27 Oct 2016



BACK COVER BLURB: 'If the odd was the ordinary at Alistair Grim's, then I suppose it came as no surprise that I should find magic in the most unexpected of places ...' 

Grubb, the young apprentice at Alistair Grim's Odditorium - a flying house of mechanical wonders - finds himself on the run, as all of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to defeat the real villain: the evil Prince Nightshade, who wants the Odditorium's power source for himself. Desperate to clear their master's name and save the world, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew set off on a perilous underwater adventure to the mythical realm of Avalon.

The object of their quest? The legendary sword Excalibur, the only blade powerful enough to pierce Prince Nightshade's suit of magical armour. Along the way, Grubb and his friends must confront a murderous banshee, sea monsters, and a witch with a grudge against Alistair Grim, in a rollicking adventure that will keep every reader riveted from beginning to end.

FIRST SENTENCE {From an article in The Times, London, 25 October, 18-}: ALISTAIR GRIM WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE!

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 104}: Nigel levelled the egg blaster at the target, and after a long, tense silence, squeezed the trigger. Thwiip! the muzzle rasped, and a bright-pink egg whizzed across the roof and hit the outer ring with a splat! Bits of pink eggshell sprayed everywhere, and a load of pink goo covered half the shield.

SOURCE: Received for review from publishers, Alma Books. (Excerpt here, synopsis and order book here).

MY THOUGHTS: With adequate recaps to previous events, perfectly readable as a standalone novel. However I strongly suggest that in order to get the best out of this, the second instalment in the Odditorium series, you read book one, Alistair Grim's Odditorium, first.

A series full of fantastical creations and quirky characters. Those expecting more of their favourites, whether it be Alistair himself, our narrator, Grubb, Mrs Pinch, Gwendolyn The Yellow Fairy, Kiyoko (surely the world's most fierce of Samurai warriors), Cleona the Banshee or, like myself, McClintock the pocket watch (to name but a few), will not be disappointed for, along with a few new characters, they are all here.

A magical underwater adventure combining some well known mythology as, along with Alistair and co, we get to travel to the fabled land that is Avalon in order to hopefully acquire the sword known as Excalibur.

Aimed at a 'mid grade' audience (generally accepted as those aged 8 to 12). What I particularly like about these books is that whilst not without peril there is nothing overtly violent about the content, the characters relying largely on their wits and courage to work their way out of some sticky situations.

As good as the first novel? On the whole, yes. I was delighted to learn more of McClintock of whom I'm inordinately fond, to learn of his origins. However, fond as I am of historical novels a small part of me did miss the Victorian setting in which we first met Grubb.

Still, based on the ending, obviously not the last we'll see of Alistair and his intrepid crew. I can't wait for book 3 ... and, who knows, books 4 and 5 and so on for I can see this being a popular series that may well run and run.

21 Oct 2016



BACK COVER BLURB: About the book ..

A child can deal with beliefs and emotions which have such a tremendous impact on his self-confidence and self-worth.

Whatever self-belief a child has, this will either aid or hinder his happiness and success. Stories are a truly amazing way of helping children to recognize and shift negative self-perception

The book is a collection of three magical stories designed to provide impacting inspiration in a way that children can easily understand.


Oscar is a small frog who did not believe in himself. It was only through a scary event that he discovered something amazing.

Someone Like Me

Lou is a little boy who struggles to fit in. He makes a magical wish. However, his wish is granted in an unexpected way.


Jenna is a girl who wishes to be popular. She admires the pretty girls in her school who seem to have it all. A poster shows Jenna how to have it all.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

MY THOUGHTS: Hmm! I have such mixed thoughts on this collection of short stories which is why I've asked for the help of Little Plum, almost six, with whom I read it.

Beautiful cover and interesting illustrations - full page and in glorious colour - it was however somewhat disappointing that there were only three of them, one at the beginning of each story.

Very different stories but all with a common theme - that of being different, of discovering yourself - at their heart. Whilst each of the stories was enjoyable enough taken on its own, taken as a collection I struggled with the fact that to me they didn't sit comfortably together. That each of the stories (down to the illustrations) seemed suited to quite different age ranges - the first to little ones, the second, to slightly older children, through to the third and what I felt would be much older (and possibly female more than male) children.

A collection I could see working well in a school setting. The first story perhaps re-enacted with the use of puppets. The last as a great starting point for a discussion.

But what of Plum, what were his thoughts?

Weeelll .....

Also a big fan of the cover though like myself (but even more so) he was disappointed with the lack of illustrations.

Like many children he responds well to animal stories and as such loved Oscar (The Frog That Could Not Jump), even managing to grasp the moral of the story in his own not quite six year old way.

As a boy himself he identified with Lou (Someone Like Me) .... to a certain degree ... loving his shadow which reminded him of Peter Pan's shadow. 

As for Jenna (Popular). Evidently too complex a story for him too grasp. Unable to relate to the character in any way, I'm afraid he showed no interest and, unlike the first two stories, has not requested a re-telling.

14 Oct 2016


Warning: Whilst not what I'd consider rude - and as many of you know I consider myself a bit of a prude - this advert has been certified as risque enough to be only shown after the 9 PM watershed here on British TV. TT

  • Considered by some as too rude, that any young children watching might be 'offended', that any parent(s) watching with a young child might be embarrassed. I'd argue that, only shown after 9 PM, surely little children will be in bed. And besides which, wouldn't any young children who happened to be awake and watching only see a woman spilling her chocolates and not get the sexual connotation?
  • Considered by certain Men's Rights groups as being 'sexist' in that if this had been a man instead of a woman there would have been cries that the ad was making light of sexual assault. I'd argue, the woman was talking about a partner (albeit a new one) and not some random stranger that she had groped, that, far from a sexual assault upon a person, this was more of a 'mishap', a mishap that the woman's partner quite clearly enjoyed.
  • Considered by some as patronising towards disabled people. I'd argued that its wonderful to see actual disabled people (and not able-bodied people playing disabled people) on TV, that its refreshing to see someone disabled actually advertising 'everyday' products, that, most of all, its fantastic that its being acknowledged that, guess what, disabled people do have sex lives.
What are your thoughts? Love the advert or loathe it? Find it too risque, merely patronising ... or both?

Way behind with my reviews and with a busy few days ahead of me, I'm hoping to catch up with things and as such shan't be posting until Tuesday (possibly Wednesday) soooo, as always ...

12 Oct 2016


After yesterday's review of August's readers group book, today I'm bringing you September's read which the group will be discussing tomorrow ...


BACK COVER BLURB: The four Alton children spend every blissful summer at their family's Cornish home, a house nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall, playing on its sun-baked lawns, building dens in its woods. Endless days without an adult in sight. Amber, the eldest daughter, cannot imagine anything ever changing.

But no one foresees the storm that will bring it all to a tragic end, turning Black Rabbit Hall into a twisted, unforgiving place that will steal their childhood innocence. A home that not all of the Altons will be strong enough to survive.

Decades later, as Lorna winds her way through the countryside in search of a wedding venue, she discovers a disturbing message from one of the Alton children carved into a tree.

Will the truth of that dark summer finally creep into the light? Or should some secrets be buried forever?

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue: Amber, last day of the summer holidays, 1969, Cornwall}: I feel safe on the cliff edge, safer than in the house anyway.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page  183}: Lorna's heart sinks. Just when she felt she was getting somewhere. Still, to be fair, Mrs Alton looks quite drained beneath the powdery blooms of blush on her cheeks, giving her the eerie appearance of an aged china doll.

SOURCE: A Reading Group read.

MY THOUGHTS: Let me begin by saying that this is a work of fiction and as such a certain amount of poetic licence is to be expected but there were certain things so implausible as to greatly mar my enjoyment of this book. The main one being ...

The threadbare rugs, the dark dank rooms, the peeling wallpaper, the dead seagull blocking the chimney, the hydrangea growing through the ballroom floor - all wonderfully descriptive of an ancestral hall long since past its prime but what bride-to-be would even consider holding her wedding here let alone show such determination to do so? 

Different eras (the late 1960's and 30 years on) and people. As if jumping around between the past and present, between the different occupants of Black Rabbit Hall, didn't make for potentially confusing reading. Add in the fact that many of the chapters ended in what amounted to cliff hangers and its hardly any wonder that I'd occasionally lose the thread of certain aspects of the story, finding myself having to back-track.

Perhaps surmountable concerns IF I'd otherwise found myself gripped by the plot and/or engaged with the characters but as it was, a case of too little too late, it wasn't until around page 150 or so and the hint of a tragedy that my interest was momentarily aroused and some pages after that that I found myself vaguely interested in how the story might eventually pan out.