Challenge Participant


Monday, 28 November 2011

Ciara Geraghty Book Giveaway

Finding Mr. Flood        Becoming Scarlett         Saving Grace

Ciara Geraghty is an Irish author who has written and had published, three books: Saving Grace, Becoming Scarlett and Finding Mr Flood. The lovely people at Hodder have asked me to host a competition for one blog follower to win a set of Geraghty's books. 

To be entered into the competition for a copy of this book:

  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 Thursday 1st December and the books will be posted out by the publisher.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Breakfast at Darcy's Book Winners!!!

Thank you for all the entries into the competition to celebrate Breakfast at Darcy's by Ali McNamara publication on Thursday. The winners are:

Sharon Goodwin
Lou Graham
Michelle Easters 

Please could you email me on or via DM @sbroadhurst on twitter your full postal address and I will forward them onto the publishers to enable them to send the book directly to you.

Thank you again for entering and I have another competition starting tomorrow!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Meerkat Mischief by Lottie Stride

Meerkat Mischief

Enter a world of meerkat madness with this awesome animal activity book, packed with puzzles, quizzes, games and cool things to do. Full of cute and funny illustrations of meerkats making mischief on every page, it's guaranteed to provide hours of fun for fans of these crazy critters. Kids can make a pop-up meerkat greetings card, find their way through madcap mazes, burrow through brilliant board games, discover marvellous meerkat facts, make moreish meerkat biscuits and much more.

As i have previous said on this blog, Meerkats are everywhere! I have recently reviewed Where's the Meerkat from Michael O' Mara Books and this puzzle book is from the same publishers.

Meerkat Mischief is full of puzzles which will keep children occupied for ages. There are pictures to be coloured, dot to dots, mazes to follow, pages to add your own doodles, instructions on how to draw your own meerkat to name but a few, along with some short stories about the meerkats family. 

The Meerkat family are introduced at the start of the book, all 15 members. They are beautifully drawn and pop up throughout the book in all the puzzles. 

The book would be suitable for children to enjoy - probably age 7+, although younger children will be able to do some of the puzzles or with added adult support. A great gift to get stuck into over the Christmas period.

Thank you to Michael O Mara Books for sending me the book to review.

Friday, 25 November 2011

You've Got Talent by Andrea Mills (DK Books)

You've Got Talent

Strutt your way to becoming the next big thing. If you want to see your name in lights someday, then "You've Got Talent" is the perfect all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting guide to the performing arts. With its mirror cover to reflect your inner superstar, this is a great for all you drama kings and queens, singing stars, and dancing divas. There are loads of top tips, step-by-steps, encouraging advice, and activities to help you become the next big thing.

I expect I am not the only parent who has an all singing, all dancing child who would love to go to stage school and be the next Katie Perry, Beyonce etc. This book is the perfect gift for them - it covers Music, Dance and Drama ideas.

The book is split into three sections: Music, Dance and Drama and the book is similar to a scrapbook, with lots of ideas and thoughts dotted on pages, together with pages about the history of music etc and the components within that section. 
For example, the music section has the history of music from 50,000 BC right through to the current day; the many genre's of music; the instruments that make the music styles;  techniques on how to warm up, breathe during, stand correctly while and sing scales while singing; how music technology has changed throughout the years; the highlights in modern music; the one hit wonders; how to write your own songs; music revivals; karaoke; how to be a rock star; simple lesson in how to play a guitar. 
In the dance section there are instructions to a simple dance routine and in the drama section, a quick guide to create make up disguises.

The book is perfect to dip in and out of and where ever you pick to read, there are interesting and useful information to read. It will be perfect for those who want to become famous when they grow up - to increase their knowledge and feed their appetite for stardom!

The book not only encourages children to get into the industry but also stresses that it is hard work and there will be many knockbacks or 'thank you, but no thank you'. The main message is that you should enjoy what you are doing and to do the best you can. 

The front cover is a mirror and although children may think it fun and exciting, I would of preferred a different cover, there is so much good advice and information contained in the book that a more serious cover design would promote it more - representing its contents realistically.

This is a DK book - and as with all DK books it is full of fantastic, clear and useful information which can be used throughout life to interest children and encourage their interests and studies.

I would recommend this book as the perfect book choice for anyone who loves to dance, sing or perform.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine program.

Horrid Henry's A-Z of Everything Horrid by Francesca Simon

Horrid Henry's A-Z of Everything Horrid - Horrid Henry

A is for APRIL FOOLS' DAY, Horrid Henry's favourite day of the year (except his birthday, of course.) B is for BOGEY BABYSITTER, Rabid Rebecca, the toughest teen in town. C is for CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, Father Christmas had better get it right this year! From the Purple Hand to pink frilly knickers; supersoakers to Sour Susan; football fiends to fizzywhiz drinks; demon dinner ladies to Dungeon Drinks - this book has it all and more. An encyclopedia of absolutely EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about Horrid Henry.

Horrid Henry is a huge hit in our house and when my son was in hospital recently I knew I had to take at least one Horrid Henry book with us to pass the time. This was the book I too. It is one of the larger books, hardback and packed full with great pictures by Tony Ross alongside Francesca Simon's humorous writing.

This book is an A-z of everything horrid according to Horrid Henry - but really it is an A-Z of Henry's world. It includes lots from the back catalogue of books and includes all the favorite characters: Horrid Henry, Perfect Peter, The Purple Hand Gang, moody Margaret and Sour Susan to name but a few. The book is like going down memory lane and it was a great book to remind us of all Henry's adventures and exploits.

I would recommend this book as a great gift for Horrid Henry fans this Christmas or for someone who is just getting in to Horrid Henry. There is lots to read and plenty of illustrations to laugh about.

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

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Breakfast at Darcy's Blog Tour

Today, I am proud to welcome Ali McNamara to my blog as part of the Breakfast at Darcy's blog tour. Ali joins me to talk about her second novel:

Breakfast At Darcy's

Breakfast at Darcy’s is about a girl called Darcy who finds out at a funeral she’s the sole beneficiary of her Aunt’s wealthy estate. But the terms of her Aunt’s will state before Darcy can inherit any of her money she must go and live on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland for a whole year, and set up a new community of people to live there with her.
City girl, Darcy doesn’t find the switch from high-heeled boots to wellington boots an easy one, or for that matter any of the other many changes that the island of Tara has in store for her…

‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’, like my first novel, ‘From Notting Hill with Love…Actually’ features a heroine searching for a new direction in her life, but until she is forced to move to a different area she doesn't quite know where that change is going to come from. But that’s where the similarity between the two books ends.

This time instead of using films as a theme, I've taken the Celtic setting of the fictional island of Tara and interweaved some magic and mysticism into the story. With it’s many tales of legends and mythology Ireland is a fantastic place to set a novel, and I hope this, along with my usual mix of humour and romance makes ‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’ a fun story that my readers will enjoy!

Thank you for joining me today Ali and I will be reviewing Breakfast at Darcy's soon on my blog.

Breakfast at Darcy's is out today!!

Competition - Breakfast at Darcy's by Ali McNamara

Today I have welcomed Ali McNamara to my blog as part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of her second novel. The lovely people at Sphere have given me five copies of the book to giveaway on my blog.

Breakfast At Darcy's

To be entered into the competition for a copy of this book:
  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 27 November 2011 and the books will be posted out by the publisher.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

The Secret of Happy Ever After

When story-lover Anna takes over Longhampton's bookshop, it's her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her three rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive Dalmatian. Unpacking boxes filled with childhood classics, Anna can't shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn't all that she'd hoped for. But, as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens, lost dogs, wicked witches and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too. Even Anna's best friend Michelle - who categorically doesn't believe in true love and handsome princes - isn't immune. But when secrets from Michelle's own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna's home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends - and those they love - find their own happy ever afters?

I am a great fan of Lucy Dillon, have loved her previous books and have been waiting for her new release for ages............... and I was not disappointed!

Dillon again takes us back to Longhampton but this time we meet Michelle, a single lady who has recently left her overpowering husband and moved to Longhampton where she buys the old fishmonger's and sets up her new shop 'Home Sweet Home'. Very early in her new life in the village, she meets Anna - a librarian who has recently lost her job due to budget cuts, married and step mother to three girls, who spend most of their time with their mother and visit their father and Anna regularly - they also have a dalmatian called Pongo.

There are many themes covered within the book: Michelle is rebuilding her life, developing her independence, enjoying being accountable to no one, and building her own business, expanding it when the oppurtunity arises and working out what she wants in life - especially her personal life. Anna is also a very interesting character - a stepmother to three girls, who she cares for, however when they come to live with her and her husband (their father) on a more permanent basis, Anna finds this difficult and is unsure on her stepmother boundaries. It was, however, nice to see how Anna's feelings towards the firsts develops throuhgout the book, something which must be very complicated to work through but also, as Anna finds, very rewarding. Anna also has to cope with her want for a baby - something her husband promised when they married but has now changed his mind, Anna finds this very difficult to deal with.

I found myself emphasising with Anna. Like Anna Iwas bought up with books and I have done teh same with my two children, I am often left wondering why adult do not share books with their children at a young age or read bedtime stories to them. I would love to have a job like Anna's,. where it is possible to recommend books, talk about books and meet authors etc at regualr meetings. I have a waterstones and whsmiths in Worcester to buy books from - these stores are inpersonal, and although there are two dedicated charity book shops, neiither of them are welcoming and informative as the book shop Anna magages for Michelle. I really think a shop like hers in every town would definitely increase the love of reading again - I want to visit Longhampton! Anna is very patient about books and tries to spread the love to everyone she meets - some more successfully than others.

Michelle is another strong woman - however there are secrets from her past that aren't revealled until the end of the book. I found her relationship with Rory lovely, it started off very frostily but Rory slowly gained her trust and proved he cared for her. I was intrigued by Michelle - she was very headstrong and had a strong business mind, which she was determined to use to get the best out of business space. 

The book is a lovely story, one which is perfect for a cold winter evening to loose yourself in. As with Dillon's previous books, there are dogs included within the story. They do not take over the book at all, Tavis is a big part of RRory and Michelle's story and Pongo is someone who Anna can leave the house with, to get away from the family difficulties. The story is chicklit but not  mushy love stories, it is real life stories told in a very clever way - a book which will give hope to women who have strong views about what they want to do with their lives but also reminds us to consider others views and accept the support they offer.

This is a great book and I recommend it all - if you haven't tried one of Lucy Dillon's books before, make this one your first, you won't be disappointed.

Christmas Miniatures (Australian Women's Weekly)

Christmas Miniatures - Australian Women's Weekly Mini

Finally, a book that contains all the little things we like to eat at Christmas - the nibbles, after-dinner treats, tiny tarts and edible Christmas gifts that make the holiday season such fun. Make this Christmas one your friends and family will never forget by creating little Christmas hors d'oeuvres, mini mince pies, individual Christmas puddings, chocolate-dipped fruit and goodies you can hang from the tree. Nothing spells love quite like receiving handmade - and homebaked - presents, so whip up a batch of Christmas Miniatures this year and share the spirit of the season with the people you care about the most.

Another fantastic recipe book by The Australian Women's Weekly. This is one of the smaller, A5, size books but is jam packed full of gorgeous sounding recipes.

The book is split into five sections: cocktail food (including finger food); little pies and tarts; little cakes and puddings; biscuits and slices; and chocolates and sweets (including sweet gifts).  

The recipes are clearly and concisely written in simple steps. The preparation and cooking time are included at the start of the recipe, along with a complete ingredient list. There are also tips included alongside some recipes.

