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Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK)
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Circus of Thieves on the Rampage (Circus of Thieves 2)
Circus of Thieves on the Rampage (Circus of Thieves 2)
by William Sutcliffe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Circus of Thieves on the Rampage, 19 April 2015
I absolutely loved the first book in this series - Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom - and while I did enjoy this one, I didn't think it was as good as the previous instalment. I still laughed of course, and I'll continue to read the series, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations!

Circus of Thieves on the Rampage continues pretty much where the last book left off, with horrible Armitage Shanks still up to his old tricks and Hannah and Billy trying to fix things. There are many (fairly shocking!) revelations in this book that I wasn't expecting, as well as some sticky situations that need to be read to be believed. It's a mad adventure story centred around a circus, so of course it's going to be eye-poppingly crackers!

David Tazzyman's illustrations are, as always, a crazy delight. They really suit the madcap nature of the story and add a certain flair to it, which I like. I'll not talk too much about the footnotes because they're not my favourite thing in literature, but in this instance they do fit in well. I find them very distracting though!

Circus of Thieves on the Rampage isn't the best book in this series so far but it's still an entertaining book that younger readers will enjoy. Luckily it hasn't made me want to join a local circus, though I do suddenly have an unusual interest in walking a tightrope. Uh-oh...


The Clockwork Dragon
The Clockwork Dragon
by Jonathan Emmett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Clockwork Dragon, 19 April 2015
This review is from: The Clockwork Dragon (Paperback)
The Clockwork Dragon is a really fun picture book featuring my favourite fantasy creature: a dragon! It's all about Max and Lizzie and how they rid their kingdom of an evil dragon called Flamethrottle - no easy feat, let me tell you. They have a great plan and even more cunning, which they use to outwit this most nasty of dragons. Flamethrottle doesn't know what's him him!

I'm a big fan of picture book illustrations and these ones Elys Dolan are of the high standard I've come to expect. The dragons, both real and mechanical, look brilliant, and Max and Lizzle are a fantastic representation of the medieval time when this story is set. Each page is busy with artwork but it also has more text than in used to seeing in a picture book, making it easier for Jonathan Emmett to tell a full, finished story.

The Clockwork Dragon is recommended for any budding knights or dragon hunters out there, especially ones with an eye for making things. Max and Lizzie are memorable, likeable characters who would make positive role models for any children, and I look forward to their next adventure. Let's hope that Flamethrottle the dragon really does leave them alone for a while!


Just Bite (Teen Reads)
Just Bite (Teen Reads)
by Tommy Donbavand
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Bite, 19 April 2015
This review is from: Just Bite (Teen Reads) (Paperback)
Just Bite is another excellent Badger Learning title by Tommy Donbavand, perfectly suited for teenagers who struggle to read. It's a great little 64-page vampire story that made me wish it was a full-length novel, as is usually the case with these very well-written short stories.

Without giving too much away, Just Bite is about teenager Sally who loves to wear black and skulk about like a typical mopey teen. All is well until one night when, suddenly, all the lights go out and her neighbour's screams can be heard outside... uh-oh!

Even though this book is short, it's a really good read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. There's vampires, gore, thrills, chills and a genuinely good idea for a story about the undead. Reluctant readers will find lots to like here, especially the inviting, blood-soaked cover - if that doesn't make someone want to read it, I don't know what will!

I think Just Bite is my new favourite book from Badger Learning, and it's definitely Tommy Donbavand's best to date. Secondary schools should have these books proudly displayed on their shelves for everyone to see and read - I'm sure they could entice even the most uninterested reader to pick up a copy and get lost in its pages. It should be an educational law that these books are readily available to teenagers everywhere!


The First Slodge
The First Slodge
by Jeanne Willis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The First Slodge, 19 April 2015
This review is from: The First Slodge (Paperback)
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond have teamed up to create a lovely picture book for little readers, all about the first slodge and how she learned to share her world. It's full of nice, simple artwork of the cute slodge, and it tells an important story as well. It's one to savour, that's for sure!

The underlying message in The First Slodge is to share, whether it be your food, the stars or the planet itself. Sharing helps move things along, and it also helps friendships form and relationships exist. The first slodge learns this the hard way, but learn it she does when a second slodge arrived on the scene. It's a great lesson to teach children, and hopefully it will help to instill in them a need to share and be kind.

Jenni Desmond's illustrations are all brilliant, and I immediately loved the slodge just from seeing the cover. I have no idea what she actually is, but I do know she's green, cute and excitable. Hopefully she'll return for more slodge books, and I can find out what happens to the next generation of slodges - let's hope they're all sharing their fruit!


Creature Teacher
Creature Teacher
by Sam Watkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Creature Teacher, 12 April 2015
This review is from: Creature Teacher (Paperback)
What would you have done if your teacher had suddenly turned into a funny little creature one day during class? Would you run away? Stay and look after it? I'm not sure what I would have done, but Jake and the class of 5b launch into action and hide monstrous little Mr Hyde before he can be found out and taken away - after all, he is the best teacher ever!

This is the genius plot of Creature Teacher, the latest children's offering from Sam Watkins. In turns funny and downright daft, Creature Teacher is an entertaining read from start to finish, and is a fantastic length for those more reluctant to pick up a book. It's illustrated too, which is even better!

I thoroughly enjoyed this mad tale of a teacher turning into a creature; I chuckled, gasped and was genuinely concerned about how Mr Hyde would explain away his rather strange situation. Suffice to say it's all above board and, frankly, makes a lot of sense in the end - and who wouldn't want a teacher as cool as him?!

Creature Teacher is a great book for younger readers, particularly those who like the Undead Pets and Scream Street series. No doubt creature teachers everywhere are worried now that their secret is out, but don't worry - their secret is safe with us. Well, at least until the second book, Creature Teacher Goes Wild, is published in August. Then who knows what will happen!


Love Bomb
Love Bomb
by Jenny McLachlan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Bomb, 12 April 2015
This review is from: Love Bomb (Paperback)
Love Bomb is the second book in Jenny McLachlan's excellent series for teens, which began with last year's Flirty Dancing. This time it's all about newly fifteen-year-old Betty as she learns about life, love and everything inbetween.

Betty's mum died when she was little and her dad has raised her since. Obviously losing her mother has left a big hole in Betty's teenage life, so when she finds some letters from her mum, suddenly she doesn't feel so alone. Her mum has left her advice and anecdotes, both of which are perfect for what Betty needs. Of course this story is sad at times - it left me sobbing into my duvet - but it's also happy and upbeat, similar to watching a sad film that makes you smile at the end. It shows what it's like to lose someone, but it also shows what it's like to come out the other side, still living and remembering.

Betty is a brilliant character, totally open and honest, even though she's confused about boys and other social issues. She has a great circle of friends, a fantastic dad and all the support she could need, though she still gets herself into a couple of dodgy situations. She's level headed though and soon comes to her senses about certain people - in the end, experiencing the bad along with the good is the only way to learn!

I really like this series and its 'clean teen' approach. It reminds me of when I was a teenager with my head buried in a Louise Rennison book, simultaneously laughing and groaning in embarrassment at what was about to befall my favourite character. McLachlan has successfully tapped into that mindset and she does it very well - I can't think of a better contemporary series for teens right now, and I'm already looking forward to the next book. Bring it on!


Denton Little's Deathdate
Denton Little's Deathdate
by Lance Rubin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Denton Little's Deathdate, 12 April 2015
This book is an unusual, darkly-comic look at death and what it means to die. Death is still a subject people don't like to talk about, even though it touches every single one of us, but Lance Rubin has taken said subject and completely turned it on its head. There's no death taboo here - it's happening, and that's just how it is. So deal with it.

I found this whole attitude completely refreshing, not to mention fascinating. Everyone in this future world knows their deathdates - the date when they will die - they just don't know how it will happen. I personally alternated between wishing I too could know my deathdate and hoping I never did, my opinion changing with every chapter. It'd be cool, right? You could plan everything and know what was coming. But would that knowledge make your life better or worse? Thankfully it's not something we'll ever have to worry about, but for Denton Little this day is what his whole life has been leading up to.

Now Denton is a funny guy, self-deprecating, fiercely loyal and as stupid as any other seventeen-year-old boy out there. The only difference for him is that his deathdate is tomorrow, so he has very little of his life left to actually live. He chooses to spend it with family and friends, right up until the moment when things start to get REALLY weird and his deathdate suddenly seems more dangerous than it ever did before. Seriously, as if he hasn't got enough to cope with, he's dodging death left, right and centre. Poor guy.

Lance Rubin has written a really funny book with Denton Little's Deathdate, but I don't mean the kind of funny that will have you rolling around clutching your sides. I mean sarcastic, dark, satirical humour, the kind you find in episodes of Six Feet Under - an underhanded comment as a dead body is being prepared for burial, or a situation you shouldn't laugh at but inwardly you do. That's what reading this book is like, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Denton Little's Deathdate employs my kind of humour, dark and unrelenting and also completely inappropriate in many instances. I love it. It's a highly unusual, intelligent book, posing many questions that can't possibly be answered and that, truthfully, don't even need to be. It makes you think, makes you laugh awkwardly and, ultimately, makes you glad to be alive. Three cheers for Denton!


