BLOG TOUR: The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne

If you’re looking for a gripping read with a storyline that will keep you on tenterhooks, then look no further than The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne, published last week by Scholastic.  Paula Rawsthorne is an award winning author of YA novels and passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading. She is writer-in-residence in a secondary school for charity First Story.

With believable characters, endearing friendships and a very scary and utterly disturbing bad guy, The New Boy is a real page-turner. And today on my stop of the blog tour for this great new YA novel, you can have a sneak peek of the story!

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The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne 

New boy jack is clever, handsome and popular. At first Zoe is immune to his charms, but she soon falls under his spell. As their romance grows, disturbing events arise – and Zoe doesn’t know who or what to believe. Until she discovers a secret so shocking it will leave her fighting for her life…

Described as a Black Mirror-esque, The New Boy is a psychological thriller exploring ina totally unique way the facades people create for themselves and how social media and our disregard for privacy can have a devastating impact on our lives. Alongside this narrative is a quite touching picture of a group of teens navigating their way through college, expressing themselves and finding their personalities.  With intriguing cover art rather brilliantly reflecting the intriguing plot, The New Boy will keep you hooked right until the totally shocking reveal!  I read this book in one sitting.  To give you a taster, here’s an exclusive extract……

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Find out more at www.firststory.org.uk/writers-schools/paula-rawsthorne/ and follow Paula on Twitter 

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

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BLOG TOUR: The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

If you could imagine the most wondrous shop to visit, especially if you happen to have a passion for the prehistoric, it’s got to be The Dinosaur Department Store! This lovely picture book is written by Lily Murray, who has been writing and editing children’s books for fifteen years and illustrated by Richard Merritt, who has been an illustrator for over ten years. Published yesterday by Buster Books, youngsters are going to fall in love with this fabulously flamboyant story and it is with great pleasure I’m hosting this stop on the blog tour.

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The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

Meet Eliza Jane. She wants a pet for her birthday. Not a rabbit or a hamster or a puppy…..a prehistoric pet.  Join Eliza Jane and her parents at the Dinosaur Department Store. What could possibly go wrong?

Eliza Jane is a bit of a madam, driving her parents to distraction with her wilful ways! When she demands a dinosaur for her birthday, they oblige and take her on a tour of the Dinosaur Department Store, courtesy of the rather wonderful Mr Magisaurus. Every kind of dinosaur is on display from rip-roaring raptors to stomping sauropods (I particularly liked the ankylosaurs named Maud and Frank!). As with everything involving Eliza Jane, there’s an unexpected turn of events, causing more than a little upset at the Dinosaur Department Store…..

A fantastic book to read aloud, I can imagine The Dinosaur Department Store fast becoming a bedtime favourite! I thoroughly enjoyed the rhyming narrative, the characterisation of the very cheeky Eliza Jane and her exasperated parents, for whom you feel quite a bit of empathy.

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With so much to see in the vibrant illustrations – whether it be dinosaur spotting or looking at the incredible detail in the pictures – it’s no wonder the story comes leaping off the page.

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For the many children who are fascinated by dinosaurs this story is a must – and for those less knowledgeable about prehistoric creatures, there’s a helpful selfie-style dinosaur glossary at the back of the book so children can read along using the right dino-pronunciation.  The Dinosaur Department Store is a fun and adventurous tale which is sure to be a hit – make sure you visit soon!

Don’t forget to follow along with the rest of the blog tour:

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With thanks to Buster Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

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Book of the Month: Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh and Jo Loring-Fisher

book of the monthIt’s Book of the Month time and I’m really excited to share the choice this month, not least because this lovely book publishes in the UK today AND it’s World Book Day!  Maisie’s Scrapbook written by Samuel Narh and illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher is a beautiful picture book from Lantana Publishing

Samuel Narh was born and raised in Ghana and was inspired to write Maisie’s Scrapbook by his own young family with whom he lives in Ohio. Jo Loring-Fisher is a UK-based artist who holds an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge.

