Really interesting read. I'm really loving these snippets of historical fiction in some of the Barrington Stoke books I'm reading lately. I love how t...moreReally interesting read. I'm really loving these snippets of historical fiction in some of the Barrington Stoke books I'm reading lately. I love how that historical detail is present but doesn't weigh down or overtake the story. I didn't realise until the end of this book that Ring of Roses is a companion novella to two other books by Mary Hooper that centre around this same time period (1665 in London during the time of the Plague) and I'm now quite excited to pick those books up as well! (less)
What a sweet and funny book! I read this and at times I was laughing but also had tears in my eyes. Full of heart and humour, I definitely recommend t...moreWhat a sweet and funny book! I read this and at times I was laughing but also had tears in my eyes. Full of heart and humour, I definitely recommend this book!(less)
I found The Baking Life of Amelie Day by Vanessa Curtis to be an utterly charming middle grade book and I was in such a dilemma when reading it. On th...moreI found The Baking Life of Amelie Day by Vanessa Curtis to be an utterly charming middle grade book and I was in such a dilemma when reading it. On the one hand, I wanted to devour this book whole and not stop reading for anything. And on the other hand, I was quite desperate to stop reading and rush immediately to my kitchen and whip up a storm baking something, anything (though preferably using Amelie's own recipes that are included within the book!) The reading won out and all the way through I found this book to be so sweet and just that little bit heart-breaking.
Amelie Day is no ordinary teen girl. She is a baking wiz and spends her entire waking life thinking up new recipes and combinations of flavours to make her baking creations the absolute best that she can make them. Her passion and enthusiasm for baking made me really smile and I love how generous she is with her baking. Giving someone homemade treats is the best and Amelie seems to know it. She really brightens up everyone around her with her baking. And she's good at it.
She's made it into the finals of the Teen Baker of the Year award and is hard at work coming up with her three dishes to put forward. Unfortunately, her mother isn't keen to let Amelie travel to London for the award. Because the other thing about Amelie is that she has cystic fibrosis that means quite a few medical complications. I can't say that I knew very much about cystic fibrosis before I started reading this book but I liked that Vanessa Curtis wrote quite a bit about what it would be like for a teenage girl to have CF in a very honest but compassionate way. We see Amelie at her best and at her worst but at no point do we pity or feel sorry for Amelie because of it. Nor is having CF her most redeeming feature.
This book is quite short but I feel like that it really packed in an emotional punch. I found myself really sympathising with Amelie's situation and could understand how she felt about wanting to take part in something so important to her as the Teen Baker award. But at the same time, I felt really bad for Amelie's mother for being protective of her daughter's health and taking a stand for what she believes will be really harmful. Also, total bonus points for including blogging into Amelie's narrative.
I loved The Baking Life of Amelie Day. I thought it was sweet and fun and made my mouth water at the same time as shining a bit of light on cystic fibrosis in a way that I might not have otherwise come across.(less)
Full review soon but it has been a long time since I read a book in an afternoon and enjoyed it as much as I did this book!
I absolutely loved Flora In...moreFull review soon but it has been a long time since I read a book in an afternoon and enjoyed it as much as I did this book!
I absolutely loved Flora In Love by Natasha Farrant! I adored the first book in the series, After Iris, and I thought while not containing as many emotional highs as the first book that Flora In Love is a wonderfully chaotic and fun sequel. I desperately want to be in a large family like the Gadsby family and be part of all their weird and wonderful antics.
I will always eagerly pick up a book about this family and their fabulous madness that only comes from being in a large family. I think Natasha Farrant does an incredible job with the family dynamics and especially in the dialogue that readers will be able to mentally picture incredibly well given that it is presented both in written diary entries as well as transcripts of video diary entries. I really love this combination and it really made me feel like I was there alongside Blue and Flora and Twig and Jas and everyone.
Flora In Love takes place a year after the events of After Iris and Blue explains at the beginning of the book that she stops writing and filming diary entries when things are good in the Gadsby family ... and so right from the start we see that there are cracks that are now appearing in Blue's, her parents', and her brother's and sisters' lives. Blue's parents are behaving strangely, Zoran has given up being their nanny and Jas in particular is feeling a bit left out now that everyone but her is having relationship problems.
I think it was really interesting to see the new relationships that everyone is forming. The title of the book is that Flora is in love but Blue also has her first real relationship with her best friend with interesting consequences and we see Twig having a crush on a girl at school that makes his behaviour change. I think all three of the older Gadsby children have things to learn about relationships and it was really fun to witness these experiences over the course of this book.
I think the thing I love the most about this book and series besides a great mixture of humour together with sadness and a whole heap of large family chaos is that all the characters presented are so wonderfully developed. I got a really great sense of everybody from the youngest Gadsby, Jas, to their parents and Zoran and his new charge, Zach. Everybody felt very real and everything that these characters go through in this book felt real and believable too. I really want to read more books about the Gadsby family!(less)
When I first head about Laura Lam's decision to self-publish a collection of Vestigial Tales, I was incredibly excited. I love the world she created i...moreWhen I first head about Laura Lam's decision to self-publish a collection of Vestigial Tales, I was incredibly excited. I love the world she created in Pantomime and Shadowplay. I loved the characters and Vestige and I couldn't wait to read more and find out every bit of new information about this world that I could...
And The Snake Charm did not disappoint. This story focuses on Drystan, the White Clown, before Micah Grey shows up at RH Ragona's Circus of Magic. It tells this story of unrest amongst the clowns and how Drystan finds himself in the middle of this fight between one of the other clowns and Bil, the ringmaster involving an incredibly powerful piece of Vestige.
I think what The Snake Charm does so well is that not only does it show us the dangers and consequences that come with owning this particular piece of Vestige but it also gives a bit fuller of a back story to a really well-loved character. Drystan has always been one of my favourite characters from Pantomime and Shadowplay and I loved that he gets the full spotlight in this novella. It was fun to see his role in the circus a little better and to see his perspective on some of the other key players in the circus before Micah Grey shows up.
I thought The Snake Charm was a wonderful addition to this world. It was a fun adventure and I can't wait to read the other Vestigial Tales, The Fisherman's Net, The Tarot Reader and The Card Sharp.(less)
I first heard about Memoirs of A Neurotic Zombie by Jeff Norton at a blogger event earlier this year and Jeff Norton was there to read some of the beg...moreI first heard about Memoirs of A Neurotic Zombie by Jeff Norton at a blogger event earlier this year and Jeff Norton was there to read some of the beginning of this book aloud ... and it was hilarious. I found myself laughing a lot listening to this funny, awkward, neurotic pre-teen turned zombie and his adventures and I knew that I was going to love it. And I did.
Adam Meltzer has the shock of his life when a few months after he dies from a bee sting at his 12th birthday, he wakes up as a zombie. This is his story of how he both adjusts to zombie-hood but also how he solves the mystery of his own death/why he turned into a zombie. It was a whole lot of fun and is populated with some great supporting characters. I especially loved the idea that everyone is different and that those differences should be celebrated.
The thing with Adam Meltzer is that he's many things. He's obviously a pre-teen and now a zombie, but he's also a germaphobe and an absolute worrier and those things can offer their own sorts of humour. But I think the thing that I love most about Adam Meltzer is how literal he is. I know an almost 9 year old who is just as literal as Adam and I could really understand and relate to some things Adam seems to question throughout this book.
Together with Adam in this detective mission for answers are two friends Ernesto and Corina who are in the unique position to understand Adam's predicament in that they are a chupacabra and a vampire respectively. What I really loved about this trio is the level of support and friendship they give to each other.
Altogether, Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie was a really fun, funny book about a group of outsiders who find a place to belong and who go on this dangerous adventure seeking truth in this really entertaining way and I was gripped throughout by what they get up to. I loved reading a book that was so humorous as well as being full of heart. Highly recommended!(less)
I absolutely adored The Girl Who Walked On Air by Emma Carroll. This is Emma Carroll's second historical story aimed at a middle grade audience but it...moreI absolutely adored The Girl Who Walked On Air by Emma Carroll. This is Emma Carroll's second historical story aimed at a middle grade audience but it is the first book of hers I've read. I'm sure I'll go back and read Frost Hollow Hall based on the strength of feeling I had for this book though.
I absolutely loved the main character, Louie, and witnessing her journey throughout this book. She goes on such an adventure! And I definitely think my favourite aspect of this book is Louie's determination to succeed and follow her dreams despite everyone around her telling her that she can't because she's young and a girl.
But things aren't all smooth sailing for Louie. As a baby, Louie was abandoned by her mother and taken in by Jasper, a trapeze artist at Mr. Chipchase's circus. Louie has grown up to become a ticket-seller and mender-of-costumes but she dreams of being a show-stopper, she dreams of being a tightrope-walker. Together with her lovely little dog, Pip, she's been training for years to hone her craft in order to impress Mr. Chipchase. But he doesn't seem to take her any notice at all. And instead the first of two strangers enters her life and changes things all around.
I loved all the details that Emma Carroll wrote into the story about Victorian circuses and how every act needed the WHIFF OF DEATH in order to be widely entertaining and how every act needed to be daring and pushing the limits and taking things one step further to be truly death-defying and amazing. And Louie definitely gets pulled into this mind-set and idolises other risk-taking tightrope-walkers like Charles Blondin even after a horrible accident leaves the person closest to Louie in a terrible state. It felt exciting to read about all the risks and daring that these performers get up to, but also really scary that a balance hadn't been set.
Other than Louie herself, I really loved all of the secondary characters in this book. Jasper, Mr. Chipchase, Pip, Louie's best friend, Ned ... even Kitty, Louie's arch-nemesis was a really entertaining addition to the story. But for me, it was Louie and Gabriel, a performer from another circus who comes to audition for the role of showstopper that really took the limelight for me. I loved how we are able to see Louie's courage next to Gabriel's nervousness and stage fright and how we slowly discover how Gabriel came to feeling this way.
There were several really emotional scenes during The Girl Who Walked On Air and I felt slightly surprised by how quickly I came to love Louie and how much I wanted the best for her. I actually cried from pride at one point in the book because she had achieved something wonderful and my heart just felt fit to burst. This book was just so lovely and entertaining! I really do recommend it especially for slightly younger than YA readers who are looking for a story about adventure and empowerment and friendship and bravery. (less)
I'm really quickly beginning to love and look forward to anything by Sarah Crossan. This is the second really beautiful book by the same author that I...moreI'm really quickly beginning to love and look forward to anything by Sarah Crossan. This is the second really beautiful book by the same author that I've read this year and I'm really quite impressed. Apple and Rain is a contemporary story about dysfunctional families, making wrong choices and the consequences of those actions and also the power and truth that can come from poetry. This was a really wonderful and emotional read and I finished it with a lump in my throat and a desperate attempt not to cry while in a public place.
The two titular characters, Apple and Rain, are very different characters. Apple, who is the sole narrator of the story, is a 13 year old girl who has been raised by her strict grandmother after her mother left her 11 years ago. In those 11 years despite having this wonderful and strong relationship with her Nan, Apple has pined away for her mother. She's daydreamed about what it would be like to have her mother in her life, she'd love to have her questions answered about why her mum left and what she's been doing. And it becomes a real shock when Apple's mother does return and wants to be more involved in Apple's life and have Apple come to live with her. And while Apple initially loves the freedom that being around her mother brings her, this excitement soon fizzles when Apple comes to meet Rain, her half-sister, and starts to see that freedom and chaos is not all that it's cracked up to be.
I thought Apple's story was really believable right from the start. I could sense her heart-break over her mother's abandonment years ago and I can see and understand why Apple would want to live with her mother and give her this chance to prove that things can be different. I also found Rain to be a wonderful character as well. Clearly projecting some of her own issues with her relationship with her mother onto a fictional baby that she fusses over and uses in order to gain much-needed attention.
