Snow Angels by John Thompson – a review

Do not be lulled by the sweet title of this book, this is a graphic and violent story of murder, rape and brutality.

Set in Finland, I found reading about the culture very interesting. Life is harsh and alcohol plays a big part of everyday life in winter.

Inspector Kari Vaara is head of the police force in Kaamos and just days before Christmas the mutilated body of beautiful Somali actress Sufia is found cut up in a reindeer field. As Inspector Kari continues his investigation the plot thickens and he is forced to confront his demons as well as trying to keep his lonely isolated and preganant American wife happy as she recuperates after a nasty skiing accident.

Not at all predictable, I found the book thought provoking and it left me wondering quite how do Finns cope with long dark days for months on end. The book is an easy enjoyable read. Just be prepared for some graphic gruesome details that may make you wince. This is definitely a book to read while under the covers wrapped up warmly because the descriptions are so vivid that you can feel the freezing temperatures that the characters have to endure.

It is a great book that I found hard to put down until the very end, an interesting aspect is the insight into Finland’s culture and I will definitely be reading the next book in the series based around Inspector Kari Vaara.

‘Where would I be without you?’-Guillaume Musso

Only just translated into English, Guilliaume Musso’s book ‘Where would I be without you?’ will keep most people enthralled from the beginning until the end.
Musso has sold a staggering eight million books in less than seven years and this latest book sold a million copies just in France.

Firstly I must say don’t be put off by the front cover, if I am being honest I don’t think it does the book any justice. The cover gives the impression that the story is going to be another predictable gushy love story but it is anything but. In fact the romance in it was a tiny part of the story although as will be revealed also a very important aspect.
Starting in San Francisco, we meet Martin, a French man using his short time there to improve his English. He falls in love with Gabrielle very quickly where they have a very brief love affair but then Martin returns to Paris, alone.
Fast forward thirteen years and the story takes on the role of a crime thriller and adventure as policeman Martin pursues the world famous art thief, Archibold McLean. I particularly loved being taken on a wonderful journey through Paris.
Inevitably Martin is drawn back to San Francisco where the plot thickens and he starts to wonder if the love of his life, Gabrielle, is somehow connected to his case.
There are some deep psychological aspects as both Martin and Gabrielle deal with the skeletons in their closets and I was left wanting to know more, especially about Martin.
Without giving anything away because this is probably the most unpredictable book I have ever read the twists and turns took me completely by surprise. In some ways it seemed totally implausible and not in keeping with the rest of the book but in the end it all makes sense. Sorry to be so vague but you have to read it to find out because I don’t want to spoil it for you.
I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be looking out for more books by the same author. I found the interview with Guillaume Musso at the end of the book very interesting and enlightening.
I was sent this book to review by Gallic Books
I will award this book 4 out of 5 cupcakes

‘One Day’ by David Nicholls-Book review

Sitting in my draft posts for months I thought what better time to post this than when I am for once lost for words…

I have had my eye on this book for ages after seeing all the positive reviews so when I saw it reduced just before Christmas I snapped it up quickly.

The book begins on 15th July 1988 when Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet on the night of their graduation in Edinburgh, Scotland. We read where they are each year on the same day over twenty years. We get to know exactly what Emma and Dexter are doing, sometimes worlds apart, sometimes together. Anyone that grew up in the UK in the eighties or nineties will I am sure, relate to this. It actually feels a bit like ‘coming home’. I could identify to so much, I felt as though I was growing up with them, knowing exactly what they were feeling because I had been through a lot of it too.

The book is so simple and yet so complex, it is very clever and I couldn’t help but think, “Why didn’t I ever come up with this storyline?”

At times you want to shake Emma and Dexter, “How can Emma be so silly?” or “How can Dexter be so infuriatingly frustrating and insensitive?” But you can understand it too. I loved Emma’s outspoken manner and sighed deeply at Dexter’s immature behaviour. I got cross at Emma’s lack of ambition, thinking what a waste of that brain and yet surprised at Dexter’s determination to make something of himself while having as much fun as he could at the same time.

There was a little moment in the middle of the book where I was lost for a while and drifted off but the book picked up pace again and near the end it got to a point where nothing else mattered other than finishing it and finding out what happens.

I highly recommend this book especially if you are the same generation, I am sure it will keep you hooked and bring back nostalgic memories of  young adulthood and beyond.

