Challenge Participant


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Fall by Claire McGowan

The Fall

What would you do if the man you love was accused of murder? Bad things never happen to Charlotte. She's living the life she's always wanted and about to marry wealthy banker, Dan. But Dan's been hiding a secret, and the pressure is pushing him over the edge. After he's arrested for the vicious killing of a nightclub owner, Charlotte's future is shattered. Then she opens her door to Keisha, an angry and frustrated stranger with a story to tell. Convinced of Dan's innocence, Charlotte must fight for him - even if it means destroying her perfect life. But what Keisha knows threatens everyone she loves, and puts her own life in danger. DC Matthew Hegarty is riding high on the success of Dan's arrest. But he's finding it difficult to ignore his growing doubts as well as the beautiful and vulnerable Charlotte. Can he really risk it all for what's right? Three stories. One truth. They all need to brace themselves for the fall.

Claire McGowan is the Director of The Crime Writer's Association and The Fall is her debut novel and I for one hope there will be many more to follow.

The book is written from three people's viewpoints: Charlotte; soon to be married PR girl, Keisha,  a down and out who has had her daughter taken off her, with a violent boyfriend;and Hegarty, the police detective in charge of the murder case.  At the start of the book, the narrator changes quite quickly between the three, however as the story progresses, the narrators have longer sections and you really begin to get the know the characters and their thoughts. 

The story is fast paced and there are twists and turns throughout the book. On a number of occasions I changed my mind about who actually committed the murder. I also found myself turning against Dan (the arrested and charged suspect) and then changing my mind a number of times. I liked the character of Keisha - she had had a lot of difficulties within her life and she also had many issues dealt to her throughout the book. Charlotte also went through a lot through the book and was able to see what she really needed in life - her posh lifestyle was quickly disregarded. I did find Hegarty annoying - a detective who wanted to get a big case under his belt to project him up the ladder, but he grew on me in the end.

When I tweeted the author to say that I had finished the book, she asked what I thought of the ending as she was sure when she submitted it that she would be asked to change it. However, as I said to her, I think the ending was very good - it was what I hoped for throughout the book and it really finished the story off perfectly.

I would recommend this book to crime lovers everywhere, ones who like crime novels that leave you trying to work out who it was and why. It is not a gory crime book, but is one which will leave you wanting to read just one more section before putting it down. I am sure McGowan will be around for many more book releases and I am certainly waiting for the next one already.

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

Educating Jack by Jack Sheffield

Educating Jack

As the 1982 school year begins, Jack Sheffield returns to Ragley village school for his sixth year as headteacher. Nora Pratt celebrates twenty-five years in her coffee shop, Ronnie Smith finally tries to get a job, and little Krystal Entwhistle causes concern in the school Nativity play. It's the time of ET and Greenham Common, Prince William's birth, Fame leg warmers and the puzzling introduction of the new 20p piece. Meanwhile, for Jack, the biggest surprise of his life is in store...

I read the previous book in the series, Please Sir and have been looking forward to this book ever since - twelve months is a long time to wait when you need to know if everyone survived the car accident at the end of the book. I am not going to spoil that story-line here but it was great to read about the outcome and following friendships etc.

As with all of Jack Sheffield's previous books, there are great conversations between children and their parents, friends and teachers. The scene at the wildlife park and the five legged Zebra is hilarious and many other scenes are just as good and will have the readers laughing at loud throughout the book.

The series follow the life of Jack Sheffield, the head teacher of Ragley on the Forest's primary school and in previous books we have seen him take over the headship of a new school, meet and 'court' Beth and marry him and it was great to follow his life again in this book.

There are so many characters to like in these books. There are the teachers in the small village school, along with lots of characters from the village - the landlord of the pub, the vicar and the village shop keeper but there are also all the children in the school and I think these are the characters I like most. There is lots of dialogue in the book and the best is that of the children, it is written as spoken and you can often hear them saying it while you read it and there are some great bits which will have you laughing.

The book is based in 1982 and so it is great to read about some of the historical events which occurred then too - for many readers I am sure that it will be a trip down memory lane.

I really enjoyed this book and I am already looking forward to reading what happens next to Mr Sheffield and the villagers in Radley.

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

Giveaway - Roald Dahl Stamps

Royal Mail is celebrating one of the nation’s best-loved children’s authors, Roald Dahl, with its first stamp issue of 2012 and I thought this might be something you’d be interested in featuring on your site.

The presentation pack of six stamps celebrate six of Dahl’s most famous books that children and adults alike came to know and love, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and Matilda.

The stamps themselves recreate the magic of the Dahl books, using the beautiful illustrations of Quentin Blake.


The fantastic people from Eulogy have sent me 5 presentation packs of the stamps to giveaway on my blog. Each winner will receive a Presentation Pack worth £8.10 and in addition a miniature sheet of stamps featuring the BFG. It’s hard to believe it’s the 30th anniversary of the book’s publication this year! 

To be entered into the competition for the chance to win one of the five presentation packs: 
  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 Wednesday 8th February 2012

The Lost Puppy by Holly Webb

The Lost Puppy

Ruby is thrilled when she gets to meet her aunt's dachshund's new puppies for the very first time. And her parents have a wonderful surprise - she is going to have one of them for her very own! Ruby chooses the cheekiest, most adventurous puppy, Toby, and the two have fun playing together. But Toby's inquisitive nature gets him into serious trouble on a woodland walk, when he slips his collar and goes off to investigate the woods by himself. Soon he is lost and very frightened, especially as night falls. Will Ruby and Toby ever be reunited?

