Tag Archives: books

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall – book review

Disclosure. This post mentions a book that I won. All opinions are my own.

I’ve just got round to reading a book that I won as part of the online YALC 2020, (Young Adult Literature Convention). I had been hoping to attend for the first time, but lockdown put paid to that plan, so instead I followed some of the online events. My prize was a proof copy of The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, her debut novel. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Here is the book blurb.

In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself.

Deftly entwining swashbuckling action and quiet magic, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s inventive debut novel conjures a diverse cast of characters seeking mastery over their fates while searching for answers to big questions about identity, power, and love.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is a mixture of fantasy, adventure and romance. Part one is set aboard the pirate ship Dove where the passengers on a long voyage from Crandon to the Floating Islands are initially unaware that the ship they are on is actually crewed by pirates, who plan to sell them as slaves.

Flora now known as Florian and brother Alfie are crew members, previously living from hand to mouth on the street. Meanwhile 15 year old Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is travelling with the Lady Ayer on the Dove to meet her husband-to-be in the Floating Islands. Flora is assigned by the captain and Rake to guard Evelyn from other crew members, especially Fawkes, as she will fetch a very good price. However Flora and Evelyn form a bond and fall in love. How will Flora save Evelyn from her awaiting fate?

This book which is divided into 3 parts, The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea is full of twists and turns. With the fantasy element, I found it quite difficult to keep up with what is going on, but I found it a lovely touch that the Sea was viewed as a character. So yes we meet a mermaid who sadly has been captured by the pirates, since Mermaid’s Blood is a powerful expensive drink. She is getting weak. Can Flora or Evelyn come up with the answer to save her? And was Flora identifying as a female or a male?

We don’t meet the witch and her magic until much later. Meanwhile not everyone is whom they seem. I lost count of how themes, the author managed to weave into this tale.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is an intriguing fantastical magical romantic adventure.

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An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt – book review

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

I have received a free e-copy of the book An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

The Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt

Here is the book blurb.

Harley will do anything to keep his new pal safe. But a hungry dragon needs to eat. And the government is hot on their tail.

Harley Maegher’s seen E.T. and knows what the government will do to mythical creatures. There’s no way he’s about to let his new-found friend fall into the hands of an NSA agent. When the dragon starts setting fires and eating livestock, the choice may be taken from him.

Steria is only interested in filling her tummy and spending time with Harley and his friends. After all, they’re the ones who woke her and called her from her egg. When the agent tries to capture her, she’s confined to the farm where she’s safe but without sufficient food. She’ll do anything to protect herself and Harley, even if it means she’ll go hungry.

This is the first title in the Myth Coast Adventures trilogy, set in a small town in Oregon. The story starts with eighth grade (yr9) Harley and his friends Will and Chace searching on the beach for Thundereggs for Professor Raleigh. If like me, you have never heard of a Thunderegg, Wikipedia tells us it is a type of rock. Will finds something, but rather than a Thunderegg, it is an actual egg, but a very large one indeed, as big as a backpack. On Monday, they show it to their science teacher Mr Behr, before hiding it in a barn at Chace’s family farm. Before long, another school friend Cherise is in on the secret too. But is Professor Raleigh really who he says, especially once he turns threatening?

Is it a dinosaur? No, when it hatches, they discover it is a dragon who they name Steria. But how are they going to feed her and keep her a secret from the Professor and everyone, even with Mr Behr’s help? And what about once she starts to get bigger and learns to fly? She definitely gives Harley’s older sister Karis a shock, who is delighted to then be in on the action too.

Things progress and this develops into quite a page turner. Certainly a bit more than the biology project they say they are working on.

An Unexpected Adventure is available on Amazon in Kindle format, audiobook or paperback. A great book for older children and teens with its mix of adventure, fantasy and fun.

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Bearmouth by Liz Hyder – book review

When I heard last month that Bearmouth had won this year’s Branford Boase Award, I decided that it would be my next personal choice of read. This title by Liz Hyder was already on my radar, from when it also won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for older readers earlier in the summer. And it also was chosen as The Times 2019 Children’s Book of the Year.

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Here is the book blurb.

It only taykes one person to start a revolushun

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. Newt accepts everything – that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world.

In this powerful and brilliantly original debut novel, friendship creates strength, courage is hard-won and hope is the path to freedom.

This story is set deep underground in the Bearmouth mine, where the workers not only work hard for little pay, 6 days a week, but they live too. Food rations of gruel barely sustain them and they have to pay out of their wages for everything like candles, matches, hot water and clothes.

The tale is narrated by young Newt, whose age isn’t specifically mentioned, but probably about age 10-12. Newt hasn’t seen daylight since age 4, as it is too expensive to take the lift to the surface. Newt and the other miners are all very religious, praying to the Mayker. Every Sunday (Maykers Day), they climb 10 levels to pray in Maykers Hall, which is led by Mr Sharp, the overseer.

Thomas, an older miner is like a surrogate parent to Newt, and is teaching Newt and Tobe, their letters. Meanwhile, the book is written in a phonics-like language, with the words spelt like how Newt would say them. This meant I had to concentrate extra hard on reading this book, and I do wonder how anyone who struggles with reading will get on with it. I did manage to decipher most words apart the more technical mining related ones. For instance, can anyone work out what caban, hagger or mandril are?

Day in, day out, everything is pretty much the same. But then a new boy Devlin arrives in Newt’s dorm. And what Devlin says, sows a seed of doubt in Newt’s mind. How does Newt react? What will happen next?

This book struck a chord with me as quite a number of my ancestors worked down the pits from a very young age, at coal mines in the North East and lead mines in the remote Welsh mountains. I could tell that Liz Hyder had done plenty of research into 19th century mining.

It is a tale of friendships, foes, child labour, exploitation, grief, class, courage and tension. A unique very dark compelling YA read, which is targeted at age 13+. Bearmouth is Liz Hyder’s debut novel, so I shall certainly be interested to see what she follows up with.

Note does include scenes of sexual assault and attempted rape.

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Blood and Silver by Vali Benson – book review

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

I have received a free e-copy of the book Blood and Silver by Vali Benson to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

Blood and Silver by Vali Benson

Here is the book blurb.

What is a twelve year old girl to do when she finds herself in the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1880, and her only home is a brothel and her only parent is a drug-addicted mother? If she is Carissa Beaumont, she outsmarts the evil madam and figures a way out.

After tricking the madam, Miss Lucille, into summoning a doctor for her mother, Lisette, she discovers that Miss Lucille has been drugging her. She and the kind doctor make a plan to try to save Lisette by dosing her down on the drug.

Doctor Henderson tells Carissa that the only source for the drug is a Chinese immigrant named China Mary, who lives in Hoptown, at the other end of Tombstone. Carissa has no choice but to go to the powerful woman for help. Many say that China Mary is the one who really controls Tombstone.

China Mary admires Carissa’s brave spirit, and uses her influence to get her a job at the new Grand Hotel, which will free Carissa from her many duties at Miss Lucille’s. She will work along with Mary’s twelve year old niece, Mai-Lin. The two girls become fast friends.

Then, disaster strikes, and the two girls must work together to stay alive.

With a host of colorful characters and meticulous attention to period detail, Blood and Silver is a story of the best and worst of human nature, the passion for survival and the beauty of true friendship.

This book is set in 1880 at Tombstone, Arizona, one of the Wild West frontier towns. The period has been very well researched by the author and weaves in fact along with fiction.

The story starts with Miss Lucille, the madam, greedy for money, relocating with her 3 best girls Lisette, Elise and Yvonne from San Francisco to Tombstone, along with Lisette’s 12 year old daughter Carissa, whom Miss Lucille treats as an unpaid servant. The tale is told from Carissa’s viewpoint.

Carissa is particularly worried about her mother, since Miss Lucille has now got her addicted to laudanum. Doctor Henderson advises her that the only way to help Lisette kick the drug habit and get well again, is to gradually reduce the dose. But how to do this without Miss Lucille realising?

There is only one drug supplier in Tombstone, China Mary. will she be willing to help Carissa, and if so, on what terms? Lots more going on in this book, including danger and adventure. A good read.

China Mary was a real person who controlled the opium dealing in Tombstone. I don’t particularly watch Westerns, but I’m pretty sure I have come across China Mary in a movie previously.

Blood and Silver is available on Amazon, in paperback, hardback and Kindle formats. A great historical YA adventure which has been well researched. This is Vali’s debut novel, so I certainly hope there will be more to come.

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Life of Pi by Yann Martel – book review

My latest personal choice of read, rather than a requested book review is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This was the winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize back in 2002.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Here is the book blurb.

