Wednesday 31 October 2012

Transformation by Rab Swannock Fulton

We're moving today from friendly fun-loving ghosts to a far more sinister, shape-shifting creature from Irish folk-lore, the Pooka....

review by Maryom

Donnacha and Eimir meet, fall in love and plan to marry. A happy ending is in view until they realise that they've inadvertently antagonised an evil spirit which is now bent on their destruction. At first Donnacha tries to pass it off as an hallucination but as it grows in power there's no denying it's physical presence and impact on their lives.

As in all good horror stories, Transformation is told in the first person with Donnacha reflecting on the seemingly trivial mistakes that brought him to the dreadful point he's now reached. I found things started rather slowly - there was a lot of setting up the background and getting the romance going - but after the incident where Donnacha offends the pooka I was gripped by the rising tension leading to a truly terrifying ending. Unusually, I couldn't see where the story was leading - though I don't really want to mention more of the plot as that, obviously, would spoil things. Just be warned this isn't a nice, grown-up yet cutesy fairy tale but a violent, blood-curdling one!
It's quite short - novella length at 117 pages - so you could download it and read it tonight - just the thing to scare yourself for Halloween.

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Genre - Adult, Folk/Fairy tale

Buy Transformation from Amazon

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Frightfully Friendly Ghosties - Phantom Pirates by Daren King

Review by The Mole

Pamela has organised a holler-day for the frightfully friendly ghosties only nothing has been done properly. They find themselves accidentally stowing away on a ghost pirate ship that has set off a-pirating to catch a still-alive cruise ship. Unfortunately there is a still-alive boy accidentally stowed away too. Can the frightfully friendly ghosties save the day?

Maryom reviewed the third of the Frightfully Friendly Ghosties books and gave it five stars. Well this time I thought I would jump in and see what I thought. I can honestly say that these ghosties are not only frightfully friendly but they are great fun and a delight to read. Pamela, the reluctant hero, tells the story and hardly epitomises ghosts. They are all a bit blundering, kind, peace loving and, well, friendly. The presentation and language used is great for the early reader audience it is aimed at and the black and white illustrations complement the story beautifully.

A really excellent Hallowe'en read for children (and why not adults too?).

There is now an omnibus edition of the first three stories available:- "Frightfully Friendly Ghosties", "Ghostly Holler-day", "School of Meanies"

Publisher - Quercus
Genre - childrens, paranormal

Monday 29 October 2012

Really Weird by Daniela Sacerdoti

review by Maryom

When Luca's strange Uncle Alistair turns up unexpectedly life on his Scottish island home is going to get far more interesting. Not only does he have a ghostly companion but Uncle Alistair has the weirdest pest removal business ever! He doesn't rid you of rats or mice but of unwanted supernatural infestations! If you have a troll in your cellar or stone fairies threatening the baby - Really Weird is the company to call! When Luca and his sister Valentina get drawn into his adventures they discover a paranormal world, hidden to most of us, peopled with ghosts, selkies, mermaids and sea serpents. There are less friendly creatures too - kelpies, vampires and trolls - that need to be rehoused where they can cause no harm, well away from humans.

Really Weird is a fun and exciting paranormal adventure  which I really enjoyed - and I'm sure children will too!  While there are dangerous creatures within it and nail-biting moments, it's not the frightening sort of book to keep you awake all night. It may though keep children up wanting to find how it all ends - always the sign of a good book!

There's a strong Scottish feel to the story, from Luca's island home to the big cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh but mostly of the creatures of Scottish folk-lore brought to life. I very much hope this is the start of a series of Really Weird Adventures.

There's also a website where you can read more about the team members or check out the Paranormal Database for information on weird and wonderful creatures.

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - Kelpie Publishing
Genre - Children's 8-12, paranormal adventure, fiction

Buy Really Weird (Kelpies) from Amazon

Friday 26 October 2012

Super Soccer Boy and The Monster Mutants by Judy Brown

Review by The Mole

When a factory is to be demolished there are weeds growing out of control at the site and the caretaker went missing the day the factory closed. The demolition crew are attacked - by the plants! Super Soccer Boy, Harry Gribble, uses his skills to try to stop the plants and save the world.

I am not a football fan. There, confession made. Did it matter? Not at all. Super Soccer Boy is hardly about football, it's about fun and really good role models. Both Harry and Jake are clever, resourceful, but well behaved lads.

At about 120 pages with a good size font and plenty of light hearted illustrations the look and feel of the book is well suited to 8/9 year old reader. While the thought of plants consuming people is suited to The Day of the Triffids, Dr Who and maybe even Hammer House of Horrors, here it is handled in a way that will really delight its readers. And all those adults that can't figure out what Super Soccer Buy has worked out... well that adds to the appeal.

I came to this series late as this is the last but the other seven are out there to delight young readers. And I can't see why girls wouldn't enjoy them too. Extremely fun read. Have I already said it was fun?

We have put this one out today for our Hallowe'en reads - but mutant plants are hardly Hallowe'en? Well they could be, forgive us please this once?

Publisher - Piccadilly Press
Genre - Children's 8+, Fiction

Buy Super Soccer Boy and the Monster Mutants (Super Soccer Boy) from Amazon

Thursday 25 October 2012

Undead Pets; Return of The Hungry Hamster by Sam Hay

illustrated by Simon Cooper

review by Maryom

When Joe's Uncle Charlie gives him an ancient Egyptian amulet capable of granting a single wish, Joe hopes for the thing he wants most in the world - a pet. The amulet must be totally confused or have a macabre sense of humour because, instead of a real live pet, a ghostly ravenous hamster appears! Dumpling the hamster met an untimely end - getting sucked up the vacuum cleaner - and feels his young owner will be feeling both distraught over his pet's death and guilty for leaving Dumpling's cage door open. Dumpling needs to set the record straight and put the blame where it firmly lies before he can move on to the hamster afterlife - and he needs Joe to help him.

The Return of the Hungry Hamster is a funny, rather than scary, ghost story. Being a ghost doesn't stop Dumpling causing all sorts of havoc, getting Joe into trouble at home and at school and eating everything in sight!  There's the right amount of grossness and ghoulishness to appeal to kids without going over the top. Illustrated throughout - and with some cartoon sections - it's sure to appeal to the younger but fairly confident reader - maybe 7 and up, though even I enjoyed it! A great Halloween read.

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - Stripes Publishing
Genre - Children's 7+, ghosts, fiction

Buy Return of the Hungry Hamster (Undead Pets) from Amazon

Firebird by Saviour Pirotta with paintings by Catherine Hyde

Stunningly Illustrated Folk Tale
review by Maryom

The Firebird is a traditional Russian folk-tale, the inspiration behind Stravinsky's ballet of the same name, retold here by renowned children's author, Saviour Pirotta, and complimented by a series of stunningly atmospheric paintings by artist, Catherine Hyde.
The story tells of King Vaslav who finds his golden apples are being stolen, one by one, and he wants the culprit caught. His three sons set about trying to catch the thief but it's only his third, and "useless", son, Ivan, that has any success. Befriended by a grey wolf, Ivan sets out on a quest to find the Firebird and, as in all good tales, rescue a princess. But can he resist the temptations that lie in his way?

Saviour Pirotta's prose is clear and traditional, while maintaining the necessary poetry of a folk tale. Catherine Hyde's beautiful, moody paintings capture the ethereal, shadowy half-world of magical, talking, shape-shifting beasts complimenting but not detracting from the spell-binding story. The two aspects combine to create a very special book, likely to appeal to both children and adults but if you're looking for bright primary coloured, cartoon style illustrations then this is NOT the book for you!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Templar

Genre -
Folk tale, Children's

Buy Firebird from Amazon

You might also like The Princess' Blankets with words by Carol Anne Duffy and illustrations by Catherine Hyde

Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

review by Maryom

"Can a man be maimed by witchcraft? Can a severed head speak? Based on the most notorious of English witch-trials, this is a tale of magic, superstition, conscience and ruthless murder. It is set in a time when politics and religion were closely intertwined; when, following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, every Catholic conspirator fled to a wild and untamed place far from the reach of London law. This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country."

