Friday Feature: World Book Day

For this week’s Friday Feature I’m putting the spotlight on the fast approaching World Book Day (6th March).

What’s it all about?

World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly), reading. It’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

WBD is approaching its 17th year and on 6th March 2014 children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. Registered schools are sent packs of Book Tokens and World Book Day Resource Packs full of ideas and activities, display material and information about how to get involved.

Every child in full-time education in the UK and Ireland can receive a book token. Last year over 1.2 million World Book Day book tokens were redeemed: this year they are hoping for more!

£1 Books

Every year, WBD present a selection of short books & novellas, available to all for just £1. This year there are two YA books available:

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Rock War: The Audition by Robert Muchamore

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

A dramatic addition to Robert Muchamore’s new series, Rock War, this introduces new characters, a never-before-seen band, and a behind-the-scenes look at the Rock War auditions. This is a perfect way in to the series, and a must for Rock War fans.

Two kids, one band, one crucial audition. But will they risk their friendship for the sake of musical stardom?

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The Boy in the Smoke by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: Hot Key Books

On a cold night, Stephen Dene went to the Eton boathouse to perform a desperate act. But someone stopped him along the way, sending his life in a new and decidedly strange direction–leading him to London, to two new friends, and to a world of shadows and mystery.

From New York Times bestselling author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Key to the Golden Firebird and The Name of the Star, The Boy in the Smoke is a thrilling prequel to The Shades of London series.

All details taken from the website, where you can find more info: (and lots of other great stuff btw): World Book Day

The Hunter, The Bear and The Seventh Sister by B.I Woolet

hunterWhen a beautiful and powerful stranger throws Jackson into the world of Arcas, his predictable midwestern life instantly vanishes into an all-consuming adventure.

The last kingdoms of Arcas possess enduring youth, beauty, and wealth but have slowly crumbled under the weight of endless apathy and a painful past.

The rising evil of Gurges Ater now threatens to reopen the ancient kingdom pillars created long ago as passageways between Earth and Arcas. With access to both worlds, Gurges Ater will quickly conquer the weak kingdoms and establish his own throne.

Can Jackson along with a paranoid bear, a lone hunter, and the surviving seventh sister work together to protect both Earth and Arcas?

Or will the unlikely heroes allow their own fears, pain, and past to paralyze them as Gurges Ater opens the pillars and claims the throne?

Leave your own world behind, dive through the shimmering portal, and join Jackson to discover the beauty, danger, and adventure awaiting you in the World of Arcas!

The Hunter, The Bear and The Seventh Sister is like an amalgamation of all my favourite childhood reads.

The way Jackson is transported into the World of Arcas with its three suns and rich history, and put on a quest to save both Arcas and Earth from the evil of Gurges Ater reminded me of both The Neverending Story and Narnia.

Then, throughout his quest, Jackson meets is a plethora of witty, magical and down-right bizarre characters like Otava, the paranoid yet loveable talking bear, the Hunter who guides him, centaurs, winged beasts, Unicorns (yay!) and not forgetting Cygnus, the angel-like being who put Jackson on his quest in the first place – all 100% reminiscent of Narnia with some splashes of The Book of Lost Things, and Alice in Wonderland in there too. Some of these characters help Jackson along the way, and some are sent to stop him.

I absolutely loved that this book was so action-packed from the beginning, the very first chapter showcases the scale of imagination that has gone into the story and it just gets better and better. I did get a bit lost from time to time, as they were between Pillars, but the writing, and inventive landscapes bought my attention back quickly.

I especially fell in love when Jackson & co reached the castle:

The castle looked as if it were under siege by the jungle around it. Moss crawled up the stone walls; vines twirled around the towering conical spirals. Untrimmed multi-coloured roses sprang wildly from the outer garden […] the inside of the castle displayed a complete contrast to the bright colours, encompassing greens, and lively disorder of the jungle outside. The world became a mirror: floor tiles, walls hangings, and chandeliers; nearly every part of the inner palace reflected back on itself”

MAGICAL!

