Posted in 2020, children's fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, First Read, Jonathan Auxier, library book, Novel, popsugar 2020

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by @JonathanAuxier

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Gardener, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.

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[Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best of thieves]

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(@scholasticuk, 2 January 2012, first published 1 August 2011, 320 pages, paperback, #popsugarreadingchallenge 2020, a book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement, borrowed from @GlasgowLib)  

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Oh, this was a treat to read, an absolute treat. I found myself falling deep into the story from the first page and it held me tight until I reached the end and all of Peter’s secrets and his true identity had been revealed. I liked the little black and white illustration at the start of each chapter hinting what was to come. I loved the way the book was narrated, like a wise old professor was telling a beguiling bedtime story. This has all the trademarks of great children’s fiction – magic, adventures, scheming adults and kids too smart for their own good. I was enthralled with this book.

Posted in 2020, children's fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien, Prime Reading, short story

Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien

A charming new pocket edition of one of Tolkien’s major pieces of short fiction, and his only finished work dating from after publication of The Lord of the Rings.

What began as a preface to The Golden Key by George MacDonald eventually grew into this charming short story, so named by Tolkien to suggest an early work by P.G. Wodehouse. Composed almost a decade after The Lord of the Rings, and when his lifelong occupation with the ‘Silmarillion’ was winding down, Smith of Wootton Major was the product of ripened experience and reflection. It was published in 1967 as a small hardback, complete with charming black and white illustrations by Pauline Baynes, and would be the last work of fiction to be published in Tolkien’s own lifetime.

Now, almost 50 years on, this enchanting tale of a wanderer who finds his way into the perilous realm of Faery is being published once again as a pocket hardback. Contained here are many intriguing links to the world of Middle-earth, as well as to Tolkien’s other tales, and this new edition is enhanced with a facsimile of the illustrated first edition, a manuscript of Tolkien’s early draft of the story, notes and an alternate ending, and a lengthy essay on the nature of Faery.

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[HERE was a village once, not very long ago for those with long memories, not very far away for those with long legs]

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(@HarperCollinsUK, 26 February 2015, first published 1967, 229 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle #PrimeReading)

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I must confess, I only read the actual story, Smith of Wootton Major. The book also contains images from the manuscript of the story, notes and a long essay which I did not read. I only really know Tolkien for his Lord of the Rings books so it was nice to be exposed to some more of his work. This is a fun story and I really liked the illustrations scattered throughout. This is fun, engaging fairy tale, the kind of story to read children while sitting around the fire on a cold winter night. I really enjoyed it.

Posted in 2019, amazon vine, children's fiction, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Novel, Susanna Bailey, Top Books

Snow Foal by @sbaileywriter

When eleven-year-old Addie goes to stay with a foster-care family on a remote Exmoor farm in the midst of a very cold winter, she is full of hurt, anger and a deep mistrust of everyone around her. Until one day, when she rescues a tiny wild foal from the moorland snow and Addie discovers that perhaps she’s not so alone after all.

And as adventure and unexpected friendship blossom, Addie is determined that both of them will know what is to be home again soon . . .

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[Everything around him was changed: white, shifting, silent]

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(Egmont, 14 November 2019, 304 pages, paperback, copy from @AmazonUK #AmazonVine)

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I’d never heard of the author before but was in the mood for a nice heart-warning book for a change. I was not disappointed. Snow Foal is a delight to read, the perfect story to warm your heart in the winter. I got swept up in this book and fell in love with Exmoor, the farm, the characters and especially the foal. Addie is a great character. She felt so real I wanted to wrap my arms around her and shelter her. She shows great bravery for someone so young. She just wants to be with her Mam and resents all attempts to keep them from each other even if it is for the good of both of them. Addie sees herself in the foal and projects her own fear and loneliness on it. I loved the way Addie develops across the book as the foal starts to melt her hurt and mistrust. This was a treat.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, Classic Literature, First Read, Novel, p.l travers, Prime Reading

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Discover the joy and wonder of Mary Poppins in the classic adventures!

The original best-loved classic about the world’s most famous nanny – Mary Poppins.

When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.

The original story of the world’s most famous nanny, Mary Poppins, is a timeless classic that has enchanted generations.

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[IF YOU WANT to find Cherry Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the crossroads]

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(HarperCollins Children’s Books, 27 May 2010, first published 1934, 228 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle #PrimeReading)

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The Disney movie starring Julie Andrews is among my all-time favourites. I must have seen it at least a dozen times. I love Saving Mr Banks. Yet, I’ve never read the books. I have no idea why. I’ve also never seen Mary Poppins Returns. I have the audiobook of this as well I will listen to at some point. This was an absolute treat to read and very close to the movie. I found myself hearing the voices of the actors in my head as I read. I understand why the books are adored by so many. This was a treat.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, Fantasy Fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien, Poetry, Prime Reading, Short Fiction

Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien

Repackaged to feature Tolkien’s own painting of the Tree of Amalion, this collection includes his famous essay, ‘On Fairy-stories’ and the story that exemplifies this, ‘Leaf by Niggle’, together with the poem ‘Mythopoeia’ and the verse drama, ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth’, which tells of the events following the disastrous Battle of Maldon.

Fairy-stories are not just for children, as anyone who has read Tolkien will know. In his essay On Fairy-Stories, Tolkien discusses the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy and rescues the genre from those who would relegate it to juvenilia. The haunting short story, Leaf by Niggle, recounts the story of the artist, Niggle, who has ‘a long journey to make’ and is seen as an allegory of Tolkien’s life.

The poem Mythopoeia relates an argument between two unforgettable characters as they discuss the making of myths. Lastly, and published for the very first time, we are treated to the translation of Tolkien’s account of the Battle of Maldon, known as The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth.

Tree and Leaf is an eclectic, amusing, provocative and entertaining collection of works which reveals the diversity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, the depth of his knowledge of English history, and the breadth of his talent as a creator of fantastic fiction.

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[I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure – ON FAIRY-STORIES]

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(HarperCollins, 6 December 2012, first published 1 January 1992, 176 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle #PrimeReading)

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So, this is a bit of a mixed bag of Tolkien’s work including a rather long essay and a poem. I enjoyed the essay the most. I thought it was well researched and hugely entertaining. I also enjoyed the poem, Mythopoeia. I’m a bit of a poet nut though and there’s not enough genre poetry around if you ask me so this was delightful. The other two pieces, Leaf by Niggle and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth were just so-so. This wasn’t a bad read.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, Fantasy Fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien, Novella, Prime Reading

Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy story about the adventures of a bewitched toy dog, written before The Hobbit.

While on holiday in 1925, four-year-old Michael Tolkien lost his beloved toy dog on the beach at Filey in Yorkshire. To console him, his father, J.R.R.Tolkien, improvised a story about Rover, a real dog who is magically transformed into a toy and is forced to seek out the wizard who wronged him in order to be returned to normal.

This charming tale, peopled by a sand-sorcerer and a terrible dragon, by the king of the sea and the Man-in-the-Moon, was Tolkien’s first full-length children’s book, written before The Hobbit. Now, nearly 90 years later, the adventures of Rover – or, for reasons that become clear in the story, ‘Roverandom’ – are published in this delightful pocket hardback edition. Rich in wit and wordplay, Roverandom is edited and introduced by Tolkien experts Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, and includes Tolkien’s own delightful illustrations.

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[ONCE UPON A TIME there was a little dog, and his name was Rover]

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(HarperCollins, 26 September 2013, first published 1998, 193 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle #PrimeReading)

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I’ve only read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series so I had no idea what to expect with this story. I must admit, I found the story a little disappointing. The cover is very reminiscent of some of the Rings trilogy so I thought the story might be set in a similar world and it’s not really. Don’t get me wrong, this is a charming little tale and it was written before The Hobbit so it’s one of Tolkien’s earlier works. It’s a fun, quick read but not a patch on his later works. I was also disappointed because I expected more from an author capable of the depth and scope of the Rings books. Like I said, this was a fun read but forgettable and it won’t stick in my head for long.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, Fairytales, hans christian anderson, historical fiction, Short Fiction, Top Books

Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales: A Selection

‘My fairy tales were as much for older people as for children…humour was the real salt in them.’

Hans Andersen is best remembered for the tales collected in this edition, stories that have become classics and have been translated into over a hundred languages.

This selection contains twenty-eight stories, including ‘The Tinder-Box,’ ‘Thumbelina,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ and ‘The Snow Queen,’ as well as others that are less well known. Some of the tales are taken from history or Danish folk tales, but the majority are Andersen’s own invention and often feature the author, his friends and enemies in a variety of guises.

This classic edition is accompanied by the original illustrations by Vilhelm Pedersen and Lorenz Frøhlich.

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[A SOLDIER came marching down the road – left! right! left! right! – THE TINDER-BOX]

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(Oxford University Press, 1 July 2009, 349 pages, paperback, bought from @AmazonUK, set text for @OpenUniversity course)

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I grew up with Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. One of my favourite books as a child was a massive door-stop of a book that contained hundreds of fairy tales by Anderson and the like. I lost it, sadly years ago but this book was one of many that turned me into a reader and a lover of books. I’ve read and seen many versions of Anderson’s stories over the year and they still make the child inside me glow. I was familiar with many tales in this volume including The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes and my absolute favourite The Snow Queen. I also read many stories for the first time including The Galoshes of Fortune and The Buckwheat. This was a treat and I loved the black and white illustrations as well.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, historical fiction, l.m montgomery, Novel, popsugar 2019, Re-Read, Top Books

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are in for a big surprise. They are waiting for an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny, red-haired girl turns up instead. Feisty and full of spirit, Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthbert’s’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter. It’s not long before Anne finds herself in trouble, but soon it becomes impossible for the Cuthbert’s to imagine life without ‘their’ Anne – and for the people of Avonlea to recall what it was like before this wildly creative little girl whirled into town.

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[MRS RACHEL LYNDE lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops, and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place]  

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(Puffin, 2 March 1993, first published 1908, paperback, 256 pages, #popsugarreadingchallenge 2019, a book that makes you nostalgic, bought from @AmazonUK)

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L.M Montgomery’s series has been one of my favourites since I was a child. I’ve re-read the books every couple of years for decades. Every time I read Anne of Green Gables I feel like a child again, the first time I read it, falling in love with Anne, Matthew, Marilla, Rachel Lynde and Avonlea. I spent a long time as a child imagining I lived in Avonlea. It’s been a while since I read the book so it was a delight to revisit a beloved old friend. I’ve just started to watch Anne with an E on Netflix and love every minute of it. This still remains one of my all-time favourites. This story, about an orphan who brings such love and light into the lives of two elderly people and a whole community still dazzles.

Posted in 2019, children's fiction, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, marcus sedgwick, Novella, popsugar 2019

Floodland by @marcussedgwick

Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2001, Marcus Sedgwick’s powerful debut novel about surviving in a sinking world marks the beginning of the author’s multi-award-winning career.

Imagine that a few years from now England is covered by water, and Norwich is an island.

Zoe, left behind in the confusion when her parents escaped, survives there as best she can. Alone and desperate among marauding gangs, she manages to dig a derelict boat out of the mud and gets away to Eels Island. But Eels Island, whose raggle-taggle inhabitants are dominated by the strange boy Dooby, is full of danger too.

The belief that she will one day find her parents spurs Zoe on to a dramatic escape in a story of courage and determination that is handled with warmth and humanity.

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[Zoe ran]  

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(Orion Children’s Books, 2 March 2000, 128 pages, ebook, #popsugarreadingchallenge 2019, a cli-fi’ climate fiction book, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I didn’t realise when I decided to read this book that it’s children’s fiction. Never mind, I read a lot of children’s fiction so this wasn’t an issue. Zoe is the POV character here. I really liked her. She’s mature for her age, a bit feisty yet still very much a child underneath it all. As this is a children’s book the danger and suspense is never quite as serious as it could have been. I’d love to read an adult version. Zos is resourceful and determined. I was a bit disappointed by the ending though. The ending is a happy but I felt the book veers to an obvious conclusion and I was hoping for something a bit more. I suppose the ending is suitable for children’s fiction.

Posted in 2019, carl ashmore, children's fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, First Read, Novel, Prime Reading

The Time Hunters by @carlashmore

Becky is a typical thirteen year old girl. She likes Facebook, gossiping and plenty of sleep. So when she and her brother, Joe, are invited to stay with their ‘loony’ Uncle Percy at his stately home, she thinks it’ll be the worst summer ever. What she doesn’t realise is that Bowen Hall is also home to a baby Triceratops, two Sabre-tooth tigers and the mythic hero, Will Scarlet…

‘The Time Hunters’ is a thrilling adventure that takes Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy and Will on a quest through time to find the legendary Golden Fleece.

The Clock is ticking….

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[Bernard Preston shut the door to number 17 Cromwell Gardens and scurried down the steps onto the bustling street, acting as casually as he could]

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(Independently Published, 2 October 2010, 279 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle via #PrimeReading) 

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I had a really good time reading this book. It reminded me a lot of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. I love books that feature time travel. There’s something that appeals to me about it. The book is very easy to read and sheer pleasure. There’s time travel, nefarious characters and shady plots akin to a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The characters are fresh, well-written and interesting. The author did his work researching well known figures, creature and artefacts. This was a delight to read. As it’s the first book in a series, the ending has a suitable cliffhanger. I might check out the other books.