Ask many children what they would like for their birthday and I am sure many will ask for a puppy. Ruby is the same - her aunt has dachshund puppy's and one of them will be her present! Toby is the chosen puppy and both Ruby and her younger sister, Anya, are besotted with him - however on a family walk Toby manages to slip her lead and gets himself lost in the woods. The family can not find him and spend a night worrying about him, however, Toby is picked up by a kindly jogger - will owner and puppy be reunited?

This is another great animal story by Holly Webb - perfect for animal lovers. One thing that I like about Holly Webb's animal stories, especially these books more than The Naughty Little Puppy, is that they cover areas that pet owners may have to cope with. In this book the subject of microchipping pets is covered as well as the ease that dogs can slip their lead or run off when out for a walk. However, these areas are covered in a fantastic story which children will enjoy as a book they read themselves (early readers +) or as a story shared at bedtime, listening to adults or their peers reading it to them. The chapters are short and perfect for bed time.

I would recommend this as a great story for anyone who has their own puppy or is hoping for one soon.

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

Monday, 30 January 2012

Rascal the Star (My Naughty Little Puppy) by Holly Webb

Rascal the Star - My Naughty Little Puppy Bk. 7

When Ellie names her puppy Rascal, she doesn't realise how right she is...The playful little puppy is soon getting into all sorts of trouble! Ellie's friend Lucy has been picked to appear in a TV commercial. The only problem is that it's for dog food and Lucy is frightened of dogs. So that she can keep her part, Ellie and Rascal team together to help Lucy get over her fear with a "de-scaring course". But when the TV people need a replacement dog, it's time for Rascal to play a starring role, too.

Another delightful book by Holly Webb. My naughty little puppy is a series of books written by Holly Webb and published by Stripes Publishing and features Rascal, who is owned by Ellie and gets himself into many different adventures in each book.

In this book, one of Ellie's friends, Lucy is offered the opportunity to take part in television advert for a dog food - there is only one problem, she is scared of dogs! With Ellie and Rascal's help she tries to overcome her fear but on the day of the shoot, her co-star is just too big, will Rascal be allowed to take over the part, will he behave??

This is a great book for young dog-lovers. The story is well written, as are all Holly Webb books for children, will be perfect for early readers to read themselves but will also be great for sharing at story time with an adult or peer. The story is intermingled with some great illustrations by Kate Pankhurst which capture Rascal's mischievousness perfectly.

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

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Diabolical Mr Tiddles by Tom McLaughlin

The Diabolical Mr Tiddles

Meet Mr Tiddles - he's not your everyday cat. He's a cat with attitude! When Harry gets a cat of his own, he does everything to make Mr Tiddles happy. Mr Tiddles wants to make Harry happy too. He brings him little presents ...the odd expired mouse or two, but when Harry wakes up to find a train set, priceless works of art, dinosaurs, robots and a horse named Alan in his bedroom, he realizes things are completely out of control!

Harry always wanted a cat and was surprised and very pleased, when on his birthday his wish came true - Mr Tiddles was his birthday present. Harry made sure that Mr Tiddles had everything he wanted and showered him with love and each night stroked his tummy until Mr Tiddles was asleep. 
Mr Tiddles reciprocated this love and began to get Harry lots of presents: they started off 'normal' with a fresh mouse but then grew to guitars, dinosaurs and even a real horse! Harry followed Mr Tiddles one night to find out where the presents were coming from and was amazed when their destination was Buckingham Palace where Mr Tiddles was after The Queen's crown!

This is a fun and clever book for children to understand that stealing is wrong. The story is lovely and quite funny. The illustrations are fantastic - they are simple but have some much in them, especially the map of Mr Tiddles nighttime travels. They bring the story to life and they kept the children's attention throughout the story.

The book is percfect to share at story time or bedtime but is also easy enough for early reader to read themselves. 

I would receommend this as a lovely gift for young children - you don't need to be a cat owner/lover to enjoy this story.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run and Simon and Schuster Children for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Baby Massage: Experience with my mother 'Peer Support' by Mary Kay

Baby Massage Experience with My Mother: Peer Support

Caring for a baby with additional needs is a difficult and heart breaking experience. Especially when there is lack of support from family and friends, as was the case with Nicky. The new mum found it very hard to care for her baby with additional needs, carrying out household chores, and most importantly, coming to terms with son s condition... Though her family lived in the same area, none of them was willing to give her the necessary support. The baby s medical condition demanded that he be separated from her immediately after birth, and this made it very difficult for her to bond with him... Nicky was later referred for baby massage. Will this experience help her bond with her baby? Will it assist her deal with her own demons that haunted her?

I have been lucky enough to be sent another of Mary Kay's fantastic books about the benefits of baby massage. I have previously reviewed A Father's Journey and was very impressed with the message given out by the book and I hope it has sucessfully encouraged more fathers to try Baby Massage with their young babies. 

This book is from the same series but this time concentrates on babies born with additional needs. It begins while the mother, Nicki, is in labour and those initial minutes after the baby is delivered and the midwives, doctors and then the family realise that something is wrong. The book is written as a story but the factual detail included is extensive. 

