April Middle-Grade releases

I am a huge fan of middle-grade children’s fiction, and am continually in awe of the brilliance of these authors. As a primary school teacher, I continually see how they enrich the lives of so many children and, to be honest, they have helped me so much as they are my escape from the pressures of daily life. AND they are just so good, no matter your age!

I absolutely love sharing books with my class and read aloud to them every day. They are always keen to talk about the books I have read and to borrow them from my class library which has now over 100 books I’ve added in the last year. My favourite time of the week is Friday afternoon when the children all lie around the room on cushions, or wrap up under a throw and just enjoy reading. I also get to enjoy my book. It feels very special, and is something we all look forward to.

I agree wholeheartedly with Katherine Rundell when she says in her wonderful book Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise:

Those who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps, also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and necessary heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

I am aware from Twitter that some authors whose books are being released in April and beyond are quite understandably concerned about cancellation of publicity events and their affect on book sales, so I just want to do my bit by giving a shout-out to children’s books which are being published in April which I have already been lucky enough to read, or which I am eagerly anticipating. I will do a follow-up for books being published in May and beyond in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve kept the books in order of publication date, and used the Publisher Synopsis to give a brief overview to whet the reader’s appetite!

I have already posted a January to March anticipated releases which you can find here. The March books included are:

  • The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle (5th March)
  • Skeleton Keys The Haunting of Luna Moon by Guy Bass (author) and Pete Williamson (Illustrator) (5th March)
  • The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai (5th March)
  • Potkin & Stubbs Ghostcatcher by Sophie Green (5th March)
  • Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick (19th March)

April Anticipated Releases:

Publication Date: 2nd April (there’s a LOT of fantastic books being released on this date!)

Published by Zephyr Books

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver from ed public relations, so will post my review before publication date. This is an astoundingly rich, immersive and thrilling adventure that utterly gripped me from start to finish, skilfully drawing me into the Stone Age world with characters I adored, feared and feared for. A triumph of masterful story-telling that captured me completely.

A boy. A wolf. The legend lives on. For two summers Torak and Renn have been living in the Forest with their faithful pack-brother, Wolf. But their happiness is shattered when Renn realizes Torak is in danger – and she’s the threat. When she mysteriously disappears, Torak and Wolf brave the Far North to find her. At the mercy of the Sea Mother and haunted by ravenous ice bears, their quest leads them to the Edge of the World. There they must face an enemy more evil than any they’ve encountered. Viper’s Daughter plunges you back into the Stone-Age world of Torak, Renn and Wolf: a world of demons, Hidden People and exhilarating adventure which has entranced millions of readers.

Published by Little Tiger UK

I was lucky enough to be sent an early copy of this absolutely fantastic book by Charlie at Little Tiger, so I’ll be able to post my review shortly. I’ve just finished reading it, and it completely gripped me from the intriguing prologue to the final chapters which brought that tearful release I get when I read a story that completely immerses me and keeps me in a heightened state of tension as I follow the action, caring so much for the young girls, worrying for them and admiring their strength and courage. Readers are in for a real treat with this one as it plunges you into the life of Victorian Edinburgh with THE most wonderful female characters, and dark villains with an intriguing plot, with brilliant twists.

Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders. Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear?

Published by Harper Collins

I was lucky enough to pick up a signed copy of this yesterday, and it will be my next read. It is the second book in the Starfell series. I have no doubt it will be just as wonderful as the first, Willow Moss and the Lost Day which I read last year and absolutely loved – especially Oswin! I’ll be able to post a review before the ‘official’ publication date.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, recently saved the world. The problem is, nobody can remember it – and, to make matters worse, her magical ability seems broken. Instead of finding lost things, objects keep disappearing against her will … which is especially troubling now that her friend Sometimes needs her help! Sometimes has discovered how to see ten minutes into the future. Unfortunately that’s only enough time to find out that his kidnappers are on their way! His only hope is to write an urgent letter to Willow, asking if she wouldn’t mind trying to find him. As Willow and her friends piece together what has happened to Sometimes, their adventure takes them from an enchanted tower to the magical forest of Wisperia and into dangerous new realms… Can Willow save Sometimes when her own powers are out of control?

Published by Nosy Crow

This is the third book in the Clifftoppers series, after Arrowhead Moor Adventure and The Fire Bay Adventure. My husband: “Oh, that is the one I would read!” Thank goodness, something has engaged him with reading – at long last!

For Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, holidays at their grandparents’ cottage mean wild beaches, no curfew, Bella the dog, and most of all – adventure! While sailing their Grandad’s boat along the coast with her cousins, Chloe sees a terrified face at a tower window on Thorn Island. Could the face belong to recently kidnapped young George, the only child of a rich local businessman? No one they tell believes there could be a child held prisoner in the tower. So, certain that the villains are hiding out nearby, the cousins must use all their skills and cunning to conduct a daring rescue.

Published by Nosy Crow

I’ve been reading so many fantastic early reviews of this one! I’m waiting patiently for its release!

Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human?

Published by Orion Children’s Books

I absolutely loved Swimming Against the Storm with its powerful environmental message, and am really looking forward to this one.

An epic race for survival that follows four children and their dog through treacherous waterways, dense forests and the deep, dark wilderness of Wales. From author Jess Butterworth comes a beautifully written adventure story in a vibrantly described setting – perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell. One day, as Cara and her siblings are trying to clean up the canal where they live, they pull out a mysterious locked safe. Though none of them can open it, they’re sure it’s something special. That night, a thief comes after the safe. The children flee, travelling with their boat as far as they can, before continuing into the forest on foot. But soon they’re lost in the mountains with a snowstorm about to land and food supplies running low. Will Cara and her siblings be able to survive the wilderness with nothing but their wits, their bravery and one very large dog to help?

Published by Walker Books

I don’t know very much about this one, but it mentions a witch, so I’m so going to read it!

A spooky adventure set in Cornwall; Famous Five with a twist. A long-dead Cornish witch to thwart and a curse to stop – it’s just another family holiday. Orla thought she was in for a relaxing break, but when she finds a mysterious glowing necklace in the woods, it turns out there is a slight possibility she may have uncovered a witch’s ancient curse. After meeting a coven of suspicious old ladies, it becomes clear that Orla’s arrival in Cornwall is no longer a coincidence. The curse is poisoning the land and destroying everything it touches, and Orla is the one person who can stop it. But she’ll need help from the only other member of the family with good instincts – Dave the dog.

Published by Chicken House

I adored meeting Milton in the first book in the series: Milton the Mighty, and am really looking forward to his adventure in Hawaii.

Milton’s superstardom is stressing him out: the events, the glamour, the adoring fans! Secretly, Zoe, Audrey and Ralph think he’s turned into … well … a bit of a diva. So when Dad and Greta plan a trip to Hawaii, Zoe knows she has to take her best spider pals along for the ride: they all need a break. But with a live volcano, an endangered spider species, an unscrupulous entrepreneur and Milton’s ego to contend with, this is hardly a holiday …

Publication Date: 30th April

MacMillan Children’s

I adored Pippin and her friends in The Umbrella Mouse and am really looking forward to her next adventure. I have been approved to read this on NetGalley, so will be able to post a review before the publication date.

A timeless tale of courage, friendship and fighting for what you believe in, Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Anna Fargher’s award-winning The Umbrella Mouse, based on the true stories of the heroic animals caught in the conflict of WWII. Young mouse Pip Hanway is in France as she continues fighting for the French Resistance group Noah’s Ark: a secret gang of animals operating beneath the feet of human soldiers, whose aim is to liberate France and secure the victory of the Allies. Determined to reach her ancestral home of the Umbrella Museum in Italy, Pip hopes she can find long-lost family and a home. But as Pip makes the perilous journey through occupied territory, she soon realizes that danger comes from all sides and that the enemy is all around, and she does everything she can to fight for her friends. Beautifully illustrated by Sam Usher, Pip will take you on an incredible journey through a war that reaches even the smallest of creatures.

