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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Dear Santa by Kathryn White and Polona Lovsin

Dear Santa
"Rabbit!" calls Little Bear. "I've found a letter for Santa. It was lost in the snow! We must take it to him!" "Tails and whiskers!" cries Rabbit. "How exciting!" So the two friends set out on a long journey full of adventures. But will they make it to Santa's grotto in time?A gorgeous Christmas storybook that comes with Christmassy writing paper, envelopes and stickers so children can write a letter to Santa too!

This book is a lovely introduction for children who are writing a letter to Santa. Included in the book is some lovely Christmassy paper to write the letter on and even has the address to write on the envelope too!

The book is not too traditional - the main characters are a little bear and a rabbit who find a letter blowing in the breeze that is addressed to Santa. The animals find a reindeer who takes them to Santa's grotto where they meet the big man himself.

The book has beautiful illustrations which are timeless and will be loved year after year as the book is bound to be bought out each year to share together over the festive period.

This would be a beautiful book to share each year and with the special letter to write that first letter is sure to make the perfect gift to a young child.

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

Bundles of Joy by Linda Fairley

Bundles of Joy: Two Thousand Miracles. One Unstoppable Manchester Midwife
The second book from Sunday Times bestselling author Linda Fairley. 'No matter how many babies I deliver, each and every one is a miracle, connecting me to the world like nothing else, reminding me that we are all equal in the beginning, and in the end. It's a great leveller, childbirth.' It's January 1972 and times have changed since Linda first stepped onto a maternity ward four years earlier. Gone are the starched skirts and steaming milk kitchens of the 1960s; these are the exhilarating days of disposable equipment and new technology. The Pill will soon be free to all women, and more and more fathers are daring to brave the delivery room. At the newly-opened Ashton maternity unit the midwives' spirits are high, and, in spite of the dark cloud of laundry strikes on the horizon, there's the scent of a new era on the cold winter wind. But one thing has stayed the same - the babies keep coming. Year after year, Linda faithfully helps the women of Greater Manchester through their most vulnerable and emotional hours, whether it is by giving calm instructions over the phone to a panicking husband, delivering a baby unexpectedly in a hospital lift, or by dashing headlong to the rescue of a snowed-in mum-to-be. As 25-year-old Linda becomes a mother herself she understands, more than ever, what a precious gift it is to bring children into the world, and she holds each new baby just that little bit tighter. As the years roll by Linda finds herself delivering the babies of mothers and fathers she helped to bring into the world decades earlier - making her something of a local celebrity. Through the highs and lows, through the modernisations that transform the hospital and the world outside, Linda's passion for midwifery burns as bright as ever. With 42 years of experience Linda is one of Britain's longest-serving midwives, and reaching the retirement age in 2008 didn't stop her doing the job she loves. Although she has seen generations of women give birth and delivered more than 2,000 babies, she treats every new arrival like the new miracle it is.

 This is the second book written by Linda Fairley about her career as a midwife. The first book, The Midwife's Here, has also been reviewed on my blog and I enjoyed this book as much as, if not more than, the first. The first book concentrated on Fairley's early life as a student midwife and the period when she was new qualified. This book concentrates on her career and also her family life when she became the patient as her children were born in her workplace. It was interesting to see how she adapted to being a mother herself and how she coped through labour and how her practice changed following her maternity leave. There are times of happiness and sadness throughout the book and it is clear to see that a midwife's job is never boring or the same two days running!

It was also really interesting to see how midwifery has changed through the decades and this book really documents them well through the eyes of a midwife and it would make a great source of knowledge for student midwives to reflect on.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all who love a real life story to relax and loose themselves in. I really hope that Linda Fairley will be publishing another book very soon as I love to read about her life.

Monster Mayhem Doodle Wars (Top That Publishers)

Monster Mayhem - Doodle Wars 

Arm yourself with a pen or pencil and get ready for the Monster Mayhem Games ....... let the doodle wars commence!
Includes colour-in stickers to decorate your doodle war pictures.

This book is perfect for boys who love to draw, colour in and love creative activities. It is full of partly drawn pictures with lots of room for children to complete the picture in any way they wish. The pictures are all black and white line drawings which make up a story which runs through the whole book and will capture imagination perfectly. There are a range of abilities catered for in this book - some of the pictures are very simple drawings whereas there are also some on the higher scale but all pictures can be adapted to suit a range of abilities.

One thing I really like about this book are the two pages of colouring in stickers. All children love stickers and this is the first time I have seen colour-in stickers in an activity book. 

In summary I think this is a fantastic book for boys aged 7+ and I am sure it would be a greatly received present for boys, great to keep tucked away for rainy days, long car journeys or to keep them occupied at any time.