The book covers much more than just the benefits of baby massage for both the baby and the mother/father. Both Nicki and Fraser's (the parents) emotions, worries, concerns and thoughts are all included within the book, along with the feelings of the family. 

The main part of the book is concerned with the baby massage classes and the members of that class. The tutor picks up on a number of issues concerning Nicki and Baby Tony but it is through the 'social' part of the session that Nicki is able to build friendships and talk unguarded about concerns she has about Tony and her marriage. As a new mum it is common to feel isolated and to stay in the home, not wanting to visit groups or meet up with others - this is true for many mothers with new borns, but for Tony's parents, with Tony having additional needs, they feel even more isolated but after being referred to the Baby Massage group, she is able to conquer some of these fears. The book shows the benefits of support from other new mum's and their families. 

Although this book concentrates on Tony and his family and his specific condition, this does not mean the book isn't something all new parents should read. The content is relevant to all - baby massage is the perfect way to interact with a young baby, understand their needs, friendship with other new mothers, and the benefits to all.

As I said on my previous review for A Father's Journey, this is part of a great series of books from  m2bn book publishing, which look at things from fathers and mothers perspectives and include the benefits of baby massage.

I would recommend this book specifically to fathers to be and new fathers but I think that the book series as a whole should be promoted in ante natal classes, hospital delivery and post natal wards, children's centres and doctors surgeries to prospective parents and new parents, where there are a wide range of emotions and worries that are felt by many mothers and fathers that could be reassured by reading these books.

Thank you to the publishers, M2BN Book Publishing, for sending me the book to review.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

Before I Go to Sleep

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

This book has been chosen as one of the books for both Richard and Judy Book Club 2012 (WH Smiths) and The TV Book Club (More 4) and since reading it, I can understand why. It is a  which is unputdownable. With clues throughout the book as to Christine's history, the reader is able to discover the story but Watson still manages to add a shock every now and then.

Christine wakes up every day not knowing where she is or who the man asleep in the bed next to her.  Each day she starts the day looking at the photographs around the bathroom mirror and the scrapbook her husband, Ben, has made and listening to him explain she had a car accident which left her unable to remember any her life. It sounds very scary to live with, but what happens in the book is even worse!

I was instantly captured by the book when I started reading it. It is one of those books that you want to read just one more page before putting it down but you end up reading a few more chapters, if not finishing it very quickly. 

Most of the book is written as Christine's journal, which she writes and reads each day to enable her to 'remember' what she did in previous days. Through the book the reader is able to understand her confusion. There are moments during the book that I felt for Christine and although I do not want to include any spoilers in this review, there were times when I knew something was not right and Christine was in some danger but it was not until the very end that the true danger she was in was revealed. 

It is due to the incredible writing style of Watson's that this book is fast paced, highly addictive and full of twists and turns which keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

This is S J Watson's debut novel and I am looking forward to his next release in anticipation although it will be difficult to top this one.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Just Another Manic Mum-Day by Mink Elliott

Just Another Manic Mum-Day

Roxy, Jack and daughter Joey, three, are building a new life for themselves in sunny Sydney, Australia, but Roxy's finding it hard to settle down. When she discovers she's pregnant again, things become even more complicated - how will she cope with a second child? Frustrated at the lack of places for stressed-out mums to go, Roxy and her new friend, Shoshanna, set up Just Another Manic Mum-Day - a cafe catering exclusively for parents. But when an opportunity arises for Roxy to return to England, she realises just how much she's missed home...

Following the success of her debut novel, The Pissed Off Parent Club, Mink Elliott is back with another great book, Just Another Manic Mum-Day.

The main character in this book, Roxy, has recently moved to Australia with her husband and young daughter. She applies for a job, which she gets, however, also finds out she is pregnant. Unsure how she feels about the pregnancy, she starts her new job with a heavy heart, having to put her child in nursery, a Jewish nursery, the only nursery with spaces for her daughter.
However, both Roxy and her husband come round to the pregnancy and look forward to the future, when Roxy suddenly looses her job when the company she works for goes bust. Left with no job, Roxy and her friend from the nursery Shoshanna decide, during a chat about the lack of child friendly coffee shops to open their own - and 'Just Another Manic Mum-Day' is born!

I enjoyed this book, it was an easy read and one that I could identify with. As I am sure many mums know, going out with a child can never be classed as uneventful. When out with young children, finding somewhere for you all to have a drink and/or somewhere to eat can be difficult - children find it very difficult to sit quietly and still for more than five minutes. Mink Elliott has come up with a great solution and I hope these catch on in the UK!!

The book was well written and it was obvious that the author was writing about subjects she was knowledgeable on. It was easy to pick up in a spare five minutes. The characters were all likable and I would love to be part of a staff team who worked well together - well except Shoshanna's husband.

While reading the book I could identify with many of the thoughts and observations made by Roxy when her and Shoshanna were coming up with the concept and ideas for JAMM and I found myself nodding in agreement and thinking what a great idea. 

The story centres around JAMM and the day to day life within it, however, there  are other little stories intermingled with the book too! With Shoshanna's husband being the cafe's manager and a lack of funds meaning the bank could repossess the cafe and they could loose everything. 

I recommend that this book would appeal to people who enjoy chick lit although I think the subject content would appeal to mothers who know the trials and tribulations connected to children and public perceptions. 

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

Horse Play by Jo Carnegie

Horse Play

Churchminster village - picturesque, quaint, sleepy - OR NOT...
A place where women know exactly what they want, and it's not cream tea with the vicar.
A place where anything can happen . . . so be careful what you wish for.
And a place where the men had better behave . . . because the ladies won't take it lying down (well, not unless they want to!)

This book, entitled Horse Play, is based around the world of horses, however do not let that put you off. I am not a 'horsey' person, however I soon was entranced in the book and, although it is a thick book, 600 pages long, I soon finished it over the Christmas period. 

I have been a keen reader of Jo Carnegie's Churchminster series, meeting the many characters and having an insight into their world. This is the fifth book in the popular series, which is based in Churchminster. However, the books are not only based here, the characters are all linked to the village in someway but they all have individual lives too, some of which are outside of the close knit village and it is interesting to see some of the main characters outside of the village. 

As ever Caro and Calyso are included within the book, along with their grandmother, Clementine and Angie and Freddie, owners of a large house and stables.. There are however two new characters which the story centres around: Kizzie, a young stable girl who loves horse riding and Javier Hamilton Scott, a mysterious man, who keeps himself to himself, but is a keen horseman and the object of Kizzie's affection. However, he has a past which he does not like talking about, centring around his wife, who was very ill and left in a coma many years ago, but no one knowing what happened to her. The story is centred around these two characters and I enjoyed finding out about Javier.

There is also a second story within the book, featuring Caro, her ex husband and their son, Milo. Her ex husband does nothing to improve my thoughts of him - in fact by the end of the book I actually despised him. He attempted to gain custody of Milo but by using dirty tricks and there were times during the book that I wanted to shake Caro and make her realise what was going on, but I think those sort of dirty tricks are used by other separated parents during custody battles. I do think this part of the story was perfectly written and a great inclusion to the book.  

Although the cover of the book depicts the story well, I was disappointed to see it as it does not match the rest of my Churchminster collection - I do like my sets to all match, however this was a minor point and should not detract from this fantastic read!

As I have come to expect from a Jo Carnegie book, you can guarantee the book will be full of fantastic characters, believable story content, beautiful countryside and sexual antics (as Heat have said on the cover of the proof I received "The new SATC (Sex and the Countryside)) and compulsive reading that little bit more each night. This author is my guilty pleasure, I had an excellent Christmas curled up for hours in an afternoon while my children (and husband) played with their new toys and I lost myself in Churchminster. 

As I hope you have gathered, I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it to you all. Although this is the fifth book in the Churchminster series, each book is a standalone novel and can be read in any order.

Thank you so much to the publishers, Corgi, for sending me this book to review. And to Jo Carnegie - I am already eagerly anticipating my next visit to Churchminster!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Mink Elliott Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who has entered my competition. It is now closed and there were 6 entries, however unfortunately I only have 5 copies to giveaway. The winners were picked out of the hat and they are:

  • The Book Addicted Girl
  • Lindsay
  • Mama J
  • Jackie 
  • Pukkapad
Please could you all email me your address: and I will pass your details onto the publisher to send them directly to you.

Thank you all and please visit my blog again as I am sure I will have more giveaways soon.

Pear Shaped by Stella Newman


f you found yourself glued to David Nicholls's One Day or belting out the lyrics to Amy Winehouse's Back to Black then you'll love this book. Girl meets boy. Girl loses boy. Girl loses mind. Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He's clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life -- to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie's instinct tells her James is too good to be true -- and he is. An exploration of love, heartbreak, self-image, self-deception and lots of food. Pear-Shaped is in turns smart, laugh-out-loud funny and above all, recognisable to women everywhere.

The debut novel by Stella Newman and one which I enjoyed reading. It was a light, easy read but full of humour, love and gorgeous sounding food. It is not one to read if you are on a diet as the main character is a product developer for desserts in a large food supermarket chain.

The main character, Sophie, finds love with sock businessman James Stephens, however it does not run smoothly. James seems to be someone who decides when and where they will meet and not caring for Sophie in the same way she does about him. He believes money talks and throws money at the relationship with wacky gifts and even asks her to design his kitchen, but he even has to put extra money into that for a overpriced and overlarge fridge. Sophie was supposed to be moving in following the new kitchen but this falls through and Sophie is left heartbroken and takes solace in food - but her life and job take a back seat. 

I did enjoy the book, however I took an instant dislike to James - he seemed to be one of those men who knows he makes lots of money and needs to throw it at anything he wants and did not show his true feelings to Sophie, was very cagey over emotions. I did however like Sophie and thought that she was a great lead character and did represent alot of women (and men) in the world who seeks solace in sweet food. Throughout the book I was constantly wanting Sophie to walk away from James and I was very happy with how the book ended, in more ways than one.

I really enjoyed Stella's writing style and it was an easy book to pick up and read a few chapters. I particularly loved the chapters set around Sophie's work - the descriptions were mouthwatering and I found the food tasting sessions in her obvious very funny, although I wouldn't like to sit opposite her nose picking boss! 

The front cover of this book is perfect - it depicts the story very well and the food is a major part of the book. It reflects the issues many people have with food and at times of heartbreak, nothing else will do! 

This book would be a great suggestion for a feel good read, when you want an easy read, that will make you laugh but also has a love story involved, although not the 'and they all live happily ever after'. 

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

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4

This is the 30th anniversary edition of the bestselling novel of the 1980s: "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4" by comic genius Sue Townsend. Friday January 2nd. I felt rotten today. It's my mother's fault for singing 'My Way' at two o'clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children's home. Meet Adrian Mole, a hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into adolescent life. Writing candidly about his parents' marital troubles, the dog, his life as a tortured poet and 'misunderstood intellectual', Adrian's painfully honest diary is still hilarious and compelling reading thirty years after it first appeared. "I not only wept, I howled and hooted and had to get up and walk around the room and wipe my eyes so that I could go on reading". (Tom Sharpe). "One of the great comic creations". ("Daily Mirror"). "Marvellous, touching and screamingly funny ...set to become as much a cult book as "The Catcher in the Rye". (Jilly Cooper). Sue Townsend is Britain's favourite comic author. Since the publication of "The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4" in 1982, she has made us weep with laughter and pricked the nation's conscience. Seven further volumes of diaries have followed: "The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole", "The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole", "Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years", "Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years", "The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole", "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction" and "Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years". All have been acclaimed bestsellers, some have been adapted for radio and TV, starring Lulu, Julie Walters and Stephen Mangan, among others. She has also written six other popular novels ("The Queen and I", "Queen Camilla", "Number Ten", "Rebuilding Coventry", "Ghost Children" and "The Woman Who Went to Bed for A Year") and penned many well-received plays. She lives in Leicester, where she was born and grew up.

When I was a teenager, this was one of my favourite books. It was funny and even though written from a males perspective I really enjoyed it. I would read it over and over throughout the year and would recommend it to others, although I would never share my copy! It is hard to believe that 2012 is the 30th anniversary for Adrian Mole and Penguin are celebrating this anniversary by re releasing the set. I was sent one of the anniversary edition copies and it was great to see the cover I remembered , with the noddy toothbrush and shaving paraphernalia on, on the inside cover.

Although the diary talks about life in the early 1980's and is a great book for social history and also what growing up in the 1980s was really like - however now, rereading the book today, it appears that Adrian Mole is immature compared to today's 13-4 year old. 

I will be looking out for the other books in this series, and I may have to repurchase them all, as my copies have been passed on to others. I must say I love the early books in the series best but the whole series covers my lifetime and includes many historic events of my lifetime. I would love to know what Adrian Mole thinks about the Coalition Government we now have and Prince William and Catherine's wedding this year. I hope Sue Townsend is going to continue this series in years to come.

It is still a great read though and I would recommend this to teenagers to today and also to Adrian's original fans.

I received this book from The Amazon Vine Program.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Crochet Book - Cath Kidston

The Crochet Tin Book
The Crochet Book is an irresistible gift set that is the perfect introduction to this traditional craft. Bringing her modern take to crochet, Cath Kidston has designed a colourful patch cushion that will cheer any room. Using double-knitting weight yarn in six upbeat, bright Cath Kidston colours, you can now make your very own Cath Kidston cushion. Packaged in a bright floral design, re-useable tin, this gift set includes everything you need to make the cushion including six balls of yarn, one red metal 4mm crochet hook plus a double-sided pattern sheet that gives all the instructions for making up the cushion. In addition, the gift set includes a 48 page paperback booklet containing all the essential information on the basic crochet techniques, including foundation chains, single crochet, double crochet, changing colours and finishing off. There are even some alternative ideas for what else you can make with your crochet patches in case a cushion isn't for you. With clearly written instructions accompanied by explanatory diagrams, The Crochet Book will tempt everyone to pick up a hook and start crocheting.

This is gorgeous - a fantastic gift for Cath Kidston fans everywhere. The set comes in a tin, which is a beautiful Cath Kidston design. 

The set includes: How to Crochet - a small book which details the basics of crochet in both words and pictures and explains basic terminology. There is also a section entitled avoiding mistakes which I found very useful. There are also six balls of yarn and a crochet hook. The wool are in beautiful, vibrant colours which look fantastic together. There is also included a pattern card for a granny square cushion - for use with the included wool. The pattern is a basic pattern and can be completed using the techniques shown in the instruction/technique book. The pattern uses nine granny squares and a large square for the back. It will be quick to stitch up and could be completed in a week.

I would recommend this as a fantastic crafty gift for any age. The pattern is easy enough for beginners to follow, but accomplished crochets will love the vibrant colours and will add their own style to the pattern. The set will also be a great gift for Cath Kidston fans and the reusable tin will look fantastic on any shelf.

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

Sunday, 15 January 2012

There's a house inside my mummy by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban

There's a House Inside My Mummy

There's a house inside my mummy Where my little brother grows, or maybe it's my little sister No one really knows.A gentle and tender story of a little boy waiting for his new brother or sister to arrive. Told with humour and a simple rhyming text, this is the perfect picture book for all expectant brothers and sisters. "A great book for sharing with your firstborn while your second is still in the 'tummy house'." The Times

This is a great book for toddlers to understand their mother's pregnancy. It does not go into detail about how? but it tells them enough to prepare them. The little boy in the book asks some fantastic questions and voices his thoughts and I think these will be the thoughts of many inquisitive toddlers who can see a mummy's growing tummy and help them realise they will soon be joined by a new sibling.

The book is written in verse, something which I know children like to listen to. The pictures throughout the book are brightly coloured and simple pictures which depict the story perfectly.

The book I have reviewed is the board book version, however it is also available as a paperback bigger book. 

I would recommend this as a perfect gift for any child who's mum is pregnant to prepare them for the impending arrival. It is easy to understand and in the language of toddlers.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run Forum and Orchard Books for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The House That Groaned by Karrie Fransman

The House That Groaned

It's 141 Rottin Road. 'A cosy, one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a charming Victorian conversion. Newly decorated and with a separate kitchen and reception room. Located just a bus ride away from a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars'. Welcome to The House that Groaned and the six lonely inhabitants of its separate flats, characters so at odds with themselves and their bodies that they could only have stepped out of the pages of a comic novel. There's Barbara, our make-up artist heroine and man-made blonde bombshell; Matt, the photographic retoucher who can't touch; Janet, the tormented dietician; twenty-something Brian, the diseaseophile whose sexual penchant takes him to the edge of perversion; old Mrs Durbach, who literally blends in to the background; and, the gloriously fleshy and hedonistic Marion, matriarch of the Midnight Feasters. Behind the house's anonymous facade, the building is decaying. As pipes explode and walls collapse, events force the residents out of their doors and into each others lives - with dramatic consequences. Exploring the themes of body image, sexuality and the loneliness and isolation of contemporary urban life, "The House that Groaned" is a modern-day fairy tale full of magic realism and farcical symbolism which will woo both comic fans and attract new readers to the medium.

When I saw the cover of this book, I was instantly attracted to it. it is a clever cover, a double cover. The first being the outside of the house, with the windows cut out and the second cover being the inside of the house, each of the eight 'apartments' being a separate dwelling, each with their own style and individual resident. 

I will also admit, that I didn't realise that it was a graphic novel. However, this was a pleasant surprise. i don't usually read graphic novels, thinking of them as comics for grown ups. I was unsure how I would get on with it, not expecting to like it - however much I liked the synopsis I had already read.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised. It was a quick read, and a funny read.  We get to meet each of the eight residents, including the 'Do or Diet Club Leader', Barbara, the new resident, and Brian, from number one, to name but a few. They are a mad mix of people to all be under on 'communal roof' and their antics in the book have to be read to be believed.

I would say this is a book that I believe would appeal to men rather than women,  but that is just my opinion, women may enjoy it too. It is rather 'adult' content though and not one to leave around for youngsters to flick through.

I will say that I thought the artwork throughout the book was fantastic, great comical cartoon drawing and the dark colour scheme of bluey green (teal?), black and white throughout was perfect for this book.

Thank you to the publishers, Square Peg, part of Random House, for sending me the book to review.

Author Interview and Giveaway - Mink Elliott

Today I am very pleased to welcome Mink Elliott to my blog. Mink is a journalist, who has worked on many magazines in both the UK and Australia, and was the deputy editor of the magazine Practical Parenting. She has previously written 'The Pissed Off Parent's Club' and is now back with her second book, 'Just Another Manic Mum-Day' which I will be reviewing on this blog shortly.

I notice that you were the deputy editor of Practical Parenting Magazine. I know when I was pregnant and had young children that I found the magazine to be a very useful magazine to read – lots of handy advice and tips and also viewpoints from experts and also, more importantly, other mums. Was this an inspiration for ‘Just another Manic Mum Day’ cafe where parents could get together and discuss concerns or worries they don’t want to bother doctors and/or health visitors with?

Well, no, not really. Not that I’m aware of...maybe subconsciously? I think Practical Parenting is a great mag, too – but the inspiration for the cafe in Just Another Manic Mum-Day came from personal experience. I often felt unwelcome with my kids in the cafes I used to go to – the pram was unwieldy, constantly getting in the waitresses’ way, and more often than not, the kids would get bored and act up, making the break in the cafe anything but restful, relaxing or remotely recharging! I found it so difficult to feed a baby/wipe sticky hands / perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a choking toddler while simultaneously carrying on an adult conversation that in the end, I just stopped going to cafes altogether. Which meant that my social life died a swift, but certainly not painless death. As a mum, I needed other mums to talk to – people who understood how I felt; people who could reassure me that things would get easier as the kids got older (or at least that the hardships would be different); people who’d been there and done it and had the sick stains on their shoulder pads to prove it. Doctors and health visitors just didn’t cut it for me, for the real nitty-gritty of what it means to be a mum. But if a cafe existed where mums could talk uninterrupted to each other, where the kids would be happy and occupied, where mums could get good advice about all their changing relationships, where they felt welcome and wanted and could have a laugh and manage to get through a cup of tea while it was still hot...well, then. And so Just Another Manic Mum-Day was born.    

Would you ever be interested in setting up a cafe just for parents and their children – and would you enjoy sharing your advice and experiences with the customers?

God, yes! I would absolutely love to do that! And I would have so much fun – not to mention learn so much – sharing stories with customers. Unfortunately, I think I’d eat all the profits (or at least all the pastries, so we wouldn’t make any profit!) and I don’t think I have the patience or the energy or, indeed, the basic maths to set up a cafe.

The cafe sounds like a fantastic idea – many Internet forums have been set up for parents to share their ideas, voice their concerns or to find a friendly ear to listen to their worries – the cafe would be a great extension to this idea. Have you ever taken part in one of these forums and was it a starting point for the cafe idea?

I am actually a bit of a Luddite when it comes to all this new-fangled technology, so when someone mentions forums to me, the first thing that comes to my mind is curly-haired men in togas having complicated philosophical discussions in ancient Rome. So, no, Internet chat rooms (if they are the same things as forums?!) weren’t a starting point for the cafe idea. Now, though, I’m getting my own website up and running and going on Facebook and even tentatively dipping a toe into the sea of Twitter, so I hope to get the hang of it all soon. But thanks for the heads up, Sarah - now I’ll never get any work done, making up for lost time lounging about in cyber cafes all day! 

Did your time spent working on magazines give you lots of ideas for books?

No, I don’t think so. I was usually too busy worrying about the magazine folding or recovering from yet another night’s ‘fretting’ (i.e. having 12 too many cocktails with everyone else on the team) to think about ideas for books. I always wanted to write a book, like loads of other people who work on magazines, but I had no ideas and thought it was just another far-fetched fantasy that would never come to fruition. Come to think of it, though, the book I’m writing at the minute sees the main character working in PR at a magazine publishing house and her boyfriend is the Editor of a men’s mag, so... But the ideas, the main plots for the books usually come from some emotional situation in my or a friend’s life that I think might resonate with lots of other people. For instance, I’ve never opened up a cafe, but I did feel that disconnect from the world once I became a full-time mum. I’ve longed for quiet time on my own to sip a cup of tea and contemplate my navel (let alone get any work done!) – but when you have children and you don’t have any paid help, you can kiss that scenario goodbye. For a while, at least. So no, it wasn’t working on magazines that gave me lots of ideas for books – it was having kids. Because kids change everything – your priorities, your outlook, your relationships, your behaviour, your figure – all for the better, of course... Well, except for maybe your figure!

Will you continue to write about families with young children or do you think you will use your time spent on more!, Bliss and J-17 to write about older children in future books?

I imagine that as myself and my kids get older, so, too will the characters in my books, funnily enough (see answer to Question 6) and yes, my experiences of teenagers at those mags may well come in handy! All I want, though, is to develop and learn and really grow as a novelist. And I hope, one day, to get really good at it, whether it be writing about families with young children or teenagers or gardening or Medieval maidens or UFOs or whatever. As long as the ideas, stories and characters keep me awake at night, refusing to leave me alone, then I’ll continue to try and get it all down to the best of my ability. Number Two on my wish list is that I’ll be lucky enough to keep on writing about stuff that matters to me and getting published for a long time yet (Number One is that my family are all healthy and happy). And as long as I love it – I mean, really love it, like getting that lost-in-a-movie feeling, unaware of the passage of time and thinking that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing when I’m alone, writing – then I’ll keep at it.   

Are any of the characters within your books autobiographical or based on any real friends?

Oh yes! Although my Editor (hi Bex!) is always on at me to lose the autobiographical stuff, I still find it quite difficult – especially when you’re writing in the first person. But while I admit some of it is a bit autobiographical, I won’t reveal which bits! And so what if many of my friends’ personalities have shamelessly been plundered for characters in my books? I still won’t tell you who they are in real life or which parts I stole. And anyway, I think everyone does that to a certain extent when they’re writing, don’t they? It’s like whoever is around you and whatever’s happening at the time of writing influences you enormously. But there’s also a massively strong element of fantasy and wishful thinking and imagination in there too, I think. For the most part, though, both The Pissed-Off Parents Club and Just Another Manic Mum-Day are, in actual fact, fiction. The characters contain pieces of me and my friends, and the feelings they have are, I think, universal - but the situations they find themselves in are made up.

And on that bombshell, I’m off to my favourite cafe for a cuppa.  

Great talking to you, Sarah - all the best for 2012!
Mink xxx

Thank you Mink for the great interview. I will warn you now; Internet chat rooms, forums, facebook and Twitter can all become addictive! Please don't blame me for putting these ideas into your head and delay you writing another fantastic book.

My review of 'Just Another Manic Mum-Day' will be on the blog soon, but until then, the fantastic people at Sphere have offered me 5 copies to giveaway on my blog.

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 Wednesday 18th January 2012 and the books will be posted out by the publisher. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

You, Me and Thing - The Dreaded Noodle-Doodles by Karen McCombie

The Dreaded Noodle-Doodles - You Me and Thing 2

Want to know a secret? There is something very, very strange living in the trees behind my house. If you tiptoe slowly and quietly (ssh!) to the bottom of my garden, you might hear it rustling and rootling and 'peh!'ing in the dark undergrowth, on the other side of the low stone wall. And if you peek over the wall - holding your breath - there's a chance you could spot two saucer-round eyes blinking out of a strangely square opening in the tree roots...Ruby and Jackson get the surprise of their lives when they discover a Thing living at the bottom of their gardens. But Thing is cute, and funny, even if sometimes when he's upset he gets a bit ARRGHH! And that's when the trouble starts. Like the time he comes to school, and Ruby and Jackson find themselves mixed up in a terrible tangle of noodle-doodles! The second in a hilarious new series by best-selling author Karen McCombie, illustrated throughout with irresistible black and white line art by Alex T. Smith.

This is book 2 in the new series by Karen McCombie, book 1 was entitled 

You, Me and Thing - The Curse of the Jelly Babies by Karen McCombie, which I reviewed here

This book begins with a swish! A song, sung by Thing. Ruby and Jackson, visit Thing after school one day, where Jackson complains about a teacher who had marked his geography homework at only 2/10. Of course, Thing doesn't know what a school is and after Jackson and Ruby explain what a school is, Thing, of course, wants to visit their school. Jackson and Ruby are unsure - but their main problem is how to get Thing into school without anybody seeing him. Who knew Thing would get travel sick?? Of course a trip with Thing is not uneventful but I won't ruin that for readers!

