Review: My Name is Sunshine Simpson

Written by G.M. Linton
Cover and Inside Illustrations by Fuuji Takashi
Published by Usborne

My Name is Sunshine Simpson is a beautifully heartfelt, humorous and moving story of family, friendship and community:  a story of finding your voice, a story of acceptance and a story of celebration. 

10-year-old Sunshine Simpson has spent the year getting to know new girl, Evie, after being assigned as her buddy when she joined Beeches Primary at the start of the year. She feels that they have become friends, with common interests; however, Evie seems to be becoming increasingly mean towards Sunshine, disguising her meanness behind a smile and humour, whilst projecting herself as the perfect student.  Whilst Evie shines brightly, Sunshine feels like she is fading into the background … 

Beeches Primary is celebrating its Golden Jubilee with each class hosting an assembly for their parents at the end of the summer term.  Miss Peach, Sunshine’s teacher, tells the class that their presentations will be entitled:  And this is why X is important to me.  Sunshine is disheartened and feels like she will have nothing of interest to present, nor does she like being centre stage as she is worried that she will make a fool of herself.

If anyone can make Sunshine feel brighter, it is her larger-than-life Grandad who always knows just what to say to make her feel better, and stronger.  He is encouraging, supportive and an absolute joy to be around:  he’s her biggest cheerleader when she needs picking up, and gives the BEST advice which is so empowering.  But something is not right with her Grandad … he is taking day time naps, and is getting weaker … are her parents keeping something from her?

My heart went out to Sunshine as she deals with a tricky friendship at school, with the pressure she has put on herself, with the stress of having to perform in her school assembly and with changes at home.  Will Sunshine find her voice, her pride and her confidence, despite all the things that are going wrong in her life?  I absolutely adored Sunshine who is an incredibly likeable young girl:  warm, honest and kind-hearted, but struggling to believe in herself, and losing her self-confidence.  She is not perfect, and makes mistakes, which she accepts and learns from, and I think this fallibility makes her even more endearing.  This is a story that will resonate with many young readers and will encourage empathetic discussions about belonging, identity, friendships and family.

It is so wonderful to see the loving, close relationships within Sunshine’s family, including her extended family.  The twinzies, Peter and Lena, are absolutely adorable. Her parents, and Grandad, offer such great life-affirming advice and encourage Sunshine to believe in herself, and find her path.  Grandad Bobby is the most amazing role model for Sunshine, having come from Jamaica as part of the Windrush Generation, and made a life for himself and his family in England whilst celebrating his heritage, and grabbing the adventures that life has to offer. 

This is a story that shines brightly and warms the heart!  It is both poignant and uplifting and sings a song of being proud of who you are, and finding the courage to be yourself.  I cannot recommend this gorgeous book enough – perfect for readers of 9+ – and definitely one for school and class libraries.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne Publishing for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m reading The Magic Hour which I’m absolutely loving. I’m loving the style with the very present narrator and am fascinated by where this story will take me. I’m also listening to The Day No One Woke Up which is absolutely gripping. The only other book I’ve read by the same author is Boy in the Tower which is also sci-fi.

I finished Legends and Lattes which was just so brilliant – I loved the community that built around the coffee shop and the brilliant group of characters. So looking forward to Bookshops and Bonedust! I also finished Ghostlight which is a brilliantly tense ghost story that completely gripped me. I also read Away with Words which I loved. I’ll be posting my review as part of the Blog Tour later this week.

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Jenny Pearson, so I’m hoping to read The Boy Who Made Monsters next – and I expect there’ll be tears!

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

Review: The Kingdom Over the Sea

Written by Zohra Nabi
Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster

The Kingdom Over the Sea is a stunning, powerful and magical adventure that completely enthralled me from the fast-paced, intriguing prologue to the wonderful ending which makes me desperate for more from this world.

Grieving the recent loss of her mother, Yara finds a letter from her, with a strange set of instructions, telling her that she must return to the city of her birth, Zehaira, a place that is not on any map and one that Yara has never heard of.  Yara decides to follow the instructions, and finds herself in a city with golden domes where she can understand the language, a language which her mother had taught her. 

It is not long before Yara discovers that the world her mother has sent her to is not the world that she left 12 years before.  Magic has been outlawed and the Sultan’s alchemists have risen in power, determined to wipe out any trace of magic and destroy those who wield it – the sorcerers.  Will Yara be able to find a place to belong in this new world?  Can she discover the secrets of her past?  Will she be able to find a way to save the sorcerers from their usurpers?

What an incredible adventure this is!  Exciting, fast-paced, and brimming with danger, plots and secrets hidden just out of reach.  Sorcerers, alchemists, jinn not to mention flying carpets, hidden hideouts and elemental magic … perfect!

Yara is the most amazing young girl with incredible inner strength which makes her courageous, and determined to stand up for what she believes is right, even when this means breaking the rules or facing terrible danger.  I love the bond she forms with Ajal (who is the most wonderful character) as well as her friendship with Mehnoor and Rafi who prove loyal and supportive friends. 

This is an absolutely mesmerising, magical adventure, but is one which doesn’t shy away from dealing with themes such as prejudice and persecution fuelled by hatred, fear and power.  This makes it a really powerful read, and one which opens lots of opportunity for discussion.

The illustrations are absolutely stunning and complement this magical adventure perfectly.

A truly breath-taking, magical read, with family, friendship and hope at its heart, perfect for young adventurers of 9+.

Cover Reveal: The Great Forest by Valinora Troy

Today, I’m delighted to share the gorgeous cover image for the exciting conclusion to The Lucky Diamond trilogy: The Great Forest by Valinora Troy. The cover art is by Phan Duy.

The Great Forest follows on from The Lucky Diamond and Revenge of Queen Rose.


“Everything here hates you. The trees long to consume you, the ground to swallow you, the plants to poison you, and as for the creatures who live here… Your only chance of survival is to do exactly as I say. Clear?”

Twins Cathy and Alan are thrilled to be asked by the king of the Diamonds to enter the Great Forest on their eleventh birthday to complete the cleansing of the land. After all, Queen Rose is dead and all darkness gone from the trees. But when their home is attacked by a horde of vicious boars, and Alan and Cathy are unwillingly taken to the Great Forest, the twins realise that evil remains there. Now they are faced with a terrible choice: escape from their captors and take their chances at survival, or find out who is waiting for them in the centre of the forest, and why?

Cathy and Alan are about to face the deadliest battle of their lives, against the forest, the monsters, … and each other.

This exciting finale to the series will be published on 21st June. The ebook is currently available here for pre-order at a special price of .99 cent/.99 pence.

About the Author:

About the Author:

Valinora Troy has been writing since she was a child. Her first story popped into her head when she was 5 or 6, about a little girl who found a magic diamond. Recently she completed a M.A. in Creative Writing, specialising in Children & Young Adult fiction. Her short stories for adults have appeared in numerous venues. She has also served as a panellist for the CYBILS award, visits schools and libraries, and occasionally run writing classes for talented young authors. She hails from Blackrock, Co Louth, Ireland, and after living in Dublin for a number of years, recently returned to Louth to live in a magical writing cottage. Find out more at Valinora Troy – Children’s Fantasy Writer.

WWW Wednesday

I’m almost finished Legends and Lattes and have really enjoyed this. I love that Viv’s visit to a goblin coffee shop has led to her fulfilling her own dream. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out perfectly for her. I’m about three quarters of the way through listening to the audiobook of Ghostlight which is just incredible. This is brilliantly scary and tense. Just as I thought things might work out ok for Gabe and his friends, the plot took an unexpected twist and now I don’t know if they’ll all be ok, so not sure what to expect, but am desperate to find out. I’ve just started Away with Words which is so different to anything I’ve read before, but I think it’s one I’m going to enjoy, and learn from!

I read Emba Oak and the Beckoning Bones which is the second in this wonderfully heart-warming and humorous adventure: I have posted my review. I also read My Name is Sunshine which I absolutely loved. It brought smiles and tears. I am currently writing my review. I also read The Kingdom Over the Sea which was exactly the kind of adventure I enjoy. I really liked the fantasy element with sorcerers and alchemists and loved the elemental magic, but I also enjoyed the underlying themes rooted in the modern world. I have almost finished my review! Finally, I devoured Small Bites Back and loved being back with Harvey and his giant friend, Walloping Toenail as they try to save their friends from a never-ending contract performing in the Unspeakable Circus, not to mention the school being over run with zombie lions. This is a joy of a story: playful, genuinely funny with gorgeous friendships. I will be posting my review as part of the upcoming Blog Tour later this month.

I’ve had a proof of this on my TBR for a while now, and it’s one I’ve really been looking forward to, so I’m aiming to get to it over the weekend!

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

April Wrap-Up

This feels like it has been a good reading month. I’ve had the Easter holidays which meant more physical copies read, but less audiobooks as I only listen to them when driving to and from work.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 20 books this month (I think this is the most I’ve read in a month!): 16 physical, 3 e-books and 1 audiobook. I’ve also read another 5 books from my Beat the Backlist Challenge (33 left!):

Books sent by publishers:

I am grateful to have been sent 6 books by Publishers this month.


My feedback ratio is at 97%. In April, I requested and was approved to read three books. I have already read two of them: Jodie and The Silver Road.

Books bought:

This has been a quiet buying month for me: I’ve only bought 6 books!

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

Review: Emba Oak and the Beckoning Bones

Written by Jenny Moore
Cover illustration by David Dean
Published by Maverick Publishing

Emba Oak and the Beckoning Bones is the second thrilling, action-packed adventure in this fantastic series which starts with Emba Oak and the Terrible Tomorrows.   

Rather than being able to rest after their long journey home – from defeating the evil sorcerer Necromalcolm – Emba, Odolf and Fred discover that there are intruders, and a red crack has appeared in the sky:  a warning that danger is not far away.  When they enter the cave, they discover that their home has been wrecked, but luckily the Tome of Terrible Tomorrows has not been taken.  Worried that intruders in their home means that the threat from Necromalcolm has not gone, they decide to consult the Tome for a helpful prophecy.  It rather cryptically points them towards the legend of a hidden crypt holding lost treasure in the Petrified Peaks …

And so begins another fast-paced, exciting adventure as the trio find themselves on a quest to find the missing treasure, a quest that takes them to both scary and friendly places, but where trouble is never far away.   As if facing the dangers presented by these places wasn’t enough, they fear that they are being followed.  Could Necromalcolm’s henchmen be on their trail?  Will they reach the Petrified Peaks safely and, if so, what awaits them there?  And why are Emba’s dreams being haunted by beckoning dragon bones – do they mean harm or help?

I loved the twists and turns as the trio ventured into danger and discoveries with an ending that has made me desperate to find out what happens next.  There are so many brilliant locations visited which are all so aptly named from the Screeching Swamp to the Stone Circle of Certain Doom to the Pretty Pond of Peace and Pleasantness.  There are also some really rather terrifying creatures and some not-quite-so-terrifying creatures, especially a certain buzzing wasp-snake with a penchant for lizards.  I also really enjoyed the camaraderie and humour between Emba, Odolf and Fred and loved how familiar their relationships felt to me which made this such a delight of a story, and is one of the reasons I love books in series.

I absolutely loved following this daring, loyal and courageous trio who might not always agree, but who always look out for each other.  I adored the loving relationship between Fred and Emba with Fred always being quick to reassure Emba when she questions herself.  Odolf is a wonderfully loyal and supportive friend who is not scared to share his suspicions with Emba, even when this causes issues in their friendship.  Emba is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who is facing both emotional and physical changes which she doesn’t fully understand.  She fights to control the dragon fury which burns within her, a fury which can both cause harm and protect.  Emba knows she is different and, when she meets another who readily accepts, and even seems to admire, her differences, she is keen to develop a new friendship, despite her friend’s apprehension.    

An absolutely fantastic, fast-paced adventure, brimming with humour, heart and friendship, sure to captivate young readers of 9+. 

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

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!

Rebecca Strand was sixteen the first time she saw her father kill a ghost. She was woken by a hand on her shoulder, and opened her eyes to Papa’s face, flickering in the glow of his lantern. He held out her shawl and said, “Get up. I need your help.”

Any ideas?

This is my current audiobook, and I’m absolutely engrossed.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Rebecca Strand was just sixteen when she and her father fell to their deaths from the top of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in 1839. Just how they fell—or were they pushed?—remains a mystery. And their ghosts haunt the lighthouse to this day. . . . Gabe tells this story every day when he gives the ghost tour on Toronto Island. He tries to make it scary enough to satisfy the tourists, but he doesn’t actually believe in ghosts—until he finds himself face to face with Rebecca Strand. The true story of her death is far more terrifying than any ghost tale Gabe has told. Rebecca reveals that her father was a member of the Order, a secret society devoted to protecting the world from “the wakeful and wicked dead”—malevolent spirits like Viker, the ghost responsible for their deaths. But the Order has disappeared, and Viker’s ghost is growing ever stronger. Now Gabe and his friends must find a way to stop Viker before they all become lost souls. . . .

Blog Tour: The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

Written by  Christina Matula
Illustrations by Yao Xiao
Published by Inkyard Press

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei is a wonderfully warm-hearted, gently humorous story of navigating friendships, of self-discovery and of finding your way in a new place. 

12-year-old Holly-Mei is attending summer camp, but she has been rejected by her friends after her keen sense of fairness gets her blamed not only for the cancellation of their end-of-year pizza party, but also for losing them the field hockey game.  When her parents tell her that the family are moving to Hong Kong as her mother has got a promotion, she is at first reluctant to leave her friends, despite their falling out.  However, the more she learns about the move, the more excited she becomes, confident that a fresh start will easily lead to new friends.  Her only regret is leaving her beloved Ah-ma behind in Toronto.

But will making new friends come as easily to Holly-Mei as she expects them to, or will her tendency to speak without thinking, lead to friction?  Will she find settling into a new life in Hong Kong easy, or will she have a lot to learn about new expectations and rules?  And, how will she cope when one member of her new friendship group makes it obvious that she doesn’t want her in the group? 

Holly-Mei is an incredibly likeable young girl, and I loved joining her on her path to forming new friendships, fitting in to her new private school and exploring the sights and foods of Hong Kong as she learns more about her heritage and culture.  I really admired how she stands up for herself; how she deals with the pressures and expectations that are unwittingly put upon her by others; and, how she is determined to help heal a broken friendship with her group whilst coming to realise the importance of old friendships alongside new ones.  I loved her optimism, her kindness and her consideration for others. 

I really enjoyed this own voices story and learnt so much from it as Taiwanese-British, Holly-Mei, adjusts to life in Hong Kong – a life amongst the wealthy and elite which brings pressures, opportunities and rewards.  I love the ‘realness’ of this story:  the day-to-day life of hanging out with friends, going to school, exploring the local area, overcoming difficulties and adjusting as a family to a new life away from the familiar. 

This is a gorgeously heart-warming story of navigating friendships, self-discovery and finding your place, perfect for readers of 9+.

Thank you to Tatti for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour, and for providing me with a copy of The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei in exchange for my honest opinion.

Do check out the other stops on the Tour:

WWW Wednesday

I’m still reading Legends and Lattes as my evening read and I’m so enjoying it – definitely fits the cosy vibes. I’m listening to Ghostlight which is brilliant – so spooky with wonderful characters.

I’ve read The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei which is a wonderfully warm-hearted story of a young Taiwanese-British girl moving from Toronto to Hong Kong. I really enjoyed this one, and will be posting my review on Friday. I also read a brilliant non-fiction book, The Greatest Show on Earth and have posted my review.

I’m going to aim to get two books read by next Wednesday as there is a bank holiday weekend!

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