Thursday, 26 May 2016

Mystery and Mayhem: Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries. Edited by Katherine Woodfine

The very word 'mystery' is exciting. It instantly conjures up visions of ruined castles, secret passageways, lost treasures, brave detectives and dastardly villains. Most of all though, it suggests an enigma - a puzzle to solve, a question that characters as well as readers are trying to answer

Published by Egmont in May 2016
Pages - 304
Cover and inside illustrations - David Wardle
Twelve mysteries.
Twelve authors.
One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?
These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children's crime writers writing today.
These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.
What a wonderful concoction of mysteries! I loved dipping in and out of this book. It didn't take me long to finish all of the stories, which were each delightful in their own way. 

My favourite story out of all of them was definitely the Marsh Road Mysteries one, Rain On My Parade by Elen Caldecott, as I really love these characters. 

I really enjoyed The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens. I didn't have a clue how they had managed the mystery until it was revealed. 

Another favourite was Caroline Lawrence's The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle. I loved the setting and meeting all the interesting residents. 

The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss was excellent and well plotted too. Not to mention meeting the feisty Emily, in Susie Day's, Emily and The Detectives. 

These are simply fantastic tales which any Middle Grader will love. They are easy to get lost in and thoroughly entertaining. They have opened a pathway to authors I haven't read before and I look forward to exploring their work further. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Still Not Sure Which @tommydonbavand Book To Read For The #tommyvcancer Blog Tour?

If you were on Twitter on Friday evening, you will know that the #tommyvcancer blog tour banner was revealed. Here it is in all it's glory. 
If you are taking part in the blog tour and haven't picked a book to read yet, or you just want to know more about some of Tommy's books, I thought it would be nice to share some of the books he has written for Badger Learning on the blog today.
Tommy with copies of Raven.
Badger Learning have been providing high quality educational resources to schools since 1989. They cater for a wide range of learning ability and styles. Tommy has written quite a few books for them. Here are just some that are available. 

The above are just a few of the Middle Grade books, Tommy has written for Badger Learning. 

Princess Frog-Snogger 
The Kingdom of Bizarnia is in trouble. Its princess is kissing every frog in the land trying to find her prince and she is now down to the last one.
Will this be the frog that can lead her to true love or will it all end in one green, horrible mess.

Snow-Man: What A Drip! 
Raindrops keep falling on Cole Day’s head – resulting in a very sticky situation. Somehow, the rain clouds have been sprayed with glue, and people are getting stuck fast in big, gooey puddles below.
This is the work of a sneaky super-villain named Chuck Ingit-Down, who is stealing whatever he can from his unmoving victims. Snow-Man and his friends will have to rise above the situation in order to fix things this time.

Melody Doom
Following her supervillain parents being captured and locked away in jail, Melody Doom is adopted by a family who couldn’t be more different to hers… 
Her goody two shoes foster family are a complete nightmare. They sing songs, wear bright colours and, worst of all, play charades every night! Melody knows she needs to escape, but how? 
Hatching a plan involving her fluffy pink foster sister as a sidekick, Melody attempts to break into the jail and release her parents. But will the pony-loving princess give the game away? 

These books are from the range of teen reads, Tommy has written.

All 15-year-old Poppy wants is to be allowed to dye her hair jet black, and for everyone to call her Raven.
And to discover whether her missing twin brother is alive or dead so that she and her parents can finally move on with their lives.
Can Poppy find Stephen, and a place to belong, at the same time?

Joe and his mum are homeless and in deep financial trouble.
Then the teenager is made an offer he can’t refuse, and he agrees to a one-off job that could get his family back on their feet.
But are they getting into deeper water than they realise... ?

The Head is Dead.
A graphic novel. 

If you're still struggling to pick one of Tommy's books, head over to Badger Learning and take a look at all the books, Tommy has written for them. Or tweet @Danny_D_Pearson or @BadgerLearning to get a Tommy Donbavand recommendation.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

"Drink it." She's holding the glass out to me. It's so full that if she tipped her hand just a bit the water would trickle down the side. "Now." 

