October, October

October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I was very kindly sent a copy of this by Bloomsbury.

However, I had already bought both a physical copy (knowing nothing about the book and based solely on Angela Harding’s beautiful cover) and an e-book version (having started it and not been able to put it down when I went up and down stairs to Peapod each eve)

So, yes, I was technically gifted a copy, but I think the fact that I’ve also bought two copies for myself should prove that both a) I loved this book and b) I’m being honest about just how much!

I really couldn’t put this down. The contrasting settings of woodland and town were vivid and real; I felt like I was being granted a glimpse of a secret, wild world both raw and beautiful in the woods, while I saw the claustrophobic bustle and noise of the city through fresh eyes as they overwhelmed October.

October has just turned eleven and has grown up living ‘wild’ in the woods with her dad. She loves their life and the nature that surrounds her.

I loved reading about their life – seeing how they embraced it with autumn dips in freezing waters and fires outside looking at the stars; how they cared for the wood, striking a balance between respecting its natural, wild ways and tending to it to keep it alive and growing; the little details and practicalities of life there. Katya Balen does a fantastic job of portraying a life both demanding and cosy, hard but rewarding.

However, October’s life as she knows it is brought crashing down when she is forced to move to her mum’s London terrace when her dad is hospitalised after an accident.

October hasn’t spoken to her mum since she left when October was four, despite her mum’s best efforts, and seeing October grapple with both city life and living with a parent she wants nothing to do with, that she feels abandoned by and resentment towards, is an incredibly difficult but believable read.

October is such a fantastic character and I really felt myself in her shoes as she’s runs the gamut of emotions. Incredibly moving, there were times my heart ached for her, but just as many moments of sheer joy; she was truly fantastic to read.

This is a book about growing, adapting and overcoming, about finding hidden treasures in unlikely places, about letting go and learning to fly.

It is an absolute gem of a book, with stunning illustrations from Angela Harding and I cannot recommend it enough.

WWW Wednesday 28/10/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

I will be starting this today. I’m expecting part The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and part Land of Roar…we’ll see!


Taylor and Rose – Secret Agents: Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’m only a chapter of so I’m but I had to go straight onto these after finishing The Sinclair Mysteries!


What have you just finished reading?

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

I loved this! You can read my review here.


October, October by Katya Balen

I loved this too! I’ll post a review later today or tomorrow!


The Sinclairs Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

An excellent ending to a highly enjoyable series!



I posted my anticipated tbr for October at the start of the month and of the six books, I read five plus a couple of extras so I’m pretty pleased with that!

 

What will you read next?

Um…

Have you read any of these? What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 21/10/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

I am absolutely LOVING this! Def one of my fave reads this year!

The Sinclairs Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’ve nearly finished this now and as we draw to the end the tension is really mounting, especially as I can’t quite remember how it all plays out!

What have you just finished reading?

Nothing! After a few great reading weeks, this one has been slower, but also Once and Future Witches is a bit of a beast! So I haven’t actually reached the end of anything this week!

What will you read next?

All other reading plans and TBRs are about to go on hold as I attempt the impossible for a second year running for work. This year, I have just under 30 books to get through by January – GO!

That said, I’m desperate to try and squeeze the last of my October planned reads – October, October by Katya Balen and Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael – in still and The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery too, so… does anyone have any extra hours for my days?!

Have you read any of these? What are you reading at the moment?

The Big Book of Blooms

I was lucky enough to request and receive copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Big Book of Blooms and the Big Sticker Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer

Yuval Zommer’s ‘Big Book of…’ range is such a brilliant series (you can read my review of The Big Book of Blue here) – gorgeous illustrations, bite-size facts and a touch which manages to be both light-hearted and quirky, but also to convey Yuval’s clear passion for and knowledge of his subject matter.

As the books all follow the same format, much of what I wrote about The Big Book of Blue also stands out here – the humour, vibrancy, and easy reading style, not to mention the choice of facts included.

While beasts and bugs may seem obviously interesting subject matter for children’s non-fiction, blooms could be seen as a less obvious, perhaps drier choice. Luckily though, we needn’t worry about that – we’re in safe hands here!

With weird and wonderful facts and figures encompassing dinosaurs, astronauts, Egyptian mummies, stinky plants, carnivorous plants, poisons, celebrations, fangs and traps…not to mention all the birds, bugs and beasts the plants co-exist with this is just as fascinating as all the others.

I always learn so much from these, as an adult, that while the use of short captions in and amongst the illustrations mean they are perfect for less confident readers, they will be just as appealing for keen beans and older readers.

With sections on different types of plants, as well as pollination and ecology, and finishing with a spread intended to get kids growing too (I especially loved that this was designed to be useful fo those with little or no garden space) there is huge scope here and plenty to both inform and inspire.

Likewise, the text itself is hugely accessible and engaging. The facts feel light and fun, but the language includes scientific vocabulary, explanations are clear and perfectly pitched and, as ever, there’s a brilliant glossary at the end. I especially love the spread showing the different parts of a flower – you’ve never seen a scientific diagram like it!

