WWW Wednesday

I’ve just started listening to The Owl Tree on Borrowbox which I’m enjoying. I love that the Owl Tree seems to have feelings, and am curious to find out more about Mr Rock who wants to cut it down. I’m about a third of the way through The Way to Impossible Island which I’m really enjoying. I love how cleverly links are made between Dara and Mothgirl before they’ve even met. I’d love to be able to sit down and read this one in one sitting, but it has been a very slow reading week as work has been hectic. We’ve had 4 of our team isolating which has meant my wonderful LSA and myself are holding the fort with extra duties and near exhaustion by the end of the day. Fingers crossed my class make it to the end of term without anyone having to isolate!

I’ve read Tiger Warrior: Attack of the Dragon King which is a fantastic, action-packed read for younger readers. I will be taking part in the Blog Tour. I also read Street Child and can’t believe I hadn’t already read it. I really enjoyed this book which tells the story of a young boy, Jim Jarvis, who is separated from his sisters and whose mother dies. He is sent to the workhouse, but escapes and finds himself on the streets. This is a powerful and hard-hitting read that I read in a single sitting over the weekend. It is one I’m considering using as part of our Year 6 Victorian topic next year. I also finished listening to Demelza and the Spectre Detectors which I absolutely loved, and would highly recommend. The narration was fantastic. Demelza is a scientist at heart and likes nothing better than inventing, so imagine her shock when she finds that she is a spectre detector whose role is to summon the deceased to spend time with loved ones. Demelza, her Grandma and friend Percy are just fantastic characters who I really liked. And the twists were brilliant!

I didn’t get to this one last week, so I’m hoping to get to it as my next read.

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

Review: Between Sea and Sky

Written by Nicola Penfold, Cover art by Kate Forrester, Published by Little Tiger on 8th July

Between Sea and Sky is a profound, powerful and thought-provoking story set in a dystopian future where Earth has been devastated by an environmental catastrophe in a period known as The Decline when the land had been flooded and poisoned.  The habitable land has been split into districts which must follow strict rules, enforced by Central District, including a one-child policy; control of resources and food; and, strict punishments, meted out by peacekeepers, for even minor infringement of rules leading to ‘civil disobedience points’ which could lead to internment on a prison ship at sea.

Thirteen-year-old Nat lives in one of these controlled districts, in a concrete and steel compound on metal stilts, along with his scientist mother.  Whilst taking part in a dare to climb an unused windmill and plant a flag, he witnesses two people collecting something on behalf of Central.  On further investigation, he makes an exciting discovery, a discovery that brings hope of the longed-for Recovery.  Nat knows that he should hand over his find, but instead he makes a decision that could put both himself and his mother in great danger …

Meanwhile, Pearl and her younger sister, Clover, live on a floating oyster farm at sea.  Their mother got sick whilst working on the land, and has died, leaving the girls in the care of their grieving father.  When not helping on the farm, the girls spend their time mud-larking, making wishings using their finds, and swimming with their porpoise friend, Grey.  Pearl blames the land for her mother’s death and is suspicious of ‘landlubbers’.  However, her ten-year-old sister is desperate to go to school on the mainland and find new friends, but this could see her taken from her family as she is an illegal second child. 

Pearl, Clover and Nat are brought together when Nat and his mother are sent by the District Controller to spend the summer on the oyster farm, investigating the viability of another food source.  Nat brings his secret find with him and soon shares it with the sisters, but this knowledge may well lead to great danger, danger that risks everything they hold dear …

This is an incredibly vivid evocation of a society and landscape that is fighting to survive years after an ecological cataclysm.  At its heart, it is the story of three children battling for freedom, battling to allow nature the opportunity to renew, and battling to bring about change. 

I absolutely adored all three children who are so well-developed as characters that I was completely invested in their lives and desperate for a better future for them.  I loved how the relationship between Nat and Pearl developed which felt completely natural as they are wary of each other at first, but gradually find a wonderful, supportive and trusting, friendship. Pearl is incredibly protective of her younger sister and is determined to keep her safe; having outsiders encroach on her home makes her angry and frustrated as she fears she may lose her sister.   I loved both the fragility and strength in Pearl as well as her spirituality evoked through her wishings.  Clover is just gorgeous:  inquisitive, kind-hearted and honest with real joie de vivre. 

This is an engrossing ecological story, told from a dual perspective, that heartachingly portrays the devastation caused by environmental catastrophe with its impact on both the landscape and survivors, but there is also a heart-warming message of hope, that nature will fight for survival and find a way to regenerate if only it is given a chance.  Another resounding hit from Nicola!

Thank you to Little Tiger for providing me with an early copy in exchange for my honest review.

This is my third book for my 20 (10) Books of Summer Reading Challenge which is hosted by Cathy Brown on her blog at 746Books.com

Six for Sunday

The July theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Sounds of Summer and today’s prompt is for Books set somewhere warm. I had a look through my Goodreads to check on books I’ve read which are set somewhere warm, and below are six of those I found:

Have you read any of these? What books have you read set somewhere warm?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my 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 Sharon Gosling
Illustrated by Hannah Peck
Published by Little Tiger Group

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

She had no intention of being sent to the poorhouse and she’d move heaven and earth to make sure Sadie and Nell didn’t end up in an orphanage.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, SISTERHOOD

My recommendation this week is for The House of Hidden Wonders, a book I read back in April 2020. It is a superbly gripping historical adventure set in a richly detailed and immersive Victorian Edinburgh which immediately captured me in the richly atmospheric and intriguing prologue, and kept me enthralled until the final page.

Zinnie and her little sisters, Nell and Sadie, scrape a meagre living on the streets of Edinburgh, and live in the tunnels beneath it.  Zinnie has taken both of the younger girls, who are orphans, into her heart and is determined to protect them and keep them safe:  the strength of their sisterly bond is beautifully portrayed throughout.  These unbreakable bonds of sisterhood are a strong theme within the story, and the relationships between the sisters was incredibly touching, especially in Zinnie’s absolute commitment to saving her youngest sister when she becomes desperately ill.   

Zinnie’s life changes forever when she attends a séance, on behalf of none other than a young Arthur Conan Doyle, being organised by the independently wealthy widow Lady Sarah Montague.  It is not long before she finds herself at the centre of a dark and utterly intriguing mystery: uncovering hidden secrets within the House of Wonders museum;  revealing the true story of the ghost haunting the tunnels; and, uncovering the perpetrator of a crime from the past that has come to the streets of her home … The plot is intricate, action-packed, heart-stopping, and so very, very clever:  I was utterly compelled to follow Zinnie who proves to be a rather brilliant sleuth in her own right.

The portrayal of strong adult female characters in this story is wonderful.  Lady Sarah Montague is an independent widow who uses her wealth to fulfil her sense of adventure by undertaking intrepid expeditions, and is quite capable of standing up for herself, and woe betide any man who thinks she should be doing otherwise!  Dr Sophia Jex-Blake is a real historical figure, being the first female doctor in Scotland:  I found the Author’s Historical Note regarding her fascinating.

This is an utterly compelling historical adventure with its inspirational female characters, realistic setting, and gripping mystery with all of its superb twists and turns.  A brilliant read for year 6+.

You can read my full review here.

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 The Way to Impossible Island and, having loved Sophie’s first book, The Wild Way Home, I’m very much looking forward to this. I’m also listening to Demelza & the Spectre Detectors on Borrowbox which is a wonderfully fun read. I’m loving the narration by Charlie Sanderson, especially that of Grandma Maave. Demelza is a brilliant character who loves science and inventions so she is rather shocked to discover that she is part of a family of spectre detectors, able to summon the dead. Unfortunately for Demelza, someone is very interested in her special talent, and she soon finds herself in danger … this is a heart-warming, humour-filled read with really likeable main characters.

I’ve finished reading Between Sea and Sky which I absolutely loved. I am almost finished writing my review and will post it in the next few days. I’ve also finished the delightful Kate on the Case for younger readers which I really enjoyed. I am writing my review.

I’m hoping to read The House on the Edge next and listen to The Owl Tree.

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

Review: Mystery of the Night Watchers

Illustrations by Saara Söderlund, Published by Usborne

What an utterly spellbinding story!  This is an engrossing historical adventure, set in the Edwardian era at a time when the arrival of Halley’s comet acts as the catalyst for an incredibly intriguing mystery that kept me utterly enthralled throughout.   

Twelve-year-old Nancy cannot help but notice that her mother is acting strangely and, when she tells her daughters that they are taking a trip away for a few days, she finds herself leaving Leeds behind and travelling to her birthplace, Suffolk.  They are to stay with her maternal Grandfather whose existence has been kept a secret from her.  Not only that, but the girls are forbidden from leaving his home, Cupola House, and must remain hidden from any prying eyes.  Her Grandfather is an apothecary and keen astronomer who has an observatory on the roof which the girls are not allowed to visit.

Nancy cannot resist breaking this stipulation and, after visiting the rooftop observatory, she discovers that the telescope is pointing to the rooftops of the town rather than the sky and, when she sees her mother and Grandfather creep out of the house at night, Nancy’s curiosity is immediately aroused.  She is determined to find answers to her questions:  what is the real reason for their visit to her Grandfather’s house?  What secrets are being kept from her?

And so begins a thoroughly absorbing, fascinating mystery as Nancy, her sister and their new friend, Burch, work together to untangle family secrets that have been kept hidden; as they make breath-taking discoveries that made me gasp out loud; and as they fight to thwart a villain whose accusations and avarice has caused a family to be torn apart. 

I really enjoyed finding out more about people’s divided reactions to Halley’s Comet, some viewing it with fear and superstition, and others eagerly anticipating its arrival with a sense of wonder and excitement.

Nancy is such a wonderful young girl.  She has a strong moral compass and cannot abide people being treated unfairly. Her strength in standing up for what she believes in helps others to face their own fears.  Nancy is courageous, curious and determined to unravel the mystery surrounding her family.  I adored the relationship between Nancy and her younger half-sister Violet.  They seem to have been growing apart in Leeds, but their visit to Suffolk has brought them closer again and I loved not only how Nancy looks after her sister, but also how forthright and curious Violet is.

This is a gripping adventure with a brilliantly evoked sense of mystery, that kept me entranced throughout as secrets were revealed and lies unravelled against the backdrop of a wonderfully depicted Edwardian Society both in fear of, and excited by, the arrival of Halley’s comet.  Perfect for younger, and older, fans of historical fiction.

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

This is my second book for my 20 (10) Books of Summer Reading Challenge which is hosted by Cathy Brown on her blog at 746Books.com

June Wrap-Up

This has probably been one of my worst reading months. I’m finding it so difficult to focus on reading in the evenings as, to be honest, I’m just drained by 8pm, and am often asleep on the sofa! I’ve also been finishing writing reports and completing assessments for school. I love being in the classroom, but I am looking forward to some time to recharge over the summer.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read books this month: 6 physical copies and audiobooks. I’ve also managed to post reviews for all of the physical books I’ve read this month, except for The Mystery of the Night Watchers, and I’m currently writing my review for it. Whilst I might not have read as many books as usual, these were all enjoyable reads. I very rarely read young adult but, my goodness, Hold Back the Tide is phenomenal. If anyone has read it, and has other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is still at 91%. I have requested two more books this month: The Shadows of Rookhaven and The Bewitching of Aveline Jones. These are both second books in a series where I’ve LOVED the first book, so couldn’t help requesting, even though I am trying really hard to limit myself.

Books sent by publishers:

I have been lucky enough to have been sent these books by publishers this month.

Books I’ve bought:

I have bought books this month, including a hardback copy of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency and my first adult book in a while, ThreadNeedle. I’m really hoping I can find time to read a few of my adult books over the summer.

How has your month been? Have you read any of these?

First Lines Fridays

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!

Simi climbed into the taxi reluctantly. The seats were threadbare and it smelt as if the last passengers had been goats. She wrinkled her nose, desperately trying to suppress a new wave of anger and tears.

Any ideas?

I bought this when it was first released, and am hoping to pick it up over my summer holidays.

Goodreads Synopsis:

City girl Simi is sent to stay with her long-lost grandmother in a remote Nigerian village.

There’s no TV, internet or phone. Not a single human-made sound can be heard at night, just the noise of birds and animals rustling in the dark forest outside.

Her witchlike grandmother dispenses advice and herbal medicine to the village, but she’s tight lipped about their family history. Something must have happened, but what? Determined to find out, Simi disobeys her grandmother and goes exploring. Caught in the sinking red quicksand of a forbidden lake, her fantastical journey begins …

Have you read this? What did you think?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my 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 Ewa Jozefkowicz
Illustrations by Anna Hymas
Published by Zephyr

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I’ve always thought that you could find out so much about an artist from what they painted.

This book in three words:

COURAGE, EMPATHY, FRIENDSHIPS

I have recently read Ewa’s latest story, The Cooking Club Detectives and it made me think of her other books, all of which I’ve loved. Today I’ve chosen Girl 38 which is a sensitively and beautifully written story that perfectly weaves the past into the present, and shows how empathising with past events can impact on present ones, how learning about the bravery of others can lead to the strength to change our own path.  Both the past and the present stories within this book captured me completely, and I found the impact Ania’s story had on Kat really powerful, heart-warming and hopeful.

Girl 38 is the courageous comic strip heroine created by Kat, a heroine that she wishes she could be more like as she is finding her own reality difficult to deal with.  Kat has been friends with Gem ever since their first day at school, but theirs is a toxic friendship as Gem is controlling and manipulative with Kat constantly on edge, trying to keep her happy and going along with her plans, even when they make her feel uneasy.  Kat feels under constant pressure to do whatever Gem wants, desperate not to have her turn her bullying attention on her the way she has on others. 

One day, Kat helps her elderly Polish neighbour, Ania Jankowski after a fall.  She feels an instant rapport with her and they soon develop a warm relationship as Ania shares her painting of her best friend Mila from many years previously.  Kat’s interest is immediately piqued and Ania agrees to tell her about her past. Ania’s story, focussing on events during the Second World War, is one of incredible daring, determination and courage.   

I loved how their relationship developed so that Kat was eventually able to open up to Ania to share her own problems with her best friend, and to seek comfort and strength in their friendship and in Ania’s story.

This is a story completely captured me:  I was completely invested in both Ania’s and Kat’s stories, and enjoyed how Ania’s story impacted on Kat’s present and helped her face up to a difficult situation, changing her future. 

You can read my full review here.

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’ve just started Between Sea and Sky, and I’m definitely getting good vibes. I think this is going to be another winner!

I’ve finished listening to Hold Back the Tide. This absolutely blew me away. It is incredibly atmospheric, tense and scary. The twists are utterly amazing and that ending! I’ve also finished Mystery of the Night Watchers which I really enjoyed. I’m currently writing my review. I also listened to a short story, Clockwork which is a dark fairy tale with plenty of scary, tense moments and is beautifully wound together through the different elements of the story. I can definitely see me using this with a class.

I’m hoping to read The Way to Impossible Island next which I’m really excited to get to as I loved The Wild Way Home and think this has some of the same characters. I’m going to start listening to Demelza & the Spectre Detectors as I’m hoping this will be a fun read.

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