Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Published: November 11th, 2021
Publisher: Black Swan
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Holiday Fiction, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Today is my stop on the tour for this delightful and uplifting book. Thank you to Anne at Random Things tours for the invitation to take part and to Black Swan for the eBook ARC.



Meet the heroine everyone’s talking about . . .

Fiercely resilient and impeccably dressed, Veronica McCreedy has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea.

But Veronica has recently discovered a late-life love for family and friendship, adventure and wildlife.

More specifically, a love for penguins!

And so when she’s invited to co-present a wildlife documentary, far away in the southern hemisphere, she jumps at the chance.

Even though it will put her in the spotlight, just when she thought she would soon fade into the wings.

Perhaps it’s never too late to shine?



‘Penguins,’ I remind her, ‘are not only a source of endless entertainment; they are an example to us all.’

Hazel Prior has done it again. Call of the Penguins is another absolute gem of a book. Full of wit, warmth and wisdom, she reunites us with our unlikely heroine in this delightful sequel to one of my favourite books of last year.

Jumping straight in, the story picks up with Veronica McCreedy back at her house in Scotland by the sea. Her adventures in Antarctica with her beloved penguins are never far from her mind. So when she is offered the chance to venture to Australia and the Falklands to present a wildlife documentary on her favourite bird, she jumps at the chance. It seems the octogenarian’s adventures are not over yet.

My love of this book and it’s protagonist are no secret, so I was thrilled when I learned that Hazel Prior had written a follow up and immediately ordered the book. I couldn’t wait to be back with Veronica, although I admit to a little trepidation that I might not love this book as I did the first one. I need not have worried. Call of the Penguins is filled with the same heartwarming and heart-rending emotions of the first book as the author dives deeper into the lives of these now-familiar characters.

“I am fizzing with excitement like a bottle of vintage champagne.”

87-year-old Veronica McCreedy is the same intrepid, bold, sharp, feisty and determined woman from book one, only with less of the cantankerous protective layer she used to surround herself with. Instead, she is now surrounded by people she loves. And her memories of the penguins. And just like Veronica, the other characters in the book are a colourful, intriguing and richly drawn bunch. I had a particular soft spot for Daisy, a nine-year-old battling cancer.  Gutsy, ebullient and utterly compelling, Daisy reminded me a lot of Veronica. It was impossible not to love her, especially during her cute and comical interactions with the penguins. 

This is a story about family, self-discovery, self-reflection, unlocking hidden secrets and penguins. Lots of cute penguins. It is clear that not only does Ms. Prior adore these wobbly creatures, but also has a wide range of knowledge about them. This book is filled with even more penguin trivia, this time taking us to the southern hemisphere and featuring a variety of species. It even gave me a new favourite: the Little penguin. 

Once again the book also contains commentary on climate change, plastics and our responsibilities to change our habits in order to create a world that is safe for the birds and animals we love. Reading it certainly made me stop and think about my own part in this and left me with a desire to change some of my shopping habits. But it never preachy, instead expertly woven into the story so all you feel is the passion of the characters for this vital cause. I love how she educates while entertaining the reader and I’ve learned so much reading these books. 

Utterly addictive, joyous and uplifting, Veronica’s story reminds us all that it is never too late to have an adventure or to make the most of life. It is the perfect book to cosy up with under a blanket on a cold day and totally lose yourself in. After all, that’s what I did. So grab a blanket, hot chocolate and some biscuits, and go read this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5



Hazel is an enthusiastic and experienced harp-player based in Somerset and Exmoor. Her repertoire spans many styles of music and includes singing with harp accompaniment.  

Hazel is also an author. Her two bestselling novels, published by Penguin Random House, are described as ‘quirky’, ‘lyrical’ and ‘life-affirming’. AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS (USA tile = HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA) is a Richard and Judy and a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.



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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in this tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Blog Tours

Blog Tour: Books on the Hill – Open Dyslexia Project

Today I’m taking part in a blog tour that’s a little different. It isn’t a book review, extract or interview with an author, but an informative post about an exciting initiative to make reading more accessible to readers with dyslexia.

Books on the Hill are a new publisher dedicated to helping those with dyslexia and who have trouble reading. The following is taken from their website:


We at Books on the Hill would like to share our new diversity project: ‘Open Dyslexic.’

We have created a new publisher BOTH Press to do this. We are passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty reading, to access good fiction. We aim to make good quality fiction accessable to those not cureently provided for by today’s traditional mass book market. Furthermore we wanted to create a tool for our fellow booksellers to help those customers who deal with dyslexia and have difficulty reading. We are working with talented and award winning authors to publish titles of dyslexic friendly books for adults. I am a bookseller, and passionate about books and reading. But this was not always the case. I am dyslexic myself and could not read until 13, and so now I am passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading.


This project is very important to me, as not only did I find it difficult to read, but my sister and many of my friends are also dyslexic. One of the most satisfying things of being a bookseller is helping children finding books they want, especially so when they were scared of reading due to their dyslexia. Since we started the project, Books on the Hill have had many adult customers with dyslexia come in shop asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stock well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied:

“I have been reading (children dyslexic) books but they are a bit childish so I am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand – it means a lot.”


Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected. Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many people who are successful and dyslexic. Famous actors such as Orlando Bloom; Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it.

We are very aware that every dyslexic reader is different so we’re keen to get feedback on our formatting. If you’re a dyslexic reader, we’d love to hear your thoughts.*
*There is a link on the site where you can download a PDF of different fonts and spacings and then send them feedback.


Books on the Hill is Alistair Sims. He is the manager and commander-in-chief of the bookshop (though his partner, Chloe, and his mother, Joanne, who set up the bookshop with him, may disagree with this description). Alistair is dyslexic and has a PhD in history and archeology. He could not read until he was 13 and is passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading. He is the driving force behind BOTH Press and has been involved in every step in this project, from finding award winning authors to contribute, the cover design, and the road to publication, including setting up for the distribution.


For more information on those who have collaborated with Alistair on this fantastic project, on the project itself, to download the PDF or order books, head to their website here.


Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😃 Until next time, Emma xxx

Blog Tours Book Features

Extract: Under the Camelthorn Tree by Kate Nicholls

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: W&N
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Biography, Autobiography, Travel Literature

Today I’m delighted to share with you an extract from this book as part of the blog tour to celebrate paperback publication. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and W&N for the extract.


Gomoti Camp, Botswana 2001
The distant chugging of a car struggling through deep sand aroused a certain nonchalant curiosity, most likely it would continue on towards the Gomoti River –nevertheless all ears in camp casually attuned to the engine.

I was concentrating on the barefoot boys high above me in the spreading branches of the camelthorn acacia tree. During the night, a funnel of wind had blown down the radio mast, and Pieter and the boys were reattaching the antenna. Relaxed andNfocused on their task, they were moving easily among the thick branches, while I imagined them lying in crumpled, lifeless heaps at my feet.

‘It’s not fair,’ grizzled seven-year-old Oakley, ‘I’m the best climber. Why aren’t I allowed to do that?’

‘Because you are my favourite child, and thus indispensable.’

‘I heard that, Mum,’ Angus laughed, wrapping his arm around a gnarled branch for support, before leaning out precariously to hand the rope up to Pieter who was reaching down from the branch above.

‘You concentrate on what you’re doing,’ I snapped. Watching my tousled blond boy dangling forty feet above me made my bones ache.

The tree was coming into flower, a smattering of soft, mimosa- yellow blossoms releasing an earthy sweetness. She was an old tree: she must have been producing seeds for many decades, for the elephants had learned her ways, and came from far and wide to feast on her grey-velvet seedpods. Usually, I shooed the huge animals out of our unfenced camp by shouting and banging a wooden spoon on a saucepan, but when the seeds ripened the beasts would gather under the wide umbrella of our tree and browse undeterred by my Betsey Trotwood vehemence. Four years ago Oakley had renamed the irresistible pods ‘elephant Smarties’, and annually we declared a pachyderm truce until the last crescent had been hoovered up.

Maisie was sitting cross-legged on the roof rack of the Land Rover, observing her older brothers and drawing the action in a notebook. It was a late-winter morning, and she had a blanket wrapped lightly around her thin shoulders, but the sun was moving up in a clear sky and soon she would be as warm as her sweaty siblings. Her animated, delicate face was already smeared with grey Kalahari sand, and when her dusty, unbrushed hair fell over her eyes she carelessly tied it back in an untidy knot in the nape of her neck. Briefly she tipped her head in response to a new sound –
the gears of the distant car had shifted down a tone.

‘They’ve turned into the palm scrub,’ she remarked, ‘are we expecting anyone,

‘Nope. It’s probably the wildlife department,’ I replied, looking up and briefly catching Pieter’s eye. Maybe there would be some news. Our life was precariously rooted – a thin slip of paper could puff us away. I had grown used to pinpricks of anxiety spiking my bloodstream – fear keeps you alive in the wild. But the fear of losing home sat in a deeper place – its movement through my body was whittling and wearing.

‘Whoever it is can’t drive,’ Travers commented wryly, lying out- stretched along a branch with the radio antenna dangling from a wire in his hand, ‘did you hear those gears grinding, Pete?’ I hadn’t got used to my sixteen-year-old son’s man voice, it still had the lilt of youth but the androgyny had gone.

‘Will all of you stop drivelling, and get that bloody antenna up? I can’t stand the tension,’ I barked, marching to the kitchen tent to put the kettle on. If my progeny were going to fall to their deaths I didn’t want to witness it, and whoever was coming to see us would need some sustenance. Bush etiquette was simple in the Okavango: help those in trouble, and offer food and drink to new arrivals.

Maybe the wildlife department was coming to tell us about a problem lion killing cattle on the other side of the buffalo fence, or maybe they’d found another poisoned lion. I looked at Sauvignon’s skull, bleached salt-white by the sun, lying on the sand beside the campfire. A month ago Pieter had found the female’s desiccated body beside a pool of water – her cubs’ carcasses scattered nearby – and all around lay dead vultures that had nibbled on the lions’ toxic flesh.


Born in London, into a theatrical family in 1954, Kate Nicholls has lived her life energised by her favourite quote.“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

She is insatiably curious and self-educated. She left home, and school, age sixteen to pursue a successful career in the theatre. Age twenty-one she had her first of six children. Now, she has five children, and three grandchildren: with another on the way. She gave up her acting career age thirty-nine to study biology.

In 1996 she moved to Botswana with her children and worked for an NGO Women Against Rape. Later she became co-principal researcher at the Okavango Lion Conservation Project– where for eleven years she studied lions–raising and home-schooling her children under a tree.

In 2010 she returned to the UK where she continued educating her youngest son and started her home-school business. Her children all graduated into top Universities in the USA and the UK. She moved to Rome, Italy in 2015 where she wrote her first book Under the Camelthorn Tree. 

Passionate about educational reform, and integrated learning, she continues her business devising bespoke programmes for individual students.

She is writing her second book.


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