I discovered this book via a post on the Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat blog  about the level of violence portrayed in it and thought I'd read it as a) the Pendle Witches have always intrigued me and b) it's not possible to comment without having read a book. So I nipped off to the library and ordered a copy. I didn't find it too gruesome. I felt the violence was presented in a rather cold clinical way from the perpetrators' view not the victims' - which made it very cold, calculated and callous - but not really stomach churning.

My main reaction to this novel sadly was one of disappointment. From the back-cover blurb quoted above I'd expected an uncovering of socio-economic, political and religious issues leading to the victimisation of the so-called witches. This is what I've always believed to have been at the heart of these witch trials (in fact most such trials) but instead this is a story where magic DOES exist, where pins stuck into a rag doll really CAN harm a man and spiders can talk and offer advice.

I only realised as I started to write this review that the publisher was Hammer - of horror movie fame. If I'd noticed I'd maybe not have been surprised that the horror element was played up at the expense of dull reality.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Arrow Books in association with Hammer
Genre - Adult, Horror, Witchcraft, Historical Fiction

Monday 22 October 2012

The Mastery Club by Liliane Grace

Review by The Mole

When the new kid with green hair, Nina, starts at school Natalie doesn't know how her life will change. Nina befriends Natalie and invites her to join her in starting a 'Mastery Club' - a club where people become masters of their own lives using positive thinking and move on and up towards their own goals. Torn by the fact that her old friends feel cheated and left out, Natalie, in turn, invites them to join the club. The five of them identify things they want to change or want to achieve in their lives and set about trying to use the skills the club advocates to move towards those goals.

From the moment Nina is introduced to the story there is something you have to like about this confident, positive thinking and friendly girl. The story progresses and we become more involved in all the characters lives and find ourselves rooting for their success. However towards the end story, instead of coming to a climax as you expect, it flattens out, wraps up all the loose ends very neatly and launches into what feels like, and probably is, a lecture on the principles of The Mastery Club.

This final lecture is, I believe, actually because the book is some form of gateway introduction to courses, games, books etc and so this book is also a marketing device.

I would STRESS at this point that I find myself feeling that this could have otherwise been a good story but many of the ideas proposed in this story are fine for fiction but have no scientific basis whatsoever. Hold there though, I believe most strongly in the power of positive thinking and there is scientific evidence that it does improve health and happiness. Experts in body language will, I am sure, also tell you that positive thinking will improve your body language leading to better friendships, job opportunities etc as well as rubbing off onto friends and acquaintances and in turn improving their lives. BUT it's the HOW it works proposed in this story that has no scientific basis. In fact the logical extension of the proposed 'science' is that Natalie kills her own Grandmother! Also when quoting internet sources it's important to remember that "You can't really believe anything you read on the internet." - Abraham Lincoln said that and feel free to check the internet where I read it.

No, this book could have been a very good book but sadly, it is only good but spoiled by the ending and its role as a marketing tool.

Any one who thinks that I am well out of order is welcome to open a debate with me (The Mole) but privately via Facebook, Twitter or email and not publicly please, I do try to be open minded.

Publisher - Grace Productions (Australia)
Genre - Teen Fiction

Buy The Mastery Club from Amazon

Friday 19 October 2012

Robin Hood by David Calcutt

illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith
Review by Maryom and The Mole

David Calcutt retells nine of the best known tales of Robin Hood starting with how he became an outlaw, his meetings with Little John and Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and Allan-a-dale, his skirmishes with the Sheriff and his men, and, of course, Robin's amazing skill with bow and arrow.

I have always wondered where the stories originated and what basis new stories had. Calcutt explains the original sources as being ballads contemporary to the the time and then rather than retelling the stories in the way we all know and repeat them, he has gone back to the Victorian collections and then retold them in his own words.

These are all tales I feel I've known for ever  - I come from Nottinghamshire and played inside the Major Oak as a child and had several collections of Robin Hood stories but I've never seen such a gorgeously illustrated collection. Every page is not just illustrated but each page almost looks watermarked with a woodlandy feel.

I'm not quite sure whether to describe this as a picture book. It IS illustrated throughout but 'picture book' doesn't really seem to do it justice.

The stories of Robin Hood are amongst those that every child should know and enjoy in their own collection and this is the nicest collection that I have ever seen.

Our Review - 5 stars
Publisher - Barefoot Books
Genre - Folk/Fairy Tales, Picture Book

Buy Robin Hood from Amazon

Thursday 18 October 2012

Betrayal by Gregg Olsen

review by Maryom

When Olivia Grant, a British student on an exchange trip to the US, is stabbed to death at a party the police have too many suspects and not enough evidence. Could Beth, the girl she was staying with, have been the killer? Or maybe the party's teenage hostess, Brianna, who seems more concerned with the mess and inconvenience than the fact that someone was killed? When the police investigation seems to be going round in circles, Beth's friends Hayley and Taylor Ryan decide they should try their hand at detecting. What they discover though is a mystery in their own past.

Betrayal is actually two stories in one - firstly the murder of Olivia grant, based loosely on a real crime (the Amanda Knox case) and secondly the mystery of the Ryan twins' family secrets. To be honest, I found the second to be the more interesting but unfortunately this seems to be a plot arc that's going to run over the whole series and as such doesn't tie off neatly at the end of Betrayal. I felt the main 'whodunnit' story was a little thin, though in fairness I may be comparing it to adult crime novels, but I guessed quite early on what had happened - although the writing style still had me hooked.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Splinter

Genre - Teen, crime

 Buy Betrayal (Empty Coffin Novel) from Amazon

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Tilly Tiptoes Takes a Curtain Call by Caroline Plaisted

Review by The Mole

When the choreographer Mitzi Morgan decides to give the premier of her new ballet at The Grand Theatre then there is a chance for Tilly to be one of the dancers. There  is hard work ahead for all the Extras but Tilly has been given number 13 as her audition number. Bad luck starts to strike her at every opportunity but can she get over it and get through the auditions?

This is one for the very young ballet fans out there. Packed with ballet terms and walking the reader through the audition and even rehearsal procedures it is bound to delight those going to ballet school as  well as those wanting to go. The publisher says it is aimed at the 7+ reader but I would say it's appeal will start younger at 6+. An easy read with delightful line drawings peppered throughout and a plot that is essentially 'nice' - that is to say very little jealousy, backbiting and bullying, something that tends to be a foundation stone of stories like this.

Publisher - Catnip Publishing
Genre - Children's 6+ fiction

Buy Tilly Tiptoes Takes a Curtain Call from Amazon

Tuesday 16 October 2012

My Gun Was As Tall As Me by Toni Davidson

Review by The Mole

"High in the Alps, Tuvol, the son of a great European humanitarian, crawls into a snow hole in a deliberate attempt to die. On the other side of the world, in the stifling heat of a South East Asian jungle, twin boys, Lynch and Leer - robbed of speech at birth by a mother unhinged by atrocity - await yet another military assault on their decimated village. Saved from suicide by Dominique, an NGO worker, Tuvol leaves his dysfunctional family, following her to South East Asia to try and find purpose helping those maimed, orphaned and displaced by a brutal regime. As Tuvol and the twins both flee their very different personal traumas, fate will draw them together in a way that changes all three lives forever."

Normally I would  write a short synopsis of my own but in this case there are so many themes running through the book it's difficult to choose which one I would write it around. Tuvol's story, which in itself is a tale to tell, becomes entwined with the story of his mother and tells the story of Espirit, his father, who is highly thought of, internationally as a great charity worker - but is that the real Espirit? Who is the real Tuvol? And Dominique, working away with the IDPs (Internally Displaced Person), hearing tales and seeing the product of horror and ensuring the wounded are cared for - surely the story is about such people? Or Ruess, the journalist, trying to get people to understand what is really happening during these conflicts rather than the safe, clinical journalism that we tend to see? Or the boys who bring all these threads together with their own story of horror and isolation from birth through to the end of the book. But not the end of the story for many of these characters - not all the threads are 'tidied up' because as with real life, the story continues after we leave the characters in the book.

This story is one that will make you think and, if like me, you think you can no longer be shocked by man's inhumanity to man then you may be surprised by what you read. You won't be condemning the horrors as impossible but as wholly likely and horrific.

'Enjoyed' is once again the wrong word but 'compulsive reading'? For me, yes. A book I am glad I have read. Some of the horrors are close to graphic but bring home a point and while there is 'love interest' it's not significant and it's not out of context - in fact it's context makes some very valid points.

It reads almost as biographical and as it's based on extensive research it can almost be read as such, lacking any superheroes as it does.

Publisher - Freight Books
Genre - Adult War Novel

Buy My Gun Was as Tall as Me from Amazon

Monday 15 October 2012

Boyracers by Alan Bissett

review by Maryom

Meet Alvin a sixteen year old from Falkirk. He's staying on at school to take his Highers* with a special interest in English Lit and horror stories but lives for the nights when he meets up with his older mates to go racing round the streets of Falkirk in their car Belinda. On the way they discuss everything from football to physics, sex to Clive Barker, all liberally sprinkled with film quotes and song lyrics. Gradually though a darker side of this carefree life starts to emerge - violence, accidents and above all the sheer monotony of 'grown up' life in Falkirk. Alvin realises that he, at least, has a chance to escape - that university offers the prospect of a more exciting, more fulfilling life beyond Falkirk - but will that be betraying his mates?

I've been meaning to track down Boyracers ever since I was astounded by its sequel Pack Men.  To be honest I'd been expecting something less enthralling - an everyday tale of teenage angst and growing up - and yet again Alan Bissett has managed to surprise me! 

Boyracers is a high energy, petrol and Irn Bru fuelled race through teenage life told as it happens, in almost one long stream of consciousness with quirky page lay-outs and grammar. The reader is dropped slam bang, mid-sentence into the back seat of the Lads car tearing round Falkirk and kept pinned there. This was one of those books that once started, I didn't want to put down - and it left me so 'wired' that despite reading till late at night I couldn't sleep! A book I'd highly recommend to teens and to those of us oldies who haven't quite forgotten what it is to be young!

What I read was the 10th anniversary edition, re-edited and 'resprayed' by the author but presumably not substantially different to its original text. Having read Bissett's first novel and his latest I'm now off to find the in-between ones - and to see if he can surprise me some more!

*Scottish A-level equivalent 

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Polygon
Genre - teen/adult crossover, literary fiction

Buy Boyracers from Amazon

Friday 12 October 2012

The Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

review by Maryom

After years of abuse from her father, Liga glimpses freedom when he dies, only to have her world shattered again. Liga is magically granted a way to move to a different world where everyone is pleasant and kind and no horrors lie in wait. Here she raises her two daughters Branza and Urdda. The two girls are totally different in appearance and personality - one is fair and quiet, happy in her mother's world; the other dark and adventurous and longing to explore beyond their haven. 
Echoing the tale of  Snow White and Rose Red with transformed men and magical bears, Lanagan tells an astounding fantastical tale which explores the relationship between mothers and daughters - particularly the need of the latter to break free and live their own lives.
The beginning is a VERY difficult read and at times I did wonder where the story was going. I had been forewarned about this by fellow readers and told that once through this section the story lightened and really took off - and it did!
 My only disappointment is in having taken so long to discover Margo Lanagan! I'm now off to discover more - The Brides of Rollrock Island comes highly recommended.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - David Fickling Books

Genre - Teen, YA, fantasy, Crossover

Buy Tender Morsels from Amazon

Thursday 11 October 2012

Shadows by Ilsa J Bick

 review by Maryom

In a post-apocalyptic world, where all but children and the elderly have turned into flesh-eating monsters, the few teens and young adults that have remained 'unchanged' are highly prized. Alex, Chris and Tom fall into this category but even for them the danger is not over. No one knows how the 'Change' comes about - who is susceptible, who immune - and who it will strike next. Having become separated Alex and Tom are desperate to find each other again but in a world now populated by armed, zombie-type mobs nothing is going to be simple and straight-forward.

 Shadows is the second book of the post-apocalyptic Ashes trilogy and seems to suffer from being the middle book  Ashes ended on a cliff hanger - sort of to be expected - and Shadows picks up the story there. The only thing is the story doesn't seem to move along much. There's lots of fighting, attacks by mutants, lots of blood and gore but by the ending - another cliff hanger - I didn't feel things had advanced. If anything Shadows introduces more sub-plots and leaves more questions unanswered. Hopefully all will be resolved in Book3....

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Quercus Books

Genre - teen,YA, fiction

Buy Shadows (Ashes Trilogy) from Amazon

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The Hex Factor by Harriet Goodwin

review by Maryom

Xanthe has just started back at school for a new term but is finding things hard going. Arch-rival  Kelly seems to be out to make trouble for Xanthe when-ever and where-ever she can. Soon Xanthe finds herself in all sorts of trouble at school and despite her protestations no one believes she is innocent.  Xanthe's 13th birthday is fast approaching but all her friends are dumping her as quickly as they can and soon no one will be left to come to her birthday party. Will the special gift that Gran has lined up be able to help? What is the secret she wants to share with Xanthe?

If I said this was an interesting and inventive story about witches set in a school you'd probably think it was a Harry Potter rip off - but it's far from it. The setting is a normal secondary school, the situations are ones which the reader can relate to and who hasn't dreamed of having a secret power to lash back at the world when things go wrong.
Readers are bound to sympathise as Xanthe is increasingly blamed for things she didn't do - and cheer as she ultimately vindicates herself!

There's a definite, scene-setting, first of a series feel to The Hex Factor but it's an excellent page-turning read and I'm sure it will quickly develop a fan following.  

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - Stripes Publishing
Genre - Children's 10+, Fantasy
Buy The Hex Factor from Amazon

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

review by The Mole 

******Warning - Contains minor spoilers for "Blood Red Road" ******* 

Saba, Emmi, Tommo and Lugh have been moving westwards to meet up with Jack at the Big Water. But Saba's not well. Ghosts are haunting her; the girls she beat in cage fights and Epona, the girl she shot rather than leave to die a slow death at the hands of the Tonton.

Worse than that, when Emmi is captured by the Tonton, Saba's every loyalty is challenged and suddenly she starts to question everyone's role in society.

As a sequel  to Blood Red Road this book came as a bit of a shock. Oh, the characters were all there and it was well written but it was somehow feeling like a different style. The author was quite happy to go around killing off good guys as quickly as the bad guys and suddenly Saba's actions start to horrify the reader as she has lost sight of what is right and wrong - in fact I started to wonder...

Saba seems to make, in this book, the transition from girl to young woman and we keep hearing phrases that she is destined to become something far more that she could know - another major shift from the ordinary young girl that we meet in Blood Red Road.

An extremely good book once again, and refreshingly different enough compared to the first so that it doesn't read like 'more of the same' as so many sequels do.

Publisher -  Marion LLoyd Books (Scholastic)
Genre - teens, Sci-Fi, Action Adventure

Buy Rebel Heart (Dustlands) from Amazon

Monday 8 October 2012

Killing Daniel by Sarah Dobbs

review by Maryom

Chinatsu is Japanese, Fleur is English but for a brief period in childhood they were the closest of friends. They planned an ideal future for themselves but somehow life got in the way of it. Fleur, still living in her Northern home-town, is tied to an abusive partner and haunted by the past and the possibilities of what might have been if her friend Daniel hadn't been killed. Chinatsu now lives in Japan, trapped in a marriage that has more resemblance to a business deal than a romance.

Killing Daniel is a disturbing, sometimes brutal story, of two young women caught in dysfunctional relationships. It was actually less of a thriller than I'd been expecting. There are incidents from the past that need to be faced up to, things that must be brought into the light of day before Fleur and Chinatsu can move on and the story does move towards a gripping violent denouement but it's equally about self-determinism and female friendships. Dobbs creates complex characters in whom the reader can believe and whose pain the reader shares.

Killing Daniel is a thought-provoking debut novel from Sarah Dobbs and I look forward to reading more from her.

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - Unthank Books
Genre - Adult, literary fiction

Buy Killing Daniel from Amazon on pre-order until November 2012

Friday 5 October 2012

Anisha’s Adventures In Bangladesh by Moinul Islam

Review by The Mole

Anisha is a normal young girl living in Bangladesh and like all normal young girls she has a birthday. Her presents, like all birthday presents, are rather special. A new outfit, a puppy and two magic necklaces. These magic necklaces enable Anisha to see and learn all about the world.

An extremely attractive picture book with well laid out pages and a plethora of pretty pictures that really set the book off. The story starts by explaining that life in Bangladesh is very similar to life most anywhere in the western world, with the same daily routines and friendships. But come her birthday party we meet the two magical necklaces. With these necklaces we travel around Bangladesh and learn some facts, in a fun way, about the country and it's history.

A lovely fun book that complements learning and will help children of all ages and nationalities to learn a little about a remote country that they may never visit.

Publisher - My Little Big Town
Genre - Children's early reader, Picture book, Educational

Buy Anisha's Adventures in Bangladesh from Amazon

Thursday 4 October 2012

Origin by J T Brannan

review by Maryom

When Lynn Edwards' research team discover a body in the Antarctic ice, they don't realise quite what they've stumbled upon. The possibility that the body may be 40,000 years old attracts the immediate attention of  some very dangerous people and Lynn finds herself running for her life. Turning to her ex-husband, Matt Adams, for help, she's caught in a race against time against a shadowy all-powerful organisation. Unravelling the mystery takes Lynn and Matt on a dangerous journey via the Nazca Lines and Area 51 to the Large Hadron Collider as they realise they are the only ones who can save the world.

What you have with Origin is an X-files meets Da Vinci Code adventure. It's a great fun page-turning read. If you like non-stop action, world-wide conspiracy and the fate of the world resting on one couple's shoulders than this is a book for you. It hasn't as many twists and double-crosses as some of this genre but is a promising debut from British author JT Brannan. As is to be expected the hero and heroine DO succeed in saving the world - but not in the way you'd expect. Whatever you do - DON'T  cheat and skip to the end!

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - Headline 
Genre - Adult Action Adventure, conspiracy theory

Buy Origin from Amazon

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Princess Katie's Kittens - Suki in the Snow by Julie Sykes

Review by The Mole

Princess Katie is about to go on a skiing holiday and is leaving the kittens behind at the palace. Well that's the intention but Suki seems to have other plans. A skiing holiday will mean lots of fun making igloos, seeing reindeer, riding sleighs and, of course, skiing. When Suki is found in Katie's rucksack then it seems the holiday just got a whole lot better! Or did it?

One very much for young girl early readers this is peppered throughout with black and white drawings of kittens, skiing, sleigh rides, snow and much more that complement the story and has chapters of around 14 pages. Perhaps confident readers for the 5 and 6 age group and straight forward for the older princesses? The pictures are cute and the language is simple and clear and is sure to delight young cat lovers.

The back of the book has a competition and puzzles and a link to a website where more fun activities can be found.

I am sure these cute stories will find a young fan club and the books will make fantastic presents.

Publisher - Piccadilly Press
Genre - Early Reader 5+, Fiction

Buy Princess Katie's Kittens: Suki in the Snow from Amazon

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

review by Maryom

Sea of Ink is the life story of one of China's most famous painters. Zhu Da, a prince of the Ming dynasty, was born into a family of painters and scholars where his talents were recognised at a early age. The Manchu invasion of China and overthrow of the Ming dynasty brought an end to this leisurely lifestyle. Following the further blow of his father's death, Zhu Da retreated to a monastery. In the silence and calmness there he put his princely world behind him and discovered his talent for painting, eventually adopting the name Bada Shanren.

Sea of Ink is a short, contemplative novel as much about the act of painting as the life of the artist. Weihe seeks to convey the feel of the brush as it sweeps across the paper, the movement and rhythm of the artist's hand and the thoughts and philosophy that lie behind art.
Sea of Ink is a book to be taken slowly and preferably without external disruptions. I found I needed peace and quiet to sink into the book and let it sink into me - at times taking a break at the end of a chapter instead of rushing madly on to the next. When I was interrupted I completely lost the mood that had been so carefully built.
There are reproductions of 11 of Bada Shanren's pictures throughout the book. At first glance the paintings seem slight and unimpressive - a mere squiggle on the page - but stop and look at them closely and their depth emerges. I felt Weihe's book was like this in many ways. The book may seem slight and unimpressive at first glance or at a quick read through but take time and its beauty will emerge.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

Buy direct from Peirene Press where various subscription offers are available

Other reviews: Iris on Books

Monday 1 October 2012

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Review by The Mole

Montag is a fireman but at a time when firemen burn books because to read books is illegal. However after meeting Clarisse, a neighbour, he starts to have second thoughts. But it's 'thoughts' that the law is trying to stop... Montag starts to feel strange and wonder if his world is collapsing around him.

This edition comes with two introductions:- Michael Moorcock in 2011 and Ray Bradbury in 2003 on it's 50th anniversary. Both introductions are interesting. Moorcock quotes from the second version of the play (yes, there's been two plays, one film and an opera too!) and says "Why bother to ban books when people voluntarily ignore them." and sadly this is more than true. Yet the book still works - why? what is it really about? Well these questions are answered by Bradbury in his introduction says that "When the first version of the novel was finished, I hardly knew what I had done. I knew that it was crammed with metaphors, but the word metaphor had not occurred to me at that time in my life." It was only when he was older and wiser that he understood what he had done.

I first read the book over forty years ago, as a pup, and my recollection of it was very much tainted with the years. The version I read then, I 'let go' somewhere along the years and so this copy from The Folio Society was most welcome. My first impression on rereading it was that it was a futuristic science fiction novel. Now for a 59 year old story to still feel that way is a mark of a well written and classic book. Truth is, of course, that today books are a small part of the dissemination of knowledge, and I use the internet for a lot of learning, but it's not something that occurred to me during the reading. Perhaps I am used to metaphors and saw it only as a metaphor but it really didn't affect my reading.

This particular version is boxed with a most attractive cover and several full page illustrations by Sam Weber and will now have a permanent home on my bookshelf.

The Folio Society don't sell through normal retail outlets so it's best to start at their website.

Publisher - The Folio Society
Genre - Science Fiction

Buy Fahrenheit 451 from The Folio Society