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!

There was a man made of midnight, and his name was Shadow Jack. The name suited him well; his clothes were dark and his hair was darker. His eyes were pools of shadow. As he slipped through the winding labyrinth of the slums on the night our story begins, his intentions were darkest of all.

Any ideas?

I bought this when it was first published. It sounds like a fantastically dark read – I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Goodreads synopsis:

Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return, released by the evil Mrs Hester, and the only spell that might stop it is lost, deep below the great city of King’s Haven.

Then orphan Larabelle Fox stumbles across a mysterious wooden box while treasure-hunting in the city’s sewers. Little does she realise she is about to be catapulted into an adventure, facing wild magic and mortal danger – and a man who casts no shadow . . . 

Review: The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates

Published by Usborne
Published on 30th April 2020
Illustrated by Rob Biddulph

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!

Eleven-year-old Freddie Yates is a collector of facts – brilliant, obscure facts – that help him cope when life becomes difficult, and life becomes very difficult when he loses his beloved Grams who clearly meant so much to him.  Grams, however, has left him a clue that takes him on an incredible adventure … an adventure to find his biological father.  He is joined by two of his school friends, Ben and Charlie, who have their own reasons for making the journey.

All three boys are extremely likeable.  I loved the authenticity of their conversational, boyish style with its witty commentary and astute, honest observations.  Their friendship is perfectly captured through their clear enjoyment of each other’s company, their support of each other and their arguments.  And, of course, I absolutely loved the extremely funny situations they unwittingly find themselves in as they adventure through Wales in the hope of tracking down Freddie’s biological father.

The boys tackle their great summer adventure with a perfectly sensible plan… covering for each other with their parents so as not to worry them and taking a train to the last known residence of Alan Froggley to follow his trail … what could possibly go amiss with their perfect plan?  Oh – so much! Let’s see:  there is the onion-eating competition; the boat incident; the superhero costumes; and, the toilet situation to name but a few …

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. 

Thank you to Usborne Publishing for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion


#WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m just about to start The Word-Keeper for a Blog Tour at the end of the month. I was intrigued by the title and blurb on this one and am really looking forward to finding out more. What would happen if words disappeared forever?

It’s been a good reading week – and it’s not over yet! So glad it’s half term! I’ve really enjoyed listening to The Wizards of Once on audio – David Tennant makes a perfect narrator. The Ice Bear Miracle was a really magical read in a wonderful frozen setting. The relationship between Tuesday and her ice bear, Promise was so special and so important considering her situation. I loved how the two story arcs between Marv and Tuesday came together and the ending was just wonderful. I also read the third book in the Starchild series: The Healing Stone, ready for a Blog Tour at the start of March. This was a short story of dealing with good, evil and prophecy which is full of action and danger and has some wonderful young characters. Keeper of Lost Cities is the start of a series which is already popular in the US. I posted my review yesterday. I’ve just finished The Unadoptables which was AMAZING! The five children are adorable, the setting is beautifully realised and, even though they have a lot to deal with, they show real courage, resilience and resourcefulness. And their friendship is so incredibly heart-warming.

I’m hoping to get another couple of books fitted in this week. I was sent Slugboy Saves the World by the author – it sounds like a fun read – and I’m trying to read more funny books so I think this will be perfect! I’m also hoping to read The Girl Who Stole an Elephant which I’ve had on my TBR since just after Christmas. It’s the Primary School Book Club choice this month so I’m hoping to have finished it, ready for the chat.

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

Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities

Published by Simon & Schuster
UK Publication Date: 20th February

Keeper of the Lost Cities is an absorbing read which has a richly imagined world, an intriguing plot full of complexity and twists, and a wonderful cast of characters.

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster is unpopular with her peers, is a child prodigy and has the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her, all of which make her life difficult.  However, her life is changed forever when she meets Fitz who takes her to one of the Lost Cities where she makes the life-changing discovery that she is not human.  She is an elf who has been brought up by a human family in one of the Forbidden Cities, but why has she now attracted the interest of the elves … and why are white fires burning in her City?

So begins her incredible journey … a journey into discovering more about herself and her amazing abilities; into finding true friends and a new family; and, into danger, intrigue and heartache.  It was just wonderful to follow Sophie into her new life …

She is tested before an Elven Council, and qualifies to go to the prestigious Foxfire Academy where her rare telepathic ability can be nurtured, but must also be kept hidden from all but a few.  Once there, she makes some wonderful new friends – Fitz, Dax, Marella, Biana and Keefe – who are ready to support, tease and welcome her – even if there is some friction between them!  Despite where the friendships start and any difficulties and awkwardness within them, when it matters, they are all there for Sophie.

