BOOK BLOG: April Tucholke

The Boneless Mercies: a beautifully brilliant book!

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“Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work. Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate. But glory comes at a price …”

ANY book that has this gorgeous a cover is SURE to catch my eye. Just look at that turquoise, the black and the foil… and yes, that gold is metallic and shiny (my picture just does it NO justice at all). I had high hopes for a book with such an incredible cover, and my gosh, this book did not disappoint. 

The Boneless Mercies tells the tale of Frey, her friends and a journey through some wicked and wild enemies. Frey and her friends are Boneless Mercies – young women who are hired by people to do mercy killings for anyone who can pay. None of these girls fell into being a Mercy on purpose, they all became mercies because of the way their lives fell into place. No matter though, they are frightfully loyal to each other and there is an awful lot of love between them. I think they friendship might be one of the things I loved most about this book… their unrelenting loyalty and love for each other. We all need friends like that. 

There’s some BRILLIANT themes of life and death in this story. The way that death is approached in this story was fascinating to read. There’s no glorification of death, but a gentle acceptance of it and a giving of death. I loved the girls’ dedication to their jobs, even when they don’t want to do that job anymore. 

Another thing I love SO MUCH about books is the incorporation of folk stories and myths (I know, what a surprise, I’ve definitely typed that sentence before) and this book doesn’t shy away from it. There’s a lovely sense of storytelling in this story. “Storytelling can keep you warm on the coldest of nights” (that’s not a direct quote, but it’s paraphrasing a quote!) You see the girls’ lives and the lives of the ones they meet through their storytelling, and it made me feel like I was sat by a fire, listening. This is the perfect book to read while sitting next to a fire… just incase you want a recommendation! 

I have to take a very little moment here to write a little appreciation for Trigve here. I don’t wanna give any spoilers, but guys. I think he’s just wonderful. If there is to be a book 2, I need my shipper heart to be happy, thanks! 

I’m not gonna lie, yes, there was a bit when I cried (again, no one will be shocked by this!). This book made me 100% invested in these girls’ lives, and I needed them all to keep powering on, keep surviving. Cause I tell you now… I WOULD NOT. In the cold and the snow and the outside all the time? NO THANKS. 

If you, like me, are a lover of books with BRILLIANT characters, some incredible storytelling and set in an intriguing world, then this is 100% the book for you! GO GO GO FRIENDS.

My Goodreads review:

A brilliantly written book with characters I absolutely adored. There was so much in this that I need time to process it. Badass characters, a sense of mythology and an interesting world. I REALLY hope there’s going to be a second one.

Have you read The Boneless Mercies?
Do you think you’d be a good Mercy killer?
RECOMMEND ME BOOKS LIKE THIS PLZ. Thanks.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, because I need to know if ANYONE ELSE was with me on the Trigve thing. I love him. A massive thank you to Olivia at Simon and Schuster for senging me this book! I wholeheartely loved it! 

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Daddy Hairdo

Hello! Today I have the pleasure of hosting Francis Martin (of Daddy Hairdo fame!) on my blog as part of the Daddy Hairdo blog tour, talking all about the inspiration behind the gorgeous picture book Daddy Hairdo!

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Daddy Hairdo is a bit of family history that mutated into a picture book.   As a young father I had had to take on the role of coiffeur to my infant daughter whenever I took her to nursery.  For years I thought I had acquitted myself admirably and that the plaits, buns, ponytails and top knots I created were a match for any of the other parents’ hairdressing skills. It was only years later that my grown up daughter revealed to me that  the nursery nurses at the playschool were laughing at my  efforts and would immediately take them apart and do something a little more conventional.  My creations were called “daddy hairdos”.

Even more years later I am a mature student at Cambridge School of Art working for my MA in Children’s Book Illustration, desperate for a story. I have always thought that a good title is half the battle when creating a picture book. I recalled the daddy hairdos. I knew it would make a great starting point for a story. A dad who creates fantastical hairstyles for a daughter who won’t get her hair cut. I went into a writing and drawing frenzy. I explored ideas, researched hair styles and threw my own male pattern baldness into the mix. 

