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Published by Orion

Have you been to Venice (Italy)?

This was first published in 2009 and I was very lucky in that I received a proof copy of the book when I was working in Harrods and promptly fell in love with it. I suddenly realised the other night that I *have never written a post about this quite extraordinary book.

 I wrote a review on the Waterstones web site as a result and it read:

“Atmospheric, beautifully written and about Venice…a superb volume of adventure encompassing- all that makes a good solid read. Includes ghosts, retribution, death, mermaids, seahorses, bravery… Absolutely brilliant. Read it in Venice if you can, if not, then read it and visit as soon as you can…’

Sadly they changed the site, so you can no longer read it – I really should put this up again – it is a marvellous book.

Should you be an adult about to ignore this small volume as it was written for younger readers, be aware that if you do you will be missing one of the gems of English writing, and I won’t be responsible for that.

I think the characters of the mermaids are perhaps my favourite – they wouldn’t have much time for the more traditional sirens of the sea really – wilder and more full of life.

I sold nearly a thousand copies in Harrods – I sold it to everyone: a gentleman who wanted a copy of the Koran in English; he left with two books, one he had intended to read, the other, was a copy of this. Another man wanted to look for accounting books and requested to see our section, which I told him was very small. He complained that it was, so I told him that I had already said so. I did, however, have a book he would like (it is better than a book on accounting), and sold him one too…and a famous comedian once told me he had finished with me after I had found him all the books he wanted, and noticed me waiting for him. To which I replied I hadn’t finished with him – and sold him a copy of it too, along with all the health books his wife had gathered together. Numerous people were asked if they had been to Venice and if they had liked it. Once I had the reply in the affirmative (I only ever had one person say they didn’t**), I would tell them about this and they would buy it, and go back again. Others hadn’t been – and would take a copy to read before they went. Some I ‘caught’ for want of a better word just before they were going – which was marvellous – they would take it with them and read it in Venice.

This is the book for taking to Venice.

If you are one of my younger blog readers and your parent’s / significant adult hasn’t taken you to Venice – then persuade them to buy you this book, read it and then nag them. You should have been taken to Venice by now. If they are being recalcitrant, then either ask them to visit me (and I will persuade them), or ask them to read it – a book that makes you yearn for the city of water, cats, mermaids and history.

Venetian cat: Venice used to be a city of cats – but then they decided to sort out their strays and they have been moved onto a local island. Which is a pity – it is still a city of cats; the dogs are there as a temporary anomaly – I am sure the felines will return – after all, Venice is an intricate city full of tiny alleys, and bridges, and little space for dogs to exercise, and the cats are still there. You just have to keep an eye out…

*Having written and illustrated this post, I find on typing in the Categories and Tags that it seems I have already reviewed it. No matter – it is definitely worth two posts.

**As to that lady who sadly hadn’t enjoyed her visit to Venice.

I was confused by this reply, and asked her what it was that she didn’t like.

To which she replied ‘The gondolas’. Venice Canal:

I assumed she hadn’t meant the boats (they are a beautiful craft) and that she had meant gondoliers (the gentlemen who punt them) and that one of them had been a little unprofessional, perhaps and asked her.

To which she replied ‘No, the gondolas!’ So I asked her what it was that she didn’t like about the gondolas – and she replied

‘They wobble!’ Which is true and part of their charm.

There was nothing I could do or say about that and so she left without buying this miraculous piece of writing…

The second volume in the series is called The Mourning Emporium, and the last, Talina in the Tower – since they are all in print, you may as well buy them together. After all, you will buy them once you have read The Undrowned Child, so why wait and have to return to the book shop to get them? Or for Waterstones to deliver them? Image result for talina in the tower






Picture credits: / Patti Wood



Undrowned ChildPublished by Orion Press

I am a little astonished that I haven’t reviewed this superb volume on my blog before – you will understand when I tell you that I must have sold well over a thousand copies of this book – by that I mean hand-selling it to anyone I think would enjoy it.

I received a proof of it when I was working in the now defunct branch in Harrods (I was there for 15 years or so) – and fell in love with it. At that time I had an ‘Account’ on the Waterstones web site and was able to review it:

‘Atmospheric, beautifully written and about Venice…a superb volume of adventure encompassing all that makes a good solid read. Includes ghosts, retribution, death, mermaids, seahorses, bravery…Absolutely brilliant. Read it in Venice if you can, if not, then read it and visit as soon as you can…’

I then organised for Michelle to come to the store for an event, for which I wasn’t in store, however, I know it was a success and that she was very touched as I received a gorgeous bar of mandarin Venetian marzipan (and a signed copy) from her as a result. You don’t really need to know about that though – you are only interested in the book – so my curious friends…

If you have been to Venice, and fallen in love with that aromatic, aquatic city, with its history and stories, then this is the book for you.

That is unless you don’t like the gondolas. I had a customer, once, who said she didn’t like Venice and when I asked why, she complained about the gondolas, as, to quote her, ‘…they moved…’ It was at that point I gave up – I think she is the only customer I have tried to sell this book to, who hasn’t gone away with it in their pocket.

If you haven’t been taken by your parents, or your partner has been,  but you haven’t – then I suggest you do something about it. If your parents have been and haven’t taken you, then they haven’t (in my opinion) done their job properly. There really is nothing like the city, mysterious & beautiful; a gem of a place… If your partner has been and you haven’t. Then that alone would be a measure for me to decide whether to continue with the relationship, or not…

This book takes a nugget of the history of the city and its people and has a glorious piece of fantasy wrapped around it. Michelle Lovric loves the city. She had at one time a small apartment in an palazzo – and has written many books on the history and stories. Her first books about the city were for adults, this was her first for young readers. She used her knowledge of the city and wound it into a world that is both beautiful and twisted. Parts of this are dark. I cannot repeat this enough, but the plot is glorious, our heroine, brave and resourceful, the  mermaids (there are mermaids), are NOTHING like any mermaids you have ever come across, and are not to be discarded as rock decoration – they have attitude.

The language is superb, and is wonderful – colouring the story….

It is an expensive book. Not because of the intrinsic cost (£6.99), but because you will want to visit the city afterwards – to find the places mentioned in the book and to just saturate yourself in the story, and the city as a result of it. The additional costs include: flights, hotel, food (always a joy), a trip on a gondola (if you have never been to Venice, this is a must, but isn’t one of the less expensive experiences in the city), and of course some sort of souvenier… Do not go in the  summer – there are too many tourists. The spring and the autumn are the times to go and remember to take something warm – it can be quite chilly in the evenings…the water is never far away and remember to take with you your copy of The Undrowned Child

It is probably time I revisited the city.

We keep this in the 9 – 12 section of the store. It is true that some of the younger readers in this reading group will love it. Others though might find it a bit much, so for comfort’s sake I have listed this as 12 and onwards…after all the last sentence or so of the introduction are the following:

A Case of Baddened Magic

‘…They found all the bodies in the end, except that of the baby.

Stories flew about. ‘Such a tiny little mite, the fish ate her.’ people whispered.’






Published by Egmont / ISBN 9781405270601

For those fascinated by Japan and all things Japanese – this is saturated with Japanese culture. Full of adventure and surprises. Detailed and clever. I know very little about Japan, so I can’t comment on accuracy, however, it certainly feels right – certainly good for anyone who is into adventure – Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan) readers should love it.

Two strong characters drive the story – Kenny a young teenager sent to Japan for a holiday and Kiyomi a young strong minded Japanese girl. In addition there is a tanuki character that adds an additional element of fun to the book – On looking up ‘tanuki’ on the Internet, I find that it is a Japanese Racoon Dog – and is also used for netsuke – in which I have a small interest and so include this picture of a tanuki netsuke

The end of this volume (the first in a series to come), was right for the story and for the series, however, it could have been a much deeper volume had the situation the characters ultimately find themselves had been different.

