It’s a brand new year! Or at least it was when it started, all those months ago. Here’s what I grabbed:
It’s a brand new year! Or at least it was when it started, all those months ago. Here’s what I grabbed:
One of the earliest influences on my life, and my first true introduction to literature and the joys of reading, Roald Dahl remains an icon for generations of children, readers, and writers. Known primarily for the many wonderful works of fiction he created for children, he also had a sterling military career and was successful as a writer of poetry, adult fiction, and screenplays. As an author he knew the importance of not dumbing down for children, and not shying away from the gruesome, the dark, and that is why I devoured everything he wrote as a child – there was humour in there which we weren’t supposed to laugh at, and quite a few things that went bump in the night, and it felt like Dahl was writing these stories as a secret gift just for you. With immortal characters and plots which every child yearns to be a part of in some shape or form, Dahl is one of the finest writers of the 20th Century.
Rest In Peace
Feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Dahl in the comments below.
*Note – For some reason this wasn’t posted at the time of writing 4 years ago, so I’m adding it now, with bonus content! Enjoy!*
The rumours of laptops proved unfounded once again as we were left with 10 pages of books and software. I wish I had more time to check out some of these new authors, but alas. I went for a couple of items which should be easy to get through and review:
Black Sheep: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004W6RUPG
A Russian movie of some sort. Update! I watched this a few year back, and thoroughly enjoyed it – a decent small scale war movie with lots of action and emotion.
The Happets, Play With Colours: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1444904078
A felt children’s book to help teach kids about colours. This should come in handy for my 7 month daughter. Update! My daugher is now 4, and my second daughter is 2. Neither particularly enjoyed this book, but it’s still bright and fun.
The horror! Amazon have decided to change the format, layout, presentation etc of the Vine and Last Harvest Pages. It’s horrible. Horrible like when you wake up with a tramp in your mouth. Still, I was able to look at the screen long enough to select the following freebies:
Philips DVT1700 Digital Voice Recorder with DNS Speech to Text Software:
Aside from possibly recording farts and blackmail, I’m not sure what I’ll use this for.
This sort-of biography brings together Kulka’s memories and reflections on the part of his childhood spent in Auschwitz. It is written in fragmented style, almost like the reader is only hearing snippets of a bigger story, overhearing on a crowded train. Nevertheless, it is expectedly sobering, but doesn’t focus on the harrowing side of things, instead giving a child’s views on what he sees – sometimes witnessing violence but not fully understanding, feeling the inevitable finger of death crossing over the camp yards, but still trying to live, learn, and fight.
Braun Cruzer 5 Rechargeable Foil Electric Shaver:
I’m looking forward to trying this bad boy out after my last razor broke thanks to the dreadful, irresistable force of my facial hair.
This gripping factual text explores the origins of Father Christmas’s’es’es’s relationship with thunder lizards – also known as Dinosauruses. After missing Christmas one year for being drunk on Cave Juice, it turns out that Santa banished the creatures to Rygel IVXIIW-P and replaced them with Laplanders – also known as Reindeer.
Not a great month for me this time around, only being offered an assortment of self-help books. When will these people learn that I am far beyond help? For the second newsletter, unusually there was still an awful lot of electronic equipment left over – hair curlers, electric razors, epilators etc. I have taken my fair share of those since being on Vine, so I don’t need anymore. I eventually selected a couple of toy sets for the kids, as they never get tired of blocks and figures and cars to throw around or chew on.
Clemmy Plus Play Set – Country House:
You can find my review on the main page on the link below
Clemmy Plus Play Set – Petrol Garage:
You can find my review on the main page on the link below
So, after a lacklustre month, my itch for free delights was not satisfied. Enter The Last Harvest list. Last Harvest is another section of Vine which I rarely venture into as it isn’t updated often, and mostly contains books I would likely not care for, and anti-virus software. Unlike Vine, where you can only select 2 items from each of the two monthly newsletters, Last Harvest lets you select as many items as you like, although you must still meet the review guidelines. I went through all 30 something pages of Last Harvest though to see if there was anything which took my fancy, particularly on the look out for children’s books which my daughters would like and which would be quick and easy to review. This time though, there wasn’t anything suitable for their ages range, however, there were a few books which I picked up which will be good for them in the next few years. In addition to this, I have recently signed up to volunteer for the Time To Read Programme – a service where volunteers go to Primary Schools to help kids with their reading. I figure the more children’s books I read, the better equipped I will be if and when I come to volunteer. But more on that later. Here are the books I selected:
The Abominators: Number 1 in series
By: J.L. Smith, Sam Hearn
‘Mucker, Boogster, Cheesy and Bob, also known as The Abominators, are the most mischievous characters you will ever have come across. Their interests include chaos, mayhem and filling the school toilets with strawberry jelly. Their interests definitely DO NOT include making friends with panty-wanty-woo-wearing new boy, Cecil Trumpington-Potts. Cecil, however, is certain he can change their minds . . .’
Monstrous Maud: Big Fright:
By: A. B. Saddlewick, Sarah Horne
‘When Maud’s pet rat, Quentin, escapes in the middle of science class, it’s the very last straw. Maud is transferred from Primrose Towers to Rotwood Middle School – to the delight of her teacher, classmates and her perfect twin, Milly – but what is in store at Rotwood? There’s something strange about the pupils of Rotwood – everyone’s dressed as though it’s Halloween and the school’s motto is ‘Because We Scare’. Is ten-year-old Maud Montague monstrous enough for Rotwood?’
Monstrous Maud: Freaky Sleepover:
By: A. B. Saddlewick, Sarah Horne
‘When Maud’s perfect twin sister, Milly plans a sleepover, Mum forces Maud to have her friends over too. What can possibly go wrong? Nothing much …just that Maud’s mum might find out about Rotwood High being a school for real monsters! As if that’s not enough to worry about, Maud is tricked into looking after Violet, the school hamster, by her arch enemy, bitchy-witch Poisonous Penelope. But Violet is no ordinary hamster! She’s a pedigree vampster and an expert cage-breaker. With a vampster on the loose, sleep is the very last thing that happens! Another terrifyingly terrific tale in the Monstrous Maud series, written by Abi Saddlewick.’
And the final book, which is aimed for a slightly older audience (which I liked the sound of myself):
By: Emmy Laybourne
‘Fourteen kids stranded inside a superstore. Inside they have everything they could ever need. There’s junk food and clothes, computer games and books, drugs and alcohol … and without adult supervision they can do whatever they want.Sounds like fun? But outside the world is being ripped apart by violent storms and chemicals leaking into the atmosphere that, depending on blood type, leave victims paranoid, violent or dead. The kids must remain inside, forced to create their own community, unsure if they’ll ever be able to leave. Can they stop the world they’ve created inside from self-destructing too? ‘Riveting’ New York Times – ‘ A post apocalyptic wild ride’ Huffington Post’
Phew, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Vine Freebie posts so steel yourselves for an onslaught of jealousy at my acquired bounty over the next few posts.
December was a bit of a busy month for me, what with my eldest daughter’s 2nd Birthday on the 23rd, her new sis being born on the 22nd, and getting prepared for Moldy Cheese day
Excuses aside, I have received some high quality treats over the next few months, and I’ve already reviewed most of them so as a bonus you can read my foolish words instead of me just printing a pic of the freebie with a link to its Amazon page.
Medela Purelan Nipple Cream: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001TPS9XU
‘My wife didn’t have too many issues with pain, cracking, dryness during breastfeeding with our first baby but it’s always better to be safe. Our next baby is due any day now. She has been putting the cream on early, mostly just to try, but it appears to be doing its job, keeping everything smooth. And cold… so cold. The cream can take a bit of squeezing to let out of its golden cage, but this shouldn’t prove to be more than a minor annoyance. Then you can get back to applying the cream and shivering. So… so cold.’
PS – Shockingly, this review is currently sitting with a 0 of 2 helpful rating.
Disney Classics Sing Along Book and CD: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1445494671
‘I’ll echo what most other people have said about this book and CD combo – good book, average cd. The book has solid, thick pages with vibrant artwork depicting scenes or people from 6 Disney classics. As is to be expected from Disney, the colours and characters are second to none, endlessly charming, and will spark the imagination of many a young fan. If I have any complaint about the book it’s that some are sparse, but I assume that is so that the lyrics are easier to read. Additionally, I don’t think we need the copyright info and song credits on each page – they could have been together on a final page – but that would be mere nitpicking.
Onto the CD – I have no problem that these are not instrumental versions, in fact I prefer the full vocal backing. However, the vocals are not from the movies in some cases which takes away from the experience, at least for a hardened Disney fan like myself. I imagine this wouldn’t be much of a problem for the younger listeners. My main complaint is the song collection, featuring two songs from Winnie The Pooh which I don’t think anyone has ever heard, and one from 101 Dalmations, which is hardly known as one of the strongest musically in Disney’s catalogue. There are a wealth of songs and films to choose from, so it seems odd to pick 3 relatively weak songs when Aladdin and Beauty And The Beast are left out. Naturally this is personal preference, and again I’m sure that the kids won’t mind. There are plenty of other cd/book combos and you can always buy movie soundtracks.