Published by Electric Monkey in June 2016

Pages - 320
June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net. 
But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?
This isn't an easy read. It's one of those books that's hard to say you loved, because the story is so dark, realistic, frightening at times and gritty. It's the kind of tale that leaves you feeling like someone has sandpapered your skin, leaving you fragile and scarred. 
The book is so beautifully written, you will be surprised to discover that this is only Lisa Heathfield's second book. You would think she has been publishing for years. 
Your heart aches for the protagonist, June, as soon as you meet her. The immense suffering she faces at the hands of her step mother is often unbearable to read. I found myself feeling sick and frightened for June, every time Kathleen appeared in the story, because I had no idea how far she would take out her abuse on June. Kathleen inflicts mental and physical abuse, but just enough not to show any outwardly scars. June can't take much more.   I struggle to believe that anyone could be as cruel as Kathleen, and yet, just by reading the newspapers, I know that this happens a lot.  
Thankfully for June, she has Blister and his family. They keep her sane. They are her little piece of heaven on Earth, where she can escape to. She can't be hurt there...or can she. You want to fight for June. You want to hurt Kathleen and Megan in the same way they hurt June and you spend most of the book, praying for justice to happen. 
This is the type of book that stays with you long after you have finished reading it. It will haunt you. Make sure you keep tissues handy for the end, because you will cry. 
This is going to be an award winning book. If this isn't up for the Carnegie next year, I'll be very shocked. Seriously, this book could sit happily next to The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks. 
A traumatic, heart shattering read that should sweep next year's book awards. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood: The Singing War (Novel II in the Assalay Trilogy) by Tracey Mathias

Note to self-publishers – we made an exception for this trilogy as it had already been published with success in translation in Germany. 
Summary from the author’s own website
    ‘What if they’ve lied to us about everything?’
    In the land of Assalay, the new year brings endless rain, hunger and the ravages of starving dragons. But the powerful families of the Fellowship enjoy a privileged life: secure inside their grand and luxurious houses and confident of their divine right to rule.
    Even for Fellowship children, though, growing up has its problems. Now that he is of age, Leo Philemot must leave home for the year-long apprenticeship that all heirs to the Fellowship have to undertake, while his twin sister Rachel must stay at home and endure the stifling life of ladies’ drawing rooms and tea-parties. For both twins, the year brings a series of unexpected encounters and revelations that makes them question what they have been told about family and Fellowship – and opens their eyes to the realities of other people’s lives.
    As flood, fire and famine worsen, Assalay is ready for rebellion, and opposition to the Fellowship is growing. In this gathering crisis, Leo and Rachel must make life or death choices between old and new loyalties and friendships: between what they have been taught and what they have learned.

254 pages in softback, also available on Kindle
Published by Canfield Dragon Press December 2015
Cover art by Tim Mathias
Tracey Matthias has pulled off quite a feat with this, the second part of her Assalay trilogy: a middle story which is actually better than the first. So many trilogies suffer a saggy middle that doesn’t live up to the expectations of the beginning – but this is different.
You don’t need to read the first novel ‘A Fragment of Moonswood’ to enjoy ‘The Singing War’ – but I would highly recommend it. Then the whole tale will have much more richness and depth. Those of you who have ventured into Assalay before will appreciate the mix of old and new characters within that well-drawn and immersive world.
It’s an absorbing mixture of action and beauty – lies and deceptions are revealed, narrow escapes are made, but the fabulous settings are not neglected. Perfect if you love such details as the sumptuous robes of the different Fellowship Houses (which do actually play a part in the plot). It is suggested for ages 10 -14, though many older readers may get a thrill from the strong political edge. That might sound dull – but the perils faced by the children in the story certainly are not.

I should warn you that a degree of cruelty and menace is involved – but without giving spoilers, the courage and resourcefulness of the central characters shine through. There’s a pleasingly light touch with the magical elements – and it does have a proper resolution. Still, you will have to know what happens next – happily ‘Weatherlord’ is coming!

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'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

I hope somebody is listening.
I'm sending out this call via radio signal - long outdated, I know, but perhaps one of the few methods of communication the City has forgotten to monitor - in a dark and desperate cry for help.
Things in Universe City are not what they seem.

Published by Harper Collins Children's Books in February 2016
Pages - 410
What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
What a clever plot. I loved discovering the truth behind Universe City and I really wish I'd thought of it first.  I hadn't read Alice Osman's previous novel, Solitaire, but I heard so much about it that I was desperate to read this one. 
The characters in this book are diverse, very much representing the teenage society of today. This book made me feel hopeful. It felt like a blue print for society going forward.
I loved the relationship between Alex and Frances. It was brilliant to experience a relationship based on friendship instead of sex.  It's clear that Alex and Frances are very fond of each other, but it's not remotely sexual. 
This book made me think. It made me view things differently. 
It showed:
  •  That love has no boundaries. You can fall in love with anyone in the world regardless of their sexuality or gender. This book shows many kinds of love, all beautiful in their own way. 
  • The darker side of YouTube fame. It doesn't sound like it is all it is cracked up to be and the trolls and threats you get aren't worth the bother.
  • That reality fame isn't that glamourous. So many people want to be the next Zoella and Alfie, when really their lives aren't that different from anyone else's. OK, they make lots of money but they also have absolutely no privacy. It's like they are practically owned by their viewing public. 
  • That true friendship will always get you through the dark days. 
I can see why the YA community are giving this book a lot of love. It's current and deals with situations that they can relate to. Mental health issues are dealt with sensitively. The portrayal of exam stress is spot on; that underlying pressure to get excellent grades in order to live a prosperous life are still the norm, when it's  actually possible to achieve a career without them. Not everyone is academic and there are other options.  The stress of living on social media 24-7, which is a growing problem among the teenage community. 
I didn't really know much about podcasts before this, but I'm now curious to listen to Welcome To Night Vale, which I believe inspired this book. 
An excellent photograph of the teenage community of today. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Letter To My Younger Self by Alison Rattle

I love this post today from author, Alison Rattle! 
Alison has recently published her third novel, V for Violet with Hot Key Books, which is set in the Swinging Sixties. Alison has written a heartwarming, yet comical letter to her younger self below. 
Dear Alison,

First of all I would like to say PLEASE STOP OBSESSING ABOUT YOUR HAIR. It might not be sleek and straight and capable of falling into perfect flicks like your mates, Karen and Pamela and Dawn, but believe me, you will grow to love that unruly mass of curls. It will become your defining feature, and in time, Karen and Pamela and Dawn will kill for hair like yours. 

Secondly, and this is really important, please don’t feel you have you join in when all your friends are trying to learn how to smoke in the park after school.  It’s not cool or grown up, it’s disgusting. And you’ll probably develop a life-long smoking habit, plus wrinkles, damaged lungs and the risk of cancer. So please DON’T. 

Listen to your mum when she tells you it’s not necessary to shave the baby fine hairs on your legs. They will grow back all black and stubbly and you’ll have to keep on shaving them forever which will turn into a real chore. Definitely don’t shave your eyebrows.

Don’t feel like you have to go out with the first boy that asks you, just because all your friends have boyfriends. The thought of kissing him will make you feel sick and it will end in disaster. You’ll know when you’ve met the right boy when your hand fits in his hand perfectly, he shares your passion for books, old black and white films and still loves you even when you’ve forgotten to shave your legs.

Have confidence in your talents and abilities. But know that you can’t be good at everything. It doesn’t matter if you suck at maths and chemistry, you’ll still be able to manage a household budget and you will be brilliant at baking cakes. You might find your history lessons the most boring things on earth. You might even fail your history exams. But in years to come your history teacher will fall off his chair when he learns that you have written and published historical novels. 

You are capable of so many things you don’t even know about yet. Just dare to dream, because your dreams will come true if you work hard at them and never give up. (Even if it takes until you’re forty, you will get a publishing deal) And remember it’s ok to have more than one dream. Don’t think you have to decide what you want to do in life and stick to it. It’s ok to change your mind. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to try a million and one things. Believe me, you’ll do things you never even dreamt of.

Don’t be afraid to be an individual. Don’t follow the crowd. Their way is not necessarily your way. Wear that leopard skin hat if you want you and that beautiful vintage dress. But be careful of four inch high clog boots. You might fall off them and break your ankle one day.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that one day you’ll grow up. That one day you’ll be all sensible and will understand politics and be able to make grown-up decisions about mortgages, investments and insurance policies. Because you won’t. You might grow older, but inside you’ll feel the same as you do now. Wiser perhaps about some things (not politics or financial investments) and more experienced, but definitely NOT grown-up.
Grab every opportunity. Do things that scare you. Travel as much as you can and don’t waste too much time exercising, because the size of your bum is a genetic feature that no amount of exercise will ever change.
Most of all, have fun! Lots and lots and lots of fun!
With love

Alison XXX

Thank you Alison for an awesome letter, which all teenagers should read.
Published by Hot Key Books in April 2016
Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing - but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe - an auspicious start, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn't look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau's a rocker - a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet's grey little life, and she can't believe her luck. But things don't go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet's best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can't believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He's weird, and she feels sure he's hiding something. He's got a secret, and Violet's got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all...

To find out more about Alison Rattle:

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

My underwear is in the apple tree. 
I'm lying in the grass, staring up through the branches. It's late afternoon and the rest of the garden is lemonade sunshine, but under here it's cool and dark and insecty. When I tilt my head back, the whole garden is upside-down - and my laundry with it, festooned like the world's saddest bunting. 

Published by Macmillan Children's Books in May 2016
Pages - 322

Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time - back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . . 
During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.
I had no idea before reading this book that it was about time travel. I'd convinced myself during the first few chapters, that Gottie was seriously ill or mentally unstable, but thankfully neither were the case. So in case you didn't know -
I love time travel novels. The Time Traveller's Wife has got to be one of my all time favourites. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Gottie travelling back into the previous summer when everything had seemed beautiful, warm and romantic. It was her coming of age summer. Such a contrast to the summer she is now experiencing. Gottie is grief stricken over the loss of her grandfather and the break down of her secret relationship. But with the reappearance of Thomas, her childhood friend, Gottie works through the issues that are holding her back from basically being human. 
I have to be honest, the physics elements totally lost me and they did slow down my reading a little as I tried to get my head round them. I'm still not sure I understand the wormholes, though I am wholeheartedly for them to exist in reality! Science isn't my thing, I just about scraped through my Biology GCSE, but I persevered, because I could see what a beautiful story this was blossoming into.  
At times you are unsure what's going on, but I felt that related a lot to the way Gottie's emotions were. Her grief was giving her bi-polar tendencies and you never knew how long you would be on an up with her, before she spoiled everything by crashing back down. 
I loved Grey. Even though he isn't alive in the book, his presence was strongly felt and as a reader, you missed him just as much as Gottie did. If this is ever made into a film, Billy Connolly has to take the part; it's like it was written for him. 
The growth in the friendship between Gottie and Thomas is utterly beautiful. Thomas was the medicine, Gottie desperately needed to help her heal.  
The ending is beautiful, full of summers long gone and playing outside till dusk and eating ice-cream till your stomach bursts. Alongside a cast of quirky, yet heartfelt characters, this book will definitely receive a lot of reader's love.
A truly stunning mix of physics and physical chemistry!