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, 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
Summary
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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Close To The Wind by Jon Walter

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The boy and the old man arrived at the port at night.
There had been cloud in the sky but now the moon shone brightly and they stood in the shadow cast by a row of terraced cottages that lined a cobbled street, polished through the years by wheels and feet and the hooves of horses.
The boy held the old man’s hand.
Published by David Fickling Books in July  2014
Pages – 298
Malik's mother has been missing for days, his home has become unrecognisable, and his grandfather is insisting that they leave on the next and final ship: The Samaritan. This journey will take them to a country which promises safety and a new life. The only problem is, they don't have a ticket, and people are stopping at nothing to get a place on board. Luckily Papa has a secret that could change everything. But who can they trust to help them?
******
One of the things that I liked most about this book was the fact that it was difficult to pinpoint a time or place in which the events took place. I knew that Malik was fleeing from a war torn country and I had suspicions that the story was set during during World War 2, but this information was never disclosed, giving the book a timeless feel to it. It really could have been set at any time as nothing felt like it dated it.This alone shows the skills of a clever author.
Nothing overly dramatic really happens in this book and yet, you are sucked into the story straightaway. The author’s voice captures your imagination and writes in such a detailed manner, that you find it difficult to pull yourself away from the book. You desperately want Malik to be able to return to his home and be with his mother again.
If I was to pinpoint any themes in this book, I think they would be loyalty and survival. Malik is willing to give away one of his most treasured positions to right the wrong that was committed against his grandfather. Oksar and Stephan’s loyalty, showed that they would rather risk losing the opportunity of living with a new family than losing each other. From a survival perspective, Malik’s grandfather is willing to risk his own life in order to spare his grandson from the unknown and unstable future of his country.
There were scenes in the book that worried me. I was convinced for a huge part of the story that I would have to go through that whole Manchee scenario again that I struggled with in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. There were tense moments where Malik had to show true courage and maturity for such a young child. The atmosphere on the ship was so well written, I could feel how stifling conditions must have been.
I do have one niggle about the book. The ending seemed to go on longer than necessary for me. Once Malik was off the boat, I expected perhaps another incident to occur, only it didn’t. So I find myself pondering whether the majority of Part Three was actually necessary.
However, this did not affect my overall enjoyment of the book. The descriptive language and the young hero made this book a beautiful read.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Write Way with Curtis Jobling

I recently got the chance to meet Curtis Jobling at my daughter’s school. He was there for an author event to promote his latest YA book, Haunt: Dead Scared. Curtis was already well known for his sensational  Middle Grade  series, Wereworld, not to mention his close association with Bob the Builder.  During the assemblies, Curtis really caught the attention of the kids, to the point where I can only presume his Twitter followers escalated, because mine most certainly did purely through association.
In between his assemblies and workshops, I managed to grab five minutes with Curtis in order to interview him.
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1) If you could sum up the plot to Haunt: Dead Scared in one sentence, what would it be?
A buddy buddy bromance that shows that love and friendship doesn’t end in death.  Or another version – Randall And Hopkirk Deceased for a new generation!
2) You have written for all age groups, which is your preference?
The older the better, that way I can cut loose and I don’t need to self edit so much. I would love to thoroughly get my teeth into YA. Wereworld straddled  Middle Grade and YA, but was pitched more towards Middle Grade. Even though anyone who has read it would say it was more YA because of the content. I would love to do something that was pure YA.
3) When writing YA, I was told it was better to not have any adults in the story, what are your views on this?
I think you can have adults in there as wallpaper or a backdrop, but the heart of it must be young adults.
4) When you write a book, do you ever consider what age group it will be pitched at?
No that is up to the publisher and the bookseller. Wereworld was meant for myself first and foremost. As the series progresses it gets darker and  moves away from Middle Grade to YA. There are things I do to the characters that shouldn’t appear in a Middle Grade book.
5) I love the cover, there seems to be a move towards more neon coloured covers.What are your thoughts?
I think it is pumpkintastic. It has got a real Halloween feel to it, with the orange and black.
6) Do you miss writing the Wereworld books now they are finished?
I do. A week doesn’t go by when I don’t get fan mail from people asking when are you doing more Wereworld books.
7) Would you consider writing more?
I would love to, but I am having a little break to write the Haunt books. I do have a few stories that I would like to write in that world though. I may go down that route in the future. Perhaps even write some short stories set there.
8) Have you been approached to write a novella for World Book Day in the Wereworld series?
No, I haven’t. I am friends with Kristen from World Book Day and I did take part in one of their events in North West this year. I would be interested in writing one though. So Kristen, if you are reading this…
9) Animation is very close to your heart, how do you divide your time between animation and writing?
I don’t do any animation anymore. I turned my back on it  for a bit. I am having too much fun writing at the moment. Making a TV show involves a lot of compromise due to the finances involved, so your story gets altered a lot. With writing you don’t have that so much, as you only have to appease your editor and 95% of the time you are usually in agreement.
10) Do you find writing gets easier or harder with each book you write?
You are always learning. I plot things out. I do bullet points of what my story is going to be before I commit to writing. When I am happy with that structure I will get stuck into it.
11) Do you have a set writing and editing process?
Not really. I set myself a minimum writing limit. Usually 1,000 words a day, which I will try and write on the train. With editing, I will then go back and look at structure and dialogue, before going through it again to look at word count. Then I will let my wife read it before sending it to my editor.
12) What comes first for you – the character, the plot or the idea?
The idea, always the idea. Then the plot followed by the characters. If you have the idea first, the plot and characters will take care of themselves.
13) If you could meet any author in history, who would it be?
JR. Tolkien without a doubt.
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Haunt: Dead Scared was published in June by Simon and Schuster.
Book Summary
When Will finds himself in hospital, but unable to make anyone see or hear him, he realises that he never made it home from his first date with the school hottie. Knocked off his bike in a road traffic accident, Will is now officially dead - and a ghost. But somehow his best mate, Dougie, can still see him, and, once they've exhausted all the comic possibilities of being invisible, they decide to delve into the truth behind a school rumour - whether there really is an unhappy spirit haunting the ruins in the school grounds, and if so, why? What they discover is a long-buried mystery, which stretches its fingers right into the present…
To find out more about Curtis Jobling:


 
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