So overall this is a good, cheap product which is a bit different from the usual selection of fairy tale cds. Kids and adults alike can singalong and relive some classic Disney moments like Simba’s courting and King Louie skipping over his own arms. The last time I attempted to relive that particular moment and skip over my own arms, it ended up with a quick trip to casualty, 2 weeks of agony, and a lifetime of embarrassment, but it was all worth it for 8 seconds of hilarity’
Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics): http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0141392215
I haven’t got around to reading this one yet as I’m still in the middle of King’s Under The Dome and Himes’s All Shot Up, but I’m sure this will be ugly, fascinating, and harrowing.
A decent month for the bambino as I was able to get her another book, but a better month for some other folks who were offered more than 1 Sony Vaio. Anyway, enough of the bile, here’s what I got below, along with my reviews:
Firstly, forgive anything I write that exposes me as a noob- I have rarely used electric face shavers and have never used a Rotart shaver before. I’ll get the obvious out of the way first- It’s Remington,so you can be sure that the quality will be high. If you’re a Remington man then this is another strong product which will keep you a user of the brand, but if you are a fan of the competition I wouldn’t say there is anything here which would entice you away from your preferred brand. It looks great- sleek, black, smooth, the handle, weight, and shape ensure ease of use, and the LED screen showing your remaining minutes of charge is a neat touch. The stand at first seems a little flimsy and makes the set appear top heavy, but it does the job nicely. Charging takes roughly an hour and a half for an hour’s return, but generally I just plug it in when I have
time to charge it, leaving it on charge for half an hour-that usually gives me another few weeks before the next charge (I don’t mind building up a layer of stubble). The sound when shaving is actually very quiet which surprised me, and the package comes with a tidy bag for keeping the razor out of view if you worry about such things (or for taking on trips obviously).
So, I first attempted to use this on my face after a week without shaving; for me that’s standard as I don’t mind looking like a grizzled Eastenders extra. Foolish me though, as the second I pressed the Rotary against my face it felt like a thousand wasps had landed on my face, sat down, plucked out a thousand individual hairs, and then stung me. I thought I was doing it wrong, so I flattened my skin as much as possible and tried it again gently, this time with largely the same result except with the added bonus of me punching the wall and jumping about like Rumplestilskin. Assuming it was broken, I then had a play around with the pop up razor attachment on the back. Hallelujah! This little
monster got to work straight away, mowing down armies of hairs and leaving my face looking alluringly zebra like. My brain kicked in and I realised that this razor should not be used on massive growths of hair, but on a daily basis to keep hair at a Jack-from-Lost equal level. Determined not to use an old school razor, I continued with the pop-up, giving my face a good once or twice over before switching to the main attraction. From then on, all was good, and no more walls were fisted.
Since that exciting first attempt, I’ve been using the Razor more regularly- it is comfortable to use but doesn’t give anywhere near as
close a shave as a 49p plastic razor would, but that’s fine with me as I don’t mind some hair on my chinny chin chin and facey face face. I still use the pop up for my Rapunzel-esque sideburns and for more accurate coverage around the ill placed mole on my neck. So, all in all this is a great razor if you are going for the modern, stylish, not quite clean shaven look, but you should look elsewhere for a truly close shave.
Noisy Animals continues the series of brightly coloured, button-bashing books from Igloo. Having been previously impressed with their Old Macdonald four button book, Noisy Animals is an original tale accompanied by a new set of animal sounds to experiment with. The noise level on this book seems to be slightly less than on Old Macdonald; if anything that is an improvement as Old Mc’s sounds were perhaps too loud (especially after 100 presses in a few minutes).
The original story sees a farmer discovering that a pig is missing (at feeding time!) and so he makes his way around the farm to try and find Mr
Pig. Over the course of the four double pages you will meet the various farm animals depicted on the cover, and you and your child can press each button when one of the animals appears. There are more words on each page than there was on the Old Macdonald book, so this may be a step up for your child when they are starting to read. The noises are realistic enough, and the sound doesn’t suffer too badly from that cheap, echo tone that some books of this type do. The artwork again is suitably bright, the animals are plump (and possibly succulent), and everything has that smiling, charming quality which is so inviting and infectious- most children will happily sit on your lap for a few read-throughs before getting bored. My (at time of writing) 21 month old daughter is more interested in lift-the-flap books at the moment when it comes to reading time at night, but through the day she prefers pressing the buttons on this book and flicking through the pages herself. She is past the page eating stage, but the pages here are nice and thick and would take a good amount of suckage to damage. All in all,this is another winner from Igloo, and considering the price for these books, I may have to pick up another few!
