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 reading Starchild Book Two: The City of Souls for an upcoming Blog Tour. I read the first one earlier in the week, and really enjoyed it, so much so that I have now bought the third book in the series.

I’ve finished reading my last two books for #Believathon this week: A Witch Alone which I absolutely adored (and now need to read the final book in the trilogy) and The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter which has another brilliant heroine. I also read the first book in the Starchild series: The Age of Akra which I have really enjoyed.

I’m going to start Wild Sky at the weekend as I was sent a copy by the author, Lexi Rees, for an upcoming Blog Tour. I read the first in the series, Eternal Seas to my class last summer and we all loved it, so I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Not sure if I’ll get any other books read this week as I need to catch up on reviews over the weekend.

#Believathon: a story with real life issues

Published by Knights Of Media 
Published on 1st February 2019 (paperback)

This is the incredibly uplifting story of a young teenager who has had a very difficult, heart-breaking start in life, yet through his strength and resilience and the support of some important role models in his life, turns a corner which sees him giving himself the opportunity to realise his potential.

Castle Cranshaw (Ghost) learned to run the day something terrible happened at home so, when he sees another boy on the running track, he is confident he can do better than him, even though he has no training and has never even heard of Usain Bolt!  Ghost is soon joining the Defenders track team, coached by Coach Brody who has spotted something in Ghost that he hopes to harness, but it will not be an easy task for him as Ghost has a lot of issues to deal with which makes it difficult for him to trust and to believe in himself.

You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.

Ghost is used to people treating him differently as he doesn’t fit in, he gets into trouble in school and makes some poor choices, yet he is an incredibly likeable character, and one who I was rooting for throughout the story.  Running becomes an outlet which gives Ghost the impetus he needs to begin to take control of his life.  I loved both the male role models in Ghost’s life, Coach Brody and Mr Charles, who gave him the support and encouragement – and the hard messages – he needed.

The strong friendships he develops with the other three newbies on the team – Sunny, Lu and Patina – are wonderful as he feels that he is accepted and belongs within a team. I loved the sense of belonging that Ghost feels as he learns to trust his friends and accept responsibility for his choices, even though this is incredibly difficult for him.

Overall, this is a beautifully heart-warming story told with real heart with an incredibly sympathetic protagonist who battles to overcome the odds stacked against him. I was certainly cheering him on in the final race …

#Believathon: an atmospheric or creepy book

Published by Piccadilly Press
Published on 7th March 2019
Illustrator: K J Mountford

Lil Potkin is a wannabe reporter, living in Peligan City, a city seething with corruption.  She is not easily scared and hunts the streets, looking for a major scoop, but with little success, until she has a rather unsettling encounter with a young boy who has brought her a missing persons case:  his!  Every time she is around Nedly, she feels a chill in the air.  She soon discovers the reason:  Nedly is a ghost, having been murdered a year previously – and Lil is determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. 

But I don’t want to be dead!

Lil’s investigation leads her to the local library Reading Room where she and Nedly pore over old newspapers until he finds his own missing person report.  This also leads her to former detective, Abe Mandrel, who was hired to investigate the disappearance.  Abe is a man who has been let down by life, who has given up, but he has not had the single-minded determination of Lil to contend with before.  She wants to become Abe’s partner, and will not take no for an answer, and is not averse to a little well-intentioned subterfuge to help in her sleuthing.

This story has skilfully captured film noir vibes with its rain-soaked streets, dark undertones and neon streetlights, not to mention the shady characters and downtrodden former detective.  This really adds to the darkly atmospheric feeling which permeates the story, and creates an incredible amount of tension as Lil, Nedly and Abe find themselves in more and more dangerous situations as they get closer and closer to finding Nedly’s killer, a killer who often seems to be one step ahead of them …

Lil is an amazing young girl.  She is brave, resilient and tenacious in her drive to see justice done, no matter the cost.  She is instrumental in forcing Abe to live up to his responsibilities, and in fighting against the corruption in Peligan City. The friendship between Lil and Nedly is beautifully portrayed as Lil quickly accepts Nedly into her life and helps him come to terms with what has happened to him whilst also showing her anger at the injustice of his death, and her determination to find the perpetrator.

This is a wonderfully tense and atmospheric story which was full of twists and turns, keeping me engrossed from start to finish. 

#SixforSunday: Winter Books

The November theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot, is Winter Books and today’s wish is for: Books you’d throw in the fire. No!!!! I couldn’t think of any books I’d throw in the fire (no surprise there!), so I’ve decided to choose books with my favourite fire-breathing characters – dragons – even if they don’t all actually breathe fire!

I’ve chosen four picture books (but counted them as one choice!). Sorry – couldn’t help it. They’re just all so gorgeous! I used to do a unit of work on ‘Dragons’ with Year 4, and the first three were some of the books I used: they are brilliant for stimulating creative writing and poetry. I’ve recently bought The Snow Dragon which I am looking forward to reading in December.

I read The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart earlier this year, and adored it. Perfect to cosy up to with a KitKat and hot chocolate – my favourite combination! My review for this story is here.

I don’t think Spark is very well known in the UK. It was one of the first books I was approved to read on NetGalley. I really enjoyed the telepathic bond between Mina and her Lightning dragon, Pixit. My review is here.

This is definitely one of my favourite reads this year. I read it over the summer, and it was the first story I shared as a class read with my class who absolutely loved it too, so much so that over half of them bought a copy. My review is here.

This is a wonderful story of a girl who does not enjoy reading, or libraries, but all that changes when she makes an incredible discovery in her local library. My review is here.

I couldn’t just choose one as my final book as there are two books featuring dragons on my TBR which I am really looking forward to reading, and I can’t choose between them, so I’m choosing both!

Have you read any of these books? What other stories with dragons would you recommend?

Review: Greta and the Giants

Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Published on 19th November 2019

Greta and the Giants is inspired by the young climate change activist, Greta Thunberg:  there is further information about Greta’s campaign to have the damage caused by climate change taken seriously at the end of the book, as well as ways to help her. 

This allegorical story is aimed at 4-7-year olds:  the simple, descriptive language and bright, colourful pictures will really capture the imagination of this age group. The story is told just as much through the pictures as through the text.

Greta lives in the heart of a beautiful forest where she is friends with the animals who also live there. However, Giants (humans) are destroying their home, so the animals beg Greta for help.  The Giants are portrayed as the destructors of the forest, taking more and more trees in their greed and desire to build more and more.  There is a stark contrast between the bright and colourful images of the forest and the darkness and ugliness of the city. 

Greta is unafraid of the Giants and is determined to help her friends by taking a stance, even though she is only a child herself.  At first Greta is ignored, but as more and more people and animals join her, they discover that, by working together, they can make a difference.

This is a story tinged with sadness, but with a strong sense of hope that is uplifting.  The message of the empowerment to be gained from working together to force others to listen to an important message regarding the environment is a powerful one. 

I really liked the happy ending and was pleased that it was a happy ending for everyone!

Thank you to NetGalley and the Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: The Little Mermaid

Published by Pushkin’s Children’s Books
Published on 3rd October 2019

This is a beautifully illustrated new translation of The Little Mermaid from the original by Hans Christian Anderson.  The descriptive language is beautiful and evocative, and the black and white illustrations are stunning with the mermaids picked out in black ink whilst the surroundings are mostly detailed outline drawings.

Deep in the sea stands the idyllic castle of the Sea King where he lives with his six daughters and their Grandmother.  His youngest daughter’s favourite possession is a marble statue of a handsome boy; she yearns to join the human world, yet she is not allowed up to the surface until she is 15.

When her fifteenth birthday finally arrives, she sees a young Prince celebrating his birthday.  A sudden storm leads to her rescuing the Prince as his ship is destroyed but, of course, he doesn’t know who his saviour is, which causes heartbreak later.

The young mermaid is so determined to be with the Prince and gain an immortal soul that she seeks the help of the terrifying Sea Witch who takes her voice and gives her a potion that will make her human.  If she cannot make the Prince fall in love with her, she will be doomed to death …

The youngest mermaid is a sympathetically drawn character who yearns for both human love and an immortal soul.  When given the opportunity to save herself, she is not prepared to sacrifice her love which leads to a re-awakening after facing terrible hardship and disappointment.  This was not an ending I was expecting, but it felt satisfying.

This is certainly not the Disney version of the story, but it is a rich re-telling which I really enjoyed. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Children’s Books for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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!

Once upon a time in a beautiful, dirty, exciting city full of people and chocolate and possibilities, there was a girl so fearless and so daring that … No, wait. I’ve always been good at telling stories. But this time, I want to tell the truth.

Any ideas?

I loved reading The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart earlier this year. Silke was one of my favourite characters in it, so I’m really looking forward to reading her story.

Goodreads synopsis:

Once upon a time, in a beautiful city famous for chocolate and protected by dragons, there was a girl so fearless that she dared to try to tell the greatest story of all: the truth.

Silke has always been good at spinning the truth and storytelling. So good that just years after arriving as a penniless orphan, she has found her way up to working for the most splendid chocolate makers in the city (oh, and becoming best friends with a dragon). Now her gift for weaving words has caught the eye of the royal family, who want to use her as a spy when the mysterious and dangerous fairy royal family announce they will visit the city. But Silke has her own dark, secret reasons for not trusting fairies …

Can Silke find out the truth about the fairies while keeping her own secrets hidden?

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’ve just started A Witch Alone by James Nicol. I read The Apprentice Witch earlier this year, and absolutely loved it, so I’m really looking forward to visiting Ariawyn again. This is my ‘A Book featuring Magic’ prompt for Believathon.

I read The Gift of Dark Hollow as my ‘Book with an animal character’ prompt for Believathon. I was completely engrossed by it, and immediately read The Beasts of Grimheart as I really wanted to continue the story. I then read a short picture book, Angel on the Roof by Shirley Hughes which was beautifully magical with gorgeous evocative images. I finished off my reading this week with The Velvet Fox which was my ‘Seasonal Book’ prompt for Believathon.

I am hoping to read my final book for Believathon this week, The Hunt for The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. It is my ‘Book set in the past’ prompt. I really enjoyed the first book in this series earlier this year.

#Believathon: A book with a strong sense of friendship

I adored this incredible adventure which completely drew me in with its rich and wonderful world-building and gorgeous descriptive language, not to mention the depth of the character-building which made getting to know the protagonists a heart-warming experience.  The children really captured my heart.

Stella Snowflake Pearl is the adoptive daughter of the explorer fairyologist Felix.  She was found on the Icelands as a toddler, and wants nothing more than to be an explorer and, in particular, a navigator.  There’s only one problem:  girls are not allowed into the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club.  Luckily for Stella, her father is enlightened and decides to fight against the restriction of the Club in order to take Stella on her first expedition shortly after her twelfth birthday rather than have her sent to finishing school by his sister.  Her father is full of sage advice:

It doesn’t do to be too afraid of life and taking chances.

Stella looks unlike any of the other children as she has very white skin and hair.  Yet again, her father offers her excellent advice:

It is no great achievement to be the same as everybody else, Stella.  Being different is a perfectly fine thing to be, I promise you.

Stella joins the Expedition to the Icelands where she soon finds herself separated from the adults when the Ice Bridge which they are crossing collapses, leaving the adults behind.  Her only companions are the three other children on the Expedition. Shay is a wolf whisperer with his own protector, a shadow wolf; Ethan is a magician from the Ocean Squad Explorers’ Club who finds making friends difficult; and Beanie is a neuro-diverse trainee medic with a penchant for jellybeans.

The children go on the most incredible adventure across the Icelands, full of danger and excitement and meet some brilliantly imaginative creatures including frosties and a carnivorous cabbage.  Secrets are revealed and friendships blossom as the children battle to return to the rendezvous point, but will they make it in time, or find themselves trapped in the Icelands?

Whilst this story is full of fast-paced action and dangerous situations which kept me irresistibly turning the next page, I also loved how beautifully and realistically it portrays the relationships between the children, who all have past heartache, as they get to know each other, reveal their secrets and fears and come to trust and rely upon each other to survive.

I loved this story so much that I immediately bought the next two in the series, Explorers on Witch Mountain and Explorers on Black Ice BridgeI am really looking forward to continuing the adventures of these wonderful explorers!

#Six for Sunday: Winter Books

The November theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot, is Winter Books and today’s wish is for: I wanna snuggle with. I have quite a lot of winter-themed books on my TBR that I’ve been saving for December, and they are all definitely books I want to snuggle with as the weather gets colder.

I got Nevertell for my birthday, and can’t wait to start it. I run an Authorfy writing club in school, and this is one of the books the children have been using as inspiration for their own writing. I read them the first chapter – they were completely entranced, as was I. It is set in a Russian wilderness where two children escape from a prison camp, chased by a sorceress and a pack of shadow wolves … sounds just perfect!

I also got The Tzar’s Curious Runaways for my birthday. This is another story set in Russia. Katinka and her friends are part of Peter the Great’s Circus of Curiosities. But, when he dies, they must escape the Winter Palace and run for their lives … this sounds like an amazing and magical adventure.

I’ve had Shadows of Winterspell since its publication, and am so looking forward to reading it as I’ve loved Amy’s other books: A Girl Called Owl and Snowglobe. The cover tells me this will be a magical winter read … can’t wait to snuggle up with it.

North Child was another birthday treat! Part of the blurb just makes me know I will love this: A beautiful, epic story of destiny, magic and love, North Child will take you on an unforgettable adventure. I am so looking forward to going on Rose’s dangerous journey to reveal her destiny …

I read The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club as my friendship prompt for Believathon. I loved it so much that I just had to get the next two books. I can’t wait to continue Stella’s adventures with her friends.