Jessica's Ghost
Jessica's Ghost
by Andrew Norriss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jessica's Ghost, 12 April 2015
This review is from: Jessica's Ghost (Hardcover)
As with most of the books published by David Fickling, Jessica's Ghost is unusual, important and quietly powerful. It holds within its pages a message that teenagers need more than any other, and it delivers that message with great sensitivity and understanding. It's not at all what I was expecting from the book when I started reading it, but it quickly turned out to be so much better than even I initially thought it would be.

Now, talking about Jessica's Ghost in terms of plot and story is quite difficult to do without ruining a twist and spoiling everything. So I'm not going to talk about the story, other than to say that it's about a boy, Francis, who one day meets the ghost of Jessica, a girl who died and doesn't know how or why. The two become inseparable friends, they help each other, and they make a strong team. Lots more happens, of course, but that's for readers to uncover for themselves.

What I want to talk about in this review is the importance of this book and everything it stands for. It's a book that can, and will, make a difference, if only people read it. Teenagers, specifically, will benefit hugely from Jessica's story, as will adults who need a little help themselves. Schools will do everyone a favour by having a copy of this book readily available to their students, and parents can do the same for their children. It's one of those books that means so much, but to do that it really needs to find an audience.

Jessica's Ghost is beautifully written, sad and life-affirming, in more ways than one. Andrew Norriss has taken a scary, prevalent subject and done something different with it, something that will make readers take note. It's one of those books I would probably have missed had I not been sent a copy for review, and that would have been a great shame. It's books like this that make a difference in people's lives, and I know for a fact that Jessica's Ghost can. So please go and read it, then pass it on to a friend. Let them pass it on to one of their friends. See how far it gets. It might just save a life in the process.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Simon vs., 10 April 2015
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a little gem of a book. It's absolutely everything I want from a YA contemporary novel; it's written with humour, insight and understanding and, for me, it blows John Green out of the water. Simon is my new YA hero, Becky Albertalli is now firmly on my 'must-buy' list and I've been left with a terrible craving for Oreos.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot of this book, because it's one that you should really go into as spoiler-free as possible. It all unfolds better that way, and your expectations will be turned on their head by the time you get to the end. What I will say is that Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is all about the life of Simon as he navigates his teenage years, falling in love and coming out to his family and friends. It's an exceptionally well-told story, and by the last page I was grinning like an idiot. Truthfully, I wanted more pages. Much more.

What I want to know is: why can't all contemporary YA books be as intelligent, witty and realistic as this one? I know Albertalli isn't breaking new ground here - this has been done before - but I haven't enjoyed anyone's story as much as this for a long time. Simon is one of those characters who completely takes over everything, he gets in your head and stays there. His friends, too. They come as a huge, crazy package of general brilliance, and they show the reader just what it means to be a kind, accepting human being.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those novels that I think will take off in a big way, like Rainbow Rowell huge with fanart and Simon/Blue fanfiction. It has the potential to reach a whole generation of teenagers struggling with the same things as Simon and his friends, and a voice like his could make a massive difference to someone who's a little bit lost. Every self-confessed YA fan should read this one and fall in love with Simon and Blue just like I did. I sincerely hope we get to catch up with them again one day.


Mummy's Little Sunflowers
Mummy's Little Sunflowers
by Angela McAllister
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Mummy's Little Sunflowers, 5 April 2015
Anytime a new picture book arrives featuring illustrations by Alison Edgson I get excited and have to read it straight away. She's my all-time favourite picture book illustrator - her art is always so lovely and her characters so cute that it makes for a wonderful reading experience. Mummy's Little Sunflowers is the latest of these books to hit my post box and it's as brilliant as I was expecting it to be!

Angela McAllister has penned this story about two little mice, Scurry and Scamp, who want to give their mummy a nice funflower (that's a sunflower to me and you). Scamp eats the only seed meaning the two nice have to go searching for more, which leads them to have a big adventure or two. The characters are memorable, the story is heartwarming and it really shows the bond between families - just lovely!

Mummy's Little Sunflowers is one of the best picture books I've read so far this year and is one I'm sure I'll read again and again. The illustrations are all amazing - they're bright and eye-catching - and the story itself is one that will appeal to lots of tiny funflower enthusiasts. This one is a must-read for picture book fans!


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