Archive for January, 2012

Alfie Gets In First

Shirley Hughes

Alfie and his mum and baby sister, Annie Rose, arrive home after shopping. While his mum struggles with the pushchair outside, Alfie rushes inside and slams the door behind him. So now Alfie’s stuck INSIDE and his mum and Annie Rose are stuck OUTSIDE without a key! Soon everyone in the street is trying to help rescue Alfie – but he’s got a plan of his own…

If you would like a change from reading about dragons, aliens, princesses and other mythical beings and want to look at books that actually relate to real life then Shirley Hughes ‘Alfie’ books are just what you are looking for!

Alfie is a little boy of around 5 years old and there are a few books about the things that happen to him. We also love these, in particular the one where the pipe bursts whilst the baby sitter is looking after Alfie one evening and the rain inside the house! Anyway, in this story Alfie shuts himself inside the house, and what parent can’t relate to the panic that follows this event? Alfie too, goes through a whole spectrum of emotions as he realises what he has done and it’s consequences. Many people on the street come to help and there is a real community feel to the action.

It is all written with warmth and gentle humour, and I think Shirley Hughes is really good at showing the perspective of the child as well as the adult. This is complimented perfectly by the lovely illustrations, plenty of detail and colour, all obviously painstakingly hand drawn and coloured. In this story the pictures are even more clever, using the door in the middle of the double page and showing Mum, Annie Rose and the growing concern on one side of the door (one page) and Alfie, trying to work out what to do on the other (side and page!). This also means an eagle eyed observer can begin to guess what will happen a couple of pages before the text of the story reveals it to us. It is simple, yet wonderful stuff!

You can get this book as part of a set and I would totally recommend getting them all. We have just given a couple of sets as presents and in both cases the parents have made a point of letting me know how much their children ( 5 and 6 year olds) have loved them. They are also great for children who have begun to read for themselves.

Verdict: These will last you and your children for a number of years, read them!!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Red Fox
Publication Date: May 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 39
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Early Readers
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Every Other Day

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every other day, Kali D’Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She’s human. And then every day in between…She’s something else entirely. Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism. When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she’ll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

With a synopsis like nothing I’ve ever read before and having enjoyed one of Jennifer’s earlier books, Raised by Wolves, I was dying to get my hand on Every Other Day. I am glad to say that this action packed paranormal, urban fantasy did not disappoint.

Darwin not only returned from his voyage on the HMS Beagle with the experiences which formed the basis of his theories on natural selection, he returned having discovered a hydra. Subsequently over the following two hundred years scientists have discovered an entirely new genus known as preternaturals. These 37 species, including Dragons, Zombies, Hellhound and Chupacabra’s, with their triple helix DNA, are believed to be the product of a different pathway of evolution from our own.

No longer the stuff of folk laws and horror stories the existence of these creatures is accepted by society. Although viewable as exhibits in zoo’s, studied by scientists and even protected by the government on endangered species lists, they are largely ignored by society. A zombie attack is merely and inconvenience dealt with a simple phone call.

This acceptance is rather problematic for Kali who spend half her existence consumed with a blood lust and compelled to hunt and destroy preternatural creatures. The illegality of her activities, the innate violence of her demon hunting self has and her overwhelming aversion of becoming a specimen, has her hiding her true nature from society and from the one person in the world she should be able to be honest with, her scientist father.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes excels at creating likeable, kick ass female characters who, despite their extraordinary talents or situations, manage to maintain an air of relatable normality.

I challenge anyone not to admire Kali’s awesome slaying skills while in demon hunting mode or her protective instincts, despite her fragile human form. You cannot fail to fall for the charms of Skylar, an eccentric mother hen with her collection of “odd ball” friends, a feisty younger sister to five over protective brothers who could possibly be just a little bit psychic. Skylar infuses humour, unconditional support and warmth in to Kali’s life. Even the popular and permanently snarky cheerleader Beth refuses to keep to type. I was completely won over by her dogged loyalty and quest for truth not to mention her emotional strength.

While the female characters are well drawn the male characters felt very much like supporting cast members. I hope that if the author continues Kali’s story we get to learn more about Skylar’s siblings and the mysterious Zev.

Verdict: Every Other Day is a fast pasted, action filled, paranormal rollercoaster ride with exciting, edge of your seat fight scenes, emotional highs and lows, not to mention the odd blindsiding plot twist. The violence is very graphic and the main character is perpetually covered in blood, so if you have a weak disposition you might want to think twice before picking up a copy! Now excuse me while I go and download Raised by Wolves: Trial by Fire.

Reviewed by Caroline

UK Paperback published by Quercus on the 2nd of Febuary 2012.

Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: eArC
Pages: 352
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Action
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by US publisher
via Netgalley
Challenge: None
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Aliens Love Underpants (Boxset)

Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Aliens Love Underpants
‘When aliens fly down to Earth,
They don’t come to meet YOU…
They simply want your underpants
I’ll bet you never knew!

Dinosaurs Love Underpants
‘Dinosaurs were all wiped out,a long way back in history.
No one knows quite how or why,
Now this book solves the mystery…

Aliens in Underpants Save the World
‘Aliens love underpants,
It’s lucky that they do,
For pants helped save our universe.
Sounds crazy but its true!

These three board books, presented as a boxed set were a birthday present to my now 3 year old last month. To say we pretty much know them off by heart now is an understatement!

The books are wonderfully chunky, around A5 sized and pretty toddler proof. Each book is told in rhyme as seen above which makes them very readable and appealing for little ones, and they are, quite simply, hilarious! Hat’s off to Claire Freedman and Ben Cort for these wonderful stories about Aliens, Dinosaurs, and their mutual love of underpants!

Joshua giggles away and enjoys pointing out all the hilarious things he sees on the pages, for example, Dinosaurs wearing lots of underpants on their legs, on their heads, on their horn’s etc and trying to rip them off of each other in a huge fight over underpants (that’s how dinosaurs were wiped out, in case you didn’t know!). These books I’m sure will also appeal to slightly older boys too, who will love all the underpants talk!

The illustrations are just lovely, also funny and bright and Joshua asks for these books to be read at most bedtimes currently.

Verdict: A great addition to the preschooler’s bookshelf. A really funny and enjoyable set of book

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Board Books
Pages: 32 each
Genre: Picture Book, Sci-Fi
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf

Michael Mullin

Written in verse, this is the previously untold story of the previously unknown 8th dwarf, named Creepy. He is banished to the basement for being different and, well, weird. Yet he plays a vital – and of course previously unknown – role in the popular tale of Snow White (whose title character is an intruder Creepy refers to as “the Maid”).

This is an interesting poem which introduces itself by saying that we don’t always get the full truth, the full story of what happens in stories as they are passed down, for example in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The poem goes on to tell us that in fact there were 8 dwarves, but the 8th was quite different and his name was Creepy. He seemed to like to live up to this name and so the other dwarves shut him down in the cellar and ignored him except to pass his food through to him.

One day, when the other dwarves are out, he hears someone and thinks that they are being robbed and is amazed that Snow White has let herself in, not to rob, but to clean the house!

Although Creepy is utterly fed up by his circumstances and mad at the other dwarves he finds himself saving Snow White’s life twice, not to be kind, but so he would have a story to tell and so that there wouldn’t be the smell of a dead body.

Once Snow White takes the apple and falls to the floor for the 3rd time, Creepy is unable to help her and is not sure whether to escape to help in case he’s accused of murder. I won’t tell you what happens next but it’s a bit sad to be honest. It’s a good portrayal of how people are judged in life for being different, or for not looking good enough. This was a short poem and certainly adds a different perspective on the story that we’ve all watched and read over the years.

Verdict: Quite an interesting poem, something a bit different to read.

Reviewed by Dan (13)

Publisher: Gemiknight studios, LLC
Publication Date: November 2010
Format: eBook
Pages: 112KB
Genre: Poetry, Fairytale retelling, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Dan
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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David Almond

When a move to a new house coincides with his baby sister’s illness, Michael’s world seems suddenly lonely and uncertain. Then, one Sunday afternoon, he stumbles into the old, ramshackle garage of his new home, and finds something magical. A strange creature – part owl, part angel, a being who needs Michael’s help if he is to survive – Skellig. With his new friend Mina, Michael nourishes Skellig back to health, while his baby sister languishes in the hospital. But Skellig is far more than he at first appears, and as he helps Michael breathe life into his tiny sister, Michael’s world changes forever.

Skellig is a really great book stuffed with adventure, mystery and suspense. Michael moves house and while exploring, discovers something very strange in the shed. Michael then meets the mysterious Mina who loves birds and even acts like them in strange ways. They become friends and together, help the mysterious creature in the garage while constantly worrying for Michael’s prematurely born baby sister who may die. My favourite part was when Michael and Mina finally were able to take Skellig into an old building after Skellig has been teetering on the brink of death for ages!

This book is fantastic for anyone who loves an easy read, jam-packed with adventure. Apart from the great features this book possesses, this book wouldn’t be great for younger readers since it contains some complicated words and no pictures to help in their understanding. There is also a little swearing, but nothing major!

Verdict: Congratulations to David Almond and a little bit to William Blake, the famous poet who also features in this book.

Reviewed by Jack (11)

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication Date: August 1998
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Genre: Fantasy
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jack (11)
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Happy Birthday To Me Again

Brian Rowe

Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day… again. And this time…he’s going backward!
When Cameron proposes to his beloved witch of a girlfriend Liesel, he thinks life can’t get any better. But when he reluctantly breaks off the engagement just days before the wedding, Liesel angrily unleashes another curse on the unlucky guy, this time making him age backward, from eighteen, all the way to zero.
Making matters worse, Liesel mysteriously disappears, leaving Cameron with no options, except watching himself rapidly shrink into a helpless child. Will Liesel be able to save his life again? Or will Cameron ultimately fall prey to his girlfriend’s wicked spell?

Having been sent both this story and its preceding chapter in the trilogy I read both of them in quick succession. These were definitely easy reads, the pace keeps up and the interesting idea keeps you intrigued about what will happen next. Having spent a few months growing one year older every day, due to a curse, Cameron has had a bumpy Senior year at High School. In this sequel he is now dating Liesel, the girl who cursed him, and is enjoying working for a year before he is due to head off to Yale University. Even though he knows life with a powerful girl (she doesn’t like being called a witch) like Liesel could be challenging he doesn’t bargain on what happens next.

After a disastrous date Cameron gradually realises he is getting younger every day, and to make matters worse Liesel has disappeared. This time he only has a couple of weeks to solve his dilemma before he disappears altogether. This new event tests Cameron, and his love for Liesel to new limits. His problems are compounded by a mystery girl who seems to have something to do with the problem he finds himself in – and, boy, does she have something to do with them!!

The story does begin to answer some of the questions set up in the first book about Liesel and her family, or seeming lack thereof, and it was good to get some answers, I do like to know things and not be left dangling too long! I enjoyed following Cameron on his journey and waiting to see how he would get out of this one. Some of those answers are a little strange as we enter further into the paranormal side of things. There are weird and wonderful happenings, and some slightly gruesome twists as the book draws to its climax.

In the end the story does conclude but the stage is well and truly set for the final part of the trilogy.

Verdict: A fun, light read. I’m sure I will be tuning in to see what happens next!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: CreatSpace
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 370KB
Genre: Paranormal
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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Terrible, Awful, Horrible Manners!

Beth Bracken and Richard Watson(Illustrator)

Peter takes pride in being rude and gross. He doesn’t think manners are important at all. But when his family starts to use bad manners, Peter gets a reality check.

This is a very easy to read and simple story about Peter who has terrible manners and is quite happy about it because he gets extra attention as a result. The book talks about his various poor manners and how he learns to start changing them in the end.

It’s the sort of book your typical 5 or 6 year old boy particularly would enjoy I think, as it includes burping and picking noses and all those other ‘gross’ things that boys do…I’m sure the girls do them too, to be sure, but as I have a houseful of boys here I can testify to its truth in this house!

The illustrations by Richard Watson are quirky and fun and the book made me smile.

Verdict: Simple to read, a fun way to talk about manners with your child.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Capstone
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: N/A
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Dead Reckoning

Charlaine Harris

With her knack for being in trouble’s way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. But Sookie suspects otherwise and she and Sam work together to uncover the culprit – and the twisted motive for the attack. But her attention is divided. Though she can’t ‘read’ vampires, Sookie knows her lover Eric Northman and his ‘child’ Pam well – and she realises that they are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, she is drawn into the plot -which is much more complicated than she knows. Caught up in the politics of the vampire world, Sookie will learn that she is as much of a pawn as any ordinary human – and that there is a new Queen on the board

If you happen to be new to Sookie’s universe I would highly recommend that you start at the beginning of the series with Dead until Dark.

The character development that began in Dead in the Family continues here. Although still impulsive at times Sookie is beginning to consider the consequences of her connections to the supernatural community and the challenges of a long term relationship with a ruthless immortal.

Pam continues to provide some of the wittiest and driest dialog in the series. We are provided with a satisfying glimpse past the fierce, perfectly polished facade as she demonstrates the protective element of her personality.

Dead reckoning finds Sookie in a cathartic mood, spring cleaning her attic and her life. The apparently pointless appearances of a naked Alcide (I know I can’t quite believe that I wrote “naked Alcide” and “pointless” in the same sentence!) and the consequences for Sookie’s household, led to the feeling that the author was also in the mood to spring clean. It remains to be seen whether this was simply intended to tie up loose ends and focus attention to the primary players or if the author has some wicked plot twists up her sleeve for the remaining two books.

Bills apparent personality transplant, the all too convenient departure of Judith and the artless “love making” scene really niggled at me. As an ardent supporter of team Eric Northman perhaps I’m simply experiencing sour grapes at the direction the romance appears to be taking.

Verdict: While I enjoyed dipping back in to the Sookie universe I didn’t enjoy this instalment as much as previous Sookie novels. However having come this far with the series, I am determined to stick it out for the remaining two novels.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 325
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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2012 Challenges!

Rather than make the usual  vague new years resolutions to get health  or to save money, we have decided to focus on the important things in life- BOOKS!
We have signed up to three reading challenges for 2012. Check out our dedicated challenge pages for more information and review links as we fulfil our challenges.
For more information on the challenges or to join in simply check out the links to the hosting blogs.

The Debut Author Challenge is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. The Aim of the challenge is to read & review a minimum of twelve young adult or middle grade debut novels between the 1st of January 2012 and the 31st of January 2013.

Hosted by Kristy of The Overflowing Library, the aim of the British Book Challenge is to read and review and promote at least twelve books by British authors in 2012. The books may be old or new, from any genre and for any age group.

Vicki and Lyndsey of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory Book Reviews are hosting a brand new challenge for 2012 which focuses on those not so new books. The aim of the challenge is to read some of the books you were excited to read, that you went out and bought but for what ever reason are gathering dust, unread on your bookshelf. Our aim is to read and review at least twelve books we                                                                                                                             already own.

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100 Followers Giveaway!

With all of the busyness of Christmas and the excitement of the new year we almost missed celebrating our 100 follower!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support over the last six months or so. While we have found blogging to be a lot more involved than we first anticipated, we have really loved sharing our passion with like minded individuals.
As promised ( here) we have a signed copy of Tess Gerritsen’s The Silent Girl to give away to one randomly selected follower.

In the murky shadows of an alley in Boston’s Chinatown a hand has been discovered. On the rooftop above lies a woman’s severed head. Two strands of silver hair – not human – cling to the body that lies nearby. These are Detective Jane Rizzoli’s only clues, but they are enough for her and Dr Maura Isles to make a startling discovery: that this violent death had a chilling prequel

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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