The recipes in this book would be perfect for buffets or finger food at parties. There are many lovely sounding recipes and also recipes which could be adapted for parties at other times of the year. 

As with many other Australian Women's Weekly recipe books there is a fantastic glossary of the commonly used ingredients. The glossary gives alternative names for some ingredients and also preparation or presentation ideas of the ingredients.

Thank you to Australian Women's Weekly for sending me the book to review.

Ali McNamara Blog Tour

To celebrate the publication of Ali McNamara's second novel, Breakfast as Darcy's Ali is undertaking a blog tour and I am proud to say she will visiting my blog on Friday and I will be reviewing her new book on this blog soon.

Breakfast at Darcy’s
Ali McNamara
1st December 2011
Paperback Original, £6.99
Available as an e-book, priced at £3.99
Blog Tour

#14th November
Book give-away with Breakfast at Darcy’s and book review

15th November
Interview with Ali McNamara

16th November
Guest post with Ali McNamara

17th November
Book Give-away with Breakfast at Darcy’s

18th November
Guest post with Ali McNamara

21st November
Interview with Ali McNamara

22nd November
Guest post with Ali McNamara

23rd November
An ‘Ali bonanza’

24th November
Interview with Ali McNamara, review and boo give-away with Breakfast at Darcy’s

25th November
Guest post with Ali McNamara and book give-away with Breakfast

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Avoid Living in a Wild West Town - The Danger Zone by Peter Hicks

Avoid Living in a Wild West Town! - Danger Zone S.

This is an ideal text for shared and guided reading for Key Stage 2 pupils within the framework of the National Literacy Strategy. It casts the reader in the role of Jim McGuire, marshal of Dustville, and looks at law and order in a violent and dangerous Wild West town in the late 1800s. The cartoon-style illustrations and descriptive text provide an interesting introduction into the lives, jobs, diseases, law and order and entertainments of the good, bad and wild people of the settlement. The narrative approach encourages readers to get involved with the characters and to follow the story through to its conclusion. The book includes handy hints and informative captions designed to keep you out of trouble.

The reader of this book is asked to imagine they are Jim McGuire, a Marshall of a town set up from a settlement, following the end of the American Civil War (1861-65) on the Great Plains. A town where farmers are trying to grow crops, hunters are killing livestock and  the cowboys are herding millions of cattle across the land and the Plains Indians are trying to protect the land they have owned for many years beforehand.

The style of this series of books is fantastic - I expect that they would be very popular with children. They are great stories which includes lots of history facts, explained in a very child friendly way, but in a way where they can read or listen to the story and gain lots of information without sitting down and learning.

The pages are cleverly put together - the text is split into manageable chunks, with a main picture and lots of little pictures dotted around. The pictures are full of action and I love the stampede illustration - you can imagine how squashed and fast they are moving. 

There are handy hints included on each double page - containing facts and hints which you wouldn't find in most history texts. 

The illustrations within the book are fantastic - the illustrator has captured the rough and rugged cowboy really well and the atmosphere and action within the scenes are captured very cleverly.

I would recommend this book as a great addition to any classroom or school library or anyone who loves cowboys and history.

I received this book as part of a competition win from Salariya Books.

Avoid Joining A Wild West Wagon Train - The Danger Zone by Jacqueline Morley

Avoid Joining a Wild West Wagon Train! - Danger Zone S.

This is an ideal text for shared and guided reading for Key Stage 2 pupils within the framework of the National Literacy Strategy. It is set in the 1840s and casts the reader as a farmer setting out on the journey of a lifetime seeking the fertile farmlands of Oregon. Travelling overland as part of a wagon train from the east coast of America to Oregon on the west coast, you face dangers including high mountains, lack of food and water and the prospect of catching various diseases. The cartoon-style illustrations and the narrative approach encourage readers to get emotionally involved with the characters and to follow the story right across North America. Will the wagon train succeed in reaching its goal? The book includes handy hints and informative captions to keep you alive on this dangerous journey!

In this book, the reader is required to take on the persona of a farmer, living on the eastern coast of North America, who wants to cross the continent to find out what the rest of the land is like.

The book starts before the journey begins and explains why a farmer would feel the need to partake in such a trip. It talks about how a farmer would be feeling, what would be needed for the trip and the lack of knowledge these people had before undertaking the trip.

Although the book is written as a story, there is a lot of history and fact included within the story. This is very clever because while the children are enjoying reading or listening to the story, they are learning too. There are handy hints on each double page, adding extra little details to the story, facts that may not be included in conventional history texts.

I think these are great additions to a school classroom or library or for children who love history. They are jam packed with great history info but also look at the subject from many different viewpoints: how people may be feeling; how it affects the community (people and animals) and other people who may be involved.

Thank you to Salariya Books, I won this book as part of a competition prize.

Avoid being in a Medieval Castle! The Danger Zone by Jacqueline Morley

Avoid Being in a Medieval Castle! - Danger Zone

Life in a medieval castle was not as romantic as you might think! See what life was really like for a lowly servant, carrying out all the grim menial work of the castle and doing her best to survive the horrors of siege warfare. The humorous cartoon-style illustrations and the narrative approach encourage readers to get emotionally involved with the characters, aiding their understanding of what life would have been like being a in medieval castle. Informative captions, a complete glossary and an index make this title an ideal introduction to the conventions of non-fiction texts for young readers.

The reader in this book is asked to take on the persona of a country girl in 13th century England, who finds herself caught up in a siege following King John's power struggle and subsequent signing of The Magna Carter in 1215.

The book is written as a story and is a great way for children to learn about history and life. Full of pictures and easy to read, bite size pieces of text for children to read and digest. There are handy hints on each double page, full of facts that most history books omit to tell you.

A great way for children to learn about history - the facts are cleverly included within the story and children will enjoy reading or listening to the story that they won't realise they are learning as well. I also found that there was a lot of information contained within the book and information which would not be found within other books, snippets of information which could add interest to any essay!

I thought the pictures were well drawn and showed life in the castle well, however my favourite pictures were the cut through castle keep and the map of the Bailey - so much information contained within the diagrams, but in a child friendly way.

The back of the book also contains a glossary which lists many of the important words within the book, however it is not complete and there is a note which explains that many other important words are explained within the text. I think it would have been more useful to include all the words related to castles and the historical event to have been in the glossary - this would of made it very useful for homework etc.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in castles or life in historic times, but also would make a great addition to any school classroom or school library.

Thank you to the publishers, Salariya Books, because i received this as part of a competition prize.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

When the Tooting family find a vast abandoned engine and fit it to their camper van, they have no idea of the adventure that lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary flying car and it wants to be back on the road again! The Tootings can haul on the steering wheel and pull the handbrake as hard as they like, but their camper van now has a mind of her own. It's not long before they're hurtling along on a turbocharged chase as Chitty tracks down her long-lost bodywork. But there are sinister forces at work too. When it comes to a car as special as Chitty, everybody wants a piece of her ...

As a child, one of my favorite film classics was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (along with Mary Poppins and The Railway Children) and when it was announced that a sequel was being written I was intrigued to read it and find out what happened next!

However, when I received the book , I was disappointed to find that the book is not a true sequel, it does not continue from where the film finished - no Truly Scrumptious and Mr Potts. 

The book introduces a new family, The Tootings. The father, Mr Tooting, has been sacked from his job, but sees this as a good thing, because the family will be able to travel where ever they want. However, this is soon put in jeopardy when the family car is returned as it was a company car. Mr Tooting makes use of all his free time by 'modifying' household appliance and the children's toys.

