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kingfisher111

kingfisher111
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      21.08.2013 15:10
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      A good first novel

      The Other Half of Me, Morgan McCarthy, book reviewThe Other Half of Me is Morgan McCarthy's first novel and it's an intriguing tale about an unusual and dysfunctional family. Jonathan and his sister Theo have grown up in Wales in a large old house called Evendon, brought up by a series of housekeepers while their mother lives in her own little world. They are pretty much left to roam free but do not necessarily enjoy having so much freedom. When their grandmother, Eve, returns, she brings an order to their lives but also an air of mystery. There seem to be some dark secrets lurking from the past that neither Theo nor Jonathan can make sense of.

      The Other Half of Me follows Theo and Jonathan through from their younger days to early adulthood with the story moving between the past and the present. Because it is written like this, the reader is aware from early on that there has been some sort of tragedy and this is slowly revealed bit by bit. It certainly instils a sense of foreboding as one is reading as the mystery is pieced together a little at a time.

      I enjoyed reading about Theo and Jonathan's childhood through their teenage years and onto early adulthood. Through these transitions, the strength of their relationship comes through, and this is really at the crux of the novel. It is a story about the bond between siblings especially when their wider family circumstances are far from ideal. There is a need for them to look out for each other which they certainly do.

      Although I found it a little slow in places, I was intrigued by the storyline and found myself wanting to read on. I was particularly fascinated by Jonathan's and Theo's characters and found myself warming to both for different reasons. I thought that it was interesting that the novel is written in the first person and is told through Jonathan's eyes. This felt a bit unusual mainly because the author is female and therefore it could have been difficult to put herself in the position of a boy or a man. I have to admit that I did get a bit confused at times and felt that the story was being told by a woman.

      Overall The Other Half of Me is a good first novel and Morgan McCarthy has created an absorbing storyline and some interesting characters. It definitely kept my attention and I was intrigued to find out what dark secrets were going to emerge. I'll be interested to read more from this new author.

      The Other Half of Me by Morgan McCarthy
      Published by Headline Review, May 2012
      With thanks to Headline Review for sending a review copy.

      This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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      • Stranded - Emily Barr / Fiction Book / 76 Readings / 75 Ratings
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        15.08.2013 21:08
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        Another great read from Emily Barr

        It must be many people's dream to be stranded on a desert island but what would it be like if it became reality? It would not take long for the dream to turn into a nightmare especially if you had to share the island with six strangers and very few provisions. This is what happens in Stranded, Emily Barr's latest novel, which is a fabulous read from start to finish. It is tense and thrilling and the sort of book that keeps you guessing all the way through.

        In Stranded, Esther has escaped to Malaysia to get over the end of her marriage. She is heading for the Perhentian Islands which she hopes will be as idyllic as it has been described to her and a place to refresh and clear her mind. Although she is travelling alone, most people are very friendly, especially Katy, another lone traveller. They decide, along with five others to take a boat trip to a remote island, but when Samad, their guide fails to return, they realise they are stranded.

        As days pass and there seems little hope of rescue, they have no alternative but to fend for themselves. As far at they no, there is no hope of rescue and they will have to spend the rest of their days on the island speculating about what may have happened to them. It's all very sinister though and if they are ever to be rescued, what will happen then?

        I think that Stranded is a brilliant book and is definitely Emily Barr at her best. The story builds gradually but in such a clever way that you have to keep reading more. I did wonder, when the seven characters were stranded on the island, where the story could go in the remaining 300 pages and I was a bit worried that it might be a bit slow. I needn't have been concerned though, as there were some thrilling turns of events that kept me on the edge of my seat and there was definitely at least one shock that I didn't see coming.

        Stranded' is written in the first person and is told from Esther's point of view. This works very well as it means that the reader only sees and knows what she does. Therefore, we are as mystified as she is when Samad fails to return to the island, and we tend to trust the same people as she does. We also only know details about the others that they choose to share with Esther. Also, as she is telling the story, the reader is able to share her despair especially at being parted from her daughter, Daisy, with no way of knowing what she is thinking.

        I really enjoyed reading Stranded. It's absorbing; it's surprising and it is very cleverly written. It's a must for all Emily Barr fans and would be a great introduction for anyone not yet familiar with this fabulous author.

        Stranded by Emily Barr
        Published by Hedline Review, May 2012
        With thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

        This review has previously appeared under my named at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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          09.08.2013 11:13
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          a very enjoyable book

          Ten Years On is the latest book from Alice Peterson and tells the story of Rebecca and Joe who, as the title might suggest, have not seen each other for ten years. A lot has happened in the intervening years and it is only because of a devastating turn of events that they meet up again.

          Rebecca and Joe did not part on the best of terms. They were at university together along with Rebecca's boyfriend Olly who she later married. They were an inseparable trio until one drunken evening, whilst Olly was ill in bed, Joe declared his true feelings of love for Rebecca. After spending the night together, she is racked with guilt and leaves. After a rocky time, she and Olly (who never knew about what happened) make a commitment to each other and get married. Blissfully happy, they sort of forget about Joe and life could not be better. That is until the fateful day when Rebecca receives a visit from the police who inform her that Olly has been killed in a motorcycle accident.

          This happens at the start of the story and leads to Rebecca, who also discovers that she is pregnant, moving back to her home time, where Joe is also running a wine bar. The two meet and the rest of the book chronicles how their fragile relationship starts to mend and grow as they get to know each other all over again. It's a wonderful story that had me hooked from the very first pages.

          Ten Years On is a book that really highlights the value of friendship and I found myself really warming to this theme throughout the entire book. Rebecca forms many different friendships as she attempts to rebuild her life. I liked the way she and Joe gradually became friends but the one that I enjoyed the most though was her friendship with Janet, an old lady with little sight, who understands exactly what Rebecca is going through, having also lost her own husband. I loved reading about the strength of this friendship that was both poignant and funny.

          I really enjoy Alice Peterson's style of writing as she reveals little morsels about the main characters bit by bit. In this book, she alternates between the present and the past so that the reader is slowly able to piece together what happened all those years ago between Joe and Rebecca. She also creates wonderful characters that you can slowly get to know and come to care about.

          Ten Years On also explores the theme of bereavement but not in a heavy mournful way. Rebecca is obviously very upset and lost after the sudden loss of Olly and it's interesting to see how she is treated by various different characters. Her family don't quite know how to treat the young grieving widow and others think that she is lucky that she is still young enough to meet someone else! I think it just goes to show that there's no rulebook or timescale as far as bereavement is concerned and Rebecca copes in a way that suits her at that time.

          Ten Years On is not a sad book though. In fact I found it very enjoyable and quite uplifting. It's another great book from Alice Peterson.

          Ten Years On by Alice Peterson
          Published by Quercus, May 2012
          My thanks go to the publisher for sending me a review copy.

          This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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            07.08.2013 13:02
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            a very enjoyable book

            Billy's home is a little bit crazy as both his parents insist on performing lots of magic tricks. Billy has no interest in their potions made from their strange supplies until he discovers a small snail that is waiting to become an ingredient. Billy immediately rescues the snail, christens him Nigel and makes him his new pet. However, his parents think that they can conjure up a much more exciting pet but is that what Billy really wants?

            +++++++++



            Billy is a bit fed up of his parents constantly practising their magic especially when most of their spells go wrong. He is a little curious about all of their strange assortment of ingredients though:

            Jellied bugs and pickled flies,
            Bubbling potions,
            Lizard tails,

            And what was this?
            A little snail?

            It is the snail that appeals most of all and Billy quickly befriends him, naming him Nigel. His parents don't think that Nigel, being a snail, is a suitable pet though and when Billy doesn't tire of him, as they expect, they set out to use their magic to conjure up some more exciting pets. Whales, elephants and tigers magically appear before Billy's eyes but none appeal as much as his small friend, Nigel. Not only that, all of these new animals start causing mayhem and guess who comes to the rescue? Maybe snails do make the best pets after all!

            We thought this was a very enjoyable and funny book. It's bright and colourful with lots of amusing illustrations especially when all of the tricks start going wrong. We love the bemused and worried looks on Billy's parents' faces. You also need to keep a careful eye on the illustrations because sometimes Nigel is doing something that does not relate to the main storyline.

            It's also a sweet tale with a strong message about the value of true friendship. My daughter particularly liked the way that Billy taught Nigel how to do things such as read, play with bricks and even ride a skateboard. She was particularly impressed that Nigel wore a helmet when doing this last activity! All of this prompted a lovely discussion about the sorts of things that she likes to do for her friends.

            We also enjoyed the way that the story is written particularly as it is all in rhyming couplets:

            As Billy shouted Nigel's name.
            Dad's magic spells went wrong again.
            Things went crazy, things went bad.
            The tiger tried to eat Bill's dad.

            This adds to the humour and the rhythm but is also good for helping small children develop their phonological awareness skills. Added to this there is lots of lovely description that really make the story come alive.

            Overall this book is lots of fun and I'm sure that both children and their parents will enjoy sharing it. It's a great read from start to finish.

            Paperback: 32 pages
            Publisher: Andersen (3 Jan 2013)

            This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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            05.08.2013 15:12
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            A thoroughly modern machine

            After having put up with my old washing machine for more than fourteen years, using the new Hotpoint Ultima was like all my birthdays and Christmases coming up once. Good customer service meant that I was kept very well informed about when it was going to arrive and when it did, two helpful delivery men brought it in to the house, plumbed it in and even gave me a demonstration of how it worked. Nothing was too much trouble and I was impressed by this level of customer care from Hotpoint.

            The washing machine looks very sleek and smart with its digital display meaning there are no more awkward dials to turn. I like the fact that there are icons imprinted on the front of the machine and once you turn it on, all you have to do in order to select your programme is to select the digital image that matches the icon on the side. It is important to me that it is so easy to use because I'm not a great one for reading instruction manuals and my understanding of technology is limited to say the least.

            The first time that you use the machine, you have to run the auto clean cycle. After that you are ready to go and there are a number of different wash cycles that you can select depending on your needs. You do have to turn the machine on before you select though. Now this might sound obvious but I never needed to do that on my antiquated machine so I do sometimes find myself pressing buttons but feeling perplexed that nothing is happening!

            When you have switched on, the digital display lights up and you can choose the appropriate programme depending on what you are washing. However, if you tend to do a similar type of wash many times you can use 'my cycle' as this remembers the preferences that you have set and want to use constantly. This is very useful for lazy people like me who can't be bothered to think too much every time I put on a load of washing.

            However, having said that, I have not made much use of 'my cycle' as I have enjoyed exploring all the different cycles and have found all the functions very easy to operate. Once you have chosen your cycle, be it for cottons, synthetics, wool or delicates; anti stain, fast wash or bed and bath, you can then be flexible with certain other features. One very useful thing that you can do is to alter the temperature depending on how heavily you think that your laundry is soiled. The choice of temperature also affects the total length of the cycle.

            Another fantastic thing is that you can alter the spin speed. The highest speed is 1600 rpm and this is amazing. It means that the clothes come out virtually dry which means that either the time spent on the line or in the drier is substantially less. This actually caught me out at first as I was taking the laundry out of the washing machine and into the drier and putting the drier on for my usual length of time. It soon dawned on me though that I could cut my drying time in half therefore saving quite a bit of money. However, there are some items that you will not want this very high spin speed for and then you have the option to reduce it to anything down to zero. Added to this there is a 'reduced creases' function which is particularly useful to use alongside the fast spin speeds. This is a must when washing quilt covers - definitely saves on ironing!

            There are a few more functions to praise as well. If you want to save time (and money) you can use the time saver function meaning that you can reduce the actual cycle time by up to 50% which is very useful if you are washing clothes that are only lightly soiled or if you are in a hurry. Unfortunately it cannot be used with they anti-stain cycle which, at three hours long, would be useful. Obviously, the anti- stain element would not work so well in a shorter amount of time. Now that I have mentioned the anti-stain cycle, I have to say that I think it is brilliant. It has really worked on some hard to shift stains that I had despaired of ever being able to get rid of even with the strongest stain remover. This works and I have not even have to have added any other removing agent.

            The other wash function that I want to mention is 'Eco Wash'. This allows you to save energy by not heating the water at all. I have not tried it with any heavy duty washing but with lighter loads it works a treat. Unfortunately though, there are quite a few cycles that you cannot use it with so it is a bit limited.

            One huge benefit of the Hotpoint Ultima is that the drum can take a massive 9 kg. This is brilliant for large families as it cuts significantly the number of washes you actually need to do. This was something else that did catch me out a little at first though as, so used to my old machine, I was gathering up the same amount of washing that I always used to and it took a while to realise that I could fill it up with a lot more. I think that this is brilliant and I'm sure that it must save me money. However, there is one problem though and that is the fact that I nearly always put my washing straight into the drier. Not a problem you would think apart from the fact that my drier only has capacity for 7kg. However, some items come out so dry on the 1600 spin that they really don't need drying at all and I can just put them straight into the airing cupboard.

            There is so much to like about this washing machine and I keep on discovering more features such as setting a delayed start (handy if you are setting a wash before going out in the morning and you don't want your wet washing sitting there all day - just set it to finish for when you are going to come home), the desired wash intensity depending on how heavily soiled the washing is, being able to set the rinse type depending on how sensitive your skin is, and there's even a child lock. I don't really need this as my daughters are older but I can remember how frustrating it was when they were younger and I would be about to take out a wash only to discover that they had fiddled with all the dials.

            Overall, I can't fault the Ultima Hotpoint - I only wish that I had discovered it before!

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              04.08.2013 08:01
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              A very enjoyable picture book

              Everyone knows that it's very important to wash dirty hands. Everyone that is apart from the Little Princess who thinks that washing hands is a waste of time. It's only when she finds out why she needs to, that she decides that perhaps hand washing is a good idea after all. Not only is this book very funny but it's also extremely helpful in encouraging little ones to wash their own hands.

              +++++++++


              The Little Princess is always getting her hands dirty whether it's by playing in the palace garden, stroking Scruff, the dog or going on her potty. Whenever she does any of these, there's always someone there to tell her to wash her hands. Now, as the Little Princess never likes being told what to do, she does not take kindly to this hand washing business and she demands to know why. However, when the level-headed maid, who never puts up with any of her nonsense, tells her about all the germs and nasties and horrible things that could make her ill, she is soon found rushing to the hand basin at every opportunity. Not only that, she starts insisting that everyone else always washes their hands too.

              This is a fabulous book in many ways. First and foremost, this is another great story featuring that much loved character, the Little Princess. Strong willed and forthright in what she says, she never fails to entertain and to amuse my daughters who must be some of her biggest fans. We love all of her interactions with her parents and the palace staff and how, more often than not, she seems to get her own way and have the last word.

              The language used is quite straightforward and there are not too many words on any one page. In fact the words tend to play second fiddle to Tony Ross's fabulous illustrations as it is these that tell the real story of what is going on. My daughters seem to love the fact that some of the pictures are really quite gross with the Little Princess spluttering all over the place causing some really gruesome looking germs and nasties to land in her food and to float through the air. For fans of the Little Princess books, the style of illustration is very familiar with the Little Princess looking as boggle eyed and as scraggy as ever. For readers who are not familiar with this character, she is definitely not your typical golden haired beautiful princess. She is, in fact, a pretty unique character that children will absolutely love I'm sure.

              I also really like this book because it does send out a strong message to small children about the importance of washing their hands and it does so in a very humorous way. I am sure that young readers will really remember the Little Princess's anguished response to the prospect of all those horrible nasties and germs in her food and I think that this will have much more impact than just constantly nagging them to wash hands. It certainly does not leave any doubt that washing hands after certain activities is really essential.

              Overall, this is a wonderful book for Little Princess fans everywhere.

              Paperback: 32 pages
              Publisher: Andersen (3 May 2012)

              This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                30.07.2013 22:02
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                Another great Charlie and Lola book

                Charlie has this little sister Lola. She is small and very funny but she also knows her own mind. If she is sleepy, she is determined that she will not go to bed. As the older brother, can Charlie use all his powers of persuasion to ensure that Lola gets a good night's sleep?

                Like many children, Lola does not particularly like going to bed. She likes staying up colouring, scribbling, sticking and most of all chattering. When she is told that it is time for bed, she always has an answer as to why she should not go: she never gets tired; she can't clean her teeth because somebody is eating her toothpaste; and the whales are swimming in the bath. The list is endless especially where the highly imaginative Lola is concerned. However, older brother Charlie knows Lola so well; if anyone can persuade her to get into bed, it's him.

                This story is totally delightful. Charlie and Lola are such loveable and engaging characters and my daughter adores them. Having read so many Charlie and Lola books, they feel like old friends. We love the relationship that they have and how patient the older and wiser Charlie is with his younger and often obstinate sister.

                The illustrations throughout the book are exquisite with a mixture of comical drawings, photographs and interesting backgrounds. Every page is a visual treat and each one is enhanced by the interesting and swirly ways that the text is set about. It often dances before your very eyes with the text sometimes getting bigger or smaller and the very important words in bold.

                Above all, it's a very funny story and one that both parents and their children will likely identify with. Bedtimes can often be stressful with small children but this book helps you to see the funny side. Everyone is bound to love this brilliant story and will enjoy reading about more of Charlie and Lola's antics. It's a book that I am sure that children will want to have read time and time again.

                The copy that I am reviewing has the added bonus of being a board book so that it is very sturdy and durable for handling by little fingers.

                Board book: 32 pages
                Publisher: Orchard Books (7 Mar 2013)

                This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                29.07.2013 15:46
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                A very enjoyable picture book

                Many years ago, there was a fat mammoth who lived on top of a mountain. Down in the valley lived a caveman who was very thin and very hungry. The caveman decided to come up with a plan to capture the mammoth and bake him in a pie ready to eat. However, unfortunately for the caveman, the mammoth has other ideas. It's a battle of wills but which one will win?




                On top of a mountain there lived a fat mammoth.
                Down in the valley there lived a thin caveman.
                The caveman was hungry. Very, very hungry.
                He saw the mammoth and licked his lips.

                The caveman, who was called Og, decided that he was going to catch the mammoth and put him in a pie. The mammoth was not scared though as he realised that the caveman had no trap to trip him, no cart to carry him, no pot to hold him and no fire to cook him in. There was no way that he was going to be made into mammoth pie. What the mammoth did not realise though was that Og had many friends whom he went calling on. Each time, he asked his friends to provide something, such as a spear or a trap, promising in return a slice of mammoth pie. The friends, Ug, Gog, Bog, Nog and Mog, all agreed and soon they were ready to set off and capture their prey. You would have thought that the mammoth's time was up and there would be no way that he could escape those well organised cavemen. Never fear though as the mammoth had a cunning plan of his own and had no intention of ever ending up in a mammoth pie!

                This is a thoroughly entertaining book and we liked the fact that there was a good twist in the tale. My daughter was totally convinced that the mammoth was heading for the pie and was quite worried. She was then very impressed when the mammoth turned things around. It was clever the way that the cavemen appeared to outwit the mammoth and ended up being outwitted themselves.

                It is a well written story that is set out in verse although it does not rhyme. There are quite a few repetitive phrases though which should appeal to young children and help them join in with telling the story. This repetition will also help newly confident readers who might be having a go at reading independently. Having said that though, I think that this is an ideal book for sharing as there is so much to talk about and enjoy together.

                The illustrations, by Tony Ross, are superb and really help to tell the story. There's lots of comical detail and eagle-eyed readers will notice that on each page you can see the mammoth observing from a distance and making sure that he knows about everything that the cavemen are scheming.

                All in all, 'Mammoth Pie' is a very enjoyable book that will be enjoyed by both children and their parents."

                This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                  28.07.2013 11:09
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                  a very enjoyable book

                  It's a very special occasion in the royal palace as it is Princess Lolly's 89th birthday. As part of the celebrations, the royal cook has prepared a special sumptuous jelly. It looks glorious but unfortunately it doesn't wobble. Furthermore, the jelly absolutely refuses to wobble despite everyone's best efforts. It starts to look like a complete stand-off; that is until one small boy comes up with a rather devious solution.


                  Everyone knows that jellies are supposed to wobble but what will happen when a particularly stubborn jelly refuses to do any such thing? To make matters worse, this is the jelly that has been specially prepared for Princess Lolly's 89th birthday party. As she is the sort of princess who likes to get her own way this poses a bit of a problem. So desperate is she for her jelly to wobble though, she offers a reward of a thousand and one chocolate sovereigns for anyone who can come up with a solution. Lots of suggestions are made including prodding it with a walking stick and scaring it. However, it is the youngest guest at the party who eventually comes up with an idea that works but I'll leave you to guess what it might be!

                  This is a delightfully entertaining book that is bound to bring a smile and a giggle. It's a fun tale that uses wonderful descriptive language that make it a pleasure to read. This is particularly true when the jelly is described as:

                  rocking this way and that,
                  quivering and quaking,
                  trembling and shaking.

                  There's also lots of interesting things going on with the way that the text is set out especially when Princess Lolly is getting a bit cross and capitals are used to emphasise her every word. That along with bold font and some wibbling, wobbling words all add to the interest. The illustrations are thoroughly entertaining too and we really like the jelly with its expressive eyes.

                  My daughter loves all of the characters from the crotchety old princess to the clever smallest guest. However, her favourite has to be the defiant jelly doing its utmost not to wobble. She loves the idea that the jelly talks and is a character in its own right. You can have great fun making up voices for these different characters too.

                  Overall this is a very funny book that is great for sharing and reading aloud. It's one to be enjoyed by all the family.

                  The Jelly That Wouldn't Wobble by Angela Mitchell and Sarah Horne
                  Maverick Arts Publishing (10 May 2012)

                  This review has appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                    26.07.2013 11:58
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                    Another great book from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

                    Nobody needs to worry about anything when Superworm is about as he can just about save anyone from anything. However, who will save Superworm when he gets into trouble himself? This is another wonderful rhyming story from the very successful team of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.



                    Superworm is long and strong and he's a real hero as far as all of his insect friends are concerned. He always comes to the rescue when there is trouble. When Baby Toad is in danger of being run over on a major road, he turns himself into a lasso and scoops the baby away from the oncoming wheels. Another time, Beetle falls into a well and Superworm transforms himself into a fishing line in order to save him. In fact, Superworm can pretty much turn himself into anything and that makes him a very useful and helpful friend.

                    Unfortunately, there is a mean Wizard Lizard living nearby and when he hears about Superworm's powers he orders his servant crow to find and capture him, which he does. The lizard then gets Superworm tunnelling in the soil in order to find lots of hidden treasure for him. All of Superworm's insect friends are dismayed when they find out what has happened and they are determined to help set him free. Will they be able to come up with a cunning plan and save their own special super hero?

                    This is another fabulous story from Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson and it is complemented so well by Axel Scheffler's engaging illustrations. The story is very clever and my daughters were delighted by Superworm's versatility in transforming into so many different guises. Amongst other things, he can turn himself into a swing, a slide, a fairground ride and a hoola-hoop. We also had a lot of fun coming up with our own ideas of other things that Superworm could possibly become.

                    As with most of Julia Donaldson's books, the story is entirely in rhyme. This is brilliant for young children who will love to supply the rhyming words at the end of every other line and this will help them to develop their early phonological skills. The language is lively and there is quite a bit of repetition for small children to join in with:

                    Superworm is super-long.
                    Superworm is super-strong.
                    Watch him wiggle! See him squirm!
                    Hip, hip, hooray for SUPERWORM!

                    The illustrations are perfect for this story and if you have read other books from this pair, such as The Gruffalo or Stick Man, they will have a very familiar feel to them. They are very entertaining with lots of humour and lots of lovely detail to look out for. One of our favourite pages is where there are lots of pictures showing all the different things that Superworm can turn himself into.

                    Overall, this is fabulous book that children and their parents will want to return to again and again. If you already have a Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler collection, you will definitely want to add Superworm to it.

                    This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                      25.07.2013 11:51
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                      a very enjoyable book

                      I've just finished reading Rosie Goodwin's The Misfit and what a good read it turned out to be. I was hooked from the very first moment and couldn't wait to discover what happened to Rebecca, the central character.

                      The Misfit is all about Rebecca and it seems that she is just that - a misfit - through no fault of her own. She was abandoned at birth and subsequently adopted. However, she always felt that she was not attractive enough to live up to both parents' expectations. Tragedy strikes though when both adoptive parents die within a few months of each other when Rebecca is only seven. She goes to leave with her abusive uncle and money grabbing aunt but when that does not work out there follows a stream of foster parents - none of whom manage to cope with her. She finds some contentment when she joins up with a circus but it seems that there is more tragedy and heartbreak awaiting her. Will she ever be able to find the peace and happiness that she deserves?

                      I think The Misfit is a wonderfully written book and I was gripped from the very first page. The story is very involving and it is impossible not to feel bad for Rebecca as one reads about her plight and I think that Rosie Goodwin has created a fascinating and feisty character. There are also lots of things happening and the story moves along at a good pace always keeping the reader's interest. It starts back in 1988 when Rebecca is born and moves forward in years stopping at key moments in her life.

                      The Misfit is also an incredibly moving book and there are moments that may well have you reaching for the tissues. It is particularly moving because it explores what it must be like to feel unwanted and unloved - sad enough for anyone but particularly so for a young child. It also shows how, when someone such as Rebecca feel that is the case, that they can easily make the wrong choices in life by misinterpreting the situations they find themselves in. I found this aspect of the novel quite fascinating. It is also quite traumatic in places and some of the incidents that occur are disturbing. If you like your reading to be light-hearted and relaxing, this is probably not the book for you. On the other hand if you like a well written, thought provoking story with sympathetic characters, The Misfit could be just the book you are looking for.

                      Overall, The Misfit is a fabulous read and has made me want to read much more from the author, Rosie Goodwin.

                      The Misfit by Rosie Goodwin
                      Published by Headline, May 2012
                      With thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

                      This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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                        23.07.2013 20:22
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                        a very enjoyable book

                        If you own a charm bracelet, every individual charm is meant to tell a story. That is the premise behind Melissa Hill's latest wonderful novel, The Charm Bracelet. Births, marriages, graduation, moving home, a new job - all of these can be remembered and treasured by a small and well thought out charm. So, imagine how it would feel to lose such a precious set of memories or what you might do if you found one. Could you possibly trace the owner by piecing together all of the different stories that the charm bracelet can tell?

                        Holly O'Neill loves her charm bracelet and each individual charm is very special. They tell the story of her life from the death of her father to the start of her first job and then later the birth of her young son, Danny. She loves her work in a New York vintage clothes shop and cannot believe it when, lost in the lining of a donated coat, she discovers a charm bracelet quite similar to her own. Knowing that the owner must be devastated to have lost it, she decides to try and trace her by working out the meaning of the charms. It's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack but will be worth it if successful.

                        What follows is a wonderful tale that sees Holly's efforts to trace the owner through the fascinating clues that the charm bracelet yields. Alongside this, we learn much about Holly and the somewhat lonely life that she has with her young son. There's also another story that is unfolding in another part of the city which is obviously linked somehow, but, in true Melissa Hill style, she teases the reader and leaves one guessing as to how these separate stories will fit together.

                        The Charm Bracelet is a warm and enchanting story with an almost magical feel to it. Most of the characters are quite loveable and it is easy to become very involved in their stories - the ups and the downs. I loved the backdrop of the vintage clothing store and there were some great descriptions of some of the clothes that were being sold. Also, although not a charm bracelet wearer myself, I could appreciate the sentiments behind the separate charms and enjoyed seeing how each told a story.

                        Melissa Hill also always likes to provide a twist or two for her readers and it's the same in The Charm Bracelet. Maybe, because I have come to recognise this as a trait of her writing, I was ready for it but it still comes as a surprise.

                        The Charm Bracelet is a lovely read especially if you are looking for a little bit of escapism. An intriguing story, warm characters and a few surprises - what more could you ask for?

                        The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill
                        Published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, May 2012
                        With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a review copy.

                        This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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                          14.07.2013 20:47
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                          Don't bother!

                          Stella Smith is the busy working mother of a young son. Constantly frustrated and angered by the images of beautiful svelte like mums who lose their baby fat within weeks and never have a hair out of place, she sets out to champion the women who just about cope with motherhood but have little time for anything else. She sets up the ''Mums Like Us'' group and before she barely knows what is happening, her cause becomes a national phenomenon.

                          Stella Smith is fed up of the expectation that mums should be superwomen. She feels that there are certain women, who appear to have achieved perfection in terms of motherhood, that make all other mums feel inept and inferior. She feels that realism is best and that to strive to be 'good enough' is what most mums should aspire to. That is why she sets up the 'Mums Like Us' group that meets weekly in her messy kitchen and rejoices in slovenliness, messy clothes and overeating.

                          The book follows the group through a year of madness and mayhem that sees the club gain worldwide recognition and takes Stella to the White House as well as being arrested during a march. Throughout the year, she does battle with another group calling themselves the 'Mother Superiors' who reject Stella's ambition of ''good enough'' and point out that she is letting her fellow women down.

                          It sounds as if this book should be a lot of fun and at times it is very funny. However, there are a few reasons why I felt let down as I was reading it. Firstly, I did not like the way that the book was written. It is not your typical narrative and reads like a weekly column in a newspaper or a blog. Many of the chapters are meant to be Stella addressing the meeting and recounting on the weekly happenings. Therefore it is only her voice and there is no interaction with any other characters unless reported by her. Some chapters are from Stella's husband, Matt, and here we get him emailing his mates with whom he has set up Dads United, a new and somewhat unfit football team. There is a also no interaction with other characters in these.

                          I really wanted to like this book because I do think that the author, Lisa Kemp, has a very good point to make about how the media celebration that notion of perfection in new mothers. I think that there is nothing wrong with the idea of being 'just good enough", as that is what most mums can just about manage, but the idea does seem to be taken to the extreme. This is illustrated by the way Stella encourages her fellow club members to eat unhealthy food, take no care over this appearance and to actually celebrate going out with your child's food and dribble all over you.

                          Most of the time that I was reading, it felt like the author had a huge chip on her shoulder and that the book was an excuse o have a rant at anyone who managed motherhood better than her. Because of this, Stella was not a character that I felt any warmth towards and, as a consequence, I disliked her intensely. I particularly disliked the liberal use of the F word throughout he book. Its use felt entirely unnecessary to me.

                          There were some moments in the book that I enjoyed but, overall, it was not a satisfying read and left me disappointed.


                          This book review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                            30.04.2013 09:16
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                            Another lovely Elmer story

                            All children who love Elmer, the patchwork elephant, will know that he is an extremely kind and helpful elephant. In this delightful book, Elmer helps his small friend the butterfly. But when Butterfly offers to help him in return, if he ever needs him, Elmer can't possibly imagine how such a small creature could ever help a creature as big as him. Little does he know, he is going to have to call on Butterfly for help much sooner than he would ever imagine.

                            One day, Elmer, the patchwork elephant, is out walking when he hears a cry for help. It's his cousin, Wilbur, playing tricks and because of this, when Elmer hears a second cry for help he is tempted to ignore it. Luckily, he doesn't though, as this time the plea is for real as Butterfly is trapped behind a fallen branch. It does not take Elmer long to set his small friend free and, of course, Butterfly is enormously grateful. Anxious to return the favour, Butterfly promises to repay Elmer one day and tells him just to call if help is needed. Elmer thinks that is highly unlikely and, as he goes on his way, he chuckles:

                            A butterfly saving and elephant, that's a good one!

                            At the same time, he notices a narrow path leading off the main one and decides to investigate. Unfortunately, the path leads along a cliff and becomes so narrow that there is no room for the sizeable Elmer to turn round. He finds himself stuck in the cave at the end of the path and has no option but to call for help. Luckily, there is a very small friend listening out for him and ready to help. But what can Butterfly do? She may be tiny but she definitely has a plan.

                            David McKee has written yet another charming Elmer story to add to our collection. It's a lovely simple tale and one that illustrates how important it is to help others with small acts of kindness. My daughters loved the way that little Butterfly was able to help his large friend and echoed one of the lines in the story:

                            Fancy a butterfly saving an elephant!

                            There is also a good deal of humour in the story with Elmer's mischievous cousin Wilbur and also in the bright colourful illustrations. Elmer fans will recognise the bold style with in the pictures and enjoy the comical looks on all of the elephants' faces.

                            As in all the Elmer books, the language used is quite straightforward which would make this a suitable book for newly confident readers as well as for sharing with younger children. There is also quite a large amount of text on some pages, compared to some picture books, which means that the story has quite a bit of detail. Alongside this enjoyable story are the entertaining illustrations which makes it all adds up to a very satisfying read.

                            This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk

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                              28.04.2013 19:52
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                              Another great read fromLisa Jewell

                              Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite contemporary women's authors and I have loved reading all of her books. Her latest, The Making of Us is just as readable and compelling as all of the others, and I was hooked in to the absorbing storyline from the very first page.

                              The Making of Us is about a set of disparate people who have never met but who are intrinsically linked by a twist of fate - they all share the same father. This would not be so unusual were it not for the fact that their mothers had never met their father either; the reason for this being that they were all conceived through sperm donation. Their father, Daniel Blanchard was a French medical student who had his own reasons for making the donation and never intended to ever meet his children.

                              However, almost thirty years later, Daniel is dying and asks his friend, Maggie, to help him make contact. At the same time, Lydia, Dean and Robyn are all at crisis points in their lives for different reasons, and all make the decisions to contact potential brothers or sisters through the donor sibling registry that now exists. They ultimately meet and get to know each other and what follows is a heart warming and poignant narrative as these three characters start to come to terms with who they really are and also start to learn about the special relationships that can be enjoyed by siblings. But what of their father. Will they want a relationship with him as well, and even if they do - will it be too late?

                              As with all of Lisa Jewell's books, the characters in The Making of Us are very sympathetic and also very real. I really liked Dean, Lydia and Robyn and really felt for them as the details of their lives were revealed little by little. I also loved reading of how their relationships with each other developed and there were moments that made me laugh as well as others that had me reaching for the tissues.

                              The Making of Us is also a book that makes you think - about the many issues that are involved within the field of sperm donation. I think that some of the questions raised by and the emotions felt by the three main characters help to explore the issues very well.

                              As you can probably tell, I really loved reading The Making of Us and hardly wanted the book to finish. I will be eagerly anticipating Lisa Jewell's next offering and hope that it will not be too long a wait!

                              This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk

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