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?

Strictly speaking, I’m not actually reading this yet, but I will be later this evening. I’ve just finished a book which tore me apart emotionally, so I’m not sure I’m ready for this, but I’m going to try!

I’ve just finished reading this absolutely stunning book which has left me an emotional wreck! It really did completely blow me away – the imagery is truly incredible, the plot is utterly fascinating and Apaay – just wow! I am taking part in a Blog Tour for this at the start of February and will post my review then. I think this is a very special book, and am already looking forward to the next one.

In my Bookish New Year’s Resolutions, I said I would try to read more historical fiction this year. A lovely friend at work has loaned me her signed copy of this one, so I’m going to read it next. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book so I’m really looking forward to it.

Review: Where the World Turns Wild

Published by Stripes Publishing Limited
Published on 6th February 2020
Cover Image: Kate Forrester

This is a heartachingly stunning, powerful and thought-provoking story set in a dystopian future where the majority of the human population has been forced to live like prisoners, trapped in Cities to avoid a deadly man-made disease capable of decimating humanity.  This disease was released by a group known as the Rewilders, who sought to fight back against the terrible damage that humans were causing to the environment. 

Outside the city, nature is given the opportunity to flourish unchecked and unhindered, growing wild whereas inside the City its re-generation is heavily controlled, and is failing, leading to hunger and anger, a combination that makes the leaders desperate …

Into this restrictive, threatening and controlling City, two innocent children –  Juniper and Bear – are sent, children with a natural immunity to the disease, a trait which sees them facing great danger and which forces them to escape from the City and into the Wild, seeking the family who thought they were sending them to safety with their Grandmother in the City …

Juniper and Bear escape the City with the help of a friend, and find themselves crossing the perilous Buffer Zone outside its walls.  So begins their long and desperate journey through the Wild in an attempt to be reunited with their parents … a journey which forces them to face their fears; which allows them to appreciate the beauty and terror in nature; which sees them being hunted; and, which leads to encounters with supportive friends and terrifying enemies surviving in the Wild.  I don’t want to elaborate any more on their journey through the Wild as I don’t want to give spoilers, but I will say that it had the power to keep me utterly gripped page after wonderful page.

The story-telling and world-building is absolutely superb.  I felt completely immersed and invested in this world; I was desperate to find out what happened next as I followed the action-packed plot; and, most of all, I adored Juniper and Bear …

These two children are beautifully and realistically portrayed, engendering strong feelings of sympathy in me and completely capturing my heart.  Neither 13-year-old Juniper Green nor her 6-year-old brother Bear, are able to cope with the strictures of life in the City and their separation from nature.  They feel ostracised and are painfully aware that they don’t fit in.  The way they are treated by most of their peers is heart-breaking, but there is also a sense of hope in the depiction of their relationships with a few others. Bear and Juniper clearly love each other deeply and this bond gives them the strength to endure when they are frightened, uncertain and desperate.  They look out for each other, both showing incredible courage, resourcefulness and determination in the face of incredible danger and risk.

The premise of this story is utterly fascinating, and rather terrifying.  There is so much potential for discussion around the moral dilemma, and consequences, in the decision that was taken by the Rewilders to unleash a disease that was intended to save the environment from human destruction, but also had devastating outcomes for humanity.  Of course, it also gives lots of opportunity to open up a discussion of what we can do now to respect, protect and nurture the environment.

This really is a must-read story:  it is gripping, moving and so relevant with wonderfully drawn, sympathetic protagonists, and, a plot that completely enthralled me.   

Thank you to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing/Little Tiger Group for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

#SixforSunday

 #SixforSunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot. The theme for January is Getting to Know You and today’s prompt is Favourite Books of 2019. I have absolutely avoided making a list of favourite books of 2019 because I read so many fantastic books that my list would be rather long! However, I’ve decided to bite the bullet for this one, and give it a go – with the proviso that I am choosing books in series that I really enjoyed reading in 2019 that have a sequel/next in series coming out later this year … some sooner than others.

I absolutely loved joining the Widdershin sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie in A Pinch of Magic as they fight to free themselves from a curse that keeps them trapped. I was very excited to see the publishers had put A Sprinkle of Sorcery on NetGalley to request. I was lucky enough to have my request approved, and devoured this story over Christmas. This is the only one of my six where I’ve already read the sequel, BUT I couldn’t not include it as it is just so fantastic. I have written my review and will be posting it slightly closer to its publication date of 6th February.

I adored twins Arthur and Maudie’s incredible adventure in Brightstorm at the start of 2019. I have been lucky enough to meet the author, Vashti Hardy at ReadingRocks South this year and to hear her talk and have my copy signed. I am going to see her again as part of Primary School Book Club LIVE! on 22nd February. I’m also using Brightstorm as a Book Study in our English this term which I’m very excited about. I’m so looking forward to DarkWhispers which is being published on 6th February.

I adored Willow Moss’s first magical adventure in Willow Moss and the Lost Day. I’m really looking forward to joining Willow on her next adventure which will hopefully include all her friends – including the adorable Oswin! This one is due for publication on 2nd April.

I loved my first visit to Eerie-on-Sea in Malamander with Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma investigating the legend of the feared Malamander. I was completely hooked into this world and am eagerly awaiting my return in Gargantis which is due for publication on 7th May.

I absolutely adored the first two books in The Wild Magic Trilogy, Begone the Raggedy Witches and The Little Grey Girl. I read them both over one weekend and was utterly engrossed in Mup’s story. I was beyond excited to see the author, Celine Kiernan recently tweet that the third book was being released. The release date is 4th June.

I absolutely adored Casper Tock and Utterly Thankless in Rumblestar. The world-building and story-telling is just superb, and I can’t wait to see where Abi Elphinstone takes me, and who she introduces me to, in the next Unmapped Chronicles, Jungledrop which is due to be published on 14th May.

Review: The Monster in the Lake

Published by Nosy Crow
Published on 9th January
Illustrator: Davide Ortu

This is a spellbinding return to the magical world created by Louie Stowell in The Dragon in the Library where we find Kit, the youngest wizard in the world making magical mistakes in training; however, she has a feeling that it is more than inexperience that is making her spells go wrong. 

And when she and her friends discover that Dogon, the utterly adorable dragon-dog who lives in the library, is unwell and that they can understand the animals in their local park, they decide they have to investigate the dangerous creature that is causing havoc. 

What they find is not at all what they were expecting and so, they find themselves on a mission to Scotland, travelling through one of the portal books in the library, a book on computers.  The picture for this is just brilliant, and showcases Davide Ortu’s fantastic illustrations which complement the story throughout perfectly.

On arriving in Scotland, Kit and her friends meet the librarian Duncan – who is utterly brilliant – and soon find themselves on an action-packed adventure which involves mermaids, ancient curses and a battle of wills.  The action is fast-paced, tension-filled, dangerous … it really did have me on the edge-of-my seat, quickly turning pages, to find out what happens. 

The depiction of the friendship between Kit and her best friends, Alita and Josh is wonderful.  It is filled with warmth, humour and support.  There is a magic in their friendship:  in their ability to cheer each other up; to draw on each other for strength; and, the belief they have in each other’s abilities.  Josh is the clever, quick-thinking friend who has a thirst for knowledge; Alita is the gentle, animal-loving friend who sometimes lacks self-belief; and Kit is the outdoor loving tomboy who is developing her love of reading – yay! Together, they make a brilliant team!

I love the relationship between libraries, reading and magic in this story which is a beautifully symbiotic one.  As a teacher who adores middle-grade books, I loved the symbolism in this as I truly believe that there is something very magical in losing yourself in a fantastic story.  Every child is entitled to a local library where they can explore the magic, comfort and joy in stories of all kinds, and hopefully find the story that hooks them on reading for life, as I did with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when I was a child. 

This is a wonderfully warm, action-packed, humorous adventure for younger middle-grade readers.  The short, perfectly-paced chapters and gorgeously bold images by Davide Ortu are perfect for this age group, and will certainly keep them engaged and entertained as they adventure with Kit and her friends to discover the identity of the real monster in the lake …

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!

In her short life Lily Hartman had come back from the dead not once, but twice. Neither time had been particularly pleasant. The first she didn’t like to recall; the second she wished every day she could forget.

Any ideas?

I read the first in the 4-book series, Cogheart quite a while ago and have kept meaning to read the rest of the series, something I definitely intend to do now that the final book, Shadowsea has been released. These books all have gorgeous covers, but I think this one is my favourite!

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s hard to escape the secrets from the past. Storm clouds gather over Lily and Robert’s summer when criminal mastermind the Jack of Diamonds appears. For Jack is searching for the mysterious Moonlocket – but that’s not the only thing he wants. Suddenly, dark secrets from Robert’s past plunge him into danger. Jack is playing a cruel game that Robert is a part of. Now Lily and Malkin, the mechanical fox, must stay one step ahead before Jack plays his final, deadly card… 

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Review: Orion Lost

Cover Illustration: Dan Mumford
Published by Nosy Crow
Publication Date: 9th January 2020

I was lucky enough to have been sent a proof of this by the publisher for a Book Review site. My review is my honest opinion of the book.

Orion Lost is an incredibly enjoyable, fast-paced classic science-fiction adventure.  The story opens with the Earthship, Orion, sending out a distress signal. Immediately, I was intrigued and desperate to find out what the fate of the ship was; however, the story then very cleverly moves away from this scenario and takes the reader through the events which led up to the distress signal being sent, and beyond. 

Beth McKay and her parents are aboard the Orion leaving Earth in order to colonise Eos Five, a destination that can only be reached by making Jumps through space, but the Jumps require everyone to be put to Sleep.  After one such Sleep, Beth is awakened by the Orion’s computer hologram, Ship, to the news that she is now the Captain as none of the adults can be woken. 

Only six crew members are left to run the vast ship … and they are all children, each with a talent which proves integral to their survival – if only they can learn to trust each other and work together.  The young crew face many difficult challenges:  manning a large spaceship which has been damaged and is in need of repair; facing space raiders and an alien species, unsure of which is more dangerous; but, perhaps the biggest challenge comes from the secrets they slowly begin to unravel as they discover there many be an enemy within …

This story is brimming with twists, danger, fast-paced action and perfectly timed revelations. The writing is superbly immersive, creating a believable space setting and technical language; a complex and exciting plot; and, engaging characters who are anything but perfect.  The children are resourceful, resilient and gutsy, and learn that there is a real strength in believing in yourself, in the bonds of friendship and in working together to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. 

This is a challenging, but thoroughly gripping, space adventure for children of 10+ which raises some excellent discussion points around leadership, ethics and colonisation.

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 Below by Alexandria Warwick, a young adult novel based on Inuit mythology. I’ve heard lots of fab things about this one, so I’m really looking forward to delving further into it. It will be released on 4th February.

I’ve finished reading Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes which I really enjoyed. I’ve posted my review. I also read The Boy Who Grew Dragons which I absolutely loved. Filled with many, many moments of both chaotic hilarity and heart-warming friendship, this made me laugh-out-loud and feel warm and cosy inside – just perfect! Oh my goodness, The Girl with the Dragon Heart was such a fantastic read. I highly, highly recommend it. Finally, I read The Monster in the Lake by Louie Stowell which is the second in the Dragon in the Library series. This is a really fun read, full of gentle humour, action and great friendships.

I want to read more children’s classics this year. I can’t believe I haven’t read Charlotte’s Web by E B White, so it’s going to be my next read! I’ve bought the Puffin Classics Edition from their ‘cloth’ classics series, and definitely want to get more from this series.

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

#SixforSunday

I’ve loved taking part in #SixforSunday hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot during 2019 – even if I didn’t always manage to complete the prompt! I’ve also loved reading others’ responses. Steph’s prompts for Jan-March can be found here.

The theme for January is Getting to Know you and today’s prompt is Bookish Resolutions. I normally don’t make New Year Resolutions, as I’m never able to stick to them, but then I started to think about bookish resolutions – and realised there is lots I want to achieve this year! Maybe, just maybe, writing them down will help me achieve them!

Read more historical middle-grade

I cannot deny that my absolute go-to genre is fantasy, be that middle-grade, young adult or adult books. However, I have started buying and reading some more historical middle-grade which I’ve really enjoyed. Looking at my TBR, I have a pile that I definitely want to read this year – and Emma Carroll features quite heavily!

Finish/continue books in series

I have been getting better at this as I only chose books in series for #Believathon earlier this year; however, I still have lots in series I need to continue or finish. I’m aiming to read at least one book in a series which I’ve already started each month this year. That way I should be prepared when new books are published. I really, really want to read Shadowsea BUT I have to read the rest of the series first! And, I’m determined to be ready for Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by reading Wundersmith before August!

Read more classic fiction

I used to read a lot of classics as part of my A Levels and English Literature degree: Hardy, Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Shakespeare, Chaucer. Reflecting on this, I’ve realised that I haven’t actually read a lot of classic children’s fiction. The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia are the only ones I remember reading as a child which seems strange to me as I read a lot – clearly not the classics! I would really like to include more classics this year: definitely Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables and a re-read of The Secret Garden. I’d love any other suggestions!

Reviewing more quickly!

I make notes for the books I review and, to be honest, whilst I absolutely couldn’t not make notes, I’m not sure if it sometimes stops me writing up reviews more quickly so I have a back log of reviews to write. I do love reviewing books BUT I am so incredibly slow to write each one that it sometimes makes it hard to start. Often 3-4 hours for a 350-400 word review! I REALLY need to do something about the time it takes me to review this year. Any tips greatly appreciated!

NetGalley Badges

I joined NetGalley shortly after starting my blog, and have been lucky enough to be approved for lots of of the books I’ve requested. I feel it is such a privilege to get to read books before they are published, and using NetGalley has given me this opportunity. I do still buy the majority of the books for my Class Library when they are published and love that I can recommend them to children straightaway as I’ve already read them.

I’ve already got some badges on NetGalley: 80% Feedback Ratio, Top Reviewer and 10 Reviews. This year I’d like to achieve two more badges: 25 Reviews (almost there!) and 50 Reviews.

Start listening to audiobooks

I don’t ever listen to audiobooks unless I listen with my husband on long drives: I find them really hard to remain focussed on when I don’t have ‘control’ of the reading. However, Skeleton Keys: The Unimaginary Friend, a book which I loved, has been released as an audiobook with Guy Bass, the author, reading it. I heard him read a little from this for the Authorfy Club I run – and he was amazing! He’s the reason I now want to listen to audiobooks. I’ve also recently discovered BorrowBox through my library and it is brilliant! I’ve borrowed a book and have reserved a couple. Of all my resolutions, I think this is the one I will find most difficult!

Have you made any bookish resolutions this year?

Review: Tiger Heart

Published by Orion Children’s Books
Published on 9th January 2020

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this book in return for my honest opinion.

This is an absolutely mesmerising and deeply moving story, which is unputdownable and will stay with me for a long time to come.  This is most definitely Fly and her tiger’s story and what an unforgettable story it is:  a story of entrapment and freedom; of cruelty and kindness; and, of despair and hope. I adored Fly:  ached at the cruelty she suffered; marvelled at her strength and courage; and admired her empathy, kindness and selflessness towards others. 

Fly has had the most terrible start in life, having been abandoned outside a London workhouse as a baby and then bought by the truly horrific Black Bill who forces her to clean chimneys for society’s elite as well as steal from them.  After one too many beatings from her cruel master, Fly decides to take her freedom, but instead finds herself trapped in a cage with a tiger who addresses her as ‘Your Majesty’ and vows to restore her to her throne.

Whilst Fly does not believe that she is of royal blood, she does feel an affinity with the tiger and is neither scared of him nor surprised that she can communicate with him.  The tiger has made a decision to restore her to her throne in a faraway, exotic Kingdom, but Fly has also made a decision: to free him and all the other animals trapped in the London menagerie, and take them back to their home in that Kingdom.  Fly knows what it is to be trapped and crave freedom, so she immediately empathises with their plight. 

This endearing girl has had to learn to be tough on the outside in order to survive her harsh and cruel upbringing where she is shown no love by adults.  However, she is loved by an amazing group of street urchins who are the only family she knows.  The relationship between Fly and her street urchin friends is incredibly heart-warming and touching as they support, protect and look out for each other; their camaraderie, with the utterly wonderful Gutterling language they use to communicate with, is just gorgeous which makes it all the more heart-breaking for Fly when she has to make an unbearably difficult decision…

Fly is being hunted by some sinister and very dangerous figures in London, figures who appear to know more about her past than she does, and who have an interest not only in ensuring she never leaves London, but also in obtaining the dangerously alluring ruby which she possesses … so begins a daring journey towards freedom:  a journey filled with danger, with discoveries, with joy, with heartache and with temptation …

The genuine friendship between the tiger and Fly is enchanting.  He both comforts and chastises her; encourages her to hope; and, is willing to protect her selflessly whilst she blossoms in the feelings of warmth and protection engendered through their unconditional love for each other. 

This is an utterly engrossing, magical story which at times broke my heart, then mended it before breaking it all over again … a truly special story which is unforgettable, absorbing and heartfelt.

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers, hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, it’s 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 adored the first book in this series, The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, earlier this year. I’m determined to catch up with some series, and with some older books on my TBR, and this is the one I’m starting with. Silke was one of my favourite characters in the first book, and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about her in this one.

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?