And while this story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters and the ways in which decisions that have been made have affected each other, it also touches on some other really interesting things as well, such as Apple's crumbling friendship with her former-best friend, Pilar, and also her unrequited feelings for an older boy. There's also a really cute friendship with the quirky boy next door and my favourite aspect of the book: Apple's growing interest in poetry and how she uses reading and writing her own poetry in order to organise her thoughts and feelings about her mother and about love and friendship and fear.
I thought Apple and Rain was a really beautiful and heart-warming book. It felt truthful and emotional and I really recommend that you read this book! It is published the 14th August by Bloomsbury. (less)
What even is it about surfing books? I read one and I absolutely crave more. Such was the case with Blue by Lisa Glass. What thrilled me about this bo...moreWhat even is it about surfing books? I read one and I absolutely crave more. Such was the case with Blue by Lisa Glass. What thrilled me about this book in particular, aside from the awesome surfing is that it is set around an actual English seaside town and not Hawaii or the US or Australia, but somewhere closer to home. Let's have more of that, okay?
And I really quickly fell for this story and these characters. At parts I found it a little surprising that we hear so much about secondary characters and their side stories, especially when it came to Zeke's family and the things they get up to but it all made sense in the end. I had no idea until I turned that last page that is the first book in a series! I'm really quite excited to read more about Iris and her surfing experiences.
So, Blue tells us this story spanning one momentous summer with our main character, Iris. She's really down in the dumps at the beginning of Blue, having just broken up with her ex-boyfriend, Daniel, and she's finding it hard to move on. Her best friend, Kelly, drags her off to a yoga class and there Iris meets Zeke, this hot surfer dude and they really hit it off.
These first few chapters of Blue were so wonderful to read, especially as it's really awkward and there are some embarrassing moments as Iris and Zeke first interact. It was obvious how much Iris fancies the pants off Zeke. And to be honest, so did I right from the start. He's gorgeous and talented and it seemed pretty clear to me (not so much to Iris) how smitten with her he is too.
But there are so many things standing in the way of their relationship. First off, Iris is totally unsure what Zeke feels or what he wants from her. Then she finds out that actually he's this big-time surfer who travels the world surfing the hottest spots and being sponsored. And there's also Iris's conflicted feelings about her ex-boyfriend and the fact that she might not yet be over him...
I found this book to be pretty surprising. I loved meeting Zeke's family. His brothers, his parents, his nana, they were all lovely and I just wanted to be part of that family unit. There was an incredibly touching scene involving the three Francis brothers and Nanna that had me nearly about to cry. And at the same time, I really felt for Daniel. He really cares about Iris in his own way but makes so many mistakes trying to win her back. It was a very emotional ride.
But, of course, the thing I really did love the most about this book was the surfing. Blue takes us through all sorts of different aspects of surfing. From learning to surf, surfing as a fun hobby, the competitive nature of trying to get into more pro circles and also that of someone at the top of their game in surfing. I found it all fascinating. I loved hearing about the different lingo and different things to consider and be aware of, the different boards and places to surf. Honestly, I lapped up every single detail of surfing in this book. It was all so very satisfying.
Blue was such a fun and romantic, summery beach read. I really recommend that you pick this one up and fall in love with surfing all over again! (less)
I really loved Tilly's Promise by Linda Newbery. I thought it was a really sweet and emotional book and I was very surprised by how much I felt for th...moreI really loved Tilly's Promise by Linda Newbery. I thought it was a really sweet and emotional book and I was very surprised by how much I felt for the characters despite this book being quite short. I even had tears in my eyes at several different points of the story!
Tilly's Promise is one of the first books by Barrington Stoke that I have read but I will certainly be picking up more especially after the strength of this book. I loved both the characters and the story. Linda Newbery did a great job of pulling me into the WWI setting with some nice (but brief!) historical detail. I think the cover for this book is absolutely beautiful and very in keeping with the story line, especially as Tilly, Harry, and Georgie send each other postcards throughout the book.
It's the story of Tilly, a young volunteer nurse that is trained and sent off to France to help out in the war effort. She has a sweetheart, Harry, who is a soldier. When Tilly's younger brother, Georgie - a gentle, good-natured boy with learning difficulties, is being sent off to war as well, Tilly asks Harry to keep Georgie safe. That promise proves difficult to keep as Tilly and Harry both witness death and injury as soldier and nurse.
