BLOG TOUR: Grace-Ella: Witch Camp by Sharon Marie-Jones

Today is my stop on the blog tour for an absolutely delightful story, Grace Ella: Witch-Camp by Sharon Marie-Jones, illustrated by Adriana J Puglisi. Published by Firely Press, this is the second book in the Grace Ella series which I’m sure will have been eagerly awaited by young readers everywhere! I’m really pleased to be able to share with you some fantastic teaching resources written by the author for this new story – see link below to download!

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Grace Ella: Witch Camp by Sharon Marie-Jones

Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all. But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her, Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure. Will she be able to save her friends? 

Grace Ella is so excited about going Witch Camp and when she hears about the award for best coven given at the end of Camp, she and her new friends are determined to win. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan and that’s when the adventures start! Grace Ella’s Witch Camp is not that different from ordinary holiday camps – apart from the magic of course! And that’s what is so great about this story; young readers will be able to identify with the challenges Grace Ella and her friends face, as they discover the consequences of breaking the rules and just what friendship is all about. Charming from the first page, this is exactly the kind of story I would have loved as a young girl, with lovely illustrations throughout. Enough excitement to keep you on your toes, plenty of friendship and fun and of course, magical moments galore!

I’m delighted to share on the blog today some exclusive teaching resources to support Grace Ella: Witch Camp. Download them here:

Witch Camp Teaching Resources

Find out more and follow Sharon Marie Jones on Twitter @sharonmariej. Discover Grace Ella’s first adventure, Spells for Beginners here.

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour for more magical fun:

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New review: The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

On the blog today, a review of a series of books that have been on my radar for months, but it wasn’t until Book #3 arrived in the post that I took the opportunity to read them all! TheWorldquake series is set in a dystopian future where modern technology has been destroyed.  The non-magical world exists alongside the magical world, with opposing sides working to defeat the other. The story centres on Effie Truelove and her friends navigating their way through magic school and trying to save the universe! 

The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

There are three titles in this brilliant fantasy middle grade series – Dragons Green, The Chosen Ones and Galloglass. Bursting with magic, the story follows Effie and her friends as they discover their magical powers, explore the Otherworld and battle against the Diberi who are intent on destroying the universe. Effie learns all about magic from her grandfather Griffin Truelove but even he couldn’t prepare her for what lies ahead.  When he disappears, he leaves her his library of very special books – which are more than just books; they hold the answers to everything (which of course made me love the story even more!).

It’s hard to sum up this fantastic series in just a short paragraph – there is so much in it and whilst Effie is the central character the supporting cast add plenty of dynamic to the twisting and turning plot. There’s human interest throughout such as dealing with step-parents, boring lessons, difficult teachers and finding friendships alongside the many fantasy elements of the narrative. As Effie and her friends discover their ‘kharacter’ – their unique magical personality and abilities – the plot thickens and nothing is as it seems. The magical realm beckons and Effie delves deeper into the Otherworld to find where she truly belongs. The Diberi threaten at every turn and at times, even Effie’s own father seems to be against her.

Each book builds the mystery creating a magical world you can’t wait to dive into again. With thrilling action and lots of humour, heart and heroism the Worldquake series will have you hooked until the final page.

Find out more at www.worldquake.co.uk .With thanks to Canongate for sending me these books to review. 

New review: Scar by Alice Broadway

Scar by Alice Broadway

Picture a world where your every action, every deed and every significant moment in your life is tattooed on your skin forever. When you die, if you have lived a ‘good’ life your skin is removed and made into a book to be presented in a soul-weighing ceremony to your family. However if you have not lived a good life, your skin-book is burnt in a fire, condemning you in death and bringing shame on your family forever.

scarThat is the premise on which this YA trilogy is built and around which the dystopian world of Saintstone is created.  I absolutely loved the first two books in the series – Ink (review here) and Spark – so when Scar the third and final book arrived on my doorstep I couldn’t wait to read it. It doesn’t disappoint (and before I go any further – the cover art is just gorgeous on all three titles!).

With each episode, the heroine Leora has discovered more about herself, her past and indeed her future than she could ever have imagined.  From the day her father died, as secrets about him are revealed, all the doubts she has about her beliefs grow– especially in regards to those who choose not to live as marked – the Blanks – who are exiled to Featherstone.  By the third book, Leora has been through so much, heard so much truth alongside so many lies, her confusion and fear are palpable.  She has to challenge the very foundations on which her society is built even no matter the consequences. With her friends either missing or imprisoned- or perhaps not who they seem, it’s up to Leora to reveal the deception and expose the villainous leaders for who they really are. In Scar we see that Leora has not lost faith in herself and even though she faces her darkest moments, she finds hope.  A thoroughly fitting finale to a great series.

The Ink Trilogy is a brilliant exploration of how society can be split apart by differing beliefs and religion.  It explores how we share ourselves, our actions, thoughts and deeds with one another, drawing parallels with how people display everything about themselves on social media in our society. What imprint does this leave, even after we’re gone? What does this say about who we are and what we do?  People so often need something or someone to aspire to and can be so blinded by the images presented to them, they fail to see who that person really is.

The trilogy features themes of friendship, betrayal, love and family. The really clever use of beautifully written fables throughout demonstrates how tradition can hold us hostage but also help us find our way.  It also shows how the beliefs on which a society has been built can be reflected so differently depending on who is telling the story – comparing the respective beliefs of the people of Saintstone and Featherstone. In each book there are intriguing plot developments, well-written action sequences, lots of tension and some really emotive scenes, all creating a fantastic narrative.  The Ink Trilogy has everything you want in a YA series – a brilliant setting, great storytelling, compelling characters and an utterly thought-provoking narrative. 

Find out more www.alice-broadway.com. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

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.