The Vanishing Trick

Written by Jenni Spangler
Illustrated by Chris Mould
Published by Simon & Schuster
Published on 30th April 2020

This utterly mesmerising tale ensnared me like a willing moth to a flame and held me in its dark enchantment from start to finish. The mystery, magic, superstition and unexpected twists are perfectly cloaked in a richly portrayed Victorian society with fascinating characters who grabbed my attention from the opening.

Leander has recently been orphaned and is finding his new life a real struggle, sometimes having to resort to stealing in order to stave off his desperate hunger.  After one such theft, he finds himself running from his pursuer and, eager to escape, discovers a rather unusual carriage – and the enigmatic Madame Pinchbeck.  She offers to help him by buying his mother’s locket but, after an intriguing warning, he refuses to sell it. 

Dire circumstances, however, lead him back to Madame Pinchbeck.  She preys on his desire to speak to his mother again, telling him that she can make his dearest wish come true as she is a medium.  Unable to resist and desperate for some kindness, Leander hands over his most precious possession, and finds himself cruelly caught by Pinchbeck’s magical ability.  Too late, he realises that he has made a terrible mistake, and finds himself vanished into his mother’s locket which is now his prison (known as a ‘cabinet’) where a piece of his soul has been trapped, leaving him vulnerable and at the mercy of Madame Pinchbeck.

Leander is not the only child trapped by this dark magic.  He soon meets Charlotte and Felix who apprise him of his new situation.  They are inextricably bound to Madame Pinchbeck who uses them as part of her act to trick her rich Victorian clients during seances.  So begins an incredibly atmospheric, tension-filled, dark and dangerous tale as the children race to escape from the clutches of Madame Pinchbeck before one of them might disappear forever …

Oh my goodness!  I was instantly captured by the absorbing plot which is enticingly intricate and intriguing and so very, very clever!  My heart was racing as I turned the pages to find out how all the layers were woven together and I was not disappointed.  I don’t want to go into details for fear of giving away spoilers but, suffice to say, this is a story that will take you on an enthralling and sinister adventure, revealing secrets, twists and shocks galore along the way.  I am in awe of how all the threads in this story came together so perfectly and with such heart-warming satisfaction.

The Victorian setting for the story is richly imagined with its portrayal of the lives of the rich and poor in society and its dual fascination with  spiritualism and technology, both used to sinister effect by Madame Pinchbeck. 

What can I say about Madame Pinchbeck?  She is a deliciously dark and complex villain who appears sugary sweet in her fake sincerity on the outside in order to ensnare her victims, but has an insidious darkness inside:  vengeful, sinister and hungry for riches and fame.  She is a child snatcher on par with the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the Child Catcher. 

The three children, Leander, Charlotte and Felix, are incredibly endearing and courageous.  They are all suffering from heart-breaking loss, are desperately searching for something which is precious to them and, having found each other, come to develop wonderfully sincere friendships full of trust, loyalty and love.  They work as a team in order to survive, supporting and helping each other despite the great risks they take and their terror of their captor.  My heart broke for them, but was also filled with warmth as I understood that, even in their moments of greatest danger, they would never give up on each other. 

The Vanishing Trick is an utterly gripping mystery brimming with peril, eeriness and spine-tingling darkness, but also with friendship, warmth and hope.  This really is a must-read which I cannot recommend highly enough.    

Thank you to the Publishers, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an e-ARC in return for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday

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 …

Published by Nosy Crow
Written by Nizrana Farook
Cover Illustration: David Dean

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Her head snapped back at a thwacking noise.

This book in three words:

ADVENTURE, FRIENDSHIP, EXCITEMENT

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant is an incredibly exciting, fast-paced and heart-warming adventure which I enjoyed in one sitting. I then read it as a class read to my Year 4 class who were completely gripped by it!  The short chapters and many cliff-hanger chapter endings makes this a perfect read aloud for a class.

There is so much to love in this story from the exciting fast-paced action to the edge-of-your-seat peril to the portrayal of heart-warming friendships to the beautiful depiction of the jungle.

This is a story I have absolutely no hesitation in highly recommending for anyone who loves a fast-paced adventure …

You can read more about this gorgeous story in my review: The Girl Who Stole an Elephant.

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

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.       What are you currently reading?

2.       What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve just started a digital review copy Elsetime by Eve McDonnell which I think has had its publication moved to September. The opening has immediately grabbed my attention!

This week I’ve read Strange Star by Emma Carroll which was fantastic. I think I was just in the mood for a dark, Gothic tale, and this was definitely that. I’ve also read The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle which I adored. I so felt for Nell, and was so glad she had the support of such a great friendship group. I have made notes on this, so I’m hoping to review it soon!

I have been sent a copy of Saving Winslow for review. I read the blurb which really appealed to me, as did the reference to Charlotte’s Web. For all sorts of personal reasons, I think this one is going to be a really special read for me.

Blog Tour: The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates

I’m super excited to be part of the Blog Tour for this hilarious and heart-warming adventure. Thank you to Fritha for inviting me to be part of the Tour, and to Jenny for writing a guest post.

Today I will be sharing a post about challenges from Jenny Pearson, and a link to my review. I have let all the children in my class know about the Freddie Yates Superhero Challenges over on the Usborne YouTube site, as I think they will really love taking part in them.

Who doesn’t love a challenge?

by Jenny Pearson

Maybe it’s just me but I love a challenge. I love giving things ago and I honestly don’t mind if I fail. Many of my school reports said Jenny is a real trier or what she lacks in ability she makes up for in ambition and I’m proud of that. My sister says I’m the only person she knows who can get a question staggeringly wrong in Trivial Pursuit and still congratulate themselves for being on the right lines. I told her teachers call that growth mindset these days. She tells me she calls it an alarming detachment from reality. That might be so, but sometimes you simply have to have a bash at things. I say throw yourself into trying a new skill, blurt out that answer even if you’re fairly certain it’s not the right one, try running a marathon in flippers if that’s what you fancy. I’d rather have a go at something than not try it at all. I’d definitely enter the onion eating competition with Freddie, Ben and Charlie, I’d also give one of Phyllis’s weird marmite and marmalade sandwiches a go, I’d even try to cycle a tandem across Wales in inappropriate clothing and very little forward planning. And I’d definitely try the Freddie Yates Superhero Challenges over on the Usborne YouTube site. In fact, I think you are probably all Superheroes and no Superhero I ever heard of got anywhere sitting around doing nothing in their underpants.

Mind you, there’s always a first time for everything, maybe there will be a Captain Sit-Around-In-Your-Underpants who saves the world. And in that case, you should definitely do the design your own underpants challenge, because even slovenly superheroes should be stylish. 

So off you go…over to YouTube…yes, I  mean now.  No time like the present.

The link to the Freddie Yates Superhero Challenges over on the Usborne YouTube site is:

This is THE most wonderful, action-packed and exciting adventure:  heart-warming and hilarious with three adorable young boys who have such a gorgeous, genuine relationship.  I absolutely loved going on their laugh-out-loud adventure through Wales!  From the many moments of sheer comic genius to heartfelt revelations, this really is a brilliant story that captured me from the opening and left me sighing with contentment and smiling rather broadly – and just maybe ever so slightly tearful – in a good way! You can read the rest of my review HERE.

Make sure you follow the rest of the Virtual Tour on Usborne’s YouTube channel:

And do drop by with these other brilliant bloggers for their stops on the Blog Tour:

The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency

This was a truly mesmerising, magical read which drew me into brilliantly imagined worlds with two wonderful protagonists whose relationship felt genuine and realistic.  The sense of wonder, the intricate magical system and the pervading threat of danger enthralled me … I’m already eager to continue the adventure!

Twelve-year-old Flick Hudson has moved to Little Wyverns where it does not take her long to find the rather incredible Strangeworlds Travel Agency which does not have any of the usual accoutrements of a travel agency, but does have a large selection of suitcases … and the utterly, utterly brilliant Jonathan Mercator!  Flick has a natural curiosity and a desire to explore, so it is no surprise that she is drawn to the Agency but, once inside, she makes an incredible discovery … a discovery that leads to her acceptance into The Strangeworlds Society, and the beginning of an adventure that will change her life …

Flick discovers that she has a magical ability that allows her to use the suitcases in the custodianship of Jonathan to travel to other worlds in the multiverse.  Just imagine stepping into a suitcase and arriving in another world.  The world-building is superb, and I absolutely delighted in these richly described magical worlds, each of which is unique from The Crystal Forest to the Coral City to the City of Five Lights. 

Alongside the awe engendered by these worlds, there is also a timely and relevant warning to care for and respect these worlds.  The consequences of not doing so have placed one of the worlds, the City of Five Lights, in grave danger, a danger that may well have disastrous consequences not only for that world but also other worlds in the multiverse, including our own.

Jonathan takes Flick to Five Lights on his own agenda but, once there, they find themselves drawn into a dangerous mission to save the City from collapse… a mission which requires ingenuity, courage and trust.

I adored both Flick and Jonathan, and the development of their friendship which felt really authentic.  Both have to deal with a lot of responsibility:  Flick has lots of housework and looks after her younger brother to help out her busy parents, and Jonathan has had to take on the custodianship of the Travel Agency.  Flick is courageous, kind-hearted and empathetic.  I loved her strong sense of fairness, her directness and her strength in standing up for herself when she needs to.   Jonathan has an acerbic wit, a penchant for detail and is a stickler for rules.  He is also lonely, dealing with loss and in desperate need of a friend. My heart really went out to both of them, and I am so glad they found each other, and that they learn the true value of friendship … I really hope they have more amazing adventures through The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency.      

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.   

#MGTakesOnThursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too! Thank you to those who have already taken part – I loved reading your posts and appreciate that you took the time to give this a go.

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 Nicola Penfold
Cover Image: Kate Forrester
Published by Stripes Publishing

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I see his [Bear] tousle of hair lifted up, triumphant – black against her [Annie Rose] beautiful silver-grey.

This book in three words:

FAMILY, ENVIRONMENT, COURAGE

I was lucky enough to be approved to read an early review copy of Where the World Turns Wild by the Publisher via NetGalley. As soon as it was published, I bought copies for our school library as I knew it would be one the children would love and really connect with.

This is an incredibly powerful dystopian story following two amazing young siblings, Bear and Juniper, as they travel into the Wild in an attempt to save themselves and be reunited with their parents.

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

Here’s a link to my full review: Where the World Turns Wild 

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

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.       What are you currently reading?

2.       What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m just about to start The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle. I’ve heard lots of good things about this, so I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve read three books this week. The Vanishing Trick was just brilliant – a dark, magical tale which fascinated me. I also enjoyed a short historical novella, Black Water which is based on a real smuggling event in Scotland which involved Robert Burns. I also read The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods which was amazing! Another very clever dark tale with some wonderfully eccentric characters and a great fairy tale link.

I have been sent a digital copy of Elsetime by Eve McDonnell to review. This will be released later in the year. It’s a time travel story which I’m really looking forward to as reading the first page has definitely captured my interest!

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

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!

It wasn’t a sin to steal if you only took forgotten things. Leander had been watching the ugly mutton pie in the bakery window for hours. It was lopsided and slightly squashed. All day customers had ignored it in favour of plump loaves, golden apple pies and sugar-sprinkled shortbread. The pie was left alone, unwanted and forgotten. Leander knew how that felt.

Any ideas?

This is my current read, and I’m loving it – think it might be a late reading night!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Madame Augustina Pinchbeck travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look. Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will. When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

#MGTakesOnThursday

This is the second week for my new weekly feature celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too! Thank you to those who have already taken part – I loved reading your posts and appreciate that you took the time to give this a go.

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 Jennifer Killick
Cover Design: Anne Glenn
Published by Firefly Press

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I press my face to the glass again, so hot it almost burns my skin, at the same time as a bloody hand thumps against the window from the other side.

This book in three words:

CREEPY, FUNNY, ACTION-PACKED

I had pre-ordered a copy of Crater Lake from the publisher Firefly Press who are an independent children’s and YA publisher based in Wales whose books I am loving! I absolutely devoured the fantastic Crater Lake when it arrived! I will definitely be getting copies of this for our school library as I think it will be a huge hit with the children.

The Year 6 children of Montmorency School are the first students to stay at the newly opened Crater Lake Activity Centre.  Even before arriving at the Centre, events take a sinister turn as their bus is stopped by the figure of a bloodstained man and, on arrival, Digger, the Centre Manager, does not provide them with the welcome they were expecting.  From this point on, the creepiness and fright levels keep on escalating as Lance and his friends find themselves on a daring mission to save themselves and their classmates from a frightening enemy.

Crater Lake is a perfect blend of jump-inducing scariness, brilliant characters and fast-paced action laced with a good dollop of humour and warmth!  It kept me gripped and on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

Here’s a link to my full review: Crater Lake.

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

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.       What are you currently reading?

2.       What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m just about to start The Vanishing Trick which I have been approved to read by the publisher via NetGalley. This sounds like it will be a darker read, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Any attempt at planning my reading seems to have gone out the window! I decided to read a couple of books that I’be had on my TBR pile for a while. The Star Outside my Window is such a powerful, beautiful and sensitively written story that tore at my heart, but I just couldn’t put it down. I also read Dragon Daughter which I enjoyed, but I didn’t love as much as I thought I would. I took part in the Blog Tour for Brittle’s Academy for the Magically Unstable which was a very short, but fun magical read. Finally, I’ve just finished Gargantis which I devoured in a day – the first book I’ve read via PDF as Walker Books approved me to read it via NetGalley but there was no Kindle option! I absolutely loved it – a wonderful return to Eerie-on-Sea for another edge-of-the-seat adventure with the brilliant Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma.

I’m hoping to read The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods next. This one has been on my TBR for far too, long. I’ve just looked at the blurb again – it sounds exactly my kind of book.

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