It is here we also meet Queen Cassiopeia, with her “rainbow-colored hair…intricately woven around the diamond crown, not a strand out of place.” and “clusters of tiny, shiny ornaments sparkled off her bare arms and the sides of her eyes like stars”. Seriously guys, the descriptions really blew me away.

The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister is an epic journey, and one I couldn’t put down. I wanted to rush through it to find out if Jackson completed his quest, and if he found his way back to earth (no spoilers here, do not fret), but I do think at times there was too much going on, and I felt like the plot lost its focus slightly in parts. But that being said, this is such an enjoyable read, and one I can imagine being much loved by children and families in the same way that I still love the Narnia books.

Roll on the next book, I say!

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Disclosure: I received a copy from the Author/Publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister
Author: B.I Woolet
Details: E-Book, Paperback
Publication Date: January 28th 2014, by ArcasArts
My Rating: 4/5

The Perfect Picture Book This Christmas?

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It’s Christmas and two tree decorations – cardboard prince Rudolph and clothes peg fairy Rosalind – are discarded for being too shabby. Christmas Eve magic brings the toys in the cupboard to life, and when they discover their two friends are not on the tree, they search for them. However, while they are away, a Fouly – the exact opposite of a Christmas Fairy – sneaks in and hides. Unaware of the evil creature’s presence, the toys return with Rudolph and Rosalind, who have also been transformed, and they all help prepare a festive feast. During this the Fouly steals Rosalind’s wand and uses it to kidnap Father Christmas… Rudolph and Rosalind go to rescue him, but they must first seek out Santa Lucia for the one thing Foulies hate the most: the Lucia Light.

Their mission takes them to the Fouly Castle, but they are captured and confronted by Malicia the Fouly Queen. Using the Light, they defeat Malicia, free Father Christmas and return home. But the Fouly follows, seeking revenge, and – backed by a fierce Holly Army – the battle for Christmas begins… Will the Fouly be defeated? Will Rudolph and Rosalind be thrown away, or will the gratitude of Father Christmas help them regain their places at the top of the tree?

The Prince, The Fairy and The Fouly is a charming adventure story which combines all the elements of a traditional Christmas tale with a variety of characters and situations that highlight the battle between good and evil.

Resplendent with beautiful black and white illustrations, it’s the perfect bedtime story for children aged 7+ in the run-up to Christmas, and an ideal stocking filler. Its large format and presentation make the book ideal for emergent readers.

I read this when I was ill in bed yesterday and it cheered me up immensely. I’m not sure that lengthy synopsis is really necessary though!

The story centers around two discarded Christmas decorations and their friends who come alive each Christmas Eve and host a party for Father Christmas. However, there are evil Foulies lurking and one of them is so jealous of the fun they are all having, he kidnaps Father Christmas, putting Christmas in Jeopardy for everyone.

This is a traditional story that I can easily picture families reading together at Christmastime. It has just enough danger and action to be interesting and just enough magic to be beautiful. But the main star here is definitely the illustrations. The illustrator has done a beautiful job and the cover really doesn’t do it justice. The Christmas pictures are dazzling and the Foulies are truly sinister with their spidery limbs and hairy coats.

I loved the monster’s ball and the resolution to the story, Fitzsimmons manages to cram in a lot of detail in very few words. I only really had one gripe – the cardboard Prince’s name, Rudolph – I felt might be a bit confusing for children especially when Rudolph takes Father Christmas’ reindeer to go and save him…or is it just me?

Anywayyyyy, if I had a 6-8 year old child in the family, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying this for them this Christmas, it would make a lovely present.

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Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the Publisher/Author in exchange for an HONEST review. Many Thanks!
Title: The Prince, The Fairy and The Fouly
Author: Jim Fitzsimmons
Details: E-book
Publication Date: November 4th 2013 by Troubador Publishing Ltd.
My Rating: 4/5
If you liked this try: Christmas Tales by Enid Blyton

Favourites Friday #18 :The Magician’s Nephew by C. S Lewis

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S Lewis so what better day to do a Narnia FF post. I’ve loved the Narnia books ever since I saw the BBC’s adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (yes I saw it before I read the books cut me some slack, I was like 8!) and immediately begged for the books.

As much as I love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, it’s always between The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy for my ultimate favourite.

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to go for The Magician’s Nephew simply because you get to see the creation of Narnia itself.

The Magician’s Nephew was actually the 6th book in the series that Lewis wrote but was a prequel to the rest. In modern editions, the books are sequenced according to Narnian History and so The Magician’s Nephew is usually listed as book one.

narnia I’ll always remember the first time I read this; I was amazed by the Wood Between Worlds. It’s quite a bit darker than some of the other books (Uncle Andrew is proper sinister), and the idea of being able to visit different worlds – some nicer than others – by going through the different puddles is pretty awesome. Also, watch out for “Queen” Jadis. You aint no Queen of Narnia!

Synopsis:
When Digory and Polly are tricked by Digory’s peculiar Uncle Andrew into becoming part of an experiment, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime. What happens to the children when they touch Uncle Andrew’s magic rings is far beyond anything even the old magician could have imagined.
Hurtled into the Wood between the Worlds, the children soon find that they can enter many worlds through the mysterious pools there. In one world they encounter the evil Queen Jadis, who wreaks havoc in the streets of London when she is accidentally brought back with them. When they finally manage to pull her out of London, unintentionally taking along Uncle Andrew and a coachman with his horse, they find themselves in what will come to be known as the land of Narnia.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Was *Forced* to Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (Click the image to visit them). This week the theme is Top Ten books you were ‘forced’ to read, whether it’s required reading or books that friends or family have encouraged you to read.

I was never big on required reading, and would usually just pretend that I’d read the books I was supposed to at school. Such a rebel, yeah. But I did read some of the ones I was supposed to, and here are my favourites. Followed by the books I read, or was read to as a child…no forcing necessary there; they are all awesome!

Top 5 Books I had to read to for school

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  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: I would love to read this again. It was very affecting.
  • Hamlet: Probably my favourite Shakespeare play.  I can still remember the first time I was introduced to Ophelia!
  • Of Mice and Men: I haven’t read this for years. So heartbreaking!
  • The Bloody Chamber: I’m not sure if I had to read this for college or Uni, but either way I’m glad I did.
  • Enduring Love: This was one of the stand-out books I read for my Eng Lit class in college.

Top 5 Books from Childhood

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  • The Twits: This is the most memorable Dahl book for me. I still love it.
  • Naughty Amelia Jane: I read A LOT of Enid Blyton when I was little. This series was my fave though, closely followed by The Faraway Tree books.
  • Silly Verse for Kids: I did a Favourites Friday post on this here. Love love love. RIP Spike Milligan
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: I actually saw the BBC adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before I read these books. Words cannot express how much I love this series. In all its forms.
  • Green Eggs and Ham: I can remember loving this book so much, and thinking how gross green eggs sounded! I would love to read this again.

Horror October: Spotlight & Review – Darren Shan

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It’s pretty hard being a Darren Shan fan. His career may have been shorter by some years, but he gives Stephen King a run for his money in the amount of books he churns out. ‘Master of Horror,’ Shan has released over 30 books since 2002 (from 2 – 6 books a year). Woah.

I first noticed Shan in the midst of his break-out vampire series for children, The Saga of Darren Shan. Being a huge fan of the Vampire genre and studying Children’s Literature at the time led me to check it out, and I realised then that Shan had actually gone to same university as me which gave me hope for my own chances of making it as a writer. (Still working on that one!)

Even though The Saga of Darren Shan was clearly aimed at 12 year old boys, I really enjoyed it. He’s not afraid to use violence and gore and most of all they were a new, fun take on the Vampire myth.

But I didn’t completely fall in love until I read Procession of the Dead, Shan first book -and the first in the City Trilogy – aimed at adults.

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Procession of the Dead is a dark and twisted, gritty urban fantasy and one of my favourite books of all time. (Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the other two quite as much – still worth a read though!)

Young, quick-witted, and cocksure, Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark in a world of sweet, sinister sin. He finds the City is a place of exotic dangers: a legendary assassin with snakes tattooed on his face who moves like smoke, blind Incan priests whom no one seems to see, a kingpin who plays with puppets, and friends who mysteriously disappear as though they never existed. Then Capac crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever.
The Cardinal is the City, and the City is The Cardinal. They are joined at the soul. Nothing moves on the streets, or below them, without The Cardinal’s knowledge. His rule is absolute.
When Capac discovers how deeply The Cardinal has influenced his life, he is faced with hard choices that conflict with his soaring ambition. To find his way, Capac must know himself and what he is capable of. But how can you trust yourself when you can’t remember your past?

Since then, Shan has released one other adult book, Lady of the Shades (which I loved) but has mainly returned to his Kids’ series.

His latest offering is the 12 book series Zom-B, about a Zombie outbreak in Ireland where B Smith is learning to deal with a racist dad as well as a whole lot of zombies. The fifth installment, Zom-B Baby has just been released, only a year after the first book was.

I’ve just finished Zom-B Underground (Zom-B #2). Can’t keep up, yeah.

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Waking up in a military complex, months after zombies attacked school, B has no memory of the last few months. Life in the UK has turned tough since the outbreak, and B is woven into life- and battle- in the new military regime quickly. But as B learns more about the zombies held in the complex and the scientists keeping them captive, unease settles in. Why exactly was B saved? And is there anyone left in the world to trust?

I’m sure I would have loved these books if I’d read them when I was 13, as opposed to 30 (almost- ahhhh!) but they just don’t have enough substance to them to keep me wanting more these days. I liked the end of Zom-B #1 as it had a pretty good twist which is why I picked this one up too, but I don’t think I’ll be carrying on with the series.

There are definitely things to like here such as good action/violence which I’m sure will be a hit with younger audiences, and the turmoil B faces in trying to peel away the racist traits that have seeped into her from her father. But they are just too short. I feel like this whole series of 12 books should actually just be a trilogy or something, instead of these little snippets of stories.

So I think I’ll leave these to the kids and wait patiently for another adult offering from Darren Shan, Master of Horror.

Stalk Darren:
Website
Twitter

ARC Giveaway: The Screaming Staircase (Children’s/YA Supernatural)

The Amazing World Book Day have another great YA giveaway this month. Get Involved Here.

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FIVE advance copies of Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase to be won!

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

‘You’ll want to leave the lights on . . . Stroud is a genius’ Rick Riordan

Closes at midnight on Friday 13th September 2013

An Explosion, a Dwarf and a Missing Person: The Black Dragon (The Mysterium #1) by Julian Sedgwick

Click to view on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon

East meets West; past meets present; criminal minds meet skilled artists – welcome to the Mysterium, a circus with dark and thrilling secrets at its heart.

Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny’s school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background.

But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her – which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

I felt the same way about The Black Dragon on the whole as I felt about its protagonist, Danny. I liked him enough, and thought he was funny enough, but he just didn’t give me enough to keep me interested. I felt like his past was more interesting than his present which probably isn’t a good thing.

Danny grew up in a travelling Circus, The Mysterium, where his Dad was an escapologist and his mum a high wire acrobat. Prior to the events in The Black Dragon Danny’s dad dies in an under-water trick that he’d performed hundred times over, and shortly after their trailer is set on fire and his mum is killed too.

Under the care of his aunt Laura, Danny is just settling into a more traditional life and trying to get through the boredom of high school when an explosion goes off and Laura whisks him away to Hong Kong.

It’s not long before Laura is kidnapped leaving Danny and Zamora, an Italian Dwarf – a friend from The Mysterium days – to find Laura and find out how all of these things are connected.

As fun as this was, the whole way through I just wanted it to be about The Mysterium and didn’t really care about finding Laura. By the looks of it, the next book in the series might do just that, so I’ll definitely check it out when the time comes.

I enjoyed the characters here, especially Zamora, and the fast pace of the adventure was welcome but it didn’t have enough strings to its bow to really hook me. I do feel like this could improve in later books though.

Disclosure: I received a copy from Hodder Children’s Books via World Book Day
Details: Paperback, 340 pages, Published 2013 by Hodder Children’s Books
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Although I will check out the next book I’ve already added this to My Swapping List.
If you liked this try: Charlie’s Monsters by Dean Lorey. Similar in style…swap magic for monsters and viola!