BLOG TOUR: In The Shadow Of Heroes

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nick Bowling who is sharing his thoughts on some Unheroic Greek heroes. We all know I love a bit of mythology (if you didn’t know that then WHERE HAVE YOU been?!) so this post is PERFECT in my life!

Nick’s new book In The Shadow of Heroes is out now and I can’t wait. It’s been snatched up by one of the kids in my class… so I guess I need to wait my turn!

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“Fourteen-year-old Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’s slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows.

But when Tullus disappears and a taciturn slave called Tog – formerly a British princess – arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’s life is turned upside down. The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his crazed determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This madcap quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal unexpected truths about his past…”

Unheroic Greek heroes

The Greeks thought differently about what a hero was. Google the word “hero” today and you get the following result: “A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”  Most people would agree with this as a definition. But in an Ancient Greek dictionary the word heros brings up three fairly vague ideas: 1) the Greeks before Troy, all free men of the Heroic age; 2) men born from a god and a mortal; 3) inferior local deities, patrons of tribes, cities, guilds, founders of cities etc. etc.

The important difference is that the heroes of Greece usually were people who demonstrated “courage” and performed “outstanding achievements”, but “noble qualities” were often sorely lacking. Nowadays, we assume that a hero has some kind of moral rectitude, but for the Greeks and Romans there were more shades of grey. Their heroes were messy, complex, conflicted, often just plain awful people. This is what makes them interesting; it’s also what makes them function as mirrors to our own lives.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES takes this idea and asks the question: what is a hero? To get you thinking, here are five heroes you might have heard of, along with some of their less “outstanding achievements”:

  1. We’ve all heard of Hercules suffering nobly through his Twelve Labours, but less well known is the reason why he had to perform them: he killed his wife and all his children in a fit of madness. The rest of Hercules’ life is similarly chequered with random acts of extreme violence. He killed his music teacher for correcting his mistakes, he killed King Eurytus and his sons when he was denied the hand of his daughter in marriage, he killed Sileus for forcing him to tend his vineyards. All of which was, sadly, left out of the Disney motion-picture.
  2. Heroic slayer of the Minotaur, but also heroic home-wrecker. He escaped from the Labyrinth with the help of Ariadne (King Minos’ daughter), who then eloped from Crete with him. Theseus then abandoned her on the island of Naxos, and upon returning to Athens forgot to change his black sail to a white sail, which would have signalled his success in defeating the Minotaur. His father Aegeus, assuming his son was dead, threw himself into the sea.
  3. After reclaiming the Golden Fleece from Colchis with the help of Medea (the King Aeetes’ daughter – there’s a pattern developing here…), Jason settled Corinth with her as his consort. He then got embarrassed by having a girlfriend who was foreign and, admittedly, a bit weird, and promptly dumped her to marry Creusa. This, despite the fact Medea helped him win the fleece in the first place, betrayed her family and travelled halfway around the world to be with him. This pushed Medea to perform one of the all-time great acts of female vengeance (no spoilers).
  4. Perhaps better known for his bad behaviour, but it still bears repeating. Achilles had the mother of all tantrums because Agamemnon took a slave girl from him. He refused to fight and said he won’t return until Agamemnon say sorry. Hundreds of his own men died as a result.
  5. Even the most unwarlike heroes don’t get clean consciences. Daedalus was a master craftsman, inventor and architect, who built the Minotaur’s labyrinth. While you might pity him for the death of his son Icarus (of melting wings fame), you’ll probably feel less sympathetic when you hear he killed his own nephew – threw him off the top of the Acropolis – because he came up with the idea for the handsaw before Daedalus did.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES by Nicholas Bowling out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on twitter @thenickbowling

Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog tour?

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Massive thank you to Chicken House and to Nick for his blog post! What a great start to a Wednesday! 

S x

Mini reviews: MG edition

Good morning! 

How are we all?! Today I come to you with some mini reviews. I’m going to keep them short and sweet, but these are some books that I’ve read recently that I want to shout about that I’ve just not had a chance to yet!

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The Fire Maker – Guy Jones

“Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions. He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry…”

I loved this book. It’s a quick but brilliant story about Alex, a magician, who ends up stumbling across a mysterious old man and his mystifying magical flames. They spring up an unlikely friendship and Alex makes a mistake: one which has some pretty bad consequences! A brilliant tale of magic, friendship, secrets and lies. With interesting charactes and an interesting plot, this is perfect for KS2 readers! 

