Sky Chasers

Sky Chasers

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

An encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France.

Thoughts:

You might look at my previously read by the same author section and infer that I’m quite the fan of Emma Carroll. You’d be right. She’s one of my favourite authors. I always know that I’m in for a decent read when I pick up a book of Emma’s. I really enjoyed reading Sky Chasers and yet it again, it has me yearning to be in Key Stage 2 once more so I can teach it/read it to my class! They’re a little young this year for this book but it didn’t stop me thinking of the ways that this book could be used educatively.

This book comes from an idea by Neal Jackson who was the winner of Chicken House’s The Big Idea Competition. What an idea it was! Sky Chasers is a story that centres around the Montgolfier family. They are part of the race to discover the secret of flight. Alongside pickpocket Magpie, they begin to create a hot air balloon. They need to take it to King Louis XVI.  However, their mission is not easy and they have many obstacles in the way like spies and misbehaving animals.

This story is so much fun and I imagine children would be completely captivated by the tale. I know I was! Emma Carroll’s writing style is simply wonderful and always catapults the reader right into the action. I’ve mentioned before that it feels like you’re inside the story watching the action unfold.

Magpie is a wonderful female character. We’re always looking for strong female leads to inspire our girls at school because quite often it’s a strong male lead. Magpie had gone through so much. She experiences the loss of both parents and has to learn to live and survive on her own. There are some other brilliant characters who are so well developed. I immediately enjoy reading about characters in an Emma Carroll book because they’re well written and incredibly three dimensional.

It didn’t take me long to read this beautiful book! I definitely see myself using it if I ever get back to Key Stage 2. Until then I’ll highly recommend it to my junior colleagues.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful read! Highly recommended!

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White Lies

White Lies

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bookouture

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Daughter

Synopsis:

Alexandra Inglis is a respected family doctor, trusted by her patients to keep their most intimate secrets. And if sometimes the boundaries between duty and desire blur… well, she’s only human. 

But when Alex oversteps a line with Jonathan, one of her patients, she knows she’s gone too far. Jonathan is obsessive, and to get what he wants he will tear Alex’s world apart – threatening not only her career but her marriage and family too. 

Soon Alex finds she’s capable of doing almost anything to keep hold of her perfect life, as it begins to spin dangerously out of her control… 

Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy Dawson’s The Daughter so when I read about White Lies, I immediately wanted to read it. Luckily for me, the lovely people over at Bookouture approved my request to read it. This book immediately grabbed my attention. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t had to go out I would have devoured it quicker than the 24 hours it took me to read it!

It centres around Alex who is a GP who loves her job. She’s respected within her practice and by those that work with her. Alex knows the ethics behind relationships with patients, having had experience in the past with her now husband. On a girly holiday with her friends, Alex sleeps with a young man. She never expected him to turn up in her office. He says she knows who he was. She says she’s never seen him before or has no recollection of seeing him before. After all, she sees so many patients a day. The story turns into a he said, she said, with many points of view and parts of the story. I really couldn’t put it down!

It’s so hard to review a book like this without giving too much away. It’s one of those that you want to discover as the story reveals itself. I don’t think I’ve ever jumped around so much with who was telling the truth. I really didn’t know who to believe. I wanted to believe Alex, but then Jonathan, the young man in question, made me think again. Also Alex’s previous history didn’t really help her case. I loved the uncertainty of the story though, I really did. It kept me desperately turning the pages!

I thought I had got to the truth, but I hadn’t. It took the last few pages for me to work it out which I loved. I really enjoyed the fast paced style and how nothing was straight forward. It read like a testimonial which was very interesting. There were twists along the way and a whole lot of doubt. I love that in this type of read. This is a book that will stay with me for a while!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I love it when you can’t work out characters! A fabulous read!

Talking About ‘Close To Home’ with Bibliobeth!

Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions about this book before you started it?

BETH: I really try not to have preconceptions about any book before I read it but I think it’s human nature, you do make a snap judgement depending on how the book looks and what you’ve heard about it. Luckily, I had heard only good things and if anything, the preconceptions were basically high expectations based on the number of positive reviews I’ve read and the fact it was picked for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year. Always a good sign! However, we do know there have been books that have been chosen that we haven’t particularly loved – would this be one of them? No chance. I adored this book and believe it’s the start of a hugely promising crime series that I’m now desperate to follow.

BETH: Our lead detective, DI Adam Fawley is reported in this novel as also experiencing tragedy in his life. Were you as eager as me to know his back story?

CHRISSI: So very desperate. I loved how it was teased throughout. That sounds like I mean that I was happy he experienced tragedy, not at all, I just loved the way the details were drip fed to us. Anticipation. I really wanted to know what had happened to DI Adam Fawley. I was intrigued throughout and wanted to know what had happened to him. I grew to love him as a character and felt like I could feel his pain through the pages of the book. He’s not real, Chrissi, he’s not real!

CHRISSI: What does this novel say about children and the world they’re growing up in now?

