Archive > April 2010

Mrs Armitage Queen of the Road

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Mrs. Armitage: Queen of the Road By Quentin BlakeI first became acquainted with Quentin Blake through his quirky illustrations for Roald Dahl’s novels and books of verse when my children were growing up. Dahl’s stories are often hilarious in themselves, but Blake always seemed to capture the essence of Dahl’s characters in his drawings and add even more to the humour.

Quentin Blake has more recently illustrated stories he has written himself that are wonderful to read and enjoy. Most of them centre on a particular, sometimes eccentric, character. ‘Mrs Armitage Queen of the Road‘, for example, is a bespectacled, grey-haired lady whom we first meet in striped pyjamas and a brown dressing-gown, sitting opposite her smiley dog at the breakfast table. Who would imagine that she later teams up with a Hell’s-Angel-style group of motorcyclists who dress her up in a leather jacket and studded collar? This is the fantastical reality of Quentin Blake’s world.

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The Way Things Look to Me

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The Way Things Look to Me By Roopa Farooki“My name is Yasmin Murphy, and I don’t remember very much about the morning that my mum died, which is odd, as normally I remember everything.”

The Way Things Look to Me is the story of Yasmin and her brother and sister, Asif and Lila, each of whose life is completely changed by the death of their previously widowed mother. Life wasn’t easy before she died and their childhoods were already far from ‘standard’ because everything revolving around the needs of Yasmin. If Yasmin didn’t like something, then the Murphy children didn’t get to do it – after all, where was the fun in going out to have fun and finding Yasmin spoiling it for the others?


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The Baby Group

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The Baby Group By Rowan ColemanIn my opinion, Rowan Coleman is one of the best modern fiction writers around today. She first came to prominence in 2002 with her first book ‘Growing Up Twice’ which I thought was an excellent first novel. I have been a big fan ever since and have thoroughly enjoyed all her subsequent novels. ‘The Baby Group‘ ,like all the others, is written with great insight and perception that shows that she clearly understands what it is to be a woman in the 21st century!

The Baby Group‘, as you might guess from the title is about a group of mums (and one dad!) who all meet and form a bond through looking after their young babies.

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The Second Wives Club

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The Second Wives Club By Jane MooreThe Second Wives Club‘ is an absolutely brilliant read! I had not read anything by the author, Jane Moore, before but I was drawn to the title because it sounded intriguing, and also as I could be classified as one of the ever growing band of second wives myself! So, I was interested about what she had to say purely through a fictional point of view.

The second wives club consists of four women, all who are married to or live with men who have been married before! Having said this though, all their situations are quite different. The four meet together quite regularly for lunch in order to provide moral support and practical advice for each other.


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Child Soldier

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Child Soldier By (author) China KeitetsiWhat is it about misery that makes for such compelling reading? Tales of miserable childhoods fill the shelves of the nation’s bookshelves. Remember ‘Angela’s Ashes’, filled with grubby little Irish children picking coal off the streets and drinking their tea out of jam jars? Or Dave Peltzer kicking off a glut of impassioned shock-lit, stuffed full of physical, mental and sexual abuse, each book striving to be more shocking than the one before? It reminds those of us old enough to remember of the Monty Python sketch in which a bunch of northerners compete over who had the worst childhood – “We were so poor we lived in a paper bag at the bottom of a lake!”

These books all cry out “My mum/dad/gran/school/priest/social worker treated me worse than a dog …… but I’m a survivor” and the public laps them up in a frenzy of voyeuristic fascination. How many autobiographies can you think of about happy childhoods? I can’t think of any but then I don’t suppose “My mum and dad were fantastic and my childhood was full of love and comfort” shifts the mountains of paperbacks that publishers are looking to sell.

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Prophecy

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Prophecy By Peter JamesNon Omnis Moriar, which translates as “I shall not altogether die.” These words are at the centre of this thriller written by Peter James.

A young boy watches his mother die in a truly horrific accident. Drunk students mess around with a Ouija board in a dark cellar. A sadistic man dies in agony.

Frannie couldn’t be happier when a chance meeting at a train station leads to romance. The fact that her new relationship seems marred by tragedies, she dismissess as coincidence. Feeling happy and in love, Frannie is somewhat blinded to the often gruesome accidents that are happening around her. Eventually however, she is forced to face the reality that these tragedies appear to be linked and that she herself is somehow connected.


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I Forgot to say I Love You!

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forgotI Forgot to Say I Love You By (author) Miriam Moss, Illustrated by Anna CurreyYou can tell just by looking at the cover of this book – ‘I Forgot to say I Love You!’ – , where you see a mummy bear and her little boy having a BIG cuddle, that this is going to be a lovely warm story! And it is! ‘I forgot to say I love you’ really is a good book for sharing with little children!

Many parents of young children will probably recognise a lot of the things that happen in this story! At the beginning the little bear called Billy is very slow at doing all the things he has to do in the morning such as getting dressed and eating his breakfast!

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A Cautionary Tale for All Restaurant Reviewers

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The Apologist By (author) Jay RaynerI enjoy restaurant reviews – both writing them and reading them. However with the same sort of fascination that drew crowds to public hangings and floggings for many centuries, I’d have to admit that I like a review that gives a place a really tough savaging. I don’t necessarily believe all I read, but there’s something to be said for a strong opinion. So when I came across Jay Rayner’s book ‘The Apologist‘ I was hooked before I was half way through the first paragraph of cover ‘blurb’.

From Savage to Penitent

Rayner’s protagonist Marc Basset is a savage restaurant critic of the type that seems common in most major newspapers. In the age of the celebrity chef there’s a good trade in celebrity critics and Basset is one such critic.

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Hey, I Love You!

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Hey, I Love You! By (author) Ian Whybrow, Illustrated by Rosie ReeveHey, I Love You!‘ is a wonderful picture story written for small children and tells the story of two mice and what happens when one forgets to tell the other that he loves him. In fact, this is a very interesting book because in fact there are actually two stories being told at the same time – one through the words written on the page and the other through the beautiful pictures!

In the written story, Big is just about to go off and find something for supper, but before he goes he asks Small to tell him the special words which are:

Bolt the door and lock it tight,
Close the curtains and turn on the light.
If I do, then I will be
safe where the Bad Cat can’t catch me!

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Gothic Whitby

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The Hundred and Ninety-nine Steps By (author) Michel FaberSian has recently joined an archaeological dig in Whitby. Troubled by horrifying nightmares after an accident in Bosnia that left her badly injured, she is trying to get by one day at a time, while trying to forget about the pain in her leg that she believes could be cancer. When she meets Mack and his gorgeous dog, Hadrian, she feels a flash of life return to her again; even more so when Mack presents her with a centuries old murder mystery that she feels compelled to solve. She also hopes that the fact that she can do something so satisfying will bring her closer to Mack. Will she be successful? Will she forge a new relationship with Mack – or are her deep-rooted issues too great to overcome?

Set in Whitby around the Abbey, there is a very Gothic theme to the book, backed up by the numerous references to Dracula. This is perfect for a murder mystery, because it sets the scene perfectly.


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Husbands and Other Lovers

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Husbands and Other Lovers By Jane Elizabeth VarleyI have to start this review by saying this is one of the best books I have read in a while, and it was one of those books that I was quite disappointed when I had finished it because I was enjoying it so much!

Husbands and Other Lovers‘ is the second book written by Jane Elizabeth Varley. Her first book had a similar title – ‘Wives and Lovers’ – and in both of these books she deals very well, in my opinion, with the complexities of modern day relationships. Some might think of this type of book as ‘chick lit’ but I think it’s more substantial than that, although I would definitely say that it is a book for women.


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Testing KS3 English Skills and Practice Year 7

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Testing KS3 English Skills and Practice Year 7 by Ray Barker and Christine MoorcroftThe transition from primary to secondary school in the UK is not always an easy one, and parents who wish to encourage their children to develop good reading and writing habits might be on the look out for a book such as ‘Testing KS3 English – Year 7‘.

The book contains six test papers, each of which focuses on a particular topic such as school, monsters, woodlands or football. Each test paper includes three passages for reading followed by comprehension questions of different types and then a writing test related to the topic. For example, Test Paper 3, entitled Times of celebration, has an extract on Christmas, a fictional passage centring on bonfire night, and a poem entitled ‘Diwali in Kerala’. In actual fact each test paper features one poem.

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