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K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK)
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Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster
Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster
by Axel Scheffler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Delighted reaction to this latest Pip and Posy from my son, 10 May 2014
We've read the lot in our house. Each offers an element of reassurance about an aspect of life for a child - falling over, losing toys, 'accidents'.

And Axel Scheffler's familiar style is a pleasure to look at, as always.

In this book, Posy gets a fright when a monster comes to the door... But all is soon made clear. My son looked worried for Posy on seeing the monster as absolutely delighted when he realised the truth of the situation. And he's enjoyed it several times since, taking delight in his superior knowledge of the story.

Simple. Effective. Text is short on each page making it a read for a 2 year old or older.

And there's also cooking - Posy is bored on a wet day and bakes some cakes (before the monster appears), and the book also shows ingredients, hand washing, aprons, and kitchen safety through the illustrations and simple story. And friends enjoying the cakes at the end.

My son and I wholeheartedly recommend the Pip and Posy series. They are entertaining whilst being reassuring of the worrying things in a small child's life.


84 Charing Cross Road
84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars Under-appreciated piece of history, one for book lovers and for those wanting a quick, amusing and also highly moving read, 9 May 2014
This review is from: 84 Charing Cross Road (Audio CD)
I've been meaning to read this for a long time. I remember my mum watching the film. I think it's only as an adult that you can appreciate this however.

In an age of instant communication, this quaintly old-fashioned idea of ordering books via letter seems touching and beautiful. Especially as it is a collection of the real letters between American writer Helene and English bookseller Frank. Their letters back and forth begin quite formally, as part of their business arrangement where Frank and his bookshop source and send rare books to literature lover Helene Hanff, over in her New York home. Gradually we see their relationship becoming a caring friendship, involving the whole staff. Helene tries and tries to find the money to visit her favourite bookshop in London, the years pass by...

I cried at the end, even though I already knew how the story ends.

The letters are together, a heart-warming, funny, and intelligent piece of social history, discourse on literature, and very readable account of this post-war friendship across the waters.

I wish it was longer. I listened to the fantastic reading by Juliet Stevenson and John Nettles, who did full justice I think to the writers and their letters. I could have listened to them all day, they inhabited the characters of Helene and Frank (and the other bookshop staff).

A short, warm and wonderful read to inspire us all never to stop communicating with each other - and to read of course!


Eeny Meeny: DI Helen Grace 1 (Dci Helen Grace 1)
Eeny Meeny: DI Helen Grace 1 (Dci Helen Grace 1)
by M. J. Arlidge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast-moving, intense build-up - will be huge, I predict, 8 May 2014
Phew. Finished in a day. This was one of those books where I couldn't stop my eyes racing across the pages, desperate to see what would happen next.

And I'm not a thriller reader! I was pleased to win a Goodreads giveaway copy, though it's not my favourite genre, I like the odd thriller/crime if it sounds a little different.

This sounded a little like Saw - two people wake up not knowing where they are, with no food or water, only a gun and a mobile phone message explaining that the one bullet they have is to kill the other person. Only the survivor will leave alive. Who is doing this? And why?

Simple idea, effectively done. It's a police thriller - DI Helen Grace leads the team charged with finding the killer. We see snippets into the killer's mind and history, less so into the elusive Helen's. I guessed a few suspects along the way, all wrong, although some twists I could see coming.

There were a few scenes where I thought Helen acted out of character, showing signs of naļveté and gullibility that weren't there before, but not for long. The ending was satisfying in some ways but also frustrating - it almost felt like it ended too soon, abruptly. I did feel that the psychological element to the story and characters was glossed over - it was there but more could have been made of it. The ultimate killer's motivation I didn't really think came across. And some motivations and storylines were not resolved satisfactorily for me.

Fast-paced and exciting though, I thoroughly enjoyed this detour from my usual avenues. Escapism, sometimes a little graphic but hard to resist.

With thanks to Goodreads for the giveaway copy.


The Bees
The Bees
Price: £6.69

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, engaging and well-researched story of life in a hive, 8 May 2014
This review is from: The Bees (Kindle Edition)
You've never been inside a hive before, have you? Of course not. I don't think anybody has ever written a book (possibly apart from a picture book) written from the perspective of the bee. Read Laline Paull's debut and you might feel you've visited one.

I was very impressed with this book. My cover is stunning (some versions seem to differ) - yellow hexagons with the Hive motto on it "accept obey serve". This is one of the things we are all taught about bees as children - they each have their own role to play in the hive, and Laline Paull plays with this idea to create a world set at the insect-eye level. Did you ever see the Woody Allen film (ostensibly for children) Antz? A comedy about a neurotic ant who didn't feel appreciated as an individual. This book looks at conformity, individuality and co-operation in a much more serious way. And you feel that from the beginning.

Flora 717 is born to be a worker. She emerges from her egg with this knowledge. As part of her Hive she is also born with knowledge of her ever-loving Mother, the Queen Bee, who is devoutly worshipped by all her children, each of whom has a closely policed and separate role to play in the efficient running of their home. But Flora immediately shows herself to be unique - able to talk unlike the other workers, she is moved to areas of the Hive a worker would not otherwise have access to. And thus we are also granted access to the workings of the Hive. However, the Hive is nesting a secret, one which threatens to destroy Flora's swarm.

I adored the bee's point-of-view writing. I don't think you have to be a fan of natural history to enjoy this, but I certainly finished and immediately went online to look at how much of the book is based on real bee behaviour (and it looks like Laline Paull really did her homework). It's a real eye-opener and fascinating. And not just the biology but a great story, set over the course of a year in the life of one hive. Flora (rather conveniently, but usefully for the book) is moved around the Hive in various roles, meeting higher-up Priestesses (bees who serve the Queen directly), the Queen herself and (in the book's few comedic scenes) the male drones.

I loved the drones. When we meet the males, it's like the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet with male posturing, sexual innuendo and high jinx. One drone repeatedly crosses paths with Flora, and through Linden we also get to learn about the males' role in Hive life and continuity. And we also get the novel's one light touch at a romantic subplot.

Which of course is a little too anthropomorphic. Bees don't fall in love. Paull mostly treads the line of reality and fantasy carefully, for of course for the book to work we have to have bees communicating and speaking to us in terms we can understand. I like the way Paull does this. The only time I felt she went too far was in having a cleaner bee using implements to clean. That was the only time it jarred with me.

The publishers have compared The Bees to several other famous books. I've already mentioned two of my own. I would agree that there are shades of The Handmaid's Tale in Paull's book - the idea of conformity and subservience being similiar in the two. I would disagree most strongly with any likeness to The Hunger Games however - this to me is jumping on the bandwagon and I don't feel this book needs to do that - it can stand on its own merits. The world of Flora's Hive is nothing like that of Katniss's District 12. There are battles but all are of natural origin (wasp attack, spiders, some within the Hive). That's not to say fans of the Hunger Games won't like this. Flora is brave, determined and smart and there is more action that you might be expecting. I would also say there are similarities to Tarka the Otter, on the natural history theme - both in terms of the animal's-eye-view and the structure and ultimate arc of the story.

I'm not one for religious stories and themes, but I did like the way Paull used religious fervour (like 1984's devotion to Big Brother if I can make another comparison) as a form of control and unity between the bees. They worship their mother, they each connect to her regularly and strive to protect her and feed her. She is the centre of their world and their Hive. And that's also the crux of the story.

I'm really glad I gave this a read. Every time I see a bee now (as I write, spring has started and bees are all on the move again) I think of Flora hunting for nectar and think of what she would see if she came across me. I loved reading about her world. Loved the idea, loved playwright Paull's writing and plot. Hope she has another unique idea for her next book, as I'll be watching out for it.

Review of a Lovereading.co.uk advance copy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2014 7:44 AM BST


The Good Luck of Right Now
The Good Luck of Right Now
by Matthew Quick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Self-deception, bereavement, priests and Richard Gere, 5 May 2014
"You are my confidant, Richard Gere, and I'm not about to share my pretending with anyone, because pretending often ends when you allow nonpretenders access to the better, safer worlds you create for yourself."

Never before have you read a book of letters to the Pretty Woman star. It's a well-used idea, breathes life into the past tense narrative, gives a new slant on things.

And as the quote above suggests, this is a novel about self-deception. The protagonist is well aware that he is deceiving himself in writing to the film star. But he doesn't really care. Nearing 40, having always lived in close companionship with his mother, he is ill-equipped for his life after her death from cancer. Soon after, their family priest defrock himself publicly and knocks on the door, moving in with Bartholemew. He is happy to have the companionship and guidance, even if he doesn't quite understand why Father McNamee has taken an interest. Painfully awkward and shy, can he summon up the courage to speak to the 'Girlbrarian' he's fallen in love with at the library?

And other people Bartholomew meets all have their own hidden pasts. May all be deceiving themselves. Our letter-writer may know he's a little naive, protected, but he does seem through the novel to be able to see his acquaintances' lives more clearly than they are able to.

The Richard Gere angle worked for me because it explored the self-deception aspect - and not just Bartholemew's. His mother, at the end, confuses her son with Richard to the point where fantasy and reality blur for them both. Is it a coping mechanism? Cancer? Delusion? Pretend? You finish the novel and look back after the revelations with clarity and more questions.

I like letter/diary-style books, I like how the protagonist can talk directly to the reader, and also how they can be unreliable as a narrator. It makes it more interesting, keeps you thinking.

I wasn't sure what I thought of the ending though, a little too nearly parcelled up. And the whole idea behind the title: the good luck of right now basically meaning 'fate', sometimes I can just accept that concept for the sake of the story, but at times it annoyed me that Bartholomew saw things as meaningfully connected. But that's just me.

I imagine this will be made into another successful film, like its predecessor. If you liked The Silver Linings Playbook, you'll most Iikely enjoy this as well. Some similarities of protagonist and theme, and you can get carried away into the story.


Six Dinner Sid
Six Dinner Sid
by Inga Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheeky cat learns a lesson... Or not!, 5 May 2014
This review is from: Six Dinner Sid (Paperback)
Like many real cats, Sid visits many homes for his meals. But he is unusual - six dinners at six homes every day! Which works well for him, until all six owners worry about his cough.

I laughed at poor Sid's comeuppance. As did my son.

Delightful idea, and beautifully illustrated cat.

Wasn't keen on all six names - confused my son a bit but probably because he is only three and six names is something new.

Will look for the other Sid book in the library.


The Sniffles for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
The Sniffles for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
by Bonny Becker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Adorable pair of mismatched friends in an entertaining series, 5 May 2014
My favourite is still the original 'A Visitor for Bear', which had a more repetitive and perfect formula which worked brilliantly.

But this still gets 4.5 stars from me. Bear (grumpy but at heart just wanting sympathy and a friend) is unwell. Small, bright-eyed Mouse comes round to cheer him up and help him on the road to recovery. But does he not realise that stories, songs and soup just aren't enough when Bear is so sick?! He even starts to make his will (a concept over my son's head).

Bear is a little over the top in this book, but Mouse is adorable as he unfailingly tries to help his sick friend. But when the tables turn, the ending is very sweet and raises a smile all round.

Lovely drawings. Lovely, familiar characters in another great entry in the series.


The Mummyfesto
The Mummyfesto
by Linda Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and entertaining story about mums taking to politics, 5 May 2014
This review is from: The Mummyfesto (Paperback)
4.5 stars

I give my ratings for each book judged in its genre. Not comparing each piece of writing to Austen/Dickens/Rushdie. So to give this a high rating means it's an excellent example of a comedic family drama, an easy read, one with a good amount of emotion, laughs and entertainment.

Don't expect War and Peace. But you can expect quite a moving story. One about three regular mums, all with families and family problems. One fears infertility whilst wishing for a second child. One has a secretive teenager and a daughter being bullied. And one has a severely disabled son.

And in the midst of their own stories, they decide to form a political party and stand in the upcoming general election. All very far-fetched, but very well-handled I thought. All the details I wondered about (okay, but how will they be funded? Alright how will they make it official?) all all covered. The fun part is when they announce their decision and the country takes an interest and helps them form their policies.

I love their policies and the Mummyfesto of the title. I wish theirs was a real party - they'd have my vote!

The social media angle is well used, feeling very current and quite possible.

The family angle is interesting and moving. Each mum's story takes its own share of the story, and I'll admit I was in tears more than once as I walked to work listening to the audiobook.

It's a light read but one that does delve into several deep issues. Highly enjoyable and if you're in the mood, one where you'll need the odd tissue too. And a desire to vote.


Say Please, Louise! (Cautionary Tales)
Say Please, Louise! (Cautionary Tales)
by Phil Roxbee Cox
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars For a child who can cope with Belloc's original 'Cautionary Tales', 5 May 2014
Very much like its namesake, bad things happen to bad children here. Not TOO bad (no lions eat Louise), but it may disturb a child unprepared for it.

My son loves the Belloc I've read him (Jim and Matilda) so we were fine with this. Louise never says please. Despite regular (rhyming) reminders, she refuses to be polite. And eventually, she is punished for it. It is a little disturbing that Louise's own parents contribute to her destruction, but it's in the spirit of the original, though it does merit this warning.

We found her ending funny. But I fully understand that not every child will. Especially toddlers. Mine is 3, but really is say 4-5 year olds will best appreciate the humour and justice of this story.

We haven't tried others in the series yet but will look for some. Liked the rhyming prose, the pictures, repetition and the Belloc-esque destination of the story.

For those with a wicked (and dark) sense of humour.


The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling
by Ian Beck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice simple version of the famous tale, 5 May 2014
This review is from: The Ugly Duckling (Paperback)
The famous fairy tale is well illustrated and retold in an accessible way for young children. My three year old loved having it read to him.

We saw the seasons change, the 'duckling' grow up, and find a loving family. Quick to read and a great introduction to the story.


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