Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272 
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks 
Released: 21st of May 2019 

This is the second title in a paperback original series about a girl whose classic literary crushes manifest in real life, this time told from Rory Campbell’s point of view and inspired by the timeless classic Little Women. Rory likes Toby, but Toby likes Rory’s sister Merrilee, even though Merrilee is already dating Toby’s friend Fielding—and it’s all about to get even more complicated at Reginald R. Hero High . . . where our leading ladies’ romantic fantasies come true, often with surprising consequences. Perfect for younger readers of YA or older readers of middle grade, this squeaky-clean series is sure to charm any reader who’s ever had a book boyfriend of her own.


What I Have to Say 

I adored Merrilee's tale in A Date with Darcy and I've been excited ever since to see what will happen with Rory and Little Women. It was really great to see more of Rory, especially a new side of Rory. I don't remember much of her in A Date With Darcy other than her role as Lydia in the party scene with Merrilee's Romeo, but what was great about this book was that that we didn't just see more of Rory. We saw her side of her relationship with Merrilee. We saw her as the prickly little sister and now we get to see Merrilee as the older sister who keeps leaving poor Rory out of things. We see why Rory sarcastic and bitchy to Merrilee. We see the defences she's built up in response to the very close relationship between Merrilee and Lily. 

It broke my heart though. Merrilee's story came with enthusiasm and a love of books and a boy who you know she's misjudging from the start. Rory's story comes with a lot of loneliness and longing and a constant of anxiety about how they're going to do the bit in Little Women with Beth. I fell in love with Rory so much in this book and I wanted to cry at everything that went wrong for her. 

This book had everything. Romantic gestures, strong emotions and even references the Magic School Bus! But I do have two parts that I had problems with. The first was that I felt that Toby switched his attention from Merrilee to Rory a little too quickly. Especially considering we all knew that it was coming, not just from the plot of little woman, but because the other characters made no secret of the fact that they knew it too, I feel like we could have had a lot more little things to show the feelings that he had for Rory that he wasn't noticing because of his feelings for Merrilee. 

The second was that it spoilt the Great Gatsby for me!! I signed up for this book to read about Little Women, I wasn't expecting to get a book I hadn't read ruined for me in the process. Though I can forgive it, because it sounds like it's not something I need to read anyway. 

Looking forward to see what's more to come in this world where life imitates art! 

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

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Switch Up by Katy Cannon

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Stripes Publishing 
Released: 13th of June 2019 

Drama queen
Fashion guru
Looks like Alice

Allergic to fashion
Looks like Willa

LAX Departure Lounge. Two girls board the same flight to London as complete strangers. When the plane touches down, it’s the beginning of the craziest plan ever. Can Willa and Alice really swap lives for the summer?
Things are going to get complicated...

The first in a fun new series, this summer read is The Parent Trap meets Freaky Friday and is perfect for fans of GEEK GIRL and SUPER AWKWARD. 

What I Have to Say 

This might be a new favourite series! I loved the girls so much, how different Alice and Willa were but also the way that became friends so quickly. They have nothing in common except a 
very similar appearance and the fact that they're so desperate to get away from their current plans for the summer, but by switching summers and keeping in contact in order to keep up the ruse, they become proper friends. 

I loved the way it changed the girls too. It pushed them both out of their comfort zones and made them do things differently to the way they have always done. With Alice it's an obvious change. To pretend to be Willa she has to be more outgoing and has to dress completely differently. For Willa, she has to contain her enthusiasm more and think about the people around her more. It was so interesting to see how this effects their personalities as they change and grow over the course of the book. 

Learning it's a sequel is interesting. I don't know where they have to go now, but I'm sure Cannon will come up with more adventures for them. I just hope they involve more hijinks and pretending to be one another! 

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

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 384
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released:  2nd May 2019 

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.

After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex - led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel.

While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals - warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology - the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society - Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance - is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself. 

What I Have to Say 

Toxic friendships, peer pressure and bad girls, taken to the very extreme. Dabbling with drugs to be part of the popular crowd is something, but witchcraft and murder? This makes it so much more exciting. I loved how it was a book about friendships and trying to fit in while also being a book about murder and summoning ancient beings of vengeance at the same time. 

I loved how awful Robyn was. How toxic she was and how she just kept pushing the girls further and further into witchcraft and worse. I liked the relationship between all four girls to be honest. But Robyn's interactions with each of the girls was the most interesting. 

The only problem I really have with this isn't really a problem at all. I'd like a good witch book about nice witchcraft and real Wicca, but this wasn't it. It was a great book regardless and I'm really happy about how good it was. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for reiew. 

Friday, 31 May 2019

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Head of Zeus 
Released: 11th of April 2019 

1906: A large manor house, Wake's End, sits on the edge of a bleak Fen, just outside the town of Wakenhyrst. It is the home of Edmund Stearn and his family – a historian, scholar and land-owner, he's an upstanding member of the local community. But all is not well at Wake's End. Edmund dominates his family tyrannically, in particular daughter Maud. When Maud's mother dies in childbirth and she's left alone with her strict, disciplinarian father, Maud's isolation drives her to her father's study, where she happens upon his diary.

During a walk through the local church yard, Edmund spots an eye in the undergrowth. His terror is only briefly abated when he discovers its actually a painting, a 'doom', taken from the church. It's horrifying in its depiction of hell, and Edmund wants nothing more to do with it despite his historical significance. But the doom keeps returning to his mind. The stench of the Fen permeates the house, even with the windows closed. And when he lies awake at night, he hears a scratching sound – like claws on the wooden floor...

Wakenhyrst is a terrifying ghost story, an atmospheric slice of gothic, a brilliant exploration of the boundaries between the real and the supernatural, and a descent into the mind of a psychopath. 

What I Have to Say 

This book was everything I wanted it to be. It's a great mystery, full of obsession, madness, demons and all things creepy. Paver is a master at creating an atmosphere that pulls you completely into the scene and keeps you there in suspense, unable to put the book down. 

This book really delves into the dark sides of Christianity. It shows the madness and religious fervour that can be brought on by those who would use it as a form of control, but it also explores the nature of questioning the concept of Christianity. Whilst escaping from the control of her father and his version of religion, she also questions the mortality of it all. The idea that everyone is born in sin and have to redeem themselves. I really liked to see all her thoughts and explorations while escaping from the strict rules of her father's household. 

It was really interesting to see the study of the medieval fixation on the afterlife, the fixation on the punishment and demons in hell rather than the bright happy reward of heaven. This really is a fantastic look at the history of Christianity both medieval and during Maud's time. 

A damn good mystery focused on how things went down and what actually happened. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for providing me with this copy for review.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 385 
Publisher: Wednesday Books 
Released: 2nd of April 2019 

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.. 

What I Have to Say 

This had a lot of potential, but I didn't feel the hype as much as some of the other bloggers who've talked about it seem to. I think it has enough in it that it could become an amazing series, so I want to give the next book a chance. For now though, it just fell completely flat. 

I did like a lot of elements of the book. I liked the implications that the gods are not quite what they seem. How much question there was about who was really good and who was really bad. It did well about exploring the grey areas with Nadya and Serefin, both on different sides of the war but doing the best they can. 

Like I said, this series has a lot of potential and I think it could turn into something amazing. But it's just not there yet. I'll be interested to see how the next book goes. 

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

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416 
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books 
Released: 23rd of May 2019 

Jana Novak's history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she's uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she's unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.

But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.

Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall ...

Honest and raw, this is a timely exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. It might just be Juno Dawson's most important book yet.

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse, anorexia, bulimia, mentions of prostitution, drug use, anxiety, depression

What I Have to Say 

This book. Oh. This book. It gave me chills, it was so good. Dawson is an expert at combining a fairly casual style full of quirky metaphors and tons of pop culture metaphors with topics that are gritty and real and so, so dark. This book delves deep into the dark world of the fashion industry and does it in a way that gives you an enjoyable reading experience while still getting the point across in a way that makes you want to stand up and take action. 

