Posts Tagged ‘Reviewer- Sam’

Getting To Know…Sam

Sam is a new recruit to Club ‘In the 30s’, despite her desperate resistance to join. She is currently attempting to live a life of luxury on a shoestring budget whilst simultaneously wrangling her two-year old tearaway monkey/child hybrid (a.k.a Daniel).
Rumour has it she only wanted a child as a cover so she could lurk in the children’s book section and revisit her favourite author Roald Dahl’s back catalogue. She is therefore waiting desperately for her son to grow into these stories so they can leap into a world of snozcumbers and dream catching giants together.
When it comes to genres, Sam is fairly fickle and will opt for most fiction with a twist or quirky plot! But will happily jump into a spot of sci-fi, fantasy and graphic novels equally alongside a cheesy chick-lit or apocalyptic tale! Her main rule for enjoying a novel is strong characters to intrigue her enough to stay up until early hours of the morning whilst the rest of the household sensibly sleep!

What have you enjoyed the most about blogging over the past year?

Publicly gushing about books I’ve enjoyed! it’s been very exciting as blogging with my real name has been very new to me!

What was your favorite read of the last 12 months?

The fantastic Hunger Games trilogy completely blew my mind! Best love/action story I’ve enjoyed in a long time! I had to read them back to back whenever I had a spare few minutes (even on my iphone kindle app!)

What makes the perfect beach/holiday read?
My last ‘holiday read’ was Room by Emma Donoghue which isn’t really the standard holiday suggestion, but it’s so gripping and well written I found it impossible to put down!!

What book are you most anticipating reading over the summer?

I have to confess I don’t have one! I have a few on my wishlist for my kindle My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, both have tickled my fancy so might treat, myself to them after my birthday

Describe your bookshelf/TBR pile

My real bookshelf is currently boxed away 🙁 even after being moved in to our new home for the past 7 months. But I’m steadily building a vast electronic collection on my kindle to compensate!

How do you make time to read?

Staying up to ridiculous hours forgetting that I have to be up the following day!

Where is your Favourite place to read?

Bed and Bath (dangerously with my Kindle!!)

How do you encourage the love of reading and books in your children?

I haven’t specifically done anything to lean Daniel towards books, but I have surrounded him with them!!! He has a bookshelf in his playroom, a tub of books in the Living Room and a Toy Box filled with books in his bedroom where no other ‘toys’ are permitted!! 😉 Also I do throw myself into the bedtime stories – shrieking ‘THE BIG BAD MOUSE!!!!’ as loudly as I can (probably a bit counterproductive with a bedtime routine, but it’s impossible to read that bit quietly!

What is your favorite book you have shared with your child(ren) in the last 12 months?

Discovering and learning by heart the Gruffalo’s Child for my Little Boy’s bedtime read as mentioned in the last question. It’s the first ‘story’ book Daniel has enjoyed so it’s easily my favourite too!

A favourite blog/forum/website you would like to recommend to our readers? Why?

Attic 24 (click here to view site)purely for my other obsession which is Crochet. This lady makes the most beautiful things and shares so much it’s a pleasure to look at as well as read. A must follow for any Chabby-chic & Kirstie Allsop fans!! 🙂

And because we ask our visiting authors- Just For Fun

Tea or Coffee? Tea (milky, two sugars and at least 2 digestives!!)

Slippers or barefoot? As it’s Summer barefoot!

Shower or Bath? Bath!

Marmite: Love it? Hate it? Ergh!!!! Hate hate hate!

Email or postcard? Postcard!

Posted on:

The Runaway Bunny

Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (illustrator)

the runaway bunny“If you run away, I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny”
With warmth, love and understanding, a mother bunny tells her baby bunny how she will find him should he run away.

When this book arrived I was excited to read it! Purely from the recommendation from Emma Thompson on the front cover. I thought if the modern day ‘Ghost’ writer for Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit loves this book on bunnies, well who will I be to argue?

It’s a beautiful picture book, and the mix of Clement Hurd’s illustrations between colour and black and white is actually quite refreshing (for an old book!). I love how some are so stunning they have been left to be enjoyed in their own right with the text on the previous page. The colour pictures are vivid and clear and you can see how they have stood the test of time so are deserving of a reprint 70 years on! There is also an essence of ‘spot the bunny’ in each scene which reminded me of the 70s rabbit/hare treasure hunt book by Kit Williams Masquerade. Finding these clever mummy and baby bunny hidden and merged into each detailed drawing or picture.

These pictures are lovingly created and inspired by the beautiful short and sweet tale of Mummy Bunny showing her Baby Bunny how no matter how far he runs away and how he tries to cleverly hide she will find him (in a maternal loving way, not an evil General Woundwort of Watership Down hunt you down to get you way!). We are taken through a whimsical journey into gardens, up mountains, across seas, to the circus and into a Little Boy’s house. All until Baby Bunny realises he’s never going to shake off Mummy Bunny so is best off staying at home with her.

When we read this book, it’s really hard as a Mummy to not kiss and snuggle after each scenario! And also reminds me of the Big and Little Nutbrown Hare’s in Guess How Much I Love You! With parents winning of course in the cleverness competition of out doing your offspring!

Verdict: I cannot dispute the golden badge on the cover, it is a an ‘Essential Picture Book Classic’, perfect for Guess How Much I Love you fans and I’d say that the black and white pictures would also be great for babies to enjoy as well as toddlers! 7/10

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens’
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperbackk
Pages: 32
Genre: Classic, Animals
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
Posted on:

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold

the lovely bones 2012My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet . . .

Ok, confessions first, seeing as the story is triggered by a crime! I saw the film first, even though I’d been told continually how much better the book was. (Score 1 Hollywood) But if I’m completely honest I wouldn’t have bought a copy if I hadn’t seen the film (score 1 Literature) Also I’m not a complete film-adaptation snob, Lord of the Rings had a similar effect, and I was even able to finish all 6 books before the end of the Hollywood franchise made it to the screens! Anyway, I feel a burden has been lifted, so back to the book in question The Lovely Bones is not my normal theme of choice, as murder stories of children aren’t something I’m particularly drawn to. But I knew (thanks to the film makers) that the brutal murder would take place early on and that the story as a whole is deeper than a whodunit.

So for those that haven’t sold out and seen the film (!). This story begins with the tale of Susie Salmon a 14 year old girl who is cruelly ripped from the centre of her family by their twisted serial killer neighbour. (Don’t worry, I didn’t put a spoiler alert here because the killer’s identity is revealed within the first few chapters.

You are drawn into the story immediately, and the character Susie is so charismatic you want to be right beside her throughout her limbo voyeurism on her friends and families. Also Sebold plots the timing of Susie’s horrific demise perfectly to engulf us in an enormous fog of sympathetic love for Susie. She is at the age where the noble Britney Spears would tell us she is ‘Not a girl, not yet a woman’. Susie is at the exploratory stage in life where she is full of enthusiasm, uncertainty and curiosity. And as a result is the perfect narrator to the experiences of her family and friends following her sudden departure from their lives. It is through her insightful narration that the story takes grip of you as we see relationships weaken, strengthen, kindle, break and rebuild following the loss of child/sibling/peer.

Susie’s family consists of; her parents, Jack and Abigail who were childhood/college sweethearts full of youthful aspirations who fall into parenthood and married life with two daughters and then unexpectedly a son; her gifted and sporty and rather spirited younger sister, Lindsey; her baby brother Buckley who is forced to deal with the loss of his sister at a very young age; and finally her Grandmother, Grandma Lynn who is a force to be reckoned with whist balancing a freshly poured glass of her favourite tipple.

We are also follow a handful of other people impacted by Susie Salmon. First and foremost there is the creepy neighbour Mr Harvey who we discover has a haunted history of luring, sexually abusing and ultimately fulfilling his thirst by ending their lives. Although she has never met, Len Fenerman in her lifetime, Susie oversees the troubled Detective Fenerman’s interaction with her family throughout the investigation of her murder. Singh, Susie’s first and only kiss, originally fingered as Susie’s killer by the community which doesn’t help the English/Asian immigrant feel less of an outsider. And finally, creative Ruth Connors, who only ever had a few fleeting encounters with Susie, another stranger to the social norm and finds her final brush with Susie has an everlasting imprint.

So, what does Susie see from her limbo viewpoint? Well, she is led into setting up her own world with her guide and then friend Holly, where they can dip in and out of the lives of the above who were left behind. We are initially shown two very different reactions to grief by Susie’s parents. Jack becomes obsessed with the investigation and very suspicious of Mr Harvey, which leads him into meeting different people and some rather hard situations. Ultimately his search weakens him both emotionally and physically almost to the point when his wife, Abigail, leaves it has little impact on him. What never lessens is his love for his children, both living and deceased, I was particularly touched by the advice he gives Lindsey about shaving her legs for the first time in the absence of her older sister and mother, for me it showed a loving father’s attention to detail and attempt to be there when in other circumstances it wouldn’t be his place. The love between Susie and her father is so strong that perhaps between pure determination perhaps help along by us willing it! a connection is made and ultimately after many years Susie has to decide when it’s time to let her father go.

Susie’s mother, Abigail, is also devastated by her loss, but contains with her grief much more inwardly. Abigail is creative and very pensive by nature and this is reflected in her oceanic eyes which was captured by a photograph taken by Susie. Abigail struggles to deal with her surviving family and falls into a brief affair with another man and ultimately abandons them all to really run away from everything. It is interesting how sympathetic Susie is towards her mother’s action in comparison to her siblings, who are both equally angry with Abigail when she returns years later from her vacation of discovery.

Lindsey is a feisty character, and through her Susie experiences falling in love and the transition from girl to young woman which she missed out on. She watches Lindsey fall in love with her childhood sweetheart Sam and how they evolve into a mature loving couple. This is whilst simultaneously dealing with being compared to her murdered sister and the feeling of being whispered about. She deals with the whispers or typical sympathetic comments with a rather angry retorts, but manages to not allow Susie’s death to define her, and you can feel the pride of Susie as she sees this. Lindsey also has a strong bond with her father and when he is physically unable to ‘investigate’ Mr Harvey, she willingly picks up the baton and takes a big risk to uncover evidence which ultimately links Harvey to Susie’s killing.

Susie’s brother Buckley is only 3 or 4 years old at the time of the murder, and finds himself regularly shipped out to a neighbour to shelter him from the pain. However as with young children they will eventually need answers and for Buckley it’s rather confusing as it becomes evident he is able to see Susie as she looks in on her family. We are shown Buckley growing up in a motherless, yet loving environment and his response to the re-introduction of his mother to the family home shows this.

Outside the immediate family Susie shows us how her last touch on earth (as a spirit) on young Ruth Connors helps bring Ruth and Ray together as outsiders with a common interest, Susie. I found this relationship an interesting one, it’s almost both forced and natural at the same time. I guess you could call it a supernatural one! However their developing relationship also helps Susie discover elements of ‘grown up’ love and she is able to connect with Ray again one more time, which is a strange and sweet scene. A little bit like Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore/Whoopi Goldberg , a Potter’s Wheel and The Righteous Brothers.

Also whilst in limbo Susie meets and connects with a long list of girls and women all sadly on George Harvey’s list of victims, and we discover where his bloodlust begins. As we are taken through his journey of destruction of the innocent, we’re shown how his evil mind meticulously plots his plan of death and there is are little if any redeeming features about him. There are levels of intrigue about the skill of his intelligence of how he weaves stories of a deceased wife (usually named after his previous victim) in order to quash suspicions of a single man who makes dolls houses. He is indeed a nasty character who we slowly await his just desserts, and I let you decide whether you think Susie had any help in serving it!

Verdict : I feel like I’ve rabbitted quite a lot about this story, but it is an amazingly complex web of characters, some I’ve had to leave out for you to discover yourself, who all drawn together through the life of Susie Salmon. Although her departure rocked them all I really enjoyed how this story focuses on how it makes them all too. Even after experiencing such deep sorrow and tragedy these characters are able to build themselves and each other back up again. There is also the question about life after death, and I found Susie answering that by basically watching over her family and friends lives fuelling that spiritual desire within telling us no matter where our loved ones have gone they are still there when we need them.

I’ll give it 9/10 and agree with all the book first purists that yes the book is of course twice as good as the film (final score Literature 2, Hollywood 1).

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: ebook
Pages: 335/566KB
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Lynley Dodd

Hairy Mc ClaryHairy Maclary goes off for a walk in town, followed by a few friends. All is uneventful until they meet Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town, and run for home.

I can remember this Hairy Maclary book from when I was very small, so as I am determined my little monkey WILL relive my literary childhood this was on the must have list!

Hairy Maclary is a cheeky little black Scottie dog who Lynley Dodd introduces us to using the most rhythmic rhymes! In 256 deliciously selected words we are sung the tale of how Hairy Maclary goes for a stroll and collects his friends; Hercules Morse (the Great Dane) as big as horse, Bottomley Potts (the Dalmatian) covered in spots, Muffin McLay (the old English Sheepdog) like a bundle of hay, Bitzer Maloney (the grey Whippet or Greyhound – I really need to pay attention to Crufts this year!) all skinny and bony, Schnitzel von Krumm (the brown dashund/sausage dog) with a very low tum. After walking through town this proud pack of poochy pals are startled by Scarface Claw, the toughest tom(cat) in town whose scary yowl sends them all back home sharpish with their hairy tails between their legs!

My two year old loves rhyming books and this was no exception. His favourite part is the excitement of the confrontational yowl “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ!” of Scarface Claw! Also the way the names of the doggy friends are repeated throughout like a endearing canine version of ‘In my bag I packed’, gives the familiarity he likes from a story/board book and also sets a fun challenge for us parents to try and learn off by heart too!

In addition to this delightful story there are 17 beautiful pictures also created by the author which accompany a few short lines. Seeing my son’s eyes light up when we flip the page to see which character is coming up is so heartwarming, especially that glint of delight and excitement when Scarface Claw appears and he is fully anticipating the menacing cat yowl on the next page!

I can see this being a favourite the older he gets and is even more engaged with the books as he’ll quite happily leaf through the pages now without the story being read, which is behaviour I just love and fully encourage! And the detail in the pictures could easily lead a discussion about the characters in the story, pointing out the numbers of the houses, colours of doors, letter boxes and gates etc. Also as the number of dogs increase I can see the fun of spotting the tails sneaking onto the edge of each picture also being a great source of fun!

Verdict: An excellent board picture book and a must have for your nursery collection. It has retained the ability to encourage toddlers into reading and is a pleasure for all adults to read to them. Quite often this story is read in stereo by Mummy and Daddy at bedtime as they are die hard Hairy Maclary fans! (we’re also pretty sure our family dog Freddie enjoys it too!)

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: July 2002 (originally 1983)
Format: Board book
Pages: 36
Genre: Picture book, Animals
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Babies In Waiting

Rosie Fiore

babies in waitingMeet Louise, 38, Toni, 26 and Gemma, 18. They are all expecting babies in September. One of them conceived in a hurry because she was running out of time. One of them fell pregnant to keep a man and one got knocked up by mistake after a one-night-stand. But none of them realized what they would come up against as they face nine long months of pregnancy, and the reactions of friends, family and colleagues. Meeting through an online forum, they form an unlikely but powerful bond. When it seems that all they have is each other, their lives will be thrown into turmoil, as a blast from the past threatens to destroy everything. Babies in Waiting is a heart-warming novel about motherhood, friendship and finding love at the most surprising time in your life. It is also very funny, sexy and utterly compelling.

I picked this up as a bargain e-book in early 2012, but due to a tragic accident between a printer and a Kindle screen couldn’t begin it until after Christmas!

Being a first time mum that had made friends through antenatal classes, toddler groups and online, I was intrigued to read a book based around three different women thrown together through pregnancy, with a spot of romance, love triangles and friendship rifts thrown in for good measure.

So, ‘Babies in Waiting’ takes us through the lives of Louise, Toni and Gemma trimester by trimester rather than by chapters. Louise narrates her side in the first person who you instantly empathise with, even if you haven’t been plied with alcohol, bad lines and had a one stand with your married boss! Due to the less traditional circumstances around conception, after some soul searching and number crunching alongside the consideration of an abortion Louise decides to leave her successful job in her small but highly regarded Manchester based printing branch to live with her single gay and exceedingly broody brother, Simon, in London until she can set up home on her own.

Louise’s character is ultimately the centre of the story, she is confident, funny and feisty. She has the eyebrow raising back story of the work one night affair resulting in her pregnancy which she keeps hidden from all of her old Manchester colleagues, who are also her only friends. The father of her baby is also kept in the dark about his impending love child. Although this sounds horrendous, Fiores ensures we are on Louise’s side with all her tough decision making. The father, Brian, is basically a git! I can’t find a better word to describe the serial adulterer who avoids Louise’s calls after he failed to secure her as a mistress and has moved onto another female colleague instantly with his “I’m about leave my wife” line. Although we know it’s a slightly unwise decision we empathise with Louise’s no nonsense outlook that she’s entering motherhood as a Single mother and that’s how things will be, simple? Louise is faced with breaking the awkward news of her accidental pregnancy to her younger sister, Rachel, who has been trying for many years desperately for a child of her own. So in a new city, jobless and ‘knocked up’ Louise turns to a parenthood forum and befriends another expectant first time mum Toni.

Toni, a young newly-wed works in advertising where she meets the perfect man, James, her now husband of four years. Although they have always discussed that they will have children ‘someday’ this vague timescale suddenly is given a year deadline when Toni is diagnosed as having Primary Ovarian Insufficiency and her gynaecologist, nicknamed Dr Dad from his twinned appearance with her own, pretty much tells her ‘it’s now or never, if ever!’ Toni, who wears her emotions in her tear ducts, seeks out more information and joins an online forum which opens her eyes to a world of acronyms and abbreviations which translate into new terminology for talking about the most intimate part of your sex life. She is shocked to discover her and James are successful so quickly and also finds herself quite isolated as all of her friends are at different stages with their lives. She also struggles to talk to her handsome husband too, about the life changing experience they have so quickly been engulfed by.

Finally there is Gemma, a young A level student from a wealthy Surrey based family. She begins as your stereotypical surly teenager with a know-it-all attitude. Her father, David, is busy working and having affairs whilst her mother, Samantha puts up false, but well manicured appearance, to hide her sadness. Gemma is a good student and her parents are able to brag about her achievements at their many social engagements, until she falls in love with her musician boyfriend Ben. They have a wonderful six month relationship where they make gooey plans of living together off Gemma’s inheritance and how they will make beautiful babies! Gemma is besotted with her boyfriend, but when things begin to cool off as Ben’s gigs become more successful Gemma naively gets crossed wires and truly believes that having a baby with Ben will bring them closer together and as you may guess from the title results in a teen pregnancy scandal. Although Gemma is rather naive and bolshie you do want to see what happens with her, she has this youthful bubble world created in her mind about how things are going to work out. She brings a slightly deluded by romance, optimistic outlook on teen pregnancy. When Gemma is delivered to Louise at an uncomfortable afternoon tea arranged between Louise’s sister and Gemma’s parents to encourage some ‘sense talk’, Gemma impresses Louise with her ‘togetherness’ and they bond, hiding in the kitchen where they agree a story for each of their families on their big pregnancy chat.

As their pregnancies progress there is heartbreak, new romances and betrayal between the three friends as secrets unravel. You find yourself entwined into their lives, quite fluidly, and although with chick lit plots the betrayal is inevitable, you still find yourself wishing you could get in touch with the betrayed to tell them the other side for a reconciliation. As with friendships they are dotted along with humour and for me the pinnacle point is the antenatal classes which brings in some minor characters to open the girls eyes to the new world of debate around hypnobirthing versus epidurals, and the poor antenatal teacher bombarded with questions like “what do I have to say to get an epidural”.

Verdict : A lovely easy read for mothers of all ages, with fun characters mixed with a variety of first romances to long-distance ones too! I especially liked the quirkiness of Trimesters and not chapters and found it quite easy to jump between the main character’s varying plotlines along the way. Babies in Waiting has a refreshing perspective on teen pregnancy running alongside a rather empathic reflection of people dealing with fertility issues. Also, I love an author who gives you a tidy epilogue with a little ‘Did they? Didn’t they?” sparkly question at the end!

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 465
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Introducing Sam!

Sam is a new recruit to Club ‘In the 30s’, despite her desperate resistance to join. She is currently attempting to live a life of luxury on a shoestring budget whilst simultaneously wrangling her two-year old tearaway monkey/child hybrid (a.k.a Daniel).

Rumour has it she only wanted a child as a cover so she could lurk in the children’s book section and revisit her favourite author Roald Dahl’s back catalogue. She is therefore waiting desperately for her son to grow into these stories so they can leap into a world of snozcumbers and dream catching giants together.

When it comes to genres, Sam is fairly fickle and will opt for most fiction with a twist or quirky plot! But will happily jump into a spot of sci-fi, fantasy and graphic novels equally alongside a cheesy chick-lit or apocalyptic tale! Her main rule for enjoying a novel is strong characters to intrigue her enough to stay up until early hours of the morning whilst the rest of the household sensibly sleep!

Pop back on friday to read Sam’s first review for Big Book Little Book.

Posted on: