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Reviews Written by
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK)
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Dave's Breakfast Blast Off!
Dave's Breakfast Blast Off!
by Sue Hendra
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Sequel to 'Dave', another joyously rude punchline in an enjoyable cat tale, 19 Jan. 2015
Dave is still big. Still hungry. But this time it's everyone else's food he's eating as he doesn't seem to have any breakfast! The other animals aren't too pleased at having their food taken, especially the dog . But just what effect will his mixture of breakfasts have on Dave's tummy??

A punchline children will anticipate and look forward to, this short story about a greedy cat shows us the various foods pets eat, and why cats shouldn't eat them!

A different illustrator to the first story, it has its own charm. Easy to read and a fun story to share. For lovers of rude noises from 3 to 7.


Egg & Spoon
Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “I know all about suffering from my Dostoyevsky and Balzac.” “You want suffering, I’ll kick you in your Balzac”, 18 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Egg & Spoon (Hardcover)
If the above makes you laugh, then you'll probably enjoy the irreverent nature of Maguire's latest twist-on-a-fairy-tale, incorporating several Russian traditional tales. The above line is actually spoken by Baba Yaga, the famous forest witch who eats children. Not quite what you'd expect, and I admit I spent a lot of the novel wondering if I liked Maguire's reimagining of her or not. I still don't think I'm keen.

But I did enjoy the book overall. In a plot familiar to children everywhere, two girls - one rich, one poor - end up swapping places. In the middle of a terrible Russian famine, Elena and her family are on the verge of starving to death, brother drafted into the army, mother sick and dying, when a train heading to Moscow gets stuck nearby, with a wealthy girl on board on her way to meet the Tsar's godson as his potential bride. Ekaterina (Cat) and she become sort-of friends and Elena is shown a marvellous one-of-a-kind Faberge egg that will be a present for the Tsar, before the train unexpectedly moves and Cat and the egg fall off the train while Elena is still on board. Elena wants to see the Tsar herself to plead for her brother's freedom to return home, so doesn't stop the train. Cat ends up following strange creatures into the forest and meeting a familiar-looking figure in a house with chicken legs...

This only kicks off the plot. It's a very long children's book really, though it doesn't appear to be marketed that way. A lot happens after Baba Yaga makes her first appearance. I still don't understand why Maguire choses to have her aware of the future, using contemporary phrases and cultural references to the children who don't understand her, and for this knowledge not to be at all useful or influential on the plot. Possibly just to appeal to modern young readers? I didn't like it at all, the anachronistic nature of the witch didn't sit well with me, and I had to keep remembering what time period they are all living in.

The plot cracks along though, moving fast from the train and forest to Moscow and then around the country as the girls find themselves having to save their country from floods and a potential disaster involving a phoenix, dragon and an egg.

Easy to read, it feels long however, and ends quickly when I was expecting a little more detail.

The young characters are well-written, Elena's village poverty quite moving, the glimpse of the Tsar's palace and ball quite visual in its description, and the integration of Russian stories well done, apart from the confusing nature of Ms Yaga.

If you enjoyed Maguire's Wicked, then this may appeal, though I do think it's for a younger audience. I'd say ages 11-15 would like this if they enjoy adventures and fairy tales turned on their head.


The Miniaturist
The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Period mystery that engrosses but the Miniaturist storyline didn't go anywhere for me, 18 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Paperback)
Either 3.5 or 4, I'm not sure.

The historical detail in this is wonderful, I really enjoyed the stroll through 1680s Amsterdam, it reminded me of 'History of a Pleasure Seeker' and 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' in its depictions of life and culture, portrayal of women and a fascinating period story.

I liked Nella (Petronella), married off at 18 to a man more than twice her age who barely speaks to her let alone acts like a 'husband' should... She's developed well through the story from naive and out-of-place to a stronger and resourceful woman.

A wedding present from merchant Johannes to his young wife kicks off the plot - a miniature copy of their home in a cabinet, an empty shell for her to fill. Finding a local craftsman to create characters and objects, Nella is surprised at the lifelike appearance of her purchases, and the effect they seem to have on her already mysterious household.

I'll be honest here - I really didn't think the miniaturist plotline or that of the cabinet went anywhere, and the ending just added to this feeling (no spoilers). It didn't resolve itself for me and I actually feel the story could have worked as a period mystery and family drama without it at all. I didn't see the point of the spooky coincidences (or otherwise). I was much more interested in the unravelling of Nella's new family's secrets. And I did actually guess each of them pretty early on, but it didn't spoil it at all. Johannes secret actually makes him a more likeable character and he gets some wonderful scenes late on where I wanted to stand up and shout for him.

The story could be said to be about love within marriage and love outside marriage, and gives us examples of bad and good relationships as well as showing us their results. Another wealthy couple seem to have an enviable marriage, a working couple portray a hard-working and uneven match, and Johannes' sister Marin, at the core of the book, remains resolutely unmarried and fully in charge of her brother's house and business, despite being a woman.

I couldn't put this down, really looking forward to seeing how Nella's life would turn out. The end of the novel, while feeling complete enough (for her) could lead to a second book following on.

A wonderful feel of the period and a very interesting story taking us into the politics and religion of trade centre Amsterdam. I would look for more by Burton.

A great choice for book groups as well as those interested in historical stories and mysteries.


Bubble Trouble
Bubble Trouble
by Margaret Mahy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Fox in Socks has a rival!, 16 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Bubble Trouble (Paperback)
4.5 stars

I HAD to try reading this when I saw it. My son loves bubbles (what small child doesn't) so what he misses in comprehension he made up for in enjoyment of watching a baby stuck in a bubble flying higher and higher until...

It's deliciously twisty read for a grown up to read, it rolls around the mouth, challenges your mind, tongue and sanity as you attempt to tell the story of the bubble baby and those anxiously following him.

The names, the flow, the rhythm are all brilliant. It definitely does go over the head of the youngest children but my son certainly still enjoyed it and could tell me what was going on.

Also loved the wonderful Polly Dunbar's drawings.

Not one for every parent, but if you're brave enough to get your tongue tied into knots, its a wonderfully witty picture book, for 3-8 year olds.


The Giant's Loo Roll
The Giant's Loo Roll
by Nicholas Allan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyably daft 'escaping loo roll' tale, 16 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Giant's Loo Roll (Paperback)
The giant's loo roll gets away! Just as he needs it. But lots of the townspeople make good use of the pieces that roll on by before returning it to its owner.

Pretty funny, and easy to read in rhyme. We liked the paper pants made from the loo roll the best, the giant paper airplane, and watching a small person wee into the giant's toilet.

The illustrations are an interesting fuzzy looking set, distinctive. This k we preferrred Father Christmas Needs a Wee on a smiliar theme, but this is imaginative and you can also talk about not wasting things and also giving possession back to their owner.


Vegetable Glue [Board book] by Chandler, Susan ( Author )
Vegetable Glue [Board book] by Chandler, Susan ( Author )
by Susan Chandler
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Healthy eating message made fun, 16 Jan. 2015
Didn't know what do expect with this - body parts falling off?! But it doesn't take a moment before you (and your child) realise that if it wasn't for the 'vegetable glue' in our tummies we wouldn't be able to reattach all the bits that fall off us!

The narrator only eats cake and has no vegetable glue when her bum (giggle giggle) falls off. Grandma (and some broccoli) to the rescue!

A funny way of introducing why green foods are good for us (even if not biologically accurate).

Fun rhyming picture book with a good message that also made both me and son laugh.


The Room
The Room
Price: £4.68

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One you can enjoy whilst not being certain that you fully understand... An office tale of paranoia and reality (or is it?!), 15 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Room (Kindle Edition)
It's a bit of a puzzler, this translated short novel. Did I like it? Yes. Did I understand it? Um, I'm not sure. I've read a little Kafka and Beckett so I understand the genre and style referred to when this as described as `in the tradition of'. Neither would sell millions but if it's to your taste, there's a lot of dry humour, satire and mockery to be enjoyed here.

Bjorn is our protagonist. From the start we know he's not the most reliable narrator. Full of his own worth and importance, dismissive and rather Machiavellian (at least he sees himself that way) towards his new colleagues, we are treated to a look at Bjorn's `rise' (or otherwise) in a new job. Determined to shine and rise quickly, he discovers he can do his best whilst thinking in an empty room near his desk that nobody else ever seems to enter. A regular office. But it seems that this room isn't all it appears. If it even appears at all.

You find yourself questioning what you're reading. Knowing Bjorn to be unreliable, it is unnerving as his colleagues question his judgement, his certainty, his reality. His Room. Is it there or isn't it? And if Bjorn really is succeeding, what is it that's causing this?

It's disorienting but also very funny. You can't really sympathise with Bjorn. He's not a likeable character but you do want to know what's happening to him, you do want to find out what's going on. I enjoyed Bjorn's pompous descriptions of his colleagues, observing their faults and flaws, how they react to him (and how he fails to notice anything underlying their words and actions).

The workplace itself is at once familiar and unknown. With a touch of a Big Brother `Authority', it doesn't come through on a promise of a dystopian workplace of automaton-efficient workers, but is also an office filled with Christmas tinsel and coffee breaks.

It's satire, but I wasn't completely sure I understood what was being satirised. As Bjorn's behaviour becomes more outrageous, whole-team meetings are squeezed into a small office as carefully-controlled and repressed tempers suddenly pop. These are funny scenes, as Bjorn's reality and that of his co-workers are clearly completely different and he speaks some absolutely shockingly outrageous things to his superiors and colleagues.

The concept is good, it would make quite a good stage play, with few sets and some interesting characters that you can already picture from Karlsson's text.

You question reality, you consider paranoia, perception and just what is inside the mind. More than once I changed my mind about Bjorn and about the Room.

A good way to spend a couple of hours. Be aware that it is very short, so make sure you read it when the price is right.

Review of a Netgalley advance copy.


The Deep Dark Wood
The Deep Dark Wood
by Algy Craig Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A twist on the Big Bad Wolf story - hilarious!, 14 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Deep Dark Wood (Paperback)
The deep dark woods are full of scary things... One naive little girl is happy for the wolf to walk with her...

And he proves useful, scaring away witches and trolls. But what will happen when they reach their destination?!

A lovely take on Red Riding Hood, funny for grown-ups as well as children. We worry for the girl but also are relieved as the Wolf unwittingly helps her. My son laughed loud and long at the conclusion.

The deletion and build up are good, the dark wood well drawn, and Ali Pye's creatures are great, big eyes and appealing.

Pretty short too, so good for younger children (as it's not as scary as yoidnat first think) as well as those who are familiar with the Red Riding Hood story.


Oliver and Patch
Oliver and Patch
by Claire Freedman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and sweet story of a lost dog and lonely boy, 14 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Oliver and Patch (Paperback)
From the writer of the Aliens Love Underpants series, this is quite different.
Not in rhyme, not a word about pants, and a different illustrsto, this is a touching story about a boy lonely in his new city home finding a friend but then knowing he must give them up.

Oliver finds Patch, a lost dog. They hit it off immediately and become close but Oliver knows that somewhere is an owner missing his dog. So he does the right thing and tries to find them, knowing he will lose his new friend.

But it doesn't end this way of course. It's a lovely heart-warming end to a beautiful tale of friendship and doing the right thing, even if it hurts.

My son loved this, and we both enjoyed the illustrations. It's well written, not too long for younger childeen but equally accessible to older as well, with issues to discuss at home or in school.

Might not be a Pants story, but Claire Freedman is a talented picture book writer of more than humorou stories.


The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic and masterclass in writing, 12 Jan. 2015
An amazing novel. I'd put this off for a year or more - always something new and crisp to get to first! - and really wish I'd read this a long time ago.

Sometimes books about mental illness and split time periods are very confusing, but I didn't find this with Esme at all. I was riveted. I was aching to know just what had caused Esme to be locked in an 'asylum' for more than six decades. What her connection was to Iris, what secrets the past would bring to light.

Often, the twists in this kind of story fall flat, or are obvious. when it dawned on me the truth about Esme I was open-mouthed for a moment. A proper "no!!" moment.

Such a well-told story. Outrageous that women were once locked up for such minor misbehaviours as demonstrated by characters here in Esme's home, real history kept alive for my generation for whom this is quite unreal.

I really felt the time period of Esme's youth, attitudes and the world feeling quite vivid. Esme herself had more than one voice - that of the old woman locked away, the young girl struggling to conform, the wilful teenager that we know is imminently to be detained (but why?).

The reveals are masterly executed, I didn't see them coming and found myself frowning with confusion that I hadn't thought of these possibilities.

Iris in the present, a relative of Esme's, as well as her deteriorating older sister both are rounded characters that play equal roles in the story, Iris's reaction to Esme's incarceration a mirror of our own, her grandmother's dementia and babble revealing secrets gradually and artfully.

A modern masterpiece I would say. So easy to lap it up, full of real shocks and beautiful writing. And an eye-widening ending that isn't explicit but lets you draw your own conclusions. Wow.

I thought of Elizabeth is Missing as well as Grace Henderson Says it All as I read this. But this is better than either. My first Maggie O'Farrell and probably not my last.


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