Empty houses and heaps of Christmas presents mean that December and January are the months people are most likely to be a burglary victim.
Homes are already filling up with presents while families make plans to visit friends and relatives over the festive period.
But the increased number of expensive items in our home and the longer hours they are left empty. A perfect opportunity for thieves.
But there is now a growing number of devices that can help in protecting your house and everything inside it.
Security-boosting devices include smart lighting systems that mimic your typical household lighting usage pattern while you're away, automated smoke-releasing generators, cameras with facial and number plate recognition, and sensors that learn your behaviour and notify you when something out of the ordinary happens. All of these can be linked to your mobile phone via integrated smart home controllers.
Simon Mathieson of Finite Solutions North West points out: “Nothing concerns us more than the fear of someone breaking into our own home, yet very few homeowners know about an intruder until they are already inside.
"A simply burglar alarm system is no longer a good enough warning for homeowners or deterrent for burglars as research commissioned by GoCompare last year concluded that over three quarters of brits ignore burglar alarm sirens on neighbours’ homes.
“A bespoke smart home solution can provide the benefits of intelligent entertainment and lighting but it can also provide peace of mind. It allows you to see, hear and check on your home at all times and warns you of the presence of an intruder as soon as they step foot in your garden.
“A good integrated home security system can be automated to arm/disarm itself through sensors inside and outside the house. Smart home systems also provide a view of the CCTV cameras and door entry systems, allowing you to remotely open the door and let people in.
“An exterior perimeter heat or mass based detection system surrounding a property will warn whenever an intruder steps foot in your grounds by displaying CCTV footage on your TV screens and giving you early warning of a problem before the intruder ever reaches the property.
The smart integration of security systems also extends beyond in-house control. Thanks to the latest bespoke security solutions, our clients are able to monitor their home security remotely. Dedicated iPhone and iPad apps offer access to the home automation alarm system remotely and this provides an extra level of security and peace of mind by instantly displaying CCTV images on your phone and activating lighting inside and outside the property to give the impression you are at home and even giving you the ability to “shout out” to intruders via exterior speakers to inform them police have been called.”
Finite Solutions has a show house in Leeds dedicated to showcase integrated smart home technology and security as described above.
Whilst we would be the last people to tell you to spend more money than you really can afford, we are also mindful of the Brexit nonsense that has crept in to everyday conversation ever since the vote to leave actually did vote to leave!
No pay rise due to Brexit, no Christmas Party due to Brexit, etc., etc., etc.
Sales figures are up this year, so post-Brexit Britain looks to be doing OK, so let's get down to a bit of retail therapy!
This is the latest book from Colin West and it's going to be a must buy Chirstmas gift for the children in your life!"
It's a fun book filled with more of the great and hilarious poems of Colin West and there are wonderful and very witty cartoons on each and every page, all these illustrations are from the highly imaginative and creative pen of Colin West, himself.
You and your children and grandchildren will reads about and see a whole gallimaufry of wonderful characters such as the Lollopibg Lollop, Miss Fibbery-Gibert, frollicking Fritz, the Wizzard who met up with a lizard, (with somewhat shocking results!) learn what the girl in curlers did, how problems with spelling might occur, what might make Michael feel sick and what a fussy pussy likes to dine on.
It is a book that is to be gleefully and joyously shared with children and you can be certain that these poems will be remembered and recited by you and them for many, many years to come.
It is published in hardback by Matador at £9.99 and is available for purchase from our own book and gift shop which you will find here >>> https://goo.gl/AzQ0XD but please do remember that if you want it before Christmas you should request exress delivery.
Crabbies drinks are perfect for the Christmas period.
Just picture the scene, the gloaming is settling in, the birds are making their last forages before they retire to their nests in your garden's hedges for the night, the standard lamp in the corner of your living room is casting a soft glow, the lights are twinkling on the Christmas tree, the fire is crackling with some coal and a couple of nice logs, the Bose stereo is playing some nice Christmas carols and you are eating some freshly baked minced pies whilst you are contentedly sipping a glass of Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer.
Life, you realise, couldn't be any better.
Well, perhaps it could! How so?
Crabbies want you to try something a little different this year. The very clever people in their drink's kitchen have been working very hard on creating some new flavours that are equally as good as their original product, but which taste different.
There is now Crabbies Scottish Raspberry Flavour and Crabbies Light, too!
You can buy these new flavours, as well as the wonderful original flavour, from most off licences, supermarkets and some convenience stores, too.
And you'll find them in all Wetherspoon pubs and other discerning pubs and bars.
You must get Stoopido for your family for this Christmas!
It's simple, yet it is utterly crazy and will have everyone laughing their heads off when you and your family and friends play round after round of this fantastic game, the game they are all raving about, the game that is called Stoopido!
You roll the dice, and then race to slap the matching face feature or give the squeaker a good squeeze!
The player who is the fastest then has the opportunity to pick a funny facial part for a rival player and the last player with a full face wins the game!
Each game set comes complete with four sets of special glasses, 25 double-sided mask features, four slap pads, one loser's selfie card, one squeaker and one dice.
Although the description here is deceptively simple, the game is absolutely hilarious to play.
It's made by Drumond Park of www.drumondpark.com and should cost about £14.00. It's available from all good toy stores but if you want to buy it online you can do so here at our very own gift and book shop, but do remember to use the express delivery option as it is getting very close to Christmas. >>> https://goo.gl/AzQ0XD
May it Please You, Madam, by Neil Hickman, is just the type of book that I love.
It is sub-titled a little book of legal whimsy and it contains an enthralling and highly entertaining collection of legal anecdotes gathered together throughout the long legal career (over 40 years!) of retired District Judge Neil Hickman.
The book commences with a collection of approaches used to greet a judge, some which would have worked some which would have worked to bemuse or outrage the judge they were addressed to!
There are strange things people did or said in and around our courts, what they they tried to get away with and, in some cases, what they actually were able to get away with.
There are cases of dishonesty and, perhaps refreshingly, cases of honesty which come wuth sudden and perhaps consequences that were only to be expected.
Such as: " Are the contents of your statement true?" The unexpected response certainly strongly coloured the outcome of the court case: "No. It's what the man from the solicitors said I should say. But it isn't true."
According to Neil Hickman the trial lasted for all of 15 seconds as a result of this admission!
Well collected and beautifully written and nicely illustrated with some well drawn legal cartoons by the late Jeff Bowser, this book is an ideal stocking filler which everyone will want to keep returning to to to read just a few more legal anecdotes
It is published by The Book Guild at £6.99 and it is available for purchase here >>> https://goo.gl/AzQ0XD.
If you are looking for a great new game for the family this Christmas, then surely Dig In! will fit the bill?
It's billed as "The great game of frantic finding fun!" and that is exactly what it is!
It's an utterly new type of game where participants have to keep their eyes open and be ready to use their hopefully nimble fingers in a friendly battle against not only your opposing players, but also the clock in order to identify the six playing pieces that are on your card as you dig in for victory!
But in order to find what you need to win, you only have 15 seconds on your own to seek out and locate their figures, but then the mayhem begins, because then everyone piles on at the same time to try to join in the insane fun and track down the last remaining missing pieces in order to come out as the Dig In! winner!
The game is for ages 8 years of age and older and is for 2 to 4 players.
It is even more fun than you might think from the above description which, to be honest, does not even begin to do it justice!
There's big things happening at Eisberg non-alcoholic wines.
A long time ago alcohol free wine was either white or red.
But the wine experts at Eisberg have worked very hard over the years to make certain that people who love the taste of fine wines can enjoy all of the taste yet eschew the impact of alcohol on their body and mind.
There are many reasons why people do not want to consume alcohol. Religious sensibilities, the desire to be able to drink without risking getting inebriated for work reasons and to make sure they do not run the risk of driving whilst drunk, or perhaps they do not have the ability to properly process alcohol or they finds that alcohol triggers their migraines. Or perhaps they just do not like drinkinging alcohol.
Now there is a wide range of entirely different alcohol free wines that you can serve such guests or even enjoy drinking yourself throughout the Christmas festivities and the New Year period.
There is the Sauvignon Blanc wine, which is new to their range.
It was a typically fruity and interesting Sauvignon Blanc wine, but it was all of the taste with none of the alcohol!
What about the Chardonnay?
There was that typical Chardonnay nose, then the delicious hint of those lovely French crispy apples, with tones of honey and golden sunlight bursting through? (I wonder how a grape can taste like apples and honey? Yes, I know there's a technical explanation, but that was by way of a rhetorical question, to which the answer might spoil the magic!)
Oh! The Eisberg Rosé! There was more than a hint of hedgerow berries, plus a tantalising mixture of soft fruits and maybe a hint of apples? No? Something else fruity, then that added to the enjoyable Rosé. Oh! The bottle's empty!
The real revelation has to be the Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon!
A ruby red wine, with rich, fruity scents and the taste? Wow! The taste! My wife took one sip, then another and declared it the best Cabernet Sauvignon that she had ever tried, even those with the alcohol left in!
It has the full, rich flavour of the typical Cabernet Sauvignon wine, yet we knew we could serve it to our guests and know that they would not have to be concerned about them getting home in safety.
Though that plan does require us to go back out to the shops to buy some more Eisberg wines!
And there's another advantage, too, for those who are looking at their calorific intake, a 125ml glass of ordinary Cabernet Sauvignon will typically contain 85 calories, yet a 125ml glass of Cabernet Sauvignon contains on 26 calories!
And there are similar calorie reductions in the other wines in the range, too!
To learn more about these wines and where to purchase them please visit http://www.eisberg.co.uk where you will also find some utterly delicious cocktail recipes that are all, of course, alcohol free! That is if you can prize it out of your guest's hands in order to make the cocktails. Better double up on the amount of bottles you buy!
The Primacy of Your Eye is a fascinating book by author, artist and qualified art historian Allan W. Beckett.
It is a handbook that belongs on the bookshelf of anyone with even a passing acquaintance and interest in art and really should be owned by every public library, school library and university library in the country.
This will make a superb stocking filler for every art student and every lover of art.
He has researched for this book by watching people in art galleries. He acknowledges that they clearly enjoy what they are seeing on the walls of the art galleries, but believes they move too quickly from one work of art to another because they are unsure of what they should be looking for.
Beckett looks in broad depth at every topic that he has covered in his book, in an attempt to open the eye of the viewer of art to come to an understanding of the history of art, what the artist's intentions may well have been, what approaches they would have taken to their subjects and the varied array of artistic techniques and styles they would have used.
He also examines the influences that would have informed the work of the artists, from the early Renaissance period right through to modern times with contemporary art, via Modernism.
It is is intention -and a noble one, at that- to help people learn to appreciate the art in the world, but to do this in a non-threatening and non-elitist fashion.
The book is well-illustrated and the author executes his intention with a deft touch and a very welcome panache.
If you have a teacher or a child to buy a Christmas present for, then you really should get a copy of veteran schoolteacher Trevor Cattell's highly amusing book, The Rhyming Dictionary of Jason Smith.
Retired teacher and author, Trevor Cattell has drawn on his over 30 years experience at the chalkface, as they say, to come up with his first book for children.
Jason Smith is a fairly standard boy of 11, with the exception that he enjoys being a diarist, keeping a record of events and occasions that had, for one reason or another, made a deep and lasting impression on him.
Days so recorded included the incident when a dog decided to go to school, what happened when he wore odd socks, the problem of racing infants, or should that be of infants, racing?) the misery of his untidy room, how he played at being Howard Carter one afternoon, and forgot what he should have been doing, and all told in rhyme!
This is a cleverly disguised, highly inventive and most amusing book of poetry for children, teachers and adults.
It is published by Matador at £8.99 and will make a very welcome addition to many Christmas stockings this year!
If you have to buy a Christmas present for a lover of historical fiction, here's a book that will fit that bill perfectly.
Chasing Cloud by David M. Smith, which is set on the island of Malta in 2500BC.