I loved the way that Dawson was upfront about the darkness of the book from the start. How she put the foreshadowing front and centre, making it clear that this wasn't going to be a fairytale model story, but that things would get dark and that Jana would end up hurt. It added a creepy sense of foreboding to the whole thing and led me to pick up little things right from the start that showed the industry's core and the lies of those in charge of Jana's agency. 

Dawson also did a fantastic job of treating the issue at hand with respect and sensitivity, showing real, raw emotions without doing it to solely to shock and disturb the reader. 

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

Friday, 24 May 2019

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288 
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 2nd May 2019  

Misfit witch Willow Moss holds the fate of the magical world of Starfell in her rather unremarkable hands . . . A spellbinding new fantasy series for readers aged 8–12, perfect for fans of Cressida Cowell.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, has a magical ability for finding lost things – like keys, or socks, or wooden teeth. Her magic might be useful, but it’s not exactly exciting . . . Until, that is, the most powerful witch in the whole of Starfell turns up at her door needing Willow’s help.

A whole day – last Tuesday to be precise – has gone missing. And the repercussions could be devastating. Can Willow find the day to save the day?

What I Have to Say 

A brand new misfit witch ready to take the world by storm, especially considering the group of friends that she collects on her adventures! With adorable illustrations from Sarah Warburton, this brand new world is perfect for any kids wanting something quirky and fun to get absorbed in. 

I loved the way that magic was so limited to one skill per person and how unique Willow's power was. It was used so well throughout the book, showing that even what seems to be a dull, if reasonably useful power, can be viewed in different ways and skilfully tweaked into something incredible. 

I can honestly say that this book surprised me at every turn. Everything was unexpected and felt completely natural even as Willow collected her band of misfits to join and help her in her adventures. The ending came together perfectly as well with everything slotting into place so well. I really hope it becomes a series so that I can see more from these characters. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 419 
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company  
Released: 9th of April 2019 

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death... because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

What I Have to Say 

This book was great, but a little overhyped for me. So in this review I'm going to try and be objective and see past the fact that I wasn't blown away by how fantastic it was and focus on the stuff that I did really like. I loved the characters. Hesina was a really deep, well thought out character. Joan He did a fantastic job of showing the pressures that are put on rulers and how much it takes to be a good one. 

The murder mystery element was also a fantastic addition. We need more murder mystery fantasy novels. Especially with the high political stakes that this was had. It was made even better by the twists that were revealed later in the book. There was some stuff I guessed, but wow, there was one very major thing I just did not see coming! 

I liked the different factions, the sooths and those that wanted them gone, the neighbouring countries that are ready to use that to their advantage. I liked how much of Hesina's work was a balancing act between all of it, as well as how she quite clearly had a side despite not being able to show it in her role as queen. 

I really really liked this world and these characters and overall, while I didn't get that feeling of amazement and love that I expected to get from this book, I just want to see more of this world. 

My thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company  and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Friday, 3 May 2019

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 14th of May 2019 

'In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters - a maiden, a mother, and a crone - are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .'

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?

What I Have to Say 

This books was so beautiful, full of feminism, strength and fairy tale scenery, but it felt a little disconnected to the original Cinderella story. I felt that Isabelle should have felt more guilt over how she and the rest of her family treated Ella. She just didn't really think about it that much. I liked the way they showed how her mother had treated her and turned her into a girl who would bully her sister and cut off her own toes in order to win the prince, but if felt like the change back from that was a little abrupt. 

That said, I loved Isabelle's character so much. I loved how both the stepsisters had their own strengths that aren't seen as "feminine" and "attractive". Isabelle being so brave and so fierce, a natural born fighter. You can see her destiny and her strength from really early in the book. The potential to be beautiful. And Tavi, academic and so, so smart. It was so great to see this story changed to bring these other strengths to the forefront, to show how they can be celebrated. 

I was also glad that the book did all that without completely stepping on the girls who are more sweet and gentle. Ella was still seen as a strong woman and while the stepsisters were obviously jealous of her in the original story, they didn't really hate her and managed to find their place alongside her as strong women. 

