Category Archives: Children’s literature

Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

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Friday Faceoff – Remember, remember, gunpowder, treason and plot… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is BONFIRE NIGHT, so I’ve selected Secret Seven Fireworks – Book 11 of The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton.

 

This audio CD edition was produced by Hodder Children’s Books in November 1996. I really like this one. The cover is bright and busy, featuring the children looking happy and positive as they gather material for their bonfire night. And while I usually dislike text boxes running through the middle of a cover, this one has a comforting period feel of the original series, which I loved as a child. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in 2006 by Hodder, I love the bright fire against the black cover – this one looks fantastic in thumbnail. However, I am far less impressed at the full-sized effort, given the children are depicted as cartoons… No! This never happened with Blyton’s books other than the Noddy series and her fantasy stories. So while everything else is in place to make this my favourite – this is a dealbreaker for me.

 

This edition, published by Hodder in 2002, is afflicted with two hefty text boxes in Barbie pink – quite what that colour has to do with a Secret Seven adventure, I’m not quite sure. And looking at the cover, you’d think it was all about a small dog rather than a gang of children who enjoy tracking down villains.

 

Produced by Editorial Notícias in 1978, this Portuguese edition is a far more successful effort. I like the fact the children are dressed in clothes from the 1950s and busy collecting material for the bonfire, clearly enjoying themselves. This gives a great period feel to the cover and it is a close contender for my favourite.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Editorial Juventud in 1964, is another attractive cover – I like the cheeky grin on the girl’s face as she turns towards us and the jaunty angle of the famous Enid Blyton signature in red, picking up the girl’s jumper. And the reason why this one isn’t my favourite is the lack of a background. That grey with a few blobs of green is far too bland to successfully evoke this world-famous series. That’s my opinion – but I’d love to know which is your favourite cover.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Unwritten by Tara Gilboy #Brainfluffbookreview #Unwrittenbookreview

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I liked the sound of this children’s adventure and, conscious that I hadn’t read many children’s books this year, I was delighted when I was approved to read and review it.

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe. But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her.

Once again, I’ve abbreviated the rather chatty blurb, but you’ll get the gist that this is about a girl who feels she doesn’t belong. Don’t take the tone of this book from the Disney-looking cover – this book is a lot grittier than the cover design suggests. Gracie’s flashbacks of being in a fire become increasingly upsetting, so when random chance gives her an opportunity to track down the author of the unpublished book containing her story, she takes it.

I like this treatment of the classic portal fantasy trope – it works well. The bewilderment of the well-known author at Gracie’s odd questions and keenness to distance herself from the intense, peculiar girl works really well. Gracie isn’t all that likeable at time – she’s prickly, secretive and prone to lying which is something of a risk, given that children generally prefer a nicer protagonist. However, this is one of the main themes of the book – who is the villain in this story?

There is a lot going on in this thoughtful, well-crafted story. The archetypal wicked queen isn’t as much of a pantomime villain as Gracie first thought. And what about her parents’ behaviour? Her mother’s stubborn refusal to discuss any of the weirdness poor Gracie keeps encountering is at worst selfishly stupid and at best short-sighted; while Gracie’s father opts to stay out of her life. Again, not exactly stepping up to the plate, is he? The adventure deals with some hefty issues with Gracie making an unpleasant discovery about her own role as the royal princess in the story.

As a children’s adventure tale, it has been brought to a satisfactory, reasonably upbeat conclusion. I have found myself thinking a lot about this thought-provoking and intelligently written story that I think would be an ideal book to be read and examined as a class project.

While I obtained an arc of Unwritten from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – The grave’s a fine and private place… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is A HORROR NOVEL, so I’ve selected The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2008. I really like this one – the blue-black background is both effective and attractive and the gravestone is striking. But what stands out is the treatment of both the title and author fonts, which I love. And then they go and RUIN it by plastering that large gold blob right in the centre! Couldn’t it have gone in a corner? Just asking…

 

Published in December 2008 by Bloomsbury, this cover is the exact opposite of the above cover. Rather than going for the minimalist approach, this cover is full of wonderful detail, featuring the two main protagonists scowling out at prospective readers. I could have done without the endorsement by Diana Wynne Jones impinging onto that glorious artwork, but overall I like this one, including the funky title font. This is the cover of the copy we own. The big problem with it is that it doesn’t look good in thumbnail.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Roca Editorial in October 2010. I really like it – the design is  clever, featuring the blade of a knife with the cityscape running along its length and young Bod running along the edge of it. I think it’s attractive and eye-catching – and again the author and title fonts look fabulous. However, the snag for me is that there is no graveyard in this cover, which features so heavily in the book – and the title.

 

Produced by Polaris in September 2008, this Czech cover does feature a graveyard. I like the design and appreciate that the ghosts also feature. However, unfortunately the execution of the otherworldly characters lets down this cover – they look like they’ve been painted onto material and then photoshopped into the cover. It’s such a shame, because I think the idea and the rest of the image is really strong.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai lu in April 2012, is also set in a graveyard and I love it. I think it’s the strongest of all the designs. It sings off the page with the eerie lighting and the silhouetted figure of the small boy against the wrought iron gates of the graveyard looks fabulous. This is mine – but which is your favourite?

Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroBlessingbookreview

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Himself has added this to our towering TBR and given I have a real weakness for school-based adventures, I snagged this one for a recent train journey.

Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers. But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers. If she lives long enough to find it.

Caitlyn is an endearing protagonist. She comes from a magical talented family and is one of triplets. In magical circles, this is regarded as a boon because twins and triplets often have complimentary powers, making them an especially powerful unit – a necessary advantage if the Aguirre family are to keep their position as one of the leading magical families. But while both sisters are extremely gifted, Caitlyn cannot summon a single thing. Not that her parents are prepared to give up and accept the situation. Magic is part of everyday life. Everyone has some sort of magical ability – even the servants and lower orders use magic in their everyday lives. Except Caitlyn.

It means she is at the mercy of her sisters’ pranks and while her parents occasionally step in to prevent her being killed, from the time she is seven, Caitlyn is routinely turned into frogs, dogs and mice, hexed so she behaves in stupid ways, magically frozen, stuck to the floor and even blinded… Of course, it all eventually wears off. But she, with her zero ability, has nothing to fight back with.

Her only recourse is to study as hard as she can, in the hope that eventually, she will grow into her magic, as her father keeps promising. But by the time she is twelve, she has all but given up. Which is when she receives the worst news of all. She will be accompanying her sisters to the magical academy, St Jude’s. She is half convinced that she won’t survive the first term – because students are mostly supervised by older prefects, who are desperately studying for their magical finals. So it’s left to the juniors to sort themselves out – it’s no good Caitlyn running to sharp-tongued Sandy for help when one of the girls in her dorm targets her.

I loved the dynamic – it was all too plausible that this would go on in a magical establishment. I also liked the fact that Caitlyn’s only friend is a peasant girl on a scholarship who is naturally extremely magically giftedbut with no grounding in theory or how to mix with the higher orders. Nuttall’s magical system is also interestingly complex and the rules are well covered within the story as Caitlyn struggles through some magical lessons and manages to cope better in others by virtue of her constant studying.
Her plight is both believable and engrossing, so that I gobbled up this book in two sittings. I’m delighted to see there are other books in this series, which I’ll definitely be tracking down. Recommended for fans of magical school stories.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Myths and Legends… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is the word LEGEND. I’ve selected Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz.

 

This edition was produced by Kingfisher in April 1994. I love the Medusan head glaring out at us, but that ugly blue textbox really spoils the whole effect – particularly as the font is so very boringly ordinary. It is entirely in the wrong place, blocking out too much of the cover design.

 

Published in November 2003 by Kingfisher, we still have the threatening glare by an angry female, but this time she is an Eastern princess. I love the box opening and all the creatures escaping. The title running up the side of the cover works well and allows the attractive design to be properly seen.

 

This hardback edition, published by Kingfisher in September 1985 demonstrates just what a difference a textbox can make. This version of the first cover is far more effective as we now can see those amazing snakes writhing around. I also prefer the green colour of the textbox as it merges with the overall design, rather than clashing with it – though given the choice I’d do without it altogether.

 

This edition, produced by Kingfisher in July 2007 has nailed it. Who doesn’t love a dragon – and what a dragon! The vibrant orange hues are glorious, snagging attention and begging for me to pick this one up. The artwork is beautifully detailed without any textbox AND the font has been bevelled and shaded to give an attractive 3-D effect. This is my favourite.

 

This edition is something of a mystery. Unusually, it appears on Goodreads with no other publication details alongside it, though it does look rather amateurish. The dark background doesn’t work with the deep blue font, to the extent that the author’s name is nearly invisible. That’s a shame, because the shading across the title works quite well. Which is more than can be said for the various creatures floating around the page, as they look like they’ve been selected from clipart and simply plonked there without any overarching design to pull them together. Which of these covers is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – A very little key will open a very heavy door… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week to feature on any of our covers is a door. I’ve selected A Wind in the Door – Book 2 of The Quintet series by Madelaine L’Engle.

 

This Polish edition was produced by MAG in May 2018. The dark cover immediately stands out and I really like the depiction of the planets around the edge. While that image of the eyes and wings in the middle of the round door or window – I’m not sure which – is sufficiently odd and disturbing to stop me in my tracks. While the way the title and author fonts are incorporated into the main cover design is really slick and attractive.

 

This offering, published by Dell Laurel-Leaf in March 1976. It’s this creepy, shocking design that has been the inspiration for many of the subsequent covers and looking at it, I can see why. It’s well ahead of its time and hasn’t dated anything like as much as many 1970s covers I’ve seen. The green-tinged trees immediately evoke a sense of menace and when you add that freakish doorway with that many-winged, multi-eyed creature, it certainly make you take a closer look.

 

Published in May 2007 by Square Fish, this attractive cover is far less disturbing. At least at first glance… until you look at that flock flying in the sky and realise that the some of them aren’t necessarily all birds… Other than that, the landscape is beautiful, which lovely autumnal colours. If I have a grizzle it’s that the title and author fonts featured on the door are really boring, which is a shame.

 

This Commemorative Edition, published by Dell in 1997, is far darker. I like the way the author’s name runs along the side of the book, making a feature of her fame without impinging on the cover design. Those disturbing eyes feature again, along with a pair of wings emerging from what looks like a fire. The problem that I have with this one is there is nothing that ties all the images together in any kind of coherence, so I can’t make sense of it – a shame because it’s so nearly a good design.

 

This cover, published in 1973, by St. Martins Press is my favourite. I love the detail and oddness, which is also very beautiful. I am not quite sure what exactly is going on, but I definitely want to find out, whereas those eyes – while certainly getting my attention – repel rather than attract me, as I think they look horrific and I don’t do horror. There is certainly a wide range of covers for you to choose this week – so which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – When icicles hang by the wall… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is ice and snow. I’ve selected The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.

 

This edition was produced by Starscape Books in October 2017 has a great font and a lovely illustration of a dragon. So why they decided to squash that glorious artwork into a small box in the middle of the cover and surround it with a midnight blue block defeats me. What a shame.

 

Published in October 2014 by Tor Teen, this glorious cover doesn’t make such a fundamental mistake. A fabulous dragon, all ice and fury – it makes me shiver just looking at it. It is matched by that beautifully shaded font which perfectly captures the mood and content of the book, while also easy to read. This is my favourite cover today. In fact, this has to be right up there as one of my all-time favourite covers, along with that wonderful cover for Green Rider by Gollancz I discovered a few weeks ago…

 

This Spanish edition, published by Montena in October 2012, is another well crafted effort. The artwork makes this version more of a wyrm rather than the icicled, spiky creature of air and blizzard depicted on the previous Tor Teen cover. While I don’t like it as much, it is still a strong cover.

 

This German edition, produced by CBJ is another wonderful effort. I love the way we have the dragon in mid-wingbeat, so that the wingtips sweep across the top of the cover. And that wonderful font is also a joy. This week’s covers have set the bar very high!

 

This is another German cover published by CBJ in 2009. Again, the artwork and detail is beautiful with lovely shades of blue and the orange font is attractive and really pings against the icy artwork. The only thing against this one is that ugly gold blob in the middle, which rather spoils the effect. I’ll be fascinated to see what your favourite cover is this week – there are so many really strong contenders in this selection that I think it’s purely down to personal preference.

Review of Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main #Brainfluffbookreview #Ancell’sQuestreview

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, Misty Dawn – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

I was a bit dubious initially, as there was very little preparation to this adventure – one minute we are told that Ancell is plagued by nightmares and the next, we are aboard Misty Dawn and getting to know the crew. It meant that I was bonding with the protagonist whilst in the middle of the adventures – however, despite the uneven pacing and faltering start, as soon as Ancell stepped onto the schooner, the story took off.

It’s apparent that Main has sailing experience as he writes with verve and confidence about life aboard the ship. I found I not only bonded with Ancell, but grew fond of the rest of the crew and enjoyed the humour that their bickering personalities generated. This is an ideal book for children, with lots of action – and consequences. I liked the fact that it didn’t all go smoothly and that one of the main characters suffers a major accident. By the time we hit the halfway stage, I was able to suspend my disbelief about how the adventure started in the first place as the eventful voyage and the interplay between the characters completely beguiled me.

There are plenty of setbacks and once the intrepid voyagers arrived in Australia, I was expecting the rest of the adventure to go like clockwork – but no, the stakes continued to rise and the tension grew. The pirate Laughing Jack and his evil sidekick (I was delighted it was a woman) were very unpleasant and had imprisoned a number of children – it wasn’t made clear what their intended fates were, but it clearly was nothing good. One of my favourite characters has to be Hector, the salt-water crocodile – whose intervention in the story created havoc.

Overall, this is a delightful tale that makes excellent bedtime reading for children – and their parents who probably, like me, stayed up just a bit later with the light on to discover how it all ends.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 10th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Firstly, a profound apology for the lack of any interaction, but after struggling to stay in touch using my laptop and my sister’s rather slow broadband speeds when our own internet wasn’t working, I decided last week that Life was too short to take so long to achieve so little… The good news is that I am now connected! And feeling an idiot. The new router that arrived on Saturday of last week didn’t get connected up, as I’d inadvertently plugged in the old, lightning-struck router instead! No wonder it wasn’t working and no one could figure out why…

On Friday, after teaching Tim, Himself and I drove up to Oxford to Waterstones’ book store for the launch of not just one, but three anthologies from Grimbold Publishing. My story, ‘A Dire Emergency’, is in Holding On By Our Fingertips, an anthology of stories written just twenty-four hours before the apocalypse – mine features an angry alien who has gone native… We decided to stay over and found a lovely hotel just a mile away from the centre of the city. It was a warm, sunny evening, with a number of readings from each anthology and it was lovely to meet up with the folks from Grimbold and I was particularly delighted to get a chance to chat to Jessica Rydill, author of Children of the Strange. I also met Lucy Hounsom, who was reading an extract from Charlotte Bond’s gripping story ‘Retreat’. They both produce the podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper which particularly features women within the SFF genre. I’ll be tracking it down, as one of my targets for the latter half of the year is to make time for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

On Saturday, we wandered around Oxford, enjoying the amazing architecture and spent a long time in Blackwells, the famous book store. I resisted buying any books, though Himself bought one…

During the rest of the week, I bought a new car on Tuesday as borrowing my sister’s made us realise just how much extra time Himself spends at work when the shift-end doesn’t coincide with a train home, so we found a little white Ka I’ve named Twinkle. On Wednesday, I went to Chichester Theatre with a lovely friend to see a performance of The Chalk Garden starring Penelope Keith. It was a wonderful production and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been Himself’s summer holiday, so we’ve also been working in the garden, hacking at the overgrown shrubbery and reclaiming the two main beds which are now looking colourful in shades of orange and bronze. Himself has been busy shredding some of the smaller branches from our severely pruned olive tree and we’re hoping to get the whole garden back into shape before the end of the summer.

This week I have read:

The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

This is one of the books I treated myself to when I had some Amazon vouchers to spend – and I’m so glad I did. I love the idea that powerful magic-users either become unpleasant tyrants or serve the interests of the state by being magically shackled and used as necessary… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Windswept – Book 1 of the Windswept series Adam Rakunas
Labor organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before she can. She’s only thirty-three short. So when a small-time con artist tells her about forty people ready to tumble down the space elevator to break free from her old bosses, she checks it out — against her better judgment. It turns out, of course, it was all lies.

This rollicking space colony adventure is packed with incident and punchy, enjoyable writing – I do enjoy Angry Robot’s books… I’ll be reviewing it in due course and hunting down the second book in the series

 

Time Was by Ian McDonald
Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in an increasingly difficult near future – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

This is a gem. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far – I got to the end with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat…

 

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

I didn’t initially realise that this novella tired in with Martin’s famous fantasy series until I read the blurb. It is an entertaining story, but as far as I’m concerned, it takes a while to get going and then the ending is far too abrupt. I do hate it when novellas end too suddenly…

 

Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main
To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, ‘Misty Dawn’ – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

This adventure-filled tale held my attention throughout and I was genuinely sorry when I reached the end. I’ll be reviewing it in due course…

And that’s it… I didn’t visit any blogs and other than last week’s Sunday Post, I haven’t produced anything else on my blog, this week. This week, normal service will be resumed. Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!