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.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Secret Serendipity Seven with Sophia Bennett

I am so excited to be the first stop on The Castle Blog tour. The Castle was published by Chicken House on August 7th and is written by the mega-talented Sophia Bennett. I will pass you over to Sophia, who has been kind enough to share some of her secrets.
Seven things you might not know about me and my new book, The Castle …
1. Appropriately enough, when I was about six The Secret Seven was my absolute favourite series. I was obsessed and read every book I could get my hands on. Lots of girls my age had mothers who disapproved of Enid Blyton books because they weren’t ‘literary’ enough, but luckily mine always let me read anything. Quite possibly it was The Secret Seven that kick-started my interest in adventure, mystery and detection … which ultimately led to the writing of The Castle. So thank you, Enid Blyton. And thank you, Vivienne, for thinking of such a great idea for this theme.
2. The story is inspired by my father, and the fact that he spent 35 years in the army and I grew up surrounded by soldiers. He was very useful in the fight scenes. I could just call him up and say ‘How would you disarm someone who’s standing with their foot on your chest?’ Growing up, though, his advice to me was generally to avoid dangerous situations. (Advice Peta’s dad has handed on to her, too, not that she seems to take much notice.) My father also created the full military CV for Peta’s dad. I’ve only mentioned bits of it in the book, but it’s all there …
3. Peta’s school is based on the one that Stella McCartney went to, because it happened to be in the right place. I love that the McCartney kids just went to the normal local state school – although Stella has said she was bullied and didn’t enjoy it. Bullying can happen anywhere, of course. As is does to Peta, in the book.
4. Although the main arc of the story never changed from the time I wrote my chapter plan, lots of the details did. In fact, almost every single one. There’s a central escape episode, and until the last draft of the book I wasn’t certain who would make it. My editor, Bella Pearson, was brilliant at making suggestions and helping me to decide who went and who stayed. Looking back, I’m sure she was right. 
5. Peta has to solve a code in the book, which turns out to be a computer password. She mentions how her dad taught her to create strong passwords, and as I got the idea from an expert in the field, I recommend her method. It’s easy to remember and hard to crack, so it works!  
6. Just before the book went to the printers, I was proof-reading it and realised that the penultimate chapter was unnecessary. It had a couple of jokes that I liked, but all the important facts were repeated in the epilogue. So we took it out. It’s basically one long list of spoilers, but I might l publish it on my website one day so that readers of the book can decide for themselves if I made the right decision or not.
7. It may not seem it, given that my books so far have been about fashion, music and celebrity, but I think of myself very much as a feminist writer. I like to explore how girls can exert their power for good in a world where they are often still belittled and ignored, if not downright subjugated. All the girls in my books are underestimated at some stage, and come out fighting. The Castle turns the classic fairytale on its head: girl rescues (or tries to rescue) boy from castle. So I was fascinated to see Disney’s Frozen, which is all about girl-power too – even if its main character still has to look like a beauty queen. If even Disney is putting girls in charge of the action at last, you know that something’s changing. And that has to be good.   
Thank you Sophia for sharing all these brilliant secrets.
Book Synopsis:
A search for the truth about her father’s death takes schoolgirl Peta Jones to a dangerous place ...
It's not just the bridesmaid's dress that Peta has a problem with - it's the whole wedding. How can her mum remarry when her army-hero dad isn't dead? When Peta receives clues that seem to prove he's alive, she sets out on a crazy mission. Somewhere across the sea, her father's being held in a billionaire's castle. Dad would do anything to save her - and now it's her turn to rescue him.
To find out more about Sophia Bennett:
Check out the rest of the stops on The Castle Blog Tour.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Childhood Daze with Judi Curtin

Today I am pleased to welcome children’s author, Judi Curtin onto the blog.
I had a very happy childhood, (some may consider this a disaster for a writer.) My family moved around a lot, and I had to change schools a number of times, but I never struggled terribly with settling into new places. Even the move from England to Ireland when I was eight, didn’t bother me unduly.
As soon as I learned to figure out the letters and words, reading became my favourite thing. I loved the classics, and the Narnia series, but Enid Blyton was a particular favourite - especially the Malory Towers books. I wanted to be Darrell Rivers and I begged my parents to send me to boarding school. (Luckily they were impervious to my impassioned pleas.)
The biggest problem in my uneventful life was that I never had enough books to read. It didn’t take me long to read every children’s book in the house, and as none of my many childhood homes was close to a library, I ended up reading the same books over and over again. 
Even though I was a quiet child, I loved being invited to visit other children’s houses, especially for birthday parties. While the other guests were distracted by games of pass the parcel, I would retreat to the hostess’s bedroom, where I’d pass happy hours reading her books. When I smelled sausages, I’d show my face in the kitchen for a few minutes, and then I’d return to my reading until it was time to go home.
My biggest childhood dream was to become a writer, but life got in the way, and I didn’t do any serious writing until I was in my thirties. Better late than never is clichéd, but definitely true for me. When I see my books lined up on a shelf next to Enid Blyton’s, I know for sure that my dream has come true.
Viva Alice, the eighth Alice and Megan book, has just been published by O’Brien Press.
Book Summary
Alice and Megan are back together again! When they are together, they can handle anything!
Grace invites Alice and Megan to spend Easter in her house in Lanzarote. The girls are accidentally left home-alone for two days in the house. It’s fun at first, until they become trapped on an upstairs balcony and spend a long cold night and day waiting to be rescued!
Meanwhile Melissa is still unhappy at boarding school. Alice wants to help her to get back to their school, but Megan sees this as a betrayal. Tension mounts between the two girls, until Megan gives in and agrees to help. In the end, Melissa comes back, and Megan realises that she is confident enough to stand up to her.
To find out more about Judi Curtin:

