middle grade fiction

All posts in the middle grade fiction category

Blog Tour – Dream Magic (Shadow Magic #2) – Joshua Khan

Published April 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a world ruled by six ancient Houses of Magic, a girl and a boy begin an epic and dangerous journey of discovery . . . Lilith Shadow, princess of darkness, is struggling with her growing powers. Castle Gloom is filling with ghosts, zombies roam the country and people throughout Gehenna are disappearing. Then Lily is attacked in her own castle by a mysterious sorcerer known as Dreamweaver and his army of jewel-spiders whose bites send victims to sleep. Thorn, and his giant bat Hades, must save Lily from the realm of sleep and help her overcome the evil Dreamweaver in order for her to reclaim her kingdom.

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for Dream Magic, the second book in the Shadow Magic series by British author, Joshua Khan, a series that Rick Riordan has quoted on the covers: “I defy you not to love this story.” Well, with an endorsement like that, what else could I do but read it? I read the first book, Shadow Magic recently, check out my post HERE and definitely recommend reading the series in order to get the back story of the characters and an introduction to a beautiful fantasy world that I just loved.

So, as mentioned in the synopsis, this world involves a number of different lands, ruled by six Houses of Magic. In the first story, it focuses on the House of Shadows and the thirteen year old ruler, Lilith Shadow who takes up the mantle of ruler after her parents and brother were murdered. She makes friends with Thorn, a peasant boy who is currently a squire at Castle Gloom and along with his giant bat, Hades, helps her deal with an attempt on her own life shortly after ancient enemies, the Solars from Lumina come to Gehenna after she becomes engaged to their heir, Gabriel. Here’s where we are now. Lily is no longer engaged to Gabriel and is somewhat weakened after the surprising events at the end of the last story but is gradually growing stronger with the help of her father, now a ghost but managing to appear to her in the library of Castle Gloom and helping her amass the skills she needs to defend her land and her people.

For there is a new threat in Gehenna. The trolls have started marching, determined to create a war as their people have started disappearing and they blame the House of Shadows. However, villagers from all over the lands, inside and outside Gehenna are going missing, including Lily’s protector and faithful executioner, Tyburn. When Lily and Thorn investigate, they uncover a strange plague of jewel spiders that put everyone they bite into a seemingly endless sleep. After many frightening incidents, they discover that a powerful sorcerer is controlling these jewel spiders for his own dastardly reasons. What is his connection with the House of Shadows and why is he so hell-bent on revenge? Can Lily and Thorn solve the puzzle of what’s going on before they lose any more of her people or become embroiled in a bloody war with the trolls?

Once again, Joshua Khan knocks it out of the park with an amazing fantastical world that was so exciting to read about and was a genuine roller-coaster of a reading experience. He has a huge, seemingly endless imagination for creating new worlds and it was another magical story that I thoroughly enjoyed. We learn a lot more about the characters back stories, especially Thorn and his family in this book which I appreciated and even a tid-bit into the stoic Tyburn’s past which only made me hunger for more! Of course, it was wonderful to see the return of Hades the giant bat who has to be one of my favourite non-human characters and I hope to see lots more of him in future books in the series. Finally, I also love that the author doesn’t shy away from using potentially scary creatures, like zombies and massive spiders, which is exactly what I wanted from authors I chose to read when I was younger. I would suggest that because of this it might not be suitable for much younger children but if you have a particularly precocious reading child – go for it, it’s certainly a wonderful series to read!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.
*Tintagel, in case you were wondering.

Website: http://www.joshuakhan.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/writerjoshkhan

Thank you to everyone who invited me to be a part of this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Dream Magic, the second book in the Shadow Magic series was released on 6th April 2017 by Scholastic Books and is available from all good bookshops now!

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34740944-dream-magic
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-Magic-Shadow-Joshua-Khan/dp/1407172093

Want to know more? Why not check out all the other stops on the blog tour from my fellow bloggers?

Shadow Magic (Shadow Magic #1) – Joshua Khan

Published April 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a world ruled by six ancient Houses of Magic, a girl and a boy begin an epic and dangerous journey of discovery… After her parents’ murder, 13-year-old Lilith “Lily” Shadow rules Gehenna from Castle Gloom, an immense and windowless citadel. Once Lily’s ancestors commanded spirits, communed with the dead, and raised armies from out of the grave. But now her country is about to be conquered by the Shadows’ ancient enemies – the Solars, the lords of light. Thorn is a peasant boy, wily and smart, sold into slavery and desperate to escape. So when he’s bought by Tyburn, executioner to House Shadow, he’ll agree to just about anything – even to serving Castle Gloom for a year and day in order to earn his freedom. When Lily is nearly poisoned by a ruthless and unknown assassin, she and Thorn embark on a dangerous quest to save Gehenna, a weird and wonderful land of haunted castles, mysterious forests and an unforgettable giant bat. Together they must unravel a twisted plot of betrayals, pride and deadly ambition.

What did I think?:

When Faye Rogers contacted me and asked me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book in this amazing middle grade fiction series, Dream Magic, I jumped at the chance, especially when I read the exciting synopsis. Of course that meant I needed to catch up a little bit and read book one, Shadow Magic first and I’m ever so glad I did. Joshua Khan is a brilliant new voice in children’s literature and one I’m thrilled to discover. His characters are well drawn and instantly appealing to both younger and older readers and his world-building is nothing short of fantastic. A huge thank you to Scholastic Books for sending me a copy of both books in the series so far in exchange for honest reviews and as part a blog tour.

This series is steeped in fantasy and involves a number of magical lands of which we learn more about as the series continues into the second book. For the first however, we are introduced to the House of Shadows, rulers of a land called Gehenna from the (relative) safety of Castle Gloom. I say safety…but Gehenna is probably the darkest of all the lands with a number of ghosts resident in the castle, no windows within the castle to let in light (hey, they didn’t call it the House of SHADOWS for no reason!) and the potential to raise the undead in the form of zombies. The current ruler of Gehenna is thirteen year old Lily Shadow who has been thrust into the role when her parents and brother were brutally murdered by unknown assassins, one of whom has never been caught, by her loyal executioner, Tyburn.

Lily’s Uncle Pan and the rest of the nobility are attempting to arrange a marriage for Lily, to happen in a couple of years when she is old enough. The bridegroom of the moment is heir to the Solars known as the “land of light,” in direct contrast to Lily’s ancestors and, in fact, the two houses have been at war for years. The marriage between the son, Gabriel and Lily Shadow is an attempt to bring about peace between the lands. When the Solars arrive however, Lily is disgusted by her future husband Gabriel and his behaviour. Worse still, after an assassination attempt, Lily’s life and the future of the House of Shadow is in terrible danger. With the help of a young boy called Thorn and his giant bat Hades, Lily must uncover the villain who may want to end her life and protect her beloved Gehenna from certain doom.

I mentioned at the start that I instantly wanted to begin this series because of the synopsis but can I just take a moment to mention the cover? That giant bat (Hades, if you please!) and the two children riding on him made me one hundred percent certain that this was a book that I needed to read. I was delighted to discover a brilliant story within with such fascinating characters, like the smelly, grumpy and ever so loveable Hades and the wonderful main characters of Lily and Thorn themselves. It’s action-packed and broken up with a few pages of beautiful illustrations which I really appreciated and felt really added to the momentum and atmosphere of the story. Best of all for me personally, there was a two page map at the beginning of the book. Now, I do love a map in a book and this one was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was so detailed and intricate that I could really understand how much work the author has put into developing this world and the characters in it. I’m so excited to get to the next book in the series now, Dream Magic so look out for my post on the blog tour coming tomorrow!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – MARCH READ – Awful Auntie by David Walliams

Published March 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A page-turning, rollicking romp of a read, sparkling with Walliams’ most eccentric characters yet and full of the humour and heart that all his readers love, Awful Auntie is simply unmissable!

From larger than life, tiddlywinks obsessed Awful Aunt Alberta to her pet owl, Wagner – this is an adventure with a difference. Aunt Alberta is on a mission to cheat the young Lady Stella Saxby out of her inheritance – Saxby Hall. But with mischievous and irrepressible Soot, the cockney ghost of a chimney sweep, alongside her Stella is determined to fight back… And sometimes a special friend, however different, is all you need to win through.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first put David Walliams on our Kid Lit list a couple of years ago when we read the amazing Gangsta Granny. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve continued to feature his books on including The Boy In The Dress last year. After now having had some experience with his writing, I was really looking forward to diving back into his wacky but wonderful mind accompanied with some brilliant illustrations by Tony Ross, who is remarkably like Quentin Blake. A lot of people compare David to Roald Dahl and I can definitely see why (it’s not just the Quentin Blake connection!). He is incredibly witty and has an amazing imagination for things that children of the target age group love to read and laugh about.

I may have started my other reviews of the author’s work by stating that the one I’m writing about is my favourite David Walliams book and I’m afraid here I go again! Awful Auntie is easily the best one I’ve read so far, I loved the plot, the characters and the jokes and found myself thoroughly charmed by the whole thing. Our main character is a little girl called Lady Stella Saxby, only surviving heir to Saxby Hall after her parents were killed in a horrific car accident. However, there is a relation of the family that her father specifically did not want to ever inherit Saxby Hall, his sister, Alberta. Alberta is not your regular kind and loving auntie I’m afraid. She’s mean, self-obsessed, a bit crazy and only devoted to one thing – her pet owl Wagner who assists her in her wicked deeds. She’s determined to find the deeds to Saxby Hall and force Stella to sign them over to her by any means necessary. Lucky Stella has the ghost of Saxby Hall, a chimney sweep called Soot on her side so that Aunt Alberta can be stopped before anything too terrible happens!

This story was just fantastic. Absolutely hilarious, I loved the character of Aunt Alberta and all her little quirks and villainous ways and I really enjoyed how Stella stood up to her, played tricks on her and remained brave and proud of her heritage despite having suffered the loss of her parents and been lied to and treated abominably by somebody who was supposed to be her close family. Once again, the illustrations were out of this world and really added to the magic and atmosphere of the story although David’s gift with words and humour did give them a major run for their money! I laughed out loud at many points and was constantly delighted by an exciting, fast-paced story that I know children would adore. Two words for you – Owl Urinal. Could they really be a thing? Aunt Alberta seems to think so!

Image from https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/awful-auntie/

For Chrissi’s fabulous post, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

Published March 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘You’re telling me there are fairies in this wood?’

When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s writing which is aimed at middle grade readers but can easily be read by children and adults alike. In fact, I like to think it brings out my inner child which I did think was permanently dormant until I get lost in one of her stories. Everything about this story is just beautiful. From the stunning cover art and inviting title to the story and characters within, the author has managed to write an inspiring tale that had me enraptured until I had finished it.

Once again, our main protagonist is female and just as charming and delightful as the author’s previous female leads in Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air. Her name is Alice and she has already been through the emotional mill and dealt with much more than a young teenager should have to. Her parents are (quite acrimoniously) separated and she has quite a difficult and distant relationship with her father and her father’s family. To top it all off, her little brother Theo is seriously ill and at the beginning of the novel, gets a long awaited call to have a heart transplant which will undoubtedly save his life. Alice is packed off to live with her grandmother on her father’s side, Nell while the upheaval with Theo is going on.

Nell lives right alongside Darkling Wood, a magical place where Alice manages to make her first friend – Flo, who dresses strangely and only meets her within the wood. Flo tells Alice all about the fairies who call Darkling Wood their home and that they are desperately worried. You see, some of the trees are causing a bit of damage to Nell’s house and Nell has become determined to get rid of the entire wood, despite the pleas of the other people in the town to desist. If this happens, the fairies will lose their home. Alongside this story, we also see wonderful letters from 1918 that a young girl who used to live there wrote to her brother, fighting in the war. Alice has a multitude of things to deal with – worries about her brother, her relationship with her grandmother and father, learning about the past and trying to change the present, all the paranoia that comes with starting a new school and being an outsider, learning to believe in fairies and magic again, healing rifts and building bridges that have been broken for so long.

I was always going to be excited about another Emma Carroll book, let’s be honest. An Emma Carroll book about fairies? Well, knock everything else off the TBR pile, I had to read this one ASAP. Of course, I was in no way disappointed. This wonderful story had everything I wanted and so much more. I loved the fairies, granted but this novel is so much more than that. It’s bittersweet, occasionally dark and sometimes heart-breaking and explores beautifully the complexity of human relationships in such a gentle, intelligent way. I especially loved the nod to actual events, where Arthur Conan Doyle visits girls who have reported that they have seen fairies. The author reminds me with every books that she writes of the old magic and strong characters that I used to live for in children’s literature. She deserves every bit of praise that is written about her and while I eagerly anticipate her next novel, I just want to wholeheartedly thank her for making me believe in fairies again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Girl Who Walked On Air – Emma Carroll

Published February 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Fans of Frost Hollow Hall will love this epic adventure, where courage takes many different forms.

What did I think?:

The Girl Who Walked On Air is the wonderfully talented Emma Carroll’s second novel for children, aimed around the middle grade reading age but… (and this is a big BUT), I truly believe that her books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially those adults who love an imaginative plot and beautifully drawn characters like Louie Reynolds, our heroine for the story.

I first came across Emma’s writing with her fantastic debut, Frost Hollow Hall which completely captured my heart and I can’t recommend highly enough. Well, if she hasn’t gone and done it again with The Girl Who Walked On Air! Set in the grounds of a Victorian circus it features a young girl called Louie who was abandoned by her mother at Mr Chipchase’s circus and is looked after by the kindly Jasper, a trapeze artist and her guardian angel. She has big dreams of being a performer, or to be exact – a “showstopper,” on the tightrope wire. She practices constantly, watched over by her loyal little dog Pip, but Mr Chipchase is determined that she is only good enough to sell tickets and mend costumes.

This sends her and new arrival at the circus Gabriel, straight into the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved, who manages a rival circus and insists on only the most death defying stunts to bring in the punters. As Louie learns more about who she is as a person, where her heart lies and just what lengths she will go to in becoming a star, she also discovers a lot about friendship and just who can be trusted in a fickle world where money and pure greed is, sadly, the only yardstick by which success is measured.

Once again, Emma Carroll has given us some brilliant characters which have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Louie, just like Tilly in Frost Hollow Hall is beautifully drawn. She is impetuous, independent, brave and indeed flawed but ever so realistic as a young girl which in turn, made her infinitely more loveable as a result. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with Jasper and her friends Ned and Gabriel and was touched by the dark side of her past and her desperation to find out where she came from and where she belonged. The setting of the circus that the author chose was just as stunning and so descriptive that I felt I could picture events scene by scene, character by character, which led to many difficulties putting it down!

As I mentioned earlier, please don’t be dissuaded that the author writes for children, I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by adults just as much. The Girl Who Walked On Air took me right back to my childhood when I used to just sit in a room and read right until the book was finished (and if this went past my bedtime, it was continued under my duvet with a torch!). I didn’t need the torch as an adult, but I certainly read from the beginning to the end in one sitting and loved every moment.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – DECEMBER READ – The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair by Lara Williamson

Published December 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her. Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

What did I think?:

I’m always a bit sad when a year of Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit comes to an end as we enjoy it so much! For the final book of the year we chose The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair, partially because of the brilliant title and partially because of the great reviews on GoodReads. Apart from that, we really didn’t know much about it. It was only when I read the “about the author” part at the epilogue of the book that I realised that this was the author who also wrote the book A Boy Called Hope which has also has some excellent reviews and I am still to read (but very much looking forward to it now after this book!). But honestly, I cannot praise this book enough and it was a very welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it, ending our Kid-Lit year on an undeniable high.

Just to say, the synopsis above (from GoodReads), does not do justice to how great this story is. Our main character is a young boy called Becket who lives with his little brother Billy and his father and is still trying to cope with his mother’s death after she gave birth to Billy. They had previously been living with a woman lived Pearl, who his father was seeing but for some strange reason their father packed them all up in a hurry and moved them to a dingy little flat at some distance from their old house. They have been forbidden from any form of contact with Pearl, have to start at a new school and are, plain and simple, miserable. They were hoping with Pearl in their lives, they had the chance to have a “second mother,” and finally become a family. The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair shows how Becket deals with this latest upheaval in his life as he struggles with the grief for his mother, tries to forge a relationship with his father and get Pearl back into their lives and makes sure that his little brother and his new friend, Brian the snail are well looked after.

This book makes me want to do a lot of love-heart emoji’s. It is so beautifully written and absolutely hilarious which I completely wasn’t expecting. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud, but this one – oh my goodness. The characters are so warm and loveable, especially Becket and Billy, the latter of whom is so painfully honest but in such a funny way, like small children often are. The armchair in the title was the favourite chair of the boys mother and used by them to remember her and when Billy has bad dreams, the two curl up in it and Becket tells him a story of his own that calms him down and allows him to sleep again. The whole book is very fairy-tale esque (another bonus for me!) and filled with the most beautiful, emotional moments that would help anyone struggling with grief themselves. This is a wonderful story that I’m so glad I read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating:

four-stars_0

BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017 – THE TITLES ARE REVEALED – COMING 2ND JANUARY!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – The Bad Beginning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #1) – Lemony Snicket

Published November 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read The Unfortunate Series Of Events books for so long now and with a new series about to be released on Netflix I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin finding out what exactly everyone has been raving on about! I didn’t realise that this was such a long series (thirteen books) but the first book was so short and easy to read that I don’t think it will take me long to catch up with things. Overall, I was completely charmed by this first offering in the series, in the introduction the author warns the reader that there may be no happy endings or Enid Blyton-esque fairy-tale adventures for his characters, but, to be perfectly honest, that just made me warm to the story even more.

So, in a nutshell, this story focuses on three children (the Baudelaires) who have become orphans when their parents tragically perish in a fire at their house. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to live with a (very) distant relative, Count Olaf who treats them abominably. They have to do multiple chores, mainly to cater to his and his theatre friends every whim and it is also clear that he is no way interested in their well-being or happiness. However, he IS very interested in the fortune left to them by their parents which at the present time will revert to Violet when she comes of age. Unless their wicked guardian can get his hands on it earlier of course, by any means necessary.

This first volume in The Unfortunate Series Of Events was a real delight to read, although I was pretty certain I was going to love it just going on the synopsis alone. I only have a slight niggle to report but positive things first! The characters were wonderful and I instantly fell in love/hated them very early on. We have brave, intelligent Violet who has a great mind for inventions and her quick wits come in very useful in defying our dastardly villain. Then there is sensitive Klaus who loves his books (a boy after my own heart) and little Sunny who is can hardly talk yet but manages to make herself completely understood and is obsessed with teeth – not sure why…but I loved it! Then of course, the nasty Count Olaf who by the ending of the first book I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more from in the future and I’m so glad as I did rather enjoy hating him. The only niggle I have with the excellent narrative is that the author chooses to explain a lot of words to the reader which I felt interrupted the flow slightly and I could have done without it. However, this does not take anything away from a powerful beginning to a series that I can clearly see going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to carry on with it!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0