top ten tuesday

Ten[ish] Books I loved in 2017

2017 has been a stellar year for children’s literature. Picking 10 books was a challenge I was not worthy of, so I have divided my choices into MG and YA. Even then a sneaky extra worked its way onto the YA list. I left one or two off the MG list, but *deleting* an extra impossible.

To narrow the choice further, I decided only to include:

  • novels – there have been some great short story anthologies, but I will give these a seperate post
  • Books with a 2017 publication date


Picking favourites is so subjective, and difficult – are you judging the most literary? Those you enjoyed most? Those which best suit their target audience?  I have called this ‘books I loved in 2017’ rather than ‘favourite books’.  There are still books I could include, but I am pleased with the range of books I settled on, and hope no offence is caused. 

I would like to highlight the number of debut authors on this list. Every book on this list is fantastic, but it is especially encouraging to see that children’s literature is producing new talent.

Thank-you to every author on this list for writing me a wonderland. 


Middle Grade

The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

Kick by Mitch Johnson

Michael’s Spear by Hilton Pashley

Nevermoor – The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr *

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson *

The Amber Pendant [The Rose Muddle Mysteries]  by Imogen White

Letters To The Lighthouse by Emma Carroll 

Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters

Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean


Young Adult 

A Pocketful Of Crows by Joanne Harris

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

A Semi-Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

S.T.A.G.S by MA Bennett

Piglettes by Clemantine Beauvais

The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell

Ink by Alice Broadway *

The Jungle by Pooja Puri*


  • On old blog – link will take you off this site.


What is your top read of 2017? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

10 Wintery Reads



The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club by Alex Bell: frost faires, Snow Queens and pygmy dinosaurs. A group of explorers trek across the snowy Icelands. Will Stella Starflake Pearl survive when she is separated from her group? This year’s tale of wintery magic. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and plan to read it in one sitting with generous helpings of hot chocolate. 


Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig *whispers* I’ve already read this, and it is fantastic. I love Matt Haig’s take on Father Christmas’s home, and the topical themes of fake news and divisive reporting. Sounds serious? Don’t be fooled? There’s plenty of Drimwickery – that’s elvish magic – and Spickle Dancing to keep things light-hearted. 


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black I read the first chapters on ReadersFirst and am now seriously excited to read this book. The twins always knew their sister Vivi was different. They didn’t know she was heir to the elfish throne. Not until the elf king came and killed their mother. Wintery? Holly Black captures the darkness of fairytales perfectly, and I think that is never more atmospheric than in winter.


The Lost Boy by Christina Henry This has been on my shelf since late summer, and lots of my Twitter friends have read it recently. Peter Pan is the ultimate Panto. I think the original story is as good today as it was in the early 1900s, and look forward to reading this origin story for Captain Hook.


Confessions Of An Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire Gregory Maguire was one of my favourite authors in my actual teens. This was my favourite – it crosses the story of Cinderella with the history of the tulips in Amsterdam. 


Barefoot On The Wind by Zoe Marriott One of my favourite reads of 2017. Beauty And The Beast YA style. She’s a rebel who doesn’t want to marry. He lives in the middle of a cursed forest. Beautiful and bold, I love this book on so many levels.


Winter Magic (ed. Abi Elphinstone) A great collection of stories by some of the best children’s authors at work in the UK, this book dragged the seasonal story out of it’s slump (Am I the only one who found winter stories too predictable before Winter Magic?) There is something for everyone here – snow dragons and Victorian frost fairs, haunted kirks buried beneath the snow and magic colouring books. 


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens My GCSE teacher said something about Great Expectations which remains true. If you only remember one fictional character for the rest of your life, it will be Miss Havisham. Try me. Miss Havisham will haunt you. 


Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond The book starts where it ends. Christmas eve, when the children who were believed dead ‘come back to life’ and walk through the town. The most interesting thing is what the text says about story structure, and the role of stories themselves.