BETH: Interesting and very tough question! And I’m going to try and do this without spoilers….One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the use of different media to tell the story. For example, we have Twitter feeds, news articles, interview transcripts etc. and not only did this give an alternative look at the story from a number of points of view, it broke up the narrative in a really fun-to-read way. However, I think it illustrated perfectly how powerful and dangerous social media can be in distorting views, inciting hatred, giving false information and potentially endangering lives. We already know from the very start of the novel that Daisy has disappeared with someone “close to home,” and it makes you wonder if you can really trust anyone – a terrifying thought.

BETH: Who do you think is a better parent to Daisy, Barry or Sharon?

CHRISSI: Well this is an evil question, Beth! They both have their flaws. Definitely. I have to say that I doubted them all the way through at different points in the story. Cara Hunter is awesome at keeping you guessing, I have to say. If I had to choose it would be Barry. I think. Argh! I don’t know. I don’t like this question, Beth. I don’t know if I’m picking Barry because I intensely disliked Sharon!

CHRISSI: Cara Hunter sets her novel in Oxford, a place that’s been portrayed many times in crime fiction. What do you think of her version of the city?

BETH: I’ve visited Oxford a couple of times now (once with you fairly recently!) and I loved Cara’s version of this beloved and well-known city. I enjoyed that we got to hear about a few staples of the city, like the spires but it generally felt much more focused on an ordinary street with very ordinary people living there but where an extraordinary and very traumatic thing has occurred. I liked how the author focused on the community around the Mason family, what they saw, how they connected with the Masons and how they reacted to the event.

BETH: Without spoilers, did you see this ending coming and what did you think of it?

CHRISSI: That ending! Oh my goodness. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’m going to be very careful around discussing it. It deserves to be read without knowing what’s going to happen. If you manage to get it without spoilers (like I did!) then your mouth might drop open…a bit like mine did. I definitely didn’t see it coming. As I mentioned before, Cara Hunter totally kept me guessing. The ending that happened never, ever crossed my mind. Mind blown.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in the (heavily) populated genre?

BETH: It’s up there with the best in my opinion. As I mentioned, I loved the way in which Cara Hunter styled this novel and used a vast array of other media to tell this tale. It felt unique, different and was a clever little break from a cliffhanger in the narrative that just made you want to read as fast as you could to get back to the main crux of the novel and find out what happened next! These parts were ever so important however as they brought vital information into the case of Daisy Mason that you wouldn’t want to miss by glossing over these sections. There was not only a stellar plot (and THAT ending) but I absolutely adored all the characters, even those you love to hate. They were frank, authentic, fully formed and I felt just as interested in them as I did in what happened to Daisy. Can’t say enough good things, it was brilliant.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, yes I would. I have automatically downloaded the next book in the series on NetGalley, which I’m super excited about. I tend to find crime fiction a bit overpopulated and a little bit samey, but I’m happy to say that I found Cara Hunter’s book to be incredibly unique and well worth reading. It kept me captivated throughout. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Look To Your Wife

Look To Your Wife

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Harper Collins UK

Synopsis:

Lisa Blaize – teacher, and would-be fashion writer, mother and second wife – feels out of place when her high-flying husband becomes the headmaster of a school in a country town. Isolated and far from her metropolitan upbringing, she turns to the one place where she learns she can be uninhibited.

But ‘Twitter may be my undoing’, Lisa discovers as her one-time private life becomes all too public. Soon she is dealing with an online stalker and her husband’s reputation is put at risk, but will she be able to give up her addiction?

From the gossip of the classroom to our obsession with instant communication, Look To Your Wife is witty and brilliantly observed, revealing the pleasures and pains of contemporary life. 

Thoughts:

There’s a few things that immediately capture my attention in a synopsis…. one of which is mention of education. Being a teacher myself, I’m always intrigued by books that mention teaching/education. Another is when social media is involved. I love modern stories especially when they’re about the perils of social media! These two things made me request this book. I’m glad I did because I found Look To Your Wife to be an interesting read.

It centres around Lisa Blaize whose husband is an incredibly successful headteacher. He moves to a public school in order to turn it around. Lisa and her husband Edward have been married before, but fell for each other when working at the same school. Lisa has to move from her beloved Liverpool, leaving her friends and family behind. After having children, Lisa doesn’t work. She is desperate to finish her second book. She finds herself on Twitter. This turns Lisa’s life in a totally different direction. She embarks on an affair with another man. Lisa over tweets (some are incredibly cringey) and finds herself dealing with an anonymous stalker.

I really enjoyed the story unfolding. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. I enjoyed reading Lisa’s interactions on Twitter. I loved how it turned from a light hearted story into something much sinister. Lisa’s stalker got creepier and creepier as time went on. I was trying to work out who it might be. There are so many possibilities, because Lisa isn’t the most likeable of people. I certainly found myself rolling my eyes at some of her antics. Some of which made me laugh though. I loved that element of the story.

