Friday, 2 December 2016

Little Christmas Tree by Jessica Courtney-Tickle


Snow has fallen everywhere
and turned the green woods white.
A little Christmas tree wakes up
and sparkles in the light.

Summary From Big Picture Press
Watch a colourful day unfurl around a little Christmas tree…
****
Little Christmas Tree is a very sturdy board book with lots of flaps to lift. It's all about nature and shows the countryside surrounding a fir tree in winter and the animals, birds and insects that live there. It's not really a story but the rhyming text describes what happens near the Christmas tree from the start to the end of Christmas day. The lovely illustrations have silver foil details and provide plenty to talk about, and there are several flaps to lift on every spread. Some of them are so well matched to the pictures that I only found them by touch, rather than by sight.
The book is well made, the pictures are charming and there are flaps to lift. What's not to like?!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Most Anticipated Reads for December/ November's Book of the Month

You would think December would be a slower reading month but not for us book bloggers as it is time for us to jump ahead and start reading the books that will be published in January. So all the books that I can't wait to read this month are from my January TBR pile.
1) Caraval by Stephanie Garber
This is the book everyone has been talking about for months and now it's officially time to start reading it!!! Described as being perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which are two of my favourite all time books, I cannot wait to start reading this! 
Published by Hodder and Stoughton
Summary
Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems. 
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend. 
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
2) A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson
There are so many amazing books coming from Macmillan Children's Books over the next few months, but this one really caught my eye. This is Amy Wilson's debut novel and if I'm right, I believe it has touches of magical realism to it, which I love. 
Published by Macmillan Children's Books 
Summary
It's bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl, but when you've got a dad you've never met, a best friend who needs you more than ever, and a new boy at school giving you weird looks, there's not a lot of room for much else. 
So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she's tempted to just burrow down under the duvet and forget all about it. Could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she enters the magical world of winter for the first time?
3) The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Another book that is being talked about a lot! Described as a cross between Rear Window and The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time. I'm totally intrigued by the main character, Matthew, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. 
Published by Scholastic
Summary
Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac. 
When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?
4) Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
I'm in love with this cover and intrigued by this book. This story has a magical feel to it. I can't wait to dive in. 
Published by Faber and Faber
Summary
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
5) Gilded Cage by Vic James
As soon as I read the premise I was desperate to read this book, even though it is so different to anything I have read before.
Published by Pan Macmillan
Summary
For readers of Victoria Aveyard and George RR Martin comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are doomed to serve.
NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED. 
Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? 
A boy dreams of revolution.
Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?
*****

November's book of the month is...The Road To Ever After by Moira Young
I'm still gushing over this beautiful book. It's magical and full of hope. Think A Field of Dreams. Think It's a Wonderful Life. Think a real life heaven on earth. READ THIS BOOK! It's a hugger. 
Summary
Part Benjamin Button, part Harold and Maud, part Brian Selznick and part Neil Gaiman, this is a unique, magical story that will draw readers in and make them fall in love with both characters.
Davy David is a thirteen-year-old orphan, who lives in the bushes in a town ruled by a strict minister, Reverend Fall. A talented artist, Davy loves to draw pictures of angels in the dirt, in the early hours of the morning before the townspeople are awake. He spends his days on his own, except for a small dog, who has attached himself to Davy, often going to the library to find inspiration for his pictures of angels. One day, after chasing after a ball for some of the town's boys, he finds himself in the yard of the old boarded-up museum, now rumoured to be the home of a witch. The witch is Miss Elizabeth Flint, an elderly woman who has a proposition for Davy: drive her to her childhood home, where, it turns out, she has made the decision to die.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Setting the Scene with Fleur Hitchcock

I'm so pleased to welcome Middle Grade author, Fleur Hitchcock onto the blog today, to tell us all about the settings in her latest book, Murder in Midwinter, which was recently published by Nosy Crow. Keep a look out for a review of the book, coming very soon!
Setting the scene...

At the heart of Murder in Midwinter, is Maya, a London girl, a girl who knows and walks the streets just south of the river, around the Southbank and Borough and just to the east of Waterloo. It’s an area I know well, my niece, Ruby, and her family live there – here’s a lino cut Ruby did of the block of Corporation of London flats that they live in. 
I didn’t actually use these flats, not completely, because I wanted Maya’s family to live over the plumbing supplies shop that they run. That was an amalgamation of a decorator’s shop near Southwark street and Pimlico Plumbers who have a huge sign on the railway line as you approach Waterloo station. 
But what I really used was the Thames, at night in the winter. It’s stunning, all purple and green lights, monumental architecture and silhouettes and reflections – and at one point Maya and her sister Zahra are sitting watching the streams of tourists passing the Globe theatre and Zahra says: “God. London’s beautiful.” She’s speaking for me at that point, because I love to sit on those Thames side benches in the twilight just looking. 
And when Maya needs to flee, I had to find somewhere that was the absolute opposite. Somewhere with no lights, no architecture, nothing. 

A snowy mountain in Wales. 

I have to confess that although I’ve lived in Wales, I’ve never lived in the mountains, I’ve only visited them in the winter, not in the snow, but I have lived in the countryside most of my life and a couple of years back we had some very severe winters, so I used what I remembered of those.
And finally there were the horses. I was a horse kid, but never a very able horse kid, but I do remember one particular pony, black, mean, standing in the snow, biting my best friend on the bum. I used that pony. 100%.

Is that a setting?

I think so. 

Sadly, I have no photos of him. I never thought I’d need it. 
Summary
Sat on the top of a bus days before Christmas, Maya sees a couple arguing violently in the middle of a crowded Regent Street. They see her watching, she looks away, and the woman disappears. Maya goes to the police, who shrug and send her away. Then a body turns up… Now convinced she is a vital witness to a crime, the police send Maya into hiding in rural Wales. She resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Then the snow comes and no one can get out. But what if someone can still get in?

Published by Nosy Crow in October 2017

To find out more about Fleur Hitchcock:



Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Road to Ever After by Moira Young

Davy emptied the brooms from his bag. He laid them on the ground according to size. Made of twigs, grass and feathers, there were twelve in all. He used the largest for smoothing the earth in preparation and broadly sketching the outlines. The smaller grass and feather ones were for finer detail.

Published by Macmillan in October 2016

Pages - 240
Summary
Davy David, an orphan, lives by his wits in the dead-end town of Brownvale. When a stray dog called George turns Davy's life upside down just days before Christmas, he sets in motion a chain of events which forces them to flee. A mischievous wind blows the two of them to a boarded-up museum on the outskirts of town where they meet the elderly recluse, Miss Flint. She has planned one last adventure before her time is up and hires the reluctant Davy and George to escort her.
*****
Oh this wondrous book! It gently reaches inside and grabs your soul, holding it up to the sky. It is the most spiritually uplifting book I've read in a long time. You come away from  it, desperate to be a better person. You start to believe in magic. 
Davy  appears like an angel in disguise. I'm not sure if that is how he's supposed to be viewed, but that's how I see him. He has goodness bursting out of him. He is so sensible and wise for such a young boy. When his world collides with Miss Flint's, you struggle to see how they will ever get along. Miss Flint isn't the most friendliest of people. She is extremely crabby, but Davy really can't refuse her offer as he needs to get out of town quickly. As the story progresses you warm to Miss Flint and the relationship she has with Davy softens. You start to wonder who is really saving who.  I loved that this book revolves around the relationship between a child and an elderly adult, because this type of relationship is often so important to a child, especially if they are close to their grandparents.  It reminded me of Goodnight Mr Tom. 
The ending took my breath away. I had to read it twice because it was such beautiful writing and it filled me with hope. If this is heaven, then I want in! 
I can totally see why this book is described as It's A Wonderful Life meets The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, because I couldn't describe it better if I tried. It also reminded me of A Christmas Carol and The Christmas Box. 
 The following quote filled me with promise. 
"And to die is different from what any one supposed."
It portrays death as just another journey we have to go on, but with such a beautiful destination.
This book is like a warm hug during dangerous times. An ideal book to put in a stocking for Christmas Day.


Monday, 28 November 2016

#ReviewMonday with @lockwoodwriter: A Bone to Pick A Peggy Henderson Adventure written by Gina McMurchy-Barber

I let out an exaggerated sigh. “You know, Aunt Margaret, this brush is way too good to be used for painting the house.” I ran the soft bristles over my hand and admired its perfectly formed wooden handle, while at the same time appreciating it for its greater potential.
“Too good to be used to paint? That’s a pretty lame excuse for getting out of painting the house with me today. C’mon, Peggy, surely you can do better than that.” Aunt Margaret pried off the lid and started stirring the turquoise paint she’d bought that morning.
“I admit it’s not something I feel like doing. But I’m serious. This brush would be perfect for excavating —” “Ha! I should have guessed — excavating indeed.” Aunt Margaret snorted out a laugh — a trait of the women in my family. “Yes, excavating,” I defended, feeling annoyed.
“I thought an archaeologist needed trowels and shovels for excavating.”

168 pages in paperback, also available as an e-book
Published by Dundurn Press 2015

Summary from NetGalley
Peggy is off to a Viking site in North America where she unearths the remains of a brave young warrior.
It’s a dream come true for Peggy Henderson when her friend, Dr. Edwina McKay, lets her tag along to the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows National Park in Newfoundland, where Dr. McKay will be teaching archaeology field school for the summer. Peggy already knows a lot about archaeology — having been on three previous excavations — but does she need to brag about it so much? After alienating herself from the other students with her know-it-all attitude, Peggy accidentally discovers a Viking burial cairn. The students and archaeologists are ecstatic. But when it comes time to excavate, she’s banned from participating in the dig. Will Peggy’s trip to Newfoundland end just as badly as the Vikings’ did? She’s afraid it will — that is until she learns an unexpected lesson from a Viking warrior. 
*****
When I was nine, I really wanted to be an archaeologist. My aunt in America sent me a grown-up encyclopaedia of how to be one – which I still have and treasure. But oh, how I wish books like A Bone to Pick had been around then!
It bridges the gap between fiction and information books skilfully. You learn a lot at the same time as going on an adventure. It’s not a style of writing that suits everyone – some readers don’t want the technical side, and some don’t want the story – but the geeky proto-archaeologist me would have loved it. 
A Bone to Pick has double value -there are actually two stories each from a different time. Twin tales, Vikings and digging up bones – what’s not to like? And it’s written by an archaeology expert and teacher.
There are three other Peggy Henderson adventures – my only request would be that they’d come with more illustrations. Still, they are perfect for the young would-be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft – but with rather more realism. Just the ticket for the reader who’s not sure they like fiction – but who finds Vikings, skulls and the like fascinating.


K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cuckoo by Keren David


Jake Benn, face to camera. He’s sitting on a dark wood floor, leaning against a bed.
He speaks. His voice is soft and nervous, yet still easy to listen to.
‘I’m sorry.

Published by Atom, 4th August 2016 
260 pages in paperback.
Cover by TBC

Summary from Amazon:
Jake is an actor, a household name thanks to his role on the UK's most popular soap. But his character went upstairs to his bedroom six months ago and never came down again, and now Jake is facing an uncertain future. Add to that his dad's anger issues, the family's precarious finances and the demands of a severely autistic brother; Jake's home feels like a powder keg waiting to explode. It's easier to spend nights on friends' sofas and futons, but what happens when you feel like a cuckoo in every nest? 
Cuckoo is a novel about the roles we play when we don't fit in anywhere, and finding unlikely solace when home is the least welcoming place of all.

****

Cuckoo is a wholly original contemporary YA novel written as an online video transcript. The story centres around Jake, a sixteen-year-old actor in a popular TV soap who’s just lost his job and discovered his parents have spent all his money. Under pressure to get another role, Jake struggles with his Dad’s anger issues and the demands of his autistic brother. After initially relying on friends for help, things get a whole lot worse when Jake finds himself homeless.

This is a fantastic and very unique concept. Various characters take it in turns to narrate the scenes and Jake and his friends often play each other, all of which adds a level of authenticity, as do the positive and negative comments posted at the end of each episode.

With only a few lines per instalment, the characters are surprisingly vivid, diverse and well-crafted, and the reader is easily drawn into Jake’s world and into the rather eye opening world of TV production and what it’s really like to be a child actor.

Tackling big subjects such as homelessness, autism, dementia and depression, as well as teen frustration with friends and family, Cuckoo is honest, credible and so fast paced you won’t want to put it down (I finished it in one read).
This is an innovative, moving, very clever and rather different book. I thoroughly recommend it.

Sarah Baker has worked extensively in film, with roles at Aardman Features and the Bermuda Film Festival, and as Story Editor at Celador Films. She has also been a writer and blogger for vintage fashion magazines. Sarah currently lives in London with her son. THROUGH THE MIRROR DOOR is her first book, a time-slip novel for 9+ that’s perfect for fans of Emma Carroll, Katherine Rundell and Robin Stevens.
Website: bysarahbaker.com
Twitter: @bysarahbaker
Instagram: @bysarahbaker
Pinterest: pinterest.com/bysarahbaker

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Welcoming Two New Reviewers to Serendipity Reviews.

If you were taking part in #ukteenchat last night, you would have heard the exciting news. I have two new reviewers joining the team!
 I am over the moon that both these lovelies have agreed to join KM Lockwood, Liss Norton and myself in reviewing books for the blog. Both ladies are active members of SCBWI, making this practically a SCBWI review site.
I'm so pleased to welcome Sarah Baker and Emma Finlayson-Palmer onto the team. Here's a little bit about each of them.
Sarah Baker has worked extensively in film, with roles at Aardman Features and the Bermuda Film Festival, and as Story Editor at Celador Films. She has also been a writer and blogger for vintage fashion magazines. Sarah currently lives in London with her son. THROUGH THE MIRROR DOOR is her first book, a time-slip novel for 9+ that’s perfect for fans of Emma Carroll, Katherine Rundell and Robin Stevens. 

Website: bysarahbaker.com
Twitter: @bysarahbaker
Instagram: @bysarahbaker
Pinterest: pinterest.com/bysarahbaker

Emma Finlayson-Palmer has won numerous short story competitions, has had stories published in magazines such as Anorak magazine for children, written two MG novels, started many more and is mother to a multitude. She is also the host of #ukteenchat on Twitter, a chat for writers of children’s fiction. A SCBWI member since 2014, based in the West Midlands and currently working on a book for 5-8 year olds and being mentored by Tamsyn Murray. 

Blog: http://finlayson-palmer.blogpsot.co.uk
Twitter: @FinlaysonPalmer 

Please give Sarah and Emma a huge welcome. I am so excited to be working with them and look forward to featuring their reviews.