Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Eye Of The North by Sinéad O’Hart

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Extract:

None of this made any sense to Emmeline, but somehow, the way Pale Face said the word creature, she knew it had to take a capital letter. Every muscle in her body tensed as sh tried to ask a question that she felt, on the whole, she’d rather not know the answer to.

‘What Creature?’ she whispered.

‘What Creature, indeed?’ replied Pale Face.

(The Eye Of the North by Sinéad O’Hart. P89.)

birdSynopsis

Emmeline’s parents have tried to kill her in the past. She is certain of it. They may be eminent scientists, but life with them is a total hazard. Now they have disappeared. Emmeline receives a ship ticket, and instructions to meet her new guardian in Paris. On board the ship she befriends Thing, who stows away on ships and calls them home.

When Dr Bauer kidnaps Emmeline, she learns that her parents are more than scientists. They are part of a secret organisation, and they know all about the mythical creatures hidden in this world. Creatures like the Kraken. One drop of its blood grants the drinker immortal life. Imagine what Dr Bauer could do with immortality, and the Kraken under his control.

He’s not the only one chasing the Kraken. While various parties scheme and plot to awaken it, Emmeline, Thing and the mysterious Order of the White Flower work to stop them. Who knows what will happen if the Kraken awakes?

birdReview:

Airships, secret societies and mythical beasts combine to make a thrilling adventure. My favourite part of this story was the mythical beasts. It is no secret that I like magic and animals, especially in Middle Grade novels, but what I liked particularly here was the significance of the mythical animals in this world. It is impossible to talk about this in huge depth without any spoilers, but the ending left me hoping this would play a huge part in any sequels. If you liked Ned’s Circus Of Marvel’s you will love this. There are magical creatures in this world and they could cause a whole lot more trouble than most people realise.

 

O’Hart creates some vivid characters – her description of the Northwitch was so good I felt I was standing in front of her. My favourite character was Thing. He’s so happy-go-lucky, but memories of his past resurface and challenge his perception of himself. I did hope to learn more about Thing’s past. Perhaps knowing where and who is irrelevant to the story, or perhaps we will learn more in further novels.

 

Sometimes there is more than one perspective. When this combined with a lot of action, I would have liked to follow one character. My advice is roll with it – the reason I wanted to stick with the characters is their storylines were gripping, switching to another character’s narration keeps you in suspense.

 

The ending is cleverly designed to allow for more adventures without making a sequel necessary to book one. This is a complete adventure. Sinead O’Hart clearly has a head full of ideas and I can’t wait to see what else she creates. If you’re looking for a fast-paced wintery adventure, look no further.

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Guest Post · Uncategorized

Guest Post: Dream Christmas Cracker from Layla of Readable Life

laylabannerHello there! It’s Layla here from Readable Life with a guest post specially for blogmas! I had a brainstorm about the different ideas I could make a post about and settled on the idea that Louise gave me – dream cracker contents! Of course, this means that hypothetically I win all of the cracker pulls and keep all of these prizes!birdDream Cracker Contents

  1. Book voucher – Wouldn’t that be amazing? To pull a cracker and ta-dah! Book cropped-homepage_free_stuff_pod_resized.jpgvoucher! Especially if you’ve had your eye on a book and know EXACTLY what to spend it on.
  2. Chocolate buttons – Yes please! A shower of chocolate buttons to pop out of the cracker! So much better than a tiny sewing kit…
  3. Mini bath bombs – This would just be such a neat little idea! Mini Christmas themed bath bombs, all with different scents! That would be an absolute dream, plus imagine how pretty they’d look.
  4. Paper Santa hats – instead of paper crowns, how awesome would paper Santa hats be? With puffy paper pom-poms at the end with bells in them? I’m liking this idea more and more…
  5. Stickers – Any stickers. Christmassy, halloween, it doesn’t matter. Stickers are so much fun and it’d be nice to have a great big set of them just bursting out of the cracker!
Thank you Layla for your lovely answers. Check out Readable Life for more great content.
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.

Middle Grade Reviews

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

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Extract:

The cat stared sadly after Amelia. ‘I’ll miss you,’ he miaowed. And Amelia stared sadly after the cat. Charles Dickens stayed standing in the street, watching the raggedy, soot-covered, bare-footed orphan girl head off to spend Christmas in the workhouse.

