Thursday, 2 March 2017

An Enchanting Underwater Adventure!

Kids love magic and sea creatures! Put them together and you have “The Magical Aquarium” by Cat Michaels. 
An enchanting underwater magical sea adventure that is delightful, imaginative and inspiring.
I was lucky to win a copy of this wonderful ebook during a giveaway Cat ran during the launch of this latest short chapter book.
I don’t want to give too much away, suffice to say, the characters are charming, the story telling is perfect for the intended age group and the illustrations are rather cute.
My first impression was this was a story that only girls would find interesting. So I decided to test my theory. I tutor a neighbour’s  ten year old son after school and asked him to read the first chapter to gauge his opinion. After all, the best reviews always come direct from a child. He enjoyed that first chapter but no surprise, agreed he thought it was more suitable for the girls in his class, so I didn’t press him to read further. The following week when given the choice to go back to “Zac Power, Frozen Fear” by H. I. Larry or continue with the “Magical Aquarium,” to my surprise he chose …..drum roll please…… (you guessed it!) “The Magical Aquarium!” A second chapter in, we wrote a couple of sentences about the story so far, then he asked if he could download it himself so that he could finish it this week. He didn’t want to wait until I returned next week with my tablet to be able to continue reading. You can’t get a better reaction than that! I was very impressed. Cat’s story had drawn my reader into her imaginative world and piqued his curiosity.
My theory fell flat. This is a book for all kids. They will love meeting the sea creatures in it. Some are a bit quirky, there’s a vegetarian shark and a sea turtle with an itchy nose that needs to be scratched. Kids learn all about touch tanks where they can have the hands-on experience of feeling unusual creatures and walk through underwater tunnels to view all kinds of amazing underwater friends. Of course there is something quite magical that happens while the children visit this particular aquarium, but you are going to have to read the story to find out. No spoilers here!
You can tell Cat Michaels is a former school teacher like myself, at the end of the book she has included  a glossary of what she terms “Challenge Words” for young readers to check their understanding of meaning. Included with these are gorgeous photographs to further visually demonstrate comprehension. This is a perfect conclusion to a magical underwater adventure.
My only concern is that Cat has a stingray in the touch tank. I know they are generally considered docile animals and will only attack when frightened, mainly when stepped on in shallow waters when they are skimming through sand unseen. However, I think as an Australian, seeing them lurking off our shores quite frequently, I am a little more wary. The “Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin taught us an invaluable lesson about how dangerous a stingray can actually be if we are not careful. If you read this enchanting book with your children, maybe it is worthwhile having the discussion, a touch tank where children can feel animals under supervision is one thing, but some things are best left alone when discovered in their natural environment.
That being said, I still believe this book is worthy of 5 star(fish) for it’s imagination, creativity and environmental awareness. A great way to start a discussion with the kids at home or in your classroom about looking after the world’s oceans.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

My Favourite Books for all ages.

February has been all about spreading the love of books.
Did you enter our Giveaway? A HUGE thank you to everyone that did. The response was amazing!
Congratulations Mary and Stephanie who both won a copy of Emma the Eager Emu. I hope she has arrived safely on your doorstep.
I thought I would continue the love of books for one last blog, (even though most of my posts are about books in one way or another).
Below are my all time favourite books that I have loved to read and share. They are all well worth considering adding to your collection if you don’t already own them.
Picture Books
I can’t go past the “Diary of a Wombat” series by Jackie French. I know I’ve said it many times before but these are simply adorable and can be read to all ages, from birth to adults! I have used them in the classroom from Kindergarten to year 6. Everyone loves them!  Packed full of fun, mischief and a massive dose of cuteness!
Diary of a Wombat
Baby Wombat’s Week
Christmas Wombat
The Secret World of Wombats
Chapter Books for Middle Grade and Tweens.
Harry Potter. What can I say, I am a huge fan! J.K. Rowling brought reading  (and magic) back to a whole new generation when she released these. They will always be popular, in the classroom as well as on my shelf at home. I loved reading these aloud each night as my boys and I snuggled in bed together. They were so keen to hear the next absorbing chapter (or three).
The Philosopher’s Stone   
The Chamber of Secrets
The Prisoner of Azkaban
The Goblet of Fire
The Order of the Phoenex
The Half-Blood Prince
The Deathly Hallows
Adult Books
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. It took a couple of years to read through this marvelous series. Gotta love a Highlander in a kilt! Add history and romance and you have an unputdownable series. When I finished the final book it was like saying goodbye to two well known friends. I missed Jamie and Claire Fraser. It took me sometime to feel I could enjoy another series as much.
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone
Written in my Own Hearts Blood
Then I stumbled across a local Australian Author, Liane Moriarty. Her novels are contemporary mysteries set in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Since I grew up Sydney, I  really enjoyed reading these as the scenes are very familiar. They depict everyday suburban life with a twist. My favourite was Big Little Lies, (I couldn’t predict the ending it was a real wow moment for me!) I wrote a review on it, if you are interested the link is here –
By the way it is now being shown as a mini series on Foxtel. My only disappointment is they made it in California not Sydney, however having seen the first episode, I’d say, so far, so good.
Liane has also written children’s books however they are still on my “to read” list.
The Last Anniversary    
What Alice Forgot
The Hypnotist’s Love Story
The Husband’s Secret
Three Wishes
Big Little Lies
Truely Madly Guilty
Before I go, one last recommendation, if you like a story with environmental issues along with adventure and romance in a unique Australian setting Annie Seaton has it all in her recent series with –
Kakadu Sunset      
My review for Kakadu Sunset is here –
Some books mentioned are missing from my photos, I have leant them to friends and family.
I could of course, mention many others, but then we would be here for a very long time. I enjoy reading many genres including autobiographies.
Anh Do’s “The Happiest Refugee” was particularly moving, insightful and funny. He takes you on a  memorable journey from war torn Vietnam, escaping in a leaking boat to be raised in the Western suburbs of Sydney and finally becoming a successful comedian. I have now just started “Mao’s Last Dancer” by Li Cunxin. It is a memoir I have wanted to read for a long time. My husband and I saw one of his productions of The Nutcracker over Christmas by the Queensland Ballet Company. Li was sitting only a few seats in front of us. The ballet was superb! I was even more determined then to read his life story.

What are you reading at the moment? What would be on your all time favourite list of suggestions? I am always looking for more books to read and welcome any ideas.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Love is in the Air! – International Book Day Blog Hop

“Love is in the air everywhere I look around  
Love is in the air every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes”
Sorry I’m not about to break out into John Paul Young’s song, Have you started singing it in your head yet?
I’m not about to start ballroom dancing either, even though I loved “Strictly Ballroom” (maybe I’ll watch that again tonight)!
Now that I have your attention!  Valentines Day is just around the corner, a day to remember our loved ones. Valentines Day is also International Book Giving Day!  Why is International Book Day held the same day? It is a day devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need. For this reason I decided this year as a special treat I would focus on my love of reading and sharing that love with children.  
How am I doing that? In case you haven’t heard by now, I have joined a group of fantastic Indie Authors to help spread the love in a Blog Hop  devoted to the love of books and a giveaway of some of their ‘s (and my) awesome children’s books. More on that later, for now, please read and enjoy, then read the other #gr8blogs listed below for more fun loving book inspiration. Don’t forget when you finish reading to be sure to enter the rafflecopter competition for your chance to win one of 14 amazing picture books and ebooks so that you too, can help share and spread the love of books with children everywhere!

Reading – How do I love thee, let me count the ways – 
  1. I love the smell of opening the pages of a freshly printed new book.
  2. I love snuggling with a child and sharing the wonder and surprise of what they find inside the story.
  3. I love that stories can take you on adventures to far off places and unknown worlds of discovery and imagination.
  4. I love that books are filled with endless opportunities to learn.
  5. I love that you can escape everyday reality for awhile inside the pages of a fantasy, mystery or adventure.
  6. I love the fact that sharing a book with a child is time well spent, a bonding time and memory building time.
  7. I love reading a book to an eager class of wide eyes, and watching the anticipation on their faces as I reach the climax.
  8. I love reading a book that inspires a child to write their own imaginative story or draw a wondrous illustration.
  9. I love hearing a child ask to hear a favourite bedtime story read aloud “just one more time!”
  10. I love it when they fall asleep clutching their favourite story and you know they are dreaming of that special world.
Can you think of any other reasons to love reading? I’m sure there are plenty more. Leave a comment below, I would love to know what you think.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing a bit of the reading love of International Book Giving Day. Don’t forget to read these other #gr8t blogs from my fab author friends.  It’s not too late to join our Rafflecopter competition either. Entries close 15th Feb so you still have time to share in the love of our book giveaway. While you’re reading these blogs check out these authors awesome books you might like a chance to win!

Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner –   
Julie Gorges, Baby-Boomer Bliss -direct link to be inserted
Carmela Dutra, A Blog for your Thoughts – direct link to be inserted
JD Holiday: JD’s Writers Blog…
James Milson – 

Terms and conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Eight winners (still to be determined exact amount) will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 30 January 2017

International Book Giving Day Coming Soon!

