Picture Books

Poppy and the Blooms by Fiona Woodcock

Firstly, before I go any further, I just have to say that Fiona is a beautiful illustrator. She uses a variety of both medium and techniques that result in some visually stunning images. This is evident in her second picture book, Poppy and the Blooms, an eyecatching book that will demand your attention as it stands proudly on display in any bookshop, library or bookshelf. The images seem to call out to you and I can almost hear Poppy and her friends inviting me to pick them up and have a look. ( I imagine their voices to be fairly high pitched, a little giggly and very friendly.)

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Fiona has created within a book the same effect I experience when I see real flowers when I’m out and about. They grab my attention, make me stop and something about them draws me to gently touch their petals and smell their scent. They’re very evocative. Her illustrations capture this perfectly and I think this is one of the key things that will draw both adults and children to pick up the book. Of course once you’ve began to read you’ll also find that the story is absolutely delightful.

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Today, as our towns and cities continue to expand, we are becoming more and more aware of the need to retain (and add) as much natural landscape as possible. Poppy and her friends are on a mission to save the last park in the city. The stark contrast between the flora and the grey colourless world of a city without green space is clever at highlighting how lost and bleak things would be without our natural surroundings.

When Poppy awakes one morning,

‘with a strange tingling feeling. It fluttered in her tummy… and shivered the tips of her petals.’

she knew that something wasn’t quite right and so with enormous courage for someone so small she hops on her skateboard (LOVE the skateboards!) and sets off with her friends – Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup – to try and save the last park in the city. And with a little courage, sunshine, magic, and a big dose of determination the four friends make a BIG difference.

‘Hey, Blooms, we did that,’ she smiled.

‘We did it together’, said Dandy and Bluebell and bright little Buttercup.’

A wonderful story to share, this lovely picture book will show your little ones just how little things can make a big difference.

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Published by Simon and Schuster

Published on the 10th August 2017

Visit Fiona’s website here.

Follow Fiona on Twitter: @FionaWoodcock

Or on Instagram: @FionaWoodcock

Visit the Publisher website here.

Follow Simon and Schuster on Twitter: @simonkids_uk

Or on Instagram: @simonkidsuk

Adult Fiction

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Courages, strength and erotica is at the heart of this humorous, heart-warming tale about a clash of cultures and the women in our lives we should never take for granted. Nikki is a modern girl living in London who is determined to live life on her own terms. She’s also Punjabi. Her mother hasn’t quite forgiven her for dropping out of law school, or selfishly moving from the family home to work in a pub outside of their community. Sister Mindi, to her horror, wants an arranged marriage and Nikki has never felt more alienated from her family and the traditional values they embrace. When she begins teaching a creative writing class for Punjabi widows, Nikki is surprised by the strength and passion that lies within the women and the secrets they hold. Before long stories begin to emerge. They are good, full of erotic description and give the women a platform to be heard for the first time in their lives. Before long the stories are being shared outside the classroom. However, something darker lies beneath the revered community and its traditions, something that brings danger to this group of women who wish for nothing more than to express themselves and move away from the shadows. A deeper truth is soon exposed, a truth that will send shockwaves throughout the community, bringing danger to both Nikki and the group. A great read filled with memorable characters and their stories.

Published in Hardback: 7th March 2017

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Published in Paperback: 7th September 2017

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Published by HarperCollins

Find out more about the author Balli Kaur Jaswal by visiting her website here.

I reviewed this title on behalf of Lovereading.co.uk

Young Adult Fiction

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Just because I’m quiet doesn’t mean I’m aloof. Maybe I just want to be alone. Maybe I’m not good at conversation. We all can’t be cool and gregarious and Hey, bro what up? like he apparently is. Some of us aren’t wired for that.

I’m a book lover for sure, no big shock there but I also love film too and so the fact that Alex, Approximately combines the both hit the spot straight away. The film quotes at the beginning of each chapter are great, setting the tone perfectly and made me want to go watch them all again and catch the one or two that I haven’t yet seen.

‘Alex’ and Bailey are ‘friends’, friends in the sense that they chat via the internet in a film fanatics online community. They haven’t actually met in real life, not yet anyway. But that could change when Alex invites Bailey to his local film festival, which just so happens to be in California, which just so happens to be where Bailey’s Dad lives, who just so happens to be the person Bailey is going to live with – except she hasn’t told Alex yet. Because Bailey is an habitual evader. She avoids situations that make her uncomfortable or might cause her stress and as she’s desperate for the Alex she meets in real life to be as wonderful as the Alex she knows online, she wants to check him out first. The only problem is she has no idea what he looks like or or even what his real name is. Armed with clues she’s picked up during their many online chats she heads out into the California sunshine to try and track Alex down and find – who she hopes will be – the boy of her dreams. Of course life starts to get in the way, such as a summer job at ‘the Cave’ and co worker Porter, who soon becomes her ‘archnemesis’ and is making her life hell. He’s a surfer boy, all sexy rebellion and sun-kissed curls but she hates him right? Except before long she’s spending way too much time thinking about him which complicates things somewhat, especially her reality evading lifestyle and her search for Alex.

I immediately fell in love with both Alex and Bailey and it didn’t take me long to warm to sexy, surfer boy Porter too. I absolutely loved Alex, Approximately and was completely charmed by Jenn’s writing. Her ability to make you connect with the characters is fantastic and I was sad to say goodbye to them when the story ended. Although there is a love story at the heart of this, it is also a story about overcoming out greatest fears to be the people we want to be. I loved Bailey, she’s smart and sassy yet full of self doubt and it’s only as the story progresses that you realise just how much she’s been through.

There are many nods to films that I adore throughout this book, not only in the quotes but in the inspiration to various scenes and I felt it worked perfectly. It left me feeling warm and fuzzy, just how so many of the films made me feel too. I loved it. It will remain on my bookcase and will no doubt be revisited on those occasions when I feel the need for that comforting, feel good read – the one that feels like a hug on a dark, cold day.

Published by Simon and Schuster
Published in paperback in July 2017
Review copy supplied by the lovely people at Simon and Schuster (thanks so much:)

Find out more about author Jenn Bennett and her novels at her website: here.

Adult Fiction

This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell

Award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell returns with her latest breathtaking novel. This Must Be The Place is a story about journeys, it’s about discovering who you are and where you’re meant to be. Daniel Sullivan is leaving on a journey, he is leaving his shotgun-toting, recluse of a wife and his two young children behind in Ireland as he flies to America to celebrate his estranged father’s birthday. Yet anyone can be easily thrown off course, especially when the past creeps in and misty, murky memories begin to haunt Daniel. After so many years it is now time to face his past but just what will it cost him? Will life ever be the same and will he ever be able to return home to Ireland?

I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered the writing of Maggie O’Farrell, I do however remember the book. The Hand That First Held Mine. It was by no means her first novel but for me it was the discovery of something very special. O’Farrell’s writing is exquisite. Her characters are brought to life through her wonderful prose and you can feel their living, breathing presence as you read. Her stories will haunt you and in some small, subtle way you’ll never be quite the same again.

Published by Tinder Press
Published in paperback in April 2017
Puplished in hardback in May 2016

Review written for Lovereading.co.uk

Visit Maggie’s website here.