Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Girl in the Window by Penny Joelson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 287
Publisher: Electric Monkey 
Released: 9th of August 2018 

Nothing ever happens on Kasia's street. And Kasia would know, because her illness makes her spend days stuck at home, watching the world from her bedroom window. So when she sees what looks like a kidnapping, she's not sure whether she can believe her own eyes . . . There was a girl in the window opposite - did she see something too? But when Kasia goes to find her she is told the most shocking thing of all. There is no girl. 

What I Have to Say 

A great story, raising awareness of how hard life can be when you have ME and live a mostly housebound (often bedbound) life and also how quiet streets can hold the darkest of secrets, but also the best of friends, The Girl in the Window has so much packed into it for just one short book. Although I found it didn't have as big an impact on me as I Have No Secrets did, I found it a really interesting and well written story of living with ME. 

What I really loved about this book was how kind and caring Kasia was. I've been housebound myself for a while with Agoraphobia, so though I don't know how it feels like to have ME, I do know what it's like to be trapped at home and the boredom and the pain of living within four walls that Kasia feels is so very accurate. But despite how small her world has gotten she still reaches out to her neighbour and offers so much kindness to the lonely old woman who lives next door, completely changing the woman's life with a pureness of heart that is so wonderful to see. And of course that's not the only person Kasia reaches out to, there's the mysterious girl in the window.... 

The mystery of the girl across the street isn't so dramatic as I Have No Secrets. There's no real danger towards Kasia until near the end of the book. Most of the core mystery is just looking out of the window wondering about the girl she catches glimpses of, but this doesn't make it too slow like it would with another book. I think partly because Kasia's life is slow, really slow. The nature of her illness makes it so that it has to be. And so you fall quickly into Kasia's routine. It adds to the feel of the novel rather than detracts from it. 

With this second fantastic book, Penny Joelson is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Electric Monkey for providing me with this copy for review.

Monday, 27 August 2018

You Only Live Once by Jess Valance

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 23rd of August 2018 

Gracie Dart has always worked hard and she's got a wall covered with revision timetables and French verbs to prove it. But now GCSEs are behind her and she suddenly starts to think: what was the POINT of it all?

When Gracie thinks she's dying of a disgusting tropical illness, she starts to worry she's been wasting her best years being sensible. It's like people say: you only live once - so isn't it about time she started LIVING?
(OK, so the tropical illness turned out to be a fake-tan miscalculation. Anyone could make the same mistake.) 

When Gracie decides to do something, she does it properly. Gracie Dart is about to live out her dreams. However embarrassing.

What I Have to Say 

This is cringe done right! I've talked before about secondhand embarrassment and just feeling uncomfortable when characters have embarrassing moments and how I just don't like it, but this is a book that I really enjoyed because the character was pretty much a complete failure at so many things. I think it was written really well. The things that happened were genuinely funny and the whole book was filled with humour of all kinds. It felt like I was being encouraged to laugh with the character rather than at her. And she often laughed at herself. 

Gracie was so great in general. She was funny, smart and she tried hard, even if she did get carried away sometimes. She was easy to like and root for, I think. I took to her voice straight away. The other characters were really great as well. The granma was amazing and the little brother was great if a bit gross sometimes. Alsom Sarah was so cool and I want to see more of her! I want to see her and Gracie get together in the next book, they're so perfect together. 

I did feel a bit put out by the way Til's mum was discussed and the way her mental health was treated throughout the book. I hope that this changes for the next one. It made me really uncomfortable to have her dismissed as nuts when she obviously has really bad difficulties. 

All in all though, I loved the book and can't wait for the next one! 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 279
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre 
Released: 2nd of January 2018 

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her....

Pages: 288
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Released: 9th of August 2018

Shipwrecked on a remote, wild island, Robot Roz learned from the unwelcoming animal inhabitants and adapted to her surroundings--but can she survive the challenges of the civilized world and find her way home to Brightbill and the island?

What I Have to Say 

(slight spoilers for The Wild Robot in the first two paragraphs, spoilers for both in the third)

So this has got to be both the weirdest book I have ever read and the most fun I have had in a long time. It starts with a robot massacre with otters playing with a severed robot head complete with pictures. It goes on to see Roz adopt a gosling (after accidentally killing it's family) a fact that is never addressed even after he finds out he's adopted. Roz talks to animals, climbs up and down cliffs and builds a house for her and her adopted baby goose to live in. I thought this would a kind of cute story about a robot learning to adapt to an environment with no humans but instead it 
was this strange, quite disturbing story of inter-species adoption and mass death. 

I'm being way too harsh. It's really fun to joke about this book, but actually I think it would be great for a kid. I think they would love Roz and Brightbill and really engage with their adventures. I did wonder while reading it whether the death, both of the robots at the start and of various animals and robots throughout the book might be a bit much, so maybe read it before giving it to your kid. But really, it would be fun for a kid to read on their own or with an adult. Plus it's great fun for adults to read and laugh at, sorry, but I gave my friends and running commentary as I read it and enjoyed it immensely. 

It was also very philosophical. It really looked deeply into what it would be like for a robot to learn how to live away from civilisation, how the AI would develop for self-preservation. The second book goes even deeper into the issue, showing Roz missing her family on her island and trying to get back there. Though it was a lot slower than the first book. It seemed really strange to me that Roz was being so slow at planning her escape. I definitely preferred the first book. 

As I said, a great book for early readers or reading aloud with a child, fun to laugh about if you're an adult.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480
Publisher: Penguin 
Released: 16th of August 2018 (first published 2012) 

The night Cameron Post's parents died, her first emotion was relief. Relief they would never know that hours earlier, she'd been kissing a girl.

Now living with her conservative Aunt in small-town Montana, hiding her sexuality and blending in becomes second nature to Cameron until she begins an intense friendship with the beautiful Coley Taylor.

Desperate to 'correct' her niece, Cameron's Aunt takes drastic action.

Now Cameron must battle with the cost of being her true-self even if she's not completely sure who that is.

Trigger Warnings: homophobia, conversion camp, d slur, parent death

What I Have to Say 

This is such an important book, but I'm sad to say I found it a bit slow. I felt like I was always waiting for something to happen. I think it's because it's not the sort of book that I normally read. It's not written to be full of action. It's written to show a girl exploring her sexuality in the place where most people would look at that sexuality as a sin. 

Other than the pace, it was really good. The characters were well crafted. Cameron herself is such a perfect character for the subject matter. It was great to see her develop throughout the book.Though Ruth is a character full of judgement, I really liked the way she was described throughout the book. It was obvious that she did do what she felt was best. It really showed that the parents that send their kids away to be "fixed" often do think it is the best for them, even though they are so completely misguided. It's so easy to paint these homophobic parents as hateful, so it was really interesting to see the relationship between Cam and Ruth. 

The camp was interesting too. I was expecting more of a boot camp, when in fact the conversion was more subtle. It was really scary how the concepts they were introducing to Cameron sunk into her head, even though she wasn't engaging with it like some of the other kids there. 

I would have preferred more action, but this is not a book meant to sensationalise. It's a thorough exploration of identity and sexuality told from the point of view of a beautiful character. 

My thanks got to Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with a copy for review. 

Monday, 20 August 2018

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 
Released: 28th of August 2018

It's been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah's story--that she died proclaiming her faith. 

But it's not true. 

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn't say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah's parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I'm not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did--and didn't--happen that day. 

Except Sarah's martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don't take kindly to what I'm trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what's right. I don't know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

What I Have to Say 

An interesting read with Keplinger exploring a whole new side of the school shooting narrative, showing the survivors three years on, all with different versions and secrets about what happened that day in their school. 

To start with, I don't think anyone has done a narrative about the survivors so long after the shooting. I found it really interesting to see how they'd got on with their lives and the coping strategies they had taken to help them get through the trauma of it all. It showed how long these things linger around, but also how the survivors have gotten on with their lives, finishing school and going to university. In a lot of stories, the narrative stops before this can really be shown, so you don't see much of the survivors going back to their lives and moving on. 

I also really liked the fact that the name of the shooter was never stated. It was a powerful move and a powerful comment about how in this sort of situation, the shooter ends up getting talked about more than anyone else. How the victims are overshadowed by people trying to explain away the motives with stories of bullying. This is a story that puts the story into the survivors hands. It's told by them and either though they each have different truths, different recollections of the events, it is clear that it's their story. 

It was a sad story in many ways, showing the trauma, the effect on the community and the grieving of the families, but it also is incredibly interesting and political, going deep into issues that I haven't ever seen addressed in fiction before. The way they've gone into the way the media can change what happens when it tells the story for various reasons and the effect that can have on the survivors who's voices have been taken away. 

This is definitely a story that will give you a lot to think about. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: HQ
Released: 23rd of August 2018

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial--this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

What I Have to Say 

This was powerful, intelligently written and completely terrifying when looked at alongside real life. From the blurb, you may think that it seems a bit far fetched, the sort of dystopia that needs a lot of explanation of how it happened. But actually playing on the "traditional values" that certain types of people love so much, the government shown in Vox manage to easily, realistically bring such a thing to pass. 

As you can expect from a book built so much around language, words and communication was such a important part of the book and Dalcher had obviously put so much thought into it. With only 100 words to speak a day, women and girls have to put so much thought into exactly what to say, when to nod or shake their head. It was so interesting how not only did they confine their words so much, it was training them to keep quiet without being obvious. 

Jean was a good character. Intelligent and fierce, caring so much about her little girl that she would do anything to get her out of this world that she's found herself in. I loved how much she thought about the past, about how much she and the other women like her could have done to prevent this from happening. The daughter was also a perfect glimpse into what they were teaching the girls at school. The range of characters coming into the novel from just one family, just one woman's viewpoint was really great. 

Not one for the faint of heart, Vox is the perfect look into what could become of our world if we keep letting politicians regress us back to the 50s mindset. 

My thanks go to HQ and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 256
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 9th of August 2018 

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. 

What I Have to Say 

This is a beautiful heart-wrenching story about a girl slowly losing her sight. The way that Mafalda thought about things, her bond with the stories she read and her friendship with the people around her made up for a beautiful unique voice of a young girl. 

The story progresses through Mafalda's life as she slowly loses her eyesight, showing her life in the last six months before her world goes dark. It shows her parents trying to cope with it, moving house, getting everything sorted so that they can provide for her. The friendships she has at school, the long standing one with a janitor who tells her stories of amazon warriors, and new ones beginning to form. There are so many threads to this story that weave together through a young girl's perspective to show a snapshot in her life in such a beautiful way. 

Woven through it all this this beautiful character who loves stories and her cat. She's passionate, brave but most of all scared. And it was that fear and how she coped with it, her transition from a sighted world to one without was such an amazing story to read. 

A perfect book for someone who wants something short, beautiful and truly moving. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 13 August 2018

The Poet X by Elizabeth Agevedo

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368 
Publisher: Electric Monkey 
Released: 3rd of May 2018 

Xiomara has always kept her words to herself. When it comes to standing her ground in her Harlem neighbourhood, she lets her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But X has secrets – her feelings for a boy in her bio class, and the notebook full of poems that she keeps under her bed. And a slam poetry club that will pull those secrets into the spotlight.

Because in spite of a world that might not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to stay silent.

What I Have to Say 

I'm not a massive fan of just sitting and reading poetry, especially with something like Slam where it's supposed to be read allowed, but I liked this book so, so much. The combinations of the story and the poetry meant that I could see Xiomara reading the poems. The beautiful cover is one that gets so stuck in your mind that it makes Xiomara so, so easy to picture. It was the perfect combination of Slam poetry and prose. 

