Saturday 28 April 2018

Book Review: The Farmyard Idol by Angie Belcher *NZ Author*

How many times have you told your child that books are not for drawing in? What if there was one that was designed so that your child can colour in half of the illustrations?
That book is The Farmyard Idol.

The farmyard is very noisy so Farmer Fred decides to hold a competition to see which animal has the best voice (think American Idol style). Each animal practices then heads to the performance. The musical layers build on each other as Chicken (peck peck peckity-peck) finds Dog (howooool), who finds Horse (clipity-clop, clipity-clop) and so on. At the performance, three judges critique the animals - Farmer Fred, his wife Betty, and Farmhand Joe. Joe is the typical Simon Cowell judge and it takes something special to impress him.

I really enjoyed this book. It took a couple of read-throughs before I got the animal noises and rhythms in a way that flowed and sounded good to me but it works if you change them up too. At first I wasn't sure about having a judge that wasn't very encouraging but then I remembered real life and I decided that it actually makes the competition more of a competition!
I like that the text has a variety of colours and sizes for emphasis and animal identification. There are also some interesting phrases introduced such as 'sensational sound', 'scintillating solo' and 'breathtaking beat' that aren't commonplace in picture books but are great for adding to children's vocabulary.

This book has a lot of aspects going on - and in a good way! Call it value for money. Read-aloud-ability (it's a thing - parents you hear me), silly farm animal voices, playing with rhythm and other musical aspects, colouring in, and even some tear out postcards with feature illustrations from the book.

The book recommends that it best suits 4-9 year olds but I think it is still a great read aloud for younger children, especially if you 'forget' to tell them they can colour it in. Addison (4) has been really enjoying having the book read to her - her favourite animal noise is the cow and the pig. Once she found out she could colour it in she went straight for the postcards at the back and has cautiously begun to work her way through the pages.

This book was written by Angie Belcher and Illustrated by Debbie Tipuna. These two amazing women have collaborated together before and hail from my hometown of Te Puke. I grew up with Angie and Debbie as wonderful role models in their community and I love that they are passionate and quirky and use that to their advantage.

Angie Belcher promoting The Farmyard Idol

This is a great book to gift, or to add to your collection. Know that you are supporting two local legends when you purchase this book.

Angie gave me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Book Review: This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell

I don't usually read what I like to call 'fluffy' books - light, romantic fiction books, but occasionally, if one gets recommended to me or it has a good blurb then I may go for it. This is one of those and I enjoyed it so much I would even consider reading another!

This Could Change Everything starts with Essie, who is in her mid-twenties. Essie is playing grown-ups having just moved in with her boyfriend Paul. One night over a bottle of wine she and her friend write a joke version of a holiday card which states in much detail, how much she dislikes Paul's mother. It was never meant to be sent, just a bit of a vent, but she wakes up to the email having been sent to her entire contacts list - including Paul and his mother. The sender turns out to be Lucas - a friend of her brother's who had come home drunk in the middle of the night. Suffice to say Essie does not like Lucas.

Suddenly finding herself on her own Essie is at a loss with what to do. In a stroke of luck she chances across an 83 year old, well-dressed lady called Zillah who decides that Essie is just the right person to rent out her fancy flat upstairs. Zillah moonlights as a wish-granter for elderly folks near the end of their lives, along with another young man, Conor. Through this, along with a new job at a pub where the manager is no other than email-sending Lucas, Essie begins to change her perspective on life, and love.

The characters are all well developed and relatable, each has a beautiful voice that draws you into their thoughts. I deeply cared about the outcome of a couple of relationships, as well as the outcome of an incident involving Zillah.

It was funny, it made me want to keep reading and it got me invested. All marks of a good book and so this one gets a tick from me. I'm glad I ventured out of my dystopian/crime thriller zone for this latest read. I will definitely keep Jill Mansell in mind for when I next need a fluffy read!

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book. Out now at the usual retailers.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Book Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

It feels good to get back into some good ol' thriller fiction. I always seem to come back to it after dabbling in other genres. I was definitely not disappointed by Jessica Strawser's second novel.

Not That I Could Tell starts with a group of neighbours struggling to remember the night they had round a fire pit in one of their backyards. Then one of them goes missing along with her young twins and suddenly a suburban neighbourhood is the centre of an investigation. The women at the campfire are a mixture of mothers with young children, a military wife, a newly single professional and a woman in the middle of a divorce. The women try to piece together any small hints of what could have happened to Kristen, when it seems that she managed to hide a lot of her life by becoming great at pretending her life was going so well.

The suspicion eventually falls on Paul, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, a much loved doctor who is visibly distraught, especially when allegations of domestic abuse arise. 
But how well do we really know the people who live around us?

I loved this book and I tried very hard to read it in 5-minute snatches of my days and eventually I managed to get to the final chunk in one solid time slot. At first the book seemed very predictable, the twist was pretty simple to follow and clues were being dropped all over the show. But then, a final twist was one I didn't see coming and it was perfectly planned. It also made the ending great for me
A trigger warning - domestic abuse, especially the emotional side, is brought up. There is also very minimal sensuality which I enjoyed, where relationships were real and sometimes messy but didn't need to be defined by sex.

I identified with the life stage of most of the women who were at home with young children, a lot of their emotions rung true with me. Like getting caught up in the neighbourly gossip, while still trying to be a good friend and keep things running smoothly.

A great book, slow to start but keeps getting better. I will definitely go back and read Strawser's previous novel and if you are a thriller fan then give this a go.

Published by Hachette NZ. Available from 10/04/2018. RRP: $37.99.

Thanks to Hachette for a review copy of this book.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Book Review: The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright

Rachel Bright teams up again with illustrator Jim Field (previously seen in The Lion Inside) with another eye-catching, stunning and funny book that has a strong message to boot.

The book features two squirrels: Spontaneous Cyril and Plan-Ahead Bruce, who both have their eyes set on the Last Nut Of The Season. They scamper and fight through the pages and are thwarted at every turn, leading to them both going over the edge of a waterfall without the nut. Finally the two squabbling squirrels realize that they have been silly, and put aside their differences to share the bounty and become friends.

Addison's favourite part of the book was the waterfall. I loved the autumn-y setting that is shown through the illustrations in beautiful colours and trees in all shades of yellow, red, and orange. There are some very cunning rhymes and the words flow nicely off the tongue. This is a great read-aloud book and had plenty of scope for emotion to be added. It is the perfect book for Addison at the stage she is at, where she can learn about turning squabbling into friendship and sharing.

A great addition to your collection, and definitely worth a read if you spot it at your local library!

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book.