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!

Mirabelle was in the garden feeding bones to the flowers when Uncle Enoch came for her. The flowers swayed above her, sniffing the night air. She could hear the creaking of their tree-trunk-thick stalks and the soft wet sibilance of their petals smacking together as they fed.

Any ideas?

I’m really looking forward to reading this one, which I just might include in my November books for Believathon.

Goodreads Synopsis

Mirabelle has always known she is a monster. When the glamour protecting her unusual family from the human world is torn and an orphaned brother and sister stumble upon Rookhaven, Mirabelle soon discovers that friendship can be found in the outside world. But as something far more sinister comes to threaten them all, it quickly becomes clear that the true monsters aren’t necessarily the ones you can see. A thought-provoking, chilling and beautifully written novel, Pádraig Kenny’s The Monsters of Rookhhaven, stunningly illustrated by Edward Bettison, explores difference and empathy through the eyes of characters you won’t want to let go.

Have you read this? What did you think of it?

Review: Tinsel: The Girls Who Invented Christmas

If you thought you knew the origins of Santa Claus, think again!  Bursting with warmth, humour, friendship and adventure, Tinsel is an absolute joyous story, and one I’ll be reading aloud to my class to get us all in the mood for Christmas! 

Blanche Claus lives a lonely existence on the streets of London when one day she is given a magical red bauble by a kind old woman which allows her to see a magical new world that changes her life forever.  Filled with a sense of adventure and hope, she makes two new friends:  a horse called Rudy and an orphan called Rinki.  Blanche feels the magic of Christmas for the first time in her life, but then Rinki disappears from her life …

Five years later, and Blanche is making a living as a carter, transporting cargo from the ships arriving at the docks into town.  She is dressed as a boy as girls are not allowed to work as carters.  Her life changes for the second time when she is given a small iron box to deliver to the home of Captain Garland.  Imagine her surprise when she is reunited with Rinki who has been adopted by Captain Garland and dress-designer Teddy. 

“One day things will be different,” Rinki said.  “One day the world will imagine more of girls.  We’ll make sure of it.”

Blanche makes a wish to give every child in the world a present on Christmas Day to remind them that the world is magical, but how can she possibly make this wish come true?  Now, that would be telling, and you’ll have to read her incredible adventure to find out more …  preferably with a mince-pie or hot chocolate! 

What I can tell you is that this story completely entranced me, wrapping me in a cosy blanket of warmth and joy as I adventured with Blanche to a magical and snowy North Pole.  I met wonderful new friends (the many Carols and Eggnog the fir tree are joyous – and they gave me so many laughs!).  I discovered just how easily the truth of Santa’s origins have been misunderstood:  a mean-spirited villain with a penchant for controlling the news, tinsel-mail, and just a little completely unintentional elfish error …

I loved the heart-warming friendship between Blanche and Rinki.  Despite being separated, they never forget each other, and work together to fulfil their dreams.  I also loved Blanche’s friendship with Santa, who works on Captain Garland’s ship.  He is kind-hearted, sensitive and incredibly supportive of her.  Blanche is a gloriously feminist role model:  feisty, resilient, resourceful and quick-witted, determined to make her way in a world that does not give girls the equality they deserve. 

One day we’ll write the stories, and make the rules.

Tinsel is a perfect read to snuggle up with in the run-up to Christmas and I have no doubt will fill every reader with festive cheer:  heart-warming friendships, exciting adventure, wonderfully funny, and a brilliantly imagined origin story with such inventive twists on many Christmas traditions.  Bliss!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.  I have now bought the gorgeous hardback, and will be reading this story to my class.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my 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 Jenni Jennings
Illustrated by Hannah Peck
Published by Scholastic

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Felicity Square – the very nice neighbourhood in which Malice’s family home, Malignant House, was considered a bruise upon the landscape – was calm and quiet.

This book in three words:

MISCHIEF, FRIENDSHIP, GRANDADS

Malice in Underland is a delicious treat of a story, perfect for this time of year. It is wonderfully dark, humorous and heart-warming and is a story which I devoured in one sitting. I’m already looking forward to adventuring to Underland again.

Malice Malign is not quite the perfect daughter as she does not want to cause the level of malicious mischief that her parents enjoy when running the The Malign Haunting Agency. In fact, shock-horror, but she likes being good and kind – and causing merry mischief! Luckily, she has her Grandad on her side – until the day he is disappeared – and she must adventure into Underland to solve the mystery of what has happened to him – and the other disappearing Grandads!

Will amateur detective Malice be able to uncover the mystery, recover her Grandad and find her place in her family? Luckily, she has some help from her Private Investigator Uncle Vexatious and her best friend Seth. This is such a fun adventure, packed with humour, fast-paced action and so many wonderful characters and places that kept me turning the pages until I’d devoured it in one very satisfying sitting. I loved the extra information about Malice’s family and the Underland Shopping Guide at the end of the story.

I adored Malice who is kind-hearted, determined, intelligent and courageous as she takes on the role of amateur detective and finds her way through the incredible world of Underland. I also loved her Uncle Vex who is a well-known private investigator, but who might not be quite as brave as one might imagine him to be – his reactions made me smile on many occasions!

The full and partial page illustrations are brilliant and capture the feel of this story perfectly. This is a gorgeously dark, humorous adventure filled with friendship, mystery and oodles of fun, and one which I would highly recommend.

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!

November and December anticipated middle-grade releases

October was a fantastic month for middle-grade releases, and my TBR has grown significantly as a result. November and December seem to be quieter months for publication, but I did find 10 books that I definitely want to get. I have managed to get my hands on a few of them already! I have shared the publishers or Goodreads synopsis for each. I have no doubt I’ll find more to add to my Christmas wish list as I browse my local bookshops and follow recommendations on Twitter and from the blogs I follow.

Published by Walker Books on 5th November

Through the glass, the magic is waiting… Nona and her uncle travel everywhere together, replacing stained-glass windows in war-torn buildings. When a mysterious commission takes them to the lonely moors of Dartmoor, Nona discovers a wild and powerful magic which threatens everything. Can Nona protect those she loves – even if it means fighting darkness itself? A beautifully imaginative and rich adventure about determination, courage and the power of love, set in the aftermath of World War Two.

Published by Nosy Crow on 5th November

You have heard, no doubt, the tale of Master Oliver Twist – that rags-to-riches boy; the parish orphan who became heir to the Brownlow fortune. But what few know is that was a second Twist – a girl, brought into this world moments ahead of her brother. This is the story of Twill Twist – and her journey through the gambling dens and workhouses of London, as she attempts to make a life for herself, rescue her friends, and uncover the mystery of her past – while meeting some familiar faces along the way… Re-discover the Artful Dodger, Fagin, and Oliver Twist himself, along with a host of fantastic new heroes and villains, in this brilliantly-imagined, rip-roaring sequel to Dickens’ much-loved classic.

Published by Walker Books on 5th November

Sometimes at the darkest hour, hope shines the brightest… When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must travel to Blitz-bombed-London to save his sister. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.

Published by Scholastic on 5th November

Creepy Direspire Hall sits glowering on the moors – and if you stray too close then beware the growls and scary sounds from within… When animal lover Cora learns that Direspire’s mysterious owner is looking for a new Creature Keeper, she realises this might just be the chance she’s looking for to save her parents’ farm. But Direspire Hall is a spooky place and the strange creatures who live there are nothing like Cora is expecting. As Cora settles into her new life, it soon becomes clear that Direspire has its secrets, and that somebody will do whatever it takes to keep them… 

Published by Chicken House Books on 5th November

At the Sunny Bay Home for Superfluous and Accidentally Parentless Children, Pip and Flora are in trouble. Running away with their dog they discover the Marvellous Land of Snergs, a magical world of cinnamon bears and scrumptious feasts – but also one of vegan ogres, disgraced jesters and dastardly Kelps, with a villain dressed entirely in purple … Soon their only friend is forgetful but lovable snerg, Gorbo. He will lead them home – if they can decide where home really is and if Gorbo can remember how to get there.

