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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Splat says Thank You! by Rob Scotton

Splat Says Thank You! 

Splat the Cat is back with a new adventure. This time he's saying thank you for all the fun he's had with his mouse friend, Seymour! Seymour needs cheering up, and Splat wants to help. So he creates not just a thank- you card, but a whole thank-you book. The book lists all the sweet and funny reasons why Splat is thankful for their friendship. The heartwarming story, lively illustrations and laugh-out-loud text will leave you thankful that you picked up this book!

This is a lovely book which is perfect to encourage children to say 'Thank You'. A story which can be shared with children and encourages them to join in with the story when Splat says 'Thank You'.

The story is accompanied by fantastically digital pictures - they have an almost photographic quality to them which I love as much as the story. 

Splat the Cat is the main character in a series of children's books and this is a great book for any Splat fans or to start the collection for new fans.

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

Tabitha Posy was ever so nosy! by Julie Fulton

Tabitha Posy Was Ever So Nosy - The Ever So Series

Tabitha Posy is ever so nosy and annoys all her neighbours by sticking her nose into their business. However one day on a school trip to the zoo, she discovers there are just some times when it is better not to be too curious with oversized cats!

This is the second picture book by Julie Fulton, whose first book  Mrs MacCready was ever so greedy has been reviewed on this blog too.

I really enjoy Julie Fulton's books. They are written in rhyme and are great for children with wild imagination. The books are humorous and will appeal to both young children and the adults who read it to them. With the catchy text it will soon be recited from memory and become a firm favourite at story time.

The illustrations by Jona Jung are also fantastic - they accompany the text perfectly and will be the source of much discussion with young children with pictures being hand drawn but full of detail.

There is a great moral to the story - use books for research and reference! This is one which I can try to urge my children to remember but with the age of the Internet one which is being forgotten.

I would recommend this as a great book for children and I am sure it is one which will become a firm favourite at story time.

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

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Guest Blog Post - Ellen Sussman. The Paradise Guesthouse

Today I am very  pleased to welcome Ellen Sussman to my blog on the day her new book, The Paradise Guesthouse, is published. I have previously reviewed her debut novel French Lessons and have been eagerly waiting for her next novel which I will be reviewing very soon on this blog.

Ellen Sussman joins me today to share her inspiration for this book.

Sometimes I go in search of story ideas and sometimes they find me. My husband and I went to Bali for a vacation. I wasn’t planning on writing while I was there and I wasn’t searching for a subject for my next book. But Bali captured my heart. I loved the spectacular lush landscape, and I was charmed by the people and their culture. And yet, Bali was struggling. Just weeks before we arrived there had been a terrorist attack – the second in a few years. In the first attack, more than 200 people were killed, most of them young tourists at two nightclubs in Kuta. In the second attack, 20 people were killed and over a hundred were injured. Nothing made sense about terrorism in paradise, especially this paradise.
I remember walking along the beach in Bali and imagining a character who might come to Bali on business. Something draws her to one of the nightclubs. She’s caught in the terrorist attack. On a hike with my husband one day, I imagined more of my character’s story: a man saves her. She’s drawn to him. And on the flight home I discovered another part of my story: the young woman has to return to Bali to find the man who saved her.

By the time I returned home I was eager to write Jamie’s story. The beauty of Bali had inspired me. But the tragedy of terrorism in Bali had moved me to create a story of one woman’s struggle to find peace, love and a home. 

Thank you Ellen for joining me today. i am halfway through this book and am loving it.  I remember the bomb on Bali in 2002 and am finding your book  to tell the reality of this for the tourists and the natives of Bali

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Rubberneckers by Belinda Bauer


'The dead can't speak to us,' Professor Madoc had said.

That was a lie.

Because the body Patrick Fort is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things.

Life is already strange enough for the obsessive Patrick without having to solve a possible murder. Especially when no one believes a crime has even taken place. Now he must stay out of danger long enough to unravel the mystery - while he dissects his own evidence.

But as Patrick learns one truth from a dead man, he discovers there have been many other lies rather closer to home..

.I found this book extremely addictive - it has an unusual narrative as one of the main narrators is a patient who is in a coma. Another main character is Patrick who is a medical student who, while dissecting a cadaver in his anatomy class, believes that something isn't right with this death. Link this with his fascination of death following witnessing his father's death at the age of five, and you have the ingredients for a fantastic read.

