Friday, 12 October 2018

October reading round up

Murder at Twilight by Fleur Hitchcock

Viv, grumpy teenaged daughter of the live-in childminder of posh-boy, Noah, hates her mum being at the beck and call of the Belcombe family.

A row that ends with her satisfyingly punching posh Noah on the nose has serious consequences when accusations and suspicions fly when he is kidnapped.

Viv is used to wandering the vast acres owned by the Belcombes, after all, they own practically everything around here. But when she accidentally finds herself embroiled in the kidnap plot, the realises she is in far more danger than the fragile, but valuable Noah.

It all leads to a series of thrilling chases as the pair have to flee and try to get to safety. But the landscape is flooded and almost unrecognisable, even to Viv. Is it going to be too easy for the baddies to be one step ahead of them? They are going to have to come up with a better plan, but resourceful Viv proves herself more than a match for any kidnappers.

There are really nail-biting descriptions of race-against-time daring escapes and chases (that don’t always go so well) to keep you frantically turning the pages. Another unputdownable thriller by Fleur Hitchcock.

Dragon Daughter by Liz Flanagan

When Milla witnesses a murder, the last thing she expects to discover is that the victim has hidden something extraordinary – four incredibly rare dragon eggs.

Milla feels instantly protective of the eggs. She has heard stories of course, that once there were dragons here on the island of Arcosi. But as she is only a servant and a lower-class citizen, she knows the risks if she keps the eggs. She has to be very careful as the consequences will be severe if she is discovered keeping things from the Duke.

Milla has no idea how her life will turn upside-down when she starts to learn what the return of the dragons truly means to her island home. At first it only seems to bring trouble. Chaos erupts, sending the divisions between the islanders even deeper.

But Milla knows she must protect the dragons at all costs. And she must learn their secrets if she is to find a way to heal all the warring parties and prevent a civil war.

Anyone who speaks up against unfairness is dealt with brutally and there are powerful descriptions of a whole country moving towards the brink of war.

This is a compelling tale of a society organised by caste and favouritism. But all that looks like it might be turned on its head by the return of the dragons and the forging of a whole new set of friendships and allies with more in common and more to lose than they realise.

This is an epic story with much to say of warring nations and how greed and corruption lead to bitterness and battles, but how finding common bonds reaches across the barriers of origin and caste. 

My favourite scenes were those beautifully evoked moments between the riders and their dragons, which is the glorious heart of the novel.

A beautiful and thought-provoking read in equal measure. And also with one of my favourite jackets of the year by Angelo Rinaldi.

Warrior Boy by Virginia Clay

Ben doesn’t feel he fits in at his London school, even though it’s the only life he has known. But he worries even more that he won’t fit in when he travels to Kenya with his mother. His father was Kenyan and Ben is worried to meet family he has never met before. 

He knows they will be very different and how can he possibly relate to people who wear strange clothes, have such unusual customs and live in huts made of cow dung?

Even more than that, one of Ben’s biggest fears is how he will cope when he has a phobia about blood and he learns his father was a brave warrior?

This is a thoroughly enjoyable fish out of water story where the sights and smells of the Maasai come really to life and plunges the reader, along with outsider Ben, into a culture that he gradually learns to love. The life and landscape seeps through the book in such a delightful way that I challenge any reader not to fall under its spell.

With an exciting plot about catching poachers, some great interplays with his new-found cousin and grandfather, Ben’s journey becomes one to see if he can dig deep and discover any warrior roots hidden in this nervous, urban boy.

This is such a great read about the things we have in common, no matter where we grow up. About finding bonds in family and learning that differences can be a cause for celebration. But it is also an enthralling and uplifting tale about how facing your fears can bring you closer to others.

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

Thirteen-year-old Arnovian princess, Anna, is full of envy of her younger brother, Alex, who will get to go to boarding school and be King one day. Being a princess is a lot less fun. All she seems to do all day is learn the history of her country and how to walk and talk nicely. But maybe life is about to get exciting . . . Anna is getting suspicious that her new governess might be a spy.

Meanwhile, in another part of Europe a young woman is investigating the death of a secret agent. Was it really just a burglary that went wrong? With the shadow of the First World War starting to fall across Europe, it is important to get to the truth and spying is a new and dangerous mission as secrets trade for high value.

The twin narratives of this intriguing story set in the early twentieth century is full of glamour and parties, but there are also exciting developments happening in science and aviation. Paris is the scene of the first air race and it forms a great backdrop to the climax of this exciting spy thriller. 

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius 

Ship’s engineer, Sally Jones, is an absolute genius at anything mechanical. She is also a gorilla, a fact that characters throughout the story react to in different ways! But her abilities and character help her make friends and win allies at every turn. 

Gentle Sally Jones is content to follow Captain Koskela anywhere. She works diligently and news of her talent is widespread. Then they go on a dangerous voyage together that goes terribly wrong. The captain is arrested for murder. Only Sally Jones believes in his innocence and there begins her epic tale to find the evidence that will free him.

This is a great historical adventure that will take Sally Jones to the other side of the world in a thrilling quest involving everything from planes to palaces, as she leaves no stone unturned, but patiently finds the evidence that will free her friend.

This is an unusual book for many reasons. It's a children’s book with no child characters. That the main character is an ape in itself makes this such an astonishing book. But the main character also never says a word throughout the story, yet it is all told from her point of view as she writes her memoirs. 

Sally Jones is both a believable engineering superstar, and someone who is only ever herself. She has a childlike quality of trust and goodness, almost the epitome of humanity, without her being human at all. 

It’s a legendary piece of writing, an enjoyable adventure as Sally Jones never sways from her unswervable belief that she can free her captain, no matter how long it takes. The amazing Sally Jones will remain in your heart.

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

Nate can’t quite understand why Mum has brought him to this freezing cold cottage  in the middle of nowhere in the snow. It’s all a bit musty, but he knows she has rowed with Gran and at least they have got away from the hateful Gary.

But when Mum goes out for food and then doesn’t return. Nate is really pleased that his old invisible friend, Sam, turns up again to help. And then there’s Kitty from the big house, obsessed with mazes and dolls houses, pestering him to help her solve a treasure hunt – as if he is worried about finding treasure when Mum might have gone back to Gary, and the only food around is what was left in the empty house.

The Light Jar is a gripping story about facing up to our fears, but it is also a tale of the sometimes strange things we find ourselves doing in order to get through and survive. A brilliant tale of friendship and standing on our own two feet.

Nicki Thornton

Friday, 5 October 2018

October Picture Book Round UP – 100 Dogs – Not Yet a Yeti – The King That Banned the Dark

100 Dogs by Michael Whaite

100 Dogs is fun rhyming book, with vibrant humorous pictures, which is an easy read-aloud book to share. With pages bursting full of dog of every shape, size bread and personality type, it groups them together by way of rhyme that slips of the tongue and poses the question, which dog is like yours? Funny and full of dog traits that all dog owners will find funny, it also poses as a great books for learning your phonics, with so many rhymes. But primarily it is just a funny book great to share at bed time.

Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and Tony Neal

George is the youngest of a family of yeti’s and he anxious as to why he is not a yeti yet. So he asks his family members why he’s not yet a yeti,, and they ask him if he can do essential yeti tasks, like leaving big footprints in the snow to scare people, or being capable of luring hikes to their doom. None of these staple yeti activities really appeal to George, and it’s only when his Mum ask him if he really wants to be yeti, that George realises his vocation if very different. George soon realises he can be what he dreams, and with the acceptance of those he loves, he finds his own role within the family, and finally becomes the happies and truest form of himself. Not Yet A Yeti, is fun and colourful tale of self-acceptance and family love.

The King who Banned the Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth

What would happen if a king was scared of the dark? He’d ban it of course! And so begins Emily Haworth-Booth’s lovely yearn, accompanied by muted and exquisite illustrations. Of course the King’s advisors are aware that banning the dark could cause the kingdoms people to revolt, so they cunning spread rumours about the dark so’s to fuel the people desire to ban it. When the people are ready, a huge artificial sun is hung above the palace, and the whole kingdom rejoices, until they become weary and sleep deprived. And so, the people decide action is needed, and their treachery payback as they save the Kings celebrations, and in doing so teaches him a valuable lesson. The King Who Banned the Dark is modern fairy-tale, akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes, told with sophistication and paired with extraordinary beautiful illustrations in monotones, juxtaposed with vibrant yellow.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Celebrations & Thanks as Last Chance Hotel - is picked as Waterstones Book of the Month - Nicki Thornton

We have been amazingly proud of Nicki Thornton, who writes for this blog, who had her first middle-grade novel, The Last Chance Hotel published this summer.

Her murder mystery set in a magical world has enjoyed the support of many independent bookshops with a special limited edition of the first print run and was supported by many Waterstones booksellers, who placed it in their summer promotions.

We would like to celebrate today that The Last Chance Hotel has been chosen as Waterstones’ Book of the Month for the deliciously spooky month of October by offering a giveaway of two goodie packs of a signed copy and signed bookmarks.

To win just let Tweet us @BookshelfSpace with tag #TLCHGIVEAWAY and let us know what enchanted sidekick you’d choose if you were investigating a magical murder! The competition closes on Halloween 31st of October at 10am GMT.

Thanks to everyone at Waterstones – and indeed to booksellers everywhere - for such brilliant support of The Last Chance Hotel.