Bookshelf Older Reads

Lampie and the Children of the Sea


Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, must light the lamp every evening to warn ships of the dangers of the rocks. One night, she forgets to fetch the matches she needs to do this and disaster follows. With her father imprisoned in the lighthouse, Lampie is sent away to work off her debt at the Admiral’s Black House where rumour tells of a hideous monster trapped in the tower. Here she finds herself caught in a strange world full of mermaids and pirates where she needs to fight for friendship, acceptance and freedom.

A compelling, magical story, ‘Lampie and the Children of the Sea’ is an enchanting tale. Lampie herself is a wonderful character, full of determination and life in the face of difficult circumstances and she spreads joy to those around her. Martha, Fish, Lenny- each respond to the appearance in their lives of this unique little girl and each is engaging. The less pleasant characters are equally believable- and easy to dislike!

The layers of the plot are beautifully managed, keeping the reader wondering as the story evolves. The writing is atmospheric and lyrical, drawing on the traditions of storytelling and folklore and the illustrations are delightful.

Essential reading for those who enjoy something a little different, ‘Lampie and the Children of the Sea’ is a challenging story which reaches a satisfying conclusion which I hope will lead to more adventures for this endearing heroine and her friends.

Lampie and the Children of the Sea Annet Schaap, translated by Laura Watkinson

Pushkin Press ISBN: 978-1782692188

Published May 2019

The Skylark's War


When Clarry is born, her mother dies and her indifferent father leaves her and her brother, Peter to be raised by a series of housekeepers and well-intentioned neighbours. They long for their summer holidays in Cornwall where, largely ignored by their grandparents, they roam free with their cousin, Rupert who they adore.

Back home, Peter shares all he learns at school with Clarry who is not considered worth a proper education until boarding school is forced upon him. As war approaches and Rupert leaves for France, their world changes forever.

This is an amazing story, destined to be a classic. Following Clarry from her birth to adulthood, the book explores family relationships against the backdrop of the first world war. Each character is beautifully developed, fully engaging the reader emotionally as their lives unfold. Clarry is delightful, remaining positive and caring in the face of neglect and indifference, devoted to her bother and cousin, and determined to succeed in the face of all adversity. Gentle, loyal Simon, Peter's school friend, adds great poignancy to the story, sensitively exploring social attitudes of the time.

'The Skylark's War' is a touching story, full of vivid description and historical detail. Excellent!

The Skylark’s War Hilary McKay

Macmillan ISBN: 978-1509894949

We were asked to review ‘The Skylark’s War’ for Reading Zone a while ago. It’s such a wonderful book we decided to share our review here too!

The Phobos Novels...


Six girls, six boys.

Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. She has signed up for glory. She has signed up for love. She has signed up for a one-way ticket. Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets.

Nothing is as it seems on this most ambitious of reality television programmes and each contestant is hiding a secret. For Leonor, it is the scarring from a fire which nearly killed her as a child and which she is desperate to hide from the others. But there are far worse secrets being kept by those in charge of the Genesis Programme who will do anything to protect themselves…

Victor Dixen has sculpted an incredibly well researched, plausible world for his novels. Each idea is carefully laid out and explained, often using diagrams and illustrations to support concepts. As someone who has no idea about the science behind any of these things, it reads convincingly, adding to the reality of the world Dixen has created. For those in the know, there might be more questions or dispute, but to me it reads like a great story! Having heard Victor speak at the South Ken Kids Fest this year, his interest in and knowledge about these things was evident!

The novel is well composed and the chapters are labelled ‘Shot’, ‘Out of Shot’ and ‘Reverse Shot’ depending on the viewpoint of the action. The characters are well developed and intriguing and this range of perspectives allows interesting comparisons and contrasts about motivation and reaction.


‘Ascension’ is a compelling novel, full of unexpected twists and turns and the sequel, ‘Distortion’, continues in the same vein. Dixen’s writing lulls the reader into a false sense of knowing what to expect before turning everything on its head and leaving you stunned. The third book, ‘Collision’ is out early next year and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Mixing love story, science fiction, treachery, deception and adventure, the ‘Phobos’ novels are perfect for older readers.

Ascension Victor Dixen

Hot Key Books ISBN: 978-1471406843

Distortion Victor Dixen

Hot Key Books ISBN: 978-1471407062

Collision Victor Dixen

Hot Key Books ISBN: 978-1471407239 (Out April 18th 2019 according to Amazon)