Friday, 30 December 2016

A Christmas Feast and other stories by Katie Fforde

A Christmas Feast and other storiesA Christmas Feast and other stories by Katie Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delicious Christmas feast of short stories from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of A French Affair and The Perfect Match.

Add some extra sparkle to your Christmas by joining Katie Fforde for a perfect, romantic Christmas feast of short stories. Collected together for the first time and including one brand new story.

Make your Christmas wishes come true...

I listened to the audio version of this, this is what I thought.

Would you consider the audio edition of A Christmas Feast to be better than the print version?
I have never read the print version, however this is great in order to get your jobs done. By being a collection of short stories, I can listen to a story at a time and really get into it. The only thing I would say is that some of these stories have already been published as separate short stories, one of which I had read. I did enjoy listening to the one I had previously read.

What other book might you compare A Christmas Feast to, and why?
Any other festive selection of short stories.

Have you listened to any of Jilly Bond and Rita Sharma ’s other performances? How does this one compare?
This was the first, however I really enjoyed the narration and would look for others by them.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
short but sweet treats

Any additional comments?
It would have been nice to have been told that some of the short stories had already been previously released, especially for those who have the print versions.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Stranger In My Home by Adele Parks

The Stranger In My HomeThe Stranger In My Home by Adele Parks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would YOU do if your child wasn't yours?

Alison is lucky and she knows it. She has the life she always craved, including a happy home with Jeff and their brilliant, vivacious teenage daughter, Katherine - the absolute centre of Alison's world.

Then a knock at the door ends life as they know it.

Fifteen years ago, someone else took Alison's baby from the hospital. And now Alison is facing the unthinkable.

The daughter she brought home doesn't belong to her.

When you have everything you dreamed of, there is everything to lose.

Always in for a good bit of story telling with Adele Parks and this book doesn't disappoint. Dealing with the sensitive issue of taking the wrong babies from hospital this spans 15 years before the truth comes out. Really well written, Adele manages to tell the tale while creating good believable characters and throwing in a few twists along the way.

I have to admit I did guess what was going on although it was really well camouflaged and although I was right it didn't detract from the suspense she crafted so well in the book.

Really what can I say, Adele Parks is one of the masters and although I did think the book was a tad overlong it was nevertheless a good read and recommended to Parks fans or new Parks readers alike. A well deserved 4 stars from me.

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

Monday, 26 December 2016

Three Men and a Maybe by Katey Lovell

Three Men and a MaybeThree Men and a Maybe by Katey Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A free short story…the perfect treat for yourself this Christmas

It’s the age-old saying. You wait all day for a bus, and then three come along at once. But proposals? That’s just ridiculous. And yet, on New Year’s Eve, as the countdown finishes and the whole pub erupts in celebrations, Cerys finds herself staring at her ex-fiancĂ©, Ricky. Who just so happens to be kneeling on the floor, ring in hand, asking her to marry him. Again.

And if that weren’t enough, hot barman Angelo, and longtime friend Huw also decide to pop the question. At the exact same time.

Three men, two real contenders, but just one choice. What on earth will she do?

This is a cute short story for the festive season. It begins one New Years Eve, Cerys is at the pub with her friends. Just before midnight two of her ex's and her best friend all go down on one knee. This is only 60 pages or so, so you can easily read it in one sitting. Although it is so short, it does feel like a full length novel. By going back in time to discover what things were like for Cerys when she was going out with these men and how she feels about them, really gives the reader character description and understanding.

By the time the clock strikes midnight we have visited Cerys flashbacks and she has made her decision.

This was a very enjoyable read and the best thing is this little gem is currently free on Amazon so you have nothing to lose.

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Jolly Christmas Postman. Janet and Allan Ahlberg by Janet Ahlberg

The Jolly Christmas Postman. Janet and Allan AhlbergThe Jolly Christmas Postman. Janet and Allan Ahlberg by Janet Ahlberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's Christmas Eve and the JOLLY POSTMAN is delivering greetings to various fairy-tale characters - there's a card for Baby Bear, a game appropriately called 'Beware' for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf, a get-well jigsaw for hospitalised Humpty Dumpty and three more surprise envelopes containing letters, cards, etc. Everyone's favourite postman keeps on peddling his bicycle up hill and down dale . . . and into everybody's hearts.

The Jolly Postman is back again, this time on Christmas Eve. He is off on his rounds where we meet some familiar characters and some new ones. When reading this to my class, they loved to identify who the characters were and what they thought he would visit next.

Most of the letters contain activities for the children to do such as a game or jigsaw etc. Kids of all ages will enjoy this, discovering something new every time.

Perfect for everyone, highly recommended.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Audible's Top Picks for Christmas!

With Christmas getaways, shoppers and commuter traffic, the festive period is one busiest times of the year. Last year alone over 14 million drove home for Christmas and with journeys on some roads taking almost three times longer than normal, festive entertainment is a travel essential. With this in mind, the editors at Audible have compiled a list of the ultimate Yuletide audiobooks to keep the festive spirit alive in a traffic jam, in flight, or after you’ve shopped till you’ve dropped.

Below are Audible's top picks

A Christmas Carol: An Audible Original Drama

Author: Charles Dickens

Narrated by: Various cast

Available at

Jenna Coleman, Miriam Margolyes, Derek Jacobi, Brendan Coyle and Roger Allam are amongst the celebrity voices coming together this Christmas in a brand new multi-cast dramatization of Charles Dickens’ ghostly Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol.
The festive tale has been released as a free gift to members.

A Boy Called Christmas

Author: Matt Haig

Narrated by: Stephen Fry

£9.19 (free for Audible members)

Available at

You are about to listen to the true story of Father Christmas. It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible. If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you. Because this audiobook is full of impossible things. Are you still reading? Good. Then let us begin....

The idea for the series came when Matt Haig’s son asked what Father Christmas was like as a boy. A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an 11-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn't afraid to believe in magic

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

Author: Matt Haig

Narrated by: Carey Mulligan

£9.19 (free for Audible members)

Available at

If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end? When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask - Father Christmas. But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

Midnight Gang

Author: David Williams

Narrated by: David Walliams, Peter Serafinowicz, Morwenna Banks, Nitin Ganatra, Ellen Thomas

Available at

Midnight is the time when all children are fast asleep, except of course for...the Midnight Gang. That is when their adventures are just beginning....

The Midnight Gang tells an extraordinarily heart-warming and, of course, funny story of five children on a hospital ward and on a quest for adventure. It is a story of friendship and magic - and of making dreams come true.

Listeners are set to be utterly spellbound by this heartfelt story that will bring magic to everyone's Christmas.

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

Author: Jeanette Winterson

Narrated by: Jeanette Winterson, Imogen Church

£14.99 (free for Audible members)

Available at

New York Times best-selling author Jeanette Winterson brings together 12 brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold Christmas tales. For the 12 Days of Christmas - a time of celebration, sharing, and giving - she offers these 12 plus one: a personal story of her own Christmas memories.

From trees with mysterious powers to a tinsel baby that talks, philosophical fairies to flying dogs, a haunted house and a disappearing train, Winterson's innovative stories encompass the childlike and spooky wonder of Christmas. Perfect for listening to by the fire with loved ones or while traveling home for the holidays. Enjoy the season of peace and goodwill, mystery, and a little bit of magic courtesy of one of our most fearless and accomplished writers.

A Christmas Feast and other stories

Author: Katie Fforde

Narrated by: Jilly Bond, Rita Sharma

£19.99 (free for Audible members)

Available at

A delicious Christmas feast of short stories from the Sunday Times number one best-selling author of A French Affair and The Perfect Match.

Add some extra sparkle to your Christmas by joining Katie Fforde for a perfect romantic Christmas feast of short stories. Collected together for the first time and including one brand-new story. Make your Christmas wishes come true....

The Night Before Christmas

Author: Clement C. Moore

Narrated by: Jeff Bridges

£6.39 (free for Audible members)

Available at

Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges' iconic voice brings the beloved holiday classic story "The Night Before Christmas" to life.

Celebrate the holiday season with the only audiobook of "The Night Before Christmas", read by Jeff Bridges. No other narrator brings Santa and these merry scenes to life quite like Mr. Bridges - it's an instant Christmas classic! Create a new family tradition as you add this audiobook to your holiday activities leading up to December 25th.

Letters from Father Christmas

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Narrated by: Derek Jacobi

£5.99 (free for Audible members)

Available at

Can you imagine writing to Father Christmas and actually getting a reply?

Every year, the children of J.R.R. Tolkien would write to Father Christmas, and the letters they received told wonderful stories of his adventures at the North Pole.

These humorous tales are brought to life by Derek Jacobi as Father Christmas, John Moffatt as Polar Bear, and Christian Rodska as Ilbereth the Elf, complete with specially composed music.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Destination Thailand by Katy Colins

Destination ThailandDestination Thailand by Katy Colins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if you had a second chance… to find yourself?

Instead of slipping on her something borrowed and tripping up the aisle to wedded bliss, Georgia spends her big day wondering where it all went wrong.

Forced to make a bucket list of her new life goals by best friend Marie, it’s not long before travel-virgin Georgia’s packing her bags for a long-haul trip to Thailand.

Yet, Georgia’s big adventure doesn’t seem to be going to plan. From strange sights, smells and falling for every rookie traveller scam in the book, Georgia has never felt more alone.

But the good thing about falling apart is that you can put yourself back together any way you please. And new Georgia might just be someone she can finally be proud of…

I finally got round to reading this, it has been sat on my shelf for a while, but when I booked a trip to India, I knew I needed to read this series. (India is next so I can't wait!)

This is what I thought would be the perfect mix of chick lit and travel with a bit of humour and a romance. I got all of these things from this book. It begins with Georgia, she is away with a friend, seems like the perfect holiday, however she is mending a broken heart as it is meant to be her wedding day. Her soon to be husband called it off a few weeks ago and its come out that he has been cheating. She decides to create a bucket list and in the spur of the moment decides that she needs to go travelling, it's now or never and now she hasn't got any ties can't think of one reason why she shouldn't go.

Right from the very beginning I enjoyed this book, I seemed to be on the journey with Georgia, booking her tour, flying out to Thailand and soon discovering this was the tour from hell. I loved every minute of it, yes there are a few things that are perhaps a little unrealistic, but I didn't care, I was enjoying the story.

There are many adventures in this story and Georgia meets many different people, she has got a taste for backpacking, which I am thrilled about as I have another 2 books in the series to go. This is a really quick read and if you are looking for something to encourage you to go travelling make sure you pick this up.

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

Friday, 16 December 2016

Mr Chicken Lands on London by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Chicken Lands on LondonMr Chicken Lands on London by Leigh Hobbs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mr Chicken can't wait another minute, so he finishes his breakfast, collects his camera and flies to London. He wants to see everything.

Join Mr Chicken and let him show you his favourite city in all the world.

I had never heard of this book before, but when I found it I knew I had to have it. This is a beautifully presented picture book which takes you on a journey throughout London. You cover the main tourist hot spots and it is humourous in places.

This is a must for anyone who wants to know more of the tourist areas of London and to help develop your child's London knowledge. This is a great fun book and I will be looking out for Mr Chicken goes to Paris.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay

Bone by BoneBone by Bone by Sanjida Kay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.
But nine-year-old Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.
When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.
In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter...

Popular novel subject matter at the moment. Recently divorced Laura moves from London to Bristol with her 9 year old daughter Autumn to start a new life for themselves. They both have to adjust to their new lives, Laura to being a single mother, Autumn as a one parent child and a new place to live with no friends and nothing familiar. It's not surprising that initially everything feels strange and scary especially for a 9 year old girl starting a new school. Unfortunately for Autumn her newness makes her a prime target for a rather nasty bully called Levi an older child who targets her almost from the outset.
As the bullying escalates and when Laura finds she is also being targeted through cyber bullying things start to take on a sinister twist. The author does build momentum well and the pace is pitched just right as the story moves along. I didn't really like Laura much, she was selfish and weak in many ways and I felt she just wasn't as strong as she could have been for her daughter. It seemed incredible to me that she would part with passwords and codes to her computer to a complete stranger knowing that he would have remote access to her computer and all her financial information - it just didn't ring true for me especially in today's world of identity fraud etc. etc. and of course we later learn that the IT specialist is Levi the bully's father it all gets a bit predictable.

