I started a podcast! Twenty minute original, imaginative and adventurous stories for children aged 2-8ish/80. I’ve been completely delighted to hear of kids tuning in a loving the stories from all over the world.
If you or someone you know is trying to entertain kids at home in this time, I’d love to invite them to listen. It’s good for their imaginations, for their vocabulary; it gives their parents a 20 minute break and my kids, at least, think it’s a lot of fun.
The first series is all about Princess Isobel and the adventures she has with her friends Harriet the Hare and Ulred the Unicorn.
Have a listen :)
Listen to The Story Forest
Scarlett and Donatella Dragma escape their cruel and controlling father to enter the magical world of Caraval, a magical game and competition run by the mysterious Legend. Each sister must risk their lives and test their daring and their love as they compete, to save each other’s lives and more as the alluring world sweeps them into it’s depths and stories. In a world where they can’t know what is true each sister has secrets and plans that in turn will affect the whole world around them.
Trying to summarise two books is difficult!! I thought I had already reviewed Caraval, but it seems not so I’m doing two in one. First thought – these are great! They are the books most like one of my favourites ever The Night Circus that I have read. They draw you in quickly and deeply, the world they create is exciting in it’s twists and turns and evocative and sensual in it’s magic and setting. I’ve really enjoyed them – but I do think they’re a bit over done, a little over sensual and over descriptive. A little over flavoured – like a black forest gateaux.
Taliah gave up on her father long ago: he never responded to any of her letters, and he’s a rock star. But one day the famous Julian Oliver turns up on her doorstep to whisk her away, not only to get to know him but her whole family. With her mother ignorant and out of the country Taliah has only a three days to find out where she came from, and why she’s never known him before.
This book was great! Probably my favourite thing about it was that the whole story, a fairly short novel, took place over only three days. We journeyed with Taliah in (much closer to) realtime, with each encounter and moment, not missing a conversation or encounter. I don’t remember when I last read a book like that, and I really enjoyed it.
A manuscript, wrapped in string, appeared at the Hodder and Stoughton offices. Attached was a note: I used to be a Hodder author. I am now one of the few people left who were alive at the time of the Second World War, one of the only people who can capture the feeling of those times. I have written it into a book, and this is it. (My paraphrase).
So far, so exciting. But sadly, this is the story OF the book, not in the book. Author Frank White, in his own words now, says: “What I aimed to do was to capture the feeling of those times and remind people of what the country went through.” If that is so, my main takeaway from this book is that during these times everyone committed adultery.
When Ásta and most of the rest of her Icelandic village are kidnapped and shipped off to Algiers she was about to give birth, and her third child is born in the hold of the ship, surrounded by people she has known for many years. Her family is separated and sold to different owners, and her husband is sent back to plead a ransom. Ásta finds her new world a confusing mixture of abhorrent and compelling, and must try to tread a path between mourning her lot and making a new life.
I was so excited when this book arrived. The cover is beautiful, it’s set in Iceland, the title suggests selkies (a Scottish and probably beyond mythological creature: a seal that walks out of the water and turns into a woman) and goodness gracious me, it’s actually a book about a mother. And boy was it excellent, but it was also utterly heart wrenching.
It’s 1892. After an incident in London society leaves Sarah Gilchrist shaken to her core and ostracised, she follows her dream of studying to be a doctor in Edinburgh. She spends her evenings helping in a hospital for the most needy in society. When a prostitute she has treated at the hospital turns up on the dissection slab, she starts to investigate, putting her reputation, friendships and even life at risk.
The concept for this book was cool. I like the strong female heroine, I like that she doesn’t treat herself as a victim, and it’s interesting to be looking and learning about the first women doctors, and hey, she’s a detective too. So far so ridiculous, so fun. And the story unfolded pretty cleverly. I really enjoyed her encounters with the many classes and types of people that she encountered: rich relatives, other students, the underclass and more. And the solution was pleasantly unexpected. But Gilchrist was completely anachronistically liberal, and frustration with that overshadows my memory of the book.
When Cora’s husband dies, she is finally freed from a domineering and cruel marriage. She explores her interests: and when hunting for the mysterious Essex Serpent which has overcome a village’s imagination, she meets a man in a field and helps a farmer rescue a sheep. To both of their amusement she’s later introduced to him by mutual friends, and they start a friendship that enriches their lives beyond measure: until it goes further than they intended. Will’s wife is dying, Cora’s strange doctor paramour is pushing the limits of modern medicine, her servant is enlisting the help of a pining rich man and falling for a poor one, and the various people grow together and apart in interesting ways.
I avoided this book for quite a long time. I saw that it was about a vicar and read enough to suspect that it was going to be rather sordid, and as a Christian and a person who knows a lot of really great vicars I’m so tired of them being portrayed in a contrary way. After a real person recommendation I picked it up, and though there were a couple of moments, this was largely a thoughtful people study of a novel, and I very much enjoyed it.
Henry Aster’s father bought an old gothic house in a middle of a small American town where no one understood him, his writing or his obsession with books. Henry and his little sister grew up in the shadow of his father’s ambition, depression and genius, until one day his was gone. When he moves away to university Henry must deal with all of this, with his own writing ambition and becoming his own man.
For the first bit of the book I was just trying to work out where it was going, what it was about. It seemed to just chronologically be telling this guy’s story, with various flashbacks to his childhood. I couldn’t grasp if there was a central point: apart from his Dad. I eventually gave up trying to suss the book out and went with the flow, then at the end worked out what it was going on about all along. I’m not sure if this made me more or less satisfied.
Danu is a part of the circus. Her life has been beset by tragedy and mystery, and when they visit the City of Circles, a city split into levels that spins, the mystery only deepens: there is something here for her. Meanwhile Morrie at the circus has been teaching her to tightrope dance, and has been falling deeply in love with her. She must decide to pursue romance or the mystery of her family, and either way she feels she will lose out.
I was really excited about the concept of this book and the mystery at it’s heart: the City of Circles, and the main character’s story and origin. The circle was a nice place to start, the characters interesting – but the start dragged on for far too long. She stayed in the circus for too long: she stayed with Morrie for far far too long and the bit I’d been waiting for, the bit that really felt like the story getting started, didn’t happen until the very last section of the book.
The King and Abhorsen are away again and Sam gets news from his old friend Nick across the border. From the borders of the world free magic is attacking again, and Lirael, Sam and Nick must solve more mysteries, fight old enemies and revisit old friends to defeat it once and for all.
I find I already can’t remember the plot of this too well, which is very exciting as it means I’ll get to read it again really soon. I didn’t expect that it could be as magical and as enjoyable as reading the other book for the first time (and I was a bit disappointed by Clariel as was my friend Ian) but this was a complete delight.