‘River Daughter’ by Jane Hardstaff

Hooray! Thanks to superstar blogger, Jim Dean, Moontrug has discovered another author worthy of The Altocumulus Tower – the wonderfully talented Jane Hardstaff. Her debut, The Executioner’s Daughter, met with glowing reviews and now the sequel, River Daughter, is out. And it was this book Moontrug got her hands on first…

Moss has left her old life in the Tower behind her. Her father has swapped his executioner’s axe for a blacksmith’s forge and, with Salter, she finally has the home she always dreamed of. But when an old enemy returns, Moss has no choice but to leave everything she loves. She sets off on a deadly journey to put an end to the evil that is enveloping London like a stinking fog. It’s a decision that may cost her friendship with Salter – and her life…

Hardstaff conjures up a hugely vivid sense of place and Moss’ connection to the river running through her village and calling her to act is powerfully drawn. In fact the writing is so lyrical Moontrug wanted to leap into the ‘shimmering world’ with Moss and Salter and set off on an adventure – but just pages later Hardstaff offers up another side to the river, a place where terrible darkness stirs. And Moss’ journey – from the peaceful country village to the stinking, bustling streets of London – marked a fantastic change of pace. Hardstaff’s Tudor London is realistically portrayed and Moontrug loved the historical details that wove together with the magic in the story.


And it is in London that Moss’ adventure really unfurls: beasts locked in the Tower, an evil stirring in the river, a Whipmaster bent on cruelty… The characters are wonderfully compelling, from the enigmatic Eel-Eye Jack (whose rooftop music sings to Moss of faraway lands full of ice and snow) and the FANTASTIC Jenny Wren. When she burst onto the scene, Moontrug’s breath caught in her throat. Hers was an energy not to be missed – one that leaps from the page and will enthral any reader. Together with Moss, Hardstaff offers up two brilliantly bold and entertaining heroines. And Moss’ bond with the polar bear is fantastic: a perfect blend of trust, chancing luck and adventure – and the way in which the book ends in light of this bond is AMAZING. The book has pace and adventure (fight scenes and chase episodes are executed perfectly) and moments of real heart as characters strive to belong, to understand and to make things right. Moontrug couldn’t recommend River Daughter more highly – it’s a fantastic read for 8+ years.

‘Hamish & The Worldstoppers’ by Danny Wallace

Watch out, David Walliams. Danny Wallace has got his funny on and it’s HA HA HA HA HA on every page of his debut children’s book for 7+ years: Hamish & The Worldstoppers.


What would you do if the whole world just stopped? Yes. The WHOLE WORLD. Birds in the air. Planes in the sky. And every single person on the planet – except you! Because that’s what keeps happening to ten-year-old Hamish Ellerby. And it’s being caused by the Worldstoppers and their terrifying friends The Terribles! They have a plan: they want to take our world for their won… Oh, and they HATE children. Especially if you’re a child who knows about them. Hang on – you know now, don’t you? Oh dear.


Hamish Ellerby is having a rough time. His father has disappeared, his mother is bogged down in a job she loathes, his brother is being all teenagery and cool and at school he is tormented by bullies called Scratch and Mole. And it’s not as if Hamish can run off and hunt down some adventures in the village because Starkley is the most boring place to live, ever. And the latest headline in the Starkley Post is proof of this: ‘MAN LEAVES TOWN, WILL PROBABLY COME BACK IN A BIT.’ But then the Pauses start and Hamish discovers there is far more going on in Starkley than first meets the eye. And while his pal, Robin, thinks he’d probably just eat hamburgers and cheese if the world were to stop, Hamish decides there are FAR more important things to be doing…


Moontrug was won over by Hamish for two reasons: he carries a Chomp everywhere he goes and every week he saves 10p of his pocket money for ‘old age.’ And the friends he eventually discovers – the other children who can move in the Pauses – are fabulously drawn: from Alice (signature moves: brow furrow, withering glance and elbow chop) and Buster (signature move: The Guilty Lizard – no one really knows what this is) to Eliot (who will one day go on to be Prime Minister. Of Sweden) and Venk (who secretly wishes he was in a boy band).


Wallace’s sense of humour pervades every page, from Hamish’s neighbours The Ramsfaces who ‘were a strange little family who all played the ukelele together at night and sang unusual songs about boats’ to Madame Couscous’s International World of Treats which sells Vomit Comets and only allows one and a quarter school children in the shop at a time. He’s every bit as funny as Walliams, if not funnier, and children will laugh out loud at the silliness, jokes, ridiculous names and absurd personalities. The book is brilliantly packaged, with fantastic illustrations by Jamie Littler, and kids who get distracted easily (like Moontrug) will love the way the pages are laid out: funky fonts, lists, newspaper headlines, fact files, rule books. But Wallace doesn’t just give us bags of laughs – like Roald Dahl he touches on loss, bullying, adventure and peril. Moontrug loved this book and is very excited to see Wallace has more in store for us – take a little peek at www.worldofhamish.com…




Wednesday Q&A with author, Sarah McGuire

Next up on Moontrug’s Wednesday Q&As is author, Sarah McGuire, whose debut, VALIANT, is out now. We’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now we’re skipping straight to ogres…


1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?
Hermione. Granted, the whole troll in the girls’ bathroom incident didn’t go too well, but you know she could handle it now.


