Tag Archives: children’s book

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

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Sunday Post

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

Himself has had the week off work. We have mostly stayed at home, because my half term break is next week *sigh*… That said, we did manage to have a couple of days when we chilled together and had lunch at our favourite place.

The weather has been variable, starting cold and wet but steadily getting warmer and sunnier – yesterday was fabulous so we went for a walk over Kithurst Hill. The views were wonderful and for the first time this year, it felt more like spring than winter. I’m not kidding myself – I’m aware that next week it could quite easily snow, but still… there it was – a slice of sunshine! The bonus was during the walk I talked through my ideas for Miranda’s Tempest, as since Christmas I’ve felt like I was wading through concrete on the rewrite. J is a really good listener and together we discussed some of the issues that I’d got stuck on, so I’m hoping to make much better progress this coming week, when I can fully concentrate on it.

As you can see, I’ve had a great reading week with a tranche of entertaining and in one case, outstanding books to read – though it looks a tad more impressive than it is, given one was a novella and one was a children’s book.

This week I have read:

The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her thevanishingthronefriends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library. There’s no second-book slump here – May continues where the first book leaves off in this adrenaline rush of an adventure. I will be reviewing it in due course.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
mirandaandcalibanMiranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This beautifully written love story is mostly the prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest though you don’t have to know a thing about the play to become engrossed in the events of the enchanted island. I loved this one – it is my favourite book of the year to date.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at slowbulletsan end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

This space opera novella offers a cracking adventure with plenty of twists and turns, along with some interesting concepts. The slow bullets of the title are identity chips buried deep within a person that record all their major life events. They are impossible to change or over-write. So what happens in a crisis when your life and who you are can be read for all to see?

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries by Robert J. Harris
thegravediggersclubOne day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all – Sherlock Holmes. But right now, Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected?

This entertaining historical mystery adventure for children tripped along at a fair clip, with the main protagonist, Artie Conan Doyle, seeming very familiar with fans who have read any Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers’ series by Becky Chambers

Teaser Tuesday featuring Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Friday Face-off – Drivin’ Along in my Automobile… featuring Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle mysteries by Robert J. Harris

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

10 of the Best Wendy Cope Poems Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/17/10-of-the-best-wendy-cope-poems-everyone-should-read/ Once more this great blog has produced an entertaining informative article I really enjoyed.

Girl from Mars, on the telephone https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/girl-from-mars-on-the-telephone/ I love the sheer quirkiness of this pic…

Take My Hand, We Will Walk https://bitesizedhamma.com/2017/02/14/take-my-hand-we-will-walk/ I love the simplicity of this short poem, which also has been very apt this week. Himself and I had a walk just like this one – something we should do more often.

When Dedications Leave Something To Be Desired https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/when-dedications-leave-something-to-be-desired/ Oh, this is hilarious! I howled with laughter and then shared the fun with J…

Interview with Sir Kipling from the Lily Singer series by Lydia Sherrer http://lolasreviews.com/interview-with-sir-kipling-from-the-lily-springer-series-by-lydia-sherrer/ I’ve seen book characters interviewed before, but never with more entertaining snark than this gem…

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Radio Boy by Christian O’Donnell

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Well this children’s offering is fun! So what happens when you don’t exactly fit in all that well at school, but have a passion for something else? And then you find circumstances sweep it all away from you?

radioboyMeet Spike, aka Radio Boy: a new Adrian Mole on the radio for the internet generation.
Spike’s your average awkward 11 year old, funny and cheeky and with a mum to reckon with. When he becomes the first presenter ever to be sacked from hospital radio, he decides to take matters into his own hands, aided and abetted by his dad and his two best friends. However events then spin out of his control…

This is a light-hearted look at that awkward tween stage when children are now finding more is expected of them, yet they are not yet accorded the status of teenager. It’s a difficult age. O’Donnell clearly has a ringside seat onto the kinds of insecurities and difficulties that beset this age-group, which I think he deals with really well. Spike is a thoroughly engaging protagonist and his first person viewpoint is peppered with his amusing take on the world, without him being knowing. I also like his two best friends, who are also completely convincing.

Spike’s parents are also enjoyable. All too often, most adults are portrayed as dribbling idiots or froth-mouthed tyrants in fiction for this age-group, but Spike’s father’s yearning for his lost opportunity to be a rock star and Spike’s mother’s over-protectiveness, brought on by working in a hospital come across as both amusing, yet with an undertow of poignancy. I also liked the fact that Spike has a very supportive, understanding teacher, who goes out on a limb to help him.

The story rackets along in Spike’s viewpoint and I read it in one greedy gulp as the situation steadily gets increasingly out of control. Any niggles? Yes – the headteacher of St Brenda’s is straight out of a comic with his tyrannical attitude, outright favouritism of his own son and screaming meltdowns. He isn’t remotely convincing and jars in a story where everyone else has a strong streak of reality. I do realise that O’Donnell is playing it for laughs, but I do wish he had reined in the farcical aspect just a bit. If Mr Harris had resorted to half the capers he is supposed to have got up to, he would have lost his job. That said, I am conscious that I’m not the target audience.

However, this story still has far more going for it than that one criticism and I shall be reading it to my granddaughter in due course, who I hope will be sniggering alongside me. In the meantime, if you are searching for a funny, entertaining book for a newly independent reader, then this one comes recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Radio Boy from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Sunday Post – 29th January 2017

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Sunday Post

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

It hasn’t been a busy week as I’ve not been very well, trying to cope with a persistent, low-grade headache. It started on Sunday and I struggled on through teaching on Monday and Tuesday – I also had one of my lovely writing groups over for a meal and feedback on Tuesday night. But come Wednesday, I’d had enough. I declared myself beaten and retreated to bed where I’ve been mostly sleeping and reading and occasionally facing the computer, which has made me feel sick again. Feeling better now, though still getting tired far too easily. Hopefully I’ll be feeling a lot better next week.

Number One Son flew out the States on Monday and it was relief when I heard he’d arrived safe and sound. God bless modern communication technology.

I’m officially fed up with winter. The nights have been so wretchedly cold and Monday was horrible with freezing fog, having to drive into Northbrook College at night. But at least it hasn’t snowed this year, yet, so I must be grateful for small mercies.

This week I have read:
A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, aclosedandcommonorbitfollowing a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chambers’ first book in this series The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but I preferred this offering. This dual narrative switches between Lovelace and Pepper, both engrossing and interesting layered characters. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
themassacreofmankindIt has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.
So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.
He is right.

This offering is the approved sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and Baxter has triumphantly evoked the tone and feel of the original classic invasion story, while injecting plenty of original action and excitement. If you are a fan of Wells’ book, I recommend you have a go at this one – it’s a blast with a delightful twist at the end.

 

Radio Boy by Christian O’Donnell
Meet Spike, aka Radio Boy: a new Adrian Mole on the radio for the internet generation.radioboy

Spike’s your average awkward 11 year old, funny and cheeky and with a mum to reckon with. When he becomes the first presenter ever to be sacked from hospital radio, he decides, with the help of his father and two best friends, to take other steps. However, it all spins out of control…

This is an amusing children’s book with an engaging protagonist and plenty of action with some important underlying messages without being preachy or stuffy. Ideal for newly independent readers and one that I shall be reading to my granddaughter.

 

Windwitch – Book 2 of The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
windwitchAfter an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

The above blurb takes you to the start of this engaging sequel, so my firm advice is to get hold of Truthwitch before tucking into this enjoyable, YA epic fantasy. As might be deduced by the title, this offering focuses on Prince Merik, however we do still follow the fortunes of Safi and Iseult. The narrative comes to a dramatic ending but there are still plenty of dangling plotlines all waiting to be tied up in the next book.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
A young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be oldbonesthe resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again?
The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

Well this is fun! I haven’t read any of Harrod-Eagles writing before and I’m now a solid fan of this popular, prolific author. This established series is definitely going to be one I shall be revisiting. I loved Slider’s grumpy, desert-dry humour and while I guessed some of the elements of the mystery, it didn’t matter because I was so caught up with the characters, I was in for the duration.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 22nd January 2017

Review of Emperor of the Fireflies by Sarah Ash

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

PREVIEW of Empire Games by Charles Stross

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

Friday Faceoff – A Room Without Books Is Like a Body Without a Soul featuring The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Windwitch – Book 2 of The Witchlands by Susan Dennard

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry & Gene Autry chase Ghost Riders in the Sky – https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/01/26/johnny-cash-debbie-harry-gene-autry-chase-ghost-riders-in-the-sky/
In this delightful article, Thom gives us various versions of this classic song, after explaining why it matters so much to him. If you enjoy reading lyrically beautiful prose in praise of music, then this is must-read blog.

Tips For Helping Me Blog – https://onereadersthoughts.com/2017/01/27/ff-tips-for-helping-me-blog%ef%bb%bf/
Emma gives some useful tips in order to help keep our blogging schedules straight.

Never Press DELETE http://melfka.com/archives/2068
Joanna provides some useful advice for writers that I regularly find myself saying to my students – while horrified at how many who throw away or delete their own work…

Win 50 Books for a School or Library https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/win-50-books-for-a-school-or-library/
I thought I’d spread the word about this competition – let’s face it we all know schools or libraries which could do with 50 more books…

Five Fascinating Facts about Shakespeare’s The Tempest
https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/27/five-fascinating-facts-about-shakespeares-the-tempest/ I found this article particularly interesting as I’m in the process of rewriting my novel which is a sequel, exploring what happens to Miranda and Prospero once they leave their enchanted island…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford

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When I saw the blurb for this one, I couldn’t resist pressing the Request button. Did it live up to my expectations?

whatnottodoTurning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed. It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret. Or does she…?

The abbreviated blurb makes the whole process of becoming invisible sound far more controlled and straightforward than it actually is – which for me was one of the main selling points of this beguiling, funny book. All too often fantasy or paranormal books for children tip them into situations that would have most of us hiding under the duvet armed with a strong glass of gin and prosac – only for said children to accept the whole process without so much as a blink. While children may well be a great deal more adaptable than we oldsters, I was far happier to witness Ethel’s real shock when she looks down to see her hands isn’t visible.

In fact, Ethel is a wonderful protagonist. At a spiky twelve years old with a bumpy background, she is as wary as you’d expect – yet also with the vulnerabilities that come with being twelve. Having a twelve year old granddaughter, it’s an age I’m very familiar with and Welford has absolutely nailed it. There are a whole host of complexities that come with finding herself invisible, as well as a handful of desperate, harebrained opportunities that seem like a good idea at the time. I sniggered in an appalled way all through the Talent Show, while catching myself muttering, ‘Oh no!’ a couple of times.

The trick of writing good farce is for the people in the middle of the mess to take the whole situation utterly seriously – and there’s no reason why Ethel would want to find any of this remotely funny, anyway. The book teetered between making me want to laugh and cry, as I found myself invested in her situation. I guessed one of the main reveals very early on, but I don’t think it matters that much – it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying her slowly discovering who exactly her parents are.

The other issue that makes this book stand out for me, is the way Welford depicts the adults in Ethel’s life. She lives with her grandmother and regularly visits her great-granny, now living in a residential home. Welford shows the adults as doing the best they can in some tricky situations – a refreshing change when all too often adults are shown to be bumbling idiots or unthinking tyrants in otherwise excellent children’s books. I liked the fact that Ethel frequently refers to her grandmother’s sayings and ways of doing things as she evidently is trying to work out which of her opinions and approaches to life are applicable to herself.

The ending was one of the strengths of this book – it takes the story onwards and wraps up the main problems without being unduly sentimental or too tidy. All in all, this is an enjoyable adventure that packs an emotional punch and one I shall be introducing to my granddaughter in due course.

Receiving a copy of What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
9/10

Review of How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson

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I acquired this one after seeing a recommendation from one of my book blogging buddies (sorry I cannot recall exactly who…) and this week tucked into it, thoroughly enjoying the humour.

howtotrainyourparentsMoving to a new area and a new school, Louis is horrified to discover his parents changing into ultra-competitive parents, wanting him and his younger brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the area. Suddenly Louis’s life is no longer his own…

As you can see from the blurb, under Louis’ s jokey asides is an unfolding situation that is anything but funny. His parents are steadily being sucked into the competitive atmosphere around them, so both boys are being strongly encouraged to perform better at school and shine at extra-curricula activities. Which is fine if either of them are academic high-flyers – however Louis clearly isn’t, hating his new school where results and academic standards seem to matter far more than any pastoral concerns. You won’t be surprised to learn the situation doesn’t end well. However, what I really enjoyed was Johnson’s refusal to turn Louis’s parents into villains. As the relationship between them and Louis worsens, they are also clearly suffering and trying to find solutions to the problem.

The cast of supporting characters are well depicted through Johnson’s snappy, amusing descriptions via Louis’ first person point of view. I particularly liked Maddy who he befriends at a talent competition. One of the related plotlines does spiral off into something of a fantasy, providing a slightly unnecessarily idealised ending in my opinion. However, I’ll forgive that because without being remotely preachy, Johnson manages to impart some useful messages for pushy parents and their children.

I’m going to be introducing this one to my granddaughter to see if the humour works on her, too. In the meantime, if you are looking for an amusing book for the ten to twelve-year-olds in your life, this one is worth considering.
8/10

Sunday Post – 11th December 2016

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Sunday Post

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

Well, what a busy old week this has been! Last Sunday it was my mother’s birthday party and my lovely sister hosted the gathering of the clan. It was fun catching up with everyone and as ever, a shock at seeing how quickly my nephew is growing up… I completed this term’s course at Northbrook on Monday and Tuesday and we are now finished until the second week in January, which sounds like it’s a while away, though I know from experience it comes around very quickly. Which is just as well as I have the loveliest students, a number of whom have been coming to the classes since I started teaching 8 years ago and are also firm friends. On Wednesday evening, I went out with my marvellous writing group for a meal at a local restaurant – lovely food and great company. On Thursday evening I attended the December meeting of West Sussex Writers, where Many Pannett discussed writing novellas and in the second half of the meeting provided an excellent writing workshop, which I really enjoyed – I even managed to write a poem.

However Friday saw me laid low with the worst migraine I’ve had in years… nausea, temperature and terrible shooting pains in the head – which wasn’t good because I was also grannying. Fortunately Himself was home, so was able to drive us to and from Brighton to pick up the grandchildren in the evening and although very groggy and rather sorry for myself I managed to accompany him, though took myself off to bed for a couple of hours before starting the bedtime routine. They are going to be helping us decorate the house for Christmas throughout the week-end, as well as a bit of shopping and just chilling or playing with their toys. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them, so it’s great to catch up on their doings.

As for my rewrite – it won’t come as a shock when I declare I haven’t been near it this week… This coming week my blogging will also be interrupted as I’m away for a few days and simply haven’t had the time or space to organise myself to cover my absence (it was on the list for Friday…)

This week I have read:

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
anaturalhistoryofdragonsEveryone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem. A review will be following shortly.

 

How to Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson
howtotrainyourparentsMoving to a new area and a new school, Louis is horrified to discover his parents changing into ultra-competitive parents, wanting him and his younger brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the area. Suddenly Louis’s life is no longer his own…

This is sharp and funny – and very pertinent. I think a fair number of children could do with more benign neglect, or at least the time to just hang out in their bedrooms with sufficient free time to find out who they are and what they like doing when someone isn’t breathing down their necks.

 

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .judged
Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.

In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 4th December 2016

Review of Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Teaser Tuesday featuring Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars series by Tessa Elwood

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – November Roundup

Friday Faceoff – And Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips… featuring Living Dead in Dallas – Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

Review of Penric and the Shaman – Book 2 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Curious and Little-Known Slang Terms Found in Modern Britain https://interestingliterature.com/2016/12/09/the-curious-and-little-known-slang-terms-found-in-modern-britain/ If you’re hunting for pressies for the word-nerds in your life. Or want to drop a heavy hint to someone…

Lessons Learned from Agatha Christie: Have Mischievous Fun with Misdirection https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/12/08/lessons-learned-from-agatha-christie-have-mischievous-fun-with-misdirection/ An enjoyable and well written article on the craft of writing misdirection – and how an ill-considered cover can wreck it all…

Exoplanet animation – simply amazing http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/12/04/exoplanet-animation-simply-amazing/ Steph has provided this wonderful animation – and that’s not the half of it…

Only one among many https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/only-among-many/
Another hauntingly good photo from this excellent site.

Fore-edge Painting: Images on Book Edges https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/fore-edge-painting-images-on-book-edges/ I didn’t know what this was called before Kristen told me – although I have seen examples of it in old libraries of rare books. Just wish we could somehow resurrect it…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

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This children’s book is a direct sequel to Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s famous novel The Secret Garden which was a favourite of mine, after my grandmother read it to me way back in 1963. So would I enjoy revisiting this world by another author over a generation later?

returntothesecretgardenIt’s 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage “home,” but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she’s ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house-a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

Emmie is certainly a worthy successor to poor, spoilt Mary Lennox. She has edges that have nothing to do with being unduly pampered – quite the opposite in fact. While the adults around her are quite tough with her, I did like the fact that the people running the orphanage aren’t depicted as evilly intent on crushing the spirit of their charges. While their form of punishment may jar with modern norms, at the time it wasn’t uncommon for children to be regularly slapped or beaten with a slipper or strap for transgressions. I could see the adults were all feeling frayed and coping with the practicalities of moving twenty orphans to the other end of the country must have been a daunting task, given that half the staff were off ‘doing their bit’.

Any grizzles? Well I do have a problem with the cover, which is rather cute and girly and gives the impression that this is lighthearted, fluffy read when its nothing of the sort.

Given the book’s relationship with the original story, several characters feature in this sequel that had major parts in the first book. I very much enjoyed seeing Webb’s take on how they went on to develop after original The Secret Garden ended. However, this book is far more than merely an additional riff of that story. Webb deals with all sorts of gnarly issues in this well written, nuanced novel that covers an interesting time in our history. What happened to hundreds and thousands of pets all over the country in towns, for instance – which directly impacted on the adults’ attitude towards one small stray cat. There is also a sudden death, which winded me. I kept expecting the character, who had played a crucial role in Emmie’s happiness, to pop up at the end of the book, declaring that his reported death had been a muddle and it was all going to end happily ever after. It didn’t. I admire Webb enormously for not sugar-coating the bleak fact that during that time lots of men were killed – and kind, caring responsible fathers, sons and brothers were swallowed up by the mincing machine that was WWII never to return. Through Emmie’s shocked eyes, we get a ringside seat into how those left behind coped with such a grievous loss and put their lives back together again.

This is a well-written, though provoking story on dealing with loss – a major theme in Return to The Secret Garden – and Webb does an excellent job of showing the consequences of war in an unsentimental, entertaining way.
9/10

Sunday Post – 9th October

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Sunday Post

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

A much quieter week, getting back into a routine -and working very hard line editing Netted. The catch is, I have to keep breaking off, otherwise my effectiveness falls through the floor, which is annoying. On Wednesday evening my wonderful writing buddy, Sarah Palmer, provided me with valuable feedback on Dying For Space after beta-reading it for me. So I’ll be performing surgery on the narrative arc and tweaking the ending, using a good, sharp scalpel once I’ve completed my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest. It seems this is to be the year of the rewrites – but if that’s what it takes to go on improving my writing, then so be it. It’s pointless writing new material if my current body of work is not the very best I can produce.

