Barty Barton:The Bear That Was Loved Too Much~Sue Wickstead

Barty Barton is Thomas’ much loved teddy bear, but as time goes by Barty becomes more tatty and worn until the day Thomas’ mum comes to the rescue and gives Barty Barton a much needed bath, fresh stuffing and some new stitching and he’s ready to go to Thomas’s own child.

We watch Thomas’s mother labour with love over Barty and reassure him along the way, showing the reader just how much a parent can love their child’s favourite cuddly toy.

I read this with my almost-four-year old daughter and shared it with a colleague to read to her children and it was loved by all; a real heart warming and gentle tale which made me realise that my own teddy bear from many years ago was actually in my fathers room! We gave him a wash and gifted him to my daughter and he’s the spitting imagine of Barty in the books! Which thrilled my daughter even more!

Barty Barton is a beautiful story book for children of any age and is one of those that’s also enjoyable for the adult who is to read it over and over again too! I actually really want to delve in to the other stories by Wickstead!

About the Author

Sue Wickstead is a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme. She has also written a photographic history book about the real bus, which is where her story writing began. Sue once worked with a playbus charity based in Crawley. This led her to write the photographic history book about the project. The ‘Bewbush Playbus’ book was published in 2012.Sue then began to write a fictional tale about the bus.

John Steel;An. Insight by the Author

This is an insightful piece on the character of John Steel written by author, Stuart Field, who has been kind enough to write this for my blog.

“An insight into John Steel. Here are a few things about the character

This is for those who have read about John Steel before or have never heard of him until now.

John Steel is the son of a British Earl, who was also the owner of one of Britain’s largest production firms. After the murder of his entire family by the hands of mercenaries, John Steel finds himself with the title and the business. He has no interest in either but sees the benefits of the title and the company in his job within the British Secret service. 

John Steel joined the Army within the lower ranks because he didn’t want to be an officer. He wanted to join as one of the lads. After a short spell with the commando combat engineers, he was recruited by the SAS, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. After been fatally wounded at the family home during the mercenary raid, Steel was nursed back to health and was sent into hiding at the family cabin in Alaska.

He is 36 years old, six-foot-two and finds his love for acrobatics and martial arts comes in a helpful combination. He has emerald, green eyes, but these are dark and cold. Some class them as soulless. This was caused by the life-saving operation he had undergone after the shooting. He has a high pain tolerance and does not bruise easily. Steel is sensitive to bright light and some loud noises. He also dislikes heights but always pushes himself to switch off the fear in a time of crisis. 

There are five books in the John Steel series. The fifth novel is what I class as the breakaway novel. I call it a breakaway novel because Steel is no longer with the NYPD. Steel is doing what he was meant to do and working with MI8 and travelling the world. Steel was never meant to be stuck in a team, but I continued because people loved the other characters. However, I think the detectives at the 11th precinct are established enough to do a spin-off series. 

John Steel comes across as arrogant, but his trust issues sometimes get in the way of his ‘playing well with others.’ He likes to think outside the box and question what he sees. He is tenacious to a fault. And as well as intimacy issues after losing his wife. He bottles everything up and feels making friends can be a curse because they can be used against you or indeed turn against you. He is also loyal to those he feels deserve it, even to the point of putting his own life in danger to save them. He feels compelled to help people, especially lost causes.

I love the John Steel character because he is the man you want to be and the man you are glad you are not. A compelling character with more tales to come. “

Maltese Steel~Stuart Field

These is the fifth instalment of the John Steel series and having not read the previous four, I was nervous to start in case there were parts I wouldn’t understand but was so intrigued to read because I had very much enjoyed my time in Malta when I was younger so wanted to see the Island from criminal/law man eyes rather than that of an excited child!

An old colleague and friend of John Steel requires his help when his daughter, John’a goddaughter, dies in mysterious circumstances which have been all too quickly by Maltese police as a simple suicide. Upon arriving on the small island (you really can drive around it in a matter of hours!) Steel notices he is followed by a highly attractive woman, and some not-so-beautiful thugs also! But John will stop at nothing to get the answers needed to put his friends grief to rest.

I did find that there were a few parts that may have read a little more smoothly if I had read the previous four books BUT still managed to enjoy the characters and the style of writing just flowed. I really enjoyed the descriptions of surroundings and places of parts of the Island I saw and the parts I didn’t! It was a thrill-ride for sure and I’m excited to read the previous instalments!

About the Author

Stuart Field, real name Phil Syron-Jones, was born in Telford, Shropshire. He joined the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery at the age of seventeen in 1988 and went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf. Phil retired from the army in 2010 and took a security job in Germany, where he still lives and works. Phil decided to try his hand at writing. An idea came to him and he just went with it; Steel and Shadows, his first novel, was born.

The Bridesmaid~Nina Manning

Three days is how long it took me to read The Bridesmaid; fitted in around working/studying/single mum life. So from that, it’s easy to see how hooked I was by this book! Once the final page was turned, I didn’t know if I was feeling sad, relieved, lost, empty or a mixture of all four of those emotions. In fact, I’m still shocked at the twists as it did not go how I thought it would. And I was pleasantly surprised!

The Bridesmaid’s main narrative is Sasha, a Hackney girl who arrived at Saxby House as a pre-teen while her parents worked for the Clemonte family. She befriends Caitlin and, later down the line, Chuck. The time hopping goes from 2009-modern day London to late 80’s-early 99’s Dorset and each time jump is made entirely clear under the chapter number, so there’s no confusion.

All along I feel like the open plot gave the reader a red herring and helped to creat an entirely different plot from the sidelines (so, I thought that there were two key characters having an affair that spanned over a decade, when actually that’s not what was happening at all!) which made for some highly interesting twists and turns!

Not only does the friendship between Caitlin seem highly one sided and, frankly, viscous but the friendship with Chuck seems a lot more involved throughout the entire book! The ending though was absolutely golden! In fact, there was more than one plot twist and I actually had to read the last few chapters more than twice! I wasn’t confused in the slightest, but I needed to re-read them to get over the shock as it went it a totally different direction to what I had imagined!

I haven’t ever read any of Manning’s previous works, and the fact that she produced this beauty of a book during the a Covid-19 national lockdown of 2020 (the first one in the UK) makes it so much more impressive!

About the Author

Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.

The Old Ducks Club~Maddie Please

What do you when you’ve lost your sparkle? Imagine, you’re single when you didn’t think you would be, you’ve lost yourself and you don’t even know who that person is staring back at you in the mirror. What do you do?

Well, you get over to Rhodes. You meet a select group of women who really aren’t your cup of tea and you get swept along in their current and go out until the wee hours of the morning dancing and drinking and become one of The Club. It’s a proper giggle! And then you meet a gorgeous Greek and start to wonder if you’re quite cut out for love again.

Because this is exactly what happens to Sophia Gregory, on the verge of being sixty and suddenly single! She didn’t realise she had totally lost sight of herself and decides a trip away is what she needs, and we follow her journey through rebellious and un-Sophie-like behaviours once she’s settled in with the Old Ducks Club who refuse to grow old gracefully (night time hot tub antics anyone?!) and watch her battle with the “should I/shouldn’t I?” Voices in her mind surrounding that hunky Theo that she simply can’t shake (not that she’s sure she wants too!).

I read this knowing it’s not my usual cup of tea but needing a refreshing and quick little read to pick me up out of my Murder mystery and true crime readathon and was pleasantly surprised that I LOVED it! I expected to enjoy it but didn’t expect to suddenly want to pick my bag and head off to Greece (as you can tell, I’m no chick-lit or Mama Mia fan!) in search of a bunch of loud and rowdy gal-pals! Maddie Please has made the most funny escapist novel anyone after the great balls-up of 2020 could ask for! Perfect!

Author Biography

Maddie Please is a former dentist who has written four novels to date, lives in rural Devon and watching box sets is a big hobby with enjoying red wine and Christmas! The Old Ducks Club is the first of a new set of novels for Boldwood Books which focuses on the hilarious love lives of slightly older women (silver vixens!)

Whatever It Takes~Heaton Wilson

A young man is found dead at his computer in an Internet cafe; cause of death is hard to work out. His mother anticipated the news. The manager of the Internet cafe dies while under police observed hospital care. What do these things have in common? Whose the killer? Was this lad in too deep with bad company? Is the owner of the Internet cafe really all that bad?

Whatever It Takes is the second novel in the DCI Jane Birchfield series, however I hadn’t read the first instalment prior to being given a copy of this to read. Luckily the references to previous cases are few and far between (but intriguing enough to make me order myself a copy of the first book!) and don’t make it a difficult book to read or follow at all as characters are described well and relationships are clear from the start.

I really enjoyed this; I love the character of Jane! She’s so resilient and I really feel for her but do wish she would be home a little more (I really enjoy characters that I feel like I could give a bit of a talking to but will still have a soft spot for!).

Sometimes when male writers create a female lead they can get it a little bit wrong, but I feel that by not writing in the first person has been a positive move as it allows for more flexibility when giving chapters focusing on other characters.

There were some dark parts in the plot but luckily they weren’t particularly graphic meaning that they could be glossed over by the reader, which is a nice option to have in a crime thriller and makes me enjoy Wilson’s writing style and structure even more.

Author Biography

Wilson is a Jack of all trades, having been a journalist in a news paper, postman, HR officer, director, actor, playwright and now published author. The first book of Wilson’s was Every Reason (the first DCI Jane Birchfield novel) was published in 2016 and the follow up to Whatever it Takes isn’t far off being printed (yey!). Wilson was a Manchester lad but now lives of the Isle of Wight (I’m very jealous!) where he finds the sea is the perfect muse and best place for dog walks.

The Legacy; A Blessing and a Curse~Alison Knight

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

I read a previous book of Alison Knight’s this past year and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so when given the opportunity to read another, I jumped at the chance to read!

The Legacy has us transported to 1969 and we meet James, Percy and Charlotte and we live their deceitful drama with them.

I felt bad that James was disinherited and favoured over Charlotte, but also felt bad for Charlotte-I’d be really uncomfortable if I had been chosen to inherit all that money and another family member had been totally over-looked for whatever reason. And an amount that vast! Really uncomfortable. I was glad Charlotte seemed to be strong enough to send James packing when he tried to sweet talk her out of the money though. But Fliss, well she’s not a favourite of mine at all! Neither is Percy.

So we’re introduced to the world of 60’s gambling and dangerous games of cat and mouse, slippery characters and vast skeletons in closets.

Legacy was gripping and well written well good characters, but not my usual era so I can’t say if it was exact in descriptions but I did enjoy it none the less.

About the Author.

Alison Knight is an avid reader and when not reading, she’s creating stories for the world to read. Mine was her first published novel, with Legacy being her second. Knight’s previously worked on writing short autobiographical pieces, women’s fiction and time travel adventures. She also runs workshops and courses-Jack of all trades!

Girl A- Abigail Dean

This book has so many varied reviews and I wanted to say it was amazing all the way through but really the best part for me was the plot twist towards the end.

Lex Gracie is Girl A-the one who escaped her family home-of-horrors which in turn set all the Gracie children free. This brave escape left her father dead and her mother in prison for the rest of her life.

The book gives us a history of what went on in the Gracie household and what took place after with time hops and glimpses in to the siblings other lives. The ending is somewhat happy but no one rides off in to the sunset with the wind in their hair, but the reader can assume some happiness will follow after the last pages.

The idea for Girl A was good. I was really looking forward to reading it, but the time hops aren’t totally clear and the chapter headings are titles the children were given after their rescue, so I expected a chapter from their point of view but that wasn’t what we were given, so sometimes I had to stop reading and look back at the previous page to see where I was in the grand scheme of things.

The plot twist at the end really got me though! I literally did not see that one coming in any way! It was pleasing to have such a psychological twist to the story and really gave Lex/Girl A a lot more depth.

I feel like this would be a good film/series (much like Haunting of Hill House is a better series than book-for me personally) and the tension would be real edge-of-your-seat stuff and would show the time hops in an easier way given the fact that there would be observed abs definitive differences. I would recommend this book but I’m not totally sure if it is worth all of the hype it received.

About the Author

Sir Lambalot~ Jude Lennon

Queen Floss wants to rid the land of dragons, giants and trolls so that her kingdom can be safe and play all day, and she sends her most loyal knight, Sir Lambalot, to remove these creatures in order to maintain a balanced and harmonious life. However, Sir Lambalot being a true knight, believes that all creatures have a misunderstood side to them, and accompanies them to Queen Floss to share their tale of misunderstood woe. Queen Floss learns that these creatures aren’t so scary after all and pose no threat, and even employs them about the castle!

Sir Lambalot is a lovely rhyming book driving home the importance of tolerance, kindness and acceptance. The pictures are beautiful and my little girl and I really enjoyed reading it together and discussing the characters.

The book is aimed at children of primary school age but my pre-schooler really adored it and followed with ease and really understood e importance of giving people a chance and being fair toward them.

This is a perfect read for any family/nursery/early years setting and I have highly recommended it to many other parents and early years workers and will continue to do so!

About the Author

Jude Lennon was a primary education teacher who now enjoys writing children’s books and is about to release a line of books for older children.

Lennon is the current Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate for the North West, a proud member of Team Author UK, a learning destination for the Children’s University, a Patron of Reading and a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. She works closely with the Liverpool based charity The Bobby Colleran Trust and has written two books for them.

Jude’s latest project is a collaboration with Hal’s Books on a series of books which feature an autistic main character. This series is part of the Awesome About Autism range and aims to raise awareness about Autism but also give autistic readers a character they can relate to.

The Silent House~Nell Pattison

If someone entered your home in the middle of the night and brutally murdered one of three children in the bedroom next to yours, you’d know. Wouldn’t you? You would hear them, sense them even. But that’s not the case here, because the child that was murdered while her two siblings slept next to her, was deaf. So are her siblings. And so are her parents.

The murder of Lexi shook the deaf community, and when Paige comes to the aid of the police with her role of interpreter, she suddenly finds that her life is in danger, as well as her sisters.

It takes many twists and dark turns before the mystery of who killed little Lexi comes to the surface, and everyone is a suspect. Right down to the smallest person you could imagine.

The Silent House was exceedingly well written and kept me hooked from beginning to end. Twice I thought I had it all figured out only to have the rug pulled out from under me! The tension was so real and everyone truly was a suspect. The characters were written strongly and the frustrations that those in the deaf community face every day were thrust in to the face of the reader, meaning that not only did you get a good dose of fiction BUT you also got to gleam some understanding of what it is like to face the world around you when you don’t have the use of all five of your senses.

As a person with a (luckily mild at present) hearing loss and numerous issues surrounding hearing, processing and ears, I really felt the frustrations of the hearing and non-hearing characters; it’s hard to be understood when you have so many important things to say and get them across, and it’s also hard to hear and process those things being said when you truly have a physical barrier. It’s also frightening to think that something like sleeping safely in your house can be so impacted when you have a hearing loss.

I loved the character of Paige and

I’ve read numerous reviews since I finished this book and it’s so frustrating to see those few negative reviews when they specifically mention the pace and dialogue; of course dialogue isn’t good when you’re writing deaf characters! Sign language is not the same dialogue as the spoken word and as there is no tone of voice to go with signs, the dialogue can seem to be missing key elements from those witnessing signed conversations. Another review said the characters seemed to have an on-off switch for when to be quiet and when to be scared; of course they do! Their sound level is minimal because most of the characters are deaf and unable to actually use spoken word!

Actually those review made me really cross if I’m being honest. Dialogue from a hearing loss point of view is difficult to understand when you’re fully hearing and difficult to explain when you’re hard of hearing. But I think the book was wi fearful and I really enjoyed it. I will most definitely be going on to read more of Pattison’s Paige Northwood books.

About the Author.

After studying English at university, Nell Pattison became a teacher and specialised in Deaf education. She has been teaching in the Deaf community for 13 years in both England and Scotland, working with students who use BSL. Nell began losing her hearing in her twenties, and now wears hearing aids. She lives in North Lincolnshire with her husband and son. The Deaf House is her debut novel and has been followed by two more surrounding the deaf community.