#BookReview: The Teenage Guide to Friends by Nicola Morgan #MPBooks

A great guide book for teenagers and pre-teens (and even some adults!)


The Teenage Guide to Friends book coverTitle: The Teenage Guide to Friends

Author: Nicola Morgan

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Teen, Non-fiction, Advice/Self-help

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Description: Friendships and peer groups can cause problems and upsets in your teenage years.  People can be confusing – until you understand how different personality traits, stresses and emotions affect their behaviour.  Yours too!

The Teenage Guide to Friends is for anyone who wants to know how friendship works, and what to do when they don’t.  In this book you’ll find advice on how to make and keep friends, as well as positive strategies to help you through the tough times and make you feel more confident.

My Review:  This is such a great book, I wish I’d had this to read when I was a teenager at school. Everyone when they are teenagers go through a lot of changes and so much can happen when friendship is involved. Some of us worry about making friends, while others worry about being pressurised by friends or even bullied a little by them. Whatever the problems, this book is a great source of information on all things to do with friends and friendships.

The book is separated into four parts, the first is all about friends and covers details such as what toxic friends can be and crucially information about online friends like those found through social media. The second part is all about how to make friends. The third section is about empathy which is important in friendship and understand how others behave and the fourth section, which is also the largest, covers behaviour and personality.

It was easy to read this book right away and I really enjoyed it, even now as an adult, as it covered simple things such as how open or closed you appear to people on a daily basis, something which I hadn’t realised can affect how people react to you when you initially meet them. The way the book is written is really helpful as it never feels like an adult preaching advice but instead it feels as if a friend is offering advice on how things can be and how you could react in a certain situation.

Although each of the sections is really informative and helpful, especially when discussing social media (something which wasn’t an issue yet when I was at school) I mostly enjoyed the last section of the book as it gave a real insight into certain personality and behaviour types including my own. This section covered a variety of things from how introverted and extroverted you are to how anxious you are or whether you are a person who handles stress and other things well. I also liked the focus on the unfortunate, but entirely possible, darker personality types you can meet. The book not only explained what sort of people you may meet but also how you can interact with them if they treat you badly, or whether it’s better to avoid them.

Every section of the book has a quiz or quizzes which helps you realise how you act or what sort of person you are. At the end of the book there is quite a large section of resources which contains so many different websites and interesting articles and studies, but rather than just stating these in alphabetical order, Nicola Morgan has taken the time to explain what the resources are and why they might be useful. There is also an index at the back of the book.

I really enjoyed this book and wish it was available when I was at school. Whether it would help someone like me who was shy and very introverted to make new friends is not guaranteed, but it would have helped me to see how my behaviour or reactions to people might make it hard to make friends and it would have also helped me to understand how some other people’s reactions weren’t anything to do with me, which overall would have given me greater confidence, I think, while at school. I think any teenagers will benefit from this book and even those a little younger who are starting to feel the pressure of school and their peers. Even as an adult I found parts of it very useful as some of the basic issues around friendships are relevant even as an adult. This is a great book I can really recommend.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester #MPBooks

An emotional and very interesting novel with a Japanese setting.

Yuki Means HappinessTitle: Yuki Means Happiness

Author: Alison Jean Lester

Publisher: John Murray

Genre: Contemporary, Cultural

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Description: Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.

But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way.

Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman’s journey to discover her true self.

My Review:  This book is a surprisingly emotional read, filled with both heartwarming moments and many darker moments too. Diana is a nurse and having previously helped a Japanese couple with their newborn baby when they were staying in America, she jumps at the chance to travel to Japan and become a nanny for the same couple a few years later. But while there, Diana realises that things are no longer as they were with the couple and worries about Yuki, the little girl she’s promised to look after.

The story is written in the first person and takes place in the nineties with Diana recounting the story of her time with Yuki. I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t sure I’d get into the book at first, although I had high hopes having read the description, but this is definitely a book that gets better the further you read on. Diana’s story of her time in Japan appears simple at first. She instantly gets attached to Yuki and loves looking after her while getting to know the Japanese culture. But as time goes on the story starts to take a darker edge and it’s at this point that I really began to enjoy this book.