I loved Xiomara's passion and the emotions that were stirred up in this book, especially when it came to her poetry around her family. It struck me that she and her brother had a lot of big secrets they were hiding from the rest of their family. 

I also really liked the romance. It felt so real and easily broken, especially considering her parents opinions on dating. I do think there's something about hidden romance that makes you more worried and invested in the characters. 

I promise, you will not be let down by this book. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Electric Monkey for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Arrowheart by Rebecca Sky

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 384
Publisher: Hodder 
Released: 14th of June 2018

Kiss the boys and make them cry...

The gods are gone. 
The people have forgotten them. 
But sixteen-year-old Rachel Patel can't forget - the gods control her life, or more specifically, her love life.

Being a Hedoness, one of a strong group of women descended from Greek God Eros, makes true love impossible for Rachel. She wields the power of that magical golden arrow, and with it, the promise to take the will of any boy she kisses. But the last thing Rachel wants is to force someone to love her . . .

When seventeen-year-old Benjamin Blake's disappearance links back to the Hedonesses, Rachel's world collides with his, and her biggest fear becomes a terrifying reality. She's falling for him - a messy, magnetic, arrow-over-feet type of fall.

Rachel distances herself, struggling to resist the growing attraction, but when he gives up his dream to help her evade arrest, distance becomes an insurmountable task. With the police hot on their trail, Rachel soon realizes there are darker forces hunting them - a group of mortals recruited by the gods who will stop at nothing to preserve the power of the Hedonesses - not to mention Eros himself, who is desperate to reverse the curse . . .

Rachel must learn to do what no Hedoness has done before - to resist her gift - or she'll turn the person she's grown to love into a shadow of himself ... for ever.

What I Have to Say 

Never judge a book by it's cover! I went into this thinking it would be a bit lighthearted with a good adventure plot. Luckily, I absolutely in the mood for the book I got instead. This was such a beautiful commentary on consent and free will, showing Rachel as one of the few Hedonesses to see what their "gift" really was. My stomach was turned as much as her was while reading it! 

This was also less of an adventure and more of a resistance. This book was so dark with secret underground societies of Hedonesses running the world. It was amazingly addictive and suspenseful, the characters in danger at pretty much all times. Though there was the fact that I wasn't really sure what would happen to the characters if they were caught, it was more the boys and the world at large that I was worried for. 

The ending was really great and left a big wide opening for a sequel so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next! 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Catnip 
Released: 5th of July 2018

Cambridge, 1860

Would a plant drink ink as happily as it would drink water? Is there anything that eats a cat? How did any spider know how to make such a perfect sticky net for catching flies?

Bill’s head is full of questions and it always seems to get him into trouble. Especially when one of his experiments causes his father to lose his job. Bill gets a bit of money for his family selling interesting fossils he has found.

But it’s not much – and then someone else needs his help and fast.

And it just so happens that Bill has discovered something – something that could be the answer to his problems. But for the rest of the world, it is something that questions everything…

What I Have to Say 

This book had a lot more going on in it that the blurb suggests. And the blurb is pretty exciting to begin with. There's a lot hidden beneath the surface of both Bill's hometown and his family just waiting to be uncovered as things begin to change. 

I loved how sciencey it was despite Bill's class and time period basically meaning that he doesn't know what a scientist is and that it's a real job, it is undoubtedly what he is. From the moment he puts a daisy in his teacher's inkwell to see what will happen to it, the reader is let in on his scientific mindset and given the perfect glimpse of who he is. Or one layer of it anyway. 

I also really liked the way it showed how kids can internalise things so easily. How when parents call their child bad, the child starts to believe it, no matter how good his intentions are. It's an important point to make and I kind of wish they'd done more to challenge that believe in him. 

Definitely a good read for anyone interested in science and history. 

My thanks go to Catnip for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 6 August 2018

Giant Days by Non Pratt

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Amulet Books 
Released: 21st of August 2018

Based on the hit graphic-novel series from BOOM! Studios, the publisher behind Lumberjanes, Giant Days follows the hilarious and heartfelt misadventures of three university first-years: Daisy, the innocent home-schooled girl; Susan, the sardonic wit; and Esther, the vivacious drama queen. While the girls seem very different, they become fast friends during their first week of university. And it's a good thing they do, because in the giant adventure that is college, a friend who has your back is key--something Daisy discovers when she gets a little too involved in her extracurricular club, the Yogic Brethren of Zoise. When she starts acting strange and life around campus gets even stranger (missing students, secret handshakes, monogrammed robes everywhere . . .), Esther and Susan decide it's up to them to investigate the weirdness and save their friend.

What I Have to Say 

These characters are the greatest! I definitely want to go and read the graphic-novels after reading this. This was a great introduction to Daisy, Esther and Susan, it gave me a good insight into their personalities and relationship with still enough time for a few quirky adventures. Having not read the graphic novels, I can't say much about how it would fit in with the series, but I feel it would add a nice extra adventure in for fans. 

I loved all the girls so much, but I think Daisy was my favourite. She was so sweet about throwing herself into the various clubs and feeling like she couldn't let them down. It was quite an accurate snapshot of the whirlwind first term of Uni (to me at least) and signing up for loads of clubs that you never actually go to, because most of us aren't as afraid to let people down as Daisy is. 

I loved the adventures of the other two girls as well, of course, but Daisy stuck out to me. I can't wait to get my hands on the graphic novels to read them too! 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Amulet for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books 
Released: 1st of July 2018 

When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet ...

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn's grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island's next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.

What I Have to Say 

Oh this was the kind of book that made it easy to fall inside of and just live the story. From the start I was just taken away to the Island of Arranmore and deeply absorbed in the story. I loved every second of it. From Fionn's character to the magic of the candles taking him away to various places. I love this world and I can't wait to go back to it.

The magic system of putting the storms inside the candle's and capturing what happens in the candle is amazing. It's so unique and brilliant. I love the fact that the characters could experience stuff, time travel even through burning the candles and the hints that the power of the Storm Keeper was so much bigger than that were so enticing! 

I'm so glad that I read this book and didn't miss it. I'm so excited to see this story continue. To anyone on the edge like I was, absolutely give this book a go. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Truly, Wildly, Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Released: 8th March 2018 

Annie is starting college. She can’t wait. No more school, no more uniform, and no one telling her what to do. It’s the start of a new adventure and Annie’s not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. Freedom matters to Annie. She has cerebral palsy and she’s had to fight hard to get the world to see her for who she truly is. 

Then she meets Fab. He’s six foot two, Polish and a passionate believer in…well, just about everything, but most of all Annie and good old fashioned romance. The moment Fab sees Annie, he’s wildly drawn to her and declares she must be his girl. Annie’s horrified. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s anything, especially if it means losing her independence.

But then Annie finds herself falling for Fab. As things go deeply wrong, Annie realises that love can make you do wild, crazy things, and so she sets out to win his heart with a romantic gesture of truly epic proportions!

What I Have to Say 

Best Character of the year award goes to...! Seriously, Annie is fantastic. She's so strong and feminist and she knows her own mind. She won't take shit from anyone about her cerebral palsy or honestly, anything else. And when it comes to romance, she doesn't want to be tied to anyone. So when discussing Wuthering Heights in English class, she and romantic Fab have some very firey debates. 

The romance in this book, the struggle that Annie faces between wanting her independence and her feelings for Fab. It was beautiful watching her journey, the debate as to whether love can truly exist without giving up some of your independence. It was a book with so much to say. 

And the way it ended. That perfect, adventurous journey, a wild gesture to try and win back Fab's heart. It was such a good story from start to finish. 

If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with this copy for review.