Archives for category: Book Review

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Published by Walker Books.

Things are not what they seem in this complex and intricate, roller-coaster of a  thriller.  Relationships that are ‘normal’ are found to be anything but. Pete’s mother does what she can, particularly since his Dad isn’t around any more.  Pete’s twin, his sister, elder by 8 minutes, has always been there for him too – supporting him when life becomes too difficult, because Pete suffers from panic attacks. These too aren’t just debilitating, they are so much more – all encompassing episodes of lack of control.

To try to keep things on the level, Pete counts. Everything. He knows things, facts are clear, unchangeable. Numbers are good – they don’t change either and can prove things that would otherwise be threatening, erratic, and dangerous.

This is a knot of a thriller – a mixture of mathematics and numbers, paradoxes, murder, fires, consequences, relationships – and being a 16 year old male…

I’d read about libido spiking in the wake of a big adrenalin hit, but I’d never experienced it before. It’s really weird: your brain chemistry shouting contradictory instructions at you like a war movie drill sergeant.

“Private Blankman! ATTENTION! Run! Hide! Run again! Good! Now you’re no long in immediate physical danger, father as many offspring as possible in the next sixty seconds, in case the threat comes back! AT THE DOUBLE, YOU MISERABLE MAGGOT!”

It’s an ‘edge of the seat’ sort of book…

 

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Image result for The Extincts cossanteli

Published by Chicken House

Never judge a book by its cover. I started this proof, whilst reading at least three others. Which isn’t such an irregular event, however, I was thinking of finishing and reviewing White Rabbit Red Fox before starting anything else.This proof, though, seems to have an axolotl on the cover. For those who are unaware these are fascinating salamanders, which keep their larval features throughout their lives – which makes them rather curious. You can buy them as pets, but its a complicated business, and I suspect they’d prefer to be wandering around the rivers of Mexico…

Related imageSo when I began the proof it was with the hope that an axolotl would be involved in this story. I have to admit that I have only reached page 56 – which isn’t very far to be fair, but there isn’t a salamander (whether a Mexican axolotl or not) in the first few pages… so this is to be part one of a two part review…because there is bound to be one, or at least something very similar in the story….

This is a funny and wild book, about a boy whose bicycle is stolen. He needs a new one – urgently, however, since his Dad left, there hasn’t been much money for replacement bikes, and so he applies for a job that is advertised in the local shop.

This is a book about animals. Not the usual sort (though there are dogs and cats in it too)  for example there is an early mammal from the early Mesozoic era, and a baby legendary kraken…that keeps escaping from the bath… Since visiting Madagascar, I find I have quite an interest in creatures that are early forms of more recent ‘editions’….and this book ticks that box beautifully.

George (named after the Saint that went around the country killing rare animals) lives with his two older sisters, and his Mum, who runs a shop full of candles and bells. The job he applies for was advertised with the following notation of the qualities that would be required by the applicant:

Interest in Wildlife Necessary. Must be the Right Person. No squamophobes.

I would hope that I would fill this criteria – and if you don’t know what a squamophobe is, you had better read the book. I hope that the word squamophobe becomes an entry in the next edition of the OED.

This has made me laugh out loud. It is a joy.

‘I have my mother’s hair,’ began Prudence, at last. ‘And her eyes. That’s what everybody says. I don’t have any of the rest of her. She’s dead. So’s my Dad. He was killed. By a hippopotamus.’

A ripple of interest washed through the class. You could see Miss Thripps wondering if she had made a mistake. 

‘Hippos are very dangerous beasts,’ she said. ‘Did it happen in Africa, dear?’

Prudence shook her head. 

‘Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London.’

The blurb that came with the proof states it will be a reissue, with a gorgeous new cover. So it isn’t a new book – so you may have seen it before. The new edition (with the gorgeous new cover) is out in now…

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Published by OUP

Illustrated by David Wyatt of Podkin fame – this is Janina’s first book for children. Up to now she has been writing academic books and papers, which I am sure are very knowledgeable, but can’t be as much fun as this small volume. David Wyatt’s pictures complement the story superbly. Her more erudite titles are listed at the bottom of this blog.

Alva lives with her Viking uncle, her mother, baby brother, her uncle’s pet raven and a wolf in Norway. Her father never returned home from his last adventure.

Alva is a curious, determined young girl and when her village is thrown into a mystery that involves a group of monks from Northumberland, kidnap and revenge she can’t help herself and becomes entangled in an adventure like she has never done before.

A story of revenge, adventure and bravery and one of families, and family ties…

A book to savour – suitable to be read by youngsters, but also to be enjoyed as an evening story before retiring to bed…

I am pleased to say that the book looks to be the first of a series – it is noted as being Viking Mystery 1 – from which we can assume and hope for further books about Alva and her wolf.

The Private Lives of the Saints (2016 Paperback)

Julian of Norwich (2017 Paperback)

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Published by Harper Collins

Azi is waiting for his grandfather to come home again. He believes that without him he doesn’t belong on the island which has been his home for so long. His uncle tells him that his grandfather has gone to London, but London is a long way away, perhaps though, Azi will be able to go there, and bring him home. Surely he just needs a passport.

It isn’t easy being different, a gift from the sea, without his grandfather. All Azi wants to do is to go back to living with his grandfather by the beach.

This is a story of a monster, many tentacled and the man who leaves to fight the battle against it. Leaving a boy behind, misunderstanding and misinformed too.

This is also a story of new friendship, of friends both canine and human who support Azi, while he waits for his grandfather to return and its a story of hope…oh, and its also about turtles, coming to breed.

The picture below is taken from the Internet – a Loggerhead turtle off Kefalonia Island.

https://kefaloniaisland.org/stories/the-loggerhead-turtles-caretta-caretta-in-kefalonia/

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Published by Jonathan Cape, London

I have been a fan of Mini Grey’s for some time now, probably since she illustrated a pop-up version of Jim (Hilaire Belloc), which was quite extraordinary. It is now available, (sadly without the pop-ups), as a paperback.

This is her new book. Little Red tells her Mum that she’s off to catch a wolf. Now this is a generally agreed fact; there haven’t been many wolves around for some time.  Which is what Little Red’s mother thinks. So she wishes her daughter good luck, and requests she’s home for tea.

The result of Little Red’s adventures through the woods is a door, which is opened by the Last Wolf in the land. The Last Wolf suggests that Little Red might stay for tea, along with the Last Lynx and the Last Bear. They tell her of the

GOOD OLD DAYS…

when there were endless miles of forest…thousands of tasty grazing beasts to bite, the world was awash with flowers and bees and dripping with honey…when you could just lie on a branch and wait for lunch to wander under your paws…

This is a picture book about the good old days – and about forests and trees…and it is simply MARVELLOUS.

The Woodland Trust should sell it…

EVENT!

On Saturday 26th of May Mini Grey will be coming to Waterstones Finchley Road O2 (NW3 6LU) to talk to customers about her books…

We will have a selection of her titles to sell, that she will sign and dedicate for customers. Do come – a marvellous opportunity to meet this extraordinarily talented author and artist. She will be there from 3.30pm, and will stay around an hour…or maybe more, depending on how things go…

Copies of her books will be available…whilst stocks last.

You have been warned!

 

 

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Published by Nosy Crow

This isn’t a big book. The typeface is larger than most. This is the story of Ella, who has recently moved to a new house with her mother. They live alone together, and have a secret that mustn’t be talked about.

This is a story about wanting to belong. To be accepted.

A story of secrets.

A story of betrayal.

Of doing the wrong thing, for the wrong reasons and ultimately its a story about friendship, who are our friends and why.

I haven’t finished it yet – just got to page 148 – and its a book that interrupts your thoughts, makes you want to finish it…but I have paperwork to do. Car insurance to sort out, and a house covered in cat litter (I have a new kitten), which needs to be cleaned…

I will though, go out into the garden later this evening, and finish this…

Its super.

 

 

 

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Published by Pushkin

This volume has a really distinctive cover, that everyone seems to pick up and admire. Another brilliant book from the Pushkin ‘stable’ – a Japanese fantasy to another world.

Erin’s mother cares for the Toda – serpents that are central to the success of the army and the safety of the kingdom. It is a job that involves ensuring they are healthy, fit and well. Ready to go to battle as soon as necessary. It is a dangerous job, the Toda controlled by silent whistles… Erin’s mother though is good at her job, she is different, though. Some would say she shouldn’t be looking after the Toda at all. Many are suspicious.

When the Toda under her mother’s care die, Erin is forced to escape, as her mother is executed…

An extraordinary and unique tale of intrigue, danger and adventure. Something different for the Summer….

 

Image result for the universe is expanding and so am i  Image result for the earth my butt and other big round things bloomsbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Bloomsbury

I seem to read more 5-8 & 9-12 titles than Teen. Young adults seem to know what they want, without any input from me. Once in a while, though, I stray from normality and find little gems like this one.

Virginia is not a svelte, slim, fashionista – she is a little on the large size. I can relate to that. Its not that she hasn’t tried, but she’s beginning to see herself as curvaceous, rather than fat, that is on the good days. She does believe in one thing though, that the opportunity to have a relationship with a boy shouldn’t rely on whether you are slim, big breasted with long blonde hair. Never-the-less at the start of this funny and moving book, she has been going out, officially with Froggy Welsh (fantastic name) for some five or so months… Sadly though, she has come to realise that she has ‘fallen out of like‘ with him – particularly since she last made out with him in Central Park…

‘…a few blocks from school, I had this weird feeling that I was kissing a golden retriever. This was new. Not the kissing part, because we’ve done a lot of that. But the new sensation was that his tongue felt slobbery and long, like it was trying to retrieve a dog treat from behind my molars.’

Which is never a good sign.

Life is complicated enough without that.

Then there is Virginia’s brother. Byron – a perfect brother, until ‘the ordeal’ when everything changed, for everyone.

Life becomes a turmoil of emotions, and Virginia is relieved to find someone who also doesn’t want to talk about families. Someone who is special, who seems to care, but doesn’t want to know about her family, if she doesn’t want to talk about it, and is happy not to talk about his…

This is the sequel to The Earth, My Butt and other Big Round Things. Sometimes publishers send out sequels, without the first book. Which can be irritating if you are unaware, (I don’t read the blurb with proofs), especially if the sequel assumes knowledge you don’t have (having never read the initial volume) – it didn’t matter with this one.

You can read it as a ‘stand alone’ – if you wish. If it means anything, you should know, though, that I intend to order a copy of The Earth (if it isn’t in stock) even though I will be reading them in the wrong order. I suspect The Earth will be as good as The Universe – at least I hope so. Either way – buy this (and The Earth) and sit in a shady part of a garden or park, with some juice and something to nibble and just enjoy them.

 

 

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Published by Greystones Press

The Tudors. I once informed a year of Sussex House pupils that History begins with the Tudors. There was silence for a few minutes and then a tentative hand went up. ‘Mrs Barker…there was lots of history before the Tudors… wasn’t there…?’ So I had to explain to the boys (and Mrs Barker), that to me my interest in History began with the Tudors.

This is set with the back drop of the death of Queen Katherine (‘divorced’), Queen Anne Boleyn (‘beheaded’) on the throne, and Henry the VIII beginning to take a serious interest in Jane Seymour (‘died’). Kit’s parents died in the plague, and by a stroke of good fortune he now works with the Ravenmaster at the Tower, at one of its darkest times in history.

I have only reached page 80 – but I am thoroughly enjoying this layered story – history with a good seasoning of fantasy. The Tudor story – is (perhaps) the best of English History – this mix is wonderful.

There is no question, in my mind, that Queen Anne Boleyn was innocent of what she was accused. No-one would surely have chanced such a thing in her position. Then again, perhaps it was only after ‘her’ history, that the warnings were so clear… It rather depends on the people, the characters…the intrigue was knotted so much, that I am sure that some of the finer details of what actually happened, disappeared in the mists of time.

Kit is favoured by Queen Anne Boleyn, just when she needed friends. A dangerous position to be in….particularly when he begins to pass on messages around the tower…

This is a wonderful mix of fact and fantasy – enjoy it.

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Published by Collins Crime Club

I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps because the original books are well written, ‘good’ crime, and a puzzle, if you like. I can’t say I’m often emotionally involved with Holmes and Watson – but I know the stories moderately well. There are a number of authors who have tried to continue the lives of Holmes and Watson, some with more success than others. One author has written the Young Sherlock Holmes series (Andrew Lane 9/12) which are very good and deal with the detective as a boy.

I hadn’t come across Bonnie Macbird before and only spotted Unquiet Spirits as I walked through Fiction the other day. The cover attracted my attention, almost a shadow depiction of Holmes against a backdrop of a map. I picked it up, and started it in my lunch break…a mystery worthy of Conan Doyle.

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This is the second in the series – and I have just bought the first, Art in the Blood…to follow this – they are that good.

Adult fiction on the whole doesn’t have illustrations. Sometimes there is a device at the beginning of a chapter, but not often.

One of the pleasures of both of these books are the Drop Cap Designs. For those who don’t know, these are decorated first letters of the first word in each chapter. In medieval times they would perhaps have been coloured and gilded. Both of these books have drop cap designs and they reflect an aspect of the chapter to which they have been given – they are in essence tiny illustrations and are superbly executed. So much so I looked to see if they had been accredited – and in the colophon there is an acknowledgement – Mark Mazers should be extremely pleased with his contribution to these – they add the ‘cherry on the top of the cake’. I hope the publisher appreciates the work he has done and will continue to use him – they make the books rather special.