Published by Scholastic on 5th November

Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it’s cold and even the Jamaican food doesn’t taste the same as it did back home in Maroon Town. But his parents have brought him here to try to make a better life, so Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school – even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?

Published by Walker Books on 5th November

“Mam, did you think George was,” I say, “a bit … weird?” “Weird? Yes, I suppose so. But you kids are all a bit weird if you ask me. And to tell the truth, it’d be weird if you weren’t.” When a new boy joins the class, everyone thinks he’s a bit strange, but he’s brilliant at football and loves crisps, and that’s all that matters to Dan and Maxie. However, the truth about George is stranger than anyone could have imagined … and more sinister, too. Can his new pals help him to become truly free?

Published by Quill Tree Books on 12th November

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions. Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal. The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen? Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

Published by  Houghton Mifflin on 17th November

A boy and his pet fox go on a quest to find a wolf who has eaten all the stars in the sky before the Shadow Witch destroys the stars and removes good magic from the world forever. Long ago, the land of Ulv was filled with magic. But that was before a wolf ate all the Stars in the night sky, ridding the world of magic and allowing Shadow Creatures, beasts made of shadow and evil, to flourish. Twelve-year-old Bo knows the stories but thinks the Stars and the wolf who ate them are nothing more than myths—until the day Bo’s guardian, Mads, is attacked by a giant wolf straight from the legends. With his dying breath, Mads tells Bo that Ulv is in danger and the only way to prevent the Shadow Creatures from taking over is to return the Stars to the sky. And so Bo—accompanied by his best friend, a fox called Nix, a girl named Selene who’s magic is tied to the return of the Stars, and Tam, a bird-woman who has vowed to protect Bo at all costs—sets off on a quest to find the three magical keys that will release the Stars. But Bo isn’t the only one who wants the Stars, and the friends soon find themselves fleeing angry villagers, greedy merchants, and a vengeful wolf. And all the while, an evil witch lurks in the shadows and time is running out.

Published by Bantam Dell on 1st December

Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body! Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.

WWW Wednesday

I’m going to start reading an e-book of A Thousand Questions which is set in Karachi, Pakistan. It sounds wonderful and is due for release on 12th November.

I’ve had a very relaxing reading week on half term so far, and hope to get a few more read before I go back to work.

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Moonchild Voyage of the Lost of Found and, although I’m enjoying it, I’m finding it harder than I thought to immerse myself in the story. Morning update: I swapped to the paperback and enjoyed the story so much more and finished it this morning. I really liked the magical feel to this story and the message around showing feelings, and would definitely pick up the next one.

I also read The Orphans of St Halibut’s which is a fast-paced and humorous story about a group of orphans (and a brilliant goat) who have to try to save themselves from being sent to the terrible Mending House after the owner of their orphanage dies – all sorts of madcap fun ensues, but there is also some wonderful messages of friendship and teamwork.

I also read Malice in Underland which is a great read for spooky season with its disappearing Grandad ghosts (more to follow!).

I then changed track completely and devoured the incredible Boy, Everywhere which is a powerful story of one family’s journey as refugees from Damascus to Manchester. It is a hard-hitting and heart-breaking, but ultimately hopeful, read which is a brilliant addition to an Upper Key Stage 2 library.

I also read a story that has been on my TBR for ages, Picklewitch and Jack which is a light-hearted, fun read that I adored. Picklewitch is one of my new favourite characters. She has a heart of gold, but is also mischievous and has some great word choices!

Finally, I read my first Christmas book, Tinsel which is an absolute joy of a story. I’m planning to read this to my class as our next class read. Review to follow shortly.

It’s still half-term, so I’m aiming to get a few books read before Monday! I’m hoping to read Theodora Hendrix and the Monstrous League of Monsters and The Accidental Wizard before work takes over again!

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

Review: The Time Traveller and the Tiger

This is a truly wonderful action-packed and heartfelt timeslip adventure that gripped me from the start, and kept me entranced throughout as it took me from modern England back to 1946 Central India.

