Archives for the month of: February, 2019

Image result for cosmic atlas of alfie fleet oxford

Published by Oxford

This is the tale of Alfie, a boy who would like to give his Mum a Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa, with Soothejet Technology and Vibrating Toe-Polishers for her birthday. His only problem? He doesn’t have quite enough money to buy her one. He had been planning for months and his latest scheme had just failed  to turn his £100 into £149.99 – he was stuck and her birthday was the next day… Feeling rather despondent he starts to read the Classifieds…

HELP NEEDED due to bad back…

£49.99 paid in cash….

would suit a young person with a

taste of adventure

Sounds ideal…

Thus starts this quite extraordinary adventure. Reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), this is an adventure which includes other worlds, a dragon, a beautiful elf, cartography, an eccentric professor,  a moped named Betsy and Derek – an expert on hunting, fishing, mountain biking and…

threatening behaviour.

Full of characters – this is a fun exploration of space, stone circles and time and planet exploration…

My proof (being a proof), isn’t finished yet – so not all the illustrations are in place. That said there is plenty of scope for Chris Mould’s art and having seen his other work, I suspect it will be filled with them – this is a wild piece of science fiction for perhaps the younger readers out there, though some of the older bibliophiles will enjoy it too…I did…

Image result for in the shadows of heroes nicholas bowling chicken house

Published by Chicken House

I am so excited by this book and I have only reached page 36 out of some 376 of my proof.

I received it a little while ago – and brought it home. Did my usual thing of dropping new proofs on the piles on the stairs, when I noticed the author – Nicholas Bowling and knew there was a good one in the stack. He wrote Witchborn some time ago – also reviewed on this blog.

Last night I threw away a book which wasn’t up to scratch and grabbed the next by my bed and I can tell you, this is a good one. It already has the smell, the tantalisation of a good story well told.

You won’t be able to buy it yet – comes out at the beginning of May – but already there’s mystery and intrigue…it is set in the times of Nero (54 A.D.) and the main character seems to be a young educated slave boy…a rare circumstance in ancient Rome.

It’s going to be a good one. I’m supposed to be doing jobs – the house is a tip – but all I want to do is read…I love books like this.

I have no doubt I will add to this when completed…but for now – this will have to do…

Related imageI have now finished this – so, to continue:

Jason and the Argonauts…that golden fleece…Nero…and the burning of Roman. A book for those who enjoy the Classics – and a book for those who have little or no knowledge. A brilliant adventure set in ancient Rome – stupendous. I loved it – particularly the relationship between an ancient Britain and a small dormouse. I hope and trust that this is the start of a series. Cadmus and Tog are superb characters – there is definite potential for this to be developed… it’s brilliant.

One of the lesser ‘highlights’ of my school career was to receive the extraordinary result of 11% for a Latin exam. On reflection, I feel that this was more of a failure of the teacher concerned (she was to be honest, quite terrifying), however, that said I regret it. Not least as I now have to look up the odd Latin quote – which halts the flow of the odd book in which I find them. I always like to have notes, preferably at the bottom of the page with a translation. Sadly the proof I read of this does not include these – and it would have been good to have had them. I read it on the train – and didn’t have resource to a dictionary. Further to look up a phrase would have broken the line of the story. Perhaps, though Chicken House will provide…you can never tell when reading a proof.

Buy this – check for the notes and if not there at the bottom of the page, buy a small Latin dictionary at the same time… It is certainly worth the trouble…and small expense.





Image result for pog kenny


Published by Chicken House

We looks at things and holds them close.

Things what remind us of family.

Powerful they become.

Memories of those who have gone before, laid down they are,

like layers of silt on riverbeds – and they sway,

this way and that with the current, and we hold,

and we remember.

T’is our duty to remember.

Pog. Padraig Kenny’s previous title was Tin – I rather like the fact that his books have titles that are one syllable: simple, but almost profound. I hope he continues with this – it could be quite a feature of his books. They are both brilliant (I reviewed Tin on this blog some time ago) – I loved Pog.

This is the story of Pog of the Burrows to the North, before the far reaches, Keeper of the Necessary, Guardian of the Dark, Pog of the First Folk. It is also the story of Penny and David who have recently moved with their father to their new house. A house with a difference. A house that seems to have more about it than it first appears.