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

Ten Shiny Snowflakes by Russell Julian

Ten Shiny Snowflakes - Moulded Counting Books
It's snowing in the woods and the animals can't wait to go out to play! Join them as they get ready to play snowy games in this enchanting counting book with shiny snowflakes to touch and count, that disappear as you turn the pages.

A beautiful book to share with a young child during the winter period.  It is a lovely book to read over Winter, one which does not involve Christmas.

The story is written in verse and counts down from ten - perfect for helping them to learn their numbers. It is one of those books that readers will soon be reciting and will be read over and over again either alone or with their peers.

The book has 10 snowflakes which disappear as the pages are turned until there are no snowflakes left at the end of the book. It has beautiful pictures which children of all ages will love.

I would recommend this book as a beautiful book to give as a gift over the winter period or to share with young children.

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

School's Out by Jack Sheffield

School's Out
As the new school year begins, Jack Sheffield prepares for an even more eventful year than usual. A new teacher is appointed, and before long tongues start to wag. Meanwhile, five-year old Madona Fazackerly makes her mark in an unexpected way, life changes dramatically for Ruby the caretaker and, in the village Coffee Shop, Dorothy Humpleby plans a dirty weekend. It's 1983 - the era of the new CD player, Microsoft Word, the McDonalds McNugget, cabbage patch dolls, the threat of a miners' strike and a final farewell to the halfpenny piece. Jack has to manage a year of triumph and tragedy.

I am a big fan of Jack Sheffield's books and was looking forward to this one for a long time. I was not disappointed, Sheffield has written another fantastic account of another school year at Ragley on the Forest Village School.

When we left Jack and his wife, Beth, at the end of Educating Jack, they had just welcomed their son, John, into the world and now while Jack returns to the headship role, Beth is on maternity leave, at home, with John.

I really enjoy reading these books, not only to catch up with what is happening in Ragley on the Forest village, because although the book is predominantly the unofficial record of the school year, the villagers are frequently popping up and village life recorded. There are lots of regular characters and now, with this being the seventh book, they feel like my own neighbours, and it is great to be able to catch up with them again.

Not only is this book a fictional story, it is also a look back at social history with this book alone seeing the new craze of Cabbage Patch Dolls for children and computers beginning to be used in schools to name but a few.

This book has many humorous moments, with some of those gems which come out of the mouths of babes being included in the book, but this book also has some sadness, as one character dies.  One teacher leaves the school, leaving the door open for a new teacher to be bought it. I think that this could have an effect on the school over the next year and am looking forward to the next instalment already.

However, when I got to the end of this book I am unsure in what direction the next book will be going in as I think Jack and Beth have some big decisions to make over their future. Also Laura is back on the scene and I think she may be about to cause trouble for at least one character. I look forward to seeing how Jack Sheffield moves on from here.

I recommend this book to anyone who has been following the series so far, but also to new readers. Although this book is part of a series, I am sure it would be a great stand alone read and could get you hooked on the series. I also think it would be great research for anyone who is studying social history in the early 1980's.

Thank you to the publishers, Transworld, for sending me this great book to review.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Valentines Card by Juliet Ashton

The Valentine's Card

The Valentine's card was meant to be Orla's fairy tale ending, but really, it was only the beginning ...Orla adores her actor boyfriend, Sim, who's away filming a sumptuous costume drama. Although the long-distance relationship means that she can eat toast for dinner and watch as much reality TV as she likes, she misses him like crazy. But Valentine's Day changes everything ...The same morning Orla learns that Sim has died, she receives a card from him. As Orla travels from Ireland to London, to live and breathe Sim's final moments, can she bring herself to open the Valentine's card and read his final message?

As soon as I saw the synopsis for this book I was knew that it was a book I would be looking forward to reading. When I received the book I was not disappointed. It is a cleverly written book, swapping between the present day and excerpts from Sim's previous years diary leading up to the fateful day.

The 'intrigue' begins from the very start of the book. As Orla receives the devastating news that her partner, Sim, had died on a London street and the pink envelope is dropped through her letterbox, I really wanted to know what was written in that last valentine - was it the marriage proposal that Orla believed it to be or was it something else? I won't give the storyline away but when she finally read the  valentine, after carrying it around with her for months, the story didn't end there. I had guessed part of the plot, but there was another twist around the corner which made the story even more poignant.

I really enjoyed the style of the book, swapping between the present day and Sim's life in London via his diary entries. There was also a look behind the scenes of a film production in Sim's work life and the glitz and glam within the cast, although this storyline is a very minor part.

I would recommend this book as a great one to read while in the valentine spirit - it is not the traditional boy meets girl, boy marries girl - but is well worth a read.

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

Cupcakes at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

Cupcakes at Carringtons
A deliciously indulgent read from a hot debut writer and first in a series of books set in Carrington's Department Store - where life is sweeter...Perfect for fans of Meet Me in the Cupcake Cafe and Breakfast at Darcy's. Georgie Hart had it all - as a top personal shopper in London, the heady world of Mulberry launch parties and Louis Vuitton goody bags meant she was living the dream. But all that extravagance took its toll on her bank balance and it was time to stop drinking champagne on beer money. Now Georgie runs the luxury bag concession at Carrington's Department store in the pretty seaside town of Mulberry Bay and her lavish spending is confined to a red velvet cupcake with butter cream icing in Carrington's cafe. But her plans for a quiet life are thwarted when Carrington's goes into a recession-busting makeover and soon, with the arrival of Maxine, wielding the axe in her immaculately manicured hands, Georgie is fighting not only for her job, but also for the attentions of her dishy boss, James. And when newcomer Tom arrives, who may or may not be the best thing since sliced bread, Georgie must decide where her loyalties really lie...

This was one of the books I was looking forward to in 2013 and I have not been disappointed!

The book is set in a top department store and the main character, Georgie, works there, surrounded by high quality and luxury goods, which she sells to the customers. She loves her job but also loves high quality lifestyles which has done serious damage to her bank balance and credit rating! However, when Maxine is drafted in to guide the company through a recession-busting makeover, Georgie is left fighting for her job.

I really enjoyed this book, it is a lighthearted read with a number of story lines running through the book, culminating in a great ending which has left me already looking forward to the second in the promised trilogy set within Carrington's.There are a number of interesting characters who I am already looking forward to meeting again in the other two books in the trilogy, each have their own story which when woven together make a great read.

One Snowy Day by Tracey Corderoy (Willow Valley)

One Snowy Day - Willow Valley 5

The perfect gift for Christmas. Willow Valley is a very special place. Nestled in a hidden valley, trees of all shapes and sizes grew on the rolling green hills and pretty flowers dance in the meadows. Only the animals who live there know their way in and out, but they hardly ever want to lave because they're having too much fun ...especially now it's snowing!

I have been a fan of Tracey Corderoy for sometime and I am always amazed when I receive her latest release because she writes a wide and varied collection of books to suit many ages and reading levels, aswell as a variety of characters - be it The Grunt and the Grouch, Daisy the Duck to name but a few.

The latest book I received to review was from a series of books I had never seen before. Willow Valley sounds like a beautiful and idyllic place to live - to run in Buttercup Meadow, to explore Bluebell Wood or to meet with friends in the Village Square - the valley immediately comes to life in your imagination and readers are able to picture the village instantly.

The story is a lovely read and is great for Early Readers who are gaining confidence in reading independently. There is, however, one 'problem' I found with the stories and that are the characters names; Horatio and Riley are rather difficult names to pronounce, let alone sound out. However, this is a minor criticism and I am sure with parental help that the young children could learn the names.

This book series reminds me of one of my childhood favourites, Brambly Hedge, with its cute animals, living in a village and having adventure.

I recommend this book to animal loving children who want to read a great story independently or for adults who wish to share a story with their children.

The Snow Bear by Holly Webb

The Snow Bear
As the snow begins to fall just days before Christmas, Grandad helps Sara build an igloo in the garden with a small snow bear to watch over it. And when Sara wakes in the middle of the night, it looks very different outside. She sets out on an enchanted journey through a world of ice, but will she ever find her way home...

Another fantastic read from Holly Webb. My daughter really enjoys her books and looks forward to her new releases with glee. This book is a hardback with a beautiful illustration on the cover of a polar bear with her cub.

The story reminds me of the popular Christmas film, The Snowman. A child who is taken on a magical tour by a snow bear after falling asleep in an igloo in the garden. As with all of Holly Webb's books, there is a strong animal presence in the story and the story teaches the reader about life in The Arctic. The story includes some simple, but beautiful, pencil sketch illustrations which add to the story.

I would recommend this book to readers who like animals and think it is great for fans of Holly Webb's who are growing out of her other books.

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

My Playful Puppy Problem (Humphrey's Tiny Tales) by Betty G. Birney

My Playful Puppy Problem! - Humphrey's Tiny Tales Bk. 6

Dear friends, I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE sharing my adventures as a classroom hamster with all my friends. But sometimes my paw gets tired from so much writing! To give it a rest, I've written someshorter tales that are every bit as funny and exciting as my According to Humphrey books. They're called "Humphrey's Tiny Tales" and they've even got illustrations! (I'm quite pleased at how cute I look in the pictures.) I'm unsqueakably excited to share my new stories with you and I think Humphrey fans and new younger readers will be excited too! Your Furry Friend, Humphrey. Humphrey has loved helping Richie with his science project, but then Richie's new dog bounds in and ruins all their hard work! If only Humphrey can keep that playful puppy away, he has a GREAT-GREAT-GREAT idea to save the day, but will it work? He's in for a close call and another fur-raising adventure! Illustrated throughout with black and white line illustrations by Penny Dann.

Humphrey is a cute little hamster who lives at Longfellow School and is a class pet. Each child is given the oppurtunity to take him home for a weekend, and when it is Richie's turn, he decides to use Humphrey in his science project but when Richie's new dog meets Humphrey the project is in trouble - will Humphry be able to save the project before Richie has to take it into school??

This is a fun children's story which animal lovers will love and will appeal to children who love a good giggle. It will keep children amused from the start to the end and hopefully will encourage them to pick up more good reads from this author.

Thank you to the publishers, Faber Children's Books for sending me this book to review.

The Magic Toyshop series by Jessie Little

Rag Bag Friends: Bk. 6 - Magic ToyshopThe Naughty Croc - Magic ToyshopTreasure Island Trouble - Magic ToyshopThe Rabbit Rescue: Bk. 5 - Magic Toyshop
The Hoozles are all individual and no two are the same. They each have a special pocket, in which their new owner must place something very special to them - which enables them to come to life when no adults are around. Most of the Hoozles are nice and kind, except Naughty Croc who is forever into mischief and no good. It is up to the Hoozle Council, Wizard the Owl,Lovely the pony and Grouchy the Penguin, to ensure peace is kept at all times.

Each book introduces new characters to the stories and there are many adventures that the Hoozles go on - all to do with Naughty Croc's latest  mischief. 

The stories all feature the fantastic illustrations of Penny Dann who brings The Hoozles to life. The stories are perfect for early readers to read alone or to be shared a chapter at night between a child and their peers. 

They remind me in some way to Care Bears from my childhood but they are fantastic characters in their own right and I am sure children will enjoy reading these stories. I could also see an opening in the market for The Hoozles as toys, of course they couldn't come to life but the idea of a child putting something in their special heart pocket is a lovely idea. I especially loved the Ragbag Friends story which saw Croc making his own toys from the scraps of fabric he found - something which is becoming popular again as Make do and Mend makes a comeback!

Thank you to the publisher Faber Kids for sending me the books to review.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson

A Winter Flame

'Tis the season to be jolly...But can Eve find happiness through the frost...? Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiance was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored elderly aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme...And that's not the only catch. Her aunt's will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will? But Eve isn't going to back down from a challenge. She's determined to make a success of Winterworld, no matter what. Can she overcome her dislike of Christmas, and can Jacques melt her frozen heart at last...?

This was one of the books that got me into the Christmas spirit last year. The main character, Eve, does not look forward to Christmas since her fiance was killed on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. This becomes a problem when, following a visit to her Aunt's solicitor to read her will, she finds out her aunt has been secretly planning and building her own Christmas wonderland. Her aunt left her to continue with her dream, but stipulates that she must work with Jacques Glace, a mysterious man who Eve has never heard of before.

As with all of Milly Johnson's books, A Winter Flame is well written with a female cast who can be related to and feel like friends due to the style of writing Johnson is famous for.  I really enjoyed the storyline - it has a Christmas theme, however it could be read at any time of the year and be enjoyed.

I really enjoyed the puzzle of who the mysterious Jacques Glace was. It added an air of mystery to the story and I enjoyed following Eve's actions into discovering who he was. I also enjoyed remeeting with characters from White Wedding, I hope that Milly Johnson will carry on with this and include past characters in more of her books.

I found this book to be one of those that I didn't want to put down, I had me entranced and I built up my own images into what the Winter wonderland would look like in real life - I would love someone to open up their own Winter wonderland, I know that I for one would visit it. I was able to loose myself in this book for hours at a time and would of finished it in one sitting if family life hadn't taken over!

I am already looking forward to Milly Johnson's next release.

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

The Abandoned Puppy by Holly Webb

The Abandoned Puppy - Holly Webb Animal Stories 23

Zoe is thrilled to be helping out at her Auntie Jo's animal shelter over the Easter holidays. But she doesn't expect to come across a box on the steps of the shelter containing three tiny abandoned puppies. It's touch and go for the littlest pup, whom Zoe names Cookie. Over the next few weeks, Zoe takes special care of Cookie and a close bond is formed between the two of them. But how will Zoe cope when it comes for the puppies to be rehomed?

This is the twenty third animal story book written by Holly Webb, a favourite author of my daughter's and even though she is reading harder books now she still loves to go back to these cute animal stories every now and then.

This story is perfect for this time of year, when many animals are given as presents over the Christmas period and many are dumped after Christmas when children may get fed up with them or families can't afford to keep the pets. In this story a litter of three puppies, who are left on the doorstep of Zoe's aunts animal shelter. There is one puppy who is weaker and tinier than the other two, Cookie, who forms a close bond with Zoe.

The story tells the story of life in the animal shelter and Zoe finds it difficult when these three puppies are put up for adoption, but Cookie also struggles when one by one the puppies leave and she realises she may also leave soon - without Zoe.

