Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Review of

The Mermaid Call by Alex Cotter

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Vivien knows that mermaids don't exist. But she also knows they have to exist – at least in the public eye. For there would be nothing to Lake Splendour – a far northern English resort – without them. A hundred years and change ago, two teenaged girls allegedly spent months with mermaids, but were forced to return to help out with the Great War effort. They also showed female emancipation, which helped create the town's tourism industry, now faded and falling apart but once a feminist success story. Alice, a girl who stumbles into Vivien's gran's tourist shop one day, knows she certainly wants mermaids to exist – she thinks her family's black sheep died searching for them, or else was just too successful in her hunt. When the shy, doubting Thomasina that is Vivien collides with the exuberant, gung-ho Alice, what on earth – or perhaps in water – will they find? Full Review

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Review of

Fly by Alison Hughes

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This is a very impressive read, as it does a lot of what mainstream teen and tween fiction still struggles with. Its focus is courtesy the first person narration from Fly, a secondary school lad with cerebral palsy, a down-on-her-luck single mom nearing retirement from being a cleaner, a carer while at school, and a bundle of assumptions people lay on him. First they assume that with a broken body comes a broken mind, then they decide he's a maths savant – they even believe they can get away with calling him Fly, which isn't his real name, but everybody just uses it. Full Review

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Review of

Archibald Lox and the Sinkhole to Hell: Archibald Lox series, book 7 by Darren Shan

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

So. We're back to the Merge with the first chapter in the third volume of Darren Shan's saga of Archibald Lox, a young man who can pick the locks of portals from our world to another, called the Merge. Since his last adventure, Archie has persuaded his foster parents into a slightly uneasy truce on the topic of his regular disappearances. They don't ask too many questions and Archie has settled into a fairly peaceful routine of visiting Winston, his lock-picking mentor in the Merge and showing Kojo, the young guardian, around our world of the Born. Full Review

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Review of

Clarice Bean: Scram! by Lauren Child

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

It was a hot summer day right at the beginning of the summer holidays and Clarice Bean was bored:

Nothing ever happens except for sometimes... And only on rare-sh occasions, which is hardly ever.

There are seven members of the Bean family living in the house: Grandad (who lives on the ground floor because he's wobbly), Mum and Dad, Clarice's older brother, Kurt and younger brother, Minal Cricket. There's also Marcie, who's main claim to fame seems to be that she steals the batteries from Clarice's torch, which means that she can't read in the airing cupboard. Clarice would love to have someone who listened to her, rather than wanting to talk, but the only one who does that is Granny and she lives in New York. The Bean family is different. Full Review

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Review of

Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Lily. She and her mother have just moved from a city to a tiny seaside town called Edge, and everyone from said mother to her teacher are making demands of Lily that she make new friends. It turns out that she doesn't have any say in the matter, for while pretending when phoning home that she was with someone called Emily, she is unaware her neighbour, Sam, is just about to make herself known, and in a big way. But where does Emily come from? Well, Lily used that name because of what she'd just stumbled into – a mysterious collection of the most mundane objects, in some converted houses behind a most unassuming door, in a place calling itself 'The Museum of Emily'. Sam is completely unaware of this 'museum', too, leaving the two girls to make sure they leave no stone unturned in finding what's behind the intrigue... Full Review

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Review of

Stitched Up by Steve Cole

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Twelve-year-old Hanh wanted to be a fashion designer. Life in the rural village where she lived with her family was happy, if not prosperous, so when the smartly-dressed man and woman came to the village to offer Hahn a job in Hanoi it was an opportunity not to be missed. Some money changed hands and Hanh was on the mini-bus to Hanoi. Only, Hanh and the other girls were not going to work in a shop, they were to work in virtual slavery in an illegal garment factory. You know those jeans you really wanted: the ones with intricate embroidery and beading on the legs? The ones with the artfully-placed rips and distressed seams that felt so soft when you touched them? It's quite possible that Hanh and her co-workers made them. Full Review

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Review of

The Secret Life of Birds by Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker (illustrator)

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I have recently discovered a great pleasure: I sit and watch the vast numbers of birds which visit our garden on a daily basis. An hour can pass without my noticing. I've established which species feed from the ground, which pop to the feeders for a quick snatch of some food and who settles in for a good munch but I wish I was more knowledgeable. It would have been wonderful if, as a child, I'd had access to a book such as The Secret Life of Birds. So – what is it? Full Review

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Review of

S.T.E.A.L.T.H.: Access Denied by Jason Rohan

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Arun and Sam have had little to do with Donna, a girl at their school. But things immediately change at the start of this extended sprint of a novel, when she insists Arun's house has become the attention of plain-clothes coppers and that they should bunk off school to find out why. And thus an unlikely trio of misfit young heroes is formed – Sam is really not Donna's idea of company, but he is the computer buff, Donna seems to know all the criminal ins and outs and survival skills, and Arun? Well, it's his lot to find out that all he based his family life on isn't true, and that his father – kidnapped that very morning – is involved in something quite unexpected. But how can this disparate trio hope to best MI6, kidnappers, people able to keep the truth about themselves secret for decades, and so much more? Full Review

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Review of

Wished by Lissa Evans

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

When things contrive to force Ed and his sister Roo (aka Lucy) to stay with the neighbourhood spinsterish old woman, Miss Filey, for a week of half-term, they're not looking forward to it. For one thing, she thinks Wi-Fi is a special brand of biscuit. They don't particularly take to Willard either, the new kid next door, who seems to ebulliently take over everything and everywhere. But things soon change when they find some tiny old birthday candles, and manage to work out that these candles, for as long as their flames last, make birthday wishes come true. How will things change for a second time when they realise that, having used up three of them, these should really be used for the wishes of someone two generations older than them? Full Review

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Review of

Time Trap Two by Richard Smith

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Jamie and Todd are horrified to learn that the Grand Plan, which they thought had been defeated, is about to be implemented in 1775, America. Hector and Catherine have to thwart Travis - an agent of the Grand Plan - who is hell bent on world domination. Jamie and Todd go with Hector and Catherine on a mission to 1775, to prevent a super gun from being used in the Battle of Bunker Hill, during the American War of Independence, but only have days to stop history from being altered.

The second book in the Time Trap series, as you can see, has an urgent a mission for our young heroes as the first, which took place in the smog of Victorian London. This time, Jamie and Todd are off to the grand landscapes of North America. Travis, an agent of the Grand Plan, is attempting to take the Gatling gun back in time and change the outcome of the Battle of Bunker Hill, a pivotal episode in the American War of Independence. Full Review

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Review of

The Great Fox Illusion by Justyn Edwards

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The latest incoming reality TV show is a contest with a difference. No singing, no dancing, this show is looking for magical children! Children who can understand how magic tricks work, and who can attempt to win The Great Fox's magical legacy - the secrets to all of his tricks! Flick is determined to win, but not because she wants to own the tricks. She is interested in just one trick, the trick that The Great Fox stole from her father. And she's hoping if she can find that trick then she will be able to bring her missing father home. Full Review

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Review of

The Hunt for the Nightingale by Sarah Ann Juckes

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Jasper is a little boy who has some struggles, and whilst we're never told why exactly, we can see that he has anxiety and panic attacks, and has difficulty dealing with change and big emotions. His big sister, Rosie, has been a huge support to him, talking him down when things were difficult, encouraging him, and writing a book with him, all about birds, that he can read when he gets scared to help him calm down. His parents seem completely caught up in their business, and so it is Rosie he always turns to. Even though she has gone away to University now, she has promised him that she will still be there when he needs her. But now he can't find Rosie. She hasn't come home when she said she would, and she isn't answering her phone. His parents won't speak to him or when they do, he doesn't understand or take in what they're saying. Nothing seems to be right, and the only way he feels he can find any peace is if he can find Rosie, and if they can find the nightingale and listen to its song, as they do together every Spring. Full Review

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Review of

Dragon Storm: Tomas and Ironskin by Alastair Chisholm and Eric Deschamps

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Tomas. Happy to work with his father in the blacksmith's forge, he's almost of the age to become a full apprentice, and help with the new batch of dragonswords is certainly needed. Not that there are any dragons, of course – they vanished centuries ago. Except... Strange signals from within the forge furnace, and a peculiar invite to become an apprentice clerk instead, are things for Tom to puzzle over – until it all comes out in the wash, that yes dragons do still exist in this world, and that Tom is rare in the ability to summon them, share magical attributes, and ride with them... Full Review

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Review of

Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Being Good by Louie Stowell

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Loki. The trickster god has got into trouble again, so the other gods have decided there's only one thing for it – he must be banished. And transformed – for Loki is spending a month both in exile and in the physical form of a middle-school kid here on Earth. He's guarded by a giant and a god in disguise as his parents, and Thor has come along as well, to be the more suave, more popular and more successful brother of the two. Loki has a month to redeem his reputation, and get his moral compass pointing the right way again, or else, and to prove it he has to write the text we read in a sentient notebook, that is able to cry foul of his lies, and judge his progress. But Loki is the kind of god who insists he can do anything, so surviving a bit more virtuously for a month is going to be a walk in the park...right? Full Review

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Review of

The Mermaid in the Millpond by Lucy Strange and Pam Smy

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

There is no mermaid in the millpond. That at least is what Bess is telling herself. Neither will there be a friend for her in amongst all the other kids, who have had their entire childhoods sold to the mill-owners by the London workhouse they used to call home. Bess knows there is no time for friendship in a hand-to-mouth, every man for himself kind of existence. But despite herself Bess does find a bit of a kindred spirit in the slight little Dot, and despite everything that life has taught her about betrayal and how befriending people only leads to harm, there might be a glimmer of companionship in the tired-out mill workers. But surely that doesn't mean there is any truth in the existence of the mermaid? Full Review

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Review of

Escape Room by Christopher Edge

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I've seen junior variants of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' format cover escape rooms – the process by which a character or characters start by being trapped in a specific location, and have to solve problems in order to get their way out. What I've not done (alongside experience one for myself – for that would require actual friends) is seen a prose book describing people in such an adventure, with the regular second person narrative replaced by the first. Here, Ami and four other tweenagers, all new to each other and booked into the game without any of their friends, are a team – starting out at the game's main offices, where they're told they and their quest for The Answer are a world-changer. But could watching people engage with such a pastime, despite the ramped-up threat levels, change much in the world of literature? Full Review

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Review of

Fledgling by Lucy Hope

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Bavaria, 1900. Our scene is a most peculiar hilltop house, built bit by bit over the decades, and now looking imperiously down on the village and woods below. It's an eccentric house, to host eccentrics, so the library shelving system is not as we'd know it, the roof is retractable, there is a steam-powered, hand-operated lift system cut through it, and so on. At the moment it houses an ex-soldier with PTSD and a passion for the long-standing family hobby of taxidermy, a woman who does nothing but quibble, kvetch and sing opera loudly, and the dying grandma to our heroine, Cassie, a young lass who has to do all the maintenance of this bizarre machine-like abode. Oh but it's also going to house someone or something else, when crashing through Cassie's bedroom window one stormy day is a cherub. And if you think such a heavenly arrival is going to be a completely great and wonderful thing, think again... Full Review

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Review of

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo and Sophie Blackall

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Stories have joy and surprises in them, we are told here. And none more so than in this wondrous story, which feels an instant classic with the freshness and the agelessness it has in equal proportion. We start with a group of monks, the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, and the demonic goat that loves nothing more than upending, trampling on and biting the poor Brothers. Things change drastically when the beast takes a totally maternal approach to a homeless girl, one who has survived some trauma that has blocked her past from her memory. Elsewhere sits a King in his castle, desperate to find the girl, for it is prophesied that a young child can unseat the throne and cause great change. Who foretold that revolution but the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing? But how can a simple, amnesiac lass ever prove a threat to anyone? Full Review

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Review of

The Great Dream Robbery by Greg James and Chris Smith

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Maya's father is a professor who invented an amazing dream machine. But something went wrong, and now he can't wake up. Or at least, that's what Maya has been told. In a rather strange dream one night Maya makes a new friend, and discovers that the only way to save her dad may be by being asleep. Cue one madcap action adventure story where dreams and reality collide...really...and there's everything from llamas and bananas, dream machines made from hairdresser cast-offs, to a talking cat called Bin Bag! Full Review

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Review of

The Climbers by Keith Gray

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Sully is the best tree climber in the village. He has what's known amongst the kids as 'reach'. But what happens when a new kid shows up in town? A new kid, called Nottingham, who clambers up some of the hardest trees with ease? Suddenly Sully is worried that his status is being threatened, and not only that, that his chance to name the final, unnamed big tree in the park by being the first to conquer it, might be snatched from his hands. How can Sully stop Nottingham? And will it cost him his best friend, or maybe even all of his friends, to do so? Full Review

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Review of

Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake and Emily Gravett

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Lily is, or was, or has been, very ill, and to give her parents relief she's been told to stay with her grandma for a few days. The parents need the relief as Lily's baby sibling is just about to be born – a child Lily swears she hates already and wants nothing to do with. But on tracking back home for word of her parents (and her plush toy so she can sleep) she finds stony-eyed simulacra of her parents, and the babe-in-arms, already installed. These devilish interlopers need to be ousted to get the family back intact, even if it's not the family Lily wants – and all she has to help her in the task are some talking animals – Crow, Mole, Mouse and Snake. Full Review

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Review of

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

5star.jpg Confident Readers

In a word, rich. There is certainly an abundance of riches in this story set on a peculiar island called Wildsea, British but way west, beyond the Scillies. There are troll people on it, and sea-witches, and legends of the Dark family that has to keep watch for magical islands and their monster approaching from even further west, where no ship dare sail. The current Darks are the Watcher, Andrewe, who has to keep notes of activity from the Hidden Lands, his brother Will who lives in London with too much science in his head to worry about such local yokel superstitions, and Andrewe's foundling daughter, who washed up out of the sea one day eleven years ago. But when Andrewe Dark drowns himself, both his sullen brother and his curious ward are thrust into the world of protecting their island, like it or not. Full Review

