Review by Angela
This is a lovely follow on from Sweaty and Pals. The main theme is fun and adventure for Derek (Sweaty) and his five pals. The style of writing, the length of chapters and the illustrations are very much like the original book and reading it felt very much like carrying on a school year later with more adventures of the Blytheton Road Gang.
The familiar characters we loved are still there, Gran, Grandad and the children’s favourite teacher, Miss Taylor, as well as the rather grumpy neighbour, Mr Murdoch. There are plenty of newcomers too with a couple of girls showing their faces to this all boys gang.
The chapters are just the right length to read one at bedtime and each chapter is a complete short story in itself. Young children will love the realistic tales of birthday parties, trips to the zoo on a bus and making the best of a rainy day inside. The illustrations are lovely and simple and depict the story perfectly.
Review by Angela
Ana and Tommy, aged 9 and 5, are staying with their grandparents. Their grandfather is telling them a story of ‘Trouble’, a Great Dane dog who was signed up to join the Navy – and this is based on a true story – yes, really! This reality made the story for me. I must admit that it’s not the most gripping of children’s stories, but knowing that there was an element of reality and truth to the story, it gave additional intrigue. Trouble, later to be named Joyful Trouble, is a big slobbery dog who loves to hang around with the seamen of Simon’s Town near Cape Town. Being such a lovable dog he was adopted as ‘one of their own’ by the seamen and travelled, slept and ate with them.
The two children are lovely to hear about, especially inquisitive and spirited 5 year old Tommy, and the dialogue presents polite, well spoken children. The grandfather is with the children for the whole of the time in the book so there is always adult talk and guidance. The grandmother is fairly stereo-typical, cooking, feeding the children and preparing picnics etc., but an obvious stable character for children.
For UK readers, just be aware that this is written by in South African English and is, at times, a little strange to our ears.
The book opens with the prologue at the aftermath of Catherine’s funeral. It is a little bit sad but it is a good opportunity for the reader to be introduced to the main characters – Sean, April and Maggie. After everyone has left the wake, Sean, now a widower, is visited by his neighbour and friend, Maggie, just to check on him and also leave him a simply wrapped cardboard box. Sean later opens the box to find that Catherine has left him twenty-nine numbered envelopes, each containing a photograph and a cassette recording of her memories of the time the photograph was taken. The first instructs him to open the envelopes at weekly intervals.
The chapters of the book start with a short description of each photograph of the weekly opened envelopes, and then the verbal contents of the cassette which Catherine recorded during her final weeks in hospital. We go back to the beginning of Catherine and Sean’s relationship when they first met at a fairground and hear from Catherine her first hand impression of meeting Sean. The following chapters give milestone markers of their marriage, the birth of their daughter, April, and various parties and workplace memories – some of which even Sean had forgotten about.
I thought this was a very clever, if not quite unique, way of telling the story of an, at times, troubled marriage through snapshots of memory. Although the premise sounds depressing, it has very uplifting and amusing moments. It is written with emotion and sensitivity and also shows how father and daughter come to terms with the loss of wife and mother in different ways. I am ashamed to say that this is the first book by Nick Alexander I have read, but it won’t be the last.
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This is an action packed, fast paced apocalyptic style thriller. The book opens with Gabriel being forcefully taken from his own home in front of his wife and children. Outside the house, a woman in a van is orchestrating the whole operation including intercepting the anticipated emergency phone call to be made by Gabriel’s wife moments after his abduction. At that point, just a few pages in, I was hooked and just didn’t know who to trust – Gabriel must be somebody bad for the authorities to take him in that way, but then again, were they really the authorities?
The story moves back a few days for us to understand why Gabriel was taken from his home. There is a long conversation between Gabriel and his friend Naheen, in which Naheen tells of a prophetic dream/premonition he’s had in which Gabriel changes the world and Naheen sees only black. Moments before Gabriel is abducted, he hears on the news that Naheen and his family have all been brutally murdered. The story then moves to Afghanistan where an archaeological dig is taking place and after a sand storm, there is a marvellous revelation. From here the story takes off Indiana Jones style!
Hoping the above has whet your appetite with intrigue, I shall say no more about the story but it is quick paced and, although at times I wondered where the story could possibly be going, it all comes together by the end. You will then need to read book two to follow the series for further revelations to unanswered questions.
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Italian Sonata is the second volume in Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s noire trilogy, the first being The Gentlemen’s Club. This one is a full and complete story in itself but to get the most from the characters, particularly Maud and Henry, I would advise you to read The Gentlemen’s Club first.
Italian Sonata is set in 1899, mostly at a castle on cliffs high above the sea near Sorrento, Italy. Henry fell deeply and unconditionally in love with Maud in The Gentlemen’s Club and this book follows straight on, travelling through Europe for Maud and Henry’s honeymoon. Henry’s sister, Cecile, at the insistence of Maud, accompanies them on their honeymoon. Part way through their European tour, Cecile stops off at the ‘Castello’ for a few days to give Maud and Henry time and privacy on their honeymoon. Little does naïve Cecile know that she is a sexual pawn between debauched Lorenzo and his promiscuous sister. The Castello holds its own dark secrets and before long Cecile is out of her depth.
Emmanuelle’s writing is impeccable. She writes beautifully and poetically of places, people and, of course, erotic sex scenes. She uses different language depending on the scenes – sweet roses and moist petals for loving scenes, and thrusts, clenches and aggression for brute sex.
This noire series is a work of art. The eroticism, especially in The Gentlemen’s Club, is second to none and, unlike many other books of the erotic genre, Emmanuelle’s have a great storyline. There is a good sense of time and place with the countries of Europe being accurately and beautifully described, and the dark, gothic feel of the castle, the clothing and smells, puts you right back to the turn of the Victorian century.
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If you like your psychological characters to be absolutely psychopathic nutcases, then you’ll love reading about Hester in Web of Scars.
The opening chapter is of a car crashing down a cliff side with Frances being the only survivor. Her friend and fellow passenger, Rosie, is dead and so is Rosie’s daughter, Nilah. After so much heartache, injury and relationship deceit, Frances leaves her husband and goes to live in her grandmother’s house which she has recently inherited. She tries to start a new life for herself with the comfort and familiarity of her childhood neighbours and village, continuing to write her series of children’s book for income. Things really start to take off when Frances hires Josh and Hester to tend the enormous garden. Josh is a lovely quiet local man with an unfortunate stammer and Hester is a vile and evil individual – except she’s sure to have Frances only see the good in her.
Lots of things mysteriously start to go wrong for Frances and we, the reader, get to see Hester’s cruel and vicious ways. But why? Who is Hester, why is she so cruel and what has any of this got to do with Frances?
Written in third person, each of the chapters have the individual characters’ viewpoints and a full picture emerges around their relationship to and with Frances. This gripping story gives a climatic end, allowing the reader to breathe again for the final concluding chapter.
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This is a very delightful story of Tess Bloom, a perfumerer, living in Paris with her daughter, Natasha.
Unfortunately, Tess has lost her sense of smell and is finding it increasingly difficult, almost impossible, to stay on top of her job. The bills are piling up and then there is a phone call telling her that her mother has died back home in Ohio. From here, Tess and her daughter go back to Ohio for the funeral and to sort the house ready for selling and each have adventures which were totally unexpected.
Tess Bloom is a likeable character and the story is well plotted and interesting with a splash of humour here and there. There is an element of predictability but the story telling is so flowing and charming that it really doesn’t matter – the journey to the end is a pleasure. It could do with a bit of proofreading (I had a private giggle at Tess laying prostate on the floor when I’m sure she would have been prostrate) and if you can ignore the little errors, there is a really great story here.