We meet Laxme who is the priest at the Tarxian temple.
He devotes his life to the worship of the goddess of fertility and has over his many years at her temple worked diligently to become a master of not only the temple rituals but also of the theology of the goddess' religion.
He believes his life life to be perfect. Well, nearly perfect.
Suddenly his life of order and ritual is replaced with a new life that is unexpectedly filled with adventure and danger.
He finds himself searching for a missing woman, called Cloud, who he knew from his childhood, and he also joins a young sculptress, Pebble, on a quest to the distant island of Sicily in order to help her find a copper idol that she requires for a carving that she is undertaking.
Will Laxme be able to complete both tasks, or neither?
Will his chasing Cloud result in her being found?
Can he help the young sculptress attain what it is that she needs?
This is a very interesting novel, it is a whimsical and romantic novel which will be a welcome Chirstmas gift for the lover of stories set in the past.
It is well written and the historical research is also first rate.
It is published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and is available for purchase at our own Christmas gift shop which you will find here >>>> https://goo.gl/m5aVoo.
Andrew Chaplin's debut children's novel, The Key to the Half Worlds, is published by The Book Guild at £8.99.
It tells the exciting story of Richard Cranfield, a rather ordinary boy of 13, who suddenly finds himself launched into another, utterly alien, but strangely familiar, world by way of the school bus.
He is fortunate as he has an equally youthful companion with him on this extraordinary journey, his best friend Tom.
They realise that they are in an alternative reality, an Earth where magic is real and where all sorts of amazing and mythological creatures and beings actually live and breathe, side by side, as it were.
Sorcerers practiced their sorcery, and dragons and elves were commonplace and, in effect, ordinary living creatures.
Richard and Tom are amazed at first, but then they realise how dangerous and frightening this alternative version of their world really could be.
They meet a young female elf and assisted by a wizardly elf the boys become embroiled in a desperate plot to stop a wicked sorcerer elf from bringing the two realities together as a part of her campaign to dominate everything and everyone.
Could the boys help be the key to thwarting this evil design to bring about domination?
Would they save both versions of the world?
Would they be able to return home?
This book is published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and will make a superb Chirstmas present for any child who likes a touch of magic in their reading material. It'll also be great fun for parents, grandparents and older siblings, too!
It is available for purchase from our very own book and gift shop which you will find here >>> https://goo.gl/m5aVoo.
Deathling of Dorn, by John Timmis, is an ideal Christmas gift for the lovers of Fantasy Fiction in your life.
It tells the story of the inhabitants of the Southlands and of Dorn who have known safety, peace and security for many millennia under the benevolent and protective rule of Virdil, their wizard.
But on one great and terrible day, the unthinkable happens! The evil and vicious sorcerer Venain has slain Virdil, their protector!
Now the denizens of the Southlands and of Dorn fall prey to the vile Baeths, hostile and barbaric killers who are lusting after the spoils of the conquests they can so easily make, now the people's champion and protector is no more!
But the people of the lands strive to continue some semblance of normal life and for them concepts of honour and love are still adhered to by them.
They try to fight off the evil despoilers of their lands but great and terrible events are taking place and these events and the ensuing chaos bring about the spawning of a Deathling.
What could this mean? What will the consequences be? Nobody could know, but the results could mean life or death.
What will happen to the lands, to the people? Will they ever know peace and happiness? Or will their lives forever be blighted?
Hidden by the Leaves is a new novel by S D L Curry, which draws upon his extensive knowledge of the history of Medieval Japanese society.
It is part of S D L Curry's 'Hidden' trilogy of novels (it is the first book) and is inspired by events that actually took place in Japan.
It tells the story of a Jesuit Priest in Japan, Father Joaquim Martinez.
He is residing in a tiny peasant village which is within the Hizen Province. Unfortunately the Provincial ruler is a man who is not only self-serving but also capable of acts of immense cruelty, Daimyo Matsukura.
He issues Father Jaquim and his two young catechists, Miguel and Tanya, with banishment orders.
However, the trio take the dangerous decision to defy the order of banishment, as they prefer to remain in the village to assist and help the villagers who they now consider to be their family.
The novel relates how they, and the peasant villagers, strive to remain free and safe from the clutches of a variety of enemies including shogun known for their legendary viciousness, the implacable Daimyo Matsukura and the ranks of all-powerful Samurai who are at their disposal.
But what they had not counted on was the absolute faith and tenacity of Father Jaquim and a range of miraculous events including assistance from some very unlikely quarters.
This is an amazingly well-written and well-researched novel and will make a most excellent Chirstmas present for lovers of adventure, history or who just revel in a finely executed novel.
Ask most people who the first English explorer was and they would probably come up with a whole range of different names. But they would almost all probably be very wrong indeed.
Because most people will not have heard of the true first documented English explorer. Anthony Jenkinson.
Author Kit Mayers has dedicated a great deal of time and effort into investigating the travels and explorations of Jenkinson.
It is the year of 1557 and the merchants of the capital city of London are eager to discover a profitable overland route that would take trade right through Asia and to the legendary Cathay and all of the rich pickings of the Orient.
They selected Anthony Jenkinson to be their emissary and explorer and he set off on his travels one year before Queen Elizabeth I came to her rightful position on the throne.
Incidentally, he set off on his expedition eastward nearly 30 years before the first English expedition to the west.
It was a hard and arduous series of journeys for Jenkinson. He survived severe storms, poor health, thefts and even attacks by gangs of roaming bandits.
But with sheer determination and a plucky attitude, he eventually arrived at the city of Bokhara, which is now within modern day Uzbekistan.
Thus he had completed the vast bulk of his journey, two thirds of it, to reach the fabled and semi-legendary Silk Road that would have ultimately taken him to Cambaluc (Beijing) but, alas, he found that the final portion of the route was closed to him because of continuous fighting and wars.
Author Kit Mayers is a retired Doctor of Medicine and has travelled extensively, sailing and visiting a bewildering amount of countries all over the world.