I had no idea there were no restrictions in place to protect young people with learning difficulties like Georgie who was more than capable physically but not necessarily mentally or emotionally. I also really liked that Tilly, as a nurse, comes to empathise with the German soldiers during her shifts as well and another emotional scene comes when Tilly makes her own well-intentioned promise to a soldier that she finds herself not able to honour.
Barrington Stoke books are aimed at struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers. Tilly's Promise is a really engaging story of World War I. I really enjoyed the shorter chapters, the interesting story line and how emotionally invested I became in the characters and of Tilly and Harry's relationship. Really recommended!(less)
Never was there a book more charming and fun than Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, this first in the Wells and Wong Mystery series. It's funny...moreNever was there a book more charming and fun than Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, this first in the Wells and Wong Mystery series. It's funny, I was sort of teetering on the fence about whether or not I wanted to actually read this book as it is aimed at a slightly younger than YA audience. And then I kept hearing positive things about it on Twitter and suddenly I thought, 'oh, why not?' I am so very happy that I acted on that whim.
Because Murder Most Unladylike is such a lovely little book. I loved everything about it. From the upbeat cover, the fact that there is a MAP and a character guide at the start. I love the fact that this book is set in a boarding school in the 1930s. I especially loved the voice of our main character, Hazel Wong and her friendship with Daisy Wells.
At the start of the book, we are introduced to both Hazel and Daisy and how they met and formed their Detective Agency, that up until now was only gathering clues and solving petty mysteries. And then one day Hazel stumbles across the dead body of Miss Wells, the science mistress and Hazel and Daisy go into overdrive gathering evidence and suspects and in the meanwhile nobody else seems to realise that Miss Wells is even dead.
Honestly, this book. I completely fell in love with Deepdean School For Girls and with Hazel and Daisy. I wanted to go back in time and attend this school, with these girls and to skip about and go on bunbreaks. BUNBREAKS. And I also really loved the way in which Hazel and Daisy go about solving this case. They put together a timeline of events, a suspect list, gather evidence and alibis and all in this clever and roundabout way by talking to the other students and teachers. It was all very interesting to learn of the different news and gossip about everyone involved in Hazel and Daisy's lives. It also felt really believable that these two girls could achieve what they did in the ways that they did it.
I loved Hazel's character the most. I love that she's from Hong Kong and we see a little bit of the way she is treated differently by the other girls. I also loved that she's a little plump and some of her comments and observations involving biscuits and buns made me howl with laughter and just love her that much more. Her friendship with Daisy is a complicated one and it was really interesting to see the formation of their friendship from Hazel's perspective and how that friendship is tested during this murder investigation.
I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend that you read it. I'm so excited to read more in this series! Bring on the next Wells and Wong Mystery! (less)
I Predict A Riot by Catherine Bruton very quickly became one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It's a very emotional read, very thought-provok...moreI Predict A Riot by Catherine Bruton very quickly became one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It's a very emotional read, very thought-provoking and has some wonderful characters and relationships between them. I really loved reading this book and had tears in my eyes by the end of it.
First off, I loved the structure of the book which is told from the perspective of our main character, Maggie, as she is secretly filming the events of her neighbourhood. The chapters are all based around specific scenes that Maggie has filmed in different locations around the main street, Coronation Road. I Predict A Riot was inspired by the London Riots in 2011 and there were quite a few similarities between this story and actual events.
And at first, I was reading this book and comparing this story and its characters with what I remembered happening three years ago. The area that Maggie and her friends are in is an area of London with a big class divide. There are families like Maggie's (whose mum is the local MP) who attends a boarding school and live in luxury alongside families like Tokes' whose mother works several jobs to pay the rent on a poky bedsit. There is also a large gang culture that is rampant, and our third main character, Little Pea is a 12 year old boy who has been caught up in the Starfish Gang and cannot see a future for himself outside of it. I Predict A Riot tells us this story of events that are leading up to the London riots including allegations of police brutality and protests but one of the things that I loved so much about it is that Catherine Bruton gives us this story without judgement. We witness characters saying and doing questionable things for their own reasons but each of those reasons are laid out and are true to Maggie, Tokes and to Little Pea. I loved that about this book.
