Blog Tour: Alex Neptune: Pirate Hunter by David Owen

Written by David Owen
Cover and chapter heading illustrations by George Ermos
Published by Usborne

Alex Neptune:  Pirate Hunter is the second magical, action-packed and hilarious sea-tastic adventure that completely captured me as Alex and his friends find themselves in deep water when their home is attacked by pirates searching for a long-lost treasure …

Alex Neptune has only recently learned that he has the power to control the ocean after learning of his connection with the legendary Water Dragon who is now recovering somewhere out at sea, leaving Alex to gain control of his magical powers.  But his powers are urgently needed when he gets a sudden warning from a bedraggled, green-haired girl who washes up on shore, just before Haven Bay is attacked by pirates firing garbage at the town through cannons from a ship made of rubbish. Their new leader, who has invoked a mutiny, is hunting for the last water dragon egg, and needs Alex’s powers to fulfil his mission, but Alex is determined to find the egg first …

So begins a rip-roaring, fast-paced adventure as Alex and his friends, Anil and Zoey, together with some incredible animal companions, find themselves following a trail of clues which, if solved, will lead them to an infamous shipwreck and three devilishly difficult challenges which must to be overcome if they are to find the dragon egg.  Of course, they have the gigantic problem of a determined and cruel enemy on their trail who is just as determined to use the egg for his own nefarious ends as Alex is to reunite it with the Water Dragon, but what happens when the hunted become the hunters?

I was swept into the most incredible, breath-taking adventure brimming with danger, twists and turns, secrets and revelations that had me seriously wondering who Alex could trust and how he could overcome the obstacles in his path.  Will Alex have enough self-belief in himself and his powers to enable him to succeed in saving the dragon egg, or will a determined foe hold the key to his failure?

I really liked the firm friendship that has developed between Alex, Zoey and Anil.  They are comfortable in each other’s company and enjoy teasing each other, making their friendship feel authentic.  They are protective of each other, play to their strengths and believe in each other.  Alex gains strength and courage from his friends’ belief in his powers and his desire to use them for good. 

I loved that the children’s animal friends have returned to help in this adventure as they bring oodles of giggles and joy.  What’s not to love about a seal who carries four otters on his back when their friends are in need of help; a seagull who is adept at pinching things; and a water-squirting kraken.  There are also some guard geese, and a lock-picking hermit crab who is just adorable! 

We all have the power to do the right thing and make a difference.

This fantasy adventure also has a powerful environmental message about the terrible damage being caused to our oceans through pollution caused by people throwing away rubbish, such as plastics, which end up in the ocean, damaging its ecosystem.  People need to take responsibility for doing something to help now, rather than waiting for aide at a future time.

This is a magical, exhilarating, and uplifting adventure brimming with gorgeous friendships, humour and eco-awareness.  I’m so glad that there are more adventures on the way for Alex … I will definitely be joining him in Monster Avenger, especially after the sneak peak at the end of this book.

Author Information

Having worked as a freelance games journalist and taught on a
BA Creative Writing course for three years, David Owen’s debut
novel, Panther, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and was
followed by three further highly acclaimed YA novels. Alex
Neptune is his first series for younger readers, born of his love
for nail-biting heists, fantastical monsters and heartfelt


Thank you so much to Kaleidoscopic Tours for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and to Usborne for providing me with a copy of Alex Neptune: Pirate Hunter in exchange for my honest opinion.

Do check out the other stops on this week’s Blog Tour below:

Review: The Nowhere Thief

Written by  Alice M. Ross
Cover Illustration by Federica Frenna
Published by Nosy Crow

The Nowhere Thief is a dazzling, exciting and action-packed multiverse adventure that completely captured me:  a story of family and friendship; of danger and courage; and, of hope and finding your path.

Twelve-year-old Elsbeth lives in the quiet seaside village of Lewesby with her mother who runs an antique shop, but they are in danger of losing their livelihood due to the threat of eviction from their unscrupulous landlord.  However, Elsbeth has an incredible ability that might just save the shop:  she can travel to parallel worlds through the Nowhere where she brings back items she finds to be sold in the shop.    

On a visit to another world to acquire more items, Elsbeth is saved from being caught for stealing by a young boy, but she loses him in the Nowhere.  When she visits a world close to her own, she again meets the boy who confesses that he has been following her.  Idris and Elsbeth soon find themselves in danger as they are caught and imprisoned, but Elsbeth discovers that together they have the ability to escape, but at what cost?  Could her powers be linked to unusual weather patterns? Could she lose more than her home if she continues to risk taking goods from the multiverse? 

And so begins an absolutely gripping, fast-paced adventure brimming with danger, daring and unexpected twists and revelations that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I was eagerly turning the pages to find out who Elsbeth could really trust as she faces great peril, uncovers secrets and learns more about her abilities and the worlds she has been travelling between. 

I really liked that Elsbeth has found her way into something that she has no real knowledge of, that she has been fearless and curious in her exploration and is learning about how it works organically.  I felt that this was juxtaposed perfectly with Idris’ knowledge which allows Elsbeth to learn more about the multiverse including its economy and politics – and what a fascinating, complex and dangerous place it proves to be!

I really liked both Elsbeth and Idris, and enjoyed the firm friendship that develops between them, working as a team and learning to trust and rely on each other.  Both have experienced loss and loneliness and are willing to take risks for their family and place themselves in danger in order to help each other and those they love.  I really felt for Idris as I learned more about the relationship between him and his grandmother and his reason for following Elsbeth. I definitely sympathised with Elsbeth’s situation and her choice to steal items, which she felt didn’t hold great value in their own world and wouldn’t be missed, in order to sell them to help her mother. I think this could open up some great classroom discussion linked to:  is it ever right to steal? 

The Nowhere Thief is an unmissable adventure into a kaleidoscope of scintillating, exhilarating and fast-paced action that is just perfect for readers of 9+.

February Wrap-Up

That was a long month, despite having less days! Work is pretty hectic at the moment with some days where I’m in work just after 7am and am still working at 10pm, but at least I’ve stuck to keeping my weekends free! I went to the theatre for the first time since pre-covid and I so enjoyed it! We went to see &Juliet which was the most amazing show with great messages and brilliant songs. Definitely want to book in some more shows.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 12 books this month including from my Beat the Backlist Challenge (43 left!):

  • Beyond the Frozen Horizon
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks
  • Midwinter Burning
  • The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair
  • The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger.


It’s taken a long time, but I finally got my 100 Reviews Badge on NetGalley. I’ve requested and been approved for three books this month:

Books sent by publishers:

I am grateful to have been sent six books by Publishers/authors this month.

Books bought:

I’m having an epic fail when it comes to trying not to buy new books – I’ve got no willpower whatsoever! I’m just gearing up for Beat the Backlist next year! I’ve bought 8 books this month.

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

WWW Wednesday

I’m so glad this is Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month! I’ve almost finished it, and it’s just so brilliant! In fact, I’ve been waking up at 5am to read more before I head off to work. It’s an epic fantasy quest adventure that has Lord of the Rings and Podkin One-Ear vibes so it’s exactly my kind of story. I will finish it this evening and will post my review in the next few days.

I’ve finished Alex Neptune: Pirate Hunter which is the second book in this series. It’s just as fast-paced and fun as the first one. I really like the animal characters, especially the seagull, Pinch. I will be posting my review at the weekend. I also finished the audiobook of the first in the Lizzie and Belle Mysteries, Drama and Danger. This was a fantastic mystery with two wonderful characters in Lizzie and Belle, and I’ll definitely be getting the next one at the end of the month.

I think I’m going to pick up WoodWitch next as I really enjoyed Hedgewitch.

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

Review: The Rescue of Ravenwood

Written by  Natasha Farrant
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Faber & Faber

The Rescue of Ravenwood is just sublime storytelling:  an incredibly special story that weaves together nature, home, family and friendship, keeping me utterly captivated throughout. 

Bea and Raffy share a deep-seated love for the special place that they found as young babies.  Bea arrived first with her father and, when he left, she stayed with her uncle Leo.  When Raffy’s mum was looking for somewhere to live, Leo offered to let them stay at Ravenwood.  Eleven years later, and both adults and children have grown into a close family unit with a heartfelt love for their idyllic, sprawling home, surrounded by ancient trees and close to the sea. 

Bea is expecting a visit from her parents, with whom she has a rather fractured relationship, and is disappointed when they change their minds.  Her hurt causes her to uncharacteristically lash out at Noa, a young girl who has been invited to stay with them for the summer as her mother has gone abroad.  Whilst Raffy loves Bea, he can see that she has been unkind to Noa and offers his friendship. 

When Bea’s dark mood lifts and she sees Noa’s appreciation for nature, she finds herself offering to show her something very special:  Yggdrasil, an ancient ash tree, perfect for climbing.  The children envisage a wonderful summer spreading out before them where they can build a tree house in the branches of Yggdrasil, where they can hope to see more seals when they swim in the cove, and where they can hang out in Skidbladnir, their Viking ship. 

But changes are coming, and the children are in danger of losing their precious Ravenwood.  Can they work together to save it when others are conspiring to separate them from each other? Do they have the strength and courage to fight for their home when another is equally determined to take it from them?

This is such a thrilling and deeply satisfying adventure, and one that kept me eagerly turning the pages, completely invested in the children’s mission to save Ravenwood as they faced dangers, manipulations, separation and loss.  I can totally understand their affinity with Ravenwood and their determination to save it, no matter the risks they had to take.  This wonderful home has endured through many, many years; it has changed and witnessed much; and, along with the natural environment surrounding it, offers comfort and joy to those who live there. 

Bea, Raffy and Noa are incredibly sympathetic characters.  They unite in their love for Ravenwood, in their pleasure at enjoying the simpler things in life when other parts of their lives are more complicated and cause pain.  They have a real connectedness with nature that brings them together, a connection that sees them work together to try to save the place that means so much to each of them.

This is a truly fantastic adventure:  exciting, heartfelt and empowering with family, friendship and the importance of nature at its heart.  A definite must-read and one I cannot recommend highly enough!

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber Children’s Books for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading Valentine Crow and Mr Death as my evening read. I’m really hoping to get it finished by the end of the month so that I can take part in The Primary School Book Club on Twitter. I haven’t got too far yet, but I’m really enjoying it, and am just wondering if it will remind me of Mort!

I read The Nowhere Thief which is a fantastic fantasy sci-fi which was fast-paced and action-packed. I really enjoyed the portals to parallel worlds, and think this has lots of scope for a series. I will be posting my review before publication next Thursday. I also read The Rescue of Ravenwood which is just wonderful – a real ode to nature and the importance of saving the places we love. I am hoping to post my review tomorrow – just need to get it written this evening! I also finished listening to The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair which was such a magical, heartfelt story. The enchanted frost fair was both beautiful and terrifying. Thomasina lives with the grief and guilt of her younger brother’s death due to an asthma attack and is drawn into the world of the frost fair due to her sorrow, something that Father Winter craves. She is in danger of losing everything she holds dear unless she can thwart him. A truly wonderful story.

I really enjoyed the first in this series, so am aiming to pick up Alex Neptune: Pirate Hunter next.

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

Review: The Swifts

Written by  Beth Lincoln
Illustrated by Claire Powell
Published by Puffin Books

The Swifts is a wickedly humorous, action-packed whodunnit with the most brilliant opening that perfectly captures the quirky playfulness and delicious darkness that makes this a dazzlingly mesmerising read, and one that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Shenanigan Swift is named – like all her family members – from a revered Family Dictionary on the day that they are born.  This Dictionary gives a name and definition and it is rather expected that the recipient will live up to their aptronym.  After all, it’s already been engraved on their headstone in the cellar!  And, to be fair, Shenanigan is rather mischievous as her sister Felicity will attest but, when real trouble visits the family, she proves herself to be much more than chief mischief-maker …

Now, what trouble could I be referring to?  Only a spot of murder and mayhem with a dash of treasure-hunting thrown in! When Aunt Inheritance, the Family Archivist, calls a family reunion to once-again search for the much-needed lost family fortune, the wonderfully eccentric family descend on the house intent on locating the hoard.  However, plans for their search are brought to an abrupt pause – not end as there is treasure to be found after all – by the small matter of the attempted murder of Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude.    

Luckily, Shenanigan is ready and mostly willing to find the culprit and turns her hand to sleuthing alongside her sisters, Felicity and Phenomena and cousin Erf.  As with all great detectives, they compile a list of suspects – and there are many – and then begin the process of elimination.  Shenanigan tends to go with her gut feeling, but Phenomena is a genius scientist who is intent on finding evidence.  But before they can find the culprit, there are more deaths in really rather unusual circumstances.  Can the young Swifts solve the case before more family members are killed off?  Could the lost treasure be a motive for the crime?

Oh my goodness:  this was brilliant – sheer brilliance of the glowing, dazzling and genius kind!  I loved the secrets hidden by both characters and the house, the wordplay, the delightfully quirky Family, the twistiness and cleverness of the whodunnit and John the Cat:  I really liked John the Cat!

Shenanigan is such a likeable character.  She is expected to be a troublemaker as decreed by the Family Dictionary at her birth and whilst, I suspect, she has enjoyed living up to this expectation, she is not defined by her name.  She is clever, courageous and tenacious as she helps her sisters and cousin catch the culprit.  Yes – she makes mistakes along the way, but she does what she thinks is right regardless of the consequences – mostly!  I loved the relationship between Shenanigan and her sisters.  They might annoy each other, but they are there to support when it is needed. 

The black and white illustrations are absolutely stunning and include chapter headings and full pages.  They really capture the dark gothic humour and quirkiness of the Family.  And there’s Shenanigan’s brilliant Map of the House with trapdoors, hidden rooms and Scrabble with a difference! 

The Swifts is a wickedly witty whodunnit that is guaranteed to enchant and entertain young readers of 9+.

Thank you so much to Ellen and Puffin Books for sending me a copy of the gorgeous hardback 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!

The Deer people had no need of a stone circle: the mountains marked the turning of the year more accurately than anything humankind could construct. When the sun rose behind the tallest peak, pointing a finger of light across the upland plateau directly into the mouth of the sacred cave, it was midwinter.

Any ideas?

I recently read Midwinter Burning by Tanya Landman and loved it, so wanted to try some of her other middle-grade books. I found this one whilst in London, and am really looking forward to reading it, especially as it’s set in the Stone Age.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oak, son of the Deer clan chief, hopes that this summer he will finally be allowed to join the hunt and make his father proud of him. But this year is not like other years – the rains have failed, his father has fallen out with the Bear chief, and everyone is mistrustful of the new creatures that have been spotted near their encampment: horses. Then Oak becomes separated from his clan with only a young horse for company, and it seems that surely the worst has happened. But perhaps not all animals are prey. Perhaps Horse can be clan too.

Review: The Stickleback Catchers

The Stickleback Catchers is a heart-breaking, yet hopeful, story of family and friendship which completely captured me.

Eleven-year-old Mimi lives with her Grandparents in a flat above their Bowling Club. It is clear that she adores them, and they her but, when she arrives home to a stranger in a suit visiting, she senses that they are hiding something from her.  Gran is wonderfully eccentric, a former opera singer who wears camouflage and waders to take Mimi shopping, so it breaks Mimi’s heart when she sees how forgetful Gran is becoming.  Coinciding with Gran’s deteriorating memory, Mimi sees cracks appearing around her home and meets a mysterious crow who is able to communicate with her.

Mimi finds two new friends in Titch who has replied to her Gran’s advert for a Stickleback Catcher and Nusrat who runs her own podcast solving puzzles.  These new friends become The Stickleback Catchers, determined to solve mysteries and seek adventure.

When Mimi and Titch visit the river where they find sticklebacks, they also find an unusual stone speckled with stars which leads to the opening of a doorway to another world:  a world of talking crows, of stored memories and of those charged with protecting these memories.  Can Mimi find the key to unlocking her Gran’s lost memories in this world? 

This is the most heartachingly beautiful story of family, of friendship and of finding the courage to accept change, to treasure memories and to support those we love through loss. 

Mimi is the most incredible young girl who is fighting through her fear, hurt and anger as the Gran who she clearly adores becomes lost to her through her memory loss.  Her fallability makes her such a sympathetic character. 

I loved both the fantastical elements in this story and the contemporary ones and thought they blended beautifully to show the confusion, fear, pain and desperation inherent in coping with a loved one’s illness, but also the hope and joy in memories of past times, in learning to accept change and in being there to offer love and support and a sense of belonging.

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

WWW Wednesday

I’ve just started reading The Rescue of Ravenwood which I’m absolutely loving, and have a strong feeling that this will be one of my top books of 2023 – it really is wonderful! I’m listening to The Miraculous Sweetmakers which is not quite what I expected, but is one I’m definitely enjoying. The opening was incredibly sad and I can totally understand the choice Thomasina has made, but I think the magical Frost Fair she is visiting may bring her all sorts of trouble and heartache.

I finished The Stickleback Catchers which is a beautifully told story of a young girl, Mimi, dealing with her Gran’s dementia. She finds her way into another world where memories are stored, and has to make a difficult choice about living in the past where her Gran knows who she is, or facing her present situation. I enjoyed the blend of fantasy and contemporary.

I also finished Beyond the Frozen Horizon which is another winner! Rory joins her mum, who is a geologist, on a work trip to the Arctic where she is completing a report on the environmental sustainability of a new mining operation. They are not made to feel particularly welcome by the miners still living there and, when it becomes apparent that the Company may be hiding something, Rory gets help from an unexpected source. Just brilliant!

I also finished the audiobook of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks which I loved! Alice is sent to a boarding school where she discovers that she can talk to animals as she is a Switcher – and they need her help. I adored Alice who, together with her new friends, finds herself at the heart of solving a dangerous mystery. This is another one I didn’t know much about, but am so glad I read it and am looking forward to Alice’s next adventure.

I also read The Swifts which was such fun – Shenanigan is such a great character who I absolutely loved. And the opening – fantastic! I’ll be posting my review in the next few days.

I also devoured Midwinter Burning which is the first book by Tanya Landman that I’ve read, but I definitely need to pick up more of her work. Alfie is a boy who is not really wanted by his mother and who is bullied at school. He is the only one who doesn’t mind being evacuated at the start of the Second World War. He goes to live on an isolated farm in rural Devon with Aunt Bell (who is so wonderful) and her son Ted where he quickly learns what it is to have a real home and family. When exploring the area, he feels drawn to the standing stones where the annual Midwinter Burning is held as a village tradition. He meets a young boy, Smidge, who does not dress like him or speak his language, but it is the first time Alfie has a friend. This is one of the best timeslip books I’ve read and I absolutely loved it. It’s both heart-warming and heart-breaking. I loved Alfie’s life on the farm, his relationship with Aunt Bell and his friendship with Smidge. This is one I would highly recommend.

I’m hoping to read MoonFlight next.

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