Wednesday 30 August 2023
Monday 21 August 2023
Monday 14 August 2023
Some of the best stories we've read this year have been published by Barrington Stoke Books. Dylexia-friendly and perfect for a reluctant reader, these books are much shorter than your average middle-grade novel but still contain the same engaging and age-related content. They also have an accessible layout and font, making them super-readable, and are usually written by already established authors.
Thanks to NetGalley, we always jump at the chance to review these books. The lower word count makes the stories faster-paced than others and ensures they have a tight and gripping story arc. There's a wide range of different genres on offer, ensuring there is something for every reader. However, there isn't one we haven't enjoyed yet...
Bertie and the Alien Chicken by Jenny Pearson, illustrated by Alexsei Bitskoff
Budgie by Joseph Coelho and Dave Barrow
Noah's dad lives in America. They rarely see each other and barely get on because they don't understand each other. But when Noah's dad visits and the pair find an injured nightjar, Noah is determined to help it. Can his nurturing of the nightjar also set the broken relationship he has with his dad on a path of healing?
Thursday 10 August 2023
Crookhaven: The Forgotten Maze by J.J. Arcanjo
Link to publisher
Published by: Hachette, 17th August 2023
Crookhaven: School For Thieves got 2023 off to a cracking start. Now, after eagerly reading the second book in the series, which is due to be released next week, I have only one word to describe it: seamless - rather like the crooks themselves.
Gabriel Avery is returning to Crookhaven for his second year. But with an impossible break-in to negotiate and a forgotten maze to conquer, the challenges facing him and his crew appear insurmountable.
But one thing Gabriel has is confidence. If anyone can do it, surely they can? But perhaps Gabriel needs to be wary of attracting too much attention...
Building on the first novel, J.J. Arcanjo weaves an hypnotic and enthralling storytelling web with criss-crossing strands that all intersect brilliantly. Ensnaring the reader with a cast of loveable characters and a razor-sharp plot which is hard to put down, there's banter, danger, mystery, deception and some seriously epic teamwork. I loved the loyalty of Gabriel, the softness of Amira and the hilarity of the Crim Brothers, which is completed by the gruff but vulnerable genius that is Penelope. There's also a great cast of teachers and various other adult characters that bring either an extra layer danger or warmth.
Crookhaven is an edgy, familiar-yet-unique take on a boarding school set-up. Great for fans of Harry Potter or Skandar, it is also a great choice for those that love villainy and the darker side of adventure. Yet, the Robin Hood concept also gives the book a moral slant and offers up a great point for discussion: is doing wrong justified when you're trying to put things right?
I'm certainly counting down the months until the next instalment in this quest for justice.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing us a review copy. Crookhaven: The Forgotten Maze is released on 17th August 2023.
Ember Shadows and the Lost Deserts of Time by Rebecca KingLink to publisher
After reviewing Rebecca King's debut novel last year, the sequel to Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never was one I was particularly looking forward to. A fantastic fantasy for perhaps the lower end of middle grade, I was taken aback by Rebecca King's fantastic world-building, her fun Wizard of Oz type characters and her incredibly clever concept centred around Fate. Building on that was surely going to be tough...
But, apparently not! Ember Shadows and the Lost Desert of Time is a breathtaking journey through a parallel world which stunned me with its imagination. As Rebecca King moves us away from Mount Never, we are introduced to a recognisable but different world; one which is full of ingenuity, wondrous magic and delightful detail. I particularly loved The Tremoring Tropics and Emocean, which showcases Rebecca King's incredible talent for wordplay - or should I say worldplay? I also found, as with the first novel, that even though the concept is a very thought-provoking and serious one, every page oozes with energy and joy, as though the author has enjoyed every second of creating and writing this series.
And yet, don't be fooled. The concept of Fate is a tricky one and Rebecca King has left no stone unturned in her brilliant exploration of the subject. I particularly love that in this novel, Ember is struggling with the consequences of her actions in Book One and is forced to question the morality of her decisions. This offers up so many opportunities for young readers to engage in interesting discussions on what is a deep and complex topic.
