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Monday, 20 May 2013

Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock

Dear Scarlett

 A funny, moving and absorbing story about a young girl's attempts to learn more about her dead father through the objects she finds in a cardboard box he's left her. Scarlett and her friend, Ellie, go on a sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary, journey of discovery, following the clues and always remembering to 'keep looking up'. Was Scarlett's dad a thief? Was he a spy? And what does it mean to be his daughter? Fleur Hitchcock is a great new voice in children's literature, and Dear Scarlett is a great book.

I found this book refreshing and very different to many of the books that are on book shelves currently for this age range. It has Scarlett, an eleven year old girl who, on her birthday is gifted a box by her late father's solicitor to be given on this day. What Scarlett finds inside leads her on an adventure in which she is reminded 'to keep looking up' but what did he mean? Will Scarlet find hidden treasure or will the hunt end in disappointment?

Fleur Hitchcock has written a fantastic debut novel, which has times of reminiscing about Scarlett's time with her father, her life now and this is interwoven with many times of humor - the penguin incident was fantastic and it was one of those scenes that kept creeping back into your mind at the most inopportune  moments! 

I think this book would suit both boys and girls and especially those who like mysteries and adventures. It would be great for confident readers age 9+ but could be enjoyed by younger chidlren sharing a chapter at story or bedtime with their peers.

I really enjoyed Fleur Hitchcock's book and I look forward to seeing what her next release will be - I hope it is as good as this fantastic debut novel.

I received this book from the publisher, Nosy Crow, in return for an honest review.

The world of Norm may produce gas by Jonathan Meres

May Produce Gas - World of Norm 3

It seems like the whole world has gone mad. His dad's obsessed with gas, his best friend has come down with a case of hormones and his brother is in dire need of deodorant. Looks like there's going to be quite a stink. Is life still unfair for Norm? ABSO-FLIPPING-LUTELY! Jonathan Meres follows up May Contain Nuts and May Cause Irritation with another laugh-out-loud story about Norm, a boy who can't understand why everything always seems unfair...An award-winning, laugh-out-loud series for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and David Walliams.

As soon as I saw this book I knew it was perfect for my son. He has grown out of Horrid Henry and has read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and has started on the Tom Gates series.

As the title suggests, there is a lot of gas and smells discussed in the book. Just the right topics for boys aged 9+ - and the fits of laughter that I heard while he read the book proved that this is just right for him.

The writing style is great for this age range. It is written as a story, rather than a diary but it has a nice style which can be picked up easily and a quick chapter read. The story is accompanied by some fantastic cartoon style illustrations which add more humour to the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves horrid Henry and diary of a wimpy kid.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Wish List by Jane Costello

The Wish List

There are six months left of Emma Reiss's twenties...and she has some unfinished business. Emma and her friends are about to turn thirty, and for Emma it's a defining moment. Defined, that is, by her having achieved none of the things she'd imagined she would. Her career is all wrong, her love life is a desert and that penthouse apartment she pictured herself in simply never materialised. Moreover, she's never jumped out of a plane, hasn't met the man she's going to marry, has never slept under the stars, or snogged anyone famous - just some of the aspirations on a list she and her friends compiled fifteen years ago. As an endless round of birthday parties sees Emma hurtle towards her own thirtieth, she sets about addressing these issues. But, as she discovers with hilarious consequences, some of them are trickier to tick off than she'd thought…

I have only been reading Jane Costello's books for a couple of years, but I am already waiting with bated breath for her next release, and I was certainly NOT disappointed with her latest release.

The Wish List is about Emma, who will be thirty in six months. However she has recently found a list which she made along with her sister and  friends, when they were fifteen years old, of things they wanted to have achieved by their thirtieth birthday.

It is a great chick lit read which has times of humour and also emotional times while Emma tries to complete her wish list and it is definitely a read for when you may need cheering up. It is one of those stories in which you could identify characters very similar to yourself and/or your friends.  I don't think there were any characters I didn't like in this book, which is unusual as I usually meet at least one character per book that I have an instant dislike too, but not this one!

The story is a great read which I read very quickly and enjoyed immensely! It is the perfect book to be put into any holiday luggage this summer - either to read on the plane, on the beach or in the garden one summer afternoon.

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

Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes

Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes: The Memoirs of a Nursery Nurse in the 1960s
A heart-warming memoir about life as a nursery nurse and nanny in the 1960s, for fans of Call the Midwife. In 1961, sixteen year-old Pam Weaver began her training as a nursery nurse. Drawn to this profession by her caring nature and a desire to earn her own living, Pam had no idea of the road she was about to start down. At the government-run nursery, she found early mornings, endless floors to scrub, overbearing matrons, heartbreaking stories of abandonment, true friends and life lessons that would stay with her for decades. Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes is Pam's memoir about her time in state nurseries and as a Hyde Park private nanny. It will recount the highs and lows of that time with engaging and uplifting honesty.

I really enjoy reading real life books, following the lives of student midwives and nurses. I have never wanted to train in either of these professions but I absolutely love reading about them. It may be because I work in the childcare sector and I think this is why this book is my favourite of all the ones I have read (so far).

Pam Weaver is also an author of fiction novels but this is her career story from when, as a 16 year old, she enrolled as a trainee nurse in a local children's home. I found it really interesting to read about how these children's homes were ran, but also found it interesting to see how the daily routines and 'teaching' exercises were carried out.

The book had times of happiness and sadness but it also included moments when you wanted to laugh out load, the words that come out of the children's mouths - they never stop making you laugh and in times of sadness just one sentence can change the mood of everyone involved.

I enjoyed this book much more than some of the other student midwife and nurse autobiographies, perhaps because it is because it is the area that I work in. I would however, have enjoyed it even more if the different stories had been expanded a little more, although in these times of confidentiality etc this may be difficult.

Maisie Hitchins by Holly Webb

The Case of the Stolen Sixpence - Maisie Hitchins 1
From best-selling author Holly Webb comes a brand new series full of mystery and intrigue following the adventures of a very determined heroine and her dog! Holly Webb fans will be thrilled to pieces to discover the adventures of Maisie Hitchins, the pluckiest little detective in Victorian London. Maisie Hitchins lives in her grandmother's boarding house, longing for adventure. She idolizes the famous detective, Gilbert Carrington, and follows his every case. But Maisie is about to be given the opportunity of a lifetime: her own mystery to solve! In the first book in this fantastic new series, Maisie rescues a puppy in peril whilst running an errand, and adopts him. She decides to investigate the puppy's original cruel owner, but instead gets tangled up in an intriguing plot involving stolen sausages, pilfered halfpennies and a fast-paced bicycle chase. The streets of Victorian London are never safe, but Maisie's on the case!

The Case of the Vanishing Emerald - Maisie Hitchins 2
From best-selling author Holly Webb comes a brand new series full of mystery and intrigue following the adventures of a very determined heroine and her dog! Holly Webb fans will be thrilled to pieces to discover the adventures of Maisie Hitchins, the pluckiest little detective in Victorian London. Maisie Hitchins lives in her grandmother's boarding house, longing for adventure. She idolizes the famous detective, Gilbert Carrington, and follows his every case. Together, with her faithful pup Eddie, Maisie is determined to follow even the slightest scent of a mystery - no matter what! Maisie can't help listening in when the famed star of the stage, Sarah Massey, visits a friend at the boarding house. Sarah is distraught - her beau, a mysterious young man, gave her a priceless emerald necklace, and it's now missing! Maisie is instantly intrigued, and decides to investigate the theatre. But nothing is what it seems in this world of make-believe...

This is a new series by top children's author Holly Webb. When I hear Holly Webb mentioned in terms of books, I immediately think of her popular books who's main characters are animals, usually cute puppies and kittens. This new series of books, the main character Maisie Hitchins, a young girl who lives with her grandmother and who has an interest in solving mysteries.

The stories are fantastic, they remind me of a little of Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five, finding a mystery and being determined to solve it. 

I also like the settings for the books, Victorian England, which would make them great books to read while doing school projects on life in Victorian England. It is obvious that Webb has done research into life at this time with the atmosphere being perfectly set within the story. 

The story is also accompanied by the fantastic illustrations by Marion Lindsay, whose pencil drawings are great in bringing to life Webb's story. Before the story starts there is a cut through illustration of the house in which Maisie lives - along with notes about who lives where - a great idea.

I really enjoyed these books and notice that the next instalment is due in August 2013, and I am already looking forward to this.

I would recommend this as a great book for children aged 8 years - especially those with an inquisitive mind - will they be able to solve the mystery before Maisie?

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

Monday, 6 May 2013

Guest Blog Post - Holly Webb

Today I am very pleased to welcome the author Holly Webb to my blog. I have read many of Holly's previous books, most of which have been animal based but this week she is launching a new series of books about the character called Maisie Hitchins who wants to be a detective. The books are set in Victorian London, and are illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 

I asked Holly what her inspiration was for this new series of books:

I don’t currently have my own blog, so being asked to write a blog post is quite scary! I have endless admiration for people who do this on a daily basis – I’ve never even managed to keep a diary, except as an enforced Christmas holiday project in the top year of Juniors. Even then it was a struggle, as a child I infinitely preferred reading to writing.

That’s one of the lovely things for me about writing the Maisie Hitchins books. I feel as though I’ve gone back to the ten-year-old me who had discovered Sherlock Holmes, and then Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion detective novels. I had all the Sherlock Holmes books as a child, and I found them fascinating. (My favourite story was The Adventure of the Speckled Band, which I thought was amazingly clever, although I’ve since found out that the main plot point is impossible, sadly.) I devoured mysteries, and still do, and I’d always had a secret hankering to write them. I was sure that I would love doing it, as I’d read so many…

It’s a lot harder than it looks, is all I can say. I have enormously enjoyed writing the first three Maisie Hitchins books, but the mystery element (obviously) adds a huge layer of complication and general deceitfulness to the plotting. Thank goodness for editors who spot the large holes before publication. If any large holes are found now, I take all responsibility, but actually I think I’d rather you didn’t tell me, as I might cry.

Another fabulous thing about Maisie for me is that the books are set in the past. I really hope that children who enjoy Maisie’s adventures might go on eventually to reading the Sherlock Holmes books – they opened up an amazing world for me, as I’m sure they were the first fiction from another era that I’d read (apart from Enid Blyton). I loved the setting almost as much as the plots. With the Rose and Lily books I have some experience writing fantastical novels set in a slightly alternative (quite a lot alternative, really, as they’re full of magic) London, but the Maisie books are the first books where I’m attempting an accurate historical setting. I love doing this – although it can be very frustrating. I spent quite a long time trawling the internet for the first book, trying to find out what sort of cash register (if any) a late nineteenth-century butcher’s shop would have. I find this sort of thing fascinating, and you really can while away hours with it. And the best bit, you’re still working!

Thank you for visiting my blog today. I have enjoyed the first book in this new series and will be reviewing it on my blog soon.