BOOK BLOG: Sarah Roberts

Somebody Swallowed Stanley: a beautiful story to teach children about the importance of looking after our oceans!

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“Say hello to Stanley! He’s swimming around in the sea, but he’s no ordinary jellyfish. Most jellyfish have dangly-gangly tentacles, but Stanley has two handles. Other jellyfish have a magical pearly glow, but Stanley has colourful stripes. Lots of hungry fish in the sea are looking for lunch, and all of them have a taste for Stanley. But plastic bags don’t belong in the sea – or in other creatures’ tummies…”

I’m gutted that I’ve only just found this book now because I’ve done my plastic pollution topic in my class this year! But next year… next year! 

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Somebody Swallowed Stanley is a brilliant picture book telling about the tale of Stanley – a jellyfish unlike other jellyfish, because he is a plastic bag – and what happens to him when creatures of the sea try to eat him. Some manage to spit him back out, but one of the creatures isn’t so lucky, until a brilliant young man comes along and saves the day. 

There’s some incredible messages in this book about the importance of being kind to the environment and recycling. Stanley is recycled at the end of the book to be a kite and this would be a great thing to get children thinking about what we can do with our plastics once we’re finished with them, so that they don’t end up in the sea!

One of the lovely things about this book is the riddle type verses that describe the animals which eat Stanley. This would be a great thing to use with children to get them to come up with their own riddles about animals under the sea! This could be an activity you do with children from as young as KS1 all the way to Upper KS2. 

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I love this book and it will be a firm fave that I bring out every year when we talk about plastic pollution. I don’t think picture books should be reserved for only EYFS and KS1 – my Year 5s this year have LOVED being read picture books! 

What are your favourite picture books to use around this issue?
What activities do you do to raise awareness of plastic pollution?
Are you any good at writing riddles?

Talk to me. I wanna know what activities and stories you use to teach kids about the importance of lookinga fter our world!

S x 

 

Ollie’s Magic Bunny Blog Tour

Happy Tuesday!

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nicola Killen and we’re getting a tour around her studio. I’m really nebby so I absolutely adored reading this post when it dropped into my inbox! 

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Hello and welcome to my studio tour!  This is the place where I worked on the story and illustrations for Ollie’s Magic Bunny.  

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I share a space with two other artists – it’s a converted garage on the side of a photographer’s studio.  The door to the studio is very grey and boring so it’s hard to imagine what’s inside!

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Tada! Here’s my workspace. I’m quite embarassed to be showing you round when it’s SO messy.  I’m always untidy, but when I’m in the middle of working on a new book (like I am now), it gets even worse!  As you can probably see, I’ve got two desks: one for sitting at my computer, and one for standing at when I draw and paint.

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On my computer desk I have an iMac, and I use a wacom tablet with it.  I also have a very comfy chair and most importantly, there’s a heater next to my desk!  As it used to be a garage, the studio can get very cold at times. I always have lots of lists of things to do on my desk – I like to be able to tick things off!  

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I usually stand up when I’m painting or drawing.  I have a drawing board in the middle of the desk, which is hidden by my lightbox at the moment.  There’s an A3 scanner tucked underneath this desk, as well as sketches, boxes of books and some portfolios too.  I used to have lots more postcards and pictures up on the wall, but they keep falling down and it’s very hard to reach to put them back up!  You may also have noticed my Studio Stegasaurus which lives on this desk – it roars when you squeeze it. I’ve had the anglepoise lamp since I was at school so it’s lasted a long time!

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This is all the brushes, dip pens and inks which I’m using for the book I’m working on.  

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Then, squeezed into the corner, is my bookcase.  It’s got lots of my books in it, as well as reference, sketchbooks, paperwork and some of my childhood favourites too!

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I’m not sure I should show you this photo! When I opened the cupboard, I was worried that everything was going to fall out . . . It’s chock full of materials, inks and paper. Tidying it is on my lists of things to do!

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That’s all of my space, but we also share an area just inside the door where there’s a big plan chest with a very useful cutting mat on top.  I store a lot of my artwork and paper in the drawers here. I’m preparing some Ollie’s Magic Bunny themed activities today so have been using the cutting mat – but I will need to clear it up later in case anyone else wants to use it!

Thank you for letting me show you around my studio space – I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look around and sorry about the mess!

