‘The Hidden Princess’ by Katy Moran

259p 2014 Walker Books Publisher

51wdpscf-jl-_sx323_bo1204203200_Ever since Lissy was trapped deep underground in the halls of the Hidden by her father the Swan King, six years ago, her younger sister Connie has been told by her family that Lissy died. They thought it was best for her, as they wanted to protect her from the reality that her sister is half Hidden, half mortal.

Lately, Connie has been having dreams of a trapped boy, pleading for her to help him. He tells her that all she has to do to free him is to take down one of the iron crosses in her home, Hopesay Reach. Connie doesn’t know that taking just one of the iron crosses down will open up the gateway to the halls of the Hidden. She doesn’t know that Lissy’s captor, her father the Swan King, will release a deadly plague. All she knows is that the boy seems so sad, so beautiful, that she does as he bids her.

With the gateway open, what will happen? Will Lissy be free now, or will she still have to stay with the Hidden forever, with no chance of escape?

The Hidden Princess by Katy Moran was brilliant and it was the perfect sequel to Hidden Among Us. It continued the story, and tells us what happened to Joe, Larkspur, Connie and of course Lissy. There was a very interesting new character, and I really enjoyed reading about him too. The way Katy Moran writes, exciting and mysterious, is perfect if you’re looking for a thriller that makes you sad, happy and thoughtful all at the same time. I definitely recommend both Hidden Among Us and The Hidden Princess.

‘Princess Academy’ by Shannon Hale

314p 2005 Bloomsbury USA Childrens Bought

51p5mm9jgrl-_sx313_bo1204203200_1On Mt. Eskel, Miri Larendaughter has always been babied by her Pa, ever since her mother died soon after giving birth to her. For reasons unknown, Miri’s Pa doesn’t allow her to do the quarry work like all the other villagers and her sister; instead she is left at home to take care of the small house and goats.

Before winter arrives, traders come up the mountain in their wagons to barter their lowland foodstuffs for the villages’ main source of income, the quarried rock, linder. This year, a court official scales the mountain with the traders. He brings the shocking news that all the Mt. Eskel girls under the age of eighteen have been selected to go to a new Princess Academy for a year. The academy was created to help the prince of Danland pick his bride. Miri’s sister Marda is too old to go, so Miri will be away from her family for the first time. She is not confident about leaving home, but the chance of a brighter future for her small family beckons.

The only teacher at the Princess Academy, Tutor Olana, is harsh and unfair. At the Princess Academy, Miri doesn’t have many friends. She’s always been a loner in her village as she didn’t work in the quarry, so she didn’t really know the other girls well before they came to the academy. She slowly begins to make friends with 15 year old Britta, who moved up to Mt. Eskel from the lowlands only recently. When Miri learns to read and write in the long weeks at the academy, her eyes are opened up to the world outside of Mt Eskel, and how her village can profit more in their trade of linder.

At the end of the princess academy year, there is a ball, and Miri is crowned academy princess, the best student and the one with the highest hopes of winning the prince’s favour. Miri dances and talks with the prince, and finds him to be a nice person, but she can’t really stop thinking about Peder, her childhood playmate and crush. After the ball, the prince leaves the academy without picking his bride, and the girls have to over-winter once more.

But when a group of desperate bandits break into the academy, assuming that the prince is still there, everyone’s life is put in danger. How will the girls escape, and will one of them finally be chosen to be the new princess?

I loved Princess Academy by Shannon Hale the moment I started reading. The story is wonderfully woven and the characters made me feel for them and want to stand at their sides cheering. Shannon Hale is one of my favourite fantasy authors and she really excelled in Princess Academy. Beautifully crafted, and perfect to curl up with on a cold winter night.

I have yet to read the third book in the Princess Academy series, which only came out in March 2015, but the second book, Princess Academy: Palace of Stone is another great story that I would definitely recommend.

‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ by Michelle Magorian

304p 1981 Puffin Bought

When Willie Beech is evacuated out of London during the Second World War, he is a scared, sickly, young boy who has always been mistreated by his god-fearing single mother. His mother wishes him to stay with a religious person, so Willie is placed with the widower Mr Tom Oakley, who takes care of the church in the village of Little Weirwold.

At first, Willie is nervous of old Mr Tom, who has a gruff personality, but the man slowly shows himself to be more soft-hearted then he is perceived, and he truly begins to care for Willie. At his school in London, Willie never learned to read, having been thought too stupid and was therefore ignored by his tutors. Mr Tom realises that Willie can’t read, and along with the teachers in the over-crowded village school, he helps Willie to learn. Willie slowly becomes friends with fellow evacuee Zach and also George and the twins: Carrie and Ginnie, from the village.

William, as he wants to be called, gradually begins to fit into life in Little Weirwold, and is treated kindly by everyone in the village. As he spends more time with Mr Tom and his new friends, he begins to develop a personality that had previously always been squashed by his mother. He discovers a talent for drawing, and enjoys learning to read and write. But when a letter from his mother mysteriously summons him back to a bombarded London, he leaves Mr Tom, who has become like a father to him, and returns to his old miserable life with his mother. Will things have changed for the better for William?

I first read Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian a few years ago when my friend lent it to me, raving about how great it was. I’ve since bought my own copy and have read it over ten times, I enjoy it that much.

The plot is amazing, suspenseful and heart-warming at the same time, and the characters are written wonderfully. I think the style of writing is great and the descriptions perfectly describe the emotions that the evacuees must’ve been having. I think Goodnight Mr Tom is an important book to read about the Second World War, and how it was dealt with in both the city and country.

