WWW Wednesday 13/4/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

First up my current reads:

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star La Blanc

I’m still enjoying this, though my listening has slowed down a lot this week. I really like the detail and background we get and the way things unfold pretty slowly – I feel like it’s really allowed me to step into it and I’m looking forward to seeing how the undercover assignment pans out…

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This is another I picked up initially primarily for work, but I’m actually really enjoying it!

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente

I only started this yesterday but I’m loving being back with Willow and Oswin!

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean

I haven’t actually started this yet but it is ready and waiting to go…!

What have you just finished reading?

Grow by Luke Palmer

Sensitive, thought-provoking and moving. You can read my review here.

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza

People, I read it. In order to keep this positive and polite, that is all I’ll say.

What’s next?

Honestly, I don’t know! I think it will take me most of the next week if not longer to get through these so I’ll return to this question next week…!

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

Picture Book and Play – Jack and the Beanstalk

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We’ve actually not done a huge amount of anything this week after a busy Easter weekend finally being able to see family, hunting for eggs and going for walks.

So I’ve picked out a story that we return to often and some of our past play activities around it – Jack and the Beanstalk.

I’ve talked before (many times!) about the brilliant Campbell First Stories range (here or here for example). Peapod loves this edition of Jack (illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg), especially finding Jack hiding in the cupboard or chopping down the beanstalk and seeing the giant fall!

The moving parts remain a big draw and the simplified, rhyming version of the story is a great first telling for little ones.

We added the Peep Inside version to put collection too as it’s a slightly longer, more faithful version, including for example the essential “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” lines which are a must in our house! Peapod loves shouting them out when playing!

The rich illustrations and intricate cut outs of the peep through elements add a more grown up touch and make these a really attractive series to read and handle too.

I also really like the way there’s a lift-the-flap style to some of the pages and peep-inside parts, which helps retain an interactive feature that children always enjoy.

The Peep Inside books are the perfect follow on from the Campbell First Stories, and we’ll be adding lots more to our collection!

Obviously, there’s so much you could do with this story; it’s one we could (and no doubt will) return to repeatedly over the years adding in lots of different activities – planting, natural collage, painting, measuring, counting, as well as variations on what we did this time with sensory activities, role play and building/small world.

This was by far Peapod’s favourite – building the castle and beanstalk and using figures to tell the story!

He also used his climbing toys as a beanstalk – climbing up, stealing the gold and sliding down before chopping it down!

He’s been practising his cutting so we started making a giant beanstalk but he lost interest once it was time to add any leaves! Still, we cut and stuck a lovely, long, green stripe!

We made a tray using butter beans, gold coins and green covered cardboard tubes for filling, pouring, hiding, stacking, dropping…

… and building of course! It just wouldn’t have been the same of the builders and diggers didn’t get involved 😂

What have you been reading and playing this week?

WWW Wednesday 7/4/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

It’s been a slow reading week here this week, the first family visits in over a year, Easter and a birthday (not mine) rather took over! And rightly so.

I suspect too that, with my imminent return to work on Friday, this will be the start of a longer term slowing down. This time last year I’d read 16 books; this year I’m nearly halfway to my yearly goal of 100 at 46. So I think it’s safe to say as things return to ‘normal’ I’ll be reading less and probably struggling to get on here as much too. We’ll see but if I’m awol, you’ll find me shelving…!

First up this week though, my current reads:

Grow by Luke Palmer

I have read very little of this this week! I think I need to knuckle down and get into it rather than a couple of pages at a time.

It’s a weird one – on the one hand it feels unsurprising and predictable; but on the other it’s hard to read and frustrating in the best way at times as we see Josh being sucked in to white supremacist rhetoric.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star La Blanc

I have to confess this is one I’m only reading because it’s expected to be big at work. I found this slow to get going with a lot of time taken setting the scene, which I can see the reasons behind and has drawn me in, but I’m glad the pace and action seem to be picking up now. I’m certainly enjoying it more than I thought I would.