On reading that, I feel I’m not being very clear – but the book could have been stronger, if the end hadn’t been that which it is…if that makes any more sense… Either way – one for those who like Japan, adventure and the Percy Jackson series.

Published by Chicken House / ISBN 978 1908435996 – The edition with this cover (similar to the second in the series) / Not yet published

ISBN 978 1908435996 – Already published with a different cover, that isn’t in the series design.

Due in part to her Grandmother moving into a home, Edie finds herself staying with an aunt and her cousins with whom she doesn’t get on with  in the least. One in particular takes great enjoyment in bullying her. When she is given the opportunity to go to boarding school to assist her older cousin in investigating a mystery, she takes up the challenge with some relief…

This is the first book in the Knight Haddon School series, and works very well indeed. It has the feel of all boarding school stories, with a mystery add to the mixture for more ‘kick’. The series reminds me a little of the Chalet School Books (Elinor M Brent-Dyer) that my sister used to read, and The Naughtiest School books (Enid Blyton), but have a more modern twist to them. They also remind me of the A Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens which also mix a good crime with a school story.

Published by Hachette Children’s Group / ISBN 978 1444913705

This is the first book in a trilogy involving Danny Woo who has been brought up in the Mysterium Circus until his parents were killed in a fire. He starts to live with his aunt an investigative journalist.  They travel to Hong Kong, where his aunt disappears and Danny finds himself trying to find her and in doing so finds out more than he expected and life becomes dramatically more dangerous…

A brilliant book to start a superb series. Full of tension and clever twists. The Mysterium is not a traditional circus and as a result Danny is an extraordinary hero…

The two other volumes in the tilogy are

The Palace of Memory / 978 9444913712 and

The Wheel of Life and Death / 978 1444913729

Published by Hachette Children’s Group / ISBN 978 1842556931 / Series 

A wonderful gothic tale by this inventive and extraordinary author. The majority of his books are on the whole for older readers, however this is the start of a brilliant series for this younger age group. In this the first book of this brilliant series we are introduced to the Otherhand family and Edgar who is a very grumpy discontented raven. He is disturbed to find that the family ignore his warnings after he sees something that shouldn’t be there, and the castle itself begins to flood…

There are six volumes in the series –

Flood and Fang 9781842556931

Ghosts and Gadgets


Lunatics and Luck


Vampires and Volts


Magic and Mayhem


Diamonds and Doom


Published by Scholastic / ISBN 978 1407155791 / Not yet published – 4th June 2015

I received a proof (pre-publication) copy of this book from the publisher at lunch time today. At the moment I am reading another two proofs for teenagers (Stone Rider / David Hofmeyr & If you were Me / Sam Hepburn), and finished this morning Dan Scott’s first Gladiator School volume (Blood Oath) on the way in to work and am trying to read about Madagascar as well. So there is a lot going on with my reading at the moment. I didn’t really need to start to read this one – but the cover was enticing and I read the Prologue (just four pages), very quickly and thought it was


So much so I actually exclaimed ‘Brilliant’ out loud. Luckily noone was around to hear me…

I have since read a further twenty pages and I am still of the same opinion. This book, if it continues to be as enticing and well written as these first 24 pages have been, should be a best seller.

The prologue details the story of an elderly sheep farmer investigating strange noises and goings on amongst her flock…and the results of her night time walk amongst them. The first 20 pages of the first chapter  introduces the reader to Alfie the eponymous character and…a raven.

The book is (at least in proof form) well printed, on good paper, and looks as though it will have a brilliant cover. I will of course review the book properly when I have finished it – which shouldn’t take long, but I wanted to let you know how good it is now… Get your orders in – I am certain this book will turn out to be one of the best. I am also pleased to report that it seems this will be the first of a trilogy – there is a note inside to say volume 2 will be out in 2016, and the third in 2017 – which is always good news.

I finished this late last night – I hate leaving a book with only a couple of pages to go, and yes this did fulfil its potential. Lots of danger, dark and twisted – I am certainly looking forward to the second volume, next year – since there is an ISBN you can order this now to ensure you get a copy…

Published by Scribo Books / ISBN 9789008177483

This is the first volume of a series set in Rome in July AD 79 – Lucius’ father has been accused of treason and as a result of his disappearance his family’s circumstances have changed drastically. His brother has started training as a gladiator and life at home is becoming more and more difficult. Lucius has a small job at the gladiator school where his brother trains, really running messages and clearing up after the fights and after the gladiators, earning a little money. He believes his father to be innocent and amongst the turmoil of his new life tries to find out what happened to him. The book is full of drama and details about ancient Rome and the life of gladiators, including details of type of gladiator and how they fought. The slightly cartoon cover belies how good and detailed these books are – and could well be overlooked as a consequence. Definitely a series to be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in ancient Rome and history as well as a good strong story. Superb.

The other titles in the series are: Vol 2 Blood and Fire / Vol 3 Blood and Sand / Vol 4 Blood Vengeance / Vol 5 Blood and Thunder

Published by Walker Books / ISBN 9781406357981 / Teenage

I read a particular book for many reasons. Some because a publisher has sent me a copy, others because I haven’t brought my current book in to work, and I’m desperate for something, anything to read, and some because it has been brought to my attention by a friend or colleague.

You have this review because of my very special friend Min Wells, who used to work with me in the bookshop and now works in another branch, much too far away.

She used to nag me about this volume. She said I would enjoy it.

My reply then was that I felt that younger children needed more help choosing books, and that adults and teenagers, on the whole knew what they wanted to read. It is astonishing how wrong you can be; everyone, it seems likes a review, or two. Another reason for my not reading as much teenage, I think is that they are often more intense and what you hope won’t happen, sometimes does. Though that in turn makes these books all the more powerful, dramatic and frankly good. After all life isn’t all happy endings and books should reflect this for older readers and sometimes younger too!

I don’t think I will ever forget The Knife of Never Letting Go. It is definitely one book in which I have put emotional time.

I started to read and found myself totally immersed in Todd’s and Manchee’s life. Now you want to know who Todd and Manchee are, I suppose. I will tell you two things: Todd is essentially our main protagonist and hero, and Manchee is his dog. Though in some ways I think those positions could be reversed.

Due to circumstances not greatly gone into, all the females have died out and the men are left, able to hear one another’s thoughts. Further they are able to understand the speech of animals. There is a secret, of which Todd is aware, but is not party to. It is an extraordinary secret. This book is about friendship, about survival, relationships and that special connection between a dog and his boy…

I will say this last – Manchee is the best fictional dog I have ever metaphorically met – because of his ability to talk his character is much more detailed than the others.

At various intervals there are pages of multiple overlaid script – of
different hands, filling the pages, showing the cacophony of speech that Todd can hear, when he allows his mind to listen to the noise of everyone’s thoughts – it’s a very clever arrangement; you can follow someone’s thoughts by reading a particular hand.

The second and last volumes in the trilogy are: The Ask and the Asking (ISBN 1406357998) and Monsters of Men, (ISBN 9781406358001) all three are in paperback.

Published by Pan / ISBN 9780140252927 / Adult

This is one of the funniest pieces of escapism that I have ever come across. Humour with a very dark streak running through it that makes the laughter all the more glorious. Stephanie Plum is a superb heroine and who can resist Morelli, Ranger or, of course Rex? Stephanie has lost her job selling underwear and manages to land a new career – in bounty hunting… This is a book for those days when you need chocolate and a good story to take you away. It’s a marvellous series.