WWW Wednesday

I am just about to start Emily Knight I am … Becoming having enjoyed the first two books in this series. I will be taking part in a Blog Tour later this month. I am listening to Orphans of the Tide. OMG!! Why have I left this so long?? It is absolutely riveting. I love when I don’t see something coming … I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

This week, I read Grimm which I really enjoyed. It tells the story of Rory McKenna who becomes famous as a marketing genius who is then called upon to re-brand Hotel Grimm which is not looked upon favourably by the local community. This story has a wonderful depth and some great messages which I really liked. I will post my review shortly. I also read Witch which is a gripping story of witchcraft and persecution and difficult bonds of sisterhood. Again, I will post my review prior to publication on 1st October.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to reading Shadowspring next.

Review: The Key to Finding Jack

The Key to Finding Jack is a gripping mystery, resonating with warmth and depth, which centres on family, relationships and friendship.  The power of the writing immersed me in the lives of Flick and her family, feeling their pain, their hopes, their closeness.  This is a mystery, but it is a subtle and heartfelt mystery that gently swept me into its entanglement and kept me utterly invested from start to finish. 

Flick has a close bond with her older brother Jack who loves practical jokes and riddles and enjoys sharing them at school and with Flick.  Rather than going to university to study law as his barrister father expects, Jack travels to Peru during his gap year where he is reported missing after a devastating earthquake.  The family are keen to find out what has happened to Jack and live in hope that they will be reunited with him. 

Flick discovers a key which Jack has left behind with a message:  For S.F. to keep until I’m back.  This discovery becomes an intriguing puzzle that Flick is determined to solve as she traces the initials to people Jack knows in the hope that they will lead her to her beloved older brother.

I really enjoyed Flick’s discoveries as she unravels the mystery behind the key, but will this be enough to find her missing brother?  As Flick connects with a range of people who are important in Jack’s life, who he has had a lasting impact upon, their reminiscences stir memories for Flick, and discoveries are made which give her a deeper insight into her brother’s character.  This leads her to question how well she really knows her brother.  How much of himself has he kept hidden from her, and she from him?

Flick is an incredibly sympathetic young girl.  She is hurting at the loss of her brother yet has the strength and courage to continue to hope, and not give up on finding him.  She puts her energy into following the clues opened by the key which takes her on a path to finding out that her brother has hidden depths which give her a new insight into his character.   I really loved that the key gave Flick the opportunity to re-connect with her Grandma through shared sadness and memories. 

I also loved learning about Jack through Flick.  Jack has haemophilia which does not stop him from following the path he has chosen.  He is so much more than the practical joker who gets detention, the riddle-giving doting older brother, and discovering more about him through his relatives and friends is such a wonderful part of this story.  Flick is given an insight into her brother that she already understood at an intuitive level, but has it reinforced through others, and I found this a fascinating aspect of this story. 

I also really enjoyed the mystery within a mystery element with Flick, a keen writer, writing her own Victorian mystery centring on a mother and her missing daughter which helps her escape from her real world and forget her reality for a while, even though there are parallels between her story and her reality.

The juxtaposition between the weight of expectations from family and the strength it takes to live your own life, making your own choices is explored sensitively.  The family’s pain and hope as they search for Jack from afar is heartachingly portrayed, but what really resonates is the closeness and connection they have as they bond over their shared loss.

At the heart of this mystery is finding the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams, even if they don’t fit someone else’s aspirations for you; having the strength not to lose hope in the face of adversity; and, the close bond between siblings even in separation.  A wonderfully heart-warming story.

Thank you to Zephyr and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

1st October middle-grade releases

There are so many wonderful middle-grade books being published on 1st October that I am looking forward to adding to my bookshelf, reading and then adding to my class library. I’m looking forward to a great reading month with these new books. I have been lucky enough to read some of these already on NetGalley, but will be buying the physical copies. I have also been lucky enough to get early access to physical copies of a few of these, so my October reading will start in September! I have included the Goodreads or Waterstones synopsis for each of these. And can I just add … look at the covers … aren’t they amazing … and irresistible!