I award this 4 out of 5 cupcakes

Hector and the Secrets of Love by Francois Lelord- a Book review

Recently translated from French into English and published by Gallic Books, we follow Hector’s Journeys where he travels half way round the world looking for the secrets of love. Written by Francois Lelord, a psychiatrist who has had a successful  career in France and USA, this is the second of Hector’s adventures.

Hector is a psychiatrist who gets asked by a huge pharmaceutical company to track down their wayward scientist Professor Cormorant who has been working on a secret love potion. Leaving behind his girlfriend Clara, Hector heads for the Far East, the last place the professor was seen. Once in the Far East Hector is left little clues by the mischievous Professor Cormorant to help Hector track him down. In the meantime Hector wants to know what love means and starts writing notes, or little seedlings as he calls them, as he starts to question his relationship with Clara.

Persuaded by one of  Professor Cormorant’s notes Hector agrees to try the Professor’s secret love potion and falls in love with hotel waitress Vayla and they become inseparable. Throughout the story Hector aware that his love for Vayla is down to chemicals analyzes their unusual bonding.

The book takes us from France, to a faraway island, to Cambodia, then to Shanghai before heading back to Cambodia again. We are treated to insights into the love and sex lives of panda bears and orangutans and there are some deep, quite thought provoking statements about love and the way men and women perceive it.

The cover of the book got my attention straight away, bright and fun which is what it was. At just under 300 pages the book is short enough to enjoy over a weekend and the brief chapters were ideal for me to pop in and out of whenever I had a spare five minutes to read. The book is humorous but thought provoking and sometimes sad when faced with the harsh reality of how painful love can be. I think it is a lovely little book and particularly enjoyed the locations it was set in.

There is a very interesting interview with Francis Lelord in The Telegraph .

I was sent the book to review.

I award Hector and the Secrets of Love three out of five cupcakes

Bedtime Stories and a competition

I have always loved reading stories to my children, in fact I have spent the day planning and looking forward to a particular bedtime story many many times. I love the joy it gives and I love being immersed in the innocent story that takes you out of the day to day grind. So I was very sad when I was sent some research done by the phone and broadband company TalkTalk that found out that 48% of parents don’t read bedtime stories to their children. I can’t believe it and I am appalled. I assumed most people did this simple practice, it’s a major part of being a parent surely?

The research also enabled a list of favourite bedtime stories to be compiled:

1. Famous Five, Enid Blyton
2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
3. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, H.C. Andersen
4. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves
5. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
6. The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
7. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
8. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
9. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
10. The BFG, Roald Dahl
11. The Cat in the Hat, Dr Suess
12. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

I have to say there are a few there that are definitely not my favourites but I do like The Famous Five.

TalkTalk have launched a competition TalkTalkTales to find the nation’s best amateur narrator. The storyteller Bernard Cribbins will be choosing the winner who will win £2000. There are also Amazon vouchers to be won and an Amazon Kindle. The competition is open to anyone over 12 years of age. The competition closes on 13th March 2011, so there isn’t much time left but Good Luck!

Parenting Tips- Encouraging children to read

Having gone through the ‘learning to read’ process four times so far,  I thought I would share my tips for getting children reading and enjoying it, some may seem obvious, others not so.

  • Frequently people ask me how they can get their children to read but more often than not it is the reading material that is the problem not the reading ability.
  • Start reading with your baby as soon as possible. I used to spend hours looking at books with my son and he was reading CS Lewis at five year’s old. That’s not to say that was the only factor of course but I’m sure I encouraged his love of reading from a young age.
  • Incorporate a bedtime story in your daily routine and keep it up for as long as the child wants to be read to.
  • Read books to toddlers that are interactive, such as replacing words for pictures that your child can say. They learn to follow the words from left to right and feel encouraged. PB Bear by Dorling Kindersley  is fantastic for this and should be available at libraries.
  • Encourage your children to ask for book tokens for their birthdays so that they can shop and choose their own reading material
  • Go to the library.
  • Let children choose. Sometimes school reading books are extremely boring. Please let there be a new reading scheme other than the Oxford reading tree by the time Little M is in school.
  • Just as adults have book preferences children are the same. I don’t really like books about animals, I remember as a child ploughing through Watership down and Black Beauty very very slowly. I am still the same if I am reading a book that hasn’t really captured my attention. It becomes a chore.
  • Allow quiet time and space to read. Turn off the television
  • Some children prefer non fiction and as long as they are reading  it really doesn’t matter what the book is about even if it is “Where does snot come from?” ( I made that up by the way) or another grusome fact book. ‘Ripley’s Believe it Or Not’ and ‘The Guiness Book of World Records’ are great for this. My one reluctant reader learned to love reading when I introduced him to the ‘Horrible Henry’ series.
  • Factor in reading time at bedtime for older children.
  • Listening to story CD’s in bed can encourage children. Some books come with CD’s so the child can follow the words.
  • If all else fails there are comics,there are still new words in them to learn. For older children there are monthly magazines such as The National Geographic that may interest them.
  • Never force or get angry as you could scare your child and put them off reading forever
  • Read books yourself.
  • And lastly, I repeat…read, read, read to them all the time and remember that the book content is just as important. If it doesn’t interest the child then it’s going to lessen the incentive to stick to it!

This has been posted for the Friday Club Carnival at Notes from Home.

Here are the other entries in this parenting tips carnival:

Blue Sky at Looking for Blue Sky gives us some teenage tips.

Gemma at HelloitsGemma’s Blog gives us her working mum tips in This working Mummy’s guide to life.

Maggy at Red Ted Art shows us how Baby Can Draw!

Chris at Thinly Spread gives us her Secret to Relaxed Parenting.

Cass at The Diary of a Frugal Family shows us how she teaches her children about other countries and cultures whilst having fun in America Day.

Helen at Cheeky Wipes gives us her tips in Fussy Eating.

Mummy Beadzoid gives us some Parenting tips for the NICU/SCBU parent.

Kelly at Domestic Goddesque shares her advice in Terrible Twos: tips for dealing with tantrums?

Ella at Notes From Home gives us her tip for encouraging children to tidy up at the end of the day.

Tiddlyompompom shares her weaning tips in her oh so helpful guide to weaning.

Mymumdom shares her tips in Parenting Tips (Me Over The Edge).

SouthoftheRiverMum tells us her plans to set up a Reward System at Home.

Not so single mum at Diary of a Not So Single Mum shares her advice on doing what you feel is best for your child and your family.

Jax at Making It Up discusses behavioural issues in a quandary in search of a tip.

Bod for Tea shares her advice on finding a ‘helper’ to encourage your child to do things they don’t really like doing in Bunny says.

Hayley at Simply Hayley tells us about Hugs and Love.

Make Do Mum shares her stickability scale in Know Your Enemy.
The Friday Club

My Favourite Book-Friday Club Carnival

How on earth do you choose one favourite book ever? I can’t , I really couldn’t. I started reading at a very young age and have never stopped but I have to admit as an adult although I read lots of fabulous books that I love, I never read them again. So, I can only tell you about the books that fueled my passion for reading. I longed to enjoy children’s classics such as The Old Curiousity Shop by Charles Dickens or The Gardens of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston but I am as fussy about books as I am about shoes. I am pretty much anti-classic! I love Romeo and Juliet as a ballet but reading Shakespere doesn’t do it for me but on the other hand I loved Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. I did also love Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and my daughter has read them avidly too.

There were the obligatory Enid Blyton books, I don’t think there is one book of hers that I never read, I wanted to be in the Secret Seven and Famous five gangs, wondering why nothing as exciting as that never happened to me and I longed to live in The Faraway Tree. I do have many many childhood memories of books that I did read over and over again.

First up is Robin Hood. I have searched the house looking for the copy that I refer to but sadly I can’t find it. It is a 1950’s version which was awarded to my uncle as a school prize. Good old fashioned drama, adventure and romance.

Then there is Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  Although I am a girly girl the tom boy in me so wanted to be as adventurous as these two mischievous boys. I read these over and over again.

Last but not least I read this at secondary school but it made a huge impression on me, Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien, so much so it never [cough] made it’s way back to school and sits on one of our many book shelves. It depicts the devastation left after a nuclear war in America.

Nowdays a lot of my reading time is spent reading books to see if they are suitable for my twelve year old daughter, the downside, or perhaps upside is that I keep lusting after the characters in the books!

This has been posted for the Friday Club Carnival over at Notes from Home. Click on the badge for more information

The Friday Club

Here are the other entries in this Book Carnival:

Jax from Making It Up reviews ten favourite books she loves to read with her children in My favourite books.

Kelly from Domestic Goddesque posts about the book that gave her back the joy of losing yourself in a book in I read books once. Now I have small children.

Jenny from GingerBread House reviews her favourite book: Orla Kiely – Pattern.

Not So Single Mum from Diary of a (not so) Single Mum reviews The Lady in the Tower.

Becky from Book Reviews for Mums reviews the book that opened her up to her responsibilities and the choices she makes in life in My Favourite Book.

Helen from Cheeky Wipes reviews her favourite books in From Riders to The God Delusion – my favourite books.

Cass from The Diary of a Frugal Family reviews her first and favourite cookbook in Where It All Began.

Cara from Freckles Family reviews a favourite from the past few years in A Favourite Book.

Maggy from Red Ted Art reviews a recent gift, a Pop-up, Pull-out, Picture Atlas.

Ella from Notes From Home reviews Sad Book.

Book Review- ’61 Hours’

I knew when I saw this book at Charing Cross station,London ( where I tend to buy most of my books on a whim) that I would like it. I’m easily taken in by a cover- so gullible!! Then turning to look at the back I was told to “Get ready for the most exciting countdown of your life”

I’ve never heard of Jack Reacher before but he is the character in Lee Child’s long running series. Not that you need to read any of the other books……it certainly doesn’t detract or make any difference to the enjoyment or understanding. ’61 Hours’, it turns out is the fourteenth book and was first published in March 2010. Jack is an ex Military Police officer living a nomadic lifestyle who gets stranded in South Dakota during a terrible winter storm. It just so happens that the seemingly small town of Bolton has lots of dark secrets and strange rules and regulations surrounding it’s Police department and new Prison compound.

Needless to say Jack Reacher gets involved in the complex situation. At times it is slightly implausible but that is the joy of reading, in my opinion. I was immediately hooked from page one and at times I literally couldn’t read the words quickly enough to find out what happened next. There were a couple of moments when I winced at the violence but they were not frequent.

I thought the plot was convincing and very cleverly thought out with so many twists and turns, it was a true thriller. I knew I would be very disappointed when I finished it as I had enjoyed it so much.

I award this a huge five out of five cupcakes and will be getting book fifteen as soon as I can

A New Year, New Goals?

Every year I tell myself don’t make any New Years resolutions because they are sure to fail but secretly hope that the changes I want to make will miraculously happen…. they never do of course.
What I do know is that 2011 will bring lots of changes to our life. There were a lot of major changes in 2010 but there are more to come. Just thinking about it makes me feel overwhelmed but I’ve already checked my star sign for the year and it is looking a lot more promising than the last year. So, that is sure to mean everything will be okay then. 😉

I can’t start something or give something up in the middle of the week……so diets always start on a Monday and classically I will eat about a billion calories on the Sunday, clearing out the cupboards in the mind set that I will be denying myself, forever (haha), so have to make the most before starting……I am definitely an all or nothing person. Chocolates open, I have to eat them all until they’re gone. Wine open? Same result! I know it’s not the ideal psychological frame of mind but when I am determined I can also diet really well, exercise and look after myself but I forget sometimes and slip back into bad habits…….I need reminding occasionally! Feel free to remind me!

Anyway my ‘goals’ for 2011 rather than resolutions are all self centred ones because I know I do my best for the children and my life revolves around them, but I have to think of me too otherwise life will have passed me by and I will wonder what I actually did….

1. Read more. I still struggle a little with concentration but it’s getting better so I hope to read all the books that are piling up waiting to be read. I am hoping to read so many that it will justify having a whole new page on my blog dedicated to them!

2. Relax more.Pamper myself, it doesn’t have to cost anything. Find the time to have a relaxing bath, give myself a facial, manicure and pedicure! Just sometimes!

3. Look after myself. Start up the running again and eat more healthily.Stop eating chocolate and drinking wine!

4. Spend less time procrastinating and actually attempt to achieve some of the goals I have. Secret goals! 😉

5. Keep looking forward and not back…..see everything as a positive. Remember that I/we had a lucky escape and that every cloud has a silver lining.

We’ll see but these are all things I should be doing anyway……..fingers crossed if I don’t beat myself up too much I will achieve them but I won’t hold my breath!

What resolutions or goals do you have for the New Year?

Happy New Year to everyone, wishing you happiness and good health for 2011.

This post is for the Friday Club Carnival at Notes From Home on New Year Resolutions. Come back to see who else has taken part.

Click on the badge for more information

The Friday Club

‘Knots & Crosses’ with some Chocolate on the side-A review

A while ago I was sent a book to read along with some delicious Galaxy chocolate, time for me…..time to relax and do nothing but indulge in beautiful words and smooth melt in the mouth chocolate…..what could be better?

Unfortunately life in a household with five children doesn’t always allow that ….it’s not actually finding time to read that is difficult because if I’m reading a book I like I won’t put it down until I finish it, often reading until the early hours. It is finding the time to ‘get into’ a new book that is hard unless it is a book that instantly gets my attention.

Anyway, I thought for a while over which book to review, should it be a romantic, comedy, thriller?  I decided to go for Ian Rankin’s thriller

‘Knots & Crosses’.

Published in 1987, this is the first novel in the Inspector Rebus series. Based in Edinburgh, DS John Rebus is a haunted man caught up in a case of abduction and murder of young girls. It took me a while to get past the four pages of introduction, although the background behind the writing of the story was very interesting, but once on chapter one I was hooked. I liked the ‘warts n all’ style and the dark tour around Edinburgh’s drinking holes. Rebus is a complicated man with many issues and at times the story was quite shocking but I really could not put it down. It had twists and turns and I didn’t want to it to end. My one tiny negative was that it was too short. On a positive note I was left wanting more so I will be hunting down other books in the series now. You won’t be left disappointed, I thoroughly recommend it.

Galaxy are giving away a million books on special bars of their chocolate including the book Knots & Crosses, and also have a special Facebook page. For more information go to the Galaxy Book Club site.

Not so wordless Wednesday

I know……I’m procrastinating! I’m good at that. Instead of doing this post I should be writing for National Novel Writing Month. You may have seen the tweets #NaNoWriMo ? Well this is what they are all about. This time last week I had not even heard of it but I’m sure by now you will have realised that I like setting myself ridiculous challenges. This one being to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This means that I should, theoretically, write 1666.66667 words every day for thirty days to meet the 12 midnight deadline on 30th November.

I have had writers block since I was thirteen. I have lots of stories in my head but I don’t seem to have the time to write them and I’ve never known how. I’m hoping that while writing this ‘novel’ I will break this barrier. What I’m writing, if I’m honest, is a load of rubbish. The plot has changed completely, the main character is not who I wanted them to be and although I know how I wanted the story to start and finish I don’t have any middle at all. This is also not one of the books, in my head, waiting to be written……I want to linger over them and make sure they are perfect when I do them.

My book is called Seven Days

So far? On day three I have written 2859 words so I am just slightly behind. 😉

What happens if I don’t complete it? Not a lot, I may just beat myself up a bit.

What happens if I do? I can call myself a writer….a novelist…. I also get a certificate!

I’ll keep you posted on how I’m getting on. :)

And yes they are screen shots from my *cough* novel up the top! A novel that I will most probably never show anyone so think how lucky you are! Hehe……

Penny and the Pirates- a Giveaway

Written and illustrated by Keith Robinson ‘The Adventures of Penny the Postie’ depict tales of  Penny who delivers letters to all sorts of exciting places. Penny manages to find herself on a desert island after discovering a magical postbox, she goes on a treasure hunt with Captain Titch and helps him fight back the mean Captain Bully Bones. Penny and the Pirates particularly appealed to Little M, aged three years, who is fascinated by pirates. Little I, aged seven years, has loved listening in to this now bedtime story favourite. I thought it the perfect length of story for a toddler to listen to. There is a fair amount going on in the pictures as well which has opened up more discussion. As a lovely little touch, the book comes with a set of collectible stamps too. The only tiny gripe for me was the ending, I think little ones need a proper finish and I wanted to read more…..

Anyway, I asked Little I to write down what she thought, although I have corrected the spelling this is exactly what she wrote:

“I thought Penny and the Pirates was a good book because I like the part when Penny falls into the postbox and lands on a desert island. I would rate it five out of five because the story has lots of descriptive writing in it and has lots of colourful pictures in the book”

We are lucky to have two Penny and the Pirates books to giveaway to the first two names pulled out of the hat on Friday 29th October 2010.  To enter answer the following question in the comments section, please include an email address or Twitter ID so that I can contact you to arrange delivery. Sorry, open to UK residents only due to postage costs. :(

What is Penny’s job?

A) Police Officer

B) Chef

C) Post Lady

Clue, answer in the post above! 😉

We rate it  3/5 cupcakes overall.