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?

Away with the Faery … Tales

Like many, I have not wanted to spend time in reality, so I dipped into a couple of new faery tale releases from two Australian authors. Although they both fit into the faery tale genre, they are two very different offerings. The first is an original Australian fairytale, and the second is a retelling—dare I even say improvement— of Snow White.

Apologies, it has been a while since my last post. With a worldwide epidemic I, like many others, have retreated to my family bubbles and have not really dared to peek out much. Good news is all this time has given me a chance to read book—lots of books. So there will me quite a number of reviews over the next few weeks.

Like many, I have not wanted to spend time in reality, so I dipped into a couple of new faery tale releases from two Australian authors. Although they both fit into the faery tale genre, they are two very different offerings. The first is an original Australian fairytale, and the second is a retelling—dare I even say improvement— of Snow White.

The Swan Maiden by Serene Conneeley

I really did not know what to expect when I decided to read a modern day faery tale, but I loved the idea of it being set in my adoptive home—Australia—and decided to give it a go. Right from the first moment when the swan started telling of her relationship with a young girl I was caught hook, line and sinker.

The Swan Maiden is a story about love in all its forms, and its ability to heal, to transform and to enrich life. Told through the eyes of Signet, and following the swan mother’s relationship with a young girl she meets in a park we are swept into a modern day world where magic still exists and love can still save us.

A faery tale is defined at literaryterms.net as a fanciful wondrous story with magical elements that spark imagination and where we can experience thinks in our mind before we experience them in the real world. In her beautifully told tale, Serene Conneeley takes us out of time and challenges our imagination with real world problems, and her tale is definitely wondrous. Not only that, but she managed to take me back to my time in Ireland when I fell in love with Irish Faery Tales, and for that alone I would have loved this book.

When I started reading I felt this book would be great for that hard to buy for age—the tweens, and I have to say it is a perfect story for them. But like all good children’s book, this story has another whole level that will be enjoyed by adults who still love a good faery tale and by romantics of all ages

Buy the Swan Maiden at The Bookdepository

Chasing Neve by K.A.Last

I am not a fairy princess girl—never have been, never will be. So it won’t come as no shock to you that Snow White was one of those stories that never appealed to me as a child. Still, I like K.A Last as an author, so I decided to give her re-telling of Chasing Neve a whirl.

I could be flip and say this book is nothing like the Snow White of my childhood, and to a certain extent that would be correct—but it would also be untrue. Chasing Never has; an orphan girl, a wicked step mother, a magic mirror, a huntsmen, an apple and even the dwarves are there—sort of. There the similarities end.

Snow White—or Neve as she is in this book—is not waiting for anyone to rescue her and get rid of her step-mother. No, she is quite prepared to do that herself, even if that means going on an adventure through magical lands to get what she needs to save her country and her people—even if that means facing a dragon.

There are still enough of the elements of the original story to keep Snow White fans happy, and there may even be a little romance, but the happy ever after is a little different, and Neve is a kick-ass heroine.

Early teens and above who love the retellings of faery tales should definitely add this to their shelves, but fantasy readers who love a strong female facing adversity will also enjoy this read.

Buy Chasing Neve at The BookDepository

Tween Books to Wile Away the Hours

A week at home with a cold with my son and husband gave me an appreciation for what quarantined families are feeling, especially with many schools closing. Perhaps the most difficult age groups to keep amused are our tweens. I may have some ideas for those bored 8-13 year olds.

A week at home with a cold with my son and husband gave me an appreciation for what quarantined families are feeling, especially with many schools closing. Perhaps the most difficult age groups to keep amused are our tweens. I may have some ideas for those bored 8-13 year olds.

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I enjoy stocking The Bookbubble store because I get to spend time browsing books. I often end up buying stories I want to read myself, but of course there are so many books and so little time.

I picked up In Search of Watson quite some time ago thinking what’s not to like about this book—I mean what a great twist on Sherlock Holmes, cases seen through the eyes of the street urchins who helped him solve cases? Still, it kept moving tot he bottom of my reading pile, perhaps because it is written for the tween (8-13) market, and these books are often not as big a juicy as YA books, or as entertaining as picture books.

This week I had a cold, and in the Coronavirus world we live in at the moment I kept myself away from work. Bored, and with a stinking headache this was the perfect read. As I curled up on the sofa with my book I kept asking myself why I had waited for so long to read it.

Not only is there a great story-line—death and a missing diary lead to a race to find ancient treasure under the streets of London—but then Dr Watson is kidnapped. Asked to find the good Doctor by Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street irregulars are thwarted at every turn by another gang, and it seems they have a traitor in their midst.

There are also great characters; Pilar who is trying to gain acceptance into he group, Ozzie who is looking for his father and Wiggins who leads the Irregulars. All your favourite Sherlock Holmes characters are there too; Sherlock himself, Dr Watson and, of course, Moriarty.

The story line is fast paced and full of adventurous turns, the characters are engaging and the twist at the end is well hidden. There are cyphers and history and all wrapped in a book that children and adults will enjoy. I started at book three, but will be looking for the rest of the books in this series—well done Mack and Citrin.

A bonus if you are stuck at home, this books has end matter including details on how to make a simple cypher, and a little bit of history that could be turned into activities for your bored tweens.

Buy the Baker Street Irregular Series from Bookdepository

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones

Walking the dog is a great way for me to unwind. I used to listen to music as I walked, but I’ve recently rediscovered the power of audiobooks. Having used all my audible credits I was searching in the library for something to read and I stumbled across a book I bought for Sam when he was sick and bored at home. At the time he had an obsession with King Arthur and Merlin, he loved listening to the How to Train your Dragon books read by David Tennant and so with the Merlin Conspiracy I was onto a winner—for him.

I knew this would be an easy book to listen to as Amelia Fox joined David Tennant narrating the story, but what surprised me was how good the book was.

Amelia Fox was Arianrhrod, a young witch travelling with the King’s Progress renewing the magic in Blessed—a different version of Britain. David Tennant took on the role of Nick, a boy from another version of earth, wishing to be a great mage and, as we all know, you should be careful what you wish for.

Arianrhrod and her friend stumble upon a plot to altar magic in the Blessed Isles. In an effort to foil it the two end up travelling around the Isle getting helped and hindered by some very interesting magical talents. On their journey they stumble on the Dark Roads, where they find Nick, who is destined to help them in their quest.

Along the way they meet fantastical witches and wizards, they learn more about the magical world around them, and the multi-worlds—and perhaps even a little more about themselves.

Diana Wynne Jones’s world in The Merilyn Conspiracy is enchanting and engrossing. Children and adults alike who love books about magic would love the unique world she creates for her characters. And I am guessing the written book will appeal to tweens, who are already Harry Potter and Morrigan Crow fans.

While reading the book out loud could be a great family activity, you could also give the audio book a go, it is definitely worth it!

Buy The Merlin Conspiracy from Bookdepository

Love Kindle? Love YA? Love this Promo!

Back from the Holidays

After a long break I am back from holidays and am rearing to go with some reviews, but not this week – this week I wanted to do a little planning and preparing, and give you some idea of what I will be reading and reviewing this year.

I am going to try and be very good this year and record my reading choices on my goodreads page, which I am hoping you can see from here. I hope this works. I will then endeavour to update goodreads with my reviews as well.

If you have any book review ideas please drop a line at the bottom of this post. I will consider almost everything suitable for children and YA readers.

My Holiday Reading

Over the break I took some time to read some amazing books, but I have to admit they were mostly adult ones. While I was reading I wondered why we make the distinction between Young Adult and Adult Books since many of us read both? I realised it is perhaps the more adult themes that younger readers may not understand, and they certainly do not like direct references to sex. In spite of realising this, this year I am going to include a few more adult books younger people may enjoy, although I will bear in mind their dislikes.

I already have the Maisie Dobbs series on my list of books to read. I have indulged myself reading a lot of these books, but I still have a few to go. I think Young Adult readers will enjoy these inter-war year mysteries.

There will be Fantasy

Of course there will be YA Fantasy. I love this genre, I write in this genre, and I want to excite more people about the books available in the Fantasy realm. There are already a few on my reading list, some that have not even been published yet! I mean who is not excited about The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes? I cannot wait to get back to the world of the Hunger Games.