For his research he undertook the arduous task of, as far as possible, recreating and following the same route of Jenkinson nearly 460 years ago.
The book draws on the reports of Jenkinson but Kit Mayer has also made his own observations based on his travels along Jenkinson's route, which makes for a compelling and exciting read.
It is well illustrated and is the perfect Christmas gift for people who like travel books, love history or are just curious to learn.
It is published by Matador at £14.99 and is available to purchase at our very own online book and Chirstmas gift emporium which you can find here >>> https://goo.gl/m5aVoo.
The beers of the Greenwich Meantime Brewery are simply "must haves" for your Christmas and New Year festivities.
There is something for every type of beer drinker and even the person who tells you: "Well, I don't normally drink beer, but I am more than willing to try some, now. What would you suggest?"
Myself, as a beer drinker of several years standing, would advise that you let them sample tastes of the entire range of the very different yet equally well brewed beers from the Greenwich Meantime Brewery range.
Though they may well prefer the Greenwich Meantime Pale Ale, often a good starting point with its lighter yet full bodied flavour with the distinct hoppy hit that one gets with this ale.
However, having said that, they may well take a shine to the London Porter (this is a very good re-creation of the type of London Porter beer that the hardworking Porters of old London Town would drink, as they needed something with taste, body and a goodly level of alcohol after a long day's hard graft) plus the Chocolate Porter.
Many so-called chocolate porter style beers do not, actually, have any chocolate in them at all.
But the Greenwich Meantime Brewery is very different. For during the maturation process they add real chocolate to the beer. Can you tell the difference? Yes, you can. So if your ideal drink would be beer with some chocolate, put the chocolate bar down and just give all of your concentration to drinking your Greenwich Meantime Chocolate Porter!
Beers in the range include: London Lager, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, London Porter, Chocolate Porter, Yakima Red and Wheat Beer.
There are also some special limited edition beers that are available on draught only through selected outlets and there are a series of special pilot brews, details of which you can find at their website https://www.meantimebrewing.com.
You can buy direct or through a variety of supermarkets and specialist retailers throughout the country and through a number of better bars, clubs and pubs.
By the way, here's a word to the wise. Always buy more than you think you should, because once that person who doesn't normally drink beer finds out how much they love the beers from the Greenwich Meantime Brewery, you could find yourself running out of beer! And you wouldn't want that to happen, would you?"
There's nothing like freshly brewed coffee or tea and hot buttered toast with liberal amounts of Duerr's Marmalade for breakfast over the Christmas holidays.
But there's so much more to Duerr's than that!
When you make your mince pies, why not try replacing a third of the mincemeat mixture with whichever type of Duerr's Marmalade tickles your fancy?
Or why not make several batches of homemade mince pies with the different types of Duerr's Marmalade in each different batch?
They are certain to be a sure-fire winner with your family and guests over the Christmas season!
Or why not be even more experimental? Why not try making a batch of mince pies without any of the traditional mincemeat mixture at all? Why not make some Duerr's Marmalade pies, too?
How's that for a different festive treat for everyone? Because not everyone likes mince pies, surprising though this might be!
You will find that Duerr's Marmalades are so versatile that you can add some to home baked Christmas cakes, or, and this will really make for a different, yet utterly delicious Christmas pudding, as well as putting in a good few glugs of Scotch Whisky into your Christmas pudding mixture, why not add a good few dollops of Duerr's Marmalade?
Talk about a winning combination! The best of Scotland and the best of Manchester in a Christmas pudding recipe that would be hard to beat for moisture, texture and taste!
The Inventing Tubes is a new book by Bryony Supper who, after surviving a career as a children's TV star, has reinvented herself as a skilled author of books for young children.
She has created an amazing collection of characters aimed at children aged 4 to 7 years of age, the Pasta Kidz and Petz Adventures.
The Kid -all pasta themed!- are all drawn by talent illustrator Julien Bray.
Children will meet Sarah Spaghetti, Rikki Ravioli and Camilla Cannelloni.
They'll also be introduced to their amazing petz, there's Mumbo the Macaroni Dog, Spud the Spaghetti Horse and Val, the Vermicelli Snake!
The characters get themselves into all kinds of weird adventures and often have to rely on unusual magical objects to help them. But! These magical objects often seem to have a life of their own!
Although the books will be aimed at being great fun for their readers, there are also some serious messages that underlie them. They show how kidz have their own unique, different personalities and how they help each other.
The first book, The Inventing Tubes, is to be the first of 40 books in the series and it tells the story of how Sarah and Marc Macaroni try their hand at inventing some fun objects. However, all they succeed at doing is creating a very grumpy PastaBall?
This is a wonderful story which is an ideal present for all boys and girls of ages 4 to 7 and their parents and grandparents, too!
It is published by Matador at £4.99 and it should be on your list of "must have "stocking fillers, which you'll be able to buy from our own gift and book shop, here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
Dead End is a new crime thriller by novelist Daniel Pascoe.
(You may well have read his previous novel The London Sniper, published last year. It's still available.)
Dead End deals with the life and troubles of Matthew Crawford.
At 17 years of age, Matthew Crawford fathered a child, a daughter, and he never saw her even once.
Later in his life he marries and it is when he is doing the dutiful father of the bride shtick (the much rehearsed speech, which includes the highs and lows of his life, including the tragic and all too early death of his beloved wife, Rachel, plus a number of other anecdotes of family life, some serious, some amusing.
But it is this event,this in which he had to start thinking of his past in order to write his traditionally expected father of the bride speech, which sets him thinking more deeply about the rest of his life.
So it is that after 30 years Matthew decides to make a serious effort to trace his long lost other daughter, Sophie.
But when he does locate her the situation in which he finds her are far from auspicious, for she is in desperate trouble in southern Spain. Naturally he steps in to rescue her.
But it is then that their troubles really start, as someone decides to take out a retribution on Sophie.
An intriguing, yet unsettling novel, it will make an excellent Christmas present for lovers of hard, gritty crime novels and fans of his first novel.
It is published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and is available for sale from our own book and gift shop along with thousands of other books and Christmas gifts, over here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
Hoping for the Best is an amazing debut book from Sarah Berryman -non-fiction, bless her!- about what it is really like to become the mother of twins, plus one.
The subtitle is "Three months in the life of a twin plus one mummy."
Sarah Berryman is my kind of writer. Anyone who quotes Maya Angelou as a major influence on her life really does deserve to have their voice heard!
Early on in her book Sarah uses a quote from Maya Angelou that, pretty much, sets the tone for the rest of the book: Ms Angelou wrote that she was: "hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between." This quote is taken from "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", read by Sarah when she was 16 years of age.
Sarah reveals that she has “real children”. On page 1 we learn "They did not sleep through from day one. They did not master baby-led weaning. They have all had the norovirus, chicken pox and two of the three have had nits. They have bitten and been bitten. One has a hearing aid, one wears splints at night to stop him walking on tip toes and one has a speech delay. They play a little, bicker a lot, and are friends and enemies in equal measure."
Partly written in diary format the book is an amazing combination of diary, guidebook, prayer book (of a sort) and a ready antidote to all of the books written by super mummies who have perfect babies and live in Hampstead or some other such leafy location!
In a way one might describe it as if someone had written a modern day version of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, but called it The Art of Parenting, instead. When you read the sections that deal with the continuing battles with what one might describe as "authority figures" you will, I feel, understand why I formed the opinion that the book is, at least in part, a cunningly disguised guerilla warfare for parents handbook!
In part it's a serious book that deals with some very serious issues, but the 1 million candlepower humour and wit of Sarah Berryman keeps on shining through. As part 1 starts with: "Hoping for the Best" "Try to be a rainbow to someone's cloud" I think you will see what I mean.
The book is a substantial read at 412 pages and is published by Matador at £11.99 and you can order it at our vewry own gift and book shop which you'll find over here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
It is the perfect Christmas gift for any mother, father or grandparent.
I certainly hope this is not the only book that Sarah Berryman will be writing. I feel that she could have a glittering career as an author.
And if you have a housebound relation or friend who needs to see an optician, they might be able to use the gift voucher you give them this Christmas to pay toward the cost of the Specsavers' Home Visit Scheme, where Specsavers' qualified opticians actually make home visits. Specsavers are one of the few -if only- High Street opticians that offers a home visit service.
That's Christmas is reminding all of our readers to check the use by dates on all of their Christmas foods.
This is because some poor souls have been caught out by ridiculously short dates on their Christmas foods.
For example we have seen examples of mince pies and Christmas cakes and some other special festive foodstuffs with use by or best before dates up to two weeks before Christmas!
This is quite obviously ridiculous as it could mean that a family will find out that over Christmas that the foods they wanted to eat were either not as fresh as they should be, totally stale or even no longer fit to eat.
So they could end up with a very limited spread over Christmas, with all the shops closed, meaning that they would be unable to obtain replacement supplies.
What That's Christmas is suggesting is that if you have any shop bought Chirstmas foods, treats or confectionaries that you check the use by date or the best before date on them all as soon as you can.
If there are any that have a best before or a use by date that is earlier that the Christmas period, then you should eat them before the date/s concerned and look to go to the shops this week to replace what you need to replace.
Please do forward this item to your friends and family members to make sure that everyone you know can check their Christmas food supplies well before Christmas.
Death in Winter is a new crime novel from veteran crime writer Ian McFayden who is certainly going to please his fans and new readers alike with his sixth Inspector Carmichael novel!
It's just four days until Christmas Day and there's a good covering of snow on the ground, and the villages and small towns of rural Lancashire are abundant in Christmastime good cheer and bonhomie.
Inspector Steve Carmichael is really looking forward to a rarity for a detective of his standing and experience in the force, a long and very indulgent break over the Christmas period in his own home, surrounded by his own family.
But there's the little -or not so little- incident which involved a woman who mysteriously disappeared after boarding a train home.
This has the unfortunate effect of totally ruining his plans for a traditional Christmas.
But this still leaves Inspector Carmichael and his equally dedicated team of police officers with a real conundrum to solve. What on earth has happened to Hayley Bell?
Interviews with her husband -is he really as eccentric as he appears?- and with her friends (or her "so-called" friends) seem to be less than helpful, as they start to dig through the facts and sift through what evidence they can find.
So... what really happened to Hayley Bell? Inspector Carmichael begins to form the impression that all is not quite what it seems in this case. And he is never wrong and never misses his mark.
Though readers will be kept guessing right through to the end of this intricately plotted crime novel.
If you have a crime novel fan you need to buy a Christmas present for, then you seriously do need to buy them this novel!
It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99.
You can purchase it via our very own online bookshop (it's powered by Amazon) and you will find the bookshop here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
Please do note that every copy of this book that is bought and put into a Christmas stocking this Christmas will result in money being donated to a very important charity, called Contact The Elderly, it is a UK-based charity that aims to stop loneliness amongst older people.
Beyond All Doubt is a new crime thriller novel from the pen of Evesham author Paige Elizabeth Turner.
Intrigued by the recent advances in the uses of DNA in the solving of crimes and several cases where a previous conviction has been overturned by the re-analysis of DNA samples with the use of new and advanced techniques, Paige Elizabeth Turner has been inspired to write her debut crime thriller set within this very arena.
The body of Juanita Morale's is discovered in the River avon in the small English market town of Evesham. This was after she took a late afternoon river cruise on the boat of river cruise operator Barry Simmons who is suspected of having murdered her.
There's a lot of gossip about her death and Trevor, her fiance, decides to launch his own investigation to try to get to the bottom of what actually happened to Juanita.
But is Trevor really all that he seems? Is he as pure as he wants the other residents of Evesham to think? Perhaps he isn't.
Other bodies start to appear and when a journalist working on the local paper the Evesham Record who was investigating Juanita's murder is, herself, found murdered in her car, people began to question if there is a link between the killings.
DI Marchant and DS Olivia Watts are investigating the murders and despite the extreme misgivings of DS Watt, DI Marchant arrests Barry Simmons and charges him with murder.
During the subsequent trial CPS lawyer Godfrey Postlewaite presents a compelling case, yet defence barrister Belinda Pace gives as good as she gets.
But which one of them is right? Who is the murderer of Juanita Morales? And is her murder really related to the other deaths?
This is a remarkable debut novel published by Mastador and it will make a super Christmas present for the crime thriller fan in your clan. And at £8.99, it's a real snip.
The Great Wizard Wars is a fantastic new novel for children of 7 to 11 years of age and their mums, dads, grandparents and older siblings who might like to read them with their children.
It's an exciting story about the battle between good and not so good (well, bad, really!) wizards.
Many, many years previously, there had been a terrible wizarding war, which had caused untold misery until eventually, common sense had prevailed and a binding truce had been signed.
Now, modern witches and wizards are going about their professional, yet extraordinary, lives in a peaceful and peaceable manner, keeping themselves hidden from the rest of humanity.
However, the ancient truce has been smashed in two and a Dark Army of witches and wizards with evil and mayhem on their minds has arisen and it is their avowed aim to destroy the descendants of their foes, the good witches and wizards of long, long ago.
Well, that was the plan. The reality is a good deal more comical than you might presume. For the evil witches and wizards are backward and despicable and they launch their attacks on the modern, peaceable witches and wizards with magical weapons that or just so out of date, it's unbelievable!
They also have control over some remarkable scary mystical creatures who they can employ to do their evil bidding! But not really! For the mystical creatures all have mystical minds of their own and which are completely out of the control of the bad witches and wizards!
The bad witches and wizards also cannot decide who should be their leaders, so they begin fighting amongst themselves in a truly mind-blowing way!
Four heroic young witches and wizards find themselves in dangerous situations as they fight off the evil hoards, yet a curious twist of fate forces them to participate in a very unforeseen showdown.
It's a wild and very interesting read -I think you'll like Gnashers the giant talking snake- and it will be a welcome addition to the Christmas stockings of many a young boy and girl this Chirstmas.
It's published by Matador at £6.99 and is available for purchase at our very own gift and bookshop which you will find here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
Georgina A song of youth is a new novel by Cedric Paul Foster.
It relates the story of Georgina, who is an extraordinary woman.
She is somewhat stifled at home. Her mother is overprotective and her father is demanding and very ambitious.
So, what is Georgina (Gina, or Georgy as she is more usually known to all save for her poor mother) supposed to do?
Simple! She runs away from home and finds herself living in France.
But as with much in life, that might, actually, mean leaving one set of problems and finding them replaced with an entirely different set of problems.
For Gina's story is set in the late 195os, when times were somewhat different and the life of a very young woman living by herself in a very foreign foreign country might prove, to put it diplomatically, a little problematic?
However, Gina does have one advantage over many of her contemporaries, in that she is exceptionally beautiful and is able to take up a career as a model. So long as she can evade the clutches of predatory males who mean her no good whatsoever!
But Gina manages not only to evade the lotharios, she even prospers and becomes a hugely successful woman in her own right becoming very rich in the process and carving out a life for herself which also included long lasting happiness.
It's an interesting novel, which allows you to share the life of an very remarkable woman and the friends which she shares her life with.
And yes, it will make a very good Christmas gift and you can purchase it here at our very own book and gift shop >>> https://goo.gl/apr0hq.
The Will is a new novel by prize winning poet and author Jane Mann.
It tells the story of what happens to Hannah Delany.
At age 27 Hannah has to return to the UK from Hong Kong to attempt to disentangle the mystery that surrounds the death of her father and also of his will. And of the letters that he may, or may not, have written.
As she undertakes her investigations she finds herself having to burrow her way, with great tenacity, through lies, deliberate deceits and falsehoods, obfuscations and obstructions.
Some people seem to be trying to manipulate her, to thwart her efforts to learn the truth.
But despite their best, or worst, efforts, they seem unable to stop Hannah in her quest for the truth.
But she learns information that she might not have wanted to learn, really. Such as the disturbing and malevolent motives behind the actions of some people. Motives that might even mean that Hannah's own life is now at risk.
And what, exactly was Hugo's role in all this? And what of the family's home, Yadrahna, built in the 1840s of Cotswold stone?
And the skeleton? Who was it the remains of? And what had happened to them?
And who was Olga Slade? And what was shee doing at Yadrahna?
This is a compelling mystery novel which is very much wirtten in the style of a modern Gothic Novel.
It is published by Matador at a very reasonable £8.99 and will make a most excellent gift for the person who likes the mystery novels with more than a hint of the gothic about them.
In his new collection of short, romantic stories, writer Steven Baker (who we just met, you will remember!) has produced an entirely different work to his novel that your review has just written about.
Love Across the Decades covers five different love stories that cover, as the title indicates, different love stories from periods including The Great Depression, The Second World War, the post Second World War era, the 1960s and then, almost, but not quite, up to the modern times with an excursion into the 1990s.
But these are no Mills and Boon style fantasy romances. These are romances that deal with a whole host of human issues and human emotions.
How a family are tested to breaking point by the utterly unexpected and totally devastating loss of a young child, love at first sight, pregnancy, a man who found romance late in life, very late in life, in fact!
And we learn of the difference between a peccadillo and an armadillo.
We learn of the crushing isolation of being single whilst being at a certain age and all this whilst trying to pull at a dance.
And how even if the location of a marriage proposal is not, of itself, especially romantic, that by some magic, the location is, somehow, rendered romantic. Such as a bus, for example.
Yet how such a proposal may engender a spark of envy in the heart of someone who is less fortunate.
All Human emotion is here. Even the odd glimpse of canine emotion, too.
This book is a romance, yet it is unusual as it is real life, lived by ordinary people who just happen to fall in love. Or not, in some cases.
It's published by The Book Guild and is available for purchase at our very own book and gift shop which you will find here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy
Battling Spirits and Kindly Hearts is a new novel from author Steven Baker.
It tells the story of young Londoner Michael Forbes. His was a typical East End childhood. Poverty, hardship but lots of love. And, with his parents, Frank and Honeysuckle, the annual event that many Cockney families looked forward to, the hop picking holiday in the garden of England, Kent.
But the year was 1939 and with the advent of war life would change for the Forbes family and for all of their neighbours, too.
Upon the outbreak of war his parents took the decision that Michael should be evacuated.
But his planned evacuation was no 60 mile journey to the countryside by bus or train. The evacuation of Michael was a journey of nearly 11,000 miles. For he was to be evacuated to live with his aunt in Melbourne, Australia.
We follow Michael through his life as he copes with the loneliness that he is faced with as he is separated from his parents, and how he learns to cope with living in an utterly different environment so many miles from home.
The book also looks at Michael in his later life as he looks back on his life, remembering all the people who he met along the way and thinking especially of those who helped him to develop into the adult that he grew into.
It is an extremely compelling novel with a narrative that grips the reader.
It is published by The Book Guild and will make an excellent Christmas gift for the lover of well-written modern fiction.
It costs £8.99 and is available for purchase from our very own book and gift shop here>>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy
It's the pre-Christmas season, and so it's time to get yourself to Aldi.
I have to admit that my wife and I made a slight error after we got back from our Aldi Christmas shop.
Well, you know how it is, you get the Christmas drink in and you sort of accidentally (yeah, really!) open a bottle of the Aldi Californian Merlot, enjoy a few glasses each and then, you'll use chicken breast fillets from Aldi, naturally, use some of the rich, delicious wine to produce a chicken chasseur that is so tasty that it almost makes your cry.
All served up with the rest of Merlot and some of the rice you bought from Aldi.
However, the rest of what you bought is safe (odd how it's usually the Merlot that's at risk of accidental consumption!) and the pantry and the fridge is now stuffed full of glace cherries, dried mixed fruit, icing sugar, caster sugar, granulated sugar, at least three types of flour, butter and vegetable shortening.
This week we are scheduled to start on the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding. (HINT: You forgot the Aldi rum and brandy! Pop back into town to visit Aldi to pick up the rum and brandy tomorrow, after work!)
My wife may possibly, time willing, be baking her prize winning Aldi cake, her Anni's Vodka Cherry Baked Well Cake.
Actually, we might modify this recipe with the addition of some marzipan and white sugared icing and transform it into a new and utterly delicious Christmas Cake. Though we might need to add vodka to our shopping list. I'll have to check with my wife. Though we could make it a truly unique Chirstmas cake with the switching of vodka for run or brandy? Let's see what happens!
And no doubt we could also add mince pies to the list of purchases, too?
But I don't want you to run away with the idea that Aldi is only about the highest quality festive foods at prices that other supermarkets last charged 15 years ago!
Heavens to Betsy, no! There's so much more to aldi than that!
There's a bewildering array of Christmas gifts for everyone from the tiniest tot to the most venerable great uncle, great aunt or great grandparent!
Toys, tools, radios, techno gadgets, car accessories, homeware and much, much more!
There's even special gift packs of the finest Single Malt Scotches (complete with a highly informative and beautifully illustrated miniature guide to the whiskies of Scotland.)
And don't forget the special Commemorative Team GB Champagne at just under a tenner a bottle at a stunning £9.99!
There's a fantastic range of wines, beers, spirits. Plus there are special Christmas hampers, some of which are only available on line at https://www.aldi.co.uk.
Top-rated British coconut brand Cocofina has announced the launch of a trio of organic coconut products.
They come in a very special and inviting gift pack, and it is just in time for Christmas!
It's described as "The quintessential tempting treat for all lovers of the remarkable
And it's the absolutely perfect present for the hard-to-buy for family member or friend this Christmas.
It's ideal for vegans and for those who have to be careful about what they eat, have to watch their GI intake, or who just love good, natural foods.
This gift pack is packed with organic coconut oil, nectar and butter which come in 350ml jars neatly packaged in a smart label revealing box.
Cocofina Organic Coconut Oil (350ml) is cold pressed, virgin, unrefined and accredited by
the Soil Association UK.
It has a pleasantly light texture, sweet aroma and subtle, nutty taste due to the unique processing method.
It has a multitude of uses in cooking and baking and can be used as a natural moisturiser or hair conditioner, too! (EDITOR: Wow! Talk about versatile?)
Cocofina Organic Coconut Nectar (350ml) is produced by painstakingly concentrating the
sap of the coconut blossom.
The nectar is a more naturally produced alternative to regular, refined sugar and is perfect in tea, coffee or as an ingredient for cooking and baking with. It has a floral aroma, sweet taste and a rich texture.
Cocofina Organic Coconut Butter (335g) is produced by grinding the white coconut meat and
contains nothing other than 100% organic coconut.
It's ideal for spreading and baking, it has a high lauric acid content, smooth texture, nutty aroma, and creamy taste and has naturally antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Also, and this is very good news, the nectar has a low GI and is a great honey alternative for Vegans, while the butter is high in fibre, dairy and gluten free.
It can be dissolved in hot water and then filtered through muslin cloth to produce your very own coconut milk, added as a thickener to your favourite curry, to rice to make coconut rice or drizzled warm over food.
The organic coconut oil is a perfect Vegan alternative to butter and can also be used for oil pulling, as a makeup remover, lip balm, massage or baby oil, after tanning or to soothe eczema.
Price? A nifty £19.99.
Cocofina gift packs are available in store from Lakeland, As Nature Intended and online at www.cocofina.com.
Although describing itself as a London Dry Gin, there is so much more to Cotswold London Dry Gin than one might expect.
Yes, it is a traditional, clear as crystal London Dry Gin.
But there is so much more to it than that.
My wife said: "I am a lover of the traditional London Dry Gin style of gin. It was the first type of gin I was introduced ot as a young person, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
"When I heard about Cotswold London Dry Gin I was intrigued as to what the difference was."
We tried it one afternoon and were both enamoured of this new. yet quintessentially English gin.
Yes, there were the vital floral ingredients of the traditional London Dry Gin, yet there was definitely something subtly different about Cotswold London Dry Gin.
What on earth was it? It was a pungent difference, but using the world pungent in an entirely positive meaning.
There was an interesting, yet delicate earthiness to this particular type of gin.
Was there a distinct Cotswold difference? Some herbs or floral essences used in it that are only to be found within the spectacularly beautiful Cotswold region of England, over toward the West of the country?
To be honest, we don't know. But what we do know that the splendid difference was there.
(Actually, the difference is explained on their website and it makes perfect sense!)
What we do know is that the Cotswold Gin Company have taken London Dry Gin and have given it a very welcome and friendly re-make. But not to such an extent that it is unrecognisable. And that takes a considerable amount of skill, knowledge and expertise.
It is perfect by itself, and it plays well with other drinks and mixers and we can say that this belongs in your Christmas drinks cabinet!
More Sherlock Holmes than James Herriot is subtitled The Veterinary Detectives.
Written by one such veterinary detective, Roger S. Windsor, the book records the stories of the life of Roger Windsor, from what he self-describes as a "naive student at vet school" to a junior vet in general practice.
Eventually through a series of twists and turns in his professional life, Roger found himself living and working in Africa, where he ran the Veterinary Investigation Service's laboratory, in Botswana.
The stories he tells are an amazing collection of tales (not tails!) of the vicissitudes and woes of a large variety of animals of just about every type you could imagine and some that your imagination might have had problems getting its head round.
The book starts with his pre-Africa career and covers a wide range of subjects such as the "farmer" who cut the beaks off his birds so badly that they were starving to death, because they couldn't eat.
There were incidents of TB to be dealt with, Mastitis, Foot and Mouth disease and so forth,
Eventually Roger found himself working in Botswana with the Veterinary Investigation Service.
This brought a whole host of very different, or sometime similar, veterinary problems.
For example on the back cover of the book are two very handsome looking vultures, something not seen by a vet in the UK!
Dealing with feline enteritis is distressing, but dealing with feline enteritis in a big cat orphanage brought about somewhat unique problems and epidemics in herds were a particular worry.
I is illustrated with a number of high quality images which help tell the story in a charming and delightful way.
This is a remarkable book and will make an ideal Christmas present for anyone even mildly interested in animal care.
The book is published by The book Guild at £9.99 and it is available for purchase at our very own book store >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
We have all heard of Virtual Reality, but what of Actual Reality?
Cat Mantra has spent his working life as a journalist and as a performer, with such luminaries as the Ants, of Adam and the Ants fame, in his more recent history.
But in his debut novel he peers into the near future.
Josh Mantra and his faithful digital companion Tate travel through time and space as they fight evil foes and save the innocent from disastrous outcomes.
Join them as the zip back and forth, from the old Wild West to black holes in the midst of a distant star system.
Josh is a typical boy of his age, 12, and he has the typical life. School, his mates, his family and, of course, video games.
But on his birthday he receives a present from his dad, a very special gift it was. An Actual Reality crystal that had the power and capability to project the holder to anywhen and anywhere.
However, this is not a toy for Josh. It is a tool that he will need in his new role with the IDF, the Inter-Dimensional Federation.
Because it has been determined that only Josh is capable of taking over from his very own father in the business of taking on a variety of life-saving missions and tasks throughout the entire multiverse!
But first he must undergo comprehensive tests and training.
And then? He is out there for real, on his first mission!
This is a fantastic Sci-Fi/fantasy romp and it is aimed at children aged 12 to 14. And probably their parents, too, who might get a sneaky read if they are lucky!
It is published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and it will make an ideal stocking filler present.
You can purchase it at our very own book and gift emporium, via the portal which is this way >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
A Cuddle of Cats is the perfect Christmas present for all cat lovers, everywhere.
It is written by author Heather Cook and it is copiously illustrated by photographs taken by Roger Cook.
A Cuddle of Cats is described as "Rhymes and Recollections" and this is exactly what this book is all about.
There are poems about cats, stories about cats and also, as the subtitle points out, recollections about cats.
Some of the poems are amusing, yet some of them, especially Why? on page 1, are of a more serious nature.
The person who you buy this book for will read about the cats of Salisbury Cathedral, what happens when a new cat door is installed, the problems of Benjy, a cat who is brain-damaged and who has some habits that might be annoying, or amusing, or, perhaps, both.
How cats can capture the hearts of men. Or as Heather so succinctly puts it, "have the great lump completely under her paw."
This is a book that is guaranteed to warm the heart of every cat lover. And guess what, folks? You have found them the purrfect Christmas stocking filler in this book.
It's published by Matador at £7.99 and you can purchase your two copies (well, you're going to buy one for yourself, too, right?) at our very own retail emporium which you can find here >>> https://goo.gl/qPctIy.
The Haunted Painting on the Wall is a new spooky novel for children from the imagination of author Devika A. Rosamund.
Tracy and Sebastian are brother and sister. They accept an invitation to stay at a castle in the Scottish Highlands, which is owned by their great aunt.
And whilst they are there, they decided that it would be a great idea to create a bit of adventure for themselves by seeking out the secret of the castle, which, legend said, was a secret and long-lost special hidden chamber with the stone walls of the castle. Which housed a priceless family treasure.
But little did Tracy and Sebastian know that they were heading toward a great and terrible danger!
For hiding deep within the walls of the castle lurked a ghost. A ghost that was evil and malevolent, who had haunted the castle for 400 long and bitter years, waiting to be able to wreak its revenge.
Unknown to anyone living, witchcraft had once been practiced in the castle and sinister forces were ready to be unleashed.
In Tracy's bedroom is a painting on the wall. It is a mysterious painting on the wall. A haunted painting which contains a secret. A dangerous, terrifying secret.
What will happen? Will the children discover the secret of the painting? Will they learn the location of the secret chamber?
Or will the evil ghost get the better of them?
This book is aimed at children between 9 t o11 years of age.
It is published by Matador at £6.99 and will make an ideal stocking filler for children who love ghostly stories.