The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning to review. For more information on the author, you may see his website.

The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning

Here is the book blurb.

A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat span the globe on a building-sized hot air balloon, in search of a precious artifact and the murderous treasure hunter who seeks it.

Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.

One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.

Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.

The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.

What dangers await the Colonel and the acrobat?

Well this is certainly a unique storyline like no other. The book starts in 19th century Switzerland where “The Amazing Beatrix” is an acrobat in Ziro’s touring circus. After the performance in the Big Top, Ziro takes her to perform at a private dinner at Chartish Manor. Here she meets the Colonel James Bacchus, a jolly character with flowers in his hat, who travels the world in a multi-storey hot air balloon. My mind boggled at how many rooms were under this colossal balloon.

Beatrix makes up her mind to escape the circus from Ziro’s whippings and flees with the Colonel in his balloon, who is also running from an enraged Lord Chartish, having just slept with his wife. But he only permits her to stay one night, as he is on a mission to find a dangerous criminal. Bee persuades him that she can help.

From Switzerland, they follow a lead to Antwerp, where they meet the Colonel’s friends, Thelma and George, but too late. They find a murdered man and a clue. The trail leads through Spain, Gibraltar, Britain, Africa and on and on, meeting friends, foes and treasure hunters along the way. What will the outcome be?

I salute this author for his inspired creativity with this storyline. So far-fetched that this book stands in a genre of its own. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first read the blurb, but I definitely liked it.

The Colonel and the Bee is available on Amazon, currently priced at £12.95 in paperback or £3.99 in Kindle format. A fantastical adventure.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond – Book review and giveaway

I have received a free e-copy of the book Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond to review. For more information on the author, you may see her website.

Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond

Here is the book blurb.

Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets. The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper.

Most of the story takes place in Seville in 2010 but it also includes flashbacks to Annabella’s childhood and to earlier incidents featuring the bad guys. Plus the tale of Jack the Ripper is another main element and Freemasonary plays a part too.

Annabella is deaf due to a childhood injury, but she is able to read body and facial expressions. Her flatmate Celestina is the first girl to disappear, which she reports to the police.

Meanwhile the police start receiving anonymous gruesome packages. Detective Valero is called back in from sabbatical leave to work on the case with Detective Rivero. As more girls disappear, the link appears to be that they all attend Seville University. The detectives call upon Annabella’s skills in reading people and hide her behind the glass when interviewing their first suspect.

Lots of twists to come in this story.

Although I’m a huge thriller fan, I did find this one rather too graphic, in its descriptions of dismembering victims’ organs.

After finishing reading the book, I did feel compelled to look up the tale of Jack The Ripper and I saw that the name mentioned in this story was one of the possible suspects for the unidentified serial killer.

Initiated To Kill is available on Amazon, currently priced at £11.18 in paperback or £2.99 in Kindle format. A thrilling mysterious read with an interesting weaving of the storylines.

This book is recommended for adult readers only, due to its graphic content.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a paperback copy of this book to 1 lucky winner, who may choose whether they wish for their prize to be signed by the author or not.
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And you may see my other giveaways here.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

My Earl’s Entrapment by Tammy Andersen

I have received a free e-copy of the book My Earl’s Entrapment by Tammy Andresen to review.

My Earl's Entrapment by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

Lord William Addington has been forced into retirement as one of the Prince Regent’s domestic spies. But he still has one case to solve while attending a house party when an adorably feisty lady enters his room in the middle of the night. He now has another delicious mystery on his hands. Why is Lady Roselyn Pennington snooping about?

This is the third book in the Wicked Lords of London series. You may see my reviews of the first two titles here and here.

The book begins when ex-spy for the Prince Regent, Lord William Addington is disturbed in his room, by someone picking the lock. He is sitting in a dark corner, so remains hidden and observes a young lady enter and start searching amongst his possessions. When he speaks, she is startled and drops the candle, setting her skirt alight. Lord William is quick to put out the fire before asking what she was doing.

Lady Rose wasn’t about to admit that she believed him a thief and that she was searching for her mother’s jewels, so she makes up an excuse. But Will is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, plus there is definitely an attraction between them.

My Earl’s Entrapment is available on Amazon, currently priced at £2.14 in Kindle format. This is a nice short romantic story, when you want something light to read.


About the author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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A Visit to Dinosaur World Live

We were delighted to be offered the chance to visit Dinosaur World Live for free, courtesy of Let’s Go with the Children.

