A Witch Come True – James Nicol

There’s always a certain amount of sadness when a series you love comes to an end. I can’t believe the wonderful Apprentice Witch has now reached the final book in the trilogy, ‘A Witch Come True.’ James Nicol’s wonderful writing has completely cast a spell over me and enjoyed getting lost in Arianwyn’s  world. Now that the war is done Arianwyn is hoping that her life can return to normal and she can learn the truth of the quiet glyphs at last. Unfortunately her troubles are far from over, the hex on the great woods is a heavy presence in her mind and her day-to-day work in Lull is constantly testing her knowledge. But the darkness is rising once again and Arianwyn’s self belief is wavering. A dramatic turn of events pushes her to her very limits as she searches for a way to protect those she loves the most.

James brings this series to a rather fitting and glorious end with a story filled with darkness and magic spilling out of every page. Arianwyn’s struggles to come to terms with the changes all around her, everyone seems to have moved on apart from her and she feel the weight of the responsibilities set upon her which never allow her to be herself. Despite her success she still doubts herself and this is compounded by the words of those around her who seek to control her every move. But inside Arianwyn know she must choose to make her own decisions even when they go badly wrong. She’s incredibly brave but flawed and this is why she totally stole my heart from the very first story. Surrounding her with such a brilliant cast of characters brings this story to life allowing the reader to become totally absorbed in this marvellous adventure.

There is so much magic and beauty within this book, James has totally brought this series to life with his extraordinary world-building which continues to enchant me. I feel like I’ve entered the gates of Lull and been able to watch the events unfold right before my eyes because James’s writing is so thoughtful and descriptive. For me this series has really stood out for being exceptionally written, James has a real talent for storytelling that I really admire. Ultimately this is a story of bravery, friendship and having belief in yourself when others may doubt you. A truly unforgettable story filled with magic and mystery that will capture your heart and captivate your imagination.

If you’re intrigued by this review you can read the first chapter here.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts ‘A Witch Come True.’

Thank you to James for inviting me to join in with this blog tour and to Chicken House books for sending me a gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ‘A Witch Come True,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.

An irresistible combination of glorious characterisation and completely believable world building makes these stories  utterly compelling.

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The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet – by Martin Howard, illustrated by Chris Mould

Today I’m kicking off the blog tour for Martin’s Howard’s intrepid adventure, ‘The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet,’ illustrated by the brilliant Chris Mould. Alfie lives a bleak and depressing life. He and his mum are desperately poor and live on a diet of fish-head soup, you know it’s bad when homeless people slip you a few coins because they feel sorry for you. But Alfie is determined to bring a bit of a joy into his mum’s life on his birthday and will do anything to earn some money. So when he sees an advert offering him a chance to earn £49.99 for a day’s work he is compelled to respond.  Little does he know that his new job for The Unusual Cartography Club is about to take him on a mind-bending, out-of-this world adventure that he will never forgot. A journey that will take him via Brains-In-Jars world to Outlandish where he will have to learn to outwit barbarians and slay dragons if he’s ever going to find his way back home in time for his mum’s birthday.

Wonderfully eccentric and downright peculiar in every way I can see this book being devoured by children at school. I particularly enjoyed Alfie’s creation of a humorous travel journal where he records all his thoughts as he experiences all these weird and wonderful events. Martin has assembled an intriguing cast of characters from the quirky professor to the vain Prince Hoodwink. He challenges stereotypes by making the brave knight Sir Brenda who takes on quests, while her husband stays at home looking after the children and the savage Derek who is a ferocious beast who despite the name is also a girl. Chris Mould’s intricate and lively illustrations give the reader a real sense of the strangeness of the situation Alfie finds himself in. His skill for capturing the personalities of characters is just marvellous, his illustrations are completely engaging. Fabulously funny and brilliantly bonkers, this is a really entertaining read.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more about this funny adventure.

Thank you to Emma and OUP for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. ‘The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet,’ is released on the 7th March and is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Spring has sprung!

Looking outside your window on a day like today, you might dispute the fact that spring had sprung but we are officially in meteorological spring. I love this time of the year when the daylight lasts longer and spring is well and truly within our grasp. So it feels like the perfect time to share some books about nature and the great outdoors. These books help us explore the environment outside our windows meeting bees, butterflies and appreciating the glory of wild flowers and the creatures who live in our natural world.

The Green  Giant – Katie Cottle

When Bea, and her dog, Iris, go to stay with her grandad in the country. Bea is sure she’ll be bored. She’d much rather play on her device outside than help her grandad with the garden. But when naughty Iris chases a cat into next door’s garden she leads them to the small and rusty old greenhouse.  Inside Bea gets a shock when she discovers a giant made entirely of plants and greenery. Although Bea is alarmed, she is reassured by the giant who tells her about his escape from the grey city. They soon become friends and Bea is sad when the time has come to return to the city but together they come up with a plan to make it a greener place. Beautifully told with stunning illustrations this story embraces the joy of bringing greenery to our cities and highlights how small changes can bring a real difference to changing our world for the better.

Princess Poppy: Please, Please Save the Bees – Janey Louise Jones & Jennie Poh

‘Princess Poppy: Please, Please Save the Bees,’ by Janey Louise Jones and illustrated by Jenny Poh is a gentle introduction to allow children to understand about the plight of the bees. Poppy and her friends are on mission to discover why the bees have gone missing from Honeypot Hill. Without the bees they discover there will be no more delicious strawberries, pears, tomatoes or honey treats. Beautifully told with charming illustrations, this will appeal to nature loving children. Alongside the story can help Poppy find the creatures hidden in the book and learn practical ways to help the bee population.

Little Bear’s Spring – Elli Woollard & Briony May Smith

I’m a huge fan of Elli and Briony’s work so I was thrilled to discover they were collaborating on a picture book. ‘Little Bear’s Spring,’ is a joyful celebration of friendship, as little bear emerges from the winter in search of a friend. All he can find is a smooth little stone that he carries around but nobody wants to play. The birds, the hares and the wolves are far too busy getting ready for spring and little bear feels lost and all alone. He doesn’t understand what this spring is and is desperately sad when his stone cracks. But when he wakes the next day he discovers a whole new world and a brand new playmate. Elli’s beautiful, lyrical rhymes are the perfect match for Briony’s sumptuous spreads which capture the changing seasons stunningly. Exquisitely produced this is a picture book which deserves to be treasured and shared over and over again.

Chasing Butterflies – Zoe Sadler

Nova is a very determined girl on a mission. Today is the day she is going to catch a butterfly. The problem is the butterfly is equally as determined not to get caught. Join Nova as she swoops her net, climbs trees and crosses oceans in a bid to achieve her goal. But when Nova does success she finds it doesn’t bring her the joy she imagined. Zoe’s story is full of movement and energy capturing brilliantly the epic quest that Nova sets herself, refusing to allow anything to get in her way of catching a butterfly. It shows the reader how sometimes we just need to enjoy and live in the moment rather than chasing a goal all the time. Quirky and lively illustrations create an intriguing and charming story which is bound to captivate younger readers.

A Walk Through Nature – Clover Robin & Libby Walden

‘A Walk Through Nature,’ celebrates the wonders of the natural world with a compelling mix of enchanting poetry and fascinating facts to inform and entertain the reader. Journey through this book and you will discover the changes in nature throughout the seasons appreciating the differences each season brings before it disappears. It captures the beauty and magic within our woods and fields as we explore this world all around us through exquisite illustrations that invite us to peek through and learn more. Learn how birds build their intricate nests, uncover the miniscule marvels that hide under fallen logs and find rabbits buried deep underground in their warrens. A truly interactive and joyful experience which encourages children to become nature lovers.

The Nature Girls – Aki

‘The Nature Girls,’ by Aki is a funny and lively trip around the world where our band of fierce and bold explorers are ready to face whatever nature throws at them. They dive with dolphins, whistle with exotic birds, trek across deserts on camels and travel across an icy tundra to spot snow hares. This story provides an interesting and fun introduction to the great outdoors, a perfect spark for learning about new places.  Aki uses bold, vibrant illustrations to bring this story to life. The lively, fun rhymes make this story a joy to read aloud. Entertaining and engaging in equal measures.

 

Thank you to Little Tiger, Macmillan, Pavillion, Janey Louise Jones and Zoe Sadler for sending me gifted copies of these books in an exchange for an honest review. To buy or pre-order a copy of these books click on the title to buy online or order from you local bookshop.

Against All Gods – Maz Evans

Reader I have a confession to make that will probably make fans of Maz Evans’s glorious, ‘Who Let the Gods Out,’ series downright furious. *whispers* I’ve had my copy of ‘Against All Gods,’ the final book in the quartet since January and I only read it last week. Shocking some might stay, despicable you may cry – but the truth is I just didn’t feel emotionally ready to read it. If you read my review of, ‘Beyond the Odyssey’ you would know that it left me battered, bereft and heart-broken. Twice I picked this book up and couldn’t bring myself to read past the first few pages but I had to put aside my selfish feelings and put the readers of the blogs first as I could no longer deny you the joy of this book.

I’m not sure my review of this book will capture how absolutely brilliant it is. If  I was anywhere near as talented as Maz Evans, no doubt I’d be able to rattle this review off in rhyme without even having to look at my notes. Trust me I been to all four of her book launches and her speeches are beyond belief, they’re almost as good as her books. But I digress, what can we expect from Elliot and the Gods in the final adventure? Life is really bleak for Elliot. He feels betrayed, abandoned and all alone. When you feel that you have nothing left to loose, that’s when you make irrational and foolish decisions. Unfortunately his decision not only affects him but the whole of humanity as he rolls the dice and takes his chances with his arch enemy Thanatos. Thus ensuing the ‘mother of all battles,’ is in full flow.

Yet again Maz manages to combine high-octane adventure with heart-breaking drama. The reader has been on an epic, emotional rollercoaster throughout this series but that’s just a teaser as we feel the full force of the war between good and evil. She deftly mixes the emotional highs and lows with pure comic moments that will make you cry with laughter. I particularly loved the use of unusual battle weapons including free manicures, steaming stew and golden flagons of nectar, care of the joyous Aphrodite. I defy you not to laugh-out-loud at the scene with our hard core royal family who refuse to lie down and let our kingdom succumb to the evilness of Thanatos and family. Utterly brilliant from start to finish, an irresistible combination of heart and humour. With this exceptional finale Maz confirms her position as Queen of Comedy.

Thank you to Jazz and Chicken House for sending me a gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. ‘Against All Gods,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.

Storm Hound – Claire Fayers

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Claire Fayers’ funny and entertaining new book, ‘Storm Hound.’ When Storm of Odin the youngest of the stormhounds falls from the sky during his first Wild Hunt and lands on earth it sets off a series of unexpected events. He’s unexpectedly transformed into a cute puppy and is whisked away to an animal rescue centre. Furious that he’s no longer an intimidating beast Storm finds his life turned upside down especially when he’s adopted by 12-year-old Jessica who is coming to terms with the split of her parents. Somehow these two have an unexpected connection and Jessica notices there’s something a bit different about her beloved new pet. Unfortunately for her a large number of strange people are also very interested in Storm. People who behave very oddly and seem to know a lot about magic.

Fast-paced and filled with fun, I whizzed through ‘Storm Hound,’ swept away on this hilarious and magical adventure. I just love Storm’s total indignation at being reduced to a mere puppy who is mocked when he claims to be a true stormhound while having to suffer the humiliation and limitations of an immortal dog. He forms a firm friendship with the brave and brilliant cat next door Nutmeg who recognises that something strange and sinister is unfolding in Abergavenny. Set against this battle between good and bad magic we see the sadness and despair of Jessica and Ben who are uprooted to Wales after their parent’s divorce. We watch them trying to find their place in this new and very different world just like new boy David who is struggling to work out who he really is. Claire deals with these difficult issue thoughtfully and sensitively allowing the reader to build empathy with these characters. A clever mix of myth, magic and reality in this compelling romp of a read.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews, guest posts and giveaways.

Thank you to Karen and Macmillan for sending me a gifted proof copy of ‘Storm Hound,’ in exchange for an honest review. ‘Storm Hound,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.

Charlie Changes Into a Chicken – Sam Copeland, illustrated by Sarah Horne

I’m in real awe of anyone who can write funny fiction. Funny is so difficult to write, at the best I might be able to conjure up a mildly humorous joke in my writing but never any full on laugh-out-loud moments. So it’s rare to discover a writer, especially a debut one who has a real knack for comedy. But Sam Copeland’s debut, ‘Charlie Changes Into a Chicken,’ is one of those books that will genuinely make you laugh-out-loud, cringe with embarrassment and tell all your friends about. Meet Charlie McGuffin ( I can barely type this name without sniggering) an eternal optimist who is determined to see the best in everything. Unfortunately for Charlie his life is rapidly becoming a half-empty scenario rather than a half-full version. His brother is really ill in hospital, his parents are incredibly anxious and just when you thing things can’t get worse, the school bully sets his sights on Charlie. For the first time in his life Charlie is totally stressed out and doesn’t know how to cope. Panic sets in which disastrously leads him to discover that he has a hidden power that is bound to get him into a whole heap of trouble, including much unwanted attention from the bully. With the help of his three best friends can Charlie learn to deal with his power before the truth is exposed?

I had such high expectations of this book having seen rave reviews across social media, so I’m pleased to confirm that these glowing praises are hugely justified. Sam deftly mixes humour and heart in a story that deals with some really tough issues in an accessible way, helping children to gain an empathetic insight into the lives of others. At a time when children’s mental health seems increasingly fragile, I think readers need to see themselves in books and understand other’s experiences. Charlie’s life feels out of control and exceptionally difficult so it should be quite bleak, instead it’s a riotous mix of chaos and carnage that will leave you with a huge smile on your face. Sarah Horne’s lively and hilarious illustrations magnificently portray the variety of Charlie’s emotions as he struggles to come to terms with his new powers. My favourite illustration (above) had to be Charlie appearing rather unexpectedly in the girl’s toilets, this whole scene is pure comedy genius. Brilliantly observant with laughter aplenty, this series is bound to become a fast favourite with lovers of funny tales.

Thank you to Sophia and Puffin for sending me a gifted proof copy in exchange for a honest review. ‘Charlie Changes Into A Chicken,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson Guest Post

Today I am delighted to welcome Jane Elson to the blog with a special guest post to mark Children of Alcoholics week which aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. ‘Will You Catch Me,’ is a beautiful, empathetic read about a girl called Nell who is craving a normal and predictable life. Her life is disrupted by the ups and downs of her alcohol dependant mother. A life where every day she has no idea if it will be a good day or a terrible day depending on whether her Mum has kept her promise to Nell. She lives with a menagerie of animals who provide comfort from her increasingly difficult life. Nell thinks her only hope is to track down her Dad so that he can look after them all, so her life can be ordinary instead of chaotic. With her best friend Michael she hatches a plan so that her Dad will have to come and claim her, but will she succeed? Heart-breaking and incredibly poignant, Jane’s storytelling brings a really honest insight into the most difficult of topics dealing with them sensitively and thoughtfully. Her stories feel so genuine and truthful. She gets to the heart of her characters allowing the readers to really feel their raw emotions and internal struggles, taking you along on this emotional journey with them. Yet again another moving and sublime read from Jane Elson, I can’t recommend it enough.

Operation Ark Care, love and routine – Jane Elson

Nell Hobs in Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent. Aunty Lou, as all the children on the Beckham Estate affectionately call her, lives next door with Nell’s best friend Michael. Aunty Lou is not happy when Nell’s mum leaves her on her own to go to the pub and insists that Nell, who has been locked in the flat by her mum, comes next door to stay with her for the night.

Nell refuses unless all her animals can come too and ‘Operation Ark’, the plan that she hatched with her best friend Michael, is put into action. So Bob Marley the tortoise, Asbo and Chaos the guinea pigs, Aunty Lou the hamster (in honour of the real-life Lou), Fiz and Tyrone the gerbils, and Beyoncé and Destiny the goldfish all get passed through the window in the middle of the night!

The inspiration for ‘Operation Ark’ goes back to World War Two when my dad was a little boy. The air raid siren would blare as the bombs started to fall and his mum, my Nana Elson, would scream at my dad to get in the air raid shelter. He wouldn’t listen and would run backwards and forwards, saving his jam jars of tiddlers, tadpoles and newts from Hitler’s bombs.

As a little girl the bible story of Noah’s Ark really captured my imagination. It made sense that Nell, who is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate, would feel an affinity to Noah, ‘the first great naturalist’ as Nell calls him, for rescuing all of those animals.

As an undiagnosed dyslexic child, school was a frightening, confusing place for me growing up. And at home I would have a permanent anxious knot in my tummy as my entire happiness revolved around what mood my dad would be in when he got home from the pub. My biggest comfort was my grey rabbit, Flopsy. Every morning as soon as I woke up I would pull on a thick, woolly cardigan over my nightie and shoving my feet in a pair of old shoes, creep downstairs, unlock the backdoor and tramp over the grass to get my rabbit out of his hutch. Then me and Flopsy would snuggle in my bed, under the quilt till it was time for me to go to dreaded school. I loved that rabbit more than life itself.

Animals bring such comfort and routine to children from chaotic backgrounds. I know what a comfort my rabbit was to me when things were turbulent at home. You have to have a routine when looking after an animal. Feeding them at a certain time, cleaning their cages and making sure they get exercise. Nell’s animal family are the only stability and routine she has. Bob Marley, Asbo and Chaos, Beyoncé and Destiny and co. are to Nell what Flopsy Rabbit was to my younger self. It was a delight creating them for Will You Catch Me?

There are 2.6 million children in the UK with a parent who is alcohol dependent. The stability and routine of their daily lives will be greatly affected by this dependency. For those children who read Nell’s story and think, ‘This is me, this is my story too’, Nacoa is a wonderful charity who run a 24-hour help line for children affected by parental drinking. For readers whose lives are untouched by alcohol addiction, I hope Will You Catch Me? is an enjoyable read which helps them empathise with the lives of children like Nell.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

Thank you to Jane for sharing this very personal and thoughtful guest post on the blog today.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.

 

Thank you to Jane and Fritha for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Will You Catch Me,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.