Tuesday, 5 January 2016

My life in books

Over the Christmas holiday's I was able to get quite a lot of reading done, but my main focus this week is Michael Morpurgo book's.

As a kid I always loved reading his books for their animal element, one of my faviourite was always adolphus tips. So when my husband asked me before Christmas, what I would like, a collection of ten Michael Morpurgo books, that I had seen on Ebay, was near the top of my list.

There is nothing better than reciving a load of great books for Christmas and I made fast work of them, with only two still left to read.

What I love most about Michael's books, is that they feel real and are often told in away that you learn along with one of the characters in the book, all about an older characters life. He is great at keeping his writing simple, but brilliant. Meaning that adults and children alike can enjoy them.

All of the books I read over Christmas were nice easy reads, which is just what you want when everythings a bit hectic around the holiday period.

War often features heavily in Michael Morpurgo's books and I think it's a great way to open childrens eyes to that paticular part of our history.

You can liken his books to sitting down with an elderly relative and listening to their adventures, and I paticulary like how often, there is some follow on info about the war, or the stories within the book. Which is very interesting when you realise that quite often, parts of his stories are based on true events.

I won't go into lots of detail about all his books here now, or this post would be never ending. But what I will do instead is include the cover images and bio's, that you can decide for yourselves, which ones might take your interest.

What I will say, though, is if you've never read a Michael Morpurgo book, then you really need to give it a go.


"Something's up. Something big too, very big. At school, in the village, whoever you meet, it's all anyone talks about. It's like a sudden curse has come down on us all. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see the sun again."
It's 1943, and Lily Tregenze lives on a farm, in the idyllic seaside village of Slapton. Apart from her father being away, and the 'townie' evacuees at school, her life is scarcely touched by the war. Until one day, Lily and her family, along with 3000 other villagers, are told to move out of their homes – lock, stock and barrel.
Soon, the whole area is out of bounds, as the Allied forces practise their landings for D-day, preparing to invade France. But Tips, Lily's adored cat, has other ideas – barbed wire and keep-out signs mean nothing to her, nor does the danger of guns and bombs. Frantic to find her, Lily makes friends with two young American soldiers, who promise to help her. But will she ever see her cat again? Lily decides to cross the wire into the danger zone to look for Tips herself…
Now, many years later, as Michael is reading his Grandma Lily's diary, he learns about The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips – and wonders how one adventurous cat could still affect their lives sixty years later.

Joey was the last working horse on the farm, and the apple of Grandpa’s eye. In War Horse, Joey was sent away from the farm to be a warhorse in WWI. Grandpa had joined the cavalry in order to find, and fight, with Joey. Farm Boy brings us forward fifty years with Grandpa not only telling his grandson, Joey’s story but also a ‘shameful secret’ which he has held for years…
The story is set in Iddesleigh in Devon and lovingly evokes the bonds between farm and farmer; grandson and grandfather. The spirit of rural life is superbly captured in both Michael Morpurgo’s writing and Michael Foreman’s illustrations. An irresistible title from acclaimed author-illustrator partnership.

Joy and heartbreak combine in this bittersweet tale of a champion greyhound’s journey through life – and from owner to owner…
“The sack wasn't just drifting gently along like everything else, it was turning of its own accord. There was definitely something inside it, struggling against the side of the plastic bag, kicking at it, squeaking and squealing in terror. He had no idea what it might be, only that it was alive and in danger of drowning.”
When Patrick saves a litter of greyhound puppies from the canal, he can’t bear to hand them all over to the RSPCA. He pleads with his parents: couldn’t he just keep one of them? But nothing will convince them and Patrick cries himself to sleep – only to be woken by a greyhound puppy licking his face!
Patrick christens his puppy Best Mate, and that’s what he becomes. Patrick’s favourite thing is to watch Best Mate running at full stretch on the heath, a speeding bullet, a cheetah-dog. Until one day Best Mate is kidnapped by a greyhound trainer, and begins a new life as a champion race dog. Suzie, the greyhound trainer’s step-daughter, loves Best Mate on first sight and gives him a new name, Bright Eyes. But what will happen when he can’t run any more?


A powerful novel from Michael Morpurgo, the nation’s favourite storyteller…
Never have Aman and his mother needed a friend more than when a Springer Spaniel appears – thin and war-ravaged – in the mouth of their Afghan cave. Nursed back to health by Aman, the dog becomes a constant companion, a shadow, and that's what Aman decides to call her.
But life in Afghanistan becomes more dangerous by the moment. Eventually, Aman, his mother and Shadow find the courage to embark upon the treacherous journey from war-torn Afghanistan to the safely of a relative's home in Manchester, England.
But how far can Shadow lead them? And in this terrifying new world, is anywhere really safe…?

A thrilling and moving novel about an extraordinary animal caught up in a very human war, for anyone who loved The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips or The Butterfly Lion…
By the award-winning former Children’s Laureate and author of War Horse.
Dresden, 1945. Elizabeth and Karli's mother works at the zoo, where her favourite animal is a young elephant named Marlene. Then the zoo director tells her that the dangerous animals – including the elephants – must be shot before the town is bombed. Unable to give Marlene up, their mother moves her into the back garden to save her… and then the bombs start to fall.
Their home destroyed, the whole family must flee the bombed-out city and through the perilous, snow-covered landscape, all the while avoiding the Russian troops who are drawing ever closer. It would be hard enough to do, without an elephant in tow…


A heart-lifting, heartbreaking story by Michael Morpurgo, the second-biggest children’s author in the UK.
In the Imperial War Museum is a wooden Dachshund, carved by a German prisoner of war for the children of the British family with which he stayed after the fighting ended. This is the story of how it got there…
When the Bismarck sinks, one of the only German survivors is taken on board a British ship as a prisoner of war. Sent to live with a host family, Walter must adapt to a new way of life, in the heart of an enemy country. Gradually, though, he finds a friend in ten-year-old Grace. So when the time finally comes to go back to Germany, it’s an emotional parting, with Walter leaving Grace with only a carved wooden dog to remember him by. The question is, will Walter and Grace ever meet again? In 1966, with the World Cup coming to Britain, that opportunity may just have come along.


Inspired by the true story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army.
A novel about families, identity and loss by bestselling award-winning author of WAR HORSE.
Michael doesn’t remember his father, an RAF pilot lost in the war. And his French mother, heartbroken and passionate, doesn’t like to talk about her husband. But then Auntie Snowdrop gives Michael a medal, followed by a photograph, which begin to reveal a hidden history.
A story of love and loss.
A story that will change everything – and reveal to Michael who he really is…


I've enjoyed reading these Michael Morpurgo books so much that I intend to slowly collect all of his books for both my son and I to enjoy. 

Another book I enjoyed over the Christmas Holiday's is Snow Globe by Jeanne Skartsiaris. I was given an ARC of this book by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. 

I have to admit that when I got this book, I was expecting something entirely different from what I actually got. I had in my mind that it was going to be a magical fantasy when in actuality the story in very much real life centered. 

Aja, (pronounced Asia) is a teenage girl who just keeps getting things wrong. Even when she is trying to do what's right. I adored Aja from the off, her teenage frustrations cried out to me from the page and had me fighting her corner almost instantly. She resonated with me as a person, as did most of the characters in this book and I think that is the first thing I noticed about Jeanne's writing, she get's people. 

As always I don't like to give too much away about the story, so when I am done, I'll add the backcover blurb so you can get an idea of just what this book is about, without me giving away any spoilers. 

Jeanne writes in a really clean and easy to follow way. Which makes Snow Globe a book that flows beautifully, without any of those dragging moments, where you're practically begging for the author to just get on with it. 

It's an easy book to become absorbed in and a hard book to let go of once you are done. Even now, a day after finishing this book, I am still sat here wondering what might have happened to the characters after the final pages. So much so that I would love to see Aja, her mum, Walker and all the people at the old folks home again, in another of Jeannes books. 

If you're interested in learning more about this book check out the blurb below. 


Troubled teen. Juvenile delinquent. Aja Harmon is familiar with the labels. She and her mom live like gypsies, moving every year. Her mom works as a psychic and Aja fights to suppress her own intuitive abilities because the power scares her. 
After losing a cool job at Abercrombie & Fitch, the only work Aja can find is as a waitress at an elderly residence home. Slowly she begins to enjoy working with the seniors. Unlikely bonds forge, making their worlds bigger while shrinking the generation gap. 
If only a corrupt police officer hadn't set his sights on Aja—a beautiful girl with a sketchy past. An easy target to add to his twisted collection. 
Snow Globe is a story about a teen who tries to do the right thing but continues to find trouble with her smart mouth and fearless attitude. Working at the assisted living facility, Aja learns compassion and how important yet fragile life is.

There's a Dragon in My Dinner by Tom Nicoll

I finished this book this morning and had to squeeze it in. As I absolutely loved it, so much so that I've actually stuck it straight on pre-order for my son, well I say my son, but it's kinda for me too because this is such a great book. 

The author writes in a funny, entertaining way that kids will love and Sarah Horne has illistrated the book beautifully. The book follows the story of a boy, who as the title suggests, finds a Dragon in his Dinner! but not just any Dragon, a talking, intelligent Mini Dragon called pan. 

All manner of fun ensues, in this book which kids will adore. I know my son will not only love this book but be keen for more Pan adventures in the future. This is a book that you should buy, read, gift and share with every child you know, and perhaps a few adults too. You know, the one's who aren't afraid to indulge their child side.

I really cannot recommend this book enough and feel so privileged to have been accepted to read an arc of this book, via Net Galley. Oh! how I love thee, Net Galley. So go on, Pre-order your copy now, then go order a few more, for all the kids in your world. You won't regret it. 

This one is due for publication on the 11th of February 2016, so there really isn't long to wait, if you want to know more, check out the back cover blurb below:
As Eric empties the cartons from Friday night's Chinese takeaway, he catches a flash of green and spots a puff of smoke...So Pan - a Mini Dragon - enters his life, and proceeds to turn it upside down. How is Eric going to explain the trail of devastation caused by one creature not much bigger than a spring roll?


It wasn't all great reads this Christmas period; however, and it's rare that I find a book I don't like but my final read definitely falls into that category. I got this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review and so here it is. 
Castles in the air by Alison Ripley Cubitt & Molly Ripley. 

The blurb for the book makes you think that some family scandal will come to light and perhaps it does, but I wouldn't know, because after forcing myself to make it to the halfway point, I just couldn't go any further. Molly was incredibly pretentious and dare I say, up herself and for the first half of the book I read boring letter after boring letter with a few equally boring travel logs thrown in. 

I didn't like Molly and by the time I quit on this book, I didn't like Alison all that much either. Especially how she liked to jump in partway through a letter to tell you things you could often figure out for yourself simply from reading on. 

On top of that, Molly was clearly involved in a very inappropriate relationship with a much older man and it was painful to watch her try and be smart and clever while writing to him.

The reality is, that there are far more interesting accounts of this period out there than that of this seemingly, spoiled little girl. 

I am sad to say that I could not find a single good thing to say about this book and that I really wish I'd never read it. 

Still we are all different and so if you're interested in learning more, here's the blurb:


An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother's secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same. 

After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly's relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding? 

Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.

The writer in Alison can't stop until she reveals the story of Molly's past.
But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly's seemingly ordinary life?

As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother's story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future? 


Well, thats it from me and this week's My life in books. I hope you were able to find something that tempted you to go out and read. If you'd like to discuss any of the books above, don't hesitate to leave a comment. 

Love and hugs
Joss xx

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