Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Book Travels

On a whirlwind trip to Kenya in amongst animal safaris and amazing sights I travelled back in time and visited an imaginary dystopian world. From the turbulent times of the suffragette struggle to a place where inhabitants live on borrowed time I went on an entertaining book journey. Before the plane had even taken off I also devoured a fantastical adventure which delivered magic, mystery and excitement. It's definitely one to watch. I also needed a guide to the fabulous birds of Kenya.

Here's my holiday lineup.

I absolutely loved the Trials of Morrigan Crow. It's a real page turner and one for fans of expert world building, quirky fantasy and plucky heroines. Once you enter the world of Nevermoor you won't want to leave. It's the perfect cocktail of mystery, magic and imagination. Morrigan is left with just as many questions as the reader as she embarks on a mysterious series of tasks in a bid to be chosen for the Wundrous Society. Just what is her true talent and where does she belong? Can't wait for the sequel.

 This book accompanied me on a visit to Treetops where I saw buffalo, elephants and waterbuck. Set during the time of the suffragette movement it celebrates the importance of individuality, explores the right to love whom you choose and educates the reader on the changing role of women during WW1. Evelyn, May and Nell's paths collide during a period of increasing socio-political tension. They each have a different role to play but who will sacrifice the most? Whose relationships will develop and grow and who will survive? Meticulously researched and thought provoking novel.

 This intriguing dystopia keeps the reader guessing in a world where time is a commodity and inhabitants drain their essence in a bid to survive. Sempera is a place of haves and have nots and Jules resolves to break the vicious cycle by infiltrating the rich stronghold of Everless. The problem is she and her father already have a troubled history and the past will come back to haunt her as she attempts to unravel it. Whom can she trust and who has betrayal on their minds? A curious concoction offering fantasy, reincarnation, magic and a touch of horror with a pinch of romance. Shades of the Gelfling's fate in The Dark Crystal.

The perfect companion for a trip to Kenya. It features detailed profiles (including location maps) on its amazing bird life including the stunning Lilac Breasted Roller Bird,the Pied Kingfisher, the Superb Starling, the Crowned Crane, the Village Weaver, the Long-Tailed Widow bird and the Green Woodhoopoe.

Lilac Breasted Roller aka the Rainbow Bird

Monday, 11 June 2018

Book Haikus in Celebration of Empathy Day

Twelve Books for June 12th -#EmpathyDay 

1. The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

This book is a beautiful story about how two people in pain can heal each other. It is the exaltation of the human spirit over despair and a celebration of the power of words, the redemptive nature of love and forgiveness.

Alice makes music

as her pen speaks of heartbreak

while Manny listens.

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta's writing takes you on an amazing journey into the past and you follow in the footsteps of memorable characters hiding secrets and seeking respite from the ravages of war. Salt to the Sea won the Carnegie Medal for 2017.

Four strangers haunted

by secrets and lies seek peace

in a metal womb.

3. I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan

Sassy, brave and fierce. Muhammad creates an engaging, authentic and colloquial voice, drawn from his own experiences as a teacher and the inspiring teens that he has met, as the reader is brought into the heart of British Muslim Pakistani teen Muzna's world.

Courageous Muzna

battles with her heart and head

as she cries Thunder!

4. After The Fire by Will Hill

After the Fire is a remarkable tour de force. It is a meticulously researched and sensitively told exploration of human rights' abuses inspired by real events inside a religious cult in Waco, Texas.

Moonbeam struggles with 

terrible trauma slowly

uncovering truths. 

5. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Set in an Australian refugee camp, this is a life affirming story of the power of friendship and stories. It is another example of the exaltation of the human spirit over tragedy and injustice and highlights human rights' abuses which are very real today.

Friends under the wire

connected by a story

triumph over pain.

6. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This is a beautifully lyrical and sensitive portrayal of Caitlin, a girl with Asperger's syndrome, who is trying to cope with the loss of her brother in a tragic school shooting. It is a gentle study of bereavement and searching for closure. It won the US National Book Award Award for Young People's literature.

Caitlin needs colour

after Devon is taken

but how can she heal?

7. One by Sarah Crossan

This novel is a heartrending, thought provoking and powerfully evocative exploration of the relationship between conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. It is told in verse which intensifies its impact on the reader. It won the Carnegie Medal in 2016.

Tippi and Grace are

intertwined and existing

aren't they amazing.

8. A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell

Mitchell perfectly captures the lives of a Syrian family torn apart by war and suffering. Her book is painful, powerful, evocative and thought provoking.

Ghalib's family

flee as Syria erupts

amid explosions.

9. Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

'Hidden' examines key issues relevant to today as teen Alix, who lives in an island community, struggles with a moral dilemma. Who is she hiding? The book's stage adaptation will tour in Autumn 2018.

Alix and Samir

are secretive in Hayling

as they make choices.

10. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Popular Ashley has lessons to learn when her mum and Stewart's dad move in together in the hopes of being a blended family. She christens him 'Spewart' but soon discovers that "we are all made of molecules" and it is how we act and who we are in our hearts that matters.

Ashley and Stewart-

Beware smooth appearances

They are deceptive.

11. Refugee by Alan Gratz

This amazing book tells the story of three children connected through the decades by shared peril. Gratz links the trials and tribulations of Josef, Isabel and Mahmoud in this remarkable story which spans continents. Can they and their families find refuge and sanctuary?

Josef, Isabel

and Mahmoud are escaping

in search of refuge.

12. Wonder by R.J Palacio

Wonder is already a poster child for empathy. It is about kindness, not judging a person by their appearance and appreciating the wonder of their generous, imaginative and caring personality. It is a life affirming book. You will fall in love with Auggie. #ChooseKind

Auggie wants to hide

but his family know he

is just amazing.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I Am Thunder

BOOK BITE:  "A sassy, brave and vulnerable protagonist who suffuses this amazing, groundbreaking book with an indomitable spirit." 

AUTHOR- Khan, Muhammad 

TITLE- I Am Thunder


PUBLISHER- Pan Macmillan


ISBN- 9781509874057

MULTI-GENRE/Real life issues - Muslim Culture, Islamophobia, Anti-Radicalisation, Prejudice, Racism
WEBSITES- https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/01/i-am-thunder-muhammad-khan-childrens-book-of-the-week-review
Profile at https://www.thebookseller.com/profile/muhammad-khan-book-says-you-absolutely-can-be-british-and-muslim-658691

TWITTER - @mkhanauthor

Quotes from 'I Am Thunder'- 

"I promised myself this would be different. I would stand up for myself."

Five Facts about Muhammad Khan
  • Loved working as a Maths Teacher
  • Favourite book as a child- The Worst Witch
  • Favourite book as a teen- Rice Without Rain
  • British born Pakistani
  • Treasures-Given a special gift edition set of Tolkien's works
Muhammad Khan on what inspired him to create 'I Am Thunder':

Giving a voice to Muslim teenagers brought up in Britain:

I Am Thunder was influenced by: “I wanted to speak to those Muslim students who were feeling unloved and afraid at the rise of the far right across the world. They’re trapped in the middle. They don’t recognise ISIS as Muslims. There’s the [far] right who hate them for something they haven’t done. I wanted them to know that they are British, they are valuable, they are loved and they have nothing to apologise for.”

“Muzna’s teenage experience is something each and every one of us can relate to, whatever our background.”

Everyone has a spark of greatness inside them, you just need to be kind to yourself and discover your inner thunder.

BLURB (from Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a writer, struggles with controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor. Forced to move to a new school in South London after her best friend is shamed in a scandal, Muzna realizes that the bullies will follow her wherever she goes. But deciding to stand and face them instead of fighting her instinct to disappear is harder than it looks when there's prejudice everywhere you turn. Until the gorgeous and confident Arif shows an interest in her, encouraging Muzna to explore her freedom. 

But Arif is hiding his own secrets and, along with his brother Jameel, he begins to influence Muzna with their extreme view of the world. As her new freedom starts to disappear, Muzna is forced to question everything around her and make a terrible choice - keep quiet and betray herself, or speak out and betray her heart?

A stunning new YA voice which questions how far you'll go to protect what you believe in.

Click link for full review: 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Twitter Book Chats

I want to share the fabulous book chats I have discovered on Twitter which are invaluable to me as a school librarian and book lover. It is great fun sharing book choices with enthusiastic and welcoming authors, book bloggers, reviewers and readers.

Here are some highlights from this Twitter Treasure Trove.

#histficchat-  Hosted by the wonderfully welcoming historical fiction author Viv Conroy (who specialises in 1920s crime fiction) @VivWrites this entertaining chat with author guests takes place on Thursdays at 8pm. Spotlights have included exploring eerie locations in historical writing, WW1 spies and indomitable females. Guest authors have included Kate Quinn, author of the exhilarating #TheAliceNetwork. The #histficchat community are friendly and full of great reading communications. Chocolate & cheese features too.

#MGiechat- This chat, hosted by the Irish fantasy author Elizabeth Rose Murray @ERMurray, showcases the best in Irish MG fiction authors. It takes place on Tuesdays from 8.30-9.30 pm. Cool topics discussed have included diversity in children's literature and historical fiction. Featured authors have included Victoria Williamson @strangelymagic, writer of the Fox Girl & the White Gazelle which highlights refugee issues.

#OhYABookClub- Hosted by the inspirational, innovative and irrepressible Lucas J Maxwell, past winner of the prestigious School Librarian of the Year award, this Twitter book club celebrates groundbreaking YA authors who offer rich fictional experiences. It takes place on Thursdays from 8-9PM. As well as exploring insightful issues, it also enables tweeters to vote for the book they most want to read next from an exciting cavalcade of recently published books celebrating diversity in YA fiction. Lucas invites diverse authors like Muhammad Khan and Savita Kalhan to take part in absorbing discussions.

#UKLibChat which is on Mondays from 7-8.30 PM is the perfect place for aspiring librarians and library professionals to stop in, network, share ideas and discuss pertinent topics such as learning techniques, librarianship, technological developments and reading promotion.

#UKMGChat- Hosted by children's writers @miriamhcraig and Lorraine Gregory@authorontheedge, it takes place between 8-9pm on Thursdays. Showcasing the best writers in MG fiction, it's an enjoyable platform on which to meet authors. Recently it welcomed the imaginative Jonathan Stroud, the author of the spooky supernatural series Lockwood & Co and the fantasy sequence The Bartimaeus Chronicles.

#UKYAChat- Hosted by the phenomenal Queen of Teen book bloggers, Lucy Powrie @LucyTheReader, who runs the Queen of Contemporary book blog and has a Book Tube channel, this chat is the perfect opportunity for authors, book bloggers, educators, readers, teens to discuss burning issues in YA fiction. It welcomes exciting guest authors and celebrates diversity in teen fiction in all its forms. Attracting a wide audience, it is a must see on a Friday night Twitter trail taking place from 8 to 9PM. Past guests have included the amazing E Lockhart ('We Were Liars' is such a compulsive, intricate, clever, searing read),

Lucy's style is bubbly and chatty and she is an aspiring author herself as well as being a big fan of the Bronte sisters. Topics featured have included diversity, taboos, encouraging teens to enjoy reading and writing, the role of publishers and the draw of book covers.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Independent Bookshop Gems- Belfast

Belfast is home to these two independent gems. More for my TBR list. 


I love the open plan layout of this enchanting bookstore located on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast. It has great selections- charming picture books for young children, a 10-13 range and a YA spot. Little recommendation cards perched on eye catching displays complete the look. There are spotlights on best selling adult reads, travel choices and pretty designer cards to choose from too.
Books I purchased here include the magical Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, the adventurous The Jewelled Moth, 2nd in the entertaining Sinclair mysteries series and The Dollmaker of Krakow which is set in Poland in WW2 but is imbued with magic & folklore.


No Alibis specialises in the crème de la crème of crime fiction showcasing many exciting authors. It's not just the perfect venue for students needing course texts, book lovers looking for an eclectic selection and crime aficionados. It also hosts literary events including book launches, interviews and music evenings. 
Books I snapped up here include the steam punk mystery The Watchmaker of Filagree Street, the beautiful graphic novel The Sleeper & the Spindle, the Murdoch Mysteries (a popular crime series set in Toronto in the 1900s) and Gaiman's powerhouse American Gods.

Independent Bookshop Gems- London

I'm still addicted to buying books. My TBR list just grows and grows.

My Recent Discoveries


The wonderful @StanfordsTravel- a shangri la for travellers. Located in Covent Garden, it has three floors of fantastic books, maps, antiques and travel related trivia. I purchased a lovely globe there which displays the animals you can find in each continent. There is even a coffee shop where you can chill out and peruse your purchases.

The charming @talesonmoonlane located on Herne Hill in South London (nearest tube stop Elephant & Castle followed by a bus journey but it's well worth it) specialises in Children's books. It has selections for the very young, MG and YA. A lovely feature of the shop is the wall covered with messages and illustrations from illustrators.

Books I purchased there that intrigued me include:
Review Coming Soon


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

After the Fire

The sixth book I've chosen for the #BritishBooksChallenge 
is the thought provoking After The Fire by Will Hill. #CKG18

BOOK BITE:  "A meticulously researched and sensitively told exploration of human rights' abuses inspired by real life events inside a religious cult in Waco,Texas." 

AUTHOR-Hill, Will

TITLE-After The Fire


PUBLISHER- Usborne Publishing


ISBN- 9781474924153   

MULTI-GENRE- Psychological Drama, Historical, Human Rights' issues. 

Other Books- Department Nineteen series




TWITTER - @WillHillauthor

Quotes from 'After the Fire'-

"The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade..."

"It feels like someone has pushed my hand into a jar of acid and is holding it there.."

"All I can do is wade through inky blackness, dragging myself forward, trying to find the way back..."

"I take a sheet of paper from the stack and run my fingers over its surface. It's smooth, because its never been used. It's brand new. It has no history."

Five Facts about Will Hill
  • Grew up in Lincolnshire
  • Admires Angie Thomas's novel 'The Hate U Give' for its depiction of "a teenager trying to decide who she is, in the face of injustice and pressure from all sides."
  • His favourite track that complements After The Fire- 'The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret' by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Would like to visit Svalbard and the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights
  • Quitted job in publishing to become a full time author having previously worked as a bartender and bookseller.  
Hill on what inspired him to create 'After The Fire' 

"I listened to recordings of David Koresh. His voice was so flat and ordinary as he discussed the end of the world that it sent chills up my spine."

'I wanted to explore how cults function, how power and authority are wielded over men and women... but I also wanted to explore what happens after such a group ends.'

"It’s a book about faith, and desperation, and manipulation, and control, and – ultimately – it’s about survival. And hope."

BLURB from Goodreads

The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade...

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out. What if the only way out of darkness is to light a fire?

Click link for full review: 

Monday, 26 March 2018

Reading Rocks

This is where I want to be
Under water
Over sea
Flying Above
Floating Free
Climbing into clouds above
Reading words that speak of love
Travelling to brave new worlds
Eating Cadbury coconut swirls
Fighting monsters from the grave
Wondering which characters will be saved
                                   Racing raging rapids
                                   Shooting into space
                                   Feasting with vampires
                                   Duelling with Demons
                                   Learning languages and lore
                                   Experiencing war
                                   Living life in the raw
                                   Being quick to the draw
                                   Horror magic drama crime
                                   Books are random
                                   They’re sublime
                                   Laugh, cry, scream and dream
                                   In a never ending stream
                                   Step inside an author’s mind
                                   You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

*I wrote this poem in 2011 to celebrate World Book Day.



Saturday, 24 March 2018


The fifth book I've chosen for  the #BritishBooksChallenge is the compelling 'Encounters' by Jason Wallace, another Carnegie 2018 longlist choice. #CKG18

BOOK BITE:  "A skilful novel told from multiple perspectives with sharp characterisation and a multi-faceted plot in a memorable setting." 

AUTHOR-Wallace, Jason



PUBLISHER- Andersen Press


ISBN- 9781783445288

MULTI-GENRE- Drama, Historical. Multi-perspectives, Issues, Racism- Inspired by true life events- Ruwa Zimbabwe UFO incident

WEBSITES- http://www.jason-wallace.com/
Discussion Guide at: https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Encounters-discussion-guide.pdf
Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjfPwC9ucg8
Interview with JW at: http://www.shiftthezine.co.uk/?p=366

TWITTER - @jvlwallace

Quotes from 'Encounters'-

"A teacher cannot teach without pupils, and you cannot feel happy without first being sad."

"Do not be afraid to look to those who are outside your world, for sometimes it is only they who can help."

Five Facts about Jason Wallace
  • Born in Cheltenham
  • Moved with his family to live in Zimbabwe and attend a tough boarding school at the age of 12
  • Related to J.R.R Tolkien
  • Wrote the phenomenal novel 'Out of Shadows' that has a stunningly memorable opening line.
  • Jason is a descendent of both one of the first International cricketers, Vernon Royle, and the famous Victorian circus owner 'Lord' George Sanger.
  • Currently works as a web designer.
Wallace on what inspired him to create 'Encounters:

"Encounters was inspired by actual reports of an extra-terrestrial sighting in Zimbabwe, back in 1994 – after sixty-two children, aged between six and twelve, ran screaming back to their teachers in the staff room after the children had supposedly seen a flying saucer land beyond the edge of their playground and two creatures emerge from it. These reports were investigated quite thoroughly and are well documented on the Internet.

While no conclusion was ever reached, it was, and is, clear that the children saw something that day. I thought it was a terrific idea for a story – not simply what they thought they had seen, but why they had seen it.
Encounters covers the time of the investigation as told by six children . . . Six lonely lives, aged between eight and eighteen, who discover they are far more connected to something out there – and each other – than they could have ever thought possible."

BLURB (from Goodreads)

Zimbabwe, 1994. A group of children spot peculiar lights in the sky over the grounds of their school. From this moment on, six young people's lives are changed forever. 

Gary hides the anguish he feels now his mum's left, acting out in fury and hatred. Chloe has no words for the thing she fears most every day. Karl is the headmaster's son, now fallen from grace. Tendai knows he can never live up to his grieving father's ideals. And Sixpence watches all, knowing he'll never be like these other children. All of them have seen something they can't explain.

In amongst these tangled, tortured lives, comes a group of psychologists to verify the spookily similar claims of every witness. Their daughter, Holly, can tell there's more to it than aliens or mass hysteria – can she reveal the dark truths that haunt them?

Inspired by true accounts, this is the long-awaited new novel from Costa-award-winner Jason Wallace.

Click link for full review: 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Jolly Foul Play

The fourth book I've chosen to read for The British Books Challenge is the period murder mystery Jolly Foul Play, the 4th entry in the Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series by Robin Stevens, the Tales of Yesterday' Author of the Month for February.

BOOK BITE:  "Malicious murder, five KEY suspects and deadly secrets at Deepdean School for girls. Luckily Hazel, Daisy and their associates are on the killer's trail." 

AUTHOR-Stevens, Robin

TITLE- Jolly Foul Play


PUBLISHER- Puffin Books


ISBN-     9780141369693

GENRE- Historical, Crime, School

WEBSITES- https://robin-stevens.co.uk/

TWITTER - @redbreastedbird

Quote from 'Jolly Foul Play'-

"...I felt I understood Elizabeth rather better. She had been cruel because she had not known how to be kind, because all she knew how to do was manipulate and push."

Five Facts about Robin Stevens
  • Owns a pet bearded dragon called Watson
  • Childhood Ambition- To own a zoo and be married to the naturalist Gerald Durrell 
  • Competed on University Challenge
  • Promotes diversity and inclusivity in her fiction. Her protagonist Hazel is from Hong Kong and Hazel's friend George is British-Indian.
  • Sets her Murder Most Unladylike series in the 1930s
Stevens on what inspired her to create her 'Murder Most Unladylike' series: "I graduated from The Famous Five and The Secret Seven to Agatha Christie and thought, 'Wouldn't it be lovely if there were actual kids in a murder mystery? Then I went to boarding school and I remember thinking what a great place it would be to set a murder."

BLURB (From Goodreads):

"A fantastic mystery from the author of Murder Most Unladylike.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There's a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects - and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.

Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found - murdered. Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play?

Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?"


I‘m Hazel Wong!
You’re kind, thoughtful and good, and you care about everyone, whether or not they deserve it. You’re used to feeling awkward and out of place, but when you’re tested you show that you’re even stronger than you believed you were.

Click link for full review: