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Saturday, 22 September 2012

A Rainbow Shopping Day by Vivian French

A Rainbow Shopping Day - Early Reader
Early Readers are stepping stones from picture books to reading books. A blue Early Reader is perfect for sharing and reading together. A red Early Reader is the next step on your reading journey. Jason and his little sister Daisy B go shopping, help wash the car, and splash about in the bath in this fun and accessible story, perfect for early readers.

Another great read for Early Readers who are moving away from picture books to books with chapters but still have plenty of pictures to keep a child's attention. This series of books are perfect for children who want to take that next step with reading. The series have something for everyone with stories to suit both boys and girls.

This book follows a shopping trip for Jason and Daisy where they have  a great time buying items with specific colours. There is also a second story included within the main story entitled 'Hunter's Lost Bone' where Hunter's constant digging of holes has a 'happy ending'.

This is another fantastic addition to the Early Readers library. The story is perfect for boys and girls alike, has the ideal mixture of words and pictures  on each page and will keep the attention of young readers to the end. The story is split into chapters and are the right length to read a chapter per reading session.

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

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Dog's Purpose by W Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog's Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here? Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of eight-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures, Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders - will he ever find his purpose? Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.

I have read books about animals before and have cried and smiled at many of them, however this book is very different to previous books I have read - this one was written from the point of view of a dog.

There are many times of laughter in the book - like before and after he is taken to the vets for 'the op', but also times of sadness when his mother leaves him to fend for himself when they escape from the dog pound.

There are lots of parts in the book that I enjoyed but also there were parts that I wanted to skip through. There are many heart touching parts to the book too and the book really had a  strong theme running through it, the love between a dog and its owner. There was also the theme of a dog reincarnating throughout its life.

I have never owned a dog and therefore have never had the loyalty and love from a pet - although the book was well written and very cleverly thought out, I am sure a dog owner would feel this book pulled at the heart strings a bit more and left them thinking about the book for a long time after they have read the final page.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

One Hundred Names
The new novel from the bestselling author. Journalist Kitty Logan's career is being destroyed by scandal - and now she faces losing the woman who guided and taught her everything she knew. At her terminally ill friend's bedside, Kitty asks - what is the one story she always wanted to write? The answer lies in a file buried in Constance's office: a list of one hundred names. There is no synopsis, nothing to explain what the story is or who these people are. The list is simply a mystery. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late. With everything to prove, Kitty is assigned the most important task of her life: to write the story her mentor never had the opportunity to. Kitty not only has to track down and meet the people on the list, but find out what connects them. And, in the process of hearing ordinary people's stories, she starts to understand her own.

There are some authors whose new releases I look forward to and Cecelia Ahern is one of those authors. I found Ahern when she was included in the Richard and Judy book club with P.S. I Love You and have read all her books since. I have found that some books I have wanted to read again and again, however there have also been a few I was not so sure about, however this is definitely one that I loved!

This book starts with Kitty Logan who is involved in a court case, following a report she was responsible for where she incorrectly accused someone of a crime which destroyed his career, as well as Kitty's.  However, Kitty was lucky in that she had another job to fall back on, Etcetera, a magazine which her good friend, Constance, has built up. However Constance is terminally ill and after she looses her fight for life, Kitty is left with a list of one hundred names, no other details and no ideas of the connection between them. Kitty is given the task of writing this, Constance's last idea for an article, and she faces a race against time to meet the deadline for the issue commemorating her life.

I really enjoyed this book, it is one which I wanted to keep picking up and reading a little more. I found myself going through the range of emotions, when Kitty felt lost following the court case, the sadness when Constance died, the confusion when she opened the list and then the wanting to finding out about each name on that list.

Ahern never gave any clues as to the links between these people, and as Kitty met each person, I found myself thinking that it was just random people and Kitty would not be able to write the article- I am not going to add any more as I don't want to include any spoilers, however what I will say is that the resulting story is a great read.

I really do believe that this book is up there with P.S, I love you as one of Ahern's best books and I think any of her fans will also love this book as much as me.  Ahern has bought her great writing style and there are parts which are comedic and others which are heartfelt and heartwarming.

I really do recommend this book as a great read and one which you could easily curl up with one autumnal evening and get lost in.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Tango Tangle (Strictly Come Dancing 1) by Chloe Medley

Tango Tangle - Strictly Come Dancing 1
The mega-hit BBC show, Strictly Come Dancing, quicksteps its way into a brand new young fiction series. Join the girls at the Strictly Dance Academy and experience all the fun and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing! Bella loves to dance! So when an invitation arrives to audition for Strictly Dance Academy Bella can't wait to try out. But there are so many other talented girls with the same dream. Can Bella dazzle the judges and beat the competition to take her place under the glitterball spotlight? Prepare to be swept off your feet in this fantastic new series that is a must-read for anyone who has ever wished they could be a part of the glamorous world of Strictly Come Dancing. Strictly Come Dancing (or Dancing with the Stars as it is known in the US) is a key BBC one show and can be seen in over 75 countries with approximate worldwide viewing figures standing at 250 million. "It's amazing and a really exciting book to read!" Grace, 7 "The pictures were beautiful and I think all girls of my age will love it!" Aimee, 10 "It made me think I was really at Strictly!" Lucy, 7 "I loved the Bella adventures. There were wonderful descriptions of the characters." Josie, 7 "The book is really, really good. It's almost like I'm there watching." Sigalia, 7 "I can't wait to read the next book." Susan, 8 "I like the characters very much and am looking forward to the next book." Eden, 8 "Once you start it, you can't stop reading it!" Levana, 8 "I enjoyed reading this book because I loved the characters." Mira, 8 "So much fun - especially the dancing bits!" Janine, 7 "ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I'd like to go to the Strictly Academy ...if there was one!" Sterrett, 7 "It's really good!" Leora, 6

Along with many more thousands I am looking forward to the new series of Strictly Come Dancing. I have heard that the Tracy Beaker actress, Dani Harmer, will be part of this years line up and I think that this will bring a new audience to the show, the younger children. I know my daughter is already asking to stay up and watch it, and I think these books will become very popular in the run up to Christmas (I know it is only September, sorry for mentioning that word so early).

The book follows a girl who auditions for the Strictly Dance Academy. The story is very true to life and the story includes the highs and lows of dance auditions which I think makes it stands out as a good book for children to read, not just having a story where everything goes right for the main character. 

There are  great illustrations throughout the story which accompany it well. They are beautifully drawn.  There are also added extras in the book - each book (this is book one in the series) has a piece about one of the professional Strictly dancers - this one includes a piece about Flavia.

This is a great accompaniment to the popular television show and I am sure this will be a popular series. I would recommend it to any young fans of the show or to any junior dancers - it could be read by readers age 7+ or could be a bedtime story, read to by their peers.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

A Wanted Man by Lee Child

 A Wanted Man - Jack Reacher 17

When you're as big and rough as Jack Reacher - and you have a badly-set, freshly-busted nose, patched with silver duct tape - it isn't easy to hitch a ride. But Reacher has some unfinished business in Virginia, so he doesn't quit. And at last, he's picked up by three strangers - two men and a woman. But within minutes it becomes clear they're all lying about everything - and then they run into a police roadblock on the highway. There has been an incident, and the cops are looking for the bad guys...Will they get through because the three are innocent? Or because the three are now four? Is Reacher just a decoy? With his signature Swiss-watch plotting and heart-thumping suspense, "A Wanted Man" shows Lee Child at his sublimely skilful best. "He could take out Bond, Dirty Harry, Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt with both hands tied behind his back,. And then sleep with their girlfriends two at a time before getting the last bus out of town". ("Sun").

This is Child's seventeenth Reacher book, however I have only recently been introduced to Reacher and Child and have really enjoyed this book.  My first Reacher read was The Affair, which was one of the prequel titles written by Child and was set while still in the Army. This book was following the more traditional Reacher style, where he is roaming around America and finds himself caught up in trouble.

