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#BookReview: Stick & Fetch Investigate: Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Philip Ardagh & Elissa Elwick

Stick and Fetch Barking up the Wrong Tree book coverTitle: Barking Up the Wrong Tree (Stick & Fetch Investigate)

Author: Philip Ardagh

Illustrator: Elissa Elwick

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle grade, Humour

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Description: Sally Stick and her fellow detective (and best friend) Fetch are surprisingly good at solving unusual cases.  the cases may only exist inside their heads, and the clues may not exactly be clues, but that doesn’t stop them!

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#BookReview: Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan #MPBooks

Begone the Raggedy Witches book coverTitle: Begone the Raggedy Witches (The Wild Magic Trilogy #1)

Author: Celine Kiernan

Illustrator: Victoria Semykina

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle grade, Fantasy

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Description:  Mup’s dad has been kidnapped by witches, and Mup – along with her mam, brother and dog – must journey to an enchanted world to rescue him.
Danger awaits them.  Witches Borough is a beguiling place of rhyming crows, talking cats and forbidden magic, ruled by a tyrannical queen and her band of raggedy witches.  And Mam seems strange on this side of the border – striding, powerful and increasingly distant.
Even if they can save her father, Mup knows that nothing will ever be the same again.

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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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#BookHaul: Walker Books December 2017/January 2018 #MPBooks

I didn’t get a book haul from Walker Books for December so I thought I would show these off a few days earlier.  These new books which came in the post just before Christmas, are from the lovely people at Walker Books who have sent an amazing set of books to start off January’s book buying and reading.

First some great children’s and teen fiction:

Some great reading books a mix of children’s and teen.

The Day That Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains by Tom McLaughlin – Best friends Freddy and Sal have accidentally intercepted a message from Alan – a spectacularly grumpy, brain-munching alien from outer space. Alan has only one message. Earth is going to be invaded in exactly ten hours’ time …

Mango & Bambang: Superstar Tapir by Polly Faber & Clara Vulliamy – Both Mango and Bambang are left star-struck when Bambang’s cousin comes to town with Hollywood actress Minty Verbena. But when disaster strikes, Bambang is the true star of the show.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather – After Sam’s father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem. Unfortunately, she’s related to one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome is an understatement… When a centuries-old curse is rekindled,  can Sam stop history repeating itself?

And here are some excellent and very interesting picture books:

Some great picture books with the Nature Storybooks being a total of 10 books!

Nature Storybooks Collection: Every Wonderful Word is True – A collection of 10 Nature Storybooks which give a fascinating and accessible introduction to the natural world. Subjects include sharks, polar bears, tigers, whales and many more.

All At Sea There’s a New Baby in the Family by Gerry Byrne & Faye Hanson – When Liam’s mum and dad bring his new baby brother home from the hospital they also bring him a present: a family of hippos. But the baby hippo of the family keeps going missing … A warm, sensitive and reassuring book about the arrival of a new baby in the family.

Lucky Laszlo by Steve Light – Lazlo is in love. So, with the perfect red rose in hand, he sets off to the theatre, where the girl of his dreams is starring in Alice in Wonderland. But when a cat snatches the flower and dashes backstage, Lazlo is in for a bit of bad luck.

So do any of these interest you?  I can’t help but love the title and illustrations of Mango and Bambang: Superstar Tapir, it’s the Tapir that’s just so cute! 😀

The Nature Storybooks Collection is a box with 10 individual picture books inside!  I’ll be reviewing them all plus the overall collection soon so I hope you enjoy those reviews along with all the others 🙂

What books have you recently received?  Did you get any for Christmas?  Excited to read something new?  Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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

Norse Myths Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki book coverTitle: Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland

Illustrator: Jeffrey Alan Love

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade+/Older Children’s+, Fantasy (mythology)

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Description:  Fast-moving and ice-bright, these myths of the Vikings tell how the world was created and how it will be destroyed – only to begin again.

The gods, led by all-powerful Odin, and mighty Thor, are caught, in a terrifying struggle for power with the fearsome giants.  They must battle them using all their cunning and strength.  But the god’s greatest enemy lurks among them: the trickster Loki.  Twisted by spite, his scheming will ultimately bring about the final great battle of Ragnarok.

These ancient stories of dazzling magic and thrilling journeys are dramatically retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the master of Norse mythology and the winner of the Carnagie Medal, and lavishly illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love.

My Review: This is a truly stunning book and one which will be enjoyed by not only kids but adults too. ‘Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki’ is a large hardback book about A4 in height but a bit wider and is filled with thick matt pages. The paper is the heavy kind making this a weighty book to hold and I’d advice putting it down while reading it. There are stunning illustrations just like the ones on the cover that give this book and the tales told within an interesting and dark atmosphere.

The book begins with a forward by the author explaining where the myths come from, after that there are a couple of double page spreads showing relevant characters, one has the names of all the relevant gods and goddesses, the next dwarfs and giants, and this is followed by a picture of the Norse World and the ash tree Yggdrasill. All these are accompanied with some great illustrations and I especially like the picture of Yggdrasill as this is a key part to the Norse stories and how they all connect and even though I’ve heard of the myths before I couldn’t piece them in my mind so well until I’d seen this picture.

Excellent shadow images of the gods!

The rest of the book is the various myths which should be read in order to get the most out of the stories. Each myth is like a short story, it has its own title and a brief sentence about it before the text of the tale. Although the Norse myths are different and some of them very strange compared to stories of today they are surprisingly compelling to read and I love the way this book tells them. I had some knowledge of the myths before I started reading this but having them in this book, arranged the way they are with the stunning illustrations has made it really easy to remember and I keep wanting to read them again and again.

Every story is interesting to read with some of them having morals to them, in a lot of them though you will read some pretty dark things such as characters being killed or hurt in the most gruesome of ways, every story however is interesting to read and has its conclusion. In some of the stories there’s mentions of things such as the killing and skinning of animals for food but none of these stories are done in a too gruesome way, it’s nothing that wouldn’t be appropriate for kids although the Norse myths themselves are dark in their very nature, especially towards the end of the book such as what happens to Loki.

The illustrations are just amazing and I think it’s really made this book all the more fun and powerful to read! Every illustration is like a shadow illustration, you rarely see any kind of faces, unless it is the silhouette of someone sideways or one or two eyes visible against the black shadows. Given how different and interesting the Norse myths are, these illustrations really do fit the atmosphere of the stories and how the whole book feels. The majority of the images are all black but there are other colours mixed into some pictures too such as blue for the sea, yellow for golden hair and red for Loki’s eyes. There is an illustration on each page or double page spread and many times there is so much black that you get white text on black as the whole images seems to swallow the text. You can only get a sense for the pictures by seeing them, they really are brilliant, and I’m amazed how easy it is to see what is happening when a lot of the time all you see is shadows.

Stunning illustrations portraying the dark atmosphere!

There is a glossary at the back of the book with not only the names of characters but also some words used which some kids may not understand which is good as it saves going backwards in the book to find out who someone is or understand what something is. There is also a contents at the start of the book with all the myths labelled so you can dip in and out of reading a certain tale, although if it’s the first time you really should read them in order to feel the full impact of the stories.

Although this is a book I’d recommend for kids and adults there may be some kids who might find the tales a little scary or gory. The Norse myths are strange and different but there’s also something so compelling about them, they really do make for interesting reading and although some of the stories might be a bit weird or dark, I don’t think it’s anything an older child would find too difficult or unappealing. I really have enjoyed this book and would invite anyone of any age to read this if you are keen to learn the Norse myths as it’s a really exciting read and a great source of learning these tales. Some kids might find some of the stories a little strange to read, given what happens in the tales themselves but overall I would really recommend this book – I can’t stop myself re-reading it!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Do you enjoy reading about mythology?  What about Norse mythology?  Would you enjoy this book or know somebody who would?  Please let me know your thoughts I’d love to hear from you 🙂  You can also follow me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield #MPBooks

Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans book coverTitle: Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans

Author/Illustrator: Gary Northfield

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle grade/Older Children’s fiction, Humour

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Description: So you think you know ZEBRAS, do you?  They’re handsome, eat lots of grass, and um…are always getting eaten by lions.  Let’s face it, they’re a little bit boring and stupid, too.  But a tussle with a grumpy gladiator can soon change a zebra…So cheer on our stripy hero, Julius, as he scraps for survival in history’s deadliest theatre: THE COLOSSEUM!  Just don’t call him a horse! (or Debra…)

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This book earns Phoenix the Peacock’s favourite stamp!

My Review:  This book is so hilarious and just so silly but with a brilliant story too! ‘Julius Zebra Rumble with the Romans’ is the first book in the Julius Zebra series with the second and third books being ‘Bundle with the Britons’ and ‘Entangled with the Egyptians’. This book is where the adventures of Julius begins. Having been forced to go to the lake with his mother and his brother Brutus, Julius wants nothing more than to leave the stinky place and go home. But when a stampede of animals runs from the lake Julius finds himself alone, with a very annoying warthog, and together they have to escape both a lion and the Romans who are after them.

I started reading this series from the second book and have really loved it but going back to this first book I was a little worried that I might not find it as funny as the later ones, as sometimes happens when you enter a series in the middle. However I shouldn’t have been worried, this book had me laughing from the first pages ad it’s fun to see how Julius, a zebra from Africa, ends up battling Roman gladiators.

Very funny and silly images throughout the text.

The book is pure humour and a very daft/silly humour which I just love. It has a very British humour, even down to the characters saying things like ‘Cor!’ and it feels like some classic British comedies where there’s a lot of silliness and slapstick involved. The book also has a Horrible Histories feel to it seeing as Julius is a zebra in the times when the Romans were a powerful nation. As the story unfolds there are lots of illustrations to go along with the text. These pictures have to be read along side the text, they make up part of the story and something about this style of book is just so appealing and I really enjoy it.

The illustrations are hilarious and there’s just something I find instantly funny about Julius, his friends and those eyes! Every pictures is silly and I’ll admit I laughed aloud on more than one occasion from the pictures alone! The pictures are all black and white. The ending of the story is a satisfying one, in fact it is my favourite ending of any Julius Zebra book (so far) given what Julius does. The book has a proper conclusion but also an epilogue which leads nicely into the second book ‘Bundle with the Britons’.

Fun images tell the story as well as the text.

One thing I really love about this book is the setting and the fact that it’s a bit of a historical lesson in Romans too. There is a glossary at the back of the book explaining some of the Roman terms and words that you read in the text as well as a fun lesson on how to count in roman Numerals and of course Cornelius is always explaining facts within the story.

I can’t recommend this book enough, and in fact the entire series. I have definitely become a fan of Julius Zebra and can’t wait for every adventure he goes on. It’s a wonderfully funny book which plenty of kids will love, but it’s also a bit educational too. I also think a fair few adults will enjoy this story too.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this book and the series?  Do you enjoy humorous books or do you prefer more serious ones?  Talk to me in the comments box below, I love hearing from you 🙂  You can also follow me in these places: 

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