Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My Christmas without Amazon

I have been loathe to buy from Amazon for a while now. Having moved from London, where thankfully there are still many wonderful local bookshops, to Brighton where wonderful City Books and The Book Nook fly the flag for independent books, I want to make sure that I do my bit for "shopping locally". 

Even someone as disorganised as me has managed it. How? By using Hive- You can order online and either pick up from a local bookshop, or they deliver to you. But each purchase benefits the shop you nominate, and Hive's range is getting bigger all the time.

In London I frequently ordered books from Big Green Bookshop, who could get books quicker than Amazon, and since there was no delivery fee, often at no greater cost than from Amazon.

So as well as going Amazon-free for Christmas, I will be avoiding Amazon after Christmas too. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Season's Readings: Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh!

It's Christmas. Cow is very excited about Santa's visit, cleaning her barn. She runs around the farm, waking her friends and telling them to clean their homes. So Pig cleans up, but then has a thought- his sty doesn't have a chimney! How will Santa deliver his stockings? So he goes to Sheep's house, who doesn't have one either! What to do? Maybe Donkey can help...

This lovely story, told in rollicking rhyming couplets, is beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Elliot. I adored the Christmas jumpers- very "now"! It's a perfect Advent read for children, especially if you want them to tidy their rooms! Recommended for cold evenings with hot chocolate. 

I am very grateful to Fat Fox for an advance copy of this book. This review represents my honest opinion. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Book review: Prankenstein by Andy Seed


Pugh Thompson, known as Soapy, has three afflictions: an extremely risk averse lawyer mum , who is very ambitious for her son, the appalling Venus, who will stop at nothing for the best parts in the school play and to win a TV talent show, and his allergy to cheese.

Overnight a prankster has started hitting Soapy's family and neighbours, with the sort of pranks he would love to get away with. Who will be hit next? And is there any connection to the crumbs of cheese found nearby...

This is a fun book for fans of a Horrid Henry seeking more challenge, or of Mr Gum. I'd recommend it for Y3 or Y4 book corners. The illustrations are fantastic. My only criticism is for a couple of typos, and that some references are perhaps over the heads of this age group.

This review previously appeared on Goodreads. Thank you to Fat Fox Books who sent me a review copy; the views above are my honest opinion.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Happy Hooves: Ta Dah! By A Bogie and Rebecca Elliot

This gorgeous book landed on my doormat on Saturday. Rebecca Elliot is one of my favourite illustrators, so I was very keen to read it.
A group of farmyard animals decide to go on a trip to the seaside. The journey is going perfectly, until they get to a cattle grid. All the animals get over it in different ways- rolling, jigging, jumping- except the cow. The friends band together and ensure that cow can come too.

I particularly love the retro illustrations, reminding me of picture books from my childhood. There's a repeating refrain, as with most rhyming picture books, and my 5 year old stepson enjoyed joining in "TA DAH!" 

It kept Small Boy's attention, and he stopped me turning over the pages to admire the images.

I particularly enjoyed the gender divide in the book- cow is female, of course, but so is foal; I'll take 2 out of 5 animals! 

My proof copy was nicely solid to feel, with good, tactile paper. I'll put it in Small's book collection and feel confident that it will survive his tough love.

Please note that this book was sent to me by the publisher, but this is my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Recent reads

Here is a round up of some great graphic/ illustrated books I've recently read.


Jane, the fox and me is a gorgeous graphic novel. The protagonist is a pre-teen girl, left behind by her peer group and now ostracised and convinced that she's fat. She takes solace in reading Jane Eyre, particularly in Jane's sense of self-worth despite her lack of beauty and status. On summer camp an encounter with a fox and meeting another "outsider" changes her outlook. Beautiful, restrained illustrations and clever use of colour  makes this a fabulous read, one for 10+. 


Azzi In Between, winner of last year's Little Rebels award, tells the story of Azzi and her family, escaping from a war and travelling to a new country. They leave behind a happy, comfortable home and Azzi's beloved grandmother. In the new country, they have a small apartment, very few possessions, and Azzi'z father can't find work. However, little by little, Azzi finds familiarity in her new land. A great, important book, definitely not one to save just for Refugee Week. 7+


Flora and Ulysses: the illuminated adventures won this year's Newbery medal in the US, and Kate DiCamillo is US ambassador for young people's literature. I adored this book. Flora Belle Buckman is a cynic and keen comic reader, living alone with her mother since her parents' separation. In a bizarre encounter, she meets Ulysses, a poetry-writing squirrel with super powers. Together they overcome enemies and discover that love and hope can be found in the most unexpected places. This part-novel, part-comic is a joyful read, for 8+. Do yourself a favour, and get a copy today.

I am linking to Hive from now on. Hive is an excellent network which benefits independent bookshops. You can choose to have books delivered free to your local participating shop, or to any UK address.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

#ReadUKYA- Sawbones by Catherine Johnson


Catherine Johnson is one of my favourite writers. Author of Brave New Girl and Nest of Vipers, she writes fantastic novels for young people, many set in multicultural London both contemporary and historic. 

This wonderfully creepy tale is the story of Ezra McAdam, a mulatto boy, the apprentice of an anatomist. He is an intelligent boy, eager to learn all he can from his master. However, events take a sinister turn following the dissection of a corpse who has injuries that don't seem easily explained away, and Ezra's comfortable life becomes precarious. When he meets up with Loveday Finch, who is convinced that her conjurer father was murdered, it becomes positively dangerous, with all leads seeming to end up at the Ottoman embassy. 

I enjoyed every minute of reading this book. London of 1792 leapt off the page, with its smells, noise and dangers. The scientific advances of the time are well explained, and the interlocking plots added intrigue and interest for me, with the political and trade links between England, France, Turkey and Russia coming to life. I cared about Ezra and Loveday, and exclaimed so much that my partner has read it too, and recommended to the YA librarian at the library where he works. I was delighted to discover that Catherine is writing a sequel, and I can't wait to read it. 

This post is to link to the Read UKYA weekend. To find out more about Young Adult novels by UK-based authors, have a look at the UKYA and Project UKYA blogs. We have some fantastic authors here who should be celebrated!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Seasonal reads 11: Claude on the Slopes by Alex T Smith


Alex T Smith's  Claude is a small, plump dog in a jumper and beret (under which he keeps the most extraordinary things, much like Mary Poppins does in her carpet bag) whose best friend is a sock, Sir Bobblysock. They live with Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes, but once they head for work, Claude and Sir Bobblysock have extraordinary adventures!

In this, his latest adventure, Claude wakes up in a loud sort of mood. The day before he had exuberantly visited the library, but discovered that his one man band outfit is unwelcome there, so had been very quiet. So he decides to get some fresh air- and discovers that it has snowed. He and Sir Bobbysock follow whooshing people on sledges and skis to the Snowy Mountains' Winter Snow Centre. Here they play with snowballs, sledge (and Sir Bobblysock investigates Apres Ski) but Claude learns that Outdoor Voices are not always good to use Outdoors...

I love these books. I love the nostalgic warmth and wit of the illustrations- my friend Princess of VP said that they remind her of the illustrations for Anatole the Mouse- and I love the affection with which Alex T Smith writes about his characters. If you haven't met Claude yet, then do seek them out. They would be great to read aloud to 5+, and a good reader of 6+ should enjoy reading them independently.