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tiger Moth by Suzi Moore

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I’m not like you. I’m not like everyone else. I wasn’t born. I was chosen.
Published by Simon and Schuster in August 2014
Pages – 239
Ever since she was adopted by her parents, Culver Manor, with its hidden rooms and overgrown garden has been the one place Alice feels safe, the one place she can call home. Everything's perfect. Until it isn't. When she finds out her Mum is going to have a baby, Alice's world turns upside down. Will they love their real baby more than her? Why isn't she enough for them an...more Ever since she was adopted by her parents, Culver Manor, with its hidden rooms and overgrown garden has been the one place Alice feels safe, the one place she can call home. Everything's perfect. Until it isn't. When she finds out her Mum is going to have a baby, Alice's world turns upside down. Will they love their real baby more than her? Why isn't she enough for them anymore? Alice doesn't know what to say, so she doesn't speak at all. She stays silent that day and the day after that, until six months have passed without her saying one single word.
Zack has everything he could want. His dad's a film stuntman, he lives in the best house on the best street and is Mr Popular at school. Everything's perfect. Until it isn't. Zack's dad is killed on set and he and his mum are forced to sell their house and move to a tiny cottage by the sea. Ripped from the life he once knew, Zack is angry at the world and looking for trouble. Then he meets Alice, the girl who doesn't speak, and together they begin to realise that sometimes it's when life seems less than perfect that the most magical things can happen.
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.  I felt like I stepped back in time to my own childhood.
Set in Devon, the story is told from dual perspectives. First we meet Alice, who we discover from the start is adopted and struggling to come to terms with the impending changes to her family. When her parents tell her they are having their very own child, Alice quickly feels unstable  and no longer can see how she will fit within her own family. Her anger hits you instantly as selective muteness takes over.
When Zack appears in the book, you know straight away that he is struggling to come to terms with the death of his father. The life he has always known is instantly erased from existence and he is thrust unwillingly back into his mother’s past.  Both characters instantly draw out your empathy as a reader, as you desperately want everything to be right again for them. They are both suffering in their own way until they meet each other; their new found friendship helps to ease the pain that surrounds them on a daily basis.
The setting for the book is simply gorgeous. It reminded me of Clovelly in Devon; the kind of British sea side village I would love to live in. The descriptions of the village and Culver Manor, where Alice lived, had me yearning to visit Devon over  the summer holidays. It was lovely to be able to imagine myself sitting on the private beach, watching the seals in the distance. I swear I could almost hear the waves crashing against the shore.
There is a secret about Culver Manor, that hovers gently over the book. You know a past exists, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, until the secrets are revealed at the end.
I had a couple of tiny niggles with the book. One was that the character, George, who appeared quite dominant in the end of the book, did not appear in the beginning. I would have loved to have seen his presence a little earlier, as he was a colourful and eccentric Miss Daisy style character. My second niggle was the epilogue, where I felt there were elements to it that I wasn’t prepared for.
On the whole I really enjoyed this book. It had whispers of mystery circling  the growing pains of two beautiful, innocent souls trying to float in the turbulent sea of change. I honestly can’t wait to see what Suzi Moore writes next.
If your child is looking for a summer read to accompany them on the long journey to your holiday destination, then I can’t think of a better book than this to read.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

I'm the one who's left behind. I'm the one to tell the tale. I knew them both... knew how they lived and how they died.
Illustrated by Karen Radford
Published by Hodder Children’s Books in October 2014
272 pages in hardback.
Summary from Publishers’ website
Claire is Ella Grey's best friend. She's there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story - as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.
This book is truly lyrical.
It sings with the language of David Almond’s native North East in both its simplicity and beauty. It’s not hard to read, though. There’s none of the phonetic spelling of ‘The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean’- in this story he uses the rhythms and cadences of Northumberland in a direct and musical way. I should love to hear an audio version with Kathryn Tickell [Northumbrian piper] reading it – or perhaps a younger local lass. I can imagine Freya, David Almond’s daughter, doing a lovely job of it.
The prose is deceptively simple. Any reasonably confident reader could tackle it from secondary school upwards. A particular pleasure is the portrayal of love and sexuality as both fluid and joyous. There’s no shock horror prurience here.
The experimentation seems less obvious than in ‘My Name is Mina’ – though there are black pages with white text, for example. I have only read the Net Galley proof but I have seen some unusual layouts designed to make you pause and consider what is said. It all adds to the poetry.
From what I have seen online, Karen Radford’s illustrations complement the text beautifully. The spareness combined with delicacy suit the tone, and bring out both the universality and the local detail of this re-telling of the Orpheus myth.
It is a story ideal for Teens, Young Adults or whatever the current marketing bracket is for adolescents. This does not rule it out for the adult reader. The mix of contemporary and mythical conveys that period of ‘becoming’ vividly. Not just that exploring who you might be – which though often joyful is not a dollop of sentimental nostalgia – but also love and creativity in the face of Death.
I would highly recommend this magical tale for older readers longing to understand how the arts make any sense when someone you treasure dies.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Mighty Mo By Alison Brown

