Tuesday 12 July 2022

NEW RELEASE: The Myriad Mysteries of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen

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Published by: Firefly Press, 7th July 2022


It feels like a long time ago since I read The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith - the brilliant debut novel by Loris Owen, released in September 2020. But my eager wait for the second in the series has been well worth it. Packed full of adventure, mysteries and world-jumping, Kip and his crew find themselves embroiled in a dangerous quest. 

With the recently discovered 'Ark of Ideas' remaining unfathomable, Kip, Albert, Timmi and Leela are baffled as to how they can continue Eartha' Quicksmith's mission. But when their 'Dreambomber' invention leads to a discovery, Kip and Timmi find themselves plunged into a myriad of different worlds. Trying to find their way home, they stumble upon the next pieces of the puzzle. But can they elude the Myriad Pirates long enough to fulfil their quest and will they ever be reunited with Albert and Leela?

This is one action-packed, amazingly plotted novel. Loris Owen's imagination and in-depth creation is extraordinary, bringing together riddles, puzzles and mystery with fairly complex science and technology. After the set-up in the first novel, here we are thrown immediately into the action - be prepared to keep up!

Whereas Book One reminded me very much of the first Harry Potter story where the three children solve puzzles to find the philosopher's stone, this novel has more of a Strangeworlds Travel Agency aspect to it, although it remains a very different story. There is slightly less emphasis on the riddles and more on the Myriad worlds and the children's own inventions. The world-building is exquisite, as is the attention to detail, and you immediately know that there is a very big picture to this quest, with far more exciting stuff still to come. 

Kip remains an amiable main character who has a deep fragility, really making him a protagonist to root for. In this novel, there is far less emphasis on his family's personal circumstances, which very much drove the internal arc of book one. However, the final dream scene is truly touching and brings back Kip's heartbreak with full force. I love the power of teamwork between the four children and their professors and how everyone plays a valuable part in the mission. In fact, the characters and plot keep us so capitavated that there is only a slight touch of villainy, which grows stronger at the end. 

Science and technology were my two weakest subjects at school, occasionally leading me to be put off by complicated and technical plots involving the theory of time travel, dreams and world matter. However, Loris Owen has made the world of Eartha Quicksmith so engaging, lively and imaginative that these threads of the novel literally jump of the page, infecting the reader with their crackling energy (or should I say 'strange energy'). It's magical in a different way to other comparison novels and it's definitely a series I want to reread in order to get the most out of it. Highly original and memorable, this is definitely something special. 

A big thanks to Netgalley and Firefly Press for allowing me a review copy. The Myriad Mysteries of Eartha Quicksmith is out now. 

Monday 4 July 2022

The Fire Cats of London by Anna Fargher

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Published by: Pan MacMillan, 7th July 2022


Middle-grade animal stories have been one of our highlights for 2022 so far. From The Lost Whale to The Girl Who Lost a Leopard to While the Storm Rages, these stand-out tales have warmed our hearts and kept us gripped and The Fire Cats of London is no exception. This is the first novel we've read by Anna Fargher and we highly recommend it.

When young wildcats, Asta and Ash are taken from their natural habitat and sold to a London apothecary, Asta is determined to escape. But further horrors lie in store - an horrific fighting ring and a deadly plot which is about to put the whole city in danger. How will Asta get out with her own life, let alone save her brother?

This is the perfect story for animal-lovers and history fans. However, although the publisher's website recommends it for 6-8 years, I would personally place it firmly in the middle-grade category. Gripping from the outset, the animal cruelty makes it a challenging read in places, leaving readers with a very stark question hanging over the actions of humankind. Yet, to counter balance this, there is bucketloads of bravery and kindness too, showing readers that there is always another way...

Asta is a wildcat to root for. Despite her fear and suffering, she remains selfless, tenacious and true to herself. Her love for her brother is endearing and her bravery, in the face of absolute terror, is awe-inspiring. We loved her relationship with Tilia - another wonderful character - and her uneasy acceptance of Miriam. In contrast, there are also some seriously nasty villains, both of the human and feline kind. Beauty was a particularly love-to-hate character and brilliantly written.

Our favourite thing about this novel is how fact and fiction are so cleverly interwoven. We learnt so much about the period - the lifestyle, architecture and the brutal entertainment - alongside the devastating impact of The Great Fire of London and the treatment of supposedly 'lesser creatures'. At the same time, we were gripped by a compelling, fictional story that uses both the era and the fire as a dramatic backdrop and which draws the readers' attention to the animals so often forgotten within human history. Now we can't wait to read more of Anna Fargher's work...

A big thanks to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for allowing us a review copy. The Fire Cats of London is available to pre-order and is released on 7th July 2022.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Upcoming Release: Tiny Crab is a Tidy Crab by Paula Bowles

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Published by: Simon and Schuster, 7th July 2022


With an endearing main character and an important message, this new release from Paula Bowles is a beachy delight. Echoing the long summer days that hopefully we're all enjoying, this picture book is all about having fun, being considerate and looking after the planet too. 

Crab loves his beachy home. But when he invites some friends to come and enjoy it too, he's shocked when they make a real mess. Soon Crab is doing all the tidying up while the others have fun. Maybe it's time to make his voice heard...

Living close to the beach ourselves and trying to do our bit to keep it clean, this is the perfect picture book for my three, gently reinforcing the need to take responsibility for our actions. But whether you live near the beach, are visiting the beach or have never even been to the beach, the message is still applicable to everyone; be considerate to others and protect our special places. Although this might seem slightly didactic (but hugely important), the takeaway is wrapped up snugly (just like a snail in a shell) within an entertaining story and told through the eyes of an adorable but tiny character who really cares. Surely, his friends will have way more fun on a clean and tidy beach?

Crab is a brilliant choice of main character - representing that small lone voice we often feel we have. But although easy to ignore, this little guy is not giving up and proves a tiny voice can make a difference when it finds its boldness. The illustrations are a joy and will put you right in the holiday mood but, best of all, adults can also use the book to gently introduce the idea of a 'tidy house' too. Okay, I may be joking about that (mostly) but tidy definitely doesn't mean 'no fun!'

A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me a review copy. Tiny Crab is a Tidy Crab is available to pre-order and out on the 7th July. 

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