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!

Stella Starflake Pearl rubbed frost from the turret window and scowled out at the snow. She ought to be in the most splendid mood – it was her birthday tomorrow, and the only thing Stella loved more than birthdays was unicorns. But it was hard to be cheerful when Felix was still refusing to take her on his expedition.

Any ideas?

This is my first read for Believathon (a middle-grade readathon taking place this month on twitter @Believathon). It is the book I have chosen for my friendship prompt.

Goodreads synopsis:

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale? 

Review: The Ghouls of Howlfair

Published by Walker Books
Published on 3rd October
Cover Illustration by Kim Geyer

Open this book – if you dare – and be prepared for the most PERFECT ghoulish tale!  It had me completely engrossed from the opening:  overflowing with eerie happenings and brimming with laugh-out-loud moments and hilarious incidents! 

12-year-old Molly Thompson is Howlfair’s local intrepid historian; she has an insatiable curiosity about the town’s ghoulish past and is determined to investigate any unearthly occurrences.  And boy, are there sinister happenings galore in this wonderfully enjoyable spooktastic mystery.  But there are also moments of sheer comedic genius which are priceless!   These are a perfect foil to some of the more deliciously dark deeds which create just the right amount of edge-of-your-seat tension and scariness to make this perfect for younger readers.  

Unfortunately for Molly, the adults of Howlsfair are not impressed with her sleuthing skills which have a tendency to unearth a few skeletons they’d rather keep firmly locked in the cupboard, so her mother bans her from making any further investigations.  End of story!  Of course not:  Molly doesn’t let a little problem like town petitions and parental annoyance stop her from her mission to protect the citizens of Howlfair …

And that’s exactly what she needs to do when some rather gruesome discoveries are made, when some ghoulish visitors appear and when a mayoral election may not be all it seems. 

Remember, secrets like to hide underneath fears.

Molly, along with help from her friends, is determined to find out more about Howlfair’s ghoulish past in order to solve the mystery of its present. Will she be able to save Howlfair from a spectral disaster?  The plot is awesomely action-packed, incredibly inventive and spookily spectacular.  I loved that the story is set during the summer holidays, when perhaps we might not expect dangers to be lurking … this makes it even creepier. 

I adored Molly who is all sorts of brilliance!  She is endearingly clumsy, quirky, determined and a bookworm whose favourite place is the library.  Yes!  She has two best friends, Lowry and Gabriel:  one who thinks she might be a werewolf and one who is definitely a cat! Together, they make a great team who are supportive and protective of each other.

I loved the ode to libraries:

But it could transport you to anywhere you wanted to go if you stepped inside.

If you step inside this story – and you definitely should – you will be transported into the most fantastically inventive, fun-filled, spooky mystery that will fill you with all the delights that makes reading books such a joy! 

Thank you to Toppsta and Walker Books for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

October Wrap-Up

I love Autumn as the leaves change colour, the air gets chillier, and I can spend quality time snuggled up on the couch with some fantastic books. However, I don’t like having to defrost my car before work, or working out how to change the time on its clock! Work, as ever, has been busy this month, but I have a wonderful class who are a real delight. I’ve also had half-term, so I’ve been able to catch up on lots of reading.

Books I’ve read:

This has been a good reading month for me. I’ve managed to read 14 books: mostly middle-grade fantasy (my favourite) with one picture book (Greta and the Giants) and one young adult (Jackpot).

I’ve managed to post reviews for Owen and the Soldier, A Most Peculiar Toy Factory, Guardians of Magic and The Great Brain Robbery. I have my trusty notes for the other two, and am hoping to post my reviews soon!

I was approved to read Greta and the Giants and The Impossible Boy via NetGalley. I got Snow Sister from the library. I was sent Jackpot from the publisher . I’ve had Frostheart for a while and wanted to read it during half term (and just before Believathon) as it’s quite a long book – even with the pictures! One of my pupils brought me the Amelia Fang books as she thought I’d enjoy them – and I did! I won The Ghouls of Howlfair and just finished it today – a perfect spooky, but not too spooky, Halloween read!

Books I’ve bought:

This month I’ve bought 10 books.

I’m taking part in the middle-grade Believe in the Impossible Readathon (Twitter: @Believathon) which is taking place during the month of November. These were the books I bought for some prompts. I had the rest on my TBR.

I’ve also bought Wood Angel as I saw it recommended by an author for Believathon and it sounded fantastic: Kate lives in a time afraid of magic … in a place where witches are still burned. I haven’t read any Victoria Schwab books yet, and thought it was about time I did something about that, so I bought two! I love everything Amy Wilson writes so I had to get Shadows of Winterspell as soon as it was released. I wanted to read some fun, spooky books for Halloween so added Picklewitch and Jack and The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery, although I haven’t managed to read them yet!

Library books:

I try to visit the library at least once a month. I found some fantastic books this time.

Other books:

I was approved to read The Little Mermaid and Tiger Heart via NetGalley. I try not to ask for too many books, so I’m managing to keep my approval rating quite high – currently 88%! I’ve also been sent an e-ARC Esme’s Wish from the publisher.

Netflix

I watched Unbelievable which was hard to watch, but an amazing show.

It’s been another busy reading month which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’m really looking forward to November when I can finally start my Believathon reads – and try to get through some more books on my TBR!

Have you read any of these books? What have you read this month? Are you taking part in Believathon?

Review: The Impossible Boy

Publication Date: 31st October
Published by Quercus Children’s Books

Oleg and Emma spend their time inventing new classmates to replace their friend who has moved away and who they really miss.  Just days before Christmas, they create another classmate, Sebastian Cole.  Of course, they aren’t expecting him to turn up in his spaceship, ready and willing to be their new friend!  It’s impossible – isn’t it?

What do you do with an impossible friend?  Why, have him join your class, where he certainly attracts the curiosity of his classmates.  Sebastian is an impossible boy, who should not exist in our world, but does.  He exudes a natural curiosity and friendliness, and is brimming with exuberance and pertinent observations, not to mention a supply of hot ice-cream!  It is no surprise that he soon earns the friendship and loyalty of the children in his class.

Unfortunately, his appearance in the real world has not gone unnoticed and it is not long before he is being targeted by some rather unsavoury characters from the Institute of Unreality who are intent on keeping order in the world by getting rid of Sebastian. 

The appearance of intruders at the children’s school leads to Sebastian’s classmates coming together to protect him in the most ingenious and hilarious fashion which reminded me of the antics in Home Alone.  But, will their help be enough to save Sebastian from the sinister crow-masked people who are relentlessly pursuing him?

The Impossible Boy has a wonderful and rather unique cast of characters from the cowboy gardener to the talking snowwomen to the imprisoned scientist, not to mention the rampaging goat, who all have a role to play in helping Sebastian.  Will they, along with Sebastian’s school friends, be able to keep the impossible boy from being forgotten?

I loved the relationship between Emma and Oleg, and the strength they gain from each other’s friendship.  Neither have perfect home lives with hints of depression and deprivation in their family backgrounds.  However, they have a strong friendship and are always there to support each other.  The children have quite different personalities with Emma being daring, impulsive and full of curiosity whilst Oleg is much more careful and fearful, but together, they make a perfect team.

This is a magical, action-packed adventure brimming with heartfelt moments, oodles of humour and edge-of-your-seat danger.  A perfect read for children of 8+.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette/Quercus Children’s Books for an e-ARC 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 currently just starting The Ghouls of Howlfair by debut author Nick Tomlinson. I’m really looking forward to this one as I think it will a perfect spooky Halloween read!

I’m on half term, so I’ve managed to get more reading done than usual in a week. This week I’ve read:

  1. The Great Brain Robbery: this is the second book in The Train to Impossible Places Adventures. I loved this magical adventure as the world-building is so imaginative and the characters are incredibly likeable. The author is currently working on the third in the series!
  2. Greta and the Giants: I was sent an e-ARC of this via NetGalley. It is a wonderful picture book which is an allegory of Greta Grunberg’s campaign on climate change.
  3. The Snow Sister: This was one I got from the library. It is a very short book, but full of atmosphere and wonderful story-telling.
  4. Jackpot: I was sent this one by the publisher for inclusion in an online review magazine. I must admit, it isn’t my usual reading material, but I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I think this was because the characters and their relationships felt really authentic.
  5. The Impossible Boy: I was sent an e-ARC of this via NetGalley. Publication day is tomorrow, so I will post my review then. This is a really fun book, full of humour and action, with a wonderful Christmas setting.
  6. Frostheart: This is the group read for Believathon, and it is the only one that can be read before the start on 1st November, so I just couldn’t resist. It is an incredible, heart-warming adventure with stunning artwork and wonderful characters.

I hope to read some Amelia Fang books as I’ve been assured by the child in my class who gave them to me that I’d enjoy them. I also want to make a start on my Believathon books, so I’m going to read my prompt for an atmospheric book, Potkin & Stubbs and my prompt for a seasonal book, The Velvet Fox. I also hope to read a couple of books that I’ve been sent for upcoming blog tours.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie!

This is a weekly meme now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Girl Reader. Today’s is a freebie and, as it’s spooky season, I’ve decided to choose books with ghosts: 5 I’ve read and 5 on my TBR!

Group 1: The ones I’ve read! These all have fantastic depictions of ghosts and make perfect atmospheric reading for this time of year.

Group 2: The ones I want to read! These are all on my TBR. The blurbs and reviews I’ve read make me very keen to read them.

Review: The Great Brain Robbery

Published on 3rd October
Published by Usborne Publishing
Illustrator: Flavia Sorrentino

It is two months since Suzy’s first adventure into the Union of Impossible Places, the events of which are told in The Train to Impossible Places.   She has missed her friends from Trollville, so is incredibly excited to receive a secret invitation to re-join The Impossible Postal Express.

When Suzy arrives in Trollville, she is reunited with her friends, the crew of the Postal Express, and is overjoyed to be taking on her role as Postie again!  But, of course, things do not run smoothly.  Just as the train is about to be inaugurated by the wonderfully eccentric Troll King, the first earthquake ever to shake Trollville occurs, and chaos ensues as everyone in the city is put in danger.

I absolutely adored the sense of community spirit and resilience amongst the citizens of Trollville as they immediately begin to pull together to repair the damage to the city. After all, they are masters of invention.

Whilst trying to find a part to make a repair, Suzy inadvertently stumbles on an unsavoury creature whose villainous plan may very well destroy the city which she has come to view as a second home.  Not being one to accept defeat, Suzy finds herself in a race against time – with the aid of her friends – to foil his plan and save Trollville, and the rest of the Union from destruction.

This is an incredibly fast-paced, magical adventure which utterly enchanted and delighted me as it led me on a thrilling journey, full of danger and discoveries which are just so cleverly interspersed throughout the story that I had just had to keep reading, especially as many chapters ended on cliff hangers which made this an unputdownable book. 

The world-building is incredibly rich and fizzing with inventiveness; it is enhanced even further by the delightful images by Flavia Sorrentino.  I absolutely loved being shown the city of Trollville, Cloud Forge and the Uncanny Valley. 

The stunning hardback cover

This story felt like going home as I got to catch up with many of the wonderful characters from the first book, including Suzy’s best friend and Postmaster of the Postal Express, Wilmot; Ursel who is a very protective bear; and, members of the Old Guard who are retired from the Postal Service. 

Suzy is a truly wonderful young girl.  She has a deep-seated interest in physics and is fascinated by Troll technology which is a fusion of science and magic (fuzzics).  She is strong-willed, ingenious and brave, prepared to risk her own safety to protect her friends.  I adored the camaraderie between the friends:  their friendship was filled with warmth, humour and an overwhelming desire to look out for each other, no matter the consequences. 

I loved the title of this book, but I don’t want to spoil it by explaining why it is called The Great Brain Robbery – just read it and find out!  This is a perfect magical adventure for children of 8+.  I really hope I get to join Suzy on the Postal Express again.

Thank you to Toppsta and Usborne Publishing for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#Six for Sunday: Autumn Feels

The October theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot, is Autumn feels and today’s wish is for:  Witch-y books.  I love this prompt as there are just so many books with magic and witches that I adore. I’ve chosen six of my favourite middle-grade books which have witches/magic.

Despite failing her evaluation to become a fully-fledged witch, Arianwyn Gribble, is sent to Lull to continue her apprenticeship.  She is soon taking on the role of town protector, making charms and banishing dark creatures, although everything doesn’t always go according to plan. She is the most wonderful character, and I’m so excited to read her next adventure, A Witch Alone as part of Believathon.

Willow Moss is born into a family of witches, but does not have any of their exciting powers.  Finding lost things does not seem a very important magical trait until a whole day – Tuesday to be precise – goes missing, and the most powerful, feared and revered witch in Starfell comes asking for help! This book is full of adventure, friendship and the most wonderful kobold, Oswin! I’m so looking forward to her next adventure!

This is a wonderful contemporary magical tale. Clementine does not fit in and one day discovers a hidden house, filled with Snowglobes, holding trapped magicians. She discovers a past that helps her understand who she is. A beautifully lyrical story by one of my favourite middle-grade authors.

I adored this book which has one of the most unique magical systems I’ve ever read about. Rayne is a reluctant spell breather who must go on a daring adventure in order to save her town from the monster curse that has overrun it. Review coming shortly.

I devoured this one and the second book, The Little Grey Girl, over one weekend earlier in the year. On the night her Aunt dies, the Raggedy Witches come for Mup’s Mam, intent on luring her back to Witches Borough.

This is the story of the three Widdershin sisters who discover they are trapped on their island by an ancient curse, one they are determined to break. I adored this story and was so excited when the author, Michelle Harrison, announced that the second book in the series, A Sprinkle of Sorcery is being released on 6th February.

I’m so excited to be taking part in this Readathon which is a month long celebration of middle-grade books, taking place from 1st – 30th November. This has been made for me!

It is being run by the wonderful Gavin Hetherington who has set up an account on Twitter dedicated to this. You can find it under Believe in the Impossible Readathon @Believathon. If you haven’t already seen his introduction, and you are interested in taking part, you can watch his Youtube introduction via this link: Believe in the Impossible Readathon Announcement.

There is a compendium that has all the prompts for books to read. There are ten prompts and the group read. You can choose to read 4 books, or complete all 10. I definitely want to read all 10 – and the group read!

It was so hard to choose my ten books as I am lucky enough to have so many amazing books on my TBR. I’ve decided to read books that are part of a series: either ones I have and have not yet started, or which are the second book in a series.

So, on to my 10 books:

Prompt 1: A book featuring magic

I’ve chosen A Witch Alone by James Nichol. I read The Apprentice Witch earlier this year and was introduced to Arianwyn who I completely adored. I can’t wait to visit her again. This time she’s a newly qualified witch who has been set a dangerous secret mission.

Prompt 2: A book featuring a myth or legend

I’ve chosen The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I found this one one a few months ago whilst doing one of my favourite activities: browsing in my local bookshop! I have a vague recollection that I might have read this many years ago, but I’m not completely sure! This is the first book in The Chronicles of Prydain, and is a fantasy adventure inspired by Welsh mythology.

Prompt 3: A book with real life issues

I’ve chosen Ghost by Jason Reynolds. I bought this one for the Readathon as I’ve wanted to get it for a while, and this seemed like a good excuse! I think this might be quite a hard-hitting book but with an ultimately uplifting ending!

Prompt 4: A book set in the past

I’ve chosen The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras who is an American author who adores all things Scottish! I read the first book in this series The Mad Wolf’s Daughter earlier this year, and immediately bought this one. I loved Drest who is a strong female protagonist in a male-dominated medieval Scottish lowlands who becomes a legend through her daring and bravery.

Prompt 5: A book with a strong sense of friendship

I’ve chosen The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club by Alex Bell. This is another one that I’ve wanted to read for ages – and it’s the one Gavin has chosen for this prompt. The blurb for this book just makes me want to dive in now. Stella joins the Polar Bear Explorers Club on an expedition to the Icelands where she meets danger, adventure and snow pirates – and makes important new friendships. I’ve read another couple of adventure books this year set in icy places: Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy and Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart. They were both amazing stories, so I have high hopes for this icy adventure!

Prompt 6: An atmospheric or creepy book

I’ve chosen Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green. I’m going to thank the lovely Lily over at Lily and the Fae for this one! This one is described as ‘An atmospheric page-turner with a hauntingly good mystery at its heart’ (Gareth P Jones), so perfect for this prompt!

Prompt 7: A seasonal book

I’ve chosen The Velvet Fox by Catherine Fisher. I adored reading the first book in this series, The Clockwork Crow at the start of the year. This one is set in autumn, and sounds like it would also be perfect for Prompt 6!

Prompt 8: A book with an animal character

I’ve chosen The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood. This is the second book in The Five Realms series. The first book, The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is one of my favourite reads this year, and I have The Beasts of Grimheart and Uki and the Outcasts on my TBR. These books are set in an imaginary world where rabbits become heroes. The storytelling and world-building are incredible, and the images by David Wyatt are stunning.

Prompt 9: A classic children’s story

I’ve chosen The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston which was first published in 1954. I’ve chosen this one for a slightly unusual reason, and one related to work. One of the comprehension extracts I completed with my class was from this story, and it really caught my interest, so I’ve decided to read the whole atmospheric ghost story.

Prompt 10: Re-read childhood favourite

I’ve chosen my favourite book ever, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis. I absolutely, completely and utterly fell in love with this book at primary school, and read all of The Chronicles of Narnia in quick succession. I’ve re-read it quite a few times since. Last year was the first time I read it to one of my classes and I loved how much the children loved this classic. Looking at the prompts, I think this one covers all of them!

AND FINALLY …

The Group Read!

This is the only book that can be read before the Readathon starts in November – and I’m going to enjoy it next week whilst I’m on half term – bliss!

I’d love to hear from anyone else taking part in Believathon. It’s always exciting to see what other people have chosen for their prompts.

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!

Oh, the irony of counting out change for a fifty-dollar bill while “Mo Money, Mo Problems” plays in the background.

Any ideas?

I was very excited to find this book post when I arrived home today. I’m so glad I’ve got a week off as I have a quite a lot of book review commitments I need to complete before Believathon in November! Not that I’m complaining: I get to read books for a week!

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times best seller Dear Martin – which Angie Thomas, the best-selling author of The Hate U Give, called “a must read” – comes a pitch-perfect romance that examines class, privilege, and how a stroke of good luck can change an entire life.

Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she – with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate, Zan – can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?

Nic Stone, the New York Times best-selling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money – both too little and too much – and how you make your own luck in the world.