End Game by Alan Gibbons

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books  |  Publication date:  9th April 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (review copy)

End Game by Alan Gibbons

Nick Mallory is piecing together the last moments before the accident. Will he learn the truth? If he does, how will anyone come to terms with it?

This is a story that grabs you from the very first line. It’s a short read, but not an entirely comfortable one, as the writer invites us deep inside a young man’s head to experience his inner most thoughts.

That young man is Nick Mallory. He is just seventeen and is lying motionless in hospital following a nasty car accident. Between bouts of consciousness he can see and hear most of what’s going on, but he’s unable to react to his family or the nurses caring for him in any way.

During his time in this waking coma, Nick’s thoughts and frustrations are relayed to us in the first person, quite brilliantly I might add. Even though he can’t be heard physically at this stage, as a reader we hear him ‘voice’ his responses to the snatched conversations of visitors, while trying to piece together the broken pieces of his life.

Despite bedside vigils by his family and girlfriend, progress is slow. Nick’s memory of the events leading up to accident does eventually become clearer, but all the while he harbours an unexplained resentment for his ex-military-turned-politician father.

While Nick is struggling to understand why he’s so angry at his hero dad, there’s another puzzle to contend with, like the strange man with ‘dead eyes’ who appears at the foot of his hospital bed, and all Nick can do is watch him silently screaming.

It seems that surviving the crash would be the easy part, as there are some things you can’t recover from, like the truth. ‘Dead eyes’ knows everything – and now he wants justice.

This unusual story shows us how easily good intentions can turn sour and shatter innocent lives. It takes courage to listen to your conscience and try to put things right. But for some people, things can never be the same again.

End Game is a quick-paced story and my attention didn’t waiver at any time. But there was one circumstance much later on in the book that I couldn’t quite bring myself to accept (when Nick was left alone, despite apparent ‘dangers’). I won’t elaborate further as I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone. But I will say that this is worth a look if only to experience Nick’s inner dialogue, which is quite excellent.

Rating: 3.5/5

(Many thanks to the publisher for sending a paperback copy of this book for review, much appreciated. Twitter: @fiercefiction)

Alan Gibbons is the author of many books – if you would like to read more about his work, you can check out his author page on Amazon UK by following the link below:


Note: Don’t be confused by the cover on Amazon UK as the book title is shown as ‘You Took My Son’, and not End Game, although the description is correct (as of the time of publishing this review).


Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s  |  Published 12th March 2015  |  Edition: Signed Paperback (competition win)

Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder

Funny and fabulous! (And that’s just the outfits!)

Witch Wars is funny and fabulous (and that’s just the outfits!). It has THE most perfect illustrations, and a map, too! And I do love a good map. With names like Brollywood, and Clutterbucks to visit, it’s the perfect place for a bit of Witchy Wandering!

This story is delightfully refreshing and has some fantastic personalities. Whether you’re young, old, or prefer not to admit to either, it’s such a joy to read. I LOVED IT.

Tiga Whicabim is nine years old and lives with a miserable old bat called Miss Hek, who in turn refers to her as ‘brat’ and serves cheese water for tea. The young girl spends most of her time in the garden shed and entertains herself by putting on plays, casting slugs in the starring roles.

During one of her solitary performances, where she is both director and audience, she comes face to face with a little winged creature who appears to have popped right out of the plughole.

This creature is Fran, The Fabulous Fairy (a star in her own right, or so she says). After a quick introduction, one minute Tiga was standing in the shed, and the next she was in Sinkville, the home to many witches of all shapes and sizes. Sinkville occupies the space below our world, and is accessed via pipes (which apparently explains how the witches got their pointy hats when they’re sucked back up them whilst travelling).

Tiga’s feet don’t touch the ground before she finds herself participating in an event that occurs every nine years, and involves nine witches, who are nine years old:

Welcome, to Witch Wars!

Witch Wars - Map of Sinkville

Maps, glorious maps! Sinkville is accessed via pipes and plugholes, which connects it to the world above.

Tiga protests that she’s not a witch, she’s never met a witch, nor does she have any desire to be one. Yet, despite her pleas, Fran The Fabulous Fairy, explains that not only is her name, Tiga Whicabim, an anagram of ‘I AM A BIG WITCH’, she was nominated by someone who believes she can win the contest.

That’s not bad going, considering the overall winner gets to rule the whole of Sinkville, make up new rules and generally create a nicer for everyone – if they so choose. Anyway, if she wins she needn’t go back to ‘orrible Miss Hek and her nasty cheese water meals.

But how can she stand any chance of winning when she doesn’t know any spells? She’s still in her jeans and doesn’t even look like a witch! And who could have nominated her?

Thank goodness Witch Wars has evolved over the years and there isn’t a fight to the death anymore. It’s a battle of wits and there are some puzzles to be solved, general weirdness to contend with, but above all, you must stay one step ahead, as not everyone plays by the rules…

Who will win?  Now that would be telling.  I’ll just say, let battle commence!

Rating: 4.5/5

Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder 15.04

The delights of a giveaway: signed book, a wicked book mark and star necklace. Perfect combo for the girlies in my clan.

My sincere thanks to the author for running the recent giveaway to ‘conjure up’ the silliest witch name you could think of. My effort was: Melancholy Spewitt, which to my surprise was a winning entry!

The marvellous prize included: a signed paperback, a bookmark and a star necklace. Obviously, I have too much time on my hands…but it was soooo much fun!

You can follow the author on Twitter:  @Sibealpounder | Publisher: @kidsbloomsbury

Why not visit the excellent Witch Wars Website: http://www.sibealpounder.com/

The Accidental Prime Minister, by Tom McLaughlin

Publisher: Oxford University Press |  Published 2nd April 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (via Netgalley)

The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin

A story that’s truly titter-worthy.

Light political hilarity for children? No, no, no, scrub that. This book’s got some serious sniggering material in it for all ages. Of course it’s all completely fictitious (like an eccentric, roller-skating Queen), but everyone can recognise most of the character traits and situations throughout – and I for one found it totally titter-worthy.

Firstly, let’s meet Joe Perkins, a hapless twelve year old with an extraordinary knack – for falling.

“He often fell, even when no falling was required. He was one of life’s great fallers. He fell into rooms, he fell out of them again….Joe’s life was a constant battle with gravity.”

Joe’s greatest achievement in life to date was, as the author so aptly puts it:

…putting his underwear on with his eyes shut was as close to living on the edge as Joe’s life got.

And yet, his life was about to hit the headlines – the current, grotesque Prime Minister of Great Britain, one Percival T Duckholm, is on schedule to pay a visit to Joe’s school.

The timing couldn’t be any worse, as Joe was so upset to learn that this great man of power is going to close down the park where his mum works.  With his little voice from the back of the crowd, Joe tries to ask the PM why he’s doing this, but is swotted away like a fly. He just wants the PM to listen to what he has to say, that’s all. So, his little voice grows louder, and Joe keeps talking and talking and….the crowd roared!  Of course, the PM doesn’t like being upstaged by a puny, snivelling little wretch.

Joe Perkins

Your Country needs YOU, Joe Perkins.

Before he knows it, Joe’s become an internet media sensation – the You Tube clip showing him standing up to the many chinned Minister has gone viral – it’s a veritable modern day struggle of David and Goliath!

“JOE FOR PM,” his fans shout.  He became so famous, a man even asked him to autograph a turnip, as he hadn’t any paper with him. But he’s just a boy who wears Postman Pat PJ’s (yes, he knows he’s too old but they’re comfy, ok?)

Soon Joe, his mum and his best friend (and media adviser), Ajay, are invited to No. 10 for talks. And somehow, some way, Joe Perkins finds his life turned upside down, as he surprised that he could soon be running the Country.

When asked about his policies, Joe simply wants MORE FUN FOR EVERYONE! But all-day-fun doesn’t come without its consequences and Joe realises that it’s not easy pleasing all the people, all of the time, especially other countries with their own squabbles. So, popularity doesn’t always get you everywhere and power struggles for No. 10 ensue – the grouchy Deputy Prime Minister, Violetta Crump, will do ANYTHING to snatch the PM’s job, at ANY cost.

Will Joe Perkins succeed in opening the park again? Can he negotiate to prevent a war? But most importantly, does he still wear Postman Pat PJ’s now he’s PM?

The answers to these vital questions can be found in this brilliant book by Tom McLaughlin.  LOVED IT.

Rating: 4.5/5

(As an older reader I enjoyed it immensely, so my sincere thanks go to the publisher for allowing me to download a copy from Netgalley.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @_TomMcLaughlin | Publisher: OUPChildrens

Joe All Alone, by Joanna Nadin

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books  |  Published 7th May 2015  |  Edition: Kindle, via Netgalley

Counting down the days one by one, Joe Holt shares his ‘adventures’ of the week or so he is home alone.

Joe All Alone

No parents. No rules. No problem? Erm, think again…

From looking at the cover, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a variant of a Macaulay Culkin film – looks fun, doesn’t it?

Well, appearances can be deceptive. Being left alone in a flat would seem like any child’s dream, wouldn’t it? You can do what you want, say what you want, and eat what you want – but what if you couldn’t? What if your primary carers cleared off on a Spanish holiday and left you with nothing but the following basic instructions?:

1. Don’t leave the flat in case people see you. (They’ll report it to the authorities.)
2. Don’t talk to anyone (Refer to no. 1).

Being left behind (abandoned) by his mother and Dean, her current boyfriend, didn’t seem so bad for a short while…

Each day of the story holds its own joy, or new problem to confront.  But little Joe Holt is just a thirteen year old from Peckham. That is until he meets Asha by accident.

Despite building quite a bond with this feisty girl over a short number of days, with her bubble gum and strong opinions, Joe doesn’t tell her the truth about him being alone at first.

When Joe’s folks fail to return home he’s forced to use his initiative to find a more permanent solution to his problems. But when you’ve been told you’re pretty useless and relentlessly start counting stuff under stress, it’s hard to believe you can achieve anything at all.

But never fear! It’s not all total bleakness. In between bullying, a nasty thug who’s watching the flat, and supplies running out, Joe’s quirkiness remains, together with his humour, optimism and a very special friendship.

Hope (if you can call it that) does raise its head, but in a totally unexpected way.  The ending wasn’t exactly what I’d have liked, but I suppose you don’t get everything in life, just like Joe Holt of Peckham.

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy I received via Netgalley.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @joannanadin | Publisher: @LBKidsUK