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.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

My favourite Middle Grade/ Younger Reader Books of 2014

I promised this post a couple of weeks ago, but as usual time ran away from me.
So as many of you know, I love to read Middle Grade and Younger Reader books just as much as I love Young Adult books, so I thought I should showcase my favourite from last year.
One Wish
1) One Wish by Michelle Harrison – published by Simon and Schuster
I love Michelle Harrison’s books. I loved the 13 series and I was so excited to find out that Michelle was writing a prequel to it. Michelle’s writing always reminds me of a more modern Enid Blyton. This book should definitely be on your TBR list.
A Boy Called Hope
2) The Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson – Published by Usborne.
Lara Williamson is one of those authors to watch. She quietly slipped into the limelight, but quickly established herself as a favourite within the Middle Grade market. Look out for her second book out soon.  I love the way she writes. She has a mixture of humour and sadness within her prose that has you completely gripped until the end.
The Baking Life of Amelie Day
3) The Baking Life of Amelie Day by Vanessa Curtis – published by Curious Fox
I adored this book. A beautiful blend of humour and sadness. One of those books that you want to start all over again, once you’ve finished.
4) A Tiger Tale by Holly Webb – published by Scholastic
This is one of two books by Holly on this list. She is definitely my favourite author for 7 to 9 year olds. This book deals with grief and it actually made me cry…a lot!
The Case of the Exploding Loo
5) The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton – published by Simon and Schuster
Be careful not to explode with laughter when reading this book, because it is blooming hilarious.  A side splitting mystery from a debut author.
The Royal Babysitters
6) The Royal Babysitters by Clementine Beauvais – published by Bloomsbury.
Another hilarious, side splitting book that kids will love. Aimed at 7 to 9 year olds, it will keep them entertained as they follow this babysitting escapade.
Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?
7) Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? by Liz Kessler - published by Orion Children's Books.
I am and will always be a fan of Liz Kessler! A completely different type of book from Liz Kessler but really enjoyable. I really liked the science bits. If only gem stones had such power. *sighs*
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8) Tiger Moth by Suzi Moore – published by Simon and Schuster
I can’t help it, but I truly love the way Suzi Moore writes. She has such a warmth to her voice it draws you in, hands you a blanket and allows you to dream of your childhood.
8) The Winter Wolf by Holly Webb – published by Stripes
The run up to Christmas wouldn’t be the same, if I didn’t have a wintery Holly Webb book to read. Reminiscent of The Little House on the Prairie, you feel like you are reading something really precious with this book.
So these are my favourite books for Middle Grade and Young Readers. I hope I haven’t added too many books to your overflowing TBR pile. Let me know what your favourite reads were from last year for this age range.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Circus Unseen by Joanne Owen

Circus of the Unseen
Long ago, when the world was young and people still thought of the marsh and the mists and the witch in the woods, there lived a girl called Vasilisa, whose mother fell gravely ill. On her deathbed, Vasilisa’s mother called for her daughter. She took a little wooden doll from beneath her pillow, saying, ‘When I am gone, I shall leave you this doll with my blessing. Promise me you’ll always keep her with you, and promise me you’ll never show her to another soul.’
Published by Hot Key Books in November 2014
Pages 304
After an accident at her grandmother's house, Rosie is transported to a strange and sinister world populated by a cast of carnivalesque characters who reside in the Circus of the Unseen. They are reigned over by an old woman called Madam Matushka, who guards the threshold between life and death and has extraordinary powers over all around her.
This is an in-between world, a bizarre and trapped existence, but Rosie is not like the others here. She seems to be hovering between the worlds of the living and the dead, and she is a challenge to Madam Matushka. Can Rosie escape Madame Matushka's malevolent rule and a world in limbo? And can she help resolve another mystery - one at the heart of her grandmother's life?
Firstly I love the cover of this book! It has The Night Circus written all over it. I definitely think gothic circus now when I see black, white and red together, so I don’t think Hot Key Books could have picked a better cover.
As for the story itself  I have mixed emotions about it.
Firstly I enjoyed the Russian feel to it. That is something I haven’t come across before in children’s fiction before. I found the beginning part of the book a little slow to start and my enjoyment of it grew when Rosie stepped into the between world ruled by Mother Matushka. I was morbidly fascinated by the bizarre descriptions of Coco and Lola. Although I definitely wouldn’t want to come face to face with them in the middle of the night.
I loved the setting. It sounded exotic and frightening all at the same time. There is definitely a real gothic feel to the in between world, which was full of what seemed like the half dead.
I struggled to work out which age group this book was actually for. At first I thought it was Middle Grade, but on reading it, it felt quite dark for that age range, so I wondered if it was bordering on YA, or perhaps should be represented as older Middle Grade.
The writing requires concentration. This isn’t a book you can whip through quickly. With a lot of Russian folklore  hidden within it,  at times you find yourself confused about what is really going on.
I wasn’t completely convinced by the ending. I had to reread it to make sure that I was reading it correctly. Knowing how much Rosie loved her family, it didn’t feel right to end it the way it did. If I’ve got it wrong, then please shout at me, but I couldn’t seem to read it any other way.
I am hoping to read this book again; mainly because there was a lot of it that I just didn’t get. I think if you read at a slower rate than I do, you are more likely to enjoy this book and understand it better. So not one of my favourite books, but definitely worth a read, if you are looking for something different.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

My #bookishWISHES

To celebrate the imminent publication of Holly Black’s new novel,  The Darkest Part Of the Forest, I  can’t wait to share my #bookishwishes with you today.
Darkest Part of The Forest 4 1

1) To one day get my own book published. Many of you know, I’ve been on this journey for quite sometime with many hours spent writing, rewriting and editing, in the hope that one I could finally see my name on the cover of the book. I like to think I am further up the road than I used to be. So maybe one day this bookish wish really will come true.
2) To see book bloggers gain the same recognition that other bloggers do. The book blogging community is a collective.  We range in age from the young to the old. We are united in our beliefs and our passion for books. I honestly don’t think there is any other blogging community quite like us. However our recognition is limited and our words are accepted by a small circle. My book wish is to see the community grow stronger and gain acceptance in society in the same way that the food bloggers and the fashion bloggers do. We do a good job and we work hard for our love of books. With the recent announcement about the publisher led Blogger Awards, I think we are definitely moving in the right direction towards this. I feel quite humbled to be nominated in the long list for an award. These awards show the mutual appreciation and affection that has built up over time between the book blogging community and the authors and publishers.

3) To see all teenagers represented in fiction.To be human is to be unique. Every teenager is different, therefore every teenager should be allowed to be different.   I am up there waving my flag with all the other bloggers to encourage more diversity in YA and children's books. It shouldn't matter what the colour of your skin is, what your sexuality is  or whether you look different from other people. Teenagers need to see that they are just as important as everyone else, regardless of any of those things.

4) To see more adults embracing books written for teenagers and children. Your age is irrelevant when reading a book. What matters is how good the story is. I still get people looking at me with disbelief when I rave about a YA or MG book. To be honest, I don't give a fig. Read what you want. Re-embrace your inner teenager or child. You won't regret it.

5) For UK Middle Grade books and authors to get the same media attention and respect now given to our  UK YA books and authors. UKYA are dazzling with success and now it is time for UKMG to shine. There are some amazing people on Twitter really pushing this at the moment, so I congratulate them on their efforts. There are some awesome writers out there and they deserve just as much attention. Let's rub out that line that divides both age categories. Let them mingle!
So they are my #bookishwishes. What are yours?
DarkestPartOfTheForest_Twitter (2)

FAERIES. KNIGHTS. PRINCES. THINK YOU KNOW HOW THE STORY GOES? THINK AGAIN... NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author HOLLY BLACK  spins a dark, dangerous and utterly beautiful  faerie tale, guaranteed to steal your heart .
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for. Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the centre of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.  Until one day, he does… As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black will be published by Indigo on 5 February 2015 9781780621739/ Hardback at £10.99 and ebook at £5.99
Holly Black
About HOLLY BLACK: Holly Black is the bestselling author of YA and children's books including being co-creator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, a NEW YORK TIMES No.1 bestselling phenomenon and hugely successful film. She has been a finalist for the MYTHOPOEIC AWARD, the EISNER AWARD and a recipient of the ANDRE NORTON AWARD and a NEWBERY HONOR. She currently lives in New England in a house with a secret door.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Waiting On Wednesday–Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, started by Jill at Breaking The Spine, highlighting future book releases everyone is waiting on! Today I am super excited about the next book from Sarah Alderson, one of my favourite authors. Conspiracy Girl will be published in February 2015 by Simon and Schuster and I can’t wait to read it.
Read Me Like a Book
Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler – Published in May 2015 by Indigo
I know that Liz has been waiting for this book to be published for a long time, so I am super excited to read her first LGBT YA novel.
Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling - that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It's enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents' marriage troubles. There's just one thing bothering her . . .
Shouldn't it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way - not Miss Murray, her English teacher?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Not your standard round up by K. M. Lockwood

When I see a long column of words, my heart sinks. I don’t want to read a boring list and I suspect neither do you. So instead of a Books I have read in 2014, I’m doing something else.
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.
Good advice. The only purpose of reflecting on the past is seeing how far you’ve gone – and using this to plan ahead. In short, looking for patterns.
You could say I am cheating by looking at the reviews I’ve done since March 2012 – or you could be kind and say it gives better data. Either way, in an entirely anecdotal and unscientific manner, I’m going to extrapolate some trends I think are happening in fiction for young people. I’m sticking to the ones I like because I can – and there’s enough gloom out there thank you very much.
Doh a deer, a female deer… Where to start? My first review – Mister Creecher. This contains two themes I enjoy: metafiction and Victoriana. Just so I’m making myself clear, my definition of metafiction is literature that consciously refers to previous writing. So Chris Priestley using Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s creature from Frankenstein is precisely what I mean.  It doesn’t have to be serious – the joyful Goth Girl books play merrily with clever references to all sorts of writing. But it works best of all when the allusions add depth to the story – such as in Whitstable and The Last of the Spirits.  This trend rewards readers who have a good track record.
Victoriana is definitely a thing. I love it. It’s so wide – from ‘steampunk’ fun like Etiquette & Espionage to eerie mysteries such as Frost Hollow Hall and The Visitors. Strictly speaking, the Penny Dreadful series by Christopher Edge are set in the Edwardian era – but that kind of world-building is the draw. You can get lost in it.
Which brings me to my next theme – fabulously different worlds. Such a range - Yangsze Choo’s Ghost Bride, Candy Gourlay’s Shine and Jepp who defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh – use actual times and places in new and unusual ways. Sometimes the quality of writing is part of that world too – often challenging to read and a bit ‘marmite’ – but frequently worth it. Try Railsea, the Skyscraper Throne Trilogy, or anything by Frances Hardinge and Catherynne M. Valente if you’re feeling adventurous. 
One trend I am sure many different kinds of reader will enjoy is the return of illustration. Oh, the fun of Oliver and the Seawigs or Fortunately the Milk is not merely doubled but squared by the design work. I want to cheer every time I see good production values: they can be for older readers too. Hoorah for graphic novels like Clockwork Angel, or sheer uncategorisable loveliness like The Sleeper and the Spindle.
Finally, the controversial theme – the dark and uncompromising stories. I accept these are not to everyone’s taste, but I defend their right to be written. The point of the best ones – like Tinder, The Killing Woods, Amity and Sorrow or Bone Jack, is that they do not patronise the young reader. The world has many dark places and to pretend it’s all like Disneyland, especially to teens, is ridiculous. 
Robert Schumann: "To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist."
So I wonder if publishing in 2015 will carry on with these trends. Will there be more metafiction, wonderful artwork, Victoriana, diversity and darkness? Will something utterly new take over? As they say, read on to find out…

Monday, 19 January 2015

Hold Tight Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go
I am a rag doll throttled in a dog’s mouth. The earth lurches back and forth and back again, and then it shudders in violent waves. I can’t keep my balance, and I fall to my knees. I see the house fall. I know I should be afraid, but I feel nothing but numbness.
Published by Amulet Books in January 2015
Pages - 250
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go follows the vivid story of two teenage cousins, raised as sisters, who survive the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After losing the woman who raised them in the tragedy, Magdalie and Nadine must fend for themselves in the aftermath of the quake. The girls are inseparable, making the best of their new circumstances in a refugee camp with an affectionate, lively camaraderie, until Nadine, whose father lives in Miami, sends for her but not Magdalie. As she leaves, Nadine makes a promise she cannot keep: to bring Magdalie to Miami, too. Resourceful Magdalie focuses her efforts on a reunion with Nadine until she realizes her life is in Haiti, and that she must embrace its possibilities for love, friendship, and a future.
This book is a fictional representation of a real life catastrophe. This book’s publication coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake which devastated the country, killing so many people and left a society in such unbelievable sorrow.
It isn’t an easy read, as you journey through the actual event and the days that followed it. This is a deeply personalised account, so you really are hit deeply by Magdalie’s thoughts and feelings as she tries to come to terms with the loss of her aunt who has always been like a mother to her. Not to mention the drastic change in living conditions. When you see events like this on television, you are shocked by the devastation, but you are at a distance from it. However I found  reading about it and hearing what day to day life was like really hit home and upset me a lot.
Not only is this a story about the aftermath of the disaster, but it is also a coming of age story. Magdalie and Nadine have always felt like sisters and begin their journey through the events together. However when Nadine’s estranged father sends her a plane ticket  to take her to live in America, Magdalie is devastated. She is left to cope alone and the loneliness really is awful for her. You can see a heavy blanket of depression dropping down on her, almost suffocating the life out of her. Thankfully a trip to where her aunt came from, gives her the space and the perspective to change her future.
I think this is a beautifully written book. I really felt the author captured the devastation but dealt with it sympathetically. This book shows how resilient the human race really is. When we fall down, we jump back up stronger. The last chapter really brought a tear to my eye. Set in 2020 and written by the main character, it is really is a hope for the future. I could imagine many of the inhabitants of Haiti hoping and praying for this type of future.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Tales From The Craft Room–Baby Feet Picture

I am determined to keep Sunday posts open on the blog for  all things crafty.  If it isn’t me, it will be one of the fabulous crafting people I have got to know over the last year. This week I’m really pleased to welcome two lovely ladies, Kim and Jacqui who are in the middle of setting up a fantastic new Etsy site called KJ Craft and Design. As soon as they are up and running I will be providing a link on the blog, so that you can see the wonderful crafts they have made. 
Last week I watched them create this gorgeous picture below and I asked them if they would be happy to write a post about it for the blog. With step by step instructions, they have made it easy for you to make one for yourself.  Ideal for a nursery, or a gift for someone who has just given birth.
Materials needed
A4 white card (we used Canford card)
A4 Blush pink paper ( we used Canford)
A4 Bubblegum pink (we used Canford)
25 cm of pink gingham 15mm ribbon
25 cm of Azeala pink 25mm ribbon
1 pack of value pink buttons
8x8 inch deep white b ox frame
Glue gun
Double sided tape
Ruler pencil
Computer and printer
(All items can be purchased from Hobbycraft)
1) Cut the A4 white card to fit the box frame.

2.) Using a pencil, draw a outline of a pair of baby feet on to the light pink blush paper and cut out.
3)  Stick both feet to  the white card, using double sided tape.  Remember to leave enough room for the baby toes.
4) Choose two larger buttons for the big toes and then eight smaller ones for the rest.
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5) Using the  hot glue gun, stick the  buttons for the baby toes in place first, leaving  a small space above the feet.
6) Stick the first layer of buttons on the rest of the feet , try to cover the pink as much as possible.
7) Now stick another layer of buttons, covering any spaces while trying to keep within the shape of the foot.
8) Draw a pencil line as a guide line for where you want to place your first piece of ribbon.
9) Using the double sided tape stick down the wider ribbon , sticking the ends to behind the page.
10) Now stick the gingham ribbon on the same way.
11) Using your computer, find a font you like and type and print in a shade of pink the text you want to add to your picture.
12) Matt and layer the text using the two shades of paper: attach this to the centre of the ribbon.
13.Put the picture in a box frame.

Isn’t that gorgeous? I would definitely have made a couple of these for my girls when they were little. Although it doesn’t have to be pink, you can do it in any colour you like.
Thank you to Kim and Jacqui from KJ Crafts, for a gorgeous picture. Look out for more designs from them in the future.