Challenge Participant


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Blog Tour - by Liz Nugent

Today I am very pleased to welcome Liz Nugent to my blog. Liz's new book. Lying in Wait, is released on Thursday and is a great read, full of twists and turns and leaves the reader waiting to the very explosive end.

I asked Liz Nugent about the importance of class within her novels:

Class plays a big part in both of my novels Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait. Mostly, I use it for comic effect because, let’s face it, snobbery is ridiculous and funny, and everyone gets it wrong. The middle classes think the working class are criminals and the working class think the middle class are rich. The upper classes actually don’t care. They are too busy trying to find ways to keep the heating on in their draughty old stately homes.

I write mainly about middle class characters, and their struggle to keep up a lifestyle they often can’t afford because I think, for them, it is all about appearances.

In Unravelling Oliver, Oliver went to boarding school and then to university, but because he was financially cut off by his father, he had a very real anxiety about being able to keep up with his friends socially. He never lived in real poverty; he never went hungry, but the shame of his circumstances led him to make terrible, terrible decisions with tragic and devastating consequences, which rippled outwards for decades to come. When he finally had the money to match his social class, he became the ultimate snob, sneering at those, like Barney, who he felt were beneath him.

Barney was a salt of the earth working class man who dated a girl from the ‘posh’ house. He never felt good enough for her and when he was usurped by Oliver, he didn’t even put up a fight because he felt that Oliver was better than him, a cut above. Poor Barney!

When I wrote Lying in Wait, and set it in the recession of the 1980s, the matriarch, Lydia’s family has been defrauded by their accountant, a member of her husband’s Old Boy’s club. She cannot deal with the shame and the humiliation so they decide to keep it to themselves. They move their son from a public school to a state school, under the pretence that it is more convenient, because it is closer to home. Lydia is determined to keep her late father’s legacy intact. When Laurence later meets a girl (no spoilers!) from a working class background, he is terrified of introducing her to his mother for many reasons, but one of them is the girl’s social standing.

Speaking on a personal level, I grew up in a middle class family but worked in the Arts for many years. The Arts is a tremendous leveller. You don’t make it in the Arts because of who your Daddy is, or where you went to school. Queen Victoria is quoted as saying ‘Beware of artists, they mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous’! Artists challenge societal norms and often make people uncomfortable. That’s our job!

Thanks, Sarah, for giving me the chance to write about such a thought-provoking topic and for taking part in this wonderful blog tour!

Thank you to Liz and the publishers, Penguin Randomhouse for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Blog Tour - The Dog Who Dared To Dream by Sun-Mi Hwang

Today I am very pleased to welcome Sun-Mi Hwang to my blog. The Dog who Dared to Dream is the second book by Sun-Mi and is her second book to be translated into English. Her debut novel, The Hen who Dreamed she could Fly sold over two million copies worldwide.  

The Dog who Dared to Dream  is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires. The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage.

I have been asked to share the first chapter of the book with my blog readers and I hope you enjoy.......

The brown dog lifted her head off the ground and growled as she nursed her pups. But that was it – she didn’t even bare her teeth. ‘I thought he’d come only after we starved to death,’ she muttered.

The wire mesh gate, covered with a blanket, opened with a clang. Cold air rushed in. Shivering, she glimpsed the changing colours of the persimmon tree outside as the old man entered the large metal cage. His footsteps had given him away; she wouldn’t have remained so calm if it had been anyone else. After all, it had only been thirteen days since she’d given birth.

The old man closed the gate behind him and placed a steaming pot on the ground. He blew out cigarette smoke, his face becoming blurry. ‘Now you guys aren’t so green any more,’ he said, reaching down to remove the pups. They kept suckling, their eyes closed. ‘You rascals! You’ll kill her with all that sucking.’

‘I’ll say,’ murmured the mother dog. She slowly got to her feet. ‘This litter has quite an appetite.’ She looked exhausted. Her teats were red and swollen and her fur was stiff. She began to wolf down her breakfast.
The old man crouched nearby and finished the rest of his cigarette, watching her. She was shivering. Her shoulder bones protruded from her thin frame. The pups snuffled around, looking for their mother’s nipples, whining for her attention. She didn’t pay them any mind, focused as she was on eating.

The man turned off the kerosene heater in the corner. It had been on all night long. ‘All different colours,’ he remarked.

Two were entirely brown, two were brown with white spots, three were brown with black spots, and one was very dark, almost bluish black.

‘Just a few more days of hard work,’ he said, stroking their mother with his rough hand. ‘We’ll find them owners soon.’

The mother dog finished the entire pot, but she wasn’t quite full. She licked the remnants on the ground and looked up at the old man, who was holding a spotted puppy that had been pushed off the blanket they had been lying on.

He tutted. ‘The firstborn . . . ’ He looked down at it sadly. The puppy was already stiff. ‘Weak from the very beginning, and now it’s gone.’

‘That one was born too weak,’ sighed their mother. ‘It didn’t even suckle properly. Why is it always the firstborns that make me cry, every time?’ She lay down again with a grunt. The pups burrowed into her, nudging her with their heads and tapping her with their front paws. Her belly jiggled gently. The babies struggled for nipples. The two strongest ones, both brown, pushed their siblings aside and settled in the middle. The black pup fell backwards in the tussle. She tried to push her way back in but couldn’t clamber over her siblings’ legs. Whimpering, she tried again. But nobody moved aside.

The old man gazed down at her. ‘You’re certainly not the weakest. Why are you letting yourself be shoved away?’ He placed the small, lightweight pup on his palm. ‘How did your mother come to have an odd one like you? Your fur’s come in already. And you’re all black!’

Thank you to the publishers, Little, Brown, for sending me the book to review and inviting me to be a part of the tour.

‘It’s a first for me, too,’ said the mother dog. ‘Their father doesn’t look like that.’

The black pup sniffed the man’s hand. It smelled of metal. She knew this scent. Earlier, her siblings had pushed her, causing her to topple over onto the bare floor. She had hit her head on the wire mesh, and this smell had enveloped her. Her eyelids fluttered, her head hurting anew. She opened her eyes slowly to see the man’s wrinkled face, patchy with dark scabs, burned by the sparks that landed on his face when he soldered.
‘Look at you! You’re the first to open your eyes!’ The old man plucked a brown pup nestled in the middle and set down the blue- black puppy in its place.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Romeo and Juliet (A Colouring Classic) and Pride and Prejudice (A Colouring Classic)

Romeo & Juliet - A Colouring Classic (Paperback)Pride & Prejudice - A Colouring Classic (Paperback)

Adult colouring books are very popular at the moment, the current craze across the world. I like many of them, and there are hundreds on the market. However, if I am totally honest I like the orginial books by Johanna Basford and Millie Marotta - pictures made up of lots of different elements and the zentangle designs where patterns are drawn inside of detailed outlines. There are now many different styles of colouring books on the market and there are many which seem to of jumped on the band wagon and not done it very well.

I was sent both of the books, Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice to review and I admit I was nervous about if I would like them or not. The books in general are good quality, made of sturdy, heavy paper through which colour does not bleed but I would prefer, when making these books, for the publishers to only print the designs on one side of the paper. I am always nervous that the medium chosen to colour in the designs may bleed through and therefore ruining the design on the other side. Also I may decide to frame a picture and therefore miss out on the design on the other side. The designs are clearly drawn and there are definite black outlines on all pictures.  Some of the pictures also have quotes from these famous books which add to the design. And now comes my disappointment - there are many designs which include people, which I don't think have a place in adult colouring books. It is very difficult to colour in people without them looking like a child's colouring and I don't think they add anything to the pictures, rather deflect the attention from the beautiful designs.
Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger, for sending me the books to review.

The Ever So Series 5 Books Bundle Julie Fulton Collection (Vain Dorothy-Jane,Nosy Tabitha Posy,Greedy Mrs Maccready,Bossy Jonathan Fossy,Loud Daniel O'Dowd)

'The Ever So' Five Book Rhyming Set (Paperback)

This set of five books contains; Vain Dorothy-Jane; Loud Daniel O'Dowd; Nosy Tabitha Posy; Greedy Mrs MacCready and Bossy Jonathan Fossy.

Rhyming books are always popular with young children, and this set of books contains five books which are written in rhyme about five children.

I have previously reviewed three of these titles on my blog: Greedy Mrs MacCready, Nosy Tabitha Posy and Vain Dorothy Jane.

Some of my highlights of these books are:

  • The stories are  written in rhyme, but it is more than simple rhyme. The words are well written and, as Julie Fulton is also a music teacher, I believe this book should be set to music – a great rhyme for children to dance to!

  • They 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 and Jona Jung has captured the fun and energy within the illustrations perfectly

  • 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 (Tabitha Posy)
I really like these books and Julie Fulton is a fantastic story-teller and does brilliant events for children, so if she is ever near you, please pay her a visit.

This set is a great way to buy all five books and would make a perfect gift for young children.

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

    Squish, Squash, Squeeze by Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman

    Squish Squash Squeeze! (Hardback)

    Squish Squash Squeeze! is the brilliant new picture book from talented author/illustrator team Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman (The Little White Owl and The Magical Snow Garden). Packed full of surprises, this funny tale about unexpected friendships will delight small children, as they discover the tiger, crocodile and bear hidden in Mouse's house. With a fantastic pop-up, pull-out ending, it's just the book to squish-squash-squeeze into your bookshelves. Mouse's new house seems perfect, with just enough room for his things. But who's that growling by the piano? And who's that sliding down the banister? Uh-oh! There are some VERY BIG animals living in the house. What a squish-squash-squeeze!

    Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
    ISBN: 9781848691896

    Another new title from the fantastic Tracey Corderoy - this one squishes, squashes and squeezes lots of animals into Mouse's house and everywhere he turns, he finds new friends, all of whom are rather noisy!

    This is one of those books that you know children will love. The story is brilliant, full of noisy animals who children meet every turn of the page and the illustrations by Jane Chapman are bright, colourful and bold and make the reader believe you are in a tiny house with lots of animals squashed in. 

    I can imagine sharing story time with young children and this book. As every page is turned there will be laughter and noise as every picture is explored and the tale told - probably not the best to have at bedtime but great for a mid afternoon story time.

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

    Augustus and his Smile by Catherine Rayner (10th Anniversary Edition)

    Augustus and His Smile (Hardback)

    Augustus the tiger is sad. He has lost his smile. So he does a HUGE tigery stretch and sets off to find it. As he climbs mountain crests patterned with frost and swims to the bottom of inky blue oceans, Augustus soon realises that his smile will be there whenever he is happy. He just needs to open his eyes to the beauty of the natural world around him. Rediscover the magic of Catherine Rayner's illustrations with this stunning 10th anniversary edition. With a gorgeous jacketed cover with gold foiling, this picture book would make a perfect gift for a baby shower, christening or birthday. Augustus and his Smile was Catherine Rayner's first book. It was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Award and won the 2006 Booktrust Early Years Award. 
    Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
    ISBN: 9781848692329

    I really enjoy collecting anniversary editions of books and when I received this book I was very excited. It is a beautiful book at first sight and when I saw it was Catherine Rayner I knew that the inside would be just as beautiful.

    Catherine Raynor writes beautiful stories about animals and they are accompanied by her gorgeous illustrations. With a name like Augustus, the reader should expect a majestic animal, and Augustus is such a beast, a tiger who is looking for his smile, which he thinks he has lost. It is a lovely story and as the reader turns each page, they are introduced to another beautiful illustration, hand drawn by Catherine and the words of the story, are not just added to the page, but integrated into the illustration, drawing the readers eye into the picture.

    As I have previously said, I adored this special 10th anniversary edition of the book and I would recommend it as a special gift to a child, one to share and treasure and maybe to read with their own children in years to come.

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

    Now! by Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes

    Archie's back! And he's finding waiting a little bit hard. There are SO many fun things to do. The problem is, he just can't wait! Archie wants to do everything ...NOW! This hilarious picture book, starring adorable little rhino Archie, is a must for fans of No!, Why? and More! With laugh-out-loud writing from Tracey Corderoy (The Magical Snow Garden, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam) and fun illustrations from Tim Warnes (The Great Cheese Robbery, Dangerous!), Now! is the perfect story to share with impatient toddlers who want everything ...NOW!

    The most loveable rhinoceros is back. Archie's favourite new word is Now! and, as with many toddlers, does not want to wait but soon finds that somethings need to be waited for. When Archie and family are due to go on holiday they must wait two weeks and what fun they have while counting down!

    I really like Tracey Corderoy's books, she is a fantastic children's author and her books suit a range of ages, all containing brilliant characters and her collaboration with Tim Warnes, a fantastic illustrator, brings Archie and family to life.  Archie has been in many books including No!, Why? and More! and all aim to teach toddlers important life lessons.

    I recommend this as a great book to give to active and inquisitive toddlers to share at story time.

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