2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?
Dragon. (Especially if it had Bennedict Cumberbatch’s voice.) How amazing would that be to fly to work? And if we could torch a few things along the way, so much the better.


3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 
I was eleven years old and my family was visiting the family of a boy I had the hugest crush on. Later that afternoon, we were roasting marshmallows around a bonfire. I wasn’t wasn’t a girl to slowly roast her marshmallow over the coals– I held the marshmallow right above the flames, and it caught on fire almost immediately.
So, of course, I began waving the marshmallow around. What could be more attractive to your crush than dancing around with a flaming marshmallow? (This story would be so different if I’d taken the time to truly consider that question!) In my enthusiasm, the marshmallow flew off the stick, and . . . stuck to my forehead. Fortunately, I’d been swinging it hard enough that the flame went out before it smacked me in the face. I spent the next few minutes picking melted marshmallow out of my hair and putting aloe on my burned forehead.
You will not be shocked to discover that the relationship did NOT work out.


4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?
Can I be a total geek and just say a meeting of the Inklings? The Chronicles of Narnia were the first books I read as I kid, and when I was older, I tore through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When I learned that Lewis and Tolkien used to get together and talk writing, I almost died. For me, that WAS a historical event.


5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.
Smart girl dresses as tailor. Giants with heart. Villain without one. Can she prevent war?



Reggen still sings about the champion, the brave tailor. This is the story that is true.

Saville despises the velvets and silks that her father prizes more than he’s ever loved her. Yet when he’s struck ill she’ll do anything to survive–even dressing as a boy and begging a commission to sew for the king.
But piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about an army of giants, led by a man who cannot be defeated, marching toward Reggen to seize the throne. Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal.
Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. After she tricks them into leaving, tales of the daring tailor’s triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. And stories won’t deter the Duke and his larger-than-life army.
Now only a courageous and clever tailor girl can see beyond the rumors to save the kingdom again.


McGuire, blog hop

Sarah McGuire loves fairy tales and considers them the best way to step outside of everyday life. They’re the easiest way, at least: her attempt at seven to reach Narnia through her parents’ closet failed. She lives within sight of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches high school creative writing and math classes with very interesting word problems. Valiant is her first novel.

Review: ‘Completely Cassidy – Accidental Genius’ by Tamsyn Murray

Moontrug’s been spending a lot of time reading fantasy and adventure books recently so she thought she’d shake things up a bit with something different… Meet Cassidy. With her embarrassing dad, pregnant mum, loser brother and knicker-chewing dog, she’s almost invisible in her family. So she’s hoping Year 7 is her time to shine, especially since a test proved she’s Gifted & Talented. The only problem is she picked her answers at random. But surely the school wouldn’t make a mistake about her genius?


Cassidy narrates the book and Murray perfectly captures the voice of a Year 7 girl. Lines like: ‘I wish I was an orphan – not Oliver Twist, obviously. A rich one and preferably royal’ had Moontrug giggling early on and Cassidy’s fears of being ‘vaporized by the scornful look of a passing Year Eleven’ brilliantly encapsulate the anxiety Moontrug felt as she embarked upon Senior School once upon a time. Cassidy’s friendship with Shenice and Molly is lovingly evoked (Moontrug adored that Wham bars were a universal sign of peace offering between them!) and Cassidy’s relationship with her brother, Liam (lead guitarist of Wolf Brethern, not Dog Breath as Cassidy would have it) is hilarious.


The letters Cassidy earnestly bashes out to Prime Ministers and Pet Vets made Moontrug chuckle and Cassidy’s attempt at hair dying reminded Moontrug of the time she dyed her hair three weeks into Senior School and it went so wrong she was nicknamed Pink Dawsons Creek Girl for a month… And lines like this from Murray: ‘I bet Einstein’s mother never threatened to shave his head’ make the episode particularly memorable! The book is littered with wonderful facts as Cassidy unearths information for the quiz. Did you know emus cannot walk backwards, butterflies taste with their feet and tarantulas can live for thirty years?! Spot on for Moontrug who collects facts on a regular basis. And Cassidy’s verdict on Jane Eyre is hilarious: ‘What it needs is a few ZOMBIES – they would have spiced things up no end.’ There are rumours of Deputy Heads twerking at St Jude’s Has Got Talent competition, fall outs between friends, new sibling arrivals and first crushes – the perfect ingredients for 8+ years readers wanting a witty, fresh and heart-warming story. And watch out for the fantastic sequel, Completely Cassidy – Star Reporter, out in July this year…