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Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh and Jo Loring-Fisher

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s tall tales.  Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba.  They come from different places, but they hug her the same way.  And most of all, they love her just the same.

Maisie’s Scrapbook is a story that celebrates so many things – family, love and the imagination of a spirited and lively little girl.  A charming narrative brings Maisie’s exploits throughout the seasons to life; from listening to her Dada’s wonderful tall tales to taking refuge in her kind Mama’s arms.

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Maisie’s mixed-race parents may have different habits from the clothes they wear to the food they cook, but their love for her is just the same. Gorgeous artwork and mixed-media illustrations capture the child-like essence of the story – there are some really beautiful spreads to admire.

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Maisie’s Scrapbook celebrates the richness of family life and the unconditional love that encourages children to be themselves. You will enjoy this story for its warm heart, beautiful illustrations and the celebration of life it creates.

Find out more at www.samuelnarh.com and www.joloringfisher.com. With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Check out www.thebookactivist.com for more brilliant books on the Bookshelf!

New review: Against All Gods by Maz Evans

Shhhh…I have a secret to tell you. Until very recently I hadn’t read any of the Who Let the Gods Out series……(*gasps of shock and horror*). Apologies. You know what it’s like – you hear about a book and think ‘ooo I must read that, sounds great’ and then you look at the TBR pile and think ‘OK well when I’ve got through these’. And that’s pretty much how it’s been since the first book in the series was published.  And yes I know, once it became clear it was a great story, I kept thinking ‘must read, must read’ but it wasn’t until the season finale in the shape of book four arrived on my doorstep that I thought ‘right, now’s the time’ . So I have.  And well. I can safely say that it was definitely worth the wait and the staying-up-till-late-at-night till I’d got to the fabulous end!

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Against All Gods by Maz Evans

The battle lines are drawn. It’s Good versus Evil. But which side will Elliot Hooper choose?  The Gods are ready to fight. But with Virgo, Gorgy and all Elementals imprisoned in Tartarus, the Goods need super-General Achillles to whip them into shape. And Patricia Porshely-Plum has Home Farm. In his final adventure, can Elliot find his way home? Or will he remain…..AGAINST ALL GODS?

Elliot is in real trouble.  The grief at the loss of his mother constantly threatens to overwhelm him, he’s lost his home and his friends are imprisoned. Standing by a river of fire in the midst of Tartarus, Elliot faces an impossible choice. Retrieve the final Chaos Stone and hand all four stones to the Daemon of Death Thanatos to bring his mother back to life – or refuse and die in the knowledge he’s saved the world but not her. Meanwhile Virgo is desperately trying to escape her jail in the Underworld, with her fellow captors, the Zodiac Council making less-than-helpful suggestions. And in the Great Hall on Mount Olympus, the gods are gathering; reuniting family, friends and frenemies who do their best – sort-of – to overcome their personality clashes in order to save Elliot. Who will triumph as the plot thickens, betrayals and loyalties are revealed and Elliot has to face his worst fears – as if he hasn’t had enough to deal with?! Not wanting to spoil the story, suffice to say you can expect a stupendous finale to this series with what now must be trademark wit, brilliant characterisation and the most hilarious take on the Greek gods and other celestial beings I’ve ever come across. And not forgetting the entire Royal Family….!

Not since I read Harry Potter have I enjoyed a series as much as this. I love children’s book series. With a great children’s book series you’re safe in the knowledge that there are at least three books if not more before thinking about what to read next – which can be especially useful when you’re working with less than avid readers! I know that the teachers and parents I talk to about books also love a good series for that very reason. You get completely immersed in a whole new world, attached to the characters and totally absorbed in the plot and you’re anticipating and enjoying the thrill of when the next book is published to find out what happened next.

