A Robot in the Garden, by Deborah Install

Publisher: Doubleday / Transworld |  Published 23rd April 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (via Netgalley)

What an amazing story that’s perfectly formed in every way, just like Tang. Being utterly adorable and thoughtfully constructed, you won’t want to put Tang, sorry, this book down.

It’s unexpectedly amusing and also touching. Although, it’s not without its serious side, it’s an altogether delightful tale about relationships, expectations and, well, life in general.

Robot in the garden

A story that’s perfectly formed. There’s no missing components here…

There’s no time period mentioned in the book, but it is set in our seemingly ordinary, everyday world, only in this book technology has moved on from our own. AI (Androids / Artificial Intelligence) perform servant’s duties to take the pressure off humans who choose to utilise their services.

Whoa, before you switch offthis isn’t some futuristic, sci-fi affair, appealing to addicts of the fantasy genre, far from it. It’s a down to earth story of everyday life, the only exception is having a rusting robot called Tang as the star attraction – and he is undoubtedly every inch a star (all four feet, two inches of him!).

The main characters feature a failed trainee veterinary student, the unemployed Ben, his high-flying and perfectly preened barrister wife, Amy, and a mysterious addition to their family, a one of a kind robot that behaves like no other.

Tang This one

Fall in love with Tang.

Tang got my attention from the get-go. It’s impossible not to find him endearing, without being sickly sweet. Deborah Install has written THE perfect little character to tug at your heartstrings; the way this vulnerable, little metallic creation sits its corroding carcass in the garden of the couple’s home one day, causing havoc on arrival is brilliant. Tang is barely able to communicate, but Ben sees he’s clearly in a state of confused distress.

Lack of communication appears to be the order of the day. While Ben concentrates on treating Tang like a new project to fill his days, it passes him by that he’s waving farewell to his relationship with Amy.

Life soon becomes more complicated for Ben when he’s faced with accepting his new responsibility, in more ways than one. What can two of life’s rejects possibly learn from each other?

Their story becomes a whole global affair, which takes you on a journey of more than just miles.

With the writer’s flair for anecdotes, which could only apply to ‘team Ben and Tang’, their daily scramble through seemingly innocent situations is humorous, if somewhat compromising at times!

THOROUGHLY RECOMMENDED: Go buy a copy and instantly raise your spirits…

Rating: 5/5

(I’m very grateful to the publisher for providing a Kindle Copy via Netgalley for review @BenWillis @Transworldbooks)

You can follow ‘The Robot Lady’ author on Twitter:  @DeborahInstall  |  The ‘odd couple’ even have their own twitter account at @BenandTang



Amy Snow, by Tracy Rees

Publisher: Quercus | Publication date: 9th April 2015 | Edition: Paperback (review copy)

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

What is the ultimate gift you could you give someone? Hope? Freedom? Or a copy of this book? All of the above?

A delightful and inventive tale of friendship, heartbreak and surviving whatever life may throw at you. It’s written with absolute class and is a glorious example of a shining needle in a very large haystack (otherwise known as ‘a little beauty’).

The Story

In January 1831, a baby came into the lives of the Vennaway family of Hatville Court, but not in the traditional way it would appear.

The new born was not a bundle of joy and happiness, it was lying abandoned on the crisp white snow of the grounds.

Amy had arrived. And so, her journey had begun.

Her tiny, naked form was discovered by the youngest member of the Vennaway household. If it wasn’t for a feisty, impetuous girl by the name of Aurelia, the babe may never have survived – she owes her life to the young heir and will never forget it.

Amy snow

Escaping the grip of Hatfield Court

So, you would think that a decent enough life would be waiting for a baby who had survived the odds, yet Hatfield Court offered nothing but a miserable existence. For all their fancy airs and graces, the cruel and vindictive ways of the Vennaways left a lot to be desired. Aurelia’s mother was so vile they should have renamed the house ‘Hateful’ Court. I truly wanted to slap the scowl right off her face and all her venom with it. Lady Vennaway’s behaviour is explained late in the book, but you’ll have to see if you think this excuses her…I’m afraid that whilst I sympathise, I personally think not.

Only Aurelia truly fought the little girl’s corner; Amy was the sister she never had.

Seventeen years later, Aurelia tragically left the world, leaving Amy behind bleary-eyed and afraid. She was released from her life of servitude, which was a relief to both parties. Having been offered a token sum in the young woman’s will, Amy was sent speedily on her way. Before she left the grounds she was secretly handed a mysterious letter written by the recently deceased.

This was the first ‘clue’ which would lead her on a solitary journey, a concept completely alien to her. Upon her arrival to her previously unknown destination, it’s not too long before another letter comes to light. Before she can move on, Amy finds she must decode the hidden messages from her only friend in the world, who is no longer with her to offer advice.

“Open the door. Unlock the secret.”

A secret and patient chase for the next clue leads an unchaperoned Amy from place to place, putting her in awkward positions, accepting or declining invites to balls and events, and introducing her to a society she never knew existed. All the while, Amy considers if there is any place where she will truly belong.

Faced with suitors she didn’t know she would attract, social soirees where she doesn’t know how to act, and Aurelia’s bizarre and secret pact – will Amy figure out the final destination before she abandons the quest, like her mother abandoned her?

Soon, Amy begins to question Aurelia’s motives – is she making a fool of her from the grave?

Whilst the ending is not totally unexpected, the story itself is a delight to read. It’s one which moves at a gentle trot, not a gallop, allowing you to bathe in the atmosphere the writer has successfully conjured up.

And you know something? It’s makes pleasant change to reach end of a book without any profanity in it.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(I am grateful to Hannah Robinson of Quercus for agreeing to send this to me for review.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @AuthorTracyRees | Publisher: @QuercusBooks

Joe All Alone, by Joanna Nadin

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books  |  Published 7th May 2015  |  Edition: Kindle, via Netgalley

Counting down the days one by one, Joe Holt shares his ‘adventures’ of the week or so he is home alone.

Joe All Alone

No parents. No rules. No problem? Erm, think again…

From looking at the cover, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a variant of a Macaulay Culkin film – looks fun, doesn’t it?

Well, appearances can be deceptive. Being left alone in a flat would seem like any child’s dream, wouldn’t it? You can do what you want, say what you want, and eat what you want – but what if you couldn’t? What if your primary carers cleared off on a Spanish holiday and left you with nothing but the following basic instructions?:

1. Don’t leave the flat in case people see you. (They’ll report it to the authorities.)
2. Don’t talk to anyone (Refer to no. 1).

Being left behind (abandoned) by his mother and Dean, her current boyfriend, didn’t seem so bad for a short while…

Each day of the story holds its own joy, or new problem to confront.  But little Joe Holt is just a thirteen year old from Peckham. That is until he meets Asha by accident.

Despite building quite a bond with this feisty girl over a short number of days, with her bubble gum and strong opinions, Joe doesn’t tell her the truth about him being alone at first.

When Joe’s folks fail to return home he’s forced to use his initiative to find a more permanent solution to his problems. But when you’ve been told you’re pretty useless and relentlessly start counting stuff under stress, it’s hard to believe you can achieve anything at all.

But never fear! It’s not all total bleakness. In between bullying, a nasty thug who’s watching the flat, and supplies running out, Joe’s quirkiness remains, together with his humour, optimism and a very special friendship.

Hope (if you can call it that) does raise its head, but in a totally unexpected way.  The ending wasn’t exactly what I’d have liked, but I suppose you don’t get everything in life, just like Joe Holt of Peckham.

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy I received via Netgalley.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @joannanadin | Publisher: @LBKidsUK