One boy, one boat, one tiger . . .

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan — and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.

This book starts like most with an author’s note, which initially made me assume that the story was based on a true tale, but as I read, I revised my original opinion. How could such a scene possibly have really happened.

The first few chapters dart from theme to theme as the scene is set, which I did find slightly confusing. But this is to introduce us to Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi. Yann also weaves himself in as the writer interviewing characters. In part 1, we follow Pi through childhood in the 1970’s upto age 16, when he and his family are about to emigrate from India to Canada. I particularly liked how Pi was a practising Hindu, Christian and Muslim.

Pi’s father had been the Pondicherry zoo director, but he is now closing the zoo and most of the animals are being bought by US zoos. So the family and the zoo animals are about to set sail aboard the Japanese cargo ship Tsimtsum for pastures new.

It is only as we move into part 2 of the story, that the blurb comes into play. Four days out of Manila, the ship is in trouble. Three of the crew throw Pi overboard into a lifeboat before the ship sinks. But who does he have for company on this lifeboat, but some of the animals who had escaped from their cages. A hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger, with sharks circling around. You just know that things are going to prove interesting.

And what a tale it is. There is even a part 3, which is different again. I highly recommend Life of Pi. A great read which I thoroughly enjoyed, suitable for both adults and older children from about age 11 upwards.

This bestselling book has also been made into a film which i would love to see too.

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Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers by Christy Breedlove – book review

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

I have received a free e-copy of the book Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers by Christy J Breedlove to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers by Christy J Breedlove

Here is the book blurb.

Seventeen year-old Jory Pike knows a thing or two about Indian lore from her half-blood Chippewa ancestry. She can trap, hunt and fish with the best of them. She has a team of three other teens friends called The Badlands Paranormal Society. Instead of bagging groceries or playing on I-pods, they think they can excel at banishing evil spirits. They hope to cleanse houses and earn fat paychecks for their services.

Dream catchers aren’t just the chic hoops tourists buy at novelty shops–they work. And sometimes they clog up with nightmares until they collapse under their own evil weight, imploding and sending the dreamer into an alternate world. Jory uses her worst nightmare to enter the dream catcher world. She’s pulled her teammates in deliberately. Everything goes right on schedule but they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Now Jory and her friends are there, trapped between the people who have confessed their sins to the Great Spirit and are seeking a way out, and the monsters and evil spirits, which are happy to keep them trapped in the web world forever.

They were once considered Seekers in the dream world. Now they’ve become vigilantes and call themselves Pathfinders. Is it spiritual enlightenment they after? Or have they now become fatally reckless?

This is book 2 in the Screamcatcher series, aimed at YA readers. I haven’t read book 1, but found this worked perfectly as a stand-alone read. It is fantasy, a genre I don’t usually read, but I was hooked from almost the beginning.

It starts off with a team of 4 main Pathfinder characters, Jory, Choice, Lander and Darcy, all aged 16-18, who have been commissioned to sort out a huge evil dream catcher which is giving its current owners nightmares. They make the jump into an alternate nightmare world, starting on the bad outer rim of the dream catcher, where the neighbourhood seems to have been burnt to the ground. All is in ruins, nothing useful can be found and they need to head west, searching for the good Seekers, moving from sector to sector, heading to the centre where good can pass through.

But everything seems stacked against them, challenges, monsters, difficult terrain, extreme weather and huge walls between sectors.

So can they find and rescue some Seekers? And can they reach the centre?

Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format. A great read. Highly recommended.

I’ve never actually seen a dream catcher, but I’ve even been eying up my wind chimes suspiciously since reading this book.

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The Lane Betrayal by John A Heldt – book review

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

Regular readers of my blog may recall that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed quite a number of time travel fiction titles by author John A Heldt including all of his last series The Carson Chronicles. Well he is back with a brand new Time Box saga and I have had the pleasure of reading the first title in the series, The Lane Betrayal.

And to find out more about the author you may visit his website.

The Lane Betrayal by John A Heldt

Here is the book blurb.

From the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage, American Journey, and Carson Chronicles series comes the first book in the Time Box saga.

Virginia physicist Mark Lane has a problem. Weeks after privately creating two time machines, he learns his corporate partner wants to use the portable devices for nefarious purposes. Rather than give him the chance to do so, Mark takes the time boxes and escapes to the relative safety of 1865.

For Mark, wife Mary, and their children, the adventure is a chance to grow. Mary runs a business. Jeremy, 19, and Ashley, 12, befriend escaped slaves. Laura, 22, finds her place as a nurse. Jordan, 25, falls for a beautiful widow. All hope to find peace in the past.

Billionaire Robert Devereaux has other ideas. Shortly after Mark’s betrayal, he sends an assassin to 1865 to retrieve his property and set matters straight.

Filled with romance, suspense, and history, THE LANE BETRAYAL follows a modern American family as it tries to find security and contentment in the final weeks of the Civil War.

The story starts in August 2021 when Mark Lane is forced to bring forward his plans to wreak havoc on the company’s servers before escaping with the time travel machines by 6 hours. If he fails, his corrupt business partner Robert plans to use them to change and manipulate history for his own purposes. The plan to time-travel from their own backyard has to be axed. A high speed police chase ensues before he reunites with his family at their back-up rendezvous and they vanish into thin air, travelling back in time to 1865, towards the end of the American Civil War.

But with no transport of their own, this means they need to now make their way back to Fredericksburg and this is the start of where things begin to unravel. One of them is arrested, property is seized, something is lost.

Meanwhile Robert is hot on their heels in attempting to reverse the damage Mark has inflicted in the modern day and in following the cookie crumb trail to pinpoint the time they travelled to. He will stop at nothing to get the machines back and hires an assassin to send back in time.

With money no object, the assassin kills on a whim. Can the Lane family sort themselves out and evade this assassin?

This book is a real page turner with so many twists and turns. And once again the author has put lots of effort into researching the historical period.

The Lane Betrayal is available on Amazon, in Kindle format and paperback. I highly recommend this book and am very much looking forward to reading book two, The Fair which was published this summer.

And you may be interested to see my reviews of some of John Heldt’s other titles.
Firstly The Carson Chronicles series.
River Rising
The Memory Tree
Indian Paintbrush
Caitlin’s Song
Camp Lake

Plus some of his earlier titles.
The Mine
Indiana Belle
Hannah’s Moon

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Lark by Anthony McGowan – book review

I chose to read Lark as it is the winner of the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Medal. This is probably the most renowned children’s book award here in the UK. It is judged annually by children’s librarians and awarded to an outstanding book for children and young people. However thousands of children and young people also get to participate in a shadowing scheme, reading the books on the shortlist via reading clubs in schools and public libraries. Each year young people who take part in the scheme are invited to vote for their favourite books to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards. These are usually announced alongside the Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal winners, however due to lockdown, shadowing has been extended until the Autumn. So this year the Shadowers’ Choice Award winners will be announced during National Libraries Week on the 9th October.

Lark by Anthony McGowan

Here is the book blurb.

Things are tense at home for Nicky and Kenny. Their mum’s coming to visit and it will be the first time they’ve seen her in years. A lot has changed since they were little and Nicky’s not so sure he’s ready to see her again. When they head for a trek across the moors to take their minds off everything, a series of unforeseen circumstances leaves the brothers in a vulnerable and very dangerous position. There might even be a chance that this time not everyone will make it home alive.

Lark is the fourth title in The Truth of Things series but works fine as a stand-alone read. It has been published by Barrington Stoke whose books all have a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock.

Nicky is the younger brother, but he is very much in charge of their day out during the Easter holiday, as Kenny, his elder brother has a learning disability and attends a special school. They have planned a walk on the moors with their dog Tina to ease Kenny’s boredom and to clear Nicky’s head about everything else going on in his life currently. It will take three buses to reach the moors, but they have printed out a map for the 2 mile walk to the next village.

Simple. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot actually but you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Lark has a reading age of 9, but should be of interest to teens. I really enjoyed this book which at 120 pages, didn’t take me long to read, although the epilogue caught me by surprise. It was full of humour, suspense and emotion. I did try to encourage my elder son who has become a reluctant reader, to give it a try, but sadly he declined.

This is the first book I’ve read by Anthony McGowan, but I shall certainly be adding more of his titles to my TBR list. Perhaps I should have read Brock, Pike and Rook first.

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Baron of Bad by Tammy Andresen – book review

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

I have received a free e-copy of the book Baron of Bad by Tammy Andresen to review.