Of Course Picture Books are a Must

Reading begins with great picture books, and carried on with books that inspire and engage. Over the last year I have not done much work in this category, but I am going to scour the libraries and bookshops and online bookshops for some gems.

A Personal Challenge

Over the holidays I went and saw Jojo Rabbit with reviewer Sam, and it reminded me books are a great way to revisit history. This year I want to review some books that challenge us to look at history and understand differences, and at least one of these will be non-fiction.

A Bonus

This year I have challenged reviewer Sam to provide one book review a month from the viewpoint of a teenage boy. He has not been reading as many books since he started high school, so I am interested to see what he will choose to read and share this year.

My Target

I have set my target in goodreads to read (and hopefully review) 52 books. Of course, because I never share a bad review, you will only see the good books here.

I have also set myself a few other targets to pull me out of my comfort zone, and give you a better variety to read about. I will also pepper the year with some blogs about reading, or where to find books, or just some general thoughts on children’s books.

Hope you enjoy 2020, and our first reviews, which will be out next week.

It’s A Mystery To Me

My favourite modern Cosy Mysteries take on some of the elements I love from Agatha Christie’s writing. Set in small towns, they have a main character using common sense and their relationships with others to overcome adversity.

The last couple of months have been busy. I released the first book in a new series – Swagman, and I am busy finishing the last book in my first series – Battle. I visited home in New Zealand and also took a trip to Brisbane to see friends. In between all of this I have been reading and researching a new idea for another book.

You see I love a good mystery, and I thought maybe I might be able to write one myself. Not a full blown Karen Slaughter or JD Robb, but more of a cosy mystery. So I have been using my down time to read a few books in this genre and flesh out my ideas.

While I read I thought to myself these are great books for older kids to read too. You may well ask why I would think that? These books tend to have great characters, a puzzle to be solved and are, for the most part, clean fiction. Which makes them a good read for children who think they are too old for children’s books.

I have picked a few of my recent reads for you to try.

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

To me, Agatha Christie is the master of the Cosy Mystery. Her characters are always well developed and her plots are a marvel. My favourite heroes have always been Tommy and Tuppence, but this time round I read the last of her Miss Marple books.

In Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple chances on a young woman who had fled to London because she has seen a murder in her house, in a dream. The shaken woman and her husband decide to investigate, and a worried Miss Marple decides to help, because she know just what trouble you can get into when you investigate mysteries.

I have just realised it is difficult to review a mystery because anything I write might give away a clue to how the plot unfolds. Perhaps I will just say this, as Gwenda and her husband delve into the history of their house, they find the mystery is very personal, and they place their lives in danger in their search for the truth.

For me this book loses a little because Miss Marple only plays a bit part, and the new characters are not as well formed as in other books. Even with this, Sleeping Murder is still a great read and keeps you guessing til the end.

Murder by the Book by Lauren Elliott

My favourite modern Cosy Mysteries take on some of the elements I love from Agatha Christie’s writing. Set in small towns, they have a main character using common sense and their relationships with others to overcome adversity.

In Murder by the Book, Addie has been plagued by bad luck but believes this is finally changing when she receives an inheritance and is able to leave her job as a librarian to open her own book store. This belief is short lives as strange things start happening and her life is placed in danger.

The strength of this book is the characters. Addie is strong and brave and has an interesting way of approaching things. The town she has moved to has an array of very strong “suspects”, and the plot has a number of twists and turns. I enjoyed this book so much I just had to buy and read the next in the series – Prologue to Murder and am eagerly awaiting the third book. Beside, let’s face it, a mystery and books – what’s not to love.

A Twist in the Tail by Leighann Dobbs

My third cosy mystery is one the jury is still out on. This book is well written, the mystery grabs the readers attention from the first chapter, and the lead character Josie is very likeable. I also loved the additional characters of her mother and her mother’s friend who show up to help Josie.

The mystery is also engaging. Josie has taken on running a guest house in a small town only to find one of her guests has been murdered. As she is the prime suspect, she decides she needs to prove her innocence.

What I am unsure about in this book is the cats. Don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but cats as detectives? Perhaps it is that part of the book is written from their point of view. This is well handled in that they are very cat-like personalities with their own unique characters, and they do play a part in the mystery. However, I think one of the main draws to Cosy Mysteries for me is the human characters and their interactions, I think perhaps I am not quite ready for life from a cat point of view (and, funnily enough, as I was typing this my own cat jumped on the desk for attention, almost as if she knew I was dissing some of her fellow felines).

I really enjoyed this book, once I started skipping over the cat bits. Leighann Dobbs is a good writer, and her plot is definitely intriguing. I also realise many people will be attracted to this book, especially younger readers with a love of animals, and what I found annoying they will find captivating.

Already Reviewed

If none of my recent mystery reads have grabbed you, then perhaps a browse through some old mystery reviews will help.

For Younger readers there are EJ12 and Max Remy Books, and the ever fantastic Nancy Drew. A more modern take is The, Girl, The Dog and The Writer in Rome.

For those readers who are a little older, perhaps the Viral series from Kathy and Brendon Reichs. I reviewed Exposure some time ago. Or maybe John Grisham’s move into young adult fiction, the Theodore Boone Series.

There is a great range of mystery adventure stories out thereto tempt your young and old readers, so why not have a browse. If you cannot decide where to start, may I suggest an Agatha Christie.

For a different range of books why not try some of the new ones available in this

For a different range of books why not try some of the new ones available in this promo

YA Fantasy Fest

White Noise by Tanya Lisle and Brightshade by Miriam R. Dimitra

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on ways to find independent authors to read using methods I use to promote my own books. After that post I decided to test my own theory and bought some books from a YA Fantasy Promotion. The promotion was for 99c books and I purchased three titles. 

Of those three books I found one was not really my type of read, although I can see why teens might enjoy it, but I also found two winners. Not bad for a $3 investment.

White Noise by Tanya Lisle

This book was chosen with reviewer Sam in mind, but I finished it before he even started reading. Loved the idea of this story, with a teenage boy being kidnapped as his parents were shot dead in front of him. Teleported to in unknown location, Max meets other teens with special abilities, who try to help him fit in and learn about his own abilities.

I really thought this was going to be a running for your life, Conspiracy 365 type story with a smidgen of super powers thrown in.  Boy was I wrong. Just when you think you have a handle on what is going on in this book, with a few flicks of her wrist Tanya Lisle twists what you know like a rubic’s cube, and the perspective changes.

A book for teens (and older if you like a good mystery), Max is witty, a little sarcastic, and really carries this story as he questions the reality of everything he is told. What I really like about him though is he has opportunities to walk away, but he works to try and save his newly made friends to a truely surprising end.

Buy White Noise from Booktopia

Buy White Noise from The Book Depository

Brightshade (Tales of Aether and Soul Book 1) by Miriam R. Dumitra

Right up my alley, Miriam Dumitra’s Brightsades is an epic fantasy full of magic and wars and a magical searching for answers. 

Set in two countries, one that uses magic and one that has favoured science and rejected magic, Jenna is trying to find out why she cannot control her magical abilities. Her journey becomes more perilous as we find forces are trying to bring about war between the two nations.

In the meantime we follow the lives of a soldier, a thief, an arsonist and a killer who are all being drawn together to meet with Jenna and face a foe who threatens them all.

The world of Brightshades is well imagined and a true player in this story. Jenna and the other main characters are flawed enough to be really interesting. The plot line draws you in and then you find you are at the end of the book wanting more.

This is a great teen fantasy read, and I cannot wait for book two.

Buy Brightshades from Booktopia

Buy Brightshade from The Book Depository

YA Fantasy Books

Where did I find these two diverse fantasy reads? I signed up to receive newsletters from the YA Fantasy Books Website. Every couple of months they have a 99c or free promotion listing. It comes straight to my in box and I can then scroll though and look at the books I am interest in. If you like any type of fantasy book this is a great way to find new authors.

 NB: I use this site to promote my books, but I am not affiliated in any way.

@YAFANTASYBOOKWEBSITE or YAFANTASYBOOKS.COM

Tired of the Same Old Book Selection?

There are alternatives if you have time.

Serendipity is my word for today. I planned to write a blog about ways to find new and exciting books some time ago. This week, as I planned what I would write in my head, I had two conversations that in the end helped me shape today’s offering.

The first was with a mum asking where I find such interesting books to review as she could never find anything like them in the local book shop.

My second arose while at a craft class when one lady said to me I know what my children like, but I can only find one or two series like that in the shops, then I am stuck.

While many of the authors featured on the shelves of local book stores are great, they are only the tip of the iceberg, I explained. ‘Where do I find the rest of the iceberg?’ was her quick response.

The Time Factor

After these two conversations lamenting the fact that most book shops have the same books by the same authors, I came to the conclusion we might all be our own worst enemies.

While we are quite happy to nip into a book shop in the local mall to quickly pick up something for ourselves or our children to read. Some people even branch out and look for the free and cheap reads online. What we rarely ever do is take some time browse and search for something new.

I was spoilt when I lived in the UK. They have large bookshops you can lose yourself in for hours, with selections we in Australia can only dream of. However, if we take some time, we can actually go places in the real world and online where we can browse through some interesting and different books.

In the Real World

Book Festivals and Book Fairs

One way to find new authors to read is go on line and find out if there are any book fairs in your local area. These will feature many established writers, but many emerging and self-published writers will also attend. A quick internet search showed me there is an event on in Sydney next weekend called Books by the Bridge

Specialist Shops

Another way to get a better selection of books you are interest in is to look on line for specialist bookshops in your area. Taking my own advice I decided to do a quick search of good children’s bookshops in Sydney and came up with the Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft, and Abbey’s Bookshop in the city. I now have two shops to add to my list.

Second Hand Shops

Another great way to find a variety of books is to go to second hand book stores. All right, some a pretty bad, but sometimes you can find one that is well worth your time. I love second hand book shopping when on holiday. I have been in may average stores, but one I really loved was Boobooks in Armidale NSW. I also had fun browsing through the book collection in Terrace Collectables in Kiama. One I cannot wait to visit is Hard to Find Books in New Zealand. I hope to get there on my visit home this year. A quick search on the internet will find you some gems I am sure.

Finding Books on the Internet

The great this about all these places are you can find heaps of different books and actually pick one up, read a little, and see if you like it. What if you do not have the time or ability to travel, well there is always the internet.

I am sure I heard a collective gasp as you read that. Who has time to look for books on the minefield that is the internet? You could get sucked in and not come out for days. Also, how do you know if you will actually like a book you find on the internet, especially if you buy a paperback version? With all these indie and self-published authors how do I know the quality is good? The good news is I have some hints and tips.

Some of you may know last year I delved into the world of self-publishing last year, and as I learnt the trick to promoting your material on line, I also found some great places people can find books, and try books.

Using Tools on Online Booksites

The good news is some of you may already be buying books by indie and self-published authors. They are widely available on Amazon, Booktopia and in fact all the traditional stores you purchase from. In most cases the only way to tell if they are self-published is that they will not be promoted by a traditional publishing house like Harper Collins or Scholastic etc. One way to check out some of these authors is to look at the recommended and promoted books on these sights.

Try searching for an author or book you like, scroll down tot he also like options and you will find a range of other books in the same genre. Have a look at a few of these. It should only take a few moments, and you might actually find something new and different to read.

Free, Cheap and Review Book Sites

When buying through many of these online bookshops you get a chance to read and excerpt to see if you like the book, but if you are a little braver and have something you can download a digital version of a book too, you can really test out some of these new authors.

Many authors load free or cheap books and short stories on to websites such as prolificworks.com, bookfunnel.com, freebooksy.com and barginbooksy.com, and the app readercoin. The idea is readers will maybe sign up to a newsletter or a facebook page and read more of your work. For a reader it is a great, cheap way to find new books.

Join Groups and Newsletters and Follow Authors

Following authors you like, signing up to their newsletters or doing book groups on facebook may seem like a pain just to try a new book, but if you think about it, it is a no cost way to keep up to date with new and cheap reads in your favourite genres.

One of my reviews next month will be from a book I found by joining the facebook group YA Fantasy Books. Also, some of the newsletters I receive have updates not only on the author I originally followed, but also details of new books by other similar authors. The self-publishing community is very supportive in that way.

Review and Promotion Groups

Two other tools I use to find books are Goodreads.com and Bookbub. If you sign up to Goodreads you can track books you are reading and write review, but it will also recommend similar books for you to read. You can join reader groups and get recommendations, or you can just browse and read other reader reviews.

Bookbub sends you out newsletter at frequencies you set in areas you are interested in. These are new releases by big names, as well as some of the better selling indie authors.

Independent Publisher Sites

The final way to find some different books is to find independent publisher sites. I found the Della Mortkia Series on Lulu.com, but there are other sites such as xlibris and pegasus publisher to name a couple, where you can find new authors to read. These sites sell books directly to customers and have some really interesting reads.

If you avoid your bookstore in the mall, take some time and think outside of the box, might just find some new and exciting reading options for you and your children.

Ann Frank’s Diary – Is This Book Still Relevant?

The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank

 

I read Ann Frank’s Diary as a Child. When I was in my tweens I was fascinated by World War Two, and especially the treatment of the Jewish population in Europe during the war. I read a lot of books by holocaust survivors. I could not believe that human beings could treat each other like that, in fact I still cannot. One of the books that really resonated with me though was Ann Frank’s The Diary of a young girl. I recently had reason to revisit this book and wanted to share with you why I think tis book is still relevant for today’s children.

Vivienne’s Persepctive

The book resonated with me because here was someone like me who spent years living in a cramped space with other people hiding from the Nazis. Unlike others she did not have a happy ending. Her hiding place was discovered and she died in a concentration camp days before liberation.

What really captured my imagination about this book was not that the book contained a lot of drama, in fact quite the opposite. The diary records the mundane day to day activities in a strange environment. Because it was so normal it was also all the more shocking that in the face of the holocaust such normality continued. I also loved the fact that the families in this book were helped by people who in their own way stood up to the great evil occurring around them. In fact this common theme ran through many of the WWII books I read. For every fanatic and every person who followed along carrying out atrocities there were people who fought against what they believed to be wrong.

Why I Wanted Sam to Read This Book

Last year reviewer Sam was quite upset about the state of the world. It started with the fact that there are a lot of children in refugee camps and detention centres, and they could not do the things normal children could. Then he went on to worry about the war in the middle east and the persecution of Muslims by muslims and christians by muslims and muslims by christians. Faced with these global issue he felt helpless and he could not see a good end.

I could have had him read a book by a child involved in the current crisis but I wanted to show him that humanity has been dealing with similar issues since time began, and that good people can make a difference. It also helped that we were stopping in Amsterdam on our way to the UK for a family Christmas. So I hit upon the idea to introduce him to Ann and visit her house while we were there.

The Diary Revisited

My view of the diary was different to Sam’s and I had already visited Ann Frank’s House many years before. But a re-read for me and a new visit bought a different persepctive, especially after I had discussed the diary with Sam. It really does lend itself more to female readers, but there are many other books that boys might enjoy far more (I found these on Goodreads). The house had also changed since I went and wandered through the few rooms the two families and a friend lived in for over two years. You can now see where the people who helped them worked and you are told more about their stories. There is also a new museum part that tells the story of what happened after they were found out. And, even more impressively, there is a section where people discuss the impact Ann and her family had on them and their modern day relevance.

I believe that reading about people who have lived though some of the worst events in our history is important, no matter how far in the past the events occur. It is right that we are shocked by some of the event, but also good that we can see how the acts of others can make a real difference. For this reason I believe children should still be reading Ann Frank’s Diary.

Sam’s Persepctive

I did not really enjoy reading Ann Frank’s Diary. There was too much about girl’s stuff. I did like the bits about what was going on in Amsterdam during the war, and the things that happened when she listened to the radio or looked out the window. But I really did not get what it was like for her to live in the attic until we went to see the rooms she live in.

I found the visit to the attic really interesting. They lived in such a small area. And it would have been so hard to be quiet during the day. I also found all the information about concentration camps and what went on during the war very interesting, and quite sad.

Although I did not really enjoy Ann’s Diary I am going to look for other books about boys during World War Two so I can find out what it was like for them.

 

I have not included any links for buying this book as it can be found almost anywhere you buy books. But you can look at the Ann Frank website here, and I have included some photos for you.

 

Our Five for Christmas Reads

Our Top Five Picks for Christmas Reads

Well it is that time of year when reviewer Sam and I like to look back on the books we have read and make some recommendations for Christmas presents or just holiday reading. I let Sam go first this year, and the little monkey stole some of my picks! Links will take you to reviews so you can read further.

Sam’s Top Five

Maze Runner by James Dashner  – This book is full of twists and turns and secrets. In fact I would recommend the whole series (Safe to say Sam has been obsessed with the Maze Runner series and prequals all year).

Magnus Chase Series by Rick Riordan – I read the most recent book in this series this year but I loved them all.

Nevermore by Jessica Townsend – Just cause it is amazing and magical. (This is one he stole from me!)

York by Laura Ruby – It is full of secret codes and cyphers! I should have listened to mum and read this earlier! (This was my other pick!)

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell – Just as good as the How to Train Your Dragon Series. I loved it!

Also you should check out The Hunger Games Series (I did not review this) and I loved The Summoner Series and the Tree House Books are great for a laugh! Also, I know Wonder is out as a movie, but you really should read the book!

 

My Top Five

I have had a great year reading, the more books I read the more I find to love. Personally this year I have loved reading the Throne of Glass Series, and I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed The Lovely Dark. But mostly this year I have rediscovered that beautifully written stories can touch the heart and my my top picks are more in the line of traditional writing – good stories told well.

Wombat Goes to School by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley- a great picture book beautifully illustrated. Children will love it and adults will love reading it to them.

Sungglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs – (Any book you can get your hands on) For the illustrations alone, but really because May tells lovely takes that are timeless.

A Different Dog by Paul Jennings – A happy sad story beautifully told.

The Shop at Hooper’s Bend by Emily Rodda – for me this and Nevermore we the best books I read all year! Once again a beautiful tale well told.

The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson – Imaginative story telling at its best.

 

We still have some more reviews coming this year, with a special surprise from Sam and I  for the last review before Christmas.

 

Why I Recommend Fantasy books for Teens and YA

Fantasy Books – Where Girls Can Be Whatever They Want

 

I read a lot of Fantasy novels, and I write fantasy books. Some recent conversations have had me thinking why I enjoy these books so much and why I so often recommend them for female readers.

I have always enjoyed the fact that when creating fantasy worlds many authors deal with problems we face in the real world and are able to give them a different spin because they can make the rules in their own world. A suspension of belief means that in a fantasy world magic is real, there are non-human creatures and girls can be kick-ass!

Don’t get me wrong, I have read real world books where the female characters are great role models for girls. Max Remy manages to save the day in In Search for the Time and Space Machine, and Tori Brennan leads her team if Virals to solve crimes in Exposure, and I loved Qil in The Shop at Hoopers Bend. But in many of the books I read, especially the funny books aimed at reluctant readers, the smart girl is at best annoying, and the sport girl is often seen as bossy or an over-achiever and the boy still wants to be with the prettiest girl.

In The Throne of Glass Series Celaena is a kick-ass assassin, and in The Wizards of Once Sam liked Wish the warrior because she was bad-ass. The Della Mortika Sisters are scientists as is Fever Crumb in the Mortal Engines prequel. Grace is a Vampire Hunter in Fall for Me and Tess is an integral part of the team that solves the riddle in York. Even the lesser characters in fantasy series are great role models. Where would Harry be without Hermione in the Harry Potter Series? And in the Impossible Quest Series even the lords daughter, the beautiful Eleanor, is a strong character who proves herself on the Quest. In the Percy Jackson series Annabeth can more than take care of herself, and even Percy at times.

I can hear some of you saying my girls love reading stories about princesses and animals and fairies, and I have to say a good love story is hard to pass up for me even. But just sometimes it’s nice to know that there are some stories out that that show strong women taking care of themselves and others in non-traditional roles, just to let our girls know there are options.

I would love to hear of books with positive role models for girls you get your sons and daughters to read.