Saturday, 30 April 2011

Author Interview with Julie Patricka!

Yesterday I reviewed Pretty Souls by Julie, which was a great read. Julie was more than happy to answer some questions, so here's the interview with her, which includes links to more material! 

1) A werewolf and a vampire, working together while pretending to be normal teens makes for a pretty funny read. Do you know why you opted for the two different species (three if you include the later addition) work together to solve paranormal crime? 

My initial plan had been for one of them to be human, but every time I tried to write it that way, something felt off. So I started thinking about these girls and how they were kind of thrown together and looked at what would be the most naturally antagonistic races. Most mythology that deals with both has werewolves and vampires hating each other. So, the idea of them not only working together but having such a tight bond really appealed to me. Plus, it allows for some fun dynamics when their natural instincts try to take over. 

2) Cass and Elle are closer than foster sisters, even if they don't always like each other. In future books, will there be more dwelling into their past which was briefly touched upon in Pretty Souls? 

Yes, book two is Cass's book, and she has a very, very messed up past (as sad as it sounds, hers is worse than Elle's). I'm not sure how much of it will come out in the actual book (definitely some, but there's a lot of it since her powers came at birth). However, I have a couple pieces of flash fiction written for her backstory that I will probably publish on my website right around release time. As for their friendship, I have a story that I published a couple years ago with an online magazine that deals with how they first met (, and there are periodic little flash pieces that will make it onto the website (here's a funny little one that's up now:, but for the most part, there will just be little tastes of the year they spent together prior to Pretty Souls interwoven into the novels as they fit. 

3) Is there any particular reason why you chose to tell the story from Elle's point of view, rather than Cass's? 

For this particular book, I knew it was at it's heart about Elle finding herself. As Elle says in one section, she's the heart, Cass is the brains. As such, it was "easier" for something to push Elle toward understanding. For Cass, the push is going to be much bigger because she'll try to reason her way through everything rather than react to it. So ultimately, Elle had to go first. Plus, from a romantic angle, this one was completely Elle's story. Like I said though, book two is from Cass's point of view, so you'll get to see a lot more of her there. 

4) How much research about wolves, and stalking animals, and all the heightened senses which wolves have did you have to do? Did you need much research on the other dark denizens in PrettySouls? 

I've been fascinated by wolves since I was a little girl, so most of the research into actual wolves was done ages ago. There were some things that received creative license. (For example, hunting is naturally a pack activity and lone wolves have a difficult time bringing down game unless it is sick or domesticated. I didn't feel wrong tweaking that for the simple reason that she was hunting in a suburban area and the prey species in the Portage/Kalamazoo area are truly as "brave" as I made them out to be. Very very easy prey.) Also, one great thing about writing the supernatural is that you get to create the natural laws of the creatures in your stories. So Elle's heightened senses got to be a combination of animal senses with both human and wolf interpretation. Best of both worlds. To go with that, most of my other characters/creatures have bits and pieces of information garnered from research melded with what I wanted as far as limitations for the world. And, yes, I may at some point in the series return to that dreaded Punnett Square and see what other sorts of mischief I can concoct. 

5) A few easy ones: when is your preferred time of day for writing? What's your favourite snack and drink while writing? 

I do my most productive writing at night after the rest of the house is in bed. I sit in the (mostly) dark, and it helps make the rest of my responsibilities disappear. Music helps for that too. Ugh. I'm supposed to be watching what I eat, but I've been really bad the last couple days. Two favorites are pretzels (the saltier the better) and chocolate (I love Ghiardelli's dark chocolate squares). As for drinks, we'll pretend I never imbibe in alcohol and go with either Diet Mt. Dew or Cherry Coke Zero to help keep me awake (if you wanted the changes a lot LOL).

Thanks for the interview Jessica! And I will be posting on Facebook and Twitter as soon as I have details about book 2 :) 

Thank you Julie! Lots of interesting things here - it's nice to find more people who like wolves (I liked them before learning about shape-shifters) I'm definitely looking forward to book 2. 

