Wednesday, 29 March 2017

After Isabella by Rosie Fiore

After IsabellaAfter Isabella by Rosie Fiore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


When Esther's childhood best friend Isabella dies of cancer, she is devastated. Years later, she is brought together with Isabella's sister Sally, who cared for Isabella in her last days, and who subsequently nursed their mother through years of dementia.

English professor Esther sees shy, innocent Sally emerge from a life of isolation and loneliness. But as Esther herself suffers blow after blow, and sees her carefully ordered life collapse around her, she is forced to contemplate the notion of friendship and trust. Do the ones we hold dearest always have our best interests at heart?



This was a bit depressing for me - when Esthers' childhood friend Isabella dies of cancer she is broken. Years later she meets Isabella's sister Sally who cared for Isabella before she died and also her mother as she battled dementia.

Its' really about how these characters coped after these events that the book is all about but although well written and thought out it was just a bit depressing for me. I think it was a difficult read and you really need to persevere with it to get to the end and it wasn't helped that the character of Esther was a bit dull and boring.

Its' not easy writing a novel about death and its' even more difficult to read about it - not a novel I would choose to read and not one I particularly enjoyed therefore I can only give this one a 2 star rating.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million BoyThe One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who's been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she's confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, he doesn't show up. Ona starts to think he's not so special after all, but then his father Quinn arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son's good deed. The boy's mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that even at her age the world can surprise you, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find yourself again.




Bit of a weepy one this - as the blub suggests its a story about the unlikely friendship of a records obsessed 11 year old boy who is tasked to do odd jobs for a 104 year old woman at her decaying property so he can earn his scouting badge.

The old lady Ona and the young boy develop a strong friendship and she looks forward to him coming round to help her more than she thought she would. One week he doesn't come and she is left wondering what has happened to him we then discover that he has died quite suddenly and his father Quinn goes round the Ona's to finish what his son has started.

Through Ona Quinn discovers the wonderful son he never really knew and he and his wife Belle learn to release the love they had for their son and understand why he was so happy coming to Ona every week. They learn a lot about themselves, grief and friendship.

It is a lovely journey sad and happy and a good read but be prepared to cry and make sure you have some tissues at the ready.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning into Your Mother: The Perfect Mother's Day gift for mums who have it all by Ada Adverse

The Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning into Your Mother: The Perfect Mother's Day gift for mums who have it all (Mills & Boon A-Zs, Book 5)The Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning into Your Mother: The Perfect Mother's Day gift for mums who have it all by Ada Adverse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever…?

A) Opened your mouth and heard your mother come out?

B) Wondered whether a bunch of flowers and breakfast in bed once a year really makes up for the 37 hours your mum spent in St Agnes’ Maternity Ward?

C) Voiced a heartfelt opinion on the weather?

If so, the Mills & Boon Modern Girl’s Guide to Turning Into Your Mother is for you: a guide to the joys of motherhood – with a feminist twist



This is such a good book as a gift. This has quotes A-Z about Motherhood, although I am not a mother I did find these quotes very humourous and loved the photography that went with each one, it is black and white and had a real 'vintage' feel.

This is a great book to share with others and browse time and time again. Although this is book 5 in the series that wouldn't matter at all. I haven't read any of the others, however I would be interested in reading them now.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Here are some images and quotes from the book:

 


 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane by Caroline Baxter






Join Pilot Jane, a fun and fearless airline captain, as she travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. Together Jane and Rose have exciting adventures and form a perfect team, delivering their passengers safely to destinations as far afield as Alaska and Australia. But when disaster strikes and Rose falls ill, Jane is paired with 'lean, mean flying machine' Mighty Mitch. Can she still get the Queen to her party on time? Featuring a clever and courageous heroine, this
action-packed rhyming story celebrates 'Girl Power' and shows what you can achieve if you work together. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for take-off!



Title: Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane

Author: Caroline Baxter

Illustrator: Izabela Ciesinska

Release Date: 8th March 2017

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Big Sunshine Books

Format: Paperback Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34538699-pilot-jane-and-the-runaway-plane 

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pilot-Runaway-Plane-Caroline-Baxter/dp/1910854034



Review:

This book is a lovely colourful illustrated one, which highlights the importance that it doesn't matter if you are a girl you can have a career that is traditionally male dominated.

This has rhyme in that children love to identify as well as an issue with Mitch another plane, with the them having to work together Pilot Jane solves an issue. (Very hard not to drop spoilers!)

Although this was a very enjoyable book my one negative and it has come from a teaching professional is that this book is great for the girls but it may not interest boys a lot, which I feel is an important aspect for picture books. It is important that books try to capture their interests to try and hook them into reading and I am not sure this book does that for boys. Like I said this is just a educational observation.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.



Guest Post:


My Favourite Picture Books: Caroline Baxter



I LOVE picture books. The look of them, the sound of them, the feel of them. In just a few minutes you can enjoy a good story, complemented by often beautiful illustrations. They can be funny, silly, outrageous, moving, laugh-out loud, exciting, inspiring . . . and magical. Perhaps most importantly, since most are read by parents to their children, they offer an opportunity at the end of a busy day to cuddle up and have some precious family time together (though I happily read them on my own too).



So in the days after the publication of my own second picture book, Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, I thought I’d write about some of the many picture books that have inspired me along the way. It was a tricky ask (after all, I could only pick 10!) but here goes . . .



1. The Snail and the Whale: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Not surprisingly, I’m a big fan of Julia Donaldson and her amazing collection of picture books. But The Snail and the Whale is my all-time favourite for two reasons. Firstly, I think it’s a brilliant way of helping children to develop an understanding that there’s a big wide world out there to explore and enjoy. Rather than sticking “tight to the smooth black rock” the intrepid snail hitches a lift around the world and, together, the snail and the whale see “towering icebergs and far-off lands, fiery mountains and golden sands”, all brought to life by Axel Scheffler’s gorgeous illustrations. Secondly, the book is a total pleasure to read aloud. I love the alliteration, the catchy rhyme and the evocative descriptions. Even my children, aged five and three, know big chunks of it by heart (it’s been read quite a few times in our house!). Oh, and for some reason, they also love the sharks…



2. Baby Brains: Simon James

From our first reading of Baby Brains, it was an instant hit. The story, like its star, is super-clever and follows the early days of Baby Brains as he reads the morning paper, helps mend the car, visits the local school and helps out with a space mission! Even preschoolers can understand that these activities are ridiculous for a tiny baby to do and we regularly laugh out loud at the fantastic illustrations, particularly on the page where he begins working at the local hospital! In a dig to ‘tiger mums’ and pushy dads everywhere, however, ultimately Baby Brains just decides he wants his mummy and to do “the things that most babies do”. This really is a classic – a story with a great concept, well-written and perfectly illustrated. It’s no surprise it won the Red House Children’s Book Award.



3. Oi Frog!: Kes Gray and Jim Field


Continuing the silly/ outrageous theme, Oi Frog! is another hilarious story guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face. The rhyme is genius and makes for

some really silly images – cows sitting on ploughs and lions sitting on irons being my personal favourites! The bright, vibrant colours also appeal to even the youngest of readers. Overall I think this is a stand-out book simply because it’s brilliant fun. And surely that’s what picture books are for.



4. Five Minutes’ Peace: Jill Murphy

We always enjoy the Large Family books and Five Minutes’ Peace is my personal favourite. It really captures perfectly family life with young children and the mess, chaos and hustle and bustle it brings. Mothers everywhere can relate to Mrs Large and young children love seeing parts of themselves and their activities reflected in the boisterous Large children. The best bit, for my own children, is when “the little one” jumps into the bath in such a hurry that he forgets to take off his pyjamas – a moment always greeted by snorts of laughter! Jill Murphy’s language is also so carefully chosen that just one or two words convey volumes. From the opening page “The children were having breakfast/ This was not a pleasant sight” to Mrs Large “plonking” on her bath hat and replying “weakly”, we understand exactly how she feels and how the morning will pan out. A great, feel-good book perfect for bedtime.



5. Dogger: Shirley Hughes

This was the first Shirley Hughes book I read and it’s a real joy. Although it’s much longer than many picture books these days, its length was never a problem – even when my children were very young. The story of Dave losing his favourite toy, Dogger, and the heartbreak he feels, is one that so many children (and parents) can relate to. Dave’s mum looks everywhere for his beloved Dogger – under the bed, behind the cupboard, underneath the stairs – but Dogger is nowhere to be found. By chance, however, the old toy is discovered again the following day at the School Fair and returned to Dave through an act of kindness on the part of his sister Bella. This is a lovely book to read aloud with a touching message about sibling love and amazingly detailed, beautiful illustrations that stand the test of time.



6. The Pirates Next Door: Jonny Duddle


For a while pirates were a big theme in our house, and I can’t think of better pirate books than those by Jonny Duddle. The rhymes are catchy and clever, the stories hugely entertaining and the illustrations bold, yet intricate. We all love reading about the adventures of the Jolley-Rogers and how they shake up “gloomy seaside town” Dull-on Sea with its stuffy, narrow-minded inhabitants. The characters are also brilliantly drawn, from eager Matilda and her anxious parents to “Mrs Bevan from eighty-seven” and the overworked clerk in the Town Hall. My daughter is also a big fan of the “urchin called Nugget” – though thankfully they don’t look or act alike!



7. Beegu: Alexis Deacon

We first got this book out of the library and it made my favourites list because it’s so different and memorable. Although a simple story with very few words, it’s an incredibly moving picture book. Beegu is a little alien who is lost on planet Earth, but no-one seems to want to help her. Only the young children at school try to befriend her; all the grown-ups cast her out. When she eventually returns to her mother, she tells her how “Earth creatures were mostly big and unfriendly, but there were some

small ones who seemed hopeful”. The character of Beegu draws you in immediately, with her long ears and sad face, and one, almost child-like, drawing somehow manages to convey the full range of human emotions. These days, in particular, perhaps we should pay even more heed to the book’s gentle message about acceptance and welcoming those who are different.



8. Bear’s Big Bottom: Steve Smallman and Emma Yarlett


How could you not love Bear’s Big Bottom? With its witty rhyme and brilliant illustrations, this is a book you could read repeatedly to children – and one which, mine at least, ask for repeatedly. Everyone joins in with the refrain ‘BEAR’S BIG BOTTOM’ and the bit where his bottom smashes all the presents makes us all giggle! We’ve read quite a few books by Steve Smallman recently and they are always a total treat.



9. The Bear and the Piano: David Litchfield


From a bear with a big bottom to a bear with a big gift – the gift of music. One of the main reasons I chose this book about the power of friendship was because of its gorgeous artwork. Some of the scenes David Litchfield creates are visually stunning, from the forest scenes awash with morning light to the “sold-out concerts in giant theatres”. The story, which is about belonging and unconditional love, is also perfect for young children. At the end the bear “realised that no matter where he went, or what he did, (his friends) would always be there, watching from afar”. This is a beautiful book in every sense of the word – a true ‘picture book’.



10. Zog: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

My final choice is another book by Julia Donaldson: Zog, the much-loved tale of a very enthusiastic dragon. The story of his antics at Dragon School is highly entertaining and the rhyme skips along at the usual fast pace, but for me the true star here is Princess Pearl. When I first read the book, I found it hugely refreshing to see a female character stand up for herself and talk about choosing a career, rather than prancing around the palace “in a silly frilly dress”! Even better, she will be the one to train up the brave knight Gadabout the Great. It’s fair to say that the fabulous, capable Pearl was one inspiration for my own advocate of girl power, Pilot Jane. And, at the end, happily both characters fly off into the sunset, destined for even greater things.



So these are my ten favourite picture books. I hope you enjoy them and can only apologise for the many other amazing ones I’ve left out.



Next time I’d have to make it my top 20 . . .







Many thanks for hosting me on Sam’s Book Corner!




Caroline Baxter lives in Oxford with her husband and two young children. From an early age she always had her nose in a book – and now does so for a living! Caroline grew up in South Wales and, after graduating with a BA in English Literature from Cardiff University, held a variety of management roles at UK universities including, most recently, at the University of Oxford. The Bear Cub Bakers, her first book, was written while on maternity leave with her daughter. Her second book,Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, was published recently on International Women’s Day (8 March 2017). Caroline loves travelling, yoga, baking (and eating) cake, dogs, days out and snuggling up with a good story.





Friday, 24 March 2017

The Beekeeper's Secret by Josephine Moon

The Beekeeper's SecretThe Beekeeper's Secret by Josephine Moon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maria knew about guilt. It was a stubborn, pervasive and toxic emotion, and incredibly difficult to shake. Especially if really, deep down, you didn't think you deserved to let it go.

Maria spends her days tending to the bees of Honeybee Haven and creating wonderful honey products to fund children in need. A former nun, Maria's life has long been shaped by a shadowy secret and her own self-imposed penance for events in her past. The arrival of two letters, one pink, from nearby Noosa Heads, and one marked with a government crest, herald the shattering of Maria's peaceful existence.

Before they were married, Tansy made a very serious deal with her husband, Dougall. With their elegant apartment and beachside lifestyle in Noosa, they have everything they agreed they wanted in life, so Tansy is going to ignore the feelings that might suggest she has changed her mind. On top of those not-really-there feelings, Dougall wants to move to Canada!

Surprising and intriguing, The Beekeeper's Secret is an exploration of family in all its facets, and the astounding secrets we keep from those we love.



I didn't really connect with this book and I think the reason for this was that the author was constantly 'telling' rather than 'showing' which tends to assume the reader can't make an opinion of their own. It had all the usual elements, protagonist with secrets, family conflicts, hidden skeletons, etc. but it was quite predictable and not really anything 'new' to tell.

I was disappointed in this novel, maybe I have ready too many in this genre lately and for that reason it really wasn't anything different, its' an OK read but I wouldn't have rushed out to buy it. Only 3 stars from me I'm afraid.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Comfort of Others by Kay Langdale

The Comfort of OthersThe Comfort of Others by Kay Langdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Minnie and her sister Clara, spinsters both, live in a dilapidated country house in the middle of a housing estate, built when their father sold off the family's land. Now in their seventies, their days follow a well-established routine: long gone are the garden parties, the tennis lessons and their suffocatingly strict mother. Gone, too, is any mention of what happened when Minnie was sixteen, and the secret the family buried in the grounds of their estate.

Directly opposite them lives Max, an 11-year-old whose life with his mum has changed beyond recognition since her new boyfriend arrived. Cast aside, he takes solace in Minnie's careful routine, observed through his bedroom window.

Over the course of the summer, both begin to tell their stories: Max through a Dictaphone, Minnie through a diary. As their tales intertwine, ghosts are put to rest and challenges faced, in a story that is as dark as it is uplifting.


An unlikely friendship develops between Millie a 70 year old woman and Max an 11 year old boy one summer that helps each one to come to terms with events that have shaped their lives. Max is given a dictaphone for his birthday and starts to record everything that happens to him that summer. It coincides with his mother is asked out on a date bu the boiler man and from that point he becomes something of a fixture in Max's life and not one he is happy about. No longer the focus of his mothers' attention and having to put up with this new man in her life who is less than kind to him he finds solace in sharing his thoughts and feelings on his dictaphone and eventually the old lady across the street.

Millie lives in the house opposite on the same estate and when she was a young girl her family once owned all the land the estate is built on. Living with her sister Clara all she has is her memories and routines hardly ever venturing outside. Millie notices Max from her window recording his days events and she decides to do the same in a diary. The journey for her is both cathartic and painful and eventually when Max and Millie meet they share confidences which make them both stronger.

It is sometimes a difficult read in that it has incredibly sad and poignant events but a feel good factor in their friendship keeps the book moving along nicely. It was nice to see how the author managed to make a connection with the young and old to develop a friendship that developed into a strong bond between the two.

Not my usual read but it was well thought out and executed and although a bit sad it was nicely done if the ending was a bit flat. I would give this a 4 star rating for its' subject matter and managing to bridge the gap between generations so well.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine blog tour with guest post

Image result for where the wild cherries grow


It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane, the cold Norfolk fens are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a trains and runs away from it all. Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside town in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs and the raw, rich tastes of her surroundings. But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in from the sea. Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...


Guest Post: 

Where I Write…


Laura Madeleine

Even though the image of a writer working feverishly in a cold garret is probably one of literature’s biggest clichés, that’s pretty much how I’ve written my last four novels. I work in the attic, my desk under a skylight, at the top of a tall, thin, Victorian terraced house. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Bristol, with its colourful houses on the hill, you’ll know what I mean. Writing in the attic does have its downsides. For one thing, there’s no heating up here, so it gets very cold in the winter. Also, being four flights of stairs away from the bathroom, it’s never a good idea to wait until things get too desperate…

But for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I’ve always loved attics, the feeling of being high up, the slanted ceilings, the beams. I also love the light: good light is important to me. The first flat I lived in when I first moved to the city was undeniably dingy, and I was never happy there. But here, if I look up, all I can see is the sky and the edges of chimneystacks.

There’s also a railway track close to the house. It’s not a big one, and is mostly used by ponderous, never-ending freight trains. At first, I thought the noise was going to be a problem; the two-toned honk honk of train horns and the strange, syncopated clacking of wheels in the middle of the night. But I’ve come to enjoy those sounds too. They’re sounds of movement, of life, a reminder that outside my bubble of make-believe, the world is always turning.

At my desk I’m surrounded by piles of paper that I have yet to sort out, but can’t throw away for whatever vague reason. There are empty cups of coffee (I’m terrible for hoarding them: again, three flights of stairs to the kitchen), open notebooks and ratty pieces of paper, that have taken on the status of IMPORTANT because of some idea scrawled on them. I have maps and pages of notes pinned to the wooden beam in front of me. At the moment, those notes consist of timelines, quotes by Maya Angelou and Primo Levi, a reminder about the Musée des Arts Forains in Paris (?) and words METAL POTFIRE. Hopefully I’ll remember why that’s significant at some point.

There are also a lot of plants up here. I love having them about, and often find myself staring at them, thinking. It’s a running joke in the house that I don’t know

where to stop when it comes to plants, and it’s true, I’m running out of flat surfaces to put pots on.

To my right, I have shelves of books that are being slowly bleached by the sun (sorry books), and a print that my friend Arthur once made for me in exchange for cake. To my left, there are shelves of records, the steep, steep stairs down the floor below and a trapdoor I can close, to keep the rest of the world at bay, while I write.


Laura Madeleine 

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine chose instead to focus on studying English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. She now writes fiction, under three different psuedonyms. Laura lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, eating cheese and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Housom. Laura can be found on Twitter @esthercrumpet.