Published by Orion Children’s Books

I was lucky enough to be approved to read an early copy of this on NetGalley. Goodness, it’s good! This was a truly mesmerising, magical read which drew me into brilliantly imagined worlds with two wonderful protagonists whose relationship felt genuine and realistic.  The sense of wonder, the intricate magical system and the pervading threat of danger enthralled me … I’ll post my review closer to publication.

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of The Train to Impossible Places and The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . . When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s

This is another one that I’ve been waiting patiently for after reading some great early reviews.

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play… Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look. Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will. When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

So, that’s me done! I have no idea why the books I want are all published on either 2nd April or 30th April – curious indeed! Of course, I’m likely to find other books over the course of the month which I’ll pick up too! And I’m always happy for recommendations.

My aim is to read any of these I’ve been lucky enough to get an early copy of prior to publication, so I can give them a shout-out with a review prior to or on publication. I will buy the others as close to publication as I can, read and then review. I will also be sharing these books with as many children in school as I can, and will include them in our next Parents’ Reading Newsletter. I have a huge appreciation for children’s authors and hope this goes some small way to help publicise all these wonderful books.

Review: Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar CATastrophe

Published by Hodder Children’s Books
Published on 5th March
Illustrated by Nick East

Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar CATastrophe will certainly appeal to its young audience.  Two of our Year 3 classes have already chosen it as their Book Raffle prize – and the books I purchased for them arrived with gorgeous keyrings (see image).  Visually, it is CATcredibly appealing with the use of a larger font and bold capitalised lettering which will absolutely engage and appeal to the reader as will the use of the cutest pawprints throughout and, of course, the many gorgeous bold and distinctive black-and-white illustrations by Nick East which are an absolutely perfect complement to the story.

Toto is a member of the Ancient Order of International Ninja Cats, a secret organisation, who is a master at fighting crime, and on her seventh mission. Following yet another success, her friend Catface feels that she deserves a well-earned break, so treats her and her brother Silver to tickets for the best music festival in the animal world: Catstonbury. What could possibly go wrong?

Whilst on the train to the festival, they meet the lead singer of the headlining band, Jonny and the Shorthairs. He is arrogant, full of himself, adores adulation and, of course, can’t help trying to better the ninja cat – most unsuccessfully! Has Toto made an enemy before she arrives at the festival?

Understandably, Toto is rather surprised when she arrives at the festival to be called to the tent of Jonny by one of his security guards. Jonny tells her that he needs her help as he is certain someone is out to get him: could this be true, or is it more likely to be a figment of his egocentric imagination? Either way, Toto feels obliged to protect him under the Ninja Code. But, has she taken on more than even she can cope with as an evil villain is intent on using the festival for his own dastardly plan? Danger, excitement and CAT-tastic daring and adventure ensue as Toto and her friends attempt to foil the villain …

Toto is almost totally blind but in no way lets this define her, or hold her back from doing anything she wants to! Her ninja skills are second to none; and she is brave, clever and resourceful. She has a wonderful friendship with the other animals, showing off playful natures: they work as a brilliant team, helping and supporting each other.

This is an action-packed, fast-paced story with lots of humour and playful use of language which is just perfect for young fans of animal stories or humorous adventures, and would also be a great read aloud either in the classroom or at home.

Thank you to Hachette Children’s Group and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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!

Karolina awoke in her new world with a glass heart. It was a heart that felt as if both roses and their thorns grew within it, for it held all the happiness and sorrow she had ever experienced in the Land of the Dolls. When she moved, it rattled against the glossy wood of her chest panel.

Any ideas?

This has been on my radar for a while, so when I saw it in a local bookshop, I just had to snap it up. This sounds like such an intriguing read: a mix of magic and history!

Goodreads Synopsis

In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

Review: The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

Published by Nosy Crow
Published on 2nd January
Cover Illustration: David Dean

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant is an incredibly exciting, fast-paced and heart-warming adventure which I couldn’t bear to put down as it engrossed me from the opening, and kept me gripped throughout.  This was one I read in one sitting, and am now enjoying reading to my Year 4 class who are completely gripped by it!  The short chapters and many cliff-hanger chapter endings is making this a perfect read aloud for my class.

Chaya has a heart of gold and, even though the story opens with her stealing the Queen’s jewels, we soon learn that this is because she steals from the rich to help those in need as the King is neglecting the needs of his subjects.

Chaya has an incredibly loyal friend in Neel who is arrested after taking the blame for her theft, and admitting he has taken the jewels in order to protect her. Chaya refuses to let him accept the blame and orchestrates a daring rescue which leads to her stealing the King’s elephant and escaping into the jungle with Neel and Nour, the daughter of a rich merchant who Chaya blames for their predicament ….

Their journey through the jungle is richly described, full of wonder and beauty, but also danger as the children find themselves at the mercy of leeches; as they race to keep one step ahead of their pursuers; and, as they find themselves in the company of bandits.

The action was fast-paced, filled with a palpable sense of danger, which kept me on the edge of my seat as I tried to work out how Chaya could extricate herself and her friends from the dire situation that they found themselves in ….

I adored Chaya, Neel and Nour. Chaya puts the care of the villagers over her own safety and takes great risks to help them. She is brave, daring and has a real sense of fairness, fighting against the injustice she sees. Neel is an incredibly supportive and loyal friend who is prepared to put his life in danger to save his friend. Nour is the daughter of a rich merchant who has no friends and is desperate for the kind of friendship she sees through Chaya and Neel’s bond. I loved the interplay of the relationship between Chaya and Nour which gave an insight into the character of both girls.

This is a truly wonderful, action-packed adventure with incredibly engaging characters set in a vivid and beautiful landscape which captured me from the opening lines and kept me gripped until the very last page!  A perfect read for children of 8+ who love an action-packed adventure with heart!

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 reading The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling. It’s an amazing book – deeply immersive with wonderful characters. The main character Zinnie is just incredible, and I love her interactions with known historical figures.

I’ve finished reading Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver. OH MY GOODNESS! This story really tore at my heartstrings. The author pulls no punches when immersing you into this pre-historical period. The action is relentless and absolutely gripped me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from Torak and Renn.

I’m definitely going to pick this one up next – I really need a dose of Willow, Oswin and their friends as it has been a difficult week hence less reading than I’d normally do, so I need to lose myself in a good fantasy – and I know this will be just perfect!

Blog Tour: Starchild Book Three: The Healing Stone by Vacen Taylor

Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour and for providing me with an e-copy for review. My review is my own honest opinion of the book.

Synopsis:

Starchild Book Three: The Healing Stone

A riveting ice adventure full of incredible challenges, bravery and friendship. When they escape the attacking forces, Mai, Akra, Kalin know they must find a way to purge the evil of the dark peddle that has consumed Long. But as the news of the Underworld king spreads, gloom and fear begin to sweep over the lands. The children must face a dangerous adventure across the ice to reach the healing stone. Once they reach the stone they must face the truth. Have they made the journey in time to save Long or is he lost to the Underworld forever?

My Review:

I’ve loved reading this series, so I was really excited to be invited on this Blog Tour although I must admit I had already bought the third book after reading Book 2:  The City of Souls.  This book also has my favourite cover!

Akra, the Starchild, holds the powers of all nations within him and is prophesied to unite the nations, but first he must harness all their powers.

Mai, Akra and Kalin have left the City of Souls and are taking Mai’s brother, Long, to Algus, the City of Ice, in a desperate attempt to save him from the destructive power within him that has connected him to the underworld and is threatening to destroy him.

On their arrival, Akra must face a challenge which requires him to harness the power of a waterclasper which allows him to manipulate water, in order to be granted an audience with the stern, ice-cold Queen Isolda.  The children gain an ally and friend in her son, Aque, who convinces his mother to allow them to visit the Healing Stone which offers the only chance of Long’s survival.

The children, along with their new ally Aque, must endure a dangerous and difficult journey across a landscape of ice and snow which requires all their courage and strength as they are chased by fierce predators in a perilous mission to reach the Healing Stone before it is too late to save Long …

The children are in a desperate race against time to save Long before they are discovered by Piceptus, the underworld king, who is intent on opening the gates of the underworld and stopping the fulfilment of the prophecy.  Will they be able to heal Long before Piceptus finds them?

