Doggy day care and day dreams

One thing I’ve noticed through lockdown is the number of my friends who have got dogs – I suspect partly because as a result of the increased working from home it’s a much more viable option for many than previously, and partly as the “daily walk” has become an integral part of most our lives.

I always enjoy “fly on the wall” books for the insights they give into other people’s lives. And since I have a dog, I was curious to read Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter although I’m not sure what I expected – it’s not like you’d get any scandalous stories from the dogs themselves during their stays, nor was I expecting any shocking revelations from the pet sitter (thank goodness – that would be far too upsetting and need a trigger warning). So this could have been a mundane recount of daily dog walks, and in a way it is, but it’s also strangely compelling and I kept picking it up at every opportunity! It’s such a lovely, warm memoir of a life filled to the brim with dogs that I defy any dog lover not to enjoy it. Oh, and I desperately want to own a slightly mad Pointer now!

I also just checked to see if there was an audio version of this as I’d love to hear it narrated by the author – sadly not (yet), but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Blurb

Hilarious and heart warming true stories of a Pet Sitter.

​Laura takes us on her journey describing the immense joy that the animals have brought into her life. But it’s not all fun and games. With sometimes as many as ten dogs around her home, things can get a tad hectic. Not to forget the every day challenges faced in keeping the pets happy and safe when out walking. Luckily she is not alone in her quest; her unusually dominant Golden Retriever ‘Brece’ is always by her side. Brece earns her keep by convincingly playing the part of the alpha female, ensuring harmony amongst the pack.

​At times, the responsibility that Laura faces becomes overwhelming. She may think she has everything covered but that hand of fate could quite easily swoop down, creating havoc for her and the dogs. Laura has endured many close calls and teetered on the precipice of disaster may a time. The longer she continues with her pet sitting enterprise, the more likely hood that total disaster will actually strike. Is she tempting fate?

​Laura Marchant is the Bridget Jones of the pet sitting world!

Author Bio

Laura Marchant was born in 1959 in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England. Both her parents were born in the same town, so not exactly a family of intrepid travellers! As a child Laura and her siblings were fortunate enough to own shares in the families pets. Unbeknown to Laura at the time, her love for the animals formed the blueprint for a large part of her life. In 2011 she finally found her vocation, and in the comfort of her own home, set up a pet boarding business. For the next 7 years she shared her abode with a pack of dogs. A lot of this time was spent watching over the animals and observing their behaviour

Classic junior sleuthing

I was in the mood for a mystery so couldn’t resist this classic ‘Secret Seven’ style read. There’s a good plot that I really enjoyed, including the corporate sabotage aspects and the demolition threat which were a great way to freshen up the trope, and add urgency. I confess I was puzzled by the appearance of a coal cellar with actual coal in it in today’s world (there are mobile phones so I’ve not got my time periods wrong) but other than a spot of confusion, it wasn’t an issue.

When I started I didn’t realise that it was part of a series, and I haven’t read the others so it definitely works as a standalone. I think if I’d read the first two, I might have a deeper understanding of the characters, but that certainly wasn’t an obstacle to plunging straight into book three!

Although aimed at ages 9-12, I’d actually place this as slightly younger, around 8-10. This does create an issue around the lack of parental supervision and questionable decisions that would be less concerning for older/ YA, and it would be worth having some discussions with any young readers. It’s always a challenge with kids books to give the characters enough freedom without setting a bad example – as Katherine Rundell says “there’s nothing so endangered in children’s fiction as a mother” before writing the mother out of the book!


Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…

School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.

The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…

As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.

Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.

About the author

Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of  Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2017, and Lady in Red. She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.

What do a reindeer, a monkey, and a cow have in common?

I can honestly say that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write! Until I received a review copy of Billy and the Balloons by Elizabeth Dale.

I confess I was a little worried that the title and cover might give away too much, but there is just so much fun and magic in this book, that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Think Peter Pan meets The Snowman and you’re on the right lines.

The “up up and away” fold out page was a complete surprise. I’d actually love a poster of this page for my Christmas decorations.

I also have to sing the praises of illustrator Patrick Corrigan. Not only are the colours are absolutely divine – rich and warm – but the illustrations manage to find that perfect blend of nostalgic and fresh.

PS – pass the mince pies – unlike Santa, I’m not planning to climb down any chimneys!


Fly up, up, and away with Billy! When the wind takes Billy and his colorful balloons on a ride in the sky, he ends up having the most magical Christmas ever.

A small boy + a big bunch of balloons = magic! Billy’s dad has a special touch with balloons, turning them into every imaginable shape and creature. But one Christmas Eve, the wind whips up and tiny Billy finds himself and his father’s balloons floating away through the clouds. Lots of friends, both human and animal, scurry to the rescue–but instead of bringing Billy down to earth, one by one they end up coming along for the ride. Will Billy succeed in landing safely . . . and help Santa and his tired reindeer deliver their presents too?

Author biography

Elizabeth Dale

I began writing magazine fiction and have sold thousands of stories all over the world, but when my daughters were born and I started reading to them, I was reminded just how wonderful children’s books are, and decided to try writing them myself. They are the most fun of all and I have had over eighty books published from picture books up to novels for up to age 12. 

Some of them deal with issues I have faced with my own children such as a pet dying – Scrumpy (Andersen) or an over-adventurous hamster – Hammy (Orchard), others cover issues common to many children, such as being scared of monsters – Nothing Can Frighten a Bear (Nosy Crow), being different – Delightfully Different Dilly (Quarto 2021) and being small – Billy and the Balloons (Salariya) and Off to Market! (Frances Lincoln -a runner-up in the Dundee Picture Book Award and based on my journey on an over-crowded minibus in Uganda filled with villagers, furniture and animals!  

I have also written a couple of interactive picture books where the reader has to be a hero and pull faces, shout, stamp and twist and turn the book to help save a child from impending disaster – Chase Those Witches!(Salariya) and Save The Day for Ada May (Willow Tree Books.) The latter has won two Awards and been short-listed for a third. Of course there is always room for books which are just pure fun, whether they’re rhyming – Mix Up Monday (Maverick) coming in 2021 or non-rhyming – When Betsy Came To Babysit (Tamarind, read on the Cbeebies Bedtime Hour). 

I have recently moved into writing Non-Fiction picture books – Trailblazer (Maverick) is the story of Lily Parr and her battle to play Woman’s Football in the early 20th Century.

As well as my picture books I have written a lot of Early Reader texts – fun stories that help young readers develop their reading skills – for Franklin Watts and Maverick Books as well as Junior Fiction for Egmont.

Illustrator biography

Patrick Corrigan worked as an art director at a design studio before becoming an illustrator of educational and picture books for children. He illustrated Save the Day for Ada May!, which won the picture book category in the 2019 Northern Lights Book Awards.

This puppy is just for Christmas

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I I’m a fan of everything Carol Thomas writes, for grown-ups and for kids. We’ve done her first picture book, Finding a Friend, in my book club, so I was excited to see a sequel is out. And I’m a sucker for a Christmas book. So I invited Carol to chat …

Hello Lexi, thank you for having me on your blog to chat about the release of my latest children’s book, Being a Friend at Christmas.

It is the second in my Little Pup series of books, but each can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story. In this book, Little Pup is looking forward to his first Christmas in his new home. But he remembers the dogs he has left behind in the shelter. He has a plan to ensure they have a happy Christmas too, but he needs Father Christmas’ help to make his wish come true.

Being a Friend book cover

Aimed at under 7s, the text is purposefully rhythmic and written in rhyme to make it accessible to its young audience, who can join in and anticipate words and phrases. The pictures are bright and colourful. I illustrated the book myself and had great fun capturing the puppy’s thoughts, feelings and expressions. The book has been described as the ideal gift for all young dog lovers, which is lovely to hear!

As I like my books to be shared and to inspire a conversation, the story also carries a message about being kind, thoughtful and generous. These things are important all year round, but especially at Christmas. At the end of Being A Friend, there is an opportunity for children to make their own Christmas wish.

I always love hearing from readers. At the end of Finding a Friend, readers were asked to name Little Pup; I enjoyed hearing all of the wonderful names he was given. This year, I hope to hear all about the Christmas wishes Little Pup has inspired. If readers would (with help from their parents and carers) like to get in touch, they can do so here:

Thanks Carol! If you’d like to meet the pup, check out this cute book trailer:

And of course, here’s the purchase link:

About the author:

Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and has taught in primary schools for just over twenty years.

Carol writes for both adults and children. Her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.

To find out more about books by Carol Thomas:

Great gratitude journalling

A while ago, I reviewed the ‘365 days of writing‘ journal by Marielle Smith which I absolutely loved, so I leapt at the opportunity to review ‘365 days of gratitude‘.

I confess, journalling doesn’t come naturally to me. I have notebooks filled with lists and ideas and random scribbles, but they aren’t a ‘journal’ as such. I love the idea of the freeform ‘bullet journal’, but when I see pictures of immaculately illustrated ones on Instagram, I feel my terribly messy notebooks are woefully inadequate by comparison. I actually have to remind myself that I’m a writer not an illustrator so it’s hardly surprising.

I’ve also looked at pre-designed journals, but they do tend to be a bit too ‘girly’ and I’m not. So, what about this one? This is a no-nonsense journal focused on results and outcomes. And I love it. Yes it’s a template, yes it’s repeated 365 times. But that’s exactly the point. It’s a tool, and you need to practice using it. Isn’t there a saying that you need to do something 10,000 times for it to become a habit?

365 days of gratitude journal cover

There’s another thing I like about it – the days aren’t fixed, so you can actually dip in and out. I know that’s kind of cheating, but life happens, and I don’t get to use it every day. My 365 days of writing has lasted about twice as long as a regular diary would have. Value for money!

‘Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.’ Rumi

Being grateful is easy … when everything goes according to plan. But how do you keep at it no matter what life throws at you?

Enter 365 Days of Gratitude, the undated daily journal that will help you stay on track.

After years of barely surviving her own emotional minefield, writing coach Mariëlle S. Smith discovered the transformative power of practising gratitude. But, like no one else, she knows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done.

Complete with inspiring quotes, daily prompts, and recurring check-ins, the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal encourages you to create a sustainable gratitude practice too. Ready to commit to the life-changing power of gratitude? Order your copy of the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal now.

Purchase Links 

Get 50% off the printable PDF until 6 September 2020 with the following discount code: HAPPYLAUNCH. Go to or to claim your copy. 

Author biography

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a (ghost) writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, and island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.