Anyone who's a fan of fairytales, anyone who wants to see different types of strong women. This is a must read for feminists. 

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

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Blog Tour: Hold Your Own Faerie Beltane Celebration With Anna McKerrow!

Today we are doubly lucky as it's Beltane AND we have the lovely Anna McKerrow with us to give her tips and advice for how to celebrate this festival. For anyone who's interested in Paganism, beginning to practice, or just more interested in more background culture of the faeries and witches in Daughters of Light and Shadows and Queen and Sea and Stars, this post is for you! 

Tips for a Faerie Beltane

Beltane is one of the eight pagan festivals of the year, and is the pagan name for what’s now in our calendar as May Day, May 1st.  It’s a fertility festival, celebrating the lush fecundity of nature, as well as a fire festival (as celebrated on 30 April in Edinburgh every year).

Faery folk, or the fae, are believed to be an ancient race of people who lived in the British Isles long before the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons arrived. They are believed to have descended from the Tuatha De Danann (the tribe of the goddess Dana), a magickal race who flew into Ireland in ships descending from the clouds on Beltane. They came from the four great magickal cities - Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias - and brought with them the four great treasures; the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny), the sword of Lugh, a magic spear, and the cauldron of the Dagda. In Daughter of Light and Shadows and Queen of Sea and Stars, I used these four faery lands as the map of the elemental kingdoms that Faye journeys to from her ordinary modern day existence.

Beltane is one of the best times to connect to faeries because, as spirits of nature, their energy is high at this point of the year. One nice thing to do would be to create a small (or large!) faerie garden or altar in your home or garden. If you don’t have a

garden or outside space, that’s totally fine - creating a space indoors to honour the faeries that might be present in your house, protecting it (and even, according to some legends, tidying up when you’re asleep! I don’t think I have one of those faeries in my house…) is a nice thing to do at Beltane.

You can make this as simple or complicated a job as you like. Indoors, you could use a plant in a pot as the focus of your faerie offering and add in some crystals, a drawing or a picture of the fae, shells, something glittery… check out Faery Craft: Weaving Connections with the Enchanted Realm by Emily Carding or Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft by Storm Faerywolf for more ideas.

It’s an ancient practice to leave a bowl of milk out for the house faeries in a hearth or on a shelf or something. In Daughter of Light and Shadows, I had my main character Faye help her friend try to placate faeries doing this. You could certainly leave something out for the faeries on Beltane night and thank them for keeping you and your house safe and blessed, and ask for their continuing help.

In outside space, if you have a tree, you could dedicate some space under it. I have a plum tree at the end of the garden which I dedicated as a faery space because there’s a big bush next to it where frogs seem to like to hang out, and frogs are much beloved in faerie. So I cleared a little area and put in a garden goddess type statue that someone had given me as a present. She has a flat lap which is ideal for leaving little offerings for the faeries. I leave shells, flowers, sometimes butter or milk. I say a few words honouring the garden faeries whenever I go there. Once I found a dead frog in the garden so I laid it to rest on the statue’s lap there, which seemed like the right thing to do.

Faeries have links to apple trees, rowan, hawthorn and hazel trees; they also like all manner of flowers and herbs including lavender, verbena, yarroe, thyme, petunia, zinnia, foxglove, primrose, cowslips, pansies, bluebells, clover, St. John's wort, oak, willow, elder, birch, alder, ash, and toadstools. You could plant some of these in an area of your garden you decide will be your faerie space on Beltane.

After planting/organising your space, maybe light a candle and burn some incense. Have a glass of wine, milk or water or some kind of nice treaty soft drink like fizzy elderflower with you. Toast the faery realm, call out to them and welcome them into the space you have created. Ask for their continuing blessings for you, your family and your home over the next year. If you’re outside, pour a little of your drink onto the earth and leave an offering of food, crystals, shells, or something you’ve made, as an offering. Dance under the moon if you like! Have this as something private or make it a nice occasion with friends, and have a feast and dancing afterwards. Enjoy it! The faeries are full of fun, and at Beltane, they might just come and dance with you…
Queen of Sea and Stars: Anna McKerrow Blogtour - 8th April until 1st of May: 8th Rachel's Rambling Reviews, 10th: Reality's a Bore, 13th: Feeling Fictional, 15th: Luna's Little Library, 17th: Lucy Turns Pages, 19th: Organdie, 22nd: YA Under My Skin, 30th: Never Judge a Book By It's Cover
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Daughter of Light and Shadows and Queen of Sea and Stars and both available at all good bookshops and online retailers now! 

