Friday, 8 November 2019

Nose Knows by Emmanuelle Figueras & Claire De Gastold (Non-fiction, Children's, 9/10E)

 October 2019, What On Earth Books, 38 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Summary from press release
 In this fun flap-filled book, you'll learn how smell plays a key role in the lives of animals and how it shapes their behaviour and relationships. Each flap reveals the hidden side to each environment only perceptible through smell, providing a clear layering of information and contributing to the element of surprise throughout the book.

Nayu's thoughts
I am so happy - somehow there are no snakes in this book, which is brilliant! I had to cautiously open each page in case there was a giant sn*ke staring back at me. Yay! Although this probably marketed at children, in all honesty when it comes to non-fiction I prefer so-called children's books because they explain the facts in a fun way. There are ever so many facts crammed in this very big book! Many I didn't know, as well as some I had forgotten from my science lessons many moons ago. 

I like how every aspect you could possibly think of about noses eg size and shape as well as ones you wouldn't automatically think of eg communication are explored in this book. Each page explores a main fact about noses, with extra facts sometimes along the bottom of the page which I liked the format of. The illustration style is of a similar colour to actual animals so looks realistic. As expected us humans are not very incredible with our noses. Not every animal has a nose as a nose: by that I mean there is one that has a nose in it's beak! 

I liked how dotted throughout the book were flaps to lift that showed a different aspect of the animal in question and how they used their nose. This is why the book didn't get full marks as one or two were a bit scary for me which I hadn't been expecting the first time of seeing one, and it wasn't always easy figuring out how to lift up the flaps: I am the first person using this book so nearly all were wedged into the page: there isn't like a small indent that provides a means to lift the flap up. This book would get full marks for the amount and quality factual info about animals. I learn an awful lot, and I know children whose school I am donating this to will probably like their science lessons a bit more because of how fun a read it is. My favourite animals with interesting noses are bees and sharks! 

See more gorgeous artwork on Claire's website which is in French. 

Suggested read

Thursday, 7 November 2019

It's A No-Money Day by Kate Milner (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)

 October 2019, Barrington Stoke, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Barrington Stoke
Mum works really hard, but today there is no money left and no food in the cupboards. Forced to visit the local foodbank, Mum feels ashamed that they have to rely on the kindness of others. Maybe one day things will be different but for now together they brighten up even the darkest of days.

Nayu's thoughts 
I think it is highly important that every situation which can affect a person makes it into picture books, so children learn up knowing it is okay to not have much money. It isn't easy, and it sure isn't fair to be unable to have favourite food when using a food bank, but despite the difficulty the girl's mother gives her so much love and makes life as fun as possible. 

These days it is heartbreaking that so many people have to use foodbanks. I hear a lot are ashamed to use them, as it can feel like they have failed to provide for themselves and/or their family. But food banks are there to give food when people fall on hard times. Children have to endure food poverty, and I really hope this book which shows the girl is no different in any other way to her classmates, will show readers that it is okay to use a food bank when you need to. The food can be rather varied, and you can't expect to have the same food because the items are entirely relient on what people donate. 

I have seen a few programs on how food banks work and despite the circumstances that they are needed for, they are run really well. It is easy to donate, some supermarkets have drop off boxes where you can put items in. It isn't just for humans, pet food goes in too! The muted style of illustration does have splashes of colour which I think signifies the fun that the girl's mum finds, as well as the kindness of all those at the food bank. I think a brighter colour palette wouldn't have hit home as much as the greyer one does, as it somehow conveys how hard life is for the girl's mum, who does her best to shield her daughter from their poverty. I pray one day food banks will be a thing of the past. No idea how to make that happen when it feels like idiots are in charge of the country. 

Find out more on Kate's website.

Suggested read
Other emotive books where colour is significant includes Bob's Blue Period by Marion Deuchars (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Ant Clancy Games Detective by Ruth Morgan (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

 July 2019, Firefly Press, 202 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Firefly  Press
Ray-Chay is the new virtual reality game that everyone’s playing and the world loves its eccentric billionaire creator, Kody Crunch.

Ant loves gaming and feels like the only person who can't get into Ray-Chay. But when something goes very wrong with the game, Ant is determined to help.

Can Ant and his friends work out the real deadly game behind the game?

