#BookReview Paris Cat by Dianne Hofmeyr

The Blurb

Cat is rather different from the other alley cats in the back streets of Paris. She can do anything she sets her mind to. Even if others don’t think so. Leaving her cat family behind, she sets off to explore the city and to sing and dance the night away. On her travels she meets the legendary Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker. Soon she’s famous. But is this the life for her? Cats have nine lives, after all…

My Thoughts

I have to be honest, I was unsure what to think of Paris Cat as I read it through the first time. The illustrations are not appealing to me and I didn’t find it particularly eye catching. However, as I read it through again my ‘teacher brain’ started to go crazy with ideas and appreciate how significant this story could be.

The book is about a cat following her dreams and not being afraid to be different and stand out from the crowd. Lots of vital lessons for the classroom. The cat then follows her dreams and makes them come true, which again could open up so many interesting discussions within a classroom setting. But the main draw for me was the fact that the story features two historical figures, Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf, both of whom worked for the French Resistance during the Second World War. Therefore, reading this story with an older class studying WWII could open up a whole series of lessons and research opportunities.

Thank you to Tiny Owl Publishing for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Buy your copy here…

#BookReview The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

This is Marianne Cronin’s debut novel and what a debut it is!

The Blurb

Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

My Thoughts

Wow! This is one of my favourite books and one which I will be recommending to many of my friends for years to come!

The story begins by comparing terminal illness to an airport terminal, something I thought was very cleverly done and is carried forward to the end of the book making for a very well rounded story.

The main characters Lenni and Margot are, in many ways, an unlikely pairing but their friendship blossoms and together they share stories of their combined 100 years of life. I relished the stories of Margot, she was full of surprises and it was clear that she had lived a very full life, although not without heartache and pain.

Lenni also has a very special relationship with Father Arthur whom she visits on a regular basis. Their conversations made me laugh out loud and highlighted Lenni’s quick wit and sense of humour.

Although the plot is built around death, it focuses so much on life. There is no emphasis on the illnesses that either of these woman have, there is no unnecessary details shared about their suffering. Instead, this part is very much skimmed over to make way for moments of happiness and the joy they bring to one another’s final chapter.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one. It is such a beautiful looking book to own and one which I chose to buy in hardback because it will look amazing on my book shelf.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is an incredible debut novel from Marianne Cronin, an author who is going to go far and I look forward to joining her on her journey.

Buy your copy now…

World Book Day 2021 – Books for toddlers

It is World Book Day so I thought I would mark the day by posting some books for toddlers. As both a parent and a teacher, getting children into reading and encouraging reading for enjoyment is something I am extremely passionate about. Reading has to start from a very young age and so I am always encouraging parents to read to their children and siblings to read to one another. With this in mind, here are my 2 year old daughter’s current favourite books …

I am a Tiger by Karl Newson

This is such a fun picture book about a mouse who tries his utmost to convince all of the other animals that he is in fact a tiger. It is a funny story told through the use of clever illustrations and bold colours. The facial expressions are very cleverly done and my toddler likes to point these out and tell me how the characters are feeling. This is the current book I have to read at least three times before bed but it is no chore, I love it just as much as my daughter!

Little Owl’s Egg by Debi Gliori

Such a heart-warming story of an owl who lays an egg but the baby owl isn’t best pleased. Throughout the story both Mummy Owl and Baby Owl pretend that the animal inside the egg is something other than an owl but in the end Baby Owl concedes that a baby owl would in fact be best. ‘Little Owl’s Egg’ was previously gifted to Primary 1 children across Scotland in 2017 by the Scottish Book Trust.

Say Hello to the Animals by Ian Whybrow

I love this story and you can’t help but sing it as you read. It is the story of a puppy who takes the reader around a farm to say hello to all of the animals. My toddler loves animals and is always making the animal noises and pointing them out to tell me what they are so she loves this book.

Ladybird First Favourite Tales

As a teacher I am always flabbergasted at how many children get to age 10 and do not know some of the traditional tales so I have been searching for a collection of traditional tales that I can add to as my little girl grows up. After a few weeks of searching I came across these books and we both really love them. So far we have Hansel and Gretel, my favourite childhood tale, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. What I like about these is that the stories are the stories as I remember them, no twists or extra characters, just the traditional tale as they were originally told. A lovely little collection of books that you can add to year after year.

#BookReview Last: The Story of a White Rhino by Nicola Davies

The Blurb

A rhino is put in a zoo in the middle of a grey city, where all he can do is pace back and forth. He misses his home, his mother, the smell of earth and rain. He fears he may be the last of his kind. Then one day, he is rescued and released back into the wild, to live free with the other rhinos.

My Thoughts

If you are a teacher then I would say that this is most definitely a book that you need in your classroom. When you are working with children you can’t help but look for clever ways to hook them in to difficult subject areas to make them relatable and relevant. ‘Last: The Story of a White Rhino’ is most certainly the perfect hook that will undoubtedly open up discussions around a variety of themes and topics that are imperative in our curriculum. 