Mo was bored. Bored, bored, bored. "There must be SOMETHING amazing I can do," Mo said.
"Look out, zoo. Here I come!"
Ernestine was making incredible ice creams. "That's IT!" cried Mo. "I can do that!"
"I'll be MARVELLOUS Mo – king of sprinkles!"
Published by Little Tiger Press in September 2014

Summary From Little Tiger Press
At the Golden Dodo Zoo, Mo the raccoon is bored, bored, bored. There must be something amazing he can do! It certainly isn’t making ice-creams or blowing up balloons… But when Big Ron the robber starts causing trouble, it’s up to mighty Mo to save the day!
This hilarious story about an unlikely hero will appeal to any child with a sense of adventure. Keep your little superhero entertained with these bright, lively illustrations from the talented Alison Brown (Eddie and Dog) - perfect for fans of Claire Freedman’s Superkid.
There's plenty to talk about in this quirky picture book and Alison Brown's colourful and lively illustrations make it a sure-fire winner with young children. The book tells the story of Mo the raccoon who wants to do something amazing but doesn't quite know how to go about it. He tries his hand (or paw, perhaps!) at a few tasks at the zoo, but his results are more atrocious than amazing and Mo's self-confidence dwindles.
Until Big Ron puts in an appearance…
Mo's dogged pursuit of the robber saves the day and his self-esteem is instantly, and comically, restored.
The story is told mostly in dialogue: the illustrations are so illuminating that little narrative is required. There's lots to look at on every page – and don't forget to keep an eye out for sneaky Big Ron!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Harry and the Monster by Sue Mongredien and Nick East

On Monday night, Harry had a bad dream – a bad, scary dream about a bad, scary monster.
"Roooaarr!" went the monster.
"Aargh!" shouted Harry, waking everyone up.
Summary From Little Tiger Press
One night, a monster stomps into Harry's dreams. The next day, Harry is scared to go to sleep. "If he comes back, just imagine him with pink pants on his head," suggests Mum. "He won't be scary then!" Can Mum's clever plan possibly work?
Harry's nightmares about a large, shaggy, purple monster are giving everyone disturbed nights and Mum and Dad try to help him overcome them. It takes a while but, in the end, their plan works in rather an unexpected way.
This book is fun from start to finish. It tackles a common problem – nightmares – with humour and lots of imagination. The story builds up bit by bit with
the sort of repetitions that make picture books work so well for young children. The illustrations are bright, funny and full of action, and the subject matter makes it perfect for children troubled by bad dreams. Come to think of it, it's pretty perfect for children who aren't troubled by bad dreams, too. And if you'd like to see a monster with pink pants on his head, then this is the book for you! 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie

My name is Adam Meltzer. The last thing I remember was being stung by a bee while swinging at at robot-shaped piñata on my twelfth birthday. I as dead before the candy hit the ground.
Published by Faber and Faber in August 2014
Pages - 243
Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie is narrated by the hilarious Adam Meltzer - pre-teen, worrywart, and now zombie. Adam's family gets the fright of their lives when he turns up at their door . . . three months after his funeral.
Soon Adam's back at school trying to fit in and not draw extra attention to himself, but when he sees his neighbour Ernesto transform into a chupacubra, and the beautiful Corina (Adam's number one mega-crush) turns out to be a (vegan) vampire, undead life is never going to be the same again.
From the moment I heard Jeff Norton reading aloud from this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I loved Adam instantly, which is a huge revelation for me to make as I’m usually the most anti-zombie blogger around. Seriously, normally, I would rather gargle bleach, than read a zombie book. Yet this one got me and I loved every word of it.
Adam is hilarious. Who would ever imagine a zombie that is a hygiene freak? He is a brilliant, funny and wonderful character and I loved getting to know him. Not to mention, his two rather quirky and unique sidekicks – Corina, a vegan vampire and Ernesto, a reluctant chupacubra. Every character’s trait contradicts who they really are.
This book is funny from the first word to the last and I was thoroughly entertained all the way through it. The way Adam’s character fit easily back into school, even though nearly everyone had been to his funeral, reminded me so much of Teen Wolf and how easily he was accepted.
If like myself, you’ve avoided zombies because you couldn’t see the point in them, then I highly recommend this book. I’m not saying I will be diving straight into another but if Jeff Norton writes a sequel, I will definitely read it.
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