Tuesday 21 December 2010

Lee On The Dark Side Of The Moon by Keith Charters

Moon Here We Come
Review By TheMole

Lee has entered a competition on the back of a cereal packet and has the opportunity to become the first boy to land on the moon. After under going a weeks extensive training he finds himself not as prepared as he would like and wishes he had listened more. Things don't go as planned and Lee has to make decisions which could leave him a hero but in the meantime he causes worldwide panic with gurus predicting the end of the world.

I have to admit to not having read any 'Lee' books before but then I am not the target readership group. My first impression was I found it difficult to read without laughing out loud all the time! The story is fast moving and humorous and written and printed in form that would make it very appealing to it's target audience, which I would anticipate as being the 6-8 year old early readers, although I don't see why older pre-teens wouldn't enjoy it. The humour, while sometimes lavatorial, is spot on for the age group and such that adults, if reading to children, don't feel embarrassed about either.

My only regret with this book is that I don't have a little one to read it to. This book is brilliant and pretty accurate as it also contains a lot of accurate facts about the moon missions. The one point it doesn't make is about sound not travelling in a vacuum. I have always wondered then why vacuum cleaners make so much noise? Perhaps Lee could tell me?

Publisher - Strident Publishing

Genre -
Children's Adventure/Comedy

Buy Lee on the Dark Side of the Moon From Amazon

Monday 20 December 2010

Christmas Things to Stitch and Sew - Usborne Activities

Children off school for Christmas (or snow day)? Can't do all the things you'd planned because of the weather? Didn't buy decorations/cards before the snow hit? You need a book like this! One of Usborne's many activity books just right for this time of year.

I know this is a re-post but it seems appropriate for this week.

Ready for Christmas

Review by Maryom

Yet another wonderful children's craft book from Usborne - this time with the emphasis being on stitching and sewing things for Christmas - like the DIY stuff, Usborne books do what they say on the tin (or cover).
As always, there's a wide variety of projects, aimed at a range of skills and ages. There are gift tags, christmas stockings, cute stuffed penguins and snowmen. Projects for decorations, or to give as presents to family and friends. Some of the simpler ones - tree cards or sparkly decorations - have very little sewing involved, so are good for beginners. Others - gift bags or snowflake chains - offer something slightly more challenging for those with more experience.

Don't worry if you feel unsure about your own sewing skills, there's a guide to stitches and sewing on buttons and sequins at the back of the book so, if necessary, you can brush up your skills first before involving the children.

I love Usborne craft books - Christmas Fairy Things to Make and Do, bought when my teenager was much smaller, still comes out regularly when we're in need of inspiration. Christmas Things to Stitch and Sew is an absolutely brilliant craft book which I'm sure you'll find just as useful for many, many years!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Usborne
Chilren's Books
Genre -
Children's Craft Activity

Buy Christmas Things to Stitch and Sew (Usborne Activities) from Amazon

Friday 17 December 2010

Maryom's Round Up Of The Year -2010

It's that time of year when everyone starts talking about 'best of the year', so here's my personal round-up to go with all the others out there. Not all of these are newly published this year - just newly read by me - though there's certainly no sense to including favourite re-reads; they belong in a different list altogether. Also, not all of these are books I've reviewed for our blog - some have been reviewed elsewhere, one particularly I know I've only reviewed on Amazon or Waterstones. Enough rambling - where to start? Children's books?

In The Map Of Marvels by David Calcutt, Connor draws a map and finds himself transported into it. The only way home is to follow the adventures the map leads him to. A compelling, Arabian nights type adventure with pirates and shipwrecks, deserts and djinn. It's recommended for older children but is the sort of adventure tale we used to read as bedtime story to our 8 or 9 yr old daughter.

Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket by Hazel Allan a fantastical adventure story for 9 - 13 yrs. Bree wins the half-heart locket in a raffle and finds herself whisked away with friends Sandy and Honey over the moon rainbow to save the world from evil monster Thalofedril.

The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan
- a wonderful action, suspense novel, maybe mainly for boys. Readers will urge Sam on, cheer at his success, be disheartened as he fails, tremble as he and his friend Lloyd hide from the villain, but hopefully take heed of the message - be sure you know who is offering you a lift home.

Another absolutely stunning fantasy adventure is Mortlock by Jon Mayhew. The wonderful knife-throwing heroine, Josie, is thrown by her guardian's death into a world of danger, excitement and supernatural crows. Not for the squeamish!