As well as the favourites from the first novel, also prepare to meet some great new characters. Nick is particularly fun whereas Lacey made the hairs on my arms prickle. This is an author who knows and loves every inch of the incredible world she has created - maybe it was that and not Lacey which actually gave me goosepimples.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing me a review copy. Ember Shadows and The Lost Desert of Time is released on 17th August.
Tuesday 8 August 2023
Published by: Future Human Ltd, 3rd August 2023
It feels forever ago that we reviewed the first two books in this fantastic, fun and very kooky sci-fi series. Perfect for fans of Stranger Things, the third book was one of last year's summer highlights and now, just in time for the holidays, the fourth instalment is finally upon us. Needless to say, it shot straight to the top of our TBR pile and kept us entertained from beginning to end. This is probably one of our most favourite middle grade series EVER...
Lucy Sladan knows the world is in serious trouble. Her friend, Milo, has fallen inside a huge and mysterious blob, Milo's dad is doing everything he can to destroy the alien species that has been living alongside them and now an alien rescue mission is on its way - threatening to end the human race once and for all. After investing so much time and energy into exposing the Truth, can Lucy handle the consequences of it getting out and can she save the planet by finding a way for her fellow humans to ever accept it?
With vivid world-building and a retro feel, this clever twist on an alien invasion is tightly-plotted, funny and explores themes and observations which are razor sharp. Set in small town America, it offers a searing insight into the flaws of humanity whilst also delivering a warm and witty hope. Lucy Sladan may not always be a likeable character but, softened by Milo, her dogged determination combined with her love for her family is endearing. Mr. Fisher plays the ultimate arrogant AND ignorant imbecile you just want to - well - catapult into space and Tex and the rest of Lucy's crew bring the humour.
The plot is wacky and outlandish but in an utterly brilliant way: think Bigfoot and shapeshifters and slime and intergalactic lizard-type creatures. Plus, for those who have followed the series from the beginning, there is an hilarious revelation in the final chapter. The language and dialogue is on the money for pre-teens and the vibe of each novel buzzes with a coolness that is hard to define.
This is storytelling at its most unique and awesome. It's like stepping back into my 1980's childhood and yet it's not like anything we've read before. Spooky, atmospheric and nostalgic, it's one supernatural series you're not going to forget.
A big thanks to Dashe Roberts and Future Human Ltd for offering me a review copy. The Wrath of the Blob is available to buy now.
Thursday 3 August 2023
Wednesday 2 August 2023
Princess Katie's Kittens: Bella at the Ball
The second book in this re-released series focuses on Bella, one of the five kittens that Princess Katie found in book one. With each book centring around a different kitten, Julie Skyes has created a great opportunity to show off the kittens different personalities...
Bella is up to mischief. Fed up of being stuck in the boot room with her brothers and sisters, she escapes and explores the palace. But everyone is busy preparing for a super important ball and it's not long before Bella's antics threaten to ruin the whole event. Can Katie catch the kitten before disaster strikes and how will she keep Bella entertained?
Unusually for a chapter book, the story flits between both Katie and Bella's viewpoints. This is a clever twist which definitely adds to its fun factor and which makes it the perfect read for cat-lovers and for those who are fans of princess stories. Katie is quite a traditional princess, expected to dress prettily and perform for her parents, but it is her love of the kittens which gives her an unique edge and the story a clear USP. The plot is light-hearted and pacey and offers pure joy and escapism for readers. We're excited to find out which kitten will be the start of the next book.
A big thanks to NetGalley, Piccadilly Press and Templar for allowing us review copies. Both books are now available to order or pre-order.
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Link to author website Published by: Future Human Ltd, 3rd August 2023 👍👍👍👍👍 It feels forever ago that we reviewed the first two boo...