Giveaway now closed et voici les résultats! Douze points pour Rhi P and Angi Holden. Félicitations! Alma Books will send the books directly to you within the next few weeks…at which stage I will hopefully be gazing over the rooftops of Paris.
This year Alma Books has branched out by venturing into the realm of Children’s and YA Fiction. Soon you will have the “pleasure” of reading my review of Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice, one of the frontrunners in the YA stable but, to keep you going in the meantime, I am delighted to give my UK readers the opportunity to win a copy of a new translation of The Little Prince. Targeted at ages 7-11, this edition will appeal to dreamers of all ages…if I could I would enter!
So allons-y with le nitty gritty ( I can actually speak French, as some of you know..)
“A saint in short, true to his name, flying up here at the right hand of God… And he was not the only one. He was merely the one who put it into words most beautifully and anointed himself before the altar of the right stuff.” Tom Wolfe
|Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–44) was a French writer and aviator, who disappeared on a reconnaissance mission during the Second World War. The author of several memoirs about flying, he is best remembered today for the novella The Little Prince.|
My 10 year old daughter is a big fan of Liz Kessler’s previous novels, including the fantasy series, Philippa Fisher and Emily Windsnap, so I was keen to read her latest novel and see what all the fuss was about.
Targeted at children aged nine and above, this is the second of three stand-alone novels all of which have a connection with time-travel. Whilst being more grounded in the “real” world than the fantasy novels, there is still that subtle element of the supernatural suffusing the story.
Our narrator is thirteen year old Mia (Amelia). Her plans for a chilled out Spring half-term, hanging out with her friends, are dashed when her Grandad goes missing and she and her Mum have to join her Gran in the sleepy fishing village of Porthaven – with no mobile phone signal, no satellite tv, no internet – a teen’s worst nightmare! Fortunately Mia makes a new friend in Dee, a local girl, although their friendship is somewhat unconventional given that they communicate via letters and diary entries.
This is a cleverly constructed, gripping tale blending time travel, mystery, family relationships and friendships and introducing realistic, very relatable characters. The conversations between Mia and her family and her peers hit exactly the right note. The setting is perfect for a mystery with its windswept coast and taciturn locals – I found it reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic haunts.
An intelligent, fast-paced adventure story which, I’m pleased to report, was enjoyed equally by my daughter and me. We’re both looking forward to the next stand-alone novel, Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins,which is due out on 14th August 2014 published by Orion Childrens.
Orion Children’s Books (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
I am a big fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing, both his adult and children’s novels, since I first read The Shadow of the Wind when it was published in 2004. Since then I have enjoyed his two other books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. There has been quite a gap between each adult novel being published but Zafon aficianados have been sustained in the interim by his Niebla (Mist) series for Young Adults which were originally written in the 90s but have recently been translated by Lucia Graves who did such a splendid job of translating Zafon’s adult novels.
Like Zafon, I fervently believe that storytelling transcends age and that his YA novels appeal to any reader who loves magic and mystery so I was delighted to dive into The Watcher in the Shadows, the third of the Niebla series, a cycle of books which can be read as stand-alone novels as their linking theme is mystery and adventure rather than a series of characters.
In The Watcher in the Shadows you can see the first germinating seeds of Zafon’s masterful storytelling skills, that elegant Gothic style steeped in mystery and magic with an aura of malevolence haunting the narrative. Our setting is Normandy, France in the summer of 1937. Recently widowed Simone Sauvelle and her young children Irene and Dorian hope to make a fresh start in the small coastal village of Blue Bay where Simone has secured a post as housekeeper to Lazarus Jann, an inventor and toy manufacturer, who resides in a secluded mansion with his invalid wife. Lazarus is the only person allowed to attend to his wife and they lead a rather unconventional life surrounded by the automatons and other fantastic pieces created by the toymaker.
At first, the omens look favourable for the Sauvelles. Young teen, Irene, falls in love with a local boy. Dorian is taken under Lazarus’ wing. Simone feels settled and happy in her work. Perhaps it is all a bit too perfect? Indeed, fortunes change when a dark, malevolent force is unleashed and the reader is led on a breathtaking adventure with plenty of scary moments en route! Its a fabulous, rollicking tale filled with suspense and mystery – a story which harks back to ripping yarns of years gone by but don’t expect a fairytale ending… Highly recommended for both young and old(er) adventurers.
If you’re looking for something for your children for Easter why not buy them a book…much more nutritious for their brains!
The following reviews are of sequels to books which my children and I loved so we had a feeling they would be good.
Source – from Net Galley
Pub Date: May 2 2013 for paperback release
Big Change for Stuart is the sequel to Small Change for Stuart and they both revolve around the adventures of 10 year old, short for his age, Stuart Horten (S.Horten..). Suitable for confident male and female readers from about 7 years and over, this makes a pleasant change from the sparkly, pony/unicorn/fairy/wizard, adventures which are usually targeted at this age group. The result is an intelligently written adventure story which has an old-fashioned ring to it but still translates well into the modern, technological era.
The characters are likeable and interesting. Stuart is a curious young boy, keen to investigate the legacy of his Great Uncle who was a stage magician. He is accompanied on his adventures by his intrepid companion April as they solve the mysteries surrounding each piece of magical apparatus used during his Great Uncle’s stage act. Another engaging character is Stuart’s father who has tendency to use multisyllabic words – his job as a crossword compiler tends to hinder rather than aid his communication skills!
The book is split into short, snappy chapters and set out like a series of puzzles which will appeal to many young children. Even though this is a sequel, it can be read as a stand-alone but of course you will immediately want to read the first book anyway!
Highly recommended for children with inquiring minds who enjoy a touch of magic.
Pub Date: Feb 28 2013
Considering my 12 year old son and I (late 40s..) both loved the first in this series we were keenly anticipating the follow up, Itch Rocks. We are delighted to report that it is a worthy successor and having devoured it over a few days we can’t wait for the next in the series.
Itchingham Lofte’s life has changed dramatically since his disposal of the “rocks” and he and his family are now under constant surveillance and even have security personnel living with them as well as next door! Any hopes of Itch making new friends are dashed by his living in the spotlight and he lives under the constant threat of being kidnapped as he has refused to tell anyone (even the good guys) about the location of element 126.
Itch Rocks is a really gripping, adventure story with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. As well as introducing some more elements and their more interesting properties, there are more characters to meet all adding to the fun! Never have caesium and bismuth been more appealing…
Oh and one for the girls from Eva who highly recommends Jacqueline Wilson’s latest novel, Queenie.
Review courtesy of Eva aged 9.
Queenie is a heartwarming tale about Elsie Kettle, a girl in 1953, who desperately wants to see the Queen’s Coronation. She lives with her Nan in a little but cosy basement flat. When her Nan gets very poorly, Elsie’s life is turned upside down. Her Mum comes to look after her but when Elsie gets ill, she is taken away from everything she ever knew. Now she will have to make new friends and this leads to a friendship with a majestic white cat called Queenie but will Ever ever be reunited with her Nan?
This is one of Jacqueline Wilson’s historical novels which I especially enjoy. It has a twist in the tale and will keep you gripped until the last page.
You see, the what ifs are as boundless as the stars.
Expect a selection of reviews of children’s books in the run up to Christmas as I have been vetting a few for Luke and Eva and I always like to know what they’re getting when they open a book…plus I enjoy them too. :-) This one is destined for Eva who is a little bookworm so she will love it. I wouldn’t recommend it for reluctant readers as it is a fairly hefty tome at almost 400 pages and it would bore Luke silly but then he’s 12 and he hates fantasy unless there are zombies…
Yes, it’s all rather melodramatic but extremely good fun and reminiscent of the adventures of E Nesbit’s characters with touches of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book as well as a pinch of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart Trilogy. Targeted at the 9-12 age group, at almost 400 pages, I think it’s perhaps only suitable for very confident readers in the younger age bracket but it is an enjoyable romp of a read for anyone who enjoys an exciting, magical, well plotted story with no great surprises en route.
Santa gets the bulk of my children’s Christmas presents, this year a Google Nexus 7 and X Box are the main items in demand, but there is always a big book bundle from us to balance out the gadgetry. This year I have economised “slightly” by including some books I have requested from the Amazon Vine Review Programme and have, as usual, focused more on non-fiction for 12 year old Luke but judicious spending of Tesco Clubcard vouchers and converting Nectar points into Amazon vouchers has ensured a bumper book bonanza.
Nine year old bibliophile Eva should relish the following -
She is currently half way through the Harry Potter series so I think she will enjoy the next part of the bundle….
and of course Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a couple of annuals…
If I thought Rainbow Fairies were addictive, then I was very, very wrong…these little things bring out the hoarder in my daughter. Unfortunately I have passed on the hoarding gene!
Of course, since we are up to date on everything published by Jacqueline Wilson, we have to include the Jacqueline Wilson annual while we await publication of her next book, Queenie, which is due out February 2013.
Meanwhile, Luke will hopefully enjoy a mix of fiction and non-fiction including
Black Arts looks like something I’ll enjoy too as it is set in Elizabethan times and involves sorcery and time travel (the Time Riders series is one of Luke’s favourites) and we both like a well told post-apocalyptic tale so Earthfall ticks all the right boxes too.
Meanwhile in non-fiction we have
I think I am more likely to snaffle the Science book rather than the soldier one!
And of course some annuals too…
Whilst I have a very basic knowledge of Angry Birds, apart from the marauding magpies who clomp all over our roof every morning at a ridiculously early hour, we are all big fans of the Doctor and will be glued to the screen for the Christmas special.
So, I’d better get the wrapping paper out! This year, Bry and I are not giving each other presents as we don’t really need anything but the best present of all is seeing the looks of excitement on the children’s faces on Christmas Morning…and I do love a bit of corny Christmas crooning.
Do you love giving books to others at Christmas? That reminds me, I must get my thinking cap on and sort out my usual book hamper as part of my Mother In Law’s present – the only provisos are no sex, no profane language and no hardbacks – I love a challenge!
Publisher Orion Children’s Books
Source – Amazon Vine
My Rating – for 7/8- youngish 12 – 5 stars
I have read and enjoyed many of Sally Gardner’s novels including those targeted at the Young Adult market. I’m delighted to see her return her attentions to the 7-12 age group as my children loved her Magical Children Series.
This is the first in a series of books about Wings & Co, a fairy detective agency resurrected by Emily Vole, a young girl who has had a lot to deal with in her short life so far – abandoned as a baby at Stansted Airport in a hat box, adopted by emotionally challenged wannabes, condemned to a life of drudgery. However, hope comes in the shape of Miss String and Fidget…I won’t spoil the story by saying any more. Suffice to say, Operation Bunny has Sally Gardner’s usual humour, charm, pace and overall feeling of whimsy which will spellbind young readers.
Suitable for independent readers from age 7 upwards, probably aimed more at girls than boys, Operation Bunny is a beautifully written, original story complemented perfectly by David Roberts’ quirky illustrations.
My Rating – 5 stars
Source – Amazon Vine
Publication date information seems to vary with the ARC stating 8th November 2012, Amazon saying 27th December 2012 and other blogs mentioning Spring 2013…
Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was one of my favourite reads of 2011 so I have been keenly anticipating her second novel, hoping that it would engage me and move me in a similar way. Well, it’s a very different type of novel but I’m delighted to report that it packs the same punch as its predecessor.
The novel is composed of a series of letters written by a fifteen year old British girl and addressed to Stuart Harris, a prisoner on Death Row in Texas. Initially, she is cautious about revealing her identity and location, writing under the pseudonym “Zoe” and living in Fiction Road. Ironically “Zoe” feels that she and Stuart have something in common – he having murdered his wife and she feeling responsible for the death of a boy she knew. So she sneaks out to the garden shed at night, hoping to somehow exorcise her guilt by confessing to a stranger.
We never hear directly from Stuart but there is quite enough going on in day to day life as well as “Zoe’s” gradual revelation of the events of the past year – May 1st is the first anniversary of the boy’s death. The author succeeds in weaving an intriguing tale of family relationships, the intensity of young love, the angst of the teenager as well as keeping the readers on the edge of their seats wondering who died and who is to blame.
Annabel Pitcher has captured the teenage voice and tone perfectly in a very natural and easy way. All of the characters are fully fleshed and extremely credible from the bickering parents feeling the stress of financial worry and the pressure of caring for elderly parents to the precocious middle child who feels ever so slightly neglected. It all flows beautifully and even though I’m not usually a big fan of romance, I felt the strength and intensity of “Zoe”‘s emotions with a conclusion which moved me to tears. You’ll laugh and cry in equal measure and, if you’re slightly older like myself, you will breathe a blessed sigh of relief that you’re no longer a teenager.
It certainly doesn’t look as if Annabel has suffered much from second novel syndrome as her writing is going from strength to strength, increasing in confidence, engaging you from the first word and keeping you enthralled – I’m already looking forward to her next novel!