Mrs Tooting comes home one day with a vintage camper van which Mr Tooting and his eldest son, Jem, begin to take apart and put back together again to enable the family to travel overseas as previously planned. A broken spark plug leads the family to visit a local scrapyard to try and find a new one - not only do they come away with a new spark plug but also a much larger engine for the van.  

When the engine has been swapped over, they are set to begin their travels but an accident at a camper van festival, where baby Harry gets behind the wheel and drives the van off a cliff, they discover the van can fly and The Tooting family visit Paris and Cairo on their travels.

I thought that the story was well written and will interest children of 9+. The book includes lots of little facts about Paris and Cairo, but also little facts about the solar system and animals encountered on their travels.  

The story is definitely set in the modern day with references to facebook and I phones mentioned within the text - this is a complete contrast to the original story and I like this side to the book.

I really liked the illustrations throughout the book, they accompanied the story well and added extra interest to the book. Some of the illustrations are very simple, however there are some very detailed illustrations too, of the car parts and of the sphinx in Egypt. 

It would be advisable for readers to have either read the previous book, or watched the film, as it helps to understand this book but it is not vital. I think it will assist with understanding the story but all give added enjoyment.

The book ends with the possibility of future books in the series, however I am unsure if I would specifically pick up another book in the series.

I would recommend this as a nice gift for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fans and for children aged 9+ due to complexity of some words within the text.

I received this book from The Amazon Vine Programme.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

French Lessons

Sometimes the lessons you learn unexpectedly are the ones that affect you the most. Josie arrives in Paris in the hope of healing a broken heart. Riley, a lonely housewife, is struggling to feel connected to her husband, and her new country. Jeremy, a loyal, neglected husband of a famous actress, has accompanied his wife as she films on location, yet he feels increasingly isolated from her world. As they meander along the grand boulevards and intimate, winding Parisian streets with their French tutors - Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet, Riley with Philippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the beautiful Chantal - each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. When long-buried secrets come to bear and relationships are challenged - can their lives ever be the same again?

This book intrigued me from the minute I read the synopsis. It sounds like a fantastic read and as I spent part of my honeymoon in Paris, I was looking forward to reading about the romantic city.

The book focuses on three french tutors: Nico; Chantal; and Phillippe. They each have a student and the book is about the events on one single day. Each student and their tutor have a section in the book talking about their 'lesson', although if I could have lessons how their's are, I would be learning French again. For example, Nico's student is Josie and he takes her shopping in expensive shoe shops! In Paris!!

Although the individual chapters are based on a lesson, they are more than that. The readers learn alot about the characters, their history and their life. Josie is a teacher and was having an affair with a students father, but he was then killed, along with his son, in a plane accident. Josie has recently found out she is pregnant with his child. Chantal's student, Jeremy is the husband of a famous American actor who are in Paris while she shoots her latest film. Phillipe's student, Riley, is a mother, with young children and a demanding husband, and a mother who has ovarian cancer

There is some lovely narrative within the book of the streets of Paris, while the characters wander the streets, chatting in French, learning about lives.

I really enjoyed this book, the three students were all completely different, each employing their tutor for different reasons, whether it be for friendship in a foreign country, or self improvement. The books covers a wide range of emotions and situations. There is the need for attention, companionship, and approval by students and tutors alike. 

The final section of the book is about the tutors, at the end of the day when they meet up to discuss their day and students. It was a lovely ending and not one that I expected. 

I did find some sections of the book to be rather graphic - there were some scenes which I thought were not needed in the book, however they did add intensity to the story.

I really enjoyed this book, it was different to many of the books that i usually pick up but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a good read.

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

The Jewels of Manhattan by Carmen Reid

The Jewels of Manhattan

Like all crazy plans, it was plotted out on a cocktail napkin. 1. Steal fabulous jewels 2. Sell for millions 3. Live happily ever after Brilliant and oh so simple...when you're a few Cosmopolitans down. Not quite so easy...if you've never stolen anything before, and you're dating a detective. The three Jewel sisters, Amber, Sapphire and Em, came to New York in search of the perfect life. But do they have to steal their dream? Or can they resist the temptation? This is a gorgeous, glittering, romantic tale for anyone who has ever dreamed of more sparkle.