Nayu's thoughts
If you follow me on Twitter you know how much I love gaming, which made this an automatic must-read despite a boy being the protagonist. (I prefer girls as protagonists). I have never played a virtual reality game - I don't want to, because I think it would make my motion sickness kick into action, and would probably be too heavy for my head (I have sensitive skin and any weight feels ten times heavier than it actually is). However reading is not VR playing, and I was really intrigued by the synopsis. 
It sounded a little like the premise to the anime/game/maybe light novel of Sword Art Online series, where players are stuck in a VR world. The game in this novel, Ray-Chay which doesn't appeal to me as a title, sounds quite an intimidating game, and I wouldn't want to play it. I loved how Ant preferred the original game which came before Ray-Chay. It is a positive point to make that just because a game isn't super flashy and is older in terms of when it gets released doesn't mean it is rubbish. Almost all games are great to someone! 

Plus Ant gets a dragon, not just any dragon, but one who has been with him on all his adventures, and through events I am not divulging Prahdal the dragon becomes a key part of the Ray-Chay adventure. She is strong, she knows Ant's character, Tarn, so well that she doesn't need much instruction on what to do. There is a horrific moment in the story that had me in tears but I promise there is eventualy a happy ending, so please don't get too upset over that part. 

The idea of someone malicious using a game to try and control people makes for an extremely good story. It was a bit scary just how many people - both Ant's classmates and school friends and adults got into Ray-Chay. I liked seeing how a negative player like Griff had a big role to play in the story. His greed to be the best and have the rarest monsters led to him causing chaos when he accesses his mother's game play. 

It really hurt him that his mother (who is female) was better than him. How dare she! I loved that his mum loved gaming so much, and worked hard to get where she was. It showed Griff that girls and adults can be great gamers! And have cute outfits in games. Which Ant discovers in a slightly different way too. Although of the two I think Ant would know girls can be great gamers, a view that has been problematic in gaming history. 

I was genuinely scared when stuff began happening in the story, because the monsters seem scary and I had no clue how Ant and his unlikely group of friends would save the day. They both did and didn't, which is why I am waiting patiently for book 2 which is heavily hinted at by the ending. The gaming fun has just begun! (Sorry, couldn't resist the lousy pun). Definitely one for my reread shelf.

Suggested read
A great adventure read, this time with a female protagonist is Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game by Amanda Wills (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

Monday, 4 November 2019

Be A Narwhal by Sarah Ford and Anita Mangan (Non-fiction, Inspirational, 9/10E)

Cute cover!
 October 2019, Spruce Press, 96 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Octopus books
Let Narwhal show you the true meaning of a successful life. He is always prepared to put in the hours, whether he’s nurturing his sea anemones or doing a big presentation to the reef. Feisty and passionate, Narwhal is no back-seat driver - he’s always bursting with ideas, from how to break the ice at parties to how to tickle a fish. And when all around is in meltdown, he’ll stay in control and bounce back with a cool head and  a calm heart.
Nayu's thoughts
This is at least the 3rd book in the series that I have read, and it is as entertaining as the rest. I love narwhals because they look like unicorn dolphins/whales, a highly cool combo! I love the rainbow coloured horn on this narwhal. 

The advice is given 98% brilliant. I like the extra info at the front filled with positivity and making sure that you are you, and you don't copy people. Being yourself is the best you that you can be! Every page has an illustration with an important quote, some are funny, all are true and great when you need a pick me up. 

The reason this didn't get full marks is because I disagreed with one point Narhwal makes, this one. 
Comforting things are comforting for a reason, and I see no point whatsover in giving up what makes you happy - especially plushies! And on a later page Narwahl has a different plushy, so clearly it didn't get rid of everything comfy.  So this is the 2% that wasn't so brilliant for me. I did approve of a cat making an appearance, I marvelled the magic of books that let it breathe underwater., less so much the slight mutilation of said book. The little narwhal plushie was super cute! I want one. Narwhal has a positive attitude to live in general, even the parts that are less than rosey. 

Sarah and Anita have once again created a fun little read that I will reread many times over for life tips! 

Find out more cute illustrations on Anita's website.

Suggested read
Check out the other books in the series by Sarah and Anita including Be A Mermaid and Be A Llama by Sarah Ford and Anita Mangan (Non-Fiction, Inspirational, 10E/10E)

This book swam (flew) all the way to Australia for my cousin who loves mermaids! He loved it ^u^

This is one proud Llama!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Competition Winner for Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind by Eduard Shyfrin and Tomislav Tomic

Apologies for the delay in announcing the winner for Travels With Sushi: there weren't enough entries so only 1 winner was chosen - the other book will go to a reader who I know will hopefully enjoy it. The winner is...

Jade H! 

Many congratulations Jade! I've emailed you this morning to confirm the win and I am posting it to you later this morning. I hope you like it! 

I am not yet sure when the next competition will be, but I hope there is one before the end of the year. Thank you for supporting my blog and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Nayu's Gaming Time #25 Farming & pot throwing!

Wish I knew who drew this cutie!
Let's not look into how many months ago I last blogged about gaming - I was ill all summer which is a valid reason! I never stopped gaming though. Gaming is life! Well, a part of it. Maybe a big part. Okay okay a huge part! And I love it ^u^ 

Not my pic as I am doing this in a rush. My character looks cuter!
I am doing this quickly because I have to go out today and do a few errands (kind of), In gaming at the moment I am mostly farming. I am back on Stardew Valley trying out a forest farm since I like foraging. It means less farming space but I never had huge areas for crops, especially once I unlocked the greenhouse so I should be able to squeeze crops and animals in the space I do have. 

not my pic but I do have an alpaca (hidden by the title) and sheep, my character is the blonde girl. No pet penguin yet!
I am enjoying Story of Season Friends of Mineral Town which will be getting an English release somewhen. I am guessing next year but no date has been given. The Japanese version is so much fun! I will be reviewing it for Cubed3, the site I do a few game reviews, and I am looking to do a preview so I can chat about it sooner than next year. 

This is a picture I already had, it's not got the complete title on it but is almost the same game!
Despite it being a slightly controversial game as to what Harvest Moon/Story of Season fans think of it, I'm having a blast with the physical complete edition of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope. It was one of my first rental games, so I have played the story once, and now replaying it, looking forward to the extra dlc which includes both extra stories and clothes and other stuff! I am still marrying Gabriel, he is a sweetheart. 

No idea where this is as it isn't my image, I had it on my laptop and don't recognise the area!
I am enjoying Dragon Quest 11 special edition on Switch where I love throwing pots about, as well as Ni No Kuni,  
Is she a ghost? No idea! But Oliver does see her when others don't.
Atelier Lulua 

This game is so beautiful! I am playing it for review, played 4 chapters on PS4 and now on Nintendo Switch for convenience.
and other games. Yes I play a wide range of games at a given time. I enjoy game hopping! Gives me variety. I'm enjoying a few mobile games, Deresute, Love Live School Idol Festival and Love Live All Stars. You can always see the latest on my game progress on Twitter. I am active most days.

I'd love to hear what you are all playing! Getting to know some people on Twitter because of gaming which is nice. Have a super week!
Girl and artist unknown, but she looks so cute!

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Blog Tour: Grace-Ella: Witch Camp by Sharon Marie Jones and Adriana J Puglisi (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

30th September 2019, Firefly Press, 160 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Firefly Press
Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all. But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her, Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure. Will she be able to save her friends?

Nayu's thoughts
Despite not having read the first book in the series, Grace-Ella Spells For Beginners I didn't feel like I had missed out on anything important. 

I instantly loved Grace-Ella's relationship with her familiar, a cat called Mr Whiskins. Maybe it's because I adore cats, and have always wanted mine to talk, Mr Whiskins was the voice of reason for Grace-Ella. He helped her calm down during intense situations, which happen a few times in her adventures at Witch Camp. Mr Whiskins isn't perfect, he could be a bit more understanding of cats with less confidence, like Dilys's cat Dobbles

Apart from feeling that it was a bit weird everyone introduced themselves with two names, but Grace-Ella didn't say her surname, everything about the book was magical. Sometimes witch stories include aspects which I find gross, like bugs/sn*kes/etc. That was the case at this witch camp! It was a place I wanted to be, there was nothing horrid, none of the teachers were nasty. They may be strict but they were looking after young witches. One teacher in particular ended up being rather reasonable when Grace-Ella and her friends broke the rules. 

Speaking of friends I liked the fact that Grace-Ella could be herself with her friends at home, she didn't have to hide how she was a witch, and her new friends became true friends after a few mishaps. I was curious about Dilys's problem, she kept trying to say something to Grace-Ella but for one reason or another could never blurt it out, until Grace-Ella guessed it. I was completely shocked by Dilys's secret, it made total sense and I felt that she would be able to overcome her hurdle as the teachers would be able to help her with issue.

I laughed at Mati who was very much a witch with attitude, thinking she was going to be the best when she clearly wasn't. She needed to be humble, like Grace-Ella. Aisha is a likeable swot, and her high intelligence proves useful to the four girls who get to share a room together. I liked how there were beds for I the cats, although personally I expected them all to curl up on their respective mistress's bed - cats don't always use items bought for them for the original purpose! Trust me, my radiator cat bed is full of toys because my cat Belle refuses to sit on it. 

Something wonderful happens to Grace-Ella during witch camp, which makes her a bit different from the other witches in a way that made Mati envious. I suspected this would happen the moment the thing in question was introduced. I was pleased to be right, and I am eager to read the first book in the series,, Spells for Beginners, and find out what happens next to Grace-Ella in future books! 

Find out more on Sharon's website and follow her on Twitter. Please be sure to read her post about Ned dated 15th Octoeber 2019, it made me cry for the heartache Sharon and her family have gone through, and shows the goodwill of people trying to help another. 

Suggested read

Grace-Ella Witch Camp Chapter One: The Letter

It was Saturday evening and Grace-Ella was pottering with her potions in the summer house at the bottom of the garden of number 32, Tŷ Mynydd Close. 

‘I wish the letter for Witch Camp would arrive,’ she said, flopping down next to Mr Whiskins. ‘It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. Do you think it’s been lost in the post?’ 

A tap on the glass door interrupted her. Grace-Ella saw a very familiar silhouette, wearing a fur-trimmed deerstalker hat. Bedwyr! 

Bedwyr lived next door and was bonkers about bugs. He collected and studied them in his garden shed, otherwise known as his  ‘Bug Lab’.  

Bedwyr and Grace-Ella’s other best friend, Fflur, were the only people, other than her parents, who knew Grace-Ella was a witch. She had found out when she was nine years, nine months and nine days old. Mr Whiskins had moved in and the Witch Council had sent her her must-have witch items: The Book of Rules, a Witch Tablet with her first spells and potions, a magic wand and a cauldron. 

Grace-Ella had been scared to tell Bedwyr and Fflur the truth, in case they didn’t want to stay friends with her, but now she loved that she could talk to them about her magic, with no secrets. 

‘What you up to?’ Bedwyr asked, as he came in, dressed toe-to-top in his bugbusting gear. 

‘I’ve just finished bottling up my Fizzing Firecracker potion ready for Bonfire Night. It’ll explode across the night sky with colourful, fizzy sparks and loud bangs.’ 

‘Booming brilliant,’ said Bedwyr. ‘I came over to see if you’ve had your letter about Witch Camp yet?’ 

‘No,’ sighed Grace-Ella. ‘I was sure they’d hold it next week because it’s the holidays. Maybe the Witch Council has decided that I’m not ready after all.’ 

‘Do you want to go on a bug hunt to cheer you up?’ asked Bedwyr. ‘Next on my list is the assassin bug. They’re beastly hunters that suck blood from their victims.’ 

‘Gross,’ said Grace-Ella, as they headed out into the garden. Mr Whiskins padded behind, always happy to be part of one of Bedwyr’s hunts. 

‘I’ll just get my torch,’ said Bedwyr, rummaging in his backpack. ‘Dung beetles, I must have left it in my lab.’ He looked up. ‘But we can use Mr Whiskins … he seems to be glowing.’ 

Mr Whiskins was swatting his paw at something flickering fire-bright at the end of his snout. 

Bedwyr snapped on his ‘X-ray’ swimming goggles and peered closer. ‘It’s a firefly.’

‘It’s a tickly fly,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘It’s making me want to snee … snee … ah pfft!’ 

The firefly flew into the air. With a swift swipe, Bedwyr caught the luminous bug in his butterfly net. The firefly fluttered angrily. 

‘I don’t think it’s very happy to be caught,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘It’s looking rather annoyed.’ 

Freeing its trapped antennae from the net, the firefly floated into the sky. It hovered above their heads, before starting to spin, round and round, faster and faster, leaving a trail of fiery sparks in the air. 

‘What’s it doing?’ asked Grace-Ella. 

Bedwyr had no idea what the bioluminescent bug was up to. ‘Maybe it thinks it’s in danger and is doing some kind of SOS call.’

 The firefly flew even faster. It was burning so brightly, the air was warm on their faces. With a sudden crackle, the bright trail burst into flames. As it fizzled out, a shower of shimmering ashes fell to the ground. The firefly dipped low and blew on the ashes. Pumpkin-orange smoke billowed up into the sky. 

‘Bugtastic!’ exclaimed Bedwyr. 

‘Witchtastic!’ squealed Grace-Ella. ‘Look!’ 

On the ground where the ashes had been was a golden envelope. The words ‘Witch Camp’ were written on it in bold, black letters. Grace-Ella picked it up in her trembling hands and hurried back inside the summer house. 

She pulled out the letter and read it aloud.
The Witch Headquarters
Dear Grace-Ella, I am pleased to inform you that you are ready for your very first Witch Camp. There, you can develop your magic spells and potions. If you do well, you will be awarded your Spells for Beginners certificate. Please arrive tomorrow, Sunday, no later than 3pm. Your parents must collect you at the same time next Friday. A map of the camp and directions are enclosed, along with a list of items you’ll need to bring with you. Please note that your parents must leave you and collect you at the Hollow Oak (see map). I look forward to welcoming you. Yours sincerely, Penelope Pendle (Head of the Witch Council) 

‘They haven’t changed their minds about me after all,’ grinned Grace-Ella. 

She pulled two more folded sheets of paper out of the envelope: the map and the list. She spread the map out on her lap. Her eyes danced over the page as she tried to take it all in. 

At the end of the winding road to the camp stood the Hollow Oak, just beyond the Old Stone Archway. The wooden cabins where they would be sleeping were in the Glade, the other side of Fir Tree Forest. Beyond the Glade were Whispering Willow Woods, home to the bubbling Belching Bog. The menacing Black Mountains towered high above the camp. 

‘It looks so magical,’ whispered GraceElla. 

‘Well, it is Witch Camp,’ answered Mr Whiskins, very matter-of-factly. 

‘No need to be such a clever cat.’ 

‘I can’t help it if I’ve been given the gift of catty-cleverness.’ Mr Whiskins arched his back proudly. 

‘Well then, I hope I’ve been given the gift of witchy-wisdom.’ She sighed. ‘I don’t want to be a failure at camp. I bet the other witches will be much better than I am at spells and potions.’ 

‘Stop being such a worry-wart,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘You have magicked through your first spells with hardly a hiccup. You’re a magnifulous-splendifulous witch.’ 

‘Mr Whiskins is right,’ added Bedwyr. ‘You’re the best witch I know.’ 

‘I’m the only witch you know,’ laughed Grace-Ella. 

On the back of the map were the directions. Once her parents had driven her under the Old Stone Archway to the Hollow Oak, Grace-Ella and Mr Whiskins should follow the Toadstool Trail through Fir Tree Forest until they arrived at the Glade. 

‘I hope we find it,’ she said. ‘I’m not very good at following trails. Last time we did orienteering with school, Fflur and I got completely lost because I was holding the compass upside down. We might not even get to Witch Camp.’ 

‘I have an excellent sense of direction,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘You’ll be in safe paws with me.’ 

Next, Grace-Ella read out the list of things she would need to take with her.

Essential Items for Witch Camp
*   Sleeping bag 
*   Warm clothes and raincoat 
*   Suitable footwear (for woodland walking        and forest foraging) 
*   Towel and toiletries 
*   Notebook and pen 
*   Witch Tablet 
*   Book of Rules 
*   Magic wand 
*   Cauldron 
*   Black cat
‘Well, that’s charming,’ said Mr Whiskins in disgust. ‘Being listed as an item. How rude.’

‘Don’t worry, I won’t be stuffing you into my rucksack,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘If it makes you feel better, you’re definitely the most important item on my list.’ 

If cats had eyebrows, Mr Whiskins would certainly have raised his at that. 

‘I wish I could go with you,’ said Bedwyr. ‘Imagine how many bugs there’ll be in camp. And magical ones too, just like that firefly. Witches have all the best fun.’ 

‘It’s going to be wicked,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘I’d better go and tell Mam and Dad and pack my things. I can’t believe it! I’m actually going to Witch Camp!’