As with all of Holly Webb's books, it is beautifully written and has beautiful pencil sketch drawings which accompany the story. It is great for children who are gaining confidence in reading alone or for children who enjoy a bedtime story which can be spread over a number of nights.

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

BFFs True Colours by Holly Robbins

True Colours - BFFs 3
Ellie, Jas, Nisha and Lexie are BFFs who've managed to survive a whole first term at secondary school together - even if there have been a few upsets along the way! Nisha's stepsister Poppy is coming to stay whilst her mother is away. But Nisha's excitement quickly evaporates when Poppy arrives. Poppy is intent on doing everything she can to make life difficult for Nisha. How can she make the others understand what Poppy is doing, when she is as sweet as sugar with everyone else?

This is the third book in the new series, BFFs,by Stripe Publishing and I have reviewed the first two books here . As I have already said these books are great for girls who are pre teen and have a close knit group of friends who are regularly having 'disagreements or for those who will be moving up into secondary school in September.

This book begins in the January term, following the Christmas holidays, when they are all settling back into school life after the Christmas performances. Nisha is excited to find that her step fathers daughter, Poppy, is coming to stay. Nisha is very excited about this and is looking forward to meeting her. However, when they do meet, they are not the good friends that Nisha hopes. There are problems both at home and in school and the other three friends find it difficult about what to do for the best. There are other smaller stories going on through the story and characters which were met in the first two books also make appearances in this book - there is a fashion show in the local shopping centre, the school disco and there is also a first boyfriend for one of the girls.

This series is getting better and better with each new release. My ten year old daughter is enjoying these books and is already looking forward to the next release. There are all the elements girls of that age are interested in - shopping, make up, music and friendships.

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

Matron on call by Joan Woodcock

Matron on Call: More True Stories of a 1960s NHS Nurse
That's the thing about Casualty - one minute you were trying desperately to save someone's life, the next you were trying to stop a simple nosebleed. Since training to be a nurse in the 1960s and with an NHS career spanning over forty years, Joan Woodcock has seen it all. Working on hospital wards and in prisons and police units, Joan quickly learned to keep a cool head whatever the situation. Here she recounts the highs and lows of her time in the casualty unit. Taking place over twenty-four hours one New Year's Eve, Matron on Call shows what really goes on behind the scenes in Accident and Emergency. Joan deals with every manner of injury: from broken limbs, horrific road accidents and fatal heart attacks to drunken patients jumping the queue, ingrown toenails and earache, Joan shares her memories and tales. Funny, poignant and compelling, this is a heartwarming portrait of a dedicated professional.

I do not work in the medical profession, however I have recently become interested in reading memoirs reminiscing about years gone by and their training. This was my latest guilty pleasure in reading about nursing in years gone by and I really liked the format of this book.

The book is set as a shift over New Years Eve in the 1980's at Wythenshawe Hospital where the author, Joan Woodcock, worked for six years. The author has decided to link stories together over the shift and although the cases are all true, they did not all happen in one night. I think this was a very clever idea and I enjoyed this format, although I have seen that other bloggers were unsure about this techniqur.

As with any hospital shift there were many cases - some were simple cases which needed cleaning, dressing and discharging, whereas others were more difficult, sometimes upsetting cases which left me thinking about the patients and their families after I closed the book.There were also humourous cases - a young man who caught himself in his trousers but also the distressing cases of overdoses. The book is a real piece of social history and I would recommend young student nurses read this book and see how the profession has progressed in the past 30 years.

Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons by Mick Inkpen

Wibbly Pig Has 10 Balloons - Wibbly Pig
Join the irresistible Wibbly Pig in this brilliantly original rhyming story - the perfect introduction to counting for young children. Wibbly Pig has ten balloons but not for very long! As he gives them away, he holds on tightly to his favourite teddy bear balloon. But then Big Pig's shouting sister comes along...

Mick Inkpen has been writing books for a long time and Wibbly pig is a very popular character. A lovely pig who has lots of friends and together they go on many fantastic adventures. With all of Inkpen's books there is a message behind the story and this one is all about sharing - who will Wibbly Pig share his 10 bright balloons with?

Inkpen writes his stories in beautiful rhymes, which children can pick up easily and will love to help tell the story. There are great illustrations throughout the book too which will attract children's attention and maintain it throughout the story.

A beautiful book and story which could be given to a chid as a gift or a book to share during story or bed time.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine programme.

Diary of a Christmas wombat by Jackie French

Diary of a Christmas Wombat
A hilarious view of Christmas as seen through the eyes of Mothball the wombat. Christmas comes but once a year and it's just as well for Santa's reindeer who have to fight with Mothball for the carrots left out for them by the local children. And when Mothball takes an unexpected sleigh ride, it's not just Santa who faces the prospect of getting stuck in the chimney. Christmas from a wombat's eye view is always going to be interesting - especially when that wombat is Mothball!