Perhaps I missed out on the latter (and am maybe rather relieved I didn’t have to wait too long for what happened next!), but I absolutely loved every episode of this story featuring a fairly ordinary – but let’s be honest, also extra-ordinary –  chap who already has so much on his plate when his life changes beyond all recognition.  There’s love, laughter and adventure galore and the characterisation of the Greek gods had me in fits – especially as I studied Ancient History.  I wish this book had been around then – I expect my tutor would have loved it (or maybe would have been mortified?!). I was also surprised and moved by the narrative of Elliot and his mother and her illness which added huge depth the tale and of course caused many tears.  The emotional roller coaster of the series didn’t end there with the truth about Elliot’s father revealed and the rather brilliant ‘performance’ of Call Me Graham trying to help him towards the end. Another brilliant but suitably vile character was Mrs Porshely-Plum – almost worse than the Daemon of Death himself given her absolute deceit. The term ‘just desserts’ springs to mind.  All in all Who the Let Gods Out is surely a modern classic series which I know will be enjoyed by readers for years to come.  Don’t wait like I did to read them – get started now!

Find out more at www.maz.world and www.chickenhousebooks.com

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

New review: When Good Geeks Go Bad by Catherine Wilkins

This funny, coming-of-age story kept me company on the commute, bringing a smile to my face and reminding me of the precarious nature of teenager-dom!  From the author of the My Best Friend and Other Enemies series, Catherine Wilkins, When Good Geeks Go Bad published by Nosy Crow, will have you rooting for the main character Ella, as she navigates school and family life.

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When Good Geeks Go Bad by Catherine Wilkins

When Ella’s Dad refuses to buy her cool school shoes or let her stay up later than 9.30, Ella decides to take things into her own hands. Being good hasn’t got her anywhere, so why not try being bad? But rebelling is a slippery slope and soon things spiral out of control. Can Ella get back on track? Or will she end up with egg on her face?

Ella is a pretty normal thirteen year old – she’s good at school, has a steadfast best friend Jas who’s she’s known for years and goes swimming with every Sunday.  But things aren’t great at school – she gets teased relentlessly by  the pretty girls for supposedly being ‘lame’ and a ‘povvo’ (poor) and bullied by the bad kids for being too ‘good’. Ella feels like she can’t win. Coupled with things at home not being great either, now that her parents have separated, it’s no wonder she starts to feel all over the place.  Especially as her attempts to be more grown-up, spread her wings a little and be a bit more ‘cool’ are well and truly thwarted by her strait laced father. With her Mum seeming to have abandoned her, bit by bit Ella starts to respond to her situation differently. Instead of grinning and bearing it; she fights back. Not with her fists, but with attitude.

Told through Ella’s eyes in first person narrative, When Good Geeks Go Bad is witty coming-of-age, middle grade story with some important themes at its heart.  Readers are bound to identify with the sometimes relentless navigation of trying to fit in at school, avoid being noticed too much for the wrong reasons and making a good impression with your peers.  Ella’s reaction and decision to start being ‘bad’ is totally understandable and provides for some very funny and possibly a bit cringe-worthy moments when it doesn’t pay off.  The insights into Ella’s own thoughts and feelings are often amusing but also moving as you feel her pain at not being understood. Ella is not without conscience as she realises the consequences of some of her actions.  As her Mum comes back into her life, we see the difficult dynamic of two very different people trying to ‘parent’ their daughter in totally different ways. Ella is lucky to have her understanding and steadfast friend Jas by her side, who helps her see what true friendship really is. With a thoroughly believable narrative, When Good Geeks Go Bad portrays teen rebellion with wit and wisdom and makes for a great read about friendship, family and believing in yourself.

Find out more at www.catherinewilkins.co.uk and www.nosycrow.com

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.

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Book of the Month: The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder

book of the monthPublished on 7th February from Chicken House, The Midnight Hour, is the much anticipated new book from Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder and our current Book of the Month!  Described as a ‘sparkling modern take on fantasy’ it’s sure to delight fans of fantasy fiction young and old alike.

