30 Days of Horror #11: The Goth Girl Series #HO17 #30daysofhorror

30daysofhorror

Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

This series is perfect for younger readers this Halloween. Or, young-at-heart readers like me. I loved the first two books in this series, but am yet to read the rest. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are amazing, and believe me when I say that pictures of these books don’t do them justice. I would highly recommend splashing out on the hardbacks over other formats. They so shiny.

Available in all formats

1st book published 2013

 Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Meet Ada Goth. She lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts, but she hasn’t got any friends to explore her enormous, creepy house with.

Then, one night, everything changes when Ada meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael. Together they set out to solve the mystery of the strange happenings at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, and get a lot more than they bargained for…

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Goodreads // Goth Girl Spotlight

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

 This Year in Horror (part 1)

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Lazy Saturday Review: The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin #MiniReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

icedragonTitle: The Ice Dragon
Author: George RR Martin
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 128 pages
Publication Details: December 4th 2014 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Children’s; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

From ancient times the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child — and the ice dragon who loved her — could save her world from utter destruction. 

Review

This is a beautifully illustrated book (Luis Royo) from the Game of Thrones author. It’s a charming, short tale suitable for children and adults alike. I enjoyed it a lot.

Protagonist Adara was both adorable and strong and I loved that she was a sort of Winter princess, and the only one who can help defeat the dragons destroying the land. Full of rich mythology and folklore, this a much more accessible George RR Martin for those like me who are intimidated about starting the GoT books.

The illustrations are what really make this book special, and I think it would make a lovely gift. Especially for Christmas, with its celebration of Winter. Worth a read for sure.

unicorn rating 4

 

New(ish)Picture Books: Mini Reviews #PictureBookReviews

I’ve recently started paying attention to picture book releases, and existing picture books because I’m trying my hand at writing a couple. I requested the following books on Netgalley so I thought I had better write reviews for them, albeit very teeny ones 🙂

Pirates in the Library ~ Nadia Ali & Jake Tebbits

 

piratesHardcover, 40 pages
Published October 15th 2016 by Star Bright Books

Prepare to set sail for the adventure of a lifetime with fierce Captain Jake when he discovers a treasure map that leads him, his crew (and a parrot, too), right to the library. Ms. Benitez, the librarian, welcomes them—as long as they behave! The pirates’ search is on! 

Soon they discover—with the aid of Dread Pirate Dewey’s map—treasures galore on the shelves. Now the dilemma: Can they keep these treasures? Ms. Benitez has the answer.

Pirates in the Library is a lovely little story to introduce the wonder of libraries and books to children. They will be sure to love Captain Jake and his parrot too!
The text is nicely rhythmic and repetitive so that children can recite it with glee. The illustrations are bright and simple with a nice warmth and humour to them. I really liked the balance of fun and learning in this story, and the important message of supporting your local library because they really are full of the best kind of treasure – stories and knowledge.
unicorn rating 4

Princess Lemonella ~  Saarein te Brake & Sassafras De Bruyn

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Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Clavis
Princess Lemonella is born angry. She always looks sour and never smiles.
When the king and queen try to find a prince for her, she sends all the candidates away.
Until one prince just rides past her …
 

A funny and romantic fairy tale about how love can make you smile. 


For princes and princesses aged 5 years and older.

 

I was torn by this one. On one hand I loved the beautiful illustrations and some of the themes of the story such as that everyone is different and that there is someone for everyone.

However, I’m not a huge fan of modern children’s stories that are based solely on a princess having to find a prince. I love fairy tales but I do think that they need to be modernised to reflect and embrace diversity. I’m not sure how healthy it is for little girls to constantly read about the need for a Prince Charming, or in this case, a Prince Grumpy!
unicorn rating 3

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig #BookReview

thegirlwhosavedxmasTitle: The Girl Who Saved Christmas
Author: Matt Haig
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages
Publication Details: November 3rd 2016 by Canongate Books
Genre(s): Children’s; Christmas
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF MAGIC

If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end?

When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask – Father Christmas.

But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

But Amelia isn’t just any ordinary girl. And – as Father Christmas is going to find out – if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

Review

This is the second Christmas Children’s book by  Matt Haig, the first being A Boy Called Christmas (which I haven’t read) so I almost didn’t request this one when I saw it on netgalley – I’m so glad I did. It’s a completely separate story.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is a light-hearted tale set in Victorian London. Chimney-sweeper Amelia, once wrote a letter to Father Christmas which was so full of hope it boosted the magic of Christmas. But that was the year the trolls attacked, and almost ruined Christmas. Santa was a little preoccupied.

One year on and poor Amelia’s wish never came true, and her mother died, forcing Amelia to give up her beloved cat, Captain Soot, and enter Mr Creeper’s workhouse. Elsewhere in Elfhelm where Father Christmas is preparing for this years’ journey, but the spirit of Christmas is dwindling. Will the trolls attack again? Will his sleigh fly with such little hope in the air?

There is only one person who can help – the girl with the most Christmas spirit he has ever known, but little does he know that she has spent a year in a filthy workhouse, and is now in a dungeon after trying to escape. Can Amelia get her hope back and help Father Christmas save Christmas once more?

Of course she can!

This book was lots of fun and had a mixture of traditional Christmas tropes such as the sleigh needing hope/spirit to fly and also completely unique ideas which made it a lovely read. I loved the magical world that Haig has built here with the different kind of pixies and trolls in contrast to the bleakness of a Dickens-esque (the man himself even makes an appearance) Victorian London. It feels like an instant Christmas classic to me.

Amelia was a great protagonist with gusto,who never gave up. And I completely fell in love with Captain Soot, of course. The elves and pixies all had their own personalities and stories too, and they brought a lot of fun to the story. But the thing I loved most was definitely the illustrations. The simple pen drawings were amazing.

Haig’s humorous narration also shines through the pages of this story. There is a hint of sadness to his humour, but that’s what makes it so relatable.

unicorn rating 4

 

 

The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North Pole #BookReview #XmasReads

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Title: The Book of Kringle – Legend of the North Pole
Author: Derek Valez Partridge with Mark Packard
Series: N/A
Format: ePub, 32 pages
Publication Details:  September 22nd 2016 by Vista Clara Productions
Genre(s): Children’s Literature; Christmas Stories
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

In a magical land on top of the world, an epic struggle between light and darkness was waged between two brothers. King Kringle ruled with a harsh hand over the Elves of the North Pole, allowing no laughter, no play and no Christmas celebration.

There was only one truly kindhearted soul who could make a difference and change the course of the world. Would the Elves be able to find Santa and bring laughter and joy to the land? Manusol the Elf knows the answer, for it is written in The Book of Kringle.

Review

This beautifully illustrated children’s book is an origin story of Santa Claus. Narrated by an elf, we are taken on a journey through a tough time in the North Pole where the evil King has put a ban on Christmas, celebrations, and even laughter. 

But the Elves envisage a better future for themselves and together they set out to find the one person who can stop the King. The one person who knows the importance of the spirit of Christmas, and that is the King’s brother himself, known as Santa Claus.

The Book of Kringle is wonderful. The story was unique amongst many generic Santa Claus tales, this one had grit and adventure and just the right amount of danger, all finished off with a happy ending, of course. I only wish it was longer!

However, the star of the show is definitely the stunning illustrations. They are complex and bright and will no doubt hypnotise all children who are lucky enough to see them. This is a book worth treasuring for years to come. 

unicorn rating 4

New Picture Book Releases: Mini Reviews

I’ve recently started paying attention to picture book releases, and existing picture books because I’m trying my hand at writing a couple. If anyone would like to be my beta readers -email me!

