Sleuthing and Mystery Month

I have spent a lot of my reading time this month improving my mystery writing skills. How do you do that? Well, you spend a lot of time reading mystery books. I started with going back to my earlier mystery experience and re-read a Nancy Drew mystery, then binge read a lot of Janet Ivanovich, and finished it off with a middle-grade mystery series. So I’ve lots to share with you in this month’s blog.

The Secret of The Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery 1) by Caoline Keene

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read a Nancy Drew book. I know I hadn’t started High School yet, and I thought Nancy Drew was the coolest because she was allowed to drive all over the countryside by herself, and she always wore such smart clothes. Now I realise that the book was set in the 1040’s when the world was slower paced and she dressed appropriately for a teenager in time.

I read the 80th anniversary addition of the first Nancy Drew book, and it’s still compelling reading. Is it dated? Yes and no. I mean there are things that now as an adult I can see date the book, but there are also many things that are timeless.

Nancy is a main character who always wants to do the right thing, and she has a nose for mystery. A smart, intelligent girl, she always uses her brain to get to the bottom of things. There is a little bit of drama along the way, and she does flirt with danger; but it’s not danger as we know today because the everything was just a little gentler back then.

The mysteries to be solved are things people would come across every day, in The Secret of the Old Clock it’s a missing will, which makes it easier to identify with Nancy as a sleuth. The story moves along quickly, and I actually found it hard to put down even though I remembered what happened part way through the book. If you or your children like a good old mystery, then you can’t go past a Nancy Drew book.

Buy The Secret of the Old Clock from Amazon

The Big Kahuna by Janet Ivanovich and Peter Ivanovich

Janet Ivanovich is the master of the comedic/mystery/romance genre. Her books are fast paced, laugh out loud hilarious and contain a number of outrageous caricatures and always a frisson of attraction between the main characters. Under all of that though, they are in essence great mystery stories. I read a number of her books this month, but have chosen The Big Kahuna because it ends up in Queenstown, New Zealand, a place where I spent many a summer holiday.

FBI Agent Kate O’Hare, and her partner con man Nicholas Fox, are tasked with finding a missing Tech Guru, which uncovers a much larger international plot that will risk world peace. Using a mixture of gold old leg work, undercover activities, and charm, Fox and O’Hare follow the mystery from the USA to Hawaii to New Zealand to Prague.

Along with an internet influencer, a surfing drop out, an ex-marine, and an FBI desk jockey, the couple risk their lives, blow things up, and basically cause mayhem round the globe while they try to prevent an international disaster. The characters in this book are big, the mystery many layered, and the laughs come from the belly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Ivanovich binge session and no doubt will delve into another one soon, there are still some Stephanie Plumb novels I haven’t read yet.

Buy The Big Kahuna from Amazon

The Magic Sapphire (A Decoders Mystery) by Alba Arango

I wanted to read a modern middle grade mystery, and the cover of this book caught my eye. Not always the best way to chose a book, but in this instance it turned out to be a positive experience.

Steve, Matt and Jenny find a map to pirate treasure, but they have to solve some riddles to reach find the legendary sapphire. Set against them and aiming to beat them to the sapphire is an international jewel thief. 

The children are helped along the way by a friendly cafe owner, and a friend who acts as backup and is intent on writing up their escapades for the public. There is a good mix of danger, problem solving, and adversaries making this a promising first book in a mystery series.

In my mind as I read I was unintentionally comparing this to Nancy Drew, and I have to say it stacked up quite well. The characters were more diverse and modern, and I liked that the three children all had something to contribute to the solving of the case. It did lack some of the real characters we expect from the cosy mystery genre, but the story was fast paced and and kept me hooked all the way through, and had a little twist at the end I didn’t expect. This would be great reading for any middle-grade child.

Buy The Magic Sapphire from Amazon

Apart from having a month reading some really good books, I also learnt that a good mystery is solved by a mixture of brain power, luck and putting yourself on the line. It takes compelling, relatable main characters, a bad guy that is not too sinister and some side characters who are almost caricatures; leaving me to believe that while these books seem simple to the reader, they’re like a Beatles song—more than they seem on the surface.

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Awesome Aussies

I love holidays. It’s a chance to put put feet up and relax a bit and read. More so this Christmas break because my part of Sydney found itself in semi-lockdown. When faced with dodgy weather and nowhere to go, its a perfect opportunity to hit that pile of unread books that’s been growing beside my bed.

Just by chance, the three books on the top of to read list were all written by Australians, and they were awesome. If the rest of 2021’s offerings are like this I may never get any work done!

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

I am not sure I’ve ever reviewed any of Garth Nix’s books here, which is odd because he’s one of my favourite authors. One of his series I enjoyed the most was The Keys to the Kingdom, where he managed to twist life as we know it just slightly, pulling us into strange and unusual world lying just beneath the surface of our own.

When I read the blurb of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London I could not put the book down, literally, and I hadn’t even gone into the bookshop to get anything for me! Who can blame me though. A story with; booksellers and bookshops (tick), London(one of my favourite cities) and supernatural beings (tick again). Top that off with a writer who has already shown he can create amazing characters and worlds—well that was it.

I started the book, and that was that, pretty much for the rest of the day. To say I got lost in Garth Nix’s alternative eighties London wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I went on an amazing journey with my new wannabe best friends Susan, an art student looking for her father who gets caught up in something weird when Merlin (yes Merlin but not that one) appears in her life. Merlin is a suavely dressed left-handed bookseller, not to be confused with the right-handed ones, and he is chasing down leads to find out happened to his mother in his spare time. Susan is told she should forget she even knows about booksellers, only she can’t, because now she knows about them, some weird things are happening and she seems to be at the centre of it.

I would recommend this book for well everyone. It’s one you want to tell everyone about and you wish they’d all read it so you can all talk about it. In reality though, anyone who loves a bit of a supernatural read will love this book.

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kauffman and Meagan Spooner

When I saw The Other Side of the Sky on the shelf at the bookstore (yes, I was still Christmas shopping and shouldn’t even have been looking), I didn’t have to read the blurb, I just bought it. When I finished reading Amie Kaufaman and Megan Spooners Starbound Trilogy I felt like I lost really good friend. When I saw they had started a new one, I felt like I had found one.

The Other Side of the Sky is, in essence, a science fantasy love story about Nimh who is from the surface world, and North who is from the sky world. If it were that simple, it would still be a great love story.

Add into the mix the fact that Nimh is a living goddess who is supposed to be saving her people, but doesn’t know how, and North is a Prince who fell from the sky when trying to prove himself to his family, then it gets even better. Their complex relationship is at the centre of this story, and they are supported by a cast of characters who provide plenty of surprises and twists as North tries to find his way home and Nimh tries to save her people. Now it’s engrossing.

Set in a world of myth, mystery and magic, where Nimh and North become entwined in prophecy and plagued by the past, they don’t know who to trust, or whether they can even trust each other.

I admit, I started this in the morning and only broke for food and coffee. That evening I put it down and cursed. Now I have to wait for the next book to find out what happens. If you enjoy a science fantasy love story, you will love this. If you just enjoy a good love story, or you love a good mystery, you should give it a try.

Into the Mists by Serene Conneeley

My final holiday book was Into the Mists, and it was a complete change of pace. I loaded this onto my kindle because I loved Serene Conneeley’s Swan Maiden book, and I was intrigued because this story sounded so completely different. I was surprised to find it wasn’t.

Both books deal with girls grieving for lost parents, and who are coming to terms with having to carry on; albeit one is a child and one is a teenager who moves across the other side of the world to love with a grandmother she only just found out existed.

This is Serene Conneeley’s first book, and it doesn’t have the lightness of touch I had come to expect in her writing, but the storyline and the characters more than made up for it.

In small town England, far from home, Charlie is transported into a very different world from Sydney, one where people are more in tune with nature and the mystical elements of life, including her grandmother who runs a natural healing centre.

Learning to love herself and life again while dealing with; loosing her parents, moving country, getting to know her grandmother, and finding her future is not what she wants now, Charlie’s story is one of growth and resilience.

I found Into the Mists a gentle and inspiring read. After I finished it, I read some of the goodread reviews and appreciate this book is not for everyone. If you want a book with Harry Potter style magic, this isn’t for you. If you want a fast paced book full of twists and turns, this isn’t for you. If you want to read a coming of age story with main character connecting with her past, entwined with old style elemental magic, then you will enjoy this.

Not So Perfect Princesses

It seems as soon as I decided to name the character in my new book series Princess P I came across all these books about princesses, so my last post for the year reviews some books about not so perfect princesses.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As I child I watched a BBC production of this story and enjoyed it so much I can still remember much of it today, but I never read the book (probably because the book is never as good after you have seen the movie). When this book came packed with a book I really wanted to read, The Princess and The Suffragette, I decided to give it a read first, and I’m so pleased I did. Much as I really enjoyed the television version of the book, Frances Hodgson Burnett has a way of writing characters that make them so much more vivid than television is able to.

This story about a rich girl who finds herself a servant in the boarding school she attends when orphaned is sure to capture the heart of young readers who have enjoyed the Our Australian Girl series. Sara is a kindhearted character who attempts to deal with the changes in her life with as much dignity as she can muster, and she is lucky enough to have her true friends stand by her.

Through the story we are given a glimpse of how the class system in Victorian England treated girls and women of different classes, as well as finding out a little of the history of the empire. All this happens while the reader is engaged in a “can’t put down” story that has you hoping for a happy ending for Sara.

Buy A Little Princess from Amazon

The Princess and The Suffragette by Holly Webb

I have to admit I didn’t pick up this book because I wanted to read Holly Webb’s sequel to A Little Princess, but rather because I wanted to see what a book about suffragette’s for Middle Grade Readers would be like. In my early teens right through to … well now … I have been fascinated by the women who agitated for votes for women.

Holly Webb’s sequel moves forward a few years and focuses on youngest character from A Little Princess. Lottie is lonely and feels alienated from her father, who has all but abandoned her in Miss Minchin’s School for Girls. She is seeing her friend Sara less, but finds a new friend in a young scullery maid and a sense of freedom and rebellion in supporting the suffragette movement.

True to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ordinal story, this book also takes a long look at the roles women played in society in Victorian England, and how they fought to change it. I love that she uses real historical event as a backdrop, and that they are just that—the history is secondary to the story of a young girl growing up and learning of her past. I hope you enjoy the twist as much as I did!

I would certainly recommend reading this after A Little Princess, but I also works well as a stand alone for your tween readers.

Buy The Princess and The Suffragette from Amazon

Winter Flame by K.A. Last and The Snow Queen’s Daughter by Serene Conneeley

For the older readers who still enjoy a more traditional princess, I recommend curling up with the anthology of fairy tale retellings Fairytale Christmas. There are lots of great reimagining of old favourites here, but I think two of the strongest and most enjoyable come from a couple of my favourite Australian authors (although I may be a little biased).

Winter Flame by K.A.Last is a mash up of The Little Match Girl and The Princess and the Pea which is much more satisfying than either of the originals. Ember, the main character, is unsettled being placed in a strange environment, but proves stronger than everyone when she is true to her inner-self and allows compassion to guide her decision. I think you’ll be surprised by the twists in this fairytale, but also warmed by the ending.

