Six For Sunday: Best Trilogies or Series

Six for Sunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. She gives a prompt for a list of six books each Sunday – the list can be found here. This week it’s

Favourite Trilogies or Series

So tough – old or new? Picture book, MG, YA or adult?

In the end I decided to go with a mixture of ages and only more recent books (bar one) otherwise it risked being a list of the obvious – Harry Potter, His Dark Materials (even if The Amber Spyglass is nowhere near as good as the first 2), Judith Kerr’s Out of Hitler Time trilogy etc. (see how I snuck some in anyway!)

Picture Books

Triangle/Square/Circle – Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

I LOVE this trilogy. SO much. Even though Circle isn’t out yet (one of my most anticipated books of 2019!) See this post to find out more!

Oi Frog/Dog/Cat/Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray and Jim Field

These books are so clever. Writing good picture books is hard. Writing good, funny picture books is even harder. Writing good, funny, rhyming picture books is harder still. So to do that not just once but to take the format and create four (five including Oi Goat) hilarious books from it is quite something. Unbelievably good. See this post for more.

MG (“Middle Grade”)

The Huntress trilogy by Sarah Driver: Sea, Storm, Sky

Deserving of being on the list for the gorgeous covers alone (created by Joe McLaren) , I loved how original and exciting this series was. A truly wild adventure with the most fantastic and inventive world-building. Find out more here.

The Five Realms series by Kieran Larwood: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, The Gift of Dark Hollow and The Beasts of Grimheart (so far!)

Another hugely original and brilliantly told series with more top class world building and interesting characters. I’ll be honest when book one came out I wasn’t sold on the idea of this adventure with talking rabbits – I read it anyway and was absolutely hooked. I gulp these down and am so pleased there’ll be more than three in the series!

The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchett: Truckers, Diggers, Wings

OK, this one breaks my ‘recent books’ rule but it was a favourite of mine growing up, as was his Discworld series (two for one in my list of 6 there!) and both require a reread soon! Dry and witty, Pratchett was a master at poking fun at the world and making the absurd seem utterly normal.

YA/Teen

Ink Trilogy by Alice Broadway: Ink, Spark (plus book 3 still to come)

OK, it’s another incomplete series. And yes, it’s another that would be on the list just for its covers and inner maps (beautifully illustrated by Jamie Gregory) but I love this series too. Rich in storytelling culture, imagery and symbolism and with a highly unique take on some very relevant themes – segregation, prejudice, propaganda and power – this is a must-read series! Looking forward to book 3!

What are your favourite trilogies/series? Do we agree on any?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday too – leave me a link to your list!

Jess Butterworth’s Books

Jess Butterworth is one of my favourite new authors of the past few years and I’m so excited for a new book from her next year. Ahead of that, a belated review of her two books to date…

Both are beautifully designed, illustrated and laid out with gorgeous covers from Rob Biddulph and patterned pages to mark each chapter.

With a truly original and enjoyable style – Jess’ writing is a perfect example of ‘less is more’ and of how sometimes short, sparse sentences can be just as effective as long, adjective-filled passages.

I devoured this book – it’s not a long read, but a brilliant one.

Set in the Himalayas, this is a story steeped in culture and tradition, and I was transported right into the heart of the it.

When Tash’s parents are captured by soldiers, Tash and Sam embark on a dangerous journey out of Tibet to find the Dalai Lama and ask for his help.

It is a tale which shines a light on real issues in an immensely approachable and sensitive way: what could be an overbearingly heavy tale of censorship, control, lost freedoms and protest is instead a book filled with hope, bravery, friendship and family.

With incredibly likeable and relatable characters, a richly described and detailed setting and an important but perilous journey at its heart, this was definitely one of my favourite children’s books of 2017 and remains a favourite now.

Ruby and new friend Praveen set out on a mission to protect the local leopards from some very disagreeable and suspicious types they suspect of poaching.

Unsurprisingly after ROTROTW it is the vivid descriptions of the setting in the story that I like best about it too. The mountain landscape and its flora and fauna, and the bustling city and its busy river will have you sighing, gasping and wondering at the sights along with Ruby as she discovers her new surroundings!

With perilous trips through the mountains, midnight stake-outs, bustling trains and floods this is a thrill-filled adventure that nature-loving readers in particular will relish.

I am so excited for Jess’ new book next year – she has such a distinct and effective writing style creating books that are easy to read in short bursts, but that you’ll want to read all in one go.

WWW Wednesday 3/10/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

Last time, I snuck an extra W in there too with what Peapod and I had read that week, but I’ve decided to do a regular “Peapod’s Picks” post each Friday instead – picture books/board books new and old!

This week’s WWW, then:

What are you currently reading?

I’ve only just opened this, so no idea about it yet, though it begins with a poem that I thought was beautiful so it’s a promising start…

What have you just finished reading?

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I finished The Lost Magician by Piers Torday. I’ve been meaning to read his ‘Wild’ books for quite some time and still not got round to them, but if this is anything to go by the hype surrounding them is justified!

It’s a fantastic, modern take on ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and the perfect homage to libraries, librarians and all things bookish!

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Talking of modern takes on classic books, I’ve also read this beautiful modern version of ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ which was one of my favourite fairy tales growing up.

Full reviews of both will follow…

What are you planning on reading next?

These are the most pressing of my TBR pile:

But I also have this which I’ve been waiting months for…

Which would you choose?

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

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli

First published almost 125 years ago, the combination of the wild world, freedom and adventure in The Jungle Book mean it is just as appealing today as it was then. And that writing a ‘companion’ for it would be no easy task.

Luckily, Katherine Rundell is more than up to the task. Already a huge fan of her writing and the way it captures perfectly a scene, a mood, a character… and knowing from her last book The Explorer how well she can conjure up the jungle, I had no doubts she’d bring The Jungle Book roaring to life in Into the Jungle.

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Charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling’s best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale will make readers both laugh and cry. 

Firstly, this is going to be an absolutely stunning book. I received an ARC which included samples of Kristjana Williams’ sumptuous illustrations and they are as rich and vivid as Katherine Rundell’s text. Put together in a hardback edition, this is going to be a beautiful gift of a book.

This is a wonderful series of five stories, as told to Mowgli as he makes his way through the jungle (trying to evade Mother Wolf and the telling off he thinks is coming!) Each story is narrated by one of the animals and tells the backstory of one of the others, with the stories giving a brilliant new depth to each of the characters, while at the same time staying true to Kipling’s original depictions of them.

Mother Wolf’s story is one of the reckless invincibility of youth, female ferocity, loyalty and love. Bagheera’s solemn, often solitary nature is perfectly explained by his story – one of loss, freedom and the ways of the wild. Kaa’s story was the most surprising to me, while Baloo’s was without a doubt my absolute favourite of the bunch – a story of intelligence, courage, defying expectations and challenging preconceptions. While Shere Khan doesn’t have his own chapter, his story also threads through the book and, like Baloo’s, is one of the ones that I enjoyed most.

Mowgli’s own character – one of a typical child: selfish, blunt and arrogant at times; carefree, mischievous and friendly at others, but always full of life – is gradually drawn from each of these encounters before the final chapter shows just how much of life, loyalty, courage and respect he has learned from his jungle family.

These individual stories weave together as the book progresses to create the central plot of the book, which has a much more modern feel to it, despite still being rooted in the characters and events of the original. It is an exciting, colourful and cleverly woven tale, in which quick-thinking, creativity and teamwork make for a dramatic and gripping finale. It has all the ingredients needed to be a hit with young readers today, whether they are familiar with the original or not.

Important messages about diversity and celebrating differences, as well as the impact of man on nature, run through the book too and are written into the story in the very best way: it’s not at all shouty, preachy or shoe-horned in, but it makes the points in no uncertain terms that, as Bagheera finds: “To be alive is to be wild and various.”

Full of warmth, humour and life, and perfectly complemented by beautiful, bold illustrations – this is an adventure for all ages. Those familiar with Kipling’s Jungle Book will relish the chance to delve deeper into some of our favourite characters, and for those unfamiliar with the original this is a perfect introduction to whet the appetite or a thoroughly enjoyable stand alone story bursting with jungle life.

WWW Wednesday: 12/9/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’,  every Wednesday we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW WednesdaysI’ve missed the last few weeks – newborns are time consuming! – and I’m definitely not getting through books at my usual rate (goodbye evening read before bed!) but I’m just about surfacing again! Posts and reviews are likely to continue to be sporadic, but we’ll do what we can!

What are you currently reading?

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I started Piers Torday’s ‘The Lost Magician’ at the start of the week and I am loving it so far! Set in post-war Salisbury, it’s a fresh twist on the Narnia tale – no wardrobe here tough, but a library leading 4 siblings into a magical world of Reads and Unreads. It finds a perfect balance between a feeling of nostalgia and time gone by but with a fresh and modern feel to the writing. My favourite things about it so far have to be Larry and Grey Bear: “Grey Bear nodded, with the help of Larry’s hand.”

What have you just finished reading?

I finished The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan earlier in the week, it’s the sequel to the wonderful A Place Called Perfect.

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I have to say I enjoyed book one more – just that little bit darker, creepier and with what felt like a slightly higher action:dialogue ratio. Trouble was still thoroughly enjoyable – with a mechanical mutant zombie, evil twins, chemical clouds and kidnappings it will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers. Full review to follow.

What has Peapod read this week?

Ok, I need to amend my WWW Wednesday to WWWW Wednesday since I’ve snuck an extra W in there now! Peapod and I are just starting to manage a story most days, and usually a board or cloth book too if he’s awake and in a good mood for long enough! This week, we’ve been reading:

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My Animals by Xavier Deneux (board book) – high contrast black and white images for little eyes with fab little peepholes on each page teasing a glimpse of the next animal make it one that will last as he gets bigger too. This is probably my favourite of his black and white books.

Baby Lit Les Miserables (board books) – A new addition to our Baby Lit collection, with images from the story and words and phrases in English and French. We bought this as a present for Daddy as he loves Les Mis and my Francophile friend will also be getting a copy in the post for her little boy!

Sneak a Peek Colours (board book) – with bright, bold patterned pages I love this colours board book. Peapod ‘s mind was pretty much blown by the mirror at the end too – win, win.

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Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers (picture book) – a classic – I suspect we’ll be making our way through a lot of Oliver Jeffers in the coming years, but the short, simple text of the ‘little boy’ stories (Up and Down, Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star) make them perfect for now (plus these are some of my favourite Oliver Jeffers books) I love the humour of Up and Down and the friendship between the boy and penguin is so touching too.

Mopoke by Philip Bunting (picture book) Another book that just really tickles me: short and simple with clever word play that adults will love as much as if not more than) the kids! I thought I’d reviewed it on here, but it seems I haven’t – how I’ve let that happen I don’t know! A full review will follow…

How To Lose A Lemur by Frann Preston-Gannon – Frann Preston-Gannon is such a hidden gem of an author-illustrator, not nearly shouted about enough! I love lemurs s this ticked a lot of boxes for me. Gannon takes us on a heart-warming journey of a reluctant friendship complete with hot air balloons, bikes, trains, mountains, oceans and…LEMURS! Love it (and so does Peapod!)

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What are you planning on reading next?

I never know until I finish my current read and see what I fancy, but I’ve got SO much to choose from at the moment! These are probably the top contenders, but it could all change!

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Which would you choose?

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?

#ReadABookDay

I am reliably informed (thanks Twitter) that today is #ReadABookDay. I’m choosing to ignore the fact that really that’s every day and using it as a good way to play catch up on the blog, especially since I missed yesterday’s WWWWednesday…

So, the blog has been somewhat neglected over the past few weeks, thanks to our new arrival!

20180822_064946.jpgQuite the bookworm already!

He is GORGEOUS and wonderful and amazing and other superlatives, but he is also a full-time milk-guzzler, wee-machine and sleep-is-for-the-weak-stayer-upper. Which means our hands are pretty full and the blog is having to take a back seat. I’m attempting to catch up a bit, but it’s a one-handed, grab-10-minutes-where-I-can-and-hope-he’s-not-sick-on-the-laptop sort of affair, so posts will continue to be sporadic!

20180906_153720Our current set-up!

So, while I attempt to get some reviews posted and generally catch up, here’s a quick look at what we’re reading on #ReadABookDay…

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It’s taken the first few weeks, but I have finally just about mastered reading-while-feeding! Keeping me company at the moment during the never-ending feeds is the fantastic The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan. It’s the sequel to last year’s equally fantastic A Place Called Perfect (think Gaiman meets Dahl meets Stepford Wives meets Tim Burton and throw in a good bit of mystery – if you haven’t read it, you really should!) So far, it’s just as good as the first…full review to follow!

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I was very excited to find some #bookpost waiting for me when I got home from my breastfeeding group this morning too…

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I have been SOOOOOOOO excited about this and was lucky enough to win a copy! Pretty certain kids would love it too, but I just read it with my mum who came to visit us this afternoon and we were both absolutely cracking up so it’s definitely recommended for those in their 30s/60s ! Every bit as good as the rest of the series, if not even better because it has a platypus in and it’s pink. Again, a full review will follow, but it was SO worth the wait!

As for ‘Peapod’ and I – we’ve had a play with his black and white cloth book ‘Faces’ and he also very much enjoyed Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!

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What have you read on #ReadABookDay?

Storm-wake

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Moss has lived with Pa on a remote island for as long as she remembers. The Old World has disappeared beneath the waves – only Pa’s magic, harnessing the wondrous stormflowers on the island, can save the sunken continents. But a storm is brewing, promising cataclysmic changes.

I received a review copy of this from Chicken House and wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s taken me a while to get round to reading and I wish I’d read it sooner. It was wonderful.

Classed as YA, it is in one sense a classic ‘coming-of-age’ narrative. We see Moss as she grows from a ‘Small Thing’ into her teens, and watch as her relationships with both “wild-boy” Cal and Pa change as she does. However, there’s a lot more going on here, and in some ways I’m not sure where or how I’d categorise this, which is no bad thing.

Let’s start with the island and its stormflowers – described in Lucy Christopher’s beautiful and lyrical style, there is a dream-like feel to the place, the flowers and the magical qualities that surround them. But are things as idyllic as they seem, or is there a darker side to the flowers and their effects? There’s a heavy, heady link to poppies and their opioid connections made, but we’re left to draw our own conclusions as the book progresses.

Much of the book feels like this: the line between fantasy and reality is not so much blurred as changeable and shifting. There is a wonderful balance between the real and the fantastic: the real often seeming to be written between the lines of the magic on the page, which I thought was so cleverly done and only added to the sense of foreboding and doubt that gradually creeps in as Moss begins to realise that perhaps not everything is how she has grown up believing it to be.

While not a retelling as such, I loved the many parallels with The Tempest in the book. I want to say more, but am loath to give any spoilers away. Suffice to say – the influence is there with similarities carefully woven into the story. If you don’t know it, it won’t matter: it stands as a well-crafted story in its own right.

This is a book for being swallowed up in – immersed in stories, stormy seas, stormflower smoke and the tingle-fizz of petals on tongues, scales on skin and whispers of another world. You could easily find yourself going as mad as Pa if you try to wrap your head round what’s really real, what’s magic, what’s illusion, what’s lies, what’s truth, what’s a version of all of these… and that’s partly why I loved this book as much as I did. It’ll definitely be a book to come back to and one that will withstand multiple readings.

I’ve not read any of Lucy Christopher’s other books, but will be looking out for them: have you read any? Which would you recommend?

 

WWW Wednesday 15/8/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’,  every Wednesday, we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?

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I need to start timing these WWW Wednesday posts better! Just like last week, I finished my current book – Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher – in bed with a coffee this morning (there may or may not have also been biscuits!), so technically I’m not reading anything at the moment again! But close enough! Full review is here, but I thought it was wonderful.

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve not got through loads, but it’s been a mystery-filled MG sort of week with:

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Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): This was my introduction to Lauren St John (the shame!) and a very welcome one. While animal stories are generally not really my cup of tea, this was a very well-written, fun mystery with layer upon layer to keep you guessing til the end. It deserves to be hugely popular with its target readers and would make a perfect pressie for any MG mystery/animal fans in your life! You can see a full review here.

Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key by Lena Jones (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): The first in a new detective series for MG readers, this just didn’t do it for me, sadly. I know it will grab others with its mysterious red slime filling London’s waterworks, a sassy and confident female MC and a mysterious underground society, but it just didn’t come together for me.


It’s also been a week for picture books and board books, and there’ll be plenty of posts to follow about these too, but in brief, this week I’ve also read:

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Ten Little Robots by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (picture book) – the latest in the ‘Ten Little…’ series and every bit as bold, bright and busy as the rest. Thumbs up!

Some Birds by Matt Spink (picture book) – simple rhyming text matched with the most BEAUTIFUL illustrations. Such a gorgeous book. There should be a colouring book of it…

100 Dogs by Michael Whaite (picture book) – this one has been buzzing around in my twitter feed for some time so I picked it up yesterday – it’s fantastic! Perfectly executed rhyming text (something which can be so hard to get right), wonderfully detailed and expressive illustrations and as many different dogs as you can think of (well, ok, 100 of them) – absolutely spot on.

Baby Lit A-Z and Alice in Wonderland (board books) – I’d not seen this series before, but I am now on a mission to collect them all! Classic characters in contemporary illustrations teaching everything from colours to weather to the alphabet.

Little Gestalten’s Grimm and Andersen Fairy Tale Collections (fairy tales) – GORGEOUS!! I’ve been on the hunt for a fairy tale collection with just the right illustrations for years now: nothing too old-fashioned, colour, but not too childish and with the right text rather than simplified for children or minute and closely packed for adults. These were shrink-wrapped so I had to take a bit of a punt, but they are perfect!

What are you planning on reading next?

Like last week, that is still a very good question!

I still haven’t started Katherine Rundell’s Into the Jungle from last week (I think it’s becoming one of those that I want to read so much I keep putting it off!) and I still have that whole shelf full of adult fiction to start on, so maybe some of those. Though

But yesterday, I went to the library for the first time in an embarrassingly long time and picked up some books there too, so I may have to prioritise those so that I don’t get side-tracked, forget about them and end up with a stupidly huge fine!

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I picked up Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys because I LOVED her book ‘Salt to the Sea (it’s a phenomenal YA/Adult fiction told via several converging fictional narratives based on the true story of the sinking of the German military transport ship the Wilhelm Gustloff in WW2). Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry has been one of those books I’ve meant to read for ages, but not got round to and I think Egg and Spoon might be one of the only Gregory Maguire books I’ve not read: I love his twisty takes on fairy tales.

So, I think Egg and Spoon might pip the others to the post, but what do you think? What should I read next?!

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?

Am I Yours?

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Who does this lost egg belong to? Can our little egg find its way back to the right parents before it hatches?

While the story is a familiar one (lost baby – looking for parents – finds lots of others but not their own because of x/y/z – reunited for a happy ending), this is a charming picture book with plenty of thoughtful details that bring it into its own. I really liked:

  • The fact that it’s not mentioned whether the baby dinosaur, its parents or most of the dinosaurs it meets along the way are male or female, making it perfect for any family to share and any child to enjoy.
  • The facts you learn about the dinosaurs as egg ‘meets’ them, and the details given about them in the text: great as a gentle introduction to dinosaurs for the curious and a springboard for talking about their different features and finding out more.
  • The way the dinosaurs are named throughout the book then illustrated and labelled at the back – young dino fans will LOVE this (and it gives grown ups like me who are useless at remembering which dinosaurs are which a chance at learning some of them!)
  • The repetition of “What do you look like inside that shell? I can’t see in so I can’t tell.” Lovely for joining in with, and for talking about what children think might be in the shell…
  • …and leading on from that the element of surprise at the end. It’s nice that we don’t know which dinosaurs might be its parents either: plenty of opportunities for guessing and talking!
  • The illustrations are lovely too – bright, rich, gentle, they’re detailed enough to add interest but simple enough not to confuse or take over. The dinosaur faces in particular make me smile.

There’s plenty to talk about, compare and find out when looking at this book, but it’s also a lovely, warm story that is perfect to snuggle up together to share at bedtime.

Thank you to Oxford University Press for my review copy.

WWW Wednesday

I stumbled on this weekly ’round up’ via Kelly’s Rambles, it is originally hosted over here on ‘Taking on a World of Words’ though. I keep thinking I might branch out from just reviews to other book-ish posts and this seemed a good way to start, as well as hopefully being a good way to connect with other book-ish bloggers!

So, the idea is that every Wednesday, we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?

Actually, nothing. Poor timing on my part – I have just finished my current book this morning! So I’m all ready to start something new…

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve been determined to get through some of the books that have languished on my shelf for a while since being on mat leave, especially those kindly sent to me as review copies. So this week I have powered through:

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth Winthrop (Adult Fiction): This was ok. It was an interesting way to look approach the subject and I liked the different perspectives it was written from and thought that brought something new to a well-trodden path. But, for me, there just wasn’t enough to save it from feeling like it didn’t have anything really fresh to offer that hasn’t been done before.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (YA Non-fiction): This was excellent: a very well-written and thought-provoking book. A full review will be up either later today or tomorrow.

The List of Real Things by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (YA/MG): A thoroughly enjoyable read with endearing characters, a touch of magic and a sensitive and warm look at growing up, family and loss. I think this is technically classed as YA, but it read much more like MG to me – I can see it being a good one for bridging the two.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (YA/MG): Another one that for me would bridge the YA/MG divide nicely. It’s definitely more YA than MG, but there’s nothing unsuitable for more mature MG readers. A very readable story which has you rooting for main character, Felix from the very beginning, and a great way of beginning to explore the idea of the ever-increasing ‘unseen’ homeless in society.

The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton (MG): Honestly, this one just wasn’t for me. I won’t dwell on it, as I try to keep reviews on the blog fairly positive, but if you want to know in more detail why I wasn’t a fan, just ask.

What are you planning on reading next?

That is a very good question! I was absolutely wet-my-pants excited when this arrived for me in work this week (I should clarify, despite being heavily preggers I did not actually wet my pants with excitement):

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The final edition of it is going to be so beautiful if these ARCs are anything to go by, and I love Katherine Rundell, so this is a top contender for my next read. But, I still have lots of other books that have been waiting patiently on the shelf for ages too – some are more ARCs waiting to be read and reviewed, a lot are ‘grown-up books’ I’ve bought then continually put to the bottom of the pile as new kids/YA ones have turned up:

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So, what do you think? What should I read next?!

Please say hi – let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve read this week, or if you think any of my TBR deserve to jump straight into pole position for my next read! And of course, let me know what you are/have been/will be reading too!