This book is based around Reacher hitching a lift with two males and a female passenger and knows something is not right but is not sure what. This story is intertwined with a police case of a man being stabbed in a disused building but at the start it is unclear how the two stories are linked. What follows is a fantastic read, where Child provides a great read which will keep you wanting to read just one chapter more at each session.

I would recommend this book to any crime fan. It does not matter if you have encountered Reacher before, it is a great standalone book or for die hard Reacher fans it is another great instalment in the Reacher series.

As part of the launch for this book, Lee Child has been on a Publicity Tour and I have been lucky enough to go to one of his events. Held at Birmingham Library Theatre, I spent an enjoyable hour with the author, listening to him talking about how he get into writing and the publication of his first book. I think this was a special event for Child, as he was born in Coventry and moved to and worked in Birmingham for many years before leaving his job in television (he was fired) and becoming an author. He also recalled how, in the early days of his television career, they had a team picnic, which due to bad weather was an inside picnic, where he sat with Laurence Olivier!

The second half of the talk was questions from the audience and many questions were asked - the most popular appeared to be that of Lee Child's opinions on the upcoming film, where Tom Cruise has been cast as Jack Reacher - Reacher is depicted in the books as a 6 Foot plus, ex army and I think most readers were astonished when it became known that Cruise had got the job. However, Child has seen the film and he says he is very pleased with the finished piece and Cruise has done a good job as Reacher and asks his readers to go and see it with an open mind and believes many of us will be going and watching it more than once - for those who don't like Cruise as Reacher, he reminds us we can return home to our books, where we can have our own Reacher in our minds as we please.

I really enjoyed the evening (although a panic attack on route and getting lost trying to find the car park and then entrance to the theatre) and found Lee Child to be a great public speaker, who took the time to answer every question from the audience in full and gave each one due consideration, retelling lots of memories and also letting us in on his writing process - he does no pre-planning, he lets the story evolve as he is writing. It takes him about 6 months to write each book and I am looking forward to seeing where Reacher goes next.

Thank you to the publisher's, Bantam Press, part of Transworld, for sending me the book to review.

Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen

Boutique Baking: Delectable Cakes, Cookies and Teatime Treats
Peggy Porschen is one of the most prominent and pioneering names in contemporary cake design. Renowned for her exquisite craftsmanship combined with a love of baking, her passion is for creating delectable works of art that taste as good as they look. This new book captures the essence of Peggy's technical skill and inspired use of colour while also ensuring that each cake is both achievable and delicious to eat. Boutique Baking has an unrivalled range of recipes that combines traditional baking with chic, simple finishing touches. The first chapter, Sweet Treats, features all-time favourites such as Meringue kisses and Macaroons as well as Peggy's take on Cake pops. In Beautiful Biscuits there are recipes inspired by her German origins including Gingerbread Men and Mulled Wine Stars. The third chapter focuses on the most desirable cake phenomenon of the decade - the cup cake, and Peggy gives away the secret of her incredibly scrumptious repertoire of gourmet cup cakes. The Luscious Layer Cake chapter provides stunning ideas for sophisticated occasions while Classic Cakes & Bakes shows how to revive traditional recipes, creating gorgeous looking and delicious cakes, such as Neapolitan marble cake and Chocolate Battenberg. Last but certainly not least the book closes with a chapter on fabulous finishing touches, basic recipes for frostings and fillings, and delicious ideas for home-made drinks that perfectly accompany the cakes. Seductive and indulgent, this is Peggy's most accessible book to date.

I love everything about this book - the front cover is beautiful, chic and expensive looking. The inside of the book does not disappoint either, full of gorgeous sounding and in many cases, looking recipes. The photographs are mostly just the food, however there are a few boutique shop look photos too, but these are in-keeping with the whole book's theme and style.
The book would be a great inspiration for a posh, chic birthday party for a sweet 16 or 18th feminine birthday party. There are seven chapters entitled: Sweet Treats; Beautiful Biscuits; Cupcake Heaven; Luscious Layer Cakes; Classic Cakes and Bakes; Delicious Drinks; and The Icing on the Cake.