The story opens in Central India, 1946 with 12-year-old John Lassiter feeling the wrongness of his killing of a tiger during a hunt which leaves him with a limp.  This is a feeling of regret that will remain with him throughout his life.  The story then moves forward to modern-day England where an elderly John is being visited by his great-niece, Elsie who is staying with him for a week.  She soon finds a tiger skin rug in his house, and John tells her of its origins.  There is an air of sadness about John as he tells Elsie that his best friend, Mandeep, had given him a rare seed on his last day in India:  the flower that catches time. 

When visiting John’s wonderful greenhouse, Elsie witnesses the magical flower bloom and is transported back in time to 1946 Central India where she meets a young John on the morning of which he is going to hunt the tiger.

Elsie introduces herself as Kelsie Corvette, the strong and courageous heroine of the adventure she has been writing and rather different from the real Elsie who is often overlooked by others.  She is determined to stop John making a mistake he will regret for the rest of his life, but will she be able to overcome his stubbornness, and his single-minded focus on tracking and killing the tiger?

John is not very welcoming of Elsie, and only begrudgingly accepts her presence.  Has she been sent back in time to save John, the tiger or both?  As the children hunt the tiger, will the hunted become the hunter?  The tiger’s viewpoint is powerfully portrayed showing its instinctual need for survival, its desire to return to its territory and its rage that it has been banished from its Kingdom by men.

When John’s determination to follow the tiger gets him into serious trouble, he is rescued by his friend, Mandeep who is an animal lover, willing to put himself at risk to save animals from hunters.  When Mandeep is confronted by a furious hunter, the children find themselves at the heart of a powerful deception … will the children be able reveal the terrible and heart-breaking truth and so save those in danger?

I loved the rich description of the Indian landscape with its animals and plants and the portrayal of both the danger and the awe-inspiring beauty in nature.  I also enjoyed the authenticity of the character voices, especially that of a young John whose set mindset is challenged by Elsie and by what he witnesses.  This story also gives an insight into British colonisation of India and the social inequalities and unrest of the time. 

This story has a very powerful conservation message woven throughout especially with regard to the decline of the tiger population due to being hunted for medicine, habitat loss and especially trophy hunting. 

I loved how the threads of this story came together at the end of the book as they wove through history, showing what happened to the 1946 participants as a result of Elsie’s time travel. 

This is a powerful and heartfelt story which captured me completely and transported me into a remarkable adventure in a richly described Indian landscape with its majestic creatures. 

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

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is a Halloween Freebie. I’ve decided to post five books on my TBR with ‘Witch’ in the title and five books with ‘Ghost’ in the title – perfect spooky reading!

Five books on my TBR with ‘Witch’ in the title

Five books on my TBR with ‘Ghost’ in the title

Have you read any of these, or are they on your TBR?

Blog Tour: Midnight Magic – Chapter Extract and Review

Thank you to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour for the gorgeous Midnight Magic, written by Michelle Harrison and illustrated by Elissa Elwick. Today, I’ll be sharing a chapter extract and my review.

The chapter extract I am sharing is from the second half of Chapter 1 and follows on from the first extract shared yesterday by the wonderful Veronica at V‘sViewfromtheBookshelves.

My Review

Hubble bubble, this cat’s trouble …

Midnight Magic is a real treat of a story, brimming with warmth, humour and the most adorable kitten who brings a sparkle of mischievous magic which will delight young readers of 5+.

Midnight is a rare type of cat, one born at midnight with magical powers which she puts to good use at once – by enchanting a broom! Unfortunately, her magical ways are not appreciated by her mother or two siblings who fear that she will only bring trouble.  One day, Midnight wakes up to find that she is on her own, with just her broom Twiggy for company.  Saddened, she begins her journey to find a new family, and soon meets kind-hearted Trixie who may just be the friend she needs.

Trixie instantly adores Midnight and takes her home.  It is not long before Midnight is causing mischief with her magic to the delight of her new friend, but will she be welcomed by all in the family?  Are they all ready for magic and adventure in their lives?  I mean, how could anyone not adore this ridiculously cute and cheeky kitten who just wants to be loved and accepted into a family?