I loved the way the story unfolded, everything seemed fine but then certain circumstances changed all of a sudden and the atmosphere of the story changed too. As Diana learns more about Yuki’s family, the darker the story becomes. Along with dealing with looking after Yuki and the issues surrounding the family, the story of Diana’s own personal experiences both in the past and in Japan, especially the Japanese culture and the more unpleasant aspects of being a woman in modern Japan take on an interesting edge and influence how she feels about her job as a nanny. At times Diana is brutally honest about her past and it gave her character more depth which was good.

The book has a lot about Japanese culture and I loved reading these parts as it really gave me a sense of what it would be like to go to Japan, something I’ve wanted to do for years now. A lot of the ‘tourist’ side of Japan is included but I also loved the more in depth and honest accounts of what Japan is really like in areas where tourists don’t go, and what day to day life is like. The book really had me absorbed in the modern culture of Japan and it left me with mixed feelings about the place, particularly when it comes to women and legal issues.

The ending is very satisfying and made me a little emotional, but in a good way. There is very little use of any swearing, but the f and s words have been used. While there is nothing really offensive in the book, no actual sex or anything violent, Diana is honest about things like sexuality and sex and there are other moments that make you feel a little shocked too.

I’d recommend this book, although it took me a bit of time to really enjoy it, I really got into the story towards the end and the honesty around Japanese culture and things Diana goes through with the Yuki’s family are a very insightful and interesting read.
-Thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Where’s Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection by Martin Handford #MPBooks

A fun collection of Where’s Wally books with some extras.

Where's Wally The Totally Essential Travel Collection book coverTitle: Where’s Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection

Author/Illustrator: Martin Handford

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Fun Activity book

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Description: Just what you’ve been waiting for…All the wondrous Wally worlds in one! Seven sensational classic Where’s Wally? books packed into a handy travel-sized edition. Wherever you’re going, however you’re travelling – join the spectacular search for Wally and be sure to send a postcard to all of your friends!

My Review: I really love Where’s Wally? Although I never had all the books in my collection, I grew up with them and loved searching for all the hidden extras you could find. Now, to celebrate 30 years of Where’s Wally, seven great books have been packed into this handy travel sized set which is perfect for those who either didn’t have all the books already or just want to keep them all in one place! The book is about A5 in size with semi-hardback covers and a material elastic band that can close the entire book so nothing spills out if you do take this book on your travels.

The first page of the book

Inside the front and back covers (slotted into a gap in the covers) there are some postcards you can to colour in, six in total, which feature a section of a random Where’s Wally scenes. The postcards are great and nicely detailed so will take some time (but not too much time) to colour in. The postcards are also thick which means pens will work as well as pencils for colouring in but what’s fun is that they also feature a short checklist of a few things to find on the front of the post card itself, which can be fun for both the person colouring in the postcard to find and the person receiving it!

The first page folded out to show you things to search.

The seven books inside this travel collection are: Where’s Wally?, Where’s Wally Now?, Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey, Where’s Wally? In Hollywood, Where’s Wally? The Wonder Book, The Great Picture Hunt and Where’s Wally? The Incredible Paper Chase.
All seven books are in this travel collection complete and I’m amazed at how they all fit in together but it’s cleverly done. Each book has an extra folded page at the start which unfolds to show a checklist of things to find in each scene. This is only half the checklist you usually find in a Where’s Wally book so the other half of the checklist is folded on the last page of the book. I’ve shown photos of how this is done. The folded pages are easy to spot in the book and basically mark where each book begins so it’s easy to find.

Another fun page of things to find 🙂

Each page of a Where’s Wally book is of course smaller than the original books but are nice glossy and quite thick pages with clear and colourful images. I have good near vision so I didn’t have any trouble spotting even the smallest of objects however I will warn you that if you don’t want to strain your eyes it might be harder for some to spot the little things such as Woof’s bone, a key, etc. The checklist text may also be a little too small for some people to read.

I love this travel collection as I never had every Where’s Wally book in my collection. There are so many amazing pages to look at and I just love the way that just one Where’s Wally page can keep you looking for hours as there’s so many funny things happening in ever corner of each page!

Some extra postcards to colour in!

I’d definitely recommend this to any Where’s Wally fan, but also to those who have never tried the books before. The full price of ten UK pounds for seven books is amazing considering how much each book costs individually and the added bonus of the six postcards plus having all the books in one place makes this a great buy for everyone.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Where’s Wally? The Colouring Collection by Martin Handford #MPBooks

A fun colouring book with plenty of fun things to find!