In this book, Davies tells the story of a rhino who is captured when his mother is killed and is then taken to a zoo before later being rescued and released back into the wild. The one thing that struck me right away about this book was the clever use of colour as it is so remarkable. From my own experience, the meaning behind the use of colour would be easily picked out by learners of all ages providing an opportunity to delve into further discussions around the stark contrast. 

Furthermore, there is another story told through the images themselves and that is the story of the girl who sees the rhino in the zoo and is subsequently responsible for his rescue. Highlighted in colour against a dark background she is easily identifiable in several images, which again would allow for an interesting and detailed discussion with learners. 

This story could be used in a classroom to open up lines of communication and deep thinking around many themes including sustainability, conservation, animal cruelty and the impact humans have on our environment.  

Last: The Story of a White Rhino is an emotional story told through powerful images, emotive language and contrasting colours. A must have for all teachers! 

Thank you to Tiny Owl Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Order your copy now

#BookReview The Wife Who Got a Life by Tracy Bloom

The Blurb

Cathy is left open-mouthed when her husband hijacks the family’s New Year resolutions and throws in a midlife bombshell, so after years of school drop-offs and housework, Cathy decides it’s time to take control of life before it takes control of her. She makes a list of monthly goals that she hopes will set her up for the coming of middle age.

Cathy soon realises that nailing the list isn’t quite as easy as it seems, but she’s a mum on a mission and nothing’s going to stop her now…

My Thoughts

It these difficult times we all find ourselves in right now I really needed something light-hearted and uplifting to read that would make me smile and Tracy Bloom certainly delivered with ‘The Wife Who Got a Life’. I am not sure I am going to be able to do this book justice but here goes…

The story is based around Cathy’s life and the motivational diary she receives from her sister at Christmas. At first she is against setting her own goals but eventually comes round to the idea and the goals she sets herself are utter genius. Nothing too radical or drastic but small, easily achievable goals she can work towards to improve her life, many of which made me giggle. As Cathy starts to achieve her goals you see her change as a person, she grows in confidence and becomes more independent and comfortable within herself. I like the relationship she has with her children. It was honest and reflected the trials and tribulations parents encounter as they try their best to raise teenagers. 

The boys in the story were by far my favourite, particularly Freddie whom I found hilarious and definitely someone I would like to be friends with. Robbie seemed like a good guy and I was surprised when Cathy said at the end that she didn’t think his relationship that was blossoming with her daughter would last. I felt sorry for Robbie and the hand he had been dealt as a child but was also amazed at his journey and his ambition. I loved how he very much became part of the family. 

This book made me laugh out loud at several points. The ending was certainly emotional and, not usually one to cry at books, I am not ashamed to admit that I did in fact shed a tear. ‘The Wife Who Got a Life’ is uplifting and emotional and such a poignant reminder of how simple life can be and yet how happy it can make you.

‘The Wife Who Got a Life’ is out on 15th April.

Pre-order your copy now…

#BookReview Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding

The Blurb

Being Tommy’s mother is too much for Sonya.

Too much love, too much fear, too much longing for the cool wine she gulps from the bottle each night. Because Sonya is burning the fish fingers, and driving too fast, and swimming too far from the shore, and Tommy’s life is in her hands.

Once there was the thrill of a London stage, a glowing acting career, fast cars, handsome men. But now there are blackouts and bare cupboards, and her estranged father showing up uninvited. There is Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road. There is the risk of losing Tommy – forever.

My Thoughts

Bright Burning Things is bold, powerful and extremely emotional. Sonya’s story brings out so many emotions in the reader: anger, sadness, frustration and empathy. I felt that it gave me a real insight into what it is like living with an addiction. Never before have I considered the strength of addiction and how it is so consuming.

I never doubted that Sonya wanted to be a good Mum and I could see that she did strive to do her best but sometimes it just wasn’t good enough. It made me consider the impact positive relationships could have on your recovery, something Sonya was sadly lacking in. Being judged and feeling inadequate really seemed to heighten her stress and anxieties making the road to recovery ever more difficult.

At times this was a difficult read, particularly when reading about some of the decisions she makes with regards to Tommy. Nevertheless, it is captivating!

Preorder your copy now…

Published on 4th March 2021

#BlogTour The Kindness of Psychopaths by Alan Gorevan

I was very excited to read this, as soon as I saw it was another book by Alan Gorevan I signed up for the tour immediately as I loved The Thriller Collection!

The Blurb

How far would you go for those you love?

When Valentina López Vázquez vanishes from her home one morning, it’s obvious that she was taken by force. What happened to her next is not so obvious.

The disappearance forces two men on a gruelling search for the truth: Barry Wall, Valentina’s frantic husband, and Joe Byrne, the nihilistic detective in charge of the investigation.

They are locked on a devastating course that will take them to places darker than they ever dreamt – places without limits…

Don’t miss this page-turning thriller. Perfect for fans of Shari Lapena, Peter Swanson, Jennifer Hillier, and Linwood Barclay.

My Thoughts

I like that Gorevan gets right to the point quickly, such a fast-paced opening that it hooks you in!

The one thing that struck me in this book was how I couldn’t work out if I liked or didn’t like the characters. Barry Wall struck me as a genuine guy at the beginning whom I felt sorry for before being enraged by him and subsequently feeling sorry for him again. It was a bit of a rollercoaster! Dunne was another strange one I couldn’t quite work out, from the outset I thought she was corrupt but something didn’t quite feel right. She turned out to be one of the characters I liked the best.

One part of the story I felt was particularly well written was the part where Christopher goes home after the incident in the park. Gorevan is very clever here and goes on to tell the story from a completely different perspective later on in the book, which was really compelling and totally threw me off.

As the story ends, the readers are left wondering what Joe will do – will he go with Dunne or work things out with Lisa? I really want him to go back to Lisa and make things work, I feel like there’s a lot of unfinished business there. I’m hoping there will be a next instalment so we can find out.

‘The Kindness of Psychopaths’ is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. There’s a lot of death and different aspects to the story that you can’t help but keep reading. Another success for Alan Gorevan – I look forward to the next one!

About Alan Gorevan

Alan Gorevan is an award-winning thriller writer and intellectual property attorney. He lives in Dublin.

Social Media

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#BookReview – The Dare by Lesley Kara

The Blurb

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death. 

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

My Thoughts

This was my first Lesley Kara book and I loved it!

Lizzie, the main character, is much stronger than I initially thought and not the naive woman I was worried she was going to be. I was so engrossed in her secret that I had to keep reading just to find out what really happened the day her best friend died. Her fiancé Ross really split my opinion, there were moments I felt sorry for him followed by moments I hated him. He was an interesting character whom I don’t feel we really got to know.

The story has lots of twists and turns and throws in quite a few curveballs I wasn’t expecting. It’s full of drama, dark secrets and surprises. A very well written book!

If you like psychological thrillers then this is one for you. I will most definitely be reading Lesley Kara’s back catalogue and will patiently await her new releases.

Pre-order your copy now…

Released 4th March 2021

#BookReview Why Mummy’s Sloshed by Gill Sims

Gill Sims does it again, another hilarious and laugh out loud book to enjoy during this crazy time.

The Blurb

I just wanted them to stop wittering at me, eat vegetables without complaining, let me go to the loo in peace and learn to make a decent gin and tonic.  It genuinely never occurred to me when they were little that this would ever end – an eternity of Teletubbies and Duplo and In The Night Bastarding Garden and screaming, never an end in sight. But now there is. And despite the busybody old women who used to pop up whenever I was having a bad day and tell me I would miss these days when they were over, I don’t miss those days at all.  

I have literally never stood wistfully in the supermarket and thought ‘Oh, how I wish someone was trailing behind me constantly whining ‘Mummy, can I have, Mummy can I have?’ while another precious moppet tries to climb out the trolley so they land on their head and we end up in A&E.  Again.

Mummy has been a wife and mother for so long that she’s a little bit lost. And despite her best efforts, her precious moppets still don’t know the location of the laundry basket, the difference between being bored and being hungry, or that saying ‘I can’t find it Mummy’ is not the same as actually looking for it.

Amidst the chaos of A-Levels and driving tests, she’s doing her best to keep her family afloat, even if everybody is set on drifting off in different directions, and that one of those directions is to make yet another bloody snack. She’s feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, and the only thing that Mummy knows for sure is that the bigger the kids, the bigger the drink.

My Thoughts

I was so excited to get started on this being a big Gill Sims fan and I was not left disappointed. ‘Why Mummy’s Sloshed’ is just as funny as its predecessors and if you have not yet read any of the books in the series then I would highly recommend that you do.

I am amazed at Ellen’s platonic relationship with her ex-husband and I really enjoyed reading how their relationship developed over the course of this book. Although told in Sims’ usual funny manner, there were lots of sincere moments that made me smile. This time there are lots of new challenges in Ellen’s life as her ‘precious moppets’ are growing up and getting ready to flee the nest and I feel you saw a different side to her as a mother. As I am currently mum to a toddler I particularly enjoyed the part where she looks after her friend’s toddler, it was very relatable. There are so many laugh out loud moments in this book, just like the others, that I find it very difficult to pick fault.

Once more, a real triumph! Thank you for putting a smile on my face during these difficult times!

Buy your copy now…

#BookReview #Netgalley Grown Ups by Marie Aubert

The Blurb

A compact, funny, devastating novel about sibling rivalry and modern motherhood, from one of Norway’s rising stars

Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and struggling with the feeling of panic as she realises her chances of motherhood are rapidly falling away from her. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs – but tries to put a pause on these worries as she heads out to the seaside family cabin for her mother’s 65th birthday. That is, until some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets old tensions simmering, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, and her entire family.

Exhilarating, funny, and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups gets up close and personal with a dysfunctional modern family.

My Thoughts

A well translated, enjoyable short novel.

I was compelled to feel sorry for the main character throughout the book but there were several points where I felt angry about her actions. She seems like she has lost her way and is so caught up with where she thinks her life should be that she’s forgotten to live the life she has.

The storyline is simple and overall the book was an enjoyable read although the end doesn’t feel quite final, I wanted more closure. Perhaps there will be another book to carry on the tale.

Released 3rd June 2021

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