Dot Scribbles


DOT AND DARCEY REVIEW: The Horror Handbook by Paul van Loon, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

What happens to a vampire when he dies? How does somebody become a werewolf? How can you protect yourself from witches? All of these questions and more are answered in this book, which will finally give you all the information you ever wanted to know about ghosts, zombies, monsters and all kinds of creepy-crawly creatures that give us the heebie-jeebies.
Full of tips, anecdotes and trivia- and delightfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler- Paul van Loon's The Horror Handbook is a fun and fascinating reference book for all fans of scary stories and things that go bump in the night.

Publisher: Alma Junior
Pages: 154

Halloween is a big deal in the Dot Scribbles household, Darcey has usually planned her costume by about March and we definitely get carried away with decorating the house and each other! So I was very excited when Alma Books got in touch to see if Darcey and I would like to review a book from their Junior section, The Horror Handbook. This book is marketed at ages 8 upwards but Darcey is not easily scared so we thought we would give it a go.
It's a lovely paperback book and I think that Darcey really liked the fact that it felt a little more grown up than your average picture book. It is full of beautiful illustrations by the super talented Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo and so many more) There is a picture on most pages and they bring a lot of humour to this very informative book.
Split into 9 chapters, Paul van Loon deals with everything from Vampires to Ghosts and the Walking Dead. We've dipped in and out of the book with Darcey choosing which parts she wanted me to read- she has loved the chapter on Vampires and we have re-read the one dealing with witches several times. I was impressed with the way the author approached this, he delivers a lot of information but manages to infuse it with a lot of humour and he makes it clear from the very beginning that horror and it's many characters are just a fantastic part of our imagination and not something to really be scared of:

One of the main things about horror stories is that stuff happens that can't happen in real life. Dead people come out of their graves and cut-off hands come alive. You could call it an "alternative reality". A reality where anything is possible. People who don't like horror stories don't know what they are missing.
Take vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, monsters and zombies, for example. People have been telling stories about them for centuries. In this book you will find information about where they come from, what they look like, how they behave, how to fight them and so forth. All the creeps we will discuss are actually related. This Horror Handbook is like a family portrait. Without this family of creeps, life (and books) would be a lot more boring, even if everyone knows it is all made up.

Darcey and I can highly recommend The Horror Handbook, it's been great to read it in the run up to Halloween, funny, informative and not at all patronising. I think it is a book that Darcey will keep returning to- even if it's just to get Halloween costume inspiration!

Many thanks to Alma Junior for sending Darcey and I this book to review.


BLOG TOUR: The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn

I am so excited to be on the blog tour today for Judith Kinghorn's latest book, The Snow Globe. Judith writes brilliant historic fiction and this one looks fabulous, here's the synopsis to give you an idea: 

As Christmas 1926 approaches, the Forbes family are preparing to host a celebration at Eden Hall. Eighteen-year-old Daisy is preoccupied by a sense of change in the air. Overnight, her relationship with Stephen Jessop, the housekeeper’s son, has shifted and every encounter seems fraught with tension. Before the festivities are over, Daisy has received a declaration of love, a proposal and a kiss – from three different men. Unable to bear the confusion she flees to London and stays with her elder sister.
By the following summer, Daisy has bowed to the persistence of the man who proposed to her the previous year. When the family reunite for a party at Eden Hall and Stephen is once more in her life, it is clear to Daisy she is committing to the wrong person. Yet she also believes that family secrets mean she has no choice but to follow her head instead of her heart. Will love conquer all, or is Daisy’s fate already written?

The book is out right now and the cover is stunning, here's an extract from Chapter one to whet your appetite:

Long before Fletch, during the war, Stephen had attended lessons in the schoolroom with Daisy and a few other local children. And he had been included in every birthday party, each nursery tea: teas with the ruddy-faced, tartan-clad cousins from Scotland, and teas with the silent children recently moved to the area whom Daisy’s mother had taken a shine to. ‘New friends!’ Mabel would say, clapping her hands together. Those had been the worst teas: tense affairs with spilled drinks and red faces and curious, resentful stares.
And then there were the pea-flicking, bread-throwing children from London.
They weren’t all orphans, Stephen had explained; some of them had parents, but they were too poor to look after them. These children had continued to come each summer during the war, and for a few years after it, sleeping in the night nursery—turned into a dormitory—at the top of the house, a different group each year. They were anything but silent. They came through windows rather than use doors and slid down the banisters rather than use the stairs. They loved fighting and swearing and climbing—walls, trees, drainpipes and the greenhouse roof, until two of them fell through. They all had nits, and rivulets of green running from their noses to their mouths, wiped onto their sleeves. Almost all of them smoked, and they liked to start fires and give people frights, and they were always hungry. ‘Bleedin’ starvin’,’ they said, each day, at every time of day.
Everyone’s nerves were frayed to tatters by the time they left. But Stephen had been the go-between, able to understand them as well as he did Daisy and her sisters.
Even now, Daisy often thought of Janet Greenwell, whose head had been shaved and whose sad little legs were paler and thinner than any Daisy had ever seen. And she remembered the crippled boy, Neville, a caliper on his leg and such thick lenses in his spectacles that they made his eyes appear small. ‘Crippled Chinky,’ the others had called him, shouted after him as he limped off up the brick pathway of the walled garden.
Only once had Daisy summoned the courage to confront them, only once had she shouted back at them that they were cruel bullies and then gone after Neville, whom she’d found slumped next to the rabbit hutch, his stiff leg stretched out in front of him, like a war veteran—but without any medals for bravery.
‘They don’t mean to be vile; they’re just ignorant,’ she’d said, sitting down next to him on the grass, longing to wrap her arms round him. He’d not said anything, had quietly wept, wiping his nose on his gray shirtsleeve, staring through his thick spectacles at his useless leg.
The day before Neville left, Daisy gave him the book she had won at the flower show for her vegetable animal (a horse, made from potato, carrots and peas, with ribbons of cucumber peel for its mane and tail, had earned her second prize and a ‘highly commended’ badge from the judges). She had thought long and hard about which book to give him but plumped for A Shropshire Lad mainly because of that word, lad. Inside, she wrote, ‘Dear Neville, I hope I’ll see you again and that you’ll come back here one day without the others. Yours, Daisy M. Forbes.’ When she told Stephen, he’d shaken her hand and told her that she was the kindest person he knew.
Always, after these children had gone, Eden Hall returned to its usual quiet and calm. It was a place of order and routine and of bells—to announce breakfast or lessons or lunch; the dressing bell, the dinner bell, each day had been punctuated by that sound. Months, seasons and years had passed and the bell still sounded. For Daisy, little had changed. But the thought of Eden Hall without Stephen, the idea of his not being there, of never seeing him again…
No, Stephen couldn’t emigrate, Daisy thought, watching him walk on ahead of her, pulling back gorse and holly and brambles as they made their way through thickets and knee-high heather. She would speak to her father, she decided; wait until he was home for Christmas, find the right time and speak to him about all of this then. After all, he’d been the one to sort the legalities of Stephen’s adoption, and he might even be able to offer Stephen a job at the factory… Either way, she concluded, her father would know what to do. He always did.

I'm so looking forward to delving into this book myself and will share my review with you when I do. 

Many thanks to Canelo for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, please take the time to check out the other stops as the tour continues until 8th October! 


BLOG TOUR: The Angel by Katerina Diamond

I am on the blog tour today for the fantastic new book from Katerina Diamond which was published on 21st September. Angel sees the return of DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles and some are saying that this is Diamond's best book. Here's the synopsis:


When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge, Orange Is The New Black and Locked Up.

The publisher has been kind enough to provide me with an exclusive extract to share with you, it's taken from Chapter 2:

‘Follow me,’ the firefighter said, beckoning them towards the ruined signal box. They got to the foot of the building; the wooden staircase was completely gone, as was the entire top floor.
‘Deliberate?’ Adrian asked, pulling out his notebook.
‘We’ve had a lot of trouble with kids and homeless people breaking into this one in the past,’ the station manager offered. ‘Until the investigation is complete we can’t say for sure, but it definitely looks that way. Even though this is old wood it’s a rainy night, and from the calls we got, it escalated to disproportionate levels for what we would expect from a building like this. There does seem to be some evidence of accelerant.’
‘Do you think it’s arson then?’ Adrian asked him.
‘I’m leaning that way. The point of origin seems to be a waste paper bin, but we’ll need to check that out further.’
‘Do you have any CCTV footage?’ Imogen turned to the station manager.
‘We do. My colleague is just retrieving it for you now. It’s a poorly lit area and with the terrible weather the visibility will be even crappier, not to mention the fact that it was actually night when whoever it was came out. It’s possible that when the arsonist was leaving some of the station lights or the lights on the bridge illuminated the area a little better though.’
‘Did they not tell you the main reason you’re here?’ the firefighter asked, looking between them curiously.
‘What do you mean?’ Adrian asked.
‘We found a body.’
Imogen and Adrian looked at each other.
‘You probably should have led with that,’ Imogen said crossly.

Sounds good doesn't it! Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content! 



Oooh I’ve not done one of these for a while! I’ve acquired some lovely books recently though so thought that I would share them with you:

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Vintage) This kept popping up on people’s blogs and only ever with positive comments so thought it was time I gave it a go.

As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.
H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.

The Coffin Path, A Ghost Story by Katherine Clements (Headline, 8th February 2018) I am a complete sucker for a good ghost story and this one sounded perfect with Halloween coming up!

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up there, something evil.
Mercy Booth isn’t frightened. The Moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakable sense that someone is watching.
When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books, 7th September) I’ve not read the previous book by this author but it got a huge amount of praise and attention so I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (Canongate) I have read Matt Haig’s book Reasons to Stay Alive which I thought was excellent and I wanted to try his fiction next and this has been getting rave reviews!

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.
Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover- working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try to tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom must not do is fall in love.
How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought, plus if you have any book recommendations then they are always appreciated! 


BOOK REVIEW: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Retreating to the countryside with her son, she encounters rumours of the Essex Serpent, a creature of folklore said to have returned to roam the marshes.
Cora is enthralled, believing it may be an undiscovered species. Setting out on it's tail, she collides with local minister, William Ransome, who thinks the cure for hysteria lies in faith, while Cora is convinced that science offers the answers. Despite disagreeing on everything he and Cora find themselves drawn together, changing each others lives in unexpected ways...
Told with grace and intelligence, The Essex Serpent is set in an age of exhilarating- and alarming- change. But it is, above all, a celebration of love in all its incarnations, and of what we share even when we disagree. 

Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Pages: 418

The Essex Serpent was such a delight to read. I've been so busy so this took me much longer to read than it normally would but I think I partly took my time with it because I didn't want it to end.
Cora Seaborne is the protagonist and her husband has just died. Although she has her mourning clothes on, Cora is actually greatly relieved that he has gone and she can have her will and freedom back.
She travels to the countryside with her son Francis and she then hears tales of the Essex Serpent which has been terrorising locals. Cora believes it to be real and she becomes determined to find this strange creature. Her quest brings William Ransome and his family into her life; William is the local minister. They have very different viewpoints and beliefs but they realise that they truly value each other's company. Cora knows that William cannot be hers and she becomes incredibly fond of his wife yet she is also unable to keep her distance. Finally she has found a man who likes and accepts her for who she is rather than trying to exert control over her.
The book is set in 1893 and reads very much like a classic. It has a beautiful, gothic feel to it and I was so taken with Sarah Perry's writing style and the way she used language and description. She uses language to almost create layers, the descriptions are so vivid and atmospheric, I was very impressed.
This book would be a perfect choice for a book club read as there is so much to think about. The theme of love is present throughout the book; the love between friends and family; the love you have or should have for your husba
nd or wife, unrequited love and it's devastating consequences. The book explores changes in attitudes and beliefs and the divide between science and religion. Cora as a character, pushes against the boundaries set for women at the time which is why William is so important. As a minster he holds some very traditional views but William does not believe Cora should be bound by being a woman  and instead he celebrates the aspects of her that others disapprove of.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry is one of the best books I have read this year. Everything about it impressed me and I know it's a story I will read again and again.


BOOK REVIEW: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

For sisters Liz and Jane, coming home to suburban Cincinnati means being paraded at the Lucas family's BBQ, where burgers are served alongside the eligible men. But it's difficult to focus on re-booting their love lives when the family's mock-Tudor house starts to crumble around them. Yet as their mother reminds them, it's not every day that you meet a pair of handsome single doctors...
Publisher: The Borough Press
Pages: 544

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of my favourite books and Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are at the top of my most loved characters list so I was intrigued to hear about Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld which is a modern day re-telling of this literary favourite. It in no way measures up to Austen but it is a lot of fun, just imagine Jackie Collins re-telling the story and it will give you some idea. The characters are a little more feisty, there's a lot of sex and there are several shocking twists.
Sittenfeld sets the story in Cincin
nati, Liz and Jane Bennett have returned to the family home for the summer due to their father's failing health. At the Lucas' BBQ they are introduced to Chip Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy, both doctors and very eligible and so begins an interesting summer for the entire Bennett family.
I very much enjoyed this book and I loved how the author put a modern twist on all the events from the original. It is a little tongue-in-cheek but on a more serious note it does explore feminism, social standing and racism; I felt that the author is almost questioning whether things have really changed that much since Austen's time?
I would recommend this book to any Pride and Prejudice fan, it is extremely witty and entertaining, a very light-hearted but clever book.


BOOK REVIEW: The Break by Marian Keyes

'Myself and Hugh... we're taking a break.'
'A city-with-fancy-food-sort of break?'
If only, Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her. He still loves her, he's just taking a break- from their marriage, their children and most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South-East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but lets be clear; a break isn't a break-up-yet. However, for Amy it's enough to send her- along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and trouble-makers, teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn't she?
The Break isn't a story about falling in love but staying in love. 

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Pages: 576
Publication date: 7th September

I have read and loved every single one of Marian Keyes' books and I didn't think she could get any better but I was WRONG!
Amy and Hugh are on a six month break, Hugh wants to go travelling to South-East Asia  and whilst he is gone, he wants both of them to behave as though they are single. He wants them to forget about their marriage, the children they are raising and their every day lives. Amy is devastated and angry but she knows she has to let him get it out of his system. When a friend points out that it also means that Amy is on a break  and can do what she likes, she begins to look at the situation differently; what or who would she like to do while he's away?
The Break is Marian's sexiest book; it feels much more grown up than her others. Don't worry, she hasn't gone all Fifty Shades but there are plenty of sex scenes and they are brilliantly done. They in no way feel like they are included to titillate but they are integral to the story and go a long way to show how Amy is thinking and feeling. Hugh going tears her apart and the relationship she has while he is away  highlights the damage he has done and you begin to wonder if they will ever be able to be together again?
Marian Keyes, as usual gets the balance just right in The Break. The emotions are raw and passionate but I also lost count of the amount of times I laughed out loud. Not just a little chuckle but a full on belly laugh! This is why Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors, she is still a master of this fantastic genre.
The Break is brilliant and I can't recommend it enough; the characters are well rounded, the plot will keep you gripped and the emotions are expertly explored. Do not miss this book!

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley.  


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