#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 of The Way of The Tortoise By Matt Little @MattLittleSandC @OMaraBook @LoveBooksGroup #NonFiction #SelfImprovement #Selfhelp #BlogTour

Today I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Way Of The Tortoise by Matt Little. This is a great enlightening read that can be used as a useful tool by anyone from any walk of life. It also includes a foreword by tennis star – Andy Murray.
Find out more in the blurb and my review below as well as a little about the author.

The way of the tortoise

Blurb

Drawing on more than a decade’s experience working with former tennis World Number One Sir Andy Murray, The Way of the Tortoise introduces you to the benefits of the slow lane and reveals why it’s the only true path to a high-performance mindset.

Taking inspiration from Aesop’s well-known fable of the Hare and the Tortoise, internationally renowned trainer Matt Little recognizes that there is no fast path to success. By focusing on immediate results, we can gloss over process in the race to get ahead, skipping over the lessons and experiences that we all need to build solid foundations for our future achievements. Matt shows that taking the slow lane can not only help you reach your goals more effectively, it can make your successes more sustainable by increasing your motivation, energy and resilience. Packed full of examples from the highly adaptable worlds of sport and business, as well as Matt’s own remarkable career, The Way of the Tortoise reveals, through practical exercises and techniques, the essential strategies we can all use to achieve extraordinary results.

Review

The Way of The Tortoise is in 3 parts. Part 1 is The Way of The Tortoise so readers understand what that actually means in practical terms. Part 2 is called “Tortoise Goes To Boot Camp” where readers can delve deeper into the aspects mentioned in part 1. Then “Tortoise Boot Camp” where the book concludes. There are also practical exercises for people to try out and some questions they can answer to see what their outcome is and where they sit in this way of life etc.

The Way Of The Tortoise is a way of life. The book shows there really is something quite enlightening in that Aesop fable -The Hare and the Tortoise. Although The Way Of The Tortoise shows the life of getting to the top, although it of course has parts that talk about tennis and other sports, it is much more than that and has skills and advice for anyone from any walk of life. It inspires to follow and understand this way for anything and everything that anyone may embark on doing in their life. Everywhere, we see success as though it just happens over night, but the reality is, on the whole, it’s a lot of work for years before-hand. This book however reminds us why the slower lane is actually good and healthy.
The book is also about determination and resilience and showing that you may not make it into exactly what you want first off, but you can find different ways to do what you love. That’s what Matt Little has done and that is what makes this book, in my opinion inspirational. It shows a truth of how life can be and how it can be challenging and because of this truth and the fact everything didn’t just happen for Matt Little shows a groundedness that is often not shown.

The book focuses on skills anyone in any profession and in any sort of personal life can use and also shows the differences in traits between a hare and a tortoise way of life. It is spectacularly interesting working out if you’re a hare or a tortoise and which sort of tortoise you are. It turns out I am most likely to be a tortoise and this book is pretty validating. It also goes into different sorts of tortoise traits in people and what each type needs, which is very interesting. The book then also goes into how to become a “Winning Tortoise”, which I am sure many people will find helpful.

In part 2 – “Tortoise Goes To Bootcamp”, it shows ways to sharpen skills and how to get into the “Tortoise mindset” and why this way is sustainable and a way of winning. It talks about the importance of soft skills and goes more into the nuances of these as well as developing teams to be more like tortoises. It also goes into being able to work under pressure and dealing with failure. It also goes into how to align yourself well and to be connected with people, as well as drawing up future plans and strategising, managing conflict etc. It also talks about leading by taking action, however it also reminds people to take care of themselves and their loved ones. The book also goes into a 0-10 year plan and further years into the future and goes into detail about what seems like a slow game and why there are advantages to this.

Part 3 – The Tortoise Bootcamp offers a terrific conclusion and one that is positive and gives an element of hope. It also validates, as does the rest of the book, that way of life that is “The Way Of The Tortoise” that may be a life that is being lived, but may not have realised it is this particular way and that this way is actually okay enough.

It’s a very well structured book with many aspects that so many people will be able to implement into their own lives. The book is very interesting and has a lot of sense within it and is easy to follow. It’s also good for dipping in and out of.

About the Author

Matt Little has been working as a strength and conditioning coach in elite-level tennis for over fifteen years and has been an integral part of Sir Andy Murray’s team for twelve years, including during 2016 when Murray won Olympic gold, Wimbledon and became World Number One. He is an internationally recognized leader in his industry and in demand as a public speaker on a vast range of subjects, including youth development, and strength and conditioning.

The way of the tortoise (1)

#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.