Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

New Yorker Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient; all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not just be running from somewhere, but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

Pages - 148
Published by Pushkin Children’s Books June 2015

Twelve-year old Claudia is frustrated with life at home and runs away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. with her younger brother, Jamie, who has the big advantage that he has money from cheating at cards. There they sleep in a bed owned by a queen, bathe in the restaurant fountain, using the money thrown into it to supplement their meagre finances. 

However, no sooner have Claudia and Jamie settled into their new home, than they are caught up in the mystery of an angel statue bought by the museum for the bargain price of $225. Is it in fact an as yet undiscovered work by Michelangelo, worth millions? Claudia is determined to find out, and her quest leads her to the remarkable, secretive Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum - and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

This is a children’s classic, a Newberry Award-wining book reissued after nearly fifty years – one I had not come across before. It is written from the point of view of an eccentric rich old lady who has sold a statue of an angel to the museum and tells the story of Claudia and Jamie’s adventure as they learn something new each day and outwit the guards to stay in the Museum each night after the visitors leave. It explores the quirky relationship between the siblings and follows their quest to prove whether the beautiful statue is, in fact, by Michelangelo and therefore invaluable. Jamie, a few years younger, is just after adventure and is ready to return home after a week but Claudia is desperate to become different in some way before she goes home and is convinced that it will happen if she manages to solve the mystery of the statue. 

It is a very well-written and intriguing story, thought-provoking and wryly humorous. Not only does it have adventure and mystery, but it provides a clever, thoughtful and feisty protagonist and an insight into the wonders and richness of the Met – or any other museum children might visit. And the meeting at the end with the eccentric Mrs. Basil E, Frankweiler is an entry into a whole new world and ideas. This is a clever, unique and most enjoyable read – I can see why it is a classic. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Last Five Books with Gill Lewis

To celebrate the imminent publication of Gorilla Dawn, I am so pleased to welcome the well known and extremely loved author, Gill Lewis, onto the blog to tell us about the last five books she read.
When I’m in the middle of writing a novel, I tend to avoid reading fiction, as I don’t want to enter other authors’ heads. I want to stay in the world of my characters and not be lured into other stories. Having finished my latest novel, Gorilla Dawn, I’m now catching up. 
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 
I’m in the middle of listening to the audiobook of this story and I’m totally immersed into the lives of Verity (let’s call her that for now) who is a Special Operations Executive and her friend Maddie, who works in the Air Transport Auxiliary. The story is set during WW2 and begins with Verity’s confession at the hands of the Gestapo. The characters are so well crafted and their friendship so beautifully drawn, that you are rooting for both of the girls as the story unfolds. There are many twists and turns and I’m sure there will be more by the time I reach the end. I keep finding any excuse to put my headphones on and become submerged in the story once more. 
Feral by George Monbiot
Highly readable, Monbiot sets out the case for re-wilding Britain, not just for the sake of the natural world and what it has to offer us, but also to re-wild ourselves, to rouse our own lives from ecological boredom and find vitality outside the narrow confines of our domestic world. The book discusses allowing our over-managed, overgrazed landscapes to return to their truly wild state. Monbiot puts forward a strong case for the introduction of larger predators such as lynx and wolf and gives an insight into how other European countries have successfully managed this. 
The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw
I couldn’t not buy this book. This bridges the gap between art and science. Katina van Grouw’s detailed anatomical drawings of skeletons depict birds in their natural positions, such as the Magnificent Frigatebird chasing a Tropic Bird in flight. The drawings highlight the varied evolutionally adaptations and the underlying similarities between species. A beautiful book to be dipped in an out of. It allows a different way of seeing. 
Katy’s Pony Challenge by Victoria Eveleigh
I’ve been a huge fan of Eveleigh’s pony stories since reading the first books in the Katy series. Eveleigh manages to combine rural life, warmth and humour in her stories. The ups and downs of friendships are gently played alongside the theme of ponies. Katy’s Pony Challenge explores the connection between humans and horses and interweaves a character on the autistic spectrum into the story to show the power of the silent communication between people and animals. 
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
I love reading books where I have no idea where the story is going. Triss wakes up one morning with a ravenous appetite, and leaves and cobwebs in her hair. Her parents are concerned, but her sister is terrified of her. Hardinge’s reimagined story of a changeling is mysterious and ominous, and kept me reading late into the night. It made me feel unnerved and unsafe in the way only the darkest of fairytales can do. 
Gorilla Dawn is published by Oxford University Press in paperback, priced £8.99
Deep in the heart of the African jungle, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Imara and Bobo are two children also imprisoned in the rebels' camp. When they learn that the gorilla is destined to be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it's too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape?

To find out more about Gill Lewis:

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

No More Cuddles! By Jane Chapman

Barry lived by himself deep in the forest.
He liked strolling about on his own, listening to the birds and tasting juicy berries.
But Barry was never on his own for long…

Summary From Little Tiger Press

Everyone loves a hug… but Barry's just COVERED in cuddles! He lives all by himself deep in the forest but this furry chap is never on his own for long. "Come here, Snuggle-wuggles!" call the animals, diving in for a cuddle! There are simply too many hugs to handle. How can Barry get them to stop? From the best-selling author and illustrator, Jane Chapman, comes a very funny picture book about a lovable monster who has just had enough of HUGS!

I absolutely love this book. It's laugh-out-loud funny and the text and colourful illustrations work so brilliantly together that there's plenty to talk about on every page. Jane Chapman's sense of humour shines through; even the monster's name is wonderfully, gigglingly daft! It's Barry, in case you were wondering. 

Poor Barry is so soft and cuddly that all the animals in the wood rush to hug him the moment he appears. All he wants is a bit of time to himself but his plans come to nothing. Of course it all turns out well in the end, but I wouldn't dream of giving anything away because this is a must-read book. I have nothing but praise for the contents of the book but, sadly, the cover doesn't quite match up. It's mostly white and brown and it looks rather dull. I'm afraid it might easily be passed over by children and parents looking for a book to share. Don't be one of those who let it slip by! It's way too much fun to miss…!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan

A small naked person is licking me. I don't panic - this happens a lot. The naked person starts kissing my face. I smell Marmite and banana and...hang on...the person is not entirely naked. It's wearing wellies. Wellies? This is new. And totally unacceptable.

Published by Bloomsbury in July 2014
Pages - 245

Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.
Reviewed by Vivienne Dacosta

I'm annoyed! Really annoyed! With myself of course and not with this super duper book! I'm annoyed that I didn't listen AGAIN to Emma Bradshaw at Bloomsbury when she told me that I'd love this book! I must listen to Emma at all times! 
*bangs head repeatedly against the wall*
This is the first book in the Ladybird series and a must read for fans of  the Geek Girl series and anything by Holly Smale. Jenny McLachlan is  a seriously funny author. She had me in fits of giggles with this book. The characters really stand out and you find yourself desperate to be part of Bea's family. I'm not sure who I loved more; Bea's little sister or her gran.
Bea is normally quiet and shy, but this book brings out the lion in her as she roars into action, determined to win the competition. 
This book is a cross between Dirty Dancing and Girls Just Want To Have Fun, two of my favourite films from the 80's. Only this book is funnier. And I mean side achingly funny. 
Pearl comes across as a real beast. Think Mean Girls but worse. She is really horrid to Bea and no one really seems to stop her. After reading Sun Kissed, the third book in the series, I couldn't believe I was reading about the same character.
And shall we talk about Ollie? I think he definitely needs a mention as he is a gorgeous, swoon worthy character, who sweeps Bea off her feet. 
One of the things I truly love about this book is Bea's size. She isn't your stick think model type; she is a normal girl with curves in all the right places. And thank God, she embraces those curves rather than attempting a carrot only diet! I want more characters like Bea. 
This book would make a brilliant film. I really think Richard Curtis should be given a copy of the book! I want Flirty Dancing on the big screen!!!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Pirates in Pyjamas By Caroline Crowe and Tom Knight

Do pirates wear pyjamas when it's time to say goodnight?
Do they have a skull and crossbones, are they stripy, black and white?
No! when pirates choose pyjamas they're not always what you'd think,
Some are purple, some are orange, some are yellow, green and pink!

Summary From Little Tiger Press
Have you ever wondered whether pirates wear pyjamas when it's time to say goodnight? Leap aboard the Leaky Parrot to find out! Captain Grotbeard and his crew love nothing better than bubble baths, jim-jams and pillow fights! So if you want to be a pirate you don't need a patch or sword – just grab your best pyjamas and a bed to climb aboard.
Who would have guessed that pirates do much the same as the rest of us when it's time for bed? They have a bath, put on their pyjamas, have pillow fights, drink their milk, then snuggle down under the covers. 

The book is written in rhyme and is beautifully illustrated with colourful, cartoon-type pirates throughout. (Those of us of a certain age might spot the similarity between one of the pirates and a member of Captain Pugwash's crew.) The pirates' pyjamas are certainly a talking point – especially the pink, fluffy onesie – and there are lots of humorous, little touches to spot as you go on through the book. See if you can spot what Sneaky Pete's up to when the pirates are drinking their milk. Dominic, aged five, who I read the book to, was fascinated by the things sticking out of Captain Grotbeard's beard. He also loved the rat, but was disappointed that it didn't appear on every page. I have to admit that I was disappointed by that, too. We searched for it in every picture in the hope that it was hiding somewhere and I was left feeling that the illustrator had missed a trick here. That disappointment aside, though, I'd definitely recommend this book for pirate-lovers, especially those who don't like going to bed!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Bitter Sixteen by Stef Mohamed

The world’s a weird place.
Sorry to state the obvious, but it really is. And it’s a lot to take in when you stop to think about it. Luckily, life is generally constructed in such a way that your world starts small and sensible and gradually gets larger and weirder. There’s a gradient, a logical, incremental process that expands your horizons and your perception bit by bit, so that it doesn’t overload your poor little CPU and leave you jibbering in a white room being fed thrice daily through a letterbox. This tends to be the way of things.
Except for when it’s not.

Published by Salt April 2015

352 pages in paperback

Cover by John Tyrell and The Cover Factory

Summary from Publisher’s website

“Happy birthday, Stanly. We hope you like your present…”

Cynical, solitary Stanly Bird is a fairly typical teenager – unless you count the fact that his best friend is a talking beagle named Daryl, and that he gained the powers of flight and telekinesis when he turned sixteen.

Unfortunately, his rural Welsh home town is not exactly crying out for its very own superhero. London is calling – but what Stanly finds there is a good deal weirder and more terrifying than anything he could have imagined. Perhaps he should have stayed in Wales 

As you can see form the extract, Bitter Sixteen is written from the point of view of a teenage boy. But this is one adolescent whose head you won’t mind being inside. Stanly (not a typo) is funny and conflicted, geeky and likeable.

The story itself is a tasty fusion of terror, romance, action, superpowers and humour. There are pop culture references ranging from Men in Black to The Matrix with all the stops in between– this is a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. After all, there’s a talking dog and a school production of Romeo and Juliet as well as superhero antics. Great fun.

On the slightly more serious side, watching Stanly wrestle with both his conscience and his abilities had its genuinely touching moments. I will be interested to see how he and the other characters develop in the sequels. This book works just fine as a standalone – but there are two more to come.

On the down side, I’m not a fan of dream sequences, so those didn’t work for me, I’m afraid. However it does pass the Bechdel Test – hoorah – and have some rather intriguing female characters. I may have missed it, but I didn’t notice any people of colour. This seems odd in contemporary London – but I’m happy to concede it was me reading too quickly because I had to know what happened next. It might long in actual words – but it doesn’t read that way.

Whether or not they’re into the same geeky sub-culture as Stanly, readers will warm to his character. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their sci-fi with a large dash of humour.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Want to know about Longbow Girl??

So have you heard about Longbow Girl by Linda Davies? No? Where on earth have you been? Luckily for you I have this brilliant video extract from an interview with Linda, where she tells us all about the book. Watch this and I can guarantee you will want to read Longbow Girl.

A stunningly exciting and dramatic story set in the wilds of the Welsh mountains, where the brave and beautiful Merry Owen, the Longbowgirl, travels back in time to the autocratic kingdom of King Henry V111 to save her ancestors.
Steeped in history, ancient lore and crackling with tension between the central characters Merry and James, Longbowgirl explores the themes of who we are and who we can become when fighting for those we love and for our very lives. Are we prisoners of our history or can we break free? Can we become all that we need to be to meet the ultimate challenge of life and death in the King’s Tournament and in the dungeons of the Black Castle? 

Longbow Girl is published by Chicken House on September 3rd 2015.

To find out more about Linda Davies: