#BookReview by Lou – A Ship of Shadows Adventure – Secrets of the Stars by Maria Kuzniar #ChildrensBook #MiddleGrade #SecretofTheStars #ShipOfShadows @cosyreads @puffinbooksuk @RandomTTours

A Ship of Shadows Adventure – Secrets of the Stars
by Maria Kuzniar

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Follow the Secrets of the Stars and hop aboard The Ship of Shadows in this riproaring, swashbuckling adventure, that is also about teamwork and friendship. This is the second in the series, the first is Ship of Shadows. So steer on down the blurb and review, not forgetting the magnificent cover that is sure to entice you in.
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review on this blog tour and to Penguin for gifting me the book, in return of an honest review.

Secrets of the Stars 3D Book

Blurb

Secret of StarsAdventure Fiction for Children (age 9 – 12 years)
 
PREPARE FOR PUZZLES, PERIL, AND PLENTY OF CAKE IN THE SECOND THRILLING ADVENTURE FOR ALEJA AND THE CREW OF THE LEGENDARY SHIP OF SHADOWS

Aleja and her fellow pirates are eager to embark on a new adventure to find the second piece of the missing magical map. But they soon find themselves panicking, bewildered by a series of confusing clues. And time is running out – fast.

When she starts experiencing strange visions, Aleja realizes that someone is trying to tell her something. But can this new knowledge be trusted? And what will it cost her to find out?

With the crew’s loyalties tested and more secrets to unlock than ever, Aleja must find a way to beat the clock and prove herself truly worthy of her place on the ship’s crew . . .

Review

Catching up with this series and its main character – Aleja is a delight. Middlegrade/J2 readers, will enjoy being captured in such a sumptuous and rich adventure. There’s a terrific map at the start, showing Croatia, The Maldives, India, Lhasa, China, Shanghai and Melaka; which gives you a fair idea where this adventure will take intrepid young readers and Aleja alongside Frances, our explorers, who are on a mission, that isn’t without its dangers. It’s immersive and has an energy and enchantment that you may expect and desire from such an adveture.

It starts in Croatia at a great carnival that has colour and life about it. Readers first see Aleja being a fox for this, with Frances. There, looming, is The Ship of Shadows – a ship full of magic, embodies an air of mystery and captained by pirate – Captain Quint, who will stop at nothing.

The book also oozes with an air of mystery and excitement. There is also something mysterious happening to one of the explorers to do with shadows and hallucinations. There are strange puzzles to work out, to fathom and everyone has to work together to solve them and treasures to seek and to get themselves out of harms way.
There’s also the problem of time not being on their side and the formidable Pirate Lord and his vast crew to contend with, that adds to the trepidation.

There are other, perhaps more subtler and nonetheless important themes of friendship and empathy and some life challenges to overcome.

On a side note, it may make you want to eat cake by the sea.

Secrets of the Stars is even better than the first in the series, although that was needed to get everything established. There’s so much to feast your eyes upon and it is even more of a page turner. This is a series I highly recommend to collect and read as each book emerges from the depths of the sea and into your hands.

FINAL Secrets of the Stars BT Poster

#BookReview by Lou of Dangerous Women by Hope Adams @adelegeras @MichaelJBooks @GabyYoung

Dangerous Women
By Hope Adams
Rated: 5 stars *****

Captivating and original, Dangerous Women expertly tells a tale of fiction and reality, that not everyone may already know about. It weaves, like the threads in the tapestry that inspired this book, words of fiction and real life together to create an epic adventure, laced with crime from the outset that grips and keeps you guessing, as it takes readers on a great advenuture with crime, based on a true-story.
Thank you so much to Gaby Young at Penguin Michael Joseph publishers for adding me to the blog tour and for sending me a book, which has a terrific cover.
Follow onto the blurb and my review.

Dangerous Women 1

Blurb

London, 1841.
The Rajah sails for Australia.
Aboard:
180 convicted women convicted of petty crimes.
Daughters, sisters, mothers –
they’ll never see their family again.
Despised and damned, they only have one another
Until the murder.
As the fearful hunt for a killer begins,
everyone on board is a suspect.
Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous women is a tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

Dangerous Women

Review

The book invites willing travellers to hop aboard onto a boat to sail with women branded as dangerous in this story which, even before the book is opened, sounds thrilling on the cover. Then just inside the cover, take note of your fellow travelling companions on the “Register of Convicts.” It will tell you what you need to know of what they’ve been convicted of…

The book takes place between April and July 1841 and what’s interesting about it, is that this isn’t just any historical thriller, this has been inspired by real-life events. It’s inspired by the real life voyage of the Rajah, which set sail in 1841, with 23 year old Kezia Hayter on board as Matron, who features in this book. This gives this book quite some providence and enters a part of history, that, at least in the UK, not everyone may know anything about. It is however a fictional novel too and that’s worth bearing in mind as you travel along on this voyage, but gives inspiration to look into the true facts behind the story afterwards. It may have been nice if there was a bit added at the back about this as I’ve seen it in some other books, but that doesn’t take focus away from what a rip-roaring book this is and there is an interesting Bibliography, which would be a good place to do your own research from, if the mood is upon anyone, who wishes to do this.

Panic fills the book from the beginning and indeed, who has a knife?
There’s a real sense of what it is like onboard of the Rajah and to get a sense of Kezia and why she is onboard is fascinating! The case starts almost immediately and you can almost smell the sea and there’s almost a claustrophobic atmosphere as women grapple with their innocence and yet someone has been murdered and the gallows await whoever has committed such huge crime. Trust has clearly been broken, even amongst these thieves and panic and darkness sweeps across the women in the boat and enters their every waking and sleeping moment. The research that’s then created into story-telling is exquisite and all-consuming as it swallows any fellow voyager/reader whole in a magnificent read.

The pace, you would expect to be a bit slower for such a period piece, but this is quite the opposite and has not too disimilar pacing to a modern day crime fiction book.

As well as the crimes, there is a human interest story weaving throughout, where readers get to know the convicts, their life of crime and their backstory and how some were respectable at certain points in their lives, like Hattie and it is these stories that may well tug at the heart-strings. It tugs at strands of curiosity throughout, including when the convicts meet at Newgate Prison for the first time.

Surprisingly, there’s a bit of glamour and oppoulence that fans of period pieces have come to know and love, injected in the form of stories from the women’s lives before they were onboard the Rajah, especially in Kezia’s life. There’s also sadness, especially in Clara’s life when she was young.

There’s some lightness in atmosphere and a bit of humour, that cuts through, when the women are sewing and there’s a sense of the patchwork being created and building up.

There’s all the supposition adding to the intrigue as to who the murderer is and if the guilty one will be sent to the gallows.

It is absolutely fascinating to read what became of the women and reading the historical note at the end. There is also a comprehensive bibliography for further reading and demonstrates that this has been well researched, so that this work of fiction does have a backdrop of realism to it.

#BookReview by Lou of – In The City of Fortunes and Flames – A Freddie Malone Adventure by Clive Mantle @MantleClive @award_books #ChildrensBooks #YA 8yrs plus

 In the City of Fortunes and Flames
A Freddie Malone Adventure
By Clive Mantle
Rated: 5 stars *****

In The City of Fortunes and Flames is where to find a terrific time-travelling adventure to London, in the times of the plague, slavery and The Great Fire of London. This is book 3 of the Freddie Malone Adventure books and it’s quite the page-turner with lots of adventure and action, which is suitable from ages 8 and into younger YA/Teens.
Be re-acquainted with Freddie, Ruby and Connor and also meet some people from history along the way. There is good news in that there will be a further 2 books coming soon.
Find out more about In The City Of Fortune And Flames in the blurb and review…. I happened to have bought this book. It is available as a physical book and an e-book.

Links to books in order :-    
                                     Amazon – Treasure At The Top of The Mountain
                                     Amazon – A Jewel In The Sands Of Time
                                    Amazon – In the City of Fortune and Flames

Blurb

Freddie Malone adventure 3

The mysterious world map on Freddie Malone’s bedroom wall ripples into life and the swirling vortex begins to form, but is Freddie prepared for where – and when – it will take him? Join Freddie, Connor and Ruby as they travel to the plague-stricken and fire-ravaged London of the seventeenth century, where the streets are ruled by a merciless gang of criminals and kidnappers. Stalked through time by the menacing, shrouded figure of the Collector, can the friends outwit their enemies and save history? It’s all just a question of time…

 

Freddie Malone adventure 3

Review

Having read and reviewed and was very impressed by the calibre of the story-telling and the themes of the first two Freddie Malone books, I figured I would review the 3rd. Clive Mantle, quite rightly so, is The People’s Book Prize Winner Author. The books are suitable for confident readers ages 8 years plus. Very nicely this one starts off with what happened previously…

With the magical map Freddie got for his birthday in the first book, the map has more ideas…
The book starts with the brilliant and never-ageing poem – IF by Rudyard Kipling, it’s as pertinent now as it was in 1895, when it was written. IF is also pertinent to portals in this series.

The setting is London and the time is both the present and 1665/1666. There’s a map with a key chart, which illustrates the events at that time and then readers are reunited with Freddie and his friend Connor on a school production of The Pied Piper of Hamlin before a compelling adventure begins.

There are little references here and there of the Nepal (book 1) and  Egyptian adventures (book 2), but it is okay if you’ve not read that one yet as it does also move onwards to this current adventure. This time the portal takes Freddie to London, 1665, where he meets a slave. Samuel Pepys is in need of a servant who can write, so Freddie is tested. There is, like the other books, a lot that children can gain within these books and that can feed their minds and get them curious about history. There’s also the mystery as to why the map took Freddie to 1665 and readers, apart from getting to know Pepys, also get to know something of King Charles II and the plague on Drury Lane. During the segments of Freddie being back in the present with Connor and Ruby, more is told of his journey. As time flips from the past to the present and back again, it is done in such a succinct way, that is easy to follow and understand. It’s a book that children and young teens can really get into as it is an engrossing page-turner. The facts mixed with the fiction is written in an expressive and exciting way with likeable fictional characters meeting those who really lived. This combination works really well.
As time moves on, Freddie (and readers), then experience the atmosphere of The Great Fire of London and the impact it had. There’s also intrigue within this, as indeed within the whole book.

The Treasure at the Top of the World cover          A Jewel In the Sands of Time              Freddie Malone adventure 3

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn #Bookreview by Lou @franquinn @jessbarratt88 @simonschusteruk #HistoricalFiction

The Smallest Man
By Frances Quinn
Rated: 4 stars ****

Enchanting, refreshingly original with an uplifting quality, The Smallest Man is a great historical fiction book that eases readers through an amazing journey.

Thanks to Jess Barratt at Simon & Schuster for gifting me a proof copy for review.

The Smallest Man

Blurb

‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’

A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll FactoryThe Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.

My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.

The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.

They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

The Smallest Man cover

Review

The cover is amazing! It takes you on a journey right there and then, with the inside leading you into the life of Nat Davy – The Smallest Man, which is based on a true story, although this a fictional novel, but there is a strong basis of truth to it.  The first page is just utterly inspired! The narrative of how it tells readers, almost accidentally (although obviously it is cleverly thought out), of a little nugget here and there of Nat’s early life just in where he is not going to start his story, but then it all begins in Oakham.

This isn’t your usual sort of story set in such historical times, this takes readers to the fair and not just any fair – to one featuring freak shows and a decision to be made about whether to sell Nat to it or not has to be made. This makes for some great reading and is so different from other historical fiction novels. There are of course characters to be found like a duke, a queen and a king, lords and more, which adds to the exquisitiveness; but then if that doesn’t capture you, there are also gallows and Catholic martyrs. There are also run-ins with Crofts and his gang of friends.

This isn’t some lavish period piece of a season of dancing, nor is it some romp through the bedcovers, this tells a whole different side to history, and more pertinently, within 1625 and still has a richness to the story and in its textures and scenery. It is through the eyes of The Smallest Man and how his life is and how he is different from other people and seen as a freak. There is a tender emotion within the book as well as a sense of surviving and accomplishing against the odds and also shows that no matter how unlikely a friendship is to be formed, there are possibilities that they can. This book has hope within it and is  which in turn adds  an uplifting quality it.

Going deeper into the royal family and what are essentially death threats changes the tone, but still in keeping with the book and moves this plucky, refreshingly written story onto killer plots and a different layer of intrigue.

The Author’s Note is also fascinating and sheds a bit of light on a man, who perhaps was more on the edges of history, but nonetheless interesting.

Some praise for the book:

I loved this book – a fascinating tale of extraordinary accomplishment, and a story about how anything is possible and how love has always been a beacon of hope’ Phillip Schofield

‘An enchanting tale about a small man with a big heart. Nat Davy is so charming that I couldn’t bear to put this book down. I loved it’ Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City

The finished copy has some lovely green sprayed edges to it

#Bookreview by Lou of #Travelogue of In SatNav We Trust – A Travelogue by Jack Barrow @JackBarrowUK @RandomTTours #InSatNavWeTrust

In SatNav We Trust –
A search for meaning through historic counties of England
By Jack Barrow
Rated: 4 stars ****

This is a wonderfully adventurous book. It’s enough to have people yearning for travel and maybe aspire to exploring the UK.

I thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours and Jack Barrow for inviting me onto the tour and for sending me a physical copy of the book.

Find out more about the book, my review and the author below.

Synopsis

In SatNav We Trust – a search for meaning through the Historic Counties of England is a journey through ideas of science and belief, all the while searching for meaning and a bed for the night. Or was that the other way around?

On May 1st 2013 I set off from Oxford on the trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a trip around the world or up the Himalayas, I set off to visit every one of England’s 39 historic counties. These are the counties that used to exist before all the boundary changes that chopped Yorkshire into bits, got rid of evocative sounding names such as Westmorland, and designated the big cities as metropolitan boroughs. I wanted to visit England as it used to be, although that’s not quite how it turned out.

In SatNav We Trust started out as a travelogue exploring all the usual suspects, spectacular landscapes, architectural or engineering wonders, historic towns with their cathedrals and castles. However, it soon developed into a journey through ideas and beliefs, an exploration of how the rational and the apparently irrational jostle for position in human experience. The book discusses our fundamental scientific understanding of the universe when, deep inside us, we might be as irrational as a box of frogs. This context, the exploration of England—the places stumbled across with no day to day plan, created the backdrop for these ideas.

In Sat Nav Cover

Review

Firstly, what a fabulously witty title. It catches the eye pretty well. It promises a journey through historic counties of England and certainly delivers as it begins in Oxfordshire and goes to Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and many more.

He tells things how it is when travelling and in each place in his 4×4, and has even included the everyday places and items. He is also very honest in how he feels and how he almost gave up early on in this mammoth trip. Campsites seems to be the order of the day for accomodation. This isn’t just about all the tourist things that you can do, it’s very different from a travel book like that. It is indeed a full travelogue of the actual journey and what can be seen en-route, that some people may miss when passing through, the roads that are taken and the people who he meets, as well as the accomodation.

There is some humour within the trip that weaves in and out the interesting philosophising of life of the mix of rational and irrational anxieties that occur within people’s lives, including his own as he does some reflection. He manages, which seems like no mean feat, to think creatively about how to fit in Maslow’s theory of heirarchy, whilst in Rutland with what he is actually doing and expecting, in a way that is far from heavy reading.

The attention to detail in each place is great and it certainly is a fun trip, that becomes something more than just that with the observations of not just the places, but of life. It’s how this all binds together that makes the book engaging.

If you’ve travelled around England before, you’re certain, as I was, thinking, “been there, done that” and then finding places that may just have to go on that travel to-do list. If you’ve not done staycations before, then this book may inspire you to travel around England to visit many of the counties and discover for yourself what they hold.

About the Author

In Sat Nav We Trust Jack Barrow Author Pic. jpgJack Barrow is a writer of books and blogs about ideas based on popular philosophy in modern life. He is a critical thinker but not a pedant. He has an interest in spiritual perspectives having been brought up as both a Mormon and a Jehovah’s Witness. He’s not sure, but he believes this particular  ecclesifringical upbringing makes him a member of a pretty exclusive club. He is also fascinated by science. At the same age as his parents were taking him to church services, he was also watching Horizon documentaries and Tomorrow’s World, becoming fascinated about science and technology. Perhaps around the time of the moon landings, when he was six or seven, he came to the conclusion that, sooner or later, people would realise that the sky was full of planets and stars, science explained the universe, and that there was no God looking down. He really thought that religion’s days were numbered. Declining congregations seemed to back that up, but since then there has been a growth in grass roots movements that seem to indicate people are looking for something to fill the void left by organised religion. He now has a particular interest in the way people are creating their own spiritual perspectives (whatever spiritual means) from the bottom up using ideas sourced from history, folkloric sources and imagination. Rather ironically it was members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who first introduced him to the landscape of Wiltshire, with its stone circles and ancient monuments, which later kindled his interest in spiritual beliefs taken from more ancient perspectives.

He has also written a novel; The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is a story of a group of magicians who discover a plot to build casinos in Blackpool and so turn the resort into a seedy, tacky, and depraved town. During this hard-drinking occult adventure, with gambling and frivolous trousers, Nigel, Wayne and Clint travel north on Friday night but they need to save the world by Sunday evening because they have to be back at work on Monday morning.

Jack lives in Hertfordshire, England, where he earns a living writing about things in engineering; this usually means photocopiers and bits of aeroplanes. He shares his home with R2D2 and C3PO, occasionally mentioned in his blog posts. People used to say he should get out more. At the time of writing he is currently shielding from the apocalypse, having been of a sickly disposition as a child, and wondering if he will be able to go to a live music pub ever again.

In Sat Nav We Trust BT Poster

 

#Bookreview by Lou of an enchanting #ChildrensBook – The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson @sophieinspace @Usborne

The Castle of Tangled Magic
by Sophie Anderson
Rated: 5 stars *****

Sophie Anderson, author of The Girl Who Speaks Bear, has another enchanting tale – The Castle of Tangled Magic. It enchants with its richly depicted castle and magical land that provides excellent escapism.

Thanks to Usborne and Sophie Anderson for allowing me to write a review and for providing an e-copy of the book.

Follow further down to the blurb, review and links.

The Castle of Tangled Magic Cover

Blurb

Magic awaits, all you have to do is believe…

When thirteen-year-old Olia, steps through a magical doorway, she discovers another land. A land tangled by magic, where hope is lost, and a scheming wizard holds all the power.

Soon Olia learns that she is destined to save this land, but with time running out and her new friends and family in danger, she must search for the magic within herself – to save everything and everyone she loves.

The Castle of Tangled Magic, the new fairy tale from Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Saara Söderlund.

An enchanting fairy-tale adventure about the power of love and courage, from the bestselling author of The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl who Speaks Bear.

The Castle of Tangled Magic Cover

Review

Castle Mila, built from wood around 500 years ago near the shore of a lake, sounds like so many children’s dream of a castle with it’s majestic stature and hidden passageways and secrets. The writing is amazingly imaginative, in the way Sophie Anderson has captured the castle and takes readers on a tour around it, up each of the stairs to the different rooms and domes, along with Olia. There is so much to feast the eyes upon and to delight and bring a touch of magic to children’s imaginations. It’s all rather splendid. She is also wanting to find some magic, so seeks out an older member of the family – Babusya, who informs about the mysterious Sun Dome that could have magic, but is locked. The mysteriousness that builds is fascinating and enchanting.

There’s great charm and excitement that captures the heart. The ideas of olde of leaving salt as offerings for spirits, such as domovoi (a spirit, in this case a fox who protects) and of the changes of the wind are explored through Babusya. As other family members appear, there is a lovely family cosyiness element, which is heartwarming, as is the talk of ancestry.

There’s a storm, which seems to make looking for a key even more pressing, a gripping, treacherous adventure ensues and there is a lot at stake – the family and the castle to protect from the ferociousness of the weather.

The story continues onwards with Feliks, the domovoi, into a mystical, rather surreal land – The Land of Forbidden Magic, where there the descriptions add to the surrealism as Koshka, a gorgeous cat, is met and a conversation ensues about the witch Nania and Chenomor’s magic. Another unexpected quest occurs as the land and spirits need to be saved. With lots of danger and many different encounters and riddles to solve, it pulls readers further in deeper as the quest becomes increasingly treacherous and on top of that Castle Mila itself needs saving.
Sophie Anderson creates so much for readers to grasp onto and root for in this pacy adventure, that also has an almighty twist.

Throughout, there are lovely illustrations, depicting the story well. At the end there is also “Olia’s Glossary”, which children will benefit well from, to enhance their understanding of the story as there are some words, that may be unfamiliar.

Links

Website: www.sophieandersonauthor.com

Twitter: @sophieinspace