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Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick

A brilliant fast paced adventure to get your heart pumping. I read it in one sitting, completely engrossed and with adrenaline coursing through my veins.

Crater Lake
Written by Jennifer Killick
Publishing March 2020 by Firefly Press

The Year Six students from Montmorency school are on their residential trip. We meet best friends Lance and Chet, class bully Trent and a cast of characters typically found in every school. They think they know each other but all are hiding something about themselves from their friends and classmates.

Their arrival at Crater Lake Activity Centre is marred by the sudden and scary arrival of a zombie like man, bloodied and nearly unconscious. Leaving him with the coach awaiting help, the staff and students need to complete their arrival on foot only to find the centre practically deserted. Only one worker, Digger, seems to be there and the children are told to get some sleep.

Luckily, Lance and his friends made plans to have a late night feast. However, when no one shows up, Lance goes looking for answers. What he finds instead is a mystery and a complete transformation of some classmates and teachers. They have bug eyes and are focussed on “work”, leaving their rooms for the forest outside.

Here begins an ultimate adventure for a group of friends, who against all odds must save themselves and try to save the world. They need to work together, trust each other and share their secrets. I was gripped from the beginning and there are very few pages where your heart isn’t pounding, your hope isn’t dwindling and you can’t wait to turn the page.

Fast paced, brilliant dialogue and fascinating characters and relationships. A clue to the adventure awaiting them comes from Lance in Chapter 4. Addressing his friends while they try to figure out a plan, he says the following about grown ups, “We’re actually faster, braver and smarter than they are, especially in situations like this”.

Buckle up for Crater Lake, it’s going to be a bumpy adrenaline fuelled trip you will never forget!

A truly epic adventure and one I can highly recommend for anyone interested in mystery, science-fiction or horror. I want to give it to my son, but only after he comes back from his Year 6 Residential!

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Tried and Tested Trilogies: Part Two

As we head into 2020 and a new year of reading, I wanted to highlight a few trilogies that I have recently read and enjoyed. There is something brilliant about a trilogy, the story continuing, more depth of character and more reading! The plot thickening, the mention of previous events and relationships blossoming…so much to read and enjoy!

Rose Campion Trilogy

Written by Lyn Gardner
Cover Design by Jez Tuya and Julia Sarda
Published by Nosy Crow

Rose Campion is an orphan but she is treated like family by the performers at Campion’s in London. She was abandoned there as an infant, never knowing why or who her family were. Thomas, the owner, treats her as a daughter.

Rose is curious, brave and head strong. She tends to dive into mysteries head first leading her friends into danger in order to unleash the truth and identify murderers! Starting with finding the killer of Ned Dorset, then onto discovering the location of the stolen Doomstone Diamond, and finally tackling a deadly ruler of underground crime!

These books are incredibly well written, full of vivacious characters, mysteries to be solved and the underlying story of where Rose came from. The brilliant thing about a trilogy or series is that each book builds new pieces of information on top of existing pieces. Each book gives the reader clues about Rose, help in the form of new faces and a continuation of back stories that link everything seamlessly together.

Set with a theatrical back drop, there is much to learn about Campion’s and the music hall history of London. It is fascinating and the setting of London is perfect…historical and atmospheric. Utterly captivating and intriguing mysteries keep the reader guessing all through each book.

I thoroughly enjoyed each mystery separately but appreciated the links between each one, looking forward to each book as I finished the previous. As with many trilogies, there is a firm finish that ties up loose ends and answers earlier questions.

A super trilogy that I enjoyed immensely and will recommend highly!

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A Sprinkle of Sorcery

A Sprinkle of Sorcery
Written by Michelle Harrison
Cover Illustration by Melissa Castrillon
Publishing 2020 by Simon and Schuster
I requested and was granted the book via Netgalley.

Welcome back to the Poacher’s Pocket Inn, where Granny Widdershins rules over Betty, Fliss and Charlie, all the while grumping at the customers.

This book begins, not with the Widdershin sisters, but with a local legend about a powerful witch, a black raven and a cruel lord. He had fallen in love with the witch and when he was rejected, he blinded her and cut her tongue. Escaping to a hidden island, she lived simply with her raven. However, over time stories about her swilled around and she was visited again by the lord.

This legend is imperative to the rest of the story and is used to help Betty, Fliss and Charlie on their next adventure, which finds them one stormy night after the prison bells have tolled. A prisoner has escaped and the warders are on the hunt. Doors are locked and lights are out, when Betty notices Charlie is missing. Finding her in the yard, they see another child cowering in amongst the crates.

The adventure begins here, as warders soon come knocking looking for a young girl. A young girl who has been hidden using the nesting dolls. A young girl who the warders believe to be Charlie. Charlie and Granny are both taken this night and it falls to Betty and Fliss to find them and bring them home.

Brave and bold Betty prepares them for the journey and they head out on the water searching for clues. The young girl, Willow, carries a few secrets with her, including a wisp, which can be dangerous. The girl and her mother have escaped exile in order to save her father who has been wrongly accused of murder. Time is ticking and his execution is days away. Believing the wisp to be helpful, the girl protects it.

Unknown dangers lurk in every dark corner, every mist swirling direction and certainly in the shipwreck of Rusty Swindles, the most dangerous smuggler of all. Betty heads into adventure with fear in her heart but determination in her soul. She will find Charlie and she will help Willow but it might just be the last thing she does.

Betty soon finds herself devising plans to trick Ronia, the most dangerous pirate captain, recalling the legend of the witch and her Raven and having hope against all odds that she will do as she needs.

This is an incredible journey to travel on and I would definitely trust Betty to lead me. She is brave, loving and determined to do the right thing. Her fierce love for her family has her facing dire situations and hope is all she has at times. A plot line full of twists, new characters to love and hate and mysterious hag stones showing true islands. So much brilliance to shout about in this sequel!

Wonderfully atmospheric, full of legends and magic, this is a tale to transport you! It will take you back in time to when legends were told and believed. Back to a time when fear lived as a character in a story and back to a time when corruption was rife and honesty was hard to find. The Widdershins are honest, brave and bold and they are the heroines of their own story!

It was so wonderful to be back with the Widdershins family, and I wonder what they might get up to next. Please say there will be a third….

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Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour
Written by Ally Carter
Publishing 2020 by Hachette

What an incredibly fast paced, intriguing story. I was engrossed in this book immediately, with mysterious reasons for orphans being pulled together, the disappearance of the sole survivor of a family tragedy, and a mansion full of secret cellars and doorways.

April is an orphan with full hope of the return of her mother, however at 12, it doesn’t seem as though she is coming back. After starting a fire in a museum April is given a new opportunity for a new life with Ms Nelson who runs the Winterborne Foundation. April meets four other orphans also living at the mansion.

Having a knack for discovering trouble, April makes a startling find one night while prowling about the house. The feared dead, disappeared sole survivor and heir to the fortune is alive and hiding in the cellars. Why won’t he come forward and claim his title? Why does he look like a vagrant and will he help April find her mother?

April, feeling a link to the Winterborne’s via a key left with her by her mother, is looking for answers and believes Gabriel to have them. A troubling night full of swords, secrets and introductions to the rest of the orphans, make the suspicions fall on to Uncle Evert. Could he be the one who killed his brother and countless others in order to claim the fortune for himself?

From the beginning of the book, there are twists and turns, and learning who to trust, and where to look for answers. You won’t be disappointed with this book. So much happens that I felt I needed to re-read parts to ensure I was keeping up. The orphans tackle the Uncle, save the heir but lose their guardian.

I love the character of April and the hope she holds in her heart, both for the return of her mother and in Gabriel doing the right thing. She is brave and true, someone for girls to look up to.

The ending leads perfectly into a series as another unknown character is seen running from the house after they all discover what the legacy of the key truly is.

I am already searching for the second’s release date as I can guarantee it will be added to my shopping basket!

Image result for winterborne home for vengeance and valour
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Focus on New Frontier Publishing

New Frontier Publishing has some beautiful books in its catalogue and I am so pleased to have the chance to share them on my blog. They are unique, wonderfully illustrated and perfect for all ages. I can highly recommend New Frontier, so go and check them out!

A wide variety of picture books!

The Happily Ever After Series

Illustrated by Helene Magisson, Annie White, Owen Swan and Celeste Hulme.

The Happily Ever After Series is a lovely addition to my shelves of fairytales. I love traditional tales and different versions of old classics. This set of 5 titles cover some of the most popular tales in history. They are all wonderfully illustrated and carry the tag line of “A new twist on a classic fairytale”.

The stories are basically the same, but with small changes always maintaining a happily ever after ending. These are easy to read and beautifully illustrated ensuring younger readers can enjoy them.

My Magnificent Jelly Bean Tree

Written by Maura Finn, Illustrated by Aura Parker

A cover full of colour and sweets just begs to be read. Believing in the magic of his seed, a little boy takes care of his jelly bean tree until is grows and grows and showers him with jelly beans. It also provides him with space for an excellent tree house. He crowns himself Jelly Bean King and invites his family over for a jelly bean feast! Wondrous illustrations take the reader on a delicious tale of jelly bean magic!

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Written by Kitty Black, Illustrated by Laura Wood

Wilfred is not your typical wolf, he is kind and friendly, not scary, although he belongs to a scary pack. Wilfred tries to fit in but being mean and scary does not come naturally. When a plot to attack the sheep is revealed, Wilfred knows what he must do. Instead of being attacked, the sheep go on the defensive and attack the wolves. A wonderful tale of being true to yourself and choosing right over wrong. Wilfred ends up happy and doing what he likes.

Let’s Go! On a Rocket, Let’s Go! On a Ferry

Written by Rosalyn Albert, Illustrated by Natalia Moore

A colourful and fun series of books about travelling, perfect for toddlers. With vivid illustrations bringing travel to life, these are wonderful for sharing. I love the rhyming text and way that easy facts are incorporated. New vocabulary is introduced and these will excite the littlest travellers to go farther and to use their imaginations. Rocket, Ferry and Train are the current titles available.

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Non Fiction- New and Nifty

Bloomsbury Books and Cicada Books have some brilliant new non fiction titles, and I am very happy to have spent time reading them and sharing them with my kids.

Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure
Discover the Stories of 66 Extraordinary Men and Women
Written by Simon Cheshire, Illustrated by Fatti Burke
Published by Bloomsbury
The colourful end papers featuring portraits of the extraordinary men and women in the book
An example of an epic tale, and the page layout to expect

With so many volumes being published about heroes, heroines, fantastic kids and amazing animals, a book needs to stand out from the crowd. This bright orange book does just that. The bold colours and illustrative style capture the imaginations of the reader as we delve into histories finest, heroes and villains! The common thread is their impact on history.

Covering history, both men and women who faced incredible situations, are introduced to the reader. From navigators and explorers to astronauts and pirates, there is a vast amount covered.

Many names will be familiar to children and adults but there were s few new epic adventurers to meet, such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read, both of whom were pirates. (See next photo). I enjoyed flipping between the pages, reading both familiar and unfamiliar tales. Both my children were asking questions about who, what, when, etc and so we spent more time searching for answers and placing people in a historic time line of events.

Underground
Subway Systems Around the World
Conceived and Illustrated by Uijung Kim
Published by Cicada Books
It features a map! Love a map in a book.
Example of a double page spread, featuring facts and items to find.

This book takes on subways around the world and shows us their uniqueness, fascinating facts and hoards of people travelling. The style of illustration is amazing and very bright and child friendly. This book spans the age ranges as there is truly something for all ages. From the facts and images of trains to the seek and find on the side, all ages will be entertained.

I spent so much time delving into the pages of this book, looking for small details and comparing facts between cities. The brickwork signs are awesome and really keep you in mind of the subways.

Subways are a quick and easy form of travel in most large cities and this will entice you to visit a few extras!

Into the Forest
Wander Through our Woodland World
Written by Christiane Dorion, Illustrated by Jane McGuinness
Published by Bloomsbury
The all important message of conservation and helping the environment
Sample page highlighting the beautiful illustrations

A large hardback edition, this would make a wonderful resource in schools and for those with an interest in nature and forests in particular. Looking at forests around the world, the reader can learn about deciduous, coniferous and tropical rainforests. Each has unique trees, animals and seeds to offer the world.

The illustrations are truly spectacular, with an incredible amount of detail added to the leaves, animals and forest floors. They are a joy to look at. Added to these are chunks of text explaining the images, and providing some fascinating facts about forests, Seasons and the life cycle of trees. I had no idea just how much I could learn about forests!

A lovely book to share with a younger reader!

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Picture Book Perfect

Three unique and interesting picture books are featuring today on my blog. From fun and laughter to sweetness and beauty, it is all within the covers of these books.

Starbird
Written and Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai
Published by Two Hoots

Perhaps one of the most stunningly illustrated books I have had the pleasure of reading. With the use of shiny foil, shadows at night and the use of soft muted colours, this book will entrance its readers. Within these wondrous pages is a story with all the elements of a myth, a tale as old as time. Moon King wants the perfect present for his new daughter and the enchanting Starbird is what he wants most. Capturing the bird who weaves magic into dreams, the King is happy. However as the Princess grows up, she senses sadness in Starbird. Releasing him into the wild, Starbird must find his home before being re-captured by the Moon King. This is an incredible book!

Bunnies on the Bus
Written by Philip Ardagh, Illustrated by Ben Mantle
Published by Walker Books

A hilarious rhyming story of Bunnies on the Bus! Brilliantly colourful illustrations create the perfect town for the Bunnies to cause havoc in. The bunnies are having a great time on the bus, flying past the towns people as they go about their day. Something else is happening as you read through the story…there are burglars on the loose escaped from jail. We had a lot of fun following their adventure. An excellent book, perfect for sharing and reading over and over again!

Pip finds a Home
Written and Illustrated by Elena Topouzoglou
Published by New Frontier Publishing

A very sweet story, beautifully illustrated with winter snowy scenes. Pip was living in the North when he was discovered by an explorer who believes him to be in the wrong hemisphere. Bringing him to the South Pole, Pip wanders off to search for home. He meets friendly Adelie penguins, macaroni penguins and Gentoo penguins but Pip still has different features. When Pip meets someone who looks like him, the problem is solved. He isn’t a Penguin at all! A lovely, sweet story about finding home and being different.

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Picture Book Perfect- Kindness

Kindness comes to mind when reading the books in today’s blog. Each book deals with kindness, acceptance and friendships in a variety of ways. The books are incredibly unique, beautifully illustrated and perfect for sharing and building empathy.

Scruffle-Nut
Written by Corinne Fenton, Illustrated by Owen Swan
Published by New Frontier Publishing

A winter scene, an older woman reminiscing about childhood. She be-friended a squirrel and named him Scruffle-Nut. He is different to the other squirrels in that he has a stumpy tale. Mirroring how she feels next to the other girls, Olivia understands the squirrel staying away from the others. Poetically written and gorgeously illustrated, this is a lovely book.

Twelve Days of Kindness
Written by Cori Brooke, Illustrated by Fiona Burrows
Published by New Frontier Publishing

A new girl awakens empathy in a classmate. Bravely they become friends and devise a plan to bring kindness to their team. With 12 days until their first match , the girls keep their messages simple, Be Kind, Be Brave and solve problems. In leading by example, the girls bring cohesion to the team and acceptance for new girl Nabila. Wonderful illustrations and a simple message make this worthy of sharing widely.

The Caveman Next Door
Written and Illustrated by Tom Tinn-Disbury
Published by New Frontier Publishing

When a caveman moves next to Penny, she sets out to teach him new things. Though he eats the library books, sits on top of the bus and drinks from a fountain. He is different and Penny needs to learn to accept that and showcase his strengths and abilities. Just as we need to celebrate differences, abilities and talents in a class or school, we can empathise this to teach children about the wider world. Fun illustrations will make children giggle too.

Born Bad
Written by CK Smouha, Illustrated by Stephen Smith
Published by Cicada Books

Bold illustrations and colours make this book visually spectacular. The story itself is wonderfully told about a wolf who feels bad and acts bad. In meeting some new animal friends and with their support. Wolf comes to realise that he can change his badness. Without judgement, Wolf dresses in sheep’s wool and he feels good. Brave and bold, this book will help children to understand their differences and find a way to feel good about themselves, all without judgement.

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Blissful Weekend Reading!

I had quite a few books to read on Netgalley, alongside some recent proof copies sent over and Since finishing the 12 Days of Christmas Reading series, I felt I needed a proper rest and time for reading.

With colder weather, it is easy to excuse myself from the bustle of life and cosy up with a book. I consider it a healing time and time for my own mental health to remain strong. Reading allows me to escape the lists, housework and homesickness that inevitably finds me at Christmas.

Here are the books and short reviews from my Blissful Weekend Reading!

Lizard’s Tale
Written by Weng Wai Chan
Published by Text Publishing

Lizard is a boy living in the Chinese district of Singapore around the time of WWII. It is a dangerous time and there are tensions around the British, Japanese and Chinese people living in the city. Lizard is a petty thief until he steals something of incredible value. It plunges him deep within a network of spies, espionage and secret agents. He has to learn who he can trust and fight his way out of dangerous situations. He does this alongside Lili, a friend, who is also a secret agent working for the British. There are plenty of plot twists, links between characters and tense moments of capture. Lizard, Lili, and new acquaintance Georgina, are caught in the middle of a battle over a secret code book that could turn the tide of the war. Lizard had stolen it, realised its danger and tried to put it back. However, Lili wants to steal the book but it gets left behind during the kidnapping of Georgina. With so many plot twists and suspenseful moments, you won’t want to put this book down. I thoroughly lost myself in the splendour of the Raffles Hotel, could picture the tightly packed Chinese quarter and imagined hearing the multitude of languages being spoken in the streets, This is a book to awaken your senses and keep you gripped to the last page!