What have you just finished reading?

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker, audiobook read by Noah Galvin

This was an enjoyable listen, bringing together themes of nature, overcoming obstacles, friendship and ‘finding your story’.

A Vanishing of Griffins by S. A. Patrick

I went straight onto this from book one and I really enjoyed it. It’s full of such great characters and strong friendships and I love its quest-like style. I did find it a bit slow in parts, but it really ramped up by the end and left me desperate for book three!

What’s next?

These are all highly likely to change, but…

My next ebook will be The Supreme Lie by Geraldine Mcaughrean.

The Firekeeper’s Daughter is a loooong audiobook so I won’t finish that any time soon!

My next physical children’s book will probably be Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente.

And my next adult read will probably be Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

#MGTakesOnThursday – Bloom

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Bloom by Nicola Skinner, cover art by Flavia Sorrentino, published by Harper Collins, audiobook read by Lauren Chandler

Nicola Skinner is one of my favourite ‘new’ voices in children’s books. I say new pretty loosely, as Bloom was originally published in April 2019, nearly two years ago, and we’ve since had two more gems from her – most recently, Starboard, which I’ve just received and cannot wait to start!

In between the two came Storm last year (you can read my review of that here) Ever since reading that I’ve been dying to read Bloom but never seemed to manage it amongst the deluge of new releases! Luckily I found it was available on audiobook so I’ve listened to it instead (though of course, I’ve still ordered the hardback to complete my set of stunning Flavia Sorrentino covers!) and it’s every bit as good as I’d hoped!

Sorrel Fallowfield (can we just pause before we’ve begun to give a nod to the names, of both people and places, in this – from Sorrel to Little Sterilis, from Grittysnits to Miss Mossheart… they’re perfectly picked! Though as an honorary Manc, Strangeways garden centre gave me a moment!)

Anyway, Sorrel is good. With a capital G. She’s known for it and wouldn’t dream of putting a foot wrong – head girl with enough behaviour certificates to sink a ship, she’s a shoo-in for the school’s competition to find the best behaved child. Which is lucky as all she wants is to make her mum happy and that starts with the prize holiday.

Unfortunately, things don’t go quite to plan. When she finds a packet of Surprising Seeds promising to give her what she needs in her yard, she and best friend Neena plant them…in a rather unusual way and that is where the town’s ‘trouble’ begins.

Soon, Scalp Sprout is spreading through Little Sterilis, with the most imaginative and characteristically-approrioriate plants growing from everyone’s heads! It sounds barmy but it’s brilliant!

This is a sharp, clever and incredibly warm and funny look at the power of nature, the importance of green spaces and the world we’re living in in which they’re disappearing fast, in which we’re spending increasing amounts of time indoors in which health & safety, exams and neatness are prioritised over safe risks, exploration and experiencing things first hand.

As I’ve come to expect from Nicola Skinner, Bloom takes a seemingly out-there, impossible and fanciful idea and depicts it in such a believable, tangible and important way. The way the outlandish and funny sits comfortably alongside emotional moments and stark realities works perfectly.

The warnings that open and close the book are brilliant too!

With characters I rooted for (geddit?!), timely and important themes to make you think, plenty of warmth and humour and a Dahl-esque kind of clever craziness that I love, Nicola Skinner is one of the most original and unique voices in kid’s publishing today.

My favourite quote from page 12:

“A gloomy glumness. A grumpy grimness. A grimy greyness. Cheery Cottage always felt cross and unhappy about something, and there was nothing this mood didn’t infect. It inched into everything, from the saggy sofa in the lounge, to the droopy fake fern in the hallway, which always looked as if it was dying of thirst, even though it was plastic.”

This book in three words:

Green vs Grey

March – April

A look back at last month’s reading and ahead to my reading plans for April.

I had thirteen books on my tbr for March. I only read seven of them, but I did read eight that weren’t on there, so I finished up reading fifteen in total (including three re-reads) – four audiobooks and eleven in print.

I’ve kept the adult/YA reads ticking over with a couple of adult fiction reads and a couple which straddle the two.

Next month I have another ambitious TBR, with four netgalley books to read. I’m especially excited for Nicola Penfold’s new one.

I have five books I’ve been sent to review on the shelf. I don’t think I’ll get to them all but I might chip away at it a bit..!

A much more exciting pile is this stack of new (or newish!) gems and I’m much more likely to get through these!

My adult pick for this month will be Hamnet, mostly because I know it’ll be a big one when I go back to work. And my YA pick is The Firekeeper’s Daughter, which I’m hoping I might be able to get on audio. Hopefully I’ll squeeze a couple more adult and YA in too.

It’s hard to know how my reading (and blogging!) will go when I’m back in work in the next couple of weeks. I expect it will all slow right down, at least initially, but we’ll see!

Either way I’m unlikely to get through all sixteen of these plus the extras that inevitably appear, but I can try…!

Have you read any of my April to-reads?

How was your reading in March?

What are you hoping to read this month?

WWW Wednesday 31/3/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, first up, my current reads:

Grow by Luke Palmer

I’ve not got very far with this. I feel like I’m going to like it well enough, but not be blown away by it. But we’ll see…

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker, audiobook read by Noah Galvin

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages so I’m squeezing it in on audio. I’m not far in yet, so my thoughts on it are still very much TBC!

A Vanishing of Griffins by S. A. Patrick

I haven’t actually started this yet but what else but this could I pick up after finishing A Darkness of Dragons?!

What have you just finished reading?

Eve Out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman

In the end, this didn’t quite work for me. I liked the lyrical prose, but it didn’t suit the story and I found it got in the way of me really investing in the characters.

I usually like books with multiple perspectives but I don’t feel like this added anything here and I’d have preferred just one or two POVs.

For a book with such hard-hitting, difficult and uncomfortable themes (poverty, prostitution, rape, domestic violence, gang violence…) it could have been powerful, but didn’t deliver.

Bloom by Nicola Skinner, audiobook read by Lauren Chandler

I loved this and it’s made me even more excited for Nicola’s new book Starboard which I’m hoping to read soon! Full review to follow.

A Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave

I was a bit poorly this week, so I curled up in bed for a comfort re-read of this favourite and it more than did the trick. Love it.

A Darkness of Dragons by S A Patrick

I finally, finally got round to reading this and the only good thing about it taking me so long to get to is that I can go straight into book two immediately! This was great, I’ll try and get a review up ASAP!

Also, to those of you who’ve read it: what did it remind me of??! In a good way this felt like it had a flavour of another book or author (not the plot or characters or anything specific just a feeling or the style maybe) – any ideas? I feel like there’s a hint of Howl, a bit of Podkin but it’s neither of those I’m thinking of I don’t think – I absolutely can’t place what it is it reminded me of!

What’s next?

These are all highly likely to change, but…

My next ebook will be The Supreme Lie by Geraldine Mcaughrean.

My next audiobook will probably be The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.

My next physical children’s book will probably be Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente.

And my next adult read will probably be Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picks – Mr Postmouse

I’ve been meaning to review these little gems for a while, but poor old Mr Postmouse kept meeting with delays! But here we are finally with two of Peapod’s recent favourites.

Here Comes Mr Postmouse and Mr Postmouse goes on Holiday by Marianne Dubuc, published by Book Island

I first spotted Here Comes Mr Postmouse on Book Island’s twitter feed while Peapod was at the height of his Postman Pat obsession (I say that like it’s faded. We’re months in. He still loves it. Pat is here to stay.) and thought the postman theme combined with illustrations I loved the look of had to be a good shout.

And it was.

It’s an unassuming tale of a Postmouse on his rounds, delivering parcels and letters to creatures big and small. There’s something stinky for the skunks, something sweet for the ants, something speedy for turtle and something rather suspicious for the chickens…

The cross-section style illustrations are undoubtedly the star of the show, with simple caption-like text narrating the journey, adding gentle humour and drawing our attention to the details.

We love this. We is SO much to see, talk about, imagine, discuss, be inspired by, laugh at, point out, notice, delve into, make links with…

…and there’s poo too. Which, of course Peapod loves!

After it arrived, I was looking for the tweet I’d seen originally when I spied another, older tweet from @bookgiftblogger informing me there was another Mr Postmouse book! I ordered it immediately!

Told in the same style as the first, here we see Mr Postmouse and family set off on their holidays! But of course, “a postman never really finishes his rounds”, so while they’re away they’ve parcel’s to deliver to their friends further afield!

From forest to ocean, volcano to oasis, jungle to town and mountain to sky, we’re whisked around the world where there’s even more to see!

It’s a wonderful journey which really captures the imagination and the exciting unlikely sorts of encounters that can only exist in the wonderful world of children’s stories and ideas.

I love that as well as being utterly lovely to share as a complete story, these books are perfect for dipping into or reading a few pages at a time.

With so much to spot, you really want to pore over the pages and spend time with them so it’s been great to keep revisiting these (both with Peapod and without!) to see what else we notice.

With a menagerie of animals taking centre stage, all your favourite fairy tale folk hiding thereabouts, and some ingeniously imagined houses, homes and ways of life these books are just a delight. Perfect for sharing or losing yourself in! We love them!

#MGTakesOnThursday – Crater Lake, Evolution

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Crater Lake Evolution by Jennifer Killick, cover art by Anne Glenn, published by Firefly Press

If you’ve not yet read the first Crater Lake, don’t read this one (yet!) but start there. Normally I’d say ‘you probably could read it as a stand alone/out of order’ and I mean, yes, you probably could but so much of this builds on, follows on from and refers back to book one that it wouldn’t be the best idea.

However, as soon as you have read book one – READ THIS!

We rejoin unlikely hero Lance and friends in the first term of secondary school, and its safe to say ‘Big School’ has thrown them in a big way. They’ve changed, grown apart, fallen out and generally struggled with the transition.

But they’re going to have to put misunderstandings, jealousy and dodgy earrings aside because…

…the spores are back in town.

With WiFi down after a strange explosion in the local lab, a mysterious creature on the loose and a curfew in place, more nosy neighbours than you can shake a stick at, and parents either missing or acting very strangely, it’s not long before Lance realises something weird is going on, and it’s up to him to get to the bottom of it again. But to do that, he’ll need help.

Can he get the gang back together to save Straybridge?

And on that note, said gang are brilliant. They’re a great mix of very relatable and recognisable 11-12 year olds who act and sound so realistic (Ade’s “hair dollop” in a doughnut cracked me up!).

This is an author who knows the age she writes (and writes for) well (although, I have to say its Lance’s mum that really stood out for me in this!)

There is a really observant, tender and reassuring look at friendship groups and the way they can change in the background of this alien invasion.

Likewise, the humour is one of the best things about the book. Lightening the mood when it all gets a bit heavy, the balance between the potentially deadly events unfolding and the comic gold that is the dialogue here is perfect (with a special nod to newcomer Karim who delivers so much of it).

Between sarky retorts, deliberations about poo, quick comebacks and schmaltzy cushions, there is a remarkable amount of laughter for a book about a town being gradually taken over by an alien lifeform.

There is a lot I loved about this book that I can’t talk about for fear of spoilers (though I will say the Stranger Things chat and bugsplaining were brilliant) but the whole thing is just superbly executed. And it refers back to book one in the absolute best ways while being an entirely different beast too.

The creepy atmosphere steadily grows, the tension builds brilliantly and you can really sense the imminent danger mounting. This is as relentless as the first, with just as many twists, turns and surprises; fast-paced, exciting and utterly gripping.

And if you’re thinking ‘yeah, but aliens aren’t really for me’ – don’t be put off! I really don’t do sci-fi but here I make an exception – it is great!

My favourite quote from page 10:

I stare at the smoke churning and bubbling in the sky above my town: a town where literally nothing interesting ever happens, and I feel a creeping dread prickling in my chest.”

This book in three words:

Aliens. Friendship. Laughs.

Have you read the first Crater Lake?

Will you be picking this one up?

WWW Wednesday 24/3/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, first up, my current reads:

Eve Out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman

I’ve only just started this so all I can tell you so far is it’s going to be bleak and needs basically all the trigger warnings.

Grow by Luke Palmer

I’m only a couple of chapters into this too. I’m definitely intrigued and quite like the writing so far.

Bloom by Nicola Skinner, audiobook read by Lauren Chandler

I’ve been meaning to read this for so long and the publication of Nicola’s new book, Starboard, prompted me to get this read via the audiobook. I’m really enjoying it so far.

What have you just finished reading?

Bigfoot Mountain by Roderick O’Grady

This really didn’t work for me unfortunately.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I thought the science involved in this would put me off, but it didn’t at all. I really enjoyed it. I won’t be posting a review here, keeping the blog space for kids books, but you can read my review on the Waterstones page if you’re interested.

Little Bird Lands by Karen McCombie, audiobook read by Helen McAlpine

I really enjoyed this, having finally got to it. It didn’t have the pace abd adventure of Little Bird Flies, but there were still lots of interesting themes raised and difficulties to overcome.

Crater Lake, Evolution by Jennifer Killick

This was a great sequel. Jennifer’s ability to balance the creepy and dangerous with humour is spot on. Full review to follow.

What’s next?

My next adult/YA read will be either Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas or Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Probably.

My next audiobook will be Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My next ebook will be The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean and my next physical kids book will be A Darkness of Dragons by S A Patrick probably.

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 17/3/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, first up, my current reads:

Bigfoot Mountain by Roderick O’Grady

I’m only a couple of chapters in and I’m not sure yet. I think once I get used to the very American voice and get to know the characters a bit I might quite like it, but a part of me always sighs a bit when a book begins with a character having a dead mum so it needs to win me round!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I’m also only a couple of chapters into this so I don’t know what I think yet, I’m not as instantly hooked as I was with her first book Homegoing, and I’m not sure if the science side of things will put me off, but there’s also plenty I am liking so we’ll see…

Little Bird Lands by Karen McCombie, audiobook read by Helen McAlpine

I’ve been meaning to read this since it came out (a year ago…) but haven’t managed to squeeze it in til I found it on audio this week. I’m so glad to be back with Bridie and am very much enjoying it so far!

What have you just finished reading?

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, audiobook read by Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris and Michael Crouch

I’m really glad to have squeezes in a reread of this, even though I didn’t love the narration. If you’ve not read this, I’d highly recommend the physical version, it’s a brilliant book.

The Swallows’ Flight by Hilary McKay

I LOVED this. I didn’t want it to end abd now desperately want more. A perfect follow up to The Skylarks’ War (if you’ve not read that though, read that first!) Full review to follow.

Strangeworlds Travel Agency: The Edge of the Ocean by L. D. Lapinski

I said last week thst it was taking me a while to get into but I was sure I’d devour it once I did and I was right. I coukdnt put this down once I got going. Brilliant! Full review to follow!

What’s next?

My plan (haha!) is to read an adult or YA book in the evenings to help me read all the ones I never get to, especially as I’ve really remembered since squeezing a few in recently how much I do enjoy adult fiction. So my next adult/YA read will be either Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas or Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Probably.

My next audiobook will be either Once by Morris Gleitzman or Bloom by Nicola Skinner.

My next ebook will be Crater Lake: Evolution by Jennifer Killick and my next physical kids book will be The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori (she says for about the tenth week running!)

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?