Saturday, 25 February 2017

Pairs! In the Garden & Underwater by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie (Children's, Board book, Picture book)

2nd February 2017, Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 12 pages, Board book, Review copy 

Summary from Quarto
In the Garden
Lift the flaps to find the matching pairs in this fun novelty series that's all about habitats! This book has seven die-cut flaps on every spread for little ones to lift to find the matching pairs, and spot the odd one out. Lift stones to find snails, grass to find ladybirds and lettuce leaves to find caterpillars, then answer a simple counting question. 

Summary from Quarto
Lift the flaps to find the matching pairs in this fun novelty series that's all about habitats! This book has seven die-cut flaps on every spread for little ones to lift to find the matching pairs and spot the odd one out. Lift stones to find turtles, seaweed to find seahorses and shells to find crabs, then answer a simple counting question. 

Nayu's thoughts
These books are perfect for introducing younger readers into these two very different worlds. The rhymes on each double page spread are catchy, and as well as the main pairs to find other suggestions are given to the reader what to look for. I'm quite sure that a parent/guardian/teacher/older reader could find some extra search items too. There is so much on a page that each needs a minute or two to take in fully. The flaps are easy to open and sturdy. 

One thing which bothered me slightly about the flaps is that on some pages each flap is exactly the same. Seeing that some are different, I wondered why this was the case. I'm writing this a few days after reading the book and now I'm thinking maybe the flaps which have no differences on the flap part (the pictures underneath are different) are to make the matching game harder. Either way it's an issue which probably won't mystify most readers! 

I'd love to have more books in the series looking at the sky, mountains, deserts, and woodland!
Find out more on Smriti's website and Lorna's website.

Suggested read 

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, narrated by Rachel McAdams (Audiobook, Classical Literature, 10/10E)

November 2016, Audible Studios, 9 hours 22 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy from Audible 

Summary from Audible
When aging brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, neither is prepared for the feisty and imaginative redheaded girl who is mistakenly brought to them instead. Nor are they prepared for the way in which she will change their lives. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne's uncompromising spirit makes her a striking presence in the close-knit village, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival. 

Nayu's thoughts
I finally read this hilarious and heartwarming classic tale! It's incredible to think this was written in 1908, over 100 years ago, and yet it totally touched my heart. I'm generally not into classical literature. I've tried to like the books I had to read at school, but mostly I didn't. I love the Little Women series, the Laura Ingalls series (Little House on the Prairie), A Little Princess, Heidi, and The Railway Children, but that's it. I can firmly add Anne of Green Gables to that list! 

I couldn't believe how hilarious Anne was. The narrator's voice reminded me of Anna in Frozen, as did how much Anne could talk and her fanciful thinking. Her melodrama did remind me of Amy in Little Women, but overall Anne is a unique character who I gave up anime time just to listen to her exploits. I liked her that much. She is constantly talking, adding drama to non-dramatic events which does drive her adopted parents a little mad, but while her adopted mother slash Aunt rarely shows her amusement, Anne's mannerisms bring lots of love and light to her new home. 

I knew that Anne was firm friends with Diana before I read the book, which made me curious as to how the two became best friends when an incident split the two up and I couldn't see how they would get back together. You know the times in life where accidents happen which aren't the person involved's fault, yet they get the blame? Those happen to Anne a lot, and were highly amusing to hear about. Anne's love of melodrama does mean her sincerity is sometimes not seen by those she is apologising to, at least not the first time round. Life is never dull with Anne. 

I have to say I preferred the earlier parts of the book when Anne was still a child and getting into an insane amount of scrapes: the later part of the book got a bit more serious, and there was less mischief which I heartily missed. You'll need tissues, that's all I'll say about it, and Anne has to grow up fast. She was 16 or so by the end, so in our day still a teen but back then 16 was classed as an adult which is why Anne has to make a few personal sacrifices when life circumstances change. 

I don't yet know if the sequel is in audiobook form (I haven't looked), and because of how I viewed the end of the book it wouldn't get to the top of my wishlist anytime soon, but I do hope to find out what happens next to Anne. I have a suspicion over who she may marry (if she marries), and would like to see if I'm right. I fully recommend giving Anne's tale a go – I promise you won't regret it if you like humour and adventure!

Suggested read
I've reviewed one of the other classic children's reads I mentioned in this review so check out Alma Children's Classics: The Railway Children by E. Nesbit and Peter Bailey (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse, narrated by Amanda Prowse (Contemporary, Audiobook, 10E/10E)

 December 2016, Lake Union Publishing, 10 hours & 35 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy from Audible 

Content:  severe anorexia issues, occasional bad language (I think, can't quite remember), very sweet romance 

Summary from Audible
A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter. 

But when Lexi's struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love. 

Nayu's thoughts
 Until I wrote this review I hadn't realised that Amanda was the narrator, which is really cool because she knows exactly how each voice should be! & the voices work really well. Shortly after finishing this book it was temporarily unavailable on Audible, who I'm reviewing it for. It may be because closer to the end there were several parts which hadn't been edited out, where Amanda made a mistake in the narration and then repeated herself. I personally didn't mind this, one of the unintended out-takes was hilarious, and answered a question I'd had as to how audiobooks in general are recorded. Thankfully you can now purchase it! 

This book is sheer brilliance. I adore family centred reads, which this definitely is. How Lexi's anorexia is discovered had me in tears. Freya goes into a lot of denial which drives her husband potty (at one point I thought they'd split up because of their differing views about Lexi). The lengths Lexi goes to avoid eating are so sad to read, knowing that many people in real life suffer similarly. What is most apparent is the bonds of love between all the family members. No matter how they feel about each individual situation, even when they are extremely mad at each other, they are linked through family love, and do what needs doing rather than what they want to do when times are tough. 

There is a lot of discord, especially when Freya is trying to pretend Lexi is getting past the anorexia. I sighed a lot when Freya lived in lala land (aka denial), but as both the family and myself were shocked with more revelations about the seriousness of Lexi's condition, Freya and reality met up. It was interesting that Freya knew she was too close to Freya to take difficult decisions, which made the medical and psychological help provided by the medical team very welcome, as some things were taken out of their hands. 

There was a very good depiction as to how anorexia affects siblings: poor Charlotte got forgotten about a lot while Lexi was the centre of their parents' interests. She had to skip out on going to events, especially when new disasters cropped up. Naturally Charlotte got a little bitter about it, but she was able to work though that in a sweet way that made me cry. 

This is an extremely shocking read, I think it's true-to-life too, and I had to take a few breaks in listening to it because it got a bit too hard at times, but that's a personal issue I have. I take a lot of things to heart, which is why I don't read lots of books like this close together. I love it, and I'm already looking forward to relistening to it! 

Find out more on Amanda's website.

Suggested read 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Fatal Option by Chris Beaky (Thriller, 10E/10E)

 21st February 2017, Post Hill Press, 280 pages, Ebook, Review copy from Netgalley

Content: inappropriate adult behaviour, drug and alcohol use, crime, 

Summary from Netgalley
A tragic accident. A family in crisis. And a killer watching every move.

On the coldest night of the year, Stephen Porter is pulled from a dreamless sleep by a midnight phone call. His 17-year-old daughter Sara is stranded in a blizzard near the top of a mountain beyond their suburban home. She's terrified and unable to stop crying as she begs him to come to her rescue.

Unfortunately Stephen went to bed just an hour before after a night of binge drinking. With his blurred vision and unsteady balance he knows it’s dangerously irresponsible to get behind the wheel. But he heads out into the snowstorm to bring Sara home.

High school teacher Kieran O’Shea is also behind the wheel, searching for his autistic younger brother Aidan, who is wandering aimlessly through the storm on that same mountain. Kieran is also terrified—of the voices in his mind, of the probability that Aidan will be taken away from him, and of the certainty that he will soon be arrested for murdering three women.

In a matter of minutes Stephen will encounter Kieran and drive headlong into a collision that will force him to unlock the secret of his wife’s death, avoid prosecution, and protect his children from violence that hits all too close to home.

Nayu's thoughts  
I'm glad I set aside a few hours to read thia as I didn't want to put it down.I have strong views on what Stephen did-even if there is strong danger there is never a reason to drink drive. I'm not a parent, and I appreciate he was in a tricky situation. He did what he thought was best, even if it was going to ruin all their lives which were already fragile by their mother dying. 

I loved how his daughter's situation was portrayed, how she was groomed into an inappropriate position, it shows how she was tempted with what she wasn't necessarily getting at home, but she lacked street smarts and wanted to be an adult. Her brother saw snippets of what was going on which did eventually got explained to their father. 

It was horrifying and interesting to see how Stephen reacted to what he did. There's no question the guy in question, Kieran, a sleezebag, but I felt a bit sorry for him and the other person involved. Stephen goes to great lengths to cover his tracks, and the panic rose as the police started to hem him in. The end had me needing tissues as I was torn by the moral justice and the effect it had on his  children. It goes to show good people can do bad things by accident. 

There were so many gripping moments that I'm eagerly looking forward to rereading this. There are parts were awful things nearly happen, but thankfully they don't, although a few unexpected not nice things happen too. I think there is only 1 truly innocent person jn this tale, who I cried for what they suffer. There are some truly evil people in this world and they don't always get what they deserve. I'm looking forward to Chris's next book!

Find out more on Chris's website.

Suggested read 
A good thriller which is a bit happier (only a bit) than Fatal Option which I enjoyed last year is Snow Job by Debbie Brown (Thriller, Romance, 10E/10E) 

Daisy Darling, Let's Have Lunch! by Marcus Majalouma (Children's, Picture book, 5 years +, 10/10E)

 September 2016, Pikku publishing, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy, 

Summary from Pikku Publishing (love the name! Sound Japanese ^o^) 
In this funny tale of family life, it’s lunch-time, and Daddy discovers that Daisy doesn’t like carrots. It seems that vegetables are not her favourite food! What will Daddy do? Will lunch-time be fun or fraught? 

Nayu's thoughts 
While the illustrations aren't quite my style, I was intrigued the how Daisy's dad would help her eat her lunch, and I wasn't disappointed. The illustrations aren't what I call cute but they had me looking at them closely. There's much to look at, with the inside covers changing from the front to the back accordin to what happens in the story. 

There be carrots! Lots and lots and lots! Daisy isn't fond of carrots, at least not the way her dad initially introduces them. Her reaction to various food (with quirky vegetable people illustrations) made me think how we as adukts explain anything to children. For eating food I've heard a variety of explanations similar to the ones Daisy's dad uses, and on reflection they could be very off putting! I'm not a parent, so can't test what method works best, but Daisy's dad makes a brilliant invention (which is hinted at in the inside cover pages) certainly makes food fun for Daisy! 

This is the 1st book that I've read of the charming series (It's book #3) and it won't be my last! This review did get lost in my inbox (stupid software) but it's out now! 

Suggested read

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon, Narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis (Contemporary, 10/10E)

 Dec “016, Hodder & Stoughton, 13 hours & 7 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy from Audible, 

Summary from Audible 
Caitlin's life is a mess. Her marriage to a man everyone else thinks is perfect has collapsed, along with her self-esteem, and breaking free seems the only option. 

Nancy, her four-year-old daughter, used to talk all the time; in the car, at nursery, to her brother Joel. Then her parents split up. Her daddy moves out. And Nancy stops speaking. 

Nancy's Auntie Eva, recently widowed and feeling alone, apart from the companionship of two bewildered pugs, is facing a future without her husband or the dreams she gave up for him. 

But when Eva agrees to host her niece and nephew once a fortnight, Caitlin and Eva are made to face the different truths about their marriages - and about what they both really want....

Nayu's thoughts 
My interest was piqued by Caitlin's daughter losing her voice, and the twists that follow kept me captivated until the end. I can't say much about the prologue without giving spoilers but it really set up the story, and I was on tenderhooks throughout most of the book waiting for Caitlin to somehow figure out why Nancy stopped talking. She is such a sweet girl, very expressive even without a voice. She has a deep link with her brother Joel, who takes her not talking in his stride, somehow knowing what she wants and protecting her as much as he can from people misunderstanding her silence, which was heartwaarming. 

I felt so sorry for Caitlin, because she's going through several major issues (child not talking, separation). Occasionally I was surprised she didn't take further action with Nancy's silence, but she was doing her best. Separation (and divorce) is far from simple, and with support from an unexpected ally Caitlin battles through it, almost always putting her children first. I hated when others criticized Caitlin because they weren't the ones in the situation (or if they were they were on the other side of the fence so had a skewed view of Caitlin from the onset)

Caitlin's not perfect but she's not a terrible mother either. She does struggle with seeing Eva who appears to be perfect, but having chapters with Eva's point of view helped me understand her further, and made me want to tell Caitlin to give Eva a chance. Eva ends up being the key to unlocking Nancy's voice again in a sweet way which made me tear up when it happened. Although Caitlin doesn't realise it Eva becomes a form of stability within her chaotic life which she sorely needs, and so do the children. I'm looking forward to relistening to this family centred read which gives a lot to think about. 

Find out more on Lucy's website.

Suggested read
For another gripping single parent story check out Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks (Contemporay, Romance, Audiobook, 10/10E) 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Flying Fergus #5 The Winning Team by Chris Hoy, Jo Nadin, and Clare Elsom (Children's, 5 years +, 7 years +, 10E/10E)

 23rd February 2017, Piccadilly Press, 128 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Allen & Unwin
The Hercules Hopefuls are through to the final round of the cycling competition, but are facing their toughest test yet - not only must Fergus and his friends beat their arch-rivals Wallace's Winners, but this time they also need to face off against the scariest team in all of Scotland - The Velociraptors, an elite all-girls squad. But disaster strikes the team when Minnie McCloud catches chicken pox and Calamity Coogan breaks his leg, and it looks like their dreams are over. But Wallace's Winners are also in a predicament - can Wesley and Fergus put their rivalry to one side and give both teams a chance at lifting the cup?

Meanwhile, in Nevermore, Fergus must work together with Princess Lily and his friends to save his dad from the clutches of the mean anti-cycling King Woebegot. If he can just manage it, maybe Dad will be back home in time to see him compete in the Finals?

Nayu's thoughts of both the series and book 5. 
  I was asked if I wanted to read book 5, so since I'd heard of Chris and knew next to nothing about bikes I thought I'd give it a go. Piccadilly kindly sent the rest of the series as I hadn't read them, and while I think it's possible to read them out of sequence, reading them one after the other was both a real treat and meant I could see all the story arcs. I genuinely thought this would be a boy focused book, with Fergus as the main character, but happily I'm wrong. I prefer girl centred books, but this series has fine female leads in both Daisy, Minnie, and Princess Lily. 

I love how familiar the characters in the parallel world are, in both appearance and what they say. I think that helped Fergus feel more confident in his decisions in a totally weird land while on the hut for his dad. Initially I was bothered by each story starting the same way, but I can see the repetition is useful for the intended age group and by book 3 I didn't mind. I did mind the poor colour choice of text in book 3 - black on a deep purple background simply doesn't stand out and I found it hard to read. Those are the only issues I had with all the books. 

I enjoyed getting to know Fergus and his friends who try their best for him in both worlds. I loved how his small family helped him out as much as they could, sometimes in unexpected ways. The end of book 5 both was and wasn't what I expected, and made me tear up. I liked how each book followed a similar pattern of having a real world issue that Fergus needed to solve, then he went to Nevermore and had to solve a different issue (which were all aiming towards the same goal), then when he returned to the real world (I don't know what else to call it) he had skills/knowledge to overcome that hurdle. 

Meet Princess Lily!
Princess Lily really shone for me. I love her pretty dress worn with different patterned wellies - I wear odd socks so her welly combo made sense to me. If you look carefully the pattern on her footwear match the pattern on her bike! She thinks around the box, doing what seems crazy but ends up being perfect. She does want to please her parents but also wants to have fun experiencing life for herself. 

I liked the modifications of the bikes in the parallel world, how cycling knowledge is slipped in gradually through all the stories yet isn't boring, and the power of community spirit. Fergus reaches incorrect conclusions several times but so did I. I felt this shows how unpredictable life is. I liked how realistic Fergus's living situation was, coupled with potential council cuts that affected his cycling future. This is a hugely relevant read for everyone, and I do hope Chris and Jo will pair up in the future again as they make a great writing duo, especially with Clare's illustrations!

Find out more about the series on the dedicated website. 
Check out Chris's website, Jo's website, and Clare's website too.