Compared to many recipe books I have reviewed lately, this one does not contain a introductory chapter which includes basic store room ingredients and equipment, and general hints, tips and tricks of the trade from the authors themselves. I am unsure whether this book is incomplete without it or breaking the recent trend. I think that with books like this, where it is a vital element or not. However, when looking through the recipes I have found that some of this 'missing' section is included with the recipes. Each recipe has a number of sections: there is the usual ingredients list, which, helpfully has been split into each section of the process (i.e. frosting, cake mix and decorating), a separate equipment list and then the method, which is also split into sections.

The last chapter of the book, 'The Icing on the Cake' does include a number of step by step photograph sequences which give ideas and guidance on some of the techniques used to produce the cakes included in the book. 

There are photographs of all the projects/recipes included in the book - each recipe has it's own photograph and some recipes have step by step sequences to accompany the written instructions.

The range of recipes makes this book a very useful inclusion into any kitchen library or book shelf. It includes traditional recipes, batten-burg, cupcakes and fruit cakes, but they are all given a modern twist. The book is an inspirational book for presentation of the finished cakes - there are some beautiful ideas.

I would like to thank the publishers, Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book to review.

The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns

The Birthday Cake Book
Fiona Cairns turns her attention to birthdays, adding a touch of bling to her trademark pretty style. Every day of the year is someone's birthday, the chance to celebrate with close friends or family, or maybe an excuse for a larger bash. A birthday cake is the centrepiece, ablaze with candles, cut with a secret wish and shared to create precious memories. Many families have a treasured recipe, baked for every birthday. Perhaps you'll find a new family favourite in these pages. Whether you are one or 100, a Goth or a gardener, there is the perfect cake for you here. The Birthday Cake Book has 52 new recipes and 61 cake decorations, including 16 cupcakes. Every recipe is delicious. Try the sensational masala chai cake with ginger fudge frosting, or a sophisticated pistachio, Grand Marnier and olive oil creation. Many require no sugarcraft skills at all. Fiona also gives five spectacular themed parties, from Vampires, with an eye-popping crystal skull cake, to Vintage Tea Party, with a super-realistic crocodile handbag cake. So bring a special gift to a birthday party, and get baking!

This book is full of imaginative and inspiring birthday cakes, suitable for any age (child or adult) and for a variety of occasions. Many of the cakes could be perfect for anniversary's, afternoon tea or for a posh summer fund raising occasion.

There are high quality, beautiful photographs of all the cakes included in the book, either on their own or as part of an ensemble picture of many of the cakes together. Some of the recipes have been grouped together in the book in sections entitled: 'Vampire Party'; 'Vintage Tea Party'; 'Alice in Wonderland's Unbirthday Party',  'Glamping'; and 'A Gardener's Delight'. 

The book contains a useful rating system for decorating ease - in one, two or three candles. The book also contains a useful initial section on techniques, hints and tips. There are a list of basic ingredients necessary for cake making which will includes helpful advice on choosing the right ingredients for your cakes. There is a section on baking tips including why it is necessary to use baking parchment rather than greaseproof paper or how to freeze cakes. There is also a list of basic equipment recommended for a kitchen when cooking. There is a page on icing tips and techniques and another on decorating tips.

The cakes are varied - including traditional sponge based cakes, gingerbread houses and cheesecakes which are shaped and decorated in brilliant designs along with less traditional cakes like hidden fruit and veg cakes and liquorice toffee cakes.

I have looked through  the book a number of times and I am still instantly drawn to the beautiful Alice's Teapot Madeira cake with it's intricate icing and the all in one chocolate cake football boots which would be perfect for my son. I really enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland unbirthday party which looks like a great idea for a child's summer birthday party.

In summary, I really think this is a fantastic book if you are looking for inspiration for a cake to celebrate any occasion. I think that the type of cakes included in the book could be adapted to fit any taste and the ideas of style and theme would be the perfect start to any party planning.

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