Where's Wally The Colouring Collection book coverTitle: Where’s Wally? The Colouring Collection

Author/Illustrator: Martin Handford

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Colouring

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My Review: I’ve always loved Where’s Wally? and this colouring book is a great special celebration of 30 years of Where’s Wally. Around A5 in size the book has semi-hardback covers and a handy material elastic strap that helps keep the book from getting scruffy while it’s used on your travels. Inside the pages are crisp white and nice and thick. They are printed double sided but quite thick so colouring with pens might work (I use pencils in this so I can’t comment on the use of pens).

Almost all the pictures are double page spreads and contain sections of Where’s Wally scenes. The entire scene isn’t displayed in this book, it would be too small and fiddly to colour in if it were but it’s amazing how much colouring there is to do in this book. Each page also comes with a piece of the page already coloured in, this includes a border or maybe one or two characters coloured in. It’s hardly anything but is supposed to give you a head start into colouring.
Some of the pages in this book contain small blank sections, such as some photos or parts of book covers. these are blank so you can fill them in yourself which is a fun little extra.

Very detailed pictures with some colour to start you off.

Colouring in as I said I use pencils but I will say that although you can open the spine of this book to lie it almost entirely flat, the area of the images that do go into the spine is a little tricky to colour. It’s not that big a deal, but if you like to colour right down into the spine it is a bit tricky and some of the characters that sit right in the centre of the image might not get coloured in that easily. It’s not very noticeable when you look at a coloured in image though.

What’s fun about this book is that there’s still so much to find within each page. Apart from Wally and his friends there’s little objects that are still visible in each scene and it’s extra fun when colouring in each picture as you really get to see all the little bits of a scene that you might miss when looking at a regular Where’s Wally book.

Some different pages with chances to add your own doodles! 🙂

Inside the back cover there is a folded paper, a little smaller than A5 when folded which unfolds to reveal a dinosaur scene. This poster is 16 times its size to when it’s folded! It’s so much extra colouring and can then be hung on your wall!

I really do love colouring books, I already have several Where’s Wally colouring and activity books and this one is another great addition. Not only is it fun to colour in but there’s so much to find you’ll be having fun for hours, even after colouring in the pictures, finding all the things there are to find. I’d recommend this to anyone of any age, whether a Where’s Wally fan or not. There’s a lot of colouring to do and even if you have all the books already, or a previous Where’s Wally colouring book, it’s always fun to add your own colours and make each image unique!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Some of my colouring-in-progress 🙂

(The coloured in photo I took of my work is actually a work-in -progress. I hadn’t finished colouring in when I took the picture but wanted to give an idea of how it works with pencils.)

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#BookReview: We’re Off to Look for Aliens by Colin McNaughton #MPBooks

A fun picture book with a very clever twist!

We're Off to Look for Aliens book coverTitle: We’re Off to Look for Aliens

Author/Illustrator: Colin McNaughton

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

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Description: Colin McNaughton boldly goes in search of ALIENS!  Two books in one, this intergalactic epic will make your eyes pop out on stalks!  May the Wilberforce be with you.

My Review:  I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would and I’m sure plenty of kids will too. ‘We’re Off to Look for Aliens’ is a fun picture book, a bit large being wider than A4 but only a touch shorter. Each page inside is a thick and glossy page with very colourful pictures throughout. The book is clever as it’s a story within story and narrated by a child. The first pages are about Dad and the new children’s book he’s created. He shows it to the kids and they all read the book which happens to have the same title and author as the one we are reading.

Lovely and clear illustrations

The story in the book is funny with brilliant repetitive lines. An example of the first page of this is: We’re off to look for aliens, Ugly-bugly aliens, We’re off to look for aliens, Wilberforce and I. This ‘Wilberforce and I’ rhyme keeps repeating on every page with the rest of the text following the same rhyme. You actually get into a rhythm reading this story and every turn of the page is fun to read.

Colourful pictures

The illustrations are very colourful and funny. There’s actually two sets of illustrations with the outer story looking a little more old-fashioned and the pictures from the book the kids are reading being a bit different, with lines being darker and a generally different feel to them. I really like the different aliens in the book and how strange some of them look. I actually really enjoyed the illustrations more than I thought I would as there’s quite a lot to see on many pages and the designs of the creatures are different to ones I often see.