Baron of Bad by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

He’s bad to the bone… and she looks oh so good.

The Baron of Baderness is too dark, too dangerous for any clear minded lady to consider. And Lady Grace has her choice of men. So why can’t she stop thinking about the one man she shouldn’t want?

Lady Grace isn’t his type of woman at all. She’s too beautiful and far too perfect to ever be with a man such as himself. All she knows is drawing rooms and pretty gowns, while he has fought his way from the dregs of society. He shouldn’t want her and yet every time she passes by, he can’t look away.

This is the fifth title in the Regency Romance Lords of Scandal series, but works well as a stand-alone read. However, having read all the previous titles, I had to read this one straight after book 4, Viscount of Vice as that ended on a cliffhanger. Each book focusses on one of the five Chase sisters / cousins along with one of the lords who all own a share in a secret gaming den that the ladies had discovered. Initially each lord was keeping an eye on a Chase lady to ensure she was trustworthy, but as the stories progress, the watch is now to ensure the ladies are safe from the Countess of Abernath.

Now it is the turn of Bad, the Baron of Baderness and Lady Grace Chase to take centre-stage.

It is too difficult to review this book properly without giving spoilers to the previous title Viscount of Vice, as some of the story runs in parallel, but Bad is certainly trying hard to keep tabs on Grace. And what is Grace’s opinion on Bad, who doesn’t think he is good enough for her? That’s about all I can say. This is one you’ll just have to read to find out more, but best to read the Viscount of Vice first.

Baron of Bad is available on Amazon in both Kindle format or paperback. Another nice light short romantic story from Tammy.

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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15 Minute Parenting by Joanna Fortune – book review

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

It has been a very long time since I have reviewed a book through NetGalley, mainly because I get so many authors approaching me directly, that I don’t have time to select books via NetGalley. However a new non-fiction publishing imprint Thread, has recently been set up who contacted me with details of their first titles, which were all free to review through NetGalley. And as a mum, I was very keen to read 15 Minute Parenting.

15 Minute Parenting by Joanna Fortune

Here is the book blurb.

A mindful and practical parenting roadmap for busy, time-poor parents. Based on a simple and effective formula, it will transform family life in just fifteen minutes of daily play, resulting in less tears and more laughter.

Middle childhood, the period for those aged 8–12 years old, is often the most overlooked phase of a child’s development but it’s the age where play continue to serve an important role in their emotional growth. It’s also an age where we are most likely to stop playing with our children.

With over twenty years of clinical expertise and neuroscientific research, psychotherapist and parenting expert Joanna Fortune shares her proven techniques that will enable you to better understand your relationship with your children as they grow and ensure that your parenting is developing with them.

Packed with 15-minute games and activities that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine, Joanna also explores the neurological, physical and emotional development of 8-12 year olds and offers parents hands-on advice on how to deal with:

Friendships and bullying

Sibling relationships

Difficult conversations (the ones that catch you off guard!)

Risk-taking behaviour

Building independence, self-esteem and emotional resilience


15-Minute Parenting 8-12 years will show you how to keep play alive with your child, foster great communication and help to secure strong foundations for adolescence.

There are two books in The Language of Play series. The first is targeted at parents of children age 0-7 and the second for those with children age 8-12. I chose to review the latter, as both my boys are older than seven. Joanna is currently writing a third title on parenting of teenagers.

This book is full of suggestions of what to do in 15 minutes, devoting that time to mindfully present play with your child or children. There are plenty of ideas, some of which may be things you already do, but hopefully lots of new material for everyone.

And there are chapters specifically focussing on sibling relationships, friendships, homework, independence, self-esteem, risk, special needs and preparing for the next stage. Also a chapter on ‘How do I get my child to …’ with topics like Engage in Physical Activity or What If questions. These range through What if my child will not do any chores, is being bullied, is the bully, steals.

However some of the props required for certain play activities were items I would rather not see promoted in a book like this. The two in particular for me were cotton wool balls, a single-use product and balloons which can be so dangerous to wildlife.

But I was especially pleased to see stories mentioned. My younger son has a set of Dr Who story cubes, which we enjoy using together for mindful play, even though my Dr Who knowledge is very basic compared to his level.

15 Minute Parenting is available on Amazon in Kindle format, paperback and audiobook. A very good useful resource book.

You may find out more about the author Joanna Fortune and her books on her website.

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