OWEN AND THE SOLDIER – Lisa Thompson

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RELEASED: 15/06/2019
PUBLISHER: Barrington Stoke
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Dyslexia Friendly

A crumbling stone soldier sits on a bench in the park. Only Owen understands how important he is. At home, Owen and his mum are struggling and there’s nobody he can talk to. Hidden away in the park, Owen feels free to be himself. When the war-weary soldier is listening, his worries slip away. But nobody else cares about the soldier, and the town council want to tear him down. Owen’s the only one who can save him but can he find the courage to speak up before it’s too late? A touching story of loss and remembrance from Lisa Thompson, the award-winning author of The Goldfish Boy. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+

I knew I’d have to have the tissues ready for this one.

Lisa Thompson is one of the most talented writers in children’s fiction today, and she has a knack for crafting stories that, whilst they cover complex or hard-hitting topics, are delivered in a way that’s accessible and completely unputdownable. The Goldfish Boy is one that for the past two years now I haven’t shut up about, and I look forward to every new book by Lisa. So, I was pretty excited to see that a new novella was coming out this year with Barrington Stoke, and even more excited when I was offered a copy for review!

Barrington Stoke have really upped their game in recent years with a steady stream of dyslexia friendly titles from some of the leading authors in children’s and young adult fiction. However, this year just seems to be on a whole new level! I’m very excited about several of their upcoming books, but the first one to really get my heart racing was this one – Owen and the Soldier.

Owen and the Soldier is a really heartwarming and touching tale that I think everyone will love, and there are so many messages and characters that will resonate with different people. For something so small, it’s full of so much, and what I love about this novella is that it is so accessible to everyone. Lisa is the perfect author to work with Barrington Stoke, and I love that her storytelling is being brought to a new audience as well as adding to the collection of beloved favourites that came before it.


Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of Owen and the Soldier!
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MALAMANDER – Thomas Taylor

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Children’s, Middle Grade, Mystery, Fantasy

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl.

No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up.

And it just got stranger…

This book was a total cover buy; sure it sounded pretty good, but I saw it and I needed it on my bookshelf. That said…

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

I have found a new favourite middle grade book! Malamander is the first book in a long time that I have literally devoured; I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting! I think that I just loved the whole setting of Eerie-on-Sea, the characters, the attention to detail and yet so easy to get lost in style of writing.

Fun fact – Thomas Taylor is the artist behind the original Harry Potter illustrations.

With Malamander, he shows that not only is he a dab hand at art, but also at crafting an incredible world full of mystery and intrigue. Herbert Lemon makes for a brilliant narrator; it’s fun and gripping, and the atmosphere created throughout the book really makes you feel as though you’re there in the story!

I’m quite happy with this review just being a gushy length of text saying how much I loved the book! There are so many twists and turns, and this book really is an experience that I’d hate to even spoil one part of; it’s truly special! My advice is to get yourself a copy as soon as possible, admire the cover, check out the map of Eerie-on-Sea and then settle down for one of the best reads of this year.

On a side note, I’ve now decided that I’d like to work in the Eerie Book Dispensary; I mean, I have a qualification as a dispenser…and I love books…the job’s pretty much mine.

WWW Wednesday: 8th May 2019

Good evening! I’ve had a really good reading week this week; I’ve had a few days off work and have found a few titles that have really caught my imagination and have been ones that I just haven’t been able to put down!


What are you currently reading? 

FINALE! It’s finally in my hands and it’s beautiful! I’ve only had a chance to read about 20 pages so far, and already I’m loving it.

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What did you recently finish reading?

So far this month I’ve read Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly, and I’m so glad that I finally made the time to read this wonderful retelling! I also read Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson which was beautiful, and Malamander by Thomas Taylor. Fun fact – he illustrated the original Harry Potter books!

