Blog Tour: Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable – Charlie Makes a Discovery!

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on this Blog Tour and for providing me with an e-book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Published by Crimson Cloak Publishing
Published on 12th November 2019
Cover Design: Mia Romano
Illustrator: Tom Rowley

It’s Charlie’s first day at high school, his blazer is too big and his shoes are too small, but that’s the least of his worries. He’s been missed off the class lists and is now enrolled in a new school called Brittle’s Academy with a magical and mysterious head teacher. But to stay at Brittle’s Charlie must pass one of the tests…otherwise he’ll be sent to Oblivion!

This is the first book in the series of Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable.  The books can be read and enjoyed in any order as long as you’ve read Charlie Makes a Discovery first, which introduces us to the magical world of Professor Brittle, his pupils, the teachers and, of course, the school.

My Review:

This is the first book in a new series which introduces a wonderful, magical new world as children attend Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable, a school for magicians.  I found this a really delightful and enchanting story with plenty of action, adventure and a brilliant magical system which is perfect for younger middle-grade readers who enjoy magical adventures.

The story opens with Charlie’s natural trepidation at starting secondary school.  On arrival, he is confused when he sees two entrance gates and doesn’t know which to choose, especially as his brother can only see one!  Things get even stranger when most of the children are sorted into form tutor groups, but Charlie and some others are left out – until they meet their new teacher, Professor Brittle, the Headteacher of Brittle Academy which is most certainly not the school they have enrolled in.  

They soon arrive at their new school, Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable which is hidden in plain sight from non-magical people.   Excitement replaces fear as the children enter the gates, and see their new school for the first time, although they soon discover that for some, their first day may well be their last.  The detailed description of the sights and sounds helps to immerse the reader in this new and fascinating world which blends the ordinary with the extraordinary for a magical combination. 

The children are set a series of tasks to see if they can become fully-fledged students in this new school which sorts them into different Houses, each with a different attribute.  If they are not sorted into a House, they are sent to oblivion!  I found this magical choosing system really charming and enjoyed reading about each of them, and seeing who got into each House.  This sets the series up perfectly for the next adventure as the children continue their magical education with their rather eccentric teachers!

Charlie is a really likeable character who is braver than he thinks, taking risks to help his friends and standing up for himself when it matters.  I was keen to see which House was his perfect match!

The illustrations are wonderful, full of detail with a magical quality of their own, and really complement the story.

This is a wonderful beginning to a series which will capture the hearts of younger readers of magical fantasy stories.

About the Author:

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honor of her beloved Grandparents who also star in the Josie James series. She is married with two teenage children and two Huskies who are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books. Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local places and even her old school in her stories. Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series. Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

Social Media:

Twitter: @LilyMaeWalters1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/josiejames100

Facebook: Brittle’s Academy

Instagram: lilymaewalters

#SixforSunday

The April theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Taking on the TBR pile and today’s prompt is for Recent additions to your TBR pile.  I do love having a physical copy of a book, although I have found myself getting more e-books recently. I used to get my books from a book shop, so it is taking them longer to arrive now that they are coming through the post! The last six books I’ve added to my TBR pile include 5 physical copies and one e-book.

I haven’t read any Melinda Salisbury books yet, nor do I read very many adult books but this one interested me so I thought I’d try it to see what I think.

I love the cover of this one and having read and loved The Unadoptables about a group of orphans, I thought I’d read another story centred on a group of orphans – this one sounds like a great mystery.

I love spooky stories and this one sounds like a great mystery – and there’s a talking stag head and bear rug which captured my interest.

This was actually the last book I bought in a bookshop – a signed copy! I adored the first book, and this one was just as wonderful with old friends and new: a truly magical, heart-warming, humorous adventure.

This one sounds like a darker read for older children – might be one to read in daylight as I’m very easily spooked!

I haven’t read Nicola’s book Bloom yet, but I just had to get this one as the premise absolutely captured me – think I will read this one very shortly.

Have you read any of these? What books have you recently added to your TBR pile?

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’ve always wanted to be a Star Hunter. Everyone else calls them astronomers, but I think ‘Star Hunter’ sounds much better, so that’s what I’m going to call myself. But I’m not going to be the kind of star hunter that looks for old stars. I want to find the brand new ones – the ones that have only just been born and are searching for the people they’ve left behind.

Any ideas?

I absolutely loved Onjali’s first book, The Boy at the Back of the Class. I started reading this one yesterday and I’m really enjoying it. It is a very emotional read and I think there will be lots of tears, but there is also a spark of hope.

Goodreads Synopsis:

My mum is up there somewhere. She’s waiting — I can feel it. I just have to find her in time, that’s all … Because when I do, I’ll know the truth about who stole her. ‘ Told through the innocent voice of a child, this is a story that celebrates the power of hope and resilience, from the author of The Boy at the Back of the Class. On her tenth birthday, Aniyah makes a wish — a wish for her mum. After school that same day, Aniyah and her brother are rushed out of school and driven far, far away. So Aniyah sets out to find out the truth — about the wish and about what happened to her mother. And in doing so she ends up on an adventure she never could have foreseen…one that involves a very clever squirrel, a homeless man named Harry, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and the biggest star in Hollywood… 

Have you read this? What did you think of it?

New feature: #MGTakesOnThursday

It will be my blogiversary on 11th April which also happens to be my wedding anniversary!  Six years of marriage, and one year of blogging! At least I’ll always remember my blogiversary although, on reflection, I do wonder why I started a blog on this date! I wanted some way of marking this occasion, so I’ve made a decision to be brave and introduce something new to my blog …

So, what have I decided to do?

I started my blog after re-igniting my love for reading, and the books I love are most definitely middle-grade.  I have been thinking for a while about what I’d like to do to celebrate both my blogiversary, and my love of middle-grade books, so I’m taking a chance on trying introducing something new … even if I’m the only one who takes part!

I’ve decided to start a weekly feature to celebrate and recommend middle-grade books.  It is called Middle-Grade Takes on Thursday and is, quite simply, a celebration of middle-grade children’s books. I’d love if others could take part in this feature!

How do I join in with #MGTakesOnThursday?

I hope this will be a straightforward and enjoyable feature to take part in, and that it brings some attention to some great middle-grade books. If you would like to use the banner I’ve created (through Canva), please feel free to use it.

The steps to take part are below.

  • 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.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this 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!

Right, I’m going to road test this, and give it a go!

Author: Dominique Valente
Illustrator: Sarah Warburton
Publisher: Harper Collins

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Willow had answered a knock on the attic window only to find herself confronted by a rather grumpy oak tree with a face carved deep within its trunk.

This book in three words:

MAGICAL, ADVENTUROUS, HUMOROUS

Everyone, regardless of age, should treat themselves to this heart-warming, enchanting story filled with adventure, warmth and humour:  a treasure of a story that sparkles with a special kind of magic that captures and holds the reader under its spell! Read more in my review.

How did I do? Is this a feature you would like to take part in?

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 had intended to read Gargantis this week, but my reading went off on a completely different track as I just wanted to read some books I’ve had on my TBR (apart for one) for a while rather than upcoming ones! I’m now just about ready to start this and, as I loved Malamander so much, I’m really hoping to enjoy this too.

I’ve read five books this week. I really wanted to read a book set in Ireland that I remember reading when I was younger so downloaded Under the Hawthorn Tree from the Library Service. This is a short book set during the Great Famine which follows three siblings making a journey from their home to find relatives. It was quite a harrowing read as there was so much hardship, but it also celebrated close family bonds. I also read The Middler which I’ve had on my TBR since first publication. I was spurred on to read it after reading TrooFriend by the same author. I absolutely loved this story set in a dystopian society and really enjoyed the exploration of Maggie’s relationship with Una. Her battle between choosing friendship and submitting to the town indoctrination created brilliant tension and, oh my, I did not see the twist until it was almost upon me – very clever! I decided to read a short adventure next, Clifftoppers The Arrowhead Moor Adventure and it was a wonderful Sunday morning lazing in bed read! It reminded me so much of my childhood and my adventures in the countryside with my siblings – but without the jewel heist! It has definitely made me want to read the next two in the series. On Sunday afternoon, I asked my husband to choose a book from my TBR and he chose Beyond Platform 13. I haven’t read Eva Ibbotson’s, The Secret of Platform 13. I loved that Lina believed in magic and that, through a case of mistaken identity, she got to go on such a wonderful magical adventure. Finally, I read the BRILLIANT Jungledrop which is the second book in the Unmapped Chronicles series. Oh my – this is special. Abi’s writing absolutely sparkles and she is a creative genius, but I think the part of her writing that really connects with me is the powerful messages she scatters in her writing which find deep resonance.

I intend to read The Vanishing Trick as I meant to read it this week. I know I’m likely to read more, but I haven’t decided what yet!

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

#SixforSunday

The April theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Taking on the TBR pile and today’s prompt is for Books that have been on your TBR forever. I only really started to build up a massive TBR when I started reading lots again – around Christmas 2019. This pile drew bigger and bigger as more and more new books came out, and I wanted them all. The only problem was that I couldn’t read as fast as my TBR pile was growing! I’ve had a look at my TBR, and below are six books that have been on it for far too long, so I intend to get reading them over the next couple of months – as well as try to clear my NetGalley approvals which is also getting rather large.

Scavengers by Darren Simpson was released in March 2019 and is currently very close to the top of my TBR. I’ve read lots of great reviews about this, and am really looking forward to reading it. The opening lines definitely intrigued me!

Tin by Padraig Kenny was released in February 2018. I got both it and his second novel, Pog on the same day. I read Pog really quickly but have still not got round to reading this one. I have really liked reading a few books with robots in recently, so this one definitely appeals.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend was published in October 2018 (hardback) and in May 2019 (paperback). I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, and can’t believe I haven’t read this one yet!

The Wild Folk by Slyvia V Linsteadt was published in June 2018, and is another one that has been sitting on my TBR for too long. It sounds like a perfect escapist read for these times, and I’m really looking forward to diving in!

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J Halpin was released in November 2018. I remember being really eager to read this one, and my final choice, at the time I picked it up. I don’t know how books I’m really keen to read end up bypassing me for so long!

A Darkness of Dragons by S A Patrick was published in September 2018. I think I picked it up at the same time as the one above. This sounds like a great fantasy adventure, which is my favourite genre so, again, I don’t know how it has been buried in plain sight in my TBR for so long!

This prompt has been a really good opportunity to remind me to look at the older books on my TBR and to catch up on some of these books as I obviously wanted to read them enough to buy them at the time.

March Wrap-Up

What a month this has been – I couldn’t have imagined at the start of the month how much life would change in such a short space of time. I can’t believe how much I miss the small pleasures in life, such as going for a coffee, browsing in a bookshop and meeting up with friends. These were things I took for granted: I will definitely have a newfound appreciation for them when I am eventually able to enjoy them again.

One of the hardest things for me has been how much I miss teaching my class, and how much I miss the wonderful children I taught. For the last couple of days before schools closed for the majority of children, we read lots, we coloured and we chatted and the children made cards for each other for when times might get difficult – a reminder that we may be apart, but we are still a team, thinking about each other. Goodness, reading these made me cry. I really, really hope that I get to teach my class all back together again this school year. I do go into school once a week to supervise the children of key workers, but there haven’t been many. It has been lovely to see a couple in my class though!

I’ve also just had news that my Dad has been taken into hospital in Ireland, with a very high temperature. He has dementia and is lost without my Mum (even though he doesn’t know her most of the time) who is not allowed to visit him. This really breaks my heart, and I just feel so helpless.

My reading has been very up and down this month. Some times, I’ve been able to take myself into a book and, at others, I just couldn’t focus on anything other than endlessly following the news, worrying and refreshing Twitter! I know that reading books is good for my mental health, and I do feel grateful that I’ve got this wonderful hobby/lifeline to keep me occupied – if only I can let it occupy me more often! This is something I am definitely working on!

