Book Review: The Huntress – Sky (Sarah Driver)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 384

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seek the scattered Storm-Opals of Sea, Sky and Land, before an enemy finds them and uses them to wield dark power. . .

The trail of the Storm-Opals takes Mouse further than she has ever been before. With her little brother Sparrow and friend Crow alongside her, she stumbles into the world of Sky, where fortresses are hidden amongst the clouds, secret libraries (skybraries) nestle atop gigantic icebergs and the sky swirls with warring tribes and their ferocious flying beasts. Can they solve Da’s message before it’s too late for their ship, their tribe and the whole of Trianukka?

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Book Review: The Huntress – Sea (Sarah Driver)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 336

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka .

Review:

This book was sent to me wrapped up in a beautiful piece of fur with a gorgeous bookmark and map in a bottle. It was such a pretty package and the book lived up to it’s wrapping!

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Mouse is going to be captain of the Huntress when she grows up, but for now she has to look after her sickly brother, Sparrow. When their Da goes missing and a mysterious stranger arrives on their ship, things take a bad turn for Mouse.

This felt like a great, old-fashioned adventure story, like ones I loved when I was younger. There’s danger, there are wild beasts and animal friends, magic and fighting and a race to save a loved one. The pace is fast, the story moves quickly from one danger to the next and you’re never bored when reading it.

The language of the book is really distinctive too. Mouse’s voice is so real it was like she was speaking in my head and I could picture her really clearly. In a Q and A in the back of the book, Sarah Driver mentions reading Spellhorn and speaking like the Wild Ones after reading it, and that’s what this reminded me of (also I’d forgotten the name of that book so thanks to her for reminding me!) The Tribe have their own dialect that helps to develop their culture and makes them very memorable. The descriptions are beautifully vivid too; it’s just a delight to read.

I loved Mouse: her impulsiveness and determination and honesty just made her really likeable. She reminded me a bit of Lyra from His Dark Materials. Her ability in ‘beast chatter’ made the creatures around her more interesting too: rather than having standard talking animals, Mouse has a gift that allows her to hear them and communicate back. She talks to her sea-hawk and Sparrow’s moonsprite and uses her gift to help her on her adventures.

This is a really rich, exciting tale, beautifully told and clearly the start of an exciting series. It’s aimed at younger readers but the language can be a little complex and I think it could be a little challenging, but it’s so captivating I think adults and children alike can enjoy.

4

Book Review: Baker Street Academy – Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond (Sam Hearn)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 126

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

John Watson has barely settled into his new school, Baker Street Academy, when his teacher announces a trip to one of London’s top museums, home to the world’s most famous jewel. But it’s been stolen! When police catch the thief it seems the case is closed. Can Sherlock Holmes uncover the mystery behind this extraordinary gem?

Review:

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Sherlock fan, but I know of him, of course. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was younger and I’ve seen various adaptations too. But when this was pitched to me as a middle grade graphic novel of Sherlock and Watson in school, it sounded too fun to resist.

John Watson is the new kid at Baker Street Academy, but he soon finds friends in the mysterious and super smart Sherlock Holmes and confident Martha Hudson, and an enemy in James Moriarty. When a school trip to a museum ends in a heist, the trio set out to expose the thief and recover the famous stolen jewel.

I loved the style of the story, the way it’s pieced together through different media: John’s narration and blog entries, drawings and speech bubbles, news reports and school notices. It made the storytelling really varied and exciting. The art was spot on: it really captured the characters traits in their facial expressions and  brought the story to life.

While this is for younger readers, I felt there were little nods to older readers there too, with lots of Sherlock references that adults could enjoy even if the kids might not get them all. It was fun to see the characters in a different kind of setting, and I liked that Martha was part of the team too, not just Sherlock  and Watson. The mystery was interesting and actually had me fooled with its red herring, so I was very impressed by that! It’s a complex mystery but not so much that younger readers can’t get their heads around it.

This is a fast paced, fun and really visual story, and one that’s sure to entertain younger and older reader alike. A must read for any budding young detectives, especially ones with Sherlock fans for parents!

4

About the Author

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Tour Schedule

Monday 23rd January

Book Lover Jo

Emma’s Bookery

Tuesday 24th January

Middle Grade Strikes Back

Kirstyes

Wednesday 25th January

Maia and a Little Moore

Mum Friendly

Thursday 26th January

Library Girl and Book Boy

Fiction Fascination

Friday 27th January

Big Book Little Book

An Awfully Big Adventure

Saturday 28th January

This Fleeting Dream

Serendipity Reviews

Sunday 29th January

Read Rant Review

Tales of Yesterday

Book Review: Mango and Bambang – Tiny Tapir Trouble (Polly Faber & Clare Vulliamy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 144

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mango and Bambang’s adventures continue in the third book of this charming illustrated series about a little girl and a tapir, described by The Sunday Times as having real charm reminiscent of Paddington. When a small but mischievous tapir guest comes to stay with Mango Allsorts and Bambang in the busy city, things soon get into a rather troublesome tangle.

Review:

This is the third book in the Mango and Bambang series and it’s just as fun and charming as its predecessors. In this book, Mango and Bambang go to the seaside, meet a relative of Bambang, play in a chess tournament and deal with illness.

I loved the story featuring Guntur, Bambang’s tiny and very annoying cousin. He does his best to get between Mango and Bambang and make poor Bambang look bad, but their friendship wins through in the end.

There’s a family theme to this story, as Bambang wonders whether he really fits in with Mango, especially after an upsetting experience at the beach. They realise in the end that family is what you make it and their friendship keeps them together through all the trials life throws at them.

This is another beautiful edition in a fantastic series which I hope will be one of Little Moore’s favourites in the future!

4

Book Review: Mango and Bambang – The Not-a-Pig (Polly Faber & Clare Vulliamy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 144

Release Date: October 1st 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

A charming collection of four beautifully illustrated stories about the unlikely friendship between Mango, a little girl, and Bambang, a Malaysian tapir. Mango Allsorts is good at all sorts of things, not just karate and chess. Bambang is most definitely not-a-pig and is now lost in a very busy city. When the two unexpectedly meet, a friendship begins, filled with adventures, and of course, plenty of banana pancakes.

Review:

This is a charming collection of stories about Mango Allsorts, a girl who lives in a busy city with a busy father and likes to keep herself busy so she doesn’t get lonely. One day she meets Bambang, a tapir who is definitely not a pig. She helps him overcome some of his fears and he helps her with her music and stops her being lonely.

Mango is a great protagonist, smart and brave and resourceful, all the things you want a girl to be! Bambang made me laugh a lot, especially when he explored Mango’s apartment and experimented different ways of going up and down the stairs.

I loved the illustrations and colours in the book: this one is all purple themed and was just beautiful. Although this book is too old for Little Moore, I read it to him anyway and he seemed to enjoy – I think the colours and cute pictures helped to keep his attention.

This is the first collection of stories featuring Mango and Bambang and I’m really looking forward to reading more from them! The stories teach great lessons about kindness and acceptance and are definite keepers for Little Moore’s bookshelf for when he’s older.

4

Why Indigo’s Dragon is Set in Poland: Guest Post by Sofi Croft

Today on the blog we have Sofi Croft, author of children’s fantasy novel Indigo’s Dragon, talking about why the novel is set in Poland. Welcome Sofi!

When I embarked on writing my first book I decided to follow that famous piece of advice ‘write what you know’, so I set the story in the Lake District, where I live. However, by the time I got to chapter seven Indigo was on his way to Poland, a country I have never visited.

I have often wondered why Indigo refused to follow my plot plan and wandered off to the Polish mountains on his own, and have come up with a few theories.

  1. Poland is in Indigo’s blood.

Indigo has Polish roots. His story was inspired by The Dragon of Krakow, a Polish folktale, and I always knew his grandparents would be Polish. Although my early plot plans didn’t have Indigo disappearing off to Poland, the pull of his homeland just became too strong.