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The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder

Emily’s parents have vanished into the secret world of the Midnight Hour – a Victorian London frozen in time – home to magic and monsters. Emily must find them in the city of the Night Folk, armed only with a packed lunch, a stowaway hedgehog and her infamously big mouth. With bloodthirsty creatures on her tail, Emily has to discover the truth to rescue her parents. What family secret connects her to the Midnight Hour? And can she save both worlds before she runs out of sandwiches?

Eleven year old Emily has a rather tempestuous relationship with her mother – possibly understandable given her mother’s eccentric nature and maddening ways.  One particular day having been sent to bed after a row, Emily overhears a strange conversation between her parents referencing a mysterious letter that has arrived in the post and her mother’s estranged family. First her mother disappears and then her father, leaving Emily behind to try and save them both. So begins a fantastic adventure catapulting Emily into a world she didn’t even know existed, discovering unfathomable truths about not just her parents, but also herself and all those around her.

The Midnight Hour is children’s modern fantasy fiction at its best with a feisty heroine in Emily and a dazzling array of supporting characters. Emily is a bit of a troublemaker at times but at her heart, loves her family.  The city of the Night Folk is brilliantly described creating a strangely believable world with some of our most famous landmarks taking a central role in the narrative. Some seriously scary creatures and a particularly evil villainess make formidable foes for Emily to face, along with the help of her new found friends. The plot is well-balanced with equal amounts of humour, hair-raising scares, magical mayhem and a little bit of love.  Described as ‘Coraline’ meets ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, The Midnight Hour is a thoroughly enjoyable story for children aged 9+ and I’m already looking forward to reading the next adventure!

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to read and review.

New review: Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie’s fantastic books were always a popular choice when I was in the school library, with many pupils eagerly awaiting the latest title.  I expect the same will happen with Little Bird Flies, the first in a new middle grade series published by Nosy Crow, which will no doubt delight readers – especially if they happen to be fans of stories with a determined heroine and beautiful, historical settings!

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Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Bridie lives on the remote Scottish island of Tornish, the youngest of three sisters. Although she loves her island, with its wild seas and big skies, she guiltily nurses a secret dream of flight – to America and the freedom of the New World.

But her family are struggling under the spiteful oppression of the new Laird, and it seems that even some of the Laird’s own household are desperate to leave. When the Laird’s full cruelty becomes apparent, there’s no more time for daydreams as Bridie needs to help the people she loves escape to safety.

Instantly compelling, with a bold and brave heroine, Little Bird Flies is a gripping and beautifully told historical drama. Bridie, or Little Bird as she is known, is a determined soul who dreams of escaping the life that is mapped out before her. Even though she is surrounded by a loving family and good friends she cannot help but feel there is adventure to be had away from her island home.  Resigned to the fact her father will always keep the promise he made to her dying mother, that her and her sisters will stay safely on the island, Bridie lives a simple life, never complaining. This is an admirable fact particularly in the light of her disability, having limbs that were damaged at birth. But little does Bridie know that the death of their kind and generous Laird will bring about more changes than even she could have dreamt of. With a new Laird in place and new people on the island bringing a taste of the outside world with them, it seems that Bridie might have her thirst for adventure and new experiences quenched.  Sadly, this is not to be; Bridie and her family draw together to escape what is a tyrannical regime, leaving everything they know behind them.

This is such a lovely story, with so much to admire. A wonderful narrative and utterly absorbing plot weave together a rich tapestry of life with a wonderful young heroine at it’s heart. Bridie is a passionate young girl, determined to deal with everything life throws at her – there is much to learn from her spirit! The love she and her family have for each other, despite their differences and in spite of the hardships they face, is so real.  Evoking the beautiful simplicity of a crofter’s existence alongside the harsh reality of Victorian times, Little Bird Flies is the start of what will be a very special series.

Find out more at www.karenmccombie.com and www.nosycrow.com

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to read and review.

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