I wasn’t a fan of Lisa as a character, but that really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. I don’t think she deserved the ‘attention’ she got from Twitter. The blog posts were incredibly creepy as well. It really made me cautious about the internet.

I haven’t read any of Paula Byrne’s non fiction books, but I have to say that I really enjoyed her writing style. I liked how the story was so very modern. Lisa is completely taken in by social media which is incredibly relatable to many. It does make you think about what you put out there on social media. It’s true that we only put out what we want to, but others interpretations can be very different than what your intentions were.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I enjoyed this book! It made me think about intentions on social media!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Girl of Ink and Stars

The Girl of Ink and Stars

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Thoughts:

I was really excited when this book was picked as part of our kid-lit challenge. It has been on my radar for quite some time now and this challenge gave me an opportunity to get around to it. For me, this is a solid middle grade read. I started off really loving it, but my enthusiasm waned after a while.

It centres around Isabella who is a cartographer’s daughter. Isabella dreams of lands that her father once mapped. It takes her close friend disappearing for her to begin to explore the world outside of her island. Isabella wants to guide the search. She has knowledge of ink maps and wants to help find her dear friend. The world beyond the island isn’t what she expected at all. Isabella soon encounters things that she thought were just myths are really true.

I loved reading about Isabella’s adventures. I enjoyed the old stories involved within this story. I felt like this made the story very unique. However, I found it really hard to connect to Isabella as a character. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, a perfectly nice character, I just didn’t find myself rooting for her. I actually preferred Lupe, who I found to be incredibly quirky.

I did enjoy how this book was centred around friendship and family. I love books that have friendship at the heart of it. I found Isabella and Lupe’s friendship to be genuine. It was up and down which is totally relatable. As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I really like books that have strong female characters, especially in middle grade. I think a lot of the time books have male characters as the heroes and we need a better balance!

I thought Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s writing was easy to read and imaginative. I can certainly see why it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Awards. There’s so much for children to get stuck into and enjoy.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (End of April):
Ratburger- David Walliams

Flying Tips For Flightless Birds

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

How did I get it?:
Received from Walker Books for review

Synopsis:

Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school. Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are – all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic.

Thoughts:

I was immediately intrigued by this book when I read about it in an email. The title interested me and I’m all for reading about circuses at the moment. A massive thank you to Walker for sending me a copy of this book. I’m always excited when I hear that a book is a debut. I’m always on the search for fabulous new writing talent. I am happy to say I’d easily read another book by Kelly McCaughrain, I was really impressed with her debut!

It centres around twins Finch and Birdie. They are the stars of the flying trapeze in their family circus. Finch and Birdie are treated horribly at school because they are outsiders, they dress outlandishly and express themselves through their outfits! Lots of people at school pick on them because they’re different. Birdie has a terrifying accident, leaving her out of action for the family circus school. Finch has to work with Hector, a new geeky kid at school. He’s a little bit hopeless at all things circus, but Finch perseveres with him. Finch and Hector grow closer as they learn to deal with friends, family and school pressures. They learn about who they really are.

I thought this was such a cute book! I have to admit that it took me a few chapters to get into it, but when I was, I was completely captivated. I found it incredibly easy to read. I loved how there were many positive messages that could be taken from the story. Finch, Birdie and Hector are such fantastic characters. I especially grew to love Finch and Hector. I loved how their friendship developed over the course of the story. I was championing Hector from the very beginning too. Such an adorable character.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. My heart grew to love these truly special characters.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut with some amazing characters that became very dear to me!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Matilda

Matilda

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Thoughts:

I have so much love for the book Matilda. It has to be one of my most favourite Roald Dahl books, if not my favourite. Argh. I just love it so much. I have reread it recently, because I read it to my first ever class. I do intend to read it to my current class too, after our current class book.

If you don’t know the story of Matilda (where have you been?) it’s about a exceptionally gifted girl. Her parents think she’s the most irritating child ever. Matilda is desperate to go to school and learn. She doesn’t expect to be facing an awful headmistress who takes an immediate disliking to her. The Trunchbull is an awful headmistress. She thrives on punishing and hurting children. Matilda wants to teach her a lesson once and for all.

I remember having such fond memories of reading Matilda when I was younger. I can’t even recall how many times I reread it. Going back to it, even after reading it fairly recently was such a lovely, heart-warming experience for me. This book just fills me with joy even though there are bloomin’ terrible characters. I love to hate Mr and Mrs Wormwood and the evil Miss Trunchbull.

I was struck by how things are a little different in the film. Mrs Wormwood in the book is rather a curvy lady but she isn’t as much in the film. There’s also more play on Matilda’s powers, which I can imagine does make the film that little bit more magical. It is just as dark though. I hated the way Matilda was spoken to. Evil parents! I thought that Miss Honey’s back story was much more fleshed out and upsetting in the book. I can’t believe Roald Dahl got away with writing such dark stuff for children, but it certainly didn’t do me any harm.

I really do believe there is no writer like Roald Dahl. His books make me so happy. I would love to reread more in the future as part of this feature!

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

Next up in Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (March):
The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave