#MGTakesOnThursday

This is my new 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 …

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books
Written by Anna Fargher
Illustrated by Sam Usher

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Hastily clambering out of their nest and down the pole of the Hanway umbrella, Papa expertly hopped and jumped along its metal stretchers to meet Pip, wrapping his tail around the end of one of its metal ribs to peer out from under the canopy on to shop floor.

This book in three words:

ADVENTURE, FRIENDSHIP, COURAGE

The Umbrella Mouse is one of my favourite books EVER with animal characters. I am currently reading Pip’s second adventure, Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue which is just as brilliant. Pip is a young mouse who has lost her family during the horror of the Second World War. Her only connection to them is the antique umbrella which was their home.

Pip finds herself joining Churchill’s Secret Animal Army, an underground animal resistance movement, and so begins her daring mission to help the Allied powers, a mission which takes her to war-torn France … where she is caught up in the brutality of the war alongside her French Counterparts, Noah’s Ark

This is an absolutely amazing adventure story, full of action, tension and heroic deeds, interspersed with the building of heart-warming friendships. The illustrations by Sam Usher are just gorgeous.

You can read more about this wonderful story in my review: The Umbrella Mouse

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!

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 still remember my disappointment when I was declined to read The Umbrella Mouse via NetGalley. Of course, I did buy it when it was published and loved it. I was very excited to be approved to read Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue. I’ve just read a couple of chapters so far, and am loving being back with Pip and her friends.

I have read four books this week, all of which I enjoyed. I took part in a Blog Tour for Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer, a fantasy adventure set in a world within our world. This had its own adventure to solve, but also gave an insight into the bigger arc which will be threaded throughout the series. I liked that the main character was leading an ordinary life with supportive parents and friends before finding out her intriguing heritage.

I had requested The Austen Girls on Borrowbox and it was due to be available on 18th May, but it became available earlier. I just couldn’t resist picking this up and read it on Sunday. I am a major Jane Austen fan and read all her books whilst in school. I absolutely loved this story which centres around Jane’s nieces, Fanny and Anna, and portrayed the period perfectly. Fanny and Anna have their grand entry into Society and are caught up in finding husbands. Even though the girls are cousins, their monetary situation is very different: how this affected their choices, opportunities and relationship was fascinating. Fanny also finds herself caught up in a mystery which requires her Aunt’s help. I would highly recommend this one.

I then read Wilde which was incredible, just as I suspected it might be after reading Lily’s review. My heart really went out to Wilde who is determined to fit in to her new school, but immediately draws attention to herself. I loved how she learned to accept who she always knew she was over the course of the book. I do intend to post a review on this one!

I woke up at about 5:00am on Tuesday morning and, as I couldn’t go back to sleep, decided to read. I picked up Perjee and Me which has been on my TBR for ages. Oh my goodness, this was a rather wonderful little story. Caitlin lives on an island with her scientist mother. One day after a storm she finds a tiny ‘alien’ who she names Perjee. He is very unusual to say the least! When Perjee is threatened he grows … and grows until he becomes a threat. The friendship between Caitlin and Perjee is wonderful and the lengths she will go to to help him are incredible. Along the way, she makes another friend as well as some enemies. This is a really touching story which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was so excited to get a proof of this one. I can’t believe I’ve left it so long to read. I’m very much looking forward to delving into this one.

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

Blog Tour: Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer

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

Synopsis

Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.Whilst staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen. Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.

Review

I really enjoyed this magical fantasy adventure which sees thirteen-year-old Josie James discover an incredible heritage that transports her into an archaic world hidden from our world. The village of Suncroft lives under the blight of an ancient curse which traps it in an eternal winter of darkness. Is Josie the Chosen One, destined to break the curse?

Josie is invited by her Great Nannie Kirk to spend the summer holidays with her in Waterfall Cottage, hidden in the countryside. She soon discovers a secret garden, and that her Nan may well be keeping some truths from her. On the morning before her birthday, she makes a discovery that changes her life forever … a discovery that reveals a world hidden from ours, and one she is keen to visit for “one big adventure.”