This is one of those books that you can read and think 'it can't be that easy, surely!'. A visit to a local jewellery store leads to sisters Amber and Sapphire Jewel being caught up in an armed robbery. Neither are physically hurt, however when they return home they realise how easy it must be to rob some jewels. Sapphire ends up being 'let go' by the company she works for and the rent is due on the apartment she rents with her two sisters. Amber works for a local auctioneers and when it is announced that they will be auctioning some very precious jewels, Em, the youngest sister,  begins to wonder, how easy it would actually be to rob and sell on these jewels. However, the sisters aren't really criminals - the jewels sort of fell into their lap and if you had the opportunity to wear them, you would, wouldn't you?

This book is not a major crime story, but then it isn't a usual chick lit book either. There is romance - quite a bit really, Amber and Fergus and Sapphire with the police man Jack. There is plenty of laughter and fun in the book and I must admit I had solved the who dunnit really quite early on but it did not ruin my enjoyment of the story.  The crime is two robberies, and the subsequent police investigation, however the main bulk of the story is the Jewel sisters and their planning of how they would carry out a robbery and following the crime, how to dispose of the jewels and the subsequent trip to meet the buyer. 

Carmen Reid's style of writing is another which is easy to read and flows really well. The story focuses on the three sisters and I loved the camaraderie between them, even during the 'robbery' the sisters ensure each other are ok and get to safety. The ending was lovely, all happy ever after, however I am not sure how realistic it actually was. 

I would recommend this book as a great read for the winter nights ahead - it would suit lovers of chick lit more than crime lovers.

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

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Where's the Meerkat? Illustrated by Paul Moran, Steve Wiltshire and Simon Ecob

Where's the Meerkat?

Over the past year we have seen the humble, inquisitive meerkat take over the world, and in "Where's the Meerkat?" that is literally the case. A family of meerkats are making a round-the-world trip, visiting some of the world's most famous and popular places and your task is to spot them in the crowd. Each page is intricately illustrated in full colour with a checklist of items and people to spot along with the meerkats. This is the perfect quirky gift for the meerkat-mad member of your family.

My son took this into hospital with him and it kept him (and my husband) amused for ages! 

The book follows a similar format to the old favorite, Where's Wally, but has been updated with the up to date trend of meerkats. They are everywhere at the moment, following the popularity of that insurance compare website.  

The book starts with a description to the adventure the reader is about to take: an adventure which takes the reader around the world, upon which you are accompanying a family of 10 meerkats and the reader's task is to find the ten family members within each picture. Each picture is a double page spread and set in a different country. From the carnival atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; New York, USA; Innsbruck, Austria; Paris, France; Moscow, Russia; The Great Wall, China; Easter Island, South Pacific; Sydney, Australia; London, UK; Venice, Italy, Giza, Egypt; Bangkok, Thailand; Kyoto, Japan; Santa Cruz, USA; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; Marrakesh, Morrocco; through to The Kruger National Park, South Africa, the meerkats travel the world in this book.

The pictures are really colourful and reflect life within each country. I was surprised that the books were not as 'busy' as many Where's Wally books, however the meerkat's are really difficult to find. My son, who's 7, and husband spent a long time searching each picture to find all ten meerkats each time. The meerkat's have different attire each time, to merge in with the countries residents and customs.

I think that this book would be great for children and adults alike - the children will have the opportunity to learn about many different countries while having fun finding all the meerkats, whereas adults will probably enjoy just finding the meerkats. It would make a great Christmas present for any age and I am sure meerkats will feature in many stockings this year.

Thank you the publishers, Michael O'Mara for sending me this book as a competition prize on twitter (@OMaraBooks)

It Started With A Kiss by Miranda Dickinson

It Started with a Kiss!

From the author that gave you the Sunday Times top 10 selling title, Fairytale of New York, join our heroine Romily as she discovers how far she will go to find the man of her dreams. As the singer in a wedding band, Romily Parker has seen her fair share of happy endings, even though her own love life isn't quite as simple. On the last Saturday before Christmas, (shortly after disastrously declaring her love for best friend Charlie), Romily has a brief encounter with a handsome stranger whose heart-stopping kiss changes everything. Determined to find him again, Romily embarks on a yearlong quest, helped (and sometimes hindered) by enthusiastic Uncle Dudley, cake-making Auntie Mags and flamboyant Wren. Will she find the man of her dreams? Or could true love be closer than she thinks? The ONLY book that you'll want to curl up with this winter -- perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Sophie Kinsella.

I have loved Miranda's previous two books and have been looking forward to this book for sometime, and Miranda has not disappointed! It is a great read and has a Christmassy theme although the book covers the following year too.

Miranda Dickinson is a local(ish) author to myself and this book is set in Birmingham, again close to me. As I began to read the book I was able to picture the scene and this really made the opening scene at Birmingham's Christmas fayre even more special. I also really enjoyed the 'Birminghamisms' which littered Uncle Dudley's speech throughout the book.

The book begins with the main character, Romily, telling her best friend, Charlie, that she is in love with him, and want them to be together, however Charlie does not take the confession well and Romily walks out of the coffee shop and around Birmingham. Charlie manages to find her and shouts after her, but Romily runs away - and into a soft toy stall within the Christmas Market. Of course the market is very busy but nobody offers to help Romily to pick up the toys and just stand around watching or recording on their mobiles. However, help does arrive, a gorgeous man, who helps pick up the toys, before being called away by a friend before they can swap names and/or numbers. Following this encounter, Romily decides that she wants to find this handsome stranger, and gives herself until Christmas Eve the following year to find him. Her family and friends think she is mad but Romily is determined. Her only real supporters are Uncle Dudley and Aunt Mags.

Romily is a singer in a band and alot of the book is about the bands gigs, often wedding entertainment and some of the weddings sound like the perfect experience, whereas others are peoples worst nightmares. I enjoyed reading about all the weddings and also the friendships between the band members. Charlie is also in the band and I realised that through the book, Charlie's feelings towards Romily are changing and this is another big storyline within the book. I will not spoil the ending for readers of my blog but it does reach a who will Romily choose - Charlie or her handsome stranger.

The band are also major characters within the book and all appear to be a great set of friends. I was unsure about the manager D'Wayne but towards the end of the book, he won me over. However, my favorite characters were Uncle Dudley and Aunty Mags. They seemed like Romily's second mother and father and cared for her like a daughter - I enjoyed the history of their relationship and thought it bought another side to the story. As I have also said, I loved Uncle Dudley's Birminghamism's - with 'bab' and localisms littering the text. It all added to the character of him in my imagination.

Miranda also adds references to blogging in the book - a popular pastime for many in this virtual world we live in and it is through her blog that she tries to find her gorgeous stranger. There are copies of her posts intermingled within the story and I enjoyed this modern style and its inclusion within the text.

The front cover is beautiful and is one which will jump off the shelf in the shops. However, I was disappointed to see the cover was featuring London, the book does finish with a trip to London but it would have been great to include a scene of Birmingham Christmas Market where it all began.

Miranda's writing style is a really easy read. It is one of those books that you can loose yourself in for an evening. I really enjoyed, as I have previously said, the scenes around the Birmingham Christmas Market and I also enjoyed the winter scenes in London, they were beautifully written and very descriptive.

I would recommend this to anyone who loves chick lit or a good romance, with a reference to Christmas but not the entire book. It is a great read and one you could loose yourself in on a cold winter's afternoon.

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

I am looking forward to meeting the author, Miranda Dickinson, at my local Waterstones, in Worcester, this Saturday.