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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: Witchfall by Victoria Lamb

More Tudor Witch romance, intrigue and danger 

If you enjoyed Witchstruck at all (as I definitely did), even the slightest bit, you must read Witchfall. Victoria Lamb has ramped things up for the second instalment of her YA Tudor Witch trilogy: more complexity to the romance, more shadowy danger to our beloved protagonist as well as more historical reference.

The settings in this novel are great and beautifully done. The politicised atmosphere at court and the more rustic country setting are both rendered clearly for the reader, as well as the dreadful vision which plagues poor Meg more and more through the novel. Dangers are definitely lurking everywhere, and this is a very tense read.

It's difficult to say much for a sequel without giving away spoilers, but you should know that the plotting in this novel is first rate. The tension is managed exquisitely, and even when you are sure you know what's going to happen next, there are surprises and twists in store. I am also enjoying the cast of characters created in this series and am very much looking forward to seeing how it is all tied together in the end.

I think the second book in a trilogy must be quite difficult to get right and I am always grumpy with a book which leaves too many loose ends. Witchfall skilfully draws together threads that were introduced in Witchstruck without them having felt like loose ends, and also weaves in (and ties off) new ones effectively. There is clearly mileage to explore and conclude in the next novel, but this is no irritating cliffhanger.

Overall, if you enjoy historical fiction and/or witchy books and/or YA romance, I would definitely recommend this series.

Goodreads Summary

London, 1554. At the court of Mary Tudor, life is safe for no one. The jealous, embittered queen sees enemies all around her, and the infamous Spanish Inquisition holds the court in its merciless grip. But Meg Lytton has more reason to be afraid than most - for Meg is a witch, and exposure would mean certain death. Even more perilous, Meg is secretly betrothed to the young priest Alejandro de Castillo; a relationship which they must hide at all costs.

In the service of the queen's sister, Princess Elizabeth, Meg tries to use her powers to foretell her mistress's future. But when a spell goes terribly wrong, and Meg begins to have horrifying dreams, she fears she has released a dark spirit into the world, intent on harming her and those around her.

Out now from Corgi Children's Books
Visit the author's website for more info or check out this blog tour interview from last year
My grateful thanks to the publisher for allowing me a review copy via NetGalley

Friday, 11 October 2013

Booktrust Top 100 Children's Books: Which Have You Read?

Booktrust have compiled a list of the top 100 children's books, naming 25 each in 4 age categories. If you head over to their site, you can vote for one in each category and help them arrive at overall winners.

* = title I have read
Top Titles for 0-5 year olds
*Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
*The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Gorilla by Anthony Browne
Would You Rather? by John Burningham
*Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
*Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
*Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill
*Dogger by Shirley Hughes
*Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
*The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
*Not now, Bernard by David McKee
*Meg and Mog by Helen Nicholl & Jan Pienkowski
*We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
*I Want My Potty! by Tony Ross
*Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
*The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
*The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont & Raymond Briggs
19/25 for the 0-5 category

Top titles for 6-8 year olds
*The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
*Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
*A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
*The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley
*Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Clarice Bean, That's Me by Lauren Child
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell
*The BFG by Roald Dahl
*The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff
*My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny
*Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman & Caroline Binch
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
The Queen's Nose by Dick King-Smith
The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
*Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne
*The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
*The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
*Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon & Tony Ross
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
*Charlotte's Web by E B White
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake

15/25 for the 6-8 category

Top Titles for 9-11 year olds
*The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
*Skellig by David Almond
*Carrie's War by Nina Bawden
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
*The Witches by Roald Dahl
*Matilda by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
Flour Babies by Anne Fine
Once by Morris Gleitzman
The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé
*Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
*Stig of the Dump by Clive King
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
*Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
*The Borrowers by Mary Norton
*Truckers by Terry Pratchett
*Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
*Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling
*Holes by Louis Sachar
*The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
*Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

16/25 for the 9-11 category

Top Titles for 12-14 year olds and beyond
Watership Down by Richard Adams
*Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
*Forever by Judy Blume
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Junk by Melvin Burgess
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
*The Owl Service by Alan Garner
Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
*The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
Witch Child by Celia Rees
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Fellowship of The Ring by J R R Tolkien

5/25 for the 12-14+ category

Wow, I would not have predicted that the 12+ category would be the one I had read fewer of, but there we are! I think 55/100 isn't bad. I think it may be because quite a few of the titles on the list fall between the time I was in this age bracket and the time I started reading a lot of teen fiction as an adult.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Popping in to wave and give a quick update

I'm still in the midst of extreme busy-ness, and have been struggling somewhat, but I'll be back very soon. Next Friday, the 11th October, I'll be relaunching regular posts with reviews and teachery/readerly/writerly content.

Thanks for being patient with me. I think all bloggers hit a wall at some point and I've just not had the time for posting lately - much textbookish work as well as a new school post. Sometimes, something has to give and this time, it's the blog (better than my sanity, I hope you'll agree!)
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