Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Children's Book Review: Wild Animals Of The South by Dieter Braun 

Dieter Braun hails from Hamburg, Germany and is a freelance illustrator and children's book author. His previous works include Wild Animals Of The North.

In his latest work, Wild Animals Of The South, he depicts a range of beautiful animals that are from the southern hemisphere.
Divided into five regions, (Africa, South America, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica), the reader is taken on an exquisite visual journey with Dieter's stunning illustrations of animals such as the hummingbird, frilled-neck lizard, saltwater crocodile, hippopotamus, and spotted hyena. 
My two younger daughters adore this book, and have spent  a good deal of their time reading the descriptions of the various animals, and admiring the pictures.
The book is hard-covered, and features over 130 pages of illustrations and information that will enthrall both children and adults alike.

Wild Animals Of The South is available now through Walker Books, RRP $39.99

Monday, 26 June 2017

Book Review: The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

It's the last week of Term 2 here, and I'm looking forward to the school holidays, especially as the weather is getting much colder now!
I've been busy reading some great books, including The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster. 
Have you heard of it, and/or read it yet? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. For those who haven't, you can read my review below to see if it's a book that you think that you'd enjoy..

Eleanor Brennan is 21 years-old, and living in London with her uncle and aunt after wanting a new start from her haunting childhood in outback Australia.
She lands a job at a children's publishing company, Parker & Lane, where her aunt is the CEO.
She has only been there for 3 weeks when she finds out that the director of the company, Arabella Lane, has been found dead in the Thames river, just hours after the company's annual Christmas party.
It isn't known whether Arabella jumped, or if she was pushed.
Eleanor remembers chatting with Arabella at the party, but after having her drink spiked, she can't recall much else. She begins to panic as she knows that she was one of the last people to see Arabella alive. She doesn't know whether she had anything to do with Arabella's death, and she struggles to convince herself of her innocence. It doesn't help when the Art Director, Will Clayton, claims that he saw the two women together at the party, or when Arabella's ring is found in Eleanor's handbag. She is unsure how it got there.. did she put it there herself, or has she been set up?
Eleanor is questioned as a witness but she finds it difficult to fill in the missing hours of that night.
Throughout the story, the pieces of the puzzle are slowly put together. There are many suspects, many secrets, and a lot of mystery involved which kept me highly intrigued.
The other storyline that runs throughout the book is the journey of Eleanor's childhood, and the reason why she wanted to make the change to a new country. I really enjoyed this element of the story, perhaps even more so than the mystery surrounding Arabella's death.
I must say that the ending fell a little flat for me. I was hoping for a bit more but it just felt a little bit disjointed. 
But don't be put off - if you are after a good mystery, then The Hidden Hours certainly fits the bill!

Disclosure: I was given an ARC of The Hidden Hours through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I was not paid for this review.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Book Review: Horace Winter Says Goodbye by Conor Bowman 

Horace Winter has been working in the same bank branch for 48 years.
Never married, with no children, he lived with his mother up until her death three years ago, and now continues to reside alone in the same home. 
His life has been rather unexceptional. 
He doesn't have any friends, but his passion is lepidopterology - the study of butterflies and moths. 

But just before his forced retirement from the bank, he is diagnosed with a very serious medical condition that makes him question the life that he has led (or rather, hasn't), up until that point. 
One day he discovers a letter that his father had written many years earlier to an ex-Corporal named Migsie Spring, and makes it his mission to get the letter to him come what may.
Even with his health rapidly deteriorating, he is given a new lease of life when he makes a friend from his neighbourhood, Amanda. He also befriends a young boy named Max.
His life suddenly becomes much more adventurous than it has ever been!
His determination also allows for Horace to finally gain some happiness and his change in attitude means he can forgive himself for his past.

Horace is a character I warmed to instantly. He did remind me of Ove (from the book A Man Called Ove), but I actually found him to be more endearing.
When we discover towards the end of the story that Horace was faced with a terrible tragedy that he suppressed for all these years, I felt sad for him, and it made me gain a better understanding of why he had lived the way that he had up until the point of his diagnosis.
I also enjoyed the way that Horace categorises humans as being either a butterfly or moth, according to their personality traits. It's quirky and clever.
This was an easy read, and highly enjoyable. 

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of Horace Winter Says Goodbye through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: Where's Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection by Martin Handford

Can you believe that it has been 30 years since Where's Wally? was first released? 
And to coincide with this great milestone, the Where's Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection is being released this June.

It features all seven of the classic Where's Wally? books in a handy travel-sized version, plus 6 postcards that you can colour in!
I have enjoyed the Where's Wally? series since my childhood, and now my children enjoy them too. 
It is fantastic to have something that we are all entertained by and can enjoy together.
I like that this book is a decent size, considering that it is a travel sized book. The illustrations aren't too small (but the items you need to look for do get trickier to spot as the book progresses). It also features fold-out checklists after each of the adventures. 
This will certainly keep you busy for hours on end! 
Released through Walker Books Australia, with an RRP of $19.99, it is available where all good books are sold. 

Do you enjoy Where's Wally? Which book from the series is your favourite? 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

New Children's Book Releases from EK Books

A Kiwi Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Mason, Charlotte (Charlie), Oliver, Ruby and Kaia are five Kiwi children ranging in age from 6-10 years old, and in A Kiwi Year, they take us on a journey through the 12 months of the year, exploring what life is like as a child in New Zealand.
The book covers celebrations, holidays, landmarks, and even native trees and animals too.
There is also information regarding New Zealand's regions in both the North and South Islands, as well as a detailed map.
The illustrations show all five children participating in various activities at school (including excursions), home, and out and about through cities and towns of New Zealand.
Due for release this month, with an RRP of $19.99
For further info, head here

A Canadian Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

In a similar fashion to A Kiwi Year, A Canadian Year features five young children who reside in Canada, and who take us on a journey through a year of life as a Canadian child.
Cloe, Oki, Ava, Liam, and Noah share with us their Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations, and visit places including the Toronto Zoo, Montreal Insectarium, and Vancouver Aquarium. 
What I really like about this hard-covered book, (as well as A Kiwi Year), is the layout.
The sentences are short, yet informative, making it ideal for even children of young age to understand. 
The illustrations are bright, and give readers a fantastic glimpse into all of the wonderful things there are to do and celebrate in Canada.
A Canadian Year is also due for release in June and has an RRP of $19.99 
For further info, head here

Ollie's Treasure by Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan 

When Ollie is given a letter containing a map for a treasure hunt from his beloved grandmother, he is glad to read that the treasure will be something that will 'make him happy always'. 
Initially, Ollie thinks that the treasure will be something fun like a game or toy that he has been hoping for, so he sets off on his quest with excitement.
The clues take him on a journey of his senses - he is told to look at the sky, smell flowers, feel the grass under his feet, and more.
Once he has completed the clues, he is quite astounded to discover that the treasure is not a toy or game, but is his very own self!
Through noticing all of the little things in his every day life, Ollie is able to realise that happiness comes not only from materialistic objects, but from deep within. 

This picture book sends a very important message to children in an uncomplicated way about encouraging mindfulness and living 'in the now.'
It is a lovely story that I am sure young readers would enjoy!
It is available through EK Books, and has a retail price of $24.99.
For further information on this title, head here 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Book Review - Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Having read Paula Hawkins' previous novel, The Girl On The Train, I wasn't quite sure how Into The Water would stack up next to it, but was super keen to find out as I really enjoyed Girl On The Train. 
Since reading it, I have to say that I was somewhat underwhelmed. 
Maybe because I thought that The Girl On The Train was just so clever, and I loved the fast-paced thrill I experienced when I read it.
But whilst Into The Water has an interesting storyline, I felt that it wasn't as suspenseful as it could've been.

