Thursday 30 July 2009

How Not To Shop - Carmen Reid

Move over Gok Wan and Trinny and Susannah, here comes Annie Valentine, personal shopper extraordinaire, taking her first faltering steps into the cut-throat world of TV, presenting a brand new makeover show. Her down-to-earth straight talking and sudden desire to set out on a new path in life mean she could well be the spiritual descendant of her namesake, Shirley Valentine ! - and her brave decision to follow her ambitions, giving up her secure job at a fashionable and expensive clothes shop to try to find personal fulfilment in a whole new area, is just as crushingly disappointing and doomed to failure as the elder Mrs Valentine's trip to Greece in the film !

This is chicklit for the older generations - not old age pensioners, just the 30-40 somethings ! I used to love chick lit tales of romance, sex and endless partying but it all seems a bit frothy and frivolous now. I find I like something I can get my teeth into a bit more. And here, we have elements of chick lit - boozing and schmoozing with a few rich celeb friends, girlie shopping trips, excited first steps into a glamorous new career ... but also the more "grown up" concerns such as paying off the mortgage and school fees, parenting decisions, existential questions about marriage, babies, illegitimate children and divorces. Us working mums, juggling jobs, kids and homes, can really sympathise with Annie's ups and downs, while nostalgically watching the antics of the botoxed bimbo, millionaire-magnet Svetlana, hanging on by the tips of her manicured nails to the lifestyle of youth and classic chicklit.

It's a feel-good story that packs in lots of laughs, like most chick lit, but not everything is rosy (think of poor Dinah and Connor and their baby issues) in this more realistic world of "hen-lit". Annie Valentine features in several other of Carmen Reid's books so I'd definitely like to go back and read the others now, to fill in the background to her story.

Publisher: Corgi Books (13 Aug 2009)

Paperback: 416 pages

ISBN-10: 0552158852
ISBN-13: 978-0552158855

star rating : 5/5

Breastfeeding : The Essential Guide - Sharon Trotter

This book is just like a great big hug and pat on the back from your best friend at the time you most need it !

I almost didn't read this book. I breastfed my two daughters for 6 months and 8 months respectively so I thought, ah, been there, done that, got the (milk-stained) Tshirt - it's like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs ! But then baby bundle of joy number 3 burst into my life last week and along with him, all the old self-doubts and minor panic attacks on a daily basis, not helped at all when the staff at the hospital put the pressure on.

Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and when it works with no effort, it's fantastic. It's got so many benefits for mothers and babies, not to mention, in these credit-crunch times, it's a real money-saver. It is so rewarding to feel that you are giving your baby the best possible start in life and you get a real sense of pride when you see him getting big and strong and knowing that it's all down to you and your very own milk. But the downside is, when it doesn't work first time, or when people start making you doubt yourself, you suddenly start realising what a huge responsibility it all is and thinking eeek, I'm the only thing standing between me and my baby dying of starvation ! It sounds extreme but don't forget you've just given birth and your hormones have gone ballistic !!

Having twice succeeded relatively long stints at breastfeeding, I'm pretty chilled out and know I can do it, so I was luckily quite well armed against the "attacks" of the midwives. I know they only had the best interests of my baby at heart, but they really know how to put the pressure on and make you doubt your capabilities to be a good mother ! I was told we'd be going home 4 days after the birth, but because my milk took 2 days to start flowing (which is perfectly normal) and his (perfectly normal) weight loss ever so slightly exceeded the 10% "allowance", I was given the ultimatum, get his weight back up or you'll have to stay in longer. Talk about emotional blackmail !! So the last day in hospital was endless visits from the midwives "reminding me to feed him" (duh), weighing him morning and night, forcing me to wake him up every 2 hours for a feed, waking me up at 5am to find out when I'd last fed him (1/2 hour before, thanks for asking). It worked, he put on 70g in 24 hours and we came home as planned but all that stress was for nothing ! So I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read that baby would lose "about" 10% of his birth weight and take up to 10 days to get back to his birth weight - but I did know that this was exactly the kind of reassurance I wanted to hear right now and that for first time mums, it must be even more beneficial.

