“Hy Brasil” by Margaret Elphinstone

Hy Brasil by Margaret Elphinstone is the last fiction book on my TBR challenge. After winning a writing competition, Sidony Redruth finds herself on Hy Brasil to write the first ever travel book about a remote archipelago of islands situated in the north Atlantic. What develops is something like a swashbuckling adventure story for adults, there’s even some modern day pirates thrown in!
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“One Dog and His Boy” by Eva Ibbotson

I was given One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson as a Christmas present, and as it says “Age: 8+” on the cover, I guess I’m in the right age range to read it! It’s the story of a young boy, Hal, who every birthday he asks his parents for only one thing, a dog. His father is an international businessman and is hardly at home much, so leaves it up to his mother to look after him, but she refuses to entertain the idea of a dog as it would mess up her smart, fashionable and expensive home. After a disastrous birthday party, the father arranges for Hal to rent a dog from Easy Pets for a weekend, thinking Hal will be fed up with the responsibility by the end of the two days, and anyway, he’ll be on an aeroplane to New York so his mother can deal with taking the dog back to the rental agency. But Hal and his new canine companion, Fleck, immediately fall in love with each other, and neither of his parents told him of this arrangement, so when he finds the dog gone, he becomes sad and withdrawn, as does Fleck back in at the agency. When Hal runs away, he rescues Fleck, and with a few other Easy Pets friends along for the journey, the group embark on an adventure to a place where Hal and Fleck can be together.

This is a book in the vein of a classic style of children’s adventure story, and Eva Ibbotson’s final book before she died last year. Believable characters, selfish parents, good friends, and a rollicking adventure story all make for a fantastic read. I’m not a maternal person, but I can imagine it would be a great experience to read this to children as a bed time story. The animals aren’t anthropomorphised, but each has their own individual character, and their own story and destiny, and the children develop over the duration of the book, and the parents have the opportunity to make changes to their life, learn to adapt and stop being selfish in order to become better parents and rebuild the relationship with their son. All I can add is that, I wish I could have a dog!

“Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover” by Ally Carter

I started reading the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter last year while on holiday, and devoured the first two books in a single day! The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women to the outside world is a private girls school for the gifted girls, but behind the facade, it prepares the next generation of skilled intelligence operatives. It’s not just a secret within the school, it’s one of the country’s closely guarded secrets with not even the majority of the CIA knowing about its existence. After the death of her father, Cameron Morgan moves to The Gallagher Academy with her mother, who has removed herself from the intelligence world – to become the school headmistress.

The books follow Cammie and her friends not only through their extraordinary classes but also through the pitfalls of being teenage girls! They’re great fun, and quick reads, and there’s something about a female spy story that I find glamorous and thrilling, despite the dangerous risks, and added with my current penchant for YA books, these were always going to be a winner with me.

Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover which was a great Sunday afternoon, lazy, and purely entertaining read. Can’t wait for the next book to be out later this year.

“The Dark Is Rising” by Susan Cooper

A classic quest and the battle between good and evil, this exciting tale set at Christmas time was a great festive read.

A young boy who suddenly discovers he has been born with the power of Old Ones and is embarks on a quest to obtain the signs that will help defeat the Dark. He is thrust into a new world of magic and has to quickly learn of his heritage while at the same time facing the threats to his own family by the Dark.

Exciting, fast-paced action with a thrilling tale, this is the second in The Dark Is Rising series of five books. The books were originally published between 1965 and 1977, but I must admit I’d never heard of them. The Dark Is Rising was one of the books in the Seasons Reading in the Guardian Books section this year, and my friend told me he’d read it as a child and it was one of his favourite series, so I decided to try it myself. I had a complete sense of nostalgia while reading the book, as it felt exactly like the books I remember from my childhood. There’s a certain style and feel to books from that era, and this ranks up there with any book I read as a child, without feeling dated or old-fashioned.

Although this is the second book in a series, you don’t need to have read the first book in order to read this one, but I guarantee I will be reading the other books in the series next year!

“Flush” by Carl Hiaasen

When Noah’s dad ends up in jail for running aground a casino boat he believes is the cause of pollution in the water and on the beaches of his beloved home town in Florida Keys, it’s up to Noah and his sister Abbey to take up the fight to bring the boat owner to justice, free his dad and save the local environment from further damage.

This was an impulse buy from a charity shop when I was out for the day and needed another book to read, and although I’d read it before, it didn’t take away any of the enjoyment. Hiaasen writes exciting adventure stories for 10-14 year olds (I would guess) with a strong moral message about his environmental concerns.

As with all his books I’ve read, it’s set in the Florida Keys, and although the main story is the damage being done to the environment by man, I think it gives children the message that a small group of people can make a difference when they stand up for what is right.

Great fun, exciting and fast paced, with lots of humour, it was a very enjoyable re-read for me.

“Ghost Hunter” by Michelle Paver

The last book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books, Ghost Hunter is a fitting, thrilling, heartbreaking finale to a fantastic series of books. I have loved reading the six books that make up the series, beautifully written with a wonderful use of language, but full of action and, although firmly based in the real world, the fantasy elements seem otherworldly yet still completely realistic and believable.

Torak is now fifteen, and although his life is far removed from the modern world we know, he still has to struggle with all the emotions and choices any teenage boy would need to make, but added to that, he knows he is special and must face his destiny and defeat Eostra to save the Clans.

The beauty and the importance of nature and the elements in a prehistoric world have been one of the many joys of reading these books. So much research has gone into hunting methods and the landscape of the world, but with seemingly effortless ease, it blends into an thrilling, action-packed tale of good against evil. The plot it kept tight, and there is no meandering off onto tangents, or introducing characters or plot lines which are merely padding. Every word seems to be necessary and this makes the books incredibly readable and genuine page turners.

I loved every book in the series, and this last one did not disappoint.

“Hurricane Gold” by Charlie Higson

Hurricane Gold is the latest in Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series. On the criminal haven on the Caribbean island of Lagrimas Negras, a deadly game is played out for those who break the rules. Meanwhile, James is with his aunt recouperating from the injuries sustained in his last escapade, when during a tropical storm the children of the family he is staying with are kidnapped and he gives chase to try and save them.

Charlie Higson has created a great series of books based on the life of a young James Bond. Using the adult James Bond as the blueprint, Higson writes tales that show how the experiences of childhood developed this famous character, whilst always being cracking adventure stories. A genuine page turner, I loved reading this book, and I finished in a single sitting as I couldn’t bear to put it down. The plot twists and turns from one explosive incident to the next, with the requisite amount of violence and death required of a good Bond story, and the excellent climax is fantastically exciting and full of suspense.

If you like the Young Bond series, and haven’t tried the Anthony Horowitz Alex Rider series, I would strongly recommend them.