I found the writer frustrating at times when she was building tension to lapse into periods of reflection, here she is with a potential intruder in her house at night, her daughter in bed asleep and as she checks on her she has time to reflect on "the feel of her soft skin just after she'd been born, her baby hair, as downy as a fledgling's, the gentle dip of her fontanel where her cranium had not yet fused; how noisy she was like a hedgehog snuffling in its sleep" . She had time for all this reflection while she was scared witless that someone had broken in - really? When her daughter is being held around the throat Laura manages to remember when she was two years old seeing the sea for the first time........ silly unnecessary rhetoric just not needed and detracted from the tension she had worked so hard to build. Just not believable for me but very annoying and pointless to the story line.

I also found the ending and explanation of why Levi's father was doing what he was doing to be rather lame, it seemed that the writer had gone so far with this but hadn't thought it through in terms of motive, the bully was bullied so reacted the way he did was plausible but the reason the bully was bullied was weak and quite frankly just didn't fit.

Disappointing is how I would rate this novel, it promised so much but really didn't deliver in the end. Only worth 2 stars from me, there are better psychological thrillers out there although she did manage to convey the misery and vulnerability of the victim hence the 2 stars.

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

Monday, 12 December 2016

Retinol Moisturizer Cream for Face 1.7 oz with 2.5% retinol, hyaluronic acid and jojoba oil. Best night and day moisturizing cream 1.7 fl. oz

Retinol Moisturizer Cream for Face 1.7 oz with 2.5% retinol, hyaluronic acid and jojoba oil. Best night and day moisturizing cream 1.7 fl. oz

From Amazon:

  • ALL NATURAL - Our Retinol cream does not contain fillers or harmful fragrances, dyes or parabens
  • WITH 2.5% ACTIVE RETINOL - This powerful cream will diminish the signs of aging with a 2.5% of active retinol while leaving you skin soft and smooth.
  • 71% ORGANIC - contains natural ingredients such as Organic Aloe, Green Tea, Jojoba oil, Shea Butter for healthy skin
  • SUPER MOISTURIZER - Will moisturize and hydrate your skin leaving a radiant glow

I love face creams and regularly use them. When I had the opportunity to review this I jumped at the chance. I have never used a product from this brand before so was unsure what to expect but it is a good size and the packaging is impressive. I personally don't like the box it came in as I think it is a little plain. 

When I put the product on it left my skin feeling smooth and soft. I thought it was non greasy and non oily, I put this on before I go to bed and thought it sunk in quickly. 

I like the dispenser, this seems to release just the right amount of cream. I think this is a great way to make sure non of it goes to waste and should last a long time. 

I was a little disappointed that there seems to be no scent with this product. I do like my creams to have a little fragrance. This is the reason I have docked a star as a scent is important to me. It would have been nice to perhaps have a lavender scent in it so it would relax you at night. This is only a preference though and I would still purchase this product again even without the scent. 

I am looking forward to seeing the long term results of this cream. 

I would like to thank the company for sending this in exchange for an honest review. I was provided with a sample product at a complimentary or discounted rate in exchange for a fair, unbiased, and honest review.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#BabyLove: My Toddler Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh

#BabyLove: My Toddler Life#BabyLove: My Toddler Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A curious toddler loves to play…especially with his mommy's smartphone!

When Mommy finds him using her phone without permission, it’s the perfect teaching moment. Mommy reminds her little one that what matters most in life is time together filled with love and attention.