Moving onward and upward to teenage fiction

Keren David's debut novel, When I Was Joe, came out at the beginning of the year followed in September by its sequel Almost True. Together they tell the story of Ty, taken into the witness protection programme after a stabbing incident, his problems adapting to his new identity and unknown past.

Wasted by Nicola Morgan - Truly an amazing book that really makes you wonder about the little chances that life turns on. A story about love, fate and the danger of leaving things to chance. I loved this and my daughter, then 12, did too - so one for almost all ages!

Firebrand by Gillian Philip - first in a series following the exploits of Seth MacGregor - wild, unruly Sidhe warrior - an action packed, fast paced fantasy novel capable of surprising to almost the last page, with a cast of real living breathing characters. Published as a YA book but one for all lovers of fantasy regardless of age.

For adults...

Fantasy, myth and politics meet in the Mabinogion Stories series from Seren Books, retelling Welsh myths in modern or even future settings. My favourite has to be The Dreams of Max and Ronnie by Niall Griffiths - turning old stories into up to date political commentary.

I read and loved Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - a long slow novel exploring the Tudor world and the workings of HenryVIII's court. Probably not a book for everyone, mainly due to it's length.

If you're looking for something shorter try The Still Point by Amy Sackville. Julia has grown up believing in the stories of her family's long-lost heroic Arctic explorer, Edward Mackley and the devoted life-time wait of his wife. As she sorts through relics in the attic, Julia discovers all is not as she had believed. This story weaves together themes of loss, self-delusion, betrayal and discovery, with alternating threads of heat and cold, idleness and endeavour, creating a wonderful whole.

New publishers Peirene Press specialise in translated fiction - "Thought provoking, well designed, short", as their slogan says. All three of this year's books were wonderful in their own way. My favourite, though only by a small margin, was Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius. A young, pregnant German woman walks through Rome one day in January 1943 on her way to a musical recital at a church. On her way we share her thoughts, hopes and fears meandering between past, present and future. A whole life in 125 pages!

In a very different vein - two outstandingly creepy novels

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer - a chilling debut thriller. Steven feels that if he can find the body of his murdered uncle Billy the past can be laid to rest and his family become 'normal'. When he realises he won't succeed by digging up random bits of Exmoor, Steven decides to try the more direct approach and write to Avery asking for directions. Reminding the killer of the past may not turn out to be the cleverest of moves though...

Captured by Neil Cross, creator of BBC's Luther. A man with only weeks to live determines to solve the mystery of an ex-girlfriends disappearance - using whatever means and methods he feels are needed. A shortish book, driven forward by dialogue, full of desperation. It was a totally gripping read - even when you wish you could turn away and not look.

And last but most certainly not least, something for everyone - The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris. A gorgeous illustrated book with lyrical words. You may want to buy it for a special child in your life - or you may just want to treat yourself!

Deadly Focus by R C Bridgestock

Page turner
Review by TheMole

A child goes missing and is soon found murdered leaving her family devastated. Jack Dylan leads the investigation in his almost single minded attitude. Before the killer is found another child goes missing and it starts to look like a serial killer is on the loose.

This story is not a whodunnit but is a crime drama based on first hand experience. We learn, about two thirds of the way through, who the killer is. We could guess from about halfway although avid whodunnit fans could probably guess earlier. The focus of the story is on the people involved in the investigation, the constraints they have to work with, the pressures they are all under, the ambitions and doubts that some have. It is about how real crime detection happens. To say I enjoyed this would be wrong and right. I became involved with it and certainly wanted to climb across the table to have a go at the suspect. I felt for the families loss, fears and anger.

This book is an extremely good book if you want a thriller. Yes, there is some nasty violence against children and even against the investigating officer but it won't turn your stomach so no worry for the squeamish.

If I had one issue with this book it's the quality of proofing errors. This version is a 'self published' book and high proofing errors seem to be typical on the self published side where professional editing picks up a much higher percentage. BUT the authors have now got a publishing contract and hopefully future prints will see these errors reduced but the book left unchanged because I can't see that it needs it.

Highly recommended for people who enjoy crime novels. I have avoided saying I enjoyed it because I felt like I was involved but it is a very good book that you won't want to put down.