Serene Conneeley has written the Snow Queen’s tale from her daughter’s point of view, and it is a real love / coming of age story, but with a twist I didn’t see coming. Even more surprising though was the portrait of the Snow Queen. Don’t get me wrong, she is still the villain of the piece, but I kept getting glimpses of why she was the way she was, and I started to warm to her.

There are other great stories in this book, and I can recommend it for a beach/fire side read this holiday break.

Buy Fairytale Christmas from Amazon

If princesses aren’t your teen’s thing, why not look here for some other fantasy reads

It’s Time to Go Christmas Book Shopping

I love this time of year. I get to indulge myself in one of my pastimes, buying books, and I get to share some of my favourites with you all. This Christmas I have been doing a lot of my shopping online and, because my family is all around the world, I have been using amazon (I am an amazon affiliate in Australia, but I use amazon simply because I can search in one place and send over the world). I was so inspired, and to be honest I spent far too much tome on this, I created extra categories to share with you. I hope I have given you a good mix in each area to inspire some book gifting for Christmas, and I am always happier when there are more people reading.

If you want to know more about the books in this post, click on the book title or the cover image. This will take you through to an amazon page.

Picture Books

This is the most difficult category for me. I love picture books and for me it’s all about trying to decide whether to give a classic or one of the new beautiful books that are being produced. I hope you love the suggestions, and there are a couple more below in the Christmas Books.

Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek – I make no secret about my love for Mem’s Fox’s books, and my first Christmas recommendation is the first book I ever read of hers—Where is the Green Sheep? This book still makes me laugh when I read it as we see what all the other sheep are doing while we search for the elusive Green Sheep. A must for everyone’s picture book library.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell – Yet another classic book, and one loved in this family for many years, and hopefully in the many families I have given a copy of this book to. You can’t beat a book that is well written, captures the imagination, and has so many animals. What I love about this book though is you cannot help but smile when you read it.

That’s Not My Koala – Osborne Touchy Feely Books – I can’t tell you how many of these books we have owned, and have bought for other babies and toddlers. These are definitely books to be handled and felt. The repetition of words, and the combination of sensation associates with textures is a great teaching tool, and they are just soooo cute. This is one that is definitely on my Christmas list, but there are so many options you should be able to find something for every young child’s interests.

The Dinky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley – If you enjoy a good tongue twister, then you will love the Wonkey Donkey’s daughter, the Dinky Donkey. Just as much fun as the original, and the whole family can get involved in the reading. This is also on the list of books that made me smile when I read it. I have a copy and I’m just waiting for the right person to give it to. On a lighter note, I think this could be turned into a Christmas Party game much like the 12 days of Christmas one – you know, give each person a line…

One Ted Falls Out of Bed – by Julia Donaldson and Anna Curry – Every family has one (or more) of those books that just lives on in your conversations and the stories you tell, and is such a part of your family’s growing up you can’t even remember when you got it. One Ted Falls Out of Bed is that book for us. We all love the beautiful illustrations and the counting rhymes, and the fact that the illustrations tell more of the story than the words. A great gift, and I’m sure this will come a family treasure for the family you gift it to. One ted falls out of bed, he tugs and pulls the bedclothes but, two eyes are tight shut … and that’s from memory.

Middle Grade

A little series heavy, but at this age you want to encourage them to read more—right?

Amulet Book Collection by Kazu Kibuishi – Almost every Christmas and birthday I have brought books in this series for reviewer Sam. He has always loved graphic novels, and this series really caught his interest as it took him into an alternate reality. In essence these books are a mystery series and are a great gift idea for those not so book oriented children, and even for those who love books but just like a change in format.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowel, read by David Tenant – Another option for those less interest readers are the How to Train Your Dragon Books. They are well written and seriously funny and have great images that kids love. Even better, why not buy the audio copies. They are a great listen for the whole family on car trips, or for a child who prefers to listen than to read. Cannot recommend these books enough. We still listen to them on long car trips.

Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow By Jessica Townsend – Years ago most reviewers would tall you to buy Harry Potter Books for a child who loved reading and magical worlds, but that changed with the Nevermore Series. If you have a child to buy for who loves getting lost in other worlds, then I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Even better, if you have a mum who loves reading for children, this is the perfect gift for her.

Zombie Boy by K.S. Hall – One of the things I have loved about delving into independently published book is that you often find something that really is not out in the general market—Zombie Boy is one of these books. Many children don’t like reading about the same old things that others do, some like zombies and ghouls. Then there are parents who think this type of book might not be the best for their child’s reading development. Zombie Boy meets both needs, and I when I was researching this post I found the second book in this series is now out. A great find and should certainly be considered for children with less traditional reading tastes.

The Swan Maiden An Austrian Fairy Story by Serene Conneeley – I have put this book in the middle-grade section, but really this is a tale for all ages. Again, this is an independently published book and I haven’t seen anything like it in the shops. If the person you are buying for loves fairy tales, this a a fresh modern fairy tale that weaves magic and fantasy into every day life, as well as having the life messages we expect from this genre. Beautifully told, I am sure it will become a favourite as it is read and re-read.

Teens

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – I am sure many of you have been watching the TV series as I have been, but really, the books are more amazing. If your child has enjoyed the series, or if they simply like getting lost in other worlds, then this series is a must have. I believe they even have a graphic novel version for those less inclined readers. I read this series years ago, and I still rate it as one of the bests reads ever.

Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan – When reviewer Sam was into the Percy Jackson series, I started reading the Heroes of Olympus Series to him. One of the worst days of my life was when he said I read too slow and he had finished the book we were on and wanted the next one—to read for himself. When I was book shopping for this post I found a complete set with great new covers, all ready for a new set of young fans to read them. These are great adventure stories for kids of all ages (even the grown up ones). Perfect for a bedtime read, or for reading alone.

York – The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby – I reviewed this book some time ago and fell in love with it. I always meant to look out for the next book in the series, so imagine my surprise when I found there are now two more books for me to read. They are safely purchased and on their way—yeah for me. What I loved about this book was how Laura Ruby managed to take the iconic city of New York and turn it into something slightly different. The essence of the book is a mystery, the main characters are solving a cipher to save their home, but it is given colour and life by the unique setting. Readers of any age will enjoy this steampunk book, and I can’t wait for my sequels to arrive.

The Books of Earths by Ursula Le Guin – When I stumbled across this on my shopping trip it brought back memories of lunch times at high school when I used to head to the library so I could work my way through these books. We won’t talk about the ones I had taken off me in class because I used to slip them inside my text books … but those teachers knew me too well. A fantasy world with dragons, great writing and great characters—and now an illustrated version. It’s in my wish list for sure. This is fantasy writing at its best.

Chasing Neve by K.A. Last – A little bit of a change up now. Not a series, but a different form of fantasy. The review of this book has been one of my best performing posts this year, so it’s certainly a must for the the Christmas Book List. This Snow White retelling brings a whole new meaning to kick-ass girl leads and is one of those books you just can’t put down once you pick it up. Perhaps one for the the teen girls and those who enjoy a love story more than the action oriented reader, as there is a little romance in this adventure story.

Young Adults

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood – I have read this book a number of times and found it both compelling and disturbing. Margaret Atwood has done as much for the feminist movement as any activist you have seen on tv or read in the history books. This look at how the female role is defined by their ability to carry a child has stuck with me over the years since I first read A Handmaid’s Tale at uni. It is still a great read from one of the world’s best story teller.

Throne of Glass Boxset by Sarah Mass– I was so put off by the covers of this series I almost missed out on it. It is compelling adventure reading with a great strong female lead in an amazing fantasy world. If you have a YA girl who like nothing more than to curl up with a good book, then this set is the one for them—with any luck you want see them until the end of the holidays.

Ready Player One By Ernest Cline – I had to put one in for the boys (and those who don’t like the more girly reads). This is a great tale, not only because it was a movie, but also because it marries computer games and adventure—a combination that appeals to boys of any age. Also, a great gift because you can combine it with the sequel due out this month, and you should have a very happy YA male. Oh yeah, and maybe for your older boys too as the 80’s references are a laugh.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – I thought I would sneak this one in. I haven’t read or reviewed it, but I added it to my kindle while I was researching for this post. I have always wanted to read this story, but when I was younger I read a lot of war books and I think I have compassion fatigue. I keep coming back to this one though, and this is now on my Christmas list. Perhaps not the light and airy feel of some of the other books, but there are always angst ridden YA’s out there that will love this in their stocking.

Enchanting the Fey by Rebecca Bosevski – In the Teen section I had one of the best performing books of this last year, now I am including the book that drives the most traffic to my site full stop. Books on magical worlds have never been my thing, but I read the first book in this series and I was hooked, as were many others from the look of my site traffic. A love story and adventure in a set magical world, this book will have your dreamers captivated from the first page. Again perhaps another gift for someone who wants a little escape over the holidays.

Christmas Books

I haven’t forgotten about those of you who love to get into the Christmas Cheer with a good Christmas Read. I have three fantastic pictures books for you, and two adult books that you might want to that yourself for all the great shopping you have done. Click on the Images to find out more about these Christmas Tales.

Hope you have enjoyed a little delve into my Christmas book shopping experience. If you have any suggestions of your won I would love the hear about them in the comments. Happy shopping!

A Little Bit of Spooky for October

So grab a drink and join me for, if not quite a walk on the wild side, then at least a tip-toe in the shadows.

As we head towards Halloween I have two books books which a touch of spooky for you. One is the third book in one of my favourite series—a middle-grade up book that I have been waiting to read for a very long time. The other is a YA New Adult book which gives a new spin to traditional creatures of the night. So grab a drink and join me for, if not quite a walk on the wild side, then at least a tip-toe in the shadows.

Hollowpox The Hunt for Morrigan Crow – Nevermoor #3 by Jessica Townsend

I feel like I have been waiting forever for the third instalment in the Nevermore series, but I have to say the book was well worth the wait. All your favourite characters have returned; Morrigan herself, her guardian Jupiter, her friends Hawthorne and Cadence, her family at the Hotel Deucalion, and my personal favourite— Fenestra the magnificat. In spite of all her friends being around, Morrigan’s life is changing. She is finally being trained as a Wundersmith, which means she is spending less and less time with her friends, and they no longer seem to understand her. To make matter worse, a strange disease has been affecting the Wunimals, and a new group anti-Wunimal group has sprung into being; and it all might have something to do with Morrigan.

Jessica Townsend’s book is set in an amazing, magical world, yet her characters are relatable. Morrigan is going through what every other child her age is going through; her friendships are being tested as each of her friends find their way in a magical world and she is unsure of where she fits in. However, what I love most about this book is how Jessica weaves real world problems through her storyline, and in this book more so than others. Nevermore, like our world, faces a strange new disease that no one is able to combat. And, like the real world, discrimination is a very real problem and how they deal with it is quite an eye opener.

I know this series is targeted at middle grade children, but honestly it is a great read at any age. Don’t be put off by the emergence of a virus in this book, honestly, it will help you escape from our covid obsessed world into a place where most problems can be solved by magic – if only! Spoiler, not for children who don’t like things a little scary.

Buy Hollowpox from Amazon

Darkness Unknown – Beshadowed Book One by S.A. Fenech

You have been lied to. Werewolves, vampires, ghosts … they aren’t what you think. Well doesn’t that just make you want to read the book! And it was what attracted me to Darkness Unknown, that and the fact that I am reading my through S.A. Fenech’s Memory’s Wake Trilogy and I am really enjoying it. I have to say the book started a little slow for me and I did get a little lost a couple of times, but I kept going because I was drown to the characters and intrigued by a story line that had a young woman returning to a town she thought she had left behind to deal with the family estate.

As I read I was drawn to Everly, with her difficult past and anxiety issues. Her dynamic with Harper, her instagramming friend who joined her on her trip home, made me smile, so I kept reading, and I was pleased I did.

I enjoyed Selina’s take on Vampires and werewolves (you will have to read the book to find out what the twist is). The home town Everly’s returns to on her mother’s death is suitably creepy, and you just know there is more going on than meets the eye. Then there is Everly’s school friend and girl crush, Rylan—there is definitely something odd with their relationship and, well, him. This book slowly drew me in, then wham, at about the 70% mark I couldn’t put it down. In fact, at the end I was left wanting more—now!

This love story/urban fantasy/mystery is a great escape read, and has just enough scare for the lead up to Halloween. I would recommend for older teens and adults who don’t mind a little scare, and waiting for the next instalment to come out.

Buy Darkness Unknown from Amazon

Why not check out Amazon’s Creepy Reads?

When a Book Just Wows You

This month I was luck to be transported to my happy place two books that really “wowed” me. You know the type; the books you just can’t put down until they’re finished. Then, when you reach the end, you’re sad because there’s nothing left to read. There are the books I want to share with you.

Many thing in my life this month have not gone to plan this month. So it isn’t surprising this was not the review I was going to write for September, but it is the review that was clamouring to be written. This month I was lucky to be transported to my happy place two books that really “wowed” me. You know the type; the books you just can’t put down until they’re finished. Then, when you reach the end, you’re sad because there’s nothing left to read. These are the books I want to share with you.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I reviewed on of Matt Haig’s books last month. I really enjoy his quirky story lines. even so, I did not expect to be so blown away by The Midnight Library.

The blurb starts off , “Between Life and Death There is a Library”, and went on to tell of Nora Seed who is stuck in that moment between life and death where she had the opportunity to live her life if she had made different decisions at different points in time. I was hooked. I brought it, and I couldn’t put it down.

Nora is disappointed in herself and always believed she could have lived a better life, been a better person, if only she had made the most of the opportunities she had squandered. In the Midnight Library she is able to see the lives she has missed out on.

It’s funny, because Nora is not the most likeable person as a main character in a book, to be honest she comes across as a bit of a loser, and that is because that is how she portrays herself. Her lonely life is one where she is isolated and focuses on the regrets she has for not taking chances.

I started off feeling sorry for her, but as I lived through her other lives where she took different paths, I understand her more, and began rooting for her—hoping she would find a life where she was truely happy.

This is a great piece of story writing, growing from a really interesting concept, but what I loved about this book (apart from my inability to put it down), was all the thinking I did after I had finished. It had me mulling over how little we realise the impact we have on the lives of those around us, and also how often we interpret our relationships with others from our own perspective, especially when we are depressed.

Although this is not truely a Teen/YA book, it is one I believe many older teens would benefit from reading, as it might actually help them understand what some of their friends are dealing with. And I defiantly recommend it for parents, just because it is a great read.

Buy A Midnight Library from Amazon

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle 2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

So I finished The Midnight Library and moved on to the next book in my kindle, Aurora Burning. This is the second book in the series, I reviewed an Amie Kaufman co-write some time ago, and I have read more of her books in the meantime, including Aurora Rising, the first book in the Aurora Cycle. I loved the book but didn’t get round to reviewing it, and I am not going to make the same mistake with Aurora Burning.

I have been waiting patiently for the second book in the series to come out. The only problem was, in the meantime I had forgotten how much I loved the characters, and how fast paced the actions is, and how you get caught up in the story then you find it is three am on a school night and its only three hours until you have to get up. I curse you Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

By far my favourite character in this book is the super brain Zila. She is slowly coming our of her shell and learning to have a sense of humour. Still, Finn’s sarcasm and surprising heroism is quite cool. Then again, super-sexy Scarlett shows there is more to her than meets the eye, and her brother Tyler—if I was a boy I would want to be him, the all round hero. Though, if I think about it, Aurora now has super-powers, and a super-cool boyfriend who adores her in Kal. And Kal, the war machine is a super-being, who wouldn’t want to be him? So many great characters, and every time the chapter changes to a new point of view I want to be that one.

In Aurora Rising a crew of military misfits rescue a girl lost in space, thence across a scary hive mind wanting to take over the galaxy. In this book they are trying to find the weapon Aurora, the girl they rescued, has been told she must use to to save the universe. In the mean time, Kal’s family life starts to get in the way and places them all in peril.

This book is almost non-stop action, but still manages to expand on the characters backstories, and take us through a political minefield that is not as straightforward as it seems. When I finally did finish the book, I was unable to sleep, wanting to know what happens next, and imagining all sorts of scenarios.

I have it now, I want to be Amie Kaufman or Jay Kristoff. I mean who doesn’t want to be a writer who produces mesmerising books? Scfi fans will really enjoy this offering, but so will those who like a little romance, or action adventure books. So many people will like this book it is probably a waste of time my writing a review as you’re probably all read it, and like me are waiting with baited breath for the next book in the series.

Buy Aurora Burning from Amazon

Looking for More Book Ideas? See Below.

Available Until 16 October
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Time Travel Adventures

Stephen Hawkins wrote, ‘If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?’. Realistically we know time travel isn’t feasible, but we love to imagine that it is.

Stephen Hawkins wrote, ‘If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?‘. Realistically we know time travel isn’t feasible—yet, but we love to imagine that it is. At the moment my family is watching the final series of The Agents of Shield, which has the main characters going back through time, and with the release of my second Time Guardians book I have been rather obsessed with reading other books in the genre.

This week I am reviewing two Jodi Taylor novels; one perhaps more adult focussed, but one that YA readers will enjoy. The third isn’t strictly a Time Travel book, but it is a unique look at history and time through the eyes of someone who lived through it

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor

My perfect job growing up would have been travelling back in time, experiencing history and writing about it. Unfortunately we all grow up and realise our dream jobs are not achievable—or are they. What I attracted me to Just One Damn Thing after Another, apart from the title, was historian Madeleine Maxwell (Max) applying for a job at The St. Mary’s institute, not realising they are actually able to take here into the past so she can see history happen. My dream job!

Not only did Jodi Taylor’s concept excite me, but her characters captured my heart. Max is brave and foolhardy, Leon Farrell is forever practical, and Tim Petersen is dashing and just the person you would want to go on mad-cap adventures wth. They, along with a cast of more than interesting characters, carry a great story line back in history, causing chaos and mayhem wherever they go—but, of course, it’s never their fault. While the team is busy recording history, there is another team bent on destroying St. Mary’s at all costs.

I loved the premise, the characters and the story line of this entire series. Some of the content is best for older YA readers, but if you enjoy a good laugh thrown in with a touch of history, then this is the read for you.

Buy Just One Damned Thing After Another (Chronicles of St. Mary’s) from Amazon

Doing Time by Jodi Taylor

When you have mayhem running through the timeline there is always a risk time could collapse, that is unless you have Time Police. In Jodi Taylor’s universe, the Time Police are almost as bad as the bad guys and are St. Mary’s natural enemies. So you can imagine Madeleine Maxwell is not too happy to find her son has joined them as a cadet.

His St.Mary’s origins make him an outcast. Along with two other recruits with equally unusual backgrounds no one else wants—Jane and Luke, Matthew must help form a team to pass his final test before becoming a Time Policeman. Of course they not only have to over-come their own handicaps, but they must also survive a political situation that is bigger than all of them.

This is a fantastic YA coming of age read in a Time Travel environment which has all of the craziness of the St. Mary’s Chronicles, without the adult content. The three main characters are quirky, and I think most people would find at least one they identify with, but my favourite is Jane. Unassuming, she is the quiet achiever no one should underestimate—she just doesn’t know it yet.

I listened to this book on audible and Zara Ramm as narrator really made the story. Perhaps this is one to consider for your next road trip.

Buy Doing Time: Time Police, Book 1 from Amazon

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

So, straight up, this book isn’t about time travel, but it sort of is. Told in the present, Tom Hazard has returned to London years after having left—many, many, years after, and it has brought back memories from his first visit there after his mother had been drowned … as witch.

Moving back to London has awakened his memories of not only losing his nothing, but the one great love of his life who he was forced to abandon when people began to notice he didn’t age. When he left his wife, he also left his daughter, who he has been searching for ever since.

Tom is one of the long lived. So he may look like any man in his forties, but he is more than 400 years old. Helped by the Albatross Society he has been able to blend in by moving from country to country, meeting some of history’s great and good. They have only one rule—don’t fall in love and don’t make connections. This has been easy to follow until now. Back in London he finds himself slowly connecting again with the world, and this places him in danger.

This book was initially difficult to get get into because of the way it jumped between past and present, but I stuck with it and was rewarded with an amazing read. The concept of a person surviving through centuries of history, but not really living after his twenties was a twist that really made me think about the benefits of long life. When Tom begins to awaken he also begins to question whether survival is enough.

Such a great read, but really for the older YA readers.

Buy How to Stop Time from Amazon

Some More Time Travel Offerings

This hasn’t been The Bookbubble’s first dip into reviewing time travel books. If you are interested, I also review A Wish After Midnight and Sam reviewed The 1,000 Year Old Boy.

If you are looking for some YA Time Travel Reads, why not have a look at some of these. My book the Swagman the first book in The Guardians of Time Series is included.

https://storyoriginapp.com/bundles/f7136ad6-c57f-11ea-89e0-1f147378615f

Reading Creatively

While I was posting books out today I thought parents must be going mad having to teach from home again—they must surely be running out of activity ideas. So I decided to write an extra post about things you can do at home to inspire your children about the books they are reading.

image from www.clipartkey.com

As some parts of Australia go into lockdown again and children are working from home, my Bookbubble book sales have increased. While I was posting books out today I thought parents must be going mad having to teach from home again—they must surely be running out of activity ideas. So I decided to write an extra post about things you can do at home to inspire your children about the books they are reading.

This is not a post about how to get your children to read, I have done a few of those, but how to inspire your children about the books they are reading in a different way.

New Readers

New readers and teens were the two most difficult group to find activities for. For new readers, learning to read is hard, and they are not always ready for the more fun, comprehension activities. Some, I am sure, will be able to skip to the advance readers and middle grade section. Here are couple of the more fun ideas I found to make learning to read and understanding books fun.

Say and Stomp – this is one of my favourites. Write words, letters or sounds on paper cups. When your child says what is on the cup they can stop it. What a great way to celebrate achievement.

Silly Voices – Make up silly voices when you or they read. You can do the whole book in a silly voice, or make one up for each of the characters.

image from https://www.kindpng.com/

Wanted Poster – Make a wanted poster for the bad guy in the book. Depending on the level of skill, you can print a wanted frame from from the internet (I found some here) and help with the description, or you can set your child to do their own from scratch.

 

Advanced Readers and Middle Grade

There were so many activities for this group I did not know where to start, so I grouped them into two types of activities; Knowing Your Main Character and Settings. Depending on your Middle Grader’s access to social media, they may be able to do some of the Teens activities.

Knowing Your Main Character

Draw a picture of a main character as a baby, teen, adult and elderly person. Describe what they are doing in each image.

Expressions – choose a scene your main character is in and take photos of your face with the expressions you image the character making throughout the scene.

3 Wishes – Imagine a genie dropped into the book in the middle, what 3 wishes would the main characters wish for and why.

Settings

Copywrite Jim Simpson

Map – draw a map of where the book is set. Include all the points where key events take place.

Tourist Guide – with a tourist guide for where the book is set. Include all the main points of interest.

 

Teens

These were the activities that most inspired me when I found them, I hope they inspire your teens to dig deeper into the books they have to read.

For the Techie Kids

Create a Facebook Page – create a dummy Facebook page for the main character and add a few posts of recent activities.

Dating the Bad Guy – Create a social media dating profile for the villain of the piece, include a description of their ideal date,

Meme or advert – create a meme or advert they believe will either get other kids to read the book, or enraptures what the book is about.

Linkedin Profile – imagine you are one of the book’s characters and you are looking for a job. Create a dummy linked in profile for them.

For the Music Buffs

Movie Music – Imagine your book is now a movie, what music would be the theme for song for each character.

Make a Playlist – Choose a character in the book and make a playlist for them. Chose a song they would listen to for each scene in the book.

For the Fashionista

Movie Costumes – Choose a character and make a costume scrapbook. Find an outfit for each scene that character is in.

For the Artists

Superhero – choose a character from the book and turn them into a superhero.

Cover challenge – Imagine the book has no cover, design the book cover.

For the Writers

Origin Story – Write an origin story for one or more of the books characters.

This was a fun blog to research and I hope it gave you some cool ideas for activities, and I hope even more that it may have stopped you from going a little mad. If you have any other activity ideas please feel free to add them to the bottom of the post you never know, you may have the ideal solution for someone else.

Looking for some good kids reads – try here for a great range

Where I looked – there are some more great ideas here, so please visit.

2nd grade fun reading activities

Teens love to know

23 Fun reading Activities for kids

https://www.literacyideas.com/reading-activities-for-any-book

Listen … Do You Want to Hear a Secret

Like many people, recent events around the world have has changed the way I think about things, and in a lot of ways has changed the way I think full stop. In fact my mind has been whirring so much the activities I usually do to clam myself stopped being calming, until I found a solution—audio books!

Like many people, recent events around the world have has changed the way I think about things, and in a lot of ways has changed the way I think full stop. In fact my mind has been whirring so much the activities I usually do to calm myself stopped working, until I found a solution—audio books!

My intake of audio books has doubled over the last few months, and I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. I think I have said in the past that choosing the audio book option means you not only have to be captured by the story, but the narrater must also connect with you. I recommend always checking a sample before buying. If you don’t like my favourite reads in audiobook format I encourage you to buy the books instead.

Fall of the Gas-lit Empire by Rod Duncan

By now you will have realised I am a sucker for a kick-ass female heroine and an amazing new world, and in this series Rod Duncan has managed to capture both. In a victorian-style world that sees women as possessions, Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life. She is herself, but also takes on the guise of her own brother to make a living as a detective and thus remain independent.

Everything is going well until she takes on the case of an aristocrat who has disappeared. In her attempts to resolve the mystery she must face her own past as well as the Patent Court, the most feared body in the land, placing herself in extreme danger.

Elizabeth is a strong, resourceful, well rounded character who you will find yourself willing to come out on top. The other characters you meet as this story unfolds are equally compelling and interesting. The England they live in is both recognisable, but completely different, not the least because the development of all machinery is strictly controlled by the Patent Court.

To top it off Gemma Whelan, the narrator does a great job in moving the story along and keeping the listener interested. If you enjoying losing yourself in another world, or simply like a good mystery, then I recommend this series to teens, young adults and adults.

Buy The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire: The Complete Series from Amazon

The Night Raven by Sarah Painter

My next two books are set in modern day London, but show a side of London you may never have encountered. When she was young Lydia’s father left the family business so he could raise his daughter in the suburbs. Not a bad choice given the family business did not always operate not he right side of the law, and were happy enough to use their unique powers to assist in their activities.

Without powers of her own, a grown up Lydia has escaped to Scotland, only to be forced home when her work as a private investigator placed her in a difficult situation. Her uncle offers her a flat free of rent, well not quite free because he wants her to help find a missing cousin. Trying to lay low, avoid the family business and deal with a rather interesting flat-mate, Lydia finds herself slowly drawn into the world her parents tried to keep her from.

I bought this audio book in one of audibles frequent 2 for 1 sales as the second option simply because I loved listening to the narrator Kate Rawson. I have now listened to all three books in the series and have the fourth on pre-order. The Night Raven is fast paced, the characters interesting and believable. In spite of the introduction of magic and powers to modern day London each book in the series presents a good old mystery story with all its wrong turns and dead ends.

Crow Investigations is a good mystery series, an a fun read/listen, but what makes it stand out for me is you are taken on Lydia’s journey. While investigating her mysteries she reconnects with members of her family, attempts to reconcile their business activity with her growing affection for a member of the police force, as well as dealing with some unsettlingly abilities that come come to light. This book is definitely for oder teens and young adults, and people who love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will enjoy these books.

Buy The Night Raven: Crow Investigations, Book 1 from Amazon

London Falling by Paul Cornell

I blame my enjoyment of the Ben Aaronvich’s River’s of London Series for choosing to start The Shadow Police series. Like those books we are introduced to a force of people dealing with the magical and mystical side of London’s inhabitants. It all starts with a suspect who mysteriously dies in custody having been brought in at the end of a long running undercover sting.

Two of the undercover agents, the analyst assigned to the operation, and a Detective Inspector are tasked with looking into the death. By applying traditional police methods they uncover supernatural forces at work that require more to bring them to justice than they have to offer. Facing what appear to be unsurmountable odds, they must stop this force before more deaths occur.

This is a gritty series, something of a cross between The Rivers of London and a Guy Ritchie movie. The team, Quill, Ross, Sefton and Costain are all flawed and searching for something missing in their lives, yet together they make the perfect unit for investigating surreal happenings. The London they find themselves working in is scary and at the same time fascinating, and it will test their resolve to bring their suspects to justice.

Damien Lynch narrates the whole series and really brings the characters to life. Each book in the series can be read on its own, but together they form an overarching story about policing the supernatural in London. they only down side to getting hooked on this series is only three of the five book series have been published, and there is not date for the last two books to be released. This series is definitely for Young Adults only, and is worth a read for those who enjoy the grittier side of supernatural crime solving.

Buy London Falling: The Shadow Police, Book One from Amazon
Looking for a new read, why not try here

Fantastic Fantasy

Want to escape from your everyday woes? Why not start a new fantasy series? I’ve a few fantastic reads for you.

A Fantastic Fantasy Way to Escape the World

I review a number of fantasy books, and many of you are probably bored by them now, but in the Covid-19 times we are living in escaping into a completely different world has been a life saver. This week I have a couple of fantastic series starters for you, and the return of a favourite to delve right into that will spirit you away from your everyday woes.

The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

It seems like I have been waiting for ever for Suzanne Collin to revisit the world of the Hunger Games. It was this series that got me hooked on my kindle. On a trip home I loaded Hunger Games as my first ever e-book. I spent a sleepless week week reading the whole series. When I finished on at night I simply downloaded the next.

That was such a long time ago, but I can tell you The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes was well worth the wait! I know a lot of reviewers think it was a snooze-fest, but I simply couldn’t put it down.

In her new book Suzanne Collins takes up back to meet an eighteen year old Corolanus Snow, already formed by his station in society and the deprivations of the uprising that resulted in the Hunger Games being established—only these Hunger Games are nothing like the one we are used to. They are raw and brutal and are purely a punishment for the districts.

Not as action packed as the original books, The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes takes us on Snow’s journey as he attempts to carve a place in a world that has already written him and his destitute family off, and we find that it is not only in the arena of the games that people are prepared to do anything to survive. For me President Snow was always one of the most interesting figures of the first three books. Although clearly the villain in the Hunger Games series, he was a complex one, and he is no less so as the hero.

One of the oddest things about this book is that I loved it, but I didn’t like any of the main characters, or many of the people in the book as a whole. I understood Snow, but never really liked him. His candidate in the Hunger Games, well, let’s just say they deserved each other. Tigris, Snow’s cousin, and Sejanus, his school mate, were the only people who any soul in the whole story, and they served as a great counterpoint to the other characters.

People appear to either love or hate this one. I am in the love camp. Where will you fall?

Buy The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes from Amazon.

Memory’s Wake by S.A. Fenech

Memories wake was a different kettle of fish all together. I was drawn to all four of the main characters, but Memory herself was my favourite. Waking up in a strange world, Memory, who took her name because she has no memory, finds herself embroiled in a plot to restore order in a world she isn’t even from.

Alone in a forest with no idea where she is, Memory is rescued by a girl on the run. She promises to take them to sanctuary, but they get a little waylaid. Falling in with a charming pickpocket, and helped occasionally by a strange wild boy, they dodge; men that hunt magic users, faeries who mean them harm and dragons, who seem intent on keeping them from getting to their destination.

S.A. Fenech has created a fantastical world of magic, fairies and magical beasts, and a plot twist that will have you spinning, but will seem so logical after you stumble across it.

Fantasy readers who love kick-ass girl heroes, magic and a touch of romance will enjoy getting lost Memory’s Wake. I enjoyed it so much, book two is already queued on my kindle.

Buy Memory’s Wake from Amazon

King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

If I had a fantasy super-hero it would be Raymond E. Feist. From Daughter of the Empire to Riftwar series, I have loved most of his work.

When the First Book in the Firemane Saga came out I bought it, but only recently got round to reading it. I was initially reluctant because the book didn’t get good reviews, and it was a new world and a new plot.

Silly me for listening to others. Even though this is not his best writing, Feist at mediocre (and this book is far from mediocre) is still streets ahead of we mere mortals. And I loved the new world of Garn and the new characters he introduced. And let’s face it, a missing heir, a master swords smith and world on the brink of a religious war—it’s a great idea.

I really enjoyed the way Feist wove religion and politics into the story while following our two hero’s Declan the Sword Master and Hatu the spy assassin until they finally met. Another plus for me was the strong cast of female in this book.

Ok, not Feist at his absolute best, but book two is already downloaded and ready to go. Anyone who loves traditional fantasy adventure will enjoy this read.

Buy King of Ashes from Amazon

Looking for some more great fantasy reads?

Your next favourite read might just be here