I haven’t read or reviewed this yet, but as I love all things Japanese, I’m sure this short story collection will get the thumbs up from moi.
This month I missed out on a video baby monitor which is something my wife has wanted for some time now. As is typical with Vine Thursdays, I am prepared in the morning to hit Amazon at 8 pm, but after finishing work, putting bambinos to bed etc, it usually slips my mind; at 9pm it will suddenly pop back into my head but by that time the electronic goods are gone. Nevertheless, this month I have received some decent stuff:
Philips Wet and Dry Epilator:
Luckily this was still on my list when I logged in- it’s not something we desperately need, but we’ll be able to put it to good use.
Humf And The Big Boots:
This is a ‘touchy feely’ book for young kids (physically that is, none of that mental touchy feely stuff…) based on the furry character Humf, whose highly popular TV show I have never heard of. AT first glance the book seems bright and fun, but only some of the pages have touchy feely bits which seems strange, especially considering that there only are about 6 pages.
Old Macdonald Book With Sounds:
This is the tale of Old Macdonald told with bright colours and interesting animations. Four buttons accompany the book which, when pressed, play the sound of a duck, a horse, a pig, and the Old Macdonald song. These sounds are quite loud and while my daughter enjoys pressing them, she isn’t at the stage yet to actually sit and listen to me read the story.
Dinosaur Sounds and Pop Ups:
This one looks great with wonderful drawings of the various ‘famous’ types of dinosaurs, land, sea, and air based. The selling points are that each page pops up in glorious 3D, with long necks and fangs stretching out towards you. As you turn each page sounds are played based upon what is happening on the select page- these sounds are incredibly loud but are atmospheric and give a strong imaginative impression of the scene depicted. Again, be careful with the age group as the pop ups look as if they would tear very easily, and if your child is a grabber then the long neck of a Sauropod woudn’t stand a chance.
Tommy Donbavand’s Fang Of The Vampire is Part One of his Scream Street series- a horror series which is aimed at children approaching ten years old. In some parts this is gruesome and graphic, but parents need not worry- it is done in a Roald Dahl style which is humourous and harmless. Book One is fast paced througout, introduces our hero in a mysterious fashion, and brings the other characters into play early on. The key is that each character is an archetypal monster- Luke is a Werewolf, his first friend is a vampire, his second a mummy. Along the way, usually as a cliffhanger to each short chapter, we meet witches, zombies etc. It is a nice way to introduce children to classic villians and their traits, but showing them here to be good guys or outcasts. Every child enjoys a few gentle scares and while this may not frighten even the softest kid, it will give them something too chew on before they make their way to fleshier stories.
The story follows Luke- a boy who has recently found out he is a werewolf. Monsters can have no place in civilised human society, and therefore must be taken away. However, as monsters are not monsters, they are given a civilised home of their own- Scream Street- where they all can live in supposed harmony. Built by the founding fathers of monsters- a vampire, a werewolf etc, hundreds of years before, Scream Street is both scary and intriguing for Luke. Luke’s parents though as normal, and as such do not fit in. He wants to find a way to return them to their own world, but this is unheard of. Only a secret book has the power to reveal any such escape plan, but it is held by the hateful and insane boss of Scream Street, Sir Otto. Luke and his gang set out on the quest to find the secrets of Scream Street.
There are a few potential flaws with the book which are entirely subjective- It is quite brief and simple, with not much back story, a very easy plot, few surprises and basic characterisation. Perhaps the book could be aimed at a younger audience- then again such ratings are also subjective and usually meaningless. When i was 7-9 i would have liked something a bit more challenging. I was a strange kid however, and at that age I was reading Homer’s Odyssey. This easily makes good bedtime reading for a child on their own, or from parent too child. Each chapter is carefully laid out, so that one or two before bedtime will keep the child entertained, but thirsty for more the next night. As an introduction the book is fine, and there is plenty of room in the books following to build up back story and character. A good start, and with good intentions- we all need a few vampires, ghosts, and zombies in our lives.
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The website of author Eric Woods
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