Mai, Akra and Kalin are wonderful friends:  they are courageous, loyal and determined, and gain strength from each other, and their growing powers, when they are confronted by difficult situations. I felt sympathy for Long as he endures hardship and fights to return to his sister, gaining strength in the hope that she will fight for him … but will this be enough to reunite them?

I really enjoyed continuing this exciting adventure full of friendship, fast-paced action, peril and hope as the children battle to fulfil the prophecy against a dangerous adversary who is intent on their failure. 

Vacen Taylor

Author Bio:

Vacen Taylor is a children’s author with a portfolio of screenwriting and stage play achievements. A selection of her poetry has been published in Art and Literature Journals. One of her plays was selected to be part of the Playwrights Program 2017 and then directed and performed as a performance reading at HOTA (previously the Gold Coast Arts Centre).

Her feature film script received a special commendation for Best Unproduced Screenplay titled Grandfathers at the British Independent Film Festival in 2018. The logline can be found under Special Commendations for Unproduced Screenplays here.

.Her TV pilot for a series (teleplay) was selected as a semi-finalist in the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles, CA. This pilot was listed in the top 50 for the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition in 2018.

She presented the first mental health panel at OZ Comic-Con in 2017. This panel was a fantastic opportunity to discuss openly and honestly about artists and their mental health to help support wellbeing, foster connectivity and provide a culture of support.

In 2018 she presented the panel, ‘An artist’s guide to creative happiness: How to strengthen your creative performance’ at Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane. Her panels are extraordinary opportunities to explore ideas with people who are currently working in the industry. She aims to discuss subjects like individualism, the community, mental health, wellbeing, happiness, creativity, co-creating and self-awareness which often leads to interesting questions from the audience.

What else does she do? Vacen is also a creative workshop facilitator and proficient in, teaching, speaking and concept creation. Guest Speaker. Workshop Presenter. Creative Panel Facilitator. Mentor. Support Worker. Counsellor. Social Welfare Advocate.

Purchase Links:

www.odysseybooks.com.au/titles/9781922200204/

www.amazon.com/gp/product/1922200204

www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1922200204

Check out these other Blogs for the Tour:

Review: The Kid Who Came from Space

Published by Harper Collins
Published on 9th January 2020
Cover Illustration: Tom Clohosy Cole

This is a completely absorbing science-fiction read which is very cleverly written in four parts from a dual narrative with extra information being presented as newspaper reports.   The short chapters kept me wanting just one more chapter – a genuinely compulsive read! 

The story opens with a news report about missing 12-year-old Tamara (Tammy) Tait from the small village of Kielder.  It then switches to another planet with the shocking revelation that a young girl is being exhibited in a ‘human zoo.’ One of the inhabitants there, Hellyann, makes a dangerous and courageous decision that changes many lives … and leads to an incredible adventure.

Meanwhile, Tammy’s family are left to cope with their worst nightmare, and the devastating loss, grief and breakdowns this causes.  Their feelings and reactions are heartachingly portrayed and there is a real authenticity to how the small community pulls together to help their own.   

Tammy’s twin brother, Ethan, feels the weight of his guilt at his parting words with his sister, and is determined to do his absolute best to find her.  This leads him to make incredible discoveries, develop wonderful friendships and to travel further than he ever thought possible … the tension is palpable as Ethan and his friends Iggy and Hellyann find themselves in a race to keep secrets hidden, secrets that if unravelled could risk him ever being reunited with his sister.

Ethan is an incredibly sympathetic young boy who fights through his fear and self-doubt to show an inner strength, resilience and single-minded determination to prove himself:  to try his absolute best! 

I found Hellyann a fascinating and wonderfully endearing character with a unique voice.  She lives amongst a race who are devoid, and fearful, of feelings, in a sterilised society with a darkness and desire to control beneath the surface.  However, Hellyann feels strongly, so strongly that she becomes an activist, a decision that leads to her endangering herself, but one that also leads to her forming a close bond with Ethan and Iggy.

There is so much opportunity for discussion based on this story from exploring themes of loss, grief, family and friendship to an exploration of animal and human rights, activism and the nature of society, not to mention the belief in the existence of alien life forms! 

This is a gripping action-packed, heart-warming adventure for children of 10+.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review on behalf of a Book Review site. My review is my honest opinion of the book.

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!

The ghost and her demon move in silence, hidden by shadows, cloaked in night. Down the long columns of darkness they drift: unseen, unheard. The rain does not touch them, neither does the chill wind.

Any ideas?

I was sent this wonderful book post by the publisher today. I thought I’d have a quick look inside and then I read the prologue. Now, I’m completely hooked, so I just have to drop my other reading plans and read this intriguing story this weekend.

Synopsis:

Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders. Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear? 

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 was meant to start this earlier in the week, but got to others instead! I’m definitely starting it this evening!

I’m back at work, so not quite so many books read this week. I absolutely loved Girl 38 so couldn’t resist reading The Mystery of the Colour Thief which had been on my TBR for a while. I really enjoyed both of these even though stories in contemporary settings aren’t my go to genre! I also read Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe. I can definitely see how it would appeal to a younger reader in terms of both content and layout.

I’ve been approved to read Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale on NetGalley. I loved the first book in the series, so am really looking forward to heading back into my fantasy middle-grade comfort zone!

Review: Girl 38

Paperback edition published on 6th February 2020
Published by Zephyr
Illustrations: Anna Hymas

Girl 38 is a sensitively and beautifully written story that perfectly weaves the past into the present, and shows how empathising with past events can impact on present ones, how learning about the bravery of others can lead to the strength to change our own path.  Both the past and the present stories within this book captured me completely, and I found the impact Ania’s story had on Kat really powerful, heart-warming and hopeful.

Girl 38 is the courageous comic strip heroine created by Kat, a heroine that she wishes she could be more like as she is finding her own reality difficult to deal with.  Kat has been friends with Gem ever since their first day at school, but theirs is a toxic friendship as Gem is controlling and manipulative with Kat constantly on edge, trying to keep her happy and going along with her plans, even when they make her feel uneasy.  Kat feels under constant pressure to do whatever Gem wants, desperate not to have her turn her bullying attention on her the way she has on others. 

One day, Kat helps her elderly Polish neighbour, Ania Jankowski after a fall.  She feels an instant rapport with her and they soon develop a warm relationship as Ania shares her painting of her best friend Mila from many years previously.  Kat’s interest is immediately piqued and Ania agrees to tell her about her past.  I loved how their relationship developed so that Kat was eventually able to open up to Ania to share her own problems and to seek comfort and strength in their friendship and in Ania’s story.

Ania’s story is woven throughout the narrative, and is one of incredible daring, determination and courage.  Ania lived in Poland during the Second World War.  She watched her friend Mila being taken away.  She had promised she would find her friend, and it is a promise which she intended keeping, no matter what.  I was really eager for Kat to visit Ania so that I could learn more of her incredible story, and I can absolutely see how listening to Ania’s inspirational story gave Kat the courage to face her fears, just like her heroine, Girl 38.

Just after Kat starts visiting Ania, a new boy, Julius, starts at Kat’s school and he soon attracts the attention of Gem who wants to teach him a lesson for taking the attention away from her.  She ropes Kat into helping her and, even though she doesn’t want to and knows she shouldn’t, Kat goes along with her plans which get more and more humiliating for Julius.  As Kat learns more of Ania’s history, will she have the courage and strength to stand up for herself, to be open and honest and to allow herself the opportunity to develop a healthy friendship?  Can she become the heroine of her own future?

The depiction of the relationships in this story felt incredibly genuine from the toxic relationship between Gem and Kat to the growing friendship between her and Julius and her warm relationship with Ania.  Even though Gem is certainly a bully, I liked that the author gave an insight into her insecurity which may go some way to explaining, but not excusing, her bullying.

This is a story that truly captured my heart:  I was completely invested in both Ania’s and Kat’s stories, and enjoyed how Ania’s story impacted on Kat’s present and helped her face up to a difficult situation, changing her future. 

Thank you to Zephyr and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.