Cinders and Sparks: Fairies in the Forest
Written by Lindsey Kelk, Illustrated by Pippa Curnick
Published by HarperCollins

It is so great to be back with Cinders and Sparks again. I had been looking forward to this, the next book in the series for some time now. Cinders has found out that her mother was a fairy, making her part fairy and since discovering she has magical abilities, life has become new and interesting. On a quest , or rather exile, from King Picklebottom’s kingdom, she is looking for Fairyland. With her, are Sparks, her talking dog and Mouse, her horse. Her friend Hansel has come along as well. Cinders is much braver than Hansel and rides headlong into the Dark Forest. They meet new creatures, the three bears and Rapunzel on this adventure. I love the links between fairytales in this series. Her fairy godmother, Brian, is as helpful as always and now there is a huntsman on their trail. Ending on a cliffhanger, I am ready for the next in the series! Super illustrations from talented Pippa Curnick keep younger readers entertained and engaged. A brilliant plot full of twists and turns makes it an exciting read. I feel I want to go back and read them all again! There is so much in each one and they make excellent bed times stories!

The Princess Rules
Written by Philippa Gregory, Illustrated by Chris Chatterton
Published by HarperCollins

I am a fan of Philippa Gregory’s adult fiction and was really pleased to see a younger fiction book from her. I requested it and am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read it. Princess Florizella, Florizella and the Wolves and Florizella and the Giant are all short chapter stories pulled together into one book. They are between 6 and 7 chapters each, making them accessible and engaging for the newest of chapter book readers. We are introduced to Princess Florizella and come to realise that she is allowed to do as she pleases. She has not learned the Princess Rules and therefore is not quiet, dainty or prepared to marry a Prince. She is happy, cheerful and bossy. When she is invited to a party, she spends the evening eating as much as possible, avoiding the dance floor and ignoring the other princesses. Princess Florizella is a breath of fresh air….fiesty, fiery and independent- isn’t that how we want our daughters to be? I think so. I loved this book and the three stories within. Perfect for girls and boys alike!

Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Body under the Piano
Written by Marthe Jocelyn, Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
Published by PenguinRandomHouse Canada

Aggie is a precocious 12 year old with a penchant for finding trouble. She becomes embroiled in a mystery involving the murder of her neighbour, the unkind Mrs Eversham. She is an unliked widow and no one in the village seems to like her but they are shocked at her murder. Aggie, being the one who first discovered the body, cannot stop thinking about how she looked, was positioned and the clues left behind. A chance encounter with a young Belgian refugee sparks a firm friendship. His name is Hector Perot. He and Aggie share important tidbits of information regarding their list of suspects. Daring night time escapades, surprising twists and turns, not to mention a kidnapping keep the reader guessing into the last chapters. I truly enjoyed Aggie and felt she made a very good detective and tried very hard to be a good girl but trouble just seems to follow her. Hector was perfectly placed to assist, and the family and friends rounded out a brilliant cast of characters. The mystery was well written and will surely inspire young readers to delve into the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I would happily read another Aggie Morton mystery to see what trouble she can spot!

The Pearl in the Ice
Written by Cathryn Constable, Cover by Helen Crawford-White
Published by Chicken House

I finished this in two sittings and it was hard to tear myself away. Marina is bold, courageous and loyal, all the attributes needed on a voyage to the North as a crew member on her fathers ship, The Sea Witch. Running away from the prospect of boarding school, Marina meets Mrs Smith who claims to be from the Admiralty. Marina is enraptured by her and speaks freely. Starting her sea life as an ill stowaway, she must prove herself as a valued member of the crew. Her father will not treat her differently to the rest of the crew and she is to be paid to work. A thrilling adventure begins for Marina and it takes some intense twists and turns. Storms rage, creatures appear and Marina feels a pull towards the sea and without fear of it. There is a great mystery surrounding Marina and her mother who went “home” when Marina was a young girl. There are snippets of memories, all involving water, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to discover the truth. Perfect winter reading!