Friday 26 August 2011

The Princess' Blankets - words by Carol Ann Duffy, paintings by Catherine Hyde

Total Enchantment
review by Maryom

This is a gorgeous little number I treated myself to when I met Catherine Hyde, the artist behind the illustrations, at Art in Action last month. I've been a fan of her paintings for a while but have neither the money nor the wall space to indulge myself in buying all those I like. I knew she'd painted the illustrations for this book but had been unable to find it anywhere in a bookshop and, wanting to see and handle it first, didn't want to buy it over the web.

The story by Carol Ann Duffy tells of a princess who is always cold and of the hard-eyed stranger who attempts to warm her - with devastating consequences. A fable for modern times, set in the timelessness of fairy-tale but with a pertinent message about destruction of the environment.
Interpreted throughout by Catherine Hyde's wonderfully atmospheric paintings - highlighted in foil with spot varnish to make them shimmer and shine, it isn't possible to reproduce the beauty of the illustrations via the web.
The Princess' Blankets is a real treasure of a book, a thing of beauty in itself, that will appeal equally to children and adults. I could imagine reading it to an entranced toddler at bedtime but fortunately don't have one to try to claim MY book off of me.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Templar

Genre -
Picture book? Children's? - yes, but so much more than a mere bedtime book.

Buy The Princess' Blankets from Amazon

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Hartslove by KM Grant

"The Treasure Seekers" with Attitude
review by Maryom

Charles de Granville has squandered his fortune on drink and a series of race-horses - each of which he mistakenly hopes to turn into the next Derby winner. The only recourse open to him is to sell the family home, Hartslove Castle, much to the dismay of his six children. Their attempts at haunting keep any interested buyers at bay but a huge amount of cash is needed to pay off all their father's debts. Only one of the family, Daisy, believes that the latest horse may actually be The One to fulfil their dreams, win the Derby and secure the family's future.

Set in 1861, Hartslove, is a sort of Treasure Seekers with attitude. Like the Bastable family, Daisy and her siblings are in search of a fortune but this is a grittier, less fairytale-like world. Daisy shows amazing determination as she battles every day with her disability resulting from a riding accident. Her brother Garth discovers the prop of brandy to help him overcome his terror at riding a horse and finds himself on the slippery slope towards his father's drink-dependency.
A wonderful adventure story for 9+ readers with a taste for horses, ruinous castles and plucky, determined heroes.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Quercus Books

Genre - 9+, fiction, historical

Buy Hartslove from Amazon

Monday 22 August 2011

August by Bernard Beckett

Road Traffic Accident....
Review by The Mole

The book starts as the car settles, on its roof, having just left the road late at night. Both occupants are severely injured and, to stop each other falling asleep while they wait to be seen, they each tell their story of how they got to be there. Two stories and two lives entwined around each other but neither knowing of their involvement with the other.

Compelling, Powerful, Engaging - clich├ęs? Yes and overused. But this book is one of those that deserves each of those words.

I have to admit that, as a reader, I found it difficult to reconcile the car they are in with the stories they tell, but it's something that explains itself in the end just don't be an impatient reader like I am.

I would strongly recommend you get your own copy of this book. This is not something I would normally have any feelings on, but I feel that this is a book you will greatly enjoy but enjoy even more the second time of reading. A second reading - knowing the outcome - will leave you understanding the paths their lives follow all the more and you'll probably take a greater enjoyment on the second reading. It's a bit like watching "Sixth Sense" - good first time and even better the second.

Publisher - Quercus
Genre - Young Adults' Fiction

Buy August from Amazon

Friday 19 August 2011

The Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales by Bob Hartman

For reading aloud
Review by The Mole

Animals are always loved by children and certain animals are always associated with good while others are always associated with evil. Many other behavioural traits are also depicted so by telling stories with animals as the characters it's possible to better hold the attention of a child.

These stories are classic stories gathered from around the world, each having a message to tell and told in modern English.

Each one is short enough for a bedtime read or just a quick settling down after a busy day.

The illustrations are relevant, colourful and cute and compliment the story beautifully.

A lovely bedtime reader for pre-schoolers as well as older children.

Publisher -Lion Children's
Genre - Children's

Buy The Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales from Amazon

Wednesday 17 August 2011

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Not As Great As I'd Hoped
review by Maryom

Natalia is a doctor, visiting orphanages with vaccines in the wartorn Balkans. While on a trip away from home she receives news that her grandfather has died in a remote clinic, possibly on his way to visit her. In investigating what her grandfather was doing travelling in such a place, Natalia reminisces on his life-long fascination with tigers, stemming back to an incident in his childhood, and the tales he told of a 'deathless man', a supposedly immortal traveller he'd encountered several times.

This was a book I'd really been wanting to read. I'd heard a lot about it, seen it praised in various places, even before it won the Orange Prize. Unfortunately, when I came to read it, I was disappointed - I think because I'd read too much hype before hand and it was too difficult to live up to it. Some sections held me captivated, others dragged like ploughing through sludge. At times I felt that it should have held me spell-bound, but somehow was just missing the mark - for someone else it could be magical.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher - Orion

Genre - adult, fiction,

Monday 15 August 2011

Fallen Angel by Maggie Wilson

A misleading cover?
Review by The Mole

I feel that the cover on this book will have people expecting the wrong genre. Given the plethora of paranormal fantasies where Angels abound along with blood and heart beats, it would be easy to see this book and not pick it up if that's not what you want. This book actually belongs firmly in crime fiction.

There are a series of unexpected deaths on ward 73 of Westwood General Hospital and DS Charlie Hammond is sent to investigate. The ward staff are thrown into confusion and cannot believe that the deaths are deliberate. It is not as though the deaths are known to be murder or drug error. Sister Carter see's her world crumbling as time passes and expects it will end the superiority she has worked so hard to gain. But despite the police presence on the ward more deaths ensue. What is happening? Who, if anyone, is responsible? Can life ever return to normal for ward 73?

I found this book quite engaging and enjoyable, although I felt the editing process has let it down a little. The story could be a great deal better for a little better editing. Having said that at times the book cannot be put down as we see an 'accident' about to unfold. I felt the tension and power and there was not one wasted word, although I really had hoped for a different outcome - but that is Maggie's privilege as the author and perhaps it's why I don't write stories.

As crime fiction I am sure it will have a lot of appeal to readers - if they can get past the front cover.

Publisher - H and E Publishers
Genre - Crime Fiction

Buy Fallen Angel from Amazon

Friday 12 August 2011

Zoo Girl - Rebecca Elliott

Few Words - Big Message
Review By The Mole

Zoo Girl is lonely and friendless until she is left behind at the zoo. She strikes up friendships with the animals and wins the hearts of the zoo keepers and is duly adopted.

The description of the story doesn't do this book justice. Although the illustrations are striking, they are also powerful enough to tell Zoo Girls story with the addition of less than 20 words. Clearly the words sort of 'hang' with so few and this is clearly not an early reader, although it is aimed at the 5+ age group. It is a book with a message and a message it tells very powerfully.

An excellent book to illustrate adoption to the very young.

Publisher - Lion Children's
Genre - Children's 5+

Buy Zoo Girl from Amazon

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

How Did She End Up Like This???
review by Maryom

Lexi is down on her luck - no bonus from work, stood up by her boyfriend and her father's funeral in the morning. To drown her sorrows she goes out with her best friends, trips while running for a taxi ....... and wakes up in hospital to a changed world - she's older, richer, been promoted, married, she's even had her teeth straightened! The down-side is, she's no longer the cheerful friendly person she was but has turned into a bitch-boss from hell. The intervening years are a blank, so how did she get this way and can she rediscover the old Lexi?

This isn't a new book but something I came across in a box of books we picked up through Freecycle and has been sitting in a to be read pile for far too long. The Shopaholic novels from Sophie Kinsella have to be my favourite laugh out loud chick lit series and I think even from the same author they take some living up to. Having said that, I think this is one of Sophie Kinsella's better non-Shopaholic stories. I picked Remember Me up off the shelf after a run of tense thrillers and heart churning rollercoasters when I was feeling in need of something light and amusing - and it fitted the bill precisely. It's fun and enjoyable and sometimes that's what you're looking for.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Black Swan
Genre - chick lit

Buy Remember Me? from Amazon

Monday 8 August 2011

Wild Tales By Peter Bently

The Wild Tales series are books with original stories specially written for pre-schoolers. They are a series of books that incorporate bold colouring and non-uniform text and appropriate language with real life photos of the characters involved. The books are aimed at being educational and have notes in the back for parents and teachers.

Twin Trouble

A story about a pair of bear cubs who play close to water and learn the important lesson  that playing near water is dangerous.

The text is very cleverly placed as the text tumbles down the page as the bears tumble to the water and there is much on each page to share with a child. I am afraid that the real life pictures didn't "do it" for me as I couldn't properly tell who was who in the story and could imagine difficulties with a young child wanting to know. Having said that, this book illustrates a very important lesson and does it very well.

Look Out, Cub!

A young lion cub wants to play and explore but sadly no-one else does so he decides to go off on his own.

Once again real life photos are used of all members of the family and the lesson being taught in this book is for pre-schoolers not to go wandering off without an adult that is known to their parents. Once again the text is laid out to show the pouncing, the tree climbing, the tall tree and the cry for help.

These are just two of the books in the series with each aiming to illustrate another important lesson.

Publisher: QED Publishing
Genre: Pre-School Educational

Buy Twin Trouble (Wild Tales) or Look Out Cub! (Wild Tales) from Amazon

Friday 5 August 2011

Entangled by Cat Clarke

Inside the Teenage Mind
review by Maryom

Grace has been kidnapped - or so she believes. She is being held in a stark white room by a man who ticks all the boxes for 'ideal boyfriend' - his appearance, clothes, even his name are exactly as Grace would choose. In between his brief visits with food, Grace has nothing to occupy herself other than a stack of blank paper and a large numbers of pens. Guessing that this is what her captor wants from her, she starts to write down the story of what brought her to the point of taking her own life....

An amazingly compelling story - the reader is teased along as Grace's life is revealed little by little leading to the fateful incidents of 'that night' when Grace's world finally crumbled apart.
I felt so sorry for Grace as her past story came to light - so many things have gone wrong for her - and then less sympathetic as I read of her attention-grabbing reactions (though even when I was thinking 'Oh, don't do that. Don't go there, Grace', I was more annoyed with her Mother for not noticing what was going on under her nose).
In some respects, Grace didn't come over as very nice - she drops and picks up friends as and when convenient, always feels her problems are more important than anyone else's - but the character felt more realistic for this.
I did sort-of guess the ending - and then quickly skimmed the last pages to check - but it didn't spoil my enjoyment.

An excellent debut novel that I'd recommend to teens and their parents for an insight into troubled teenage minds. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more by Cat Clarke in the future.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Quercus Books

Genre - teen,YA, fiction

Buy Entangled from Amazon

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Boys For Beginners by Lil Chase

Cinderella in Football Boots
Review By Maryom

The Boys for Beginners Blog tour is off to A Dream Of Books today, but here is Maryom's review...

Gwynnie is tomboy of a girl - into playing football, supporting Spurs and trying to beat best mate Paul at Gears of War on his X-box. She hasn't time for girlie things like make-up, hair styling and gossip about boys. That is, until Charlie Notts moves to her school and she decides that changes are necessary if she's to attract his attention. With the aid of the school's fashionistas Gwynnie hopes to be transformed into the belle of the ball (well, school prom) and win the heart of her Prince Charming.The snag is - can Gwynnie trust the advice her girlfriends give her or does one of them, at least, have an ulterior motive ...

A sort of Cinderella meets Gregory's Girl story, Boys For Beginners is a humorous, enjoyable tale exploring the dos and don'ts of teenage life in a sort of Cinderella re-telling and challenging the stereotypical boy/girl images along the way. Finding True Love is never easy and Gwynnie's road to becoming Cinderella is littered with potholes and cringe-making moments - as a reader I didn't know whether to laugh at her or cry alongside.
A perfect read for lovers of the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Quercus Books

Genre - 10-13, chick lit

Buy Boys for Beginners from Amazon

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Boys For Beginners by Lil Chase - Blog Tour

As Part of Lil Chase's Blog Tour for the launch of Boys For Begginers We welcome Lil as she recounts her own experiences and her teenage cringe moments.

Cringe Binge

When writing for pre-teen girls – stories about friendship, boys and first loves – try and be funny. It’s the moments that make you scrunch your eyes and grind your teeth that really do it for me. I’m naming the genre ‘Cringe Fiction’.

My book, BOYS FOR BEGINNERS, is very definitely based on things that happened to me in my teen and tween years. Peer pressure is really kicking off at that age and embarrassment feels deadly.

So, in an effort to share, offload, and even inspire you here are five of the most embarrassing moments of my lifetime.

1.    I was on my way to meet some friends, friends that included boys. Before I got there I checked my makeup in a car’s sideview mirror: reapplying lippy, touching up my mascara, and dabbing on blusher. Then the man sitting in the car honked his horn. I didn’t need that blusher after all. 

2.    A bus passed by me and Frank* – a boy I fancied – was on the bus and knocked on the window (*real name changed to protect the humiliated). Instinctively, I responded – not with a wave, or a coy smile or even a sexy wink. No, I chose to use an expression I have never used before or since: a double thumbs up with gigantic grin. Not sexy. Not cool.

3.    I was writing a letter to a boy in boarding school, trying to impress him. Back then, all I had was my sense of humour so I wrote pages and pages about how mental I was, ‘I’m mental! I’m the mental one. You’ll be able to recognise me because I am soooooo mental!’ Or at least, that's what I thought I wrote. My spelling is rubbish. Apparently I’d written: ‘I’m metal! I’m the metal one. You’ll be able to recognise me because I am soooooo metal!’ I didn’t find out until he came home from boarding school and showed the letter to everyone.

4.    After my friends had left my house I ran downstairs shouting, ‘Mumpaline!’ (That’s what I called my mum, don’t ask me why.) ‘I need a mummy cuddle!’ Then I heard the toilet flush. Then I died of embarrassment as Ben walked out into the corridor. I’ll never forget the smirk on his face.    

5.    We were hanging out in the playground, a group of us, and I farted. Something to do with the tightness of my jeans meant that it was not quiet. ‘Lil, did you just fart?’ I tried to tell them it was the wooden bench I was leaning on but the more I denied it the redder I went.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my embarrassing moments. I’d liked to say I enjoyed telling them but that would be a lie. Still, I’m hoping that some of you will divulge your shockers.  Get it all out, share, watch as we all bite our lips and feel the agony with you. See if you can weave them into your story. They were horrendous at the time, so the least they can do now is help the sales of your book!

And remember, we’re not laughing at you… well okay, maybe just a little bit.


Monday 1 August 2011

The Sons of Rissouli - Matt Cartney

One for the boys
Review by The Mole

Danny's mum and dad have died and his uncle Angus has taken charge of him. Angus is an investigative reporter who goes anywhere at the drop of a hat and has hair raising adventures. Danny has always admired his uncle and should be in heaven but... his uncle now owns a 4x4 that is pink and has a slogan "your sewage is our bread and butter" emblazoned on the side - not every boys dream.

Angus is approached to investigate how guns are appearing on the streets of the UK and so decides to set out to investigate. The problem is he can't leave Danny behind so he sends a totally unbelievable note to school and takes Danny with him to Morocco. One thing leads to another and massive adventures follow.

Packed with adventure and humour this book will delight all young boys and as an added bonus - just for them - not a giiirrrll in sight. The violence is not overplayed or gory and the plot is not complex and twisting and requiring a notebook to keep track of - it is just straight honest to goodness adventure.

I was told this is "Boy's Own" stuff and that is so true except Biggles, Dan Dare et al were always role models to aspire to whereas this is a lad of an age the reader can identify with.

Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre -
Boy's Adventure

Buy The Sons of Rissouli (Danny Lansing series) (X Series) from Amazon