BOOK BLOG: Louie Stowell

The Monster In The Lake: mermaids, magic and handsome librarians… what more could I need?

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“Kit is a wizard. The youngest wizard in the world, in fact. But her magic keeps going wrong, and all kinds of weird stuff has started happening – exploding fireballs, animals talking when they shouldn’t be, and a very strange new arrival in a nearby park. So Kit and her two best friends – along with their local librarian – set off to investigate, and to save the world… again.”

Having read Louie Stowell’s first book ‘The Dragon in the Library‘ I knew I needed to read this as soon as I spotted it in Waterstones. I won’t lie, I got SO excited when I saw it on the trolley that I had to pick it up and then I excitedly went over to talk to the booksellers about how glad I was they had copies in! 

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Monster (we’ll call it this for ease!) follows the story of Kit, a young magician who is still learning all about her magic, and the adventures she gets up to when she has to help when magic starts to go awry. It all starts when her practising of magic goes completely wrong (but others write this off as her being new to the whole thing, but she knows) and then animals start to talk. With the help of her friends, her mentor and a rather dashing mobile library magician, Kit helps to save the day! 

Just like Dragon, I thought this was such a brilliantly fun book. The plot is brilliant. Which kid doesn’t want to learn about mean mermaids, a monster who is in the wrong lake and a bunch of children who all have their own talents? This books is jam packed with some of the best characters around. Kit and her friends are a great mix. Plus, there’s a dragon that they have to keep asleep by going down to read tales to. And a magical library. 

Everything about this book appealed to me. 

Add all of these wonderful story telling things to a book which is SO BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by Davide Ortu and you’ve got a book that is as visually appealing as it is with its words. The illustrations add so much to the book that I often find myself just looking at them to learn more! 

This book is jam packed with nods to the importance of books and stories too… I mean what’s not to love?! 

This is going to be a perfect read for Year 3s. It’s got the perfect mix of illustration, plot and message to grip them! Plus its part of a series… who doesn’t love a series? (I know I can’t wait for the next book in the series… bring on September!) 

My Goodreads review:

I really enjoyed this! A lot of fun, magic and bookish references. What would you do if your magic was going awry and you were needed to save the day? I love Kit and her bunch of friends – they’re such great people. And I’m a big fan of Duncan!

S x 

p.s. Just here to say I think Duncan is wonderful *heart eyes*

 

BOOK BLOG: Hannah Capin

Foul is Fair: Menacing, reckless and delicious

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“Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target. They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.”

When I first heard about this book, I knew I needed to read it. I didn’t know much about it, but the WHOLE premise of it just spoke to me. It sounded like something I would ADORE and man, did I. I have SO MUCH LOVE for this book. It is DELICIOUSLY EVIL. It’s clever. It’s a little bit evil. It’s brilliantly written.

Foul Is Fair tells the story of Elle, a young girl who is sexually assaulted at a party. She’s fearless, smart, cunning and surrounded by a group of friends who will go to the end of the earth for her. This is a dangerous combination for Elle, as she’s out to get revenge. Revenge is the name of her game. She moves schools to be near to the boys who assaulted her and one by one she picks them off. There’s all kinds of dastardly deeds that go on with Elle and her group of friends. 

When I read this book, I didn’t realise (and I don’t know how I didn’t know) that there would be SUCH strong Lady Macbeth/Macbeth vibes, but my god. It made me love this book even more than I did in the first place. Any time anyone asks me about this book I say the same thing

“Imagine Lady Macbeth was a teenage girl who has been sexually assaulted and is out for blood” 

And I think that is SO BLOODY ACCURATE for this book. 

I think Lady Macbeth is one hell of a woman. She’s power-hungry, reckless, dangerous. Add this to a teenage girl who is out for blood and revenge for something that happened to her and you get Elle. 

Elle joins the school that the boys all attend and changes her identity so they don’t know who she really is. She cuts her hair, changes her name to Jade and infiltrates (pretty swiftly) the “popular” gang pretty quickly. Not everyone trusts her. She ends up in the innermost circle of the popular gang pretty quickly and that’s when things start going wrong: when things start happening to the boys. Of course, things aren’t plain sailing for Jade/Elle. She falls for one of the boys in the group. She falls for him hard. She thinks he’s an innocent in the whole thing, so thinks she can trust him. But is he as innocent as he seems in the whole situation?

With her coven at her side, she will stop at nothing to get vengeance for the thing that happened to her. Her friends come up with very clever plans to get to the boys. To get under their skin. To spook them. To hurt them. To make them doubt themselves. 

There are SO MANY parallels between this book and Macbeth. Anyone who is a Macbeth fan will love this (it’s my favourite play). I can’t sing enough of its praise to be able to tell you how menacing and revenge filled this is! 

My Goodreads review:

This book gives me mega strong Lady Macbeth vibes and I am HERE FOR IT. You can’t beat a murderous, rampaging coven of teenage girls seeking revenge. This is on the edge of reckless and menacingly clever. I am here for it.

And there you go! Massive thank you to the publishers, Penguin, for sending me a review copy… I have since made 3 people buy it to read it! If you’ve read this, please talk to me in the comments. I need more people who love it! 

Can you recommend me any Macbeth retellings?
Have you read Fair is Foul?
Do you have a favourite Shakespeare?

S x

BOOK BLOG: Jason Reynolds

Sunny: a brilliant story to add to a brilliant series! 

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Anyone who’s been here before (or follows me on Twitter) will know that I am a MASSIVE fan of the Run series by Jason Reynolds. I have read both Ghost and Patina (spoiler: I loved them both), so when I saw that it was time for Sunny to be out, I needed to get my hands on it. 

This series follows a bunch of 4 runners who are part of the same running team. They’re 4 diverse characters who are dealing with a whole host of different things in their lives and they have running as some kind of escape from their lives.

These books are wonderful books for Year 5s/Year 6s to read when they want something a bit more meaty to deal with. There’s some mature themes dealt with in them, but they’re done brilliantly. 

Anyway, let’s get on with talking about Sunny!

“When Sunny stops running in the middle of a race, Coach asks him what he wants to do instead. His answer is dance, but you can’t be on a track team and dance… can you? With his dad’s expectations weighing down on him, Sunny finally finds a track event that feels like dancing. But as he practices for this new event, can he let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside?”

I started reading this book and was instantly met with this wonderful, bright, weird (self-confessed) young man who saw colour and sound in everything in the world. There’s a sound to match everything in Sunny’s world: the way he dances, how people walk, how he runs. He’s writing in his diary because that’s what he does to make the noises stop slightly. His world gets a bit too noisy, and he gets a bit too angry, so he writes in a diary to make these things seem less intimidating. 

You meet this young man who is going through it all. He’s learning about himself and that the image his dad has of him isn’t the image he has of himself. He’s not a runner anymore. He’s tired of running. It doesn’t challenge him. He knows he can run and win. So he just stops. Mid race. He loves dancing. It makes sense to him. It makes him happy. He’s scared to share this with the people around him because it’s not what is expected of him, but when he does share it with Coach, Coach does (of course) use it to show Sunny that there is something he can do that isn’t running: discus throwing. As Coach says “it’s basically dancing”. 

What you get in this story is an exploration of finding out how to be good at something that you’re not naturally good at. How you can blame yourself for something that isn’t your fault. How family will always be family. How grief can appear in adults. How guilt can drive motives. How there’s always light in the world. How hope can be the thing that keeps us moving. 

Sunny is a wonderful main character. He’s so full of pizzazz (is that how you spell that word?!) and he’s so unique. I loved that he was different. He thinks in his own way and reading his diaries was refreshing. It was so lovely to hear his story through his thoughts, through his eyes. His relationship with his dad starts as cold and distant, but as the two grow to learn about each other (with the help of Gramps and Aurelia, who I loved) this begins to change. The last page gave me such feels. There’s some gorgeous moments of gentleness in this story that really punched me in the guts. I think the contrast between his relationship with Coach (who I have adored for 3 books now and I want him to have his own book) and his relationship with dad was interesting. Dad’s arc was gorgeous to read though. Reading adult grieving processes in stories always hits me where it hurts. 

I loved that this book explored the importance of Sunny making decisions for himself, not just proceeding with the decisions made by his parents for him. He does things because he’s trying to fill a hole that he thinks he made. He runs because he’s trying to fill a hole in his dad’s life, where his mum should be. When he gets to the point where he realises that’s not who he is, he makes a decision and just stops. Dead in the middle of a race. He’s tired. He’s tired of being what others think. 

This is a story full of warmth, love, respect and sadness, but also JAM PACKED with hope. Hope that you can be whoever you want to be. Hope that you can do what makes you happy. Hope that even the hardest of times have an ending. Hope that the people around you will support you, even if you don’t think they will.

I can’t wait for the fourth book in this series to come out (later this year I think), but at the same time, I’m not ready for it to be over. I hope Jason Reynolds writes books for many years to come. And I hope Knights Of keep giving me amazing books to read too! 

My Goodreads review:

I love this series so much and getting to know these kids makes me so happy. This deals so gently with grief and how adults deal with it in the background, and in the foreground you’ve got brilliant Sunny who is weird and wonderful and great. He’s a runner, a dancer, a worrier. He’s surrounded by these amazing people and I’m so glad.

Have you read any of the Run series?
Are you following the escapades of Knights Of?
Can you recommend me any books like this?

If you’re not following Knights Of on twitter, please go do that. They are making waves and I just think they’re doing such an amazing job. 

S x

BOOK BLOG: L.D.Lapinski

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency: the start of a complete adventure that I can’t wait to go along on!

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“At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside…
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time before it collapses into nothingness — and takes our world with it.”