Her simple reminder: Put down our phones

This is the first book in the #babylove series I have read and I must say it did get me thinking. This is a cute little picture book that comes with a message for both adults and children. Mommy seems obsessed with her mobile phone and only views her child through the screen by taking pictures of him and videoing the things he does. Until one moment mommy has left her phone on the side, in reach of the toddler. After watching mommy take pictures, he wants to too, so goes around taking selfies and pictures of the dog. After becoming a little spooked as mommy is on her way back he runs and drops the phone.

This is a story about the impact technology can potentially have on a family and perhaps the 'need' people feel to capture every second with a toddler as they are continuously changing. It is not until towards the end of the book that mommy perhaps realises the most important thing is actually spending time with child and not viewing him from behind a screen. The child also learns not to touch things that are not his.

Overall this is a nice little picture book that carries a few morals for all audiences. After reading this, I would be interested in reading others from this series.

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

Monday, 5 December 2016

Be My Baby by A.L. Michael blog tour with guest post


Two’s company…

If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she’d have to cover her daughter’s ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie’s never been happier. Well, that’s what she’d tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different – not better…but easier – with a team mate.

Three’s a crowd?

But Esme’s dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn’t interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can’t believe her eyes. And soon, she’s got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn’t want her to?

Guest Post: 

What I’ve learnt from writing the House on Camden Square Series.

As Be My Baby is released into the world, it’s time to take a breather. At least, that’s what I thought. This is my eighth book in four years. There have been deadlines, stresses, excitement and a few too many celebratory bottles of prosecco.

But the more you write, the most you learn. And here is what I’ve learnt from writing this series:

* Try something new.
I never thought I’d write a series. I don’t often read series, and I didn’t think I’d have the patience or attention to detail to write something that had crossing over perspectives or storylines or histories. But I loved it.

* Know your process. I panicked after I finished this book. I thought I’d never have a good idea again, never come up with anything. I was blank. And so I got on with reading, and breathing and living life. One day...I had an idea. A couple of weeks later, I wrote a few sentences. A week after that, I wrote two thousand words of something new I was passionate about.

* Be proud of your achievements.
Sometimes you write something you’d love to read, something that makes you happy. Maybe it says something important to the world, or maybe it makes you snort attractively whilst you’re laughing. Whatever you do, be proud of it.

* Don’t sweat the bad reviews. Not everyone likes everything. We’ve all had something that’s not for us. Doesn’t make it bad, doesn’t mean it’s personal. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay.

* Accept that you’re a liar. I’m a liar. And a thief. There are bits in my books that I haven’t even realised I’ve taken until someone mentions an anecdote they overheard, or uses a funny phrase in the office. Writers are magpies, always looking for the shiny words and sparkly ideas. And that’s okay, as long as you make it your own.

- Know when to say goodbye. Some characters have stories that could go on forever. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s not. I feel like I could write the girls on Camden Square for years, watching the girls go about their lives and creating big dreams. And on the other hand, it’s time for new stories.


Goodreads , Amazon

About A.L. Michael

A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She likes learning and hates essays. She's a fan of cheap wine, expensive chocolate and still wants to be a secret agent when she grows up, but she'll settle for lying on the page.





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Friday, 2 December 2016

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

The Ice Beneath HerThe Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young woman is found beheaded in an infamous business tycoon's marble-lined hallway.

The businessman, scandal-ridden CEO of the retail chain Clothes & More, is missing without a trace.

But who is the dead woman? And who is the brutal killer who wielded the machete?

Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with Jesper Orre. Insisting that their love affair is kept secret, he shakes Emma's world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation.

As frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects Jesper is responsible. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover?

The author chose to narrate this in the first person for each of the three narrators which I must admit was initially confusing but once the characters were established I didn't find the need to keep checking the chapter narrator as I did at the beginning. Watching the case unfold from these narrators perspective did enhance the authors control over what we learn and the pace we learnt it which kept the suspense going.

The story is set in Stockholm narrated by Detective Inspector Peter Lindgren, a woman called Hanne a police consultant who has the early stages of Alzheimer's, and a girl who works in Jesper Orre's store called Emma Bohman.

It starts with a great opening hook - a woman is found murdered having been beheaded in the apartment of a well known CEO (Jesper Orre) of a clothing company Clothes & More. When Detective Inspector Lindgren is called to the house to investigate Jesper Orre is missing and the identity of the beheaded woman in his home is not known. Remembering a similar unsolved murder case he investigated some 10 years previously he decides to call Hanne who worked on the case with him. We learn that Peter Lindgren was also romantically involved with Hanne which adds to the tension of the case.

It was a good paced piece of writing and interesting to have this in three different narrations through the book. I did guess the outcome but only 3/4 of the way through the book which was fairly good going as I normally guess the 'who dunnit' well before then so for this reason it gets a well deserved 4 stars from me. It's well worth a read, good holiday reading material but equally good for a cold winters' evening by the fire. Would definitely read more from this author.

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

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (Star Wars)Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lauded Star Wars author James Luceno returns to pen an intense tale of ambition and betrayal that sets the stage for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

Catalyst is a brilliantly universe-expanding story and an excellent addition to Star Wars canon. The book is set during Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith but focuses a new group of characters who view the war from a different perspective. The story centres on Galen and Lyra Erso and their infant daughter, Jyn as they travel across the Galaxy engaging in scientific research, hoping to find a way of providing free, renewable energy to the poorest Planets in the Galaxy. The second storyline is that of Orson Krennic, who is a young, ambitious officer within the Republic who wishes to further his career by exploiting his long-time friendship with Galen Erso.

The novel spans a period of roughly five years during which the Republic transitions in to the Empire. The detail given and the new information provided in regards to the formation of the Empire is pleasing to those of us who felt it was rushed in the films. The main story focuses on the creation of the Death Star and how the Empire manages to conceal it from so many people whilst deceiving others into designing and building it for them. The rich text introduces us to many new worlds and species, whilst also touching base with recognisable characters such as Tarkin and to a lesser extent Saw Gerrera.

Catalyst is the perfect companion piece to the up-coming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story film. It introduces us to several characters that will feature in the film and also provides them with a back story. Although I found the first twenty or so pages hard to get into, mainly due to a lot of technical jargon, the story quickly picks up and concludes with a thrilling cat and mouse chase through the streets of Coruscant between the main characters. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending as, even though I was convinced I knew how it would end, I was wrong. It answered many questions that the promotional material for Rogue One raised and yet has made me ask many more questions that I need answering.

James Luceno has done his job very well, a very good novel in its own right, but now I cannot wait for Rogue One to hit cinemas so I can finish this story.

4.5 out of 5

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

Monday, 28 November 2016

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Tony and SusanTony and Susan by Austin Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The novel that inspired the 2016 major motion picture Nocturnal Animals, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, is a dazzling, eerie, riveting thriller of fear and regret, blood and revenge.

Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway, a secluded cabin in the woods; a thrilling chiller of death and corruption. How could such a harrowing story be told by the man she once loved? And why, after so long, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message...?

This is a story within a story; after 15/20 years of no contact with her ex-husband out of the blue Susan receives a copy of his manuscript asking her to read and review it as she was always her ex-husbands best critic. She reads this over a 3 day period while her husband Arnold a doctor is away at a conference. As the story unfolds Susan becomes fascinated by the drama and this is interspersed with her reactions and flashbacks of her life with her ex-husband Edward and comparisons of her present marriage to Arnold.

Edward comes across as a weak and selfish man, he expected his wife to work while he 'found himself' as a writer but we get the impression that he doesn't have much talent and that Susan becomes bored with his self obsessed vanity as a writer while she has to work to keep their heads above water. While he was busy feeding his fantasy of being a great author she was lonely and took solace in the arms of a neighbour who's own marriage was falling apart due to his wife's illness. When she confesses to Edward he seems devoid of all emotion and they eventually divorce and go their separate ways.

Marrying Arnold seems to me something that Susan just did and as the novel progresses we find her questioning just why she did marry him. It seems that Arnold has been having an affair for some time and though she knows about it she appears to accept it. She seems distressed that after all this time Edward has got in touch and wonders why he sent her the manuscript especially since he said something is missing but he's sure she will know what.

Tony (in Edwards' novel) is an academic who cannot or will not come to terms with the death of his wife and daughter and his cowardice on the night of the incident when he was unable to fight for them both. It seems that Edward is telling Susan that he could not or would not fight for her until it was too late. For her part, Susan is beginning to wonder why she chose cheating Arnold and questioning whether she should have stayed with the weak and unemotional Edward.

The novel within a novel moves along at a fairly good pace in the beginning but then looses impetus and for me held few surprises and had a weak ending. The story of Susan, Edward, Arnold triangle though interesting didn't really go anywhere, the ending was a damp squib and I felt that I had invested time to read it and felt a bit cheated when there was no satisfactory conclusion in either 'story'.

The characters were a bit flat, of course we don't get to 'know' the wife and daughter as they are killed off early and I didn't warm to weak Tony, arrogant Arnold or really with indecisive Susan so the only thing really keeping me going was a curiosity as to whether the murderers were caught and what happened to them but again this was really not very satisfactory. It was also a little dated, this was first published in 1993 when mobile phones and such technology was not around and this really does show in modern day readers expectations, I found myself thinking 'why doesn't he just call the police on his mobile'.

It was different and to a point interesting but for me it lacked a killer punch and it was not really the thriller genre it was billed as. It's soon to be made into a motion picture and perhaps it will translate better as a movie, as a novel it just seems to be lacking and I can only give this a 3 star rating. The characters were so hollow that I really didn't care towards the end.

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

Friday, 25 November 2016

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Fly on the WallFly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique, Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn't help that she's known as the shy girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won't have to talk to anyone.

It's no surprise that Gretchen isn't exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can't stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he's a completely different person when he's with his friends. She can't seem to figure boys out!

Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy's locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?

This is the story of how one girl's wish came true.

When I heard e.lockhart had another one of her books rebranded by Hot Key books and it was one I hadn't read I couldn't wait to get my teeth stuck into it. My favourite has been We Were Liars of hers and to be honest I haven't read another that has come close yet. Unfortunately this doesn't make it into the same league of that book either.

I thought this sounded really interesting 'fly on the wall' scenario, when has anyone not wished they could be a fly on the wall at some time in their lives. This was just that though, the story was split into three sections. To be honest I found it difficult to link these all together and how they fit together. The first section we learn about Gretchen, who is a normal girl who goes to an artsy school, she knows little about boys and is always falling out with her friends. Gretchen makes a wish to be a fly on the wall and for some reason this actually comes true. This is the major issue for me, it is completely unbelievable, which would be fine if this was explained as to how this happened and for me this was a big fail.

The whole middle section is about Gretchen being this fly on the wall, the things she sees and hears on the wall of the boys locker room. Some of this is amusing, however some of the language used to describe parts of the anatomy I found was very immature.

The third section links a little more with the first but we still didn't know exactly how this all happened. This was a very short read at just over 170 page. I read this in a couple of hours and it did pass the time. I would not recommend this to older teenagers as I think they may find it a little irritating.

This book was O.K and only O.K I wouldn't be reading this again, which is a shame as I loved e. Lockharts We Were Liars, I am still trying to find another of hers, which holds up to this.

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

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Twenty Four Days to Christmas by Fred with guest post

Twenty Four Days to Christmas

Poppy is in agony - it is the First of December and she has twenty-four days to wait until Christmas and she is convinced that she will not be able to contain her excitement and impatience: How can she possibly wait so long for Santa to arrive? Poppy's parents put their heads together and come up with a cunning plan that has Poppy completing a different, Christmas themed activity every day, to keep Her busy until Christmas (and Santa) finally arrives. Twenty-Four Days to Christmas is an Advent Calendar of a book, which can be read one day at a time, or as a complete story, and centres on Christmas, family and the magic of the Christmas season. Purchase from Amazon UK - amazon

Twenty Four Days to ChristmasTwenty Four Days to Christmas by Fred Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Christmas so was pleased I had the chance to read and review this. This is a story about Poppy and the 24 days leading up to Christmas. This is a picture book and there are images on every page, which would keep children really engaged.