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Review of

Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Eleonore Von Motteberg (or 'Leo' for short) is a Vampire. She drinks blood, she sleeps during the day, and she can Grimwalk (turning into a flock of bats to travel around, although not all of them remember to come back). Pretty cool stuff. Now, on the night of her hundredth birthnight, she has to go out and hunt her first human. However, instead she ends up killing two humans by accident and burning down an orphanage. Oops! And to make things worse, the ghosts of one of the orphans and the evil master of the orphanage come back to haunt her. So, not only does Leo have to team up with the friendly ghost Minna to stop the ghost of the Orphanmaster before he becomes unstoppably powerful, she has to do it all while hiding it from her family. Did I mention vampires and ghosts hate each other? Yeah, there's a reason why there are rules for vampires… Full Review

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Review of

The Ash House by Angharad Walker

5star.jpg Confident Readers

A new boy arrives at The Ash House. He doesn't know his name, or why he is there but he is used to the system, used to different places and different faces. He meets Dom who names him Sol and sets out to teach him the rules of The Ash House. These rules centre on a variety of Nicenesses set out by the absent Headmaster. All children must remember their Niceness and complete their chores, working as a hive in the smouldering shadows of The Ash House. But soon their easy peace is shattered by the arrival of the Doctor. By the end of the story, lives will be changed forever and The Ash House will never be the same again. Full Review

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Review of

The Week at World's End by Emma Carroll

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First, the title. We're in World's End Close, a mediocre set of houses, where Stevie (Vie to her friends) finds fun only with the family dog and with the boy over the road. But we could also be at World's End, because something taking a great chunk of the fun away is the fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis is kicking off. The Soviet boats are getting blockaded as America tries to reduce the risk of nuclear missiles offshore, and not much else is able to make the news. That said, Vie has news of her own – Anna, a secretive young woman hiding in their coal shed. Anna has, in no short time, taken a strong interest in the American airforce base behind the Close, said she'd locate something she wanted and leave, failed to leave, and implied her life was at risk. But surely this bit of intrigue has got nothing to do with what the Cold War is doing miles away? Full Review

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Review of

Monster Hunting For Beginners by Ian Mark and Louis Ghibault

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Jack. Now Jack knows very little about being fearless and nimble and quick, for he's a slight boy, and although he wants for danger and peril and interesting things his dad refuses to let him out of his sight. That's because Jack's mother knew all about monsters, and look what happened to her – she died. Luckily or unluckily then, depending on your point of view, a giant ogre will threaten his aunt when Jack's father also goes AWOL, Jack will fluke the ogre's death, a dwarfish wizard-type will make him an apprentice monster hunter, and he'll be given a book that tells him all he needs to know about the perils he always wanted closer contact with. The book's name? Monster Hunting for Beginners... Full Review

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Review of

The Small Things by Lisa Thompson

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Although Anna has friends at school, she feels like she never really fits in. Her family don't have enough money to let her do after school activities, and so she feels like her life at home is boring in comparison to theirs. When a new girl joins her class, Anna is asked to partner her, but things are complicated because the new girl, Ellie, is unwell and so can't attend school in person. Instead, she joins in with the class by using a robot. Can Anna overcome the challenge of making friends with someone through a robot, and is she even interesting enough to be a good friend to Ellie? Full Review

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Review of

The House on the Edge by Alex Cotter

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Faith's family home is teetering on the edge of a cliff, literally. Is that crack in the garden getting bigger? Is the house starting to slope a little? And as the house seems to be falling apart, so is Faith's family. Her dad has disappeared, and her mum is struggling to cope, barely leaving her bed. So that leaves Faith in charge, taking care of her little brother Noah, taking care of her mum, feeding everyone, getting Noah to school, and avoiding awkward questions from interfering teachers. Is her little brother okay? Why is he obsessed with what he claims is a ghost in the cellar? What should she do about the house? Can she find a way to raise enough money to fix it? What's happened to her dad? Why did he disappear? Maybe he'll come back if she manages to get funding for the house? She carries the weight of all these worries on her constantly, and she doesn't know how much longer the cliff will hold together, or how long she can keep on keeping on. Full Review

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Review of

Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Julia, our pre-teen heroine, has been packed off with her parents and their cat from the family home in SW England to be lighthousekeepers for a summer, in the far NE of the Scottish islands. Here be Vikings, that kind of Scottish island. Dad is going to be automating the lantern, which is his specialist thing, while mum will be leaving her career in algae behind to hunt the elusive Greenland shark. And Julia, well, she will be homesick and alone – until she suddenly finds company one night. Full Review

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