The story unfolds when single mum Nel Abbott is found in a river of her hometown. Mystery surrounds her death and her last moments leading up to it. Her 15 year-old daughter Lena is left alone, until Nel's sister Jules comes to care for Lena, and try to uncover the truth. Lena and Jules have never met each other as the two sisters had a falling out many years ago that left their relationship strained, and with minimal contact.
Earlier that year, Lena's friend Katie was also found dead in the same lake. This stretch of water has claimed other victims in the past, and many secrets lurk below its depths. 
So, could the deaths of Katie and Nel be linked somehow?
And if so, what circumstances led to these tragedies?

There are so many points of view in this story that I have to admit for the first half of the book I was rather lost.
I had to keep going back to pages to try and piece together the characters and their stories. 
I personally believe that the book would've benefited from less characters (or less perspectives) as there was just so much to keep track of.  
It left me confused and I had to focus so much on keeping track of it all that it hampered my reading experience. 
If I had to give it a star rating I would give it a 3 out of 5. Once I began to piece all of the characters and their movements together, it made a lot more sense, and so I found that the second half of the book was a lot better than the first half. And there were some moments that I wasn't expecting, which I really enjoyed. 

Have you read Girl On The Train or Into The Water? Share your thoughts below!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Children's Book Releases from Affirm Press 

A Walk In The Bush by Gwyn Perkins 

A Walk In The Bush is the first picture book to be released through Affirm Press.
Written and illustrated by Gwyn Perkins, Walk In The Bush is a delightful tale that is set in the bushland of New South Wales. 
Iggy and his grandad decide to spend some time together by going for a bushwalk. On their journey, they come across many forms of wonderful wildlife, including squawking and singing birds, caterpillars that create mysterious messages on trees, and jumping wallabies.
They also spot tall, shady eucalyptus trees, and take a rest underneath a wattle tree beside blooming grevilleas.
Together, the explore the wonders of nature until it is time to return back home again.

This book has an RRP of $24.99.
For further information on this title, head here

Mammoth Mistake Starring Olive Black by Alex Miles & Maude Guesne

Olive Black is a new children's book series which is aimed at girls aged between 8-11 years old.
Olive is a 10 year-old movie star, and in each book, she faces challenges and issues that frequent the day to day lives of children, including bullying, low self-esteem, and disagreements between friends.

In Mammoth Mistake, Olive's movie role sees her bringing a woolly mammoth back from the Ice Age into present day. But her real-life issue is almost as big! She gets caught up with Sofia, a fellow showbiz star and big bully, and Olive finds that everything starts to rapidly go wrong. 
Her best friend Rani stops speaking to her, and Olive doesn't know why it all seems to go from bad to worse. 
Will Olive be able to turn things back around and make it right? 

The Robbery Riddle Starring Olive Black by Alex Miles & Maude Guesne 

The Robbery Riddle is the second book in the series.
In it, Olive plays the role of sidekick to famous film detective, Maestro, in the movie called The Robbery Riddle. 
There's a lot of action and drama onset, but when the cameras stop rolling, there is even more when Olive is accused of stealing. 
Olive needs to prove that she is innocent, and with the help of best-friend Rani, they use their sleuthing skills to try and uncover who the culprit is. 
Can the girls clear Olive's name, or will their detective skills fail them? You'll need to read it to find out! 

Some of my favourite things to note about the Olive Black series:
- Interesting story lines with important messages and/or topics that young children will be able to relate to

- Short chapters, with a diverse range of vocabulary and characters

- Black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the stories

For further information on the Olive Black series head here

Monday, 5 June 2017

Book Review: The Scent Of You by Maggie Alderson

The Scent Of You centers around Polly, a middle-aged woman who is married and has two grown children who are both away studying at university. 
Her life seems as though it is all smooth sailing. She is a yoga instructor, as well as a perfume blogger, which is gaining her more success by the day.

But just before Christmas, she is devastated when David, her husband of 24 years, explains that he needs a break and that she is not to contact him at all. He disappears without a trace, leaving Polly heartbroken and confused.
Her children, Lucas and Clemmie, both can't believe the news when they find out, and offer their mum as much support as they can. Needless to say, they are hurt by their father's actions, and are concerned for their mother's welfare.

Meanwhile, Polly makes some new and interesting friends as she decides what to do with regards to her missing husband.
There's Shirley, one of her 'yogi bears'- a regular that attends her yoga classes. She is loud and a little over the top, but has her friends' best interest at heart, and proves to be a real saviour for Polly.
Polly also meets Guy Webber, a perfumer who is flamboyant and fun, but likes to keep his personal life just so.
And she is reunited with Edward, also known as Chum, who is an old friend and flame of hers from her university days. 

This book, at 500 pages, is quite long. In fact, I think it would've benefited from losing a few scenes as they didn't play a big part (if any) in the story. I have to admit that I skimmed over a few paragraphs here and there, even though the story itself kept me intrigued, the detail, particularly regarding fragrances/scents was a little bit too in-depth at times.
I also found it rather unbelievable that Polly would be so casual about her husband's departure, and it just seemed rather odd that she would agree to wait months before receiving answers to the many questions she would no doubt have. 
And also, once she finally found out what caused David's need to leave their home, I felt that she could've definitely been more supportive, given the situation he was facing. Even though she offered her help, there wasn't that much fight in her and it just seemed unlike what a person being married to someone for 24 years would do. 

I did thoroughly enjoy the diverse characters in the story, and reading about Fragrance Cloud (Polly's blog). 
Overall, this book has a great storyline, and I adore the beautiful cover. It is a relatively easy read, apart from the length. 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Book Review: Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns 

I have read a few of Rachael's novels in the past, including The Art Of Keeping Secrets (you can read my review for that here) and I really enjoy her work. 
Talk Of The Town is no exception. I read it recently, and here's what I thought of it..

Megan McCormick has recently made the move from Melbourne to a deserted country town called Rose Hill in WA, in an attempt to leave her regrettable past behind her. 
She has changed her name to Megan McDonald, and is determined to keep to herself. Her days are spent crocheting and baking in her home that was once the town's general store. 
One day, she answers a knock at the door and is greeted by Lawson Cooper-Jones, and his adorable 8 year-old son, Ned. Lawson is a dairy farmer at his property in a nearby town, and is stranded due to a flat tyre.
Although Megan is hesitant to divulge any information about her past, she surprisingly finds herself chatting easily to Lawson, and both he and Ned form an instant liking to Meg. 
By the time the tyre is changed, they realise that they have made a friend in each other, even though Meg is so reluctant to open up to anyone. Lawson has his own concerns too, as he hasn't had a relationship since the passing of his wife, Leah, although the townsfolk have tried to set him up in the past without success.
Local woman, Adeline Walsh, has her sights set on him, and is determined to make Lawson hers, but he isn't romantically interested in Adeline. 

Meg introduces herself to the only other person living in Rose Hill,  a man who is known locally as Crazy Archie. He is welcoming and friendly towards Meg. This interaction makes her realise that she misses being around people. She craves the company of others, but is still worried about revealing too much of the person she once was. 
Meg also discovers that her home holds a haunting mystery, and she sets about uncovering its hidden secrets.
Lawson offers to help her investigate the building's history, which sees them spending more time together.
In time, their relationship blossoms from friendship to love.

However, when Adeline finally uncovers the truth about Meg's past and confronts Lawson with the information, he is shocked with the revelation, and their relationship is thrown into turmoil.
Will Lawson and Meg be able to forgive each other and enjoy the future that they both deserve? 

The Talk Of The Town is a moving novel with some brilliant characters. Ned is such a clever and cool young lad; Lawson's sister Tabitha is a woman with a big heart, and Archie is everything you could ask for in a neighbour. 
I also enjoyed reading about what is involved in dairy farming, as it is a topic that I knew little about.
The element of mystery surrounding Meg's home added an extra layer of intrigue to the story. 
Rachael has managed to create another highly entertaining read with her tenth full-length novel, The Talk Of The Town. 

And you can win your very own copy of Talk Of The Town, but be quick as entries close tomorrow! Head here to enter!