I requested the following books on Netgalley so I thought I had better write reviews for them, albeit very teeny ones 🙂

Dreaming of Mocha ~ An Swerts

mocha

Hardcover, 32 pages
Expected publication: November 15th 2016 by Clavis
Florence wants a dog. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog. Just any dog. To take care of, and to pet. To run with, and to play with. If she gets a dog, she will NEVER whine again and she’ll always be good. That’s what she promised Mom.
One day there’s a little dog in Florence’s garden. He came out of nowhere.
“Mocha” it says on his collar. Mocha and Florence become the best of friends.
But then Mocha’s owner is suddenly at the door. And he is a very nice man.
What will Florence do now?An endearing picture book about loving animals and loving people.
For pet lovers ages 4 and up.
I can’t really review this book properly because the epub I downloaded only had the illustrations! Only after reading some reviews on Goodreads I realised that it is supposed to have text. However, the illustrations went a long way in telling the story, which is a great thing! The illustrations were simple but very cute, and I’m sure young children will love them and fall in love with Mocha as much as Florence did.
unicorn rating 3

Baba Yaga ~ An Leysen

babayaga

Hardcover, 56 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Clavis
Once upon a time, in a land far away from here, lived a girl named Olga. Olga lived with her father in a beautiful house, and they were very happy together. Until Olga’s father one day fell in love again … His new wife was cruel and mean. And her sister Baba Yaga, who lived in a dark forest, was even meaner. Baba Yaga was a real witch! There was a rumor she was fond of children … on her plate! One day Olga’s stepmother sent her to Baba Yaga. What was she supposed to do now?
Baba Yaga, the witch from Slavonic mythology is coming alive in this fairy tale. An Leysen takes you on a journey in an imaginative story about a wicked witch and a sweet and brave little girl.
 
I absolutely loved this book. It’s exactly the kind of picture book I’d love to write. It had just the right balance of adventure, magic, and creepy/scary that children will love. Baba Yaga is terrifying but I don’t think it will worry young children too much – plus, the happy ending will be sure to put them at ease.
I’d not heard of this fairy-tale before, and I’m desperate to read the original now. But what I loved most of about this book is the stunning illustrations. They took my breath away, really! Perfect! 
unicorn rating

Gracie Meets a Ghost ~ Keiko Sena

gracie

Hardcover, 32 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2016 by Museyon
Gracie hasn’t been able to see very well recently, so she decides to get some glasses. But, after playing on the mountain one day, she realizes that night that her glasses are missing. She heads straight out to look for them on the mountain–where a bored ghost is hiding in the darkness, waiting for someone to scare. Although Ghost tries to scare her, Gracie doesn’t react by being frightened, not even little–because she can’t see Ghost well enough to be scared without her glasses! Ghost really wants to see Gracie scared, so he helps in her search all night long and finally finds her glasses. But what happens when Gracie puts them on...
This is an adorable story that kids will love in the run-up to Halloween. It’s cute and silly, and just ghoulish enough without being scary. I liked that Gracie wasn’t at all scared of the ghost because she couldn’t see him without her glasses. I’m sure this book will make having to wear glasses seem a lot less terrible to young children. The illustrations are lovely and quirky too.

unicorn rating 4

Lazy Saturday Review(s): A few that got away…

I’ve fallen behind of late, so before I completely forget about these books I thought I’d do a quick catch-up in the shape of some teeny tiny reviews.

testimony
Title: The Testimony of the Hanged Man
Author: Ann Granger
Series: Lizzie Martin #5
Edition: Paperback, 400 pages
Publication Details: July 3rd 2014 by Headline
Genre(s): Mystery; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it!

Goodreads // Purchase

A hanged man would say anything to save his life. But what if his testimony is true? When Inspector Ben Ross is called to Newgate Prison by a man condemned to die by the hangman’s noose he isn’t expecting to give any credence to the man’s testimony. But the account of a murder he witnessed over seventeen years ago is so utterly believeable that Ben can’t help wondering if what he’s heard is true. It’s too late to save the man’s life, but it’s not too late to investigate a murder that has gone undetected for all these years.

Review

I initially picked this book up because it’s set partly on Putney Heath, which is where I lived when I was at uni. I like reading about places I know well, to see how the author portrays them, especially in another era. The Testimony of the Hanged Man is set in Victorian London, and is a classic mystery which unfolds at a slow pace.

I think if I read it all in one go, I would have enjoyed it more, but I only managed a few pages at a time. However, I still enjoyed it – and despite my pet peeve of alternating narrators too.

If you like traditional, light-hearted, Victorian detective fiction, give this series a go.

unicorn rating 3

kisskiss

Title: Kiss Kiss
Author: Roald Dahl
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 231 pages
Publication Details: October 26th 1987 by Penguin Books
Genre(s): Short Stories
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it!

Goodreads // Purchase

In these wickedly anarchic stories, Dahl explores the dark, sinister side of the psyche: the cunning, sly, selfish part of human nature that makes for unexpected outcomes and horrifying conclusions.

Review

I’ve wanted to read some of Dahl’s adult fiction for ages so I picked this up for my lunch-time read when I spotted it in the library. I read most of the stories in this collection, and came out with mixed feelings. The collection was first published in 1959, and you can tell; it hasn’t aged well.

The stories are not what I would call anarchic or horrifying in today’s meaning of the terms, but they were interesting, funny and slightly odd – as you would expect from Roald Dahl. I enjoyed Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat the most.

unicorn rating 3

badjelly
Title: Badjelly the Witch
Author: Spike Milligan
Series: N/A
Edition: Hardback, 64 pages
Publication Details: October 19th 2000 by Virgin Books (first published 1973)
Genre(s): Children’s; Picture Books
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it.

Goodreads // Purchase

Badjelly The Witch can turn children into sausages or chop them up to make boy-girl soup. She can turn policemen into apple trees or bananas into mice and she is the wickedest witch in all the world.

A charming fairy tale which has delighted children for many years, this edition is copiously illustrated with Spike Milligan’s own drawings which have been specially adapted and beautifully hand coloured.

Review

Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids was one of my favourite books when I was little, but I never read this one. I’m so glad I eventually got round to reading it! It’s exactly as bonkers as you’d expect – loved it!

Definitely a fun, wacky book to read to young children.

unicorn rating 4

Upcoming Event: Children’s Book Launch in association with Born Free

animalrescue
Independent children’s picture book publishing duo, PatrickGeorge, are teaming up with international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation to promote their latest book ‘Animal Rescue’, with 50p from the sale of each book going to support Born Free’s wildlife rescue and conservation work around the world.

The Launch

Date: 18th February 2015 from 11am
Location: The Powell-Cotton Museum, Kent, UK.
Info: For further information and to attend this event, which is open to the general public, especially children and their parents see www.quexmuseum.org.

Born Free Foundation President, Will Travers OBE, will attend the book launch taking place at the award-winning Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington, Kent on February 18th. The launch will include a book reading and signing, an opportunity to hear from Will Travers about Born Free’s animal rescue work, and a fun interactive animal rescue activity for children.

The Book

Animal Rescue is a book in which you become a rescue hero. Simply turn the transparent page and rescue the animals! It’s fun, it’s simple and it’s a gentle introduction to the importance of animal welfare. There are no words in this book so you can choose the words which are right for you.

There are eleven spreads portraying animals in need and an acetate sheet between each double page spread which, when flipped from right to left, serves to rescue the animal in need off the page and place it back into its natural environment.

animalrescue2

Image and synopsis taken from PatrickGeorge.com

Born Free

Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity, founded by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers following their starring roles in the classic film Born Free. Today, led by their son Will Travers, Born Free is working worldwide for wild animal welfare and compassionate conservation.

bornfree

Born Free supports and manages a diverse range of projects and campaigns. The charity embraces both compassion and science in setting an agenda that seeks to influence, inspire and encourage a change in public opinion away from keeping wild animals in captivity, while in the short-term working with governments, the travel industry and like-minded organisations to seek compliance with existing legislation and improving the welfare conditions. This has included the development of ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism.

Through its Compassionate Conservation agenda, Born Free provides protection for threatened species and their habitats across the globe. Working with local communities, Born Free develops humane solutions to ensure that people and wildlife can live together without conflict. In 2013, the Born Free Foundation received the World Tourism Award, for its commitment to conservation.

