Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Book Review: The Pool House by Tasmina Perry

The Hamptons - summer playground for the rich and mega-rich. Jem and her husband Nat can't believe it when they are invited to share a house beach-side in the Hamptons one summer. Style editor Nat has made massive connections since moving over from England a year ago, and this well-planned schmoozing has meant that the summer will be one to remember.

Jem has been at a loose end since moving to New York and has big dreams of running her own food blog. She tolerates her husband's cutthroat career and sees the summer as a way of making friends and spending time with Nat. But it turns out that the reason that the spot opened up at the house is that last year one of the wives - Alice - drowned in the pool on the property. It was ruled as accidental - she had been drinking after all, but gut-instinct tells Jem that there is more to it.

As she delves deeper she finds out that a lot went on last summer that no-one wants to talk about. The housemates do well hiding their secrets but with the help of a surprising new friend, Jem finds the cracks in their stories and finds out the truth about Alice.

The novel is written in two alternating sections - 'this summer', written from Jem's perspective, and 'last summer', written from Alice's perspective. The timing of the jumps is perfect for making you want to keep reading, each section ends with a massive cliffhanger or revelation and leaves you wanting to know just a little bit more before you put the book down.

FYI- there are a decent chunk of raunchy scenes, they are not too over-described but are definitely a bit part of the storyline, especially in Alice's story  - I was unprepared for the stark change from Jem to Alice!

The plot is well written and well thought out and having a small pool of suspects makes it interesting to guess what really happened. The characters are well drawn and not always likeable which is a refreshing change. As well as the whodunnit, there are also some much deeper issues that affect the main characters which are worked through as the novel progresses.

I really, really enjoyed this book! I will definitely be reading some more of Tasmina Perry's work - despite the cheesy covers. The look of this novel seems to stray from her usual so it will be interesting to see how the others read.

Available now!

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Book Review: Oi Cat by Kes Gray and Jim Field

The third hilarious book in the series with Oi Frog!, Oi Dog! and now Oi Cat!

Poor Cat has been instructed that cats sit on gnats - it's the rules! But Cat doesn't enjoy the gnats biting his bottom - perhaps HE can change the rules like Frog and Dog have done? What else can a cat sit on?

This brightly coloured and wonderfully illustrated book is full of animal rhymes that you wouldn't expect: Racoons and macaroons, armadillos and pillows, alpacas and cream crackers. So many animals, so many rhymes. You would think by the third book of essentially the same premise, that there would be no rhymes left but nope they keep on coming. It helps introduce new animals to children (and adults - what is a lark?!), and adds the odd bit of classic potty humour.

We love this series and I think they will bring a smile to your face.

Available now.

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Playscript

Not the actual cover - changes exclude the words 'new' and add PLAYSCRIPT

Don't worry guys, I'm not super behind the times here, I know this has been out for ages but Hachette have been releasing a few special editions of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The specific edition I got my hands on to read and review is the Playscript.

"This revised paperback edition updates the 'special rehearsal edition' with the conclusive and final dialogue from the play, which has subtly changed since its rehearsals, as well as a conversation piece between director John Tiffany and writer Jack Thorne, who share stories and insights about reading playscripts. This edition also includes useful background information including the Potter family tree and a timeline of events from the wizarding world prior to the beginning of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

Having not read the original script when it was first published, I can't compare the 'subtle differences' but I did enjoy the extra timeline and family tree. The conversation piece I could give or take, it didn't really add to anything for me.

If you haven't already read it, this story is set 20ish years after the 7th Harry Potter novel, and Harry & Ginny's middle child, Albus Severus Potter, is headed off to Hogwarts for the first time. Albus has big shoes to fill and ends up befriending Draco Malfoy's son and they get involved in something they shouldn't and mess everything up. All with good intentions mind you.
That's pretty much all I can give away from the plot.

I enjoyed the storyline. I'm not a diehard Potterhead but I have read and loved the HP series. I can take this story as it comes and look past the things that others didn't like about it. There is plenty to read if you Google it!

After already reading a script-as-novel before with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I quickly re-oriented myself with the script format of the book. Also not for everyone, but you kind of get used to it and it adds a different dimension to how the characters act and think.

Overall a good read as an addition to the Potterverse and this version may be up your alley - it is also a paperback edition.

Available now!

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Book Review - Thank You, Mr Panda by Steve Antony

Mr Panda is a stickler for manners. In this book, Mr Panda has presents for his friends. But will they be thankful for their gifts, even if they are not what they are expecting? Lemur features as Mr Panda's sidekick - will he remember his manners too?

The expressions on the animals faces are priceless. Mr Panda is so deadpan, you can do the best voices while reading this book aloud.

This is the third book Steve Antony has written featuring Mr Panda, with a fourth due out in October. I had just gotten out Please Mr Panda from the library when this book arrived to review so Addison was familiar with the characters. I recommend starting with Please Mr Panda, then I'll Wait, Mr Panda, then Thank You, Mr Panda. Donuts also feature in all the books which is always a winner in my eyes!

These are the kind of books that children find hilarious and adults really love the humour too. I rate these books highly for the 2-4 year age group.

Published by Hachette and available in paperback now.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Book Review: Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Louise Williams has been sitting on a terrible secret since high school involving the assumed death of a fellow student - Maria Weston. Now 25 years later a friend request from Maria appears on Louise's Facebook account. But she's dead, isn't she? The request is followed by increasingly mysterious and chilling messages which force Louise to re-live that night, and an upcoming school reunion makes matters worse. Who really knows the truth about what happened that night? To what extent will they go to keep it a secret?

This is Laura Marshall's first novel and it really holds its own in the thriller genre. I liked that it centres around social media and highlights some of the dangers about what we put out on the internet.
Louise is suitably anxious, paranoid and messed-up from her past which has weaved its way into her adult life. She is a solo mother of a young boy and the references to the early days of parenthood which affected the relationship with her then-husband are easy to relate to. There is a twist as usual and I definitely didn't see it coming. The pacing was a bit slow to start with but once past the halfway point it was all go until the end.

A great read, without a romance plotline or gruesome details, which is pretty rare these days! I will definitely keep my eyes and ears peeled for Laura Marshall's next offering as this was right up my alley.

Available now!

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Book Review: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Let me just start by saying that this book won't be for everyone. However if you, like me, have been intrigued yet horrified with 'The Handmaid's Tale' then this runs along the same lines. It has also been likened to 'The Giver'.

Set in a patriarchal dystopian world, most of the earth has been ravaged by fire and a small group of 10 men and their wives managed to create a settlement on an island. These men called themselves the Ancestors and set up a cult-like society complete with their loose version of a bible with 'shalt-nots'. The men tend the land. Women are wives and housekeepers, who may only have two children to ensure the population doesn't grow too quickly. Girls are married off as soon as they hit puberty but before that are there to 'comfort' their fathers when they can't go to their wives (if you get what I mean. Gross. It's never described though - only alluded to). In the heat of the summer all the children are sent off free to roam the island and fend for themselves to keep them from rebelling for the rest of the year.

Obviously inter-breeding becomes an issue with lots of 'defectives' which troubles the men of the island. The story is told by four girls on the brink of puberty, one is older than the rest because she starves herself to keep puberty away. The girls have grown up in this messed-up society but some have begun to question the why's and what-ifs. But can children change anything?

As I said - not for everyone. I chose this book to review because the blurb said that it was about a cult on an island. Would I pick this off the shelf for myself? No. Should I? Maybe. With all the hype surrounding The Handmaids Tale where women are oppressed and men teach false religion, it casts an eerie shadow on a future that may not actually be too far off these fictitious stories.

The writing is beautiful, the characters are well-drawn and the island comes to life in your mind. Although the topics that are alluded to are worst-of-the-worst, they are tiptoed around and treated with sensitivity. But then there is some graphic violence that undoes this.

Clearly I am torn with this book, it is very haunting but well written and it has made me think, which not many novels do -I tend to consume then forget.

So if my patchy review has made you curious then Gather the Daughters is available now. This probably won't be the last you hear of it.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Book Review: From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

As soon as I saw this book was about to be published I had to have it. I usually struggle through non-fiction, especially biographies but this book is different.

From Cradle to Stage is written by the mother of rock-legend Dave Grohl (the multi-talented musician of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame). His MOTHER. Imagine all the hilarious stories she must have, the perspectives of Dave (or David, as she calls him) that she has seen from the trenches. You don't have to imagine. She delivers.

Along with tales from her own past, Dave's childhood and his early career, Virginia decided that she wanted to hear other rock-mother's stories. Others who have navigated that crazy lifestyle that she had never thought possible for her son. It turns out that there were plenty of other mothers that were willing to share their stories including Dr Dre's mother, Pharell William's mother, Amy Winehouse's mother, Adam Levine's mother and Josh Groban's mother. These stories are told by Virginia from the visits she had with each of these amazing ladies. Interspersed through the individual stories are vignettes of reflection and even some snippets of the early Nirvana years.

There is a familiar trend that runs through most of these musicians: school was not always the place that nurtured the creative spirit, much to the dismay of the mothers. Each story describes the moment when the musician realized that music was an achievable goal, and when their mother finally accepted this revelation. Often times their family is their biggest cheerleader, becoming manager/roadie/merch seller in the early days.

Some stories tell of pain, sorrow and heartbreak on the journey, others highlight the toll that this life can take on a family but every mother is so darn proud of their children that they would do it all again in a heartbeat.

I have picked up and put down this book, the stories are short, just enough to sit down with a cup of tea and read for 10 minutes. It means that it has taken me a while to get through but I think there is nothing wrong with that. It is well written, Virginia has a lovely storytelling style and is very humble. I love that there is a picture of her with each mother she meets and you can just imagine them sitting down and chatting the afternoon away. The stories are raw and real though and they don't gloss over the realities of the lives that have resulted from the fame. This makes each mother so much more relatable and you realize that behind every rock star is a mother who loves, cares and worries.

If you have ever dreamed of being a rock-star, if you have a mother, if you ARE a mother, or if you are just curious about the lives of some of these big names then get your hands on this book.

Available from April 26, 2017 in paperback and e-book formats.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.