Monday 27 June 2011

Mrs MacCready was ever so greedy by Julie Fulton

Not another snack?
Review by The Mole

As the title tells us, Mrs MacCready is a little too greedy for her own good. As we learn about just how greedy she is, she continues to get larger and larger and can no longer get clothes to fit until things reach a rather too literal bursting point...

This book highlights the perils of overeating - if a little over dramatically, but with a humour that will entertain kids and hold their attention.

The story is told in easy to read rhyme that kids will love to recite. For a 'sit beside' read to or a first reader this book is a treat. Each of the thirteen double page spreads is a delightful, brightly coloured picture illustrated by Jona Jung, with lots to talk about.

Publisher - Maverick Books
Genre - Childrens 5+

Buy Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy from Amazon

Friday 24 June 2011

Dear Dee by Sue Uden

A Family in turmoil 
Review by The Mole

John wants retribution for his daughter's broken life. And he wants to fix it. Nickii, his wife, wants for the pain of this quest to stop threatening his health. All Jackie wants is for a miracle rewind to take her back to being a young mother living with her husband and children. Well observed, intelligently expressed and a cracking good read are just a few of the comments which have been made about Dear Dee. Here the devastating impact of mental illness on family life is sensitively described. The reader will be left in no doubt as to the ongoing corrosive impact on the family and individual sufferer. The range of emotions, including guilt as well as a sense of helplessness felt by the family, vividly described in Dear Dee will strike a chord with readers with similar experience. An extremely well-rounded story of people struggling against life's vicissitudes, as well as a celebration of the good times and a family eventually finding a sense of peace after tragedy; the final, poignant, closing lines are at once sad but immensely inspiring and uplifting.

When we were asked if we would review this book we were told "The novel is set in the 1980's and concerns the affects that mental illness have on the sufferer and their family. Although this theme is no bundle of laughs, I think there is enough lightness of spirit and humour to lift it out of the gloom." and it was based on that, that I agreed to review it. Having read it I wanted to find a synopsis to make sure I included no plot spoilers and found the above - a very different kettle of ball games as they say. The book is not about mental illness - it is about a family that has a person that has a mental illness - but firstly it is about the family. The emotions listed in the synopsis are all there and carried to the reader in a manner that has them really feeling for every character in turn. I found myself siding with no-one but understanding and putting a name to each character from my own life. I even found myself, sadly, identifying with Clare when it came to her relationship with the mentally ill character - and yes it made me feel a little guilty.

"Emotional Roller Coaster" is an overused phrase and while this story has happy times, they are normal family happy times and not massive highs - it is a time of change in a family and most such changes bring more sadness than smiles and this story is like life. A very well told story.

Please take the opportunity to read it but maybe you will want to follow it with something a little lighter. I really did enjoy this book and I learned a little about me as well.

Publisher: Olympia Publishers
Genre: Adult Fiction

Buy Dear Dee from Amazon

Wednesday 22 June 2011

The Dog Detectives - Gift Set

Dogs sniffing out trouble
Review by The Mole

This is a gift set of 3 Dog Detective Books

The Dog Detectives are Detective Jack and Deputy Poco Loco and each story sees them in a different part of the world doing their bit to save the day. With each page being a full colour picture that is bright and cheerful and with plenty to talk about if it is being read to a child. The whole presentation of these books make then excellent early readers for children to read aloud or alone. Each story is written with rhyme, alliteration and prose. At the end of each book is a 'facts' section that tells something of the facts about each story, things about the place that are mentioned in the story, so they can be used to teach a little and act as a discussion catalyst as well. Really good, fun books that can be bought individually or as this gift set.

An Outback Odyssey

Set in Australia, it sees the detectives helping to find a didgeridoo that has been stolen by dingoes. We meet the native people of Australia as well as some of the varied wildlife.

The Great Grizzly North

In British Columbia the detectives decide to help get everyone's bikes back from the grizzliest grizzly of all as he has stolen them so he can win the Great Rocky Cycling Race.

Lost In London

The detectives have to find, and return, the ravens to the Tower of London and have to travel across London seeing some of the sights as they go.

Maryom's Comment
Great, fun books for young readers. Brightly coloured with engaging stories.

Buy The Dog Detectives Gift Set from Amazon

Monday 20 June 2011

Night Watcher by Chris Longmuir

Vengeance is whose?
Review by The Mole

Julie's estranged husband is killed. The police are convinced he has committed suicide but Julie knows better. Julie swears vengeance on Nicole, the woman she blames for his death, and starts to stalk her. But Nicole is also being stalked by someone else, for the unhinged individual known as The Watcher has also arrived in Dundee.

Julie ingratiates herself with Nicole and begins to play mind games with her to fuel Nicole's increasing paranoia about The Watcher.

When Nicole is murdered suspicion falls on her latest lover and a disaffected employee whom Nicole has sacked. Meanwhile The Watcher turns his attentions to Julie. Will she be the next person to die?

Maryom read Chris's first book - Dead Wood which won the Dundee International Book Prize for new writers in 2009. She really enjoyed it and found it a crime thriller but also a whodunnit.

I haven't read Dead Wood but I took the opportunity to read Chris's second book, which, unfortunately, is only available as an ebook. Most people associate ebooks with ereaders but many, Chris's included, are available in several formats that can also be read on a PC. Chris sent the PDF version which I could read on a very small, very basic netbook. It is only the second ebook I have read so ebooks still contain some challenges for me.

I would not describe this as a whodunnit because I could see what was going to happen, often well before it did. OK, but I was still powerless to stop it - and that is the power of the crime thriller and Chris has harnessed this power beautifully. Things move fast and while Julie is out to take revenge on Nicole she must join the queue of people out to exact their own vengeance. Even at the end, with the killer in the hands of the police we are left wondering if Julie can now survive and what will become of Bill? When you read the story you will find the answer to one but sadly not the other... It's fiction so I could make my own answer but it's not for me to do that - it's up to Chris...

Extremely powerful crime thriller with twists and turns throughout. Highly recommended and worth battling with the Windows CE PDF viewer for - much easier with other Windows versions.

Published at: Smashwords
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Buy Night Watcher (Kindle Edition) from Amazon

Friday 17 June 2011

Please Bear's Birthday

Parties can be fun
Review by The Mole

It's Please Bear's Birthday and so he invites his friends round for a party and they all decide to come. Some of his friends are shy bears, some moaning bears, some are kind bears, some are helpful bears and so the list goes on.

The story tells, in rhyme, how all the bears behave, making it clear what good behaviour is and how it is so much more fun to behave well and win friends. Set with matching, lovely colourful pictures this book is a treat to read and is sure to be loved by children.

To be read together or as an early reader children will be sure to enjoy the book and the messages it carries.

Publisher - Maverick Books
Genre - Children's Picture book

Buy Please Bear's Birthday (Nice Bear Naughty Bear) at Amazon

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Not Just Black And White
review by Maryom

Sephy and Callum live in a society split into two distinct classes - the dark-skinned Crosses, who are in charge and who have all the well paid jobs and big houses, and the pale Noughts, who are second-class citizens limited to menial, low paid work and substandard housing. This society doesn't approve of their friendship for Sephy is a Cross and Callum a nought, and the two classes should never mix. As they grow up and their relationship becomes more than friendship, they begin to wonder how it will ever be possible to be together. Against a background of increasing racial tension and violence, they try to find a way....

I won this book a while ago - a signed copy, as well! - and ever since it's sat on the To Be Read pile while I've read books that came in for review or from the library. Going away on holiday recently, I decided to take it with me as something the Teen could read as well if she liked. Now I wish I hadn't left it so long. I think that because I'd heard so much about it in through magazines, the web, library posters etc, as a sort of cross-racial Romeo and Juliet that I felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect - but it outdid all my expectations.
Noughts and Crosses is an absolutely brilliant, devastating tale of love against the odds. Using first person narrative alternating between Sephy and Callum, Malorie Blackman allows the reader to see inside the minds of the characters, to contrast Sephy's comparative naiveté with Callum's greater awareness of social stereotyping and bigotry, and to see both sides of their misunderstandings. The reader is made to face up to the dreadful realities of racial segregation and, as Callum is drawn into his brother's world of political activism, the story moves to a dramatic, heart-stopping ending.
An absolute 'must read' for anyone, not merely teens.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Corgi (Random House)
Genre - Romance/Thriller, Teen

Buy Noughts And Crosses (Part1 of Noughts & Crosses Trilogy) from Amazon

Monday 13 June 2011

The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne

Mother's Secret
review by Maryom

Celia has always lived an over-protected life, living in fear of an accident due to a blood disorder. Her mother is terrified of what may happen if Celia injures herself but the reader soon realises that she hasn't always been entirely honest with her daughter. She's never allowed them to remain in one place for very long so Celia has grown up without close friends to share her secret with or confide in. Following a knife attack at Celia's latest school, her mother decides it's time to move again. This time they end up on the grim, depressing, gang-ridden Bluebell Estate, but this isn't the worst of their problems as someone is now on their trail and determined to find them.

The Truth About Celia Frost is an amazing debut teen thriller. Planted firmly in the here and now of grotty high rise housing and dodgy scientific experiments, the plot twists and turns as Celia gradually begins to uncover the truth about herself - every time I thought I'd guessed Celia's history something would happen that made me re-think it all. Fast-paced and chilling, yet so believable, I found it very difficult to stop reading once I'd started, particularly as the book neared its nail-biting finish.
An excellent book for teens looking for something other than paranormal romance.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Usborne
Genre - Thriller, Teen

Buy The Truth about Celia Frost from Amazon on pre-order till August 2011

Friday 10 June 2011

Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet

Caught In The Web
review by Maryom

A young woman kept locked in a luxurious mansion and forced into a life of prostitution for her captor's amusement, a failed bank robber hiding up after a heist gone wrong and a man kidnapped and chained up in a cellar... what could they have in common? Much more than you'd imagine.

Tarantula is a dark novel about one man's search for revenge and the lengths he will go to in achieving it. The three seemingly unrelated threads lead the reader through twists and turns to a neatly tidied up ending - unfortunately I guessed what was presumably meant to be an unexpected plot twist quite early on in the book which rather took the excitement and sting out of the denouement.

The cover of the book, and the reviews quoted there, had led me to expect Tarantula to be a much more twisted, perverted book than it is. There's no way you'd confuse it with happy chick lit but I'd rather braced myself for something totally obscene and unpleasant, whereas I didn't find it more horrific or explicit than, say, an average episode of Wire In The Blood. The bits I found most unpleasant were details of surgical procedures!

Tarantula is being made into a film by Pedro Almodovar, The Skin I Live In, starring Antonio Banderas and it should be interesting to see how it turns out on screen.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Serpentstail
Genre - Thriller, Adult

Buy Tarantula from Amazon

other reviews: Winstonsdad's Blog

Wednesday 8 June 2011


We paid a fleeting visit to Hay Festival this year while travelling home from a week in Pembrokeshire where we'd taken the opportunity to meet Jackie Morris, who showed us some proofs for her new nursery rhyme book which comes out later this year. We have been to Hay before on a few occasions - it's like an Aladdin's cave for book lovers - and it is usually a sleepy little place, like a library? Shhh! But not this time. Hay was alive with all sorts of people and events and distractions. From tents on front gardens offering tea and refreshments and others offering antiques to others publicising events more closely related to the festival. Rickshaws were carrying people to the event from car parks and street artists with prefabricated stages entertained those more determined to walk. The town was truly alive!

Having only a short time at Hay we had timed our visit to see Keren David and Peter Cocks. This was our first visit to Hay so we didn't know what to expect the format to be. The stage was shared with an interviewer, Pete Hurley from the festival bookshop, who had read the books, Keren David's When I Was Joe and Almost True and Peter Cocks' Long Reach, and had compiled a list of questions. The organisation of the questions was set to involve both writers and the stage had an air of informality about it. One of the first questions was about where they wrote and I was surprised that their answers had a lot in common. Although Peter had a "writing shed", he didn't use it and it was lost to his children. He tends to write in the quiet of his bedroom before the distractions of the day start. Keren tends to write where there ar no family distractions and preferably no internet either so choosing places like libraries and cafes. Pete Hurley asked about inspirations for parts of their books and with Long Reach, particularly the celebrity wedding. Peter had been to such a wedding while working in children's TV and had based the scene on that. Keren went on to explain about her next book "Lia's guide to winning the lottery" which sounds most intriguing. It is about a 16 year old girl winning 8 million pounds on the lottery and the issues that that creates with family and friends etc. We are certainly looking forward to that one.

After the first batch of questions each author read from their books. Keren read from the dramatic opening chapter of Almost True which sets the scene to restart the story after When I Was Joe, taking us at a pace far faster than when we left Ty. They say the first pages are the most import to catch a reader and Keren certainly has in Almost True. Peter read from the celebrity wedding scene in Long Reach, scenes with dialogue where the actor in Peter added voices to match the characters. We have both read When I Was Joe and Almost True but only Maryom has read Long Reach and now The Mole has decided that it's something he must read for himself.

Pete Hurley then asked some more questions before inviting questions from the audience.

Time ran out and we all adjourned to Pemberton's bookshop where book signings were on offer. Maryom took the opportunity, quietly, to ask Peter about further Len Deighton influences in Long Reach which Peter was happy to confirm. The Mole was a little disappointed to see people collecting autographs from authors without actually having a book to sign - but that's just The Mole I'm sure.

We were surprised to find the extent of people exhibiting at the festival and noticed, in our short time there, Highland Park whisky with a tentative literary link in Ian Rankin's Rebus's favourite, Wiggly Wigglers wild flower garden and Sky with a 3D cinema showing a film about the Amazon rain forest and trying to drum up support for help in protecting it.

Monday 6 June 2011

Judy Dyble - singer and reader of books - Under The Influence

For many people Judy will need no introduction except to say that according to her profile there is one niggle that needs addressing:- " I rhyme with errrrr libel, not scribble :-)". However for those few who are not into folk we asked Judy for a brief intro of herself and her career so far.

Born just at the end of the 40’s, the third daughter of four children, my teenage years were part of what is now seen as a golden age, when all was possible. I fell into music and took up the autoharp as it was a much more transportable form of a piano, and haunted the folk blues and jazz clubs of London, while working as a library assistant by day. My intention to become a proper Librarian was thwarted by a bunch of mostly teenagers suggesting I join them as a singer and the beginnings of the well-loved folk rock band Fairport Convention began to flourish… I left them to join up with another band of oddities, called Giles Giles and Fripp, who mutated into the extraordinarily fantastic King Crimson, err.. after I left them then into the world of psychedelic acid folk Trader Horne with Jack McAuley, and having left that…. Back into the world of library assistant, marriage, children and finally our own cassette duplication company and mostly ignorance of the musical world, till I have returned and am recording again, sometimes with old friends and sometimes with new ones, but now via the amazingness of the Internet. I didn’t realise when I started singing that I would be working with musicians who are now rated amongst the best in the world.

By accident and being in the right place at the right time and saying yes, I have been part of the making of wonderful music. And hopefully I’m going to keep doing so..

We asked Judy to tell us of her relationship with books and reading and also how she views ebooks as they start to displace paper books.

I was asked to write about the books that have influenced me during my life. Easy peasy eh? No it isn’t….I have read voraciously since I was a child, and every one has made me think. From ‘The Compleat Molesworth’ to Robin Hobb via Anthony Buckeridge and Enid Blyton and Anne McCaffrey. Well. Let me see..

Like most people of my generation (alright then - venerable ancientness) my first real introduction to books was the local children’s library, which was in the basement at the bottom of a stone staircase, below the level of the pavement.

My sisters, my brother and I would sit on the cold stone stairs, waiting till 4pm when the Librarian would appear with her tray of brown tickets and her date stamp and let us in to the world of fantasy and reality. The careers books where we would learn what it was really like to work as an almoner in a hospital, or be a ballerina or a typist, Biggles eternally flew the war skies with Ginger…and books of poems, by John Masefield and Edward Lear and.. and.. and.. So many books, so many overdue fines, no wonder I ended up working in libraries, in between the music- making..

The Fairy books of Andrew Lang- the Blue, the Rose, the Orange.. So many fairy stories from so many places, all different yet all suffused with magic and wit

Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and her tiny stories of the tangles of children and magic

E.E.Nesbit’s ‘Psammead’ series, where the main characters were just so grumpy and the children were old-fashioned yet eternal..

‘Black Beauty’ by Anna Sewell. Oh I cried when Ginger died, that book tore so many young hearts..

My teenage years were full of science fiction. The Nebula short stories, and the longer stories of Fred Pohl, Bob Shaw and all those writers who made the future seem so impossibly possible. So many of their predictions have become reality, and I am delighted that they have. Still waiting for travel by thought and the anti-gravity handbag though..

The poetry of Brian Patten and the little truths that were to be found in his writings, and of other friends who introduced me to the writings of other poets, Corso, Eliot and Masefield in the dreaming evenings. All of these opened me to the beauty and the terror of words and the strength of their passion that would enable me to write the songs that I write today.

I fall asleep now when I read, but the magic of the books I read still enthrals, those of fantasy and collisions between worlds, those books intended for children and for teenagers, which I think must be the hardest to write yet are the most satisfying to read. And I am saddened by the deaths of those authors whose books I loved.. like Diana Wynne-Jones (always shelved in so many different places in the libraries I worked in), Marion Zimmer Bradley and Douglas Adams. From those I will never know What Happened Next.

I’ve only picked a few authors and books here, there are zillions more that have influenced me in small and unnoticed ways, just as I am influenced by the passing of the clouds, the spilling of a cup of coffee and the movement of a spider.. Hooray for books eh?

My thoughts on E-books

Hmmm. I really want to embrace ebooks and take them to my heart and love them, because they are the stuff of the science fiction stories I was reading when I was a teenager. I am sure they are convenient and useful and fabulous… but I guess I am too used to the feel of paper and the turning of the page in reality, not as a pretend turn on a screen, and the dipping at random into a book when the page falls open when you drop it. Dropping an ebook would be full of the fear that the thing would smash.. As a child I would probably have loved the novelty, had they been invented then, but the curling up in bed with a book and reading till your eyes closed, hmmm, I doubt an ebook would be as soft as a book to fall asleep on… And it really couldn’t have been invented when I was a child. The world was too different then - computers were room-sized and just chewed up numbers and spat them out to be translated by men in brown lab coats.. No- they are the stuff of today and will be accepted by children as the norm, But I bet books won’t go away, any more than CDs will disappear amongst the downloads. You can’t write a dedication to your child on the flyleaf of an ebook, any more than you can tie a ribbon around a download and give it to your love.

On behalf of both of us I would sincerely like to say thank you to Judy for her time and we are sure she's right about e-books .

Friday 3 June 2011

Perfectly Reflected by SC Ransom

Paranormal thriller
review by Maryom

The sequel to Small Blue Thing, Perfectly Reflected continues the story of Alex, Callum and the amulet that links them. It's a bit difficult to discuss the plot without giving away the ending to Small Blue Thing so for once I'm just going to quote the synopsis as given by the publisher -
"Still recovering from her earlier brush with death, Alex’s source of strength and comfort is Callum, still locked in a sad half-life after drowning in the river Fleet that flows into the Thames. And she needs all the strength and comfort she can get: someone is out to make her life a misery, and someone is out to get hold of the extraordinary bracelet that enables her to communicate with Callum."

If Small Blue Thing was a paranormal romance, Perfectly Reflected is a paranormal thriller. Alex is being stalked, her windows smashed, her computer accounts hacked. As far as she knows there can be only one suspect, a person she knows to be determined to get the amulet. Just how far will this person go to get what they want and how much danger may Alex be in?
The pace is faster, there's far more tension, maybe it's even slightly darker - and I must say I enjoyed it more. Alex shows herself to be a pro-active, go get 'em heroine full of resourcefulness and courage, not one to sit at home and let others sort her problems. I was rather perversely pleased to see the return of slimy ex-boyfriend Rob, who believes himself to be God's gift to all women, although Callum, the love of Alex's life, seems to have lost centre stage spot to the bad guys due to the workings of the plot.
There's always a worry that the second of a series may not live up to the expectations created by the first - happily this is not the case here and the twists and turns will keep you hooked to the last page. The only down-side is the current wait for book 3 - DON"T read the taster chapter at the end!!

My review of Small Blue Thing

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Nosy Crow
Genre - Teenage, Fantasy, Romance