Six for Sunday

The April theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is The Viper-inspired ones and today’s prompt is for Books with snakes on the cover/in the title. I was not at all surprised that I did not have many of these as snakes scare me, and they don’t tend to feature on a lot of middle-grade books! When I was younger, if I even found a picture of a snake in a book, I immediately screamed and dropped it. I’ve got a little better, but still can’t look at them on TV or in real life. I think our past experiences form some fears, and I definitely know the root of this fear – it was a film I watched when I was too young to deal with it. I don’t know its name, but it involved lots of tiny green snakes attacking people – might have involved magic as well, although I love magical reads!

These are the ones I have read, or have on my TBR. Even I found it hard to spot the snakes on the middle-grade ones, but they are there!

Maybe I should run a competition to play spot-the-snake on the last three books!

Have you read any of these? Do you own any books with snakes on the cover or in the title?

March Wrap-Up

This has not been a great reading month for physical books for me. Even though I have loved being back in school with the children, it has been very hectic, and I have continued to teach virtually for one or two children for most of that time which I wasn’t really mentally prepared for! I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so drained in the evenings with no energy to read more than a few pages, if that. Most of my reading has happened at the weekend. Both my husband and I have now had our first vaccination. I wasn’t expecting to have one yet but, when I was contacted by my GP Surgery and asked to book one, I went for it. I really enjoyed attending the virtual book launch for Vashti Hardy’s new lower-middle grade book, Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest this month. I even managed a green apple schnapps drink! I’m now off on my Easter holiday, and am hoping to enjoy lots of reading and walking!

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 9 books this month: 6 physical copies and audiobooks. I look part in a Blog Tour for Skin Taker, and have posted reviews for Everyday Magic, Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest and Dragon World.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is currently at 88%. I am lucky enough to be auto-approved by Little Tiger who have some wonderful reads on NetGalley which I couldn’t resist. I have Skyborn by Sinead O’Hart, Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold and How to be a Human by Karen McCombie waiting to read. I am especially excited to read Skyborn as I have just finished a re-read of Eye of the North. It is a prequel which tells the story of ‘Thing’ from Eye of the North and I was reading it with whole new eyes on a second reading.

Books sent by publishers:

I feel very fortunate to have been sent so many books by publishers this month. I think this is the most I’ve been sent.

Books I’ve bought:

I have bought 12 books this month: mostly middle-grade with one young adult and a couple of picture books. I had already read The Wild Robot Escapes last year through the library but I have a couple of boys in my class who loved The Wild Robot. When I told them there was another book, they were very excited to read it, so I couldn’t resist adding it to our class library.

How has your month been? Have you read any of these?

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!

Helena grasped the bars of the domed birdcage resting on her lap until her fingers ached. Mr Westcott was staring into the cage with an odd kind of intent that danced a shiver across the back of her neck. His rake-thin frame leaned forward across the desk, his eyes narrowing. “You omitted to say in your acceptance letter that you were bringing … a … bird,” he said, his sallow cheeks tightening as he glanced first at Helena’s father, and then at Helena.

Any ideas?

I loved A.M Howell’s debut middle-grade, The Garden of Lost Secrets and am really looking forward to her new book, Mystery of the Night Watchers which is due to be released on 8th July. I really want to read this one before then.

Goodreads Synopsis:

JUNE, 1905.

Helena and her parrot, Orbit, are swept off to Cambridge when her father is appointed clock-winder to one of the wealthiest men in England. There is only one rule: the clocks must never stop. But Helena discovers the house of one hundred clocks holds many mysteries; a ghostly figure, strange notes and disappearing winding keys… Can she work out its secrets before time runs out?

Have you read this? What did you think?

WWW Wednesday

I’m about half way through The Storm Keepers’ Battle, and am absolutely loving it! It feels like Fionn has a real battle ahead of him but hopefully, he will have the islanders on side. My heart is aching for one of the characters – if you’ve read this, you probably know who I’m referring to! I’ve just started listening to Evernight on BorrowBox and am enjoying it. It seems like quite a dark read, probably more suited for the top end of primary and into secondary. I’m looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

I read Dragon World which is the most wonderful book about dragons with maps, information and myths. The illustrations really are stunning. There is so much I didn’t know about dragons around the world – a book that is certain to fascinate younger readers, and perfect for a topic on dragons. I also finished listening to The Skylarks’ War which was just as wonderful as I remembered it – tears, smiles and eagerness to read The Swallows’ Flight.

I’m on Easter holidays from Friday, so I’m hoping to get more reading done. I’m going to start with The Strangeworlds Travel Agency The Edge of the Ocean and then indulge in the next two Picklewitch and Jack adventures – can’t wait!

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

Review: Dragon World

Written by Tamara MacFarlane
Illustrated Alessandra Fusi
Published by Doring Kindersley Ltd on 4th March

Blurb:

Lurking in every corner of the world, from mountain peaks to ocean depths, and even under the very ground you tread, dragons watch and wait …

Whether as powerful gods, wise friends, or fearsome foes, dragons take many forms, and exist in myths from cultures all over the world.

So turn the pages to enter the dragon’s domain. Soar through their skies, look into their lairs, witness their power, and discover their incredible world.

Who isn’t fascinated by dragons? This is an absolutely stunning and incredibly engaging book about my favourite mythological creatures: dragons. I was utterly fascinated by every aspect of this book: the maps, the fact files and the myths. The illustrations are gloriously gorgeous, making this a very special book which I know children are going to adore. This is one for the treasured books section of your bookshelf, and is one that will be lovingly dived into time and time again.

Dragon World is a wonderful introduction into the world of dragons for younger readers, and is perfect for parents and teachers to share with children. As a teacher, I can see so much potential for using this book in class with its links to history, science, English, art and geography.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • Asian Dragons
  • European Dragons
  • Dragons of the World
  • Dragon Discoveries

Each of the first three sections includes:

  • a beautifully illustrated map showing the names and images of dragons linked to places. I loved the compass in the shape of a dragon!
  • detailed information about the dragons included in the myths: The Chinese Long dragon; the Japanese Ryujin dragon; the Welsh Y Ddraig Goch dragon; the Nordic Lindworm dragon; the West African Aido-Hwedo dragon.
  • wonderfully retold myths: The Dragon Dance (China); The Dragon King and the Jellyfish (Japan); The Dragon Battle (Wales); The Dragon Curse (Norse); and The Earth Serpent (North Africa).
  • Fascinating facts about a wide range of dragons of the world including: Appearance, Dwelling and Powers and Traits.

The final section focusses on ‘Dragon Discoveries‘ including identifying dragon eggs; dragon jewels; real-life dragons; dragon science; and, artwork encouraging readers to draw and design their own dragon.

This book offers such a wonderful opportunity to enter the entrancing world of dragons. As an adult, I was captivated, so I have no doubt that children will spend many happy hours absorbed by the text, maps and illustrations.

Dragon World is a perfect fantasy information book for younger readers, and is one I am very keen to use myself in the classroom as I can see so much potential to engage children in this world.

Thank you to DK for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Everyday Magic by Jess Kidd

Written by Jess Kidd
Cover Illustration by Beatriz Castro
Published by Canongate on 1st April

Everyday Magic is a delightfully charming, quirky and magical adventure with an abundance of fun, fast-paced action and fantastic characters. 

Alfie Blackstack is not a seeker of adventure so, when he moves to live with his two aunts after his father goes missing, it is with great relief that he discovers that Little Snoddington is a cosy, idyllic village where nothing much happens.  How WRONG can a nine-year-old be?

It transpires that his aunts Gertrude and Zita are, in fact, witches, and magic is real!  Whilst Gertrude is welcoming and kind, Zita is not exactly overjoyed to have her nephew living in the rather creepy Switherbroom Hall. After all, she despises children!

Despite Alfie not seeking adventure, it soon finds him in the form of a snowglobe and his first ever friend! He is gifted the snowglobe which holds an occupant who seems to delight in causing mayhem, leading to lots of giggles!  He also makes his first ever friend in Calypso who has arrived in the village with the travelling circus. 

When Calypso’s little sister, Nova, goes missing, Alfie is determined to help find her … and so begins a brilliantly fast-paced, action-packed adventure with oodles of fun, danger and revelations that kept me captivated and entertained throughout.  Can Alfie and Calypso discover the whereabouts of Nova?  As if that wasn’t enough adventure, they find themselves caught up in the threat of a Witch War:  can they outwit the popularity-seeking, nasty Head Witch, Prunella Morrow, before she destroys both families?

There is so much to delight in, and giggle at, in this splendiferous story:  warring witches on vacuum cleaners; an imp causing chaos; a ghost librarian; and, a Snakes and Ladders contest with a difference. 

Alfie is an absolutely delightful bespectacled, bright-orange anorak-wearing young boy.  In his new life, he discovers true friendship, family and home, and a sense of belonging.  When he is standing up for his friends, family and himself, Alfie shows that he is both courageous and daring.  Calypso proves to be a wonderfully supportive and kind-hearted friend who believes in Alfie. 

This is a wacky, bewitching and exciting adventure that young readers of 7+ will adore. 

Thank you to Canongate for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.   

Six for Sunday

The March theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Around the world in 80 books and today’s prompt is for Blue and green books. I have a LOT of books on my bookshelves, so it wasn’t difficult to find some for this prompt. I’ve chosen six that are more recent or upcoming releases that I’m very excited to read.

Blog Tour: Skin Taker

Written by Michelle Paver
Cover Design by John Fordham
Chapter Illustrations and map by Geoff Taylor
Published by Zephyr Books


Skin Taker is the second book in the new Wolf Brother series, and is another masterpiece:  powerful, riveting, and breath-taking.  I was completely captured from the opening pages which immediately drew me back into this richly-drawn and evocative Stone Age world, taking me on an unforgettable and gripping epic adventure.

Disaster strikes the Forest when a cataclysmic event, which the Clans call ‘Thunderstar’, decimates its people and land.  With the devastation caused by the Thunderstar, the Great Forest is in danger of dying.  Torak, Renn and Wolf find themselves in a race against time to save the Forest, a venture that will see them pushed to the edge of their endurance as they face danger, betrayal and a vindictive evil that threatens the lives and souls of the Forest and the Clans. 

I was on a knife-edge as I devoured this story; the tension and sense of foreboding is palpable as the story unfolds; as Torak, Renn and Wolf make terrifying discoveries, as they confront their fears, and strive to survive and protect each other in the midst of great upheaval.

The world-building is exceptional, giving a fascinating insight into the lives of the Stone Age Clans:  their lifestyle, customs and belief system, and their affinity with the world around them.  I found the metamorphosis of some of the separate Clans into an amalgamation of Chosen Ones through the manipulation of an evil presence both terrifying and absorbing.  The destruction caused to the forest is heart-breaking, not only as it causes imbalance in nature, but also as it threatens the essence of the Clans. 

The prevalence of the supernatural throughout was at times stirring and at others frightening.  I found the Clan belief system compelling with its affinity to animal spirits, belief in demons and in protecting the dead.  The Clans have a depth of reverence for their spirit animals and respect these animals in their day-to-day life.  I was intrigued by the way others exploit these beliefs for very different purposes. 

Torak and Renn are incredible characters who have certainly found their way into my heart.  They are mates who have a deep bond, but a bond that is tested by the impact of the destruction of the Forest.  Torak, a spirit-walker, is changed by the event and has a darkness within him that leads to fractious exchanges, but never enough to sever their bond. The strength, courage and resilience that they show, and their first instinct to protect each other, is genuinely moving.  Torak is prepared to put his life and souls at risk in order to save those he loves whilst Renn fights for him, using all her ingenuity and Mage powers, to save him from great evil, and from losing himself in the spirit world.

The connection between Wolf and his pack-brother Torak is just beautiful with each caring so deeply for the other that they sometimes feel their loyalty to others torn. 

Skin Taker is an astounding, action-packed adventure:  a tense, emotive and mesmerising fight for survival amidst the chaos of natural and supernatural destructive forces that absolutely held me enthralled from start to finish.

Thank you so much to ed public relations and Zephyr Books for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for this absolutely stunning book and for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Skin Taker by Michelle Paver is published 1st April 2021, published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, price £12.99 in hardback.

Copyright image 2019© Michelle Paver.
This image is copyright Anthony Upton 2019©.

Do check out the rest of the Tour:

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!

It was a wild and lightning-struck night. The kind of night that changes everything. Jagged forks of light ripped across the sky and thunder rolled in tidal waves over the rooftops and spires of London. With the rain lashing down and clouds crashing above, it felt like the whole city was under the sea.

Any ideas?

Goodreads Synopsis:

Cordelia comes from a long line of magical milliners, who weave alchemy and enchantment into every hat. In Cordelia’s world, Making – crafting items such as hats, cloaks, watches, boots and gloves from magical ingredients – is a rare and ancient skill, and only a few special Maker families remain. When Cordelia’s father Prospero and his ship, the Jolly Bonnet, are lost at sea during a mission to collect hat ingredients, Cordelia is determined to find him. But Uncle Tiberius and Aunt Ariadne have no time to help the littlest Hatmaker, for an ancient rivalry between the Maker families is threatening to surface. Worse, someone seems to be using Maker magic to start a war. It’s up to Cordelia to find out who, and why . . .

Have you read this? What did you think?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

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 M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, TRAINS, FRIENDSHIP

Favourite Sentence/s from Page 11:

It was the most baffling encounter he’d [Hal] had ever had with a girl.

I read The Highland Falcon Thief and Kidnap on the California Comet back-to-back last Summer, and absolutely loved both. This one made me desperate to go on holiday, and my husband and I spent some time looking into the real-life California Zephyr afterwards. Maybe one day! I have a copy of Murder on the Safari Star in my TBR, and am really looking forward to finding out about Hal’s next adventure.

Harrison Beck (Hal) is travelling aboard the California Comet with his Uncle Nat, a travel journalist, who has been invited to attend a press conference by technological entrepreneur, August Reza.  Hal has barely arrived before he meets siblings Mason and Hadley, who are outgoing and friendly, and have talents which will prove useful for the mystery Hal soon finds himself intent on solving …

He also meets the rather unhappy and lonely daughter of the billionaire, August Reza.  Marianne befriends Hal and warns him that she is in danger so, when he witnesses her kidnapping and finds a ransom note, he is determined to use his detective skills to save her. Who has kidnapped Marianne, and is the motive as obvious as it appears?  

This is a brilliantly clever, exciting and engrossing mystery, packed full of suspects, clever clues, tantalising puzzles and intrigue. It sets up a delicious trail to follow, a trail which leads to startling revelations and danger which will undoubtedly take its readers on a wonderful adventure, puzzling and searching for clues, as they try to solve this classic whodunnit.

You can read my review here.

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