Uncategorized

Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes Blog Tour

Sign me up for this Spy Agency Series and to be a spy please! This unique new series is set to take the world by storm! Girls in STEM books are always welcome on my bookshelves and in my libraries.

Asha is gifted and fearless when it comes to coding, hacking and overriding systems. It seems her efforts and skills have not gone unnoticed….she is now the newest recruit of the top secret Children’s Spy Agency. Heading to the library, she finds herself immediately put to work to solve a case where the world’s underwater internet cables are being bitten and destroyed.

Using her unique set of skills and her understanding of the world, she quickly deduces the reasons and sets to work to stop the evil genius. Meeting other talented children in the agency is a perk to the job, as is all the access to cool new gadgets….I mean who wouldn’t want a MegaFart Selfie Stick…no explanation needed for how cool that is!

Asha proves herself time and time again throughout this exciting adventure and I was in awe of her quick wits, quick typing and quick solving of the mystery! You may not believe what was attacking the internet cables… but it is all in a days work for the newest recruit!

Loved the added extras with this book…protocols, morse code, password help. Kids will absolutely devour this book!

My kids and I scanned the QR code and are at the stage of having to decode a word to enter the site….so much added bonus fun to be had!

I think this will be a hugely successful series featuring clever kids using their talents and skills to defeat the baddies!

If I could be recruited I would hope for a cool gadget to carry around with me…perhaps something to help me understand the animals around the world. I could flip a switch to the continent I was on, then choose the species and then when they made a noise, I would know what they said!

Uncategorized

Kidnap on the California Comet

Written by M.G.Leonard and Sam Sedgman, Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, Published by Macmillan

Uncle Nat has taken Hal on the trip of a lifetime, all the way to Chicago where they are hopping on board the California Comet. This exceptional three day journey will take them across Western America, through ever changing landscapes and time zones, finally arriving in Emeryville, California.

Believing that riding the train will be the biggest adventure of this journey, Hal and Nat are in for a surprise. From the beginning of this trip, Hal has an unexpected feeling, as though something is going to happen. He begins to record events in his sketchbook capturing faces, moments and details that will of course be hugely important later in the story. Elisa Paganelli’s illustrations are significant to the reader as we can see what Hal sketches and they are incredible!

Hal, a magnet for friends, meets several interesting characters who, like Lenny in book one, become important as the story develops. August Reza has invited journalists, like Nat, to hear a huge announcement about his future plans. He travels in style on his very own custom designed train carriage, alongside daughter Marianne and her bodyguard.

As you read the story, you meet fascinating characters who add a level of mystery to the journey. A man who never lets his briefcase out of sight, a woman wearing a bearded dragon and a father and son duo who seem on edge. Also on board is a grumpy woman with questions and fellow journalist, Zola. With these characters on board, what could possibly go wrong???

A kidnapping-

However, the clues aren’t adding up, the police aren’t interested in Hal’s detailed drawings and theories, so Hal needs to find allies who will listen and believe him. With the incredible cast of characters travelling with him, who can he choose and trust? A new nickname is given to Hal on this trip and it is an exceptional fit- Sherlock Da Vinci!

As with all perfect mysteries, the stage is set, the suspects are in front of you and yet there are still twists and turns to contend with. Can Hal solve this kidnapping before they arrive in Emeryville?

All aboard for an adventurous journey on the California Comet! It is one you won’t soon forget.

Uncategorized

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

As an avid reader, I have high expectations on books to engage me, interest me and make those emotional connections that will keep the book as a fond memory after reading. Ross Montgomery has done all of those things with The Midnight Guardians. It has the classic feel of Narnia, the historical adventure in WWII and characters who leap off the page and into your heart.

At first we meet three characters sat waiting in an abandoned house, in the attic. They are waiting for Col, “the only hope we have”. There is a 4ft knight in shining armour, a badger wearing a waistcoat and smoking a pipe, and a Bengal tiger. Not out of place in a child’s imagination, we have yet to learn who Col is and why he is the only one to save them.

Meeting Col, a boy of 12 comes next. He has been evacuated to live with his Aunt as London is being bombed nightly. His father has recently passed away and his older sister still lives and works in London. Col is excited as his sister is coming from London to spend Christmas in their cottage not far from his Aunt’s house. When he gets the news she is not coming Col runs away to the cottage.

Hearing voices coming from the attic upon his arrival, Col comes face to face with the characters he has played with so often as a child. The knight, badger and tiger have been waiting for this moment. Now, they are more alive than ever and they need his help to save London.

What follows is what can only be described as a epic adventure of Narnia proportions. The Midwinter King is set to destroy the Green Man in the Spirit World and this will have huge implications on the human world. Once Col has been convinced that this is outside his imagination, he is keen to save London, the spirit world and most importantly, his sister.

Enchanted trees try to stop their progress, salt counting fairies capture them and giants argue over everything! This trip to London is not straightforward or lacking danger but the team must work together to arrive safely and in time.

An utterly beguiling tale, historically accurate and full of emotion, not to mention how exquisitely it all tumbles onto the page as though straight out of a young boy’s imagination.

Uncategorized

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Written by Katie and Kevin Tsang
Published by Simon and Schuster

This is one of the most anticipated reads of 2020, and the proof alone is a thing of beauty. Covered in shiny golden dragon scales, along with the title, it is no spoiler that dragons feature in this epic tale.

When Billy lands in China to attend a summer camp to improve his mandarin skills, he cannot possibly dream of what his summer actually holds in store for him.

As Billy and his new camp mates sit around the fire on their first evening at Dragon Mountain camp, they are hooked on the legend of the mountain they sit in the shadow of. The legend is being shared by Old Gold, leader of the camp. He also explains that the 12 children in front of him are the brightest and best, nominated to attend this camp, where not only will they upgrade their Mandarin speaking skills but will learn martial arts, cooking and will test themselves throughout the summer.

The camp mates are split into teams and these teams need to work and live together to win challenges and gain rewards. Billy, Dylan, Charlotte and Ling are teamed up and must work together to solve the first riddle given. This riddle leads them off the beaten track to find dragon fruit, but there they encounter a far scarier scene, a tiger. Little do the foursome know they have just met part of the legend told their first night in camp. However, running for safety back to camp, they are dismayed to find no one believes them, and they are punished for lying.

Bewildered at the reaction, the foursome must travel back to find Ling’s lost jewellery. They learn then that Old Gold’s legend is truth.

It turns out, the Tiger is the curse keeper and he must be defeated to gain access to the mountain. Hidden within the mountain are dragons, who can only be saved by the perfect balance of heart and bravery…aka….Billy, Dylan, Charlotte and Ling.

The foursome battle their way to the dragons and learn that a bond must be formed between dragon and human. Powers are gifted and allies formed. The dragons are amazing, all vastly different with their own blend of magical abilities, powers and image.

I always try to avoid spoilers and so in doing that, I cannot reveal certain important details….what you need to know Is that this is an incredible story, an epic journey and there are some brilliant twists and surprises along the way.

At times I was shocked, frightened, emotional but I was always full of hope. I loved the characters, and their hugely different personalities. I worried they would argue and fight more but the war they are raging is far more important. Their bonds of friendship are strengthened, and they learn to trust in new ways.

I was so thrilled to be able to read this via NetGalley, and am NEEDING book 2 as the twist and cliffhanger ending has left me wanting more dragons, more legends and more answers!

Uncategorized

Life of Riley, Beginner’s Luck by Simon James Green

Written by Simon James Green
Published by Scholastic UK

Riley has been cursed by a fortune teller, after an unfortunate sneezing episode. He is convinced that a terrible curse is the reason behind all that goes wrong in his life.

There are some hilarious, laugh out loud moments involving glue, flooding bathtubs and dive bombing seagulls. It all happens to Riley- until Brad arrives. Brad is the glossy new kid in town and Riley is keen to be his friend.

In a moment of clarity, Riley remembers the fortune teller, before the curse, saying that “a young man will have a huge impact on you”. Now Brad is the good luck charm to Riley’s misfortunes, or so Riley believes.

Is it just coincidence that nothing bad happens while Brad is around? In order to prove his theory, Riley all but stalks Brad to ensure his safety. With some elements of a more mature book, it is easy to forget that Riley and Brad are only 10.

Simon James Green has created a brilliant middle grade book full of hilarious disasters that plaque a young boy. He is a charming, endearing character and one I was rooting for throughout the book.

Uncategorized

Sky Pirates, Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond by Alex English

Written by Alex English, Illustrated by Mark Chambers
Publishing by Simon and Schuster, August 2020

Buckle up for one heck of a ride!

Echo is adventurous, impetuous and constantly in trouble with the king. She is not one to sit quietly and embroider pillows when there are sights to see and corridors to explore, not to mention wishing she were living outside the castle walls in the city with other children. Constantly accompanied by Gilbert, her faithful and loyal lizard pet, the pair get up to all sorts of trouble. Echo is a ward of the king, having been abandoned as a baby. Living in a city in lockdown (how very apt), Echo is warned that nothing exists outside the city walls, nothing but the barren, a wasteland that no one could survive in.
King Alfons has declared the walls will remain locked until such time as his prophecy comes true. “When Tuesday arrives on a Sunday, when a she-wolf soars by dragon flight, when the king’s blood turns from red to white, then the gates of Lockfort shall open.”

Waking one evening, Echo is surprised to find a sky ship stuck on the castle. Helping to rescue the ship and its only passenger brings valuable information and trouble to the kingdom. Professor Daggerwing imparts the truth- that there is a much larger world outside the city, and proves it with a map- plenty of new places, city names and the sea can be seen but can they be believed? Echo devours this information and is keen to learn more but the Professor is captured, the sky ship hidden and the map destroyed.
Echo’s inner adventurous spirit is properly awakened and she can think of nothing but the world she is missing, the rescue of the Professor and the chance to travel on a sky ship. Of course, escape will not be easy but we know never to underestimate children!

This is Echo’s only chance to find answers to her life long questions and search for her mother. Echo knows nothing of her mother but she was left with a pin bearing a jewellers mark. Thrilled when her rescue and travel on the sky ship are successful, Echo is prepared for anything- except for a stowaway. “Pudding hearted” Prince Horace has tagged along for the journey by accident and now he is here believes he must convince Echo to come back to the castle.

Finding refuge with the Professor in Port Tourbillon, Echo and Horace are introduced to the world outside their city walls. New faces, new mechanisms and incredible opportunities are offered. Echo sets off on a mission to learn about the pin, however a chase from the Queen’s guard soon puts an end to finding easy answers. A quick getaway on the sky ship, Hummerbird is in order.

A forced landing, help from a flying woman and giant man eating flowers await Echo and Horace in the next phase of their adventure. Throughout their time in Port Tourbillon, Echo is warmed about a band of dangerous and dastardly sky pirates, The Black Sky Wolf Pirates. Rumoured to be the worst there is, Echo comes to believe her mother is imprisoned by them. Not one to shy from danger, Echo heads straight towards their last sighting, accompanied by Horace, who is proving to be more courageous than initially thought.

The first meeting with the pirates is unexpected, and meeting Captain Indigo Lil is full of fear, until formal introductions are made and celebrations are in order!

When all the pieces start to fall into place and a sense of belonging and happiness come together, there is the inevitable trouble! As they are all captured and thrown into the dungeons of Lockfort, Echo begins to lose hope. It is Horace, who rekindles her adventurous spirit and the two hatch an escape plan!

This is such a thrilling adventure- featuring a feisty girl intent on finding answers and exploring the world! It also features a boy with hidden courage, family reunions and secrets shared. Prophecies told, adventures had and kingdoms found.
Sheer brilliance!

Uncategorized

Rise of the Shadow Dragons Blog Tour

How does Rise of the Shadow Dragons follow on from Dragon Daughter?

When I wrote Dragon Daughter, I only had one book in my head, rather than a series. It wasn’t till a few months after its publication that I saw a TV documentary about the tunnels beneath the city of Naples. This is what gave me the idea that Arcosi should have some long-forgotten tunnels too, the first spark for Rise of the Shadow Dragons

That meant I had some challenges when creating a new story: whatever I had left open or resolved at the end of Dragon Daughter couldn’t be changed – the book was printed and in the hands of readers already!

That’s one of the reasons I decided to jump ahead in time, to give the original story a bit of breathing space. Also, the characters of Dragon Daughter were already fourteen and fifteen years old by the end, so I needed a new cast of middle-grade characters for Rise of the Shadow Dragons, and I needed them to have different personalities and problems.

One reviewer described Dragon Daughter as a Cinderella story with dragons – which I love! – and Milla’s story is definitely one of rags to riches. So this time, I created a very different arc for my main character Jowan Thornsen.

At the start of Rise of the Shadow Dragons, it’s ten years on from the first story, and all the young people of Joe’s family have bonded with dragons. So when he attends his first Hatching Ceremony – on his twelfth birthday too! – he’s feeling pretty lucky. Of course, things don’t go to plan.

I’m afraid Joe doesn’t handle disappointment very well. He’s only human, and we all get angry and behave badly sometimes. (I know I certainly do!) I wanted to have a character who starts off in a fortunate place, but who wrecks things quite early on. Then the story is about him coming to terms with who he really is and having to work hard to redeem  himself – he definitely does this by the end! I think it’s important for us to see lots of different kinds of people in the stories we read, and for fictional characters to be flawed, not impossibly perfect. Joe was great fun to write, as was his new friend Winter, who has experienced unimaginable loss in her short life. I enjoyed writing their dynamic as they get to know each other and change each other as the story unfolds.

There’s also a new kind of dragon – the shadow dragon – which was definitely inspired by reading about some amazing real-world creatures who transform and react to environmental changes: from the humble dragonfly to pyrophytic plants whose growth can be triggered by fire.

I love it when writers create generations of characters within story worlds, so you get to see how fictional people turn out when they grow up. Some of my favourite fantasy writers, including Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce, do this brilliantly. So I decided to challenge myself by having my original cast of characters as the grown-ups in this second book. Milla, the protagonist of Dragon Daughter, is now Joe’s older cousin, who helps him and advises him from the start of Rise of the Shadow Dragons. I hope readers who liked Dragon Daughter will be happy to see Milla again, even if she’s not the main character any more.

Now this time when I wrote the ending of Rise of the Shadow Dragons, I made sure to leave a few threads hanging… just in case I felt like picking them up in a third book. This has been a wonderful springboard into writing the next installment. It’s very early days, but I am hopeful that you haven’t seen the end of these characters yet!

Thank you so much for hosting this post on your wonderful blog! I hope readers enjoy Rise of the Shadow Dragons. Please see lizflanagan.co.uk for more information – and readers’ artwork! – or feel free to follow me on Twitter: @lizziebooks.

Uncategorized

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates Blog Tour

Written by Jenny Pearson, Illustrated by Rob Biddulph
Published by Usborne

Freddie, Ben and Charlie

by Jenny Pearson

While my book The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates has one name in the title, Freddie would not have got past the nearest bus top if it wasn’t for the help he gets from his two best mates, Ben and Charlie. Here I tell you a little more about all three boys.

Freddie is a fact loving eleven-year-old with a dodgy haircut his Grams gave him. He might not be the coolest kid, but his best mates Ben and Charlie would do anything for him including following him halfway across the country and cycling a tandem up steep hills in lycra superhero outfits. Freddie collects facts because once he has a fact no one can take it away from him. This is important to Freddie, who never knew his mum. He doesn’t want to lose anything else. And this is why it is so hard for him when his Grams dies. Freddie is a good kid, he looks after his stepdad who has one leg in plaster after an accident with his post van. Freddie’s stepdad always points out when Freddie does something which would have made his mum proud and Freddie records all these things in a book he calls The Things I Have Done That Would Have Made My Mum Proud Book. There’s loads of stuff in there – like the time he first tied his own shoelaces or when he was a very convincing cow in the school nativity. Freddie loves his best mates Ben and Charlie, but he can sometimes be a bit wrapped up in his own troubles to properly notice what is going on with them. During his Super Miraculous Journey Freddie learns just how important Ben and Charlie really are to him.

Ben is definitely cooler than Freddie – he always has a mint haircut and is in all the sports teams. He’s a bit of a trickster at school. He shouts sings in every assembly and was responsible for the Diet Coke and Mentos explosion at the end of Year 6 party. Ben gets more pocket money than anybody else on account of his dad winning £500k on a scratch card. But Ben’s not really worried about that. He misses his mum who moved to Spain and is finding it hard to get on with his new step mum, Becky. Despite his cool exterior, and that he sometimes teases Freddie and Charlie, Ben is actually quite sensitive to his friends’ worries. He notices when they are feeling down and is quite good at finding the right things to say to cheer them up. Like telling Freddie a fact about shrimp hearts he found on a yoghurt lid.

Charlie is suffering because he does not want to go on the annual Anderson family detox-holiday. His mum will only cook vegan food which means Charlie has to sneak off to the chicken shop without her knowing. And this summer he plans to sew sweets into his pyjamas, so he doesn’t go hungry at Camp Mung Bean. When Freddie suggests Charlie join him on his trip to Wales, Charlie jumps at the chance. Charlie sometimes worries about being left out by Ben and Freddie – he

wants to be involved in everything – even if the other two are fighting. Threes are always difficult, but Freddie and Ben would never ever leave Charlie behind. They know it wouldn’t be the same without him. And that is certainly true because through his onion eating, unusual clothes drying technique and questionable plumbing skills, Charlie is accidentally responsible for many of the mishaps that occur on their super miraculous journey.

Who is my favourite?

What a question! It is so difficult to choose a favourite – I like all three boys for differing reasons and I love that they are there for each other. Each one is inspired by the brilliant children I have taught over the years. Not one particular child – I wouldn’t say oh Charlie is based on Humbleburt who was in my Year 5 class in 2009 – what I like to do is to take different bits of children I know and smoosh them together to make a new character. It’s not as evil as it sounds.

I suppose, however, if backed into a corner with a cattle prod – I would choose Freddie. Of the three, he’s had the hardest time but remains so positive and hopeful. Also, he was the character I came up with first and that his name is in the title of my debut book makes him just a teeny bit more special.

Uncategorized

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson

Written by Jenny Pearson, Illustrated by Rob Biddilph
Published by Usborne, April 2020

Sometimes a book comes along and it warms your heart, tickles your soul and ensures you find hope in the world! I didn’t realise how much I needed Freddie Yates and his adventure until I finished laughing and crying simultaneously. A true delight for these strange times. This was an instant hit in our home and will fly off the library and bookstore shelves.

Freddie likes facts! He knows plenty and they help him to deal with new and uncertain situations. Facts like his Dad broke his leg and is laid up for the summer. Facts keep Freddie going.

Freddie Yates is finished school for the summer! His best friends have plans but not Freddie! Arriving home that first day, Freddie is hit with some devastating news and his summer becomes very different than expected.

A letter to Freddie soon becomes an adventure. Join Freddie, and best friends Charlie and Ben as they set off for Wales. With the boys each escaping family problems, they truly let loose while away, in epic, hilarious proportions. I adore this trio and can appreciate their reasons for getting away from home! New step mothers, a summer as a vegan and loss are valid reasons for their adventure.

Onion eating competitions, boat break ins, angelic choir boys and Wales media capturing every moment, it seems there is a lot to see and do in Wales! For the boys, keeping a low profile should have been on their agenda, but nothing goes according to plan this summer.

This book is laugh out loud funny, with some incredible moments of love and friendship to warm your heart and feed your soul. Precocious boys, an epic journey and a search for something we all crave and do not always see before us…family!

With plenty of facts, fun and friendship, this book will be a firm favourite this year.

Follow this week’s virtual launch and blog tour for ultimate fun during lockdown!

Uncategorized

The Cut Throat Cafe Blog Tour

How I love a trilogy! Although this may end up as a series, for the moment the three books sit happily in a trilogy on my shelves.

Seth Seppi returns, still bumbling away and having disastrous effects when practicing magic. Despairing of him, Angelique has brought him to Gramichee, where pockets of magic are still practiced and magic folk abound. He is to finally be given an apprenticeship. How he longs to learn and practice, be guided and gifted with knowledge and experiences. Thrilled to be around magical folk, his spirits are high.

However, poor Seth gets apprenticed to Miss Young, and ends up selling her lotions and potions on the shop floor, not allowed to know what ingredients they contain or how they work. Despondent, Seth befriends Tendril, apprentice to Calamus, a cantankerous old wizard living next door.

Together the boys dabble in potions, but Seth always seems to pass out during them. These potions seem harmless until one of the apprentices is murdered and clues found at the scene point to Tendril. Did Seth accidentally help create the murder weapon? Is Tendril or Calamus behind these attacks on apprentices?

Inspector Pewter, Nightshade and Angelique all appear in this third instalment and though Seth is gifted at finding trouble and murder mysteries, they are gifted with skills to help pull him out and save the day! This mystery has plenty of action and I was kept guessing throughout the entire story. Just when I thought one suspect, a twist would appear or an alibi and I was back to the beginning.

This is a huge and dangerous adventure for Seth, whose powers are slowly starting to form and it turns out he is very powerful. Seth also seems to have a knack for the darker spells and potions. There are hints at further potential and directions for the story of Seth to continue and he is now armed with more skill and information than ever before. What could be next for Seth Seppi?

When I am writing a review, I consciously try to avoid any spoilers. For those books with so much intertwined action and a detailed plot, it is tricky to avoid those important details without giving away some of the mystery to solve. Needless to say, you will need your wits about you to solve the mystery, learn who to trust and stay safe like Seth!

I was completely engrossed and felt a roller coaster of emotions as Seth finds trouble yet again. Storytelling at its best!