Tag Archives: Children’s

My Week In Books. [6]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby. Bloomsbury Childrens.
I liked the way this book throws you right into the action from the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the main character – teen paparazzo Jo – as she tries to get photographs of teen heartthrob Ned. I found that I liked Jo straight away, and then as the book progressed there was more and more to like. When she’s sent undercover to try and get highly private pictures of Ned at a rehab retreat her dilemma over whether she can bring herself to invade his privacy for the amount of money being offered feels genuine and draws the reader in.

I often find books where one character is hiding a pretty big secret from the other really stressful to read. There was a small part of this book that had me feeling a bit stressed but the way the plot is handled and evolves meant that I found myself really enjoying it. There’s a lovely blend of humorous moments and more thoughtful moments, the latter in particular may well leave readers thinking about our current celebrity culture and its cost.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Sourcebooks Fire.
I absolutely loved this book. I expected it would be one that I would really enjoy, I’m a huge sports fan so the idea of a book about a female quarterback trying to lead her high school team to the championship final sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I was hooked within the first chapter and I didn’t put it down until I’d read the final page. The plot is wonderful, yes it’s a story about high school football but it’s also a story about friendship, about love, and about family.

I loved Jordan and found that I could really identify with her, despite the fact I’d never been remotely sporty let alone so entirely sport driven. The various team mates who played significant parts in the book all made me smile, they really came across well as a group of friends who all cared for and supported each other. I found myself wishing I was part of their social circle! I have a feeling that when I’m deciding on my top ten reads of the year this book may well make the cut.

Love at Second Sight by Cathy Hopkins. Simon & Schuster UK.
I hadn’t read anything by Cathy Hopkins before but I knew lovely Liz from My Favourite Books is a big fan so when she offered me a copy of this to read I snapped it up. I have to admit that before I started reading I wasn’t 100% sure about it, the plot surrounds a teen girl being told by a clairvoyant that her true love from a former life is someone she knows in this life so she has a second chance of love with him. I needn’t have been concerned though, the plot is well constructed and really works.

Jo, the main character, is a lovely character. She’s a little bit different to a lot of the girls who get to take centre stage in YA fiction and I found this refreshing. Her friendship with Effy and Tash is lovely, I particularly liked the way that they complemented one another without having to agree on everything. I also liked the focus on genealogy within the plot, it was good to see it described well.

I enjoyed this read so much that I already have my next Cathy Hopkins on reserve at my local library.

Sammy Feral’s Diaries of Weird by Eleanor Hawken. Quercus.
This book is a lovely, quick, funny read that I’m sure middle grade readers will love. Written in diary form this is a really entertaining read about a boy whose family are all turned into werewolves at the zoo they run. After discovering his family’s misfortune Sammy is desperate to find a cure and to get them all back to normal. He’s helped along in his quest by the mysterious Donny and Red, a team of cryptozoologists who arrive at just the right time.

There are plenty of laughs in this book along with some moments that I’m sure the target audience will be appropriately scared by. I think this book has a lot of potential as a read aloud book, I can imagine a group listening very attentively to it. There are plans for a second book in this series, I’m looking forward to it already.

My Week In Books. [4]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Brotherhood of Shades by Dawn Finch. Authonomy.
This book has a really strong plot pulling lots of historical fact into a fantasy plot filled with great tension and intrigue. Within a few pages I realised that this was the sort of book you could really sink your teeth into, it’s intelligent and densely plotted with lots of detail and lots to make you think – I found a couple of times I had to put it down for a while so I could ponder some of the more philosophical discussion. There were times where predictions I’d made about what would happen came true, but the ending of the book took me completely by surprise.

Finch has created a really intriguing cast of characters, I felt particularly drawn to D’Scover, the “Keeper of the Texts” who plays a central role in the book. The whole time that I was reading I felt that information, and knowledge were held in very high esteem within the book, it was a delight to discover when I reached the end, and Finch’s biography to discover she was as I hoped a librarian. This shone through in the book and only added to my enjoyment.

The Falcon Chronicles: Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall. Orion Children’s.
This was a thrilling read from start to finish, I had to stop reading at one point to answer the phone and spent the whole time wondering what was happening whilst I wasn’t reading! Backshall has used knowledge that he’s gained on his travels as a naturalist to create the world of these books making it jump vividly off the page. There’s a clear conservation message running through the book but it never feels preachy or shoehorned it, instead it’s fully part of the plot and will be all the more effective.