Bauer writes, in places, very graphically about the dissection of cadaver number 19, but this is balanced out by the humour which is included in the book. Patrick is very set in his ways and has Asperger's Syndrome, and this leads to a number of comedic events as he lives away from his home for the first time.

This is a compelling read and I urge all of my blog readers to pick up this book. I have read previous books by this author and I must say that I believe this is her best so far and I am really looking forward to her next book.

Thank you to the publishers, Transworld, for sending me a eBook to review.

A French Affair by Katie Fforde

A French Affair

Gina and Sally Makepiece have inherited a stall in the French House - an antiques centre nestled in the heart of the English countryside. Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner into the twenty-first century. Bearing all the attributes of a modern-day Mr Rochester, Matthew Ballinger is less than happy with the whirlwind that has arrived on his doorstep. The last thing either of them want is to fall in love. But will a trip to France change their minds?

When I pick up a Katie Fforde book I know that I am in for a great read and this, her latest release, is definitely that!

Set in a Cotswold village, Gina and Sally are disappointed (at first) to discover that they have been left a business in a relative's will - however there is a catch, before they get ownership,they must make some money in the antique market. Gina is in PR and Sally is a mum to two children. It is Gina who sees the potential in the business and Sally, while busy with family life, finds a new found talent in recyled pieces. But what Gina isn't prepared for is the owner of The French House, Matthew, who Gina tries to ignore the attraction with - however as they spend more time together will they get together or will old flames be a spanner in the works?

When I read the synopsis I was a little unsure if I would enjoy this book - when I think about antiques I think Bargain Hunt, expensive pieces of 'old' and 'dusty' furniture or ornaments, in pokey, badly lit rooms or rooms where you need a huge salary before you can walk through the door. However, the story was well written and although it touched on the antique business it was more about Gina, Sally and Matthew and the unusual request that was left for Sally and Gina. 

The story was set in a Cotswold village, an area which I have visited and can picture, and really bought the story alive. An area where there are lots of little shops and boutiques and where antique dealers have shops or go on trips hunting for new items. 

I really enjoyed the characters in this book and would love to see them feature in future books by Katie Fforde.

I also really like the design for the cover - it is simple, clean lines and  chic. I have a number of covers in this style by Katie and I believe it sums up her books perfectly.

I would recommend this book to fans of Katie Fforde and/or women's fiction - it is a fantastic read to devour in one sitting!

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

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Farm Babies by Liz and Kate Pope

Farm Babies - Baby Animal Books

Young children will love sorting the baby farm animals and slotting them into place alongside their mummies and daddies. This jolly little farm book with jigsaw pieces is ideal for developing motor skills and improving hand-eye co-ordination.

This is a clever idea book. The book is a board book which 12 pages long, with six different animals depicted with their babies - however their babies are jigsaw pieces (stored in a sturdy animal in the front cover of the book) which fit into the pages snuggly.

I have had books for my children in the past which have pieces on each page which fit into holes, but there is no storage for when the book is put away, however these pieces fit into an envelope which closes securely with Velcro - meaning the pieces won't get lost.

The pictures are beautifully drawn and look as if they have been constructed from different textures and designs of fabric, giving a patchwork effect - a very popular finish at the moment!

This would make a great gift for children aged around 1 year. It would be a great present this Easter instead of the normal chocolate egg and one which will be played with over and over again. It could be used as an introduction to a visit to a farm park or countryside visit.

This is another fantastic book from Caterpillar Books which I received in return for a honest review.

Mummy and Baby Farm by Samantha Meredith (Handy little books)

Mummy and Baby Farm - Handy Little Books
Open up this bright board book to see the mummy and baby farm animals having lots of fun together. With cute and colourful illustrations, this is an ideal book for children learning their first words. The easy-to-grip handle makes this the perfect book for toddlers.

This is the perfect book for any new babies born over this Spring time or as the perfect present to give very young children this Easter instead of the traditional chocolate egg. The design of the book is perfect, with its chunky handle which can be gripped by little hands or (as will inevitably happen) be chewed or sucked!

There are six double page spreads depicting mummy's and their babies. The pictures are brightly coloured, and simply drawn animals.

This book would be a great addition to any farm park this spring - the chunky handle could be attached to any pram or pushchair frame with a clip .

I will be putting this book away until next spring when my first niece or nephew, due later this year, will be the perfect age to take on a farm park outing to see all the new baby animals.

