Three Wonderful Children ‘s Picture Books, by Australian Authors

Presented by the publisher, Exisle Publishing, with these three new releases for review was an instant delight. Beautifully bound, delightfully illustrated, and all with a story both entertaining and enlightening… they are ideal for a shared reading experience for non-readers.
Such fine books are they, that they were immediately snagged by an Early Childhood Education teacher trainee for use at her pre-school centre. I had to fight to retain them until this review was written! For each book, I have summarised the story outline, and included the official blurb provided by Exisle. I have also calculated the “Initial Independent Reading Age” (using NZ’s Noun Count method) so parents may allow an older child to read it to the younger child. Refer to * notes within each book’s details.

Click on each title to Buy
or visit the site.

cover_Grandma Forgets Grandma Forgets, a journey of love by Paull RUSSELL & Nicky Johnston

Exisle says: A warm, uplifting picture book about a family bound by love as they cope with their grandmother’s dementia.
When your grandmother can’t remember your name it should be sad, but maybe it is just an opportunity to tell her more often how much you love her. Over the years, the little girl in Grandma Forgets has built up a treasure trove of memories of time spent with Grandma: sausages for Sunday lunch, driving in her sky-blue car to the beach, climbing her apple trees while she baked a delicious apple pie, and her comforting hugs during wild storms. But now, Grandma can’t remember those memories. She makes up new rules for old games and often hides Dad’s keys. Sometimes Dad is sad because he has to hold onto the memories for both him and his mother now, but fortunately his daughter is only too happy to help him make new memories to share. This is a warm, hopeful story about a family who sometimes needs to remind their grandmother a little more often than they used to about how much they care. She might not remember any of their names but she will always know how much she is loved.
Red says: So many children have grandparents going through this stage, bewildering to the children. This book is perfect for helping them understand.
Hardbound ISBN 978-1-9235336-47-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-9253358-1-1
* Initial Independent reading age 7 ½ to 8 ½

cover_Visiting YouVisiting You, a journey of love by Rebecka Sharpe SHELBURG & Andrea SIMMONDS

Exisle says: A heart-warming celebration of the power of love, and how it’s our similarities, not our differences, that matter most.
Setting out to visit their loved one, a child curiously asks a fellow commuter, ‘Who are you going to visit?’, and in answer to this simple question, the child learns about the love and loss in the life of a stranger. A father who lives apart from his small daughter, a husband who has lost his wife, a granddaughter who is forgotten by her grandfather, and a mother who fears for her son’s recovery. After each conversation, the child understands that the other commuter has someone in their life that they love ‘as much as I love you’, and it is this understanding that allows the child to explore the most universal of human experiences: the power of love in the many different forms that it can take. Visiting You also explores a sense of community. Under his mother’s supervision, a young child reaches out and connects with the people around them; they’re not scared of strangers, or people who might ‘look’ scary, or people who are different to them. Sometimes it can take conscious decision and determination to look past outward appearances. Visiting You encourages us to find the similarities between people instead of focusing on differences, to recognise some part of ourselves in the life of a stranger.
Red says: One of a child’s social challenges is accepting differences with their social environment. This book introduces them kindly to people who are not so different from anyone else.
Hardbound ISBN 978-1-925665-66-8
* Initial Independent reading age 9 to 10 years

cover_Art GardenThe Art Garden, sowing the seed of creativity by Penny HARRISON & Penelope PRATLEY

Exisle says: A whimsical story about friendship and nurturing our creative flair.
Sadie wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom. She loves playing with colour and finding shapes in unlikely places. But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush she makes a big mess. So instead, she spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom. But, one day, Sadie gets a look at things from a different perspective — and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity. The Art Garden is a whimsical story about friendship and finding our creative flair. It encourages children to explore different ways of expressing themselves and celebrates the importance of individuality and self-acceptance.
Red says: Some children soon realise they cannot “do” what others can; this book helps them understand that it is not necessary to give up on what a child can do, for struggling to imitate what another child can do – all children have different learning styles, and different ways of expressing their creativity.
Hardbound ISBN 978-1-925335-59-0
* Initial Independent reading age 11 ½ TO 15 ½



A post on using Brand-names in your writing

This stellar advice can be found at this blog, by Mark Fowler at Blogspot, an attorney in New York City with 29 years of experience working for media companies – book and magazine publishers, newspapers, broadcasters, and online publishers, among others.

A full description of the what and how of dropping names into your writing

Thanks, Mark…


eBook Release: Vicki Arnott’s “The Crystal Bluebird”

cover_ARNOTT V_The Crystal Bluebird

While Mary was exploring the old house she and her family had inherited, she discovered a crystal necklace and an old book telling the story of a sad Queen trapped in her castle.

When she and her brother and sister drew pictures on the story map, they never dreamed they would soon be transported into the fantasy world of Brigitha, where their pictures had become real, and were causing problems! They were soon enlisted by a grumpy Queen’s Guardsman who insisted that they must undo the damage they had caused, and help to free the Queen.

This is a story for children aged ten and above. Teenagers and adults who enjoy fantasy adventure will also love this book.

Exclusive Excerpt…

Arthur raised his fist to knock on the door, but just as he did so, it swung open with a crash. Inside the doorway stood a short, plump woman wearing a pair of bright green dungarees over a bold floral print shirt. Her face was round and her cheeks were rosy pink. Her eyes were as bright and green as her dungarees and seemed to shoot sparks at Arthur. On her head a small cap perched precariously on top of a mass of curls which spilled in an orange riot around her face. She stood with her feet apart and her hands on her hips.

“So,” she shot at Arthur. “You’re finally back. Where is it that you’ve been all this time?”

Arthur straightened himself up to his full height, squared his shoulders and replied with quiet dignity. “I’ve been on the queen’s business, as you well know.”

The woman remained standing rigidly in the doorway. “The queen’s business! Sixty years, Arthur. You’ve been gone sixty years! You’re lucky I’m a resourceful woman, with plenty to do with my time, otherwise I might be pretty angry with you right now.” She glared at him fiercely, her right foot tapping.

Arthur cleared his throat.

“Wynda, I know. I’m sorry. I was trapped and there was no way to let you know what had happened. Let’s go inside and I will tell you all about it.” He turned to the children. He gave a slight bow and his voice became formal, “Allow me to introduce you to my wife, Wynda.”

ISBN eBook: ISBN: 9781311312785

Smashwords link
Click Logo to Buy


About Vicki Arnott

Born in Foxton, New Zealand, and raised in the Manawatu area,File 19-02-18, 3 30 46 PM
Vicki now lives in a rural community near Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty, surrounded by views of Mt Tarawera, forest, and farm paddocks.

Vicki writes fantasy adventure and science fiction for early teens and young adults. Her love of writing began at primary school and she has always dreamed of becoming a writer. She got serious about her dream in 2015, when she reduced her hours of work as a school teacher to work on her first novel The Crystal Bluebird, a fantasy adventure for children and adults.

She is currently working on her second novel Children of the White Dragon, a science-fiction adventure, and her third novel, also science-fiction and as yet untitled.

Other genre that interest Vicki are romantic comedy and magical, heart-warming Christmas stories. She’d like to write screenplays in those genre, in addition to science fiction and fantasy.

Vicki’s goals include: get better at writing, continue to write and publish, write screenplays and be involved in the production of movies.

Her interests include walking, ceroc dancing and an occasional game of golf. She also likes painting and drama, and has organised many school productions in addition to her involvement in amateur theatre productions with the Rainbow Entertainers Drama club. She recently realised another dream when she planted her first rose garden.  She spends her spare time watching movies, and steals early-morning hours to read because she is so undisciplined when it comes to books, that once a book is started it doesn’t get put down until it’s finished.