Dinosaur World Live

Dinosaur World Live

We attended this show at G Live in Guildford. There were free stickers for all the children plus a range of dinosaur merchandise available to purchase. Son2 had come prepared with 3 of his cuddly dinosaurs, but he still managed to persuade us to buy another for his menagerie, this time a triceratops.

Dinosaur World Live

Dinosaur World Live

Leading lady Miranda played by Elizabeth Mary Williams is supported by a team of puppeteers who skilfully control the dinosaurs. These range from small handheld puppets to the huge 10m long T-rex. Miranda draws in the audience right from the start when she places a dinosaur egg at the corner of the stage, asking everyone to call her name if it looks like hatching. Of course there are plenty of false hatching alerts throughout the performance. Miranda weaves her magic, telling us about the dinosaurs she grew up with who have come from a far-off island, introducing each one in turn.

Dinosaur World Live

The large triceratops was son1’s favourite whilst the huge T-rex was his Dad’s favourite. We did get to meet baby versions of both of these earlier.

T-rex at Dinosaur World Live

A few children are invited up onto stage to participate in activities like feeding or tickling a dinosaur. It was nice to see that they weren’t all from the front row. We all got the chance to roar. And at the end of the show, there was the opportunity for all children to meet and touch some of the dinosaurs – a large one on stage and 2 small ones in the foyer.

Dinosaur World Live

It was a fantastic interactive performance and dinosaurs looked so realistic, that you almost forgot the puppeteers standing there. Miranda had the whole audience mesmerised, even the youngest children were watching in awe.

The audience were actively encouraged to take photographs during the performance, although mine were shared afterwards as I had already discovered before the start that there didn’t seem to be any internet connection in the venue.

Suitable for all ages from 3+ and just under an hour long. Not too scary or loud, although I did notice some small children in front of us wearing headphones. With some lighting effects and smoke.

This show is touring round the country and I do highly recommend that you take your children to see it.

Son2’s favourite part was when the dinosaur egg finally hatched just before the end and then its mum turned up. He loved the tiny voice of the baby as the two communicated together. In fact, the puppeteers all had marvellous ventriloquist skills with different sounds for each species.

Dinosaur World Live

And G-Live is a very nice modern venue, with a large tiered auditorium. It does have it’s own carpark, but there were only a few spaces left when we arrived half an hour early, so do allow plenty of time before the performance. It also has its own cafe which we didn’t sample as well as a bar. We checked that drinks could be taken into the show.

Let's Go with the Children

I’d love to hear what is your favourite dinosaur. Mine is the brontosaurus.

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This review also appears on https://letsgowiththechildren.co.uk

Disclosure. This post is a review of a show which we saw for free.  All opinions are my own.

WonderKid subscription boxes and giveaway

When WonderKid approached me and asked if I would like to review one of their kids educational subscription boxes, the boys and I took a look at their website. The current theme was dinosaurs but son2 immediately spotted that the previous box had been on space, which is one of his favourites interests. So we asked if it would be possible to review that one instead.

Son2 kept asking when it would arrive, as it took longer than usual, since WonderKid had to go back to the manufacturer to source the old edition. So he was delighted when we got back from holiday to find not one, but two large boxes waiting next-door for us.

Wonderkid Space subscription box

We had been sent both the WonderKid Space Bumper Pack and the WonderKid Junior Space version for free. They were very well packed.

I was very pleased to see that all items included were of high quality including the WonderKid magazine, books, games and activities. The boys have dipped into the contents but all this is going to keep them happy and occupied for many hours.

Wonderkid Space subscription box

Son2 shares all the contents with you in this video.

There are two ways to subscribe. You can either pay for just one box or you can subscribe for a year at a discounted rate. Boxes are sent out quarterly. Current pricing is £43.97 per quarter or £34.99 for the junior version for younger children. Please note that pricing does fluctuate in GBP sterling, as it is based in Euros.

The previous editions can still be purchased via the WonderKid website. The WonderKid Space Bumper Pack is currently retailing at £70.88 and is targeted at children age 7-12. Meanwhile the WonderKid Junior Space is currently retailing at £34.99 and is targeted at children age 3-6.

Wonderkid Space junior subscription box

The  mission of WonderKid is to inspire and encourage children to actively explore their curiosity, so that they engage in learning and discovery at an early age. They believe that introducing children to a broad range of ideas and concepts, through science, history, philosophy and literature, allows them to grow and learn as people, and in turn form and cultivate their own ideas, and their intellectual and creative genius; to become WonderKids! And I myself wholeheartedly support this ethos.

Wonderkid Space subscription box

Other previous topics have included Dinosaurs, Robots, Ancient Greece, Insects, Bugs and Creepy Crawlies. The next edition will be on Oceans.

We even had 2 packets of Astronaut’s neapolitan ice-cream (one in each box). Not a patch on real ice-cream but still a tasty little treat. Must be very strange having all their food freeze-dried like that.

Astronaut's freeze-dried neapolitan ice-cream

My boys are having so much fun. This is the best educational kids subscription box I have come across in my opinion. I highly recommend WonderKid.

The only small negative point I have to make is that I couldn’t get any of the FAQ answers to display on their website. Possibly a browser issue, but hopefully something that gets resolved asap.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a WonderKid Space box to one lucky winner. What a fabulous prize. The winner will be able to choose between the Space Bumper pack and the Junior Space pack, according to which is more appropriate to the age of the child who it is intended for.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

Plus I have a special offer to share with my readers. 20% off your first box when you use the code BLOGGINGMUMMY20 at checkout. The code is valid for the first 10 people who take up the offer and is limited to one per person.

I’d love to hear about your ideas for themes to feature in future boxes.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Blood of the Red Rose by P J Gray plus giveaway

I have received a free e-copy of the book Blood of the Red Rose by P J Gray to review. This is Philippa’s debut novel.

Blood of the Red Rose by P J Gray

Here is the book blurb.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, finds himself exiled in France when Warwick the Kingmaker puts Edward IV on the throne of England. Desperate to return the throne to the rightful King Henry VI, Beaufort finds himself caught between Henry’s bitter wife Marguerite of Anjou and the French ‘Spider’ King Louis until Edward and Warwick fall out in spectacular style and, at Louis’ urging, Warwick becomes their unlikely ally. Set on the rich stage of the Wars of the Roses, this is a tale of intrigue, love and war that can only end in tragedy.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, as I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory stories which are set at a similar time during the War of the Roses.

It was useful to have a list of characters and dates at the beginning of the book, but I still found it confusing to work out who was on which side, particularly with changes of allegiance. It was also a hard story to get into initially, but I did later find myself focussing on Kate and skimming through chapters that she didn’t feature in. Kate was the illegitimate daughter of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick and we see an affectionate bond between the two of them. She seems to have achieved a closer relationship with her father than either of her half-sisters. However he still marries her off to Stephen Thevenot. Their marriage does not fare well and Stephen mistreats her. Luckily for Kate, she is soon widowed. After this she blossoms. You’ll have to read the book to find out who her next relationship is with.

This book is available on Amazon currently priced at £10.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. An interesting historical read.

About the author

Philippa was born in Chichester and developed a passion for history whilst growing up in Cyprus and then North Yorkshire. She began writing when she was at junior school, winning the school prize for English, and wrote and illustrated her own stories which she read to her long-suffering friends. She started her first novel, Blood of the Red Rose, when her elder daughter was a baby and finally completed it twenty-eight years later. Philippa has two daughters, four grandchildren and a grand-cat and now lives in Cyprus with Paul, her husband of twenty-five years, three dogs and four cats.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a paperback copy of this book to one lucky winner. Open to UK and US residents.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.


I’m participating in the book tour and you may like to check out some of the other blog stops on the tour.

Blood of the Red Rose by P J Gray

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

At the Dark Hour by John Wilson

I have received a free e-copy of the book At the Dark Hour by John Wilson to review.

At the Dark Hour by John Wilson

Here is the book blurb.

A loving affair is destroyed by the Blitz on London. Julia ends her relationship with Adam. Her concern is for her children and that, if she is divorced, she will lose them.

What is the nature of love? Does it have gradations? Love, and it’s textures, lie at the heart of this story. Love is where you find it. And sometimes it ambushes you.

And, often, it is hidden.

With 107 chapters, this is a very long book. We are introduced to Adam and Julia in the prologue, when Julia ends their affair in 1940. They had been meeting regularly at a London hotel.

Adam, a barrister is married to Catherine and the head of his Chambers is Jeremy Pemberton, Julia’s husband. But now Jeremy suspects and he petitions for divorce. So Adam has to leave both his home and Chambers. But he is taken under the wing of Roly Blytheway, who both defends Adam and gives him a job in his Chambers at Lamb Building.

As well as the divorce case, we also follow two cases that Adam is defending, both of which have relationships at their core.

The crux of the story is who loves who more. And we see lies and dubious evidence, all against the backdrop of the Blitz.

Although the book is very well written, it was not really my type of read. However I did enjoy how all the strands of the story are woven together.

At The Dark Hour is available on Amazon, currently priced at £4.07 in Kindle format and is also available in paperback. An interesting read.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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A Quiet Genocide by Glenn Bryant

I have received a free e-copy of the book A Quiet Genocide: The Untold Holocaust of Disabled Children in WW2 Germany by Glenn Bryant to review.

A Quiet Genocide by Glenn Bryant

Here is the book blurb.

Germany, 1954. Jozef grows up in a happy household – so it seems. But his father Gerhard still harbours disturbing National Socialism ideals, while mother Catharina is quietly broken. She cannot feign happiness for much longer and rediscovers love elsewhere. Jozef is uncertain and alone. Who is he? Are Gerhard and Catharina his real parents?

A dark mystery gradually unfolds, revealing an inescapable truth the entire nation is afraid to confront.
But Jozef is determined to find out about the past and a horror is finally unmasked which continues to question our idea of what, in the last hour, makes each of us human.

Now we are all aware of Auschwitz and other horrors of the second world war, but I didn’t know that over 10,000 German disabled children were secretly murdered by the Nazi state with their parents’ ‘consent’, acquired deceitfully.

This story includes this sensitive topic. The book is set in Germany and begins in 1954 when Josef is at school in Munich. We are introduced to his parents Gerhard and Catharina, along with his father’s friend Michael who visits weekly. When Josef is beaten up for throwing a snowball at a window, Michael exacts revenge on the man.

In 1959, Josef goes to Berlin University but the night before he leaves home, his parents reveal that he is adopted. His parents are reluctant to reveal more about his past, but Josef, along with his Polish Professor, searches for more information. Meanwhile his parents relationship is unravelling, as his mother falls in love with another man. Michael spies on them and drops hints to Gerhard.

What will Josef discover?

This book is a different genre to what I would usually choose, but an interesting read.

A Quiet Genocide is available on Amazon, currently priced at £15.95 in paperback or 99p in Kindle format. An interesting tale.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Shark Bait by Matt Walker

I have received a free e-copy of the book Shark Bait by Matt Walker to review. You may find out more about the author on his website.

Shark Bait by Matt Walker

Here is the book blurb.

“I’m no hero. I’m a Licensed Vigilante. And I kill people for a living.” Government hitman John Steele has just completed his current contract, and has the bullet wound to show for it. That’s when he meets a vicious criminal loan shark called Gary Brooker. But Brooker has got his own problems. He’s picked on the wrong guy.

I was drawn into the story just by the opening line “The worst time to get pulled over by the cops is when you have a body in the boot”. However John Steele is able to show the police his LV (licensed vigilante) ID card and drive away with the bad guy banging from inside the boot.

But the Carlucci drug gang that he has just busted are not the only baddies in town. On his way to hospital, he spots a man, Jeremy in some distress in the road. John lends him his phone to call his wife and then drives him home, where a goon is waiting outside in a van. From what he has overheard both on the phone call and from the goon speaking, John works out that Jeremy has a loan shark Gary Brooker on his back and he is not happy when he sees Jeremy hand over his Dad’s war medals. John decides to follow the goon to get the medals back. He waits until the goon has handed them to Gary, then follows Gary’s Porsche and deliberately rams it at the traffic light, before punching Gary and another goon Baz and robbing Gary of the medals.

When John finally gets to the hospital, he sees Jeremy being wheeled in unconscious. Looks like Gary has been back again. So John gets further embroiled into this when he should be hot-footing it out of town, since more of the Carlucci clan are after him now. Meanwhile Gary has other problems, so lots more to the storyline.

I really liked how the different parts to the story aren woven together, along with John’s background too.

Shark Bait is available on Amazon, currently priced at £6.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. A good thriller with lots of twists.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Blondies

Now I’m sure almost everyone knows what type of cake Brownies are, but I’ve always been intrigued as to Blondies. I had never seen one and I guessed that they were similar, but made from white chocolate. I decided to look up a recipe to try making some and found that I was on the right track, but not quite correct. I have adapted my recipe from this one which uses pecans that I found on the Waitrose website, as the boys are not keen on pecans.


Blondies

Blondies

Ingredients (makes 16)

150g butter
150g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
few drops vanilla extract
250g plain flour
100g white chocolate

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a 21cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Chop the white chocolate into small pieces
Melt the butter and both sugars in a pan over a low heat, stirring to combine.
Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a jug, then whisk into the butter and sugar mixture along with the vanilla.
Beat in the flour.
Stir chocolate into the mixture.
Spoon mixture into the tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until risen and golden on top.
Allow to cool in the tin.
Slice into 16 squares.
Serve and enjoy.

blondies

These were delicious. I’ll certainly be making them again. And I’d love to hear about when you were surprised by a recipe.

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