Friday 28 August 2015

Book List: Great Fiction Children Books for Starting School, Going Back to School and Just Off To University

Book List Of Great Fiction Childrens Books for Starting School,  Going Back to School/College and University and How To Survive!! 

Picture Book 4+

Hugless Douglas Goes To Little School by David Melling

The cuddliest bear in books is back and he's off to little school. This is the perfect story for young children before they start their first term. Hugless Douglass leads them gently through what can be a scary time showing how he makes friends and helps his teacher. I just adore the endearing illustrations and gentle prose making it the perfect introduction for a young child's first big adventure!

ISBN 9781444915617 PB £6.99 Hachette Children's Group 
Ratings 5 Stars 

Other great picture books for Starting School
  • Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean Adamson, Ladybird
  • Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Puffin
  • First Week at Cow School by Andy Cutbill, Harper Collins
  • I am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child Orchard Books
  • Knight School by Marillyn Singer, Red Fox
  • Harry and The Dinosaurs Go To School by Ian Whybrow, Puffin

For Children 7+

Wild Thing by Emma Barnes

Anyone with a young sibling will immediately connect with Katie. Her little sister Josephine is starting at her school and she is filled with dread for good reason. Better known as Wild Thing, she could put Horrid Henry to shame and will appeal to boys and girls. I loved the sharp story telling complimented by hilarious illustrations which set the stage for Josephine, aka Wild Thing do her worst. WARNING Could inspire a new generation of naughtiness!

ISBN 9781407137957 PB £5.99 Scholastic
Rating 5 Stars

Other Great reads for children going back to or starting Middle School
  • First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, Egmont
  • Turning To Jelly by Candy Guard
  • The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamela Butchart, Nosy Crow
  • Harry Potter and the Philosphers Stone by JK Rowling (9+)
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, Puffin
  • Middle School Series by James Patterson, Cornerstone

 Young Adult/ Teen Fiction/ 11+

My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood

A witty coming of age book that’s the perfect escape from impending homework. Geeky blogger meets wild child rockstar are all the ingredients needed for a witty contemporary love story. When Tuesday throws caution to the wind to sneek of to Glastonbury to meet the boy of her dreams things don't quite turn out as she expects it. Ps. Don't forget to read the hilarious inspiration for this story at the end, it seems fact is stranger than fiction.
Click Here For Full Review

ISBN 9781447277873 PB £6.99 Pan Macmillan
Ratings 5 Stars

Other great fiction books for those starting in a new school/Sixth Form or off to university or college.
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Scales FULL REVIEW -New school, new location
  • Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell FULL REVIEW- starting University
  • Isla And The Happy Ever Aftery by Stephanie Perkins FULL REVIEW-Decisions on going to college
  • Stella By Helen Eve FULL REVIEW- surviving senior school and the 'in crowd'

Friday 14 August 2015

Book Review: The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II
When Marie Laure goes blind, aged six, her father builds her a model of their Paris neighborhood, so she can memorize it with her fingers and then navigate the real streets. But when the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, is enchanted by a crude radio. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent ultimately makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

My Musings

I think, no I know this is one of my favorite books of 2015. Epic and enchanting. Its a big book with short chapters that fly from one character to another, one time to another like a bee collecting honey. It almost defies description so I won't try as there is a perfectly adequate synopsis above. There is however nothing inadequate about this wondrous novel.It is exquisitely written and builds a vivid world beyond the book. It is a supremely talented writer to harness a story of such epic proportions in such eloquent and accessible style. Such is Doerr's skill at bringing all the threads of the story together you barely realise your are constantly jumping through time and into others lives every couple of pages. It seems very natural and fluid. He draws you into to his web if intrigue, friendship and survival.

There is a support cast of colourful and lovable characters that will live on in the memory as they fight the horrors of war. The end zips to 1970's and finally 2014 and it is filled with great poignancy and a reminder the horror of the war and a time of technical innocence was not that long ago. The connection the brings all the strands together is the development of the radio which even back then could bring random strangers together over the airwaves. Such encounters can be so meaningful and powerful it an last a lifetime. Now we have such a plethora of connectivity with the internet it seems meaningless. Doerr reminds us to appreciate fine craftsmanship, or the beauty of a shell,  a wild bird, the person across the street that makes your heart beat a little faster. The book is a subtle reminder that technology is a marvelous invention that can connect us but should not distract us from the life before us and around us.

I cried at the end simply because I had to close the book.


Monday 10 August 2015

Fiction Books For Sea Lovers and Ocean Lovers

Below is my list of fictional books for lovers of the ocean and the sea. I would love to know if you have any further suggestions!


Commotion In The Ocean by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz

Crabs, whales, sharks, jellyfish and lobsters – all making a noisy commotion in the ocean! Dive into the shimmering brilliance of the deeps with this bold book of rhyme! Packed with rhythmic rhymes and bubbling ocean sounds which are perfect for reading aloud and miming along to, this is a brilliantly colourful first book of verse from the award-winning author and illustrator of Rumble in the Jungle.
My Musings- A perfect picture book to read out loud. The little ones will love the rhythm of the text and bold colourful illustrations.

Other suggestions -
The Storm Whale by Benji Davies - a sensitive portrayel of loneliness and finding friendship

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book and a ukulele. They are only travelling a short distance and it really shouldn't take long. But their journey doesn't quite go to plan . . .
Faced with turbulent storms, a terrifying sea monster and the rank remains of a very dangerous sandwich, the odds are against our unlikely heroes. Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the salty waves? And will anyone ever answer their message in a bottle?
Brilliantly funny and tender, this beautiful book maps the growth of a truly memorable friendship and explores how, when all else is lost, the most unexpected joys can be found.

My Musings- A great adventure that will appeal to boys and girls with captivating illustrations


 Ingo by Helen Dunmore
Sapphire's father mysteriously vanishes into the waves off the Cornwall coast where her family has always lived. She misses him terribly, and she longs to hear his spellbinding tales about the Mer, who live in the underwater kingdom of Ingo. Perhaps that is why she imagines herself being pulled like a magnet toward the sea. But when her brother, Conor, starts disappearing for hours on end, Sapphy starts to believe she might not be the only one who hears the call of the ocean.

My Musings- A great teen read full of magic,romance and mermaids!


The Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco

A handful of disparate lives converge at a remote seaside inn: a lovelorn professor, a renowned painter, an inscrutable seductress - and a beautiful young girl, fatally ill, brought to the sea by a desperate father's last hope. An intricate web of destinies and associations begins to reveal itself, but it is not until the arrival of a mysterious sailor called Adams that the truth in all its dreamlike beauty and cruelty becomes clear.
Adams may furnish the key to the girl's salvation, but only the fulfilment of his obsessive secret purpose - to answer murder with murder - can conclude the journey that has brought him from the ends of the earth. Alternately playful and profoundly serious, Baricco's novel surges with the hypnotic power of the ocean sea.

My Musings- Silk, this authors first book is one of my all time favourites and this is another wonderful read from the lyrical writing of Baricco

More suggestions -
The LIfeboat by Charlotte Rogan. A tale of survival when their ship sinks. A tense thriller great for a book group read. 
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman- Wonderful novel full of twists and turns. A gift is brought from the ocean but what secrets does it keep and what secrets will it force others to keep? Great book group book
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr- One of my favourite reads this year. Enthralling, compelling, there aren't enough adjectives!! The sea is an inspiration and a comfort. Beautiful

Friday 7 August 2015

Film Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation


Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

My Musings

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation had so many good reviews I was really dubious going to see it as when that usually  happens (Jurassic World comes to mind) I am really disappointed.

It seems though some of my faith has been restored. This one certainly gets off to a flying start (excuse the pun) with Tom Cruise clings to the side of a plane, literally. When I first saw this clip I said, CGI, but no, it was Tom giving his insurers a heart attack. Kudos to Cruise I really didn't think he could beat his stunt on the tallest building in Dubai in Ghost Protocol but he really did!

The plot is as ever convoluted. There is a rogue group of agents whom nobody believes exist except Hunt so he and his gang go rogue to prove it. Enter Ilsa Faust, played by the amazing Rebecca Ferguson, as a double agent. I wasn't a fan of hers before as found White Queen so irritating but I've done a complete turnaround. She is AMAZING!  She matches Tom in every way, with the physical fights and intellect acting as a perfect foil and in my opinion steals the show!

This is a female character that stands on her own merit. There are no 'weak' girly moments, no romance even, just standing shoulder to shoulder with Hunt as an agent of equal ability AND ITS REALLY GREAT. I really wish Hollywood would take note. There are strong female characters coming through in teen movies but for adults not so much which makes Ilsa Faust a breath of fresh air.

The action is relentless with stand out stunts, including the plane being, for me,  the underwater scene reminiscent of The Abyss and had me holding my breath and the bike chase especially exciting as Tom is clearly doing nearly all his own stunts. Peppered with the glamour of the Viennese Opera and a lot more humor (A little too much Simon Pegg for me ) it only loses pace twice for a blink of an eye. There are also a few nods  to Bond which they have borrowed from even more than ever but is certainly no worse for it.

This is more that a star vehicle for Tom Cruise as he clearly is not afraid to let others shine and comes out the stronger for it. In the fifth installment of Mission Impossible with its sharp script, complex characters and hair raising stunts, you just get that they all wanted to make a damn good action film and they really succeeded.
Best Block Buster of The Summer BY FAR!

Monday 3 August 2015

Book Review The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey


Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

My Musings

Echo finds a home from her abusive family with a secret world that lives under the radar of human eyes. The vivid description of these magical people with feathers for hair is very evocative and draws you into their world immediately. 

Echo is a pickpocket who makes her family amongst her friends,  finds first love and is deeply loyal to Ala a magical creature who first found her. Ala entrust Echo with finding the firebird which legend has it, will end the bloody war in their world. Little hints throughout lead you to the 'big reveal' at the end which I did not guess at all.

 Meanwhile we meet The Dragon Prince, Caius, their sworn enemy and his psychotic sister. When she deposes Caius he and his best friend and guard, Dorian escape and join forces on the run with Echo and her friends Jasper and Ivy. The dynamic between the  group when they all have to work together to survive  both side is sparkling . 

Melisa writes really witty and likable  characters which owes a little nod to Cassandra Clare. There are some minor quibbles. Cauis and Echo relationship seemed a little rushed and convenient and the 'love ' triangle is negligible and not sure why it was needed unless there are consequences in later books. There is also part of the plot which is clearly influenced by The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I think this could have got to the same conclusion another way around for the sake of comparison and it may irritate some other readers, especially fans of those particular books. It was Ok for me as I was enjoying the story so much, so as I said, a minor quibble!!

Melissa is a very strong, talented writer with vivid, sharp prose and a real talent for world building,  just enough to keep you hooked but not to take over the story. I really fell for the characters group dynamic. The growing relationship between Dorian and Jasper was particularly well handled  and they are two of my favorite characters. 

I really loved this book  and its themes of lost love, betrayal,  finding family in friends which are set against a magical and wonderfully colourful world. I look forward to the next and especially how the characters will be developed. 

If you like this you might like
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor