain is doomed! The guardians of the Tower of London, six black ravens, have disappeared. The Dog Detectives must pedal full tilt to London’s landmarks and solve the riddles before it’s too late!
Lost in London is a charming tale of riddling rats and meddlesome bats that is sure to get children thinking.

As soon as I opened the pages to this book I was attracted to the bright colours and clear pictures adorning every page of this book. The text is in a very clear font and size, perfect for a story to share at story time in a classroom or at home at bedtime.

A great book to introduce children to the landmarks of London. The book is about the search for the six black ravens that protect the Tower of London, and to help with the search, the detectives are given three clues by the Rat Riddler to help find them. These clues are given in the form of a rhyme and are perfect for young children to work out. The search for the ravens is interactive with the children reading the story as they can search the pictures to find the six missing ravens too.

The book also ends with a double page spread of facts about London and gives further information about London and its landmarks.
I recommend this as a perfect gift for a child visiting London for the first time or one who likes to solve clues.

Thank you to Maverick Arts Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Girl 4 by Will Carver

Detective Inspector January David has always put his professional before his private life, but the two worlds are about to clash horrifically as he visits his latest crime scene. He is confronted by a lifeless figure suspended ten feet above a theatre stage, blood pouring from her face into a coffin below. This gruesome execution is the work of an elusive serial killer. Three women from three different London suburbs, each murdered with elaborate and chilling precision. And as January stares at the most beautiful corpse he's ever seen, he detects the killer's hallmark. But Girl 4 is different: she is alive - barely. And January recognises her...

A debut novel by Will Carver and one which has left me waiting for the release of his second novel, The 2, in November 2011.

The book starts with DI January David being called to a scene where a young woman has been left in a scene which looks as if she is floating in mid air above a theatre's stage. This is the fourth scene attended by DI David and the work of a serial killer. The book follows the case to find this serial killer, and is told from many perspectives: the killer, the girls who are murdered and DI David.

I found the telling of the story through the different persons perspective very enjoyable and it kept me wanting to read more. There were many twists and turns in the book and on a couple of occassions I believed that I had worked out who the killer was, however on both occassions i was wrong and I was surprised when the killer was unmasked!

I found the book believable, I don't believe that the author took any artistic licence and spent a long time researching for the book. The plot is fast paced and with short, quick 'chapters' very quickly read.

I would recommend this book to crime and thriller lovers everywhere and I am definitely looking forward to the next book by Carver in November.

I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bluebell Woods: Evie's Secret Holiday by Liss Norton

Welcome to the secret world of Bluebell Woods, home to a delightful cast of woodland friends. Everyone is gathering nuts and berries to store for the long winter months ahead. Adventurous Evie has heard of a long-forgotten hazel grove which has lots of nuts. She persuades her three friends to go in search of the grove, but on their way they get caught in a storm. Seeking shelter, they stumble across a hollowed-out tree. Evie realizes this could make the perfect hidden den for a sleepover. But will the den remain a secret for long?

This is the third book in the Bluebell Woods series by Liss Norton and it immediately reminds me of one of my childhood favourite’s Brambly Hedge.

The first thing I adored was the cover, a three layer picture framed by foliage and autumn berries and nuts which link in to the story as the squirrels are collecting and storing food for the long winter months.

The book contains a map of Bluebell woods which includes Old Oak School, Foxglove Hollow, Meadowside Burrows and Primrose Meadow to name a few. The Woods sound a very interesting place to live and I loved reading this book and meeting the characters that live in it.

There are lots of pencil drawings throughout the book. They are beautifully detailed and shaded and would make beautiful pictures to adorn a nursery wall. They are not as ‘classic’ as Brambly Hedge but are still beautiful.

This story tells the story of Evie the squirrel who, on a visit to see her granddad, is given a map by him of where there were lots of hazelnuts to be found and gathered for the long winter ahead. Evie decides to go on an adventure with her friends, where they find a hollow tree which they make into their new hideaway den – a perfect place to hide away from little brothers.

The story is a great story to share with younger children or for slightly older children (7+) to read alone. The story will grab the attention and imagination of children into making walks through woods etc in the autumn a whole new world to explore.

I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it as a great gift to give this autumn. I will be looking out for other books from the series to share with my children.

Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Pete the Cat - I Love my White Shoes and Rocking in my School Shoes by Eric Litwin (AKA Mr Eric)

Pete the cat goes walking down the street wearing his brand-new white shoes. Along the way, his shoes turn from white to red to blue to brown to wet. But what does he step in to make his shoes turn these colours? It doesn't really matter, because Pete keeps movin' and groovin' and singing his song ..... because it's all good.

Pete the cat is back - and this time he's rocking in his school shoes. Pete discovers the library, the lunchroom, the playground, and lots of other cool places at school. And no matter where he goes, Pete never stops moving and grooving and singing his song ... becuase it's all good.

These two books follow their huge storytelling and song success on You Tube, where 'Pete The Cat' rose to number 8 on the New York Times picture books besteller list.

The first book is about a cat who, while out on a walk, discovers his new white shoes will change colour after he steps in different things – something I am sure children would love to try!

The second book is about Pete the cat going to school and finding the different areas of school. I did find the pictures were ‘Americanised’, the yellow school bus and the lunchroom; however

they do not overpower the story.

The pictures are of childlike images, bright and colourful, but simplistic in makeup. Looking through both books, there appears to be a yellow bird on most pages – I am unsure if this is deliberate by the author and illustrator but I found myself looking for it on every page.

The text is written in a handwritten style, very few words per page, perfect for a story to share. Children can learn colours and also about what happens at school. The repetitive song throughout the books will soon be remembered by children and I am sure will be sang throughout the day, adapted to different situations. One of those songs you will be unable to get out of your head, but very useful in those situations young children do not want to be part of!

The books are aimed at children aged 3-7 years and I think they will appeal to them. There is the opportunity to listen to the song on the internet and children will enjoy this interactive experience. They will make a perfect gift for young children who are learning colours or maybe starting school.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me the books to review.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

I Love to Bake by Tana Ramsay

I Love to Bake is the ultimate guide to family baking. Tana's recipes are accessible and affordable, making it easy for everyone to create delicious bakes. There are savoury treats such as Chicken and corn pie and Tapenade-coated rack of lamb. But, of course, the book is also packed with cakes, puddings, tarts and biscuits - many of which are bursting with fresh ingredients; alongside Orange polenta cake or Mango and caramel cake is Apricot tart and Baked cheesecake with rhubarb. I Love to Bake is packed with ideas for inexpensive baking for the whole family throughout the year - from Easter to Christmas, from kids parties to family suppers.

When I hear the name Tana Ramsay, I picture a mother and a business woman who has to juggle the two halves of her life, while also coping with her husband, Gordon Ramsay! In recent years, I have seen Tana Ramsay on many TV programmes talking about issues relating to family life, and preparation of healthy, wholesome meals to feed the family. She has followed this with a number of recipe books promoting healthy, wholesome, easy food for families.

The forward to this book promises simple recipes for satisfying dinners and meals which are quick and easy to prepare. The recipes cover all areas of meals for family life: cakes; biscuits; puddings; chocolates; sweet pies and tarts; savoury pies and tarts; meat bakes; fish and vegetable bakes; bread and a final chapter on Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

In her introduction, Tana tells us that when preparing food for her family it is simple and real food, whose ingredients can be picked up on the way home from work, that do not need to be sourced from specialist retailers. The recipes in the book include some hearty meal ideas, while others are suitable for a light lunch. There are some indulgent recipes and others tempting and easy recipes. Some recipes can be adapted to what is in season. A lot of the recipes can be prepared in advance for busy mums on the run. There are recipes for every occasion. Tana also suggests involving the children in the preparation of the recipes.

There are many things I like about this book: Each recipe starts with a couple of sentences by Tana giving us a reason why it is in the book, what she likes or suggestions for alternatives. It is these introductions that I like to scan when choosing a recipe. There are clear ingredient lists at the start of each recipe and also approximate servings per recipe. The recipe is split into easy steps, written concisely and clearly.

However, there is one negative: not all recipes include full colour pictures of the end result. I do like to see what I should be aiming towards when following a recipe. This is however, only a small point as many of the recipes do include full colour photographs of the final results – there appears to be only a couple of recipes per chapter which does not include a photograph.

The photographs which do accompany the recipes are of a high standard and all the food looks very tempting and appetising. Some photographs also include children helping to make the

recipes – enforcing Tana’s belief in getting children involved.

There are a good number of recipes per section of the book and there is a varied selection of meal suggestions. The recipes will suit many budgets, with everyday, easy to source, ingredients being used throughout. There are ideas for children’s lunchboxes, picnics, light lunches and evening meals and I would think that there is something in here for any occasion.

I would recommend this book as a great addition to any kitchen book shelf and would be a great gift for a busy family wanting new ideas for their meals.

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

A Cotswold Killing by Rebecca Tope

Nestled in the fertile hills of the Cotswolds, the village of Duntisbourne Abbots is a well-kept secret: beautiful, timeless and quintessentially English. When recently widowed Thea Osborne arrives to house-sit for a local couple, her only fear is that three weeks there might prove a little dull.

I had not heard of Rebecca Tope until she had a book signing in Waterstones, Worcester last month as part of the Worcester Literary Festival. Deciding to investigate her books I visited the local Oxfam charity book shop and found this book, however please imagine my embarressment when, while paying, I found that Rebecca Tope was actually standing behind me, waiting to pay for a pile of books for herself. After Rebecca identified herself as the author we had a lovely chat about her books, the oxfam manager talked about the possibility of future author events and I left her to carry on her shopping.

I started this book as soon as I got to the school playground and devoured the first chapter while waiting for my children to come out at the end of the day. It is the first book in a series of books set in the Cotswolds, which are not too far from me and I enjoy reading books set in places i know which enable me to picture the scene more vividly- the cotswolds countryside is beautiful.

The main character of the book is Thea Osbourne, who is starting a new business of house sitting while the occupants are away on holiday etc, however the new business does not start very well as the first night house sitting leads to the body of Joel Jennison, the neighbour, being found in the grounds of the house. It is later found that the body is that of the neighbour, whos brother was also killed just ten weeks ago. Thea's brother in law is a superintendent in the police force and Thea soon finds herself becoming detective to try and understand the complicated family politics of the Jennison family.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a murder and subsequent police investigation, however it is not a gruesome read, I found myself relating it to Midsommer Murders or Rosemary and Thyme rather than Silent Witness or Reubus. A good murder mystery to loose yourself in on a sunday afternoon.

Rebecca Tope sets the scene well of village life, with lots of characters which could be found in any country village in England; the local busybody, the village shop keeper etc. I would like to visit Duntisbourne Abbots in the future to see the scene of the crime! It is a book that you could loose yourself in for an afternoon. It is not too long a book at 349 pages, great for a relaxing weekend.

I think that this book should be recommended to fans of Agatha Raisin. I will be looking out for other books in the series to see how Thea develops.

Everything Alice by Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech

Everything Alice is a truly enchanting collection of 50 craft projects to make, bake and decorate. With each of the ideas magically brought to life by crafters Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech, the projects range from the supremely simple yet highly effective fabric-covered teapot planters to the wonderfully scented candles that fill china teacups and exquisite jewellery made from tiny dolls' house teasets. Alice's fantastical adventures in Wonderland provide the inspiration for each of the 50 makes, including a hand-sewn Humpty Dumpty doorstop and Cheshire Cat hand warmers, decorative playing card bunting and a shadow puppet theatre. Whilst the projects take the 'Alice in Wonderland' tales as their starting point, they all stand alone as gorgeous items in their own right. Choose from the irresistible beaded napkin rings made in the initials of each of your guests, the lavender-scented velvet dormice and an assortment of beautifully decorated cupcakes. The ideas and instructions for the makes are interspersed with instructions for fun party games and snippets of Wonderland lore, such as How to Become a QueenA", How to Run a Caucus RaceA" and How to Play Musical ChairsA". So follow Hannah and Christine down the rabbit hole into a genuine Wonderland of adorable craft ideas.

What a fantastic and creative book! The book is overflowing with crafty ideas and projects.

There are 50 projects within the book covering a wide range of crafts, all with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

The book begins with a comprehensive list of items which should be in a craft or cookery kit and will be needed to complete the projects in the book.

Everything Alice is the sort of book which you could open at any page and find a project to try: the projects all have an Alice in Wonderland theme but the projects could be adapted to other themes. There are jewellery projects, projects to make toys, ideas to embellish parties, things for around the home, needlecraft and paper craft projects.

Projects all include photographs of the finished project as well as other photographs which help to explain technique or alternative designs. Each project starts with an ‘ingredients’ list and the technique instructions are broken down into easy, bite size steps.

There are many projects suitable for children to do – the dress-me Alice and white rabbit paper dolls, projects for children – wonderland mobiles,

There are many projects which are great ideas for gifts for family and friends: queen of hearts apron;

There are also many projects which would make the perfect tea party for a child or posh afternoon tea for ladies who lunch: vintage cake stands; Cheshire cat sandwiches; crown place cards; wonderland cookies; napkin rings to name but a few. However there are also some projects which I cannot see myself making: a fabric covered teapot being one of them.

There are lots of templates included at the back of the book which will make the projects easier to complete.

In all I would sum up by saying that this is an excellent craft book, something which any crafter would love to have on their shelf for inspiration. It would be a great book to use to plan a little girl’s bedroom (or maybe even a big girl’s) and I will definitely be trying many of the projects in the book for myself (or my daughter).

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