Initially I created the images but realised that the text would benefit from another artist. My own artwork wasn’t wasted. It worked as a guide for the text.  It always seems pointless if the text and the images just echo what the other says.  I try to get text and image to feed off each other create surprises, alternate narrative duties, tell jokes.  Being aware that there is a power in images, I can be confident enough to hold back on the writing and let the visuals do their job. I think that the Daddy Hairdo text works because I developed it with a visual context. Claire Powell’s pictures then lifted it even further.

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You should go check out the rest of the blog tour and get your hands on a copy of this gorgeous picture book if you get the chance! It’s out now! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Simon Philip

I Don’t Know What To Call My Cat: a funny and charming exploration of importance of names

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“Every cat needs a name. One name, one word, just a sound… It should be easy to choose one, right? WRONG!!! I just don’t know what to call my cat! Choosing the right name for a new pet is very important! Find out just what this cat’s name turns out to be in this clever and witty story from an exciting debut author and talented young illustrator.”

I Don’t Know What To Call My Cat explores the story of a young girl who gets a pet cat and worries about all of the things that come with owning a pet, but mostly… what can she call the cat? She goes through a whole host of names, with no luck. Then the vet throws a spanner in the works, highlighting the fact her cat is in fact a tomcat and not a queen. Her cat disappears and she gains a pet gorilla, named Steve, obviously. Now she has a pet who has a name, but she misses her cat. Whatever will happen? Will the cat ever have a name? 

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I absolutely adore the illustrations in this book. They’re so beautiful and a particular favourite of mine is the one below. LOOK HOW UNIMPRESSED THAT CAT IS. It made the kids at school proper chuckle: “Miss, that cat looks SO STUPID” “Miss, why would you dress your cat up as a Queen? Cats aren’t meant to have crowns!”. So yes, the illustrations are definitely a hit!

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This book is full of humour and has gone down an absolute pleasure with the kids at school! We thought about pets and names, and our names after reading this book. The kids loved thinking of their own new pet and what name they’d give it! 

PLUS. Look at those end papers man *heart eyes*

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book! It’s a firm favourite in our school!

What would you call your cat if you got one?
What’s your favourite cat name? 
(I’m fond of human names for cats).

Let me know your ideas in the comments or on twitter! Speak soon!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Steven Butler

The Nothing To See Here Hotel – perfectly good fun!

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Welcome to The Nothing to See Here Hotel! A hotel for magical creatures, where weird is normal for Frankie Banister and his parents who run the hotel. When a goblin messenger arrives at The Nothing to See Here Hotel, announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest. But it soon becomes obvious that the Banister family are going to  have their work cut out with the demanding prince and his never-ending entourage, especially when it turns out the rude little prince is hiding a secret…”

The Nothing To See Here Hotel is one of those great books that comes along and is just sheer fun. As an adult, I sometimes miss things that kids find hilarious (which is natural, I don’t necessarily expect to find kids books hilarious… I’m not your target audience after all), but there was definite moments here where I actually laughed out loud. It’s just one of those great funny books. The kids at school are loving it

Add to this, the fact that the cover is GORGEOUS and you have an utter winner. I know, I know, you shouldn’t judge a book on its cover. We all do it though. A bit of shelf appeal is a GREAT thing. The cover reflects the book brilliantly – an interesting mix of characters, a bright and bold style and the gorgeous hotel at its centre! The illustrations of this book are gorgeous too! They add a brilliant level to the story. I take my hat off to Steven Lenton, I wish I could draw that beautifully!

You meet a whole host of different characters in this book. From the gorgeous main character, the staff who work at the hotel, Frankie’s brilliant grandmother and the great hotel guests. There’s guests of all shapes and sizes! When the Troll prince comes along, hiding from something, bringing along with him secrets, there are a whole host of panic, hilarity and problems for the hotel staff. 

There’s a great pace to this book and it keeps kids gripped. I’d definitely recommend it for 6+ years! I’m loving seeing all the children discover it and share their joy of it with each other!