It’s almost here!
International Book Giving Day is the same day as Valentines Day, Feb 14! 
What does this mean?
Spreading the love of books to children everywhere!
It’s such a wonderful idea I decided to jump onboard and join in the giveaways this year.
I’m trying a lot of new things this year. I started my email list, (finally), now have to start writing my first newsletter. So exciting. 🙂
I even joined the scary world of the twittersphere. (Wish me luck on that one, I’m a bit nervous about that).
One thing I am really excited about though is joining my author friends from all over the world to bring to you the chance to win free copies of all our gorgeous children’s books. This is your chance to get books into the hands of children you love and read aloud with them some fabulous new stories. Sharing the love of books and reading on Valentines Day, has to be a great idea, don’t you agree?
International Book Giving Day is a day devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need. It falls each year on Valentines Day and what better way to say I love you than by giving your loved ones something they can enjoy reading over and over again. What better way to tell our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews we love them than with the gift of a book!
Books are a small gift that can last a lifetime and make a huge impact! You could inspire a future author, a journalist, a scientist, the possibilities are endless. Never underestimate the power of giving a book, you never know where the imagination and creativity may lead.
So, now you know what Book Giving Day is all about and you love the idea too! What do you do next?
  • You can take a loved one to the library and share a book with them.
  • Read aloud at home with a special someone, maybe even a neighbour’s child
  • Donate a much loved old children’s book to a family, charity or hospital in need.
  • Visit a bookstore and buy a book for someone you love.
  • or you can join our giveaway.
I am so pleased and excited to be sharing in my first giveaway with some of my special author friends in this Book Giveaway Extravaganza! In total there will be 14 signed copies of our books as well as ebooks all ready to giveaway with love especially to you. The Giveaway starts Wednesday 1st February and runs through to 15th February 2017.
Marianne Dubuc – creator of the 2017’s official poster – has also created these beautiful bookmarks. Print one out and add to your book when you give it to someone you love. Don’t forget to write a few special words of love in the inside front cover. The receiver will love and treasure it.
Join the Giveaway – entries open 1st Feb 17
For more information on how to enter for your chance to win see the details below.

Terms and conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.
Now you know how I plan to spread the love on Valentines Day, how about you?
Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 27 January 2017

How to Make a Magical Fairy House for Your Garden

Do you have fairies at the bottom of your garden?
Do the fairies help clean your house? Pick up after the kids?  Or perhaps hide the odd sock or two? 
Have you ever thought about building a house for the fairies in your garden?
A few weeks back I began to embark on a new project for our garden. Little did I know at the time that it would become a joint project between my husband and myself. He became so excited about my little project that he almost took over and before I knew it, my little magical fairy house was an enormous family project bigger than “Ben Her!”
My advice before you start, plan your strategy wisely. If you want to build something as grand as ours then be my guest and follow my instructions. You can always choose to simplify it and build a fairy house with not quite as much decoration. Whatever you decide, it will still be magical and delight all who set eyes on it. That is, friends, neighbours, and family with imagination. But be warned- be prepared to put in quite a lot of time! It is worth it in the end and we did have a lot of fun and laughs along the way. So worth every minute. It is a great way to spend quality time together and after all, shouldn’t everyone have a little magic at the bottom of their garden?
Note: Most of the materials we used were gathered from around our house. So the fairy house was made at very minimal cost.
Step One: Select a suitable plastic container of a size you would like the basic structure to be. We chose an old bucket that had a split in the bottom, useless for water now, but ideal for a fairy house. Use a felt tip pen to draw a plan on the bucket then cut out the windows and door.
Step Two: Cover the bucket with a collection of flat stones. River stones work well, we collected ours from the beach. (It was a great excuse for a day out at the beach by the way.) They are in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. You can use craft glue to stick them on however this takes awhile to dry and they tend to slide if you don’t hold them long enough. I found the best tool was a hot glue gun, just be careful not to burn your fingers while manipulating the smaller stones. I admit I had a few blisters!
Step Three: We added an entryway. This is an additional feature of our choice. You can choose to leave off and keep things simple. My husband screwed timber walls to the bucket before adding the roof.
Step Four: Add a roof to your fairy house. Again we used left over timber from the construction of our house. We are lucky to be owner builders so have plenty of material available. We then added packing timber to the roof and spray painted it dark grey to look like shingles.
Step Five: The walls of the entryway are made from paddle pop sticks to resemble timber. I painted them brown.
Step Six: We added a door with a miniature hinge to be able to open and close it.
Step Seven: Cover the windows to help make the inside weather and spider proof with plastic. The plastic is glued on from the inside.
Step Eight: Add any desired additional ornaments. In our case we added a weather vein, spray painted gold. A crooked pipe chimney and a silver satellite dish. To complete the look I added tiny flowers under some of the windows to give the illusion that the fairies had planted their own garden and sprinkled gold fairy dust across the roof. We also found some tiny items from a model ship we had never found the time to construct, so added the lantern, windows and shields. It is amazing what you can find around the house to use to decorate if you have a bit of a rummage. 
Step Nine:  Make sure it is sealed from the weather by spraying completely with a varnish.
Step Ten: Add a couple of fairies, select a position in your garden and enjoy the delight on visitors faces.
Here is the finished magical fairy house in our selected spot under our Chinese Elm near my bird house and emu statues. One day I will have the rest of the garden completed around it and hopefully it will be filled with lots of fairies including some of the blue fairy wrens that currently nest in the garden near my kitchen. Perhaps when there are enough small shrubs in this garden they will feel safe to move across.
Do you have a spot to put a fairy house in your garden?
If you build one, send me a photo and I’ll add it below. Maybe we could start a collection.
I’m thinking about writing a story about an Aussie fairy family. If you would like to hear more or have any ideas, join me in my awesome readers newsletter group. I’d love to discuss any idea you might suggest.