I absolutely loved this book, it is told through a poem, it is cleverly written and rhymes in most places. We get taken on Poppy's journey leading up to Christmas, the days are filled with Christmassy things as she becomes impatient for Santa to arrive, being in the nativity, writing letters to Santa and getting the Christmas tree.

The illustrations really make this book, I thought they really brought the story to life. This picture book is going to become one of my firm favourites in my classroom and I will be sharing it with my class every year.

This is a real gem of a Christmas book to share with children, if you are looking for a sweet story this year, I recommend you choose this one.

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

Fred Arthur’s Top 9 Christmas Foods

1. Home made Christmas pudding and brandy sauce - Need I say any more?

2. Christmas day lunch (Except for Brussel Sprouts) - It is the central part of the family day!

3. Home made Mince Pies - Warm or cold; with or without cream!

4. Christmas party tea, cold meats, sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, peanuts, yule log, Christmas Cake - A child’s paradise, more crackers, jokes

5. Home made Christmas Cake - Eaten the Yorkshire way, with a slice of cheese

6. Home made chocolate eclairs – Just Heaven

7. Tangerines - Lovely and sweet, and Santa always leaves one in Fred’s stocking!

8. Hot chocolate with marsh mallows - You can’t beat this after a good walk around the park in the cold air.

9. Quality street and Roses - It’s not just the sweets, it’s the smells; they bring back so many happy memories – Christmas isn’t Christmas without them

About Fred Arthur

Fred Arthur is the combined pen name for friends Pincher Martin and Mike Dineen who met working in the Royal Navy. Leaving school at the age of fifteen Pincher Martin entered the Royal Navy as an Able Seaman and now holds the rank of Commander. Living with his family in Plymouth but working in Portsmouth writing creative emails and text messages to his young daughter has become part of his daily life. Mike Dineen graduated from St Andrew’s University before joining the Royal Navy, and he too holds the rank of Commander. Mike lives with his wife in Pickering, North Yorkshire and works in Scotland. Both are keen sportsmen and qualified life coaches. Their goal is to become successful authors, so that when the Royal Navy finally forces them to retire, it will enable them to fulfil their shared desire to support local schools and libraries, satisfy their passion for writing and foster a belief in the importance of reading and imagination for children of all ages. 
Fred Arthur on Twitter -

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart

The Treasure Map of Boys (Ruby Oliver #3)The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon-and me, Ruby Oliver From E. Lockhart, author of the best-seller We Were Liars, and the highly-acclaimed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, comes this hilarious and heart-warming series. Things are looking good for Ruby Oliver. It's the thirty-seventh week that she's been in the state of Noboyfriend. Ruby's panic attacks are bad, and her love life is even worse, not to mention the fact that more than one boy seems to be giving Ruby a lot of their attention. Rumours are flying, and Ruby's already not-so-great reputation is heading downhill. Not only that, she's also: * running a bake sale * learning the secrets of heavy-metal therapy * encountering some seriously smelly feet * defending the rights of pygmy goats * and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances. In this third instalment to the Ruby Oliver series, Ruby tries to pin down two important things: real friendship, and true love - if such a thing exists.

I have read the others in this series and I am glad I have as I think I got more out of the novel, however I think you could have read this as a stand alone as we do get a brief catch up at the beginning of the book.

Ruby does seem to begin to get a bit more of a brain in this book, perhaps she is beginning to grow up, slightly? This is the book she finally realises how awful Jackson is and manages to stick to her guns.

I feel a lot happens to Roo in this book, she looses her job, falls out with friends (again), gets a new dog called Polka - Dot and is still obsessed with boys. Although a lot of these are teen related issues that personally I felt I couldn't relate to, she does seem as if she is beginning to grown up, especially towards the end of the book.

This is not my favourite series and I would not say I love it, but I will be reading the final installment, hoping that finally Ruby sees things for what they are and grows up.

I would recommend this series to younger teens.

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