Would you like to stay in a magical, hidden hotel?
Which fantastical character would you like to meet?
Have you got any recommendations for children of this age?

S x

BOOK BLOG: Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep: an incredibly duality in the pages of a beautiful book

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Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths. Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.”

The Wicked Deep tells the story of Penny, a young girl, living in a small town, which has been haunted by the spirits of 3 sisters from centuries ago. The sisters take the bodies of young women and seek revenge on the town that once betrayed them. Penny knows the tale of the three sisters. The town has accepted their fate – the sisters will come every summer and take the bodiesof 3 young women. They will then use these bodies to lure 3 young men to their death, in the very same waters that the sisters were sent to their deaths in. This particular summer, Penny meets a young man named Bo, who has some of his own demons to battle, and they hit it off. Bo has no sense of the danger being in this town brings him and it is ultimately up to Penny to try and save him… or save herself.

I absolutely adored this book. The plot is one which I’d not read before. We’ve all read books of revenge and of young men being lured for revenge. This one felt special. It felt new. There’s so much mystery and the town set in their legacy that I just was taken. I’m a sucker for anything with a bit of history. I love an author who weaves stories within their story. Having the sisters’ backstory in the book made me believe it. 

The characters in this book are just brilliant. Seeing the town and its happenings through these teenagers’ eyes, but also through the sisters’ eyes was fascinating. You get to see a town clouded in mystery and panic. A town overcome with an anger and a grief. There’s a lot of high intensity emotions that this town, and the teenagers, feel. Flaunting legend and tempting fate all for the sake of what is to come! I loved in particular the moments where you see the sisters together. You read their plotting, their mysteries. They’re fascinating. Their interactions with each other really gives a sense of sinister, dark magic. 

There is quite a big plot twist that I did not see coming. I mean, I suspected it… but I loved it. Thinking back to it now, I probably SHOULD’VE seen it, but what can I say, I’m a bit gullible and I’ll believe what a narrator tells me! I loved Penny’s voice, her point of view. Throughout the book, I believed her. I wanted to be her friend, I properly rooted for her. Even towards the end. I truly believed she’d changed. I’m a sucker for romance. A total and utter sucker. 

While we’re here talking romance… I’d like to just mention Bo. I REALLY liked him. I was totally taken by him. Like, I think teenage me would be smitten with him. He just gave me this lovely vibe. The mystery surrounding him was quite intiguing too… I wanted to know more about him. When his backstory was revealed, I was like ‘yep, you’re lush’.

There’s a gorgeous sense of duality in this book that kept me hooked:

  • Darkness and light
  • Hope and loss
  • Love and revenge
  • Betrayal and trust

I just adored this book. There’s so much about it that I love. I could’ve read 100 more pages and still have been gripped. I’d love to know more about Penny’s mam. I’d love to see more of the sisters’ past snatches. 

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy! I loved it!

Have you read The Wicked Deep?
What’s your take on mythology in books?
Would you be a good witch?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk mythology and The Wicked Deep with you!

S x

 

 

BOOK BLOG: Stewart Foster

All The Things That Could Go Wrong: a gripping and emotive story of struggle and ultimately acceptance

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Dan is angry. Nothing has been the same since his big brother left, and he’s taking it out on the nearest and weakest target: Alex.
Alex is struggling. His severe OCD makes it hard for him to leave the house, especially when Dan and his gang are waiting for him at school…
When the two boys’ mums arrange for them to meet out of school and finish building the raft that Dan started with his brother, it seems like the end of the world. But could it be the start of an unlikely friendship?”

I’d seen this floating around on Twitter from my teacher pals, and was curious about it so the lovely publishers kindly sent me a review copy. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be good. I knew it would make an impression on me, but I was not expecting it to have SUCH a big impression on me. This book is important. This book should be in EVERY classroom. For kids in KS2, upwards, this is a MUST have. 

There’s something very gripping about this book. The character perspectives are my favourite things. You learn so much about both boys throughout the book from their chapters. The book is split into dual perspectives – you get a chapter from Dan and then a chapter from Alex. Their stories are very different but they’re both looking for the same things – acceptance, happiness, friendship.
Dan: the bully, dealing with an upheaval in his home life, acting out at school.
Alex: the bullied, lacking in friends, suffering from OCD, struggling to tell anyone about the bullying, dealing with his parents’ views of his OCD.
I found Dan REALLY hard to like in the beginning – his actions made him unlikeable for me. I couldn’t get round to this idea of liking the school bully. Him and his cronies just made me cross. However, as the book goes on, there’s glimmers of him (the real him) coming out and that’s when I realised that there’s more to Dan than meets the eye. I liked Alex from the beginning. I think that’s what’s expected. I think you’re meant to like him and feel a bit of empathy for him. That doesn’t mean that his character doesn’t go through an incredible arc because he does. There’s moments where he forgets all of his concerns because there’s more important things – those moments of growth were incredible. 

The message this book delivers is SO important. It delivers an incredibly powerful message of friendship; the perils of being a bully; acceptance of people for who they are; showing compassion; being the person you’re meant to be, not the person your “friends” want you to be. (Side note: I hate calling books important, I think all books are important because they all tell a story and give a perspective)

Stories are necessary. Stories teach children about all sorts. This is a book I will be completely and utterly using to discuss empathy, compassion and doing what’s right. Children need to be given the language of empathy. Children need to hear stories of all kinds of people. This one is special. I am so glad I came across it. 

I genuinely can not praise this book enough. I will for sure be keeping an eye on Stewart Foster books. I think he’s brilliant. 

Have you read All The Things That Could Go Wrong?
Do you have a favourite story to use when discussing empathy?

Once again a massive thank you to the publisher for sending me this book. It is an incredible book. 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Abi Elphinstone

Sky Song: a heart-warming, magical adventure in the heart of the Arctic.

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Once an adventure digs its claws in, there is not an awful lot you can do about it. Especially when magic is involved . . .’
In the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find. Because Erkenwald is ruled by a cruel Ice Queen and you must stay hidden or risk becoming another of her prisoners. Join Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever, as they journey together in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to force the Ice Queen back. This is a story about an eagle huntress, an inventor and an organ made of icicles. But it is also a story about belonging, even at the very edges of our world . . .”

I was very lucky to be sent a signed proof of this book from the publishers and when I realised what it was I QUICKLY consumed it.

It’s magical.
It’s brilliant.
It is story telling at its very finest.
It’s exceptional.
It’s beautiful.
It knocked my socks off with how good it was. 
(I don’t have enough sentences to tell you how good it is!)

Sky Song tells the story of Eska and Flint, a pair of children who are brought together as part of an exceptional adventure to save their own lives, the lives of people from the evil Ice Queen. Eska is a brave and bold young lady, who ends up captured in a music box where she refuses to give in to the queen, and Flint is the inventive young man who, by accident, comes along and changes the course of Eska’s life forever. I really loved them individually and as friends they are just gorgeous. Their friendship was part of the beauty of this book. Abi writes friendships incredibly and this book just shows that. They also adventure with Blu, Flint’s little sister, an adorable character! A massive shout out to the animal characters in this book.

Abi’s world building in this ice-cold land is absolutely incredible. I felt like I was there. It’s a book you can get lost in. You will be in that land. You’ll feel part of the adventure with them. You’ll not be able to put it down. Whether it’s the freezing cold mountains, the incredible Ice Queen’s castle, Eska’s music box prison or the open lands of Erkenwald, you’ll be there. 

Throw all of this incredible scenery with magic, peril and friendship, with legends and tales intertwined you have the most exceptional tale. I can not recommend this book enough. I just adored it. I can’t wait to give it to the kids at school to explore and discover this incredible themselves. It will be a total hit.

IT HAS SPRAYED EDGES TOO GUYS. *heart eyes*

A massive congratulations to Abi for having Sky Song as Waterstones Book of the Month for January too! That’s amazing!

My goodreads review:
“This is a story filled with snow, magic, adventure, friendship, finding yourself, your clan and a whole load of hope and courage. I just adored this. Abi has an incredible way of ensuring you get lost in her world, but always feel looked after. I just adored it. 

Plus the acknowledgements had me BAWLING.”
(the acknowledgements are INCREDIBLE. I cried SO HARD)

Have you read Sky Song?
Would you manage in an arctic adventure?
If you had to have an animal companion, which animal would you choose?

Talk to me! Comment or tweet me! 

S x

November books!

Well hello compadres. 
The year is almost coming to an end! What happened there? 

The day is December 1. I have read books. I have done things. November came and went. It was a pretty stressful month. My poor bullet journal was abandoned due to stresses. I bought a Fitbit and I am coming to terms with the fact I have VERY expressive hands! Also though, I didn’t realise just how many steps I did do in a day. Anyway. 

Books.
November.

I was poorly for most of November, and we had that lovely Ofsted thing come visit us, so I didn’t get as much read as I would like to BUT I did manage to read 5 books! Not bad going for a month filled with illness and winter SAD. 

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Christmas Dinner of Souls – Ross Montgomery
The gorgeous author, Ross, sent me this book and it was a brilliant final book to read this month! It is dark and dastardly and delicious. There’s some brilliant short stories in this and my kids are already going mad for it! Plus there are some incredible illustrations by David Litchfield.

Goodreads
Rated: 5 stars
Devilishly good. Fiendish and delicious. I really loved this. One story with mini scary tales in – Perfect! It would be INCREDIBLE to read aloud to kids too!”

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The Extinction Trials – S.M.Wilson
(release date: Jan 1 2018)

I was very VERY lucky that the lovely humans over at Usborne sent me a copy of this and I just HAD to pick it up one day and I devoured it within a few days. I absolutely ADORED this book. Just exceptional. Storm and Milo are the best. 

Goodreads
Rated: 5 stars 
I absolutely adored this story, from the first page to the last. Dinosaurs, peril, dystopia… what else do you need? I can’t wait to read the second one!!

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Sky Song – Abi Elphinstone
(release date: Jan 25 2018)

Again, the gorgeous humans over at Simon and Schuster sent me a proof copy of this about a month or so ago and I wanted to wait until it was cold enough for this. I am SO SO glad I read this. I just absolutely adored it. Abi continually amazes me. Her books are exceptional.

Goodreads
Rated: 5 stars
“This is a story filled with snow, magic, adventure, friendship, finding yourself, your clan and a whole load of hope and courage. I just adored this. Abi has an incredible way of ensuring you get lost in her world, but always feel looked after. I just adored it. 

Plus the acknowledgements had me BAWLING.”

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The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson
(release date: Jan 4 2018)
This was another proof I got that I needed to get into QUICKLY. I love Lisa so much and she just writes so incredibly. This book very nearly broke my heart. I absolutely loved it. One of my boys has this at the minute and he is LOVING it. 

Goodreads
Rated: 5 stars
“An incredible tale about the strength of the human mind, friendship and imagination. I loved this book SO SO MUCH.”

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How To Bewitch a Wolf – Abie Longstaff
Again, this was a book from the lovely people of Scholastic (thank you lovely humans!). I really love Abie Longstaff (as do my twiglets, so this book will be promoted to their shelves) so this was a great read. It’s one of those great books about magic and friendship and hope

Goodreads
Rated: 4 stars
“A great tale of friendship and magic. I know that 10 year old me would love this book. It’s got all the elements of a brilliant book: a great story, loveable characters, witches and magic, warmth and a bit of danger.”

So there we go! I got through some BRILLIANT books in November! It was a MG heavy month, but hey my mood will read what my mood wants to read! I am very much a mood reader. Reviews are to come for all of these books, but I would totally recommend ALL of them (once they’re released, obv)

I’m currently on 101 books read this year; I am DETERMINED to get to 104. I can’t wait for the Christmas break to get some proper reading in! I should be MUCH better by then (let’s forget all of the work I have to do…!)

What did you read in November?
What was your favourite November read?
Are you a mood reader? Or are you great at following your TBR pile?

Talk to me! Comments are lush, twitter chats are lush, emails are lush! 

S x