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Reviews Written by
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK)

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Beautiful You
Beautiful You
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Genius? Cheesy trash? Or something in between?, 21 Oct 2014
This review is from: Beautiful You (Hardcover)
I've spent a few days since finishing this debating over how to rate and review this.

I wouldn't call myself a 'fan' of Palahniuk. But 'Fight Club' really was amazing. 'Snuff' was good preparation for his latest. If you know anything about the author, you won't be surprised when I say he's still not shying away from controversy, from foul language, from very adult situations.

If you're new to Palahniuk - be warned. Bad language, graphic (though comedic) sexual scenes and absolutely ridiculous situations are contained within!

Like me, you'll probably be hooked by the title's byline. And it does deliver on this... And more.

But does it overstep? There were times I laughed at the absurdity of the story, characters and sex scenes. It verged on Mills & Boon, on porn, on the cheesiest sex descriptions. But it's also brilliant. Not as shallow as the above make it sound, it absorbs. You can't put it down.

The plot sounds like the stuff of Mills & Boon. A bottom-of-the-heap lawyer-wannabe is noticed by the world's richest technology geek. She's romanced and made famous. And then becomes the subject of his sex toy trials and experiments. Sex toys that promise to help single women forget the need for a man. What consequences will this have for the world?

C Linux Maxwell (known to the world as Climax Well - geddit?) is a bit of a blank slate character, is he a villain? A philanthropist? He's clinical and comedy villain, scientist and sex guru in one. And at times, pantomime. Penny veers between sympathetic everygirl and crusading heroine. It's all over-the-top, there are even Agatha Christie-style revelations.

I found the sex descriptions hilarious, to be frank. My favourite parts though were when the Beautiful You range is unleashed on the world and the resulting scenes of the men and women's reactions. Brilliant stuff. The ending involves one-too-many climaxes (no pun intended), but at least that shocking opening is explained.

You'll laugh, you'll cringe, you'll probably keep turning those pages. Treads a fine line, but for me comes down on the side of readable and chortlesome. Just.

Review of a Netgally advance e-copy.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Visual humour for adults and children, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Hardcover)
Jon Klassen's pictures make this.

Sam and Dave (and their smart dog) decide to dig a hole to find something stupendous. But whichever way they dig, they don't find anything! Where will they end up?

If you read only the text you won't even crack a smile (though you'll find animal crackers galore). Add in the illustrations however and it's a riot at bedtime. Juxtaposed with text saying there's nothing interesting in the soil are increasingly large jewels that the dog can sense but Sam and Dave accidentally miss every time. My son loved this!

And the surprise ending had him delighted. Very very funny.

Lovely sharing visual jokes and at the expense of clueless characters, great book to read together. Wouldn't work easily for a class that might not see the pictures clearly but it's a perfect bedtime giggle.

Would work for toddlers through to children reading for themselves as the text is simple and short.

Give Us a Smile, Cinderella! (Fairy Tales Gone Wrong)
Give Us a Smile, Cinderella! (Fairy Tales Gone Wrong)
by Steve Smallman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.03

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful smile pays off as much as a fairy godmother..., 18 Oct 2014
It's the tale your children know, with clean teeth added. My son loved the stepsisters'
horrible rotten teeth and the idea of "stinky cheese breath". He nodded solemnly when he saw Cinderella a leaned her teeth twice a day. It fit the story well and didn't feel like it had been forced in.

As in the others from the series, the illustrations are wonderful, I love the style of Piwowarski. Teeth are beautifully shiny or gloriously blackened and broken.

Easy to read as a parent but I had one quibble, the Prince saying " oh pants!" when he loses Cinderella after the ball. I hadn't read it through and was in two minds about letting my son start copying it. It's not bad, but it did come out of nowhere. And once a small person gets hold of a funny phrase we'll hear nothing more for weeks.

A useful page of notes for parents/teachers at the back, though more for older school-aged children. Good selection of questions and activities to share with one child or a class.

Looking forward to the Gingerbread Man story next.

by John Agard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.25

5.0 out of 5 stars The history of the book - as told by... Himself?!, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: Book (Hardcover)
I had to remember that this is a book written for children. I kept wanting more detail, more background. But for primary pupils and even secondary, it's an excellent straight-through history of the Book, where it's been and where it's going.

And the different thing about it? Book narrates it. It's a great hook, the character that normally shows us voices but doesn't have its own. Book has opinions on his own history and keeps it light. Even in Holocaust time of darkness.

From pre-paper days, there's a lot covered and it could prove a good jumping-off read for students who want to learn more. It's good to see eBooks aren't shied away from for a complete picture.

The illustrations make this even more entertaining and make it a short read at less than 100 pages of actual text.

For adults it might make an appealing stocking filler but it really is more an introduction and intended for a younger audience. For young readers interested in books or history this would be a well-received gift as well. And could even make a good KS2 class read.

Ironically, it's more likely to be purchased as a Kindle buy than a paper book due to cost, but from what I've read, indontrhink Book would have minded too much. He'd just want to be read...

The Martian
The Martian
Price: £3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tense and thrilling, snide and sarcastic - Mark Watney is science geek heaven (and my new crush), 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Martian (Kindle Edition)
What a find! Occasionally Richard and Judy surprise me with an unusual choice that turns out to be a piece of undiscovered gold.

Who would have though that a story billed as 'Castaway meets Apollo 13' would have nearly made me late for work?! But science won me over, science and space thrills.

It's simple enough to convey: a team working on Mars is surprised by a dust storm. One of the team is lost with a hole in his suit, the others told to evacuate. Leaving him behind, he wakes up later to discover his situation. His team think him dead, NASA think he's dead. He's on his own.

Absolutely HOOKED. And I'm not ashamed to say that I have a huge crush on botanist/engineer Mark Watney. Huge. He narrates the story as journal entries from Mars, as problem after problem must be overcome - his suit, water, heat, food just for starters. Each time his sense of humour only heightens the tension as you see just how terrifying it must be there for him to make light of it later.

It's a book with a LOT of science in it. I won't pretend to understand more than 1 in 10 of Mark's explanations and solutions, but it doesn't matter. The overall terror, the human story, the excitement mean you can follow Mark's progress without having to catch all the terminology.

It does feel well researched though. You do feel you can picture Mars: the cold, the barren landscape, the loneliness.

Marks story changes from Castaway's one-man-trial partway through to more Apollo 13 as the NASA side of the tale begins to filter in and awareness of his 'alive' status arises. Earth's reaction is well detailed. NASA's plans and frantic meetings feel real, the desperation to save this lone man and the millions poured into it touching.

And yet Mark keeps his irreverent sense of humour as he reaches ever closer to a lonely death.... Just how will it end?

I was on the edge of the bed desperately turning pages to get there. I loved the writing, the back and forth Mars to Earth narration. I loved Mark's cobbled-together and insane plans. I loved the tension and space talk (even if I didn't follow it all). You do not had to be a techie to enjoy this.

I've already got a few library customers to order this. They better stay away from Mark though :)

Looking out for the author's next book. Excellent way to get noticed Mr Weir.

by Gillian McClure
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Story of animal co-operation in an unusual situation, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: Flood (Paperback)
The fox hunts the hen and the ox minds his own business. Until the rains begin. And they keep going...

Only by helping each other might the three make it through the heavy flood.

It's not as brightly colourful as many contemporary picture books, more the colours of a John Burningham book. The animals are subtlety protrayed and it's fun seeing them each realise how they need to work together.

It's not one that my son raved about when it was over but he did listen well. I'd look out for more by this author.

Mad About Dinosaurs!
Mad About Dinosaurs!
by Giles Andreae
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great dinosaur rhymes from Andrae. But a dodgy pronunciation guide!, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: Mad About Dinosaurs! (Paperback)
4.5 stars.

It would be a full 5 if it wasn't for some pronunciation guides that are wrong. I've never heard of a giganotosaurus, but I got stuck on the book's pronunciation. And looking it up, it's not how you should say it. Same with a few of the others too.

But apart from that, the book is great. My son was keen on the cover alone. It's a format that's worked before for Andrae's other books - several breeds get a double page with a couple of rhyming verses that give information and also tell a little story about them. There's a little dinosaur to spot on every page.

It's easy to read (apart from pronouncing some dinosaur names!) and the colours are fab. Any young dinosaur fan will lap this up.

The Great Fairy Tale Search (Buster Activity)
The Great Fairy Tale Search (Buster Activity)
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get ready for Where's Wally with a Fairy Tale hunt, 18 Oct 2014
This caught my eye in the library. My son is a little too young for Where's Wally, but I like him to practice looking for things in pictures (like Can you see Sassoon?), and this has the advantage of using scenes from famous fairy tales, so familiar characters and stories are there and can be talked about.

We loved this. He's nearly 4 and concentrated really well, recognising some scenes without needing a prompt (Hansel and Gretel features the most delicious house!).

On each page it's not too onerous, you'd spend maybe 3-5 minutes (depending on how much help you offer) searching for the 10-12 items and people it asks for. Sometimes multiple numbers are needed (5 acorns, 3 bats). And in the next pictures sometime and characters can be seen again, so it's entertaining noticing them in the wrong scene.

We knew almost all the stories but even if you don't it's still fun to search and there's a lot going on, just like in Where's Wally. It prompted me to find The Pied Piper book actually, so he'd know the story.

A few illustrations were odd - Aladdin's genie looks like Kang/Kodos from The Simpsons, and the princess isn't called Jasmine but the original name from the Arabian Nights (I think), which children probably won't know.

It's good to search for a number of something, it really helps memory and concentration and the pictures are good enough to remind a child of the whole story outside of the scene.

Loved the style of drawing - Wally-like in a way but different at the same time.

Definitely has longevity and can be looked at multiple times, and either with an adult or without. Would make a great Christmas presents for 3-6 year olds.

Listen to the Moon
Listen to the Moon
by Michael Morpurgo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Of topical interest, this WW1 story will engross readers in its mystery, tragedy and family warmth, 17 Oct 2014
This review is from: Listen to the Moon (Hardcover)
Michael Morpurgo often uses stories taken from tales he hears around him, from people he meets, from history. His latest is a combination, a story ostensibly based on his own grandmother's history and a story at the heart of the First World War.

A girl is found by chance on an uninhabited Scilly Island by a fisherman and his son. The girl is injured, half staved and ill, cannot speak and doesn't seem able to account for her being there.

Alfie and his family take her in and care for the girl they come to call Lucy. Her slow recovery is movingly documented, her first days at school and the revelation that she may in fact be German, in 1915. The islanders feelings are also documented through her doctors' notes. And finally, Lucy's history is revealed.

As ever with Morpurgo, the writing is captivating. You want to read a little more to find out a little more. Alfie's point of view and the doctor's tell the story well, with Lucy eventually getting a voice as well, and flashbacks from the start indicating a history the angry islanders can't imagine, that make you want to tell at them. But anti-German feeling then, patriotic fervour were the norm, and the treatment of Lucy will be shocking but eye-opening for young readers. The book itself gives some background to wartime life.

At heart though it's a family tale. Lucy finds a loving family when hers is lost to her. They remain loyal despite local prejudice and her silence. Morpurgo has a way with him in portraying loving relationships and you come to admire the Wheatcrofts very much.

Lucy's story is incredibly sad and upsetting. There are other victims of war whose stories are sadder but background - the young solider returned minus a leg and with brain damage for example. And Alfie's uncle Billy, rescued bun his mum from a horrific mental asylum. Plenty to discuss with a child or a class.

It's tragic throughout yet still beautifully uplifting. As the author usually manages.

One to make sure you talk about with your young readers. Many things they'll want to know more about and understand.

At 400 pages it's one of his longest but the story flows from past to present and school to home regularly enough to maintain interest and isn't anything less than engrossing.

The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.32

3.0 out of 5 stars What?! Where's the ending gone?!, 15 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Velveteen Rabbit (Paperback)
I loved this story as a child. The toy rabbit who comforts a child during illness and is then thrown away afterwards, with all the sick room things, to be made into a real rabbit by the fairy. Sweet, heartfelt.

So I was horrified when I got to the end of this version. Admittedly, it's abridged. I wanted a shorter picture book edition for my preschooler. And it was going well until the end - nice enough pictures, a rabbit keen to be real, a lovely friendship developing between boy and toy.

But the boy doesn't get sick. The boy simply SAYS the rabbit is real to him and the toy FEELS real. And the clincher for me - he remains a toy in the pictures.

Where's the magic gone? The point? Being loyal, loving and sacrificing yourself can bring rewards (whether you agree with that or not, it's the moral).

I tried it on my son anyway. And guess what. We get to the end, " he's NOT real mummy!". Exactly son, exactly. Not the story it should be.

Maybe if I didn't know the original it would have been fine. But I'll not read this version to him again, I'll get the unabridged when he's older to share the language and magic of the Williams original.

Don't buy if you're after the original ending.

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