I too have Polish roots. My maternal grandmother was Prussian (from Allenstein, which is now part of Poland), and I grew up hearing her stories and being tantalised by snippets of her past. She lost her family and country during the war, and I watched her take comfort in her culture; the foods, music and stories of her past. I have always wanted to visit the land she loved so much, and I think Indigo must have known this and led me there in spirit if not in body.

  1. Poland is full of monsters.

Polish, Slavic and Baltic mythology has always fascinated me. It is full of incredible stories, creatures, and deities. I think Indigo, having a curious nature and a deep affinity for strange and unusual life forms, was naturally drawn to this place where so many mythical creatures thrive.

Indigo was so comfortable among the monsters of the Polish mountains he actually stayed there for the duration of the second book, Indigo’s Demons, and visited some legendary creatures of the Baltic Sea in the third book, Indigo’s Deep.

  1. The Polish mountains are other-worldy.

Indigo lives in the real world, but among the fantastic. I love the mountains of the Lake District, and genuinely believe that incredible creatures might be hidden in its remote places. However, in mountains that are even bigger, with even more remote places, there is even more scope for finding hidden wonders.

The Tatra Mountains in Poland are incredible; vast, fairy tale-esque and other-worldy, with a variety of habitats that almost certainly contain the hiding places of a whole range of mythical creatures. If Indigo was going to find the spectacular, the Tatras seemed like a brilliant place for him to begin his search.

Big thank you to Sofi for the wonderful guest post! You can check out my review of Indigo’s Dragon here.

Indigo’s Dragon (Indigo’s Dragon #1) by Sofi Croft is a children’s fantasy novel full of adventure, mystery, monsters and dragons.

It will be published on 23rd June 2016 by Accent YA

Sophie Croft

You can find out more about Sofi and her books on her website www.soficroft.com

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Book Review: Indigo’s Dragon (Sofi Croft)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Accent Press

Pages: 90

Release Date: June 23rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Some families keep monstrous secrets…

Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather’s satchel. Indigo’s curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather’s notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures.

Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth.

Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever…

Review:

I’ve started reading a little more MG books lately – it’s always good to try something new, and I’m definitely glad I did with this one.

Indigo’s Dragon is a quick and exciting fantasy novel set in the rolling hills of the Lake District and the beautiful Polish mountains. I felt the settings played a huge part within the story and the descriptions really brought it to life: it’s not too description heavy, which is better for younger readers, but there’s enough there so that you can really visualise it and get a good sense of the wonderful surroundings.

There’s plenty of mystery within the book and it gets stuck into it straight away: it certainly grabbed my attention and I think younger readers will have no problem with staying engaged. The plot moves quickly without feeling rushed, and you never quite know where it’s going – I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and it’s really made me look forward to the sequel, which I think will be a different book from what I was expecting.

I loved the creatures in the book the most – they could easily have been standard monsters, but Croft adds in little details that makes you see them as animals instead, with their own habitats and habits and quirks.

Indigo is a great protagonist and someone I feel readers will relate to. He’s smart, but not overly clever, and he has his flaws too, which make him feel human and real. I love the debate that goes on between him and Orava on the effect of the creatures living near to humans – dragons and cockatrices can be disruptive and deadly to humans, so it’s hard to get the balance between preserving the creatures and looking after your own needs.

This is a book I can really imagine reading aloud to my children one day, or having them read it aloud to me as they grow more confident with reading. For fans of Harry Potter and How to Train Your Dragon, this book is sure to be a hit with younger readers, and I look forward to the sequel!

4

Book Review: Mystery & Mayhem – Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries (The Crime Club)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 304

Release Date: May 5th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children’s crime writers writing today.

These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Review:

I don’t read a lot of mystery stories so this was something new for me. I’ve heard of a lot of the authors but not read their stories, so this was a little taster into their worlds.

Some seemed to be stand alone stories while others were clearly characters from their novels. Don’t let this put you off if you’ve not read them: it’s easy to follow and you won’t feel like you’re missing anything if you haven’t read them. Be warned though: it’ll probably make you want to go and read all the novels!

As is always the case in short story collections, there were some I enjoyed more than others. The ones I enjoyed least were ones where I solved the mystery too quickly: I much prefer the ones that kept me guessing right until the end.

The highlight for me was probably the final story, The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens. This one was really intriguing and probably the most complex of the mysteries. I also really enjoyed the Wild West themes in The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle, by Caroline Lawrence, and anything by Frances Hardinge is just beautifully written.

While these stories spanned many places and times – Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskerville even ventures into fantasy – they all have a very traditional, old fashioned mystery feel to them, and there’s sure to be something for everyone here.

 4

Book Review: The Double Axe (Philip Womack)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Alma

Pages: 242

Release Date: February 26th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dark forces are at work in the House of the Double Axe. Stephan, the thirteen-year-old son of King Minos of Crete, stumbles across a terrifying conspiracy. Is the Minotaur, a half man half bull who eats human flesh, real? Or is something even more dangerous threatening to engulf both the palace and the world?

Stephan must race to save his family from a terrible fate and find out what really lurks inside the labyrinth…

You think you know the story? Think again.

Review:

This is the first book in a new series which aims to retell classic myths from the point of view of teenage protagonists. I love the idea and think it could be a real hit with readers: it’s the kind of thing I would have loved when I was younger. I know one of my favourite books told part of Cleopatra’s story when she was a teenager and I felt more connected to her at that age than in books where she was older.

I love the myth of Theseus and the minotaur, and this was a really interesting take on it. It’s not quite what you expect if you know the story, but enjoyable all the same. The historical setting feels well researched and realistic, while the myth and magical elements are played around with a bit more as Womack puts his own spin on the events.

The sibling relationship between Stephan and Ariadne was really wonderful, and I particularly like Ari as a character – too often in re-tellings like this female characters still take a back seat, but Ari was brilliant: resourceful, brave and smart, just what I wanted her to be. Stephan, our protagonist, was really strong too, and I can imagine him being really relatable for young/teenage readers. He is young but has to deal with the responsibilities of a man, the pressures of being heir to the throne and also saving the palace from a dark conspiracy. It’s not easy being him!

This is a dark and action packed story based on a familiar myth but with its own unique twist. I’m really looking forward to the next installment!

4

Book Review: Clockwork, or All Wound Up (Philip Pullman)

Publisher: Yearling
Pages: 96
Release Date: 3rd October 1996
Summary (From Goodreads):

 
A magical tale featuring a tormented clock-maker, a deadly knight in armour, a mechanical prince, and the sinister Dr. Kalmenius, who some say is the devil. There are puzzles and riddles, and twists and turns in the plot.
Review:
This is a book I read when I was much younger and thought I’d revisit. I really love reading these old(ish) books now and sharing with people, and hopefully getting a few to read them!This is a very short read – I’m sure it was much bigger when I was younger! – but it is full of a very creepy kind of charm. Pullman paints a beautiful picture in a wintery German village with a wonderful clock who’s clockwork figures are marvelled at from all over the world and which you’d have to watch the whole year round to see each piece come out. It’s so magical and picturesque.

Even as an adult, I still found the story very creepy. It reads like a cross between a Grimm tale and a Victorian fairytale and the overall effect is equal parts charming and sinister. The different threads of the story weave perfectly together to create the perfect quick and scary read.

Alongside the story there are little comments and asides from the narrator with lovely little pictures to go with them. These sometimes add a little more background information on characters and places, or just little warnings from the narrator to his characters. Because, as he says, once a story is wound up, there’s no stopping it.

I’m going to end with a quote because I loved it so much:

“For every once upon a time there must be a story to follow, because if a story doesn’t, something else will and it might not be as harmless as a story.”

 

My Verdict:
 
 

OMG GEE WHIZZ How have you not read this yet?!