Interesting and fun aliens

The ending of the book has a very fun twist that really made me laugh as I wasn’t expecting it. I think this book will have a wide appeal to both kids and even some adults and the repetitive sing-song nature of the inner story will keep many entertained. I’d definitely read this book again. I actually didn’t think I’d find it as fun as I did and I’d definitely recommend it, if just for that twist ending!
-Thanks to Walker books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: The Lonely Giant by Sophie Ambrose #MPBooks

A fun children’s book with a powerful message.

The Lonely Giant book coverTitle: The Lonely Giant

Author/Illustrator: Sophie Ambrose

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s Picture book

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Description: How the giant loved to heave and hurl logs and smash and mash mountains!  But the more he smashed and the more he bashed, the smaller and quieter the forest became.  Until, one day, little yellow bird appeared…

My Review:  This is a lovely picture book with a brilliant environmental message. ‘The Lonely Giant’ paperback book is as tall as A4 in size but slightly wider and filled with thick matt pages full of colourful illustrations and text. The story starts with the giant doing giant things such as puling out trees like they are weeds and smashing mountains. But soon the forest becomes quiet and the giant is all alone.

Great and large illustrations 🙂

The story is an environmental one and is told really well. I don’t want to spoil what happens, although I’m sure many can guess, but it’s a great message to give to kids about the importance of conservation. I really like the illustrations in this book. I love the way the giant looks, especially in the cave, and I love how simple all the pictures are. They really tell the story well, you don’t even need to read the text to know what is happening.

Lots of great and clear pictures among the text

Sometimes I dislike books that go on about the environment to children because some books can be overly pushy about it and try to scare kids, but I love this picture book as it doesn’t do that. Instead it’s a brilliant message with a lovely ending. I know I would have enjoyed this book when I was young, for the pictures alone, and the added message about the environment is a wonderful extra I’m sure many adults would love to teach their kids.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch #MPBooks

A heart-warming YA book with a beautiful Italian setting.

Love & Gelato book coverTitle: Love & Gelato

Author: Jenna Evans Welch

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary

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Description: Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, fulfilling her mother’s dying wish that she should get to know her father.  With the help of her mother’s journal, Lina uncovers a magical world of secret romance, art and hidden bakeries.  People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

My Review:  I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book! ‘Love & Gelato’ is a YA romance/contemporary novel with a feel-good story. Lina’s mother tells her she wants her to move to Florence to be with her father, Howard, but Lina doesn’t know Howard, her mother never even mentioned him until now.

The story is told in the first person and after a brief prologue where Lina’s mother explains her wish to her, the story begins with Lina arriving in Florence and getting to know her new surroundings. The tale quickly moves forward when Lina finds out about her mother’s journal, the one she kept when she had been in Florence herself, before Lina was born. The rest of the book is a combination of both Lina’s story and her mother’s journal entries, which act like a second story.

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this. I’m not a big reader of romance novels but this one is just so heartwarming. I felt compelled to keep reading even though there’s not a lot that initially happens compared to some books I’m used to. Although Lina’s story, her situation with Howard and getting to know new people and Florence was exciting to read, I really enjoyed her mother’s journal entries much more. It was like reading two stories at once and the questions that came from every entry just made it more and more compelling. The way Florence is described is amazing. There’s not long paragraphs of description but it’s enough to really make you feel like you’re there and although I’ve never been there myself, this book made me want to visit.

Although the book is a little predictable in parts, I did guess what was happening to Lina’s mother far earlier than Lina did at the start of the book, it was still a compelling read.  There were enough twists with the story to really keep me reading on and I found myself engrossed in the tale, especially in the second half when Lina’s mother’s journal entries start to reveal some hidden truths.

The book is both a romance and contemporary novel.  I loved the romance in both Lina’s story and her mother’s but there was an equally good almost mystery sort of story about finding out the truth of what happened in Florence all those years ago.  That’s why I’d say it’s a good contemporary novel too.  I really loved the ending,  where everything was so well wrapped up.  It was both a very satisfying ending and also one that left a big smile on my face.

There is nothing at all offensive in this book. If you speak Italian you may find one word that’s not exactly swearing but not so nice (if I can put it that way) but there was nothing about this book that is offensive and it’s just a really good, feel-good story.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in a summer feel-good read, whether you’re into romance stories or not.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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