Archives for the month of: September, 2019

Image result for shadows of winterspell

Published by Macmillan

October 2019

This is a magical book – quite extraordinary.

Stella has been living on the edge of Winterspell for years. In the old days her Nan and she would search the woods, but more recently it has become difficult. Dark. Not to say dangerous. The villagers too won’t visit and avoid the woods whenever possible.

Stella though is curious. Not least as she is bored. She is desperate to enrol in the local school. To have, as much as possible a normal, regular part to her life. That though is highly unlikely, with the way things are.

This is a story of magic. Of the fae. Of a family secret and of friendship.

It is brilliant – wild and mysterious. Everyone should read this one – buy it for an Autumn read as the wind whistles around the house…


NB. If this is to be the cover – it doesn’t do justice to this wild and extraordinary book. Then again, you never judge a book by its cover – at least I hope you don’t.

Image result for the star outside my window orion

Published by Orion Books

This is the story of Aniyah – who at 10 years old finds herself in foster care after her Mum disappears. She has always had a thing about the solar system – and she knows deep in her heart that special people never really leave – they become stars in the solar system. Which is of some comfort.

When Aniyah hears that a new star, that has been recently recorded, is to be named in London she is determined to make sure it has the right name. Though she appreciates the care of her foster Mum – she knows she only has a couple of days to reach London and with the help of two other children living with her, she plans her trip carefully…

This is a story that deals with domestic violence. Onjali has written another strong story about a difficult subject, both delicately and thoughtfully. Her previous title The Boy at the Back of the Class has also been reviewed on this blog. She is definitely an author to watch.


Image result for mermaid school courtenay anderson press

Anderson Press

February 2020

Compared to books in the 9 – 12 genre, there are fewer new good books for this age group. Many have lurid covers and publishers often have a bad habit of producing series of books with an excessive number of a titles in each – with little to commend them.

Image result for delphie and the magic ballet shoes harper collins

There are a few collections that are, however, different. Darcey Bussell has a run of titles published a few years ago – well written and about ballet, as you might expect. Though there are quite a number – it isn’t excessive. The books are accurate with regard to the ballet – and youngsters ‘into’ ballet enjoy them.

Lucy Courtenay too has also produced a number of collections – each with a small run of titles about different characters/themes – pirates, animals and space penguins! This is the first of her new series.

The book reads like a young Enid Blyton title. A school story set underwater with wild seahorses. There are the usual concerns about teachers, other mermaids (some of whom are not friendly) and in addition Marnie Blue’s aunt, the famous singer, went to the school before her – and had a bit of a reputation.

You don’t have to buy just / all of the Daisy Meadows Rainbow series – there are other books coming out for youngsters in this age group.



Image result for the way past winter kiran millwood hargrave

Published by Chicken House

A book for the winter. After the snow has come and it crunches under your feet. An element of Narnia with an endless winter. A winter that came and never left.

Since their parents have gone three girls and their brother have been left to survive on their own. Protected only by the rules their parents gave them. Oskar watching and looking out for his sisters – trying to be a little more than a big brother. Sanna the eldest sister sensible and doing the ‘right thing’. Or trying to. Mila listening to her sisters’ snores and snuffles in the night and missing her brother’s and last, but certainly not least, Pipa – the one whom everyone watches out for. As time goes past Oskar becomes more reticent. More impatient. Then they are visited by men on horseback. Late that night one sister sees her brother at the window. In the morning he’s gone too.

A story of a search though an unnatural winter. A tree cut down before its time and a mage – young and different – perhaps someone to trust…though perhaps too strange for that.

A story of families, siblings and sisters. Atmospheric and magical. A story to be read by a fire as Autumn turns.

Another Kiran Millwood Hargrave to enjoy.


Image result for frostheart jamie littler

Published by Puffin Books.

Initially I was disappointed. Not by the story – which is full of adventure, bravery, excitement and friendships made (and lost) – but because of the binding. Somewhere a mistake has been made. This is a paperback with a double front cover. The outer with a hole to see through, to the second. Which can be a lovely device, however, the second ‘board’ is too thick, which means that unless careful, the spine and hinge can be damaged.

That said the essential thing is the story – and that is a rollicking piece of fantasy fiction – a place of ice, snow and lurkers

The creatures were wet, sleek and serpentine, longer than two men, with six frost-white eyes that blinked, slightly out of order*, and gaping jaws filled with ice-sharp fangs and drool-slick tongues…’

Our hero is Ash, young, alone and a Song Weaver…

The Fira, the people Ash had been left with are so scared of signing and Song Weavers in particular that singing has been banned.

All Ash wants to do is to sing – to develop his strange powers, that might just have an affect against the lurkers. Not being allowed to sing, however, means that he doesn’t know, can’t find out…and then, after his last bout of illegal singing Alderman Kindil persuades Tobu, the mysterious yeti-outsider, to take care of him, outside of the village. Away from everyone and his friends.

A brilliant wild adventure – a book that is the start of a series…as Ash joins the Frostheart – a type of ship crossed with a sleigh in the hope of finding his parents…

This is the book of the month for October. Visit Waterstones Finchley Road O2 – and I will ensure you will benefit from this promotion…

*I thought that was a lovely touch…blinking slightly out of order is even better than blinking out of order…wonderful.

Oh – I forgot – the book is illustrated throughout – superbly…

Image result for frostheart jamie littler



Image result for Garvie smith books david fickling

Published by David Fickling Books

Well – what it is to work in the book industry. I was happily working away at my emails and came across one from David Fickling – would I like to read the latest Garvie Smith novel?

I think that you are probably aware that I’m a big fan of Garvie so the answer was a very quick affirmative. In due course a copy of Hey, Sherlock! arrived…

Garvie has now left school and has managed to land himself a job (the reasons for this I won’t go into) – putting up fences with his friends. It seems this isn’t one of his fortes – at the end of the job, it’s his section falls to the ground.

The owner of the house (and new fence), however, isn’t really that concerned. She’s more annoyed with her teenage daughter who has ‘gone off again’…but things aren’t what they seem.

The end of this period of Garvie’s life (it is best to read them in order, I think, if only for the character development) – had me on the edge of my seat in the tube. I nearly forgot to get off and get to work.

Garvie and his friends continue to entice and amuse. Garvie’s ‘people skills’ are still developing.  Inspector Singh, has all my sympathy and as for Garvie’s mother – well, there are developments there too – I’m not going to say more…

These are fantastic books.

My brother Peter, will be amused. I am not a natural ‘numbers’ person – however, though most of the time I don’t understand all the mathematics that Garvie thinks about:

‘He lay there unblinking, looking at the ceiling, thinking about mathematical sequences. In particular, recurring terms. Pascal’s triangle, for instance. The triangle is an infinite symmetric number pyramid, each number the sum of the two numbers immediately above it, starting with 1 at the apex. The strange thing is that the number 3003 keeps cropping up…’

Image result for fibonacci sequence in snail shellsI did, however, learn more about the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…) and how that works. I knew of it, but only as phrase to do with shapes in nature. Snail shells use it – amongst other wonders of the world. I can now write the sequence without thinking about it…

NB. Well it just shows you…I have just looked up Pascal’s sequence too…which looks as though it deserves more investigation…when I have a moment or two… Perhaps if someone had shown this to me when I was doing maths at school, I might have become more curious about it…

Just flipped to the front of my copy of Hey Sherlock! and noticed the following list – which really does, perhaps explain why I love Garvie Smith:

  1. Lazy, rude, golden-hearted, aggravating, economical with the truth, kind (to those who deserve it).
  2. Highest IQ at Marsh Academy
  3. Lowest grades.
  4. Best mates with Felix (cat burglar), Smudge (stupidest boy at school and proud of it), Alex (who’s been selling something he shouldn’t).
  5. Wouldn’t dream of telling his mother he loves her. Besides, she wants to move back to Barbados and what is the point of that?
  6. Smokes, mainly tobacco.
  7. Liked by girls.
  8. Hated by the police, teachers, other boring adults.
  9. Exceptionally good at maths.
  10. Scared of dogs.

Perhaps its a good thing he’s a fictional character. Otherwise I think I would worry…