Vicki can be found at this site



Gail W Olmsted – Author Interview

portrait Gail Ward OlmstedInterviewing Gail Olmsted, author of Second Guessing

  • What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
    • I love to read!! I enjoy contemporary romance, popular fiction, chick lit, mysteries and thrillers. My favorite authors are Dennis Lehane, Elin Hilderbrand, Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben. I honestly don’t pattern myself after any authors in particular, but after reading Claire Cook’s The Wildwater Walking Club several years ago, I remember thinking…I can write a book. I can finish this story that I’ve been telling myself for several years. And I did!
  • Tell us a little about all the books you have written so far…
    • My first book JEEP TOUR was self-published in 2014. It is the story of Jackie Sullivan and her search for a happy ever after. Recently divorced, she loses her job and after a chance meeting with a sexy tour guide, decides to start over among the red rocks of Sedona, AZ. The first time I travelled to Sedona on a family vacation, I remember thinking- ‘Wow, if you ever needed a do-over, this would be the place to do it.’ Jackie faces some bumps along the way but ultimately finds more than she ever dared to dream in her new life.
      Guessing at Normal was my second book published by Booktrope in 2015. Jill Griffin is working behind the front desk of a seedy motel when up and coming rocker James Sheridan and his band check in while on tour. There is an immediate connection between Jill and James and within a few weeks, she joins the tour. Building a ‘normal’ life together under the glare of the media is challenging and further complicated by constant touring, groupies, James’ partying and the mixed signals Jill gets from James’ twin brother Alex. When Jill’s poems and journal ramblings become the songs on James’ best-selling solo album, she has to step out of her comfort zone and figure out how to live her life in a spotlight all her own. As her professional success threatens her relationship with James, Jill questions whether she can make a living writing love songs without the love of her life.
      My third book Driving on the Left was published in 2016. I had never planned to write a sequel to JEEP TOUR. Shortly after it was released, my daughter and I took a trip to Ireland to celebrate her college graduation. For part of our trip, we took a guided tour off the beaten track with a small group of other tourists. When the topic of my book came up, our tour guide jokingly suggested that I write a sequel featuring a sexy Irish tour guide. My first thought was ‘no way’ but the idea took hold and soon I was writing Driving, a standalone novel featuring JT’s Jackie Sullivan as the mother of a young woman experiencing the joys and heartbreak of first love.
  • What do you think of your first book JEEP TOUR now?
    • I still love the story and the main characters very much. I think that everyone deserves a second, or even a third chance, at a happy life. When I was writing it, I really wasn’t sure till I was 2/3 of the way through before I figured out the ending- would Jackie be with Rick-the hot tour guide or Rob- the ex-husband who she still loved or someone new? Or would she be blissfully single? As soon as I knew how it had to end, the rest of the story just poured out. The ending rocks! That being said, I could easily go through the entire manuscript and tweak and edit like crazy. I’ve learned so much since I wrote JT.
  • Which was the most challenging to write; then again, which was the most fun to write?
    • Driving on the Left was the most challenging for me. It is told from two points of view- Jackie, a mature mom facing a crisis back home and her 21 year old daughter Becca who is deep in the throes of her first true love. Barbara, one of my wonderful betas, read the first draft and put me on the spot. She read me a passage from the manuscript and asked- who’s speaking- Jackie or Becca? I had to guess and I was wrong! It was a real wakeup call for me. I rewrote the entire book several times until I was certain that I had created two distinct characters, each with their own voice. I’ve received a good amount of positive feedback on the dual POV.
      Second Guessing was the most fun to write. I was thrilled to provide songwriter Jill Griffin with another chance at a happy ever after. I just adore her love interest Ben! He’s vacating his role as lead singer of a world famous boy band in search of a solo career and he’s got a secret from his past that he would prefer stays hidden. He’s perfect for Jill, but it takes her a little while to realize it for herself!
  • We’re featuring Second Guessing – may you explain how it relates to Guessing at Normal?
    • I wrote Second Guessing as a standalone novel, however Jill Griffin, the main charater, was first introduced in Guessing at Normal back in 2015. Jill is now a successful songwriter and single mom to a teenage daughter. She has just about given up hope for a love story of her own, when she meets Ben. He’s determined to win over Jill, but she’s got trust issues and wonders if Ben is just too good to be true!
  • What part/s of Second Guessing were the most delightful to write?
    • First off, let me say that I love Jill and was delighted to see her head over heels in love with pop star Ben, who is 14 years her junior. But naturally, there are complications in their path! Jill’s been burned by the media before and wants to keep their relationship a secret until after the tribute concert featuring her late husband’s platinum selling album. News that the ‘rock widow’ is involved with the young headliner of the charity event could negatively impact ticket sales and the future of the record label. On the personal front, Jill is fairly certain that her 18 year old daughter will be less than thrilled that her mom is sleeping with the former boy band singer that she had a major fan crush on just a few years earlier. Add in a crazed stalker fan and a tabloid journalist determined to expose their romance as well as secrets from Ben’s past and you’ve got a love story that may not be able to go the distance. I think readers will enjoy the snappy dialogue, plot twists and the sizzling chemistry between Jill and Ben!!

Readers can find out more on my website:
on my Amazon page:
by following me on Facebook
or Twitter @gwolmsted
or Instagram: gwolmsted
Plus, I can be reached at

Three Reasons I Avoid Writing Book Reviews — Sharon Hughson, Author, Reposted

I read tons of books. And I enjoy reading them. Even if I don’t end up liking the book all that much, reading has the potential to make me a better writer of stories. And even though I track all my books on Goodreads, I’ve stopped writing reviews for many of the books I read.…

via Three Reasons I Avoid Writing Book Reviews — Sharon Hughson, Author

Kathy Sutcliffe Bonanza

At Saturday’s meeting on Rotorua Writers Group, we were graced by our guest author, New Zealnd’s Kathy Sutcliffe. 

She delighted us with her back-story of the origins of her three novels… Write My Face and When Romeo Kissed Mercutio, both published 2012, and Moon Boy published 2017. She read an extract from the latter, which held us engrossed. 

I bought a copy of all three, so you can expect a set of reviews later…

Second Guessing, by Gail W Olmsted

Second Guessing, a contemporary romance by 2018-02-05_Gail Olmsted_Second Guessing
Gail Ward Olmsted,  was released on January 5th to much acclaim.

Second Guessing is the love story of Jill and Ben, who are so wrong for each other that they may actually be right!


Jill Griffin & Ben Fein are meant to be together… said no one ever!

Jill has built a successful career writing romantic ballads for many of today’s top performers. Since the tragic end of her marriage a couple years back, the 40-something single mom has all but abandoned hope for a love story of her own.

Ben is a brash, young boy-band singer seeking a solo career who hires Jill to write for him. He’s got a dark secret from his past that he wants to keep hidden.

The attraction between the two is red-hot, and when Ben falls hard for Jill, he doesn’t care who knows it. Jill’s been burned before and wants to take things slow, keeping their relationship out of the glare of the media. After a gossip columnist exposes their affair, she’s forced to decide if she can risk letting go of her past in order to build a life with Ben.

When Ben’s past makes headlines, Jill begins to wonder how well she really knows him. But as Ben climbs to the top of the pop charts, he’s determined to succeed…  at convincing Jill to take a second chance on love.

Published by Roane Publishing, 2017;

About the Author

“Gail is a professor of marketing. She has taught at the college level for twenty years.  A hopeless romantic, she is married to the love of her life. She is a mom to two young adults and two cats and enjoy reading, music and travel.”
(Paraphrased from her website)

Her other books include Guessing at Normal, Driving on the Left, and Jeep Tour, all of which are on sale at Amazon, and via her website’s links.

Mythos – Greek Myths Retold, by Stephen Fry

FRY S_Mythos CoverIn his retelling of the myths of the ancient Greeks, Fry offers his own interpretation, conveyed in his wonderfully cheeky way, while covering in depth and breadth all the myths we’ve heard of–and some I’d not known of.

Starting with the creation of the Gods’ world, our world, and mankind, he puts each stage of the build in its logical place in terms of time and location. All is told in Fry’s inimitable style, bringing the classics to new life:

“Everything around him glinted and glittered, gleamed and glimmered with a gorgeous gaudy golden glow but his heart was as grim and grey as granite.” No prizes for guessing about whom Fry is writing here.

Perhaps if I’d been able to read this a certain number of years ago I may have taken the challenge of university study of the classics. Certainly, anyone purchasing for a senior school or tertiary library should put this into their 2018 budget.

Family trees of the first Orders of the gods are included. Fry’s footnotes include the lexicography of our modern English language derived from the people and places of the gods and their creations.

The book also includes maps, and coloured plate illustrations.

Paperback published by Penguin – Random House, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-718-18874-0

Copies (hard-book, paperback, ebook) and audio CD) can be purchased at

Amazon book store link
Click icon to buy

About the author:

Stephen Fry is an actor, a comedian, a writer, a presenter (quiz master for BBC’s QI) and an activist. His TV shows include QIJeeves and WoosterA Bit of Fry & LaurieMORE.

He can be found on Twitter and at his website

Reviews Coming Soon

I love christmas, if only because people give me books. Or money or vouchers to buy books. So you may expect reviews soon of some or all of these…

“Mythos – The Greek Myths Retold” by Stephen Fry

“The QI Book of the Dead – Lives of the Justly Famous & the Undeservedly Obscure”, by John Lloyd (CBE) & John Mitchinson

“Now We Are Dead”, by Stuart MacBride

“The 45% Hangover, by Stuart MacBride

“Lutapolii” by Virginnia De Parte

“Scavengers” by Sheryl [Surname to come]

A lovely mix!