Because while I started this book making the comparisons to the rioting, I finished this story knowing definitely that while the riots were the background for this story, I Predict A Riot is really a story about a hope for change and it is a story about friendship and about being true to yourself and making the decisions that you can live with. I loved the story arc for all three of the main characters. I loved how each of them are very different and have different sets of principles and beliefs in what is right and wrong but that these principles are tested in really difficult situations. Some characters surprised me by the mistakes they made, the strength of their convictions and about the ways in which they changed throughout the story.
I was really surprised by this book. I was surprised by the depth of my feelings for Maggie, Tokes and Little Pea. I thought Catherine Bruton did an amazing job of pulling me into the narrative of this book and really connecting me to that of these three characters. It was really interesting to see different sides to this story from three characters with such wildly different backgrounds and the way in which their stories overlapped. I really highly recommend this story! (less)
I really enjoyed Louder Than Words by Laura Jarratt. As a massive fan of Laura Jarratt's previous novels, Skin Deep and By Any Other Name, I was alway...moreI really enjoyed Louder Than Words by Laura Jarratt. As a massive fan of Laura Jarratt's previous novels, Skin Deep and By Any Other Name, I was always going to be excited to read the author's latest... and while I don't think that Louder Than Words hits the same emotional high as I've experienced with the author's previous stories, I did still find it really addictive reading and incredibly interesting.
Louder Than Words is mostly told from the perspective of Rafi, a teenager girl who has selective mutism, which means that she hasn't spoken in many years. Instead of words spoken out loud, Rafi really does better expressing herself with the written word. And while Rafi is keen to point out at the beginning of the novel that this is her brother Silas's story, it actually feels like a combination of stories of all three main characters, Rafi, Silas and Josie, and it was nice to see contributions from Silas and Josie throughout the book.
Rafi was a really wonderful narrator, warm, funny and relatable. My heart really went out to her right from the start as we learn more about what selective mutism is and how it has affected her life and her family's life. At all times throughout this story I really wanted Rafi to be happy and okay with who she is. I wanted to get to the bottom of what has caused Rafi's problems with verbal communication and I wanted to see her take steps towards happiness and I loved seeing her progression with this in her friendship with Josie and during therapy sessions. Rafi's story takes up the bulk of this book and it was definitely my favourite aspect of Louder Than Words.
Josie's story, however, while still really interesting takes up less page time. I loved her though. I think she was a wonderful friend to Rafi and she was pretty great at seeing through things. We meet Josie right at the beginning as she's dealing with rumours spread by her ex-boyfriend and is being bullied and ostracised by her friends and classmates. In some ways, Josie is the catalyst of the entire story as she is the person who spurs Rafi into action with her speech and in Josie's defense Silas gets involved in something bigger than himself.
Silas is the character that was most intriguing to me. While we see through Rafi's perspective and get her thoughts and feelings through her narration and while we see snippets of Josie through brief Pinterest quotes, we only ever see Silas in the first person through a handful of letters that he's written to his father. I found this really intriguing and I loved the format and structure of the book in this way. I really loved Silas. At the beginning of the story, he was an amazing support network for Rafi and he really looked out for her. However, once we met Lara and started having feelings for her, he seemed to change and his priorities and interests expanded to more ...dubious activities. I do love that an aspect of political activism has been included in this book. I'd really like to see more included in YA fiction as I think it's something that teenagers should have their eyes opened to from a young age.
All in all, Louder Than Words was a fascinating book for me. I thought it was made up of some amazing characters, each with their own really emotional relationships. In particular, I love the sibling relationship between Silas and Rafi and also the strong friendship between Rafi and Josie. I thought both were really important to the story and were very well written. I'm really happy to have read this book and can highly recommend it! Will certainly be looking out for more books in the future by Laura Jarratt... (less)