Which brings us, of course, to the illustrations. They are, in short, fantastic. Rich in texture and detail, and bursting with colour, life and a real sense of joy, I’m drawn into them and could pore over them for hours.

And with 15 golden bulbs to find hiding in the illustrations I have every excuse I need to do just that!

The accompanying sticker book is really so much more than a sticker book.

Packed with games, activities, colouring and, of course, stickers not to mention facts, it’s the perfect activity book for fact-loving youngsters. Ideal for journeys, holidays or rainy weekends there is loads to do, learn and see here too!

Hugely engaging, accessible and appealing, these books are written by a man who knows his audience remarkably well and which deserve a place on every child’s bookcase and in every classroom.

WWW Wednesday 14/10/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

I’ve only read the first chapter, but I think I’m going to love this!

The Sinclairs Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

It’s funny how this is coming back to be from when I first read it as I get further in!


What have you just finished reading?

The House on Hoarder Hill by Kelly Ngai and Mikki Lish

I really enjoyed the blend of mystery, magic and family in this! You can read my review here.

Witch by Finbar Hawkins

I loved this – stunning in every sense, I read it on netgalley but have ordered the hardback for myself. You can read my review here.


The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

This is SUCH a gorgeous book. Filled to the absolute brim with a love of nature, the poems are evocative and the illustrations bring it all to life in such rich and delicate detail. The glossary at the back is a wonderful touch too.

What will you read next?

I snuck in The Lost Spells ahead of it, so October, October by Katya Balen is still the next physical book on my October TBR, but The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery has just arrived for me too, so it might be that…

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

The House on Hoarder Hill

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review (ages ago – sorry!) All views and opinions are my own.

The House on Hoarder Hill by Kelly Ngai and Mikki Lish

I didn’t know what to expect from this. At first glance, it looks and sounds like a haunted house mystery, but it’s also heaps of fun.

Hedy and younger brother Spencer are spending their holidays at their Granddad’s, and they’re not exactly overjoyed about it. They don’t see him often and know that he has strict rules about not going in most of the rooms or touching things in the house. Sharing a room and with no internet, they are expecting to be bored.

But they soon realise its going to be anything but boring when strange messages start appearing around the place and they embark on a mission to find their Grandma Rose who’s been missing since before they were born.

And so they begin hunting for clues and trying to track her down, the help of the absolutely brilliant Stan (a mounted Stag’s head) and Doug (a bear[skin] rug) – a hilarious double act – along with their cousins Jelly and Mac, a somewhat mysterious housekeeper, ghosts both good and…less so, and some other helping hands.

I loved the eclectic cast of characters and how they all came together, as well as how they really fed into the mystery elements of the book – who to trust and who to doubt (I admit to being wrong about a couple of them!)

Likewise, the magical elements of the book were brilliantly varied and vibrant too. From enchanted objects to portals to ghosts, from magicians’ tricks to the mythological, it felt like a real treat for the imagination.

Alongside the magical and marvellous are more familial themes – sibling rivalries and bonds and its understanding of these relationships is what makes this book more than just another light-hearted magical romp. The characters – their feelings, their relationships and motivations – have depth and there is understanding underpinning the story.

The pace really picks up towards the end, bringing us to a dramatic finale and leaving us on tenterhooks for book two.

Funny, warm, magical and bursting with imagination – lots of fun and cleverly done! Bring on the sequel!

WWW Wednesday 7/10/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The House on Hoarder Hill by Kelly Ngai and Mikki Lish

I’ve only read the first chapter but it’s drawn me right in, I have high hopes!

Witch by Finbar Hawkins

I feel like I’ve said I’m about to read this repeatedly for months, but this time I really, really am about to start it!

The Sinclairs Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy


I’ve actually read this before but I don’t remember it very well and I couldn’t leave off the last book in the series (despite the bloody narrator!)


What have you just finished reading?


The Sinclairs Mysteries: The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’ve nearly finished this now and, while I guessed the who in the whodunit at the very start, I’m intrigued as to how they’ll reveal it and how things will play out.


Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas

This is one I’ll definitely be recommending, as there was plenty to enjoy – I really liked the balance struck between ‘horror’ and humour.

Unfortunately there were other things I was less keen on, so I didn’t end up loving it as much as I’d hoped, but it will be one I recommend as, for its intended audience, I can see it going down a storm!

Pine by Francine Toon

Another I was sadly pretty underwhelmed by. I had high hopes and enjoyed the early part of the book, which really built up a chilling atmosphere amidst the remote Scottish Highlands in winter. However the second part of the book felt like stereotype followed by cliché followed by trope and the ending was disappointing to say the least.

A Secret of Birds and Bone by Kiran Millwood Hargrave


Let’s end on a high – I LOVED this! You can read my review here.

What will you read next?

October, October by Katya Balen is next physical book on my October TBR, and I have The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow on netgalley.

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picks – One Cat, One Yak and One Thing

(OK, strictly speaking multiple yaks, but Gertie steals the show, so..!)