(The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig. P84.)  

birdSynopsis:

Amelia Wishart is trapped in the workhouse. Her mother died last year, and Amelia vowed she wouldn’t see another Christmas in the workhouse. Vowed she would find a way to escape. After a year of being tormented and punished by the horrible Mr Creeper, Amelia has given up hope. Not even Father Christmas has come to her rescue. So much for the magic of Christmas.

Meanwhile, Elfhelm survives a troll attack. Christmas was cancelled once, and Father Christmas is determined it won’t happen again. The Magic is fading. If Christmas is to happen, Father Christmas knows he needs to find Amelia, the girl whose hope once saved Christmas.

A search begins – everyone, from elves and chestnut sellers to Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria helps Father Christmas with his hunt for Amelia.

bird

Review:

This is the second book in Matt Haig’s Christmas series. I seem to be reading them backwards – although the adventures stand alone, and are enjoyable without previous knowledge, you do learn things about previous plots so I would recommend reading in order.

Where Father Christmas And Me was set entirely in/around Elfhelm, The Girl Who Saved Christmas has action in Elfhelm and Dickensian London. Matt Haig is great at building setting with details, and has done a good job of Victorian London. He makes a great contrast between the lives of the wealthy, like Dickens and Mr Creeper, and people experiencing different levels of poverty. I missed the pure Drimwickery – that’s magic – of a whole book set in Elfhelm, but not because London wasn’t done well.

Amelia’s story touches on the issue many children have with Christmas. If Father Christmas is magic, why can’t he do the impossible. In Amelia’s case, she wants her mother’s life to be saved. The resolution has a strong message about emotions, and the real-life magic of happiness – it can’t undo what has happened, but can remind you that the world can and will feel magical again. I like the gentle magic of Drimwickery. It touches on something we all experience in our lives.

As mentioned in my review of Father Christmas And Me, I think Matt Haig and Chris Mould are a strong partnership. The Girl Who Saved Christmas confirmed this. I particularly love the selfie-style illustrations of animals – the reindeer and Amelia’s black cat Captain Soot. It’s lovely to see a middle-grade book with memorable illustrations. This has happened in the past. Narnia would be different without Pauline Baynes, for example, and Dahl without Blake. The fashion changed, and illustrations were largely left out of Middle Grade books. I’m pleased to see them make a comeback. At times I read the illustrations as much as the text, and it was a joyous experience.  

I can’t wait to read book one. A book from Matt Haig looks set to become a Christmas tradition, and I can tell you, it beats Seasonal Dr Who.

Thanks to the lovely people at Canongate who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.

 

 

 

Chat · Q & A

2018 Deubt Author Sophie Anderson – Christmas Cracker Q&A

The House With Chicken Legs is a 2018 debut I am particularly excited about. Inspired by the myth of Baba Yaga, it is set in a house with chicken legs and a mind of it’s own. Everything about it sounds magical. You can read more about why I’m so excited in my Waiting On Wednesday post, where I flagged the book up as one to watch out for. Author Sophie Anderson kindly agreed to tell me about her dream Christmas cracker. Read about the book, then check out her answers!

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About the Book: 

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. The only people Marinka meets are dead, and they disappear when her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides them through The Gate. Marinka wants to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas…

Available from Usborne Publishing

April 2018bird

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Christmas Cracker Q&A:

If you could create a cracker… Would there be a joke inside? What would it be, or what would you have in place?  Miniature books! ‘My Miniature Library’ by Daniela Terrazzini contains thirty tiny books to create; including fairy tales, nonsense rhymes, and nature guides. It looks delightful! (and perfect for anyone making home-made crackers)

 

What sort of hat would you wear? Something sparkly, made of moonbeams and magic.

 

What would you hope to see inside? Even the tiniest book contains infinite magic – so a miniature book would be enough for me!

 

Which fictional character would you pull it with? A House with Chicken Legs of course! Then I would sit on its roof and read us the story, as it danced beneath a star filled sky.

Memoir Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

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Do you spend most of your time indoors? Feel unsettled when your reading time is disturbed? Would you be happy to live your life in the pages of books? All these are signs you might be a bookworm. The happy news is you’re not alone.

Lucy spent her childhood reading, aided by her Dad and chided by her Mum. Here she runs chronologically through her childhood reading, giving us information about books she remembers, reflections of reading and hilarious anecdotes about how people reacted to her book addiction.

 A warm and witty memoir, Bookworm will make you desperate to curl up with a pile of old paperbacks and read. If you needed an excuse, that is …birdMy hobbies include:

  • Reading
  • Amassing books
  • Browsing second hand bookshops
  • Talking about books with my equally bookish friend Christina over afternoon tea/bookshop shelves/Twitter as possible. 

Bookworm is a treat wrapped up in a delight. As a teenager, Lucy Mangan’s column in the Guardian weekend magazine assured me I was not the only person who would rather hide with a second-hand Puffin than socialise. I loved the recurring anecdotes about Lucy’s bookish behaviour, and about her very Northern extended family.

Bookworm works for me on three levels:

  • Discussion of favourite books
  • Memoir
  • Reflections on reading

There is no snobbery. Sometimes these memoirs feel more like a run through of the schools and libraries 100 most approved books than a reflection on genuine childhood reading. As a 9 year-old, for example, I read The Hobbit, and the first part of Lord-of-the-Rings. To say this alone exaggerates my childhood literary tastes, because yes I read Tolkien fairy early, but I went through my Sleepover Club stage the same year. Bookworm shows that young readers enjoy a range of books at different times, and that is healthy.

The memoir is well written. As well as painting a vivid picture of her family, it situates Lucy’s childhood reading in the context of the 1980s. What state was her local library service in? Her school library? Given recent cuts to libraries and school library budgets, these discussions need to be opened, and the first place to start is with how people benefited from them in the past.

Lucy’s reflections stem from her memories, but go deeper into what reading means at different times in our lifes. Reading for solace. Reading to recognise ourselves. To experience adventure, to binge on words and to think more deeply about the world. This is what non-bookworms fail to understand – reading is about so much more than holding a book.

I enjoyed Bookworm because I related to it, and for the wide selection of children’s books discussed. It is an enjoyable memoir, and I hope it will give other people the urge to amass books. 

 

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

March 2018

Square Peg – Penguin Random House

 

Huge thanks to Square Peg for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post

Guest Post – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl

amybannerYou remember Amy from GoldenBooksGirl? Before she asked to take a cracker slot, she had agreed to write a Blogmas Guest Post! Amy has been as busy as Santa’s elves this year. She’s had her own Blogmas planned and in production since *July*. Amy has written about the fictional settings she would like to spend Christmas in. Which characters she would like to meet and which settings she wants to explore. It’s lovely to welcome her back. 

If we could climb into books, this is where Amy would spend Christmas – 

Harry Potter (JK Rowling)- whether with the Weasleys or at Hogwarts, I think I speak for every Harry Potter fan when I say a Wizarding World Christmas would be magical in more ways than one. The food sounds divine, I’m sure there’d be incredible gifts on offer (and I’d gladly accept my Weasley jumper) and the company would be exceptional.

With the Tanberry family (Cathy Cassidy – Chocolate Box Girls series ) – I love the Christmas in Marshmallow Skye; it’s so cosy. And I’d imagine there’d be lots of Chocolate Box goodies to go around (you have no idea how much I wish that business was real…). But even if there weren’t, I think the stockings and gifts and traditions are lovely.

At the Manners household (Geek Girl Series by Holly Smale)- I love Geek Girl, and seeing that I’ve never seen actual Christmas Day in that world, I really want to see their wacky traditions and the sorts of gifts they give! If Lion Boy made an appearance, all the better.

With the Love family (Ally’s World by Karen McCombie) – Ally’s World is a phenomenal series, and I’d love to meet the family full stop, so getting to do it at Christmas would be incredible. They’re madcap, funny and very close-knit, and have some super sweet Christmas traditions judging from Angels, Arguments and a Furry, Merry Christmas. Also, there’d be tons of animals around for cuddles, which is a Christmas essential if you ask me!

With the Beetle Boy cast (Beetle Boy series by MG Leonard) – I’m not sure why, but I feel like those characters together (with the exception of Lucretia Cutter, for obvious reasons!) would have a super fun Christmas day. Here’s hoping in book 3, we might get one…?

Nevermoor (The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend) – I loved the Christmas scenes in Nevermoor! I want to go and see the red/green stand off  and be part of such a special world on a special occasion. I really want to meet all the characters from the book too (especially my ultimate favourite Fenestra, but also Morrigan and her friends and Jupiter North)

Lundinor (Uncommoners Series by Jennifer Bell)- Lundinor, from Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners series, is an exceptional world, and I’d so love to explore the Undermart at Christmas time. I wonder what uncommon goodies I’d find? (I’d like an adorable bell just like Scratch, to start off with…)