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read nine books this month, which is less than I normally would. I’ve reviewed five of them and hope to also write a review for TrooFriend shortly. The books I’ve reviewed are:

  1. Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe.
  2. Viper’s Daughter.
  3. The House of Hidden Wonders.
  4. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale.
  5. Crater Lake.

I was sent Girl 38 by Ewa Jozeekowicz to review, and loved her writing style so much that I immediately read The Mystery of the Colour Thief which I enjoyed even more! Her books certainly seem to deal with difficult friendships and making new friends. This one also dealt with a heavy guilt which was expressed in the most ingenious way. I’d been wanting to read The Magic Place for ages and, when I saw the e-book, was available through my library, I jumped at the chance to read it. I read it early one morning in one sitting and, oh my goodness, it was a wonderful, if sometimes emotionally difficult read. The ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ villains are terribly cruel, yet Clementine never gives up hope of reaching her magic place. I’ve heard so many people talk about The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane so decided to give it a read as I had bought it a while back to read to see if I could use it as a class text with Year 4. This story was not what I was expecting, but it was an incredible read! Edward, a china rabbit, who is vain and self-centred, is loved dearly by his young owner, Abilene, but he does not return that love. One day, Edward finds himself separated from his young owner, and so begins his journey of self-discovery, and the opening of his heart to love as he is passed from owner to owner and learns to love. Edward also suffers a great deal of humiliation, pain and neglect, but he rises above this to find love and connection.  He endures a great deal, but engenders love in others, and learns to return that love. This story is heart-achingly tender and beautiful and absolutely tore at my heartstrings … and the ending is just perfect!

Books I’ve bought:

This month, I’ve bought 12 books: 10 physical copies and 2 e-books. I’ve only read one of them, Starfell, though! I really need to get better at reading the books I have before I keep buying more – probably not going to happen though! I’ve actually bought a couple of books which aren’t middle-grade this month: Havenfall and Hold Back the Tide! I’m still waiting for Storm and Orla and the Serpent’s Curse to arrive – but they have now been dispatched.

NetGalley Approvals:

There have been so many good books on NetGalley recently. I was approved for these four in March. I should have three of them read by the end of the week!

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

First Line 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!

The boy growled, dropped to all fours and took one end of the stick between his teeth. The dog at the stick’s other end – a hefty Alsatian with long ears – bared its gums and slobbered.

Any ideas?

I’ve had Scavengers since it was published in March 2019 which is way too long for it to be sitting on my TBR. In my defence, my TBR is well over 150 books! I’m in the mood for a few dystopian middle-grade books and I think this will be perfect!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Landfill has lived his whole life as a scavenger, running with wooflers, swimming with turtles and feasting on fresh gull. Old Babagoo has always looked after him, on one condition – follow his rules. Never come looking Outside. Never rise above the wall. But despite the dangers, Landfill longs to see Outside. And some rules are made to be broken.

Have you read this? What did you think?

Review: The House of Hidden Wonders

Published by Little Tiger Group
Published on 2nd April
Cover Illustration: Hannah Peck

The House of Hidden Wonders is a superbly gripping historical adventure set in a richly detailed and immersive Victorian Edinburgh which immediately captured me in the richly atmospheric and intriguing prologue, and kept me enthralled until the final page.

Zinnie and her little sisters, Nell and Sadie, scrape a meagre living on the streets of Edinburgh, and live in the tunnels beneath it.  Zinnie has taken both of the younger girls, who are orphans, into her heart and is determined to protect them and keep them safe:  the strength of their sisterly bond is beautifully portrayed throughout.  These unbreakable bonds of sisterhood are a strong theme within the story, and the relationships between the sisters was incredibly touching, especially in Zinnie’s absolute commitment to saving her youngest sister when she becomes desperately ill.   

One of the people who gives Zinnie paid jobs is none other than a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle.  He treats her with respect and values her opinion, asking for her help in solving a gruesome mystery, but unwittingly puts her in terrible danger as she tries to keep herself one step ahead of the law, and finds herself coming to the attention of a vile villain who will stop at nothing to protect his own secrets …

Zinnie’s life changes forever when she attends a séance being organised by the independently wealthy widow Lady Sarah Montague.  It is not long before she finds herself at the centre of a dark and utterly intriguing mystery: uncovering hidden secrets within the House of Wonders museum;  revealing the true story of the ghost haunting the tunnels; and, uncovering the perpetrator of a crime from the past that has come to the streets of her home … The plot is intricate, action-packed, heart-stopping, and so very, very clever:  I was utterly compelled to follow Zinnie who proves to be a rather brilliant sleuth in her own right.

I absolutely adored Zinnie, who is just the most wonderful young girl.  She is incredibly protective of Nell and Sadie who have become her sisters.  Highly intelligent, fiercely independent and full of courage, Zinnie forges her own path and has an incredible inner strength and tenacity, not afraid to stand up to unscrupulous adults, and fight for those she loves.  She sees past other peoples’ prejudices, and is determined to fight for the rights of others, especially those of another young girl who has found herself being cruelly exploited. The portrayal of this young girl’s condition is beautifully written:  she is a victim, but she is also a fighter and a survivor, but who doesn’t need someone else fighting your corner when the odds are not in your favour?  This is a role that Zinnie fulfils with kindness, ingenuity and great deal of empathy. 

I also loved the portrayal of the strong adult female characters in this story.  Lady Sarah Montague is an independent widow who uses her wealth to fulfil her sense of adventure by undertaking intrepid expeditions, and is quite capable of standing up for herself, and woe betide any man who thinks she should be doing otherwise!  Dr Sophia Jex-Blake is a real historical figure, being the first female doctor in Scotland:  I found the Author’s Historical Note regarding her fascinating.

It was a privilege to read this utterly compelling historical adventure with its inspirational female characters, realistic setting, and gripping plot which kept me turning page after page as I just had to follow the mystery with all of its superb twists and turns.  Sheer brilliance! 

Thank you to the Publishers for a copy of this book 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 reading Jungledrop – just as soon as I write a review that I need to get done for tomorrow! I adore Abi’s writing, and absolutely loved the first book in the series, Rumblestar as well as the World Book Day release, Everdark. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and can’t wait to get started – I think this is a book I will read in one sitting!

I’ve read four fantastic books this week. I finished Crater Lake which was a brilliant read: just the right amount of creepy edging on really scary with a good dollop of humour and heart. I then went completely ‘off’ my reading order and read two books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. I read the e-book of The Magic Place via my library in one sitting, and it was a truly gorgeous read, if somewhat painful at times as Clementine was treated terribly by her ‘Aunt’ Vermilia and ‘Uncle’ Rufus – such awful characters! The ending was just wonderful – and I loved how Chris Wormell’s gorgeous black and white illustrations became colour! I’ve had The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on my reading shelf for a while now. Oh my! This is such a beautiful story, and not at all what I was expecting. Edward’s transformation, and the terrible situations he faced, really tore at my heartstrings. Utter brilliance! The final book I read this week was TrooFriend. This was an utterly compelling and fascinating read which raises lots of questions related to AI. I could really sense ominous undertones as I read it, and wasn’t quite sure what way it would go which is a real testament to the talent of the author, Kirsty Applebaum. I will post my review in the next couple of days.

I’ve got quite a lot of books I’m really looking forward to reading on NetGalley, so I think I’m going to read a couple of those next. I’ve chosen The Vanishing Trick which I’ve heard so much about – I’m very excited to start this. I adored Malamander by Thomas Taylor last year, and have been eagerly anticipating the next book in the series from Eerie-on-Sea, Gargantis. Walker Books are now on NetGalley, and I couldn’t resist requesting this one! I’m having a real problem stopping myself from requesting ALL the fantastic middle-grade currently on there!

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