WWW Wednesday

I haven’t got much further with The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley, but I am intrigued by it. I’ve just started The Whisperling which I’m really enjoying.

I have finished Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never which was wonderful. Everyone in Everspring gets a fate card, but Ember’s is blank and, even worse, her sister’s card shows that she will die before her next birthday. Ember decides to take fate into her own hands and travel up the mountain to discover the truth behind the fate cards. I also read The Feeling Good Club which I really enjoyed and think would be a fantastic story for children going through changes in school, or those with worries. I will be taking part in the Blog Tour this Friday. I read Greta and the Ghost Hunters Greta which is a brilliantly funny ghostly adventure which both slightly grossed me out, but also brought fits of giggles. Greta Woebegone’s Gran might talk to her deceased husband, but Greta does not believe in ghosts until the day she is knocked down by a car … Greta’s parents are eager to put Gran in a home and the fact that she speaks to the dead seems a perfect excuse.  Greta is determined to prove that her Gran is not bonkers, and is going to use her ghostly friends to help her …. Grandpa Woebegone, plague victim Percy, and the sinister spectre in the cellar.  Of course, they have to agree to help, and Greta has to try to save them from being exorcised once her parents get wind of their existence! This really is a laugh-out-loud, brilliant adventure from the fantastic choice of names to hilarious situations Greta and her ghostly friends find themselves in.  There are also heart-warming moments as the importance of friends and family are shown. I also read The Tale of Truthwater Lake via NetGalley which is another brilliant historical adventure set in both the past and near future with a focus on climate change and the story behind a lost village. I loved the links made between past and present and the ending was perfect! Finally, I read The Treekeepers which was everything I was hoping it would be: I will be posting my review soon.

I’m hoping to read another spooky one next, The Girl, the Ghost and the Lost Name.

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

August Wrap-Up

Well, that’s my holidays over, and I’m now set and ready to go back to work – I think! It’s been a wonderfully relaxing summer with plenty of time to read, catch-up and have a few breaks. Below are a few pictures from my holiday back home to Ireland where I visited family, and stayed for a few days on the Donegal coast as well as the Causeway Coast. I then spent a few days in Herefordshire, and visited Hay-on-Wye and the Brecon Beacons.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 15 books this month: 11 physical copies, 3 e-books and 1 audiobook. I’ve posted reviews for 5 of them and have a few more I will be posting in the next week.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is at 97%. I have three books on my shelf to read, and really want to read them before requesting any more. I am getting close to my 100 Reviews Badge, and am hoping to achieve it before the end of the year. These all sound perfect for spooky season!

Books sent by publishers:

I have been lucky enough to have been sent these books by publishers this month. I think it’s the most books I’ve been sent in single month, and I definitely really appreciate getting sent them. I have read 4 of these, and am really looking forward to reading the rest during September and October, ready for their publication dates.

Books bought:

I’ve bought books this month. I’ve actually managed to read 4 of them already!

How has your reading month been? Have you read any of these? Have you any of them on your TBR?

Review: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is an action-packed, thrilling, wildly enjoyable adventure that kept me utterly gripped throughout.

British-Nigerian Onyeka lives with her over-protective mother.  She hates feeling different and having people stare at her due to her hair, and is desperate to feel that she belongs.  When swimming with her best friend, Cheyenne, she makes an incredible discovery:  her hair has psychokinetic powers which she uses to save Cheyenne from drowning. 

After an argument with her mother and another display of her power, she reveals that Onyeka is a Solari and has inherited her supernatural power from her father, a father who disappeared shortly before they had to leave Nigeria to remain safe.

Onyeka returns to Nigeria with her mother where she is taken to an elite school for Solari, the Academy of the Sun in Lagos where they are taught how to use their powers to keep Nigeria safe.  Onyeka is to train and learn about her powers in the Academy whilst her mother searches for her father, but the Academy may not be quite what it seems …

So begins a fast-paced, heart-racing adventure as Onyeka and her friends unearth hidden truths which lead them into dangerous situations … is there something sinister behind the Academy’s secretive nature and intense interest in the Solari and in keeping their powers hidden from others?  Are the Rogues who attack the Academy the villains they appear to be?  I absolutely loved the twists and turns in this adventure which took me on a such an exciting rollercoaster.  I’m so ready for the next book in this series after that ending!

