Six for Sunday

The January theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is It’s all about booooooooooks and today’s prompt is for Books you wish you’d read in 2020. Oh my goodness, I am a bit of a book buying addict, so my bookshelves are full of books I’ve bought in 2020 that I’d fully intended to read but just haven’t got round to them – yet!

I’m going to choose three books from series and three books I’ve heard so much about that I really, really want to read them soon!

I loved the previous books in all of these series, and eagerly bought these as soon as they were published. I know I’m going to love all of these – and will get round to reading them soon – I hope!

These are all exactly the kind of books I enjoy, so I really need to find some time to read them. I suppose it is a testament to the quality of the books being published that I have so many I’m keen to read. This could definitely have been a Fifty for Sunday for me – and I do read lots of books – it’s just that I also buy lots of books!!

Have you read any of these? What books do you wish you’d read in 2020?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

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 Alex Bell
Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic
Published by Faber & Faber

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

She [Stella] woke up early the next morning, though, and scrambled straight out of bed, practically trembling with anticipation as she changed out of her pyjamas and into a white travelling dress with star-shaped buttons, a fur-lined hood and extra long cuffs to keep out the snow.

This book in three words:

EXPLORATION, ADVENTURE, FRIENDSHIP

I adored this incredible adventure which completely drew me in with its rich and wonderful world-building and gorgeous descriptive language, not to mention the depth of the character-building which made getting to know the protagonists a heart-warming experience.  The children really captured my heart.

The children go on the most incredible adventure across the Icelands, full of danger and excitement and meet some brilliantly imaginative creatures including frosties and a carnivorous cabbage.  Secrets are revealed and friendships blossom as the children battle to return to the rendezvous point, but will they make it in time, or find themselves trapped in the Icelands?

Whilst this story is full of fast-paced action and dangerous situations which kept me irresistibly turning the next page, I also loved how beautifully and realistically it portrays the relationships between the children, who all have past heartache, as they get to know each other, reveal their secrets and fears and come to trust and rely upon each other to survive.

You can read my full review here.

I’m currently reading the rest of this series:

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

This is unusual for me, but I’m reading three books at the minute. I’m about a third of the way through Another Twist in the Tale which I’m still enjoying. I really like Baggage Jones and am wondering if she will appear in the story again. Twill is definitely having a hard time, but I love her resilience. The darker side of Victorian society is really well depicted. I’ve read about half of Explorers on Witch Mountain which is such a fun, adventurous read with a brilliant bunch of characters. I adore the jungle fairies . I love the writing style – it flows brilliantly and makes it so easy to get caught up in the magic of the adventure. I’m listening to Here in the Real World which is a complete change of pace. I haven’t got too far into it yet, but am definitely liking Ware and am eager to find out more about Jolene.

I read this absolutely incredible book over the weekend; it left me a blubbering wreck! This is one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read – and that is saying something considering how many wonderful books I’ve read. I’m still reeling from it, and will one hundred percent be buying the paperback when it is released and reading it again. I’ve started my review, and am trying to gather coherent thoughts on just how fantastic this is, and why everyone should read it. I will never understand how some people think children’s books are only for children. This book has helped me deal with very personal issues much more than a lot of adult books I’ve read, or any amount of talking I’ve done. This one is something special!

I’m loving Witch Mountain so much that I’m going to read the next book in the series, Explorers on Black Ice Bridge and How to be a Hero next.

What have you read this week? Have you read any of these?

Review: Delivery to the Lost City

What a perfect ending to this absolutely magical trilogy which is so brilliantly inventive and bursting with imaginative delights and utterly wonderful characters.  Delivery to the Lost City transported me on another exhilarating, action-packed adventure, full of wondrous events, danger, humour and a race against time to make a seemingly impossible delivery … an absolute treasure of a story.

Postal Operative Suzy is back at home after her last adventure aboard the Impossible Postal Express, but she doesn’t want it to be her last.  She is keen to convince her over-protective parents to put their trust in her and allow her to make further deliveries.  What better way to reassure them that making postal deliveries in the Impossible Places is perfectly safe than over dinner with her troll friends Stonker, Fletch and Wilmot not to mention Ursel, the firewoman bear?  Unfortunately, the best laid plans can go awry which is exactly what happens when Wilmot gets an urgent message from the Ivory Tower.

The crew of the Impossible Possible Express are soon charged with their most important delivery to date, a delivery that way well prove to be both impossible and their last as they must deliver it to an address that no longer exists!  What must they deliver?  Just an overdue book!  But there’s a problem:  The Book of Power is alive and has magical powers, allowing it to devour all the words from books around it, draining the great Library in the Ivory Tower of knowledge.  I can’t imagine a worst nightmare for a book lover and can totally understand the urgency in getting it to its destination …

So begins an exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventure to find a Lost City as the crew take on their most difficult delivery, a Gold Stamp Special Delivery.  They are nothing if not dedicated and are absolutely determined to fulfil their mission, even as it leads them into dangerous places, through incredible twists and revelations:  it’s a mission that will require all their ingenuity, courage and teamwork. 

This story is just brilliant from start to finish.  It absolutely engrossed me and took me on an incredibly imaginative adventure with characters who feel like old friends.  There is always something really comforting in returning to a world that I know and viewing it with fresh eyes as I explore another layer to it with familiar characters.  I also really liked that Suzy’s parents get to see the incredible world that Suzy has become an important part of, and that they get to see another side to their daughter.

I must add that the illustrations by Flavia Sorrentino are absolutely gorgeous and really capture the magical quality of this wonderful adventure.

This is an incredibly popular series in my class as I have a few of the first two books in this series in my class library which are never on the shelves.  Its really wonderful to hear the children recommending this series to each other.  I can’t wait to add this final book as I already have eager young readers keen to read it. 

Thank you to Toppsta and the Usborne Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading Another Twist in the Tale which I’m really enjoying. I haven’t got very far into it yet, but I love the idea of a twin sister to Oliver Twist who has been separated from him. She is a great character, so I’m looking forward to seeing where the story takes me!

I’ve finished reading A Tangle of Spells which is the third book in A Widdershins Adventure series, and it is utterly brilliant! I so adore these three sisters! This book is probably the darkest of the books and takes them away from their home as they move to a new village. This is due to be published on 4th February, so I’ll post my review soon. I’ve also read a short story by the brilliant Emma Carroll. It is a short read, published by the brilliant Barrington Stoke who publish dyslexia-friendly books. I adored the friendship which develops between Fran, who is the daughter of the Head Gardener at Longbarrow House, and the owner’s grandson, Leo. This story is set just before the onset of the First World War, but has other historical links too as the children explore connections between objects in the garden found and the past and present. A wonderful read with an intriguing premise!

I’ve been lucky enough to be approved to read The Shark Caller on NetGalley, so I think I’m going to lose myself in this over the weekend.

Review: Dragon Detective: That’s a Wrap

Dragon Detective:  That’s a Wrap is aptly named as it wraps up this wonderful series in perfect style:  with fast-paced adventure, oodles of humour and a frisson of danger.  This can be read as a standalone, and is perfect for younger readers of fun-filled, exciting mysteries. 

Holly Bigsby has been grounded for her entire summer holidays so imagine her relief and excitement when her Mum, who works for billionaire Brant Buchanan, is invited on a work-trip to LA – and she gets to go too! 

The family have not long arrived in LA before Holly makes a worrying discovery, and one that will require the help of her rather unusual – but utterly brilliant – friend, Dirk Dilly, dragon detective extraordinaire.  What disaster must be averted at all costs?  Only the possibility that dragonkind could be exposed to humanity!  Unfortunately, a pair of Desert Dragons have been captured on film by a famous movie director and, even worse, the film has disappeared … will Holly and Dirk be able to catch the thieves and retrieve the footage before the bickering stars of the film become the talk of Hollywood?

Oh my goodness!  The intrigue … the twists … the laughs:  I’m still giggling at the visit to the theme park where Dirk isn’t fooling anyone that he’s a dinosaur, and the alien cat conspiracy – genius!  I adored all the twists and revelations in this fast-paced, clever mystery as Dirk and Holly use their ingenuity to follow the trail of the stolen film which leads them to a deeper problem and both old and new enemies.  Without spoilers, I loved how the threads of a much bigger plot come together; how we as readers are led on a merry chase to discover who the culprits are; and, the Hollywood movie-making vibes sprinkled throughout as a famous director is making a rather disastrous movie with a precocious child-star already known to Holly.  These threads are woven together with brilliant imagination, pace and wit which kept me turning pages to see how Dirk and Holly solved the mystery. 

I loved the easy and comfortable friendship between Dirk and Holly who are, by now, old hands at the sleuthing business!  Dirk really reminds me of a debonair, laid-back detective from an old black-and-white film (drinking his orange and blackcurrant squash neat) and being master of the witty one-liners, so it is just perfect that he ends up in Hollywood.  There were some very touching moments between them that were just perfect. 

I must admit though that my favourite characters are the absolutely fantastic Desert Dragons, Putz and Kitelsky who are the unwitting stars of the missing film. They are territorial, tetchy and argumentative and, dare I say it, perhaps not the brightest duo around.  They leap into situations without thinking but deep, deep down, they have hearts of gold (probably) and I like to think a little burning flame is flaring in Putz which will help him reach his ambition of being able to generate fire as well as poison.  The other character who I adored is Mrs Klingerflim, Dirk’s elderly landlady who is somewhat of a dragon expert having helped her husband study, and create a definitive guide, to dragonkind. 

This is a fantastically exciting, fun and fast-paced adventure that I can’t wait to share with my class as, I have no doubt, they will love it as much as I have.  A perfect wrap-up to a brilliant series. 

Thank you to Charlie and Little Tiger for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

December Wrap-Up

I can’t believe it’s time to wrap-up another month – and year! It was not the year I expected, but I feel grateful to have coped and to have my husband with me who is my ultimate support. He makes me smile when I want to cry; has listened to me complain and explode on many an occasion; but, most importantly, he has played computer games and left me to read in peace! :-). There have definitely been lows with the loss of my Dad in April and my sister being hospitalised in November. But there have also been highs. Being back in the classroom in September after so long teaching online during lockdown was definitely a high as was the support from colleagues in school. I’ve got a brilliantly wonderful and supportive team who have helped me survive this past term. Whilst I want to be back in class teaching, this is the first time I’ve actually felt sad and scared as cases are rising so quickly but I’m not going to think about that … instead, I’m going to be spending New Year’s Eve drinking champagne and facetiming with my sister in Ireland.

Goodreads Challenge:

I managed to read more than the 120 books I’d set as my target. I feel very lucky to have found the time to read so many wonderful books this year, and I really hope to be able to continue this next year.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 11 books this month which includes 8 physical books and 3 e-books.

Physical books read:

e- books read:

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is currently at 89%. This month I’ve only requested one book, A Tangle of Spells which is one of my most anticipated books for 2021.

Books bought:

Despite the fact that I was put on a book-buying ban by my husband (as he was getting me books for Christmas), I still managed to buy 8 books – don’t know how that happened! The first five are not released until 7th January but I managed to get my hands on early copies from my local Waterstones. I also managed to buy a couple of adult books!

Christmas gifts:

I was rather spoiled for books by my husband this Christmas – some were on my wish list and some he managed to surprise me with. I got a mixture of adult and middle-grade books, all of which I’m very much looking forward to reading in the New Year.

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • October, October by Katya Balen
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
  • 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison
  • Leo’s Map of Monsters by Kris Humphrey and illustrated by Pete Williamson
  • Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge (this was by Reading Rocks Secret Santa)
  • The Creature Keeper by Damaris Young
  • The Nowhere Emporium by Ross McKenzie
  • Owl and the Lost Boy by Amy Wilson

Right, I’m off to start with Prosecco and then move to champagne. Wishing all of the wonderful bloggers who visit my little Blog a Happy New Year! I appreciate your support and comments more than you can imagine – thank you!

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

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 Hanna Alkaf
Cover Illustration by Anastasia Suvorova
Published by HarperCollins

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

FOR A WHILE after the witch drew her final breath the ghost sat very still, wondering what to do next.

This book in three words:

MALAY FOLKLORE, GHOSTS, FRIENDSHIP

I’ve read a few really brilliant spooky middle-grade books this year which genuinely scared me including The Haunting of Aveline Jones, Small Spaces and The Jumbies. The Girl and the Ghost is another fantastic addition to my list of spooky, scary children’s books.

This is an incredibly powerful and gripping story which I absolutely adored and devoured in a couple of sittings. It is based on the Malaysian folktale of the pelesit which I knew nothing about, but I did enjoy finding out more during reading the book and in some of my own research afterwards, especially how pelesits are created as the story of how it was made in this book shocked me, but it also made the discovery of something else about the pelesit (no spoilers) towards the end of the book incredibly poigant.

This is a story of love, jealousy and enduring friendship and is both chilling and heart-warming. Suraya becomes the master of her witch grandmother’s pelesit after her death. The pelesit feeds on her blood and she becomes his master, although he definitely makes hos own decisions as well.

Suraya names the pelesit Pink and they become firm friends, especially as Suraya does not have friends of her own and is cruelly bullied by others. This is something that Pink can’t bear and so he seeks revenge showing his dark spirit. Suraya is a kind-hearted girl who doesn’t want anyone hurt so commands him to stop, but this goes against his nature. Pink’s inner fight with himself, struggling to go against his nature, is beautifully written and I found this very touching, especially with the incredible twist.

When a new girl, Jing, joins the school, Suraya makes a friend which makes Pink jealous and drives a rift between the two. However, when Pink is in danger, jealousies and pain are forgotten and their deep friendship and love for each other leads them, with Jing, on a journey to find the truth and save Pink.

This is a powerful, heartfelt and dark read with a twist that brought tears. I didn’t know anything about Malay folklore so the origins of the pelesit came as a shock. This is one I would highly recommend for anyone interested in Malay folklore and for mature children in Year 6 and above.

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!

Review: The Forest of Moon and Sword

The Forest of Moon and Sword is a fascinating historical adventure set during the English Civil War which centres on the persecution of women who practised herblore, and one courageous girl’s determination to fight back in order to save someone she loves.

It is June 1647 and twelve-year-old Art Flynt is hiding alongside her mother and a small group of other women who have been accused of witchcraft when they are discovered by the Witchfinder General’s soldiers.  Art escapes and witnesses the cruelty of the soldiers towards the accused women.  She discovers that her mother will be taken far from her Scottish home to Essex where she will be executed with many others at the summer solstice.  She has promised her mother that she will stay with her Aunt in Scotland, but this is a promise that Art is unable to keep …

Feeling the strength of hatred and prejudice against the accused women in her community, Art makes a determined and courageous decision to travel to Essex, disguised as a boy, and rescue her mother, but she only has eight days before the summer solstice:  will she be able to make the perilous journey, avoid discovery and save her mother before it is too late?

Stories about witchcraft in its historical context both fascinate and horrify me.  I thought that the blend of historical fact, air of mystery and building of tension worked really well.  The sense of injustice, hatred and prejudice against these women who helped in their community as herbalists and healers permeates the story.

It is into this world that Art undertakes her rescue mission, showing great inner strength, courage and determination.  I really liked that there is a thread of other-worldly mystery woven into the story as well as the historical background of Matthew Hopkins relentless hunt for witches during the English Civil War. 

On her journey, Art rescues a young girl accused of witchcraft and they soon become firm friends.  Mercy proves herself to be a loyal and true friend who is willing to take great risks to help Art in her daring and dangerous rescue mission.  The friends also meet a boy called Elijah, but will he prove to be friend or foe?

This is a powerful, exciting and immersive historical adventure where fierce, daring girls fight against the prejudice and hatred being shown towards those they love. 

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

WWW Wednesday

I’m just about to start A Tangle of Spells which is definitely one of my most anticipated reads for 2021. I definitely feel the need to escape into another adventure with the Widdershin sisters!

I’ve actually read an adult book! And what fantastic book it was! The Once and Future Witches completely and utterly captured me from start to finish. It is such a powerful story that for me really honed in on the strength, endurance, love and friendship of a group of women who stood up to the inequalities and discrimination levied against them. I loved the use of traditional rhymes and fairy tales as spells and the ‘realness’ of the witchcraft; the fairy tale elements were brilliantly woven into the story. All three sisters, Juniper, Agnes and Bella were all fantastic characters, torn apart by cruelty and seeming betrayal and brought back together through the call of witchcraft and sisterhood. My heart broke for them, sang for them and worried endlessly for them even though they were such resilient characters. Even though I know this is a fantasy story, it was so real for me and made me feel so much emotion: anger, pride, worry, fear, hope. An unforgettable story that still has me thinking about it.

I also read an e-book of The Girl and the Ghost on Borrowbox. This is an incredible story which I absolutely loved. It is based on the Malaysian folktale of the pelesit. This is a story of love, jealously and enduring friendship and is both chilling and heart-warming. Suraya becomes the master of her witch grandmother’s pelesit after her death. She names him Pink and they become firm friends especially as Suraya does not have friends of her own and is cruelly bullied by others. This is something that Pink can’t bear and so he seeks revenge showing his dark spirit. Suraya is a kind-hearted girl who doesn’t want anyone hurt so commands him to stop. When a new girl, Jing, joins the school, Suraya makes a friend which makes Pink jealous and drives a rift between the two. However, when Pink is in danger, jealousies and pain are forgotten and their deep friendship and love for each other leads them, with Jing, on a journey to find the truth and save Pink. This is a powerful, heartfelt and dark read with a twist that brought tears. I didn’t know anything about Malay folklore so the origins of the pelesit came as a shock. Definitely one for the top end of middle-grade.

I’ve just finished Dragon Detective: That’s a Wrap which was a really fun mystery as Holly and Dirk head to LA to stop the existence of dragonkind being revealed to an unsuspecting world. This will be published in 7th January, so I will post a review before then.

I have so many books to read that it’s really hard to choose! I think I’ll go for Another Twist in the Tale next.

Have you read any of these? What have you read this week?