This week, I brought home a new (to us) Mog book – Mog and Bunny – and a new (to us) Charlie and Lola book – One Thing – in the hope of adding a teeny bit of variety to our bedtime reads (see this post on the billion reads of Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies!).

One Thing sees Charlie and Lola go to the shops for one thing (each, that’s two things in total) and Peapod likes to repeat “one thing” very firmly!

We all like all the numbers and counting in it as they count things they see on the way and how long things take (in true Charlie and Lola style) and its one that I think we’ll return to for years to come and one I think I’ll buy in board book format too.

Mog and Bunny has, as expected, taken pole position at bedtime with back to back reads and Peapod finishing many of the sentences or taking a turn to sit and ‘read’ it to us too.

Mog has a new toy, Bunny, who she loves (she loves both his ears off across the first couple of pages which is just the sort of lovely, homely and knowing detail you’d expect from Judith Kerr).

After a barbecue (Peapod was delighted to see a bbq in the story as he’s loved ours over the summer!), bunny gets left outside and Nicky and Debbie end up on a midnight expedition into the garden to look for Mog who has stayed with poor old Bunny in the rain.

As ever, it’s full of familiar family scenes and sentiments. Observant, warm, funny and with the ever-loveable Mog at its centre, this is another firm favourite for our little Mog fan (and us!)

I’ll be honest I was a little surprised that The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley made the bedtime cut. And this is no criticism of the book, but rather me knowing how set in his ways Peapod is when it comes to bedtime stories!

But opening our parcel (thank you Simon and Schuster) at bedtime drew him in and it’s testament to how enjoyable the book is that since then he’s requested it nightly along with absolute favourites Mog and Charlie and Lola!

A fresh take on a familiar feeling for many little people – Gertie is fed up of being small. She longs to grow up and be like the big yaks around her, despite her mum reassuring her that that

“But yaks,” Mummy smiled, “are all shapes and sizes. And BIGNESS can come in all sorts of disguises!”

But when an even smaller yak gets into trouble, only Gertie can save the day.

With bouncy, rhyming text that flows perfectly (Peapod’s dad did his best Guy-Garvey-on-CBeebies-Bedtime-Story impression, which is always the proof that a rhyming book works well in our house!) we all enjoy snuggling up to listen to this one at bedtime.

Kate Hindley is an absolute favourite in our house and she works her illustrative magic here again. With wonderfully characterful and expressive yaks in thick chunky knitwear (if yaks did scandi-noir…) and gorgeous starry and snowy scenes, she somehow creates a book that is both exuberant and cosy all at once!

A perfect book for little people in a rush to grow up, but equally lovely for both big and little people to to get cosy with on these cold days and nights!

WWW Wednesday 30/9/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick

I’m liking this well enough, although it’s taken a more sci-fi turn than I was expecting. I don’t think it’ll end up being one I love, but it’s likely to be one I continue to recommend at work.

The Sinclair’s Mysteries: The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’ve nearly finished this now and, while I guessed the who in the whodunit at the very start, I’m intrigued as to how they’ll reveal it and how things will play out.

What have you just finished reading?

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

I loved this, and was very excited to find out there’ll definitely be a sequel next year. You can read my review here.

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

I enjoyed this. Our narrator, Adunni, brings a voice of hope and humour to some otherwise heartbreaking experiences, and in doing so gives a voice to many young girls and women still suffering from similar cultural and traditional beliefs and customs.


The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

Erin from My Shelves Are Full very kindly sent me her copy if this to try. It was a quick and enjoyable read, with plenty of humour to balance its more macabre themes of a child-eating Beast and the 512 year old who’s finding one to feed it.
I think kids will love a lot about this, but for me I couldn’t help but wish it was darker, especially towards the end when it veered closer to silly than scary. A solid book I’ll recommend but dudbt love personally.


What will you read next?

I have put together a TBR for October here, but totally forgot about Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s new book (I don’t know how I forgot it either!) A Secret of Bird and Bone so that is jumping straight to the top of the pile!

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

October TBR

So I started the year with grand plans of picking a TBR each month, then with one thing and another this fell by the wayside.

I’ve decided to start again this month, although depending on certain work-related things it may also end up abandoned…but for now, here is my

October TBR

Excuse the hurried, on the way out of the door photo please!

Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick

I have had this for SO long and heard SO many great things about it, but still haven’t read it. This month seems a good time to rectify that!

The Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael

By contrast this is a brand new reading copy I’ve just received ahead of a January publication date. I don’t know much about it other than that it involves the witch trials and folklore, so that’s me sold really.

The House on Hoarder Hill by Milli Lish and Kelly Ngai

Another I’ve had for ages and what better time to enter a haunted house mystery than on these dark, autumn days?!

October, October by Katya Balen

I know nothing about this. I bought it because of its gorgeous cover, illustrated by Angela Harding, and as if I could not include it in my October reads with a title like that!

Witch by Finbar Hawkins and The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

I have these on netgalley and am looking forward to both!

I have a few others on the periphery as possibles if I get through these, but know there’ll be others that pop up to throw it out too!

What do you think if my choices? Are there any spooky reads you’d add?