Sharon Trotter has more than 20 years experience as a midwife and 7 years in total as a breastfeeding mum, so she knows what she's talking about. But she doesn't put herself up on a pedestal, telling us how it all works in a perfect world and setting high standards or norms to aspire to. She talks to you like a friend, sharing the good and bad bits, telling you about the mistakes she made, encouraging and reassuring at every page. I love the little personal anecdotes and family photos. There are links for further reading or information online. The text is divided up into two columns of writing on each page, like a magazine article, so it's easy and quick to read (when trying to fit a few pages in in between feeds and with little sleep, it makes all the difference !) I read the book from cover to cover and it was a real confidence boost. It would make a great gift for a new mum or mum-to-be, especially for a first timer but even us "old hands" can still learn a thing or two. Thanks Sharon, you're a Godsend !!

Publisher: Trotters Independent Publishing Services Ltd (31 Aug 2004)

Paperback: 100 pages

ISBN-10: 0954838106
ISBN-13: 978-0954838102

star rating : 5/5

The Secret Life of France - Lucy Wadham

I came to this book expecting great things, basically because my life parallels almost perfectly the life of the author - I too am a Brit abroad, married to a Frenchman, with three children born in France, having lived and worked here for over ten years. I could also really identify with the way she is described on her arrival in France, wearing Doc Martens and baggy jumpers and finding it hard to fit in and relate to these people who, although only physically separated from us by a narrow strip of salt water, are oceans apart from us in terms of mentality !

There were times when I really did recognise myself and my shared astonishment or frustration with the author, for example when she describes her encounters with the unbelievably arrogant jobsworth civil servants whose rubber stamps are needed for various pieces of vital paperwork. The blurb promised "a candid and funny account of her long and tumultuous love affair with France, her adoptive land", so I settled back expecting a lot of laughs as she related her experiences. I was therefore disappointed to find the author largely absent, both in her personal stories and her own personality. She describes herself as a fun-loving, down-to-earth ex-punkette but presents us with a series of interesting but rather high-brow, intellectual insights into various aspects of French culture, both current and from the past. I had a hard time reconciling the feisty, straight-talking Brit abroad gently mocking (amongst other things) the excessive intellectualism of the French and the author who uses the word "pusillanimity" like it's going out of fashion ! She almost seems to have mutated into a caricature of the alien Frenchiness she is describing, which is quite unnerving !

It's not a bad book - it's well written, thoroughly researched, it covers a lot of interesting topics with real insight - but I felt like I was reading something off my booklist for French studies at university ! I would have preferred a more personal account, which has a lot more scope for humour, such as "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull.

Publisher: Faber and Faber (2 Jul 2009)
Paperback: 288 pages
ISBN-10: 0571236111
ISBN-13: 978-0571236114

star rating : 3/5

Monty Halls' Great Escape : Beachcomber Cottage - My Search for the Simple Life

I love a man with a sense of humour, especially when he doesn't mind poking fun at himself, and that is probably the main element that made me thoroughly enjoy reading this book.

Monty Hall describes himself variously as a "posh bloke", a Southerner, a Sassenach, a little boy out for an adventure and a hopeless DIYer, so he's probably not best suited to moving to the remotest corner of Scotland and taking on the ramshackle shell of an old cottage that needs totally renovating - all that's left are the outer walls, it hasn't even got a roof !! It's One Man and His Dog meets The Good Life meets The Wild Wild West (of Scotland !!) and the sense of adventure and well-earned self-satisfaction that Monty feels are palpable. With a lot of help from his new neighbours, Monty manages to live the traditional life of a crofter for 6 months, helping the "bothy" reemerge as a solid dwelling complete with vegetable garden and livestock. The description of the never-ending battle between man and the elements is exciting enough, but Monty also takes time out to introduce us to the spectacular scenery and wildlife of his unspoilt surroundings (complete with photos - his encounters with a magnificent stag on the beach and huge basking sharks are incredible), not to mention some of the more eccentric members of the local community !

The whole book is a great advertisement for Scotland - it certainly makes me want to go and discover the rugged beaches and remote heather-covered hillsides he describes - and I'm sure the accompanying TV series, which I haven't seen, only adds to this, showing the countryside and wildlife in all its glory. It's a real breath of fresh air.

Publisher: BBC Books; First Thus edition (5 Mar 2009)

Paperback: 288 pages

ISBN-10: 1846076218
ISBN-13: 978-1846076213

star rating : 5/5

One Apple Tasted - Josa Young

Will somebody please get Cupid signed up for some archery lessons pronto, because his magic little love darts seem to be way off the mark pretty much all through the book !

