Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is a Halloween Freebie! I love reading books in series, but can sometimes find it hard to catch up on a series when a new book is released as there are so many books on my TBR. I still can’t believe I haven’t read Hollowpox or The Battle for Roar! Today, I’ve decided to share books in middle-grade series that I have read and loved where there are at least three books in the series.

Starfell by Dominque Valente

A Pinch of Magic Adventures by Michelle Harrison

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

The Wild Magic Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell

The Five Realms Series (Podkin) by Kieran Larwood

The Unmapped Chronicles by Abi Elphinstone

Storm Keeper Trilogy by Catherine Doyle

The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher

Eerie-on-Sea Mystery by Thomas Taylor

Have you read any of these? What series would you recommend?

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Destiny was calling Paisley Fitzwilliam. She held its summons clutched in her hand. Walking away from the aerodock station, she adjusted the strap of her father’s old dragonhide satchel, her flame-touched curls twisting out from under her woollen cap, the sound of the aerocopters filling her ears as they lifted into the skies of London.

Any ideas?

I’m on half-term this week, and I’m determined to catch up with reading some of the books that I’ve bought and which have been waiting patiently for me to get to them! I’ll also catch up on a few which I have been sent to review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

London, the Empire of Albion. The Great Dragons of old are long-gone. Now the world is governed by the science of Celestial Physicists, and everyone’s life is foretold by the track on their wrist.

When thirteen-year-old Paisley discovers from her track that she is destined to die, the race is on to protect her dragon-touched brother and find her missing mother. But an ancient power stalks the sewers of London, and the Dark Dragon is rising, intent on restoring the Great Dragons and destroying Paisley’s family and her world forever.

In a world where science rules and dragons fear to tread, Paisley must trust her instincts and forge new friends, as she attempts to outrun fate itself.

Have you read this? What did you think?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Julia Golding
Cover Illustration by Laura Tolton
Published by Lion Hudson

Over the summer I visited Jane Austen’s house in Chawton and took this wonderful book along with me.  I just had to get a photo beside Jane Austen’s writing desk!

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Cassandra knew Jane was brewing revolution against Mama’s edict so moved quickly.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, SISTERHOOD, FRIENDSHIP

Young Jane Austen returns to solve another intriguing mystery in The Burglar’s Ball, a charming, witty and incredibly entertaining read.  I relished every moment of this captivating delight!

Much as Jane would prefer to spend her summer eating pilfered sugar plums whilst reading outside and playing cricket with her father’s pupils at Steventon Rectory, she is drawn into another adventure when her older, much-loved sister Cassandra is invited to attend a summer ball at their old boarding school, Reading Abbey Girls’ School, and she is determined to bring a rather reluctant Jane with her.

Soon after their arrival, Jane discovers that the headmistress, Madame La Tournelle, is in financial difficulties and is looking to better her fortunes by securing new boarders:  wealthy sisters Elinor and Marianne recently returned with their father from India, and their cousin Lucy. 

Whilst accomplished dancers Cassandra and Elinor throw themselves into the excitement of preparing for the ball under the tutelage of the debonair dancing master, Mr Willoughby, Jane befriends his young assistant, flautist Brandon. He reveals that he is a former slave who has escaped from a navy ship to take up his role with his new employer. He proves himself a wonderful friend in his support for Jane to improve her confidence in dancing.

Jane is not long at the school before she finds herself with a mystery to solve when a diamond necklace is stolen from a locked room on the evening of the ball.  Can Jane and her friends unmask the real culprit before an innocent person is imprisoned for a burglary he didn’t commit?

This is a wonderfully fast-paced, clever and exciting mystery which unfolds perfectly as clues are unearthed, trails are followed and truths are revealed. 

Jane is such an incredibly likeable young heroine who is willing to stand up to injustice and to challenge prejudice.  She is kind-hearted, has a sparkling wit and a determined nature.  I loved that she got to meet up with old friends and to make new friendships. I also really enjoyed reading Jane’s letters home to her brother which are sprinkled throughout the story:  sharp-witted, clever and amusing.

For fans of Jane Austen’s work, there are some wonderful allusions to Sense and Sensibility to be uncovered and enjoyed.  This story also gives a fascinating insight into late eighteenth century high society from its different forms of entertainment to the effects of imperialism and the prejudices and stereotypes inherent in society.  I really liked how the reader is given Jane’s thoughts, reactions and feelings about different aspects of society which could offer some wonderful opportunities for discussion.