Now, we all know I love a good fantasy book over here at A Little But A Lot, and it’s SO INCREDIBLY REFRESHING to read a fantasy book that I haven’t come across before. To read a bunch of characters, a plot and a world (or group of worlds) that I’ve not come across is just gorgeous. You can’t beat that feeling of stepping into a new world and just falling head over hells for it. With The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, I found that. I found a book that I needed to devour. I read it greedily. I needed to know what was coming next. I wanted to know what was going on. I had a million questions and I needed the answers. There were characters who I needed to know more about. I wanted their back stories. 

The premise of this book, this series of books I SHOULD say (we all know I love a series too so that was music to my ears) is that there are magical people in the world who have the powers to visit other worlds through magical suitcases. Young Flick (our MC) is a girl who discovers she is able to do this, but it comes at a price: saving the world. Imagine that… being able to open one of these magical suitcases and jumping in (following the rules of course) and then being in a new and wonderful world. I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to do that to be honest, but I absolutely love the idea. Something that I love about this book is that it made the ordinary extraordinary. Nothing was quite what it seemed. There was always a bit of a spark of magic with everything. There was that twinkle in the eye.

The world building in this book is top notch. From Flick and Jonathon’s very real world, to the many and varied worlds they jump into, there’s something for everyone. I loved that as I went through, it was a very immersively written book. You are there. As you read, it’s like reading a film. You see it so clearly and you can’t help but feel like you’re there. Regardless of where you are, who you’re with, you’re there in the book in the amazing array of worlds that Lapinski has written. Each of the unique worlds are crafted so beautifully that you could quite happily stay there to discover the magic and the wonder in these places. You leave with more questions than you started with and I think that’s the majesty of this book. You should have more questions. You should want more from these worlds. That’s what makes you want to read more. I can’t wait to see where we get to explore in the coming books.

Along with the incredible worlds that I really adored, you have characters who show the determination, braveness and humour that the best people have. You meet Flick: brave, bold, brazen. She finds out she’s got to help save a city from certain destruction, but not just the city, but the world. She’s hesitant at first (who’d blame her?) but allows her curiosity to bubble under the surface. She wants to seem cool, but we all know that deep down she can’t wait to get her feet wet and start adventuring. She’s a brilliantly loveable character. Alongside Flick, we have the ever sassy and much needed Jonathon. He’s got a very quick wit; there’s a lot of snark. He seems to be uncaring, but deep down he very much takes his job seriously. He’s desperate to do something about finding what was lost. He needs help, but he’s a bit proud. He definitely shone to me as a character that you don’t read much in MG books and I think he is a WELCOME addition to the world of MG. Both of these characters are the kind that grip onto you and you can’t quite get rid of in the very best ways. You become invested in them and what is happening to them, so you HAVE to read on to know they’re OK. 

Something which makes this book even more wonderful in my opinion is its exploration of themes which are very real to us all: friendship, identity, family, loss and love in all its guises. Books for kids are more so dealing with bigger and bigger issues and I welcome it with open arms. This book doesn’t shy from dealing with these issues and they’re done in a brilliant way. You very much have an incredible adventure book here that weaves these subplots into the story so you experience them with the characters. I loved the friendship between Jonathon and Flick. It’s unconventional, but it works. They balance each other so beautifully. They’re what the other needs, without accepting that as a thing. I can’t wait to watch their friendship blossom in the rest of the series. There’s nods to gender identity that I think are really bloody important. It’s not a big thing, but it’s there. It’s done so seamlessly and beautifully that it’s just part of the book.

Reading Strangeworlds made me laugh, cry and delighted me. It’s a hug in a book that’s just taken you on a bit of an adventure. It’s danger and then a cup of tea and a biscuit offered when you get back. It’s a glorious mix of is an hope, adventure, exploration, love, humour, excitement, and because every good book needs it, a bit of peril. You never feel like you’re not safe though. This book is a complete hit in my reading life and I can’t wait to see how everything is explored and developed in the coming books. I finished book 1 with SO MANY QUESTIONS, so bring on book 2!

My Goodreads review:

A complete and utter ride. Just everything I needed in a book: magic, friendship, laughter, snark and adventure. I think this is gonna be something huge. Bloody loved every second. There’s something for everyone here and I can’t wait for the world to read it. The characters are amazing; the worlds are just exceptional and the writing is lush. I want to be part of this world!

Because I loved this book so much, I created this mood board that isn’t really spoiler-y at all, but was a collection of pictures that I saw and definitely made me think of this incredible book!

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Phew. What a mammoth review that was. But I need you guys to know that this book is magical and brilliant and wonderful. Out in April, I implore you all to preorder it now!

Would you jump through a suitcase if it took you somewhere new?
What would you hope to see/find there?
HAVE YOU PREORDERED THIS ALREADY PLEASE?

A massive thank you to my friend for letting me read her proof copy of this book! It was much needed for my little brain! And thank you to YOU for reading my blog!

S x