Posts Tagged ‘Reviewer-Helen’

Five Fabulous Books…Set In Other Countries

fab-five-logo-e1397403514389Five Fabulous Books is an original feature here at Big Book Little Book. The aim of the feature is to showcase fabulous books and bookish things, with connecting themes, there by promoting reads we have enjoyed and sharing recommendations for similar books. We love to share contributions from fellow bibliophiles, bloggers, vloggers and twitter users. We love to hear from you too, so don’t forget to comment with your favourite themed books. You are very welcome to use the Five Fabulous feature on your own blog just be sure to link back to Big Book Little Book and leave your link in the comments below so we can check out your recommendations! Feel free to copy and paste our Fabulou5 graphic or create one of your own.

Fab five reads based in other countries

The Island by Victoria Hislop this is a fascinating novel set on the island of Spinalonga, just off Crete. This is where the lepers are sent to live tugs at the heart strings for those separated from their loved ones. Set in the time around the 2nd World War there is loads of historical interest too.

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, one of my favourite easy reads, it has undemanding prose and wonderful characters. The gentle humour and light hearted style make this a go to relaxing read. Set in Botswana the backdrop is delicious with the sun shining and the gorgeous landscape and where the day to day pace if life seems to jog along easily, it’s perfect to relax with. The fact that there are now at least 12 books in the series is an added bonus!

The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye
This us a great epic read, sweeping landscapes, exotic culture, love and heartbreak, a story that spans decades. An Indian back drop is painted beautifully for us and the characters are rich and satisfying. A perfect long read to lose yourself in.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman is another novel with history. This is set after the First World War on a remote lighthouse off Australia. There is a gripping moral dilemma for us to explore, with characters that capture the imagination and who make it really hard to know who to root for. Thus novel transports you to an old, forgotten world.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, OK some of you might think this is a bit if a cheat but set in futuristic America, known now as Panem it is a brilliant foil for all the historical novels! If you haven’t heard if this by now I don’t know what you’ve been doing. I have read this a couple of tines now and still find the subject matter challenging and engaging in equal measure. Easy to read, with lots happening and keeping you on the edge of your seat at times it’s a great modern read.

Posted by Helen

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Katy

Jacqueline Wilson

katyKaty Carr is a lively, daredevil oldest sister in a big family. She loves messing around outdoors, climbing on the garage roof, or up a tree, cycling, skateboarding, swinging…. But her life changes in dramatic and unexpected ways after a serious accident.
Inspired by the classic novel, What Katy Did, Jacqueline Wilson creates an irresistible twenty-first-century heroine. Fans of Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker will fall in love with Katy and her family too.

I was a huge fan of the original What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge and read it many times as a child. However looking at my own children I can see how far away it is from the world they live in, and although I would whole heartedly encourage them to read it I was interested to see this re-working of the story and discover if Katy could be brought to life in a fresh way for a new audience. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

Obviously I read this mentally comparing it to the original, but many today would come at it with fresh eyes and the story holds its own. Katy is the oldest of a string of six children. She is the leader of the pack, full of great ideas and an exciting imagination. She is also full of good intentions in regards to looking after her brothers and sisters, but somehow things don’t always work out the way she plans. Katy has a loving relationship with her father and a strained one with her step-mother whom she struggles to get on with whilst missing her own mother who died years before the story begins. Katy also finds her step-sister Elsie difficult to get along with, not really understanding Elsie’s need to be accepted by her at all. We get to know Katy as she goes through ups and downs of modern family life and her experiences at school with friends, starting to like boys and dealing with not so nice girls. All the memorable incidents from the original are there and given a new slant with humour and little twists.

Then Katy’s world is turned upside down as she has a terrible accident that completely changes her life. I felt that Jaqueline dealt with this part of the story extremely well. It has all the shock of the original but in today’s world medical problems are dealt with so differently. Through Katy’s eyes we experience the trauma of going to hospital, coping with treatment, with different people, with the diagnosis itself and with her family’s reactions to it. There are lots of emotions and it could be difficult reading for a sensitive child, or one to young. But it is a great way for children to learn about how life can be changed at a moments notice, and to see the aftermath of this.

As Katy has to learn to come to terms with her new life in a wheel chair Jacqueline depicts her struggles and her triumphs, this is a long process and Katy goes through so much, but I loved the way that the book ends on such a positive note. It’s great to see disability looked at in a way that doesn’t diminish the difficulties but focuses in the end on the good things that can come out of it and the things that Katy can still do rather than those that she can’t.

Also as the family draw together to try and help Katy deal with all that is happening to her there is a brilliant depiction of the complicated nature of family relationships where everyone does not always understand the needs of another and yet they all keep working at it. I really enjoyed the way the relationships evolved through everything that happened.

Verdict: This is agreat update of a classic novel and now, although I will still be encouraging my girls to read the original this will definitely be on my list of must read books for them as they grow up.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Hardback
Pages: 480
Genre: Retelling, Fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Happy 4th Birthday Big Book Little Book

Big Book Little Book is FOUR !!In actual fact we turned four yesterday but It sort of crepe up on us a. I can’t quiet believe it that it has been over four years since Big Book Little Book was conceived and our first review went live. Seriously, where has that time gone?!

I don’t think that I can truly express how much being a part of this blog means to me. There have been times over the last four years when I have wondered if it is really worth the time investment, but no matter how busy I am, how hetic life gets, I can’t quiet say goodbye to this project.

When I first helped to co-create this blog it was all about the books. As the years have passed it has become more and more about people.

When you think of a book worm you probably conjure up images of a lone person( yourself?), snuggled away in a quiet corner somewhere absorbed in another world. It isn’t necessarily a hobby that your would consider as being particularly sociable. While I still cherish the solitary activity of reading (even more so in a busy and growing household) the thing that I adore about being a member of the BBLB team is how it is the opposite of solitary.

It is so satisfying to work with such a dynamic team. Although the team is quite fluid with regards to the actual team members and how much time and input each of us are able to provide, we are all united in our passion for the written word. My regular book chats and emails with my fellow BBLB’s really enrich my week

Outside of the team, being a member of BBLB has opened up my world beyond my geographical social circle. It has allowed me to share my passion even further, from passing interactions with fellow bibliophiles via the comments box and social media, through to more meaningful friendships “in real life”. I’ve met and regularly interact with some amazingly creative, passionate and diverse people from all walks of life and from around the globe.

Wether this is your first visit, you are a regular commentator or you are one of my best bookish friends, thank you for being a part of this experience.

Now I’m going to hand over to some of the others as they share the things they love about Big Book Little Book and why they enjoy being a part of the team. I promise I haven’t paid them 😉 *blushes*

Caroline x

Daisy
I love blogging because it’s great to get lots of people to read books that I know are good and I don’t want others to miss out! Books are an integral part of my life and I love to read so I need to spread the love! Happy birthday Big Book Little Book! Here’s to another bookish year!

Faye
My favourite thing about BBLB is that it covers more than one section or genre, there’s something for everyone at any age. I also love the team and how it ranges in ages too. It’s got a great static page that promotes the site well. But mostly I love BBLB because Caroline isGreat to work alongside, she’s incentive, creative and passionate. All brilliant things in a team leader.

Helen
Well another Blogaversary has rolled around and it continues to be great to be a part of Big Book Little Book this year. Although I have found getting around to writing has got harder, (why does that happen when you have more time on your hands?!) I have continued to love the mixture of books I have had the chance to read. I still get that thrill out of seeing a book before it is on the shelves in the shops, or electronically whizzing out to us these days. As my children are getting older and we move on from picture books I have loved seeing them delve into books that I adored as child, it reminds you how much good stuff is out there to be looked forward to.

On top of that I was especially excited to see our name get mentioned in The Guardian as one of the top ten book blogs (check out the full list here)

I still remember the original four of us sitting around my kitchen table discussing what we could do and the possibilities, I don’t think any of us imagined it could get that far. So this year I am proud of our achievements and all who have contributed from the original team through the changes to those now faithfully doing a lot more than I am ☺

Prudence
So it’s BigBookLittleBook’s 4th anniversary and as a member of this lovely team I’ve been asked to write a few lines to explain what I enjoy about book blogging and why. Firstly and foremostly a big WHOOOOOPWHOOOOP!!! I haven’t been with them long but it’s privilege and such an achievement!!! Book blogging and reading are a means of an escape to an alternate reality full of wonderful characters I can pick and choose who to be and whose adventures to follow. But not only that I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet the minds behind them both old dab hands and new ones grasping their pens for the first time. And it’s all so exciting! But it doesn’t stop there. As if that weren’t enough the blogging community made up of publishers, bloggers, fans and so many more is simply lovely and I’ve made so many new friends (real and fictional :p) who have stuck by me through the good book times and the not so good ones. Brought into this community and supported by our fearless reader errrmmm sorry I mean leader :p Caz, the reasons for which I enjoy book blogging are countless. And now if you don’t mind I have another book or two hundred to read 😉

To celebrate we are giving one international reader the chance to win one book of their choice ( up to the value of £10).
To enter, simply tell us your favourite thing about Big Book Little Book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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After the Fall

Charity Norman
after the fallIn the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Tragedy isn’t what the McNamara family expected when they moved to New Zealand. For Martha, it was an escape. For her artist husband Kit, it was a dream. For their small twin boys, it was an adventure. For sixteen-year-old Sacha, it was the start of a nightmare.
They end up on the isolated east coast of the North Island, seemingly in the middle of a New Zealand tourism campaign. But their peaceful idyll is soon shattered as the choices Sacha makes lead the family down a path which threatens to destroy them all.
Martha finds herself facing a series of impossible decisions, each with devastating consequences for her family.

This was one of the most gripping stories I have read in a while and I dived into it at any available opportunity. Having bought the book quite a while before I read it, I had completely forgotten what the blurb had to say and for me this made it an even more exciting read as I was torn between the characters and as situations unfolded themselves without expectations about what was going to happen. Now I feel that I can’t talk too much about the plot because my experience of reading it with no fore knowledge is what I would recommend to everyone!

So what I will say is that I really liked Martha. She was a complex character facing increasingly difficult choices in her family life. Having a blended family she struggles between her loyalty to her older daughter and her new husband and twin boys. There are demons hiding in the closet too and as the plot twists and turns Martha struggles to make sense of what is happening to her family and what she can do about it to make things better. She so wants to make everything alright and it is easy to identify with her dilemmas.

I also enjoyed the realism in the story, cutting between the present where Martha is sitting beside a comatose Finn in his hospital bed and the story of how they came to be there, beginning with their move from England. They all seem like a normal family, ok, with a few issues, but really, what family doesn’t have any of those! The task of moving to another country, the other side of the world are covered briefly and the family settle into what seems to be an idyllic new life in New Zealand. The cracks appear slowly, and it takes a while for Martha to realise, and then come to terms with what is really going on. That desire to not want to face reality, to protect others and to believe that the worst is over are all things any parent can identify with.

The descriptions of New Zealand were beautiful and appreciated the way that Charity also wove in characters from a Maori background and used their legends in her story telling.

Verdict: This is a riveting family drama and it left me thinking about it for a long time afterwards.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 357
Genre: contemporary, suspense, family
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Butterfly and the Birthday Surprise

birthdsy surpriseOver the hills in a land of sweetness, little fairies bake and play. Would you like to peep at their secret, scrumptious world? Make a wish, then step into the magic of Fairycake Kingdom.
Butterfly has everything organized for her party and she doesn’t want any surprises. But when the big day arrives, things start to go wrong. Will her friends be able to save the day with a wonderful birthday surprise?

My four year old daughter was delighted with this cute story. From opening the first page she was entranced by the map of the fairies kingdom, wanting to know the names of all the places and who lives where, and which way they would go to visit each other. She also loved the page that introduces the fairies who will be in the story. It was nice to know the names and recognise them before we started the story, especially as we haven’t read any Fairies of Blossom Bakery books before.

The story is a sweet tale about fairy Butterfly who is organising her birthday party, and she is very organised! Butterfly plans everything to the last detail and her friends help her to get everything ready, they put up with Butterfly’s bossiness very well! It doesn’t occur to Butterfly that her friends may want to do something for her, or even surprise her and she steams ahead with her plans. But on the day things don’t go smoothly as her dress goes missing and eventually the weather doesn’t co-operate with her plans. However Butterfly’s fairy friends save the day and Butterfly realises how lucky she is to have them and that things can turn out really well even without a big plan.

At the end of the book there is a recipe to make one of the cakes in the story, which I thought was a nice touch.

The pictures are pretty and colourful. There is plenty to keep the attention of a little girl.

Verdict: This is a sugary story with a gentle moral and a little bit of fairy sparkle.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Picture Corgi
Publication Date: February 2014
Format: Picture book
Pages: 32
Genre: Fairy, baking
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:
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The Secret Seven

Enid Blyton

secret sevenIt’s their very first adventure, and the Secret Seven super-sleuths are already on the trail of some really weird clues. It’s snowing and the Seven are dressed in disguise, following a lead to a spooky old house – and a mystery.

This is the start of the Secret Seven’s adventures. In this story we meet the children for the first time (in this setting) and they solve their first mystery. I loved these books as a child and have been looking for chapter books to engage my 6 1/2 year old daughter, as soon as we started on these she was hooked. In fact not only do we get the usual “can’t I have one more chapter, pleeeeeease” requests she has actually been so excited by them that she has picked them up to read for herself, and has persisted despite the fact that some of it is quite difficult for her to read. It has been such a pleasure to see her start to engage in books for herself in this way.

These books have short chapters (good for us) and even though my daughter finds them very thrilling they do not have the same kind of excitement as the Famous Five, the villains are less rough and there isn’t as much danger to the children. The slightly tamer content suits us well and she is really enjoying all the talk about meetings, passwords, disguises, drinking home made lemonade and keeping everything a secret, especially from Jack’s annoying sister Susie. They are a great introduction to mystery books as the children look for clues and work out how to overcome the various problems they encounter.

As you would expect reading Enid Blyton today there are some things that grate a little (at least as an adult)! The boys get to do things that the girls do not and some attitudes that have changed somewhat, but for me there is nothing too bad in this book, there is far more that is fun and enjoyable. If you read a book written in in the 1940’s it is going to be different – and it certainly isn’t stopping my daughter’s enjoyment of it.

Verdict: So as the Secret Seven go on the trail of thieves and eventually come up trumps this is an adventure book with plenty of action and excitement for a younger reader to listen to or to read themselves.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 144
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Katie Morag and the Birthdays

Mairi Hedderwick

katie moragKatie Morag is desperate for it to be her birthday, but as she soon discovers, there are plenty of other birthdays to be celebrated on Struay both before and after hers. Join Katie Morag and friends for a year on Struay. Celebrate Neilly Beag’s birthday with a celidah and a jig, Liam’s with an April Fool’s joke and the Big Boy Cousins’ with a huge BBQ at the Old Castle. And find out what excitements are in store for Katie Morag and her Two Grandmothers on their special day . . .

This book is about the irrepressible Katie Morag who lives on the Scottish Island of Struay with her family and their birthdays. It interweaves a story through the months of the year as Katie Morag celebrates all the family birthdays and continually asks that on-going question, “When is it my birthday?”. Looking at all these people celebrating in different ways and sharing fun together was a sweet story, and one that every child can relate to.

I enjoyed reading this story to my girls, it is written in months, each page has the month as a heading and the date of the person’s birthday in different colours down the side. Katie Morag’s own birthday has a couple of extra pages too. I also liked the way the book had a calendar at the end that you could put your family birthdays in (or an older child could). It was also a great touch that it had ‘how to make’ pages showing things that Katie Morag had made for her family and how you could do them yourself, my daughter immediately wanted to make the birthday card.

Both of my girls really enjoyed this, they are 4 and 6 years old and it is perfectly pitched for them. This is a fairly long picture book with quite a bit of text and is probably better suited to a child of this age rather than a two year old. Having said that the pictures are fabulous with lots of detail to engage children and bring the story to life, and the birthday theme is obviously one that even younger children will be able to have an understanding of!

Verdict: This was a lovely book, and the little extra’s in it make it something special.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Red Fox
Publication Date: March 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 48
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Enders

Lissa Price

EndersSomeone is after Starters like Callie and Michael – teens with chips in their brains. They want to experiment on anyone left over from Prime Destinations -With the body bank destroyed, Callie no longer has to rent herself out to creepy Enders. But Enders can still get inside her mind and make her do things she doesn’t want to do. Like hurt someone she loves. Having the chip removed could save her life – but it could also silence the voice in her head that might belong to her father. Callie has flashes of her ex-renter Helena’s memories, too . . . and the Old Man is back, filling her with fear. Who is real and who is masquerading in a teen body?
No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

Lissa plunges us straight back into the action following on from Starters. Callie may have brought down Prime, the organisation putting electronic chips into young people (Starters) so they could be rented out by Enders (the older generation) for their use and pleasure. But she is still not safe; her chip, and those of others, can still be accessed, and as she discovers, their mind and bodies can still be controlled. Callie has an additional problem because her chip has been altered and is the only one who can be used to kill others. She is a hot commodity and The Old Man is still after her.

Callie is desperate to get the chip out of her head, she is worried that Tyler and Michael aren’t safe and she is trying to get over the fallout from her relationship with Brad. On top of all that is the voice she heard that could be her Father, whom she thought had died in the Spore Wars. With so much going on in her head Callie is conflicted but as determined as ever to try and keep everyone safe and to try and win her freedom. But then she meets Hyden and everything changes again as she seems to have found someone to help her in her quest to finally bring down the Old Man. However things, as ever, are more complex than they first appear.

There is no doubt that this book is gripping, the plot races along and there is little time to catch your breath as we go from one revelation , plot twist or piece of action to another. The new characters are well drawn and the old ones further developed, although at times I would have liked a bit more depth on Callie’s feelings this is hard to do when the action just keeps on coming. There was plenty in this that kept me guessing and I really enjoyed Lissa’s ability to create characters or situations that appeared to be one way and then turned out totally differently. I can’t give away any more plot without spoiling it, but I did find the ending satisfying and realistic, especially in the way that not everything was resolved, just like real life!

Again part of the interest in this story was the questions it causes you to think about with the disparity between old and young people, the development of technology and its use and abuse being just some of the issues that are touched on.

Verdict: This was an exciting, action packed conclusion to this story.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s
Publication Date: December 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: none
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Don’t Wake The Bear Hare

Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler

Don’t Wake The Bear HareIt was Spring Party Day, the best day of the year,
So why were all the animals trembling with fear?

Bear has gone to sleep in a tree very near where the animals are planning to have their Spring party. The animals think that bears are scary and are terrified of waking him up so they set about their party preparations as quietly as they can. As they totter back and forth with noisy crockery and a slippery jelly they have the odd mishap, but when hare starts to blow up a balloon and then gets carried away and it pops what will happen when bear wakes up? Of course bear turns out to be quite different from what the animals expected and is very excited at being able to join in with the party.

This is a sweet, rhyming story that my girls like to join in with, they enjoy wondering what bear will do, the anticipation of the balloon bursting and then the party at the end. The pictures are charming, light hearted and weave in beautifully with the text. There is plenty to look at and enjoy. I also liked the uses of different sizes of text in the book, it definitely makes it easy to read aloud with lots of emphasis and drama.

Verdict: This is a lovely story and fun for younger children.

Publisher: Little Tiger Press
Publication Date: January 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy (Booktrust)
Challenge: British book
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Miss Dorothy-Jane Was Ever So Vain

Julie Fulton

miss dorothy janeMiss Dorothy-Jane was ever so vain.
She stared in the mirror for hours.
Was her hair brushed just right? Was her jumper to tight?
Would her hair look much better with flowers?

This has everything my girls like in a story; brightly coloured, fun pictures, a humorous, rhyming story and plenty to talk about. Dorothy-Jane likes to look nice and wants to be noticed. When the Queen is coming to Hamilton Shady she chooses her best outfit so that she will be chosen to welcome her to the village. Dorothy-Jane then has several near misses trying to keep her clothes clean, but when her dog falls in the pond will she sacrifice her appearance to save him? Well I am going to put in a spoiler and tell you that she does, in the end, rescue her dog and the villagers are so impressed that for this reason she is chosen to welcome the Queen to the village.

We all enjoyed laughing over the near misses with the seagull who nearly pooped on Dorothy Jane and the car that nearly splashed her. I liked the moral message in here that your actions are more important than your appearance and we had a good chat about why Dorothy-Jane deserved to meet the Queen.

Verdict: This is another in a great series of books by Julie Fulton and it didn’t disappoint.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher:Maverick Arts
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 23
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picure book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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