This is a truly entrancing, exciting mystery that immersed me in a gorgeously Austenesque world that I utterly adored. I have no doubt that it will be enjoyed by both younger and older fans of historical mystery.

Thank you to Lion Hudson for a advance proof in exchange for my honest opinion.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I read The Dream Snatcher a while ago now so when I spotted the second book in the trilogy on my library app, I jumped at the chance to listen to it. This feels darker than The Unmapped Chronicles, but I’m really enjoying being back with Moll and her wildcat Gryff. I’m just about to start Hag Storm which I think will be perfect for spooky vibes reading!

I’ve only finished one book this week, but it was a wonderful read. I will be posting my review tomorrow.

I’m hoping to read Fledgling next which I have been approved to read on NetGalley.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: Locked Out Lily

Locked Out Lily is a beautifully atmospheric, dark and tense tale of family and friendship.  A story of facing up to your fears, and having the courage to accept changes even when these are difficult and painful.  

Lily’s life has changed due to a chronic illness which means she needs regular hospital treatments.  She resents that further change will be brought into her life by the arrival of a new baby, feeling that she is being replaced.  When her Mum goes into hospital to have the baby, she asks Lily’s Granny to look after her.  However, Lily does not want to stay at her Granny’s house and sneaks out at night …

She returns to her home only to find that there are strangers there – strangers who look exactly like her parents, but with coal-black eyes, and they have a new baby.  Lily finds herself an outcast in her own home, but is determined to evict her replacement parents, and bring her real parents back.  Luckily, Lily finds help from the most unlikely of friends:  a mouse, a crow, a mole and a snake …

Will these new friends be able to help Lily face up to her fears, and accept the changes that have happened in her life?  Will she have the strength and courage to defeat the insidious intruders and regain her home? 

I adored the blending of deliciously dark, creepy folk tales with a modern reality.   The replacement family is perfectly portrayed:  menacing, detached and ever so chilling – definite shivers down my spine!  The other fantastical element within this magical realism adventure is the animals that Lily needs to help her overcome The Replacements.  I really enjoyed how Lily’s friendship with these animals develops, each being able to offer her help and giving her the courage to believe in herself, to find courage, strength and acceptance in her reality. 

The illustrations are simply stunning and complement the evocative story-telling perfectly.

Locked Out Lily is a stunning, heart-warming tale, woven with a blend of fantasy, realism and allegory:  enthralling, tense and utterly brilliant! 

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Irish Book Week

It is currently Irish Book Week, so I thought I’d do a quick post to share some books by some of my favourite Irish Children’s book authors.

Sinéad O’Hart

I have read and loved all of Sinead’s books, and give her credit for reigniting my love of children’s books when I read Eye of the North. I am currently reading this to my Year 6 class who are loving it, making it the third time I’ve read it which is something of a record for me!

Celine Kiernan

I absolutely love The Wild Magic Trilogy. The writing is lyrical and magical, and really swept me into Mup’s enthralling adventure in Witches Borough.

Sophie Kirtley

I have really enjoyed both of Sophie’s time-travelling adventures, linked to present day and Stone Age settings inspired by Mandel Forest and Rathlin Island on the North Coast of Ireland.

Catherine Doyle

I have absolutely loved reading this magical and powerful trilogy set on Arranmore Island with its folklore, memories held in candles and brilliant characters.

Pádraig Kenny

I’ve now read all of Pádraig’s books and they just keep getting better and better. I started with Pog which was the first book I reviewed on my Blog (so it is a very special book for me), and have recently read The Shadows of Rookhaven: dark, powerful and thought-provoking.

Eve McDonnell

I really enjoyed Eve’s debut time-slip story  inspired by the real-life Great Flood of London in 1928 with its references mudlarking, hagstones and needlework. Such a clever, heart-warming story which has now got me fascinated by hagstones. I’ve even managed to find a few of my own!

Have you read books by any of these Irish authors? What other books by Irish authors would you recommend?

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Stoneaxe is watching. Hidden behind a stunted, twisted tree that clings to the mountainside, she peeps out from between the branches. Her cloak covers her mouth, so nobody can see her best spear as she tries to decide whether to throw it or not.

Any ideas?

I have absolutely loved this series as have lots of children in the classes I’ve taught.

Goodreads Synopsis:

After capturing Charice, there is only one spirit left for Uki to find: Mortix, the most dangerous of all. With his friends Jori, Cole and Kree, Uki heads to Eisenfell – the greatest city in Hulstland – only to find that Mortix has taken control of Emperor Ash and is plotting to conquer the whole Five Realms with her terrifying army. Uki must dodge the Endwatch, the Shrikes, Clan Septys and the guards and find a way to complete his quest before all is lost.

Have you read any of this series? What did you think?

November anticipated releases …

Today, I’m sharing the children’s middle-grade books I’m most looking forward to picking up in November, or being treated to as its my birthday in November too! I’ve taken the synopsis for each of these books from the Waterstones website except for Time School which I’ve taken from the author’s website. I’ve loved previous books for nine of these authors, and there is also a debut author whose book I am very excited to read!

Release Date: 1st November

Ash Mundair is sick of his dad telling him how lucky he is and how grateful he should be to go to a good school and get an education. Despite how hard Ash works, it seems it’s never enough for his dad, and Ash begins to wonder why he should bother at all. He doesn’t feel he will ever understand what it was like for his dad to have to leave his home in Uganda to come and live in England during the 1970s. That is until a trip back to that time unveils the difficulties that people like Ash’s dad faced and what it was like to be an ethnic minority at such a tense time.

Release Date: 4th November

When an evil faerie steals Yanni’s baby sister and swaps her for a changeling, Yanni is swept into a dangerous race against time to get her back. For faeries delight in tricks and rescuing her won’t be easy. With the help of his cousin, Amy, and the reluctant changeling, Yanni must travel to goblin palaces and battle-swept oceans, discovering ancient treasures and secrets along the way. Yanni will need every drop of courage and even a few tricks of his own, if he’s to outwit the faerie and save his sister...

On a poor farm surrounded by marshlands, six sisters – Grace, Willa, Freya, and triplets Deedee, Darcy, and Dolly – live in fear of their father. Their beloved grandmother tries to protect them, but the future seems bleak. When the Full Moon Fayre makes a rare visit to Hollow-in-the-Marsh, the girls slip out to see the famous Shadow Man, an enigmatic puppeteer. Afterwards, oldest sister Grace is missing. Can Willa save her sister from one fate, and yet outrun her own?

After a series of misfortunes, Minnie O’Sullivan is whisked away to Haddington Hall: a nightmarish home for wayward girls. Bad becomes worse when the hall’s ruthless founder, Mrs Haddington, takes an instant dislike to brave, determined Minnie, and she’s in danger of losing everything… But Minnie has never backed down from a fight in her life, and she’s not about to start now!

In their fifth thrilling adventure, the explorers journey deep into the Bubble Ocean on their quest to stop the evil Collector, but time is running out . . . The Poison Tentacle Sea was home to the powerful Bone Current. As they had feared, it gave a sudden surge and pulled them in. Half-mermaid Ursula Jellyfin has always longed for adventure, and this time the stakes are higher than ever. The Collector is holding a group of children prisoner on Pirate Island, and it’s up to Ursula and her friends Jai, Max and Genie to set them free. Armed with a magical mermaid trident, and with new recruit Zara the pirate fairy on board, their mission is filled with danger. The explorers must face zombie skeletons, make a daring rescue from a whirlpool and travel through a dinosaur graveyard. But even if they do make it to Pirate Island, can they fool the Collector and get in to an impenetrable fort? Fast-paced, magical storytelling in a breathtaking underwater world.

A dark, gothic adventure set deep in a Bavarian forest, with angels and owls and magic and a boy who isn’t all that he seems to be… A cherub is blown into Cassie Engel’s bedroom during a thunderstorm, triggering a series of terrifying events. Cassie must discover if its arrival was an accident or part of something more sinister. With a self-obsessed opera singer for a mother, a strange taxidermist father, and a best friend who isn’t quite what he seems, Cassie is forced to unearth the secrets of her family’s past. As the dark forces gather around them, can Cassie protect all that she holds dear?

Meet Stuntboy. He’s the newest superhero in town. Or at least in his own head. He’ll save you from baddies like Herbert Singletary The Worst and the Frets. Or at least he’ll TRY to. And maybe someone will end up saving him too… From two superheroes, 2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal winning author Jason Reynolds and super illustrator Raul the Third, comes a never-before-seen tale featuring acts of daring and courage… and one mysterious cat.

Be enthralled by the world of Arthurian legend in this lavishly illustrated, masterful retelling. From King Arthur’s childhood to his final battle, the timeless tales of the sword in the stone, the quests of the Knights of the Round Table and the wizardry of Merlin are woven together into a breathtaking feat of storytelling. 

Release Date: 11th November

It’s Christmas-time, and when Maya’s Grandmother encourages her to go searching for magic, she didn’t bet on being transported back three-hundred years to the banks of the frozen river Thames.  Meeting a boy called Eddie, he shows Maya the bustle of the glittering Frost Fair, filled with music, sweet stalls, warm fires and thrilling rides.  But their connection is stronger than she knew, and when the Frost Fair fades, Maya discovers that her dream may have been real after all…

Olive’s best friend is a four-hundred-year-old oak tree, and it is in danger. As she tumbles into its magic world, she makes it a promise. From deep roots to high branches, a Persian garden to an underwater forest, from tulip trees to wild apple to vengeful box, she listens to the trees telling stories for all time. And she keeps her promise.

November is going to be a another wonderful month for middle-grade releases! Do any of these pique your interest?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Pádraig Kenny
Illustrated by Edward Bettison
Published by MacMillan Children’s Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Billy sat back and smiled at the screen, and just for a few moments he pretended the three of them were there together and that they were a family.

This book in three words:

FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, SECRETS

I have now read and loved every middle-grade book written by Pádraig Kenny: Pog, Tin, The Monsters of Rookhaven and now The Shadows of Rookhaven.

The Shadows of Rookhaven returns to the sanctuary of Rookhaven years after the events that took place in The Monsters of Rookhaven.  The Rookhaven Family are hosting The Great Configuration, which is held every 100 years, and Family from other sanctuaries are gathering there, many being brought through portals created by Odd who can travel to different places and time periods through his portals.

A young boy, Billy Catchpole, arrives at Rookhaven, and is invited in by Mirabelle; however, he may not be there solely to celebrate the Great Configuration, and may well be intending harm on a member of the Family …

This is an absolutely stunning story told from different viewpoints in short atmospheric chapters:  tantalising and intriguing; heart-warming and heart-breaking; a story that oscillates with secrets and revelations, and a delicious darkness and tension that makes it an excruciating delight to read. 

Each of the characters is brilliantly portrayed, struggling with choices and emotions and hidden depths that become clear as the story unfolds.  They struggle with some of the biggest questions:  what lengths will we go to in order to save those we love?  What happens when we cannot accept the inevitably of death?  How can we forgive those who have betrayed us? 

I really enjoyed the relationship that develops between Mirabelle and Billy as they share a connection that leads to a slow building of friendship. Mirabelle is courageous, empathetic and kind and recognises pain, grief and anger in others whilst feeling these emotions herself.  Both are Misbegotten, half-monster and half-human, and face the prejudice of others for being different.

I also really loved finding out more about Piglet, one of the most fascinating characters in middle-grade fiction.  He is an ancient, feared, shape-shifting entity who is endlessly curious about others and can enter their minds with ease to experience their emotions and experiences. 

The black and white illustrations by Edward Bettison are stunning and cover both partial and full-page spreads. I love that the people portrayed are in shadow throughout, complementing the story perfectly.

I cannot recommend this dark, powerful, thought-provoking masterpiece enough:  utterly brilliant!

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I haven’t actually started this yet, but I will be later this evening!

I’ve finished listening to the audiobook of Cream Buns and Crime which I really enjoyed. I especially enjoyed the case files written by different members of the Detective Society and the Junior Pinkertons. It definitely makes me want to listen to the next one in this series. I finished The Shadows of Rookhaven which I absolutely loved. It was wonderful being back with the Rookhaven Family and meeting Billy Catchpole. I will post my review this week. I then decided I would read a book which I had on NetGalley, Locked Out Lily and I’m so glad I read it at the weekend. It is a wonderful story of a young girl coming to accept her illness, and coming to terms with change. Definitely had magical realism vibes, and I loved the writing style.

I’m hoping to read Hag Storm next, and to listen to Gullstruck Island.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?