This book has fantastic pictures, beautifully drawn and they tell the story so well. The wombat looks so cute and cuddly and I am sure it will be a hit with both adults and children alike. 

Simple Sewing with Lola Nova by Alexandra Smith

Creative Makers: Simple Sewing with Lola Nova: With 25 Stylish Step-by-Step Projects for Your Handmade Life
Sewing is at the forefront of the new craft revolution and part of its charm is the chance to rediscover the skills of our grandmothers and to recycle treasured scraps of fabric. Celebrated craft blogger, Alexandra Smith, AKA Lola Nova, has created the perfect sewing book for the new crafternooner. With 25 highly original projects arranged into chapters on Boho, Vintage, Natural, Eclectic and Whimsy, you will soon be raiding junk shops and jumble sales for material to transform into gifts, home accessories, clothes and bags. Projects include a Little Joy Dress, Lola Handbag, Into the Woods Throw, Deer Diary and Call Me Cushion. For each project there are step-by-step instructions (illustrated with photographs) that will guide the beginner through the making process, whilst Alexandra's innovative ideas will provide fresh inspiration for the experienced sewer. Gorgeous photography by top lifestyle photographer Yuki Sugiura captures the sheer pleasure of turning junk-store fabrics into something beautifully handmade.

In recent months/years there has been an increase in the make do and mend mentality of years gone by, the current trend of upcycling and along with that more people are beginning to make their own clothes and home decor. This book is one for people interested in getting into sewing as a hobby.

The book begins with a fantastic introductory section which sets out what tools and equipment should be in a sewing kit, fabric painters kit and some added extras which will make projects easier. There are hints and tips about buying fabric, trims, buttons and bits and bobs. There is a starters guide to fabric painting a guide to attaching bias binding; very simple pattern making and modification and a section on finishing touches. A useful introductory  chapter which beginners will find useful and the more advanced sewer can refresh their mind on skills or gloss over this section.

Included are twenty five projects, which are split into five sections: Boho; Natural; Vintage; Eclectic and Whimsy. There are lots of beautiful ideas and projects for around the home and also some clothing for little girls. There are some great ideas included in many of these projects and techniques could be mixed and matched as required to create your own unique item.

The projects all have very clear instructions and although they do need a sewing machine, once you start making projects from this book I don't think you will run out of ideas any time soon. There are written instructions and also difficult techniques are shown in photographs which explain it even clearer. I think I will be dusting off my sewing machine very soon and having a go at some of the projects in this book - I think the (A place for) everything baskets would be very useful in my house.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Vets in Love by Cathy Woodman

Vets in Love: (Talyton St George) - Talyton St George 6

Glamorous GP Nicci (aka the galloping doctor) and Matt, the very handsome equine vet, have caught each other's etc. On paper it looks like a match made in heaven.

There are problems, however; Matt's jealous ex-girlfriend being one of them But the main trouble is Nicci's determination to qualify for the Badminton Horse Trials. Because although Matt treats horses for a living, a tradegy in his past makes him terrified every time Nicci competes.

So when Nicci has a terrible accident, a devasted Matt gives her an ultiatum: it's either him or the riding.

Nicci can't believe he means it. But can she risk putting him to the test?

When I pick up a Cathy Woodman book I know that I am in for a great read. Set in the fictional village of Talyton St George, the books all focus on different characters, however in each book you revisit characters from other books in the series. 

This book introduces us to two more characters from the village: a doctor and an equine vet. They meet during a routine doctors appointment when Matt has an injury he needs looking at, but from the moment he first sees Nicci I could feel the instant attraction between the pair. 

There is a lot of horsey talk within the book and, as I do not know anything about horses or the world of horse competitions, I did not think that, as has been said by other reviewers, that the author was patronising with descriptions of horsey facts and descriptions, it certainly helped me while reading the book.

I always find when I pick up one of Cathy's books it is like visiting old friends, knowing that through the book I will meet up with both old friends and make some new ones and this book was no exception. I really liked Matt and wouldn't mind Nicci as my GP. 

I recommend this book to all my readers, you don't need have read any of the others in the series to read this one, that is the good thing about Talyton, you can start where ever you like. You don't need to like horses to enjoy the book either - it is an all round good read, one to loose yourself in on a Sunday afternoon.

I see that Cathy has a new book being published in April this year, and I can't wait to find out what happens in Talyton next.

