CLEVER CAKES – Michael Rosen, Ashley King

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RELEASED: 15/03/2020
PUBLISHER: Barrington Stoke
GENRE: Young Reader, Fairy Tale, Dyslexia Friendly

It pays to be able to think on your feet, especially if you’re about to be eaten alive or cheated out of a valuable prize! And in these hilarious comical adventures by storytelling legend Michael Rosen, two clever kids are more than a match for a hungry grizzly bear and a bored and arrogant king! Read along as two super-smart kids triumph in these perfectly packaged fairy tales with a twist …

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ashley King’s illustrations, so of course when I was offered a copy of this book I immediately said yes please! His style of illustrating goes hand in hand with fairy tales and adventures, and coupled with Michael Rosen’s storytelling it makes for a very enjoyable little book!

Clever Cakes has two stories that are engaging and full of fun whilst having that style of a fairy tale that keeps you reading. I think it’s one of the best Little Gems books that I’ve read; it’s bold and makes you want to read. I’d highly recommend it for fans of Michael and Ashley, and it’s a brilliant choice for a Barrington Stoke book to keep younger readers entertained at storytime!


Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for my copy of this book!

 

VIPER – Bex Hogan

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RELEASED: 18/04/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy

Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father.

An immersive and swashbuckling new fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo.

He will make me a killer.
Or he will have me killed.
That is my destiny.

Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He’s the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne’s father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves – and perhaps even her life?

A brave heroine. An impossible dilemma. An epic new fantasy trilogy set on the high seas.

I am writing this review as I sit here with a massive book hangover thanks to Viper! I can’t believe that, despite owning this book for a year, I hadn’t read it up until now, but seeing as book two has recently come out and other bloggers have been raving about this series I thought I really ought to make the time to read it. And my god am I glad that I did!

I’ve discovered a new favourite YA fantasy series and I am hungry for more!

I’ll start by saying the two words that persuaded me to push this to the top of my reading list – Pirates and Assassins. The two types of characters in a good YA fantasy that tend to make for good reading. And Viper didn’t disappoint. Full of a vast array of characters from all walks of life, the good, the bad and everything in between, there’s so much to make you want to keep reading, and you want to know how the characters are going to turn out because this book is full of intrigue and twists and you just don’t know how things are going to end up!

The plot is gripping and makes you want to turn every page, right up until the end. Bex’s writing is just so easy to get lost in and the world really comes to life without it being overly descriptive. I was very impressed with how the world and story was built up despite it not being a massively long book and this is what makes it so much more engaging! I just loved everything about it!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and am so so glad that I finally picked it up! Perfect for fans of To Kill a Kingdom and Throne of Glass, Viper is the start of a fantastic trilogy and I can’t wait to voyage on!

 

THE VANISHING TRICK – Jenni Spangler

85013958_558194888111480_8739870807997536830_n5/5

RELEASED: 30/04/2020
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
GENRE: Middle Grade, Magical Realism, Mystery

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…

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…

Without a doubt, this is one of the most spine-tingling, gripping middle-grade books that I have ever read, and it’s one that I’d urge all fans of a good mysterious and eerie tale to read!

I knew that I’d enjoy The Vanishing Trick; it sounded right up my street. However, what I didn’t expect was for it to be a no-hesitation 5* read that would stay with me for weeks afterwards. I really struggled to want to read anything else straight after reading this because it was THAT GOOD. It very much reminded me of the books I’d read when I was younger, set in Victorian-esque eras, full of magic and intrigue, and for this it really felt like home to be reading it!

The writing is exquisite; it’s atmospheric and realistic. The characters jump off the page and were really fun to get to know. A special mention has to be made to Madame Pinchbeck, who is such a dark character and wonderfully crafted. As a fellow book blogger suggested on Twitter, she’s very much like Tangled’s Mother Gothel and I couldn’t agree more!

I can’t wait to get a finished copy so I can see the illustrations too; from what I’m seeing being released in the run up to publication, Chris Mould has done a stellar job bringing this cast of characters to life!


Thank you to Simon & Schuster via NetGalley for the eBook of this title!

GARGANTIS – Thomas Taylor

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RELEASED: 07/05/2020
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Magical Realism, Middle Grade

There’s a storm raging in Eerie-on-Sea. Has the mighty Gargantis come back from the deep…?

When an ancient bottle is found washed up on the beach after a ferocious electrical storm, all the residents of Eerie-on-Sea seem to want it … but should they in fact fear it? Legend has it that the bottle contains an extraordinary secret that spells doom for the whole of Eerie-on-Sea. Could it be true that the vast sea creature Gargantis has awoken from her slumbers, and is causing the large cracks that are appearing all across the town? Finding themselves entrusted with the bottle, Herbie and Violet discover they will need to ride the terrible storm and pacify the creature if they want to save Eerie-on-Sea from sliding into the ocean and being lost for ever.

Malamander was one of my favourite books of last year, and arguably one of my favourite middle grade books of all time! So, Walker announcing that they’ve joined NetGalley and seeing this was one of their first titles on there had me pressing that request button so very quickly!

Gargantis sees us return to Eerie-on-Sea with Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma and you’d think that there are only so many mysteries and adventures to be had in such a small seaside town, but nope! There is another legendary monster to be discovered and with a whole host of characters and twists and turns, Gargantis will have you on the edge of your seat!

Thomas Taylor’s writing is just wonderful and it really draws you in; Herbie as a narrator is loveable and there’s so much character to him. I love how it just flows along and you get totally swept up in the story, just like with Malamander! I am so excited to hear that there is a book three coming…the only downside is having to wait!

I’d highly recommend Gargantis (if you haven’t read Malamander yet, go and read that too!). It’s just one of those books that’s guaranteed to make you want to read; it’s a definite page-turner! Last of all, I apologise for this review being short and sweet; no words can do justice to this series! It’s just one of those that I implore you to read if you love a good children’s adventure/mystery, and I have no doubt that you’ll love it too!


Thank you to Walker via NetGalley for the proof of this title!

LOVE FRANKIE – Jacqueline Wilson

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RELEASED: 30/04/2020
PUBLISHER: Penguin
GENRE: Teen Fiction, Contemporary

Frankie is nearly fourteen and teenage life certainly comes with its ups and downs. Her mum is seriously ill with MS and Frankie can feel herself growing up quickly, no thanks to Sally and her gang of bullies at school.

When Sally turns out to be not-so-mean after all, they strike up a friendship and are suddenly spending all of their time together.

But Frankie starts to wonder whether these feelings she has for Sally are stronger than her other friendships. Might she really be in love?

Frankie doesn’t want Sally to just be her friend. She wants her to be her girlfriend. But does Sally feel the same?

A few days ago I received a very exciting email saying that Penguin had approved my request to read Love Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson! I’ve been a massive fan for YEARS since I first read Glubbslyme and I’ve always been keen to read every one of her books. Admittedly, I’m a bit more old school and haven’t read some of her newer books, but Love Frankie immediately stood out as a fine return to her more teen content (my faves!). So, it didn’t take me long to pick this one up from the time that I received it.

I immediately was hooked; Frankie is such a likeable character and I found that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. I found that the story was a fantastic way to explore all the complex emotions that come with being a teenager, and even as an adult I could really relate to the different characters in the book. There were so many different themes that were touched upon sensitively, there were bright moments and there were tough moments. The main theme of sexuality was handled very well and I particularly liked how the characters were so different in their approach to it – it made it feel very real and showed how people’s reactions can be so different, whether they are the person with those feelings or whether they’re on the outside.

I think it’s so important that books like Love Frankie exist, especially from authors such as Jacqueline Wilson. It’s such an approachable look at growing up, discovering new feelings and diversity. I felt that it really normalised feelings towards the same sex in a way that was approachable and I could imagine quite realistic. I felt that I could relate to the feelings Frankie was facing; first love is first love regardless of gender, and that Jacqueline, as usual, really captured what it’s like to be a teenager and have all these different feelings and emotions and challenges.

I’d highly, highly recommend Love Frankie, particularly to fans of Jacqueline’s teen books such as Kiss and Love Lessons. It made me feel very nostalgic to my early teen years reading those books and I think it’ll introduce a new generation of youngsters to her wonderful books!


Thank you to Penguin via NetGalley for the e-book of this title.

 

Sundays In Bed With…Love Frankie

Good morning! I woke up nice and early…oh the joys…but it does mean that I get to keep myself entertained for a few hours with a good book! Over the past few days I’ve been reading an amazing book and I had about 20% left to read so I couldn’t wait to finish it this morning! Sundays In Bed With… is hosted by Midnight Book Girl.

A few days ago I received a very exciting email saying that Penguin had approved my request to read Love Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson! I’ve been a massive fan for YEARS since I first read Glubbslyme and I’ve always been keen to read every one of her books. Admittedly, I’m a bit more old school and haven’t read some of her newer books, but Love Frankie immediately stood out as a fine return to her more teen content (my faves!). So, it didn’t take me long to pick this one up from the time that I received it.

Frankie is nearly fourteen and teenage life certainly comes with its ups and downs. Her mum is seriously ill with MS and Frankie can feel herself growing up quickly, no thanks to Sally and her gang of bullies at school.

When Sally turns out to be not-so-mean after all, they strike up a friendship and are suddenly spending all of their time together.

But Frankie starts to wonder whether these feelings she has for Sally are stronger than her other friendships. Might she really be in love?

Frankie doesn’t want Sally to just be her friend. She wants her to be her girlfriend. But does Sally feel the same?

I just flew through this book and this morning was the perfect opportunity to finish it! Right up until the end I wasn’t sure how things would work out which kept me hooked as I turned every page!

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Have you read Love Frankie yet or are you looking forward to it coming out?

kayleigh

Top Ten Tuesday: 3rd March 2020

I haven’t done one of these for a while, but these posts are a great way to remember books you’ve read and loved and to really think about different books! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s theme is:

book with single-word titles

  1. Malamander – Thomas Taylor
  2. Cogheart – Peter Bunzl
  3. Caraval – Stephanie Garber
  4. Enchantée – Gita Trelease
  5. Solitaire – Alice Oseman
  6. Matilda – Roald Dahl
  7. Floored – Various
  8. Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly
  9. Entangled – Cat Clarke
  10. Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt

There were surprisingly more YA books for this list than I expected; titles just seem to be getting longer these days so I was pleased to be able to make it to 10 fairly easily! Have you read any of these?

kayleigh

ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER SAID – Yasmin Rahman

all the things we never said4.5/5

RELEASED: 11/07/2019
PUBLISHER: Hot Key
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary

16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’.

Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues. As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living.

It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.

A pact is a pact, after all. In this powerful debut written in three points of view, Yasmin Rahman has created a moving, poignant novel celebrating life. All the Things We Never Said is about friendship, strength and survival.

As soon as I saw a table of this book in a bookshop, I was drawn to it. With a bold cover, I couldn’t resist picking it up, and, when I saw the subject matter, I decided immediately that it was something that I’d be interested in reading. My favourite YA contemporaries are UKYA, based on mental health and very much character driven. All The Things We Never Said screamed all of those.

I was not disappointed at all when I started reading as I found myself drawn in to the stories of the three girls. I loved the author’s note at the beginning which really set the tone for the book, and then as I learnt more about why Mehreen, Olivia and Cara had joined MementoMori I really began to connect and empathise with the characters.

One thing that I did love was how the characters were diverse but it wasn’t the sole focus of the story and it didn’t define the character entirely. Yes, Mehreen’s religion was an important factor, but she was so much more than just that and was such a real character that, despite me being from a totally different background, I could really relate to her. I found it to be the same with all the characters and that was something that I think Yasmin really hit the nail on the head with. (I do hope I’ve phrased all of that correctly!)

The only thing that I personally wasn’t too keen on was the typeface for Olivia’s chapters. I found myself skipping ahead and I didn’t really understand why it was written in such a way! That was the only thing that really hindered my total enjoyment of the book. Nevertheless, I would still highly recommend this book, and I’ve also got the audiobook to love and enjoy as much!

Before I sign off this review, I would just like to highlight that there are a lot of triggers in this book which people who are a bit more vulnerable to those kinds of books may struggle with. Topics touched upon, besides suicide, include self-harm, rape and severe anxiety and depression. I personally was okay with all of these and found that they were handled very sensitively and not in a way that made for uncomfortable reading – I have found books on these topics triggering before but All The Things We Never Said was so well written that I still found enjoyment in the reading experience of this one.

Overall, I would definitely say that it’s worth getting a copy of this book, and of the audiobook, and I can’t wait to see what Yasmin writes next!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Chris Priestley

Chris PriestleyToday I’m here with a very exciting post – I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to interview author/illustrator Chris Priestley to celebrate the release this week of his latest title Seven Ghosts, out with Barrington Stoke.

I’d like to start with a thank you to Chris; I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump for the past couple of months and it’s been a bit of a nightmare to stay engaged with a book! And then I picked up Seven Ghosts and for the first time in a long time I sat and I read and I couldn’t put this book down! I read it a few days ago, and it’s still giving me that warm feeling you get when you read a book that you love. Luckily I have a copy of Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror that for some unknown reason I haven’t read yet, so at least I have another book to look forward to this Halloween!

For those who haven’t had a chance to read Seven Ghosts, how would you sum it up? 

Seven Ghosts is a ghost story – not surprisingly – in which a boy called Jake is joining other winners of a writing competition on a visit to a stately home near where he lives. They are given a tour of the house and are told the stories of the ghosts who have been seen there. Jake is skeptical at first, but becomes more and more agitated by what he sees – or glimpses – on the tour. Something is very wrong, he just knows it. And we get to find out what it is…

71129141_692601324580923_833009393499508500_nSeven Ghosts is one of the best ghost stories that I’ve ever read; it was so cleverly crafted! How do you get your ideas for a ghost story?

Thank you! Ideas come from all over the place – a lifetime of reading and watching films and TV helps of course. I play around with thoughts of what creeps me out and hope that it will creep my reader out too. But location is key for me. I need to see the place I set a ghost story very clearly in my head. Often it is a version of a place – or mix of places – I’ve visited. I’m always thinking ‘Oh this would be a great location for a story’ and the location throws up its own ideas.

That’s actually a really interesting way of going about it! Location is so often overlooked as being a key thing in a book. The location in Seven Ghosts was wonderfully creepy! Do you believe in ghosts?

Not really. That’s not to say I think people who say they’ve seen them are lying. I get told lots of ghost stories of course – stories that are told as true – as anecdotes. I’m fine with that as long as I’m not expected to just take them on face value. Mainly though ghosts just don’t make sense to me. If ghosts exist, why are there not more? We should be tripping over them. If you can trip over a ghost.

I love your illustrations in Seven Ghosts! What medium do you use and why?

More often than not these days, I paint, but for the Seven Ghosts illustrations I used a pen – a Uni Pin Fine Line drawing pen to be precise – and black ink applied with a brush. They took forever to do. I’m very impatient, but I wanted them to have a lot of depth and texture and be really black. I also knew I wanted a little border to hint at old book illustrations. The designer sent me some examples of what she thought I meant and one was amazing Harry Clarke who did wonderful Poe illustrations, so I knew she got what I was talking about straight away (although mine don’t live up to that comparison, I hasten to add).

I think the patience paid off! They really do add depth to the story and give it that old fashioned feel. Do you set out writing with a plan or do your tales develop as you go along?

For these quick read books I do have a plan. There’s not the luxury of time to develop things because the book is only 15K words long. So I find it helps to have a plan, even if you drift from it at various points. Not a detailed one, just one that sets out the order of things and gives some idea of where you need to be in the story by x amount of words.

What’s the best ghost story that you’ve ever read?

That’s too hard. I’ve read so many. I think W W Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw remains one of the most satisfying. Such a great idea but ideas only just the start – then you have to do the idea justice in the way you tell the story. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is a rare example of a ghost story that works as a novel rather than a short story.

Which book did you read most recently?

I’m most of the way through The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers which I’m really enjoying. I tend to have a few books on the go at once – a terrible habit that I can’t recommend because it often means I lose track of where I am.

I think a lot, if not most, of us in the book community can really relate there! There are just so many wonderful books out there that having more than one on the go becomes inevitable! Ghost stories, naturally, are very popular around this time of year! What’s your favourite way to celebrate Halloween?

I actually rarely do anything unless I’m booked to do an event. I don’t feel any great connection with the trick or treating, shop-bought American kind of Halloween. It feels too cuddly to me. I always mean to read a ghost story to anyone who’ll listen, but more often than not, we will try and kind an old school creepy film to watch.

You’ve written a few books for Barrington Stoke. How is writing a scary novella different to writing a full novel?

It’s very different actually. Creepy, Gothic fictions requires a certain slow build up to create the right atmosphere, so that can be a challenge. Language too – finding the right balance with language level. The trick – if that’s the right word – is to try to create the illusion of a slower, creepier pace whilst actually moving quite fast. As films have to do.

Which was your favourite ghost’s tale to tell?

This is always a hard one. I obviously care a lot about Jake because he is my main character and hopefully the reader will care about him too by the end. But I do like the Kingfisher’s story. I’ve written a lot of stories set in the Victorian/Edwardian eras and it was nice to write something set in the 1970s with a very different feel to it. That was the joy of setting all the stories in the same place – being able to set things along the timeline of the house.

Thank you so much to Chris for such interesting answers! I really enjoyed this interview and look forward to picking up more of spooky Chris Priestley books in the near future!

If you haven’t already, I’d highly highly recommend picking up Seven Ghosts and this is the perfect time of year to do so! It’s without a doubt one of my top books this year, and one of, if not my favourite Barrington Stoke title to date!


Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for setting up this Q&A for me, and for sending me a copy of Seven Ghosts!

WWW Wednesday: 16th October 2019

Squeezing in a Blogtober post before it’s been too many days since the last one! I’ve tried to put less pressure on myself this year and am just posting when I can rather than feeling like I have to post every day of the month. It’s working out okay! Anyway, back to today’s post – it’s Wednesday so of course it’s a WWW Wednesday!

What are you currently reading? 

I’m half way through a couple of books, but I’m looking forward to a week off next week where I can really spend time getting stuck in!

What did you recently finish reading?

I had a bad day the other day, so my boyfriend suggested that I have a relaxing bath with a Lush bathbomb and read a book…I chose to read a shorter book and I really enjoyed it! It was the first book in The Big Top Mysteries series by Alexander McCall Smith and it had a lot of Enid Blyton vibes which I loved!

What do you think you’ll read next?

So I may have accidentally bought Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella which means a Shopaholic reread I think!

kayleigh