#BookReview By Lou of Stranger Back Home By E.L. Haines #ELHaines #Fantasy #YoungAdult #YA

Stranger Back Home
By E.L. Haines
Rated 5 stars *****

Stranger Back Home by E.L. Haines is a well-crafted fantasy book for Young Adults and Adults alike who enjoy this genre. Thanks to E.L. Haines for contacting me via my Contact Me page on my blog to request I review this book and for gifting me a copy to review from. Find out a little about the author, the blurb and the rest of my review below…

Stranger Back Home

About The Author

Ethan reads all the time, and writes so that you can read. He travels the world, ignoring the usual boundaries of space and time, collecting stories, which he loves to tell almost as much as Sparrow himself does.
He has visited more than 25 countries in person, and perhaps more than a hundred in books. He has also time-traveled to more than 40 different years in history. We won’t tell you exactly which ones.

Blurb

Stranger Back HomeOne day, your father is a renowned diplomat. The next day, he’s an infamous terrorist.

When Sparrow is summoned to the reading of his father’s last will and testament, the most he hoped for was a minor bequest. Instead, he inherited suspicion and accusations from the Empire that his father helped unite.

Locked away in a vault are the secrets that will reveal Xavier DuMont’s mysterious past and shine a light on Sparrow’s future. Perhaps even the future of the entire realm.

Of course, these secrets won’t be obtained easily. Especially when everyone in this magical world seems so casually racist.

Social dynamics in this world were already pretty strange. Somehow, Sparrow makes everything stranger.

Review

Told in the first person, the character of Sparrow really takes you with him into the fantastical dystopian world he and others find themselves in. It gives Sparrow a really compelling voice, as though the storyteller is with you.
There is a map of Middle Telleron, which is great for illustrating the size of the area and the places around it, and in detail, a map of City of Dragon’s Mouth where the more official government buildings are and where the upper and middle classes reside.

Apart from Sparrow, there are also orcs and an old wizard, gobins, dwarfs as well as humans and halflings. It’s a bit The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings like in this respect and readers who are fans of those books will enjoy this. The world building is is done well and the writing is beautifully descriptive of the places and of Lazaretto Manor, where you can be met by a butler who is a ghost and there is talk of vampires who are pretty fiesty.

As much as it feels like every fantastical creature and being is thrown into the world, it is done so in a way that still flows and it feels like different communities of people or creatures, just like you get different communities of people in the real world.

The book has a grounding in the real world too and almost straddles between the fantasy and world we know as it highlights issues, such as a grim robbery happening and other social and class issues. There are also jobs, such as tax collectors, barbers, actors and there are even laws. There are also family fueds about life choices, conflicts and tensions amongst characters as tensions rise due to suspicions being created due to certain events surrounding Sparrow’s father.
This all adds something more identifiable, in this otherwise, strange, yet intriguing world that sees peace and unrest within it as well as mystery, the prospect of kidnapping or death looming, secrets and a touch of humour. There is also the existence of retirement, but not as we know it…

The book sweeps you along into its world as there are so many hooks within it and it is pretty entertaining to read.

#BookReview By Lou – The Dragon With The Blazing Bottom @simonkids_UK #Beach #PictureBook #Preschool #KS1 #ChildrensBook #KidsBook

The Dragon With The Blazing Bottom
By Beach

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There’s plenty of humour for children in The Dragon With The Blazing Bottom. Thanks to Simon and Schuster Kids for gifting me this book to review.
Please find out more in the blurb and my review below.

The Dragon With The Blazing Bottom cover

Blurb

The first in a fabulously funny and hugely commercial series about a dragon who has lost his flame – but may just find fire elsewhere . . . Perfect for fans of The DInosaur That Pooped series.

Sir Wayne’s dragon has lost his flame. Are his teeth TOO clean? Is his tongue TOO pink? Perhaps his diet is to blame. Not to worry – Sir Wayne has a meal plan of EPIC proportions, including a big lump of lava, one burning bush, some sparklers and fireworks – the ones that go ‘WHOOOOSH’. Oh, and one VERY mouldy old piece of cheese – almost as green as the snot from a sneeze . . . What could possibly go wrong?!
A hilarious and dynamic character-driven picture book, with a truly explosive ending! From the hugely exciting new picture book talent, Beach.

Review

The Dragon With The Blazing Bottom absolutely would appeal to children’s sense of humour in its rhyming tale. This is a great debut picture book by Beach. It hits all the right notes for pre-school to 5 year olds.
There are 2 great characters to meet – a knight – Sir Wayne and a huge, bright red dragon who can’t breathe fire. The knight assists the dragon and the illustrations just add to the fun of this as many ways are tried.
Young children are sure to have fun as they discover what happens to the dragon.
It’ll absolutely appeal to children with that “toilet” sense of humour and those who like dragons, knights and dinosaurs, like the one who pooped… It’s sure to gross them out in a way that will have them laugh lots.
It’s a book that is great for bringing some humour into your child’s life and one that adults can have fun with when reading it to their child(ren).

#BookReview by Lou – The Unearthing of The Secret Garden – The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett By Marta McDowell @martamcdowell @timberpress #NonFiction #Memoir #HomeandGarden #Gardens

The Unearthing of the Secret Garden –
The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is surely a must for anyone who remembers and liked/likes The Secret Garden. It is also a lovely book for people who like history, gardening and memoirs.
Find out more in the blurb and my review.

Blurb

Unearthing The Secret Garden

“Blooming with photos, illustrations, and botanical paintings, McDowell’s gorgeous book opens an ivy-covered door to new information about one of the world’s most famous authors.”—Angelica Shirley Carpenter, editor of In the Garden

New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell has revealed the way that plants have stirred some of our most cherished authors, including Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In her latest, she shares a moving account of how gardening deeply inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the beloved children’s classic The Secret Garden.

In Unearthing The Secret Garden, McDowell delves into the professional and gardening life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Complementing her fascinating account with charming period photographs and illustrations, McDowell paints an unforgettable portrait of a great artist and reminds us why The Secret Garden continues to touch readers after more than a century. This deeply moving and gift-worthy book is a must-read for fans of The Secret Garden and anyone who loves the story behind the story.

Review

Unearthing The Secret Garden

Peel back the cover and enter the hidden entrance into the world of Frances Hodgson Burnett, a greatly celebrated author, and discover a world of gardens and writing and more and uncover some new information…
Unearthing The Secret Garden is a lovely and interesting book for gardeners, fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett and of course – The Secret Garden. The book seems well researched and well thoughtout. It’s part biograpghy and part about the plants that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett whilst writing this much treasured children’s book, that has indeed become a much-loved classic that’s even inspired films.

The book provides a glimpse into her life and her gardens and the flowers she liked so well. The flowers are simply beautiful and there are even some useful tips, making this attractive to any gardener reading this book.

The book tells of how she was born in Manchester, England in 1849 and later became friends with Little Women series writer – Louisa May Alcott when her and her mother moved to the USA after the death of her father.

It tells of how she started writing young and yet hadn’t actually created her own garden until she was middle-aged. She infact created many gardens. There are interesting articles that have been reproduced for this book, which add a bit of depth and what’s even more special is, it of course adds her voice as it were, her first hand accounts. There are also photos of her gardens, including Maytham in the UK, how they are presently. The book tells of Maytham being inspirational for transforming for The Secret Garden, into being called Misselthwaite Manor.

There is much love and heartbreak that is shown in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s life, including family as well as the homes she lived in between the UK and US. It shows within times of upheaval and sadness, how gardens became a place of solace and brought something positive again into her life. The book also looks into her writing life and tells of some, perhaps lesser known books, which is a lovely touch and may inspire readers to explore those too.

It’s overall a fascinating read that has passion from page to page and you can tell that a whole lot of research went into creating this beautiful book that gives a sizeable glimpse into life – both personal and writing life and her gardens.

#BookReview of – Undying Book 1 – The Kinship of DJinns and Book 2 – My Uncle’s Son By  Ambreen Hameed and Uzma Hameed @AmbreenHameed1 #UmzaHameed

Undying Book 1 – The Kinship of DJinns and Book 2 – My Uncle’s Son
By Ambreen Hameed and Uzma Hameed

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A romance that puts traditions and modern ways of living at juxtopositions to create the tensions, wrapped around a volatile political landscape. The book shows inner lives of two sisters and there’s a touch of magic intertwined in there too. Pretty good for a debut and the books are better than I thought they were going to be.
Take a look at the blurbs in both books and then my review.
Thanks to Uzma Hameed for asking me to review their books via the Contact option on my blog.

Undying Duo pic

Blurb – Book 1

UNDYING Book 1: The Kinship of Djinns“Sibling rivalry, evolutionary science, theatre, film and even magic all have a part to play in Ambreen and Uzma Hameed’s exuberant tale of a romantic triangle… UNDYING is huge fun. Its sitcom style comedy and affectionate satire deepen into a mystery that explores what unites and divides us, in families and communities, and asks how art, science and religion try to make sense of a violent and unjust world.” Boyd Tonkin, Former Chair of Judges, Man Booker International Prize

It is 1998 and the leader of the free world is under fire after an affair with a young intern. Meanwhile, in a corner of South London, the Malik sisters have also committed a sin: they are in their thirties and still not married. Now the unexpected return of their childhood playmate spells the chance of a happy ending: but only for one of them. And this time, younger sister Zarina is determined she won’t be second in line to Sufya, the eldest – even if it means resorting to dubious occult practices. But as tensions rise across the Muslim world, sibling rivalry and Sufi spells are not the only forces with which the three lovers must contend.