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I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did! It’s fascinating to see where people work and their process! I’d love to snoop in everyone’s workspaces! Check out my review of Ollie’s Magic Bunny here: BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killen

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

S x 

Books I Want To Read tag

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m going to be doing the Books I Want to Read tag, which I found on my friend Amy’s blog. When I read it, I knew it was something that I’d like to tackle – it’s not often I think about my TBR!

The Rules

• Link back to the original tag
• Complete the questions with books you want to have read, but don’t want to read
• Tag some people at the end to do the tag next.

Question One: A book you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

SO MANY THO. I’m not a big fan of hype, so if EVERYONE is talking about a book I am so much less likely to pick it up… until the hype dies out!

Question Two: A book that’s really long

Length is one of the reasons I don’t wanna often pick up books! Strange the Dreamer is one that does slightly intimidate me – it’s not in reality THAT long tho haha. It might need to be one that I buy on my kindle.

Question Three: A book you’ve had on your bookshelf or TBR list for far too long

I’m quite good with my books. If I’ve got them/bought them and not read them within like 6 months (haha) I generally just get rid of them. So A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy is probably the books I’ve had the longest that I’ve not got round to reading (Kelly, if you’re reading this, I promise I WILL get round to them!)

Question Four: A book that is ‘required reading’ (e.g. a school text or popular classic – something you feel obligated to read)

Well… my answer for this is THUG – it’s neither a school text OR a popular classic, but EVERYONE IN THE WORLD has read it apart from me. SO I should probably get on it… I’m just scared!

Question Five: A book that intimidates you

Priory of the Orange Tree. I started it and read quite a chunk for when I interviewed the brilliant Samantha Shannon, but then once the event was done my brain has just been like OMG I CAN’T PICK THAT THING BACK UP THANKS.

Question Six: A book you think may be slow

Genuinely no idea… I don’t think about books as being slow?!

Question Seven: A book that you need to be in the right mood for

Cuckoo Song. I’ve heard MANY things so I know that I’m going to have to be in the right mood to read it.

Question Eight: A book you’re unsure you’ll like

Legendary! I read Caraval and it just didn’t spark my love. I’ve been dubious about buying/getting the next ones because I just don’t want the disappointment of the first book to happen again!

Having now done this, I could’ve used the same 3 or 4 books for all of the questions haha!

I’m not going to tag anyone, but feel free to do this if you see fit!

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

 

BOOK BLOG: Laura Steven

A Girl Called Shameless: shamelessly loud, brave and real.

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“It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamer. This time she wants to change the state law on revenge porn. 
Izzy and her best friend Ajita are as hilarious as ever, using comedy to fight back against whatever the world throws at them, but Izzy is still reeling from her slut-shaming ordeal, feeling angry beyond belief and wondering – can they really make a change?”

A Girl Called Shameless sees us thrown back into the world of Izzy O’Neill (wonderful, brilliant, hilarious, sassy, smart Izzy O’Neill) and the ups and downs of being a girl who has been publicly slut-shamed on the internet. (If you’ve not read The Exact Opposite of Okay then you REALLY need to… it’s just marvellous. My review is here if you’ve been living under a rock for the past year!)

A Girl Called Shameless opens brilliantly with Izzy’s trademark sense of humour and narrative voice telling us about what happened to her over the past few months. A VERY BLOODY CLEVER first chapter… brilliant to have that reminder of everything that went down in book 1 without just being a chapter for chapter’s sake! I was cackling hard by page 2. I forgot how much I loved being in the world of Izzy. She’s definitely one of my favourite voices of the past few years. (Seriously, if you’ve not got on the Izzy O’Neill bus yet, get on… you will NOT regret it!)

In this book, we see Izzy’s past experience of being publicly shamed as a thing that she has to deal with again, when another girl at her school has a sex tape shared online. Izzy unwillingly becomes somewhat of an “expert” and has a lot of her buried emotions brought back up to the surface… as well as a few old familiar faces resurfacing. 

As well as dealing with all of this at school, Izzy is of course dealing with being a teenager, friendship, things taking off with her screenwriting and her relationship. That’s a lot for a few people to cope with… never mind just one! 

I can honestly say that this book was one of the ones I’ve just been sitting waiting for, and it did not disappoint. 

I loved watching Izzy embrace her power and, along with some incredible young women, use that power for good. Making sure her voice, and the voice of others, is heard is important to Izzy and in this book she makes it happen. There’s an incredible build up to a very special day at the end of the book and it’s TOTALLY worth it. Watching a brilliant bunch of young women club their resources, their minds, their hearts and their friendship to make something happen is always brilliant, and when it’s something which is building up women and working for social change makes it even more special. 

We see the return of some familiar faces to support (and hinder) Izzy in her quest to basically take over the world. Ajita is back to be the brilliant best friend that she always has been. I love a book that celebrates female friendship and portrays it in a positive light, so seeing Izzy and Ajita back and being each other’s constant made me so happy! Brilliant Betty is of course back, being wonderful as always. I adore Betty and Izzy’s relationship. Betty turns out to be a bit of a dark horse in this book and there’s MANY lol-tastic moments with her in Shameless. I would love a Betty spin off! I wanna know more about her back story. 

Of course, there’s some men in Izzy’s life… some who I love and some who I think should just be pushed into a well. I’ll start with my fave of all the boys: Carson. Oh Carson. I just want my own Carson please. He’s so so lush. I just can’t think of him and not get total heart eyes. There’s quite an incredible scene towards the end of the book that made me BAWL. I really appreciate when boyfriends are written to be supportive and real (Laura does this so brilliantly, just like Sara Barnard). I mean he’s not perfect, but he has his own crap going on. On the other side of the coin, fan fave (lol) Danny is back to be “nice guy”. Danny can be pushed down a well as far as I’m concerned. He’s such a letch. He doesn’t get any more words than those. 

I loved that we saw more of Izzy’s life in this book. This book doesn’t shy away from the fact that Izzy and Betty aren’t swimming in money. Izzy talks a lot about having to get a job to be able to afford putting the heating on. We see Izzy following her dreams and watch them fall apart a little at one point. We see her struggles and her successes and I think that’s so good to read – no one’s life is ALL successes. 

I have many many more thoughts about this book, but they’re all jumbled still – in that glorious book hangover way. I just think Laura Steven has written 2 incredibly moving, captivating, hilarious and (as cliche as this sounds) important books. These 2 books are brilliantly empowering. After reading Shameless, all I wanted to do was to stand up and shout about all of the injustices I see in my world. I wish Izzy were real cause I’d love to be her friend (although I’m def not cool enough to be her friend haha!)

My goodreads review reads:

Man. What a book. What a story. What a young lady Izzy O’Neill is. I just adore her. This book makes me want to make a stand about everything I see wrong with the world. I love the characters, the messages, the flaws, the worry, the relationships. I CACKLED SO SO MUCH. Just incredible.

I was so inspired after reading this book that I also made a little moodboard! I hope you enjoy!

Shameless moodboard

S x

Twenty Questions tag

WELL HELLO PALS.

It is Tuesday. I’m doing a tag. I LOVE A TAG. Do you love a tag? Do you like reading tags? I love reading other people’s answers to tags… they’re such fun!

Today’s tag is the 20 questions tag. I found this as I was perusing the Queen of all Blogging: PaperFury’s blog. I’ve seen other people do it too, but I found it on Cait’s blog. If you’d like to see that post, check it out here. Feel free to join in!

HOW MANY BOOKS ARE TOO MANY FOR A SERIES?

Am I in charge? I love a 3.
Maybe 4.
Definitely no more than 5 is MY ideal though. Any more than that and I am OUT. (This explains why I’ve not read any Cassie Clare guys!)

I think 3 is the perfect amount to get invested and then get satisfaction from. I do love a duology too, but I ALWAYS WANT MORE CAUSE I LOVE ALL THE BOOKS. But no more than 3/4 really.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CLIFFHANGERS?

OH GOLLY GOSH. If I know there’s going to be another book, then I can live with that… but if it’s a stand alone… NO.

Cliff hangers are just not good for my little heart (see: they make me feel all of the feels which I love but then I yearn for more books INSTANTLY)

HARDCOVER OR PAPERBACK?

Paperback EVERY SINGLE DAY. But I do love the occasional hard back. I don’t own many, but the ones I do own are special to me.

FAVOURITE BOOK?

Lol, who do you think you’re talking to? JUST ONE? LOLOLOLOL. I can give you a few?

LEAST FAVOURITE BOOK?

I just don’t have one? I don’t see the point in being all NEGATIVE NORA about the shop. So no thanks… next!

LOVE TRIANGLES, YES OR NO?

Dear God, no.

THE MOST RECENT BOOK YOU COULDN’T FINISH?

I tend to finish everything I start? I’m not a DNF’er because I think EVERY book is worth finishing.

A BOOK YOU’RE CURRENTLY READING?

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Meat Market by Juno Dawson. SO GOOD. I am 200 pages in and I WANT TO KEEP READING MAN.

LAST BOOK YOU RECOMMENDED TO SOMEONE?

Ooooh… *checks twitter* Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone. It’s not even out yet, haha!

OLDEST BOOK YOU’VE READ BY PUBLICATION DATE?

Who even knows!

NEWEST BOOK YOU’VE READ BY PUBLICATION DATE?

Hmmmm… probably Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone again. That’s not out til May!

FAVOURITE AUTHOR?

Can we change that to auto-buy authors?! Melinda Salisbury, Sara Barnard, Katherine Webber, Maz Evans, Kiran Milwood Hargrave, Abi Elphinstone. ALL women, cause women power!

BUYING BOOKS OR BORROWING BOOKS?

I’m a buyer… because most of the books I buy then get transferred to the school library, or my classroom library!

A BOOK YOU DISLIKE THAT EVERYONE SEEMS TO LOVE?

I wasn’t a MASSIVE Caraval fan. It just moved really slowly?!

BOOKMARKS OR DOG EARS?

Something that weirds my friend Kelly out about me is that I just REMEMBER what page I’m up to. I do own bookmarks, but I never seem to have one with me! I would NEVER fold a page over. Who would even do that? (My friend Charlotte that’s who… she’s a bad person, but I love her and accept her despite her faults haha!)

A BOOK YOU CAN ALWAYS RE-READ?

Matilda. It’s probably the only book I’ve ever reread. I do plan on rereading all of Melinda Salisbury’s books this summer though.

CAN YOU READ WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC?

Another weird factoid about me… I can read and listen to music if I’m travelling on a bus/train/car/aeroplane etc. but I can’t if I’m in bed reading. It’s a very bizarre thing, I know.

ONE POV OR MULTIPLE?

I do love a multiple perspective, but they have to be written well.

DO YOU READ A BOOK IN ONE SITTING OR OVER MULTIPLE DAYS?

I LOVE A BINGE READ. I tend to read over the space of a few days – it’s just how my life works. During the holidays however… gimme that 3 hour reading binge of one book.

WHO DO YOU TAG?

ALL OF YOU, lol. So Charlotte, that’s you.

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Alice Broadway

Scar: a book that will leave an impression on ALL of your emotions

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“INK taught Leora that all was not what it seems on the surface. 
SPARK taught her that there are two sides to every story. 
Now Leora has had enough of lessons – she wants to make her own story.”

Scar sees the incredible Ink trilogy come to a close… and I was not ready. AT ALL. If you’re new to the Alice Broadway game then you need to catch up… my review for Ink can be found here, and my review for Spark here

Scar sees Leora taking on the final chapter of her current story. She’s been through a lot in the first two books and now she’s having to face some new scary things! Through Scar we see what happens when she realises she can stand up for herself, the things she believes in and finds herself dealing with some HORRIBLE people.

This book made me emotional. There are SO MANY THINGS THAT HAPPEN that I was crying a lot of the time. I was angry a lot of the time. I was suspicious and torn. I was comforted. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y in this review because you guys need to read this book: it is exceptional. Alice Broadway is a master of storytelling. 

Just as the other 2 books have dealt with storytelling, Scar has a big focus on storytelling. Leora is introduced to Mel (the storyteller of her village) and learns a lot about the power of stories and how stories can have many meanings. Leora has seen the world on both sides of the coins (she’s lived with the Blanks and the Marked people) and she teaches the people around her that every story has 2 sides. I loved watching Leora learn, but also teach, throughout the book. The infusion of the folk stories into this trilogy has been one of the most incredible things. The stories of the two sisters have been consistent throughout the books and watching that explored again in this book was incredible. The two sisters and their story is where this whole division of the people started, so it’s only fitting that their story has an important part. 

There’s some PROPER THINGS that happen in this book. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE CAUSE SPOILERS BUT OMG. There was one page (p227 for those who own the book) where I was GENUINELY shocked. I had to put my book down and text my friend to be like “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?”. I can’t wait to see everyone else freak out about this particular scene. I mean… there’s one particular character, a returning face, a surprise returning face who is a total PIECE OF WORK. I think I could write a whole blog post about why he is THE WORST, but he doesn’t actually deserve it. Having this character back and seeing his narcissism in Scar was FASCINATING. He clearly has a bit of a god complex… and it shows. He does some TERRIBLE things in this book. 

I loved being back in Leora’s world. I think it’s one of the most wonderful worlds that I’ve read recently. I love the idea behind it all. I loved being back around Leora’s people. Our girl, Leora, is just brilliant. She’s real. She’s definitely flawed. She’s brave. She’s bold. She learns in Scar that she needs to start standing up for herself, so she can be in control of her own story… rather than giving the control to the people around her. You’re only going to be remembered if you do something that’s worth remembering. 

Yet another shout out here to Obel. I was SO GLAD to see him back. The scenes between him and Leora were so filled with compassion and love and kindness and gentleness. 

I’m so sad that we’ve got to the end of Leora’s tale, but I can’t wait to see what Alice Broadway does next. She writes such incredible stories. There’s so many moments of juxtaposition. There’s love vs hatred; hard vs soft; the fear of forgetting vs the need to remember; routine vs change; embracing vs shunning. I loved all of these. 

I have so much more to talk about… but I need people to read this book before I can talk about it because I would HATE to spoil it for you all! It’s out in April SO GO GO GO. But also, preorder it because it’s SO WORTH IT. (You can preorder on all of the places!!)

My goodreads review:

I’ve waited SO LONG for this book. And my god it did not disappoint. There are scenes of GENUINE shock. I cried at the end. I hated Longsight SO MUCH. This book rounds off the trilogy so well and I’m so proud of how far Leora came. There’s SO MUCH about this story I can’t wait to shout about.

This week is the week of inspired moodboard, so here is my Scar inspired moodboard:

scar moodboard

A massive thank you to the wonderful humans of Scholastic for sending me a copy to review… you guys are the best!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Queen Mel

(hello, it’s me, I suggest you go grab yourself a cup of tea and a few biscuits if you’re here for the long run! I could be here a while… are you sitting comfortably? Then I guess we can begin!)

Song of Sorrow: SO BLOODY GOOD.

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“Sorrow Ventaxis has won the election, and in the process lost everything…
Governing under the sinister control of Vespus Corrigan, and isolated from her friends, Sorrow must to find a way to free herself from his web and save her people. But Vespus has no plans to let her go, and he isn’t the only enemy Sorrow faces as the curse of her name threatens to destroy her and everything she’s fought for.”

For anyone who is new around here (hello, introduce yourself to me, I’m quite friendly), I would just like to say now that I am one of the biggest Melinda Salisbury fans and this review will definitely reflect that. So if you’re not interested in that, then please check out something else on my blog…

If you’re still reading, then hello, welcome to Steph loved Song of Sorrow so much that it took her a long time to write this review and appreciates your patience and understanding. If you fancy reading my review of State of Sorrow, check it out here!

So, Song of Sorrow (let’s call it Song because that’s fewer words to read and type) continues on from where State of Sorrow leaves off. Sorrow Ventaxis is living her life, ruling her country after her dad died and she fought to be the ruler. She’s having to deal with some pretty shitty politics and, in turn, politicans. She has friends, but she definitely has enemies. Then let’s not forget to mention there are people who she doesn’t really KNOW/isn’t sure where they stand on the old love/loathe scale. Song follows Sorrow into the world of what happens once she’s got to being the ruler and the escapades that ensue with friends, family, secrets, lies, manipulation, love, hate and a little bit of magic. 

I’m going to try and make this review as un-spoilery as possible, but be warned, I have feelings that I need to talk about! My notes, which normally are a few bullet points, is a whole page, FILLED with things to talk about. If you wanna see my mood board I created for Song of Sorrow, go check it out here. Just look at my happy little face man when I received the book. 

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The first thing I want to say is Song of Sorrow was everything I wanted, many things I didn’t expect, but quintessential Queen Mel brilliance. When I started reading, I expected there to be much death, violence, horror and I was VERY scared for some of my absolute faves. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll go through this book and BE scared for our woman of the moment, Sorrow, but there’s so much more to this book that I didn’t expect. BUT I LOVED THAT. I loved that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. I was constantly surprised. I read the entire book on the edge of my seat and on the verge of MANY emotions. There’s moments of light and dark. There’s learning and growing. There’s a lot of love surrounded by moments of hatred and despair. There’s horrible actions paired with acts of compassion and love. This book manages to be hard and soft at the same time and I loved it. 

While I’m talking emotions… let’s just talk about them. I felt THEM ALL. I had SO SO many OMG moments. I laughed; I was shocked; I cried; I was angry; I was scared; I was relieved. There’s a few pages where you go from sheer shock and fear to complete and utter relief. You have no idea how much my heart was appeased when things went from TERRIBLE to brilliant (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know EXACTLY the bit I mean). I was so genuinely terrified for Sorrow at one point that when you have the reveal, I wanted to cry and/or punch someone with relief. Poor Sorrow goes through so much in this book – I definitely felt like I was going through it with her! There’s some proper lush moments of humour though too. One familiar returning face managed to bring a lot of light and laughter into the book (more on him later).

You may be in the familiar world of Sorrow’s life, but there is SO MUCH MORE in this second book. You get to follow Sorrow around on her travels to visit all of her worlds to see the people of the land. You learn so much more about the make up of the world and the world is just build up so much more from book 1. Mel writes such brilliantly vivid worlds that I didn’t think it was possible to understand the world more from book 1, but I loved that I got to know more about the world in Song. If you’re looking for an author who GENUINELY immerses you in their worlds, then look no further than Melinda Salisbury. Her worlds are so gorgeous, so vivid and so well described that you could quite happily walk along the road in your head and know exactly what was coming next and what was around you. 

So you’re in the familiar world and of course there are familiar faces left, right and centre. We have our woman of the moment, Sorrow, who is being Sorrow – stubborn, determined, brilliant, sassy, terrified, brave Sorrow. I love her so much. She grows a lot in Song. Just as Twylla did through The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, Sorrow goes on an incredible journey learning a lot about herself and making decisions which change her life. She finds out some things about herself in this second book and I appreciated it a lot (I mean, Sorrow is a bookworm which I DIG). She obviously continues to push people away to try and keep them safe, which in reality doesn’t work. Oh Sorrow. You are a disaster, but we love you.

Sorrow is very lucky (and in some cases not so lucky) to have some recurring characters in her life. All of who I love (even when I think they’re the absolute worst). Irris continues to be that best friend that Sorrow needs. Irris is one of my favourite best friends that you have in books. She’s just very constant and Sorrow needs a constant. I have a lot of love for Irris. Vespus returns to wreak havoc all over the world. God, I hate that man. SO MUCH. (My notes just say ‘Vespus tho’)  I get that he has a motive that he THINKS is the best thing for his country… but NO. I don’t appreciate you blackmailing my girl. Charon continues to be that father figure that Sorrow has always needed. I forgot how much I adored Charon from book 1, so when he returned for this book, I was DELIGHTED. Rasmus is back and I LOVED the resolution for the Rasmus/Sorrow relationship that happens. I think Rasmus is a brilliant representation of the fact that you CAN be friends with people who have meant a lot to you. Mael is still around and still creating unanswered questions for Sorrow (and me… Mel, I’m looking at you!)

GUYS. LUVIAN THO. It makes me so sad that I can’t be spoilery in this review… but I really don’t want to spoil it for you. Luvian has SUCH A GOOD BOOK. He’s such a bloody brilliant brilliant thing for Sorrow. He’s funny, charming, smart, sexy, snarky. There are some incredibly touching moments between Luvian and Sorrow in Song and I just want a book of Luvian/Sorrow please. I loved the exploration of Luvian’s family and his relationship with Sorrow in this book. The ending of State of Sorrow leaves their relationship in a very precarious place, so when I found that it was going to be explored more in Song I was DELIGHTED. I had waited A LONG TIME to get more Luvian Fen in my life… and this book did NOT let me down. (Please, if you love Luvian as much as me, I need you to talk to me. I want to start a Luvian Fen fan club)

There’s also some brilliant new additions to Sorrow’s world that enrich it a lot. So we find out more about Luvian’s family of one of the best characters to come out of Sorrow’s world. (I won’t spoil HOW we come about being with Luvian’s family because that’s one of my FAVE things about this book and SPOILERZ). We meet his mam, Beata, who I was TERRIFIED of initially. She’s TERRIFYING. She’s like this brilliant, scary, powerful Mama Bear. Poor Sorrow when she meets this terrifying mama bear… you’ll see she’s not so bad though. We find more about Luvian’s family in general through the book, but another of his family we see more of is his brother, Arkady. Guys, he’s like a brickhouse. I just imagine him being built like a proper house and scary af. He’s a PROPER softie though. He has a lovely little arc with another of our familiar friends and I LOVED IT. Outside of Luvian’s family, we meet Vespus’ new wife Tassus. GUYS JUST NO. This woman terrified me. She’s got a power that just makes me VERY scared. She’s NOT OK. She’s PERFECT for Vespus’ plans however. We all know what a terrible human he is. (My notes for Tassus just say “creepy wife” which I think are a perfcect description of her!)

I may have finished this book a few weeks ago but I am still not quite over it. The way in which this book ended just blew my mind. I think it’s just the perfect ending. I love that Sorrow has taken control of her life. She’s empowered and doing something for her, without the shadow of the rest of the world hanging over her. There’s a LOT that happens in the last few chapters and it’s a lot to process. There’s a particular bit when shit goes down in the castle and my god… it was INTENSE. A fitting end for some of the characters however. I still have some unanswered questions, but I think I need to put those questions to bed. As Mel told me, I know what I need to know. 

The book hangover is real! I can’t wait to see what’s next from Mel. I know that Sorrow’s story is over, but I just need more. I don’t care who I’m introduced to next. I know it’ll be brilliant. I’m very sad this duology is over; I grew very fond of Sorrow and her world. I will definitely be finding myself rereading these books though (for Luvian more than anything!).

A massive massive thank you to Scholastic for sending me an early copy of this book, and to Mel for having her amazing launch on a Saturday so I was able to go along and celebrate this book with her! 

If you want to buy this book, which you probably should, it’s available now on Amazon, Waterstones (if you buy it on/at Waterstones, you may even get the very fancy sprayed edges version like the one below) and every other book selling place. 

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Now, I need to go and have a lie down. I’m sure you do too.

S x  

BLOG TOUR: She Wolf

She Wolf: an exciting adventure with a brilliant main character!

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“Northumbria, 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking. But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?”

As a massive fan of Dan Smith books, I was super excited to have my hands on a copy of She Wolf. (I’m not going to lie: this book DID fly out of my hands and in to the hands of a few of my chidlren before I got to read it though! Their short reviews are shared at the bottom of this review!) The cover interested me INSTANTLY and once I’d read the blurb I was like YES THANKS GIMME. The back cover tells us it’s “Vikings. Vengeance. Wolves” and never have I known a book summarised so well in 3 words – what more could you want from a book?! 

She Wolf is a brilliant account of what it would have been like to be poor living in the FREEZING cold Northumbria in 866. Ylva loses her mother at the beginning of the book and sets off on a mission to avenge her mother’s death (I mean who wouldn’t?!) She has a few clues about the murderer, but she knows that she’s going to struggle to trust people along the way on her mission. She does have one constant she can trust though: her brilliant dog, Geri. What ensues for Ylva is an adventure filled with twists, turns, survival, some violence and the quest to find herself.

I really liked Ylva. She’s really brave and bold. She’s determined and stubborn. She’s like an onion. You learn a lot about her as you go through the book – you turn the pages and you stip off another layer of her personality. This was one of the things that the kids liked most about her. They loved learning more about her as a person through the story. I really liked the relationship between her and Geri – this was touching. It’s important for us all to have a “constant” in our life and whether it’s a person or a companion of some description, they have a massive impact on our lives. 

One of the things I liked about this book was that once I opened the pages, I was there. There’s plenty of action, there’s plenty of intrigue. There’s intelligent twists and turns. I think Dan has written a brilliant story here that has got a lot of children talking!

A few of the thoughts of my kids:

“I loved that she was just like a person. Sometimes book charactes are never scared of things. I’d be really scared if my mam was killed and I’d never be brave. Plus she makes mistakes and no one’s perfect. I’d love to ask her how she was so brave!”

“I loved that this book was set in the past because books set in the past are the best. Just imagine living in that time. This book was really fun to red because there’s so much to read about and so many things happen. Plus there’s some scary characters to deal with”

“Imagine having a friend who loved you all the time. I really liked Geri because I’d like a dog who went with me everywhere!”

A proper hit! I can’t wait to see what Dan does next!

Thank you so much to Chicken House books for sending me an early copy of the book to review! Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour to find out more about this brilliant adventure!

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S x