For more information please visit: www.bornfree.org.uk

My Favourite Bedtime Story!

Today, in honour of National Young Readers Day, innovative mattress start-up Casper are encouraging everyone to share their favourite bedtime stories… and you know me, I didn’t need much encouraging!

I did have a hard time deciding what my favourite bedtime read was, though. So many to choose from! I almost went for Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids because I loved reciting all of his nonsense poems, and still know some of them off by heart. Then I almost went for The Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t actually remember ever reading it at bedtime…

So, what was my favourite bedtime story when I was a Young Reader myself?

Adventures of the Wishing-Chair by Enid Blyton

wishingchair

Once Mollie and Peter have discovered the Wishing-Chair, their lives are full of adventure. It takes them to all sorts of magical places, from the giant’s castle where they rescue Chinky the Pixie, to the amazing party at Magician Greatheart’s castle.

 

All these years later it seems like a unpopular opinion, but I actually remember loving these books more than Blyton’s Faraway Tree series; I  certainly remember reading this one with my parents more as well. I was totally gripped by Molly and Peter’s adventures, and rather than each book having a different adventure, in this book almost each chapter did.

As much as I enjoyed The Enchanted Wood in the Faraway Tree books, Fairyland was just as magical to me, if not more.

Just seeing the cover brings back great memories. I must pick up a copy again soon, and I think you should too!

Casper – ‘Because Bedtime is the Best Time’

Casper recently launched an innovative new mattress, because not only is bedtime the best time, but everyone deserves a great night’s sleep! They are celebrating Young Readers Day by sharing everyone’s favourite bedtime stories.

The Casper Team have already shared their own on their blog, here.

For more information, check out their website, and follow on Twitter and Facebook to see what bedtime stories have been shared so far!

Or why not share your own?

Spotlight: The Goth Girl Series by Chris Riddell

Being unemployed – which I newly am – is good in the sense that I can wander around bookshops during the week as much as I wish, but bad in sense that I can’t actually justify spending any money right now. 😦

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My will power was really put to test when I saw the beautiful Goth Girl hardbacks on display in my local Waterstones this week. WANT!

The second book in the series, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death was released on September 25th, and is Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month.

How perfect are these for younger readers this Halloween!?

I mean, look how pretty…

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Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death

GG2Preparations for the Ghastly-Gorm Garden Party and bake-off are under way. Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event and, true to form, Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper, is acting suspiciously. Elsewhere at Ghastly-Gorm Ada’s wardrobe-dwelling lady’s maid Marylebone has received a marriage proposal. Ada vows to aid the course of true love and find out what Maltravers is up to, but amidst all this activity, everyone, including her father, appears to have forgotten her birthday!

About the Author

Chris Riddell was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where his father was an Anglican priest and a member of the ANC. The family moved to England in 1963, when Riddell was one year old, and he spent his childhood in a number of different locations, as his father moved between parishes. Both of Riddell’s parents continued to be active in the anti-apartheid movement.

Chris Riddell is an internationally acclaimed writer and illustrator whose many awards include the Nestlé Gold Award and two Kate Greenaway Medals—the most prestigious prize for illustration in the UK. He is the creator of more than one hundred books for all ages, including the immensely popular series the Edge Chronicles and his latest chapter book series, starring the irrepressible Ottoline Brown, which School Library Journal called “exceptional.” Chris lives in Brighton, England, with his wife and three children where he invents his amazing characters in a very tidy shed in his yard. (Goodreads)

What Are People Saying About Goth Girl?

“Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is one of the best children’s books I’ve read this year. Possibly *the* best. Aside from its truly beautiful presentation, it’s a fantastic gothic story with unusual characters, clever writing and amazing illustrations. The whole package really is a work of art.” – Wondrous Reads

Both illuminated and illuminating this is a magnum opus from the singular talent of Chris Riddell and is certain to be the jewel in the crown of every book case it adorns.”

– Droplets of Ink

“Love. Everything.” – Sarah Churchill, Goodreads

Click on the banner to read the first chapter for free!

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