Friday, 20 September 2019

Zuru Smashers Dino Epic Egg - Review

[AD/Gifted - We received these items for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

C loved Zuru Smashers when the first series came out so he was beyond excited to see that the new addition to the range were dinosaur themed!

He was absolutely thrilled to get some goodies to test out - the Dino Epic Egg and two Dino 8 packs.

C was instantly drawn to the huge Dino Epic Egg and couldn't wait to see what was inside. Once you've taken the packaging off, you do as the name suggests and smash it! The "shell" will then come apart so you can take out the contents.

Inside we found an egg-shaped pouch filled with goodies, six Smashers dino eggs and a scratch map. The pouch contains Dino Dirt, Fizzy Lava, Glowing Slime, Fossil Rock, Ice Age putty as well as some tools.

This is where the scratch map comes in. You scratch the first panel to see what to open first, right up to panel 5. We started with the Dino Dirt. Inside the resealable pouch (very handy!) you have a type of kinetic sand with two dinosaur skull bones hidden inside so you have to dig through it.

Next up we did the Fizzy Lava. I was expecting this to react like a bath bomb so I filled a bowl of water and C happily dunked it in. They weren't lying when they call it lava - we thought it was going to overflow! It fizzed and bubbled up and the kids thought it was great! When the bubbles had subsided we found four dino feet bones.

The Glowing Slime was next and C was a bit grossed out by this. He doesn't really like the feel of slime! I dug through it for him and found yet more dino bones! We then are able to keep the slime to play with another time (well, E will!) in the resealable bag.

The Fossil Rock was probably C's favourite as he could get hammering away at the fossil. This one took quite a bit of time but he was determined to find whatever was hidden inside. Guess what? More dinosaur bones!

The Ice Age Putty was my favourite for sure. It, again, comes inside a resealable egg so can be played with again at a later date. It is very sticky and I loved the addition of the glitter. After finding our last bones, we could then refer to the instruction manual and get building our dinosaur skeleton using the eleven pieces that we discovered.

I am massively impressed with the Zuru Smashers Dino Epic Egg as it is packed full of fun activities and I know that any dino fan will love it. It is fab from a sensory point of view too as you have a lot of different textures to work with and it isn't just doing the same thing, like opening a blind bag, over and over again. For the price of £24.99 (currently £19.99 at the time of writing) it feels like such a bargain!

The Dino 8 Packs are reminiscent of the Smashers that we had a couple of years back. You get a collector's guide so you can see the name of the dinosaur that you hatch from your egg and you can also see if they are common or rare. We also were lucky enough to find some fossils that needed dug out too, adding a little bit of extra excitement!

Once you've smashed your egg, there is no need to throw the pieces out and have a lot of waste. The six pieces slot back together to create the egg shape again. This takes a little bit of practice though!

The kids love collecting these types of toy and use them after to create little scenarios together. The Dino 8 Packs are £7.99 each.

You can find the Zuru Smashers Dino range at Smyths Toys and if you head over to my Facebook page, I have a giveaway running for a £25 Smyths voucher so that you can buy some of your own! 

You can keep up to date with Zuru on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and Smyths on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

OKIDO Which Way? Game - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

My eldest child C is on the autism spectrum and, as a result, is a very logical thinker. He has a keen interest in maths and science, always telling me that he wants to build things or be an engineer when he's a grown up.

OKIDO Which Way? is a fantastic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) game which teaches the fundamental principles of programming to children aged 4-8. C is almost 7 and E is 5 so they were excited to be able to play it together. They are familiar with the CBeebies show, Messy Goes to OKIDO so instantly recognised the characters.

Inside the box you get:
  • Magnetic gameboard
  • 16 magnetic tiles
  • Magic car
  • Mission wheel
  • Screwdriver
  • 4 x batteries
  • Instruction manual with a sheet for keeping score
The object of the game is to spin the wheel to get a mission. Each mission will be classed as 'Easy', 'Medium' or 'Hard', depending on how many stops it has and how far away they are from the start. 

On your magnetic gameboard you will see START next to an image of Messy. The magnetic tiles work as a road and you will see other characters such as Geoffrey and Mayor Oki. Your mission will be to get Messy to visit some of these other characters. You need to use the magnetic road tiles to get Messy to their friends using the shortest route possible - you don't want to run out of tiles!

Once you've finished, switch your magic car on and place it at the start. If your route is correct, it should follow the road tiles along to its destinations.

We had so much fun playing this game - me included! - and it is honestly a lot better than I'd assumed it would be. The scoreboard on the back is a nice touch and not only did it get us all to think about what we were doing, it is a game where the children weren't competitive. They liked brainstorming ideas together to work out what to do next.

It is one of our favourite games to play now and we will definitely keep bringing it out on family game night. I love that it's not only fun but educational too, encouraging cognitive thinking and problem solving.

You can purchase your own OKIDO Which Way? Game from the OKIDO shop for £30.00.

Friday, 13 September 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 41-45 Round-Up

It is long overdue but I'm finally back with another book round-up, this time with books 41-45. I say long overdue because a) I last wrote a book round-up almost two months ago, and b) I'm way past book 45 - I've almost finished 49! I'll be doing my next round-up very soon after this one!

I have a lot of Netgalley books to get through so all of the books in this round-up have been ebooks so no pretty pictures, I'm afraid!

The Morning After The Wedding Before by Laura Ziepe - 1/5

"Did she really say 'I do'?!

Emma is getting married! She knows it should be the happiest time of her life, but she can't help feeling she's marrying the wrong man. 

So when she wakes up on her wedding day with a ring already on her finger, she panics - who did she marry last night?
I really struggled with this one.

The story follows three friends - Emma who is getting married to Charlie, Holly who has recently separated from her partner and father of her two children and Kim, a married mother of two. They are in Las Vegas for Emma's upcoming wedding.

Each chapter switches between the stories of the three ladies, with a bit of an insight into what is happening in their relationships. I found it hard to like any of the characters, mostly because I found them all a bit bland. I did enjoy Kim and her husband Andy's story though. It also seemed very long-winded and the switch from present time to a flashback took effort and it wasn't as seamless as I'd like it to be.

Emma is a blogger/social media influencer and, as a blogger myself, it really wound me up how many times it said that she got "freebies" or "free stuff". It isn't free. You have to put time and effort into your posts. It is a collaboration between you and the brand. I disliked this so much that it almost made me stop reading.

A lot of it was cliché and I saw it coming. I was happy with the ending but it's just not one for me. 

The Guilty Friend by Joanne Sefton - 4/5

"One of them is dead. One of them is lying.

Alex, Karen and Misty were an inseperable trio at university. But when Alex died suddenly, the remaining two friends could no longer look each other in the eye, knowing they both had a part to play in her death.

Thirty years later, Misty and Karen have long since moved on with their lives. But when Karen thinks she sees her former friend alive, she soon becomes obsessed with a past she thought she'd left behind.

Before long, the perfect life she's built for herself begins to unravel, and it seems as though history might just be repeating itself...

Can Karen keep her secrets hidden? Or will her guilt tear an innocent family apart?"

This was really hard for me to get into at the start and it took me over a week to finish it when usually I could complete a book in about three days.

The story follows Karen, a widowed mum of three girls, and Misty, a doctor specialising in working with patients with anorexia. They are old friends from university. It's told in present time with flashbacks to Karen, Misty and their friend Alex's time in university around 1989. We learnt that Alex had anorexia and subsequently died. It also transpires that in real time, Karen's daughter Tash also has anorexia.

It was a slow burner and it wasn't until I was around 70% in that things really started to pick up and boosted its rating for me. The epilogue left me reeling.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker - 4/5

"Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc for years. The sudden death of Truviv's CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren't willing to let it go. This time, they've decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues' decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. All of their lives - as women, colleagues, mothers, wives , friends, even adversaries - will change dramatically as a result.

This is such a great book that I feel like everyone needs to read.

The story follows four women; Sloane, Ardie and Grace, employees at a company called Truviv, and Rosalita the cleaner. The CEO of the company, Desmond Bankole, passes away and tipped to take over is Ames Garrett.

The ladies are worried about this as there are whispers about Ames having sexually assaulted quite a number of people, some of these ladies being victims themselves, so they decide to come forward with their stories.

What follows is the outcome, how women are treated when they come forward with an allegation, how women in business are treated by men and actually, by other women too.

Each of the women's stories are so deep and it's very well written, with things like depositions and police statements peppered in between chapters.

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear - 4/5

"He told me he was innocent of his girlfriend's murder. 
He told me his wife was out to get him.
What he didn't tell me was why. 

He has a history of cheating.
He attended the party where his girlfriend was murdered.
And so did his wife.


Can I find the truth in the lies?"

DC Cat Kinsella and her partner Luigi Parnell, who work for the London Metropolitan Police, are assigned to a case where Naomi Lockhart is found dead in her flat. All signs point to Joseph Madden, employee at The Grindhouse coffee house, who Cat Kinsella has had a brief conversation with before about some concerns that he had with his wife's behaviour.

The story follows the Met piecing together information, conducting police interviews and, like any good crime thriller, it's packed full of twists.

This is the second book in the Cat Kinsella series but only the first I've read. We learn a bit about her personal relationships which have probably been discovered in the first book but it was easy to follow along. I love that the ending sets up for a third book. 

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton - 4/5 

"Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way - not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary drug dealer.

But Eli's life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He's about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day to save his mum."

This book is fantastic and it's so easy to see why it has so much hype surrounding it.

It is a memoir of sorts (the author states that it's around 50/50 facts and fantasy) - the main character Eli Bell being based on Dalton himself - alongside his mute brother August (Gus), his drug user mother, her drug dealer boyfriend and his babysitter, the real life prison escapee Arthur 'Slim' Halliday.

It's a fantastic coming-of-age story, following Eli and how he navigates his world between the ages of 13 and 18. Those last three chapters were brilliant and had me hooked to see what would happen. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Peppa Pig Stage Playset - Review #PeppaPigStage

(AD/Gifted - We received this item in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Although E has just turned five and likes to think she's a grown up with her love of make up and general sassiness, Peppa Pig is still one of her favourite television shows to watch and has been since she was no age.

She was very excited to get her hands on the Peppa Pig Stage Playset from Character Options to see exactly what it did.

This interactive playset works in two ways; as a stage or as a cinema.

Upon opening the box, E instantly recognised that it was a stage set. The set includes three double sided backdrops so you can create six different scenes by slotting them in the back. If you open out the hidden part of the stage at the front, you'll see a drawer containing 25 different accessories so you can really set the scene. I like that you can pop them all back in when tidying it away and keep them all together without any getting lost.

The accessories for the play scenes are a mix of both plastic and cardboard and the cardboard pieces are double sided too so there are plenty of ways to use your imagination. You even get two sets of three seats and a Peppa and George figure so they can sit and watch the show. We have lots of additional Peppa Pig characters that we have collected over the years so we can even include those in our play too.

You also have a sound panel to make it a little more interactive with sounds ranging from laughter to applause and music.

If you want to switch to a cinema style you can slot a tablet in the back and have your characters sit to watch the "movie".

E has been having so much fun with the Peppa Pig Stage Playset and I think it perfect for children aged around 3-5 but to be honest, her almost 7 year old brother was happy to join in too!

As I said above, E watches a lot of Peppa so she would happily act out episodes that she's seen or come up with something completely new altogether.

The Peppa Pig Stage Playset is available to buy from Argos and retails at £40.00.