Blurb – Book 2

UNDYING Book 2: My Uncle's SonChristmas 1998 approaches and the Malik sisters struggle to come to terms with Heathrow’s disappearance. A series of unanswered questions leads Sufya on a journey across the Holy Land. Back in South London, Zarina believes she is receiving messages from beyond the grave. As the leader of the free world sends bombs down on Baghdad, anger boils over in the Muslim community. The family falls under suspicion and both sisters must pick a side.

My Uncle’s Son is the thrilling conclusion to UNDYING.

Review

The books are best read when they are read sequentially. Both books are predominently about Sufya and Zarina and their lives in 1998. They are modern Muslims who are just trying to get on with their lives. The sisters have, according to their religion, committed a sin by still not being married and it is more than frowned upon as they are in their thirties. There is also the question of career/interest choice as Sufya is into scientific writing, which seems more palatable than Zarina and her interest in theatre. The book deals with the differences in attitudes between younger Muslim’s and those with more traditional views. This sort of tension creates interest and shows some of the almost juxtopositions that traditonal and modern generations sit at. There is also, however the ties that bind them together. It’s a pretty intense read, that can at times be gripping and is mostly a good read.

This is a love story that rails against traditional Muslim values. There is also some humour, but it isn’t without its darkness that looms as it doesn’t only show the moderate, but also some of the extremes too with the backdrop of some beautiful scenery.
There are also the political attitudes of the time to the affair of Clinton and Lewinsky, war, suicide bombers that are touched upon.

The title of the second book – My Uncle’s Son is the concluding part of this story. You can’t read one without the other if you want to know the ending. The title – My Uncle’s Son is the title of a film as many potential cast assemble, as this book is a bit more about the arts industry, which book 1 touches upon.

There’s a character – Heathrow, or H, who goes missing. This is a character that runs through both books. The book examines and questions how you’d feel if someone you knew wore explosives. 

Both books, intriguingly (and sometimes this works better than other times), looks at genetics in primates and humans. It offers up some thought-provoking points, especially at the parts where this doesn’t get readers too bogged down. It is an intriguing and certainly different way that the characters, mostly Sufya and Zarina, try to understand what is happening in the world as they try to make sense of it all and the enormity of the violence that is harbouring in some people.

The themes of the first book link up well in the second book, tying them both together, which I thought was good and keeps Zarina and Sufya headstrong about their views on marriage, including arranged marriage.

The book also questions whether love can conquer all, even when all around can be so brutal and relationships can be tough as can finding your own way of life, that may go against a traditional grain. It is this, going against the grain that perhaps shows change and how there are modern Muslims living life their own way and makes Zarina and Sufya’s characters most interesting and wills you on in the hope they succeed.

The second book is a very good conclusion to this duo of books that has passion, anger, violence and love throughout.

#Review by Lou – Art – Small Great Gestures By Francisco Llorca and Isabel Albertos #FranciscoLlorca #IsabelAlbertos @AllisonandBusby #ChildrensNonFiction #ChildrensBook

Art – Small Great Gestures
By Francisco Llorca and Isabel Albertos

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Art is a lovely introduction to art and artists through the ages that would sit well in the classroom and at home. Find out more in the blurb and review below.
First, thanks to publisher – Allison & Busby for gifting me the book to review.

Art

Blurb

For those who loved Little People, BIG DREAMS, this new series showcases the lives and achievements of amazing men and women.

 From the Renaissance to the present day, this inspiring book paints a vivid picture of the lives and works of eleven artists who stood out from the crowd and changed how we see the world.

 Beginning with Giotto in Renaissance Florence and ending with Banksy’s international street art, including Picasso in the Spanish Civil War and Frida Kahlo in 1920s Mexico, Art is a beautiful and entertaining book for budding artists everywhere.

Review

This is a lovely book that essentially provides an introduction to art. It takes young readers into the worlds of Giotto, Goya, Duchamp, Picasso, Warhol, Banksy and a few more besides. It gives a glimpse into the eras they lived in and what they are famous for and their painting styles. The book does this with a short paragrapgh and an illustration, with each artist taking up just a page each. Further interest can be found in photographs and self-portraits of the featured artists, so readers can see what they really looked like, which is quite respectful. There are also dates of their births and deaths to be found there. Of course certain artists are shown by their artwork instead, such as the elusive Banksy, so anyone hoping for a picture of what this graffiti artist looks like would be disappointed, but I am sure, not surprised.

This book is good for the home and for in classrooms as a tool into the introductory of art through the ages. It would sit well amongst other books of this nature as this showcases just a few artists, but perhaps some less “obvious” ones that are often chosen for this sort of book and not all ones that would instantly spring to children’s minds, so their knowledge in this way can be expanded further.

#Review by Lou – Lost In The Clouds By Tom Tinn-Disbury #DKChildrens @penguinrandom #ChildrensBook – A sensitive #Story dealing with #Bereavement #Families

Lost In The Clouds
By Tom Tinn Disbury

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A sensitive, hopeful story with beautiful illustrations that deals with the topic of grief. Thanks to publisher – DK Children/Penguin Random House for gifting me the book to review.
Find out more in the blurb and the rest of my review (plus some useful links) below, as well as a bit about the author and a therapist who also had input in this book in a consultant capacity. There is also a very nice dedication given by the author.

Lost In The Clouds

Blurb

Children find grief difficult, and understanding where a loved one has gone can be a tricky topic to explain…
Billy misses his mummy very much. She lives in the clouds. Some days the sun is shining and Mummy’s clouds are nowhere to be seen. Those are Billy’s favourite days. He and Daddy would play in the garden all day long, and Billy knows that Mummy is letting the sun shine for them. But not all days are like that. Sometimes Mummy’s clouds are dark, and Billy feels sad and alone.

This moving and sensitively-written picture book gently explores grief and teaches children how to deal with their emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. With beautiful and colourful illustrations to accompany the touching narrative, this children’s book is perfect for adults to share with their little ones and to help them understand what they are going through.

You don’t have to weather the storm alone! The loss of a loved one can be a difficult topic to discuss with little ones, and this heart-warming book can help you support them through their stages of grief.

Follow Billy and his father as they navigate the loss of his mother through beautifully emotive illustrations and text:

– A large format book that adults and children can easily read together
– A sensitively-written narrative that helps children to process their grief and emotions
– Gentle full-page illustrations that allow children to become immersed in the story
– A non-fiction page that shows children and their families some of the ways to open the conversation about grief and loss

Written in collaboration with an experienced grief professional, Lost in the Clouds gently explores the topic of grief and teaches children and their family members how to understand and deal with their emotions surrounding the death of a loved one.

Review

The story about Billy losing his mum is sensitively handled. It tells a story using familiar things like the weather, especially focusing on the sky and playing in the garden. It’s overall a positive story that can lift the heart. It also shows children how Billy finds comfort in clouds and sunny days. It therefore also gives children ideas for discovering hope and comfort, especially on sunnier days. These are Billy’s happy days. The harder days are painted as more gloomy, stormy weather. So, this book cleverly shows different emotions through these weather changes, which can in turn help with some understanding of emotions experienced when grieving.
The book shows, not just Billy coping on some days and grief hitting hard on other days, but also how dad is going through this too and also missing his wife. It also shows father and son coming together in a positive way to help each other.
The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, which enhances the story, which in turn provides a relaxed opening for children and adults to discuss their feelings together. It essentially would do what it says it will in the blurb in helping children process and understand grief, as well as finding out that there is still lightness in life, even though some days can be hard.

At the end there is a useful “Guide for Grown-Ups” page with hints and tips how to help your child, how to approach the subject of someone dying and how to help them through their grief. There is also a section of resources so that extra support can be gained.
Here are some websites to some of those here:

Young Minds     Child Bereavement UK         Hope Again – Cruse Bereavement Care

About the Author

Tom Tinn Disbury is an author and illustrator living in Warwickshire, England. He lives with his wife and two children, and he is helped by his dog Wilma and cat Sparky.

Tom tries to give his characters rich, full lives, making sure they have a real range of feelings and emotions. That was particularly important in creating this book.

Tom would like to dedicate this book to all the keyworkers who help us in our day to day lives.

For Tracy, may you now be in peace.

About Stacey Hart

Stacey Hart is a therapist, trainer, university lecturer, and group facilitator. An expert on childhood bereavement and family breakdown. Stacey works as a trauma specialist in schools and corporations. She has also won a Family Law Award for best support services.

Stacey has appeared a number of times on television and radio as a leading voice on children’s bereavement.

Bereaved children like Billy have taught her to hold hope, laugh lots, and live every day to the fullest.