Tag Archives: magic

Book review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

18 Jul

summer of serendipityOne summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.

But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

The escapist, magical stories that Ali McNamara creates are always lovely reads and I look forward to her next book each year. This year, Ali takes us back to Ireland (her previous novel, Breakfast at Darcy’s was also set there) and amidst the beautiful scenery of The Ring of Kerry, Ali conjures up mystery, magic and romance for an excellent summer read.

I love the word ‘serendipity’ but I’ve never come across a character named it until now. Serendipity Parker prefers to be known as Ren and is a successful business woman, having found her talent for seeking out and finding special houses for her clients. The Summer of Serendipity sees Ren and her assistant Kiki heading to Ireland to look for a dream home for one of Ren’s clients.

Ren and Kiki are a great pair and they made me laugh throughout the book. Ren is the more serious and considered of the pair with Kiki frequently getting her words mixed up and taking the wrong meaning with often hilarious results. Kiki is also the romantic of the pair and I felt like I knew her well straight away. Ren is more mysterious and I enjoyed how Ali fed in little thoughts and comments that made me wonder about Ren’s past.

The mystery doesn’t stop there though as Ren and Kiki explore they begin to learn about the legends and stories that tell of the land surrounding them. With beautiful lakes, historical places and larger than life locals, I loved reading about Ballykiltara and the surrounds and being swept up into the story as Ren tries to find the owner of the mysterious Welcome House. Ali’s love of Ireland is apparent throughout the book and the descriptions are lush!

Fans of Ali’s previous books will enjoy a little update on some of her previous characters. This books is a standalone story but if you like it I’d highly recommend checking out Breakfast at Darcy’s (and all of Ali’s other books of course!)

I love stories with magic in them and The Summer of Serendipity has plenty of that. Ali draws upon real legends and stories to create her own special blend of Celtic magic and I thoroughly enjoyed reading as both Ren and Kiki went on their adventures and were drawn into trying to unravel the secrets that surround them.

The Summer of Serendipity is another warm and funny love story from Ali and I highly recommend escaping with it this summer.

4/5

The Summer of Serendipity is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Ali and her writing at: http://www.alimcnamara.co.uk/

Guest post: The Shimmering Girl at the Palace by Laura Lam

9 Mar

Today I’m very excited to have Laura Lam joining me on the latest stop of her Masquerade blog tour. Laura was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine. 

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam’s Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay. Welcome Laura!

Once there was a girl with dragonfly wings, who soared above the world. She looked down and saw happiness, and sadness, and wide expanses with no one at all save the animals and trees and rocks and streams. She flew all the way around the world, writing down whatever she saw. When she came back, she did not show anyone her little journal. It was her version of the world, and she wanted to keep it for her alone.

— ‘The Dragonfly Girl’, Hestia’s Fables 

Laura LamEvery chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

I seem to write a lot about girls in Hestia’s fables in this book, which I didn’t quite clock until I started writing about these excerpts. Hestia’s fable are sort of like Aesop’s fables—short apocryphal tales that people in Ellada would have grown up reading. Dragonflies and damselflies are also a reoccurring motif throughout the trilogy. People in Ellada often whisper that dragonflies can weigh the lightness or darkness of the soul, which I might have picked up from research somewhere. This excerpt came across a little wistful, which I like. What did the dragonfly girl see on her travels?

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Masquerade is released today in paperback by Pan.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 9781509807789

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more.  Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Please do visit the other stops on the Masquerade tour!

Find out more about Laura and her writing at: http://www.lauralam.co.uk/

Author interview: Vic James

21 Jan

Today I’m very excited to welcome author Vic James to One More Page to talk about Gilded Cage the first book in the Dark Gifts trilogy – a book which held me gripped from start to finish and presents a wonderfully dystopian alternative Britain.

Vic is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She has twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. She lives and works in London. Welcome Vic!

VicJames2 C JAY DACYHi Vic. Gilded Cage is released in paperback on 26th January. Please could you tell us a little about it and the inspirations behind it.

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate contemporary Britain ruled by a magically gifted aristocracy, in which everyone else – the 99% of us – must perform a decade of service called the ‘slavedays’. The Hadley family think they’ve avoided being sent to a worktown, by applying to serve the aristocrats on a grand estate, but things don’t go according to plan. Eighteen-year-old Abi is caught up in the dark power-games of the aristocrats, while seventeen-year-old Luke is ripped from his family and treads a dangerous path in Manchester’s brutal worktown.

In the world of the books, the ‘slavedays’ system is 400 years old, but the genesis of the story was a current affairs series I made for BBC2 called The Superrich and Us about our world right now. I realised that the power and influence of the very wealthiest in our society – the 1% – was so great that it was almost ‘like magic’. Ta-da! While the experience of those doing their days, the 99% of ‘us’, is a blend of everything that’s most unfair in our unequal society today: unremitting grind, rubbish jobs, disenfranchisement, and so on.

By way of introduction, imagine Silyen, Jenner and Gavar are on twitter (!) what would their bios say?

- Silyen wouldn’t be on twitter. Or rather, he’d be an egg account, following all the powerful and provocative people who tweet in about 10 different languages. He’d never tweet himself.

- Jenner is a private, reserved person. His bio would be plain and factual: “Second son of Lord Whittam and Lady Thalia Jardine”, with a little location pin for ‘Kyneston, Hampshire’.

- Gavar is more a Rich Kids of Instagram, though his account has fallen strangely silent since he became a father and his girlfriend ‘died’…

I found all of the characters so intriguing and with so much potential; did you have a favourite to write and who caused you the most trouble when writing?

They never cause me trouble. I hear each of them clearly! The person with the most intricate tale to tell is Euterpe, who speaks to us only once, in Chapter 10 – my favourite chapter in the book, and almost a story within a story.

The one who demanded more chapters than I ever imagined is swaggering, obtuse Heir Gavar, whose past behavior has been shocking, yet who somehow occasionally intuits things more clearly than anyone else in his world. Scenes with Silyen are always a treat to write, but I have to use his point-of-view sparingly so as not to give too much away!

If you were a commoner in the world of The Dark Gifts trilogy, at what stage in your life would you choose to work out your gilded cageten years and why?

I’d put it off as long as possible, until the age of 55! But you can only do that responsibly if you don’t have children. If you die with your 10 years unserved, or incomplete, your debt passes to your children.

How have your own experiences fed into writing Gilded Cage?

It’s all in there! Obviously all the stories I covered in my journalism career – from the world of the superrich, to how politics works to the relentless grind of life at the bottom. But there’s a lot of my life experience in Abi, too. She’s a smart girl from a normal background, sent to a world of privilege of which she has no experience, to which she must rapidly adjust. I can really identify. I come from a working-class home, with two parents who never finished school as teenagers, then went to one of Oxford’s oldest and grandest colleges, a place of beauty and tradition, surrounded by the wealthy and, yes, even the titled!

As it’s still January, the month of resolutions; what are your reading resolutions for 2017?

Read more; read more by diverse authors; and read more nonfiction.

Last year was breakneck busy: I edited Gilded Cage, wrote and edited the sequel, and directed two BBC1 TV programmes. As I write this, in January, we’ve just signed off the sequel, and Gilded Cage is publishing. I can’t wait for life to slow down a little, and I’ve promised myself one dedicated reading day a week. Haven’t managed it so far, but I’m ever-hopeful!

And finally … what can we expect next from Vic James?

Oooh! Well, that all depends on what takes my publishers’ fancy, but there is an intense standalone I’m desperate to write. And I’m simmering an idea for another AU contemporary dualogy or trilogy: intrigue, corruption, secrets and untold history, and a global power struggle, in a world of dark glamour and tradition.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amanda, and for loving GILDED CAGE! If anyone has any questions – come and find me on twitter @drvictoriajames

You can find out more about Gilded Cage and Vic James at: http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

gilded cageGilded Cage is published in paperback on 26th January by Pan Macmillan and is available an an ebook now.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England’s most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom – or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends’ ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

 

Book review: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

14 Dec

dress shopSince her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop.

Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter.

Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells-like true love-can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

Imagine a book with a magical dress shop that sells creations that can change lives. Imagine a book shop next door run by a man who’s wonderful voice captivates all who hear him. Picture a girl who lives by order, science and facts and throw in a little unrequited love and a mystery that needs to be solved – doesn’t it sound intriguing? These are the premise and themes for The Dress Shop of Dreams and I was completely drawn into the story and captivated by it as I read.

The Dress Shop of Dreams is the second of Menna Van Praags’s Cambridge set novels that I’ve read this year and I loved it. Menna’s books have that wonderful magical realism and fairy tale quality that another favourite author of mine, Sarah Addison Allen has in her stories and The Dress Shop of Dreams is a perfect winter read to curl up and escape with.

Cora Sparks is an orphan; her parents died in a fire when she was young and she’s grown up with her grandmother Etta who owns a dress shop. While Etta and her magical dress shop are colourful, imaginative and creative, Cora lives a frugal, almost clinical existence as a scientist. The contrast between them is immense but as events conspire to throw Cora into disorder and confusion she begins a brilliant journey that will change her life forever.

In the middle somewhere is Walt the boy next door, now man who is a bookseller in the shop next door. Walt has his own share of secrets and he brings a wonderfully romantic thread to the book too. I very much enjoyed all of the different mysteries and strands to the stories in this book.

This is absolutely my favourite of Menna’s books to date (I did say that about the last one I read too though – they just get better and better!) I loved how Menna explored the boundaries and crossovers of science and art and of course magic in this novel – it’s a fascinating and thought provoking read as well as a wonderful and captivating story. Menna’s love of books and stories shines through and this is definitely a booklovers book. Slip a copy of this into your favourite booklovers’ stocking this year – they won’t be disappointed!

5/5

The Dress Shop of Dreams is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Menna and her writing at: http://www.mennavanpraag.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher; Allison & Busby for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Book review: Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara

4 Oct

letters from lighthouseThe sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it’s home to Grace – although right now, she’s not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she’d long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home – after all, they do say that’s where the heart is…

I’ve read every single one of Ali McNamara’s books and enjoyed them all but her last book, The Little Flower Shop by the Sea and the summer release Letters From Lighthouse Cottage have become favourites because of their lovely seaside locations. Letters From Lighthouse Cottage is set on the Norfolk coast and although the actual town in the book is fictional, it has made me want to visit the coast there soon!

Letters From Lighthouse Cottage also ticks the boxes for me as it features a little bit of magic! Grace  discovers and old typewriter when she is helping her parents to clear out Light house Cottage as a teenager. There’s a sweet and slightly mysterious note addressed to her and she christens the typewriter Remy and takes it home with her. From that point forward Remy gives Grace advice in the form of letters. The thing that surprised me about this novel was that Remy’s advice sometimes strayed into difficult events and seemed to have outcomes that weren’t entirely happy and it added a complexity and plenty of emotion to the book to see how Grace coped with the sometimes life changing events that were thrown at her.

Ali is a big fan of the 1980s and her depictions of growing up that era are spot on – I loved the little references to music, film, fashion and foods that brought my own teenage memories back and made me smile. Grace is just trying to fit in and its at this time that she meets the two men who will have a big influence on her life; Charlie and Danny. Charlie and Danny are great contrasts and at different times in the book I was rooting for each of them. Ali is skilled at weaving romantic story lines that keep the reader guessing and it was fun watching Grace grow up and finding out what happened to her and her friends next.

Letters from Lighthouse Cottage is another lovely read from Ali. I loved that it wasn’t a predictable story and the element of magic. This is a book full of heart that examines what ‘home’ really means and how our choices define us. A great book to curl up with this Autumn!

4/5

Find out more about Ali and her writing at: http://www.alimcnamara.co.uk/

Book review: The House At The End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

17 Jun

hope streetDistraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers-literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds-and maybe even save her life.

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of books with an element of magic or magical realism in them. It’s quite rare though to find books set in the UK that fall into the genre so when I saw Menna van Praag’s books with their beautiful covers on a Tweet from Cambridge Waterstone’s, I was very excited. And when publisher, Allison and Busby contacted me to see if I’d like to review them, I jumped at the chance. Over the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing all three of Menna’s books. I start today with The House at the End of Hope Street, a story of love, family, hope and magic set mainly in Cambridge.

Menna’s writing is beautiful and she immediately drew me in with rich descriptions and more than a hint of magic and mystery right from the first sentence. I’m a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen and Menna’s writing has a similar warmth and turn of phrase that captures the magic of everyday things and unveils a hidden world within our own world. This is a story where the line between ‘real’ and magic blur and I love the idea that those who wish or need to see magic, can.

The house of the title appears to those in need and what a wonderful home it is. I loved the premise of a place of refuge that allows those who stay there time to contemplate, recover (if necessary) and gently pushes them towards a brighter and more hopeful future. Despite its hopeful premise, there is a lot of sadness in the story which touches on themes of loss, mental health and abusive relationships. There is also heartache and Menna skilfully balances the darker sides of the story with the themes of moving forward, love and hope to create a story that will stay with me.

The little descriptive details like teacups with fairy tale characters that have interesting relationships and notes that appear from nowhere with slightly cryptic guidance written on them, had me captivated and reading The House At The End of Hope Street felt modern yet timeless and I enjoyed the fairy tale qualities of the book. Like all good fairy tales, the story examines light and dark and isn’t afraid to address the harsher aspects of living in the world that we live in by examining love and the opposite feelings in depth and the story struck me by showing the cruelties and deceptions that humans are capable of as well as the kindnesses and care.

All of the characters in the story are flawed and I liked that the house didn’t just solve their problems for them; it actively tried to help and guide them but they had to do the hard work themselves. The book is populated by a host of wonderful characters; authors, musicians, actresses, book lovers and many famous names through history. My absolute favourite character in the book was Peggy;  the ‘mother’ of the house in the story. The house has passed through generations of her family. I loved her sense of duty and sense of humour.

Alba, Greer and Carmen are all lost in their own way and all very different individuals. Alba is young academic, extremely clever but prone to hiding behind the history books she loves and she’s just had her heart broken and her promising academic future put under threat. Greer wants to be an actress but parts are drying up and she also longs for a family. Carmen is hiding a dark secret and running from a painful past. Her secret love is music but she’s buried her talent in fear.

I loved how Menna made The House At The End of Hope Street a love story to the arts, beautifully capturing the joys that books, music and theatre can bring.  A thoughtful, magical, beautiful book – add it to your shelves now!

5/5

The House At The End of Hope Street is out now in Paperback and Ebook formats from Allison & Busby.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Menna and her writing at: http://www.mennavanpraag.com/

Book review: Last Call At the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

12 Jun

nightshade loungeCollege grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever-or whoever-is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore. 

So, who hasn’t felt like they could do anything when they’d had a cocktail or two?! This book is for all those cocktail lovers who’ve dreamed of being a superhero (or Buffy!) and is a quirky and fun urban fantasy story. Last Call At the Nightshade Lounge is a fun and original urban fantasy novel set in Chicago. Although the book falls into the ‘new adult’ age bracket, I think it would appeal to young adult and adult readers too and there is a good breadth of diverse characters with someone for everyone to root for! The story focuses on Bailey Chan. Bailey has just left university and is facing a number of new adult issues; finding her way in the world, finding her first job and hoping to escape from living with her Mom and Dad.

I liked Bailey from the start; she’s bright and clever and a little bit of an overachiever but not so much that it put me off and I loved her realistic take on the world. While Bailey works out what she’s going to do with her life, her high school friend Zane has found her a job as a bar back in his uncle’s bar and this is where the fun really starts. Bailey accidentally stumbles into the secret and ancient society of barkeepers that Zane’s uncle’s bar provides a cover for and discovers that cocktails really can be magical. Last Call At the Nightshade Lounge is a book for fans of TV series like Heroes and Buffy and I could see this as a TV series in its own right.

The chapters are faced paced and the blend of action, romance, magic and Bailey’s story is an excellent little cocktail in its own right. I love how Quirk Books make their books look special too. The story chapters in Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge are interspersed with pages and recipes from The Devil’s Water Dictionary – the cocktail manual that Bailey is given when she starts her undercover work protecting the citizens of Chicago from the horrible ‘tremens’.  These are all cocktails that you can actually make and there are 15 delicious sounding recipes for you to try from the Screwdriver to the White Russian. I loved the histories included about each drink and its creation and the manual pages not only gave depth to the story but added and extra dimension to the book.

As the story progresses it becomes clear that strange things are happening in Chicago and even the tremens are acting differently. The race is on to make the ultimate cocktail – a drink that will bestow immortality on its owner. As Halloween approaches Bailey and her new friends have their work cut out and as the tension built I couldn’t put this book down. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to Paul Krueger’s next novel!

4/5

Last Call At The Nightshade Lounge is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quirk Books.

Find out more about Paul and his writing at: https://paulkrueger.net/

I’d like to thank Jamie at Quirk Books for providing me with a review copy of this novel.

Book news: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

10 Mar

I love the sound of this book which is out from HarperCollins in June!

crowns game

Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold.

Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air.

They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, a duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Book news: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

6 Jan

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my absolute favourite authors – I’ve loved all of her books so I just had to mention that the paperback of her latest novel, First Frost has just been published in the US and will be out in the UK on 11th February.

If you haven’t discovered Sarah’s books yet she writes the most beautiful stories filled with magic. Watch the trailer for First Frost and visit the First Frost mini site to find out more!

first frost US

US cover

FIRST FROST UK PAPERBACK

UK cover

Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beaten-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies, but it’s nothing like she thought it would be, and it’s slowly taking over her life. Claire’s wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can’t get it back.

From the author of the New York Times bestselling sensation GARDEN SPELLS, FIRST FROST is magical and atmospheric, taking readers back into the lives of the gifted Waverley women – back to their strange garden and temperamental apple tree, back to their house with a personality of its own, back to the men who love them fiercely – proving that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

 

Book review: The Kingdom and the Cave by Joan Aiken, Illustrated by Peter Bailey

4 Jan

I’m excited to introduce a new co-reviewer to One More Page today! Please give a very warm welcome to my son Max. Max is seven and an avid reader just like me. We’ve decided to start sharing our joint thoughts on some of the books that we read together. The first is the magical adventure, The Kingdom and the Cave which was first published in 1960 but re-released in the beautiful new illustrated version shown here in November 2015.

kingdom and the caveThe Under People. They live in a huge Cave. They are thought to be boring upwards. Giant worms and flying ants. Underground magic.’

Mickle, the palace cat, knows the kingdom is in danger. He can feel it in his whiskers and he has found a mysterious note in the royal library… (Yes, of course he can read, and speak – if he chooses to!) Mickle can’t trust the King and Queen with his mission, so he and Prince Michael, with the help of their animal friends (and quite a bit of magic!), set out on a perilous quest to find the sinister Under People, discover their secret power and save the Kingdom of Astalon.

In her first novel, written when she was only a teenager, Joan Aiken showcases the imagination, wit and storytelling zest that would lead to classics like Arabel’s Raven and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Max and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story together and although I’d say its probably most suited to children older than Max to read independently, it was a lovely story to share and I’d recommend it as excellent bedtime reading. Max loves anything with Magic in it at the moment so this ticked all the right boxes and the illustrations are lovely too.

Max says:

“I liked the adventure that Prince Michael, Mickle the cat and Minerva the horse had. I liked it when Prince Michael learned to talk to the animals – that was really fun.

Children who like reading and magical books will like this. My favourite character was Mickle. He’s a cat who likes exploring and is good at keeping secrets – he didn’t tell Michael he could talk and he has a magical wishing collar that can make things appear. Minerva and Professor Nicodemus made me laugh.

There were no parts I didn’t like – I loved it all and I’m looking forward to reading it again.”

We’ll definitely be reading more of Joan Aiken’s books together in future. You can find out more about Joan and her writing at: http://www.joanaiken.com/

With thanks to publisher Virago for providing a review copy of this book.