I enjoyed this book as much as the first and it was great to see Alex T. Smith's fantastic line drawings throughout the book. I think Thing looks cute and full of mischief - Alex appears to have captured the cheekiness of Thing perfectly. I also liked the inclusion within the text of parts which have been written by hand - usually Ruby's private thoughts on things and is written using language currently popular with youngsters today.

McCombie's writing style is fantastic and I think children aged 7+ will enjoy reading this book alone or sharing with their peers. The chapters are the perfect length to share at bedtime and will capture the children's imagination quickly.

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

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane? Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I was intrigued by this book when I read about it, I like books that are set over a short period of time, this one is 24 hours. It is cleverly written and is easy to read.

The book introduces us to Hadley, an American girl who needs to catch a flight to England, to go to her father's wedding the next day. However, due to a number of mistakes and incidents, she missed her flight by four minutes. When she had rebooked her flight and gone to the waiting area, she met a tall, handsome stranger, who she discovers will be sitting one seat away from her for the flight to England. Not much is known about Oliver, except that he is English and is studying in America, but returning to England for a family occasion. 

The plane journey is a large part of the book, and the relationship between Hadley and Oliver grows as they talk throughout the flight and fall asleep on each other. However, they are separated at immigration and each go on their separate journeys. Hadley hopes that Oliver will be waiting for her in arrivals, however is disappointed to find he hasn't and continues her journey to her father's wedding. It is after the ceremony that she realises that Oliver may not have been going to a wedding as she had assumed .....

I did enjoy this book, it was an easy, quick read (only just over 200 pages) and was something that could be read over one night. It reminded me a little of the film Sliding Doors in so much as what would happen if you were a few minutes later than intended - where fate took over. i do not really believe that things happen for a reason however the story was believable.

I liked the straightforward story, there were no twists and turns but it was a predictable story in that girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, an easy read when you want a story that you don't have to concentrate heavily on. 

The book covers how a child feels about a parent remarrying, which i think is a subject that is becoming more common in the world today. There is also Oliver's story, which I will not reveal here, but another one which will touch peoples heart.

One thing I will say is about the cover. I was lucky enough to receive a proof of this book, which had a cartoon style cover with hand drawn clouds and aeroplanes, which I think depicted the book perfectly, rather than the cover which accompanies this review which is a slightly harsh cover in my opinion.

I would recommend it for teenagers or young women as a great read, I think older women would think is that it?, there is nothing to get your teeth into. 

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

Friday, 6 January 2012

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Me Before You

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

This is one of the books chosen by Richard and Judy for their Spring 2012 books club in partnership with WHSmiths (full list can be seen here). There are some great books in the selection and I will be featuring more of the titles here soon. 

As soon as I started this book I fell in love with it. It was such an easy book to read and get lost in - one morning I read until 2am. 

The book starts in 2007, where we meet Will Trayner, a city, high flyer, who leaves his flat as usual one morning, to be involved in a terrible accident which changes his life forever - however it is not until later in the book that we find out he did survive but with life changing injuries. 

The other main character in the book is Louisa, who at 26 years old, still lives at home with her parents and her sister and her young son. She worked in a local cafe, where she was happy people watching and chatting with the regulars, however she returns home early one night after the owner tells her he is closing the cafe to return to his hometown. After many unsuccessful job suggestions from the job centre, she applies to be a private carer for a quadriplegic man.

This book does have the expected carer falling for her 'patient' but there is so much to this book than that. That is a back story really and the book is alot more than a love story. Before Louisa took the carer's job she had no plans for her life, with a boyfriend who seemed to care more about training for an extreme race than spending time with his girlfriend. From the moment Louisa meets her charge, there is a spark and they play well off each other - there are many witty comments and Louisa is determined not to let him dwell on his condition. These quick, witty comments and conversations are very funny and there were times when I was laughing out loud while reading the book. However, there is a darker side to the book too. When Louisa finds out the real reason that she has been hired for a strict six months, she is determined to help her charge's parents as much as possible and make a difference. It is during this time that Louisa changes, Will helps her to decide what she wants out of life and for her to change her life and take steps to achieve her dreams. However, Louisa also decides she needs to do all she can to improve Will's life, and prove to him that, despite his injuries, that he can still do things and enjoy life. I found myself, throughout the book, beginning to think of Lou as a friend, I learnt so much about her and her ways that I could easily have been a friend who I met in the pub to talk about the day. Will was also a likeable character, and I found myself understanding his decision but I wished he would let Louisa in a bit more.

This book had me going through a wide range of emotions - laughter, humour, sadness and also, that feeling of 'if i was affected, what would I do?'

The book was released yesterday (05/01/12) and to turn on the news and to find one of the top stories being about the main story of this book I found to be very poignant. I think that JoJo has covered this subject very sensitively and looked at it from the points of view of both the patient, his parents and also that of his employed carers and I hope that the book is enjoyed by many readers and the subject can be discussed by many, informed, people, although I am sure that when the subject relates to someone close to you, a person's view may be changed or become blurred.

I would recommend this to anyone who would like a thought provoking read on a emotive subject, which is well written and researched and a great read!

I received this book through the Amazon Vine programme.