The Tailor Of Gloucester My favourite Beatrix Potter. I’ve associated with Christmas since I was knee-high. We had the cartoon recorded (yes, on actual tape), and it ended with a rendition of The Sussex Carol. The story is set one Christmas eve, when a tailor fears he will be ruined because he is too ill to go out and buy silk twist to finish a wedding suit. The resident mice are aware of his plight … 


What are you reading this winter? Any old favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Autumnal Covers


Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is autumnal covers. 

Autumn in all its colours. Orange and red and black and purple and blue. Not so obvious, the last three, until you think of crisp skies and crows feathers. Autumn is my favourite season, but it also my favourite publishing season. Summer relationships and sparkling seas? Over like a dropped ice-cream cone. It’s all about bonfires and sorcery and long dark nights indoors with a book. 

Here are some of my favourite autumnal covers of 2017. Regular readers have heard about some of the books so many times, that instead of a round-up as such, I will focus only on the covers. 

Images go top to bottom for each row. breakbirdThe Invincibles And The Beasts Of Bramble Wood by Caryl Hart. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton: autumn begins with blackberry picking, so I was sold on this one from the title. I love how the traditional Halloween black-and-orange is broken with splashes of bright green. It looks spooky in a really cosy way, just scary enough for a middle-grade audience. 


Hide And Seek by Anthony Browne: This is the most sophisticated, beautiful autumn you have seen, and the most beautifully observed. This book shows how quickly a child in the woods goes between joy at a game, and fear at being ‘alone’ in such a large outdoor space. At the strange noises, and things which look like they might be other than they are. Read my review here


Vlad The World’s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson Another spooky-but-safe middle-grade read. Vlad’s cartoon style face is ridiculously cute, while the spindly trees hint and bats hint at some spooks and scares.


Curse Of The Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestly More Halloween, more orange. Literally more orange. This must be the most orange cover I have ever seen, but look how spooky those ghoulish faces are against it’s backdrop. 


The Wizards Of Once by Cressida Cowell. Exactly how beautiful is this, with its purple cover and the lettering like it was burnt in by a sparkler or a wand? The crow in the centre is intriguing. I know wizards and warriors feature in this story, but crows? What is the connection? 


A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris I love the gold border. It reminds me of a historical tapestry. The crows here look as if they are coming in to attack. 


Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend And did I mention, it is divine? I can’t stop raving about this book. Morrigan looks like Madeline in negative. It is almost, but not quite, cartoonish, and I love the burst of light around the lettering, as Morrigan has burst out of nowhere. Read my review here. 


The Rise Of Wolves by Kerr Thompson A touch autumnal, a touch wintery, I love the detail. The smoking chimney pot suggests a cosy retreat, while the gathering wolves hint at something deeper going on. 


Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling How divine is this cover? It hints at hedge magic, gypsy magic, with the dried flowers and the detail of the crow’s earring. I love the palette. It manages to be a bold colour with a subtle palete, and I think that is quite special. 


Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann This manages to be autumnal with very few splashes of orange, and I think it is a truer representation of the outdoors as we see it. For all the leaves that turn, there are plenty of evergreens and wheat, not to mention the fact the leaves don’t turn at once like someone turned on the Technicolour. Love the texture and brush-stokes, something which adds to the realistic effect.


Do you have any favourite covers this autumn? Any all time favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Characters In Touch With Worlds Within This World

I love stories which feature hidden worlds. Worlds within this world. Blame Hagrid. Since I first took a trip down Diagon Alley with Hagrid and Harry, I have loved the idea that more than one world can exist within the same physical space. The most magic moment for me is when Hagrid taps that brick wall. An everyday ordinary object, made extraordinary by the secret it conceals.

Every protagonist visits a new world, at least figuratively speaking. A new experience changes their flawed point of view. When that new world is magical, it  plays up the truth of new experiences around the corner. 

Here are ten stories I’ve really enjoyed. Ten worlds I have loved.  


A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson 

9781509832460a20girl20called20owl_jpg_264_400A favourite Middle Grade read of 2017. Owl has always made ice appear from her fingertips. When she learns who her father is, she sets out into a world where the seasons are controlled by a council of leaders, and brought into being by magic. 


In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll 

Alice’s brother needs a heart transplant. Alice is packed off to stay with her Grandmother Nell. Alice meets a girl nobody has heard of. Flo shows her the secrets of Darkling Wood, 51cmvnmhp1l-_sx324_bo1204203200_the wood Nell wants to have chopped down. I am so due a reread. With Carroll’s next novel out in January, a cosy week in rereading her novels sounds like a very happy way to spend Christmas.


The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison

512l4djyrhl-_ac_us218_I love, love and triple love Harrison’s work. Tanya is always in trouble, but it’s not her fault the fairies stalk her. Sent to stay with her Grandmother, Tanya explores the woods, and starts to uncover the secrets hidden in her Grandmother’s past. Harrison’s faeries are descended straight from folklore. Divine.


Gabriel’s Clock by Hilton Pashley

Half-Angel, Half-Daemon Jonathan is in danger. Attacked in the middle of the night by strange monsters, Jonathan is sent to his Grandfather in the magical village of Hobbes End. The final part of the Hobbes End trilogy is out this autumn, 515gsdoi4kl-_ac_us218_and I can’t wait. This was a real favourite when I worked as a bookseller, and I can’t wait to tell people all about it. Look out for my spot on the blog tour in November. 


The Rose Muddle Mysteries by Imogen White 

Another favourite Middle Grade read this year. Rose has never had a family, so imagine rosemuddleher surprise when a wealthy lady gives her a locket to try on and says she is a long lost descendant. The only trouble is the dark shadows Rose saw when she tried the locket on, and the immediate murder of her benefactor. This is a great new series, set in a world reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, with added folklore. Brill. 


Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke 

Meggie’s father can read characters out of books. The only trouble is, they don’t always 51zunfb4-ml-_ac_us218_want to be let back in. Every character has their own agenda. A well known series, which highlights that books really do take us into whole new worlds. 


Ned’s Circus Of Marvels by Justin Fisher 

x293Ned has always thought of himself as ordinary. Average. Pretty boring. Then he learns about the veil which divides our world from a magical one, the circus which acts a front to keep dangerous magical beings from attacking the human world, and the people who would destroy the veil. Totally action packed, totally pacy, I loved the unique world and the idea of engineering as a form of magic. 


The Dream Snatcher by Abi Elphinstone 

Earth magic has always existed. Moll Pecksniff lives with a tribe of gypsies, who arethe-dreamsnatcher-9781471122682_lg among the last people to be in touch with it. The Witch Doctor Skull would destory the old magic, and turn the world over to darkness. Moll has a special ability, one which she inherited from her parents. It might help her save the old magic. I love Moll. She’s headstrong, but her heart is in the right place and she is brave. Also love her wild cat Gryff. 


The Boy Who Went Magic by A. P. Winter 

There’s no such thing as magic … everyone says so, except Bert accidentally activates a wentmagic


magical mirror, and learns the princes plans. I love this book. It has airships and pirates, magical mirrors and hidden lands. 

Read my Review for more info.



Bad Dreams by Anne Fine 9780440864240-uk-300

Mel likes to be left alone. She lives through the books she reads. Then her class teacher puts her in charge on new girl Imogen. That’s fine, Mel reasons. Imogen can sit with her in the library. The only problem is, Imogen can’t so much as touch a book without yelping in pain. I LOVE this book. I loved it as a child, and reread it often alongside Charm School. 


Are there any worlds within this world that you love? Do you have a TTT link? Post in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Seasonal Picks



Having written about some of the releases I am looking forward to recently, I thought it would be fun to focus my list for Top Ten Tuesday, the fantastic meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. The books on this list are from my TBR pile, but they are particularly seasonal books. 

I’m sure people do read about warm beaches in the middle of winter, but we all know there is something about autumn which makes us reach for stories about witches and ghouls and forest witches. I know it, you know it, and humanity has known it for centuries. All that Samhain, stuff. Imagination starts with what we see around us, and what we see at this time of year is darkness closing in, and the end of the life-cycle.

Winter fiction used to be predictable, if you ask me, but recently it has come into its own. Last year’s Winter Magic anthology was sublime, and some of the contributors have seasonal stories published separately this year. 


Whenever I click my thumbs



Vlad the World’s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson – Vlad is a shy vampire, who wants to fit in at human school. How will he keep his identity a secret? As well as being a great read for Halloween, the September release ties in nicely for little vampires off to a new school, or worried about a return to school after the freedom of the summer hols. 

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestly – Priestly has a reputation for the dark and ghoulish. This is the start of a new series for MG readers called Maudlin towers, about a pair of detectives at a spectacularly creepy school. A ghost in the attic? A bunch of crazed Vikings? What starts with a hum-drum case of a missing school spoon leads to adventure, as secrets come creeping out of the dark. 

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell – A boy wizard and a girl warrior have been taught to hate each other from birth. The hugely anticipated first in a new series from How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell looks like one to read by firelight. 

The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders – There’s a place where broken toys go, the Land of Neverendings, where they live on past their life on Earth. One day, the door between the worlds is left open. An exploration of grief from the magical Kate Saunders. 

A Pocketful Of Crows by Joanne Harris – Love drew her into the human world, the world of tamed things. Only revenge will set her free. Based on the words of Child Ballad 295, this is a story of folklore and nature, love and revenge. 


When the Frost Lay Round About


Wish Upon A Snowflake (various) – After the huge success of last year’s middle grade anthology, Winter Magic, it is lovely to see another anthology, especially one geared towards younger middle grade readers. This offering from Stripes Publishing includes offerings from authors including Jeanne Willis, Holly Webb and Linda Chapman

A Kitten Called Holly by Helen Peters – Evie’s Ghost was a favourite spring release, and I have just finished The Secret Henhouse Theatre. Peters writes beautiful coutryside settings, and I am pleased to see her name on the Christmas fiction list. 

The Polar Bear Explorers Club by Alex Bell – regualr readers of my blog know how much I am looking forward to this enchanted wonderland of a story. I practically have a count-down set. 

The Snow Angel by Lauren St John – Did it say TBR. I cheat. Another which regualr readers are now familiar with, but I can’t stress enough how much of a heart this story has. Did I say frost? Maybe in the Highland setting of the second half, but the first part of the story is set in Kenya. This story will have you reaching for the tissues, and believing there is hope in every situation. 

Prisoner of Ice And Snow by Ruth Lauren – One which my friend Amy assures me is outstanding. Valor gets herself thrown into terrible fortress of Demidova in order to break her little sister out. 

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Waiting for Your Hogwarts Letter

When the Harry Potter anniversary rolled around, there was a great cartoon about how we’re all still waiting for our Hogwarts letter. It’s going to be pretty awkward when a bunch of people either side of 30 turn up. Aside from the fact we’ll be the same age as the Professors, we’ll come with our boring adult-life problems in tow. This student needs to sort childcare, that student is behind on rent because she bought a Firebolt. 

Still, we check the doormats every August. It’s like banging on the back of a wardrobe. It’s a fictional rite of passage.

Not every fictional school sounds as (excuse me) magical as Hogwarts. I’ve divided my list – five schools I wouldn’t want to attend, and five which are dream worthy. It’s worth noting three of my dream worthy schools aren’t conventional schools. As someone with an unconventional educational background, I want to highlight that there is more than one way to get an education. 




Rookwood School (Scarlett and Ivy) – stuffed sausage dogs, strange happenings and a sadistic headteacher.  


School in MOTHERLAND (Maggot Moon) – No space for the dreamers. The teachers say what the government tell them to say. You’d better say the same things, or you’ll be caned. 


St Aidan the Great (STAGS) – forget a silver spoon. Unless you’re part of the aristocracy, you’ll have a miserable time here. And possibly be hunted. You have been warned. 


Hangar’s Hight (Secret Heart) – The Circus has come to town. Let’s protest against it’s inhumanity… without learning what kind of circus it is. 


Oneiros School (The Boy Who Went Magic) – There’s no magic. The government says so. If you dare to believe in magic or adventure, you’ll be bullied. 


A Dream Education:


Hogwarts (Guess which book) – so it probably breaks a hundred health and safety rules an hour, but you know which house you’re in, and you know whether you’re taking an owl or a cat or a toad. 


School at Furlongs (School for Skylarks) – Lyla is forced to move in with her eccentric Aunt Ada during the war. Furlongs is ginormus, full of animals and under the care of a devoted butler. It’s straight out of kid-lit. Lyla’s not amused, so she offers Furlongs to the War Office. If the house is full of soldiers, Lyla will have to go home. She never dreamed the War Office might send school girls. Lyla’s never been to school…

When the headteacher goes home due to personal circumstances, Aunt Ada takes charge. This is the kind of Un-School which probably wouldn’t function in real life, but is great fun to think about. 


Circus Mirandus –  Dropping out of the world to learn magic tricks is an education, right? 


On Board Peggy Sue (Kensuke’s Kingdom) –  I’m betting Michael got a great education, sailing around the world, though I’d love to know who signed that permission note. 


My Name is Mina  – Mina is taken out of school, and teaches herself. Her education comprises of blackbirds and drawing and William Blake. 


Which fictional education would you choose? Can you think of any fictional schools which sound like a nightmare? How long have you waited for your Hogwarts letter? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday – 27.06.2017

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a quickie. The theme is ‘Best Books You’ve Read in 2017 so Far’. ‘Best’ is a broad word. I have chosen ten middle grade books I have enjoyed reading. Click on the title to read my review. Please note – some of these reviews are on blogspot, where I started my blogging adventure in February. As this is a reflection on the year so far, I have made a second list of ten things I have most enjoyed about joining the blogging community. 

Top to bottom, Left to Right – 


Ten Things I love about blogging –

  •  I make notes as I read, to offer my blog readers some critical analysis. This has taught me about fiction and improved my own writing. 
  • I have explored new genres, contemporary fiction especially. 
  • Connecting with other newbie bloggers. Shout out to – Amy and Charlotte. Their blogs are great, and we share advice and experience, saving each other time. 
  • Networking with authors on Twitter. Emerging and established authors can be generous with their time and experience. It is my ambition to publish a novel. It makes sense to listen to people who have already done so. 
  • *Whispers* Free Books. Some people shrug this off. I’m not in it for freebies. My degree is in literature, I’ve read since I was a dot. I started the blog to network with other readers. Nevertheless, freebies have given me access to titles I would never have thought of reading otherwise. When I enjoy these titles, my reading preferences grow. 
  • Interaction with Gen-Z. It is the first time I’ve interacted with Gen-Z. I’ve spoken to young people ready to stand up for their rights, and it gives me hope. I have also learnt that Gen-Z rely on visual communication in a way I have never done. Gen-Z is about to hit the workplace. Learn how they communicate and incorporate it into your repertoire.
  • I have learnt to write for clarity. 
  • I am on top of news and new releases in a way I could only have dreamed of when I worked in a bookshop. If I was good at it then, I’ve taken it to a whole new level. By a book’s release date, I might have known about it so long it feels it has been around ‘a while’. 
  • Connecting with people all around the world. Where are you? Shout out in the comments below. 
  • My project management skills are slowly improving. I’m getting good with that ‘schedule’ button.