Challenge Participant


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sonny the Sea Tractor by Loretta D'Souza

Netty and Harry are playing hide and seek on Koob beach when Netty gets cut off by the high tide. 

This is a fun book for all ages to enjoy, with the added value of teaching children the possible dangers when playing on the beach.

I love this scrapbook style of book, where the pages have full page pictures, which look layered and have a childlike element in them. The pages all have beautiful backgrounds, with other images layered on top, the words are added last and many type fonts and font size are used, adding interest to the pages.

The story is a great one to read before a trip to the seaside, explaining about tides and the dangers involved. A simple game of hide and seek nearly ends in disaster when Netty is hiding in a castle which can be cut off at high tide, however sonny the sea tractor comes to the rescue and saves her before the tide reaches high tide.

I would recommend it to children of all ages, great book to read to children or for children who are beginning to read themselves. A great gift to a child going on their first trip to the seaside or for a book to share. Perfect for boys who love transport, with the Sea Tractor being a vehicle not included in many books.

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

The Four Little Pigs by Kimara Nye

"Transport Tom with a magic spell into this 'boring' Fairy Tale"

Tom's granny is a witch and when he tells her that the Three Little Pigs is boring Granny uses her magic to send him into the book. Now Tom must beware of the big bad wolf!

A modern day twist on The Three Little Pigs, when Tom is sat with his Granny who was about to read The Three Little Pigs, which Tom found boring. His Granny decided to add a fourth pig, and Tom got transported into the story with the aim of saving the three little pigs from the big bad wolf.

This is a great book for children who loved The Three Little Pigs, the story has the same basic storyline but with some added fun and mischief to keep the big bad wolf away from the pigs.

The book has great illustrations, full of colour, emotion and action. There is plenty to talk about in the pictures of the book. The story is funny and at times i laughed out loud while reading it.

I would recommend this book as a great book to share at story or bed time, it is a book I can see being asked for again and again.

Thank you to the publishers, Maverick Books, for sending me the book to review.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Babar's Celesteville Games An Original Laurent De Brunhoff Book

Babar's children have all grown up. He and Celeste take them to the Celesteville Games. All the best animal athletes will be there to compete. Babar's daughter Flora falls in love with a young athlete, Corriander, from the country of Mirza. They decide to marry and all of Celesteville is invited.

This new book, written by Laurent de Brunhoff (son of Jean de Bruhoff, who first bought Babar to life in 1931) coincides with the 80th anniversary of Babar.
It is a book about sportsmanship,love and diversity and is a must read in anticipation to next year 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

This book is a lovely introduction for children to the Olympic Games, with the story including the Opening Ceremony and some events. The story inlcudes many different countries taking part. 

One part of the story is a love story for Babar's daughter, Flora, and ends with a marriage. Flora marries Cory (short for Coriander) who is  Mirzi (is of Persian origin, denoting the rank of a high nobleman or Prince) and the marriage is included within the story with the beautiful gowns and decorations pictured and described.

I think this book would suit an older child (7+) because  the story is quite long, with lots of word per page, however it is a lovely story which  I am sure children will enjoy reading themselves or listening to being read to.

One thing that i love about this book is the illustrations, they remind me of the original Babar books, the simple, pencil drawings that have been brightly e.g.coloured, but coloured accurately There are some tigers within the story, and are in the illustrations, coloured as they would be in the wild. There is lots of energy conveyed within the pictures and even if children are unable to read the words of the story, they will enjoy looking through the pictures and recounting the story from the pictures alone.

The story has many  of the qualities of the original stories, however it also has a modern twist, with modern technology included within the story, i.e. mobile phones and skype, however the traditional storytelling remains as the earlier books.

I would recommend this book to children who are looking forward to the Olympic Games next year, to Babar fans of all ages or anyone who wants to share a good story with a child. As i have previously said, I think the book would appeal to older children due to the longer story, however younger children would enjoy the pictures and the story could be shortened by the story teller to keep their interest.

An excellent addition to the Babar series, and a great celebration of the 80th year anniversary of this lovely elephant.

Thank you to the publishers, Abrams and Chronicles, for sending me the book to review.

Full Moon and Star by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Ilustrated by Marcellus Hall

This is a charming picture book that introduces children to the idea of writing and performing plays. Kyle and Katie are best friends who each decide to write a play. Kyle writes a play about a full moon and Katie writes one about a star. They decide to write a play together and combine the two into 'Full Moon and Star.' The outcome is a beautiful collaboration and also a testament to their strong friendship.

This is the perfect book to introduce children, who are beginning to read aloud with their parents, to the idea of and the writing style of plays. The book is split into three acts, within which there are small scenes written by two young children. The first two acts, contain a scene written individually by each child and the third act is a scene written collaboratively by both children. The two children are good friends and there is a strong storyline about friendship and working together to produce even better work.

The story is beautifully accompanied by lovely illustrations, basic and perfectly depicting the story.

I would recommend this as a great book for young children  who are beginning to read. The language is perfect for early readers, and the print is clear and very easy to read.

Thank you to the publishers, Abrams and Chronicle for sending me the book to review.

The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas

A chance encounter: When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex, she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They've both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together? A perfect life: But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn't add up. Alex's beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so? A web of lies: Genevieve's family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he's letting on. But Sarah's fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn't have anything to hide. Or could he?

This was my second choice in the Transworld Reading Challenge and was another great read. This is the first book I have read by Louise Douglas, although she has written two books previously which I will be looking out for in the future.

Sarah, the main character, has recently given birth to her first child, unfortunately her son was stillborn. Having difficulty in coming to terms with her loss and discovering her partners betrayal with an affair with a work colleague of Sarah's, she leaves her partner and accompanies her sister and her husband to Scilly. While there, she meets Alex, a single parent to Jamie, following the disappearance of his wife, Genevieve. At the end of the holiday, Alex asks Sarah, if she will move in to his house and become his housekeeper and look after Jamie while he is at work. Sarah accepts the position but soon learns that there are many unanswered questions surrounding Genevieve's disappearance, with Alex being the main suspect with the residents in the small English village.

I found this book to be a great read, with many twists and turns throughout the story. The story follows Sarah, written in the first person, and the reader can gather evidence and clues throughout the book. The story gains pace, with more and more information coming to light. There are parts of the book when Sarah's life appears to be in danger, with Alex appearing to be hiding something, and his unwillingness to discuss the disappearance or anything to do with Genevieve. The main thing I liked about Sarah was her love for Alex and her determination to find what really happened to Genevieve, whether that be Alex's guilt or not.

There is a 'ghostly' side to the book, with Sarah believing that Genevieve is still present in the house, thinking she sees her in mirrors, in dark corners and is sure she hears her talking to her, warning her that she will be next. I do not normally like books that have reference to ghostly activity, however I enjoyed this book and found these details to add to the suspense within the story. 

The book gathers pace and ends with an enormous twist, which was never hinted out throughout the book, with the real details of Genevieve's disappearance coming to light and having huge ramifications for the extended family and relations. 

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants a book that will grip them from the start and will stay with them until they find out what really happened to Genevieve. A book filled with suspense and gripping suspicion, written to a very high standard with every word being important and to the point.

Thank you to Transworld Books for sending me the book to review.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Book Giveaway - Carver by Tom Cain Blog Tour

Tom Cain is a best selling author, and is the pseudonym of an award-winning journalist, and has twenty five years experience working for Fleet Street Newspapers. He has released four books in the Samual Carver series (The Accident Man, The Survivor, Assasin and Dictator) and is now back with the fifth in the popular series Carver. I will be reviewing this book on my blog soon but until then, here is the synopsis: 

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 sent shockwaves around the financial world. Never before had such a large and prestigious organisation been allowed to fail, and to fail so quickly. It began a domino effect, hitting banks and economies around the world. Theories abound as to the cause of the collapse - the sub-prime bubble, bad management, even good old fashioned greed.
But what if it was none of the above. What if Lehman Brothers had been brought to its knees by the deliberate and wilful act of one man bent on a course of financial terrorism? Moreover, what if it was only a dry run for a bigger and even bolder attack on the financial capital of the world, the City of London?
Samuel Carver is about to find himself on the biggest mission of his life.

I have been given three signed copies of Carver by Tom Cain to giveaway on my blog this week.

To be in with the chance of winning a copy:

  1. become a follower of my blog and comment on this post only (1 entry)
  2. tweet about the competition (1 entry) (please include me in the tweet @sbroadhurst) and add a link to the comment below.
This is a UK only Giveaway, sorry for international followers of my blog.

Winners will be drawn at 6pm on Sunday 4th September 2011 and the books will be posted out by the publisher.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Will you still love me tomorrow by Claudia Carroll

Absence makes the heart grow fonder!doesn't it? What happens when two people decide to give themselves the year off!from each other? Annie and Dan were the perfect couple. But now the not-so-newly weds feel more like flatmates than soul mates and wonder where all the fun and fireworks went ! When Annie lands her big break in a smash-hit show that's heading for the bright lights of Broadway, she's over the moon. Goodbye remote Irish village of Stickens, hello fabulous Big Apple! But with their relationship already on the rocks, how will Annie and Dan survive the distance? They're hitting the pause button on their marriage. One year off from each other -- no strings attached, except a date to meet in twelve months at the Rockefeller Centre to decide their fate. Will they both turn up? Or is it too late for love? Lose yourself in a fabulously entertaining and poignant love story -- perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes.

This book was basically about if a marriage could last while the man, Dan, continued to live in the family home, running the veterinary surgery and continuing his hectic life while his wife, Annie, jets off to New York to be a part of a show that is set to take Broadway by storm! 

Although the main story is about Annie and Dan there are also other characters who play a big part in the story. Dan's mother is very needy, dependant on others (mainly Annie) and thinks that Annie is letting Dan down by moving to New York. Dan's sister, Jules, is Annie's ally, knowing how difficult it is to be at the beck and call of her mother. There are also Annie's cast members who all move to New York for the year: lead lady Liz, who's changing behaviour is cause for concern; Blythe, the oldest member of the cast;Chris, a married mother of one who has to cope with separation from her child and husband; Alex, the youngest member of the cast; and Jack, the suave and gorgeous producer. Each cast member have their own difficulties throughout the season, some more than others.

I enjoyed this book. I have read one other book by Claudia Carroll, Personally I blame my fairy godmother, which I found to be slow in places. However, I thought that this book was of quicker pace and I was liking the characters. At the start of the book, Annie was not enjoying her life, dreaming of what she used to have, and when she received the phone call for the audition, she found new energy and I found the journey she went on very encouraging. I also thought that Dan was very career driven and this can be true of people in modern day society. It was good to see the progression in their relationship and their returning to meet where Dan originally proposed, very romantic.  I  only had one 'problem' with the book, the continual use of the phrase "Anyroadup", not a phrase I am aware of but it seemed strange to see it littering the story. There was a wide range of emotions while reading the book; times of laughter, times of wanting to shake a character and telling them to get a grip and times when you wanted to cry along with the character. It gives the reader a look behind the scenes of a west end or Broadway stage show.

I love the cover of the book too, it is one that will definitely jump out at you on a bookshelf. A modern cover for a modern chick lit book!

This book was a great book to loose yourself in for an afternoon, a believable story where you hope everyone will live happily ever after but to find out if that is true, you need to read the book yourself!

A great summer read or to curl up with on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Thank you to the publishers, Avon, for sending me a copy to review.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Natalie's Winter Wonderland (Bluebell Woods) by Liss Norton

Welcome to the secret world of Bluebell Woods, home to a delightful cast of woodland friends. Natalie normally has to hibernate each winter, but this year, she's determined to stay awake long enough to have fun with her friends. She is desperate to go sledging and join in with the annual snow-animal building competition. Then she learns from her grandma that once, many years ago, she stayed up all winter - can Natalie persuade her parents to let her go out with her friends when the snow begins to fall?

This is the fourth book in the Bluebell Woods series and I have previously reviewed the third book, Evie's Secret Hideaway and loved it. The series reminds me of Brambly Hedge.

Natalie's Winter Wonderland is just as good as Evie's Secret Hideaway. In this book, the main character is Natalie, a hedgehog who's whole family hibernate during the Winter month, however Natalie wants to delay hibernation to enable her to see snow and take part in the annual snow-animal building competition.

The book introduces children to the idea of hibernation and also to seasons. It is a lovely book to share with children, with nice short chapters that are perfect for reading one before bedtime, but is also at the right level for children to develop their reading skills and begin to read on their own.

The best thing that I love about this range of books is the front cover. The cover page is of Natalie skating but I love the windows you look through. The front cover opens out to be a series of windows, which layer up and create a scene. It looks gorgeous and I think they stand out on book shelves. 

I am already looking forward to the next in the Bluebell Wood series to see which animal we are being introduced to next in the wood.

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

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

Vintage Patisserie is a vintage hosting company offering bespoke tea parties from a bygone era, delivering everything from music, makeovers and - of course - a customised menu of tea party treats that elevate any function into a swanky soiree. "The Vintage Tea Party Book" embraces the style and class of the trendy London Vintage scene and illustrates how to beautifully recreate the tasty treats and classic styles at home. With a unique mixture of recipes and feature spreads with accessible tips on hairstyling, makeup methods and where to collect vintage china - "The Vintage Tea Party Book" has it all.

This is not just a recipe book, it is the complete package. How to host a real vintage tea party. The book begins with a section looking at the author's inspiration and her fascination with all things vintage. There are also suggestions for the venue and the invitation. There are suggestions for sourcing props, but also how to give the right atmosphere and how to tie the perfect headscarf. Although this shection is only short, the suggestions are very useful, with Angel Adoree's attention to detail making it possible to host the perfect vintage tea party yourself.

The remainder of the book is split into four sections; the first three giving ideas for three specific tea parties: brunch; afternoon and evening and the fourth section is about style. 

The three sections which give ideas for specific tea parties are not only full of recipes but also give suggestions for how to make aprons, hat decorations and decorations; including butterflies, bird mobiles and traditional flags.

The final section is all about vintage style and covers the perfect vintage dress, hair style and make up. How to become the perfect vintage lady and gentleman!

The book is full of beautiful photographs, all using vintage crockery and glassware to give the authentic presentation. There are also pencil sketches and orginal artwork included within the book. The book is lovely to look through and includes lots of original vintage tea sets and presentation ideas, together with the vintage style. The book would be perfect for a nostalgic walk down memory lane.

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

Queen of Crafts - The Modern Girls' Guide to Knitting, Sewing, Quilting, Baking, Preserving and Kitchen Gardening by Jazz Domino Holly

Feeling the itch to stitch and the urge to preserve? Well then, get your craft on with crafter-about-town Jazz Domino Holly. As the daughter of rock-royalty and founder of the Shoreditch Sisters Women's Institute, Jazz is the perfect guide. Have fun and impress your friends and family with your crafting skills as you learn how to: unravel the mystery of knits and purls and whip up a Girlie Bow Headband; fix your stitches and sew a string of Heart-Felt Bunting; feel the heat in the kitchen and bake a batch of Queen of Crafts Jam Tarts; preserve tradition and fill your empty jars with delicious Oh My Darling Clementine Marmalade; get green-fingered and plant a Herbal Tea Garden; become your own beauty expert and mix up a pot of Get Lippy Lip Balm. Jazz will show you how to make all these things and many, many more. 

In recent years, handicrafts such as knitting, crochet, stitching and the art of making gifts to give have had a huge revival. Updating clothes with added embellishments and customising shop bought products are becoming more popular and this book celebrates all of these ideas.

There are three main sections to this book: handcraft, which include woolcraft, stitchcraft and patchwork; kitchencraft, which includes baking, preserving and kitchen gardening; and homecraft, diy beauty, make do and mend and gatherings.

Alot of these crafts are crafts which have been passed down through the generations. My nan taught me how to knit, and my mum taught me how to crochet and cross stitch and I am trying to teach my daughter to stitch. These crafts can be used in many ways to customize outfits and in this modern world are useful techniques to have, to mark your own individuality and style.

I would say that this book gives a good introduction to knitting, it has a guide to the tools and equipment needed and how to knit and purl. There are also basic patterns for knitting scarves, headbands, snoods and blankets. There are also instructions for making tassles and pompoms which can be used to embellish items.

The needlecraft section includes a list of what should be included in a needlework toolkit, a glossary of basic stitches and basic techniques such as seams etc.There are patterns to make a pincushion and needle book. Machine stitching is also covered, with patterns including laptop cases, knitting and stitching bags, making yo-yos.

Patchwork covers both hand stitching and machine stitching and concentrates on cushion covers and quilts.

I enjoyed reading through the handcraft sections and learnt lots, however I believe that this book only gives an insight into the crafts and that complete beginners may need further instruction to become accomplished in the crafts. 

The kitchencraft section covers baking, preserving and kitchen gardening. There are recipes for quirky baking - making basic sponge cakes and decorating them using icing etc. The preserving section looks making jams and chutneys. The kitchen gardening covers growing your own herbs but also using them in things like scented bags. Flower arranging also has a quick mention.

The final section, Homecraft, looks at diy beauty tips, going back to store room and natural products to make your own skincare products. There is also a section on make do and mend, mending and customising items you already own; sewing on buttons, mending torn clothing and making your own items from fabric  you may already own and junk box jewellery.

I found really useful tips throughout the whole book, the little tricks and hints that are passed down the generations - e.g. the saucer test for testing jam for setting point. 

Throughout the book, there are lists of the basic equipment and tools needed to begin the craft - giving details about different equipment available on the market and what to look for when purchasing equipment. There are many photographs and hand drawn diagrams which accompany the text, showing stitch details and also finished projects to give an idea of what you are working towards.

The book would make a perfect gift for teenagers who enjoy being creative, there are ideas for parties to share ideas and making creative projects. It is a great book to give an introduction to many different handicrafts, but I think that it should be used alongside other books which go into the techniques and crafts in depth. The book is very inspirational, very girly and the cbright colours, wacky page layouts and very modern project ideas will appeal to teenagers and young women alike. 

Thank you to the publishers, Penguin, Fig Tree, for sending me the book to review.

What you don't know by Lizzie Enfield

You've been together for fifteen years. You've got two gorgeous kids and a great career. All the boxes are ticked. You wouldn't be tempted by a plain, slightly balding man called Graham...Would you? When Graham Parks walks into Helen Collins' life, the last thing she expects is to fall for him. He's nothing like her handsome, successful husband, Alex. But fifteen years is a long time and Helen can't help wondering what it would be like to sleep with someone else. Has Alex secretly been thinking the same thing? As harmless flirtation develops into something far more complicated, Helen's perfect world begins to look shaky. It's exciting, alluring, all-consuming. But is it worth the risk?

A great summer read, full of humour, tales of woe and love. 

Helen is a part time journalist, working on a newspaper, while also caring for her two children and husband, an actor who works on a top television programme. Helen is sent to interview a new author, Graham Parks, who has an instant connection with her. What follows is a period of confusion for Helen, torn between the attraction of some male attention and that of family life, where Alex, her husband, is away half of the week working, and when at home, appears distant and impatient to return to set.

I found Lizzie Enfield's writing style to be very easy to read, and therefore devoured the book quickly. It was easy to pick up and put down, snatching minutes here and there to read. 

I found the characters easy to identify with and thought Helen's circle of friends to be identifiable in the world today, with close friends having children the same age, being people who know each other well, sharing childcare and helping each other out where necessary. Their dilemas were also current, and are probably faced by many others today.

The book was a great read, and I liked the secret about Venetia, and proves you should not always think the worst of people. I thought that the book tied up the story of Helen, Alex and Graham well, however I would like to have known what happened to Katie.

I would recommend this to lovers of chick lit and anyone wanting a great beach read.

Thank you to the publishers, Headline, for sending me the book to review.

Sapphire Battersea by Jacqueline Wilson

This is a fascinating, funny and moving Victorian-era novel featuring Hetty Feather. Hetty Feather is a Foundling Hospital girl and was given her name when she was left there as a baby by her mother. But she always longed to be called Sapphire, after her sapphire-blue eyes. When she is reunited with her mother, she hopes her new name, Sapphire Battersea, will also mean a new life! But life doesn't always go as planned...Follow the twists and turns of Hetty's adventure as she goes out to work as a maid for a wealthy man. She longs to be reunited with her childhood sweetheart Jem - but also finds a new sweetheart, Bertie the butcher's boy, who whisks her away from her household chores to experience the delights of the funfair! But Hetty's life may also take a darker path. Can she cope with the trials ahead?

This is the second book about Hetty Feather, a girl who grew up in a Foundling Hospital, after being left there by her mother. It follows on from the first book, Hetty Feather, and as announced at the end of Sapphire Battersea, will be followed by the last book in the trilogy soon. 

I had not read Hetty Feather but was able to pick up the story very quickly,with the first chapter acting as a quick catch up for readers. 

This book starts with Hetty Feather, aged fourteen, and ready to leave the Foundling Hospital and enter the big wide world of work. She has been found a job as a servant in the house of Mr Charles Buchanan, where she would help his present staff, Mrs Briskett the cook and Sarah, the parlourmaid, to run the house. Mr Buchanan is a writer and Hetty is very interested in his work and hopes he can help her with her 'memoirs'.

The story is set in Victorian England, where most houses had staff and there was a real hierarchy within the town. The book, along with Hetty Feather, would make a great resource for teachers when looking at Victorian England and the lives of children around that time, in workhouses along with the Foundling Hospital. The author, Jacqueline Wilson, has talked about her fascination with this era, and it comes through in this book. There has been much research done before this book was written and the details in the book are superb.

I enjoyed the book but found some of the story to be unsuitable for younger children. Sarah, the parlourmaid, visits a spiritualist-medium and is 'visited' by her dead mother. I thought that this subject was sensitively discussed within the book and gave a brief overview, before Hetty discovered the truth about the spiritualist being a fake. There was also a visit to 'Mr Clarenddon's Seaside Curiousities' where Hetty began to work, and uncovered the secrets. Because of these two subjects, I would recommend this book to be suitable for children over the age of 10 years.

Although there are dark subjects covered within the book, there are also many happy times throughout the book. Hetty remains in constant contact with her mother, and enjoys writing letters to her, sharing her good news and achievements with her. Hetty is a very head strong young lady, knows what she wants and does all she can to achieve them. Throughout the book, Hetty comes up against many people who look at her and think she is a young, weak girl who will not be able to maintain the high standards of her employer and his staff, however she does and also manages to gain further work in rewriting her employers manuscript, earning her postage stamps to enable her to keep in regular contact with her mother. There is also her relationship with Bertie, the butchers lad, who develops an instant soft spot for Hetty as soon as he sets eyes on Hetty, taking her out on her Sunday afternoon free time, showing her parts of London, and it is during this time that Hetty is able to be a young girl again, playing in parks and splashing in water. I think this is a positive role model for young girls, showing them that they can do things they want if they try. 

I would recommend this book to fans of Jacqueline Wilson, although due to some of the subject matter, parents should be prepared for questions. It will be one of those books that are talked about in the playground and classrooms across the country very soon.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run Forum and the publishers, Doubleday, for sending me the book to review.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Sabrina Fludde by Pauline Fisk

When Abren becomes conscious of her surroundings, she is struggling to get out of the flooded river Severn with her only possession, a beautifully embroidered cloth, clutched in her arms. What is she doing in the water, who is she, where can she go? And so begins the unfolding of a story, that snakes and turns like the river itself, surprising the reader on every level. A wonderful magical fantasy of a story that follows the journey of a girl's life over many centuries and across huge terrain. Pauline Fisk is a marvellous storyteller whose canvas is huge and whose delving into mythology makes for astounding reading. Praise for Sabrina Fludde: 'Ancient and modern worlds are cleverly entwined in a multi-layered novel packed with big writing and even bigger ideas' Guardian 'A magical, dreamy fantasy that takes hold if you and, like the river, carries you along in its powerful current' Financial Times (Pick of the Month)

This book is set around the River Severn, which is local to me and when I was approached to review this I was interested to read it. The story is based in a town called Pengwern which is loosely based on the historic town of Shrewsbury.

The story begins with a body being carried along the river, and this is where the mystery begins. The body is that of a young girl, who appears to be dead, but as she nears the castle, she begins to struggle and the river lands her on a small beach. The girl appears to have no recollection of who she is, where she came from, where she calls home, or any of her own history and takes the life of a runaway, sleeping rough and hiding in the town's shadows. She befriends another mysterious boy, Phase II who has a home under a bridge, where he looks after an old lady, Old Sabrina. 

The story is full of mystery and as I read through the book I began to have my own thoughts as to who the young girl, Abren, really was and also that of Old Sabrina. I enjoyed the historical and mythical parts of the book and I found the authors writing style to be enjoyable to read, with much history being included within the book, however I found it much more enjoyable that much historical fiction which I have read in the past. It is obvious that the author must have undertaken lots of research into the river and the area before writing this book and this adds to the enjoyment of the book, being local to where I live and have visited. 

I notice that this book is the first in a trilogy and I will be seeking out the other two books to read in the future.  

Thank you to the author and the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending me the book to review.

Friday, 19 August 2011

DK Look Inside Volcano (3D Pop up eruption)

Exciting new "Look Inside" series to encourage and inspire young readers. "Look Inside Volcano" gives you an exciting new look at the earth's eruptions and explosions. It explains everything from what volcanoes are, how they form, and what happens during an eruption. It also introduces the different types of volcano and famous volcanoes from around the world. It's packed with photos, bold graphics and information, as well as pop-ups and lift flaps that allow you to journey into the centre of the Earth. You'll even see dramatic before and after images of real-life explosions. "Look Inside Volcano" is full of amazing explosive stuff - handle with care!

This book is only 18 pages long however it is jam packed with information, facts and data about volcanoes. There are flaps to lift, quizzes to answer and lots of photographs and diagrams filling the book. The centre pages include a big 3d volcano model.

The book is perfect for children, with lots of photographs and diagrams on each page, with useful narrative encased in bright boxes, drawing the eye to important information. There is interest on each page, with flaps to lift, hidden facts to find under tabs and pictures to study. The language is perfect for children aged 7+.

There is plenty of information included to aid school projects or to gather a basic understanding of volcanoes. The book would be a good starter and the information could be used to identify further reading opportunities elsewhere.

I would recommend this book as a perfect addition to a school or classroom library or as a gift for a child interested in the world around us.

I received this book from the DK Club

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Language of Flowers - Book Giveaway Winners

Thank you to all who entered my competition for two copies of The Language of Flowers. The entries were:

  1. Lovely Treez
  2. Lisa
  3. Tina Colada
and the winners, as generated by were:

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-08-17 06:44:10 UTC

Congratulations to Lovely Treez and Lisa, please email me at with your postal address and I will pass your details onto the publisher, who will send you the book directly. Thank you for entering and sorry to Tina for not winning this time. I hope to run more giveaways on my blog soon.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Help Postman Pat celebrate his 30th Birthday in style!

Postman Pat is 30 on 16th September 2011 and 'Character Options' would love to help Postman Pat celebrate in style. They are asking for children to send Pat a birthday card. In return, children who send in a birthday card will receive a reply from Postman Pat (via email).

'Everyone's favourite postman is celebrating his 30th year this month and to mark this momentous occasion, fans will be able to send in their birthday cards and drawings for Pat to read.

As a thank you, Postman Pat will then respond* to each of his letters and cards throughout September, giving children the chance to receive a personal message from their favourite character.

For over 30 years, Postman Pat and his black and white cat Jess have been delighting children around the world and has become one of the most-loved pre-school characters ever created. Following on from the hugely successful series, children can now create their own adventures at home with the exciting toy range from Character Options.

Please send all cards and drawings to the following address:

Postman Pat
Evolution PR
The Abbey Centre
NN11 4XG

Please note: All responses will be made via email. To receive an email reply from Postman Pat, a valid email address and the child's name must be included.

The above information has been taken from a press release sent by Evolution PR.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Knits to Give: 30 Knitted Gift Ideas by Debbie Bliss

Nothing warms the heart more than a handmade gift. The thoughtful consideration and time poured into a hand knit is guaranteed to make the recipient feel cherished. Knits to Give is a collection of 30 gift ideas from top knitwear designer Debbie Bliss. Divided into five sections - For Her, For Him, For Baby, For Kids, For the Home - Knits to Give contains the solution to numerous tricky gift-giving problems. Each project is designed to give maximum joy with the minimum of fuss; some are quick, entry-level projects that suit the beginner knitter, yet still result in an individual and enticing personal gift. Whether it is a heart motif cushion given to celebrate moving into a new home or to demonstrate one's love on Valentine's Day, all the projects in Knits to Give are a joy to make, give and receive.

Another inspirational book by Debbie Bliss. Filled with 30 gift ideas which have been split into five sections: gifts for her; gifts for him; gifts for baby; gifts for kids; and gifts for the home. There are quick, simple ideas as well as some which may take longer to stitch.

This book would make a lovely gift for an accomplished knitter or one to buy to add your own library of patterns. It does not include any basic knitting techniques or guidance and therefore I would not recommend it as a beginners book.

As with all of Debbie's books, the patterns are laid out well, with  clear 'ingredient' lists, suggested tension, special abbreviations noted and explained and the technique clearly laid out in step by step steps. There are added graphs for any patterned designs and making up instructions included. Each gift idea has at least one photograph of the finished item, some have two.

The gift ideas vary from the useful, e.g. fingerless gloves, baby jackets and socks; to the fancy, e.g. baby shawls. lacy shawls and modern teapot covers to the quirky, e.g.pot of pansies, ladybird backpacks, and i pad covers.

The book does include a page on suggested gift wrapping ideas, which I think is very helpful. It suggests the obvious things, such as using bought gift boxes or bags but also things which make that extra bit special - remembers to add extra buttons in case one gets lost or adding laundry instructions, you don't want all your hard work ruined by the recipient adding it to the usual weekly wash!

This is a great book to add to any knitter's library and I am sure the patterns included will be used many times by avid knitters to make the perfect, yet unique gift for family and friends.

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

Love Music, Love Food: The Rock Star Cookbook by Patrice de Villiers

This collection of portraits has been created in the name of Teenage Cancer Trust and predominantly features those artists who have supported the charity over the years, whether taking part in the annual Royal Albert Hall shows, visiting wards, donating a multitude of gifts from signed amps to signed sunglasses or getting involved in projects such as Love Music Love Food. Artists new to the charity have become involved with the project and their relationship with Teenage Cancer Trust started here at Love Music Love Food. It's a great testament to Teenage Cancer Trust that these artists feel passionately about supporting the charity to the point that they'll be smothered in Marmite, have their knees nibbled by sheep, cuddle chickens or get pelted with Dayglo cupcakes to help make a difference. We salute and thank you for being a part of this project. Dig in to the food that makes the stars shine - starring Brett Anderson, Johnny Borrell, Buzzcocks, Biffy Clyro, Roger Daltrey CBE, Brandon Flowers, Noel Gallagher, Ellie Goulding, Professor Green, Mick Hucknall, Kelly Jones, Alex Kapranos, Kasabian, Juliette Lewis, Madness, Mani, Brian May, Paul Oakenfold, Sir Cliff Richard, Francis Rossi OBE, Siouxsie Sioux, Sugababes, Tinie Tempah, Bullet For My Valentine, White Lies, We Are Scientists, Paul Weller, Rob Zombie & many more.

This is a beautiful coffee table book, full of interviews with stunning photographs and interviews of musicians, along with recipes which have been personalised for each major artist included within the book. The book has been compiled in support of The Teenage Cancer Trust.

This book is beautiful in many ways: it is a beautiful book to flick through and look only at the photographs. Photographs are by Patrice de Villiers who has taken photographs of over 60 musicians with their favorite foods. I love the photograph of Noel Gallagher with his Yorkshire Tea and also Brian May with Grapefruits. It is also a great book to pop in and out of for the interviews by Andrew Harrison which are all concerned with food - childhood favorites along with childhood memories of food their parents and grandparents made for them. Each musician also has a recipe by Sarah Muir which includes their favorite ingredient or is a twist on their favorite meal. There are some further stunning photographs of some of the food. 

I would recommend this as a perfect coffee table book, a book to be picked up and dipped into whenever. It would make a perfect gift for a music and food fan. A great book which supports a brilliant charity. There is a broad selection of musicians included; both modern and classic music stars.

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

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

It is 1947, and Evie and Martin Mitchell have just arrived in the Indian village of Masoorla with their five-year-old son. But cracks soon appear in their marriage as Evie struggles to adapt to her new life, and Martin fails to bury unbearable wartime memories. When Evie finds a collection of letters, concealed deep in the brickwork of their rented bungalow, so begins an investigation that consumes her, allowing her to escape to another world, a hundred years earlier, and to the extraordinary friendship of two very different young women. And as Evie's fascination with her Victorian discoveries deepens, she unearths powerful secrets. But at what cost to her present, already fragile existence?

I have received this book as my first choice in the Transworld Book Club Reading Challenge.

There are two parts to this book; the first being the story of Evie, Martin and Billy Mitchell,1947 -,, who have moved to India with Martin's university work; and that of Felicity and Adela, 1844 -, two friends who lived in England and were sent to India to find a husband. The two stories become intertwined when Evie discovers some letters in their new home, hidden in the kitchen, between Felicity and Adela, and Evie begins to discover more and more about their life one hundred years previous as she discovers more diaries and letters around her home. 

I initially found it difficult to get into the book but by the time I was a quarter of the way into the book I was hooked and hardly moved over the weekend while I devoured the remainder. I found it very interesting as a look at Indian history with much of the story recalling both daily life in India and also the time of partition.  It also has alot about peoples perspectives and how mixed race relationships and unmarried mothers are perceived throughout the world in both India and England.

The writing style is excellent, with the story being told in the first person, from Evie's perspective, along with extracts from letters and diaries between Adela and Felicity, as well as third person when writing about Adela and Felicity's story. The author must have done loads of research when writing this book, there is so much fact and when the story reaches the Indian village and describes the bazaar, I could almost smell the air, it was so descriptive.
The two stories are both interesting and how Elle Newmark has intertwined them throughout the book is beautiful. There is a natural progression through the book and the ending is both beautiful and satisfying.

I was saddened to hear the Elle Newmark, the author, died in July 2011, after a long illness. The writing world has lost a great author. I am off to find her first book now.

Thank you to Transworld for sending me this book to review as part of the Transworld Book Club Reading Challenge.