The vibrant and fun illustrations are absolutely gorgeous in two tone colours:  a wide range of purple tones with a sprinkling of greyscale colours which are just perfect for a witchy book, and will make young children fall even more in love with this magical story.

This is an enchanting story written in verse that is sure to delight young readers.  It is filled with mischief, magic and humour and has a real warmth that is perfect for reading aloud to a child or for newly independent readers.  A story which will be enjoyed again and again until it is a treasured favourite.  I’m so looking forward to many more adventures from this mischievous kitten!

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

You can follow the Blog Tour by checking out the posts below:

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my 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 Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White
Published by Chicken House

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Since Mamma had stopped taking commissions, their days stretched into long, unformed expanses of time, wide as the views from the top of the hill.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

I am such a huge fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave stories, and have loved all of them and dare I say it: this one is now my favourite.

The writing is exquisite and completely and utterly drew me into this richly drawn world. Sofia lives with her younger brother, Ermin, mother and pet crow Corvith outside the city of Siena in Italy. Her mother is a bone-binder who makes items from bone including their home. She has also been working on reliquaries for saints’ bones and is about to complete the final one when she is arrested on Sofia’s twelfth birthday. The children are taken to an orphanage run by the Duchessa Machelli, but there is something sinister occurring there. Sofia has no intention of staying as she is determined to find her missing mother.

In the orphanage, they meet Ghino, an intriguing and complicated young boy who has fallen on very hard times, and who has stolen Sofia’s precious locket. He helps them escape and accompanies them on their mission to find their mother. The changing dynamics of the relationship between the children as they learn more about each other is powerfully portrayed.

This story is breath-taking and took me on an incredible journey filled with danger, secrets and revelations above and beneath the city. It flows beautifully just like the hidden river within, and captured me completely. It both chilled my heart and warmed my soul. This is a story of love, of family, of forgiveness and hope. There is a perfect composition of darkness and light, played through the words of a master storyteller.

Both Sofia and her younger brother Ermin are wonderful characters. They show incredible courage, overcome fears and give each other strength when most needed. They judge others on their inner character rather than physical appearance. The story does explore the importance of physical appearance and its relationship to perceptions of power and belonging and I found this fascinating: do we judge ourselves more harshly than others would judge us based on our actions rather than our appearance? I also loved the children’s relationship with their crow Corvith, and the part he played in helping the children.

This is a story filled with mystery and intrigue which will compel you to read it, but is is also one of family and friendship which will capture your heart. An absolute must-read!

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 have just started The Orphans of St Halibut’s which I think I’m going to enjoy. I have also just started listening to my next audiobook, Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found.

I’ve finished listening to The Subtle Knife which was just extraordinary. The ending has made me download The Amber Spyglass which I’m hoping to listen to as my next audiobook.

I also listened to The House of Clouds which was just wonderful. It is a short book, published by Barrington Stoke who are a dyslexia-friendly publisher. The story is beautifully crafted, heart-warming and poignant. It really struck a chord in these difficult times, and shows the importance of holding your family close and spending time with them.

I’ve also finished A Secret of Birds and Bones which has become my favourite book by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I will have more to say later in the week.

I had a lovely lazy early start to Sunday so read The Silver Arrow which I loved. Siblings Kate and Tom are in need of an adventure and, when their Uncle Herbert, gives Kate a train for her birthday, they find themselves on the most incredible adventure with some wonderful animal companions. If you liked The Train to Impossible Places, this one is probably for you. I really liked the environmental message within this one.

I also managed to finally read The Time Traveller and the Tiger which I enjoyed. The description of 1946 India is really evocative, and the environmental message a powerful one. I will post my review soon.

I’m definitely going to listen to The Amber Spyglass on audio next. I’m also going to read a physical copy of Malice in Underland which sounds perfect for a late-October spooky read! I’m hoping to get a few more books read as well as its half-term next week, but I haven’t decided which ones yet!

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