Sophie soon finds herself in the heart of an intrigue as she discovers that she has hidden memories, that secrets are being kept from her and that she may unwillingly be involved in a conspiracy between rival elven factions:  a conspiracy that leads to her breaking the law, seeking out secrets, and which puts her life in danger as she fights to help the family she has lost.

I found Sophie a very sympathetic protagonist.  She has a lot to deal with as she loses one family and dreams of belonging in another – this is the thread in the story which brought tears!  She is determined to discover more about her complicated past and to make the right decisions, even when this lands her in trouble.  Even though she has an inner strength and courage, she suffers self-doubt, embarrassment and awkwardness as she tries to fit into new her elven life.

This is the first book in the series to be released in the UK and is just perfect for older middle-grade readers. The series has already been released in the USA and currently consists of eight books.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster UK for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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!

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek had been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once had the Rules of Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the summer of 1880. Five babies were abandoned at the Little Tulip that autumn and, despite the rules being clearly displayed on the orphanage’s front door, not one of these babies was abandoned sensibly.

Any ideas?

I was so excited to win a copy of this one, and am so glad it’s half term so that I can spend some uninterrupted time reading it!

Goodreads Synopsis

The amazing humour and world-building of Nevermoor meets the wisdom and warmth of Rooftoppers in this completely unforgettable and totally gorgeous comedy-adventure!

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1886, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou; who were swiftly and firmly deemed ‘the unadoptables’. Twelve years on the children still have each other – until the fateful night a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, fleeing the frozen canals of Amsterdam for an adventure packed with puppets and pirate ships, clock-makers and cruel villains – and with only a scrap of a clue to guide them to their mysterious new home . . .

#WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently enjoying listening to Twice Magic which is brilliantly narrated by David Tennant. I have so, so many books to choose from that it’s getting harder and harder to decide what to read next! I’m just about to start The Ice Bear Miracle. I loved The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth so am really looking forward to this one.

This week I finished listening to The Wizards of Once which I really enjoyed. I also read The Kid who came from Space which is another middle-grade sci-fi. It was an incredible story which I really enjoyed. I also read A Treason of Thorns which is a young adult book. It is such a clever, imaginative book with gorgeous writing – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it!

I’m hoping to read one of my NetGalley approvals, Keeper of the Lost Cities next and also The Unadoptables as I was lucky enough to win a proof copy.

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

Six for Sunday

#SixforSunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot. The theme for February is Share the Love and today’s prompt is Six reasons I love blogging. Where to begin? I suppose the start of my reading journey is as good as any!

  1. I re-ignited my love of reading in January 2019 after spending a ridiculous number of years allowing work to take over my life. I can honestly say it was the best thing I’ve ever done – short of getting married! I read quite contentedly in my own little zone for a few months and then decided it might be fun to review the books I loved. So began my journey into creating my blog in April 2019 which has taken up a lot of my time, but I really do love it as it gives me an outlet for my thoughts on books.
  2. This may seem a little strange as blogging is a hobby, and one which I love, but I also really enjoy the challenge and stimulation it brings with it whether that be writing reviews or picking up a book/genre I wouldn’t normally try – and loving it.
  3. I was totally oblivious to the wonderful blogging community when I first started posting. Now, I love interacting with some fantastic bloggers who share my love of middle-grade, reading their reviews, and getting book recommendations – and just general sharing the love of books!
  4. I cannot deny that since I started blogging, I’ve built up a rather impressive TBR which I love as it gives me an endless supply of books – the only issue is that I can never see myself getting to the end of it as I keep adding more books – but I’ve come to terms with that – just about! I also love getting to share these books with my class after I’ve read them and being able to talk to them about the books I’ve read.
  5. I also love that blogging has given me the opportunity to read some highly anticipated books before they are released, whether that be as e-ARCs, pre-release copies or physical Book Proofs. I always feel really privileged and grateful to get these copies – not to mention very excited!
  6. I suppose the final reason sums all these up: I love blogging because I feel it is good for me – it is my little corner of cyberspace where I can write about what I love; it allows me to take my mind off other stresses and worries; and, it gives me the chance to connect with other book lovers.

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!

I remember the smell of damp soil. The sound of rain running down my bedroom windows at Burleigh House. The weight of a full valise, tugging at one arm. Below, the king’s carriage stands on the drive. I press my face against the glass, still only a child, just ten years old, not ready for any of this.

Any ideas?

I was very excited to arrive home this evening to this gorgeous book post. The cover is gorgeous and I loved the three word description: LYRICAL – HEART-RENDING-MAGICAL. I’m really looking forward to losing myself in Violet’s story this weekend.

Goodreads Synopsis:

When her father is convicted of high treason, Violet Sterling is exiled. Seven years later she has a chance to return to her beloved Burleigh House and to Wyn, the boy she left behind. But Burleigh – one of the six great magical houses of England – has gone wild with grief after the death of Violet’s father and now the capricious King of England has threatened to raze it to the ground. Vi must decide whether her destiny is set in stone, before Burleigh destroys everything she loves. 

Review: Darkwhispers

Published on 6th February
Published by Scholastic
Cover Illustration by George Ermos
Map Illustration by Jamie Gregory

Darkwhispers is the absolutely gripping sequel to Brightstorm where we once again join the Brightstorm twins and the crew of The Aurora on another action-packed, thrilling adventure, but this time into the heart of the jungle, on a mission to rescue Ermitage Wrigglesworth, a famous explorer who has gone missing.

The rescue mission is led by Eudora Vane who has ulterior motives in leading the expedition to the Eastern Isles which are tantalisingly revealed as the story unfolds.  The crew of The Aurora are obviously suspicious of her motives, but are eager to help, especially as they have made some fascinating discoveries of their own that they are keen to investigate. 

During their travels through the Eastern Isles, gathering clues as to the whereabouts of Ermitage, Arthur and Maudie find themselves separated from the rest of the crew, and from each other …

The twins are determined to find each other again … and so begins their incredible adventure to be reunited with each other, and to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ermitage, an adventure filled with unexpected twists, peril, subterfuge, poignancy and jaw-dropping discoveries, but also with new friendships and connections with amazing creatures.

The world-building is sumptuous with richly detailed description that totally immersed me in the places explored:  I loved following the maps as the crew explored these new lands.  There is a real appreciation of the beauty, power and majesty of nature as well as a message to respect and live in harmony with the environment.  There are also some ingenious inventions which utilise the wonders of nature without damaging it.

Maudie and Arthur are wonderful characters, who both have the hearts of adventurers.  Arthur is intuitive, sensitive and impulsive whilst Maudie is resilient, ingenious and resourceful.  Both children show great strength, courage and determination in dangerous and challenging situations.  They challenge stereotypes:  Maudie is a brilliant inventor and engineer; and, Arthur is not afraid to show his emotions, his sensitivity and his love of books. 

Darkwhispers is perfect for children of 9+ and opens up opportunities for discussions about the environment, colonisation, ecology and exploration, and themes of loyalty, friendship, family and moral dilemma. 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy to review for a Book Review Site in return for my honest opinion.

Review: Brightstorm

Published on 1st March 2018
Published by Scholastic
Cover Illustration by George Ermos

Brightstorm is an incredible action-packed and heart-warming adventure which felt like an ode to the golden age of exploration.  It completely captured me and took me on a thrilling race across the continents with an amazing crew.

Twelve-year-old twins Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm are heartbroken when they discover that they have lost their father in an ill-fated expedition to South Polaris.  Their fortunes take a drastic turn for the worse which sees them living in the Slumps, the poorest district in Lontown, at the mercy of two cruel owners.  However, the children are not prepared to accept their fate and are determined to clear their father’s name after he has been discredited by another explorer, Eudora Vane who has accused him of breaking the Explorers’ Code.

The children soon find themselves as new crew members aboard The Aurora, the incredible sky-ship of Harriet Culpepper as another race to South Polaris begins … and their main rival is Eudora Vane!  And what a race it is!  This story is overflowing with heart-racing action, danger, twists, revelations and discoveries.  The story-telling is superb and kept me utterly engrossed as I raced towards South Polaris with the crew of The Aurora, rooting for them as they faced adversity from a powerful and heartless rival and celebrating with them when they found new friends in the entrancing thought-wolves.

Arthur and Maudie embody so many wonderful qualities.  They have an unbreakable bond which sees them gain strength from each other in difficult situations.  They are courageous, resilient, loyal and determined to restore their family name in the face of great peril.  Maudie is a talented engineer who is keen to further her studies whilst her brother is a booklover with a penchant for history who is sensitive and perceptive.  The crew of The Aurora form a wonderfully supportive family unit around the twins, from the clever, kind-hearted Harriet Culpepper to the gregarious, fiercely protective Felicity Wiggety who has a sixth sense for danger!

This is a perfect adventure story for children of 8+ which opens some wonderful opportunities for discussion around overturning stereotypes; STEM careers; appreciating and protecting the environment; and, the age of exploration as well as discourse around themes of loss, friendship, family, class and prejudice.

I was lucky enough to be sent this book by the publishers on behalf of a Review Site in exchange for my honest opinion.