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

The Case of the Secret Pony (Animal SOS) by Kelly McKain

The Case of the Secret Pony - Animal SOS 3

Leah and Amy may be total opposites, but when it comes to helping animals in danger they make the perfect team! When things start to go missing at White Horse Stables, the girls realize they have another adventure on their hands. It's only when they discover the culprit behind the thefts that the hidden pony is revealed. But just what is the pony's secret? The girls need to find out, before it's too late...Animal S.O.S. to investigate! A fantastic adventure series from Kelly McKain (Pony Camp Diaries, Totally Lucy), Animal S.O.S is the perfect series for horse-mad, animal crazy girls. Full of adventure, tests of friendship and mystery, Animal S.O.S will be loved by Kelly McKain's many fans.

This is the third book in the new series, Animal S.O.S., by Kelly McKain. It reminds me of the adventures of the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. It is great for animal lovers but also for children who enjoy adventures and mysteries.

The books all feature Leah and Amy and are based around White Horse Stables, a business owned by Leah's mum, and where both girls help out. In this story, the girls find a horse, who appears to dislike humans, and who no-one appears to be taking care of. Leah and Amy aim to find its owner and when they do, they do all they can to treat the horse for its confusing temperament.

Although this book is part of a series, the books do not have to be read in order, making them perfect for animal lovers who can choose the book featuring their favourite animal - although I am sure that once they have read one, children will want to read the rest of the series.

This is a fantastic book, which will be enjoyed by animal or mystery lovers. It is great for confident readers or to be read together at night.

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

Hiss and Hers by M. C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin)

Agatha Raisin: Hiss and Hers - Agatha Raisin 23

Agatha has fallen in love - again. This time it's the local gardener, George Marston, she has her eye on. But competition for his attention abounds. With her shameless determination Agatha will do anything to get her man - including footing the bill for a charity ball in town just for the chance to dance with him. But when George is a no-show Agatha goes looking for him - and finds he has been murdered, having been bitten by a poisonous snake and buried in a compost heap. Agatha and the rest of her crew plunge into an investigation and discover that George had quite a complicated love life. And if Agatha now can't have George, at least she can have the satisfaction of confronting those women who have and finding a murderer in the process.

The latest in the popular series by M C Beaton featuring the lady detective, Agatha Raisin. I have read a couple of the books and I must admit that they are not my favourite of crime choice, however they are very similar to Midsommer Murders on the television - you know you can curl up with one on a Sunday afternoon and you don't have to concentrate too hard to keep up with the plot lines! I also enjoy the location of the books - I was bought up around Evesham and I recognise many of the places mentioned in the story lines.

I received the audio CD through the Amazon Vine Programme and enjoyed listening to Penelope Keith read the story - she was able to distinguish between characters throughout the audio and bought life to the story well.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for the audio cd.

Eleanor's Eyebrows by Timothy Knapman and David Tazzyman

Eleanor's Eyebrows
What would you do if your eyebrows disappeared? Would you notice? Would you care? When Eleanor's eyebrows disappear, she doesn't care one bit. After all what's the point of eyebrows - they're just two silly, scruffy, hairy little bits of fluff! This hilarious and surreal book follows the eyebrows' adventures as extra legs for an ant pretending to be a spider, a twirly moustache for a magician and a furry exclamation mark.

Children ask numerous questions and many of these adults are unable to answer. Eleanor asks one such question - 'What is the point of eyebrows? they're just two silly, scruffy, hairy, little bits of fluff!'

This book is a great read for children (and adults) alike. Where would two scruffy, hairy little bits of fluff be useful and loved: a butterfly house; a magician's moustache or tyres on a motorbike to name but a few suggestions?

The story is a fun and humorous read and will be loved by children of all ages. The illustrations add further humour to the text and will be a great source for discussion around story time.

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

No-Bot by Sue Hendra

No-Bot, the Robot with No Bottom

Bernard the Robot loses his bottom on the park swing, and sets off to find it. Every time he gets close, it disappears again! Bird was using it as a nest, but it was too heavy; Bear used it in his drum kit, but it was too tinny; the Squirrels built sandcastles with it...and now it looks as if they're sailing away in it. Will Bernard EVER get his bottom back?

A child's story book containing robots and bottoms - what more could a child want?  

The book is a great story for young children; with it's short but funny story and brightly coloured simple illustrations it is a good story to share at story time with children. The pictures give the ideal opportunities to aid further discussion with children.

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

Honey's Midnight Show (Bluebell Woods) by Liss Norton

Honey's Midnight Show - Bluebell Woods Bk. 6

Welcome to Bluebell Woods, home to a delightful cast of woodland friends. Honey is delighted when the Eyebright family, a troupe of travelling players, sets up camp beside her home. She and her friends can't wait to see the midnight show they're putting on. But as Honey joins in with the rehearsals, she can't help wishing that her own life was as exciting as a life onstage...

For fans of Brambly Hedge this book is perfect. With its imaginative three layered window into the wood on the front cover it is the start of a wonderful adventure into Bluebell Wood when a group of travelling players arrive and set up for a one night only performance of their show.

The book starts with a map of Bluebell Wood and the surrounding area and with its beautifully named areas it allows many lovely images to be conjured in ones mind if reading to a young child.

The book is written for the younger readers, of about 7+, although I would not recommend it for Early Readers, but the next stage up.

It would make a good book for sharing a chapter at bedtime or during a quiet time and I think it would be better suited for girls, although boys who are animal lovers may also enjoy it.

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

Moody Margaret's Makeover by Francesca Simon

Early Readers are stepping stones from picture books to reading books. A blue Early Reader is perfect for sharing and reading together. A red Early Reader is the next step on your reading journey. Anything Moody Margaret can do, Horrid Henry can do better. So when Margaret starts giving her friends makeovers, Henry decides to steal - no, borrow! - her idea. He is sure he can do it much, much better. It can't be that hard to make people look really fantastic...can it?

Regular readers of my book review blog will know that I am a huge fan of Simon and Schusters Childrens Books Early Reader range. With their great stories which are split into chapters, with stories featuring popular characters and intermingled with great colourful illustrations, I recommend this series to friends and teachers who are helping children gain confidence in reading alone.

This book features the very popular characters from the Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon. The story was originally included in the book 'Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman' and has now been adapted into the Early Reader format. The story is the same, the only change in the use of chapters, more of Tony Ross's fantastic illustrations and less words per page to encourage younger readers to try the next stage of book.

It is a fun book which sees Horrid Henry decide to try and cash in on Moody Margaret's latest money earning idea - he will also offer makeovers, however when his make up bag includes glue and crayons, you know that it will not end in success.

I would recommend this book as a great book to give to an Early Reader (age 7+) who is beginning to enjoy reading and wants to try chapter books. Or it would also make a good bedtime story book for children, introducing them to the ideas of chapters and having one chapter per night. It is suitable for both boys and girls and will be loved by all.

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

Genius Ideas (mostly) Tom Gates by L Pichon

Genius Ideas (Mostly) - Tom Gates
"Seeing Delia without her sunglasses on is a BIG shock, but that's nothing compared with the surprise Dad has in store for me with his new found fitness regime. He says he's going to compete at Sport's Day. Shame! Meanwhile Derek, Norman and I keep practicing in DOGZOMBIES so we're really ready for the school Talent Show."

This is the first Tom Gates book that I have read, although it appears that it is actually the fourth in the series with another being released very soon. It is aimed at children aged about 9+ and the series has received many awards including the Blue Peter best story award, Roald Dahl funny prize, the Red House book award and Waterstones children's book award.

It is a great book to attract children's attention; written in diary style with text frequently interrupted by Tom Gate's doodles, the book is easy and quick to read. It is a funny story and one which I am sure will encourage the most unenthusiastic of readers to pick up a book. It is suitable for both boys and girls and I think that boys will want to read about Tom Gates' antics although the story will appeal to all.

My only criticism for the book is the lack of story content. My daughter is currently preparing for SATS in year 6 and the thing she is struggling on is guided reading where she must answer questions on a piece of text and therefore I am trying to find her books which will test her and enable us to have conversation about the book after she has read it. This book is below that level of challenging story and interpretation, however it is a good book for a long car journey or bed time reading.

I read this book through the Amazon Vine programme.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Plunge into the pirate pool by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves

Plunge into the Pirate Pool
It's rainy and cold, and Albie's so tired that he doesn't want to go swimming. But when, Albie dives into the pool he finds himself swallowed by a shark-shaped submarine! He realizes these won't be any swimming lessons because this is a pirate pool! Join Albie as he goes on a underwater treasure hunt, meets scary underwater creatures and makes some pirate friends - swimming has never been so much fun!

Plunge into the pirate pool is a story about a young boy who goes swimming and finds himself in a pirate pool, swimming into the jaws of a shark submarine where he helps pirates rescue a treasure chest and returns some octopi babies to their mother.

The story is the perfect length to share at story time or bed time. It is accompanied by some beautiful illustrations which the children will love and depict the story perfectly.

This would make a lovely gift for any young child with a love of pirates or swimming alike.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's books for sending me the book to review.

Pirates love underpants - by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Pirates Love Underpants
Ahoy me hearties! Join the Pants Pirates on a special treasure hunt. Grab your cutlass and sail on the Pirate Ship Black Bloomer past angry crocs, sharks in fancy pants and through gurgling swamps on a quest to find...the Pants of Gold! This hilarious new addition to the phenomenally successful Underpants series will not disappoint. You'll be yo-ho-ho-ing until the sails come down!

Continuing on from the very popular Aliens love underpants series, this is the latest release from Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. My children love these books and even though they are getting older now, they still love this series.

The story is written in rhyme and is accompanied by brightly coloured illustrations which have lots of detail to keep little ones amused. The rhythmic qualities of the story make this perfect for little ones and they will soon be joining in on the story telling as I am sure it will become a story time favourite very soon.

This will make a very popular gift for a young child and I recommend the whole series.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster children's books for sending me the book to review.

Gu Chocolate Cookbook

Gu Chocolate Cookbook
Chocolate lovers everywhere can give in to happiness with Gu's irresistible collection of decadently delightful and joyfully simple desserts, puds, cakes, savoury meals and nibbles. The Gu team will show you how easy it is to create delicious chocolaty goodies at home. They'll divulge the secrets if a perfect chilli chocolate mousse, amazing brownies and cakes, tortes, chocolate tiramigus, cheesecakes and many tips to glam up easy homemade puds. From teatime treats and desserts to savoury dishes and midnight feasts, the Gu Chocolate Cookbook includes many easy recipes - all with a gu-ey twist - plus basic tips, down-to-earth advice and cheeky shortcuts for steps you can prep ahead or ready-to-use ingredients. This mouth-watering varied cookbook offers 100 recipes and plenty of inspiring pictures for everything from milk chocolate truffles to a white chocolate and wasabi version, triple chocolate cookies and Viennese chocolate biscuits to baked white chocolate cheesecake with sweet chutney, Fred the chef's irresistible chocolate tart, delicious Gulash with a pinch of chocolate to traditional mole. And for those whose chocolate cravings know no bounds, an extremist chapter will show you how to roast a chicken in a chocolate crust for a perfect result, treat you friends to a melting chocolate bomb or even make poppingly good chocolate bubble wrap. Recipes in the Gu Chocolate Cookbook include: Chocolate and pecan muffins Chocolate praline spread Chewy double chocolate cookies Chocolate eclairs Jaffa cake lollipops Chocolate, marmalade, mango and pine nut tart Viennese biscuits Raspberry chocolate mousse pots Millionaire's flapjacks White chocolate and coffee creme brulee Melt in the middle Pot au chocolate Boozy cherry chocolate clafoutis Sticky chocolatey toffee pud White chocolate cheesecake Gu-lash Easy chocolate mousse cake Melting chocolate bombe

GU are well known for gorgeous desserts and  this book is full of them! However, there are also many savoury dishes which include chocolate included within this recipe book.

The book starts with a section entitled 'making the most of our recipes' and it is well worth a read before starting out on any of the recipes. Useful advice including choosing the right ingredients - always ensure the eggs are as fresh as possible, milk - always use whole milk to name but a few. There are also very useful explanations about how to melt chocolate, cooking custard, cooking a caramel etc. There is a list of useful kitchen equipment recommended for use in the recipes.

The next section is entitled '.. for chocolately basics' which have step by step instructions for making chantilly cream, choux pastry, three chocolate sauces, chocolate sweet crust pastry, chocolate ganache, all recipes which will be used to in other recipes throughout the book.

What follows are more chapters containing gorgeous sounding recipes which all include chocolate in some shape or form. Chapters entitled: .... for breakfast and brunch, ..... for teatime or anytime; ..... for treats; .... for feeding friends; ... for special days and holidays; and .... for chocolate extremists. Both savoury and sweet tooth's are catered for and the book is full of gorgeous simple photographs showing finished dishes, no set dressing or arty photos set up to show off the dishes.

Each recipe is set out in clear step by step instructions, with average portions, ingredients and equipment required listed for each recipe. There are also GU tips added to the bottom of some recipes to give extra hints or advice for perfect presentation etc.

This is a beautiful recipe book and although I haven't tried any of the recipes in the book yet I will be choosing a recipe to try soon - now sweet or savoury??????

I would recommend this book as the perfect gift for any chocolate lover or addition to a kitchen library.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.