Good Boy – Mal Peet

Sandie has been battling it since childhood: the hulking, snarling black dog of her nightmares. For years, her precious pet dog Rabbie has kept the monster at bay, but when he is no longer there to protect her, the black dog reappears to stalk Sandie in her sleep … Illuminating the undeniable power of Mal Peet’s pared-back prose, Good Boy is an evocative examination of fear and anxiety that will leave you guessing long after its final page.

I’m not going to lie – the first chapter in this had me a LITTLE bit scared. This book is probably more suited for teens than younger readers, but there’s nothing particularly horrifying in it. It’s a complex and interesting story all about a young girl and her nightmares. It’s an interesting portrayal of what our nightmares look like and what they can do to us. It really made me think and has definitely left a lasting impression. There’s some wonderful illustrations too!

Amelia Fang and the Half Moon Holiday – Laura Ellen Anderson

It’s the half-moon holidays in gloomy Nocturnia which means no school for Amelia and her friends! Instead they are going to spend it with their Rainbow Rangers troop, (lead by unicorns Ricky and Graham) earning badges on Sugar Plum Island. But whilst exploring, Amelia and the gang stumble upon an ancient curse – and are shrunk to the size of bugs! How will they make the bloodcurdlingly BIG journey to break the curse when they are all so very TINY?

I’m a massive fan of the Amelia Fang series! You definitely need to get on this series if you’re a KS2 teacherthey’re fun and filled with great messages! Amelia Fang is such a polite character and these books are filled with humour. This latest installment of the series sees Amelia and her friends going on a camping trip as part of Rainbow Rangers (think Brownies/Rainbows/Scouts). Shout out here for Ricky and Graham – the unicorn leaders of Rainbow Rangers. These books are jam packed with illustrations that add so much to the story. I hope this series just goes on and on. 

Hotel Flamingo – Alex Milway

When young Anna inherits a dilapidated once-grand hotel from her Great Aunt Mathilde, she’s determined to restore it to its former glory. But this is no ordinary hotel – all of her staff and guests are animals! Anna soon rises to the challenge. Whether it’s a flamingo, a penguin or a hippo knocking at the door, Anna is ready to welcome them all – with the help of her trusty sidekicks T Bear the doorman, Squeak the friendly elevator mouse, and Lemmy the lemur receptionist … As she soon finds out, though, running an animal hotel is no easy task. Can Anna make Hotel Flamingo a success once more?

I’m always on the look out for slightly longer books that are perfect for Y2 readers and I can look no further than this! With beautifully illustrated pages and an interesting story, this book is perfect. Here you have a story about the importance of team work, hard work and acceptance. A story about a young girl who needs to do up the hotel she’s inherited (which is in a state of sheer disrepair) and her friends who she helps to give the hotel a new lease of life! I really loved this book. I hope there’s more to come from this author! 

And there we go! 

Let me know in the comments if you’re a fan of a mini review, or if there’s anything you’d like to know about these books. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Jane Kerr

The Great Animal Escapade: adventure filled brilliance!

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When The Elephant Thief came out in 2017, I absolutely devoured it, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour! My expectations were pretty high for this follow up book… and man was I not disappointed. Filled with adventure, mischief, mayhem and mystery, this book is just as good as it’s predecessor.

In a stark difference to the first book, Danny has left behind his life on the streets to be working and living somewhere far more comfortable. His past however is never far behind him, and he never really gets the chance to forget it! It hangs about him like a bad smell. He is now living with the Jamesons, who, despite the fact they have taken him in, never really trust himespecially when things start to go wrong! He never really feels like he fits in – not in this new life, or in his old life – and he has so many unanswered questions that it starts to play on his mind a little. Throw in the mysterious character who says he knows more of Danny’s life… and you’ve got one well and truly confused main character!

I loved Danny. I think that’s one of the biggest things about this book is that you proper fall for him and you want things to work out for him. We all love a good main character we can root for… so Danny fits that category perfectly. You want people to believe him and trust him, and you really feel for him when things start to go a little awry in his life – both in and out of the zoo! Danny’s got a brilliant heart and you can tell throughout the book that he just wants whats best for the animals – his care and attention for them is lovely to read. We see things aren’t perfect, but the animals’ one constant is Danny’s love. 

No book is complete without it’s very own villain… and there is definitely a character who lives that role perfectly. He’s a mysterious and untrustworthy character, who we don’t really know a lot about. He’s elusive and secretive and we definitely don’t know whether or not to trust him at the start. I like a character like this because it makes the guessing game all the more satisfying! Plus, they’re a little more interesting to talk about than down and out evil characters.

This book is filled with magic, mystery and intrigue and makes a brilliant read: perfect for Year 5s and 6s! I’d quite like to travel back to this time and experience what it was like… and maybe give Danny a big hug! This book delivers quite a punch with its messages, but does it in ways which are subtle and just plain great. If you’re after a book that is sure to make you want to read on, then look no further!

A massive thank you to the publishers Chicken House for sending me a review copy – it is now at school being consumed by my class! 

Check out the rest of the blog tour below: there’s some cracking posts to get your teeth into! 

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S x

 

BLOG TOUR: The Hurting

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting Lucy van Smit, author of The Hurting on my blog. I was originally asked to be part of the blog tour with a review, but then I was asked if I’d like to do a Q&A and I was thrilled. I really enjoyed The Hurting… it’s a LOT. My review is coming in the next week or so, so I won’t spoil it too much! 

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Check out my Q&A with Lucy and go out and buy the book (it’s out now!)… it’s a gripping read!

1) Where did the inspiration for The Hurting come from?
The Hurting started with the abduction of the baby originally as an exercise on my Creative Writing MA to show a character through her actions. I love literary Nordic Noir thrillers, but I don’t like violence, and stealing a baby as I’d lost a child myself, was the worst thing I could imagine. A writing friend scoffed, and told me I’d never get the story published, and that made me stubborn and I found a way into the story that was uplifting – a girl finding redemption after being led astray. I dug deep into myself and explored my Catholic childhood, and Nell calls on almost supernatural mystical powers to try and rescue Ulv Pup. Like Nell, I didn’t believed in romantic love as a girl, but fell in love at first sight with my husband. I really wanted to explore that immense emotion, and wonder what it would it take to fight such an infatuation. It’s a challenging story, and I’m lucky I have wonderful publishers. I was nervous in case adults misread the story, but I just got this terrific feedback from a school librarian

“Dear Lucy,  It’s brilliant! Really, really good – and I’m not just saying that.  I finished it last night and was genuinely sad it had come to an end.  It’s very powerful and so vivid;  some authors are good at characterisation, some at setting…you seem to excel at both.  I’m seriously impressed. I’m thrilled actually, as for me the very best YA books (and the ones that I encourage our Year 8s to read) are those which are well-written, powerful reads on often quite dark subjects but which don’t resort to gratuitous sex or violence.  Personally, I think you’ve nailed it.”

2) Did you always know that Lukas would be as sinister a character as he became?

Hm, Lukas sinister? I don’t see Lukas that way. I perceived Lukas as a very beautiful, damaged, wild, passionate boy raised by wolves, who had vowed to save his wolf pack on the Norwegian fjords. Lukas never intended to fall in love with Nell. She was his prey, but he is hugely romantic. A poetic Lorca character with a dark brooding soul, obsessed with death. Technically, it was extremely tricky to write a thriller in the first person, present tense, so I added a few Lukas scenes in his point of view, to rack up the tension and suspense and explain Lukas’s actions are driven by love to save his family.

3) What did you want a reader to take away from this story?

It’s a Sleeping Beauty fable; at the beginning of the novel, Nell says, ‘I’ve thrown away my life like toilet paper, and never noticed.’ She is woken by a kiss, but finds herself through her connection with the baby Ulv Pup who represents Nell’s innocence and pulls Nell back to her true self. I wanted a reader to notice themselves more, their own lives more and how much is wonderful in ourselves and our immediate families. 

4) Your setting is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, did you visit any exotic locations for the story?

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Wow!  Thank you so much. I am a painter and used to work in TV. I guess I am a visual writer.  I took my family on a trip to Norway and we visited the Norwegian Fjords, the famous Flam Railway and Bergen and Oslo, and the Pulpit Stone in Stavanger down south, which I ‘moved’ in my story and called Sermon Rock.  I chose Norway because I needed wolves because of Nell’s fear of dogs, but I fell in love with the fjords. It is the most beautiful county. On the trip, we stayed with farmers who had a local wolf problem, where a lone wolf was behaving out of character and killing dogs in the woods and attacking goats in front of people. Norwegians kill a lot of wolves and an alpha left isolated without a pack becomes unpredictable and aggressive. I picked up loads of lore about Norway along the way.

5. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the book, are you a plotter or do you let your plot take you by surprise when you write?

Definitely a plotter when it comes to a thriller. I use a lot of TV tricks, sets up and pay offs. I’d see an image or a clue earlier on, so when the twist comes it feels more plausible. For the more lyrical sections, where Nell tunes into her singing and her response to the landscape and her feelings for the baby, that often sprang out and surprised me.

A massive thank you to Lucy for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s always fascinating learning all about books from the author themselves!

Check out the rest of the people on the blog tour… there’s some cracking posts!

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S x

BOOK BLOG: Kiran Milwood Hargrave

The Way Past Winter: a truly magical story about the importance of kindness – to the world and each other

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“Mila and her sisters live with their brother Oskar in a small forest cabin in the snow. One night, a fur-clad stranger arrives seeking shelter for himself and his men. But by the next morning, they’ve gone – taking Oskar with them. Fearful for his safety, Mila and her sisters set out to bring Oskar back – even it means going north, crossing frozen wild-lands to find a way past an eternal winter”

(This review took me so long to write because it only said “I LOVED THIS BOOK OK?”)

I am a MASSIVE fan of Kiran’s work. Like massive. I think Girl of Ink and Stars is one of my favourite books I’ve read in the past few years. I just can’t get enough, and I’m very lucky in that my class have chosen it as our first class read for September. I can’t wait to introduce them to Kiran’s magical writing and watch them fall in love with it like I did. 

When I heard that there was going to be MORE from Kiran, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy. I was very lucky in that I got a copy from the publishers (thank you Chicken House!) and it jumped straight to the top of my TBR list (not sorry to the rest of the books on my list). I was at YALC with some friends and I definitely might’ve been a bit anti-social and ignored them to read… but when it’s a book you’ve been waiting THIS LONG for… it’s OK. 

The Way Past Winter is an incredible tale of Mila and her siblings, who live in a world of snow and cold – there’s no Spring where they live. One day, mysterious strangers appear at Mila’s door, looking for shelter. When Mila wakes up the next morning, she finds that these mysterious men are gone and have taken with them her brother, Oskar. There is much debate around Oskar’s disappearance as to whether it is because he was taken or he chose to leave – with Mila believing he wouldn’t choose to leave. Mila goes on an incredible journey to rescue her brother. Her journey takes her to places she’s never been, with people she must learn to trust.

The settings in this book are sublime. From Mila’s cabin, which she lives in with her siblings, to the mystical tree, to the frozen landscapes that Mila must travel over in order to rescue her brother. I read this book in the HEIGHT of heatwave, yet I felt like I was in the sled with Mila, travelling through these icy lands. This book is so immersive, it’s like reading and seeing in surround sound (I don’t know how to word that better, I hope you know what I mean!). I would not survive in these conditions. Not at all. 

The feeling of magic and mythology is something about Kiran’s books that I absolutely adore and this book is yet another where she does it so beautifully. There’s an incredible feel of mythology about this book that I can’t quite put into words. It sings in its lushness – in comparison to the bleakness of the land Mila lives in. 

There’s messages galore in this book that I think are dealt with so incredibly well. This is a story about believing in yourself, being kind to the world around us and trusting that others can do good. 

I couldn’t put this book down. The pace of this book is spot on. It’s not too quick, not too slow – it moves smoothly, but with a hint of haste. I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of my time reading. I needed to know what was going to happen, but I didn’t want to miss any of the little details or the incredible vocabulary. The way Kiran writes is lyrical, beautiful and magical.

I know that 10 year old me would’ve devoured these books and absolutely adored them (almost as much as 29 year old me does). Kiran’s books sit so beautifully in classroom/school libraries because they’re stories children want to read, written in a way which appeals to them. They’re magical and true escapism – we all need a good escape when we’re reading.

And yes, it did make me cry. 

My goodreads review:

Kiran continues to write worlds that are equal parts magical, foreboding and welcoming, with characters who match. I absolutely adored this book – from the mysterious Rune, to fierce and brave Mila, and stubborn and protective Sanna. I just think this book is wonderfully perfect. Kiran never fails to blow me away.

I have so much to say about this book. There are so many things I want to tell you. So much I need you to know. This book just oozes brilliance – from the characters, to the settings, to the meaning. I can’t recommend this enough for everyone. It is just magnificent. 

Have you read anything by Kiran?
Would you survive in a place that had no Spring?
DO YOU ALSO LOVE THIS COVER THOUGH?

The Way Past Winter is out on October 4th, published by Chicken House books.

It is available to preorder! You can preorder Amazon or Waterstones (it’s probably available elsewhere too!)

Follow Kiran on twitter: @Kiran_MH

S x

 

BLOG TOUR: The Secret Deep

The Secret Deep: thrilling, captivating and a little bit terrifying!

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When Aster wakes alone on a tropical island, she has no idea what has happened, why she is there, or where to find her younger sister, Poppy. Meanwhile Sam, who once met the sisters on a plane, makes links between the mystery of their disappearance and suspicious happenings in his own life. In a stunning dual narrative, the truth unravels with devastating effect – and the answer lies in the secret underwater world surrounding the desert island, populated by the beautiful and the impossible…”

My first instincts when I picked up this book were “OMG LOOK AT THAT COVER THOUGH”. That cover is exceptional. You can’t see it particularly well in my picture, but there are little details on the cover of little bubbles. I’m all about this blue theme going on in the cover. 

The title also intrigued me INSTANTLY. The Secret Deep? What’s the secret? Deep? They’re clearly going underwater, or in the water. As a keen swimmer (I bet you didn’t know that!) I was very curious to know what was going on. The tag line “The deeper she dives, the darker it gets” hooked me too cause I guessed that it didn’t just mean the absence of light… and there is so much more than just an absence of light!

The Secret Deep tells the story of Aster and her sister Poppy, who lose their mum to cancer and who have to go live with their auntie. Their auntie lives on an “ecovillage” and is some kind of scientist. Aster and Poppy are given bands (a bit like fitbits) to track their sleeping and other habits, which immediately gets Aster suspicious instantly. When something goes wrong and Aster ends up stranded on an island, without her sister, or her auntie… things start to get interesting. There’s mystery, an underwater setting, a beautiful writing style that will make you want to read on no doubt!

Once I started reading, I knew that I had hit on an absolute winner here. I was away for the weekend with my mam and one of my aunties so I had a weekend to just read and enjoy it. I sat on the balcony and just devoured this book in a matter of hours. There’s so many different themes explored in this book that I could go on for hours. This book deals with medical consent, grief, sibling relationships, friendships, trust and the complexities of families.

While we’re here on families… the auntie in this book is just… she has questionable morals for sure. She’s sinister and I would not like to be caught anywhere with herland or sea. (She gave me vibes of J from The Loneliest Girl in the Universe too!) Here we have two young girls who are meant to be being looked after by their auntie, but obviously that is not the way it turns out to be! I need you all to read it and appreciate how utterly sinister the auntie is – regardless of what she says her motives are. 

This book hit quite a personal chord with me as it explores genes, more specifically cancer genes. A someone who has been diagnosed (is that the right word?) with a cancer gene, it was compelling for me to read it in a story and see that these things are being talked about. I was taken aback at first as this was the first time that I’d read anything about gene studies in relation to cancer. 

A little shout out here to Sam, because he is an absolute darling. It’s so refreshing to read stories that have just a good character in them. Someone who doesn’t have an ulterior motive, who just wants to help and who is there when he is needed most. I really liked Sam, an interesting juxtaposition of him and the auntie (who we all know, creeped me out a little!)

There’s a gorgeous mix in this book of science, survival and sisterhood. What wouldn’t you do for the ones you love?

My goodreads review reads:

A complex and beautiful story of Aster, a young girl who loses her mother to cancer, who has to move to live with her auntie in New Zealand. What meets her there isn’t the usual life – there’s science, the sea, some tracking devices and much more. 

I really enjoyed this – an exploration of medical consent, family, grief and trust. Can you always trust your family?

Have you read The Secret Deep?
Is being stranded on a desert island your worst nightmare?
Do you reckon you would survive?

Let me know what you thought in the comments! 

THE SECRET DEEP is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
 
Connect with Lindsay on Twitter: @lindsaygalvin
 

Find out more at lindsaygalvin.com and chickenhousebooks.com  

You should 100% check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour – they are all incredible! 

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S x

BOOKBLOG: Maz Evans

Beyond The Odyssey: well worth the wait, the pain and the TEARS!

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Hello, I’m Steph and I’m a self confessed Maz Evans super fan. Her books are EXCEPTIONAL. Like… properly great. Who Let The Gods Out and Simply The Quest are some of my favourite books of recent years. I own 3 copies of STQ, for what reason? Who knows! I made all of my friends go on a massive hunt for sprayed edges STQ last year, and I am on HIGH ALERT for sprayed edges BTO this year. But anyway, we are not here to talk about my hunt for sprayed edges books… we are here to talk about Beyond The Odyssey…

Imagine the scene, I’m (impatiently) waiting for a Chicken House parcel. I’m still waiting. It’s been snowing, the postman hasn’t been for days (it’s like a post apocalyptic world) I’ve been off work with nothing to read (in reality there’s 700 books for me to read, but I want to read BTO). When I eventually go back to work, there is still no sign of the book. I start to think my postman is holding the book hostage (I feel Nyx would approve of my postman doing this)… I come in from a HORRIFIC day at work and to my sheer joy there is a parcel from the House of Chickens. IMAGINE MY DELIGHT… LOOK AT HOW CHUFFED I AM.

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I have no shame. I was so excited.

(If you haven’t read Who Let The Gods Out/Simply The Quest, then get on it. THEY ARE SO GOOD OK? My reviews are here and here)

But anyway… onto my review…

“Elliot’s life is spiralling out of control and his mum’s health is worsening. The gods are determined to embark on the quest for the third chaos stone. But Elliot has heard of a mythical potion rumoured to cure all ills … could he save his mum, even if it means sacrificing the fate of the world?”

Beyond the Odyssey (let’s call it BTO from now on in this review, because that’s FAR FEWER letters for me to have to type, and you to have to read!) follows the life of our trusty protagonist Elliot, who is naturally struggling with lots of things. He does have his trusty Greek Gods by his side, and his ever faithful best friend Virgo to help him too. The battles he faces this time are MUCH BIGGER than in the 2 previous books. This time… there’s Titans on the loose, a hunt for a potion that could heal Josie-Mum and some pretty tough characters to face too. 

BTO introduces us to Elliot’s dad, Dave, who is around the farm, but things aren’t quite right. Josie-Mum is getting worse, she doesn’t seem to trust Dave and she wants to be nowhere near him. Elliot doesn’t think anything of this, just that Josie-Mum is getting used to change. Dave tries to keep out of the way as much as he can. 

It’s going to be so hard to write this review without it being spoilery. I will aim not to be spoilery. I’ll be a good book blogger. (LOL)

So Elliot has to combat dealing with Dave, people at school meddling in his business, trying to find another Chaos Stone and finding this magical potion he has heard of. There’s SO MUCH here for Elliot to deal with. He’s an amazing young man. I have grown properly attached to him. There are moments in BTO where I was like NO ELLIOT DON’T DO THAT MAN THAT’S SO STUPID, but he does everything with one thing in his mind: get his mum better. I know that if I were Elliot, I’d want my mam to be better too

Seriously though, how I write this review without just telling you what happens is hurting my brain.

I need you to know a few things: 

Elliot is a wonderful young man.

The gods have his best interests at heart. I absolutely love seeing how much their relationships have grown. The gods make these books even more special. Especially the good ones.

There’s obviously baddies. They make for deliciously wicked reading. There’s a MASSIVE twist towards the end and I GENUINELY gasped. SO SO GOOD. Maz is a wicked queen who wants us all to feel pain.

These books are hilarious. These books are so fast paced and wonderful. There’s some absolute comedic genius lines thrown in there. I genuinely chuckle SO HARD at these books. There’s an incredible line about kebabs that made me laugh for a good 10 minutes. The balance of BREAKING YOUR HEART to PROPER LAUGHTER is perfect. There’s scenes aboard disastrous planes in this book which just are wonderful. 

I’ve learned SO MUCH about Greek mythology through these books. I genuinely find myself spouting random things about Greek mythology having read these books. You don’t realise you’re learning, but you are. 

MAz

This is just a snippet of the messages I sent to Maz while I was reading. Seriously. There’s a WHOLE TON of others, but they’re spoilery. SO MUCH HELP NEEDED. I finished BTO and was like “what have I just read? what just happened?” but in that exquisite, brilliant, book hangover kind of way. You know when you read a book that is just SO GOOD your brain doesn’t quite know how to process what happened?

My goodreads review is far fewer words, with the same message:

Can I give this book more than 5 stars? 
Gods it’s brilliant. More emotions than I can list. The exceptional humour of the past two, more twists and turns than you can count, a massive dollop of sadness, some more exceptional Greek mythology. New characters, old favourites, new places, old haunts. I just… yes. Maz is exceptional

This review so far has just been a lot of ramble. Trust me when I say it is EXCEPTIONAL. I am SO READY (but so NOT ready) for book 4. I am GENUINELY terrified about what it holds for us. I am team purple cover though (for book 4). 

Have you read any of this series yet?
Are you a fan of mythology in stories?
Are you also team purple cover?

Please come and talk to me about this book, this series, what is to come, because I need to talk about it more. I am yet to think coherent thoughts about this book. I loved it and would absolute recommend EVERYONE reads it. Leave me a comment, send me a tweet, a carrier god, whatever!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Padraig Kenny

Tin – an incredible story which explores what it really means to be “human”

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“Christopher is ‘Proper’: a real boy with a real soul, orphaned in a fire. He works for an engineer, a maker of the eccentric, loyal and totally individual mechanicals who are Christopher’s best friends. But after a devastating accident, a secret is revealed and Christopher’s world is changed for ever… What follows is a remarkable adventure, as Christopher discovers who he really is, and what it means to be human”

I had seen so much positivity surrounding this book from the people on my Twitter that I HAD to have it. So when I saw it was Waterstones Book of the Month and the incredible window display at Waterstones Newcastle, I ran in and bought a copy.

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Tin explores the story of Christopher, an orphan who lives with an engineer and his robot friends, who discovers something which changes his life forever. He isn’t the person he has believed he was. His life changes drastically. There’s an incredible adventure he goes on, with some brilliantly fun and other sinister characters. His robot friends go on a mission to save him, to remind him who he really is. He doesn’t need to be a human to be Christopher. He doesn’t need to be “proper” to be the person they really love. 

There’s an amazing portrayal of friendship in this book and that was such a wonderful thing to read. You see the robots and the “proper” characters getting on swimmingly. There’s bravery from all. You learn about Christopher’s history, how he became who he is today. The book touches beautifully on what it means to be human – the robots show incredible compassion and love towards each other and the humans. That’s what it means to be human. To show compassion, empathy and love towards people who need it. 

The world building in this book is brilliant. The vocabulary is so rich and the descriptions so inviting that you feel like you’re in the world. You feel the warmth of the house in Christopher’s memories; the coldness of the room Christopher is held in; the harshness of the city. I love when a book gives me the feeling of being immersed in the world with the characters, and this one does not disappoint. 

I loved the characters a lot. Round Rob is a particular favourite of mine. He’s just wonderfully fun. I was a little bit taken by Gripper too. He’s this big chunk of metal. What’s not to love? I particularly loved the brazen brilliance of Estelle too. She’s a “proper” (a human girl), who makes skin, and she’s just a massive ball of feisty-ness. Along with the robots, she goes in pursuit of what she knows is right. She wants to save her friend. She’s brilliant. She’s a firm favourite with the kids at school too. 

Have you read Tin?
Could you imagine learning that your whole life has been a whole lie?
What would you do if your friend was taken?

Talk to me! Send me a postcard, a tweet or a comment. 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Guy Jones

The Ice Garden: a beautiful story of freedom and belonging

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Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she’s longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn’t alone in this fragile, in-between place…”

The Ice Garden tells the story of Jess who is allergic to the sun. She has no friends, everyone thinks she’s a bit weird as she has to protect herself from the sun – covering herself fully, wearing protective hats, staying indoors during the day. The only people she gets to talk to are the doctors at the hospital, her mum and her neighbours. Night time is her only solace, away from the burning sunshine.

Her story starts to unravel one night when she decides to go for a walk, unbeknownst to her mum, and she discovers a magical, wonder-filled Ice Garden. In this ice garden she can’t be harmed, there’s no sunlight, she’s safe (or at least she thinks she is). Whilst she’s in this new, harmless land she meets a young boy. She finally has a friend, someone to talk to, someone to play with in her newly discovered land, but as their friendship develops, things start to go awry. Jess is given a priceless gift, and must make a choice: one which could have disastrous consequences

I really enjoyed this story. Jess’ story was a really intriguing one. She is a girl constantly battling with belonging and solitude. She has this exceptionally tough choice to make. She needs to choose something for the good of others, or for herself. She’s a brave young girl, constantly looking out for others – she doesn’t want others to have to suffer the way she does. There’s a thread throughout the book of Jess, who writes stories to entertain herself through her loneliness, reading her stories to another young man who is poorly in the hospital. This ends up being an important part and I loved that. It showed Jess the power her stories have and the solace they provide for her, and others. 

I can’t wait to take this to school as I think the children will love this as much as I did. The writing is brilliant, there’s some gorgeous descriptions and plenty of things to think about throughout. Would you leave your house in the night time? Would you make the same decision Jess did? Are you the kind of person who would risk everything to better yourself? 

Thank you so much to the publishers, Chicken House, for sending me a copy! I’ll be passing it onto my kids! 

Would you like to visit an ice garden?
How would you feel if you met a boy made of ice?
How would you cope if you had Jess’ condition?

Talk to me on twitter. Comment on this post. Send me a postcard. Send me a pigeon. I’d love to talk! 

S x

 

BOOKBLOG: Emma Carroll

Sky Chasers: an incredibly fun adventure with a chunk of Science and History thrown in!

dssbxltw0aacwna(I took Sky Chasers with me on a VERY chilly day in the park. I feel Magpie and Pierre would approve)

“An encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France.”

Sky Chasers opens with the most incredible, pacey 2 chapters that I couldn’t wait to read on. In the first 2 chapters you are introduced to the brilliant Magpie, a young woman who is stealing to keep herself and her pet cockrel alive. She’s asked to steal a box from a very fancy house. There’s a mysterious woman who hires her to steal this box. Unfortunately for Magpie, she doesn’t manage to steal the thing that she’s been hired for, and the mysterious woman is not happy. She threatens Magpie. She says she will keep an eye on Magpie. And man, from that I WAS HOOKED.

This amazing book tells the story of the Montgolfier family and their race to beat the British to be the first to achieve flight. You meet the young Pierre and his father at the beginning of the book, innocently attempting to fly something and Magpie (our brilliant, charismatic thief) stumbles upon them and has to save the day. What ensues is a brilliant mix of friendship, kindness, science and a some special guests from history!

Through reading this you’ll have these questions answered:

  • How does Marie Antoinette end up with a lamb?
  • Why are there so many poultry in this book?
  • Why is Pierre’s uncle so mean?
  • What do ladies underwear and fire have to do with hot air balloons?
  • Why are there English spies in France?
  • How can Magpie be an incredible role model for young girls now?

Emma Carroll is a relatively new author to me (I know, I have no idea HOW either!) but I absolutely fell in love with Letters from the Lighthouse (based in WW2: review here) so when I found out she was writing another book, I had to get my hands on it. Now I need all of the Emma Carroll books as I’m totally gripped.

There’s an incredible sense of BEING in the book with the characters. I felt like I was in France with Magpie. It’s amazing when you feel like you’re in a story, or when you want to be friends with the characters in the story. I definitely wanted to be Magpie’s friend. She’s one of those excellent little gems you find in stories.

This book is just great. The kids at school are really loving it. There’s already a very long list of Year 5s and 6s who want to read this… so here’s hoping! I might have to get another copy of it for them to share! It’d be a great book to link in some history of 18th Century France, or some Science linked to Forces, but I mean. READ IT BECAUSE IT’S BRILLIANT… 

I must take a moment here to appreciate the incredible cover, designed by one of my favourite illustrators David Litchfield (of The Bear and the Piano fame!). I think it encapsulates the book so brilliantly. It is definitely one I would pick up! It has total shelf appeal! There’s also some incredible pages throughout the book with the “One for sorrow, two for joy” magpie poem which I thought was a brilliant addition. 

The idea for Sky Chasers came from an original idea by Neal Jackson (winner of The Big Idea Competition) based on the true story of the first hot air balloon flight over Paris!

Thank you so much to the incredible people over at Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book. You guys are brilliant!

If you could go back to any period of time in history, when would it be?
Do you have a favourite book based in history to recommend to me?
Have you read Sky Chasers? Do you love Magpie as much as I do?

Let me know in the comments, or on twitter! I would love to talk about this amazing book with you!

S x