WWW Wednesday

Strictly speaking, I’m not reading anything as I’ve just finished a physical book and an audio book today; however, I will be starting Crater Lake Evolution as a physical read this evening.

I finished reading Harklights this week. I liked the Hobs and the natural environment, but it didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. I also read an e-book of The Girl with her Head in the Clouds which I absolutely loved. It is a short dyslexia-friendly book published by Barrington Stoke, and tells the story of Dolly Shepherd who was an aeronaut and, my goodness, what an amazing, inspirational story it is. I was completely blown away by her courage and resilience. This would be an amazing story to share with a class. I also finished listening to the audiobook of City of Ghosts which I really, really enjoyed. I’ve reserved Tunnel of Bones as I’m very keen to continue this series. I’ve just finished The Lightning Catcher this evening. I’m gathering my thoughts. I liked the premise and how it was written as journal entries as well as the emotional journey of the family who have had a lot to deal with. I will write my review this weekend. I also listened to the audiobook of The Unforgotten Coat which I had heard of years ago but hadn’t got round to reading. This is a short, but very powerful and beautifully written story. It is the story of two refugee brothers from Mongolia who move to Bootle in Liverpool where they appoint Julie, one of their classmates, as a ‘Good Guide’. She returns to the school years later, and tells their story.

I am going to listen to The Somerset Tsunami on Borrowbox next. I love Emma Carroll’s stories, so I’m really looking forward to this one. I was sent the gorgeous proof of Rainbow Grey and the Weather Magic and just know it’s going to be one I love – just got those vibes!

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

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is for Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.). I had fun finding these, and have chosen a mixture of adult and middle-grade books.

Five children’s books:

Five adult books:

I had lots of choice as so many books on my bookshelves have flowers, trees, landscapes or animals on the cover. Have you read any of my choices, or are they on your TBR?

Series Review: Picklewitch & Jack

Written by Claire Barker
Illustrated by Teemu Juhani
Published by Faber & Faber

Sheer joyliciousness!  I have absolutely fallen in love with all three books in the Picklewitch & Jack series.  Sparkling with friendship, magic and oodles of fun and mayhem, these books are an absolute delight with the most adorable best friends EVER in Tree Witch Picklewitch and Boxie (aka human), Jack.  If only the tree at the bottom of my garden was home to such an adorable, nature-loving and feisty little witch with whom I could enjoy cakes – until then, I am more than happy to enter this magical world.

The friendship which grows between Picklewitch and Jack is utterly endearing, and leads to many opportunities for a fit of the giggles.  They may be besties, but they also have their tiffs, especially if one does not agree with the other. However, their friendship is always strong enough to withstand disagreements.  The interactions between the two are fizziliciously fun, heart-warming and genuinely made me smile so much. 

I love the playfulness of the language used by Picklewitch which is such fun to read, and would make it brilliant as a read-aloud series with younger children.  The language suits her character perfectly:  a nature-loving, messy, mischievous young girl who is full of confidence and knows what she wants and goes after it – and what she often wants is cake!  She has a heart of gold and is a loyal friend to Jack, even though she does have a tendency to sulk – sometimes!  Of course, that just made me love her even more.  I also really liked Jack who is more serious and sensible and always trying to do the right thing.   Together, they learn what true friendship is, and are  a wonderful and joyful match!

The full-page and partial-page illustrations by Teemu Juhani are truly glorious, fizzing with personality and life.  They complement the humour and warmth of the series perfectly.

This is a magical, charming series that made my heart sing with delight, and brought the biggest smile to my face on many occasions.  It exudes warmth, humour and an appreciation of nature.  Go on … treat your young booklover, or yourself, to a joyous reading experience … maybe with a slice of cake!

After inheriting a new home, sensible and clever Jack moves into Rookery Heights with his Mum, ready to start a new life and attend St Immaculate’s School for the Gifted.  However, he gets rather a fright when he opens the curtains to reveal a young girl with a pointy hat, and an obsession with cake who decides to be his best friend, whether he likes it or not.

One day at school, after Jack insults her, Picklewitch leaves her bag behind and disappears. Unable to resist, Jack opens it to discover a spellbook which could mean only one thing:  a witch has befriended him.  Could he have found the friend he needs, even if he doesn’t know it?

So begins a fun-filled, enchanting and heart-warming delight as Picklewitch causes mayhem and mischief whilst Jack tries to keep her safe and stop her revealing her secret.  Will Picklewitch prove herself to be just the friend Jack needs?

Jack’s new best friend, Picklewitch is causing mayhem at St Immaculate’s School for the Gifted as she brings her own brand of rule-breaking and merry-making with nature following her in to the class. After getting a letter from her cousin, Archie Cuckoo, he soon arrives for a visit. 

Jack is worried that he will feel left out but, when Archie arrives, he is polite, immaculate and clever and they get along brilliantly with lots in common.  Jack soon finds himself inviting Archie to stay with him, leaving Picklewitch feeling left out.

However, Archie may not be as perfect as he seems.  Will Picklewitch and Jack see through his sinister plans, and reveal his true nature, before he comes between the best friends?

Jack is super-excited when his school are invited on a field trip to hunt for fossils at the Dorset seaside by an ex-pupil and his hero, Dr Firenza Sharptooth.  There will be a prize for the best find which he is desperate to win.  However, his best friend Picklewitch is not so keen to leave her garden … until she is promised I-scream!

Whilst Jack is hunting for fossils, Picklewitch is hunting for I-screams and soon inveigles an invite for cake when she spies a Sea Wizard, Scowling Margaret. 

When Jack and Picklewitch arrive at the Sea Wizard’s hidden lair, they make an amazing discovery, a discovery that the Sea Wizard has been keeping secret and that someone else is intent on uncovering …

Picklewitch & Jack is a wonderfully heart-warming, gigglesome series with the most adorable friends who, despite their differences and wobbles, are a perfect match. I cannot recommend this series highly enough – guaranteed delight with every page!

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber & Faber for providing me with a copy of Picklewitch & Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret in exchange for my honest opinion.  I already owned the first two books in this gorgeous series.

Six for Sunday

The May theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Spring into action and today’s prompt is for Pastel coloured covers. This was a great chance to look through my huge TBR to see what pastel loveliness I could find! And then discover that middle-grade is not really a fan of pastel – at least not on my bookshelves!

These are the six I found which were the most ‘pastel’ I could find!

Do you have any middle-grade books with pastel covers? Have you read any of these?

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!

Myra’s mum gave her hand a squeeze and smiled at her from beneath her bright-red clown nose. “Happy deathday, Myra,” she said.

Any ideas?

I loved Louie Stowell’s Dragon in the Library series for younger readers, so I was very excited to see she’d written a book for slightly older readers. I pre-ordered this one which came with a gorgeous pin badge – couldn’t resist!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Otherland is a dangerous magical underworld – a place where appearances can be deceiving and anything can happen. A world of gods, vampires, and fairies. It’s also… horrible. When life-long friends Myra and Rohan discover that Rohan’s baby sister Shilpa has been stolen and taken to Otherland, the only way to rescue her is by taking part in a deadly game – three impossible challenges set by the Fairy Queen of Otherland. Win the game, and Rohan and Myra can go home with Shilpa – but lose, and they’ll be trapped in Otherland forever…

Have you read this? What did you think?

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 Jenny Pearson
Illustration by Rob Biddulph
Published by Usborne

This book in three words:

HEART-WARMING, HILARIOUS, FRIENDSHIP

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Well, they like it more than the haircut Grams gave me with the pinking shears that left me with a crinkly fringe.

I recently read Jenny’s second book, The Incredible Record Smashers which I absolutely loved. Reading it reminded me of how brilliant her first book is too, so today I want to celebrate the brilliance that is Freddie Yates!

This is THE most wonderful, action-packed and exciting adventure:  heart-warming and hilarious with three adorable young boys who have such a gorgeous, genuine relationship.  I absolutely loved going on their laugh-out-loud adventure through Wales!  From the many moments of sheer comic genius to heartfelt revelations, this really is a brilliant story that captured me from the opening and left me sighing with contentment and smiling rather broadly – and just maybe ever so slightly tearful – in a good way!

This story has such a heartfelt warmth and respect for family life, handling difficult issues in a sensitive manner, and lifting moments of sadness with humour.  The true meaning and strength of family and friendship is celebrated throughout:  family are the people who are there for you, who love you, no matter what.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough:  it really is the perfect mix of warmth and humour; friendship and family; and is a superb story to help children who are dealing with their own difficult situations and to build empathy in others. 

You can read my full review here.

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 currently reading Harklights and am about three quarters of the way through. I’m liking it, but not as much as I thought I would. I’m listening to City of Ghosts and am really enjoying it.

I finished reading BigFoot Mountain and have managed to write and post my review. I enjoyed this one and especially liked the setting and the links to nature. In a strange way, it reminded me of my upbringing when I could wander a very rural and beautiful countryside in Ireland with mountains and forests. I think this gave me an opportunity to reflect which is part of the reason I enjoyed it.

I really enjoyed Crater Lake last year. I’ve been sent a proof of Crater Lake: Evolution so am aiming to read it next. I might fit in another one from my huge TBR, but I’ve no idea what yet – so much choice!

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

Blog Tour: The Chessmen Thief

Written by Barbara Henderson
Interior and Spine Illustrations by Sandra McGowan
Owl Illustration by Lana Elanor
Published by Cranachan Publishing

Thank you so much to Cranachan Publishing and to Antonia for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and for providing me with an early copy of ‘The Chessmen Thief’ . I’m excited to be sharing a Guest Post from the author, Barbara Henderson, where she shares her five favourite Viking Books for Children. I will also be sharing my Review for this wonderful historical adventure.

Barbara’s five favourite Viking Books for Children:

  • She-Wolf by Dan Smith. This recently published book captures a Viking world of vengeance and cunning, where Anglo-Saxons and Norsemen mingle and no-one can tell friend from foe. Following the murder of her mother in the strange land of Northumbria, Ylva vows to track down the three-fingered man who killed her, despite the snow and circling wolves. A story that truly captures the adventure of the chase in a harsh, hostile land.
  • Viking Boy by Tony Bradman. Gunnar is the son of a Viking chieftain, minding his own business at his family steading, until everything changes: they are raided by Skuli and his murderous Wolf Men, and Gunnar has no choice but to run to save himself. A story brimming with drama, combat, revenge and myth, it culminates in a sea journey to the Land of Fire and Ice. Gunnar’s life has been foretold, and there is more to this saga than meets the eye.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. I love the humorous take on the Viking genre in Cressida Cowell’s series set on the fictional island of Berk. The characters and their quirky names are a joy to read aloud and I highly recommend the audiobooks, narrated by David Tennant. Humorous children’s fiction at its absolute best. Ignore the films, read the books!
  • Thorfinn, the Nicest Viking by David MacPhail. This gorgeous, funny, illustrated, action-packed series for young readers who love Horrid Henry and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is set in a Viking world where manners mean nothing and politeness is pointless. A lovely, quirky take on the Viking genre.
  • The Saga of Erik the Viking by Terry Jones. This is my favourite, to be honest. It follows the structure of the sagas, with a hero, a couple of sidekicks and a series of episodic adventures on an overarching quest. On their search for the land where the sun goes at night, the friends battle a sea-dragon, a spell-hound and The Old Man of the Sea, among others. The illustrations by Michel Foreman lend the book its otherworldly quality. Simply stunning!
Barbara Henderson is the author of the Viking adventure The Chessmen Thief, published by Cranachan Publishing 29th April.

My Review

The Chessmen Thief is an utterly enthralling tale of one boy’s courage and determination to shape his own fate, a tale that completely captivated me as I was taken on an unforgettable and vivid adventure from Trondheim across the sea to the Scottish Isles. 

Twelve-year-old Kylan has not seen his mother in four years as they have been separated after being enslaved following a Viking raid where they were taken from their home on the Scottish Isle of Lewis.  Kylan is now a thrall in Trondheim, Norway where he works for craftsmen, but he longs for his freedom and to be reunited with his mother.  This hope seems like an impossible dream until an opportunity arises when the new Archbishop visits the workshop, commissioning gifts to be crafted for the leaders who he intends to visit on his mission to the Scottish Isles. 

Kylan finds himself hatching an escape plan, a plan that sees him helping to carve the exquisite Lewis Chessmen, and making a dangerous journey across the sea in the hope of returning to his homeland, a journey where he must face a dangerous enemy in merciless Viking, Sven Asleifsson, where he must use all his ingenuity if he is to survive, and where he finds friends in unexpected places …

This is a richly atmospheric, tension-filled and action-packed adventure, brimming with danger, secrets and treachery but, at its heart, it is the story of a boy who longs for freedom, a story that wholly captured me from start to finish.  Will Kylan escape from his Viking captors, and find his way back to his homeland and his mother?

Kylan is an incredibly sympathetic young boy who faces incredible challenges with courage, kindness and determination.  Astute, resourceful and resilient, Kylan fights for his freedom whilst remaining true to himself, even when he is faced with difficult choices and dangerous situations.  I thought the relationship between Kylan and Jarl Magnus, the Archbishop’s protector and advisor, was both powerful and beautifully written with each having their own burdens to bear and scars to heal.    

The story is inspired by the famous Lewis Chessmen (a set of 12th-century chess pieces most of which are carved from walrus ivory,which were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831) and fascinatingly imagines how the hoard found its way from Trondheim to the Isle of Lewis. I loved the blending of real historical characters with imagined characters; the sagas and mythology within the story; and, the wonderful world-building which drew me into this richly realised period of history with tales of the old Gods intermingled with Christianity and the influence of the Crusades.

The Chessmen Thief is a perfect addition either for any school focussing on the Vikings as there is much to learn amidst the thrilling adventure, or for anyone who loves a brilliantly engrossing historical adventure.

Please do check out the other posts on the Blog Tour:

Review: BigFoot Mountain

BigFoot Mountain is a beautifully told, heart-warming tale of dealing with loss, oneness with nature and protecting the environment told through the dual narrative of Minnie, a young girl who has lost her mother and Kaayii, a young sasquatch who has lost his home. 

Minnie lives in one of a small group of cabins built by her mother and her stepfather, Dan at the foot of the mountain surrounded by pine forest and close to a bay.  There have been wildfires which have stopped any tourists from renting the cabins, so their only neighbours are Connie and her son, Billy who live in a nearby cabin.  Exploring with Billy and his dog Musto, they discover a mystery to solve … four large footprints on the mountain trail.  Could they have been made by the legendary BigFoot?  Whilst Minnie is willing to believe in the existence of these mighty creatures, Dan thinks they are a hoax.  Determined to prove him wrong, Minnie begins her research and her search for the truth behind the footprints …

Meanwhile, young Kaayii and his clan have been forced to leave their home in the mountain due to devastating forest fires and are in search of a new home.  They are guardians of the forest, keen to maintain natural balance and have a deeply held respect for their environment.  Kaayii has been warned to keep his distance from humans but he has a curious nature and a kind heart…

I loved the depiction of the magnificence of the forest and mountain landscape, the healing influence of the natural environment and the appreciation of the importance of balance within it. 

I really felt for Minnie who is struggling to deal with the recent death of her mother.  She shares her mother’s love of nature and exploration and finds solace, but also pain, in remembrance.   The only thing Minnie and Dan have in common is their love for her mother.  I thought that the awkwardness and tentativeness between them was tenderly portrayed as they strove to heal their relationship and find a closer bond.   

I really enjoyed the dual narrative perspective as it allowed both Minnie’s and Kaayii’s story to be told with their overlapping viewpoints on the same events within the story.  They share loss, affinity with nature and care for the environment and, through their empathetic natures, they find a way to help each other. 

This is a heartfelt and tender story of loss, healing and remembrance with a strong environmental message conveyed within a magnificent landscape that captured me wholeheartedly. 

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Firefly Press for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Review: A Tangle of Spells

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

Everyone knows magic and trouble go hand in hand –

and we don’t want any trouble here, do we?

BLURB:

A dangerous spell cast over an unsuspecting village.
An enchanted painting locked in a hidden room.
A desperate race against time to break the spell before it’s too late…

It should have been a fresh start for the Widdershins. Finally free from the misty gloom of Crowstone and beginning a new life. But all is not as it seems in their postcard-pretty village. Their neighbours are acting strangely, and why do they flinch at the mere mention of magic?

The Widdershins sisters have their own secret: a set of enchanted nesting dolls with the power to render their user invisible. The sisters must use their wits – and their magic – if they’re to break the dark hold over the village, and save one of their own . . . but have they met their match this time?

A Tangle of Spells is the third book in the A Pinch of Magic series and it is just as magical, exciting and full of adventure and daring as the first two. 

The Widdershins sisters have finally left behind The Poacher’s Pocket Inn with their father and Granny, to move to the village of Pendlewick on the mainland.  However, their new home, Blackbird Cottage, is not exactly what they are expecting being rather dilapidated and having had some rather superstitious items left behind.  It is not long before Fliss, Betty and Charlie are exploring the area and are warned away from the rather sinister sounding Hungry Tree and Tick Tock Forest by the local shopkeeper.

They soon discover that idyllic-seeming Pendlewick has its own enigmatic and dangerous secrets.  This is a deliciously dark, intriguing and tensely atmospheric read that kept me engrossed throughout as the sisters find themselves in a race against time to thwart some sinister villains, to break a curse, or risk losing someone very dear to them.  I loved the interweaving of the village’s history into the story, the use of diary extracts and the dark fairy tale vibes.

As with the first two books, I adored the bond of sisterhood between the girls who have very different personalities but who clearly love and support each other.  Charlie is the youngest and is gutsy, daring and curious with an adorable word-muddling tendency.  Betty, the middle sister, is protective, determined and reassuring.  Despite the dangers they face and their natural fear, all of them show great courage and resilience.

This incredible story weaved its magic over me and kept me enchanted throughout.  I’m so looking forward to the Widdershins sisters’ next adventure.

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