This is an adventure with an endearing wonderful hero (we should all have a member of the First Folk in our lofts) that deals with grief, responsibility and bravery.

Them that’s dead is never gone.


Image result for lenny's book of everything pushkin

Published by Pushkin Books

Holy Batman!

Lenny’s mother wins a competition at the beginning of this hugely touching and emotionally charged brilliant volume. She is one of the lucky winners of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopedia set.

Some of my followers may not know what an Encyclopedia is, or, I should say was. Before the Internet existed you could buy sets of books that contained everything you need to know about everything. A dictionary in a way of everything from the universe, through wildlife, geography, languages, people, sciences, philosophies, religions…everything there was to know was contained in these sets of books. A famous example was the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was first published (the Internet tells me) in 1768. The last time it was printed (it is now available on the Web), was in 2010 and it was bound in 32 volumes and it would have been printed in a very small font too.

So Lenny’s mother won a set of these and this book is punctuated with letters between her and the General Sales Manager who, as is the way of the world, rather hopes that she can gain some sales out of this situation.

Lenny mean while becomes entranced with beetles…her brother with birds of prey…and birds in general. Every Friday the children run down to get the latest instalment, the latest letter.  The books become point of importance, of reference, if you will, to the family, and particularly for Lenny’s brother who seems to be perpetually growing and doesn’t seem to be able to stop.

This is a wonderful book. It deals very sensitively with the big questions of life and death. It is an emotional volume, but one that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a book that EVERYONE should read.



Published by Nosy Crow.

Our eldests are heroes.

Our eldests are special.

Our eldests are brave.

Shame upon any who holds back an eldest

And Shame upon their kin.

Most of all,

Shame upon the wanderers.

Let Peace settle over the Quiet War,

Truly and forever.

‘My big sister, is bigger than me’… I am sure there is a poem that starts with that phrase. This is a story set around where you stand in the family: Oldest, Youngest or a Middler. My big sister was a Middler. I don’t think she felt the same way as Maggie does in this fantastic tale of deceit. I have never asked her. Perhaps I should.

Jed, is an Eldest – so a hero. He’s special. He’s brave. Trig is four years Maggie’s junior, the Youngest and Maggie?  Well she’s not important at all. She’s a Middler. She won’t be doing anything interesting. She’s not important. She will live safely. Her life will be secure, quiet…unlike her brother’s.  She isn’t brave (she’s a Middler), she’s not special (she’s a Middler) and she certainly isn’t a hero. Eldests are heroes, special and brave. They go to camp…

Maggie begins to realise that things aren’t quite as she has always been led to believe. Perhaps it isn’t so wonderful to leave, seemingly never to return, to fight the Quiet War. Perhaps there’s more to this then she thought.

Fennis Wick is protected from the Quiet War by the Boundary; protected by all the Eldests who go to fight, to keep their families safe. Beyond the Boundary – there’s wilderness, lawlessness and there are the dirty, dangerous and deceitful Wanderers

I’m not sure I am as brave as Maggie. Though thinking about it, I am certain that my big sister (you know, the one that is bigger than me), would certainly have done something of a similar line as Maggie and on reflection – I hate inequality and lies…and I have been known to say what I think and to stand up for what I believe in – so perhaps we two would fight for what is right…certainly to protect my brother…siblings are so important, so special.

A dystopian story about lies, deceit, families, friendships and siblings…

Eldest. Middler. Youngest.

Dirty, dangerous and deceitful wanderers.

A stupendous book about malfeasance,

thinking for yourself and

standing up for what is right.

A book for now.

Simply one of the best books I have read in ages…



NB. I have just looked up that poem – and find it’s by Spike Milligan and entitled: My Sister Laura. I haven’t read it in years…




Image result for The Boy who flew hitchcock

Published by Nosy Crow

Athan Wilde has a habit of running around roof-tops – leaping from one building to another. Much to the annoyance of the people trying to sleep in the buildings below. He’s also a friend of Mr Chen and between them they are designing and making a flying machine. A delicate and difficult project at the best of times…and these aren’t the best of times.

A story of bravery. Treachery. Lies, deceit and friendship. It’s a proper, traditional tale – a tale of murder and mayhem.

A story of hopes and dreams.



Image result for midnight at moonstone flecker oxford university press

Published by Oxford University Press.

I was supposed to be reading another Pushkin title, however, I finished the book I had taken to work the day before yesterday, in my lunch break, and minutes after a parcel was put in my hands: two new proofs for me to read from OUP. This was one of them.

I can’t claim to know anything about fashion. I love old fabrics though – those with embroidery, interesting patterns to the weave – and colour. I do like good design too – though sadly I spend most of my time wearing trousers / jeans and t-shirts. More practical for lugging totes of books about…

This is a rather gorgeous and flamboyant story set in a museum of fashion – a miniature Victoria & Albert if you will. Kit is artistic – she is interested in colour and art. Her father isn’t. Can’t see the use of learning to sew…and would like her to attend the William Siddis Memorial School in London, an academic establishment with little time for the arts. Kit would not. She would prefer to study at St. Leopold’s…a school with a different emphasis. She runs away…

One reason I loved this so much was the other dimension to the story…Lara’s expertise is that of a costume expert at the V&A Museum in London (she’s been a senior textile conservation display specialist at the V&A for 15 odd years) and this colours the story beautifully. If anything I would have liked more input about the history of fashions and fabrics, however, it may be that it would have taken away some of the flow of this rather fun story.

You will have gathered that I loved it. The cover of the proof has a lovely sketch of a rather cross looking character with a fan and a dress with a rather large hooped skirt with the sort of decoration I love…with flowers sewn on to it. There’s an illustration on the back, of what is proposed as the cover that the book will have – which is a development, I think of that of the proof.

I would love for the book to have been covered with a photograph of some old 17th c / 18 c fabric…but perhaps that wouldn’t be so enticing for younger readers… The book, though, promises to be illustrated with fold out flaps – showing the costume detail in ‘full-colour’ detail…

I am hoping to have Lara and Trisha (the illustrator) to come for an event at Waterstones O2 – keep an eye on the Waterstones web site….all the detail will be there – if they say yes!

I do hope they do!

Image result for the tunnels below nadine

Published by Pushkin Children’s

Another brilliant book from Pushkin Publishing. I am London born and bred and so you would think that the tube has little to concern me. On the whole this is true, though sometimes when travelling in the deeper tunnels late at night, perhaps in a carriage with no one else around and you look out, you can see disused stations, areas underground that seem to go nowhere…dark places…that just might be places like The Black of Beyond…

This is a story of The Black of Beyond. An area where ‘legend has it that if you just keep walking you can end up walking from somewhere to nowhere.’ 

A story of wanderers, who are ‘confused inhabitants, ordinary dwellers, that have ‘wandered off’ and been lost in the Black of Beyond.’ 

Cecilia drops the gift her sister gave her and it rolls away and onto a train, and when she follows it, to grab it quickly and make her way back, she finds the train doors slide across and the train moves off trapping her, until it stops…and the doors open once more onto a (seemingly) deserted platform…

Eerie and clever this story is reminiscent of The Midnight Hour (Laura Tinder & Benjamin Reed) and another title, whose name that keeps escaping me – which is very irritating. That said the characters in this are very different. There is more than a little element of anthropomorphism about this – very cleverly done. A reflection of Nazi Germany  too – a tale of resistance.

I read a proof of this – it has charming chapter heading illustrations which I hope in the final version will be larger – more of a feature…it’s a book for those who have travelled on the tube, who have, perhaps, lost their relations, have gone one to somewhere else.



Image result for swimming against the tide butterworth

Published by Orion Books

I have two siblings, both older than I. A sister and a brother. Both in their separate ways have (I think) at various times felt ‘responsible’ for me. I remember a skiing holiday – which was perhaps the best skiing holiday I have ever had. Not that I have had many, but it was special for so many reasons. A highlight was skiing between two valleys with my brother so I could para-glide down from one of the mountain ridges later that morning.

I hope I didn’t often worry them as Avery does in this book of mystery, sisterly love and alligators.

Avery and Eliza live in a fishing village in Louisiana. Their lives revolving around the seasons of shrimping and the rising waters. An area filled with birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and the legendary loup-garou. An area of storms. A place not to go after dark. Particularly with a possible hurricane on the way. Certainly not a place to disappear into, to trace strange footprints in the mud.

Atmospheric. Captivating and a story of siblings, friendships and bravery. A book for everyone. Jess Butterworth’s third book, perhaps her best…but that is for you to decide.