Here goes …

In an Italian city ravaged by plague, Sofia’s mother carves beautiful mementoes from the bones of loved ones. But one day, she doesn’t return home. Did her work lead her into danger? Sofia and her little brother Ermin are sent to the convent orphanage but soon escape, led by an enigmatic new friend and their pet crow, Corvith. Together they cross the city underground, following clues in bones up to the towers of Siena, where – circled by magpies – the children find the terrible truth …

I’ve read all Kiran’s books including those for children (The Island at the End of Everything, The Girl of Ink and Stars, The Way Past Winter), young adults (The Deathless Girls) and adults (The Mercies), and have loved them, so I’m really, really looking forward to this one.

Olia lives with her parents in an old crumbling castle, filled with hidden turrets and secret doorways. When she follows a mysterious cat to one of the castle’s roof domes, she finds herself stepping through one such doorway into a magical land filled with wonders… But everything is not quite as it seems: the land is under threat from a scheming magician, Chernmor, and the magic is fading away. With the help of an enchanted band of new friends, can Olia find a way to save both her own home, and the land of forbidden magic? 

I’ve been lucky enough to read this on NetGalley, and it is absolutely wonderful. I’ve pre-ordered a signed and stamped copy, so am really looking forward to a re-read. I loved both of Sophie’s previous two books, The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl who Speaks Bear.

Eleven-year-old twins, Fox and Fibber, have been rivals for as long as they can remember. Only one of them will inherit the family fortune and so a race is afoot to save the dwindling Petty-Squabble empire and win the love of their parents. But when the twins are whisked off to Jungledrop, a magical Unmapped Kingdom in charge of conjuring our world’s weather, things get wildly out of hand. An evil harpy called Morg is on the loose. And if she finds the long-lost Forever Fern before the twins, both Jungledrop and our world will crumble. Suddenly, Fox and Fibber find themselves on an incredible adventure in a glow-in-the-dark rainforest full of golden panthers, gobblequick trees and enchanted temples. But, with the fate of two worlds in their hands, will the twins be able to work together for once to defeat Morg and her dark magic?

I’ve been lucky enough to read this on NetGalley, and I loved it so much. I will be posting my review this week. This is the next in the Unmapped Chronicles series following the World Book Day book, Everdark and Rumblestar. I have also read some other fantastic books by Abi including Sky Song, The Dreamsnatcher series and The Snow Dragon (picture book).

Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan …

I was lucky enough to take part in The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour for this, and got sent a proof copy by the publisher. This is a brilliantly witty read, with great messages. I loved it! My review is here.

Henry is the new boy at Halbrook Hall – a crumbling boarding school in the Scottish Highlands. He thinks the rumours of yeti lurking in the misty hills are nothing more than stories. Until one day he gets lost in the forest… As a young yeti, Tadpole loves living in Shadowspring. But now the precious spring water is disappearing and no one knows why. The situation is serious – surely there’s something she can do to help… When Tadpole accidentally reveals the top-secret location of Shadowspring to Henry, the lost boy she saves, she knows she’s in deep trouble. But what if this human actually has the power to help the yeti not harm them?

This is the second book in the series. I have been lucky enough to have been sent an early copy of this one for review, so am really looking forward to reading it within the next couple of weeks. I really enjoyed the first book in this series – especially the brilliant yeti naming system!

Greetings! My name is Skeleton Keys and these fantabulant fingers of mine can open doors to hidden worlds… Join me for the curious tale of Gap-tooth Jack – thief, adventurer and champion of imagining! When Skeleton Keys banishes Wordy Gerdy from the present using his Key to Time, he thinks he’s seen the last of the troublesome unimaginary. But Gerdy uses her ghostly pen to wreak her revenge, and before Skeleton Keys knows it she’s written his precious keys out of existence. Skeleton Keys and his partner Daisy must follow Gerdy into the past to retrieve her pen and make her restore his keys. But Skeleton Keys has unknowingly sent Gerdy back to his own past and her pen is now in the hands of notorious thief Gap-tooth Jack. As they set off to find Jack, Skeleton Keys can’t help noticing that everything looks strangely familiar. Then he comes face to face with the thief – could it be that the two have met before?

This is the third book in the Skeleton Keys series. I’ve read and loved the previous two: The Unimaginary Friend and The Haunting of Luna Moon. Again, I have been lucky enough to have been sent an early copy of this one for review, so am really looking forward to reading it within the next couple of weeks.

With an invisible girl, a parliament of owls and a pen that writes by itself, the journey to the Garden of the Midnight Swan might be Seren’s most dangerous adventure yet. In this third book of the award-winning The Clockwork Crow series, Seren and Tomos must try to help the Crow find the way back to his human form. But why is Captain Jones enquiring about Seren’s past? How have the sinister Fair Family gate-crashed the Midsummer Ball, and what is the one desire of the mysterious Midnight Swan?

This is the final book in this gorgeous trilogy, following The Clockwork Crow and The Velvet Fox. I was lucky enough to read this on NetGalley, and it’s such a wonderful ending to the series. My review is here.

Ash and the rest of the Frostheart’s brave crew have finally arrived at the majestic stronghold of Aurora – and Ash’s mind is blown. It’s an extraordinary place – unlike anything he’s ever seen – and he can’t wait to solve the next clue that will lead him to his parents. But it’s quickly clear that even Aurora isn’t safe for Song Weavers. A fanatical Pathfinder captain has turned the city against Ash and his kind – and it’s not long before the Frostheart has to make another break for freedom. But when a vicious Wraith attack leaves Ash, Lunah, Rook and Tobu stranded on the ice, they will have to use all their strength and cunning to reach safety. But what they find is even more incredible.

This is the second book in the series. I loved reading Frostheart last year, and am really looking forward to joining the crew again on their next adventure.

George is about to spend his third Christmas without his mum. Since she died, George’s life has felt dull and grey; his dad has thrown himself into his work and has no time for family, and definitely no time for Christmas. Then, George stumbles across Marley’s Curiosity Shop. There he finds a mysterious snow globe, which – though George can’t quite understand how – appears to show a scene from George’s past. A Christmas in which he and his family were together, and happy… That night, George and his dad are swept on an adventure to three Christmases – past, present, and future. With help from new friends, and just a touch of magic, can they begin living life in full colour again?

I have loved Catherine’s Stormkeeper series, The Stormkeeper’s Island and The Lost Tide Warriors and am eagerly looking forward to the final part. I think this re-imagining of A Christmas Carol will be a magical read.

When two journalists are sent to Howlfair to write about the world’s scariest town, they want amateur historian Molly to be their guide. But there’s something creepy about them – they seem a little too interested in a local legend of a phantom known as the Silentman. And they want Molly to help them find a hidden crypt that was never meant to be opened… A madcap horror adventure with spooky tombs, flying skeletons, a wig-stealing cat and a phantom whose touch spells madness!

The first book in this series, The Ghouls of Howlfair is such a brilliant read: spooky and witty. I’m so looking forward to joining the wonderful Molly Thompson on her next adventure.

Imogen should be nice to her little sister Marie. She should be nice to her mum’s boyfriend too. And she certainly shouldn’t follow a strange silver moth through a door in a tree. But then… who does what they’re told? Followed by Marie, Imogen finds herself falling into a magical kingdom where the two sisters are swept up in a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a very grumpy hunter… and even the stars above them.

This is the first book in a series and sounds exactly like my kind of read, and it comes in gorgeous hardback too.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli. Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost. Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war. And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust onto the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat. Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?

I loved the first book in this series, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone which I read over the summer. I loved the writing style so am really looking forward to this one.

Sam might be half-monster and half-fairy, but since finding a loving family with the Kavanaghs, his daily life has been all human. And now he’s facing one of the greatest human challenges – starting secondary school. But Sam barely has time to worry about the strange stuff teachers say (why do they call it the Great War when it sounds like was anything but great?) before he is thrust back into the world of monsters. Sam’s school friends Amira, Hazel and Wilfred reveal that they are shifters: noble twin-souled beings who live half their lives as humans and the other half as dogs. When his new friends are kidnapped one by one, Sam is dragged into an adventure that will force him to confront both halves of his own identity, monster and fairy, if he wants a chance at saving their lives … 

I loved the first book in this series, The Monster Who Wasn’t and am really looking forward to seeing what happens next with Sam.

For Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, holidays at their grandparents’ cottage mean wild beaches, no curfew, Bella the dog, and most of all – adventure! The lead actress in Frost Castle’s winter play is sure she’s cursed! A break-in, a car accident, and now her precious locket is missing. But the cousins suspect a ruthless thief. With a blizzard raging outside and a legendary ghost in the castle corridors, unmasking this villain will take all their bravery and skill… 

I’ve love the Clifftoppers series, and am looking forward to reading this fourth book. I love how wintry the cover is!

There’s something fishy going on at St Halibut’s Home for Waifs and Strays . . . Life at St Halibut’s Home has been idyllic for two months, ever since the children buried their matron (don’t look like that – it was an accident!) Helpfully, the not-so-dear departed matron left behind a surprisingly large stash of money, which will keep them in black-market lemon sherbets for the rest of their lives. Tig, Stich and Herc just have to make sure nobody finds out they’re on their own. But when they find out that St Halibut’s is to be inspected by DEATH (the Department for Education, Assimilation, Training and Health), they start to panic. They’ll need to convince the inspector that everything is peachy or they’ll be sent to the Mending House – where badly-behaved orphans go, never to return. As the big day approaches, the children start to think they might just pull it off. But when the inspector arrives, things don’t just go wrong, they get spectacularly out of hand . . .

I love stories about orphans, and this one sounds a really fun read which I won’t be able to resist!

1899. The Earl of Gosswater has died, and twelve-year-old Lady Agatha has been cast out of her ancestral home – the only home she has ever known – by her cruel cousin, Clarence. In a tiny tumbledown cottage, she struggles to adjust to her new life and the stranger who claims to be her real father. And on the shores of Gosswater Lake, the spirit of another young girl will not rest. Could the ghost of Gosswater hold the key to Aggie’s true identity? 

I love historical fiction and ghost stories, so this sounds like a perfect read for me.

Elsie is not looking forward to the long summer holiday with her creaky, old Uncle John. But then the unimaginable happens as Time unravels and Elsie tumbles back to 1940s India to meet her Uncle John as a young boy on a tiger hunt. Can Elsie stop him from doing what he’s already told her is a wrong he can never right?

I have been lucky enough to have this one on NetGalley so will read it in September, before getting a physical copy for my class library. This sounds like a great historical mystery.

Wow! There you have it! There are some incredible middle-grade books being published on 1st October. Are there any of these you want to read? Have you already read any of these?

MG Takes on Thursday

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 …

Written by Gill Lewis
Cover Illustration by Paola Escobar
Published by Oxford University Press

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

The ink had bled into the cloth, but Semira could read the words, The Feather Diaries.

This book in three words:

DREAMS, FRIENDSHIP, CONNECTION

This is such a powerful story, told through the eyes of two brave girls, Semira and Hen. Semira is a refugee, living in London, who feels trapped, helpless and alone. When buying an old hat, she finds ‘The Feather Diaries’, the diary of a young Victorian girl. Her incredible connection to Hen becomes the catalyst for the changes that Semira is brave, and strong, enough to make in her own life.

Hen is surrounded by some remarkable woman, especially her Aunt Kitty, who is brave, fierce and determined enough to go against the norms of society. Her story is both heart-breaking and uplifting, and, I must admit, led to that ‘lump in throat, eye-watering’ moment when I know the story has ‘got’ me.

As Semira develops her friendship with Hen, so too she bonds with Patrick, Chloe and Holly, who all take her under their wings, although, in the end, it is Semira who frees them. There are lot of powerful messages in this story: having the courage to stand up for, and to, others; the choice to make a positive difference to the lives of others; and, the pivotal importance of dreams, living life and not being trapped by it.

The birds are a metaphor for the journey for both girls of entrapment to freedom. In their shared love of cycling, they experience ‘The Closest Thing to Flying’, both finding their inner strength and escaping their respective ‘cages’. This book really was an emotional rollercoaster, but one I felt very privileged to ride.

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

I’m just about to start Grimm, and have started listening to Orphans of the Tide on audio, which I’m really enjoying – such a brilliant opening chapter!

I finished listening to The Last Paper Crane on my way to work this week.  This is such a powerfully written story that had me in tears for different reasons.  It is both heart-breaking and hopeful, a story of broken promises and guilt, but also of a life lived.  Ichiro is one of the most courageous characters I think I’ve ever read about. I also read The Key to Finding Jack. I really enjoyed this clever mystery which is not at all what I was expecting and is not typical of the mysteries I’ve been reading.  I will post my review in the next day or so. I also read The Missing Barbegazi which was a really wonderful story. I loved the Barbegazi family and the relationship which developed between Tessa and Gawion, one of the family. It is a heart-warming read with plenty of action. Tessa is a wonderful character who is keen to continue her Opa’s legacy and protect the Barbegazis from those who would exploit and hurt them.

I hope to read the third book in the Emily Knight series, I am Becoming … next, ready for an upcoming Blog Tour.

MG Takes on Thursday

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 …

Written by Maria Kuzniar
Cover Illustration by Karl James Mountford
Map and interior illustrations by Sophia Watts
Published by Puffin Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Bullies were like wolves: they travelled in packs and would pick your bones clean.

This book in three words:

ADVENTURE, MAGIC, FAMILY/FRIENDSHIP

The Ship of Shadows absolutely gripped me from start to finish:  it is brimming with magic, excitement, danger, twists and revelations, but also with strong female characters, teamwork and friendship.

Aleja is a young book-lover who dreams of adventure and exploration, of following her heart to discover all there is to see in the world.  One day, a rather unusual ship arrives in her home harbour city of Sevilla, and Aleja soon finds herself aboard the ship with a band of strong female pirates.  She’s been waiting all her life for just such an adventure … and what an adventure it becomes as she fights creatures of legend and hunter pirates; discovers her own rather unique friend; and explores both real and legendary cities in a quest for a legendary item that may change the course of her life and that of the crew …

The world-building is stunning and absolutely immersed me in the wonderful port cities of Sevilla and Tangier, in the lost city and, of course, the Ship of Shadows itself which is a real treat for the imagination.   This magical pirate ship is a wonderful character within the story and has so many secrets and surprises to discover that it kept me mesmerised throughout.  Learning the history of the Ship was utterly fascinating, and I would so love a guided tour although perhaps staying in port!

This is an action-packed, breath-taking and dangerous adventure that kept me eagerly turning pages, but it is also a story of a group of fierce, brave and diverse women:  women who stand up for themselves and for each other; stand up to an oppressor; and who bond in the trust and loyalty gained from friendship and family.

If Aleja is to become part of this family, she must earn the trust and respect of this pirate crew.  I really enjoyed the development of Aleja’s friendship with Frances who is rarely without cake, who is not averse to a little theft and who tells wonderfully embellished stories. I also enjoyed her friendship with a rather unique creature who I hope is still with her in the next book in this fantastic series.

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!

Review: Anisha Accidental Detective: School’s Cancelled

Anisha Accidental Detective:  School’s Cancelled is the second book in this delightful series, which can be read in any order.  This is an incredibly fun, warm and clever mystery which is perfect for younger readers who will become immersed in the antics of these schoolchildren – laughs guaranteed – and in Anisha’s truly wonderful family. 

Anisha – who loves science and wants to meet an astronaut – is understandably excited about her school’s big announcement:  the National Schools Science Fair is being held at her school with the winning team getting a trip to the National Space Centre where they will meet an astronaut.  Anisha’s team is one of two representing her school with their volcano project.  Of course, her best friend Milo is working with her as is their new friend Govi who is new to the school, and finding it hard to settle in. 

Disaster strikes when Anisha’s chances of having her dream fulfilled are ruined when her team is banned from taking part in the Fair after their volcano explodes, causing the school to be closed due to a foam flood!  Anisha is confident that her team are not to blame, so who has sabotaged their chances of winning at the Science Fair?

Anisha and her best friend Milo, with the help of his pet rat Ralph, decide to investigate the mystery of the exploding volcano to clear their names and reveal the culprits.  Who would want to sabotage their chances and why?  Will they be able to clear their name before the Science Fair takes place?

The mystery that unravels is fantastically fun, clever and action-packed, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Anisha identifies possible culprits, undertakes some clue-spotting and finds help from unexpected sources.  The plot is very cleverly structured to keep the reader intrigued as they follow Anisha’s sleuthing brilliance!

I must give a shout-out to the super fun school staff names, perfectly matched to their roles:  Miss Bunsen, Mr Helix, Mr Bristles to name a few.  I also really liked the inclusion of the footnotes to explain some of the Indian food that Granny Jas cooks – yet another reason to love her!  And thank you Granny Jas for the Paratha Recipe – I’ll have mine with green chillies!

Anisha is an incredibly likeable, kind-hearted young girl.  The author’s writing style captures her voice perfectly:  likeable, friendly, confident and chatty. However, she is not averse to Year 6 peer pressure as she feels she needs to hide her intelligence from her classmates.  I also loved the insight into Anisha’s Indian family, and the warmth of their relationships, from her yoga-loving mum to her party-throwing Aunt Bindi but, most of all, her Granny Jas who I absolutely adored.  She is incredibly supportive of Anisha, believing her immediately when she gets into trouble at school and encouraging her be herself and be proud.  Such a brilliantly positive message for any child! 

Lots of gorgeous, expressive illustrations are included which are certain to capture the interest of young readers as is the appealing layout with use of capitalisation and bold text.

This is a delightfully refreshing, modern-feeling mystery, with some great twists and plenty of laughs, that I have no doubt will gain an army of young fans. 

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

WWW Wednesday

I’m listening to the audiobook of The Last Paper Crane which is beautifully written – incredibly powerful and poignant with such inspirational and strong characters. My heart is aching for Ichiro and Keiko. I think this is one I will buy as well and re-read. I’m also reading The Key to Finding Jack which I’m really enjoying. The close bond between Jack and Flick is beautifully written and I sense that Jack may not quite want to go along with the future his father has planned for him. I’m really looking forward to finding out what has happened to him after the earthquake and also to explore more about Flick’s writing.

First Class Murder: I really enjoyed this murder mystery aboard The Orient Express.  I love following Daisy and Hazel’s sleuthing.  I’m not sure I’ve met a character quite like Daisy before – is she a product of her times and place in society?  Hazel is definitely standing up for herself more, and I loved that her father is proud of her and ready to give her a little more freedom.  The Detective Society cases are such classic murder mysteries and are solved with great deduction skills by the girls.  I’m already looking forward to Jolly Foul Play!

Emily Knight:   I am …  AND Emily Knight:  I am… Awakened: This was a really fun and quick YA contemporary fantasy series.  Emily Knight, now 13, is left in the care of godparents after her father goes to look for her missing brother and her mother dies.  Emily is rich and famous and draws negative attention to herself in order to try to get her father’s attention.  Her father is a famous Warrior with special powers and Emily has inherited her own powers.  She is in danger of hurting others as her powers, including fireballs, are unleased when she is angry.  She is sent to the school her father went to, rather reluctantly, where she makes some new friends.  The first book in the series which sets up the story:  Emily settling into school, despite some problems; making friends; developing her powers; with a few twists along the way!  The second book explores Emily’s growing relationships, her strengthening powers as well as the threat from Neci (a dangerous Warrior) who intends to destroy the Warriors, and who has previously killed two of the most powerful five.  I’m looking forward to reading the next book Emily Knight:  I am … BecomingThis series give me X-men vibes!

The Ship of Shadows: I’ve had this one on my TBR since publication and as was August’s Primary School Book Club winner, I wanted to read it before the online chat on 31st August.  I really loved this story which is full of action, danger, twists and revelations as we follow Aleja, who wants to follow her dream of becoming an explorer and having amazing adventures, aboard the MOST magical, fascinating pirate ship, the Ship of Shadows.   I may well have more to say on this later in the week!

Anisha Accidental Detective: School’s Cancelled: I really enjoyed this warm, fun-filled mystery for younger readers which I think children in my class will love. Review to be posted in next few days.

I’m hoping to read Grimm in paperback and listen to Orphans of the Tide on audiobook.

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

Review: The Humans

This absolutely stunning marvel of a book is a MUST have for any primary school library shelves, but I have no doubt it will not remain on the shelves for long as eager young minds will definitely want to get themselves poring over the fascinating words and illustrations for hours of informative entertainment …

BLURB

This book showcases the greatest achievements of ancient civilisations, peoples and iconic figures from history. From the Nubians to the Native Americans, and the Akkadians to the Aztecs, our predecessors have pioneered a plethora of wonderful and wacky inventions, technologies and practices. They’ve constructed monumental buildings and sprawling cities, created languages, modes of transport, art, medicines, music, stories, myths and more.

Let’s delve into the past and discover what humankind accomplished in the centuries and millennia since the first civilisations were formed …

I must admit I am somewhat in awe of the quality of this book. It is a large, very tactile, hardback whose front cover immediately captured my interest as did the stamped images on the bright yellow end-papers which I immediately wanted to start matching to the associated ancient civilisations!

The Humans starts with some introductory pages tracing human evolution, showing a map of homo sapiens movement throughout the world and a definition of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. This gives context for the ancient civilisations explored …

and what an incredibly diverse range of civilisations are explored, extending through all continents from Africa to The Americas. The contents page directs readers to each civilisation which is usually included on either a single or double page spread although a few like The Egyptians, The Sumerians, The Ancient Chinese, The Ancient Greeks, The Native Americans and The Romans have slightly more coverage. I also really liked that each continent had its own introduction, giving information about the timeline of human evolution for that continent. It can be really difficult for children to place events in history so this, along with the timeline at the end of the book, is really helpful.

Each page of this book gives lots of clearly explained, fascinating facts interspersed with truly wonderful illustrations and maps which complement each other perfectly, and create a brilliantly engaging layout, a real feast for eyes and mind. There is also a Where in the World? globe which places each ancient civilisation which I found really useful. The layout makes this an endlessly engaging book which is easy to follow. I have no idea how the author makes decisions as to what to include, but I absolutely loved the scope of the information included from the large scale (such as The Great Wall of China) to the minutiae (such as the uses of umbrellas).

Below is an example page which demonstrates perfectly why this book will be loved by children who will learn many interesting and fascinating facts, after they can draw their eyes away from the brilliant illustrations. I love the fusion of text and images and, as a teacher who loves double-page spreads to showcase children’s work, this is a perfect example of how to do it!

This book is perfect for primary school children as it gives a brilliant introduction to many of the civilisations covered in the curriculum in an amazingly appealing format as well as introducing children, and adults, to less well known ancient civilisations. Simply stunning!

Thank you to Charlie and Little Tiger for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: The Midnight Swan

The Midnight Swan is the final part in this utterly enchanting trilogy and follows The Clockwork Crow and The Velvet Fox, both just as mesmerising as this book.

Seren and Tomos are enjoying the excitement of exploring the Summer Fair when Seren is drawn into a dark alley with an unmanned stall from which she acquires a small metal casket painted with the face of a black swan and the enticing message:  If you can open my closed lid, your heart’s desire inside is hid.  She takes this home to her tutor, who is trapped in the body of a Clockwork Crow, in the hope that opening it may help him find his human form again. 

As soon as the Crow sees the box, he knows it is the work of the Tylwyth Teg who are intent on causing dark mischief amongst humans, but also knows that it may provide the key to breaking the enchantment which has been cast over him.  He finally tells Seren and Tomos the truth of how he became enchanted, and it is worth having waited three books for!

So begins a dangerous journey by the children and the Crow to break the enchantment, a journey which sees Seren making a terrifying bargain, and which sees the Crow unleashing his own magic as they journey into an enchanted land to enter the Garden of the Midnight Swan, but will any of them have their heart’s desire met, or will the renowned trickery of the Fair Folk thwart them?

This story is beautifully atmospheric and lyrical, perfectly capturing the allure and danger of the Tylwyth Teg as they gate-crash Lady Mair’s Midsummer Ball, and offer enticing, but perilous, bargains.  The underlying sense of danger and urgency is palpable as Seren, Tomos and the Crow are drawn inexorably towards the Midnight Swan.

I adored the characters in this book.  Seren is a wonderfully kind-hearted and courageous girl who is prepared to make selfless sacrifices for those she loves.  She is desperate to belong in a family, and has doubts as to whether she is still welcome in Plas-y-Fran.  The Crow is absolutely brilliant!  He is cantankerous, rather rude and boastful yet also endearing as he is hiding behind a façade, feeling fearful, but trying not to show it. 

The Midnight Swan transported me into a magical world of enchantment, excitement and danger, and completely enthralled me with its evocative atmosphere, heart-warming relationships and sense of other-worldly mystery.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers, FireFly Press, for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.