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 Michelle Harrison
Cover Illustration: Melissa Castrillon
Published by Simon & Schuster

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Set upon bleak, drizzly marshes and overlooked by a vast prison, Crowstone wasn’t a place people came to unless they had to.

This book in three words:

MAGICAL, SISTERHOOD, WITCHY

A Sprinkle of Sorcery is the absolutely irresistible, and most welcome, return to the Poacher’s Pocket and the lives of the Widdershin sisters and their wonderfully crotchety, straight-talking, protective Granny.  This unforgettable, thrilling adventure captivated me just as much as my introduction to these incredible girls in the equally amazing A Pinch of Magic.  I’m lucky enough to have signed copies of both of these books.

I am in awe of Michelle Harrison’s imagination and skill in writing this story:  hidden islands of legend, will-o-the-wisps in different guises, pirates, witches and a sprinkle of sorcery.  The strong bond between the sisters is such a strength of this book. The Widdershin sisters epitomise strong bonds of sisterhood: they may have their arguments and disagreements– what sisters don’t? – but, what really stands out, is that they look out for each other and love each other sincerely and deeply. 

You can read my full review of this magical story here: A Sprinkle of Sorcery

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’m just about to start reading The Mostly Invisible Boy which I have been sent for review by the author. I am also listening to Back Home by Michelle Magorian which I’m loving . I’m also reading The Jumbies for the Middle Grade Marvels reading group. I’ve read the first 11 chapters and am loving it. It’s quite creepy and I found it interesting that it revealed quite a lot at the start which makes me rather intrigued as to where the story will go next.

I finished listening to the audiobook of Louisiana’s Way Home from Borrowbox. Oh my goodness, it was fantastic. There are some very poignant moments in the story, but there is also hope. Louisiana is a wonderful young girl who I was rooting for from the start. She is both vulnerable and strong and her raw, honest telling of her story is both heart-breaking and uplifting. I also read The Time of Green Magic and The Mask of Aribella which are Books 6 & 7 of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge. I will post my reviews soon. I don’t often read Young Adult, but I saw an author on Twitter recommending Pet so I thought I’d get a copy. It’s a really stunning, thought-provoking read which tackles the issue of ‘monsters’ who are hiding in plain view, more difficult to find as the city of Lucille is supposed to have purged itself of all forms of monsters in society. One day, Jam unwittingly unleashes a creature from another dimension who she names Pet. It is intent on ridding the city of a monster hiding in her friend, Redemption’s house. Both terrifying and awesome, the narrative absolutely gripped me. It really is a brilliant read, and I’m so glad I picked it up.

I’m hoping to read Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Poison Plot and the 8th book for my 20 Reads of Summer, The House on Hoarder Hill.

20 Books of Summer: Book 4

Published by Simon & Schuster on 23rd July Illustrated by Mark Chambers

What a wondrously exhilarating, heart-warming adventure!  Sparkling with excitement, exploration, danger and discoveries, Echo’s action-packed adventures completely enthralled me, and I can’t wait to go adventuring with her again. 

Echo doesn’t feel that she belongs in Lockfort City and yearns for a life of adventure which is a problem as she has been told that nothing exists beyond the City walls … until the night the rather eccentric Professor Mangrove Daggerwing sails his airship into her life and shares a map … and so begins the adventure she has been waiting for, an adventure to find her mother with nothing more than a hairpin with a wolf’s head and a belief that her mother did not abandon her as a baby.

Echo finds herself sailing to Port Tourbillon with her best friend, Gilbert (who happens to be THE most adorable lizard), the rather timid Prince Horace who sneaks aboard the sky-ship and the Professor.  Tracking down her one connection to her mother, Echo soon finds herself on the run from the Queen’s Guards, making new friends and in search of the infamous Black Sky Wolves sky-pirates.  Her search leads to danger, incredible discoveries and new beginnings … and I just have to mention the carnivorous plants!

The world-building is absolutely superb from the uniformity of Lockfort and its people to the riot of colour and rich diversity that is Port Tourbillon to the old-fashioned and delightful sky-ship which really made me want to join the adventure … even if I am afraid of heights.  I’d love to have tea on a hammock, but I might have to say no to the squibnuts!

I absolutely adored Echo.  She has an adventurer’s soul:  determined, curious and courageous with a sense of justice and a kind heart.  Gilbert, her lizard, is a loyal, helpful and intuitive companion who she has an almost telepathic connection with.  I never thought I’d say this, but I want a Gilbert! I also really liked Horace who adores books and is fascinated by butterflies.  He may not be a typical hero, and is a rather reluctant adventurer, but, when it matters most, he proves himself to be a loyal friend who is braver than he believes and shows that words can be just as important as actions when it comes to courage.  The friendship between Echo and Horace is brilliant:   they may bicker and argue but, when it matters, they always look out for each other.

This is an unmissable, action-packed adventure into an exciting immersive world that kept me entranced throughout. I have been seeing some of the wonderful illustrations by Mark Chambers which will be in the final version of the book, so am keen to purchase a copy when it is published.

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

June Wrap-Up

It’s a while since I’ve done a monthly wrap-up. I’ve been going in to school a couple of times a week for key worker children whilst setting and marking online work for my class daily. The more time goes on, the more I miss my class and realising that I won’t get to teach them again this year has been hard to accept. I also lost my Dad back in April which was really tough as I wasn’t able to go to his funeral in Ireland. It may seem strange, but I don’t think I’ve been able to process this emotionally yet, apart from huge feelings of anger and guilt that I couldn’t be there. I’m going home to Ireland at the start of August when I’ll be able to visit his grave, so I think it will hit home then that he’s no longer here.

I’ve been able to visit bookshops again recently which was wonderful even if I did find myself walking around with my arms folded to try to stop myself from touching books unless I intended to buy them.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read thirteen physical books this month and listened to four audiobooks. I was sent The Wysman (e-ARC) and Mermaid’s Rock: The Floating Forest for review. I’m also taking part in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge so have read The Princess Who Flew with Dragons, A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers’ Secret, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond and The Titanic Detective Agency for the Challenge so far. The others have been books from my TBR that I felt in the mood to read. The audio books I listended to were: Howl’s Moving Castle, A Witch Come True, Skeleton Keys: The Haunting of Luna Moon and Runaway Robot. I’ve been going for walks most mornings and listen to audio books, so I’ve listened to more than I normally would.

Books I’ve bought:

I bought eleven books in June, ten physical books and one e-book (Freedom). I’ve read three of them so far, and am reading The Jumbies for the Middle Grade Marvels Book Club.

MG Takes on Thursday

I’ve also started a new meme to celebrate my one year Blogiversary. It shouts out about my love of Middle-Grade books and is called MG Takes on Thursday. The books I celebrated in June were:

  1. Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari
  2. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  3. The Ghouls of Howlfair by Nick Tomlinson
  4. The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum

Reviews posted:

The books I’ve posted reviews for in June are:

  1. The Wysman
  2. Mermaid’s Rock: The Floating Forest
  3. The Princess Who Flew with Dragons
  4. A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers’ Secret
  5. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
  6. The Wild Way Home
  7. Dragon Detective: School’s Out

NetGalley Approvals:

I’ve been trying so hard not to request too many books on NetGalley, but it’s VERY hard as there are so many great books I want to read and I have been auto-approved by a publisher who has some fantastic books which I can just read – oh the temptation! The books which I currently have to read on NetGalley are:

  1. Dragon Mountain
  2. The Time Traveller and the Tiger
  3. The Midnight Swan
  4. Kidnap on the California Comet
  5. Witch

What books have you read this month? Have you read any of these?

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 Judith Eagle
Illustrated by Kim Geyer
Published by Faber & Faber

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

She had never been there [Paris], yet she felt as though she knew it like the back of her hand.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

I absolutely loved The Secret Starling so was eager to read The Pear Affair. And what a BRILLIANT story this is. It is an incredibly gripping mystery, set in 1960’s Paris, which kept me eagerly turning pages as I desperately wanted Nell to be reunited with Pear, but I was NOT prepared for some of the revelations – just WOW!

Twelve-year old Nell feels unloved and neglected by her rich parents whose sole focus seems to be on making even more money. She has been loved by her au pair, Perrine (Pear) who was sent back to Paris when Nell was seven, but has been writing to Nell every month for five years; however, her letters have stopped for the last six months …

When Nell gets the opportunity to go to Paris on her parents’ business trip, she is determined to investigate Pear’s disappearance, and so her adventure – and discoveries – begin … mysterious spores, accusations of theft, Parisian tunnels, new friends, corruption, greed … this engrossing story is full of fast-paced action, intrigue and incredible revelations which absolutely captured me from start to finish.

Nell is a wonderful young girl, with truly awful parents, who captured my heart. She is independent, determined and loyal, and shows courage when facing her fears. She develops some heart-warming friendships with the children who help her in her mission and show her the tunnels beneath the Parisian streets where they have their dens. I especially enjoyed her relationship with Xavier who works as a bellboy in the hotel where she is staying.

I just have to mention the gorgeous chapter heading illustrations at the start of each chapter which complement the story perfectly. I also loved the depiction of 1960’s Paris – the sights, smells and sounds of the boulangeries, boutiques, fashion houses and tunnels.

The Pear Affair is an absolute triumph of a middle-grade mystery: a really clever, fascinating story with plenty of action, intrigue and wonderful friendships. And the ending – just perfect!

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’ve just started The Time of Green Magic which is the 6th book of my 20 Books of Summer, but I’m already getting behind with reviewing them! I’m listening to Louisiana’s Way Home and am really enjoying this – the narrator is great!

I’ve finished books 4 and 5 of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge, Sky Pirates and The Titanic Detective Agency, both of which I really enjoyed. I’ll be posting my reviews soon. I also read Tom’s Midnight Garden which is a story I’ve wanted to read for ages. I picked it up in Waterstones on Saturday, and read it on Sunday. I really, really loved it. It is a time-slip novel about a young boy who is sent to stay with his Aunt and Uncle after his brother catches measles. He discovers a wonderful garden, and forms a friendship with one of the children who lives in the house, Hatty. Night after night, he spends time with her as seasons pass and she ages. I adored the heart-warming ending although I had already guessed the connection. And I picked up another time-slip story, The House on Hawthorn Road which I picked up when I was in Ireland at Christmas. It tells the story of two families living in the same house, one in the 1950s and the other 60 years later, who can travel to each others’ time. The main characters are Beth (from present) and Robbie (from 1950s). I really enjoyed the development of their relationship, especially as Robbie is not the best-behaved boy, yet he helped Beth become more of her real self. The time-slip aspect was intriguing and I loved how it developed. This story has realistic relationships with humour and poignancy. The differences in the roles of the women from both time periods was really interesting, and I loved how both women’s attitudes changed as a consequence of knowing each other. This is a story of family, rather than children within family, which was a real change for me as I’m definitely more used to missing/deceased parents in the middle-grade fantasy stories I read!

Next, I’m hoping to read the 7th book of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge, The Mask of Aribella.

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020. I’ve had a really busy day with online teaching work, planning next week’s English and a project for a child in my class, so this is being posted late – but I really wanted to do this one! I’ve been lucky enough to have early access to some amazing books coming out later this year, so I have only included those which I’m unlikely to get to read before publication – it was so hard to choose as there are SO MANY amazing books being published later this year.

These are my Most anticipated middle-grade books coming out in the second half of the year.

I adored Nevermoor and this might just be the kick I need to read Wundersmith.

The Land of Roar was the first book I read to my class this year, and they and I loved it, although my Crowky voice was very strange!

I absolutely adored I, Cosmo last year which was told from an elderly golden retriever’s viewpoint. I hoped the author would write a story from a cat’s viewpoint and she has – kind of!

I loved the world of The Midnight Hour which was recommended by a boy in my class last year.

This is set in Singapore, and might have a ghost! It sounds wonderful.

I adored I Girl Called Owl which I read as part of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge last year, so was really excited to see that the author is releasing another book in this world. Her writing is just gorgeous.

I loved Pog and have Tin on my TBR. This one sounds incredible – dark, creepy and monsters.

The first book in this series, The Ghosts of Howlfair was one of my favourite reads last year – brilliantly written and laugh-out-loud funny. I was very excited to see that there will be more adventures with Molly Thompson.

OMG, I was ridiculously excited to see that Sophie has written another story. She is an absolute must-buy author. This one has portal magic and I can’t wait …

Kiran is another must-buy author for me. I’ve read her middle-grade, young-adult and adult books. This one is a return to middle-grade, and sounds incredible – set in an Italy ravaged by plague, a mother goes missing and her children escape from an orphanage, in search of the truth. This is going to be SO good.

What books are you looking forward to?

20 Books of Summer: Book 3

This gorgeous, heart-warming adventure, filled with magical imagination and quirky inventiveness, absolutely captured me from the opening lines, and kept me engrossed throughout as I ventured with Bronte on her many travels. 

A telegram arrives to inform ten-year-old Bronte Mettlestone that her parents have been killed by pirates.  Bronte’s parents had left her in the care of her Aunt Isabelle when she was a baby, but have left precise stipulations in their Will which Bronte must follow to the letter, or risk the destruction of her home town, Gainsleigh.  Bronte must travel throughout the Scattered Kingdoms and Empires – alone – to deliver small gifts to her other ten aunts.

So begins an amazing series of adventures filled with a rather eccentric assortment of Aunts and fantastical creatures from elves to water sprites to dragons. I really want to write about what happens when Bronte visits each of her Aunts, but I really think that is something each reader should enjoy discovering for themselves … and each adventure is an absolute treat!

I will say that, with each of her visits, Bronte has exciting adventures, makes discoveries or learns more about her family and some of their secrets.  I really loved reading about each of her adventures which are like mini-stories in themselves – humorous, exciting, dangerous and fascinating.  Each adventure is very cleverly woven into the fabric of the story to bring together a much bigger story involving family secrets, trickery and dark magic.

I found it really touching that each of the gifts which Bronte gives to her Aunts invoke treasured memories of Bronte’s parents which they share with her.   But do her parents have another motive for choosing each of the gifts?

The plot is masterfully woven and fabulously engaging, and took me on a series of richly imaginative adventures to a beautifully heart-warming conclusion.  I wasn’t expecting some of the twists about Bronte’s parents, and what Bronte discovers about herself.  I love when a story surprises me, and this one definitely did!

Bronte is the most wonderful, kind-hearted young girl, brought up to be very proper by her Aunt and Butler.  Secretly excited by the idea of an adventure, she is courageous and determined, but also humble.  These qualities, along with her sharp wit, curiosity and astute observations, help her overcome the difficulties she finds on her many adventures. 

This is a delightfully enchanting adventure which kept me utterly entranced as I journeyed with the wonderful Bronte on her ‘extremely inconvenient adventures’ to learn some incredible family truths whilst making new friends along the way. I was so excited when I saw that the second book in the series, The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars, is publishing later this year.

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!

On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.

Any ideas?

I read The Wolf Wilder and The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about Rooftoppers so I treated myself to this gorgeous new edition which was published on 28th May.

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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 Sita Brahmachari
Illustrated by Evan Hollingdale
Published by Orion Children’s Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

One side of her parting was now the tangle-free silken ‘raven river’ as Nabil had named it, and that her twin Themba loved to twist around his fingers to get to sleep.

This book in three words:

FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, HOPE

This is an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking story which totally engrossed me right from the prologue which occurs 10 years before the main story when society is drastically changed by the catastrophic environmental damage caused by Hurricane Chronos.

The story’s central message is a very current one around the potential devastation that could be caused by inertia in tackling climate change.  It really crystallises the effects this could have not only on the environment but also on the people who have to live in the aftermath, with the innocent bearing the brunt of mistakes made by their elders.  Children are both the victims, and the redeemers, of this dystopian society.

This is an engrossing story of family, friendship and hope, set in deeply rooted themes of the effects of climatic change, societal injustice and an exploration of freedom, which captured me entirely. 

You can read my full review  HERE.

I am really looking forward to reading ‘When Secrets Set Sail’ which is due to be published on 20th August.

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!