Mumday Monday – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Hands up who loved The Hunting Party..?!🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏻‍♀️ So when Harper Collins and Netgalley kindly gave me the opportunity to read The Guest List, let’s face it there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to wait until its February 2020 publication date to get stuck in!

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Jules and Will are getting married on a remote Irish island. Among their guests are:

Olivia: Jules’ half sister

Charlie: one of Jules’ closest friends and

Hannah: Charlie’s wife

Johnno: The best man

A gang of Will’s (fairly obnoxious) friends and assorted family members. The festivities are all presided over and catered by the venue’s owners Aoife and Freddie.

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Someone at this wedding isn’t going to make it out alive, and responsibility must lie with an attendee – but who dies and who did it? Well the fun of this book is in the guessing and why do I never get it right?!

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This book is every bit as addictive as The Hunting Party, with an equally creepy setting. The mostly pretty unlikeable characters are each harbouring their own secrets, details of which are revealed tantalisingly slowly through chapters told from each of their viewpoints. Foley expertly manages to capture the often complex dynamics of old and blended friendship groups. Her characters are, on the whole, believable and though the plot does rely on a number of coincidences, it doesn’t feel outrageously far-fetched.

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What the author has completely nailed here once again is creating a fabulous premise with absolutely perfectly paced narrative. The tension and excitement ramps up in the latter half through shorter and sharper chapters until you just have to race through the last 75 pages. There’s no choice really; the book just doesn’t allow itself to be put down until all has been revealed.

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A mistake I made was having read The Hunting Party quite recently. Since there are quite a few similarities in plot, structure and, necessarily, style I found myself a little disappointed and worried that The Guest List was following a (granted, winning) formula. But this was forgiven and forgotten as the book progressed and I was 100% hooked. I loved it!

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One snowy night by Nick Butterworth

Another of Wee Reader’s birthday gifts today and what a classic! In fact, this is the newly released 30th anniversary edition of Nick Butterworth’s “One Snowy Night” featuring the one and only Percy the Park Keeper.

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In this story the animals in Percy’s park are in need of somewhere warm to sleep and Percy must find a way to help them!

Verse? No

Peril? None

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Illustrations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Like Mick Ingpen’s books, Nick Butterworth’s muted pastel tones give this book a comfortingly classic feel. We love the pages where his adorable animals keep turning up at Percy’s door and WR enjoys seeing the chaos unfold.

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Repeatability rating (mine) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A wintery tale that is actually full of warmth and kindness, this book is very sweet. It’s one I know we’ll be getting out each winter from now on.

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Repeatability rating (WR) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hosting a load of woodland animals in your bedroom..? What’s not to love?! There’s a lovely pull out poster in the back of this new edition too, which is a big hit here.

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Overall rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Percy will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so happy to have been able to introduce him to WR, with arguably the most memorable story in the series. This book could make a great Christmas gift for a little animal lover and, for those not yet in the know, a perfect introduction to Percy the Park Keeper.

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“One Snowy Night” is published by Harper Collins and is available to buy now.

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham

“The Wish Tree” was sent to me by some friends in the US when Wee Reader was only 6 weeks old and it’s so exciting that this year is the first where he’s actually started to appreciate it.

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Charles tells his brother and sister that he’s off to find the wish tree so, with his trusty sled friend Boggan, he sets off into the snow. He meets lots of woodland friends along the way, and helps out with their logistical difficulties. In the end, he not only finds the wish tree he’s been searching for but, when exhausted from his exertions he falls asleep, he finds his compassion for others repaid in kind.

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Verse? No

Peril? None

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Illustrations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Chris Turnham’s illustrations are just stunning. With soft pastel shades creating beautiful softly-lit snowscapes, it is so clever how the lighting changes as Charles’ day wears on. Wee Reader likes spotting all the different animals and especially enjoys the spread where they are having a tea party.

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Repeatability rating (mine) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not only is this book visually breathtaking, it is a story with an important message about helping others. Charles’ song “la-di-da-di-da…” and Boggan’s “Whissshhh” sounds are often repeated, and WR likes to join in with this refrain each time it appears, which just shows his level of engagement with the story. I love it.

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Repeatability rating (WR) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

WR has asked for this book repeatedly since I got out all of his winter books, it seems to have really captured his imagination.

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Overall rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A gorgeous, “curl up and read under a blanket” wintery treat. This book is published by Chronicle and is available to buy now.

Mumday Monday – In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

When I read the blurb of this book on Netgalley I was really intrigued and just had to request it. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I genuinely couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened to all of its beautiful characters, and I’ll be encouraging everyone I know to pre-order before its release in March 2020.

Dannie Kohan knows exactly where her life will have taken her in five years time. She’ll be married to her stable and loving boyfriend, David, in the job of her dreams, living in her lovely apartment.

Until one day she falls asleep and dreams that she’s living somewhere different with a ring on her finger and a man who is not David. She dismisses it as just a dream but can never quite shake the memory. And then one day four and a half years later she meets the guy.

I don’t quite know what to say about this book without giving away too much. As a love story it is just irresistibly perfect, but the cover is accurate, in that it was absolutely not the kind of love story I was expecting. At all. And it’s a stroke of genius.

For me, the book superbly captures the issues facing men and women in their late twenties and early thirties – career building, housing , family, relationships, marriage, navigating long friendships, mental and physical health, love and loss. But Rebecca Serle has also, within this authentic-feeling scenario, accomplished the task of creating a wonderfully likeable cast of characters, and written them into an original, addictive and perfectly paced storyline.

At just 272 pages long this book is a quick read but it certainly packs a punch. Be prepared to be inexorably pulled into Dannie’s world, feel a myriad of conflicting emotions and cry all of the tears. I thought that I had guessed the ending from quite early on but I was so far off the mark I was basically on a different continent! If you enjoy an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking read (think Me Before You and One Day) I’d heartily recommend you give this one a go.

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With thanks to the author, Quercus and Netgalley for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. “In Five Years” publishes on the 3rd March 2020 and is available for preorder now.

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention by Pip Jones and Sara Ogilvie

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to win Simon and Schuster’s brilliant giveaway prize over on Twitter. And the next day a lovely little bundle dropped through the door.

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The package contained both Izzy Gizmo books and a tool belt containing some wooden tools (swipe to last picture to see). Now this was particularly exciting as I LOVE Izzy Gizmo and so does Wee Reader and we hadn’t yet managed to read the second instalment “Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention”.

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First of all, if you’ve never read one of these fabulous books then you definitely should. Izzy Gizmo is a brilliant inventor with a slightly fiery temper and a kind heart.

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In this book she attends an “invention convention” where she enters into an inventing competition. She is soon pitted against some of the finest young minds in the field, but not all of them are quite as honourable as Izzy. Abi von Lavish thwarts Izzy’s competition at every turn leaving her unsure as to what her competition entry is going to be. But her lightbulb moment does eventually come and it’s brilliant and teaches us an important lesson about recycling.

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There’s so much to love about these books. Written in rhyme they are perfect to read aloud, and the story of triumph over adversity is one that WR can sit and listen to all day long.

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Somehow, at only just 3, gender stereotypes are already creeping into his consciousness (apparently Elsa’s castle is only for girls??! Where does he get this from??!), so seeing a BAME “mighty girl” excelling in STEM subjects can only be a very positive thing!

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Izzy does get frustrated when things don’t go her way but she nevertheless persists, sending the important message of “if at first you don’t succeed, then try try again”. She has a strong bond with her Grandpa, who helps to steer her onto the right path, most notably in this case when she gets angry with her crow sidekick, Fixer.

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Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations are really engaging, with so much to look at. WR particularly loves examining all of Izzy’s crazy machines. Little wonder his junk modelling has recently taken an interesting turn…

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This is definitely in our top 10 picture books of the year! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Poppy and Sam’s Wind-up Tractor Book

Wee Reader was so lucky to receive some lovely books for his 3rd birthday last week, but I have to say that this one bought by his grandparents has been the biggest hit!

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“Poppy and Sam’s Wind-up Tractor book” contains 3 short stories about Poppy and Sam and a tractor. Each story is accompanied by some press-out pieces with stands and a corresponding scene for the wind-up tractor to drive around.

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Our favourite Poppy and Sam characters are all involved, including Rusty the dog, and as always there’s a little duck to spot on each page.

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Winding the tractor enough to make it go all the way around the tracks has proved a challenge for WR but it has been really good for his hand eye coordination, as has building all of the stand-up pieces.

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It is worth mentioning that the tracks have to be laid completely flat for the tractor to work properly so some cunning propping is involved. But this isn’t too much of a problem.

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If you’re looking for an interactive book for a child of between roughly 3 and 5 then this could be a great gift.

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“Poppy and Sam’s Wind-up Tractor Book” is published by Usborne Books and is available to buy now.

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Mumday Monday – My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

I don’t often read non-fiction so, to slightly push myself out of my comfort zone, I really wanted to participate in non-fiction November. I needed something compulsively readable to get me started and “My Friend Anna” was absolutely ideal.

The author tells the story of how she was conned out of tens of thousands of dollars that she didn’t actually have by Anna Sorokin, a woman she considered to be a good friend. Her mission to get back what she was owed and ultimately help to get the fraudster convicted is detailed through a combination of anecdotes and text message exchanges.

I whizzed through this book in a couple of days as I just couldn’t wait to find out what Anna would do next. Some of the things that happened were so completely outrageous, it almost reads like fiction; it’s hard to believe that someone could be so bold and devious.

While it was certainly an enjoyable read I did think it hit a bit of a lull about 70% of the way through where I got a bit fed up of reading all their text exchanges, which in the main were quite similar. I also thought that the author’s version of the story in places rang slightly untrue or at least she seemed to be trying to make herself look less culpable than she actually was.

However, if you’re looking to read a nice easy non-fiction book on a relatively gentle topic, this is definitely the book for you.

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My Friend Anna is published by Quercus and is available to buy now.