Dot Scribbles


BOOK REVIEW: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Lib Wright, a young English nurse, arrives in an impoverished Irish village on a strange mission. Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is said to have eaten nothing for months but appears to be thriving miraculously. Lib's job role is simple: to watch the girl and uncover the truth.
An educated sceptic, Lib expects to expose the fast as a hoax right away. But as she gets to know the girl she becomes more and more unsure: is Anna a fraud, or a 'living wonder?' or is something more sinister unfolding right before Lib's eyes? Written with all the propulsive tension that transported readers of Room, The Wonder asks what length we would go to for the love of a child. 

Publisher: Picador
Pages: 347

It's taken me ages to sit down and write this review as I'm still not too sure what I think! I was blown away by Emma Donoghue's book Room so I had very high expectations for this one. I am not saying that they weren't met but The Wonder is just so different. It's almost like it's not the same author. But then I've been thinking about this and I think Room was so well received because it was such a different, stand-out idea for a book so realistically the author was not going to be able to write something of a similar nature. Sorry for rambling but I'm just trying to explain why I've found it so hard to write my review.
The Wonder has a very beautiful, Gothic feel to it which I really enjoyed. The rural Irish setting brings an almost 'other world' feel to the book, Lib enters an entirely different world to her own, she is very much an alien in this setting, she has little understanding of the culture, religion and daily struggles faced by Anna's family. Her job is purely to observe Anna, an eleven year-old-girl who can apparently live without eating any food. Lib is sceptical from the very beginning and she struggles to merely observe without passing judgement or developing emotions about her young charge. Lib's job as a nurse is to care and make her patient's health her priority so she finds being in Anna's presence extremely frustrating. The girl is deteriorating in front of her and Lib feels powerless to prevent the inevitable. 
Emma Donoghue raises many questions about religion in this book. The pressures placed on people by religion and the huge amount of guilt often involved. The people around Anna want to believe that she is a miracle but their actions are selfish, it is as though they have lost sight of the fact that she is a child and therefore their responsibility. I felt that the author highlighted how many religious texts are open to many different interpretations, this is explored by Anna and Lib's numerous discussions as to what God would want and how he would want Lib to behave.
Emma Donoghue's writing is superb, in some ways not a huge amount happens in the book but I still couldn't put it down, there is a definite element of suspense running throughout. Like with Room, the author creates a very intense situation in which to explore human nature and behaviour. Lib and Anna spend long periods of time together in a small room, there is no where for either of them to hide. The Wonder was quite a surprising read and I really enjoyed it. I had to dismiss my previous experience of this author. Having had time to think about it, I think this book is moving, dramatic and thought-provoking. I'm going to give it a re-read in the future as I know there is probably even more that I could have taken from it.


DOT AND DARCEY REVIEW: The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

Usborne are one of my favourite children's books publishers so I was so, so excited when Victoria contacted me to ask if she could send Darcey a book. Victoria is an Independent Usborne Organiser and she is fantastic! She asked me a little bit about Darcey, her age and what she likes/dislikes and then she told me that she had thought of a good book and would be popping it in the post. A huge envelope arrived- Darcey was so excited to open it and find The Usborne Big Book of Bugs inside- Victoria could not have chosen a better book, my five year old is fascinated by anything to do with creepy crawlies- the hairier the better!
We have looked at this stunning book so many times- I have included some photos but they don't really do it justice. The illustrations are so detailed and beautiful, there is just enough information on each page without a young reader feeling bombarded. Darcey and I both agreed that our favourite feature of the book were the 4 giant fold outs- they open up to the equivalent of 4 pages of the book each and bring a lovely element of fun. The language and vocabulary used is pitched just right for this age range, it is not patronising but not so technical that a young reader may lose interest.
Usborne do not solely publish non-fiction books, we have a number of their fictional titles too but personally I think they excel in the non-fiction arena. Their books are well made and sturdy, bright and inviting. We have a few of their lift the flap question books (the dinosaur one is Darcey's favourite) and they are brilliant- I think at this age children still like a bit of interaction and Darcey loves deciding which flap we will lift next and what questions we will find the answers to.

I think that Victoria's role as an Independent Usborne Organiser is so important; she is a teacher and a mum of young twins so she is in a great position to use her experience and knowledge to make recommendations. You don't get that from Amazon! I know you can go to a book shop (which I definitely advocate doing) but sometimes as a busy mum, I simply don't have time and so having access to someone who can help make age and reading ability recommendations is so helpful. Victoria is based in Birmingham but she will happily post out books within the UK so check out her  Facebook page, The Word Worms. She has a fantastic loyalty scheme where you buy 5 books and then get 20% off the next one and she has some very lovely ideas for Christmas, including putting together individual packages containing books, sweets and even a soft toy to suit your child's interests. I am still adding to my list to order before Christmas- I love buying books as gifts for children and I have been spoilt for choice when looking through Usborne's catalogue- plus Darcey keeps circling all the ones she wants too! 

Many thanks to Victoria for sending Darcey such a wonderful book and introducing us to a different and personalised way to shop. I have popped her details below if you want to find out more about Usborne or to start your Christmas book shopping! 

Victoria Willams
Phone/Text: 07753 728 389


BOOK REVIEW: Miss You by Kate Eberlen

'Today is the first day of the rest of your life.'
is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever- but not in the way she expects.
Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of  person he is going to be.
For one day- the paths of these two eighteen-year-olds will criss-cross before they each return to England.
Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and chance, there's no way the two of them are every going to meet each other properly... or is there?

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 457

Miss You by Kate Eberlen is a completely charming read. It is very reminiscent of One Day by David Nicholls but I also loved that book so it was no surprise that I enjoyed this one. Katde Eberlen's book felt a little grittier and more realistic though, both Gus and Tess face some tough challenges along the way.
Gus and Tess first encounter each other in Florence, both eighteen and enjoying their last summer before starting university, Tess to read English Literature and Gus to study Medicine. We then follow their different lives for the next sixteen years, neither has the life they had expected or wished for. Some events are out of their control, they both make bad decisions too and you are willing them both to pull it back together again. I loved the near misses they have with each other, it really made me think about how small the world can be and the different spheres in which we move.
There were times when I wanted to scream at both Gus and Tess but on the whole I thought they were both brilliant characters. The author presents two people who deep down are good, honest and loyal but also human; they do stupid things and are also deeply affected by others around them.
Miss You by Kate Eberlen is romantic and entertaining, I thoroughly enjoyed it.


BLOG TOUR: Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews- WIN A SIGNED COPY!!

I am so excited to be on the blog tour today for Carole Matthews' latest book, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Kisses. This fantastic festive read is Carole's 30th book which I think we can all agree, is a fabulous achievement. I think Carole is one of the hardest working authors I know; she writes two books a year and is prolific on social media- she always makes time to share her news and interact with her readers and fans. I think that Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights will prove very popular, here's the synopsis and my review: 

Fay and Danny are madly in love and it's all Fay's ever dreamt of. But she left everything- including the delightful cake shop she used to run- to be with Danny on his cosy canal boat The Dreamcatcher. And as she soon finds out, making delicious cakes on the water isn't always smooth sailing!
Then Fay gets a call from her friends, a call that sends her back to where it all began, back to where she first met Danny, back to her friends and the cake shop in the garden. It will be hard being away from Danny but their relationship is strong enough to survive... isn't it?
Fay soon falls happily back in love with her passion for baking- especially now she's back on dry land again!- and starts to wonder if she ever should have left. With Christmas around the corner, she is determined that her friends will have a very merry time, but does that mean even more time away from Danny?

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 389

This is Carole Matthews' 30th book, how fantastic is that! I honestly don't know how she does it but I'm so glad that she does!
Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is the sequel to Carole's extremely successful book, The Cake Shop in the Garden. It is one of my favourite of Carole's books so I was very excited to read this one and catch up with all the old characters again. I think you could read this as a stand-alone but I would highly recommend reading the first book too as you wouldn't want to miss out.
Fay and Danny are making a life for themselves, things are hard going but they are loving canal life on Danny's boat. Fay gets a phone call from Lija who is worried as their friend Stan is unwell and she could do with a hand looking after him as she also has the cafe to run. Fay is reluctant to leave Danny but Stan is like a second father to her so she knows she has to go back. She slots back into life at the cafe and is so proud to see how well Lija is doing but she clearly needs help. Fay is torn- she misses Danny terribly but then she also feels at home back with her friends. What if she should not have left? Where does that leave her and Danny in the future?
Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is a real delight. It was so good to be back with the characters I love from the first book. Lija is my particular favourite and her rea

ctions and one-liners had me laughing out loud. Add into this, Lija's new assistant, Rainbow, who is a fantastic creation. Bubbly, bright and happy about EVERYTHING, Rainbow brings a real  breath of fresh air to the story- you will love her!
As with all of Carole's Christmas books, it is not too in your face. Yes, there's Christmas trees and the odd mince pie but it is not too twee or cheesy as some Christmas books can be!
I very much enjoyed Carole's descriptions of the food at the cafe; she gives daily descriptions of the cakes that Lija and Fay bake  and it will make your mouth water.
The romance is still very much alive for Fay and Danny, they are a lovely couple and you feel that they found each other at the right time. It always seems to be outside pressures that cause them trouble  and you are just left hoping that their relationship is strong enough.
Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is such a lovely read and the cover is stunning. I would highly recommend it plus it would be the perfect Christmas gift for many a book lover!

So if this has whet your appetite- you can win a signed copy of Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight on October 25th and I shall draw a name out of a hat! The competition is open to UK residents only- Good Luck!


DOT AND DARCEY REVIEW: The Horror Handbook by Paul van Loon, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

What happens to a vampire when he dies? How does somebody become a werewolf? How can you protect yourself from witches? All of these questions and more are answered in this book, which will finally give you all the information you ever wanted to know about ghosts, zombies, monsters and all kinds of creepy-crawly creatures that give us the heebie-jeebies.
Full of tips, anecdotes and trivia- and delightfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler- Paul van Loon's The Horror Handbook is a fun and fascinating reference book for all fans of scary stories and things that go bump in the night.

Publisher: Alma Junior
Pages: 154

Halloween is a big deal in the Dot Scribbles household, Darcey has usually planned her costume by about March and we definitely get carried away with decorating the house and each other! So I was very excited when Alma Books got in touch to see if Darcey and I would like to review a book from their Junior section, The Horror Handbook. This book is marketed at ages 8 upwards but Darcey is not easily scared so we thought we would give it a go.
It's a lovely paperback book and I think that Darcey really liked the fact that it felt a little more grown up than your average picture book. It is full of beautiful illustrations by the super talented Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo and so many more) There is a picture on most pages and they bring a lot of humour to this very informative book.
Split into 9 chapters, Paul van Loon deals with everything from Vampires to Ghosts and the Walking Dead. We've dipped in and out of the book with Darcey choosing which parts she wanted me to read- she has loved the chapter on Vampires and we have re-read the one dealing with witches several times. I was impressed with the way the author approached this, he delivers a lot of information but manages to infuse it with a lot of humour and he makes it clear from the very beginning that horror and it's many characters are just a fantastic part of our imagination and not something to really be scared of:

One of the main things about horror stories is that stuff happens that can't happen in real life. Dead people come out of their graves and cut-off hands come alive. You could call it an "alternative reality". A reality where anything is possible. People who don't like horror stories don't know what they are missing.
Take vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, monsters and zombies, for example. People have been telling stories about them for centuries. In this book you will find information about where they come from, what they look like, how they behave, how to fight them and so forth. All the creeps we will discuss are actually related. This Horror Handbook is like a family portrait. Without this family of creeps, life (and books) would be a lot more boring, even if everyone knows it is all made up.

Darcey and I can highly recommend The Horror Handbook, it's been great to read it in the run up to Halloween, funny, informative and not at all patronising. I think it is a book that Darcey will keep returning to- even if it's just to get Halloween costume inspiration!

Many thanks to Alma Junior for sending Darcey and I this book to review.


BLOG TOUR: The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn

I am so excited to be on the blog tour today for Judith Kinghorn's latest book, The Snow Globe. Judith writes brilliant historic fiction and this one looks fabulous, here's the synopsis to give you an idea: 

As Christmas 1926 approaches, the Forbes family are preparing to host a celebration at Eden Hall. Eighteen-year-old Daisy is preoccupied by a sense of change in the air. Overnight, her relationship with Stephen Jessop, the housekeeper’s son, has shifted and every encounter seems fraught with tension. Before the festivities are over, Daisy has received a declaration of love, a proposal and a kiss – from three different men. Unable to bear the confusion she flees to London and stays with her elder sister.
By the following summer, Daisy has bowed to the persistence of the man who proposed to her the previous year. When the family reunite for a party at Eden Hall and Stephen is once more in her life, it is clear to Daisy she is committing to the wrong person. Yet she also believes that family secrets mean she has no choice but to follow her head instead of her heart. Will love conquer all, or is Daisy’s fate already written?

The book is out right now and the cover is stunning, here's an extract from Chapter one to whet your appetite:

Long before Fletch, during the war, Stephen had attended lessons in the schoolroom with Daisy and a few other local children. And he had been included in every birthday party, each nursery tea: teas with the ruddy-faced, tartan-clad cousins from Scotland, and teas with the silent children recently moved to the area whom Daisy’s mother had taken a shine to. ‘New friends!’ Mabel would say, clapping her hands together. Those had been the worst teas: tense affairs with spilled drinks and red faces and curious, resentful stares.
And then there were the pea-flicking, bread-throwing children from London.
They weren’t all orphans, Stephen had explained; some of them had parents, but they were too poor to look after them. These children had continued to come each summer during the war, and for a few years after it, sleeping in the night nursery—turned into a dormitory—at the top of the house, a different group each year. They were anything but silent. They came through windows rather than use doors and slid down the banisters rather than use the stairs. They loved fighting and swearing and climbing—walls, trees, drainpipes and the greenhouse roof, until two of them fell through. They all had nits, and rivulets of green running from their noses to their mouths, wiped onto their sleeves. Almost all of them smoked, and they liked to start fires and give people frights, and they were always hungry. ‘Bleedin’ starvin’,’ they said, each day, at every time of day.
Everyone’s nerves were frayed to tatters by the time they left. But Stephen had been the go-between, able to understand them as well as he did Daisy and her sisters.
Even now, Daisy often thought of Janet Greenwell, whose head had been shaved and whose sad little legs were paler and thinner than any Daisy had ever seen. And she remembered the crippled boy, Neville, a caliper on his leg and such thick lenses in his spectacles that they made his eyes appear small. ‘Crippled Chinky,’ the others had called him, shouted after him as he limped off up the brick pathway of the walled garden.
Only once had Daisy summoned the courage to confront them, only once had she shouted back at them that they were cruel bullies and then gone after Neville, whom she’d found slumped next to the rabbit hutch, his stiff leg stretched out in front of him, like a war veteran—but without any medals for bravery.
‘They don’t mean to be vile; they’re just ignorant,’ she’d said, sitting down next to him on the grass, longing to wrap her arms round him. He’d not said anything, had quietly wept, wiping his nose on his gray shirtsleeve, staring through his thick spectacles at his useless leg.
The day before Neville left, Daisy gave him the book she had won at the flower show for her vegetable animal (a horse, made from potato, carrots and peas, with ribbons of cucumber peel for its mane and tail, had earned her second prize and a ‘highly commended’ badge from the judges). She had thought long and hard about which book to give him but plumped for A Shropshire Lad mainly because of that word, lad. Inside, she wrote, ‘Dear Neville, I hope I’ll see you again and that you’ll come back here one day without the others. Yours, Daisy M. Forbes.’ When she told Stephen, he’d shaken her hand and told her that she was the kindest person he knew.
Always, after these children had gone, Eden Hall returned to its usual quiet and calm. It was a place of order and routine and of bells—to announce breakfast or lessons or lunch; the dressing bell, the dinner bell, each day had been punctuated by that sound. Months, seasons and years had passed and the bell still sounded. For Daisy, little had changed. But the thought of Eden Hall without Stephen, the idea of his not being there, of never seeing him again…
No, Stephen couldn’t emigrate, Daisy thought, watching him walk on ahead of her, pulling back gorse and holly and brambles as they made their way through thickets and knee-high heather. She would speak to her father, she decided; wait until he was home for Christmas, find the right time and speak to him about all of this then. After all, he’d been the one to sort the legalities of Stephen’s adoption, and he might even be able to offer Stephen a job at the factory… Either way, she concluded, her father would know what to do. He always did.

I'm so looking forward to delving into this book myself and will share my review with you when I do. 

Many thanks to Canelo for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, please take the time to check out the other stops as the tour continues until 8th October! 


BLOG TOUR: The Angel by Katerina Diamond

I am on the blog tour today for the fantastic new book from Katerina Diamond which was published on 21st September. Angel sees the return of DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles and some are saying that this is Diamond's best book. Here's the synopsis:


When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge, Orange Is The New Black and Locked Up.

The publisher has been kind enough to provide me with an exclusive extract to share with you, it's taken from Chapter 2:

‘Follow me,’ the firefighter said, beckoning them towards the ruined signal box. They got to the foot of the building; the wooden staircase was completely gone, as was the entire top floor.
‘Deliberate?’ Adrian asked, pulling out his notebook.
‘We’ve had a lot of trouble with kids and homeless people breaking into this one in the past,’ the station manager offered. ‘Until the investigation is complete we can’t say for sure, but it definitely looks that way. Even though this is old wood it’s a rainy night, and from the calls we got, it escalated to disproportionate levels for what we would expect from a building like this. There does seem to be some evidence of accelerant.’
‘Do you think it’s arson then?’ Adrian asked him.
‘I’m leaning that way. The point of origin seems to be a waste paper bin, but we’ll need to check that out further.’
‘Do you have any CCTV footage?’ Imogen turned to the station manager.
‘We do. My colleague is just retrieving it for you now. It’s a poorly lit area and with the terrible weather the visibility will be even crappier, not to mention the fact that it was actually night when whoever it was came out. It’s possible that when the arsonist was leaving some of the station lights or the lights on the bridge illuminated the area a little better though.’
‘Did they not tell you the main reason you’re here?’ the firefighter asked, looking between them curiously.
‘What do you mean?’ Adrian asked.
‘We found a body.’
Imogen and Adrian looked at each other.
‘You probably should have led with that,’ Imogen said crossly.

Sounds good doesn't it! Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content! 


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