This funny, charming, romantic tale stars Dora Jerusalem, a slightly naive and idealistic features assistant, thrust from her safe sheltered home life into the London world of bright lights and endless champagne-fuelled book launches. The setting is the 1980's, an era which for me recalls newspaper tales of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll and a generation of partiers ravaged by AIDS and ecstasy, but Dora is a throwback to more distant times and values, holding on to some rather archaic values of no-sex-before-marriage and love-at-first-sight. She may be an urban misfit but she still slips effortlessly into the classic tale of boy-meets-girl. But the course of true love never did run smooth and that's just the beginning of a whole series of betrayals and heartaches.

Intertwined with Dora's tale are the stories of two other generations of young women : one in 1939, who finds herself dealing with everything the end of the war can throw at her - an unplanned pregnancy, a lost husband, an orphaned child she feels duty bound to look after and a lot of wagging tongues; and two young ladies coming of age in 1958 with no money or family connections but a lot of determination and dreams. All three generations are connected and the girls share the traits of defiance, survival, feistiness and making the best of a bad job.

The blurb on the back of the book summarises the story as being about "love, friendship and the moments that change the course of a life for good". I would have chosen different key elements - lost chances, heartache and deep dark family secrets. It's chicklit with an edge to it, which I'm sure will make it appeal to a wider audience than the classic "bonkbusters" !!

Publisher: Elliott & Thompson Limited (7 Aug 2009)

Paperback: 352 pages

ISBN-10: 1904027717
ISBN-13: 978-1904027713

star rating : 5/5

Jungle Jack's The Wackiest, Wildest, and Weirdest Animals in the World by Jack Hanna

With a title like that, my daughters - aged 4 and 8 - couldn't wait to grab it out of my hands and discover the gems of information hidden inside. The youngest loved the bright colours and beautiful big photos of animals and birds. The eldest couldn't wait to go on a treasure hunt to find the answers to the questions on the back of the book - Which animal can lick its own ears ? Which animal smells like popcorn ? Which animal can run as fast backwards as it can forwards ? Which animal can stick its tongue out 100 times a minute ? And, as is to be expected from a book targetting this age group, it has just the right degree of ewww - factor : Which animal eats regurgitated seafood for dinner ?

I shared an enjoyable hour looking at the pictures and reading the texts with my daughters and we all discovered some interesting and surprising facts about animals and birds, including some we'd never heard of, like the blue footed booby (it's a bird!). There are also much better known animals though, they're not all obscure ones ! Despite having read it cover to cover in the first sitting, my eldest daughter is still enjoying dipping into it from time to time to rediscover a little nugget of information ! I've had lots of "Mum, did you know ... ?" moments this week !!

The only slight letdown was the accompanying DVD. Having really loved the book, both girls wanted to sit down and watch it straight away, so we did. Judging by the content of the book, I was expecting some great animal footage but it focused instead on the presenter Jungle Jack Hanna and his various mishaps over his long TV career. Here in Europe, we've never heard of him so the girls didn't find it very interesting - they soon got bored and went back to flicking through the book instead. Which has got to be a good sign if kids choose reading over TV in this day and age !! I'd highly recommend it as a really fun, educational book.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 9, 2009)
Page Count: 32
ISBN-10: 1400311403
ISBN-13: 9781400311408

star rating : 4/5

Black Rock - Amanda Smyth

Right from the opening pages, this book seemed reminiscent of 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou and 'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker. And I immediately thought, wow, if it's going down that road, it's going to have a lot to live up to. But it did !

We follow the sad life of Celia, who is a troubling lead character because she seems by turns to be a victim of her environment and upbringing but also, at times, rather cold-hearted and even calculating. Her early life is tragic, partly because it seems so unavoidable - her story, that of running away from an abusive home in Black Rock to find a better life, but ending up in a similar situation in different circumstances, is the standard basis of a lot of black American writers - and I have to admit, I was amazed to see the author's photograph on the back cover and realise she is neither black nor American ! What makes Celia's situation even sadder is the fact that the local soothsayer predicts her life as a series of tragic episodes so it seems unavoidable. Despite the predictions, there were a few sad events I didn't see coming and I loved the fact that, having gone full circle, the book ends on a positive, hopeful note. I won't give away the plot or it will spoil it !

