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!

Steady drifts of rain blew in from the sea against roof tiles and window panes, rainwater trickled inside drainpipes and from somewhere in the sleeping city came the howl of a dog. The dog was crying to be let in. The shadow stopped and listened.

Any ideas?

The prologue for this one has definitely intrigued me, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Waterstones synopsis:

In a dangerous land enslaved by the cruel Regent, where the Dreamers have the magical power to turn dreams into reality, Toby meets Tamurlaine, a strange girl who has lost her memory. To uncover the mystery of her identity and get Toby back home, the pair must go on a thrilling journey to the heart of the kingdom, the castle of the Regent. A haunting piece of Gothic magical realism.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. This week I’ve decided to revamp the banner to include the book I’m celebrating.

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 Phil Hickes
Illustration by Keith Robinson
Published by Usborne

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

As Aveline stared, the girl paused, then shot a look in her direction, a glint of a smirk flashing across her dark features.

This book in three words:

SPOOKY, FRIENDSHIP, WITCHY

Aveline Jones is back for another superbly spine-tingling adventure in The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, a spookily witchy tale that is a perfect autumnal reading treat.

Aveline Jones is on a late summer holiday with her Mum, staying in a remote rundown cottage in the village of Norton Wick.  With her natural curiosity relating to all things supernatural, she is keen to visit the ancient stone circle, known as The Witch Stones, close to the cottage, and learn more about their history. 

It is not long before she meets Hazel Browne, a cool, confident and friendly girl who is keen to become Aveline’s friend and introduce her to the magic of the stones which she seems to know a lot about.  Although Aveline is wary, she is also fascinated by her mysterious new friend, a friend who may not always be telling Aveline the whole truth …

Aveline’s friend Harold, who we met in The Haunting of Aveline Jones, comes to visit and brings with him some books Aveline has asked for, books that might reveal more about the Stones, the mysterious bottle that Aveline has found buried in her garden, and even her new friend, but will these revelations come too late to protect the friends?

This is a thrilling, dark mystery, laden with suspense, a brilliantly evoked eerie atmosphere, and deliciously sinister moments that sent a shiver down my spine.  There is a constant sense that things are not quite as they may seem in Norton Wick, and that danger may never be far away.  The past has a way of invading the present, but will Aveline and Harold discover the truth of someone’s past before it is too late?

Aveline is just as wonderful as I remember her from her first adventure.   Even though she is spellbound by Hazel, her natural instincts warn her to be wary, to question and to investigate, just as I would expect from this strong, curious and determined girl. 

The cover and inside illustrations by Keith Robinson are stunning and complement the spooky atmosphere of this story perfectly.

This is a wonderfully spooky middle-grade read that is perfect for readers of 9+ and is one I cannot recommend highly enough.

Thank you to the Publisher, Usborne and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 

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 reading Danger at Dead Man’s Pass which I’m really looking forward to as I’ve loved the first three books in the Adventure on Trains series. I’m also going to start listening to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow on my way to and from work.

I’ve finished listening to Never and Forever which is a brilliant end to the series – and I found out who the narrator was! I’ve also read The Bewitching of Aveline Jones which is another brilliantly spooky adventure. I will post my review in the next day or so. Even though I’m not very good at reading in the evening when I’m at work, I couldn’t put How Not to be a Vampire down – it is such a gorgeous story, full of heart and humour and I absolutely adored Sharptooth – definitely a new favourite character. I aim to write my review this weekend.

I’m hoping to read Keeper of Secrets next although I’m on a residential with Year 6 next week, so not sure how much reading I’ll get done!

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

Review: Diary of an Accidental Witch

Diary of an Accidental Witch is a gorgeously charming, magical adventure that sparkles with humour, warmth and friendship that completely captivated me.

Bea Black has moved to Little Spellshire where her weather scientist Dad intends to write a book about its unusual climate.  She soon makes a new friend, Ashkan, who gives her cake and offers to show her around her new school, Spellshire Academy.  A promising start!  BUT things don’t quite go to plan for Bea when she discovers that her Dad has accidentally enrolled her in The School of Extraordinary Arts instead.  It’s a school for witches which would not be a problem except that Bea isn’t aware of any hidden witchy powers!  She is given her own wand, a frog called Stan to look after and sent to levitation class – what could possibly go wrong?

This is written in the style of Bea’s diary, giving a wonderfully heartfelt and witty insight into her life as she navigates some rather unusual lessons, learns to ride a broomstick and finds herself on the Committee for the upcoming Halloween Ball.  Will she be able to keep her school life a secret from her Dad and Ashkan?   Will she find friends in this magical school, or is she destined to spend her time hiding in the broom cupboard?

Bea is an incredibly likeable young girl who is coping with some of the usual worries about settling in to secondary school like whether she will fit in or make friends which is sure to offer support to young readers feeling the same whether they are going to another school or starting in a new class.  Bea also shows a great deal of resilience as she works hard to practice her witch skills, sometimes with unexpected consequences. 

I loved the diary-entry style of this story which will appeal to lots of young readers with its use of bold and capital letters, crossing outs, lists and footnotes.  The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and complement the humour and charm of this story perfectly.

This is a wonderfully warm-hearted, fun-filled story that is sure to enchant young readers of 7+.

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

August Wrap-Up

And … my summer holiday is over! I did make the most of it, and it was exactly what I needed – lots of relaxation, reading and seeing family. But the rowing machine that was going to help me get fit – not so much! I had my first day with my new Year 6 class on Friday and it was so brilliant to be back with this Year group. We’re heading off on a residential later this month which I’m very excited about as I used to love this one when I was last in Year 6.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 12 books this month, all physical copies. I’ve written and posted reviews for 7 of the books I’ve read. I really enjoyed all of these books but the ones that really stood out for me were Fireborn, Hide and Seek and The Crackledawn Dragon.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is now at 97%. I have two books to read on my NetGalley Shelf, The Shadows of Rookhaven and Locked Out Lily both released on 30th September.

Books sent by publishers:

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

Books I’ve bought:

I’ve bought 6 books in August.

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

Guest Post: Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories by Rachel Pierce

On my Blog today, I am delighted to bring you a guest post from the author of this gorgeous book, Rachel Pierce, who has shared some fascinating facts which I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did. I was born in County Donegal and didn’t know that I was brought up so close to a ‘hellmouth’!

Top 10 facts about Ireland by Rachel Pierce, author of

IRELAND: THE PEOPLE, THE PLACES, THE STORIES

It’s easy to think that you know your own country very well, but when you really pay attention, you quickly realise that you often only know half of the story. Writing Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories brought me on a journey across the whole island and right through its long history. It’s a truly fascinating place and I hope readers relish learning about Ireland as much as I did.

  • About 350 million years ago, Ireland was covered by a tropical sea – that’s why so many interesting marine fossils are found in the Burren, County Clare.
  • A 2,000-year-old lump of bog butter was unearthed in Emlagh bog, County Meath – taste- test anyone?
  • The oubliette, or ‘forgotten place’, in Leap Castle, County Offaly, has wooden spikes sticking up out of the ground – a truly gruesome punishment!
  • Cursing stones, like those at Feaghna, County Kerry, and at Inishmurray, allow you to place a curse on the head of anyone who’s annoying you.
  • Folklore tells us there are ‘hellmouths’, or ‘gateways to hell’ in Ireland – the most famous being at Oweynagat (‘the cave of the cats’) in County Roscommon and at St Patrick’s Purgatory in County Donegal.
  • You can go moonbow hunting in the Dark Sky Reserves in counties Mayo and Kerry.
  • The dry stone walls in the Ceide Fields in north County Mayo are c. 5,800 years old.
  • Marauding Vikings massacred about 1,000 hiding people in Dunmore cave, County Kilkenny.
  • If you live in Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway, you live in pig-shaped hill between two saltwater lakes (although that’s open to interpretation!).
  • The Gresham Vault at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin has a pedestal on top that once held a bell with a chain attached. The lady buried inside the vault insisted on a spring lock on her coffin, as well as the bell and chain, so that if she was buried alive, she could pop the lock, ring the bell and be rescued!

Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories is published by Scholastic on 2nd September. It features a foreword by Dara Ó Briain and illustrations by ten leading Irish illustrators: Linda Fahrlin, Diarmuid Ó Catháin, Alan Dunne, Lydia Hughes, Brian Fitzgerald, Ashling Lindsay, Graham Corcoran, Jennifer Farley, Conor Nolan, Donough O’Malley

You can purchase a copy at:

Waterstones

Amazon (UK)

Bookshop.org

WWW Wednesday

I’m still listening to Never and Forever which is such a fun read – it’s taking a while but I should finish it by next week as I’ll be back at work and able to listen to it on the way to and from work which seems to be the only way I can focus on audiobooks! I’m about quarter of the way through The Bewitching of Aveline Jones and, oh my goodness, it is delicious! I just love the spooky vibes and the building of suspense as well as the writing style which makes it hard to put down.

I’ve really enjoyed all the books I’ve read this week. I finished Wolfstongue which is a powerful and beautifully written story. It’s one I’m considering using in Year 6 as the writing style is wonderful and the themes would be great to explore with children. I’ve also read Diary of an Accidental Witch which is a wonderfully warm and funny story about Bea Black who moves to the village of Little Spellshire and finds herself enrolled in a school for witches, even though she doesn’t have any magical powers. I will be posting my review for this one soon. Unexpectedly, I was sent a copy of Danger at Dead Man’s Pass, the fourth book in the brilliant Adventure on Trains series, so I thought I’d pick up Murder on the Safari Star. This was another fantastic, exciting adventure as Hal and his Uncle Nat venture from Pretoria to Victoria Falls. Such a clever mystery and, as usual, I didn’t guess who the culprit, but I so enjoyed Hal’s investigation together with the wonderful pictures. I was determined to read The Crackledawn Dragon before I headed back to school, and I just managed. What a wonderful end to a fantastically magical series. This has everything I love in a fantasy adventure – warmth, humour, incredible adventure, gorgeous world-building and brilliant characters who go on an emotional as well as fantastical journey. And Abi is the Queen of character names, magical inventions and messages that make me all fuzzy inside! I’m sad that this series is finished, but can’t wait to see what comes next.

I’m hoping to read How Not to be a Vampire Slayer next.

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

Review: Shadowghast

I have been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to return to an end-of-season Eerie-On-Sea after enjoying the brilliant Malamander and Gargantis. What a spookily thrilling return!   Mystery, darkness, danger and revelations are weaved in another of Eerie-on-Sea’s intriguing legends:  Shadowghast is perfect to cosy up with on a dark evening as a spine-tingling tale unfolds from within its pages … just make sure you keep a candle lit!

The Grand Nautilus Hotel has some rather intriguing new guests:  a theatre troupe who have been invited to stage the annual Ghastly Night Show, a shadow puppet show that promises to protect the inhabitants of Eerie-on-Sea from the Shadowghast:  a creature of legend, or a dark entity hunting the living?

Imagine the surprise felt by the Hotel’s resident Lost-and-Founder, Herbie Lemon, when one of the guests discloses a startling revelation, a revelation that, if proven, will change his life …

As if getting life-changing news wasn’t enough for Herbie to deal with, he finds out from his best friend, Violet Parma, that her guardian, the owner of the Eerie Book Dispensary, has disappeared …

Herbie and Violet find themselves on an action-packed, thrilling race against time to uncover the truth behind the legend of the Shadowghast, a truth that looks into the past, takes them into dangerous situations and leads to shocking revelations.  Will they be able to save the missing townsfolk before they are lost to darkness?  Can they discover where the threat to the town is coming from before it is too late? Luckily, they have help from the mysterious and really rather wonderful cat, Erwin, and from a brilliant little clockwork creature that I absolutely adore.

It is just wonderful to be back in Eerie-on-Sea catching up with familiar faces and places, and enjoying the brilliant humour that Herbie injects into the narrative which perfectly balances out the darker elements. Herbie and Violet are just as likeable as I remembered them and I love their interactions as the curious, impetuous Violet is determined to find adventure, and what an adventure she finds leading up to Ghastly Night.

This is a eerily-good mystery that will take the reader on an exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat adventure to discover the truth of a deliciously dark legend:   a fantastic addition to the legends of Eerie-on-Sea, and as always, I can’t wait for the next mystery to unfold.

Thank you to Toppsta for an early copy 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!

As darkness falls, a cloaked figure, hidden in the looming shadows of the gnarled, twisted trees, sweeps silently closer to the trickling stream that runs round the edge of Skeleton Woods.

Any ideas?

When I was sent information about this one, I couldn’t help requesting it sounds like such a fun read!

Waterstones synopsis

A fang-tastic story of unlikely friendship. Maggie Helsby isn’t afraid of spooky legends and she’s willing to prove it. But when she agrees to a dare to venture into the forest, she doesn’t expect to find…

1. A creepy castle enchanted against humans

2. A vegetarian vampire who wants to be her friend

3. An ancient book naming HER as the latest of the Helsby slayers!

Can Maggie persuade her family, her new (human) friends and the greedy Mayor Collyfleur that their nocturnal neighbours need protecting just as much as they do? Or will her neck be on the line… 

WWW Wednesday

I’m continuing to listen to the The Wizards of Once Never and Forever which is a really fun story read brilliantly by David Tennant. I also picked up Wolfstongue earlier this week as my evening read and am almost half way through it. It’s a fantastic, powerful story that I’m really enjoying. Silas is being bullied at school as he cannot find his voice, and doesn’t fit in. One day he helps a wolf who is being hunted by a group of foxes and he enters a new world of the Forest. Wolves have been enslaved by Foxes and have been forced to build an underground city. Only two adult wolves remain, and they need someone to speak for them against the clever talk of the fox leader, Reynard. I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens in the rest of the story.

I finished Fireborn this week which I absolutely loved. I took part in the Write Reads Blog Tour for this and posted by review yesterday. I am definitely looking forward to going back to Ember to find out what happens to Twelve next. I’ve also read Shadowghast which is the third book in the Eerie-on-Sea series which focuses on legends related to the town. This was a brilliantly spooky return and will be perfect for the lead-up to Halloween or Shadowghast Night. I will be posting my review shortly.

Reading Shadowghast has put me in the mood to read another spooky story, so I’m going to read The Bewitching of Aveline Jones next.

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