Middle Grade Monday #The Rise of Winter by Alex Lyttle

Winter lives in a post-apocalyptic world with only two seasons: dry and rainy. Even her name sounds like something mythical. Some time ago, the world was almost destroyed by human careless activities. Winter keeps watching mountains that separate her country Nacadia from the Forgotten Lands full of toxic waste.

Winter’s mother died in childbirth and the only time Winter’s blind grandmother spoke about her father was to say that he died of a broken heart.

One day a strange thing happens: Winter begins to understand animal speech. Then, her world is turned upside down. She has to run for her life in the company of a wise Fox Vulpeera and a super-chatty raccoon Protin (one of my favourite characters in the book). She must reach the mysterious Cove where she has to undergo a ceremony that will make her (confirm) into one of the twelve Guardians Terra (The Mother Earth) has chosen to protect herself and all the living creatures. Each of the Guardians- four attributes (Strength, Speed, Agility, and Wisdom) for three Earth domains (land, water, and sky). Not everybody agrees with choosing Winter to be the Land Guardian of Wisdom and everybody is surprised when she is appointed the Terra Protectorum, the leader who must learn the magic powers of the rest of the Guardians, and use them to heal the hurting Terra.

Winter has a lot to learn, but her life is constantly in danger and there are lots of twists and turns in this well-written tale with a strong environmental message.

What I liked the most were the Guardians and their disctinct personalities. Winter herself is strong main character, both open-minded and caring. Initially, she refuses to accept the role of the Terra Protectorum because she doesn’t feel it is fair to accept it without knowing what responsibilites it will involve and whether she is really the best choice. I also liked Vulpeera’s family but don’t want to include any spoilers in this review. There is also a strong antagonist, which promises well for the continuation of the story.

The magic powers /abilities Winter has to learn are great and I wouldn’t mind having some of them in my real life. Describing all twelve of them would have been a tall task for one book, so I’m glad the author focused on just three.

I would have prefered to see a bit more of the worldbuilding. Cars, mass-produced books and electricity are just making (re-) appearance , so they must be living through tumultous times of rapid social and technological change. Yet, there is almost nothing to help you imagine their daily life: food, clothes, houses, transport, schools. There are other burning questions I would ask about people in this world: What do they know about their history? What do they care about? What is really there in the Forbidden Lands?

The narrative is really pacey and absorbing. After all, nothing beats a well-written story of self-discovery and adventure. So, yes, I am already looking forward to the sequel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Central Avenue Publishing for the DRC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Title: The Rise of Winter
Author: Alex Lyttle
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Date: 1st of May 2019

Have you read The Rise of Winter? What’s the best middle grade book you’ve read recently?

# Teen Tonic Tuesday #Book Review #Can’t beat the chemistry by Kat Colmer

Have you ever made assumptions about somebody (because let’s face it: they are just a typical gamer/musician/teacher’s pet/nerd/book blogger), only to find out you were completely wrong and they are the sweetest/ smartest/ funniest person in the world?

Seventeen year old MJ (Macca, Mackenzie Jane) Olsen-Wang is a bit of an overachiever. She is in her last year of school and is also taking two university courses to help her get into a top medical program. She is studious, organised, focused…and totally clueless as far as reading people and subtle social clues is concerned. She fancies Jason, a fellow brainiac and her project partner, but she doesn’t really know how to go about it apart from being super-prepared with her science article notes.

Luke is her brother Theo’s roommate. He is a drummer and is failing Introductory Chemistry, a course Macca excelled at. Theo’s trying to help by insisting Macca tutor Luke in exchange for some drumming lessons for her friend Sally. Macca is extremely reluctant to do it. She has so little time and so many expectations (her own and her mother’s) to fulfil, and …what’s that? did he just party all night? what does he mean by ‘Forgot to bring my notes’ (doesn’t it really mean ‘I can’t be bothered’)?!?

‘Can’t beat the chemistry’ is a sweet and heartwarming story of an unlikely bond forming between two people who need a little help from each other to work out what they want from life. I loved the main characters, although Luke seemed a little too perfect, despite his difficult past and self-doubts. The double POV works really well in this novel, as it gives you an insight into how similar the protagonists are and how great they would be together.

There are some difficult issues touched upon in the novel:

  • overbearing, overdemanding parents who try to live their dream through their children
  • raising children with special needs and the strain it puts on the parents and siblings
  • dealing with a genetic disorder which runs in your family.

I really enjoyed this charming story with its great message of ‘caring about people, not their achievements’.

Thank you to NetGalley and Rhiza Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Have you read this book or is it on your tbr-list? What did you think of the main characters? What did you think of Rosie’s portrayal?

What do you think of parents who push their children study harder and do better in everything? Are they doing it for their children or for themselves?

#Sunday Morning For Kids #Tales From Nature by Magali Attiogbé

Tales from Nature: Bee

Join little bee as he gathers pollen from a flower, and makes honey with his friends. But what happens when the queen bee arrives? Introducing nature to little ones, Tales From Nature provides simple, entertaining storylines with an animal character as the focus. Bright and colorful illustrations are sure to engage young children as they learn about each animal’s day, from a cute description, to what it eats, and where it lives. Simple, engaging text explains nature in a playful way for little ones. Each page includes a window or a flap to encourage children to read on and discover more.

My thoughts: My greatgrandfather was a beekeeper, so I grew up with stories about bees. Springtime is the best time to let children discover these wonderful creatures. Magali Attigbe’s book is sweet and child-friendly and does a wonderful job of describing bees’ body parts, the process of nectar collection, life in a beehive and, of course, famous bee communication.

The text is easy to follow even for a toddler, while the illustrations are in beautiful bright colours and are sure to put a smile on your face.

Tales From Nature: Ladybug

‘Ladybug’ is another great title in this series. It follows the same pattern as ‘Tales From Nature:Bee’ by introducing children to the appearance, food habits and the lifecycle of this helpful little insect. The text is simple and accessible, which is important as the target audience is a 3-4 year old child, but the real strength of the book is the artwork with its bright and bold colours and delightful smiley creatures.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for the DRC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Past is the greatest illusion… #Book Review #The Couple by Sarah Mitchell

Whatever you think you know… you’re wrong.

Following a whirlwind four-month romance, lawyer Claire and hotel entrepreneur Angus are engaged to be married. Happy and successful, and ready to start their new life together, Claire and Angus find what they believe to be the perfect home.

But when Claire meets Mark, the man selling them the house, he looks eerily familiar. He looks exactly like the man she loved five years ago, the man she couldn’t bear to lose.

As Claire finds herself irresistibly drawn to Mark and crosses lines she never thought she’d cross, Angus’ behaviour becomes increasingly suspicious. Soon Claire doesn’t know whether she can trust Mark, Angus… or even herself.

My thoughts:

You’ve got to love an unreliable narrator- they make the most fascinating reads and the Couple by Sarah Mitchell is a great example of this.

From the first pages of this novel we get an uneasy feeling that Claire, who can turn her beauty on and off, Clare, who seemingly has it all including a great job with the Home office and a brand new rich fiance Angus, is not telling us the whole truth.

There is plenty of hints and small details, so easy to overlook, but the blurb did not lie- whatever you think you know and understand about Claire is wrong and the big twist will take you aback.

I loved the setting. Sarah Mitchell chose The Immigration tribunal as Claire’s working place to make sure we make our own opinion of Claire’s character and her choices of actions in life. Things are rarely black and white and she obviously has her own particular sense of justice. Claire is a strange mixture of strength and weakness, which is evident in her being so ready to give in to her obsession.

The Couple is one of the most gripping books I have read this year and I can highly recommend it to other lovers of mystery and thriller genre.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture publisher for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Have you read The Couple or is it perhaps on your tbr list?

What’s the most interesting book with an unreliable narrator you have read?

# Teen Tonic Tuesday # Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell

Twin sisters Claire and Poppy are rising Internet stars thanks to their Mum blogging about their lives since they were born. Imagine all those cute but so embarrassing details open to strangers’ scrutiny just a click away.

One day their Mum sets up a Youtube channel for them and off they go making their own name and building up their own brand. While Poppy loves it and sees the fame as a way of gaining power, Claire, the geeky web designer part of the duo, hates the pervasive lack of privacy brought by their stardom.

When she meets a new boy during the school lunch hour, she can’t believe he doesn’t know who she is. For the first time in her life Claire has a clean slate and can finally satisfy her ‘craving for freedom and anonymity’.

I loved the way this book touches on many issues relevant to teenagers.

First, there is the issue of identity. People who read the blog think they know who Poppy and Claire are, but Claire is conscious of the fact that the image, the brand, is carefully constructed. So, she rightfully questions ‘If I am not that, then who am I?’

We are so much more than a mere sum of other people’s opinions and images of us.

Then, there is the issue of privacy and consent. Claire’s mother chose to tell her story in her blog because it was her life, but she also involved her children and imposed her choice on them.

Thirdly, the issue of family: how do I stand out? How do I fit in? Does my Mum prefer my sibling to me? and if yes, should I feel resentful? Am I being selfish if helping my sister achieve her dream makes me feel miserable? Is family more about shared genetics or years of shared life? Despite the dark secret and evident lack of communication, family relationships in this book do ring true.

There were quite a few twists in the story which made this book so gripping.
I loved the slow-burn romance: the getting-to-know-you-as-well-as-myself’ part opening oneself up to rejection and the sweetest delight of being really listened to and understood.

Although I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, and some of the secondary characters were flat and sketchy, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I found this book refreshing and original and would definitely recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amberjack publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

How do you feel about parenting blogs and parents sharing their children’s lives on social media?

#Sunday Morning Reading for Kids # When I look up by Ellen Delange and Jenny Meilihove

A sweet and dreamy book about a little girl who is looking up into the sky and thinking about all the beautiful things she can see:

a plane in the sky, fluffy clouds, butterflies, a shooting star, a kite stuck in a tree, tiny flower seeds flying away… and she wonders what she could do with them or where she would like to go.

Then, she realizes that all that makes her happy is right in front of her.

A beautifully-illustrated book with a wonderful text and a great message of using your imagination powers to wonder about the world around you, but also loving what you have.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis Publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Title: When I look up
Author: Ellen Delange (text), Jenny Meilihove (illustrations)
Publisher: Clavis
Date: May 15th, 2019

#Book Review #The Year of Starting Over by Karen King

If somebody gave you £30,000 and a year to spend this money on reinventing yourself, where would you go and what would you do?

Holly grew up with a loving example of her grandparents’ marriage. When she inherits 30,000 from her grandfather, she wants to spend it on a wedding with her boyfriend of two years and possibly a deposit on a house. Unfortunately, he seems to be more interested in spending time with his mates than committing himself in a marriage to Holly. Suddenly, Holly realizes she’s been taken for granted for too long and has made too many compromises. She leaves Scott, moves back to her Mum’s, and starts thinking seriously about changing her life. Holly draws up a list of things she would like to do in the upcoming year.

Her friends Fiona and Pablo have just bought a house in Andalusia. As one of the things on Holly’s bucket list is living abroad, Holly sets off on her journey to help her friends turn their house in an artists’ retreat and at the same time figure out what really makes her happy. Love isn’t something she expects or wants at this stage of her life.

What I loved about this book is that, although there is a love story, it isn’t central. It is something that happens to the main characters Holly and Matias as they sort out their lives, face their fears, focus on interacting with other people, and discover themselves.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

What would you wish for if you had 3 wishes? #Sunday Morning Reading for Kids # Wish by Chris Saunders

‘Wish’ by Chris Saunders is an adorable heart-warming story of a selfless little rabbit who gets three wishes but does not know what to wish for.

He asks his friends Mouse, Fox and Bear what they would with for hoping their advice would help him decide. Mouse would love to be able to fly, Fox craves inspiration to write exciting stories, while Bear would love to go on an adventure in the sea.

After each conversation, Little Rabbit asks himself ‘Is this wish for me?’ Finally, he decides to grant all three wishes he had to his friends to make them happy. His friends are touched by his generosity. I especially loved the words of Little Mouse:

‘By noticing me, you helped me feel tall, treating me as your equal, even though I am small. So if you find yourself lost, forgotten or alone, just look to the sky and I will guide you home.’

They all decide to treat the Little Rabbit to a special surprise and take him on a joint adventure.

The story
was very kind and sweet with a lovely message of thinking of others’ needs and wishes before you think about yourself. The illustrations, which are soft and dreamy with gentle colours, help to create a magical world where wishes come true and friends are there for you to share the joy of an adventure.

A perfect bedtime story and an ideal gift for any child, bound to become their favourite.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

The pure bliss of coming home- #The return by Natalia Chernysheva

A young woman gets on the bus and rides out of the big city. She arrives in the countryside, where she is as big as a giant, looming over a tiny house, a garden and her tiny grandmother.

The cabbages and the apple trees are far below. Her grandmother smiles up at her in her yellow hat. The young woman bends down to give her little grandmother a big kiss, and then she smells her grandmother’s cooking. She has returned home. When they sit down at the table, the young woman has shrunk to a child-like size, and the two share a meal together in the garden.

In this gentle, wordless story Natalia Chernysheva beautifully captures the feelings of coming home to comfort and memories and of returning to our childlike selves.

My thoughts

A wonderful picture story about home, identity and the importance of family.

My grandfather was a fantastic cook. Whenever my mum was there to visit him and we sat down for a meal, she had this unforgettable expression on her face: pure bliss. I remember trying to understand their complex relationship of a father and a grown-up daughter with her own adult responsibilities.
She told me that you are always a child as long as one of your parents (caregivers) is alive and only now I am beginning to understand her words.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Ingram Publisher Services for the ARC provided in return for an honest opinion.

#Sunday Morning For Kids- Something borrowed, something new, something old and something blue

Having just spent a blissful morning reading and playing with my little one, I am really excited to join in sharing our new and old favourite books for children.

Something borrowedand old: The smartest Giant in the town by Julia Donaldson

George wished he wasn’t the scruffiest giant in town

So, one day, he sees a shop selling giant-size clothes, he decides it’s time for a new look. With smart trousers, a smart shirt, stripy tie and shiny shoes, George is a new giant.

But on his way home, he meets various animals who desperately need his help … and his clothes!

I absolutely adore Julia Donaldson’s books. Gruffalo is the most well-known, of course, but there are lots of others, equally kind and entertaining. This one is about being thoughtful, selfless and generous.

Something new-ish: The Cave by Robert Hodgson ( Published in December 2018 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

There is a cave.
A cave that is home to a creature.
A creature that never leaves its cave…
Because of a wolf.

The wolf tries everything to get the creature to leave the cave, to no avail. But what will happen when he’s finally successful? This is a laugh-out-loud story with a BIG surprise!

A new book by Robert Hodgson is about to be published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (April2nd 2019)

I loved the bright bold colours and the enterprising spirit of the big bad wolf very determined to get his lunch. In fact, I concentrated on the story so much, that I didn’t see the big twist coming! All children who I have read this story so far were delighted with the book.

Here are the woods. The woods are home to three foxes on a hunt for rabbits. Three foxes that don’t realize someone might be following them… From the author of The Cave, this is a fantastically funny cat-and-mouse (or fox-and-rabbit) story with a not-so-fluffy twist.

The foxes follow some helpful signs over the tallest trees, under the carrot fields, and through the pumpkin patch, but there’s no sign of any rabbits. What on earth has happened to them? And why are there strange eyes following them from the trees?  

Children will love outwitting the foxes—who continually say, “No rabbits here”—by spotting the rabbits in each colorful illustration.

This short colourful story of three hapless foxes on a hunt for rabbits is illustrated in the same delightfully quirky style as the Cave. This time we did expect a twist, but were still surprised and entertained by this cautionary tale of misleading appearances. Kids loved commenting on the foxes’ arduous and fruitless journey as well as spotting the ever-present hunter’s eyes and the cute pink worm who makes its appearance on every page.

Thank you to NetGalley and Francis Lincoln Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Something blue : The Blue Pebble by Anne-Gaelle Balpe, Eve Tharlet (illustrations)

Under a daisy Oli finds a pebble. Everyone he shows it to tells him to throw it away. But Oli just knows he’ll find a use for it one day. At last he meets a very sad girl and finds he was right all along. His pebble is special after all.

A lovely story of a boy who isn’t swayed by other people’s opinions about what things should look like or be like. Beautiful watercolours make Olli’s world seem dreamlike and create a special atmosphere.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Independent Publishers Group for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? What was your opinion?

Have a great Sunday with your loved ones!

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