My Favourite TV Show of 2018: A Discovery of Witches

While I don’t have a Sky box, I did invest in a monthly NowTV subscription in order to watch the debut of this show in September.

I’d started listening to the first book (thank you Audible!) in August and had then binge read the rest of the books in the All Souls trilogy in quick succession.

So I had high expectations for the Sky-commissioned television show. The television series was very faithful to the books, although it made some effort to expand on the storylines of the secondary characters – often introducing them earlier than in the books. I felt this was a positive change.

The casting was perfect – Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer have terrific chemistry and were inspired choices for the main leads.

I also love the rich settings – from the Bodleian Library to the opinionated, witchy cottage in Madison. The combination of convincing acting and atmospheric settings make watching this series a lush, evocative experience.

I am already looking forward to watching seasons 2 and 3. I’m even hopeful that they might be able to commission a fourth season, based on Time’s Convert (Marcus’s story).

Will I like it?

It’s Twilight reimagined for adults, with Outlander‘s time travel thrown in (for Season 2). So, probably, yes!

My Rating:

Full cupcake marks with fairy dust sprinkled on top. A yummy, yummy treat!

🧚‍♂️🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰🧚‍♀️

A Fresh Start – Hello 2019!

I’ve spent three years away from this blog, working my socks off and only occasionally reading – as evidenced by my sparse Goodreads updates. But now I’m back!

What did I achieve?

Well, I change my job. I’m now an experienced Primary Teacher, yey!

What did I lose?

My relationship with the book blogging community. My healthy lifestyle.

What’s next?

I’ll be working part time (supply teaching) in the beautiful north of England and I’m trying to buy a house. I’m also planning to shed some pounds in 2019. If you want to join me, I’ll be plugging away on Myfitnesspal, under the username CumbrianLady.

Waiting on Wednesday: Gilt Hollow

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases… This week I’m waiting on Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon (author of Doon), a YA Romantic Suspense novel, being published by Blink on the 27th September.

Synopsis:

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. 

Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow Lamott stepped back into his life. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton wonders if his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves.

Early Review:

“A romantic page-turner that will keep you guessing until the very end! – Melissa Landers, author of the Alienated and Starflight series

 

David Arnold is a Super-Racehorse! #Vic #KidsOfAppetite

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When I first picked up ‘Kids of Appetite‘ I was reminded quite strongly of another YA, ‘Alex Woods Versus the Universe‘ (an awesome read). Perhaps because it begins with the main character being interviewed at a police station, or maybe because Vic is smart and has an unusual way of looking at the world – a bit like Alex. And this was a sign of things to come. A sign that I was really, really going to like this particular coming-of-age story, with its ‘Pay It Forward‘ ethos and page-turner quality writing.

Okay, so here’s the premise: Vic decides his mum’s new boring-lawyer-boyfriend is completely unbearable, so he steals his dead father’s ashes and hightails it out of their house. He then discovers, inside the urn, a letter from his father, outlining a list of  obscure places he’d like his ashes to be scattered. When Vic meets Madeline Falco, who lives in a greenhouse with a ragtag group – mostly teens – who have their own troubled pasts, Mad offers to help him fullfill his dad’s wishes… And Vic accepts, becoming the group’s latest ‘Chapter’. This leads them on a journey which will ultimately end with both Mad and Vic in a police station, being questioned about a murder. Because, why not?

And the rare seeds which led David Arnold to write such a quirky mashup of a story? Moebius Syndrome; the Second Republic of the Congo Civil War (1997-1999); child abuse; SE Hinton; Matisse; side-ways hugs at funerals; fear of ‘natural’ food additives; and a love of ice cream, or salad wraps…

The Characters – 5/5 (eccentric and original, heart-warming and kind, awesome and funny)

The Dialogue – 5/5 (something special)

The Writing – 5/5 (beautiful, lyrical, honest, poetic, approachable, smart, vivid…)

The Level of Crazy – 4.5/5 (madcap adventure)

The YA Romance Angle – 4/5 (low-key, sweet, realistic, creative)

 

You know the places on this list. Take me there, won’t you?

Till we’re old-new,

– B

1. Hang me from the Parlour.     2. Toss me off the Palisades.

3. Bury me in the smoking bricks of our first kiss.     4. Drown me in our wishing well.

5. Drop me from the top of our Rock.

Spotted: Mexican Brujas in Brooklyn

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On the Back Cover:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives…

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Inside the Book:

Characters and relationships: Alex suffers from crippling self-doubt at the start of the novel and at times, comes across as a little self-centred. But when faced with the realities of Los Lagos, she turns into a smart, practical, loyal and courageous main character. In fact, she’s kind of kick-ass! Alex’s family seemed interesting (lots of mystery there!) and I think getting to know them better, is one reason why I’d read a sequel. I also really liked Alex’s punchy best friend – which is good, because she becomes a love interest (*necessary spoiler*).

Action: Fun, inventive villains, cool twists and magical high jinx – but nothing too gory or anxiety inducing. The author did a great job at building suspense and creating tension; I never quite knew what was coming next for Alex!

Romance: I felt like the chemistry could have been ramped up a little more, but then again, I love a steamy romance…

Settings: I loved the way each scene began with a quote from a different magical ‘canto’ (song). I liked the gothic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel of Los Lagos. And Alex’s home… with the chicken feet and vials of earth, stored next to the flour and the sugar, was great fun.

Keywords: 

Family, culturally diverse, LGBT relationship, high school, Brooklyn, magic and fantasy.

Expected publication: September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire Books.

Netgalley Picture Book Reviews

As some of you might know, I’m starting a Primary PGCE course in September, and I’ve been tasked with reading more children’s literature. So, here’s my take on the following picture books!

Birds of a Feather by Vanita Oelschlager (illustrated by Robin Hegan)

Designed to introduce kids to common idioms, using a humorous approach; the kids can help the teacher read aloud the idiom on each page and discuss the pictures. Then, when they turn the book upside down, the teacher can read aloud the written explanation and example given for each idiom.

Cons: the illustrations don’t always relate directly to the actual meaning of the idiom… Also a racoon is in one of the illustrations – an animal kids in the UK will not recognise.
Pros: Kids will LOVE THIS BOOK.
               Ages: 4+                           Rating: 5/5 + AUTO-BUY


Little White Fish Has Many Friends by Guido van Genechten

Designed to introduce kids to the concept of friendly play. The teacher can get the kids to explain what game little white fish is playing on each double-page spread, then read the book aloud and see if they’re correct!

Cons: games like dancing the “cha-cha” and giving “eskimo kisses” seem a little exotic for a kids book.
Pros: large, simple pictures, introduces kids to the names of various sea creatures.
                Ages: 3+                           Rating: 3/5

 

The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep by Caroline Nastro (illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva)

A story about a bear who cannot sleep and so ventures into New York city to visit the galleries, museums and streets there, before finally becoming sleepy… There are plenty of opportunities for the students to explain to the teacher what bear is doing on each page, as the pictures sometimes diverge from the text.

Cons: Perfect for kids from New York, but the landmarks mentioned might confuse kids from other parts of the world.
Pros: Beautiful illustrations and interesting settings, and a main character (bear) kids will relate well too.
              Ages: 3+                          Rating: 4/5

 

The Toothless Fairy by Timothy Jordan (illustrated by Matthew LaFleur)

A rhyming story about a lonely, ‘ugly’ fairy with a very sweet tooth! The teacher can use this book as a jumping point to ask about what makes Halloween fun i.e. spending time with your friends. And to discuss why too much sugar leads to issues with your teeth! It’s also great for introducing children to the idea of poetry as a narrative device.

Cons: Sophisticated language usages and the topic of ‘Halloween’ works well in the USA where kids know what ‘trick or treating’ is, but might not work so well outside of the USA where they don’t.
Pros: Fun and creative illustrations which kids will love!
                 Ages: 5+                                 Rating: 3/5

 

Vroom! Kevin’s Big Book of Vehicles by Lisbet Slegers

Designed to help children identify different types of vehicles and their various parts, uses some rhyming. Includes on-page activities for kids.

Cons: I felt the odd ‘story’ page, inserted between more educational pages, actually slowed the pace of the book. Also the technical information cited means this book is more useful for school-aged children,
Pros: large simple images, good technical vocabulary (e.g. “ambulance” and “combine harvester”), good explanations, lots of fun tasks for kids. A really useful book!
            Ages: 4+                     Rating: 4.5/5

 

Who Will Dance with Little Mouse? by Anita Bijsterbosch

A story about a small mouse who asks everyone to dance with him, but one after another they give their excuses… This book shows kids that if they don’t give up, they’ll eventually find someone to dance with! And that following your dreams can be fun.

Cons: The animals featured include a sloth, not something most kids would have heard of. Also, the story is repetitive.
Pros: Teaches some animal actions and sounds, with strong describing verbs. Large, simple illustrations. Shows kids what digital imaging can do.
               Ages: 3+                            Rating: 3/5

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

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Series Rating: 4.5 STARS

Recommended Reading Age: 13+ 

Read: via Audible

Short Series Review:

Privileged Gansey has always been told he’s destined for greatness and his quest to fulfil this prophesy has brought him to Aglionby School in his old orange Camaro, in search of a buried Welsh king who legend says can grant wishes. Here he meets Adam, the scholarship student with a humongous chip on his shoulder the exact size of his abusive father’s fists; and Ronan Lynch, a blunt-speaking boy who seeks out risk and excitement in any form. And maybe everything could have been simple, but then the boys meet Blue. Blue comes from an eccentric family of psychics, who have predicted that if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Once they’ve all met, a story unfolds. It’s about about lost souls and magic. It’s about family, friendship, loyalty and relationships (gay and straight). It’s about myth and legend, growing up, finding your voice and your purpose. It’s about a small Virginia town on a ley line and the mystery and intrigue related to that. It’s about car chases and hitmen, thieves and liars, demons and fey. It’s beautifully told, with wry observant descriptions and atmospheric settings. If you start reading this series, you won’t want to stop until it’s over. And even when it is over, you’ll want another book…

Tagline: A very modern fairytale.

If you’ve already read this series, what did you love/hate about it? 

I Wish Every Teacher Would Read…


When Kyle Schwartz asked his elementary students to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…”, he did something extraordinary and his students rewarded him with their honesty. 



Kyle Schwartz doesn’t pretend to be the perfect teacher – he freely admits that he’s made his fair share of mistakes – but he does have some very valid, very relevant suggestions for teachers today. Suggestions which will:

  1. Help you to increase learning inside your classroom.
  2. Help you to foster a sense of community inside your classroom.
  3. Help you to provide a more inclusive and supportive environment inside your classroom.

At the core of Kyle’s approach lies a simple statement, made by child psychologist James Comer, that “no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” and the belief that every child matters. 

He outlines and tackles real issues that face many of our students – food hunger and bereavements, for example – and his practical suggestions cover everything from how to welcome new children into your classroom, to holding ‘family-school conferences’ instead of a traditional ‘parents night’.

Understanding the realities of our students’ lives may not always be comfortable, but facing these issues head on is the best way to understand and help our students.

If you’re a teacher, you will benefit from reading this book and you will enjoy reading it! (I predict several eureka moments and lots of head nodding…) It doesn’t really matter which country you live in, or what age range you teach there, as issues our students face are the same. 

All of my teacher friends will be getting copies of this – from me! – for Christmas.

I Wish My Teacher Knew will be published July 12th by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Miranda Kenneally’s A Woman On A Mission

Backstory:

While introducing her new book Miranda explains that during her early twenties she was working 15 hour days, with no opportunity to go to the gym or do drinks after work… And she doesn’t want her readers to make the same mistakes, especially whilst still in high school.

The main character in Defending Taylor, is so worried about ‘earning her way’ and getting into the right college, that she does every extracurricular she can and takes AP class, after AP class. And when this becomes too much for her she abuses prescribed medications to stay awake – putting herself and her future at risk. 

The story opens as Taylor’s world comes crashing down, when she’s caught with drugs on school property and expelled. At the same time Taylor breaks up with her boyfriend Ben, but she can’t tell her friends why. She won’t share that secret. To top it all off, Taylor’s senator father is not happy; he’s up for re-election and now her actions have effected his campaign. To force her to buck up, he sends her to the local state school, Hundred Oaks, where the soccer team sucks and the girls are mean, mean and meaner. The only bright spot in Taylor’s days is Ezra, her brother’s best friend, who for reasons unknown is home from college. 

My Thoughts:

This series just works for me. I usually beatle through these books in a day and this book was no exception. I read late into the night in order to finish it. It’s a compulsive read. And of course, our favourite guidance councillor makes a couple fun appearances! As do a few other familiar couples… 

The soccer elements weren’t as prominent in this novel as I expected them to be (do not anticipate another Catching Jordan style read) and the terminology/mechanics of the game were definitely dumbed down. I’d be interested to know if this last part was the author’s choice or an editor’s…

The romance was ramped up in Defending Taylor. I would not give this book to a younger teen! It borders on being a New Adult book, rather than YA. #sexytimes

Fortunately Erza was pretty crushable – I’d like a yummy construction worker boyfriend too please Miranda! And he was patient with Taylor, which I appreciated. So often romance authors write bolshy, pushy male characters who dominate the story… But Ezra’s the kind of guy you and I would actually want to get to know. #real #READit!


Sourcebooks Fire will be publishing Defending Taylor on July 5th 2016.

What did you prioritise in high school – fun or grades? And do you regret your choice?

7 Mostly Annoying Things about ‘The Problem with Forever’

1. It kept me up reading until like 3AM… I’d recommend it for readers who loved:

2. Mallory is the sweetest main character, seriously, and like me, she has trouble verbalising stuff sometimes, making her a little introverted, but she wants to participate more. #tooperfect And you know, her bestie Ainsleigh is like the most supportive person on the planet too. #jealous

3. Rider. Oh my god. I want one! But he’s fictional… #frustration He does have a girlfriend when we first meet him, but he totally drops everything to big-brother Mallory. #supersweet #sexyYA
4. Heartbreak. Rider and Mallory have the most heartbreaking history together and seeing the scars that left, broke me at times. #needtissues

5. The fact that the book had a final page… #nooooooo! That ending. ❤️ Thank god for Hector, Rider’s sort-of, dirty mouthed Puerto Rican brother. #companionbookfodder

6. The setting. High school romances are my jam people! Who told JLA that? Am I being stalked? Freaky…

7. This book reminded me of some pretty serious stuff: Everyone is human, no one is infallible, we all hurt sometimes. But life is always richer with love. #majorlifelessons

“Forever was knowing that moments of weakness didn’t equate to an eternity of them…. Forever was Carl and Rosa, Ainsleigh and Keira, Hector and Rider…. Forever was simply the promise of more. Forever was a work in progress.”