As well as being an exhilarating adventure, this is also a powerful story of family, friendship and believing in and accepting yourself.  Onyeka has a wonderfully supportive friend in Cheyenne who anchors her, and I loved that this friendship continues after Onyeka leaves London.  I also enjoyed the slow building of her friendship with Adanna who has her own reasons for finding it hard to trust others. Onyeka shows incredible courage and inner strength as she fights to help her friends and uncover terrible truths.

This is an exhilarating, heart-warming adventure that is sure to be a winner with readers of 9+.

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!

My parents are in the business of death; that is, they run a small undertaker’s practice in the village of Alderley where we live, half a day’s carriage ride from Bristol. My pa, a cabinet maker by trade, fashions simple caskets. Mama lays out the bodies. ‘The dead can’t hurt us’ is a much-used phrase of hers. On the whole, she is right.

Any ideas?

This one sounds perfect for spooky season!

Goodreads Synopsis:

When you’re dead, you’re dead. When you’re gone, you’re gone.
Unless, of course, you’re not.
And that’s where I come in.

The year is 1897, and Peggy Devona can speak with ghosts.

She hides her gift from those afraid of a girl with such powers, terrified of the secrets the dead could reveal through her. But when her best friend is accused of murdering her rich mistress, Peggy knows only she – a whisperling – can save her.

Peggy escapes to her uncle’s psychic emporium in the city, seeking out new ghosts to help her solve Sally’s case.

Yet time is running out, and each step towards uncovering the truth also brings Sally one step closer to the gallows. . .

What do you think? Is this one that grabs your interest?

Review: The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott

Written by Sharon Gosling
Cover Illustration Kristina Kister
Published by Little Tiger

The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott is a truly incredible adventure brimming with discovery, danger and daring:  a story which captured me completely as I was swept into an unforgettable journey by the most remarkable young girl as she fights against society’s expectations and chases fallen stars …

It’s 1879, and Katy Willacott dreams of becoming an adventurer like her heroine, journalist and explorer, Fran Brocklehurst.  Imagine her excitement when she gets the opportunity to meet Fran when she visits Kew Gardens to interview Katy’s mother who is a botanist there.  Their meeting is rudely interrupted by naturalist, Sir Thomas Derby who wants to move the herbarium to the soon-to-be-opened Natural History Museum. He displays a rude, condescending and sexist attitude towards women stating that there is no place for females in the sciences and that botany is only acceptable as a hobby.

As if this wasn’t terrible enough, her own father seems to hold similar views if not expressed in such a rude manner.  He works for Sir Thomas at the British Museum and, when he is offered the opportunity to lead his first expedition, Katy is keen to help on the dig.  She is left angry when her father refuses to allow her to go telling her that she is too young; however, Katy knows it has more to do with the fact that she is female than age.

After her father and brother leave, her grandfather shows Katy a newspaper article which reveals that Sir Thomas is undertaking an expedition to Brazil to recover meteorites for the British Museum.  Katy has a keen interest in sailing, nature and astronomy so cannot resist the opportunity to follow her adventurer’s heart …

So begins the most incredible adventure as Katy disguises herself as a cabin boy and gains employment aboard the Alerte on its voyage to Brazil, and what a voyage across the seas it is:  a voyage filled with danger, discoveries and mystery, but also one in which Katy forms friendships and proves herself a worthy, capable and courageous sailor, earning the respect of the captain and crew. 

Once the Alerte arrives in Brazil, Katy soon finds herself on an exciting expedition into the rainforest, along with some new companions, and on the trail of an elusive meteorite.  But the jungle is a dangerous place when there are those intent on destruction, hunting and plundering …  Katy may have adventured into the rainforest to find a meteorite, but she discovers so much more …

This really is an extraordinary, action-packed and breath-taking adventure which transported me into the natural wonders of the rainforest alongside those who appreciated its beauty.  I loved learning more about the flora and fauna from Katy and her new friends.  I don’t want to go into any more detail about the plot for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say that this is a story that will astonish, astound and amaze in equal measure:  a truly engrossing, unputdownable and thought-provoking adventure.

There is so much scope for discussion with the powerful themes within the story including the treatment of indigenous people, colonisation, exploitation of natural resources, trophy hunting, the acquisition of artefacts by museums, and classism and gender inequality in Victorian society.

The world is full of extraordinary women doing extraordinary things.

And I just have to finish with Katy!  What an extraordinary heroine embarking on an extraordinary adventure!  She is curious, empathetic and perceptive with the strength, courage and tenacity to follow her own path, and to learn and change from her experiences.  She is not prepared to accept the place she is expected to take in society as a female; instead, she follows her heart and achieves more than she had dreamed of …a truly exceptional heroine, and a character who offers such empowerment for others.

A stunning adventure of courage, hope and friendship across the sea and into the wonders and dangers of the rainforest, perfect for young adventurers of 9+.

Thank you to Little Tiger for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’ve just started The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley as my next adult read – definitely think this is one I’ll enjoy. I’ve also started Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never which has started brilliantly. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

I finished The Vampire Slayer’s Survival Guide which I absolutely loved – I have posted my review. I also read Safe which follows on from Flight which I read last week. I will be posting my review as part of the upcoming Blog Tour. I picked up Wingbearer on Saturday as I’m trying to read more graphic novels. I enjoyed this, and think it will be one my class also enjoy.

I was going to read this one this week, but I’ve gone on holiday and we’ve been out and about too much for me to spend hours reading a book in one setting, and I think this is one I’m going to need to read in one sitting! I will definitely be spending hours with this when I get home.

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

Review: The Vampire Slayer’s Survival Guide

Written by Katy Birchall
Cover Illustration by Jane Pica
Published by Scholastic

I absolutely loved How Not to be a Vampire Slayer so was super excited to read The Vampire Slayer’s Survival Guide and, oh my, what a fantastically funny, heart-warming adventure this is – just perfect for spooky, but not too spooky, season!

It can easily be read as a standalone, but I would bet a bottle of ketchup, that readers will adore Maggie’s first adventure in Goreway too, so it definitely is worth treating yourself to both books to save a return trip to your bookshop.

Now, you might not expect a vampire and a vampire slayer to be best friends.  But what if I told you that the vampire in question is a ketchup-obsessive vegetarian, and the slayer is more partial to protecting and encouraging good dental hygiene than slaying?  When we meet these two friends, Sharptooth Shadow and Maggie Helsby, they are playing hide-and-seek, or is it seek-and-hide?  It is not long before they are joined by friends Ari and Miles discussing graphic novels, upcoming detentions, the dangers of trying to get a vampire to brush their fangs with minty toothpaste and the revelation that, all the supernatural creatures that humans believe don’t exist, DO!  Yes – there’s ghosts, werewolves, zombies, mummies … and they’re about to descend on Goreway! 

Luckily, the enchantments that surround Skeleton Forest will keep them away from Maggie’s vampire friends, and the treasure that is supposedly hidden in the castle so they will soon get bored and go away.  Did I say luckily?  What I meant to say was ‘unluckily’ as the enchantments are in fact weakening, and, as if that wasn’t danger enough, Count Bloodthirst has decided to have them lowered again to allow his humans friends to visit the castle for a tour.  As if the threat from monster treasure-seekers isn’t enough, there is someone even more dangerous hunting them …  will Maggie be able to protect both the vampires and the supernatural creatures from a monster hunter intent on their capture?

This is an absolute riot of a story that brought both giggles galore and shivers of delight as I followed Maggie, Sharptooth and their friends, both old and new, on a fangtastically action-packed, exciting, hilarious adventure that had me eagerly turning the pages in anticipation of what was coming next.  I loved the unexpected revelations, the twists, the daring journey (I’ll say no more but, my goodness – comedic genius and good old-fashioned Indiana Jones mixed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer perfection!).  Mischievous bats, ghosts in the toilets, monsters in the bins, football matches with a difference: utterly brilliant and just so incredibly funny!

What utterly fabulous characters both Maggie and Sharptooth are – definitely some of my favourites ever and, as I read a lot of children’s books, that really is a compliment!  They have such a warm, strong and supportive friendship willing to accept and celebrate differences and to learn from each other.  Sharptooth is a breath of fresh air if perhaps not fresh breath given her penchant for copious amounts of ketchup and her aversion to toothpaste.  Her wonder at the human world, and her honest, unintentionally witty comments and actions, are truly gorgeous.  I love that Maggie is not prepared to accept her destiny of taking up the mantel of vampire slayer, but is true to who she wants to be – a protector of supernatural creatures and a defender of their right to freedom.    

This is a wonderfully enchanting, rib-tickling supernatural adventure with heart-warming messages of acceptance, being true to yourself, family and friendship.  Perfect for those who like their spooky stories with tears of delight rather than shivers of fright.

Thank you so much to Harriet Dunlea and Scholastic for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

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 Catherine Doyle
Cover Illustration by Alessia Trunfio
Published by Bloomsbury Kids

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Neither of them noticed the yellow house disappearing from view as they wound their way deeper into the countryside, through long grass and heather and tufty fields full of wandering sheep.

This book in three words:

MAGIC, ADVENTURE, COURAGE

The Lost Girl King is a truly spellbinding adventure that swept me into the mythical land of youth and into an action-packed, unforgettable quest brimming with daring, courage and wit.

Amy and her older brother Liam have been sent to spend part of their summer holidays with their Gran in an isolated yellow house in Connemara surrounded by mountains.  They adore their Gran who surrounds herself with books of Irish myths and legends; in fact, she has written a book about the Celtic Otherworld, Tír na nÓg.  Amy is curious about the existence of this mythical world, but Liam, who has a love of science and reading, is convinced it only exists in the imagination.

Keen to seek adventure and avoid boredom, Amy soon cajoles her brother into exploring the area when she sees a white hawk and follows it through an unusual waterfall.  Liam, panicked that his sister has disappeared, overcomes his fear and goes after her …

Amy is convinced that stepping through the waterfall has taken them to Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth.  She climbs a huge tree and makes a dangerous discovery:  the sun is tied with a chain, unable to set and frozen in time.  Before the siblings can decide their next steps, Liam is taken by the Dullahan, a group of horrific, headless horsemen commanded by the sorcerer ruler, Tarlock.

And so begins an action-packed, exciting adventure as Amy and Liam find themselves caught up in a heart-pounding quest to free the land of Tír na nÓg and its inhabitants.  Will they be able to defeat the sorcerer, Tarlock?  Will they be able to save their new friends and return home before they are trapped forever beyond the waterfall? 

Amy gathers a band of friends who help her on her journey and what a group of friends they are:  Jonah and Conan, the pooka squirrel, from the Greencloaks; and, Oscar de Barra, leader of the Fianna – chosen protectors of the people of Tír na nÓg.  These friendships don’t get off to the best start, but it was so heart-warming to watch them grow. 

Oh my goodness, I was absolutely enthralled as the brilliance and magic of this story was revealed in tantalising, perfectly balanced dual narrative.  I loved following Amy on her quest to rescue Liam, and Liam on his mission to find out more about the curse and the lost girl king who rules in name only over Silverstone Castle.  I loved that each was determined to save the other, and be reunited with their Gran.  The twists and turns, the heart-racing action, the building tension as heroes and villains come closer and closer, and the character interactions made me gasp out loud, shudder, smile, and some parts brought tears.

I absolutely adored both Amy and Liam who have such a strong, authentic sibling bond.  What a fearless, determined and courageous heroine Amy is!  She is not prepared to sit back and let others do the rescuing, and is wonderfully capable of standing up to others to follow the course of her heart, using her quick wits to bring the heroes of Tír na nÓg together to fight for their freedom from a tyrant.  Liam is braver than he thinks and shows incredible fortitude and resilience as he discovers more about the curse affecting Tír na nÓg and fights to be reunited with his sister.

I grew up on a farm with a fairy tree which still stands alone in the middle of one our fields, and which my dad refused to have cut down for fear of the fairies!  Oh, the number of times growing up, I wandered to that tree and, from a distance, imagined travelling to the land of the fey, but I was never quite brave enough to get too close because I believed in its magic!  I think that tree and those stories are the reason I love portal stories and Celtic folklore, so this stunning book was always going to sing to my heart, and bring so much joy to me as a reader.

This is a magical, joyous and exciting adventure brimming with family and friendship, with danger, delight and hope … an absolute must-read!

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

WWW Wednesday

I haven’t actually started this yet as I’ve just come home from sorting out my classroom ready for September, but I will be starting it this evening. I absolutely loved How Not to be a Vampire Slayer, so I’m really looking forward to starting this.

It’s taken me ages to read Gallant as it tended to be a evening read before I go to sleep. It was definitely an intriguing read, but it didn’t really hold my attention as much as I thought it would until the last couple of parts when I couldn’t put it down, and read until my eyes wouldn’t stay open. I also finished The Lost Girl King which I absolutely adored as I knew I would! I’ll be posting my review tomorrow. I also read The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott which is a brilliant Victorian adventure across the seas with the most extraordinary girl. I’m hoping to post my review on Friday.

I’m such a fan of Kieran Larwood’s writing, so I’m so excited to finally get to The TreeKeepers which is publishing on 1st September.

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

Review: Mia and the Lightcasters

Written by Janelle McCurdy
Illustrated by Ana Latese
Published by Faber & Faber

Mia and the Lightcasters is a thrilling, deliciously scary fantasy adventure:  an edge-of-your-seat, exhilarating quest into darkness and light that kept me enthralled throughout. 

12-year-old Mia had always dreamed of becoming an umbra tamer, but that dream became a nightmare after a terrifying encounter with a red-eyed umbra on the Nightmare Plains.

Mia lives with her umbra tamer parents and younger brother Lucas in the walled city of Nubis which has been thrown into an endless moonlit, star-filled night following an attack by the Reaper King’s followers 15 years before.  However, rather than evacuating the city, people chose to remain and live with the shadowy darkness, so this is the only life that Mia knows.

When Nubis is attacked by the Reaper King’s new force, the inhabitants, including Mia’s parents, are locked in cages.   The lives of her parents and the fate of the city is in the hands of Mia and her friends, TJ and Jada. They find themselves in a race against time to reach Stella where her Grandparents live, and seek help before the rise of the Blood Moon when all hope may well be lost … 

Oh my goodness!  I was utterly swept into this breath-taking adventure which has everything I love in epic fantasy:  rich world-building; breath-taking peril with a balance of hope; characters who have a close bond of friendship; fascinating, sentient creatures; hidden powers; and, a dark villain who influences from a mystical other world.  I adored the twists and revelations, the danger and spine-tingling darkness with just the right intensity of horror as Mia and her friends are hunted across the Nightmare Plains, trying to keep one step ahead of merciless pursuers … 

I’m a huge fan of a map in epic fantasy adventures as I love to refer to it as places are mentioned during my reading, giving me a real sense of place.  The cinematic scope of the world-building is perfectly realised in the story. There is not only a gorgeous map of Lunis at the start, but there are also a series of the most stunning double-page illustrations which complement the dark edgy vibes of the story perfectly. 

Mia is a brilliant protagonist who I absolutely adored.  After a terrifying encounter, she has developed a fear of umbra, yet she faces and overcomes that fear in her determination to save her family, friends and city.  She is courageous, resilient and proves herself to be a wonderfully trustworthy and loyal friend.  I loved the strong bond she has with her little brother, Lucas, and how her need to keep him safe helps develop her awareness of her own inner strength and her self-belief.

I love a scary, threatening villain!  The Reaper King brings a mystical quality to the narrative.  I really felt the sense of threat and tension throughout as I learned more about this terrifying King who is responsible for the perpetual Darkness, and who has willing and loyal followers prepared to carry out his wishes.  I must admit that I’m very curious to find out more about his background and motives in further books.

And then there’s the umbra!  What incredible and fascinating creatures they are!  They are hybrid creatures born of shadows and stars who can evolve into three forms.   They can choose to bond with a human umbra tamer, communicating through a telepathic connection.  Whilst humans who make this connection are called umbra tamers, the bond between Mia and her umbra feels like a very special friendship, giving opportunity for some wonderfully humorous moments to lighten the tension.   

This is an action-packed, unputdownable epic fantasy adventure which took me on a heart-racing quest through an unforgettable world brimming with danger and darkness, friendship and family, courage and hope.  

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber Children’s Books for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.