Josie finds new friends in Suncroft including the half-elf Filan Flynn and his niece Hannah. She is also given the most wonderful Protector, a young husky called Asher who is absolutely adorable. They can communicate telepathically and strike up an instant rapport.

Josie soon finds herself at the heart of a mystery. The Teardrops of Summer, magical crystals which allow travel between Suncroft and our world, and which furnish the Elder who owns them with immortality, are being stolen. Can Josie and her friends track down the culprit before they are lost forever?

The world-building is superb from the idyllic setting of Great Grandmother Kirk’s country cottage (which I would love to visit) to the quintessentially old-fashioned village of Suncroft with its striking absence of modernity and fascinating use of tunnels.

Josie is a wonderful character who lives an ordinary life: she enjoys school, has some close friends, gets on with her parents and is developing crushes on boys. However, her life changes irrevocably when she finds herself in Suncroft which has hidden dangers for her. She shows great courage, strength and a natural curiosity and resilience when helping to solve the mystery of the stolen crystals.

Whilst this book revolved around the mystery of the stolen Teardrops of Summer, the bigger problem of lifting the curse over the village was enticingly sprinkled throughout: witches, curses, the chosen one, enemies within: plenty of intrigue to make me want to read the next story, especially after the jaw-dropping ending!

The second book in the series is Josie James and the Velvet Knife:

Synopsis

“For you to find the Velvet Knife, you must solve the riddles thrice.” A mysterious hooded figure, known only as the Velvet Knife has appeared in the cursed village of Suncroft. No one knows who he is or what he wants but when he starts leaving riddles around the village, it is time for Josie to return to Suncroft for a second time. With Asher, her faithful husky Protector by her side, Filan, a half elf, and her great grandad, will they be able to solve the clues in time and discover his identity? The Velvet Knife is not the only one causing problems for Josie. Her rival for the position of the ‘Chosen One’ continues to grow stronger, and now he has a Protector of his own. What does all this mean for Josie? Is she destined to lift the wintery curse of Suncroft or will another take her place as the ‘Chosen One’?

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer

Amazon UK: Josie James and the Velvet Knife

About the Author:

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also star in the Josie James series. She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that 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

Instagram: lilymaewalters

Saving Winslow

Published by Guppy Books
Published on 14th May
Illustrated by Sarah Horne

I absolutely adored Saving Winslow which is a beautifully heart-warming and gentle story of the love which develops between two children and a mini-donkey, a love which helps them to open their hearts again after loss, to find hope and to build friendship. This story holds a special place in my heart as I grew up surrounded by many animals on our family farm. I remember with great fondness feeding and looking after chicks, goslings, lambs and calves, so I totally understand Louie’s bond with Winslow. We even had a donkey!

Louie has not had much success with nurturing his collection of rather diverse pets; however, when his father brings home a sickly new-born mini-donkey from his Uncle Pete’s farm, Louie immediately takes him into his heart, and sets himself a mission to save him.

He felt a sudden rush, as if the roof had peeled off the house and the sun had dived into every corner of the kitchen.

Despite warnings that Winslow is unlikely to survive, Louie is absolutely determined to save him. He shows endless patience and gentleness with caring for his new friend, willing him to survive against the odds. 

Louie is worried that he will never find something he is passionate about, but looking after Winslow gives him a real sense of purpose.   This helps him to cope with the aching loss he feels after his older brother joins the army.

Soon after Winslow’s arrival into Louie’s life, his friend Mack brings newcomers Claudine and Nora to see Winslow.  Nora and Louie soon take tentative steps towards friendship.  My heart really went out to Nora who is dealing with her own losses, and fears further pain if she builds a relationship with Winslow and then loses him.  Winslow, however, has other ideas!

The bond that both Louie and Nora develop with Winslow is wonderfully precious and satisfying:  it is a connection that allows both children to find solace after loss, to build trust, to feel hopeful and to find friendship through their mutual love for Winslow. 

I adored Winslow who has to fight to survive, but who thrives under the care of Louie and Nora.  They treat him to sledge rides and take him for walks, but will there come a time when Winslow needs to say goodbye to his home with Louie?  And, if so, will Louie and Nora be willing to let him go?

I worry about the worst, but I hope for the best.

The short chapters and wonderfully warm relationship between the children and the adorable Winslow will appeal to younger readers, but there is also a depth to the story in terms of dealing with loss and relationships which makes this perfect for a wider age range.    

Thank you to Bella at Guppy Books and Amy for a review 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!

People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere. In the bread aisle at your grocery store, in the middle of your grandmother’s garden, in the front seat on your bus. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Any ideas?

This one has been on my TBR for a while now. I have both it and Tunnel of Bones. Reading the first few lines has made me want to move it much closer to the top of my TBR.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one. When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Have you read this? Would you recommend I move it up my TBR?

#MGTakesOnThursday

This is my new 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 …

Published by Faber & Faber
Written by Emma Carroll
Illustration: Julian De Narvaez

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I felt light-headed too, as if everything was unreal – like I was watching myself in a film.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, DANGER

I’ve really been enjoying reading middle-grade historical fiction, and this one of my absolute favourites – ever! It is a gripping historical mystery set during the Second World War, and one which I read in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down!

This is historical fiction at its pinnacle.  It is a story of mystery and revelation, of loss and hope, of togetherness and separation, of prejudice and enlightenment.  It is a story of ordinary people determined to offer help to those in great need … what a powerful message!

You can read more about this incredible story in my review:  Letters from the Lighthouse

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!

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 Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer for a Blog Tour coming up next week. I enjoyed Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable: Charlie Makes a Discovery by the same author earlier this year, so am looking forward to this one for slightly older readers.

This week I’ve read an advance copy of Elsetime by Eve McDonnell which is an absolutely gripping time-slip adventure where a young mudlark from 1864 travels through time to meet with a jeweller’s apprentice in 1928. The events of this story are inspired by the Great Flood of London. The plot is definitely intriguing. Oh, and there is the most wonderful crow called Magpie who I loved. This is due for release in September. I also read Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech, which was such a special, nostalgic story for me. Just gorgeous. This is due for release on 14th May.

I intend to read Wilde by Eloise Williams next. The cover of this is just stunning and, after having read Lily‘s brilliant review, I’m really, really, really looking forward to this one.

What have you read this week? Have you read any of these?

Review: Elsetime

Published by Everything With Words
Cover & Illustrations: Holly Ovenden
Published on 17th September 2020

Elsetime is an exhilarating time-slip story which completely captivated me as it took me on a fascinating journey where past, present and future meet in ‘elsetime’, a time where intrigue, danger and revelations swirl amidst friendships, courage and hope. 

It is 1864 and young Mudlark, Needle is digging for objects from the River Notion which he uses to create treasures for his mother to sell on her market stall.  Needle has an incredible talent:  he can learn the history of an item when he holds it at the moment it was lost.  He is also a synesthete who can hear emotions in colour which makes him incredibly perceptive. 

Needle is helped by a very special friend, a crow called Magpie named as she is a master of finding and stealing treasures.   I love how they work together, and how they clearly adore each other, with Magpie influencing many of the paths that Needle takes.

One such path leads him into a future Inthington in 1928 as he searches for his missing father, but instead finds Gloria Bobbin, a 12-year-old orphan and jeweller’s apprentice who knows Magpie under a different name, Fusspot. 

The children soon discover that their destiny is linked to a terrible disaster that threatens the town, where 14 lives will be lost as a result of a flood – unless the children can avert it.  So begins their courageous battle to change the course of history and to save lives, a battle which leads them into grave danger and towards incredible revelations.  The inexorable nature of the flood is brilliantly evocative:  the tension is palpable as the flood rages and the children struggle, in a race against time, to have their warning heeded.  Will their caution fall on deaf ears, or will help come from a rather intriguing source?

Needle and Glory are incredibly sympathetic characters who both captured my heart.  Glory has lost both her mother and father to fever and is living with her protective 16-year-old sister, Dee-Dee:  theirs is a wonderfully warm relationship.  In order to stave off eviction, both girls have to work, despite the fact that Glory is just twelve years old. 

Pretending to be sixteen, Glory finds employment as a jeweller’s apprentice with the vile Mrs Quick, owner of the Frippery and Fandangle Emporium who treats her cruelly. Glory is a gutsy, impulsive and courageous young girl with an admirable inner strength. She has a wooden hand which makes it difficult for her to bring to life the wonderful creations she designs, but she does not let this stop her ambition to own her own Emporium.

Needle is a gentle, kind-hearted and sensitive boy who does not have a great deal of self-belief, but he shows great fortitude and resilience when faced with difficult and dangerous situations.  Who brings these two wonderful children together? 

Only THE most amazing crow called Magpie.  Both Needle and Glory clearly adore her, and the feeling is mutual!  She is there for them when they need her most – and gives them nudges in the direction she needs them to move in!  Magpie has secrets of her own which completely astounded me – brilliant!

I loved the heart-warming, empathetic friendship between Needle and Glory.    They find strength in each other and work brilliantly as a team, supporting and encouraging each other, overcoming any moments of doubt and mistrust. 

The illustrations by Holly Ovenden are absolutely exquisite.  I loved the use of the vivid black of Magpie contrasted with the muted shadow-like effect of the rest of the image which made me think of the fluidity of time, which complements this story perfectly.  

I must say that I loved the clever use of needlework references in both the character and place names such as Eyelet Bridge, Broidery Quay, River Notion and, of course, Needle Luckett and Gloria Bobbin.  The author has embroidered a rich tapestry with an intriguing and intricate plot, filled with excitement, peril and the most incredible twists and revelations.  Inspired by the real-life Great Flood of London in 1928, this is a stunningly spectacular read with a beautifully heart-warming ending.

Thank you so much to Mikka at Everything With Words for providing me with a Review Copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Gargantis

I’ve been eagerly anticipating my return to Eerie-On-Sea for a while now after enjoying the brilliant Malamander. And wow, was it worth the wait!  Gargantis really is the most exhilarating return:  adventure, mystery, danger and twists galore, deliciously wrapped up in another of the fascinating legends surrounding Eerie-On-Sea.  I could not put this down, and savoured it throughout one day – a sumptuous feast of a story!

Eerie-On-Sea is beset by terrible storms that are getting more and more severe, causing such devastating damage to the town that it is in danger of being lost to the ocean.  Could these storms have anything to do with the legendary sea creature, the Gargantis and, if so, what could have woken this mighty being from sleep?

When Mrs Fossil, the town’s rather eccentric beachcomber, finds an ancient fish-shaped bottle washed up on the beach, many residents rush to claim it.  However, the Grand Nautilus Hotel’s formidable owner, Lady Kraken entrusts her resident Lost-and-Founder, the young Herbert Lemon, with making sure that the bottle gets returned to its rightful owner.  After all, that is what he is best at doing, but has she placed him in grave danger as he is thrown rather reluctantly into another adventure?

Herbie and his best friend, Violet Parma, soon find themselves on the most incredible, action-packed adventure as they strive to find the rightful owner of the bottle’s astonishing secret, and uncover the truth behind the legend of the Gargantis.  The children must outwit and outrun a sinister hooded man, whose motives may not be what they seem.  They soon find themselves at the mercy of an angry storm, and a determined enemy, as Herbie fights to overcome his natural fear of the ocean to save the town from destruction.

Luckily, he has help from the very mysterious and wonderful cat, Erwin; the Mermonkey at The Book Dispensary which gives him what he needs even if he doesn’t want it; and, the young teenager Blaze Westerley who is also searching for answers aboard his Uncle’s ingenious boat, The Jornty Spark

I loved the relationship between Herbie and Violet who are firm and supportive friends leading to some great moments of humour and a natural camaraderie.  Herbie is more cautious and reluctant to break his Lost-and-Founder Rules, whereas Violet has a more impulsive, curious nature which sometimes gets them in trouble.  They are both incredibly likeable, courageous and quick-thinking, overcoming fears to be there for each other, regardless of the risk.  I also loved how they both put their faith in Blaze’s engineering abilities, thereby helping him to believe in himself.

Gargantis will take the reader on a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat adventure to discover the truth of an intriguing ancient legend … a superb mystery that kept me on tenterhooks throughout, trying to second guess the ever-twisting plot, which was just as electric as the storm.  I cannot recommend this highly enough, and can’t wait for the next legend of Eerie-On-Sea to unfold.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Walker Books for an e-ARC in return for my honest opinion.

The Vanishing Trick

Written by Jenni Spangler
Illustrated by Chris Mould
Published by Simon & Schuster
Published on 30th April 2020

This utterly mesmerising tale ensnared me like a willing moth to a flame and held me in its dark enchantment from start to finish. The mystery, magic, superstition and unexpected twists are perfectly cloaked in a richly portrayed Victorian society with fascinating characters who grabbed my attention from the opening.

Leander has recently been orphaned and is finding his new life a real struggle, sometimes having to resort to stealing in order to stave off his desperate hunger.  After one such theft, he finds himself running from his pursuer and, eager to escape, discovers a rather unusual carriage – and the enigmatic Madame Pinchbeck.  She offers to help him by buying his mother’s locket but, after an intriguing warning, he refuses to sell it. 

Dire circumstances, however, lead him back to Madame Pinchbeck.  She preys on his desire to speak to his mother again, telling him that she can make his dearest wish come true as she is a medium.  Unable to resist and desperate for some kindness, Leander hands over his most precious possession, and finds himself cruelly caught by Pinchbeck’s magical ability.  Too late, he realises that he has made a terrible mistake, and finds himself vanished into his mother’s locket which is now his prison (known as a ‘cabinet’) where a piece of his soul has been trapped, leaving him vulnerable and at the mercy of Madame Pinchbeck.

Leander is not the only child trapped by this dark magic.  He soon meets Charlotte and Felix who apprise him of his new situation.  They are inextricably bound to Madame Pinchbeck who uses them as part of her act to trick her rich Victorian clients during seances.  So begins an incredibly atmospheric, tension-filled, dark and dangerous tale as the children race to escape from the clutches of Madame Pinchbeck before one of them might disappear forever …

Oh my goodness!  I was instantly captured by the absorbing plot which is enticingly intricate and intriguing and so very, very clever!  My heart was racing as I turned the pages to find out how all the layers were woven together and I was not disappointed.  I don’t want to go into details for fear of giving away spoilers but, suffice to say, this is a story that will take you on an enthralling and sinister adventure, revealing secrets, twists and shocks galore along the way.  I am in awe of how all the threads in this story came together so perfectly and with such heart-warming satisfaction.

The Victorian setting for the story is richly imagined with its portrayal of the lives of the rich and poor in society and its dual fascination with  spiritualism and technology, both used to sinister effect by Madame Pinchbeck. 

What can I say about Madame Pinchbeck?  She is a deliciously dark and complex villain who appears sugary sweet in her fake sincerity on the outside in order to ensnare her victims, but has an insidious darkness inside:  vengeful, sinister and hungry for riches and fame.  She is a child snatcher on par with the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the Child Catcher. 

The three children, Leander, Charlotte and Felix, are incredibly endearing and courageous.  They are all suffering from heart-breaking loss, are desperately searching for something which is precious to them and, having found each other, come to develop wonderfully sincere friendships full of trust, loyalty and love.  They work as a team in order to survive, supporting and helping each other despite the great risks they take and their terror of their captor.  My heart broke for them, but was also filled with warmth as I understood that, even in their moments of greatest danger, they would never give up on each other. 

The Vanishing Trick is an utterly gripping mystery brimming with peril, eeriness and spine-tingling darkness, but also with friendship, warmth and hope.  This really is a must-read which I cannot recommend highly enough.    

Thank you to the Publishers, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an e-ARC in return for my honest opinion.