Sunday, 25 July 2021

Blog Tour: Listen, Layla by Yasmin Abdel-Magied



22nd July 2021, Puffin, Paperback, 336 pages, Review copy 


Book summary

I am Layla Kareem Abdel-Hafiz Hussein, the greatest Sudanese Australian inventor the world has ever seen. And if they don't know my name yet, they soon will. Inshallah!

School's out for the summer! And Layla's going to spend it getting her inventions ready for the grand design competition. But when her grandmother falls ill and her family must rush to Sudan to be with her, Layla feels like she's being pulled in many different directions.
Family, friends, home, inventions - there's a lot to navigate. With big protests looming in Sudan, could Layla save the day with her revolutionary ideas?

Nayu's Thoughts

While reading the first book, You Must Be Layla, will give more insight into Layla's life and her friends, it didn't matter that my first read about her was Listen, Layla. Everything about Layla is fully explained in this second novel. Layla is quite a character! She is extremely passionate about what she believes in, a great strength but this proves detrimental at times because she sometimes misses the woods for the trees. As a Muslim convert from a non-Muslim family I am always fascinated by family dynamics and the rich culture that comes from being in a family like Layla's Sudanese one, from the favourite recipes made daily which sounded delicious to how her parents view her hobbies. Layla's parents are kind, firm but fair even when on several occasionals Layla thinks they are unfair. Her passion for life leaves her blinkered at times to what really matters: this leads to her resenting her parents' orders and disobeying them with near tragic consequences.


Layla, like all teens, is still young. She does not always see the bigger picture: yes her school club is the centre of her world, and all that she can think of, but it is not all that she should be thinking of. Until it is pointed out to her she gives little consideration to the feelings of her mother who is worried over her own mother's health. She does not necessarily think to lend a hand in the Sudanese home, to do all she possibly can to make life easier for her parents. Instead she makes their already stressful visit more stressful with her resistance to obedience. When she does get told some home truths about her behaviour, to her credit Layla does realise a little how selfish she has been, and tries to make amends in her own way. Her efforts are not received as well as she hoped - I loved how confidence she is when inventing things, but her effort is noted eventually, and she does manage to make amends for her ill-informed actions. 

I feel Layla learns so much on the unexpected trip to Sudan. The visit isn't like her previous one several years before, she is not visiting for a joyful reason, so the atmosphere and activities she is engaged in is different. That isn't to say she doesn't have fun with her cousin who has secrets of her own (which in my view was not really appropriate for any young woman, Muslim or not, but it's reality too and I accept that). Yousra's secret lets Layla stay engaged with her fellow inventor teammates, although how she hid she wasn't in the same country as them for so long was impressive. I do wish she had explained the situation to them sooner, but I understand her thinking that keeping it quiet was best. 


When Layla couldn't actively focus on the competition of a lifetime Yousra got her passionate about the Sudanese protests. I personally learnt a lot from Layla's visit to Sudan, especially about the culture and difference in how the country is run and the facilities widely available (or not) to its' citizens. Layla doesn't always realise how privileged and fortunate she is in Australia with constant and clean running water, authorities who allow protests and don't shoot at bystanders. Layla learns some harsh life lessons, ones that I know she will never forget. These help her make an extremely mature decision at the end of the novel that was unexpected and heartwarming, it shows she has listened to her elders and understand what it means to be part of a team, both at school and at home.

Find out more on Yasmin's website.  

Suggested read

For more science-obsessed girls check out The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton (Children’s, 9 years +, 10E/10E)


Sunday, 11 July 2021

Guest Blog Post: Children of the Periapt: Escape from Elmsmere by Cimone O'Byrne (Children's, 9 years +)


May 2021, Jotty Press, 207 pages, Paperback and Ebook

Book summary

Vinnie Shadowsmith arrives at Elmsmere Academy. A tranquil paradise for some, Vinnie see's it for what it is; a prison for gifted children and a fortress of despair. He meets the enchanting Lilana Flowerdew and the defiant Kitty Midnight, and together they plot their daring escape.

Follow our heroes as they discover the truth about the world around them, harness their super human gifts, and learn how to conquer the magic of their Periapt charms.


Nayu's thoughts

I wasn't in the mood to read this book but it sounded like other books I've reviewed so I wanted to feature it here on my blog. I asked Cimone if she would like to write a post and she kindly said yes! Check out her  path to publication below. 

Path to Publication by Cimone O'Byrne

Children of the Periapt: Escape from Elmsmere is the first in a series of books I started to write 10 years ago. It really has been a labour of love, and I finally finished the first book at the beginning of 2021. 

If you had asked a 7-year-old me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would have said, "An authoress". The outdated nature of the terms I used tells you a bit about my age, but the fact that I'm writing books thirty-five years later tells you how much it means to me. I am passionate about writing, particularly for children, and I hope this comes across in the words I write.

The book itself is set in a fantasy world. It's based on three main characters, Lilana, Kitty and Vinnie. They have been snatched from their families by seekers, and left at Elmsmere Academy for the Gifted. The book follows their attempts at escape, and the adventures that follow. It is crammed with magic, fantastical creatures, and loveable characters. My main aim was to write characters that children could see themselves in, and to draw them in to feel part of the story. I hope I have achieved that.

I published the book on 1st June 2021 and joined a lot of indie author groups online to get advice and support. The message that immediately came across is that self-publishing is hard, and getting books into bookshops or libraries is even harder. The best advice I got was to hire a good editor and find a strong book cover designer.

Having designed my own cover, I soon realised that I needed a professional. My talents definitely do not fall within the realms of design. I looked online and found the amazing Eleanor Loseby at Brush and Brew illustrations. She did a brilliant job at portraying my vision and producing a cover I loved.

Next, I e-mailed every local library in the UK. At night, I would sit in bed, laptop at the ready, while my husband reeled off the names of football teams, which I used as a list of UK cities and towns. A novel way to find libraries, I guess! I also e-mailed every local shop I could think of that may stock a children's book.

By publication day I had 11 libraries across the UK lending the book and 7 local shops holding stock. I was thrilled. 

When sharing this triumph with some online author groups, I was inundated with support and congratulations. There were also a few negative nellies. The online keyboard warriors whose aim it is to suck the joy out of any positive moment or experience. One sticks in my mind. He said, 'You won't make much money from a library. What is the benefit to you, may I ask?' 

I didn't reply. Not because he had a point, or because he worried me, but because he clearly had a different view of success. Some authors write books in the hope of a big sale (and I can't pretend that I don't dream of that too), but many of us are doing it because we love it; because it's our passion; because we love to write. Success is individual, and we measure it against our own criteria. Success to me is people reading my book, people sharing my book, people liking my book, libraries lending my book, shops stocking my book and me knowing that I did what I set out to do at 7 years old. 

One of my greatest achievements is being approached by a woman from the US who wanted a copy of my book to take part in a community library project. The book will be put in a mini library in New York, and a child 3250 miles from me will read my book.  

7-year-old me would be jumping up and down on her bed and whooping with joy.

Children of the Periapt: Escape from Elmsmere is available on Amazon UK in paperback and on Kindle, and Amazon US in paperback and on KIndle too.  It is also available free on Kindle Unlimited.

Find out more on Cimone's website.


Saturday, 10 July 2021

Over on Nayu's Crochet Dreams #62 I'm Growing things!

What are these????

  To find out what seedlings these are, what else I'm currently growing on my window sill and also general life update with news that hopefully can be shared in August, check out my post on my other blog, Nayu's Craft Dreams!

Friday, 7 May 2021

Review: Fletcher and the Falling Leave by Julia Rawlinson and Tiphanie Beeke

  October 2020, Graffeg, Hardback, 28 pages, Review copy 

Summary from Graffeg

As the Autumn season sets in, Fletcher is very worried – his beautiful tree has begun to loose all of its leaves. Whatever Fletcher attempts to do to save them, it’s simply no use. When the final leaf falls, Fletcher feels hopeless… until he returns the next day to a glorious sight.

A tender, uplifting tale about acceptance and hope for the future.

Nayu's houghts

I adore foxes so couldn't say no to reviewing this cute book. Fletcher looks so happy on his swing in the autumn with leaves blowing all around. The same can't be said for most of the story: Fletcher is always cute and the soft illustrations capture the reds and oranges that autumn brings. However Fletcher is worried for most of the story: he can't understand why the tree is losing its leaves. I never thought what autumn could seem like to someone who has never witnessed trees shedding leaves which is a natural process. Fletcher goes to great lengths to keep the leaves on the tree, his emotions are heartwarming and he gets so worried when other animals 'steal' them alongside the wind. 

His mother simply says it's part of autumn and therefore nothing to worry about, but Fletcher's lack of experience and understanding of the seasons means he does worry. The end is a happy one as he realises that with the frost and ice, even leafless the tree is beautiful. Definitely a story that will raise discussion on what happens in the season and while it may seem odd, it is entirely natural and the leaves will regrow on trees the following spring. 

Find out more on Julia's website and Tiphanie's website.

Suggested read

Another autumn themed read is We Planted A Pumpkin by Rob Ramsden (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)


Thursday, 6 May 2021

Review: The B on Your thumb by Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman (Children's, Poetry, Non-fiction, 10/10E)


 September 2020, Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 80 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Quarto Knows

The B on Your Thumb is a book of 60 hilariously illustrated rhymes and delightful ditties to boost early reading—each poem teaches a specific sound, spelling, or rule. Using rhythm and wordplay, they promote phonics awareness, thinking skills, and literacy. But most of all, this book delights young readers with the fun and silliness of the English language.

This is a book where words like to play,
where letters get cross when they don’t get their way.
There are sounds to make and jokes to uncover.
An owl in your bowl, for you to discover.
Meet the K on your knee, who’s ready for fun,
and don’t be alarmed by the B on your thumb!


Nayu's thoughts

This is a perfect read for anyone learning to read and spell in English. Each poem uses creative rhymes and rhythm to explain how various spellings exist in English, using the focus of the poem within it repeatedly. Each poem comes with funny and sometimes weird depending on what your definition of weird is, Sometimes it's a weird that for me personally goes into freaky let's not see this territory, but it's a styles that most readers will love. The pictures tie in closely with the poems, which even as someone who has learnt to read English reminded me of when I did focus on learning the language, and how illogical English can be compared to other languages.

At the back of the book there are seven thoroughly explained word games for the teacher/parent/guardian/family to use to help the targeted reader get even more from this book. It can be read alone but it also suits being read with someone more experienced of English who can help the learner understand the poems better.  There is also a separate teacher's guide available for purchase.

Find out more on Colette's website and Tor's website

Suggested read

If you like poetry check out My Life As a Goldfish and other Poems by Rachel Rooney (Children's, Poetry, 6/10E, short 'n' sweet review)


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Nayu's News #253 Good Intentions


Ichigo from Aikatsu!

I'm alive! Which if on Twitter you know as I'm there daily. Life has been it's usual self. Despite officially being Spring, and some days hitting a maximum of double digits, my silly body reacts to the coldest temperature of the day, which has consistently been under 5C, occasionally under 0C, which is when I simply don't function at all well. So apologies, I really am going to try to check in once  week not once a month. Even if it's just a short paragraph and a cute  picture. 


Yurika from Aikatsu! (I'm in an Aikatsu! mood)

Life continues being life, there's still some stress which I can't talk about and probably can't for a few more months - I will when it's all over. I can be found gaming most days. I am slowly starting to do a little sewing and crochet, progress pics will happen in due course. I am slowly fitting in more reading time (also a good thing). All family and pets are well. Been busy growing some plants, again pictures will happen later (I really do post everything on Twitter. I'm only on 1 social media now.) Ramadan is coming to an end but I will try and do a special post before it ends. I've been managing to mostly hit my goals which got adjusted but that's ok too.  Life is all about adjustment and good intentions! 

Aoi and Ichigo've guessed it, Aikatsu!

Friday, 12 March 2021

Blog tour: Review & Exclusive Guest Video for Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)

 5th March 2021, UCLan Publishing, 312 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary from UCLan Publishing

The year is 2512. The oceans have risen. A new dawn of piracy has begun.

Following the sudden death of their father, twins Grace and Connor Tempest hastily depart the suffocating small town of Crescent Moon Bay in their dad’s old sailing boat. Caught in a vicious storm, they are shipwrecked and separated in the cold, cruel ocean.

Connor is saved by Cheng Li, Deputy Captain of The Diablo – the notorious pirate ship, captained by flamboyant rule-breaker and pirate royalty, Molucco Wrathe.

Grace, meanwhile, is taken by handsome Midshipman Lorcan Furey, onto a mysterious ship with no name, a blood-red deck and an enigmatic, seemingly absent, Captain.

In a world of danger and secrets, will the twins ever be reunited?

Nayu's thoughts

It's an absolute pleasure to be part of this book tour for the revamped version of the Vampirates series by Justin Somper. I reviewed this first book in the series all the way back in 2009 which can be found on my blog here, although the first publication was 2005. Pun was intended. There is new content which Justin explains in the guest video below this review. The book may have a sleek new look which is far less scarier than the original cover (I do not like skulls), 


but the sense of adventure and excitement of rereading this first installment remained as wonderful as the first read. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen to Grace and Connor - surprisingly I remembered quite a lot of the details - I had more excitement butterflies in my stomach when coming to my favourite part when Grace is rescued and when she eventually reunites with Connor. 

Both the twins grow emotionally through the course of the book and indeed the series, but my favourite is undoubtedly Grace. She doesn't know how much danger she is constantly in, especially with Sidorio. Her spunk and curiosity may lead her to trouble, but it's the only way she gets answer because both the captain and Lorcan keep secrets from her. To be frank it's understandable because the truth is terrifying, but I love that she doesn't become a donor and does have special privileges on the ship, even if not all respect those privileges. Not all that I remembered is in the first book (I did read the entire series all those years ago), but it is an exciting start to Grace and Connor's adventures. The pain of their separation lifts of the page, they learn to both grieve and have hope to see each other again. I can't quite remember her name but my other favourite character is the Vampirate ship's figurehead, who lets Grace enjoy fashionable clothes at an unsettling time in the tale.

I liked how Connor is thrown into a harsh life but one which he ends up enjoying, whereas Grace lives in luxury which can't entirely mask the terror of exactly where she is. Their individual experiences shape them and will go on to affect their decisions in later books. The fact that some of the vampirates have an honour code in terms of how they get their blood is intriguing: it sets them apart from the purely blood thirsty ones who don't care about the feelings and lives of their human victims. Celebrating and minimising the amount of damage to those who donate blood to the vampirates adds a unique spin on the vampire concept, and makes the traitors even more frightening with their lack of moral code.

There is a fine balance of action, adventure, with well placed moments of pure terror and the start of a romance that will be present in the other books. The truth about the twins' past is not revealed in book one, nor is the path their lives will take set in stone, but it's an adventure you will want on your bookshelf be it physical or electronic. 

You can find Justin on social media including Twitter.

 Be sure to check out the Vampirates official website!

Video guest post from Justin Somper

Justin kindy created a video talking about villains for today's stop on the tour! Yes I did totally have a fangirl moment when watching this for the first time. This series is epic and I really love it! I'm definitely more into heroes than villains, but I can understand why Justin loves his villains. Enjoy and please do check out other stops on the tour!