The blurb on the back of the book describes Amanda Smyth as "a born novelist" and I'd have to agree. I'll definitely be looking out for more of her work.

Serpent's Tail (26 Feb 2009)

256 pages

ISBN-10: 1846686962
ISBN-13: 978-1846686962
star rating : 5/5

Chasing Daisy - Paige Toon

A few years ago (ok, ok, make that a decade !), when I was a young, free and single 20-something, I had a foolproof method for choosing reading material that would appeal to me. I'd glance at the reviewers' quotes on the back of the book and if they all came from girlie magazines (as in magazines for girlies, not top shelf publications !!), I'd know they would be right up my street. Well, this book has all the right credentials for that era - Company, Heat, Closer, Cosmopolitan, Elle .... they're all there and they all loved it ! So if you fall into that sector of readers, looking for a lightweight read with a bit of fun and romance, you'll love it. In a nutshell, it's classic chicklit.

The story follows Daisy Rogers, a feisty, sassy but vulnerable young woman, recovering from a major heartbreak. Right from page one, where we see her at a petrol station, yelling a string of multi-lingual profanities at a guy who almost knocked her off her scooter, I really liked her - she's one ballsy girl who knows how to stand up for herself ! Daisy's job as a front-of-house girl - or "bun tart", as the insiders call them - on the Formula 1 scene takes her all over the world to glamorous locations, giving her - and us - an inside view of the world of F1 racers and their lifestyle. As would be expected, you'll find hearts and flowers (quite literally - there are little hearts and flowers drawn on each chapter-opening page !!), but also betrayal and heartache, friendship and complicated family relationships, all interspersed with a permanent whiff of engine-oil ! It's all fairly predictable stuff - I could see the ending coming right from the opening pages - but even for me, there was one pivotal central scene that came as a total shock - you'll have to read the book to find out what it is though !

My one criticism is that the descriptions of the people and places are a bit too flimsy. Each new location resembles the previous one, as they're limited to a description of a strip of touristy bars on a boozy night out, and the characters, even the main ones, could have done with being a bit more fleshed out. This is Paige Toon's third book and apparently picks up pretty much where the last one, 'Johnny Be Good' left off (Johnny, Daisy's ex, even makes a cameo appearance in this novel) so maybe you'd have a more rounded view of the characters if you'd read that one before.

It's great chick-lit. It won't be winning any Nobel prizes for literature but if you stick it in your suitcase for a great holiday read lazing around the poolside, you certainly won't be disappointed.

Simon & Schuster UK, July 2009
Trade Paperback, 464 pages
ISBN-10: 184739390X
ISBN-13: 9781847393906

star rating : 4/5

The Tenth Case - Joseph Teller

This may be a work of fiction but it is a real eye-opener when it comes to understanding the criminal justice system, at least in America. It doesn't actually matter if the person on trial is innocent or not, all that matters is - has the prosecution managed to stack up enough evidence and be convincing enough to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the person is guilty ? Even if all the jurors believe that the suspect is guilty, they can't put forward a guilty verdict if the evidence isn't solid enough and they could still throw in a "yeah, but what if ...".

So on this basis, what we have in this novel is a huge cat-and-mouse game between two accomplished lawyers, Burke, prosecuting, and Jaywalker (real name Harrison J. Walker), defending, who are so good at running rings around each other that they could teach Tom and Jerry a thing or two ! Jaywalker openly admits for almost the entire novel that he doesn't know whether Samara, the "bilionheiress" accused of murdering her husband, really did it or not, so neither does the reader. The wall of evidence stacked up against her seems unsurmountable, but Jaywalker sets about bringing it down, brick by brick, even if it seems an impossible task even to himself.

We follow the trial with bated breath, not knowing until the very last minute what the outcome will be. And even when the outcome of the trial is known, we're still left hanging, unsure if that was the "right" result or not. It's a real pageturner and gives you some serious food for thought about the way the justice system works ! I'll definitely be looking out for the future Jaywalker novels to see what he gets up to next !

Mira (17 Jul 2009)

400 pages

ISBN-10: 077830308X
ISBN-13: 978-0778303084

star rating : 5/5

The Song Is You - Megan Abbott

Like an episode of Cold Case, before you've even opened the book, the picture on the cover throws you back to the late 1940's Hollywood world of dashing movie stars, starry-eyed showgirls and the seedy backdrop of debauchery and violence. It may be too early for rock 'n' roll but there is definitely plenty of sex and drugs going on ! But this is the 1940's, the seedy side stays taboo, people stay (on the surface at least) relatively demure and the narrator follows suit - there may be plenty of horrific violence but its depiction is always understated, never graphic (which is sometimes far more powerful than the blood and guts approach).

The basic storyline given on the back of the book sounds pretty basic and predictable : "On October 7, 1949, dark-haired starlet Jean Spangler kissed her five-year-old daughter good-bye and left for a night shoot at a Hollywood studio. She was never seen again. The only clues left behind: a purse with a broken strap found in a nearby park, a cryptic note, and rumours about mobster boyfriends and ill-fated romances with movie stars. Drawing on this true-life missing person case, Megan Abbott's The Song Is You tells the story of Gil 'Hop' Hopkins, a smooth-talking Hollywood publicist whose career, despite his complicated personal life, is on the rise. It is 1951, two years after Jean's disappearance, and Hop finds himself unwillingly drawn into the still unsolved mystery by a friend of Jean who blames Hop for concealing details about Jean's whereabouts the night she vanished. Driven by guilt and fear of blackmail, Hop delves into the case himself, feverishly trying to stay one step ahead of an intrepid female reporter also chasing the story. Hop thought he'd seen it all, but what he uncovers both tantalizes and horrifies him as he plunges deeper and deeper into Hollywood's substratum in his attempt to uncover the truth."
Ho hum, read that kind of story before, nothing particularly inventive, but the story twists and turns and has more than a few surprises up its sleeve. It's sometimes hard to work out who are the bad guys and who are the victims, as nobody seems whiter than white and it certainly kept me guessing until the end. One thing I would have liked to have seen at the end of the book is a few details about the real story, as this apparently draws on a true-life missing person case - but then I guess that's what google's for !! It's a great read for crime/mystery fans and the 1940's Hollywood setting made a nice change.
Simon & Schuster UK, April 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN-10: 1847393454
ISBN-13: 9781847393456
star rating : 4/5

The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton

Even before I opened this book, I thought it was cleverly designed to appeal to both boys and girls - the creepy skull on the front cover (and is that blood running down the corners ?) will undoubtedly appeal to boys but the silver shininess and the flowery motif will be appealing to girls too. As a 30-something mum, I am way out of the target audience bracket but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so sat down to read it ... and couldn't put it down !! Even as an adult, I was swept up into the creepy world of the Guild of Medical Herbalists and their strange magical gardens. It was vaguely reminiscent of the great classics of my own childhood, like 'The Secret Garden' or 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' but the story was totally original and fascinating.

The historical setting of the story is distinctly olde-worlde but the central character, Thomas, is totally timeless and youngsters everywhere will empathise with him. OK, so he gets sent off to be an apprentice in a herbalist's shop, which is something they'll never experience, but his feelings and reactions are still totally identifiable. He is thrown into a strange, sinister world of friendship and betrayal, magic and witchery, murder and treachery, peopled with flamboyant characters and weird and wonderful botanical life. The writing is easy to follow but not at all "dumbed down", as is often the case with teen fiction. I wonder how many teen-readers will pick up on the meanings behind the names like Albion, Eden, Brocéliande, etc !

My original aim in reading this was to check it out as suitable reading material for my daughter. She's only 8 but loves reading Jacqueline Wilson-type books which are generally aimed at teens. However, this is definitely out of her league. Some of the vocabulary is quite challenging (in a good way) and I think she'd be a bit creeped out by some of the nightmarish bits, like the thought form shadows coming out of people's eyes ! So until she gets a bit older, I've passed it on to a (grown-up) friend of mine, and she's loving it just as much as I did ! So I'd definitely say the appeal stretches way beyond the teen market !

Simon & Schuster UK, May 2009

288 pages
ISBN-10: 1847382975
ISBN-13: 9781847382979

star rating : 5/5

Burial by Neil Cross

Having read the blurb on the back of the book, I thought this was going to be a fairly predictable read that followed pretty much the same basic plot as numerous other thrillers. Wow, how wrong was I ? It really kept me guessing right until the end and even then, I was way of the mark ! I loved the way the "good guys" and the "bad guys" were not totally clear cut and the interaction between the different characters. It reminded me a bit of the film "Shallow Grave" but with a much more realistic storyline - it gave me the shivers because I could really imagine being in that situation and trying to work out what to do, exactly like the characters in the book. Some of the descriptions were haunting (sorry, no pun intended !). I couldn't help thinking this would make a brilliant film or TV series so I was hardly surprised to read that Neil Cross is lead scriptwriter on 'Spooks' and other TV programmes. I whizzed through this book in a few days, reading way after I decided to stop every night because I always wanted to find out what was going to happen in the next chapter ! It's a real page-turner.

Simon & Schuster (5 Jan 2009)

304 pages

ISBN-10: 0743231414
ISBN-13: 978-0743231411

star rating : 5/5

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

When I received this book, I'd heard a lot of good things about it so I was a bit worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. I read the blurb on the back and inwardly groaned because the setting, Communist Russia, seemed all-encompassing and of major importance and I'm not big on politics and political fiction. But I decided to give it a go and see how I got on.

Within a few pages, I was hooked. While the political and historical setting WAS important, it wasn't THE most important thing - the story revolved about the "little people", the man on the street and how his day-to-day life (and often death) was affected by the political decision-makers. Tales of horrific living conditions and poverty, the Big Brother/Trust No One mentality and total disregard for human life and morality were shocking, even more so because (as the bibliography at the end proves) it's all based loosely on fact.

It was a bit hard at times keeping up with the different time periods without losing track of who was who (I'm useless at keeping track of characters with foreign names !!) but the story was well-told and kept you guessing all the way through. The very end was a bit of a let-down - it all seemed to be a bit of an anti-climax and all the loose ends got tied up a little too neatly. And I got the feeling the "evil eyes of the little girl" were put in there just to make a smooth transition to the sequel (just call me a cynic !!)

I got a lot more out of it than I expected, enjoying it as a thriller but also for learning about the background of Stalinist Russia, which originally was one of the elements that put me off.

Simon & Schuster UK, 19 Feb 2009

512 pages
ISBN-10: 1847391591
ISBN-13: 978-1847391599

star rating : 4/5

How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo

Which could be renamed, Around the World in Thirty Ways ... To Be Single !

I came to this expecting frothy, light-hearted chicklit and that is basically what it delivers, along with a few more poignant moments on the way. The story follows a group of five 30-something female friends from New York, all of whom - for various reasons - find themselves single at the same time and all have their own very different ways of dealing with this, with sometimes tragic or hilarious results. (I won't go into further details or it'll spoil it ! ) The central character, Julie, decides to travel the world and interview women from different cultures to see who has found the "right" way of being single and happy so that she can write a book about it.

My one big criticism was that I thought the descriptions of the different cultures were way too superficial and totally based on stereotypes. As the blurb says, we have the "proud Parisians, the brazen Brazilians and the ice cool Icelanders". Some interesting and humorous points were raised but the different cultural viewpoints seemed too one-dimensional and "obvious" to me. I was actually very surprised to read at the end that the author did indeed, like Julie in the book, travel the world interviewing women from different countries as research. So maybe the stereotypes are just totally right after all !

To me, it was very reminiscent of Ally McBeal / Bridget Jones / Sex and the City and I was hardly surprised to see that the author, Liz Tuccillo, was in fact a former executive story editor for Sex and the City. If you like funny, romantic chicklit with a hefty dose of "girl power", you'll love it ! And despite my earlier criticism, I did really enjoy it and would recommend it to others.

Simon & Schuster UK, January 2009
416 pages
ISBN-10: 1416527567
ISBN-13: 9781416527565

star rating : 4/5

Welcome to the review team !

Well, I figure the time has come to put all our reviews, that are currently scattered all over internet, into one place - so here goes for a brand new blog ! A big thankyou to all the companies and people kind enough to send us things to test and review. Keep them coming !!!

And a big welcome to the review team :

Sophie, age (almost !) 8
Juliette, age 4
Pierre, age 2 weeks
Mike, Daddy
and me, Cheryl, Mummy !! (and you don't need to know our ages !! ;-) )
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