The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

A beautiful cover entices the reader in with a story that won’t let go!

This is a spooky, atmospheric ghost story of epic proportions.

Filled to the brim with dark encounters, secrets and mysteries shrouded in a dark grey house, architecturally varied. “The house was an incoherent fusion of architectural styles.” Jacobean, Gothic, Victorian and Venetian, set off by “a menagerie of gruesome gargoyles.” The house, as stated on the cover, is “never at Peace.”

We meet Stella, come to understand she was active during the war, and suffered a trauma that had her shipped home. We eventually learn her story but we do know she is considered broken by her doctor. Instead of being sent to an asylum, she is invited to stay with her sister at Greyswick during the sisters pregnancy.

I was fascinated about Stella and her loss, her role in the loss and the grief which took hold. Much of it is alluded to throughout the book but it doesn’t all come to light until she meets Mr Sheers, a man with a keen interest in ghosts. Mr Sheers is invited to ensure the house is free from ghostly goings on.

Stella’s sister is complaining of a child crying, toy soldiers found in her bed and strange happenings at night. Believing that a child ghost inhabits the house , Madeleine is showing signs of distress and the house are worried about her and her mental state.

Intense storytelling, a plot that quickens and thickens and superb characters build this into a formidable story. Stella begins to see the evidence of Madeleine’s theories and starts to investigate. However, Madeleine’s mother in law, her companion and housekeeper are doing all they can to prove the theories wrong, even making Madeleine’s husband come home on leave.

There were so many moments when I wanted Stella and her sister Madeleine to pack up and leave Greyswick, forget the mystery, the darkness and find a happier home. Of course there would be no story in that!

The formidable housekeeper, Mr Henge, her employer Lady Brightwell and companion Miss Scott seem sinister, full of wrongdoings and always up to something. They meet in secret, whisper and ensure Stella feels most unwelcome. From not believing Madeleine and Stella, to calling Stella’s doctor, they seem to be pushing everyone out of the house.

What reason could they have for protecting the house and its inhabitants? Read this book to find out- I can promise you won’t be disappointed!

It was gripping and although I couldn’t finish it in one sitting (it is 450 pages), I was drawn back to the story again and again.

A brilliant, immersive ghost story perfect for chilly Autumn evenings with a fire, light and hot drink!


Tiger Heart

Tiger Heart, written by Penny Chrimes, Publishing 9 January 2020 by Orion (Hachette)

Tiger Heart tells the story of Fly, an orphan climbing chimneys for a brutal man who is more likely to beat her than feed her. Fly is popular among the other sweeps and mudlarks and thieving children living on the streets of London. They look up to her and will do anything for her.

On the day she decides to run away, she climbs down a chimney and into the cage of a man eating tiger. An exciting start to an epic adventure featuring an evil king, an entire menagerie of exotic animals and a precious ruby. I was instantly hooked from the first paragraph and knew this book was going to be something special.

Fly is immediately likeable and there is a strong sense of courage and determination in her. Her language is typical of a street urchin and there is a handy guide to the lingo at the back of the book.

Amazingly, the tiger does not eat her but licks her clean and says “Blue blood”. Fly can speak to and listen to the tiger making her even more special and now there is a hint to the rest of the story. It does not play out perfectly for Fly and she and her tiger are in constant danger from the fat man and his servants. Using all her powers, her street friends and the ruby, Fly goes on a huge adventure to free the menagerie and escape back to her homeland.

Knowing nothing about herself, she is drawn to the ruby, and the tiger works to protect her from its darkness. She is the key to the freedom of her homeland. I won’t say more as it could spoil the story for others but this is going to be a huge hit once published and I can see it winning an award!

I was hooked and read it in two sittings! It is one I would like to read again and I think it would make an excellent class text. It starts on an exciting note and this continues throughout the entire story. I was on the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat. I love a book that makes you feel so strongly!


Non Fiction…New and Nifty!

I feel there is a boost in noteworthy non fiction titles in the last few years. They are certainly being given more press and publicity and there is a move from photographs towards illustrations in many titles.

Featuring titles from 360 (an imprint from Little Tiger), Nosy Crow and What on Earth Books. All are very unique and beg to be read. I can see these being very popular when they arrive at school.

By Emmanuelle Figueras, Illustrated by Claire De Gastold, Published by What on Earth Books

The sense of smell in animals in incredibly heightened compared to ours. This book will introduce readers to a variety of animals, their noses and the importance of smell. With wonderful illustrations and lift the flaps to find more information, this book is fun and interesting.

One of my favourite pages!