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

The Icecreamists by Matt O'Connor

The Icecreamists: Boutique Ice Creams and Other Guilty Pleasures to Make and Enjoy at Home

Infamous creators of the Sex Bomb and Baby Googoo - The Icecreamists are passionate about ice cream and the business of sin. Drawn to the mix of childhood fantasy and adult indulgence, The Icecreamists achieved instant notoriety with their breast milk ice-cream in 2009. With a rich variety of both summer and winter treats, The Icecreamists have become the by-word for cutting edge flavours and creations. This is where ice cream meets cocktails with concoctions including the vodka-infused Miss Whiplash and the Molotoffee Cocktail, as well as the devilish Toast Mortem. The Icecreamists's closely-guarded recipes are revealed here for the first time in simple, easily lickable recipe formats so you can recreate the authentic experience at home.

The first thing about this book is the cover - it is very striking: black, silver and hot pink means that it is jumps of the shelf out at you, urging you to pick it up and make something from it.

I have never heard of Matt O Conner before, however he has been in the ice cream business for many years, being a consultant for Unilever and Mars, before launching the UK's first gelato, 'Antonia Federici'. Reading the introduction it seems he is the Heston Blumenthal of the ice cream market. The first third of the book reads like an autobiography and it is interesting to find out what is behind the person and their inspiration and the rules by which he rules. The layout of this section of the book is very eyecatching and has a scrap book style feel with its newspaper cutout headlines and punchy section titles.

There are chapters on: Boutique Ice Creams; Sorbettos; Cocktails; Icequakes, Sundaes and Desserts; and Ice Lollies. Each chapter is full of delicious sounding recipes and the photographs are very artistic and show some beautiful presentation ideas.

The recipes are all clearly laid out with an ingredient list and method clearly written, along with the inside scoop on the selling description for each dish. On some of the recipes there is an icon which shows which cocktail or dessert the ice cream is included in.  Each ice cream or sorbet requires an ice cream maker, something which I do not own and therefore am unable to try the recipes included however there is a very long list of flavours I would just love to try.

This would make a great gift for anyone who loves ice cream, has an ice cream maker and the time and enthusiasm to try some of the recipes. However, I also enjoyed it just to read the first section - the autobiographic section where I learnt all about the author.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Reacher's Rules, Life Lessons from Jack Reacher

Reacher's Rules: Life Lessons from Jack Reacher
*Please note this is not a novel, but a companion book for Reacher fans*. Reacher's own rules for life are brought together in this irresistible collection of quotes, life lessons and wisdom from the man himself. As every Reacher fan knows, you don't have to break the rules if you make the rules. If you want to survive in this world nothing else matters. Rule 1. When in doubt, drink coffee. Rule 2. Never volunteer for anything. Rule 3. Don't break the furniture. Rule 4. Only one woman at a time. Rule 5. Show them what they're messing with. 'I don't want to put the world to rights, I just don't like people who put the world to wrongs.' 'Either you'll walk out of here yourself, or you'll be carried out in a bucket.' 'I'm not scared of anybody...But I certainly preferred it when he was dead.' If you've read the books, you'll love this. If you haven't read the books, what are you waiting for?

I have only recently become a fan of Jack Reacher and have enjoyed reading some of the more recent releases and am planning on reading the back catalogue very soon. Although I have only read a couple of the books, I have already built up my own mental image of Reacher and also know that Reacher's way of life is to live by his own rules, not those decided by others. This book is like a manual or handbook on Reacher's life.

The book is split into numerous very short chapters on many different areas on his life - some chapters could be useful in everyday life - Fighting tips, how to be prepared and a medley of military acronyms, where as others  maybe not, codes used by the military police and the science behind burning down a building.

This book would be a great gift for any Jack Reacher fan - with the first Jack Reacher film being in cinemas now, there will be many new fans of Lee Child's character and this is a great glimpse into his life.

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

The Treasure House by Linda Newbery

The Treasure House
When Nina's mother, Miranda, mysteriously disappears, Nina's father goes to look for her, leaving Nina with her two eccentric aunts who run a charity shop in town. Nina soon discovers that working in the shop can be funny, intriguing and rewarding as she takes in weird and wonderful donations, makes new friends and uncovers strange secrets! But Nina is determined to solve the mysteries that have taken over her life - where has her mother gone? Why did she leave so suddenly? And just what is the secret she's been hiding? Award-winning author Linda Newbery grips and entertains readers in her usual mesmerising way with this intriguing new mystery.

This book is beautifully written and once I started it, I did not want to put it down until I reached the end of the book. It is one of those books that I think could be started again as soon as you finish it, it definitely stayed with me long after I closed it for the last time. It is marketed as a children's book, however I definitely enjoyed it and I am sure my ten year old daughter would enjoy it too.

The main character is called Nina, who has just moved to secondary school, however on her first day at the new school she has a secret. Her mother has disappeared and no one knows where to find her. Nina has contact with her via text message, reassuring messages that she is okay and will be back soon but no clue as to where she is. Nina's dad decides to go looking for her and arranges for Nina to stop with her two aunts who run a charity shop called 'Second Hand Rose'. It is in this shop that Nina finds her mother's elephant bag - the bag she takes to her yoga classes and which is one of her favourites. As she hunts through the shop, she finds more of her mother's possessions  and fears the worst. While her father is away Nina tries to solve the mystery with her best friends Max, who goes to a different school and Cat, who is a new friend from her new school, and Jake who works at her aunts shop.

Each chapter is entitled after one of her mother's possessions which Nina finds in her aunts shop. The items are woven together to knit a beautiful story. It is a story which follows a young girls upset while missing her mother, of her emotions in starting a new school and trying to make new friends, while missing her old friends. There is a mystery running throughout the story too, where is her mother and what is she doing. There is also a completely different story and message within the book, which ties in to the aunts shop  - that of visiting charity and secondhand shop and reinventing clothes and fabrics. In this time where make do and mend and vintage is coming back into fashion, this book shows young adults that it can be 'cool' to buy second hand.

I really recommend this book to all my blog readers. It is a book that can be read by mums and their daughters and will be enjoyed by both. It would make a great book for children to read and discuss in their own book groups.

I would like to say thank you to the publishers, Orion Children's Books, for sending me this book to review. I really enjoyed it and hope many more readers do too!

Simple Crochet by Sara Sinaguglia

Creative Makers: Simple Crochet: With 35 Vintage-Vibe Projects for Your Handmade Life
Portable, pretty and quick to learn - crochet is back in vogue and Sara Sinaguglia is one of its most talented advocates. Taking her inspiration and palette from her country cottage home and the glorious Dorset landscape that surrounds it, Sara has created 35 easy-to-make crochet projects for in and around the home. The book begins with step-by-step photographs demonstrating how easy it is to teach yourself to crochet. From cushions, coasters and bags to toys, scarves and her now famous apple cosies, bring a little of Sara's stylish vintage vibe into your crafting life. Gorgeous photography by top lifestyle photographer Yuki Sugiura captures the sheer pleasure of turning a few balls of richly coloured yarn into something individual. Never has crochet looked so beautiful!

I was taught to crochet by my mum over twenty years ago and every now and again I find a pattern or project that I just have to find out my hook and have a go at. This book may have just lit that fire and given inspiration and enthusiasm to pick it up again.

The book starts with a really comprehensive and well laid out chapter entitled crochet basics. There are both written and photographic instructions for how to get started crocheting. The instructions are very easy to follow and start from from step one of making a slip knot and also go through the stitches and abbreviations used in most patterns. There are instructions on how to join new yarn, before going on to more advanced techniques of Broomstick Crochet, crocheting with beads, Tunisian crochet and crochet into fabric.The instructions are really easy to digest and they are a great plus point to this book.

The book then has lots of projects which are divided into sections entitled: Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom, Bathroom, Children's Room and Out and About. There are 4-8 patterns in each section, and the projects all have beautifully photographed end products which show the project at its best. Many of the projects include crochet as a part of the finished project, with a large part of project needing extra materials and skills but they are beautiful and I would be encouraged to try new finishing ideas to achieve the finished item as shown in the book. However, some of the projects are a little 'out of this world', I have never needed to have an apple cosy for my fruit bowl or frilly trims on knichers and I don't think this will be in my must crochet list. I do however love the Victorian Linen centre piece and I will definitely be trying this project soon.

In summary, this is a lovely book to give as a gift to any crochet lover or for someone who would like to give crochet a try - all they need is a selection of crochet hooks in different sizes and some yarn. It is a great idea for a hobby to keep you occupied over the winter evenings.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The New Recruit by Andy McNab

The New Recruit
What if your prank killed your best friend. Could you live with yourself? You try to forget and move on; you enrol in Army training, you want to make something of your life. The training is tough and it almost breaks you. But you survive; you know you'll make a good soldier. Finally, when you're out in Afghanistan, under enemy fire, you come face-to-face with your best friend's brother. He still blames you for his brother's death. You now have more to fear than just enemy soldiers...

Andy McNab is a well known name in military fiction and all things military. I was intrigued to read his latest release, The New Recruit, which is being released for the Young Adult market.

The book follows the life of Liam Scott as he enters military life, starting from his first days at the Army Foundation College and follows his on his first tour of Afghanistan.

This book is definitely for the older young adults - as could be expected from a book about soldiers there is a small amount of expletives, but all in context. The book gives a good insight into a new recruits induction into the military, from their first year in college and then the full range of emotions and experiences encountered on their first tour of duty. It is both hard hitting but also inspiring and is as good a read as any of McNab's adult reads.

The story is a great read and would be great for young adults to read if they are thinking about a career in the military. It is a realistic account of life in the army and I do not believe it has been 'glamourised' or 'falsified' for the book. 

Thank you to the publishers and PR company for sending me the copy to review.