Publisher - Self Published
Genre - Crime Drama

Buy Deadly Focus from Amazon

Thursday 16 December 2010

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

Handed Down Tale
review by Maryom

An African hotel supervisor has an affair and a child with a foreign tourist. He doesn't intend to abandon her though, but take the child back to his home in Berlin to be brought up by him and his wife. She determines to follow him at all costs and see her son again. The story follows her trek across Europe, exploited, helped or hindered by strangers.
I received this book as part of a promotion in which 100 copies were sent out to be read and reviewed and then handed on to new readers. These books are numbered so hopefully I should be able to track where this copy goes to and what future readers have to say about it.
Sad to say I was a little disappointed with Hand Me Down World. It started fine. I loved the way the story was told, passed on to the next person in the chain who picked it up and carried on - but when the goal of Berlin is reached the plot stalled and, although it picked up again later, I didn't feel it reached the momentum of the early chapters. This woman's story ought to have been heart-breaking BUT somehow it wasn't for me.

Genre - Adult Fiction

Buy Hand Me Down World from Amazon

Monday 13 December 2010

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Love the Tapestry of life
Review by TheMole

Catherine Parkstone is now divorced and her children have grown and have lives of their own. Now it is time for her to do something for herself so she has moved to France and is living in the Cevennes mountains and starting to work as seamstress. She finds, like many incomers to foreign lands, there are rules and traditions of which she was not aware and they are there to fall foul off.

This is a story of life. Maryom giggled a bit and said it's 'chick lit' when I picked it up. So what's wrong if it is? But I would say it's not. I don't often comment on other reviewers comments but I think this is worthy of being looked at this time. The Guardian said 'drawing out the poignancy of ordinary life' and this I find to be about spot on. Another reviewer said 'funny and original' and funny is not a word I would even contemplate. 'Heart warming' is only a part of what it is. Two said 'I loved it' and in that I can whole heartedly agree.

This story is beautiful. It is rich in life and must be reflecting some of the authors experiences because of their... accuracy is the wrong word.... completeness is better.... depth is a big part of it. Several times I felt that 'yes that's exactly how it is!'.

I could use all those clichés of 'emotional roller coaster' and 'compelling read' but this was like those evenings when you have friends round and you keep chatting because you haven't finished exploring the conversation yet.

This is a fantastic read and would really suit anyone who reads romance, chick lit, biographies and so many other genres of books. I have chosen to stop using a 'star' rating but would rate this book as good as any book I have read in any genre. It's on a par with 'The Engine Driver's Manual'!

Publisher - Headline Review
Genre - Romantic Fiction/'Chick Lit'/

Buy The Tapestry of Love from Amazon

Friday 10 December 2010

Teen Heroines - Teenager's Choice

We've had The Mole's choices and yesterday we posted Maryom's, so for today we asked our 13 year old daughter for hers.

Mia from the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
Stephanie/Valkyrie from the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
Nora from the paranormal romance Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Don't forget to share your Top 3 Teen heroines to enter the competition for a personalised copy of The Killer's Daughter by Vivian Oldaker. An excellent Christmas present for your teenager.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Teen Heroines - Maryom's Choice

So, the competition running at the moment got us all thinking about teenage heroines. I came up with too many possibilities so I've decided to have two lists - firstly, heroines from my teenage reading and secondly, some from books I've read much more recently. In case you haven't seen TheMole's choices you can find them here.

List A - probably in chronological reading order.

Maelen from the Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton - probably not very well known but an alien from a far distant planet with the ability to communicate with animals through thought and at times of very rare planetary alignment her race is able to 'swap bodies/minds' with the animals and become them.
A bit of a leap for #2 - Natasha from War and Peace. Maybe not an obvious choice for a teenagers reading pile but I first saw this on TV and was entranced by the fancy frocks etc then read the book. Natasha is after all a teenager for most of the book, has her tantrums, falls in love with a Prince, tries to elope with someone else and lives happily after after with teddy-bear like Pierre. Oh and no one would want to be like Cousin Sonia!
Thirdly, Cecile from Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan. Not a nice girl! She smokes, has sex with her boyfriend ( unheard of way back then) and plots and schemes to separate her father from his first serious relationship after being widowed, driving people to despair and possible suicide. All of this against the backdrop of the exotic-seeming French Riviera.

List B More recent heroines

Cass from Bad Faith by Gillian Philip - coping with murder, family secrets and a stifling male-dominated society
The knife-throwing Josie from Mortlock by Jon Mayhew - plunged into a world of mystery, danger and crows!
Sabriel from the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. Forced by her Father's death into taking over his role as Abhorsen, sending the newly-raised dead back where they belong and tracking down his killer.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Teen Heroines - TheMole's Choice

As we are running our first competition and asking people to name their teen heroines then it seems fair we should tell you who we would choose.

It is harder than I thought but having thought long and hard I give you... in no particular order:-

Sophie from Michael Scott's 'The Secrets on the Immortal Nicholas Flamel'. She has a whole load of magical powers dumped on her and is whisked off to shadow realms but all she wants is to get back to being a normal school girl again.

Jess from Nicola Morgan's 'Wasted'. She has a roller coaster time but keeps her head at all times.

Jess from Sue Limb's 'Girl 16 - 5 Star Fiasco'. Jess finds the dinner dance she is organising for charity is turning into a fiasco and has to try to ask for help - but to ask for help she must admit she is failing.

I have chosen these 3 because each of them, like Emma in 'The Killer's Daughter', exhibit qualities that I admire in the young. I have seen such qualities in both our girls but have sadly seen and known youngsters where those qualities are lacking!

I would strongly recommend each of these books but you can win a personalised copy of 'The Killer's Daughter' in our competition and the personalisation can, of course, be for a friend or relative or just yourself!

Monday 6 December 2010

The Killer's Daughter by Vivian Oldaker

A Murder Mystery and Bullying - two tales in one.
review by Maryom

The Mole has already reviewed The Killer's Daughter but as we're currently running a competition for you to win a personalised copy of it, I though I would read it too. I'm extremely glad I did.

Emma Xenos doesn't quite fit in - she's just moved to a new school and is having to re-take Year 10, she plays the saxophone and likes jazz instead of pop music, reads 'classics' for fun, has a crush on John Travolta rather than Orlando or Zac and, as if all that wasn't enough to single her out, her father was the prime suspect when his ex-film star mother-in-law was found dead at the bottom of a cliff, even though the court cleared him it doesn't make him innocent in the eyes of gossiping neighbours.
Needless to say Emma finds it difficult to settle in her new school - new friends are warned off by their parents, one of her class-mates targets her for bullying - her father and step-mother are wrapped in their own plans of making a fresh start in France where hopefully no one will have heard of them and Emma becomes convinced that the only thing to do to stop her own niggling doubts about her father's innocence is investigate her Grandmother's death herself.

The Killer's Daughter is a book with two threads - Emma settling into her new home and school, making friends - and maybe a boyfriend - standing up to bullies - and the mystery surrounding her grandmother's death.
I think this must be one of the best books I've read dealing with bullying. The reader sees how Emma is deliberately, maliciously picked on by Megan Marsh and her gang, but also enables us to see the teachers viewpoint - where both girls are equally at fault so both bully and victim are treated alike. Also, with the growing friendship between Emma and Bruce from the corner shop, come issues of teenage relationships and sex.
The mystery surrounding her grandmother's fall felt a little lacking and too easily solved, which is why I've given 4 1/2 stars - but maybe this is only in the eyes of a mature who-dunnit reader used to more complicated, convoluted plot twists.

We did an interview with Vivian after TheMole had reviewed it and currently we are proud to be hosting a competition to win a personalised copy!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars

Publisher - Andersen Press
Genre - Teenage Girls General Fiction

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Our First Competition - Win a personalised copy of The Killer's daughter by Vivian Oldaker

We are quite excited to be hosting our first 'competition'. I had thought about asking something hard about Greece - where much of the story is set - or maybe questions about our interview with Vivian but those questions can be answered by using google or reading her interview and that would be too easy.

We reviewed The Killer's Daughter so have a read if you missed it and we interviewed Vivian and it's also worth a read.

What we will do instead is ask you to tell us your 3 favourite teen heroins. See? There is no 'correct' answer. Friends can tell us their favourites by posting a comment and Vivian will then be able see and judge the entries for herself. You can leave a comment here on the blog or on the the FB status(s) announcing the competition or even FB message us if you think you want your selection kept secret. If leaving a comment on the blog you need to logon or we won't know who you are and that would be a shame.

*** UPDATE - Now you can DM us your suggestions on Twitter - @ourbookrvws ***

The competition will run until 10th December when Vivian will choose a winner (or maybe more than 1 winner?) and arrange to get your copy to you. Vivian may even get some reading about heroines she's not read about before!

Tell your friends about this competition and get them to 'friend' us as there may well be more than 1 prize anyway!