Faye Morgan, a hereditary witch, moves away from her tiny coastal village in Scotland to London to be with her new boyfriend, Rav. But though she hopes she can live a normal life in a new city, her blood bond to the realms of faerie can’t be denied. With a faerie war brewing, can Faye realise her destiny and discover who she really is? A tale of faery magic, desire and modern witchcraft. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Wolf Light by Yaba Badoe

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 202
Publisher: Zephyr
Released: 4th of April 2019 

A leopard dances under the moon. 
A wolf prowls. 
A red-beaked bird flies free.

Three girls born on the same day in wolf light are bound together to protect the world. They can dazzle or destroy. They have wind-song and fire-fury at their fingertips, but their enemies are everywhere.

From the bleak steppes to the tropical forests of Ghana and the stormy moors of Cornwall, the lands they love are plundered and poisoned. The girls must rally to perfect their skills and prove the strength of sister-magic.

Steeped in elemental myth, Wolf Light is a call to us all to hear the ancient power within us and conserve our heritage.

What I Have to Say 

This is a beautiful coming of age story about three girls, magic and sacred roles of protection. Though it was little too character based for me, being more about the girls developing and growing into their roles and powers, I really enjoyed the premise of the book. I loved the fact that these were three different girls, from three very different cultures and places, with three different forms of power. 

I really liked how much power was connected to nature. How the girls were protecting their particular environment from the people who don't respect it and want to use it for their own gain. I liked the way that each girl's personal bond with the land they were tasked to protect was so seeped in their culture and traditions. 

The other thing that I found really good about this book was how distinct each girl's perspective was. How you could tell which girl was which before they were identified. 

If you like very character driven coming of age stories full of magic, culture and respect for the environment. 

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

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Pog by Pádraig Kenny

Synopsis (from Goodreads and Chicken House

Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

David and Penny arrive in a strange new home in a forest. Other creatures live here – magical creatures – like Pog. He’s one of the First Folk, tasked with protecting the boundary between the worlds. But David is drawn into the forest, lured by a darker entity, who tells him there’s a way he can bring his dead mother back …

What I Have to Say 

Pog was a really well written tale, full of deep themes of grief and loss. I enjoyed it a lot, but not as much as Tin, though I felt this a really fun story. I think Pog is a great character who will appeal a lot to the kids reading this book. He's very quite with an interesting way of talking, but he's also got so many other attributes. He's a fierce protector who quickly grows to care for the family living in the house. He also has his own emotions and history which complement the grief felt by the family a lot. 

David and Penny were also great characters. You could really feel love between the family and between the kids and Pog by the end. You could feel the loss of their mother and how much it was driving them into their own forms of grief. 

I really love Kenny's way of bringing such deep personal issues into a magical adventure story and how he brings everything back to the theme without it seeming like he's pushing the issue. 

It's a very authentic story filled with adventure and emotion. 

My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Year After You by Nina de Pass

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Ink Road 
Released: 14th of February 2019 

New Years’ Eve, San Francisco. The most promising party of the year ends in a tragic accident. Cara survives. Her best friend Georgina doesn’t.

Nine months later, Cara is struggling, consumed by guilt and grief. Her mum decides a Swiss boarding school will be the fresh start Cara needs. But Cara knows that swapping sunshine for snow won’t make a blind bit of difference. Georgina is gone, and nothing will bring her back.

Up in the Alps, Cara’s old life feels a million miles away. At Hope Hall, nobody knows about her past. And she intends to keep it that way. But classmates Ren and Hector have other ideas. Cara tries to keep her distance, but she’s drawn to the offbeat, straight-talking Hector, who understands her grief better than anyone. Her new friends are determined to break down the walls she has so carefully built up. And, despite it all, Cara wants them to. 

The closer Cara grows to Hector, the more Georgina slips away. Embracing life at Hope Hall means letting go of the past; of her memories of that fatal New Year’s Eve. But Cara is quite sure she doesn’t deserve a second chance. 

What I Have to Say 

Exploring the themes of grief, loss and survivors guilt, this touching novel explores how deep the damage of losing someone in an accident can be. It deals heavily with the responsibility that someone can attribute to themselves when something like this happens and how moving on can feel like betraying the person you lost. 

The best thing about this book for me was how it showed that fears can sometimes not seem logical to an outside viewpoint. Cara is terrified of going in lifts and cars, because her mind tells her that if it crashes then it's her responsibility because she got in the car. This is the way that the mind can twist things based on past experiences, but de Pass when deeper, exploring the fact Cara is completely fine with planes. I've experienced this kind of logic in my own condition with my OCD a lot. People don't understand why this is fine but /this/ isn't. It's something that's hard to understand. So it made me feel really understood to see a similar twisting of logic and fear shown in The Year After You. 

I loved Cara so much as a character. I loved her interactions with Hector and with Ren. It was heartbreaking to see her story and the way that her fears and grief from the past controlled her. It all felt very real and well thought out. 

There's so much more I haven't said in this review, but these are the parts that really touched me.  I really, really recommend getting a copy and seeing Cara's story for yourself. 

My thanks go to Ink Road and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352 
Publisher: Knights Of Media 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

The detective duo everyone is dying to meet! 

Summer in London is hot, the hottest on record, and there's been a murder in THE TRI: the high-rise home to resident know-it-alls, Nik and Norva. Who better to solve the case? Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and unlimited time - until the end of the summer holidays anyway. 

What I Have to Say 

While bringing a beautifully teenage feel to the genre, Jackson created two great characters and a fantastic community that I can tell will create great mysteries to future books. I loved how real the Nik and Norva felt, utilising smart phones for everything. Because why would a modern day teenager have a case book and write everything down when they can just reach for their smart phone and have a document they can edit and update whenever they need? The way that current teen culture was used in this way (and others!) just made it feel really authentic. 

I loved the relationship between Nik and Norva as well. Jackson did well to show how sisters really are, a complex relationship where they love and hate each in equal measures. I really liked the way they bickered and fell out, teased and needled one another but at the end they were there for each other all the time. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing more from the Tri and it's inhabitants in the rest of the series. It's looking like a really great addition to the middle-grade crime genre. 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions.

He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry ...

What I Have to Say 

Magic, adventure and adorable little baby jin, what's not to love! The story was maybe a little predictable concerning who was going to come after the Ifrits, but there were things that I really didn't see coming. 

Alex was a really good character and I loved his former friend turned bully and their story-line. I felt it was just a really good story-line between them both with all stuff that had happened between them and the way their story develops. 

Mostly though I have to admit, I loved the Ifrits. I loved the way that these little baby Jin were described and the way that their connection with Alex worked. I loved Sally and the way she became a particular friend to Alex through a bond that works without any language. It's so interesting to see a communication that exists without language and it was really well written. 

This was just a really good adventure story with great characters, a good plot and a few surprises. 

My thanks go to Chicken House and Laura Smythe  for providing me with this copy for review and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour. 

Thursday, 21 March 2019

The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Publisher: Chicken House Books
Released: 7th March 2019 
Other Books in the Series: The Elephant Thief (though this book can stand alone) 

Danny works at Belle Vue Zoo, where – alongside training the famous elephant Maharajah – he helps out with the day-to-day tasks of caring for the animals. But when animals start escaping, Danny is the prime suspect: after all, he was a former street urchin and pickpocket. When a man turns up claiming to be his father, the plot thickens. Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade – and find out where he really belongs – in order to clear his name?

With themes of prejudice, identity and belonging, this new adventure will thrill young readers as they follow Danny on his next adventure set within the walls of Belle Vue Zoo in the late 1900s.

What I Have to Say 

This book has everything. Elephants, villains, diversity, runaway emus, fireworks, danger and mystery. It creates a great world inside Belle Vue with a wonderful cast of characters both human and animal! 

Though it glossed over the harsh conditions that many zoos at the time kept their animals in, it addressed some of the debates over zoo and other animal parks both within the story and in an author's note at the end of the book. I liked to see how Kerr balanced this line between hiding the unpleasantaries of the time period and showing her version of Belle Vue as being on the forefront of animal rights. Showing animals like Emerald, who are the last of their kind being protected in the zoo and their policy of looking after the animals and setting up education about the animal world was a great way to introduce these things to kids without plunging them into the horrific sides that the issue has shown in both the old Victorian zoos and the modern day animal parks. 

I liked the personal struggles between Danny and his family as well. It showed a lot of the tension that can come between children and their adopted families, especially when, in Danny's case, there was the fact that his father was using him (in the guise of the Indian Prince Dandip a character created to help publicise the zoo), to help his enterprise along. I felt they dealt with it very well, showing Danny's feelings on the issues quite clearly and touchingly. 

This was a great story and a really good mystery. I loved everything about it and it made me really want to go back and read the Elephant Thief! 


My thanks got to Chicken House for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

PROUD blog tour: Recommendations

The authors of PROUD reveal their recommendations of LGBTQ+ lit! 

For this post, I asked Stripes for some recommendations of books that some of the authors featured in the anthology would recommend to readers looking for some more LGBTQ+ to read and boy did they deliver! So get something to take notes on because you'll want to jot down some of these amazing titles they came up with! I'm adding a bunch of them to my own list! 

1) What was the Queer book or poem you connected with personally as a young reader and why did it connect with you?

Simon James Green: BEAUTIFUL THING by Jonathan Harvey. It’s not actually a novel, it was originally a play, and then later a film. It’s about two teenage boys growing up on a council estate in South London, and it was written in the 90s. The dialogue is so real, and the story is so tender and, indeed, beautiful. You can buy the script (and you can watch the film) and I’d highly recommend it.

Michael Lee Richardson: Recently, Casey Plett’s Little Fish, about a trans woman finding out that her religious grandfather might also have been trans. Casey Plett is so good at character, and this book - her first novel - is so sharp and honest and witty.

Karen Lawler : My Real Children by Jo Walton - an alternate history title that follows its main character through two different versions of post-WW2 history (neither matches ours) and two versions of her life. In one she finds love, but the world is much worse than the one we know. In the other she finds heartbreak, but we have colonies on the moon. I was particularly moved by the questions it raised about individual happiness vs collective good, inevitability and the ways in which small actions can have huge consequences.

Moïra Fowley-Doyle: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue -- a collection of queer fairytale retellings that I first read & fell in love with at 14

Cynthia So: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake. A 12-year-old girl has a crush on another girl and realises she likes girls - I realised I was queer at about the same age!

2) Share a current book that you think someone who enjoys your story in PROUD would like to read next.  

Simon James Green: Check out FLYING TIPS FOR FLIGHTLESS BIRDS by Kelly McCaughrain, RUNNING WITH LIONS by Julian Winters, OUT OF THE BLUE by Sophie Cameron, and JACK OF HEARTS by L.C. Rosen.

Michael Lee Richardson: Simon James Green’s books, Noah Can’t Even and Noah Could Never, are fab! There should be more funny books about GBT boys.

Moïra Fowley-Doyle: Ask the Passengers by AS King -- a gorgeous contemporary YA with a dash of magic realism about a queer teen girl figuring herself out

Cynthia So: Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, a contemporary realistic story about a Chinese-American boy who's an artist and in love with his best friend.

Karen Lawler: Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda. Contemporary gay teen romance for the win.

3) What Queer books do you love?

Simon James Green: BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan. The final line of that book is probably my favourite final line, ever.

Michael Lee Richardson: I’m hoovering up Alice Oseman’s books at the moment - so much stuff about queer friendships and relationships and fandom and internet culture - love ‘em!

Moïra Fowley-Doyle: Jeanette Winterson has been one of my favourite authors since my secondary school English teacher lent me her copy of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit after I wrote a short story in class when I was fifteen about two girls falling in love. Every copy of her books I have has been heavily underlined by me at various ages since.

Cynthia So: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth!

Karen Lawler: Sarah Waters and more specifically Fingersmith are my favourites. Fingersmith has it all - a brilliant, pacey, surprising plot, excellent and well-developed characters, a historical setting that completely comes alive, and a hot lesbian romance.

Author Bios: 

Simon James Green is an author and screenwriter. His debut YA novel, Noah Can’t Even, was published by Scholastic in May 2017, followed by the sequel, Noah Could Never, in June 2018. The books have also been optioned for TV by Urban Myth Films. Simon’s screen credits include co-writing feature-length rom-com Rules of Love (BBC), and a short stint directing Hollyoaks (C4).

Michael Lee Richardson is a writer and youth worker from Glasgow. As a screenwriter he has written comedy for CBBC and BBC Alba. His original work has been shortlisted for BBC Scotland’s Frank Deasy Award and the BAFTA Rocliffe Comedy Award, and his young adult comedy ‘Real Life Experience’ was ‘highly commended’ for BBC Writersroom’s Trans Comedy Award. In 2015 he won the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in the Children and Young Adult category. As a youth worker, he set up and ran Trans Youth Glasgow, part of LGBT Youth Scotland. He currently works for LEAP Sports Scotland on Trans Team, a project aimed at encouraging transgender young people to engage with sport and outdoor activities.

Karen Lawler is an American living in London with her awesome wife and extremely cute dog Buffy. She loves reading, especially sci-fi, fantasy, YA, and historical non-fiction, and she funds her book habit by working in children’s publishing. She loves a good teen movie (10 Things I Hate About You is the best and she will fight you on that). This is the first time her writing has appeared in print.

Moïra Fowley-Doyle is the author of The Accident Season, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and Spellbook of the Lost and Found, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Irish Book Awards. Moïra is half- French, half-Irish and lives in Dublin with her husband, two daughters and two cats.

Cynthia So is bisexual and proud to be queer. She is Chinese, born in Hong Kong and now living in London. She studied Classics at university. Her writing has appeared in speculative fiction magazines including Anathema: Spec from the Margins, which publishes work by queer people of colour.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352 
Publisher: Atom 
Released: 5th of February 2019 

Only when she's locked away does the truth begin to escape...

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Gold has always been treated like a grown up. As the only child of two New York professionals, she's been traveling the world and functioning as a miniature adult since the day she was born. But that was then. Now, Hannah has been checked into a remote treatment facility, stripped of all autonomy and confined to a single room.

Hannah knows there's been a mistake. What happened to her roommate that summer was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn't a danger to herself or others, she can get back to her life of promise and start her final year at school. Until then, she's determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn't lose her mind to boredom.

But then she's assigned a new roommate. At first, Lucy is the perfect project to keep Hannah's focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can make Hannah confront the secrets she's avoiding - and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Trigger Warnings: Mental Health, hallucinations, mental health facility, eating disorder 

What I Have to Say 

What I was hoping for from the blurb was a manipulative game playing girl toying with the people around her (because I love those types of stories), but this book was so much more than that. I didn't get to indulge my passion for reading about mean girls doing bad things, but I did get to read a story about a girl with very real mental health difficulties and how they can hurt people around her. 

This isn't a story about a killer who is absolved of blame by mental health difficulties. This isn't Psycho where they weave in a disorder to make what happens even more frightening. This is a story about a girl. An average girl, who does something bad and is taken to a hospital in order to keep her and the people around her safe. 

This is a girl who can't even admit to what she's done. And this story is her coming to terms with what happened and her new diagnosis. The whole thing was very well done, it made me feel so much sympathy for Hannah while also not excusing what she did to Agnes. I really liked the way that it was told and how it was written. 

This book has twists, it has drama, but it's not out to shock the reader in the way that a lot of sensationalist writers tell stories of this kind. It was great to see something that was written in a much more sensitive and realistic way. 

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