Tempted by….Tales Before Bedtime: A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson @AJ_Wils @panmacmillan @ShelleyFallows #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #AFarAwayMagic

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When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Until she meets Bavar – a strange boy, tall, awkward and desperate to remain unseen, but who seems to have a kind of magic about him. Everyone and everything within Bavar’s enchanted house is urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are travelling, the same monsters that killed Angel’s parents.

But Bavar doesn’t want to follow the path that’s been chosen for him – he wants to be normal; to disappear. Fighting one another as well as their fears, Angel and Bavar must find a way to repair the rift between the worlds, and themselves, before it’s too late . . .

Wow, these Mondays seem to be coming around quickly, which means it is time for the next in the ‘Tempted by….’ series, highlighting books I have been tempted to buy after reading reviews of them by my fellow bloggers.

Today I am showcasing A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson, which I bought after reading this review by Shelley at Tales Before Bedtime. It was featured on the Tales Before Bedtime Juniors section of Shelley’s blog, as part of her  Summer Reading suggestions to keep kids occupied during the long holidays. My daughter loved Amy’s previous book, A Girl Called Owl, which I bought her for her birthday back in March, so I thought she might enjoy this too, but not until I’ve read it first!

My mother, when I ask her why she has never read Harry Potter, always responds with a question: “Why would I, as an adult, want to read a children’s book?” and I always reply, ‘Why wouldn’t you?” Children’s books contain some of the most beautiful, imaginative, innovative and exciting writing being produced today and anyone who thinks that the quality of writing for children is lesser than that in adult fiction is sorely mistaken. Plus, I think we all need a little magic and fantasy in our lives in these stressful times, to remind us what it was like to be uncynical; to be filled with wonder and imagination and optimism; to believe anything is possible for us. Why wouldn’t you want to read children’s books?

When I read Shelley’s review of this book, I thought it sounded like a book that might offer all of this magic and wonder and imagination. Shelley sums up the book in this quote: “Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.” Just what I am looking for when I pick up a book to provide me with a respite from the adult world for a time. I can’t wait to read this, and fully intend to steal back A Girl Called Owl from my daughter to read too. Actually, I’ll swap it for this one as fair exchange is no robbery.

Make sure you check out the full review of the book on Shelley’s blog, and have a further scout around while you are there. She has lots of interesting content, including some of her own writing which I am sure visitors will enjoy as much as I do. You can find Shelley’s blog here.

If you would like to get your own copy of A Far Away Magic, you can buy the book here. Amy Wilson’s new book, Snowglobe, is also out now.

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer by Lily Mae Walters #BookReview #BlogTour (@LilyMaeWalters1) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #JosieJames

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer Blog Tour

Taking my turn on the blog tour today for Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer by Lily Mae Walters (the pen name of my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Florence Keeling). My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to Lily Mae/Florence for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly. Make sure you check out the giveaway after the review for a chance to win a signed copy of the book.

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“Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.

Whist staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.

Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.

The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen.  Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.”

This is a really enchanting fantasy read aimed at the middle grade reader which is the start of a series I am really looking forward to.

The main character, Josie James, has no idea she is special until the summer she is thirteen when she visits her great grandmother and everything changes. She is taken to a new hidden world full of magic and talking dogs where she may be the ‘chosen one’ foretold in a prophecy. The plot will draw a child in in the best traditions of the Narnia books or Alice in Wonderland. What child can resist a hidden magical world?

There is plenty of action and magic and intrigue to keep a child wanting to read to the end, and is left well balanced at the end of one mystery but with more to discover in the next story, so to hook the child in to the series. Josie is a really appealing lead character, strong, resourceful, curious, slightly rebellious, slightly insecure – I am sure a lot of children will relate and wish they could have the same kind of adventures. Making a central characters that children want to be is the main part of the battle in drawing the young reader in.

I think the author did a great job in setting up a world that children will find intriguing and magical. The book took a little while to get going while the story was set up in the first half, but the second half was action-packed and I am sure the following books in the series will not have the same slowish start as the stage is already set. I did also think that some of the writing near the beginning was a little simplistic and pitched the book at the lower end of the middle grade age range or at the reluctant reader – my ten-year-old is a more sophisticated reader than some of the language in this book is aimed at, but that is not necessarily a draw back. I think she would still enjoy the story and I will share it with her and get her reaction.

I was really drawn in to the world and the story created in the book and look forward with pleasant anticipation to the second book in the series. I would definitely recommend this book to children of ages 7-10, boys and girls, especially those who like a slightly less demanding and gentler paced read to encourage them.

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer is out now and you can get your copy here.

Giveaway

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer, enter via the Rafflecopter link below.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494132/

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Make sure you check out the stops on the rest of the tour on the blogs listed below:

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

Connect with Josie:

Facebook: Josie James

Twitter: @LilyMaeWalters1

Instagram: @lilymaewalters

The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle #BookReview (@doyle_cat) @KidsBloomsbury #TheStormKeepersIsland #NetGalley

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“When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet.

Once in a generation, the island chooses a new Storm Keeper – someone to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has finally come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

Fionn’s ancestral home has been waiting for him. But deep underground, someone else has been waiting, too. As a battle rages, over who will become the island’s next champion, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.”

This book is a mystical story of ancient magic and family legacies, brought right up to date with modern story-telling. Fionn Boyle goes to visit his grandfather on the island of Arranmore, a place his mother doesn’t talk about and where tragedy has befallen his family. Once there, Fionn discovers he is descended from an ancient line of families integral to the history of the island, which is full of magic and with an ancient evil lurking beneath the earth. Fionn doesn’t think he is anything special, or that he has what it takes to live up to his legacy, but he may not have a choice.

As someone who has always loved traditional myths and folklore, I would have loved this book as a child and still found plenty to enchant me in adulthood. The setting was perfect – an isolated storm-swept island full of history and legend, magic and secrets – just the kind of place to capture the imagination of any child. Fionn is an easy hero to relate to as well, as he seems ordinary in the beginning, possessing no special skills and riddled with fear and self-doubt, and with a fractious relationship with his older sister. I am sure most children will recognise aspects of themselves in Fionn and be able to identify with him and his journey.

The relationship Fionn has with his grandfather is particularly touching and emotional and was at the heart of the story for me. The idea of seeing ourselves in previous generations and how we can carry down the best aspects of our family through the generation and maintain those links is charming and heart-warming. The relationship he has with his sister is also drawn very naturally and authentically. Their bickering, the way she annoys him and how frustrated he gets with her were very true to life and extremely entertaining. The suitably appalling boyfriend who is a rival to Fionn’s place in island history was also good fun to read.

There was plenty of action and great ideas in this book. The way the Storm Keeper was able to capture moments in time and preserve them to be revisited in future was a great hook for creating some exciting moments of drama in the book, and it was pacy enough to carry the reader along through chapter after chapter.

If I had a minor niggle about this book, it was that it was obviously setting itself up for a sequel and the ending was not perhaps satisfying enough in relation to the subject of the evil lurking beneath the earth which does not fully materialise. There are a lot of hints and developments that are obviously leading to a major battle occurring in a future book that we will have to wait for, so this definitely feels like a prequel. This did not stop it being an enjoyable read but I was most certainly left wondering about what is going to happen to Fionn and the island next.

A small quirk I also came across was with the name of the main character – Fionn – which my eye, unfamiliar with this name, kept reading as Fiona and I had to mentally check myself each time I read it which was a niggling annoyance but that might just be me!

Those tiny issues aside, this is a great book that is a welcome addition to the strong canon of middle grade literature that has sprung up over the past few years and I am sure any child who loves stories of magic and adventure will quickly get lost in this book over the long summer holiday. I would definitely encourage my younger daughter and nieces and nephews to read it and I will be waiting eagerly for the next instalment in Fionn’s story.

The Storm Keeper’s Island is out now and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to Bloomsbury and to NetGalley for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Catherine Doyle grew up beside the Atlantic Ocean in the west of Ireland. Her love of reading began with great Irish myths and legends, and fostered in her an ambition to one day write her own. She holds a first class BA in Psychology and a first class MA in Publishing from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and is the author of the YA Blood for Blood trilogy. The Storm Keeper’s Island is her debut middle-grade novel and was inspired by her real-life ancestral home of Arranmore Island, where her grandparents grew up, and the adventures of her many seafaring ancestors. After living in Dublin City for two years, Catherine is now based in Galway but spends a lot of her time in London and the US.

Connect with Catherine”

Website: https://www.catherinedoylebooks.com

Twitter: @doyle_cat

Instagram: @cat_doyle0

Goodreads: Catherine Doyle

The Company of Eight by Harriet Whitehorn #BookReview (@H_Whitehorn) @LittleTigerUK @StripesBooks #TheCompanyOfEight #NetGalley

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“Cass has always wanted to audition as an acrobat for the famous Circus Boat that sails the warm seas of the Longest World. But when her chance is snatched away, she comes up with a new plan. Soon she has secured a job on the Palace Boat, following the circus around the islands. Yet Cass has been invited on the boat for a very different reason – and it’s not long before she is embroiled with thieves, sword fighters and a mysterious group of women called The Company of Eight…”

Middle grade fiction is not something I read a lot of but sometimes my daughters will insist that I read a book they have particularly enjoyed. Such a book I read earlier this year was The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave which Mini Me adores and has recommended to everyone she knows. When I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought I would give it a read and see if it was something she might enjoy. Plus, who isn’t a sucker for a story set in a circus?

This book does indeed have a lot in common with The Girl of Ink & Stars. A strong teenage female protagonist, exotic, foreign world and tales of derring-do. Plus, this book has the aforementioned circus (one which tours around on a ship, to add to the excitement), pirates, an island full only of strong women, sword-fighting a-plenty and a secret company of female…spies I suppose you might call them.

I really enjoyed this book. The world-building was well done, the story rolled along at a great pace and I really enjoyed the female lead, Cass. In fact, there were a lot of strong female characters in this book which is always something I am looking for, being the mum/step-mum of 5 daughters. I liked the way that the women were in charge of their own destinies, not damsels in distress waiting for the boys to sail to their rescue.

I wish there had been a little more time spent in the circus and more detail about the different acts and characters. The chapter where Cass finally confronts the pirates and the following chapter seemed a little rushed, as if the author could see the end in sight and were galloping to the finish, which made the pacing uneven at the end. However, these are minor niggles in a book that I don’t regret investing the time in.

I would definitely recommend this book for children who enjoy this kind of fantasy novel and I have now bought a paperback copy for my children to read. I’ll come back and give you their feedback once they have read it.

I believe this is the start of a series of books set in this world starring Cass and her friends and I look forward to the next one.

The Company of Eight is out now and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Little Tiger Group and Stripes Publishing for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Harriet Whitehorn is the author of the award-nominated VIOLET books, a middle-grade detective series from Simon and Schuster. Titles include VIOLET AND THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT, and VIOLET AND THE SMUGGLERS. Nominations include the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award. Harriet lives in London with her husband and three daughters.

Connect with Harriet on:

Website: https://harrietwhitehorn.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harriet.whitehorn

Twitter: @H_Whitehorn

Instagram: harrietwhitehorn