Friday, 29 April 2011

Pretty Souls by Julie Patricka

Feb/March 2011, Paperback & ebook
Decadent Publishing, Review copy

Young Adult, Paranormal

Summary from Decadent

My life followed a simple pattern.
Run to keep my inner wolf asleep. Make sure my blood-sucking foster sister, Cass, feeds. Hunt for supernatural trouble when we should be sleeping. Keep my grades up and my head down.
It was mostly a game.
Until people started wandering around like living zombies. Until people I care about started getting hurt. Until the menace came knocking on my front door.
Game’s over.
Time for the soul-stealer to realize just because he’s hunting something doesn’t make it prey.
Cass and I bite back.

~The Paranormal Response Team~
Saving the World Before Breakfast

I'm currently having an 'I love shape shifters' phase, so the moment I read the blurb I put in my request. That was after being intrigued with Julie chatting about Cass & Elle over on Enduring Romance (another blog I review on). Perfect cheerleaders are annoying. Cass annoys Elle a lot. But know what lies behind the necessary persona, I actually really like Cass. She stabilises Elle. Yes I know she can lose it a bit/a lot when she's around blood. It's cool how her eyes change when she vamps in/out. She may be the youngest of the two foster sisters, but she acts like the oldest. She's the one who makes sure Elle has enough food to keep her wolf at bay. She's the one who covers for Elle when she returns from a late night run, with virtually no clothes due to the change.

I really enjoyed having a vampire and shapeshifting wolf work together like a detective team. There's a lot of friendly banter between the two of them. Personally I loved it when Cass pelted Elle with stuffed toys. They are a pair,  and they do fall out. It gets awkward when that happens, especially when they have to work together. But they do forgive each other and get on with their mission. It's quite something to try and figure out who is creating zombies, why, and how to get rid of them. I really don't like zombies. I'm glad that neither Elle nor Cass was a zombie, or that a zombie played a protagonist, because they freak me out a lot.

Both the title and the front cover really suit the story. Content wise there is a little bit of swearing, some teen romance but nothing too heavy, a little bit of violence (Elle is a wolf and Cass is a vampire. Neither are vegetarians) I think it'll be hard for readers not to be annoyed with Julie for leaving us on such a cliff hanger ending. It's not 100% cliffhanger, but enough that I really want to read that second book right now. Although the original mystery of the zombie creator has been solved, there are so many other questions surrounding Cass & Elle's lives, and the lives of those precious to them. I give this book 9/10.

Check out more about the series including two free short stories on Julie's website. If you click here you can find Julie chatting about Cass and Elle on Enduring Romance, which got me into the book.

This will suit anyone who loves shapeshifter stories like Rachel Vincent's series which starts with Stray,  Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer to name a few.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Devil's Triangle by Mark Robson

March 2011, Simon and Schuster
400 pages, Paperback (also available as an ebook)
Review copy Children's, thriller, 10+

Note: There is a minor spoiler in this review which gives away something that isn't reference in the book blurb. I'm putting it in smaller print so if you want to, you can skip reading it.

Summary from Simon & Schuster UK
The Bermuda Triangle has cast a shadow over Sam and Niamh Cutlers' lives since their mother vanished nine years ago. Her whereabouts remains a mystery and every year they return to the Florida Keys with their father, Matt, who is obsessed with solving the haunting puzzle.

But Sam is bored with lazing around by the pool while his father hunts for the truth. Craving excitement, he and his friend, Callum, "borrow" Matt's boat. At first it's great fun, but when they find themselves marooned in a terrifying land, the boys realise they too have fallen victim to the Triangle's mysterious effects. Can they find a way home, or will they be lost forever?

*waves book in the air* This is amazing! I know I say that about a lot of books - I feel privileged that I read so many good ones - but it really has a wow factor. I admit the cover is ok. It does give an indication of what the book is about, but it's not one I adore. But a book is rarely all about the cover. It's the delights which are inside it that I'm keen on.

Things I love in a book (and does the Devil's Triangle have them?) (I hasten to add most of the criteria here are for thrillers. I like a wide range of books which have different criteria.)

  • Strong female lead
    • Yes. Two points of vieew of Niamh and Sam. Both are equally important and play a crucial role.
  • Lots of action 
    • Yes!!! Chock full of it, with danger around most turns, some obvious, some subtle. Sometimes the characters know about it, sometimes they don't (and honestly speaking, I'm not sure which is more tense for me)
  • Lots of plot twists
    • Yes. Come on - intelligent raptors who are into nuclear power? That's a neat concept. 
  • Lots of emotional moments
    • Yes. I wanted to cry at quite a bit. My heart got tangled both for Niamh and Sam, who both go through so much. I was so proud of them at some moments too. There's a lot relating to the close ties of twins, to lost/missing relatives, to looking after loved ones and also losing them. 
  • Evil enemies
    • Definitely yes. Hello - raptors? Thanks to a famous dinosaur film, I'm really scared of them. The idea that they are sentient, well, they are worse than evil humans!!! 
  • Plenty of on the edge of the seat moments
    • Yes. So much is going on that every other sentence something new happens. In some ways I was more worried for Niamh than Sam, because although Sam's life is in danger more, at least he's not on earth (the same one) where Niamh and her father are getting in trouble with the authorities
  • Imaginative 
    • Yes (see previous raptors' comments), 
I've always been intrigued by the Bermuda triangle (especially when my uncle used to go there on holiday, and come back safely). I love the concepts of what is causing the strange occurrence, although I'm pretty sure there are more twists in the next book (out in the autumn!). 

This one without question gets 10/10. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

Lex Trent: Fighting with Fire by Alex Bell

February 2011, Harper Collins
Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Harper Collins
Lex Trent is reigning champion of The Games contested between fickle Gods using human playing pieces.

He has it all: Fame. Glory. Wealth. An enormous ego. 

But The Games are about to begin again and the Goddess of Luck wants Lex to defend their title. A challenge he can't resist, despite the risk of death, because the final round will take place in the Wild West, giving Lex the chance to claim the legendary Sword of Life (who wouldn't want that?). With Lex's mix of skill, quick wittedness and no small amount of outright cheating, he can't lose! Can he?

Luck may usually be a lady to Lex...but in the Wild West they play by their own rules...and Lex has never been that good with rules. 

This is the second book in the series: the first is Lex Trent Versus the Gods. The whole concept behind his character is highly entertaining - he is a crook, and is highly indignant when other people diddle him. He has to be a little careful of what he says because the gods are prone to taking offence, but he doesn't think so hard on how he deals with people. He always tries to get the best deal, he acts mostly to save his own skin and to better his plans. He's definitely not someone you'd set as a role model. Or anyone I'd associate with. For such a con artist he does have some morals - he doesn't want to kill people, which is a nice trait to have.

There are virtually no females in the book, which makes it an odd one for me to like. But I adore it. There's so much humour in it. It's quite refreshing to have a scoundrel as a main character. He can't get away with bluffing because cowboys are very astute. As Lex soon learns with his new partner. As much as it pains him to ask for help, Lex sets out to become a cowboy, so he can pretend to be one long enough to find the legendary sword. Naturally it's not all plain sailing. The cowboy double crosses him (which is funny because usually it is Lex doing the double-crossing) and yet Lex still respects him. The other players in the game are quite a character. I loved the little Sprite and the girl - the former because my mental image was entertaining, and the latter because considering who her brother is, she's very sweet.

I'm pretty sure there is going to be another Lex book, because of the way the book ends. It uses a story plot which quite easily could (and did) become material for another adventure. There are quite a few questions at the end which I wish to know the answer to, and only by following Lex will I gain them. One of them is: are there ice-breathing bunnies as well as the fire-breathing bunnies? Those little bunnies get mad very quickly, and I was smiling heaps when I read about them, even though Lex was in danger I thought they were cute!

I give this book a 10/10.

Be sure to check out book one, Lex Trent versus the Gods

Friday, 22 April 2011

No! by David McPhail

7th April 2011, Frances Lincoln
Hard back, review copy

Summary from Frances Lincoln 
No. No? No!
A little boy sets out to deliver a letter, witnessing acts of war on the way. But when he encounters a bully by the post-box, he decides that enough is enough.
Almost wordless, but speaking volumes, No! dramatises conflict and its alternatives in a language that is accessible to everyone, young or old: beautiful paintings, executed with profound feeling and an artist's vision and wisdom.
No! is the author's expression of hope that the playgrounds of the world, big and small, will soon become safer and friendlier for all.

Having read a few other books about stubborn children, I wrongly presumed that's what this book would be about. I confess to picking it up and reading without looking at the press release sheet or the back cover (a habit I frequently have now - I like to dive straight in!). So initially as I read through the book I thought 'huh'. As in 'this is an odd book'. At the moment I prefer vibrant colours, none of which are in the subdued pages. I don't mind some misery, but there is a lot as the boy faces horrific hardships for a child (suitable for a war-torn country). When I reached the end, my first conclusion was that I wasn't keen on the book.

But then I realised that was unfair. I'd had an incorrect view of what the book was about, which made me view the book in a distorted light. Understanding what the book is about meant that it made sense. There's a reason why there aren't vibrant colours. It isn't that type of book. It is portraying the reality faced by so many children in the world, who are caught up in wars and battles that have nothing to do with them. I think that this is a good way to show children how life can be for other people their own age, to help explain what happens in the wars and battles. Children hear those terms all the time on the news, and wonder what it's all about. Although what happens to the boy isn't very nice, at the end there is some happiness and evidence of compassion. Good things begin to happen. It's endorsed by Amnesty International, which isn't a surprise given the book's content.

I give this book 8/10.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

World of Happy by Giles Andreae book reviews Part 4 (final part)

The reviews I'm doing for Claire here, until the end of April will be about the World of Happy books. These books will be published in April. Egmont very kindly set me the whole set (that was a huge surprise!). They are such wonderful books, full of messages that readers of all ages can relate to. It's aimed at children 3 years and older, but I think deceptively simple messages are ones that everyone should know about. I've decided to review these in parts because the messages in all of them are really important and valuable. I love the simple and uplifting illustrations with their funky colours. I didn't realise that these books were short animations on CBBC channel! How cool is that! For Part one which looks at The Little Penguin, Two Monkeys and The Elephant and the Spider click here, for part two which looks at Planet of the Bears, Cow Party & The Knitting Gorillia click here, and for part three which looks at The Ministry of Niceness, The Dog Machine and The Dance of Wallowy Bigness click here.

This is the final part, concluding the last four books in the series. I hope you've enjoyed learning about the books as much as I've had reading them and passing the messages along.

The Pink Cricket

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Summary from Egmont

Two things are true about crickets: they are GREEN and they play the VIOLIN.
So when one cricket said he was a DRUMMER, all the other crickets LAUGHED. (He was also PINK.)
"Crickets can no more play the drums than FISH can play football... PINKY!" they jeered.
And so begins a story about FOLLOWING your DREAMS - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

People are friends for all different reasons. Often friends share a common ground, whether it's a hobby or something they enjoy doing. All of us have dreams. Some of us don't know what the dreams are yet, they are hiding away waiting to be discovered. Some of us know our dreams, and they require a lot of hard work. People might not think that it's worth while chasing a dream. Personally this is very true for writing. Writers work so hard on their books, with no guarantee that they will get published. But it's worth all the hard effort, and it's important not to give up even if most people think you're wasting your time. Find at least one person who will help support you as you chase your dream, and in time you'll get there.

A story about Following Your Dreams. My name is ........ and my favourite things to do are........................

Tortoise Football

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Summary from Egmont

The tortoises were playing FOOTBALL yet again.
But then one tortoise kicked the ball the wrong side of the river.
"It's over," wailed one. "For WITHOUT football, what reason have we left to LIVE? Oh, MISERY! Oh, ME!"
And so begins a story about TEAMWORK and FUN - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

I'm not a fan of football, but I still enjoyed this book. Most of the tortoises felt the world ended when the ball was out of reach. That is an exaggeration: even if we can't have something for a while, there are other things to do and a solution to the problem. One of the tortoises had the inspiration for the solution. Getting the ball back was great fun, and as a result the tortoises have a stronger friendship.

A story about Playing Together. My name is ............ and my favourite games to play are ................

The Thanking You Sharks 

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Summary from Egmont

The GREEDY sharks swam swiftly through the water, consuming every little fish that came their way.
And after each sweet morsel, these sharks would BELCH as loudly as could be.
But then one shark declared, "I don't mean to cause TROUBLE but what if, after every meal, we all said THANKING YOU instead."
And so begins a story about GOOD MANNERS - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

Manners cost nothing, and mean a lot to people. Sometimes it feels that the time when manners mattered has passed, because often people forget them and don't see that being a problem. Being rude isn't the way to get on with people. Saying those little words, which aren't complex, gives others an idea of what type of person you are. Someone who remembers manners is more likely to be thought of kindly than someone who doesn't use them. Thank you has so many implied meanings. It's a short way of thanking someone for all they've done, for taking the time to lend a hand to someone else. This book encourages using manners and sharing them with the world.

A story about Good Manners. My name is .............. and polite words I am good at using are...................

The Lovely Whales

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Summary from Egmont

There was once a time when whales were rather small. But, long ago, there were two whales who CHANGED their kind for good.
"I LOVE you," said the gentleman, "I do."
"I love you MORE," the lady said right back.
Now, something ODD began to happen. At every declaration of desire, each whale became a little BIGGER than before.
And so begins a story about LOVE and HAPPINESS - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

I've said in an early part of this series that love makes the world go round. It really does. There are lots of different types of love. Love of friends, families and strangers. It's a cute story about how the whales grew bigger by saying they loved each other. We don't grow taller that way, but we do flourish when those we care about show that they love us. They don't have to say it out loud. It can be said by a hug or a smile. We can tell we are loved by the food the make us, the way they listen to how our day went, or the gifts they may give us occasionally. Be sure to show your love for everyone as often as you can!

A story about Love and Happiness. My name is ................ and some of the people I love are......................

Monday, 18 April 2011

West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish

March 2011 (UK) 1st May 2011 (Australia), Harper Collins Children's
Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Harper Collins 
An epic and action-packed fantasy adventure that weaves together Norse legends, shadowy creatures and an unforgettable hero.

When Peer is orphaned he is taken by his wicked uncles to live at their foreboding mill in the shadow of Troll Fell. Here he meets beautiful and spirited Hilde and after a terrifying encounter with the sinister creatures who live below the fell the pair form an inseparable bond. They are thirsty for adventure, so when a Viking longship docks at their village, they decide to set sail for Vinland – a mysterious place across the perilous sea. But are the ship's captain and his sword wielding son really honest sailors? What creatures lurk in the shadows and forests of the new land? And will Peer and Hilde ever return? Spanning years and continents and filled with brilliantly imagined characters and creatures, this is gripping, atmospheric fantasy at its best.

I've seen Katherine on twitter a few times, said hello, and I think we've both said something on each other's blog (I think it's Katherine who likes Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse book as much as I do, a novel written in the early 20th century, which has since been turned into the film The Secret of Moonacre - or something similar. The movie takes a huge creative license on the book, but it's good if you forget the book. Some parts are a perfect interpretation). I promise I have a point with this. My theory is if nice people like at least one of my favourite books, it's quite probable that I will enjoy their work.

Initially it took me a little while to get into West of The Moon. I confess it's because it took a little time for the female protagonist, Hilde, to play a role. I know that I'm not as prejudiced as male protagonists as I used to be (I used to refuse to read books with them in!), but I still relate more to the females. As soon as Hilde arrived, I was hooked. Peer is very unfortunate in who his family is, but thankfully the horrible uncle will get his comeuppance. Unfortunately, the uncle will bring great misfortune and worry down on Peer. This isn't a happy, fluffy bunny books. Trust me - trolls are not in any way cute. They are freaky. I confess that when I got to the part of the troll baby who sang/spoke in verse, I nearly shut the book forever. I had a major freak out at that part, the part which shows how troll babies are very different to human babies. I knew it was building up to something, I hadn't figured on getting quite so engrossed in the book. So it's a good thing that I was terrified. It was because I sort of 'know' Kath a little online which made me face my fears, reason that it must be the worst point of the book (for me), and carry on reading. Plus there was that not so small point of wanting to know what happens next!

The imagination in the book is phenomenal. It's not just the trolls, where they live, how they trick people, and how much of a menace of society they are. It isn't the joy Peer gets when relieved from his family hardship, only to face more problems and trials. It isn't solely the strength within Hilde, how she cares passionately for her family - even the adopted members - or even how she eventually cares for Peer. It isn't Hilde's mother who is quite a force in her own right. It isn't the super scary villains who have me very glad I didn't read this after dark. It's all of those things, and many more that made this such a great read. All of my emotions were engaged - some at scarily high levels, I cried a bit, I smiled a lot. I sat with a cushion nearby not quite believing what I read.

It is a hefty book (over 600 pages) but don't let that put you off. It is divided into three parts, with an overall story arc as well as individual ones for each part. I learnt a lot about Vikings. I loved all the detail about how they gathered food, how the men went off on adventures (idiots), how easy it was to lie about what happened when men went adventuring, how hard life was, the small joys. The real vikings didn't have the aid (most of the time) of the Nis, who is a real help in the home when he isn't sulking. They didn't have trolls to deal with, although some of the different races they met may have looked like trolls. The book covers the topics of families, friendships, exploration, differences between people, greed and love. There is something for everyone. If, like me, you get frightened easily, only read this book in daylight.

Find out more about Katherine & her books on her website.

I give this book 9/10.

For a read about vikings, check out Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Review schedule

I've sorted out my virtual diary, and I'll be posting a review on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday's here on Cem's Book Hideout! Looking forward to sharing my opinions on books with you on these days.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Angel's Story and Cosmo's Story by Amy Watson

28th April 2011, Red Fox
112 pages (both), Paperback
Review copies,

Children's Paperback

Book Blurb for Angel's Story 
She may be a tiny, pure-white, fluffy kitten but Angel does NOT live up to her name! After Kelly and her family adopt Angel from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, they discover this mischievous moggy is total trouble...

Angel loves tripping people up, leaping out at Dad from the airing cupboard and generally being a naughty nuisance! When Mum cooks a roast dinner for all the family, will Angel be able to resist tucking in first? 

I like how these stories show the darker side to pets (no I don't mean the dark side of the force in Star Wars...) Pets are cute, adorable and funny, but they can be a little naughty too. All cats are good at tripping up owners, especially when it's time for food. Mine does it all the time!  What was interesting was that Kelly's brother, who deals the most with the family dog gets quite upset because as a consequence of Angel being in the house, initially Joey the dog is unsettled. Additionally Kelly learns that she needs to check with her parents if something can be used as a toy - it didn't harm Angel, but her mother wasn't best pleased when a ball of yarn was used during their play. 

Book blurb for Cosmo's Story
Cosmo may look like a tiny tiger with his tabby stripes and bright green eyes - but he definitely doesn't act like one! Shy and timid when Megan meets him at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, he loves to lick clean, nuzzle and look after his new owners. 

When a baby bird tumbles from a tree in the garden, can this most gentle and caring of cats help return the bird to the nest? 

Cosmo has a much more even temperament than Angel does. Meghan and her family have to give him extra gentle treatment so that they don't startle him. He's quite an intuitive cat to have looked out for the baby bird - my cat would have had it for dinner. I nearly had tears in my eyes through laughter the moment that I read Cosmo's head went round in circles as he watched the washing machine work - that's exactly what my cat did the other night with something else going round and round, and it's the funniest thing ever! Highly cute too. 

For both books
I was delighted to see that there were finally cat books in this series. I'm not really a dog lover. I understand the antics of cats better, which makes the books funny when I read them. I sit there thinking 'Belle does that'. I felt it was good that although Meghan wanted a kitten from a friend, her parents explained they were getting a rescue cat. Please do get rescue cats when you can. Our cat is a rescue cat, and no one really wanted her because she'd had a hard start to life. Just as with the dog books (which I didn't explain in this week's review) both the books have tips on looking after dogs and cats, as well as puzzles at the back of the book. 

I give these books 8/10. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Take Me Home by Melissa Wareham

January 2011, Red Fox
160 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Melissa Wareham always wanted to work with dogs - and got her first job at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, cleaning out the kennels! Over the years she met thousands of lost pets, including mongrel Tulip, who liked to ride solo on the 159 bus, stinky Pepe le Pew who was in dire need of a bath, and Benjamin the lurcher, chosen to greet the Queen when she visited the Home.

It's a joy to read when people work hard and end up in their dream job. Melissa's enthusiasm and joy is clear. Even though her first job is hard work, full of muck and not pleasant for the nose, she doesn't care. She's so happy to be looking after her favourite animals. I needed lots of tissues for when she reunited lost dogs with owners, when she cared for dogs then had to hand them over, when she got her very first dog. This is a positive book showing hard work and the right attitude will get you everywhere, as well as a great insight into life at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

I give this book 9/10.

Check out reviews from Monday 11th April 2011, and Friday 15th April 2011 which will have tales based on dogs and cats from Battersea (links to follow)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Huey's Story and Stella's Story by Amy Watson

28th April 2011, Red Fox
112 pages (both), Paperback
Review copies,

Children's Paperback

Back of book blurb for Huey's Story 
When Hannah starts at a new school, all the other girls are in firm friendship groups and she feels left out and lonely. Mum and Dad know that a puppy would make a perfect pal for Hannah, so they take her to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home where she meets Huey the husky. 

With his ice-blue eyes and cheerful character, Huey makes Hannah forget about her tough time at school. Can Huey charm her classmates so that everyone can be friends together? 

I love husky dogs. They are good at their job when they are used to pull sleds. They look cute, sort of like wolves (who I think are beautiful creatures). Huey is perfect for Hannah, they have so much fun together and he really helps her smile when she's feeling down. He does help her make friends in the end, but I was a little disappointed that the reason for Hannah being ignored by a girl wasn't explained. They just made up and nothing else was said. The enthusiasm of Hannah for Huey gives the story a great feel good factor.

Back of book blurb for Stella's Story 
Cara is sad when she breaks her leg and can't join her best friends on their summer holiday. To cheer her up, Mum takes her to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, where they meet Stella, the gorgeous and gentle Staffordshire bull terrier puppy. 

Stella goes everywhere with Cara - including to a birthday party in a park!   But one day she bounds onto a bus and is carried away before Cara can join her. Will Cara ever be reunited with her runaway puppy?

This does have a fair amount of humour, but I was laughing at the cover, because in The Winx which I'm currently watching, Stella is a fairy with long blond hair who likes yellow and orange clothes! I really felt for Hannah because I once broke my ankle, and being stuck at home tends to a person rather grumpy. Stella goes a long way in cheering her up - until she vanishes. My stomach turned over at that scene, because I once lost a zebra finch out of it's cage in my room. Losing a pet is horrible. Cara didn't realise it, but I guessed that her mother would know which steps to take to try and get Stella back. Even though I knew what the ending would be, I still had tears in my eyes. You can't beat a good reunion!

I give both of these books 8/10

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Amazing Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Proysen and Hilda Offen

February 2011, Red Fox Picture Books,
56 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Children's, Paperback

Summary from Random House Children's Books
Mrs Pepperpot has a problem - a huge problem - she shrinks! And when she shrinks she finds herself in all sorts of trouble...

Poor Mrs Pepperpot has shrunk again and she's set her heart on going to the bazaar. But with a clever disguise and a cunning plan, she's soon dancing rings around the ladies at the fair!

Puss can't wait for Mrs Pepperpot to shrink so she can whisk her away on an adventure. It's a hair-raising journey, but brave Mrs P is soon rewarded with some very special treasure indeed.

I remember reading Mrs Pepperpot stories when I was little, although I had forgotten how she became little. These two new stories were a delight to read. I enjoyed how good she was at baking, and how determine she became. It was interesting how when she was little in the first story, how people and animals behaved when they couldn't see her. There's a big feel good factor at the end of the first adventure. As for the second, although I don't encourage revenge or wrecking people's property, it was nice that ladies got what they deserved. It isn't fair when some people who aren't so nice boss other people around. You don't want to mess with Mrs Pepperpot! I love this style of illustrations, they are cheery and add an extra element to the story.

This childhood favourite hasn't changed over the years, and I give it 10/10.

A quick note

Just a quick note to say I'll be writing more reviews for a little while on this blog. There will be more Young Adult reviews soon, but since last week I read children's books, that's what's being reviewed. Most over the next week are to do with animals and rescue centres. I know it's a little different from what is normally reviewed here, but I hope the animal lovers among you enjoy them. I did!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

World of Happy by Giles Andreae book reviews Part 3

The reviews I'm doing for Claire here, until the end of April will be about the World of Happy books. These books will be published in April. Egmont very kindly set me the whole set (that was a huge surprise!). They are such wonderful books, full of messages that readers of all ages can relate to. It's aimed at children 3 years and older, but I think deceptively simple messages are ones that everyone should know about. I've decided to review these in parts because the messages in all of them are really important and valuable. I love the simple and uplifting illustrations with their funky colours. I didn't realise that these books were short animations on CBBC channel! How cool is that! For Part one which looks at The Little Penguin, Two Monkeys and The Elephant and the Spider click here, and for part two which looks at Planet of the Bears, Cow Party & The Knitting Gorilla click here

The Ministry of Niceness

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy 


Summary from Egmont
In the Land of Cats, it was the COOLEST cats who ran the town. And the Ministry of Coolness made the laws.
However, there was one cat who was just... NICE.
The Nice Cat went about his business with a SMILE upon his face.
And his niceness began to spread.
And so begins a story about SPREADING HAPPINESS - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

As a cat lover, this book automatically gets my vote! It teaches that you don't have to be at the top of society or have the best things to have fun. Being in tune with yourself, smiling and being polite to others leads to a harmonious society. Often kindness is in the little things, which can make a tremendous difference if people are having a bad day. 

A story about Spreading Happiness. My name is............. and I made someone happy when.......................

The Dog Machine

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback 
Review copy 


Summary from Egmont
The World of Dogs was run with great EFFICIENCY. There were MACHINES for every kind of task.
And the most brilliant was the one that dealt with all the BUSINESS that a dog might leave behind.
But there are many different KINDS of dog and one machine could not ACCOMMODATE them all.
And so begins a story about CELEBRATING OUR DIFFERENCES - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

Although we're all people, we are all unique. Sometimes you wouldn't think that with the way people can try so hard to fit in and be like others. Sometimes the differences are small, sometimes they are quite big. Being noticably different isn't always easy to deal with. This book shows that it doesn't matter what the differences are, being different is actually very normal! This one is going to a great friend, who lives half a world away from me, who loves dogs and currently has very cute puppies! 

A story about Celebrating Our Differences. My name is ................. and special things that make me different are...................

Dance of Wallowy Bigness

4th April 2011, Egmont
32 pages, Paperback
Review copy 


Summary from Egmont
There was once a hippopotamus who dreamed of being able to dance with GRACE and BEAUTY.
However, when she tried, she could barely lift her BOTTOM off the ground and her stomach WOBBLED most uncomfortably indeed.
"Come now," said a passing crocodile. "Perhaps you are simply trying the WRONG dance. What kind of dance would be YOUR dance... and YOUR dance ONLY?"
And so begins a story about being BEAUTIFUL INSIDE - a joyous little treasure for the whole family to share.
World of Happy... because life is FUN!

In a world where image appears to be everything, it is extremely important for everyone to know it isn't what they look like, but who they really are. You can look amazing but be miserable and not be yourself. If you have confidence in who you are, and are happy with yourself, you'll actually glow very brightly in the world, and people will notice you for who you are. It can take a while to find that confidence, but once it is found, it is relatively easy to hang on to. 

A story about Being Beautiful Inside. My name is ..................... and things that make me happy are...............

Come back in two weeks time, when on 20th April I'll be reviewing the final four books in this awesome series: The Pink Cricket, Tortoise Football, The Thanking You Sharks and The Lovely Whales.