‘A Tiger Too Many’ by Antony Wootten

184p 2011 Eskdale Publishing Received as a Gift

Jill’s older brother Pete works at London Zoo as a zoo-keeper and Jill loves spending time with the animals he works with. Her favourite animals are the tigers, and she has a special bond with the oldest, Ronny.

When World War II breaks out Pete tells her that the Zoo can’t afford the medicine for the sick animals, like Ronny, and will be putting them down. Jill is distraught, and tries to plead Ronny’s case to the head of the zoo, but it is explained to her that it is just too expensive.

The head of the zoo, Dr. Barker, is sympathetic, but also has exciting news up his sleeve. He and Pete reveal to Jill that a new baby tiger, that was rejected by his mother because he was a runt, has been brought to London Zoo. Jill names the baby Ronny 2 and loves him as much as his name-sake.

 Pete is drafted to fight in the war, and a few months later he is reported as missing in action. The only thing that makes Jill happy now is Ronny 2. But when her mother sends her away to the country as an evacuee, Jill loses the young tiger too. In her temporary home, Jill is deeply unhappy. Her host family are cruel and she is treated like an unpaid servant. Missing her mother, Pete, and Ronny 2, and aware of the bombings in London, Jill desperately writes letters to try and find out what has happened to her loved ones. But when no reply comes, what can she do?

My mom had A Tiger Too Many by Antony Wootten signed by the author (yay!) when she bought it at the recently closed Thatcham Family Bookshop for my 11th birthday, and I have adored the book ever since.  At first, the amazing cover draws you in, and then the story keeps you gasping with shock, worry and delight. I fell in love with the characters and didn’t want to put the book down. The story really makes you think about the plight of the animals in captivity and the experiences of evacuees sent to unsuitable homes. Highly recommend this!

‘Small Blue Thing’ by S. C. Ransom

314p 2011 Nosy Crow Library

When 16 year old Alex tries to free a trapped swan on the banks of the River Thames after her school exams, she accidentally finds a bracelet buried deep beneath the muddy sand. It’s a beautiful silver bracelet and has a gorgeous blue stone set in it. Alex thinks she keeps seeing flashes of light in the stone, and not long after finding the bracelet, an image of a handsome boy wearing a dark cloak appears in her mind.

 Alex ignores the strange ‘hallucinations’, but one day in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London she sees the teenager right in front of her, wearing a bracelet similar to her own. No one seems to see him. She tries to talk to him, but can’t hear him replying, and upon touching him, her hand goes straight through him. Then, he disappears. Later on, she sees him again in a computer screen, standing by her shoulders, and she’s convinced that he’s trying to talk to her.

 Alex tries to figure out why she keeps seeing this mysterious stranger, and why she can’t talk to him. In her bedroom, she tries to mentally summon him and then sees him, smiling over her shoulder in her mirror. Together, they discover that when their bracelets are close, almost touching, she can hear him speak. The bracelet is what allows Alex to see the boy, Callum. Callum tells her that he drowned in the River Thames. He fell in at a certain place, where the Thames meets the River Fleet and that caused him to become a dirge; not dead, but not alive either.

As Alex begins to talk to Callum, she feels that he’s unlike any other boy her age; he is kind, smart, handsome, but also lonely in his long life as a dirge. Alex realises that she has feelings that run deeper than friendship for Callum. She thinks he loves her too, but when her life is put in danger by Callum’s sister, who is also a dirge, she begins to question his true feelings.

I adored Small Blue Thing by S. C. Ransom. The gripping complex plot and the wonderful writing held me spell-bound until the last page. The characters are intriguing and I felt torn once I finished reading. I love that while this book is a romance story, there is much suspense and mystery, which makes you desperate to find out what happens next- I immediately reserved the next two books in the trilogy at my local library! A fabulous read.

‘Sky Hawk’ by Gill Lewis

226p 2011 Oxford University Press Borrowed, and then bought!

11 year old Callum has never seen an osprey in his life, and there haven’t been any near his family’s Scottish farm for over a hundred years. The endangered birds are extremely rare, and nest sites are a closely guarded secret.

One spring day, when out on the farm with his friends Rob and Euan, Callum has a chance encounter with Iona McNair, who claims, even though she is new to the village, that she knows more about Callum’s farm than he does. Callum and his friends dismiss her, but he agrees to let her try and prove it to him. The next day, he has to concede that Iona is right, after she shows him the most amazing sight: an osprey nest right on his own farm.

When the female osprey has a terrible accident, Callum and Iona have to share their secret with Callum’s family and Hamish, the local nature ranger, who rescues and GPS tags her. The two new friends name the magnificent bird Iris and make a pact to always keep her safe. Over the summer, from their tree-house near the loch, they watch the adult osprey tending to their three chicks.

 At the end of the summer, right before the birds are due to migrate, an unexpected tragedy occurs.  Callum is distraught and with only his pact with Iona to cling to, he continues with the plan to track Iris on her migration back to Africa for the winter. But when her GPS signal is lost, how will Callum know what has happened to Iris?

My friend lent me Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis over two years ago saying I ‘had’ to read it, and once again, her recommendation was spot on. It is a beautifully crafted story, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It really felt like I was running around the highlands of Scotland with Callum and Iona, watching the amazing birds of prey.

I don’t think it is possible for me to tire of this book; two years after first reading it, I still pick it up. I always become so immersed in the story and the writing is absolutely fabulous.