From farm animals to sea creatures and insects to birds, there is truly a vast amount to learn about. Animals sniff out food, danger and off spring, although I can honestly say I prefer my own nose and its capabilities!

Written by Ben Lerwill, Illustrated by Sarah Walsh, Published by Nosy Crow

There has been a surge in books published featuring incredible women, men, sporting heroes, children and now we have one about animals who have made history! This stunning book will appeal to animal lovers out there.

These are true stories of rescuers, adventurers and courageous pets. Filled with facts, quotes and photos alongside the wonderful illustrations. There were a few familiar animals from history and I loved perusing the book to learn about others I hadn’t known.

The index is helpfully divided into animal type and then name so if you wanted to specifically learn about hippos then you could turn to page 34.

I find Hippos fascinating!

From heroic animals to real life Heroes!

Written by Jonny Marx, Illustrated by Gerhard van Wyk, Published by Nosy Crow

The cover immediately draws your attention and once you open the book, it is settled! You must read it!

Jump in and see who you can aspire to be like!
“What’s your superpower?”

Divided into careers, you can choose to learn more about firefighters, activists and mathematicians! There are several people listed under each career, some spanning back through history and others still current. The illustrations are unique, attention grabbing and truly pop off the page!

An inspiring book for children showing us that the world is full of incredible people!

The next two titles will appeal to little hands itching to pull the ribbon to see the picture change. Teachers and parents will enjoy the facts and snippets of information to share!

Our World and Weather Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Each page covers an important habitat, from Desert to Arctic to the Sea. With a magic slider on each page you can watch the picture change. Even though my children are a bit older, they still loved the magic slider.

Opposite the magic slider is information about people, animals and weather from each habitat. Beautiful illustrations are found throughout.

Weather is also separated into categories, looking at the sun, wind, thunder and lightening. The book looks at extreme weather, survival in harsh weather and facts about huge storms.

These books will find their way into a Reception class as I think they will love watching the picture change and the text is completely accessible for young readers.


Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman

Barrington Stoke are raising the bar in publishing accessible titles written and retold by some of the most popular authors on the market.

A few weeks ago it was Dyslexia Awareness Week, an opportunity to celebrate Barrington Stoke and the incredible titles they publish. These titles make reading enjoyable and stress free for readers struggling with white pages and small text.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Jane Eyre: A retelling by Tanya Landman. This is publishing in the new year and will be a hugely popular title. It is a completely accessible retelling that maintains the spookiness and fear of the original title.

In all bookish honesty, I have tried to read the original Jane Eyre, and failed each time, whether due to the raw emotion, the spooky nature or the intense events. I appreciate classic literature and really must make more effort to read this.

Tanya Landman has ensured the intensity, the depth of characters and the fear remain in this book. It is a simplified version, telling the story of Jane, her abusive childhood, time spent in school and then her career at Thornfield Hall.

Mr Rochester owns Thornfield Hall and Jane is employed as governess there for 7 year old Adele. Adele is a perfect student and Jane enjoys teaching her. However, the house is a different matter. Strange noises, sporadic laughter and secrets in the attic create a sinister, spooky setting.

A series of dangerous events sets the truth in motion for Jane, and she again finds herself without love and a home. If you know the story, then you will know the ending. If not, then I can highly recommend reading this brilliant retelling of a timeless Classic.

Barrington Stoke….On my own behalf, can I please request more Classics? They are epic stories but not always easy to read, even for the most capable reader. I can guarantee they would be borrowed!

More Barrington Stoke Titles I am keen to read!

Clotilde Perrin- original and spooky!

Published by Gecko Press, These original books feature lift the flaps, strings to pull and stunning illustrations.

Inside the Villains was my first introduction to Clotilde Perrin and her brilliance. When this book arrived, my entire family gathered around to ooh and aah. We were speechless and awe inspired by the originality of it.

Featuring fairytales greatest villains; the wolf, giant and witch. Each telling a bit about themselves, it is possible to feel hunted and haunted as you delve in!

Impossible to truly grasp how amazing this book is. Beautifully illustrated, full of flaps, levers and fun!
Giant is ready with knives!
Madame M is taking twitter by storm! Published by Gecko Press in 2019! Translated from French by Daniel Hahn

Spooky house and unique character is beckoning the reader in making us feel welcome but on edge! No one is at home, don’t touch a thing… eeriness settles over each page and it is impossible to resist opening all the flaps, exploring every inch of the house, almost expecting something to jump out, or arrive home!

My children ran their adventurous hands over all the pages looking for some of the smallest lift the flaps. Pointing and shouting when a new detail was discovered. Every single page is AMAZING! This is a book that needs little hands, even though its beauty makes me want to wrap it in plastic!

This could be my ultimate book of the spooky season!

Gecko Press, well done! And more please!


Spooky Fun

Halloween and Autumn make some of us crave more spookiness, books with vampires, ghouls and mystery. Is it perhaps the colder evenings making us curl up earlier with a good book, the arrival of mass bags of candy or the Halloween costumes, accessories and decorations? Whatever it is that makes you reach for spooky reads, consider these titles to satisfy that Autumnal craving!

Ghoulia series by Barbara Cantini, Published by Amulet Books (an Imprint of Abrams

It was an immediate “must-read” moment for me when I first spied Ghoulia. With Isadora Moon and Amelia Fang being so popular our house, I knew Ghoulia would be welcomed with open arms.

Ghoulia is a zombie, and with Halloween approaching she takes the opportunity to meet and play with children from the neighbourhood. They are having a great time collecting candy when Ghoulia takes off her head. Silence from the children worries Ghoulia until they scream with happiness. He children, like most children, accept Ghoulia for who she is and they become good friends.

Beautiful illustrations make this a perfect book for younger readers transitioning to chapter books.

In the next instalment, Ghoulia meets her annoying cousin Dilbert for the first time and they don’t exactly hit it off. Mysteriously, Ghoulia’s friends all start arriving after receiving special invitations from Auntie Departed.

When people start disappearing from the house, Ghoulia and friends put their heads together to solve the mystery. Can Dilbert prove himself and save the day or will he continue to moan and complain through the entire book?

Something to look forward to…

Another new favourite character in our house is Mrs Blackhat by Chloe and Mick Inkpen.

Mrs Blackhat, Chloe and Mick Inkpen, Published by Hodder Children’s (an Imprint of Hachette)

Poor Mrs Blackhat is fully coordinated except for her ginger cat.

Cue online shopping for all sorts of spells, potions and explosions. Her Shopalot account has taken a hit, and yet nothing seems to change the colour of the cat! This is a fun and silly story bound to make children laugh and point at the colourful illustrations on each page.

In the second book, Mrs Blackhat has been shopping online again! What could possibly go wrong?

The ZoomBroom has everything a modern witch could want! Bubbles, songs and supersonic speed! Mrs Blackhat is enjoying her mix of technology and magic. Another colourful tale of a funny witch and her online shopping habit! Once we read one, we had to read the next!

With an endearing message of “Be brave, Be Kind, Be Colourful”, meet Dracula Spectacular!,

Dracula Spectacular, Written by Lucy Rowland, Illustrated by Ben Mantle, Published by Macmillan

This is a beautiful book, perfect for Halloween but it carries a special message for all! Dracula Boy loves to laugh, wear glittery, bright clothes and is desperate to make friends.

Being good parents, as we all assume the Draculas are, they paint their sons bedroom in bright, bold colours and invite his friend Rose over. Rose comes bearing the perfect gift…read the book to find out what! The illustrations make my heart sing in this book!

Accepting their son is more bright and fun than dark and brooding….the parents let Dracula boy be who he wants to be! What better message is there for all of us raising children?

One more set of spooky books to share later! These are perfect picture books and early chapter books for the younger spookster in your life!


Invisible in a Bright Light Blog Tour

Written by Sally Gardner, Published November 2019 by Zephyr Books

I am still relatively new to blog tours but appreciate how positive reviews and major publicity can help sell an authors books. I learn a bit more each time I take part in a blog tour and I must thank Jade at Zephyr for the chance to be a part of this tour, and for a review copy of the book.

“A pitch-perfect story that soars with the imagination of a master storyteller, about a crystal chandelier that splinters into a thousand pieces, a girl who has lost her way in the gutter of time and a dangerous game called the Reckoning.”

Master storyteller is an apt description of Sally Gardner. She has unique ideas and an ingenious creativity exuding from her books. I, Coriander and The Wind in the Wall are other brilliant books of hers to try. They are masterfully written and incredibly original.

I truly enjoyed reading the Dear Reader page explaining some of the inspiration for Invisible in a Bright Light. It sheds some light on how an idea can bloom from a fascinating item.

I admit to initially rereading the beginning of this book, feeling as though I was caught in a dark and enchanted riddle. I was completely hooked and wanted to solve the riddle of the man in the emerald suit, a game called the Reckoning and Celeste.

Trying to follow the plot line of Celeste, her past life as Maria and figuring out who can be trusted throughout the book keep the reader hooked and I am sure I am not alone in admitting this book did just that. I read it in one sitting and loved it.

Meeting characters who I loved to hate and who I wished to know more made the book even more enjoyable. I particularly liked the characters of Madame Sabina and Hildegard for the reasons above. I loved to hate Madame and wished for so much more for Hildegard. The friends Celeste makes and the lengths they go through to protect her and keep her safe are admirable.

An intense plot, flitting from Celeste to Maria, from past to present is richly written and full of wonderful details and scenes.

I would not forgive myself if I let any spoilers loose so I will end my review there and urge you to read the book and take a peek at the other bloggers taking part in the blog tour this month.


Blissful Weekend Reading- Potkin and Stubbs

The Haunting of Peligan City,
Written by Sophie Green, Illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Published by Piccadilly Press

The Haunting of Peligan City is the second in this spooky, film noir trilogy. Catching up with Lil Potkin and Nedly Stubbs is brilliant, they are up to their usual detecting and reporting. A nice synopsis of the first book is built into the first chapter, for those of us needing a slight reminder. Very helpful as both books are full of important details and mysteries.

Incredible illustrations by Karl James Mountford are completely suited for this detective, film noir book.

It is snowing, cold and danger continues to lurk as Gallows is still on the loose and people are literally being frightened to death. Lil and Nedly find themselves embroiled in a spooky set up of Gallows freeing the souls of the worse criminals in Peligan City, and using them to murder influential people in the city.

Abe is back, and after seeing Sophie at a school event recently, I have new found respect for this character. I picture Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart, down and out but still able to solve these crimes! I love his special hand tools and of course trusty sidekick Margaret.

Abe and his distinctive profile!

The pursuit of truth heats up with some shocking family revelations and secrets are revealed to Lil. The plot thickens and quickens right to the very end, a hugely spooky night sees some of the mysteries solved but leaves a few questions to be addressed in Book 3, aptly called Ghostcatcher.

This trilogy will enthral, spook and test your detecting skills. I am in awe of the characters, their depth and qualities. I love Lil’s mum, Naomi and would love to learn even more about her in Book 3.

If you haven’t read this series then I urge you to start, and join the rest of us eagerly waiting for book 3!


Blissful Weekend Reading, Explorers on Black Ice Bridge!

Written by Alex Bell, Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, Published by Faber

Stella Starflake Pearl is back and I couldn’t be happier! She is a bold, fearless but kind character and she has delighted me since first meeting her back in The Polar Bear Explorers Club. Her adventures are legendary as are her powers and her background. A fascinating trilogy and one I would highly recommend for anyone aged 9+.

We catch up with Stella and Felix as they are expelled from the club. They are banned from expeditions but Shay is in danger and they must find the stolen spellbook in order to save him. Crossing the legendary and cursed Black Ice Bridge is their only choice. It certainly won’t be easy and they will meet many who wish them ill on their journey but what adventure would it be without creatures, Princesses and a Gentleman Flamingo, who just might be my favourite character in this book!

Flipping back through to write this review made me want to read the trilogy again from start to finish. There is so much for the reader….formidable characters, secret pasts, witches, gremlins, and friends to stand by you no matter what!

Of particular fascination in this book are the rules from the lost ladies of Swan Island…my favourite is “Laugh as long and as hard as possible, wherever possible, and preferably until tears run down your beak”.

So wonderful and well written. I love the entire series!


Blissful Weekend Reading, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant!

Written by Nizrana Farook, Cover by David Dean, Published by Nosy Crow

This has been a long awaited debut….plenty of twitter publicity and anticipation. I was so pleased to have been sent a copy for reviewing. The cover is incredible and this is the proof copy. I can only imagine how lovely the final design will be.

We meet Chaya as she escapes the palace after stealing the Queens jewels….making it a very unique and quickly paced first chapter. Thieving features throughout the story with Chaya at the heart of it.

Chaya is a bold character and following her path is dangerous, yet she does it uncompromisingly and without a thought for herself. Blinded by a sense of justice in the face of hardship and adversity, she perseveres and pushes until she is heard. Chaya does all she can to protect her best friend Neelan and new friend Nour, even though exile or certain death could be the outcomes.

Fast paced, intense and full of courage, friendship and a sense of doing what is right even if it seems wrong. An absolutely stunning debut.

I couldn’t possibly say more as it is meant to be read and enjoyed. I wouldn’t want to give anything away or ruin surprises for the reader. Rest assured, it is worth it!

Watch out for this one….I can see it winning awards!