Addition:Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Young adult
Published: 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

When Uncle Ben’s Dublin business fails, it’s clear to Gloria and Raymond that something is wrong. He just isn’t his usual cheerful self. So when the children overhear their granny saying that the Black Dog has settled on Ben’s back and he won’t be OK until it’s gone, they decide they’re going to get rid of it. Gathering all their courage the children set out on a midnight quest to hunt down the Black Dog and chase it away. But they aren’t the only kids on the mission. Loads of other children are searching for it too, because the Black Dog is hounding lots of Dublin’s adults. Together – and with the help of magical animals, birds and rodents – the children manage to corner the Black Dog …but will they have the courage and cleverness to destroy the frightening creature?

I received this book from Netgalley to give an honest review.

I saw this book on Netgalley and was quite excited about it. However, my first impressions weren’t that good. The first chapter is a couple of dogs having a conversation about the human who lived in the house between their homes. It was a bit odd. I read the first chapter, and seriously considered stopping the book. I decided the following day to try the book again and I did actually enjoy it.

The story follows Gloria and Raymond after their Uncle Ben has had to move in with them as money is an issue for him. They overhear their parents mumbling and realise that the Black Dog of Depression has settled on Uncle Ben’s back. They know immediately what they must do – they must fight the Black Dog. They set off in the night, ready to face the Dog.

I was surprised how entertaining this book was. Like I said, the first chapter put me off but once I read some more, I was hooked. Could they do it? How would they do it? I quite liked the children, but they were not my favourite characters. My favourite was Ernie – a child who has become a vampire because his parents told him he needs to get a job. Most of what he said had me chuckling. I also liked the meerkats and the seagulls. They were very entertaining.

I did enjoy this book. I found myself scooped up into the adventure with the children of Dublin. I did get quite wrapped up in the story and felt like I was running the streets with the children. This was a good book. One thing I did really like about this book is the effect words can have. There was a lot of emphasis on how a positive word can change situations. I know this isn’t a Christian book, but it did remind me of this verse in Proverbs:

A soft answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger. [Proverbs 15:1]

This is a children’s book, but that didn’t put me off. As an adult, I enjoyed this book. I even recommended this book to my Mum for her students at secondary school.

I didn’t like the beginning of this book, but I am pleased I kept reading. The book has an original storyline, there is adventure and suspense, and there are some great characters in this story. I rate this book 3 out of 5 and think older children and young adults will enjoy this book, as well as adults!

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Book number 23 in 2014 was Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant. I received this from Netgalley to review.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this book as I began reading it. I paused after the first chapter as it was dogs having a chat with each other…I am glad I persevered though. This is a children’s book, but a very enjoyable one. The Black Dog of Depression has been roaming round Dublin and the children need to fight him to save their families. I chuckled in places and was intrigued – could the children win and how would they do it? This was a quick read but one I enjoyed.

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Children’s
Published: 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The fourth book I have completed this year is another Secret Seven book by Enid Blyton. I am enjoying reading through this series, and am doing well with my Secret Seven Challenge – only 12 books to go!

I enjoyed this story more than Secret Seven Adventure. I found this one had more charm and for me it was a more nostalgic read. In this book, the Secret Seven set out to protect a new friend and his kitten and by doing so solve the mystery of postal vans being robbed. Again, this is a short book – only 120 pages, with large print and illustrations, but a quick and fun read. I love reading these books and being transported back to my childhood. This was another fun and quick read.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Children’s; mystery
Published: 1951
Rating: 3 out of 5

A review will follow soon.

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Children’s, mystery
Published: 1950
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

When a priceless pearl necklace goes missing, the Secret Seven are first off the mark to catch the thief! Why? Because they saw him making his escape! Now all they have to do is find the necklace!

This is book number 2 in the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. These are a series of mystery books for children based around a group of seven friends who are always looking for adventure. In this novel, the Seven are out playing Indians in the woods when Colin sees a man jumping over a very high wall and then hiding in the same tree he is. This is all very suspicious…and then on the radio the Seven hear that a priceless pearl necklace has been stolen – did Colin see the thief? Will the Seven be able to catch him and find the necklace?

I did enjoy this book, but sadly this time my adult senses did intervene a little. Of course they were going to find the thief and the necklace, a group of seven children! My cynicism spoiled this novel for me a little. I loved the first book, but this was a little far-fetched even for me.

This book does have a lot in it and I can see why children would love it. There is adventure, there are games, there is a mystery to solve, and we get taken to the circus – plus behind the scenes at the circus, where we meet the animals. For a short book (my addition only had 121 pages) there is a lot packed in to it. I solved the mysteries that the Seven struggled with very quickly but I don’t know that a child would. There is a little bit of suspense and I can see a child being sucked into this adventure and loving it. For me as an adult, a little bit of the magic was lost on me.

Again, I didn’t find that the age of the book mattered to me. I barely noticed that the book is over 60 years old. I do think that Enid Blyton has a timeless style and I like children today would enjoy this book a lot.

I’m rating this book 3 out of 5 because I did enjoy it; however I felt a little old for it this time round. That won’t stop me reading this to my children, and encouraging them to read Enid Blyton, and it won’t stop me reading the rest of the Secret Seven books.

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Children’s; mystery
Published: 1949
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

It’s their very first adventure and the Secret Seven super-sleuths are already on the trail of a mystery! The gang are dressed in disguise, following a lead to a spooky old house in the snow!

I love Enid Blyton! I need to just get that out there. Last year I read The Enchanted Wood and loved it! I also read 5 out of the 6 Malory Towers books. I loved them too! It is probably just nostalgia that makes me rate these books so highly but to be honest, I loved them as a child; and I can’t lie, I love them as an adult. I can’t wait to read them to my children when they are older. I love collecting them and re-reading them. Because of this, I have set myself the challenge to read all the Secret Seven books this year. I can now check the first one off the list. And yes, I did very much enjoy this Enid Blyton story too!

The Secret Seven is a great introduction to the seven children – Peter, who leads the society, Janet, Colin, Jack, Pam, Barbara and George; plus Scamper the dog. They are seven children looking for fun, so they create a secret society. We learn that before Christmas they had helped out in the community, but since it was just after Christmas and everyone had been looked after they were seeking something fun to do – maybe even solve a mystery! It is Jack who stumbles upon the mystery at the old, deserted house. When he is heading home at night he hears a car pull up and a very strange noise coming from the back. What is it? Who are the people moving things in the night? How is the old house connected? This is a mystery for the Secret Seven to solve!

I did really enjoy this book. There are some books which can be enjoyed by both adults and children – even when the intended audience is children – and I think this is one of them. I was immediately sucked into the adventure and the society with the secret password and the special badges. It reminded me of the games I used to play with my friends – although I never crept around creepy old buildings! I didn’t notice the age of the book either. Enid Blyton wrote this book back in 1949, but it didn’t feel dated. Sure, the children weren’t using telephones or email to communicate, they wrote letters – but surely children in secret societies still do that? I didn’t feel the age of this book hindered it at all.

The story was exciting and fun. My addition is only 117 pages long, with large print and illustrations, so it took 45 minutes to read; however it was 45 minutes of joy! The children are cunning and adventurous. They have to be brave and sometimes they are a bit naughty and reckless, but that makes for more fun reading about them! The story has suspense – it may even be a little frightening for the younger reader, but of course it has a happy ending. This book might be a bit twee, but I think we need that sometimes.

I have high praise for this book. It was a nice way to spend a quiet evening at home while my husband is out. I really enjoyed being transported back into a world of fun, secret societies and mysteries. I enjoyed this book as a child, and I have enjoyed it as an adult. It isn’t a tough read, but it is exciting and I am looking forward to reading it with my children. I am rating this 4 out of 5 because it was a book I really liked. It isn’t my favourite childhood book, but I love the author and I love re-reading her books. Reading through this series is going to be a fun challenge!

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Children’s fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Synopsis:

Joe, Beth and Franny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.

I loved this book as a child. I remember my Mum reading it to me and my younger brother, and as an adult I look back at not just this book, but the whole Magic Faraway Tree series, as my favourite childhood books. It was an absolute pleasure as an adult reading these. I can’t wait to read them to my children! The book is as fun and as wonderful as I remember it.

The story follows Joe, Beth and Franny as they explore the Enchanted Wood by their new home. In the Wood, they find the trees can talk, that elves live there, and of course the Magic Faraway Tree, which houses many extraordinary folk. People like Moonface and Silky the fairy. Not only that, but at the very top of the tree is a ladder which takes you into a number of different lands. The children explore several of these and end up in all sorts of situations – some fun, such as The Land of Birthdays, and some not as great, such as Toyland. And, the most important thing to remember, is they must get back to the tree before the land moves on, otherwise they could be stuck up there forever!

This book was so much fun! I didn’t want to put it down when I was reading it. I loved being reminded of all the crazy characters, such as Dame Washalot, who regularly soaked the children when she threw her dirty washing water down the tree. I loved the incorporation of fairy tales, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It is so cleverly written and just a delight to read. I can’t stop gushing about this book – it has adventure, it has brilliant characters and even as an adult, this book is a great read. I kept turning to my husband as I read this book telling him he needed to read it!

I have a fairly new addition of this book, which contained illustrations. I have to say, I even liked them! Here is an example of one of them:
The Enchanted Wood Characters

I loved everything about this book. I loved it as a child, and I love it as an adult. This book is so worth reading! I can’t fault it in anyway!
5 star

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Addition: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

In the year 6000 BC humanity was on the brink of extinction. Their ancestors forgot and betrayed the ancient knowledge making a way for the forms of darkness to become like humans. Young Kerim possess the insight to detect the mortals from the dark seeds of the night sky. She alone holds the key to the end of the world or its saving grace. But when she is captured and prepared for a sacrifice the divine plan must be set in place. She is to found, rescued, and convinced she is the one!

This is the debut novel by Katy Hollway, which follows Kerim, a girl who is living in troubled times. A witch has come to her town and has corrupted all the settlers there, except her father and herself. Life becomes difficult for Kerim as she becomes a target for the next sacrifice. She is captured, by her brother of all people, and locked in a cage to await the awful things that the witch promised to do to her. However, she is freed by a figure in white who then protects her from other evil to come. Listening to this man, she runs in the direction he sends her and to safety. There she finds shelter and falls in love with Japh – plus she finds something extraordinary. She finds that the family are building an ark. She is welcomed into Noah’s family and the story follows her as she is let on the Ark.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this book. The blurb doesn’t give too much away and in the first couple of chapters you are launched straight into the horrors Kerim is rescued form without any explanation. I have to say though, I was pleased I kept reading! It took me by surprise to run into Noah! I didn’t work out immediately what the big wooden structure was! Silly me!

This book is aimed at young adults and is a Christian book. The writing style, how Kerim hears God and the angels that look out for her, reminded me a lot of Karen Kingsbury, which I really liked. I enjoyed the story. It was fascinating thinking about what life would have been like in 2000BC; what life would have been like on the Ark and I loved reading about how God protects His people. In this story there was nothing too big for God and his army.

I liked the characters. I felt a lot of empathy for Kerim. She couldn’t see how special she was and even in the worst times she wanted to protect and rescue her family. I liked Japh. I found him a little forward at times but he had her best interests at heart and loved her a lot. I loved Noah’s family. Noah was very wise and calm; however it was his wife Tabitha whom I really liked. She was protective and caring. She understood Kerim and always had time for her.

I think this is an excellent book. It was gripping and insightful. It is encouraging and well written. I think this book will appeal to adults as well as young adults. The book isn’t overly religious. There is fear, real threat plus love and action in this book. I read this in one sitting and really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to the next book!

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Addition: Review e-book from Netgalley

Genre: Young adult, chick-lit, mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

The latest novel from the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you.

I received this as an e-book from Netgalley. I haven’t read any other novels from Kristina McBride, however I read the synopsis and though it sounded liked a good book – and I was right!

The story is about one moment in time that changed everything. A group of six friends, who have been best friends since they were small, are hanging out at the creek by where they live at the beginning of the summer holidays before senior year. Maggie, Joey, Tanna, Pete, Shannon and Adam are drinking, messing around and just hanging out. Maggie is dared to jump from the the top of the creek into the water below with her boyfriend Joey. She is scared of heights and never done the jump before. Shannon is pushing her to do it – there is almost malice in her tone as she thinks Maggie won’t do it. Maggie does up to the top with Joey, but something isn’t right. She notices Joey is wearing a bracelet, something he has never done before. All of sudden, she is hiding and crying under a tree, Adam is looking for her and there is screaming all around. She didn’t make the jump – but it seems Joey did, and he is dead. What happened?

This is a well written, enjoyable book. I read it in the space of about 3 hours. I was hooked; the way McBride wrote the book made me want to know what happened. She jumps between past and present, telling the story about Maggie and Joey, and their group of friends, as Maggie desperately tries to get over Joey’s death, and remember what happened. The memories come back in flashes as we watch the group fall out, grieve and discover all of Joey’s secrets. It seems Joey was hiding a lot. I quickly worked out what his secret was – that he was dating  Shannon as well as Maggie – and then realised that Maggie worked that out when they were about to jump. However, I liked reading about the friendships they had, how the story fitted together and how Maggie worked through her pain. Working out the twist didn’t ruin the story at all.

I liked Maggie. I felt for her – her whole world was Joey, and losing him was awful. What made it worse was that she didn’t know what happened – did she kill him? I felt for her as she struggled through the grief, realised Joey wasn’t the person she thought he was and getting over the heartbreak her friends caused her. I liked Adam, Pete and Tanna too – Adam especially as Maggie was so important to her. Again, I wasn’t surprised when he revealed how he felt for her. The more the story went on, the angrier I got at Joey – he had seemed like a great guy to know, a great guy to date, but in fact he wasn’t at all, and right from the beginning Shannon seemed horrible. I like a book that makes me react to the characters and I wanted the best for Maggie and just felt anger towards Joey.

This was a really enjoyable book. The story had me hooked. The answers weren’t a surprise but this was written in a way that kept my interest. McBride writes great characters that I could dislike, cheer on and empathise with. This is a young adult book, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment. It wasn’t a tough book to read and I flew through the story – wanting to know every last detail. McBride portrays teenagers in an accurate way – hormonal, reckless and often doing what they shouldn’t – like getting drunk and throwing parties. She writes the parents well – protective, scared for their children and loving. The story was interesting and although the language and writing style didn’t test me, I was gripped from the beginning and read this very quickly. This is a great read.

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Addition: Paperback, borrowed

Genre: Young adult, history

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Joey is a warhorse, but he wasn’t always. Once, he was a farm horse and a gentle boy named Albert was his master. Then World War I came storming through and everything changed. Albert’s father sells Joey to the army where the beautiful, red-bay horse is trained to charge the enemy, drag heavy artillery, and carry wounded soldiers not much older than Albert off of battlefields. Amongst the clamoring of guns and slogging through the cold mud, Joey wonders if the war will ever end. And if it does, will he ever find Albert again?

This is the first book by Michael Morpurgo that I have read. Ladies I work with have seen this at the theatre and loved it, and I thought before I watch the film I will read the book. I have to say, I don’t like horses – they scare me a little bit – but I did enjoy this book, despite that.

The story is narrated by the horse, Joey – which I wasn’t expecting. He tells the reader of his experience at the farm where he is raised by Albert, his experience in France during the war and of the friendships he makes along the way. He sees some awful things in France, a fair amount of death and hurt, but what shines through this book is love – he has people care for him and he develops lovely friendships with many people in the book. He has Albert, the boy who raised him and trained him on the farm; Topthorne, a fellow horse in war with him and Emilie, a little French girl who looks after both him and Topthorne whilst they are camped at her grandfather’s farm. Friendship is the key factor in this book, and it can clearly be seen throughout the book.

This wasn’t a difficult read as it is aimed for young teenagers. The language is simple and it is not a long book – only 182 pages. That said, I did enjoy it and wanted to know what was going happen. This is a good read – it has everything you would want in a book – love, friendship, adventure and gripping story. I don’t think Morpurgo hides the horrors of war. The quote on the back of the book is:

” I saw the grey soldiers ahead of us raise their rifles and heard the death rattle of a machine gun…”

This book does have death and hurt in it, and the effect and reason of war is considered by soldiers and civilians alike. I know this book is read in school and I think the chance to look at war and consider the effects of it is important.

There were some aspects of the books that amused me. I did chuckle about the fact that not only Joey understood English, he also understood German! What a clever horse! Just the fact the story was narrated by the horse entertained me as well!

There were some parts of the story that I didn’t believe. The fact Joey turns up in no-mans land and a German and a Welshman walk out to resolve who will take him I struggled to believe; and Albert finding Joey in France during the war also seemed unrealistic – however, both did make for good reading.

This was an enjoyable and quick read. This is a lovely story of friendship, which a hint of adventure. I’m looking forward to seeing what this is like as film. This book is well worth reading. The good outweighs the bad and I recommend this book.

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Addition: Review e-book from Netgalley

Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.

Unless he can earn a soul.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.
Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.
With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.
To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.
And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Review:

This is number four in the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa – and although perhaps not as good as the others, still a great read. I have been waiting what seems like an age for this book, and squealed when I received an email telling me it was available from Netgalley. This time the book is written from Ash’s point of view, not Meghan’s and we follow his story – barely getting a glance at what was happening in the Iron Realm. At the end of book three Meghan banishes Ash for his own safety – as fey he can’t survive in the Iron Realm. Yet he made her a promise: to be her knight. He loves her and is determined to keep this promise and the only way to do that is to become human. There is only one way to do this – go to the End of the World and complete the tasks. With the aid of Puck, Grim, the Big Bad Wolf and a seer, Ash sets off; but will he succeed? And if he does, will Meghan still love him?

I really enjoyed this book – although I missed Meghan. She does feature in the story, but not heavily. We walk with Ash and only glimpse Meghan and her world occasionally. I found this book to be more graphic and gory than the others – there seems to be more bloodshed in this adventure. Yet the book was exciting and fast paced. There doesn’t seem to be a dull moment in this story – once one foe is defeated, another seems to come along quite quickly. There is a lot of energy in this book which kept me hooked.

All the way through this series I have been Team Ash – and that didn’t change in this book either. It was nice to get a better look at Ash, although at times that was a touch heartbreaking. One trial he has to go through is examining his conscience and relieving everything he had ever done – all the hurt he had caused people. There were a few incidents described and it was sad that Ash is not the perfect prince I imagined him to be. This was an honest portrayal though and we saw his struggle with the anger and hate that come from being part of the Unseelie Court.

I loved Puck as well. Although I was always rooting from Ash, I loved that Puck stuck around and was there to help Ash because he loved Meghan so much. He is funny and kept me entertained throughout the book. There were other characters I liked too – Grim is fabulous. He is sarcastic, clever and I love how when trouble arises he vanishes! The Big Bad Wolf was entertaining too – I enjoyed the attitude between him and Grim.

There is a big surprise halfway through the book that I wasn’t expecting. It added to the book and Ash’s torment and made for some great reading! I won’t add in a spoiler but suffice to say – it was good and added another dimension to the story.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like about the book – I missed Meghan – she is a key character and we didn’t see a lot of her – and Kagawa’s writing seemed different – simple and sometimes not completely engaging. However, the good completely overthrows the bad, and this is a great read and a great instalment to this series.

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