On Thursday, Mhairi spent the day with me. Although it was only a fortnight ago we last met up, it seemed much longer as a great deal has happened since then. It was great to be able to chat over things with a sympathetic listener – there’s a lot going on at present and not all of it good…

J and I went for a walk over Kithurst Hill yesterday – it was the first time I’ve done a proper walk since I started my Pilates and Fitstep and was delighted that I was able to complete it without limping. Sadly I forgot to take my camera, but we’re also aiming to go out again tomorrow, so long as it isn’t lashing with rain, and I try to remember to get a few photos.

My reading has slowed right down this week:

How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
howtobeapirateHiccup Horrendous Haddock III was a Viking Hero–dashing, brave, and ever so clever. But even Viking heroes have to begin somewhere. In this rip-roaring adventure he recounts his early days–when he still had a lot to learn about swordfights, shipwrecks, and homicidal dragons…

Events quickly stack up, as Hiccup, Toothless and Fishlegs, his best friend, trail along in their wake. Sure enough it all goes from dodgy to disaster fairly quickly as the Hairy Hooligans sail off in Stoick’s ship, the Lucky Thirteen. There are adventures, fights, treasure, shipwrecks, more fights and more treasure sufficient to thrill the heart of a child of any age. I was enthralled. I’ll take these funny, exciting books over the tepid film version every time.

 

 

Escapology by Ren Waroom
Shock Pao is the best. In the virtual world the Slip there’s nothing he can’t steal for the right price. escapologyOutside the Slip, though, he’s a Fail – no degree, no job. So when his ex offers him a job, breaking into a corporate databank, he accepts—it’s either that, or find himself a nice bench to sleep under. Amiga works for psychotic crime lord Twist Calhoun so when Shock’s war comes to her, it’s her job to bring him to Twist, dead or alive.

While Warom’s writing has the gritty lyric quality of the best cyberpunk when it comes to the world-building, she also excels at characterisation, which isn’t always the case with this genre. This is one of the most enjoyable cyberpunk offerings I’ve read and a mightily impressive debut novel from a very talented author – and the good news is there is another book in the series due out next year.

 

 

My posts last week:

Review of Necessity – Book 3 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Escapology by Ren Warom

2016 Discovery Challenge – September Roundup

Review of How To Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff – Consumed by the darkness, it hides all our sins… featuring Dark Eden – Book 1 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett

Review of Escapology by Ren Warom

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Why Villains Need More Respect in Books http://lovelypagesreviews.com/why-villains-need-more-respect-in-books/ This enjoyable article articulates some of the frustrations readers have when authors don’t pay sufficient attention to the baddies in their stories…

Lola’s Advice: How to Run a Giveaway http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-advice-how-to-run-a-giveaway/ This excellent blog is one I frequently visit and as ever – her feature addresses the topic with readable thoroughness

Richard Ankers’ micro fiction often packs a punch – I found this offering particularly moving… https://richardankers.com/2016/10/06/the-drowned-and-the-drowning/

Before the Call https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/before-the-call/ Gloria Chao had her writing dream come true when she got her agent and then a publishing deal – and is now generously sharing the nitty gritty details of her preparation towards that dream

Chronicling the Craft: A Conversation About Beta-Reading, From Nailing Your Critiques to Finding Your Candidates https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/10/06/beta-reading-conversation/ I seem to have been particularly drawn to how-to articles this week – and this is another gem for writers who wish to improve their work

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of How To Be a Pirate – Book 2 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

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Oscar and I completed this book together this last weekend when the grandchildren were staying and once more, I was struck at just how funny and anarchic the storyline is…

howtobeapirateHiccup Horrendous Haddock III was a Viking Hero–dashing, brave, and ever so clever. But even Viking heroes have to begin somewhere. In this rip-roaring adventure he recounts his early days–when he still had a lot to learn about swordfights, shipwrecks, and homicidal dragons….

And that’s the blurb. Of course, it doesn’t begin to give you an idea of the story, where Alvin, the poor-but-honest-farmer pops up and beguiles the Hairy Hooligan tribe with tales of Grimbeard the Ghastly’s treasure and how to find it. Hiccup has a sinking feeling this is a very bad idea, but his chieftain father, Stoick the Vast, is determined to track it down. After all, he is Grimbeard’s heir.

What I particularly love about this books – and loathe about the film – is that Hiccup and Fishlegs are undersized, average-to-homely in the looks department and are regularly beaten up by Snotlout and Dogsbreath. While the other boys occasionally are happy to follow Hiccup’s lead after he’s managed to pull them out of yet another disaster by virtue of yet another cunning plan, they’ll jeer and join in the laughter quickly enough once the memory of that particular victory fades – which generally takes a couple of days. In other words, Hiccup isn’t the good-looking and capable character portrayed in the film with the cool, rare dragon. Toothless is only remarkable in being the smallest dragon in the village with the manners of a spoilt two-year-old. Hiccup’s constant sense of not measuring up to his strong chieftain father has us rooting for him. Under all the humour there is a real sense of poignancy over his feelings of inadequacy.

Events quickly stack up, as Hiccup, Toothless and Fishlegs, his best friend, trail along in their wake. Sure enough it all goes from dodgy to disaster fairly quickly as the Hairy Hooligans sail off in Stoick’s ship, the Lucky Thirteen. There are adventures, fights, treasure, shipwrecks, more fights and more treasure sufficient to thrill the heart of a child of any age. I was enthralled.

However, it’s all very well piling on the action and winding up the narrative tension until it is pinging off the page – but then comes the moment when there is the payoff. And where children are concerned, there can be no half measures. The final denouement has to pack a sufficient punch to wind up such a twisting plot so that when we close the book for the final time, we all still feel the tingle of excitement yet are thoroughly satisfied with the ending of this particular adventure. Cowell pulls this off magnificently. It didn’t take much to persuade Oscar to immediately start reading the third book in this enchanting series, How To Speak Dragonese. I want more of this world.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

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I enjoy reading well-written children’s fiction and this new fairy story using some of the classical elements of fairy tales caught my attention, despite the rather clunky cover.

thechangelingsIzzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door. Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

I think this one is aimed at the age-group who’d enjoy Terry Pratchett’s first Tiffany Aching book, The Wee Free Men, and while Izzy isn’t quite up there alongside Tiffany for awesomeness, nevertheless this tale hooked me and wouldn’t let go until it was finished. I read it in two greedy gulps as the adventure whisked me away.

Izzy is an engaging protagonist, thoroughly fed up with yet another move and exasperated by her seven-year-old kid sister. But that annoyance turns to guilty dread when Hen suddenly disappears. And Izzy is suddenly plunged in the middle of an alien world – though she isn’t quite as poleaxed as you’d might think as she has been obsessed by fairy stories all her life. While I sometimes get exasperated by a protagonist immediately believing an extraordinary situation, children’s reactions are often different and Izzy’s speedy acceptance of the alternative world she finds herself in was credible within the plot.

Soontornvat’s pacing is nicely judged throughout. Layers of information unpeel along the way, as we need to know about it, rather than enduring any semi-omniscient info dumps so often occurring in children’s books. I also like the range of supporting characters. Those helping her are not necessarily nice or even fully on her side. While those ranged against her are just plain terrifying. While one of the plot twists was fairly easy to guess, there were a couple of others I didn’t see coming – and the Queen and her henchmen are genuinely chilling when we see the fate of those poor missing children…

The climactic final scene is action-packed and dramatic in a book full of adventure, with all the elements brought to a satisfying conclusion.

The arc of The Changelings was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
8/10