I loved the two lead characters, Saker and Sinter, and the way their relationship develops over the course of the book. I really loved that there was no hint of any romantic link between them, this felt very refreshing. As I was reading the book I found myself imagining reading it out loud, I think it would work really well as a class book for most year 5-7 classes – it would certainly keep the children wanting the next chapter, and there’s lots of potential for really good discussions of plot points. I’m really pleased that this is the start of a series, I’ll certainly be picking up the next book.

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. Templar Publishing.
Whilst I’d known of Shaun Tan’s work for a few years now I’d never got round to actually reading any of it. After being introduced to The Arrival at a conference I attended (I’m still sad that only the first 20 pages or so were read, I wanted to listen to the whole story being told) I knew I needed to start catching up with his work and Tales From Outer Suburbia became my first port of call. As soon as I started reading I realised there’s something very special and magical about Shaun Tan, and then realised that in my new review everything approach I was going to have to find a way to talk about this book.

It’s hard to explain why this book is so lovely, and such a magical read. It’s a collection of short stories, they cross genres, they vary in length but they all captivate the imagination. The illustrations that go with the stories are beautiful, I spent ages poring over the detail in some of them. I liked each and every story, though there were of course stories I loved more than others, my favourites included Eric, No Other Country and Alert But Not Alarmed. This is a really lovely book, I know I’ll be recommending it far and wide.

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The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that it’s Tuesday rather than Monday, the weekend was rather hectic and I just didn’t have time to finish this post yesterday. Also I’ve switched to mini reviews as I felt sticking to 100 words was just too constrictive and I was having to leave things out that I really wanted to say.

My Week In Books. [2]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in drabble form – exactly 100 words excluding title and publishing details.

Kill All Enemies by Melvin Burgess. Puffin Books.
This book tells the stories of three troubled teens, the sort of kids a lot of society just dismiss and look down on, and gives them a voice to tell their side of the story. Burgess doesn’t try to excuse the things they do but instead offers an explanation for their behaviour and shows that people aren’t simply good or bad. The teenagers feel very authentic, I could relate their behaviour to a couple of teens I know. This book is funny, poignant and thought provoking and a real page turner, I will be certainly be reading more by Burgess.

Big Change For Stuart by Lissa Evans. Doubleday Children’s.
I loved Small Change For Stuart and was looking forward to reading about Stuart’s next adventure. I wasn’t disappointed, this book is full of magic and mystery as he and April search for his Great-Uncle’s will to prove Stuart is the rightful owner of the magician’s workshop. I liked the way some of the minor characters got a bigger part to play in this book, particularly the other two triplets and Stuart’s dad. I really enjoyed the tasks Stuart had to complete and the worlds they were set in, Evans clearly has a wonderful imagination. A lovely middle grade read.

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean. Katherine Tegen Books
This book, aimed at the 8-12 market, is a deceptive read. Its title suggests it’s going to be a sweet animal story (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but it’s so much more. It focuses on how Cally and her family are adjusting to life without her mother but with the introduction of other characters shows how important it is to look beneath the surface of people. There are some lovely characters, I particularly liked the sensitive way Cally’s grieving father was portrayed and the friendship developed between Cally and Sam. This is definitely a book I’ll be recommending.

Cracks by Caroline Green. Piccadilly Press.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it combines dystopia with thriller really well, both aspects of the plot feel very well balanced. For me the best dystopias are those that you can imagine happening, where you can see how our society could disintegrate to that point, and Cracks definitely ticks this box. This is a fast-paced read, I couldn’t hit the page forward button on my Kindle quickly enough at times. I didn’t always buy how Cal who’d missed the last 12 years and the changes in society accepted this new world, but that was my only niggle with the book.

The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown. Corvus.
I’d put off reading this book for ages, I’d heard it was a beautiful and emotional read and I needed to be in the right frame of mind (and have a good supply of tissues) and it never felt like the right time. I’m really glad I waited, a book like this deserves some proper indulgent reading time. It’s a truly wonderful read, I’m not sure I have the superlatives for it. Steeped in history, filled with the wonderful women of the ATA this book has it all – hard work, friendship, laughter, tears and love. An absolute must read.

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I did also read a few picture books this week but I’ve decided I’ll do a monthly round up of picture books or these posts will end up ridiculously long!

My Week In Books. [1]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in drabble form – exactly 100 words excluding title and publishing details.

Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts. Orion Children’s Books.
Emily Vole makes headline news in the first weeks of her life, when she is found in an abandoned hatbox in Stansted Airport. Then, only a few years later, her neighbour Mrs String dies leaving Emily a mysterious inheritance: an old shop, a small bunch of golden keys and a cat called Fidget. It’s the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime as the old Fairy Detective Agency comes back to life.

This is the first book in a new series, Wings & Co, aimed at young readers. I thought it was a great read, it introduces the characters and the magical version of the world that the book’s set in really well. There’s enough adventure and excitement to balance out the scene setting, I think it’ll capture the imagination of most young readers. I love the illustrations included in the book, they really add to the experience. Emily is a wonderful lead character, I’ll be looking forward to reading about her adventures in the next book. A definite thumbs up from me.

Undone by Cat Clarke. Quercus.
A video appears online. And a boy jumps off a bridge. Jem is determined to avenge the death of Kai – her beloved best friend who was driven to desperation after being ‘outed’ by the popular crew at school. Transforming herself from introverted emo to in-crowd acceptable, Jem becomes part of the clique. She’s going to take down those responsible, one by one. But what if Kai was keeping secrets from Jem? Could her quest for revenge be directed at the wrong people? And can Jem find out what really happened before someone else gets hurt?

I was the lucky winner of Cat Clarke’s ARC giveaway, as soon as it arrived I knew I had to read it next. I read it cover to cover in an afternoon, it’s absolutely gripping and I had to know how it ended. Undone is a story of grief and loss, and of trying to find a way through it – in Jem’s case that’s exacting vengeance. The characters are so real, they’re insecure and self-focused and flawed making them seem to leap off the page. It’s a bold, wonderful book that packs a real emotional punch, a fantastic read.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond. Strange Chemistry.
And finally a little bit of a cheat for the first week, I won’t make a habit of it – I reviewed this book for Book Angel Booktopia. You can read it here.

Why not give a book?

I’ve just been introduced to We Give Books on Twitter by Keris and couldn’t resist writing a quick post about it.

From the site:
We Give Books is a new digital initiative that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading online.

We Give Books combines the joy of reading with the power of helping others, providing a platform for caregivers and educators to inspire children to become lifelong readers and lifelong givers.

We Give Books also helps some of the world’s best, most inspiring, literacy organizations by spreading the word about their great work and by providing books to the young people these organizations support.

It really is that simple. There are currently 150 books to choose from with lots of picture books and some pretty interesting looking non fiction titles too – they’re all pretty quick reads and it’s a great chance to read something a little bit different. So far I’ve enjoyed Why Lion Roars and Many Marvellous Monsters and I think I’ll be taking the opportunity to finally read a couple of classics like Madeline and The Little Engine That Could.

Book Review : Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger.

There are so many exciting things in this book – a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, love, pickle éclairs – that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies’ underwear…

It all starts when M’Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset. As a result of “the Loosening,” all the strict rules around Smugwick Manor are abandoned. Shelves go undusted! Cake is eaten! Lunch is lukewarm! Then, when the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks search for someone to blame. Could the thief really be Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can’t tell a lie?

A colourful and hilarious cast comes together in this entertaining mystery, Tom Angleberger’s loopiest novel yet!

I don’t get to read many books aimed at the 8-12 market (I wish we had a cool term for this age band like the Americans who use Middle Grade) but when I do I tend to find myself thinking that I ought to read more. Most of the titles I’ve read are fun and fast-paced, Horton Halfpott is certainly no exception.

The opening pages are devoted to a map of the area around Smugwick Manor and drawings of the cast of characters. Each chapter also starts with a drawing of one or more characters, I found these entertaining and endearing. The book has 48 short chapters, I was glad there were so many as it meant I got to see so many illustrations.

The book is narrated by an unnamed narrator who breaks the fourth wall time and time again, often with a witty aside. This works well for the plot, it keeps it moving and adds humour to an already entertaining story. I can imagine that this book would work very well if it was read aloud, the way it’s written certainly feels like it would lend itself to this.

The plot is a bit like a child friendly version of an Agatha Christie story. Something mysterious happens, a famous detective is brought in to investigate, more mysterious things happen and then the mystery is solved. The addition of a potential love interest for Horton acts as an entertaining subplot, the two are woven together very well.

The cast of characters are brilliant, there are quite a few but I found I could keep track of who was who pretty easily. A lot of them are caricature-like, but this works well within the style of the book – they’re often outlandish without becoming over written or silly. I couldn’t begin to pick a favourite character, there were just too many that I loved.

Horton Halfpott is a thoroughly entertaining read, I enjoyed every minute of it. Throughout the book other stories about M’Lady Luggertuck are referenced, I do hope that Angleberger goes on to write them.

Horton Halfpott is published in hardback by Amulet Books in the UK priced £9.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.