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’d like to read some more of my new books next – I have a fair few to choose from!

kayleigh

THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY – Sharon Gosling

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Stripes
GENRE: Children’s, Mystery

The Golden Butterfly danced in the air, beautiful and impossible, yet there before their eyes. Then the Magnificent Marko flicked his wand again. There was a shower of sparks, a bang and … the Golden Butterfly vanished. 
It’s 1897 and since the Magnificent Marko dramatically departed the stage, no magician has come close to performing a trick as spectacular as the Golden Butterfly. With her grandfather gone, Luciana feels that the world has lost its wonder. Then the imposing leader of the Grand Society of Magicians appears, searching for something belonging to Marko, and Luciana is drawn into a world of danger and deception. As she battles to protect her grandfather’s greatest legacy, can she distinguish reality from illusion?
A dazzling tale of bravery and friendship in this fast-paced historical adventure for fans of Katherine Woodfine, COGHEART and THE NOWHERE EMPORIUM.

I’m so glad that I got sent this book for review; I’d not heard of it before and it’s now one of my go-to middle grade mystery books. I adored every second of The Golden Butterfly! This is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in recent years.

In The Golden Butterfly, Sharon draws together all the things that make recent middle grade mysteries so special; a strong female lead, an intricate mystery full of twists and turns and a brilliant setting, in this case Victorian England. I was hooked from page one and instantly liked Luciana as a main character. I liked how determined and forward-thinking she is.

I’d love to revisit Luciana and her friends and family and find out what happens next for them. Towards the end of the book, the points about women and their role in society towards the end of the Victorian era make for an interesting discussion and I’d love to see this explored further with these characters, so I’m definitely hoping for a sequel! That said, this is a brilliant standalone that’s fast-paced and gripping and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Thank you to Charlie at Stripes for sending me a copy of this book!

UK vs US Book Covers – Middle Grade Edition!

Hello! I’m here today with a post that’s inspired by one of my favourite Booktubers – Hailey in Bookland. I love watching her UK vs US book cover videos and so wanted to have a go myself! I’ve tried to go for the earliest covers that I’m aware of the book having. First up, middle grade…

Image result for murder is bad manners

US

Image result for murder most unladylike

UK

Murder Most Unladylike/Murder Is Bad Manners – Robin Stevens

I find the US edition a little bit dated compared to the gorgeous and bold UK cover! Plus, the title change…Murder Most Unladylike is much better!

 

 

 

The Goldfish Boy

US

The Goldfish Boy

UK

The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson

I actually really like both of these covers in their own way! The UK one uses colour really well and stands out, but the US one catches the emotion of the story more. Overall though, I’d be more likely to pick up the UK cover.

 

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

US

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

UK

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

UK wins. Title is better, cover is better. It’s just iconic really!

 

 

 

The Eye of the North

US

The Eye of the North

UK

The Eye of the North – Sinéad O’Hart

I definitely prefer the UK edition; it’s absolutely gorgeous and makes you want the book and want to read the book whereas the US one is a bit dated.

 

 

 

The Diamond of Drury Lane (A Cat Royal Adventure)

US

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UK

The Diamond of Drury Lane – Julia Golding

Photos don’t do the UK edition justice; it’s the most gorgeous little hardback! I think the US edition looks a bit too much like a TV tie-in edition for my liking.

 

 

Children of the Red King #1: Midnight for Charlie Bone

US

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UK

Midnight for Charlie Bone – Jenny Nimmo

SHINY! The UK edition is lovely and has this magical shimmer to it…the US edition, however, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, looks very dated! UK wins.

 

 

 

Reflection: A Twisted Tale

US

Mulan: Reflection (Twisted Tales 416 Disney)

UK

Reflection – Elizabeth Lim

Whilst I do love the UK covers for the Twisted Tales series, I’m actually going to give the US their first win for this post; I love their covers even more!

 

 

 

BadBeginning.jpg

US

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

UK

The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket

And we’re back to chosing UK covers to win; the bright contrast of the colours against the black for A Series of Unfortunate Events looks amazing, whereas the US covers are just a bit dull and old-fashioned.

 

 

The Great Good Thing

US

The Great Good Thing

UK

The Great Good Thing – Roderick Townley

What is that US cover? It’s AWFUL! The UK one, whilst not as inviting as it could be, is beautiful and at least makes you want to read the book!

 

 

 

And that concludes my first UK vs US post! It was really fun to do – I’d definitely say that UK publishers make their books more appealing to me! Would you agree or disagree with my winners?

kayleigh

A GIRL CALLED JUSTICE – Elly Griffiths

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Middle Grade, Mystery

Missing maids, suspicious teachers and a snow storm to die for… For a fearless girl called Justice Jones, super-smart super-sleuth, it’s just the start of a spine-tingling first term at Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. For fans of Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine and Enid Blyton.

When Justice’s mother dies, her father packs her off to Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. He’s a barrister – specialising in murder trials – and he’s just too busy to look after her alone.

Having previously been home-schooled, the transition is a shock. Can it really be the case that blondes rule the corridors? Are all uniforms such a charming shade of brown? And do schools normally hide dangerous secrets about the murder of a chamber maid?

Justice takes it upon herself to uncover the truth. (Mainly about the murder, but perhaps she can figure out her new nemesis – the angelic Rose – at the same time.) But when a storm cuts the school off from the real world, the body count starts to rise and Justice realises she’ll need help from her new friends if she’s going to find the killer before it’s too late …

I knew, as soon as I read the synopsis for this book, that it would be right up my street and a book that I’d love. I’ve always been a massive fan of Enid Blyton, and in recent years it’s been all about Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, so as soon as you mention a middle grade mystery set in a boarding school I’m in!

Luckily, A Girl Called Justice did not disappoint!

From the very first page I was hooked and wanting to know more. Highbury House makes for a very atmospheric setting; it’s clear from the beginning that something is amiss and you’re really sucked into Justice’s world. I was very much reminded of the Murder Most Unladylike series in the way that the story was set out and how you never quite knew who to trust and where the next page would take you.

I’m very excited for more people to get their hands on this book so I have people that I can rave about it with; whilst it was a fairly quick read, it was packed with mystery and intrigue and a host of fascinating characters! I’ve heard wonderful things about Elly’s adult fiction books, and she’s proven with this one that she’s also a dab hand at children’s fiction!


Thank you very much to Hachette for sending me a copy of this title!

THE STAR-SPUN WEB – Sinéad O’Hart

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RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Stripes
GENRE: Middle Grade, Magical Realism

With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…

Sinéad O’Hart stormed into the Middle Grade scene last year with her fantastic debut The Eye of the North, so there were high expectations riding on her second book, The Star-Spun Web. Aside from the fact that Sara Mulvanny and Sophie Bransby have done a stellar job on the cover again (it’s BEAUTIFUL!), this book was just as engaging and enjoyable to read as book one!

50210701_324361354859487_5763330421077364150_nThe Star-Spun Web is a mysterious story full of magic, science and wonder…and, despite my intense dislike of spiders, I actually began to warm to Violet, Tess’ pet spider! It’s a book that I was always excited to get back to reading; I genuinely cared about the characters and was rooting for Tess! As a character, she is one of my favourites I’ve come across in middle grade books; she’s just the right amount of feisty, vulnerable and intelligent. It’s refreshing to have a female character who is so independent and inquisitive. That said, she also relies on other people at the right times, showing how we can think we can do something alone but actually we need other people sometimes to help, whether that’s from our family or friends.

I’m not sure whether this book is going to be a stand-alone; there is a lot of potential for a sequel in this world! I’d love to revisit Tess and all her friends, and discover what happens to the villains of the story too!


Thank you to Leilah at Stripes for sending me a copy of this book!

 

 

BLOG TOUR: THE STAR-SPUN WEB

the star-spun webFINDING HOME

I’m very excited to be the hosting final stop on the blog tour for Sinéad O’Hart’s The Star-Spun Web! The Star-Spun Web is a gripping middle grade book, full of mystery, science and magic (my full review publishes tomorrow!). Today, I’m working with the prompt “Finding Home” for which Sinéad has answered two really important questions:

All the children in this book don’t have a conventional ‘mum-and-dad’ family set-up. There are girls like Millie who work in servitude away from their family, orphans in the care of Ackerbee’s two kind female senior staff, and our main characters in the charge of shadowy, distant guardians.

Is it important to show unconventional families? How important is it that all of these children find a place to call home?

Of course it’s important to show unconventional families; I love that none of the kids has a conventional setup, and I hope I portrayed them effectively. My character Millie, who works in service in Roedeer Lodge many miles from her mother, is based on my own grandmother’s reality: my grandmother was in service from the age of 12 or 13. She was sent to Dublin to work, leaving her family behind in County Laois (in the centre of Ireland). The other kids’ situations are imagined, and I hope the limitations of my own experience (I was raised in a two-parent home) doesn’t cloud my depiction of their reality. I wanted to depict Ackerbee’s as a working children’s home, but without any shade cast by unhappiness or bad management; from the start, Miss Ackerbee and Rebecca love the children they care for and treat them the way children should be treated. You often see ‘bad’ children’s homes in fiction so I wanted this to be different. I also wanted to show that family isn’t always defined as ‘the people you’re born to’; Tess’s found family loves her just as deeply as her birth mum and dad would have.

I come from a very dysfunctional family, and so I’ve always felt that it’s important to show families with all different sorts of set ups in children’s and young adult fiction. For me, a nuclear family is a very odd concept so for me books with two parents tend to form a bit more of an escapism feel. On the other hand, for someone who has grown up with a stable home environment, a character with none or one parent can be an eye opener and provide a different reading experience. That said, I love reading about all kinds of families be they nuclear or dysfunctional and it’s the bonds that are expressed in the book that are important. Found families and friendships are as vital to a character’s development and sense of belonging as blood relations, and I think that books like The Star-Spun Web really do highlight that.

The Star-Spun Web is available now from Stripes Books:

Amazon
Foyles
Waterstones

Check back tomorrow for my review of The Star-Spun Web, and, in the meantime, why not check out the other stops on the tour?

 


Thank you so much to Leilah for having me on the blog tour and for sending me a copy of The Star-Spun Web, and to Sinéad O’Hart for providing me with some really interesting content for this post!

THE BOOKSHOP GIRL – Sylvia Bishop, Ashley King

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RELEASED: 06/04/2017
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
GENRE: Young Reader, Middle Grade, Mystery

This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret … she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

I would happily be abandoned in a cupboard if it meant that I could live in a bookshop, just like Property Jones.

From the fantastic duo Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King (Erica’s Elephant…one of the best books of 2016) comes a brilliant new story full of mystery, fun and, most importantly, books! We meet Property and her family as they leave their little bookshop after winning Montgomery’s Book Emporium, an incredible bookshop full of wonder, but all is not as it seems and soon they encounter a dastardly villain with a cunning plan! It’s up to Property and Gunther the Cat to save the day…but will they be in time?!

Again, Sylvia has created a heroine who you immediately love with a story that captures the imagination from the word go. Her writing style really is engaging and helps the plot to move along at the perfect pace. Coupled with Ashley’s illustrations which capture the characters, story and magic of the Montgomery Book Emporium perfectly (check out page 73…BEST. ANGRY. FISH. EVER.), this really is a story for all ages to love!

 

snailycanflyy Book Award 2018

Last year, I hosted my first snailycanflyy Book Award, where I narrowed down my top books of the year, and after a fab reading year the award is back for 2018! Last year saw some tough competition from some amazing books featuring amazing authors and illustrators with the overall winner being the very worthy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson which still stands out as one of the best books I’ve ever read!

The award is split into three categories – Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade and Best Young Adult, with a winner in each category and an overall winner. The criteria is simply that it has to be a five-star rated book published in 2018 and one that I want to talk about, one that has stuck with me since reading and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. So, without futher ado, here are the category nominees:

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BEST PICTURE BOOK:

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn – Lou Carter, Nikki Dyson
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the FiddleDavid Litchfield
Ruby’s Worry – Tom Percival
Space Tortoise – Ross Montgomery, David Litchfield
The Story Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty Jessica Courtney-Tickle

BEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK:

The Truth PixieMatt Haig
Death in the Spotlight – Robin Stevens
The Eye of the North – Sinead O’Hart
The Light Jar Lisa Thompson
The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart

BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK:

I Was Born For ThisAlice Oseman
To Kill a KingdomAlexandra Christo
LegendaryStephanie Garber
Sunflowers in FebruaryPhyllida Shrimpton
The Exact Opposite of OkayLaura Steven

AND THE WINNERS ARE…drumroll please!

oscar the hungry unicornBEST PICTURE BOOK
Oscar the Hungry Unicorn

death in the spotlightBEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK
Death in the Spotlight

to kill a kingdomBEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK
To Kill a Kingdom

OVERALL WINNER
The Truth Pixie

A massive congratulations and thank you to all of the authors who’s books made it to the shortlist! All of these books are so incredible and I’ve loved reading them in 2018!

kayleigh