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#BookReview: The Day Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains by Tom McLaughlin #MPBooks

The Day Aliens Nearly Ate Our Brains book coverTitle: The Day Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains

Author/Illustrator: Tom McLaughlin

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade fiction, Humour

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Description:  Best friends Freddy and Sal have accidently started a SPACE WAR with Alan, a grumpy alien brain muncher from Planet Twang.  Soon the police, NASA and world leaders are getting involved.  Freddy is about to become the MOST FAMOUS KID in his town, for all the wrong reasons…Wolverhampton, we have a PROBLEM.

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The Best Reads of 2017 #MPBooks

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Cat in love with a book (Me 😀 ) – Image from

This is my last post looking back at 2017 and what a year for books!  According to Goodreads I managed to read 37 out of the 60 books I had hoped to read.  The problem with this figure though is that I only marked some books as ‘currently reading’ while others including lots of picture books I went straight to reviewing on the website.  This means Goodreads only counted the ‘currently reading’ books into the 2017 challenge rather than the total 95 I had put on the website.  So maybe I have reached the Goodreads Challenge after all.  Should I mark all books as ‘currently reading’ from now on?  What do you think?

Anyway, 2017 has been an amazing year of books and most of the ones I’ve read have been new releases.  I wanted to put up a list of my very favourites of the year.  The following are books I would recommend to anyone interested.  They are brilliant and in my own opinion, some of them are exceptional!  Some have even managed to obtain the very prestigious Phoenix’s Favourite Stamp 🙂

So here are my favourites.  Although most of these came out this year, the list may include others.  I’ve done this in a weird sort of format, not sure if I’ll do it again! I’m going to put down my favourite followed by the runner up, however I don’t have many books I’ve read this year in certain categories so they may not include two or even any books 😮  Click on the reviews to read more about each book!

Favourite Grown-up fiction

(These may be considered YA by some but I go by who they are aimed at according to publisher’s website which doesn’t list them as teen books).

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer book cover

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How could I not include Strange the Dreamer in this list.  It’s a fantasy book I read early in my year of blogging but I’ve loved every single moment, engrossed in its pages.  Lazlo Strange is a character you can’t help but love and the beautiful way the story is told, with the mystery of Weep and the emotional pull this has on you makes this a book you’ll remember.

Click here for the review of Strange the Dreamer

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval book coverYes it’s another fantasy book but I can’t help but love this book for the lasting memory it’s given me.  I’ve always loved circuses,  carnivals and magic, etc. and this book doesn’t disappoint.  Scarlett’s character did grow on me but what really kept my attention was the constant twists and turns this book put me through, you never quite know what will happen.  The ending was one I didn’t enjoy, the last scene setting up a future book but spoiling the magic, I think, of the true ending, but it’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise magical tale.

Click here for the review of Caraval

Favourite Teen fiction

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

This science fiction book really held my attention and was surprisingly compelling to read.  I felt connected to Romy, the only surviving inhabitant of the spaceship Infinity, as she lived out her everyday life, deciding to make her own entertainment.  It’s something I’ve had to do myself in the past but the psychological story that comes about later is what really made me enjoy this book above any other.  I felt chilled, almost scared, at times and freaked out when it became dark in my own home.  The combination of science fiction and psychological thriller makes this one great read!

Click here for the review of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

Favourite Children’s/middle grade fiction

The Dollmaker of Kraków by R. M. Romero

The Dollmaker of Krakow book cover

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This book has still stayed in my mind and is one I don’t just feel makes a brilliant read but it’s a book that should be read by everyone as it’s not afraid of showing the sad truth of what happened to the Jewish people during the Second  World War while being uplifting enough to contain a beautiful and magical story of Karolina, the doll that comes to life.  I’m sure it will be loved by all who read it.

Click here for the review of The Dollmaker of Kraków

Julius Zebra by Gary Northfield

Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans book coverJulius Zebra Bundle with the Britons book coverJulius Zebra Entangled with the Egyptians book cover

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This series of books has now been given the Phoenix the Peacock Favourites Stamp as I just can’t get them out of my head!  The humour in this book is just perfect for me, there’s a bit of traditional slapstick as well as just bizarre silliness.  Every time I pick up a Julius Zebra book I can’t help but be cheered up as I laugh aloud and I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys that kind of British humour.  I couldn’t decide on a favourite so I’m voting them all favourites.

Click here for the review of Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans (book #1)

Click here for the review of Julius Zebra Bundle with the Britons (book #2)

Click here for the review of Julius Zebra Entangled with the Egyptians (book #3)

Favourite children’s picture books

(There have been too many picture books I’ve enjoyed to pick a favourite but here is a few of the ones that stick in my mind or have touched me/made me smile. )

Curiosity: The Story of the Mars Rover by Markus Motum

Curiosity book coverThis lovely book is a non-fiction tale but told by Curiosity, the Mars rover herself.  Something about the way this book is told, and the sweet way that Curiosity has been humanised to appeal to us just makes this a fun read.  The book has an amazing way of engaging the reader and I just found myself thinking of this book long after I’d stopped reading it.

Click here for the review of Curiosity: The Story of the Mars Rover

Kiki & Bobo’s Sunny Day by Yasmin Ismail

Kiki and Bobo's Sunny Day book coverI’m not sure why this book made me smile so much but it’s a beautiful tale of friendship and has added fun flaps which really make you enjoy the story.  The illustrations always get me if they look particularly cute or sweet but there’s a lovely tale in this book too and one I just really enjoyed reading.  I’d recommend it for very young readers, it’s a story that really made me smile.

Other favourites

(I don’t have enough books to give the others their individual categories but here are some other books that I found my favourites).

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor & Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Alan Love

Norse Myths Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki book coverI think anything Norse related is always going to be tough to not put as a favourite!  But this set of Norse Myths aimed at children (but certainly readable by all ages) stuck in my mind.  The illustrations have a lot to do with how the stories feel as you read them and there’s just something about these being the original Norse Myths retold in an easy to understand way that makes this very compelling to read.

Click here for the review of Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor & Loki

Terrible True Tales from the Tower of London by Historic Royal Palaces

Terrible True Tales from the Tower of London book coverThis non-fiction is brilliant and reads just like any Horrible Histories book.  There are lots of gruesome and weird facts about the Tower of London and its history but they are all told by the ravens, the birds that guard the Tower.  I couldn’t help but enjoy this book and something about it made me really smile as well as feel a bit weird when I read some of the more gory facts.  It’s nothing too off putting and perfect for anyone who enjoys finding out historical facts in a funny way.

Click here for the review of Terrible True Tales from the Tower of London

So that’s my list of my very favourite books of this year.  I’ve found it hard to pick out some favourites as most of my 5 feather reviewed books feel worthy of being favourites, but I had to choose something so here it is 🙂

This is the end of posts looking back to 2017.  From now on let’s enjoy 2018 and hopefully some more memorable books.  I’m looking forward to several coming out including the new Julius Zebra and hopefully if a sequel to Caraval or Strange the Dreamer is due this year I’ll be keen to get my hands on them too 🙂  Which books are you looking forward to this year?  Which were your favourites of last year?

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#BookReview: Alex Rider: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz #MPBooks

Alex Rider Never Say Die book coverTitle: Alex Rider Never Say Die

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Pre-teen, Action, Thriller

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Description: The explosive new mission in the no. 1 bestselling series. After being forcibly recruited by MI6, teenage super-spy Alex Rider vowed he would never go back.  But even Alex can’t fight the past, especially when it holds a deadly secret.  Alex is Back.

My Review: I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this book despite a shaky start. ‘Alex Rider: Never Say Die’ is the eleventh instalment of the series and given the fact I had never read a previous book in the series before, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but I did. The story begins with an interesting, almost movie-like, opening at the Suffolk Air Show before moving onto Alex, now living in America.

The Alex Rider series is like James bond for kids, at least that’s the feeling I got from reading this novel. I did find it hard to get into the story at first. It wasn’t the actual plot that I found difficult, this in fact sucked me in and I loved all the action that was happening throughout the story, but I found it hard to connect with Alex. It could have been the fact that I didn’t know the Alex Rider series before reading this book, but something about Alex always able to get out of a difficult situation, and not being overly emotional (despite having some bad dreams) made the book feel a bit unbelievable. However I stuck with reading it and I’m glad I did as the story just got better the further I read on.

Although at the start of the story Alex is in America, he wants to find out what happened to his friend Jack, whether she really did die, so he sets off around the world, first to Egypt and later to Europe. Despite the fact that there are references to what happened in previous books, and the people Alex has met, I never found the story confusing, as these parts are explained well, and it really can be read as a stand alone novel.
The action is what really made me enjoy this book, there’s never a dull moment with things happening all the time and the whole story told in a way that really made me feel as if I was watching a movie! Although the action primarily follows Alex, there are scenes with other characters (just like in a film) and I’m amazed at the effect the whole book has had on me after reading it.

I never really did connect with Alex as a character, but as I read this book I did start to like him after a while and the action is what drove the story more than anything else. I would have liked a deeper story with more emotion but once I realised that this was more about the action, and the amazing way the plot unfolds, I found it easy to enjoy this and couldn’t put the book down! There’s something about the way Horowitz writes that is amazing and the way everything was described, I just really felt like I was watching a movie in my mind, and I felt the same suspense and drama you feel when watching an action movie.

The ending of the story is a satisfying one with the plot set up for a potential next book in the series. The whole plot was actually really satisfying to read and I never guessed what was going to happen, even at the end, which made this a really great read.
Being for the pre-teen age group (and perhaps early teens might enjoy this too) there is nothing offensive, although there is a lot of action involving some characters that die, nothing really gruesome but sometimes a bit shocking to read.
After finishing this book I feel like reading it again, and I think I’d enjoy it all the more if I took the book mainly for action rather than trying to see more emotion in the characters. This book has also made me want to read others in the series and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone, especially pre-teens who enjoy a lot of action thriller stories, a little like Bond.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Have you read the Alex Rider series, or if not how do you feel about action thrillers?  Please let me know I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond & Alex T. Smith #MPBooks

The Tale of Angelino Brown book coverTitle: The Tale of Angelino Brown

Author: David Almond

Illustrator: Alex T. Smith

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade, Humour

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Description: Bert and Betty Brown have got themselves a little angel. Bert found him in his top pocket when he was driving his bus.

Bert and Betty’s friends think he’s lovely. So do Nancy and Jack and Alice from Class 5K. What a wonder!

But Acting Head Teacher Mrs Mole is not so sure. Nor is Professor Smellie. Or the mysterious bloke in black who claims to be a School Inspector.

Then there’s Basher Malone – big, lumbering Basher Malone. He REALLY doesn’t like Angelino. And it looks like he’s out to get him

My Review: This is a funny and lovely children’s book. When I started reading ‘The Tale of Angelino Brown’ I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. The story begins with Bert Brown, a bus driver, who is married to Betty. While driving the bus Bert thinks he’s having a heart attack but finds a little angel inside his pocket instead. He takes the Angel home and together Betty and Bert decide to look after him and name him Angelino.

Images along side the text.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story as it will spoil it but this really is a lovely tale. Angelino is loved by everyone nice and brings out the best in everyone, but not everybody likes to see an angel and Angelino faces some trouble from some bad people. The story is a middle grade/ older children’s book although anyone older might enjoy this too. On the whole the story seems a simple and funny one. A lot of the characters are very silly and the situations are daft too (including some references to farting). But although on the surface the story just seems like any other funny story, this book has a deeper story inside it. I don’t want to explain what that part of the story is as it will give away the ending but it has a really heartwarming ending and it really put a smile on my face.

There are illustrations throughout the book, although some double pages don’t have any images a lot do. These are black and white pictures which are funny and add to the overall fun mood of the story. I do like these images as they make reading this book more fun and I particularly like the pictures of some of the teachers!

Fun pictures add to the humour of the book.

Some of the language used in the book is written with accents in mind, such as the word ‘maybe’ being spelt ‘mebbe’ when characters talk. This didn’t bother me but some kids might be confused by such words. Overall though this is a really lovely book, sweet and heartwarming and I’m glad I read it as I love the ending! I’m sure lots of kids and adults will enjoy this book.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this book?  Do you love a good heartwarming tale, or something funny?  Let’s chat!   You can also find me inthese places:

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#BookReview: Julius Zebra Bundle with the Britons by Gary Northfield #MPBooks

Julius Zebra Bundle with the Britons book coverTitle: Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons

Author/Illustrator: Gary Northfield

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s, Humour

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Description: So you think you know about Julius Zebra do you!
He’s handsone.  He’s the people’s champion of the Roman gladiator world!  He’s off on his jolly holibobs with his besties…
Emperor Hadrian has one last task for Julius before he grants his freedom, and it involves a trip to the strand and far-off land of Britannia!

Image of Phoenix the Peacock's favourite stamp
This book earns Phoenix the Peacock’s favourite stamp!

My Review:  ‘We’re off on our holibobs!’ Why on earth that phrase makes me smile I don’t know but it does and I love, LOVE this book! ‘Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons’ is the second book in the Julius Zebra series and I just can’t wait to read more!

The story is about Julius, a zebra who is a champion gladiator of Rome. Julius is a bit of a celebrity and the book quickly introduces us to his other animal friends, Felix an antelope, Cornelius a warthog and Lucia a crocodile, to name a few. The story is very funny and Julius and his friends mistakenly think Emperor Hadrian has sent them off on their holibobs (holidays) to the strange land of Britannia but they soon learn the truth about what they are really doing there.

Fun pictures throughout the text.

The story is daft and silly but also very, very funny. I wasn’t sure I was going to get into this book at first, given the strange setting of a few animals walking and talking among the people of Rome but it quickly because an engaging read and the more I read the more I laughed. The book has lots of funny images, in black and white, among the text and for some reason I’m really drawn to the silliness of them. Julius and his friends are quite daft and the whole look of the illustrations just lends to this daft humour.

The story has a satisfying ending but leaves you with an epilogue that sets up the next book in the series which will be ‘Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians’ which I can’t wait to read. The back of the book has some interesting facts which I really enjoyed and it made me like this book even more. The author explains some of the things that the Romans brought to Britain, not all of them I knew about, but it’s done in a funny way that makes you laugh.
There is also an explanation of how roman numerals work.  It is educational but done in a very fun way with characters from the story explaining how it works. It’s included because this book has the fun added extra of every page number being written in roman numerals instead of the usual digits we use today.
My favourite extra at the end of the book though is Felix’s rock collection. Some of the rocks and their names really made me laugh.

Funny illustrations!

This book will really appeal to kids and older who like something silly but funny. It’s not a complicated story but I really enjoyed reading this and after the recent disappointment of another funny book aimed at kids, which wasn’t for me, I’m glad to say that this book has just the right sense of humour to really put a smile on my face. I can’t wait for the next instalment in the series and am now going to buy the first book ‘Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans’ too!
-Thanks to Walker books for a free copy.

I loved this zany book!  Would you?  Let me know in the comments below.  Come check me out in these places too 🙂 : 

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#BookReview: Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis #MPBooks

Timmy Failure The Cat Stole My Pants book coverTitle: Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants

Author/Illustrator: Stephan Pastis

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s, Humour

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Description: Crime doesn’t take a holiday.  Neither does greatness.

So although I, Timmy Failure, the world’s greatest detective, am in Key West, Florida, I am NOT on holiday.  And I am DEFINITELY NOT on a honeymoon with my mother and Doorman Dave, having found zero evidence that they even got married.

But I am stuck in this hotbed of criminals with only the help of an unpaid intern.

There is no privacy on the island, but I know this: There is treasure.

My Review: I must be in a big minority because unfortunately I just didn’t enjoy this book like I had hoped. ‘Timmy failure: The Cat Stole My Pants’ is the sixth book in the series of Timmy Failure books and while it’s probably funny for a lot of people and kids, it was just too daft for me.

The book comes as a lovely hardback and is filled with lots of pictures as well as text. A lot of the book is pictures or handwriting and appears a bit like a notebook which it sort of is as Timmy is the narrator of his story. The whole story of ‘The Cat Stole My Pants’ is very daft. Timmy is a detective and runs a detective agency. He has a new intern called Emilio which is really another kid who’s on holiday with him and his mum and her new husband Doorman Dave. Timmy is a bit of a brat and loves to over exaggerate like so many kids would and it’s this unique humour that’s supposed to be funny but I just didn’t ever laugh at this book.

Some of the images inside the book.

There are bits I do like in this book. I actually like Emilio’s character. He looks strange and seems weird but I really liked him, especially his fondness of a certain bird. I also liked the ending of the story. I’m not going to give the ending away but it was nice and I think a little deeper than the rest of the book.

Some more pics among the text.

The images in this book are all quick drawings in black and white and do look funny. The pictures really lend to the story and I would have liked even more of them in the book, I think I also would have liked all the text to have looked handwritten too.

More silliness and fun.

I think this book will appeal to a lot of kids and adults too. I also feel as if boys might enjoy this a lot more and I think those with a very silly (almost over the top silly) sense of humour will love this most. The book just didn’t seem funny for me though and it’s not a book I would have enjoyed when I was younger. Maybe if I had read some previous Timmy Failure books this would appeal more but I just never got into the story, I never connected with Timmy in any way and it’s a shame because I really tried hard to enjoy this story.
-Thanks to Walker books for a free copy.

Have you read any Timmy Failure books?  Did you enjoy them more than I did? 

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#BookHaul: Walker Books June 2017 #MPBooks

It’s June and the lovely people at Walker Books continue to bring a smile to my face with another new book haul!  Check out this wonderful selection of kids, teen and even a colouring book!  Details of each book are below the pictures and you can expect these books reviewed this month (and maybe heading into next month if I’m a bit slow at reading 😉 – LOTS of books to read! )

First some great picture books and a colouring book:

Two picture books and a colouring book! 😀

Sam and Jump by Jennifer K Mann – A sweet, reassuring story about friendship for all young readers who have ever loved, and lost, a special toy.

Mr Large in Charge by Jill Murphy – Mrs Large isn’t feeling too good. So Mr Large sends her back to bed. “I’ll take charge,” he says. But Mrs Large’s day doesn’t turn out to be quite as restful as she had first hoped!

Kings, Queens & Palaces Colouring Book – Colour your way from Buckingham Palace to Kew with this regal colouring book of kings, queens and palaces of the United Kingdom.

And how about these novels?

I can’t wait to read all these books!

Truth or Dare by Non Pratt – How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? A powerful and moving novel about bravery from the Guardian’s “writer to watch” Non Pratt.

Alex Rider: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz – In this brand new, explosive adventure in the number one bestselling series, Alex Rider is trying to get his life back on track after the traumatic events of his last mission. But even Alex can’t fight the past … especially when it holds a deadly secret.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evens Welsh – People go to Italy for love & gelato … but sometimes they discover much more.
A wonderful coming-of-age novel.

Beck by Mal Peet – The final novel from Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet is the sweeping coming-of-age adventure of a mixed race boy transported to North America.

Truth of Dare is extra special with a double sided cover (you literally flip the book upside down and then read the second half from the back to the front! – I’ll add pics when I review it!)

These descriptions are as I was given them by Walker Books.  Anyone interested in any of these titles?  I’ve got a LOT of reading to get on with (and an internet connection that’s still driving me bonkers so I’ll do my best to get posts out as soon as I can).

Let me know what you plan to read in June, any of the above?  Or something else? I’d love to hear some recommendations too 🙂 

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