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. 

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Slayer by Kiersten White

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 21st of February 2019 

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

What I Have to Say 

I am so excited to have a new YA series set in the Buffy world! It was so great to be in the world of Slayers and Watchers and demons again, even if there's no magic any more since Buffy broke the world. I  loved the new characters. Nina was a great character and I really liked her twin sister, Artemis too, though she was a bit of a bitch in some parts. I liked their relationship and the relationship between Artemis and some of the other Watcher kids. 

The book contained all the heart, humour and even some of the characters we know and love from the TV series (Faith wasn't named, though it was obvious that it was her and there was plenty of Buffy despite the book not being about her). It kept the themes that made the show so great really strong too. It had strong themes of family and friendship as well as showing the shades of gray in the demon world, showing that the black and white world that the Watcher's want to believe in is just not the case. 

I'm interested to see how this series progresses, with Nina being born a Watcher but also having experience of being a Slayer. It will be really cool to see the path she forges between the two, trusting her instincts more as a Slayer would while still having the background and training of a Watcher. 

I can't wait to see what Nina and her friends will face next. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 7th of March 2019 

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself. 

What I Have to Say 

This book entranced me. It was a fantastic re-imagining of the Medusa myth, showing prejudice and fear and what people will do when faced with something different. Hulda's story at the start was so heart-wrenching. It was really easy to see how that suffering would change to rage and vengeance. 

I loved Milla a lot. I loved the way that she had to live with her imperfections and how hard she tried to please her mother, a woman who never ever would have accepted her. I loved her snakes and how they were part of her, but also characters in their own right, comforting her and protecting her when she needed it. 

I adored the messages of compassion and empathy. How Milla looked at the people around her and saw their suffering rather than their anger or the demons possessing them. She was so desperate to rescue Iris, even after she faced the demon side of her, she could still see her friend who was in pain and fighting the demon, the way that none of the other people in the village did. 

This is such a great book, a good read for anyone who loves fairy tales. 

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

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 381
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group 
Released: 19th of March 2019 

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Trigger Warnings: Extreme racism, imprisonment, violence

What I Have to Say 

This book was incredible. It was so atmospheric. It brought every feeling right off the page and into your heart. The undercurrent of fear and tension that existed inside the camp felt was there in every page of the book. I sympathised so much with all the characters having to live that way. 

It was really good how much Ahmed delved into history while writing this book. She brought in so much about the concentration camps from the holocaust as well as the Japanese internment camps in America. Having the camp that Layla is sent to near to one of the Japanese camps was a really good way to remind both the characters and the reader what these camps could become. I found the Japanese camps more relevant because that also happened in the US, so it gave us a good idea of what the US government has already proven to be capable of. 

I loved the characters so much. Layla was so strong, but also such an ordinary every day girl. She talked about Star Wars and missed her boyfriend and made friends in the camp. I think it's so important in these types of stories to really ground the characters in things that the reader can relate to. It brings it home to you and makes it feel more real. And adds a little bit of nerd humour for everyone to enjoy. 

Obviously this is a book that has some quite tough subject matter, but it's also a really good story about friendship, family, survival and resistance. The issues raised are so, so important but it's also a really great book in it's own right. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Little Brown Books for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304 
Publisher: Egmont 
Released: 21st of February 2019 

Avery (Night Owl) is bookish, intense, likes to plan ahead, and is afraid of many things. Bett (Dogfish) is fearless, outgoing, and lives in the moment. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and their dads are dating each other.

Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same camp for the summer vacation. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends – and possibly, one day, even sisters.

Against all odds, the girls soon can’t imagine a life without each other. But when the worst happens, and their dads break up, Avery and Bett must figure out a way to get them to fall in love again. Is keeping a family together as easy as they think it is?

From two extraordinary authors comes this moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

What I Have to Say 

This beautiful reverse Parent Trap style novel was just perfect. I loved the two girls and their voices so much. Their emails back and forth to each other while they tried to split up their dads made me smile and laugh.  They both had such distinct voices and the way they kept saying that they would never meet each other and they were obviously going to be complete strangers at the same time as asking each other random get to know you questions and becoming best friends was completely wonderful. It felt really real and genuine, the way that young girls really interact. 

It was great to see a gay relationship between the parents of the girls. Both had single dads, Avery's dad having never married and Bett's having been married but had his partner die. It was a great way to show the different types of relationships that gay parents can be in. It was nice to see the representation go beyond two gay people in a committed relationship having a child. 

I adored the email format of this book as well. I don't know what it is about a book told through letters or emails or even diary entries, but I just find them so fun to read. They're a bit of a change from the regular style of story, I suppose. I'm not sure I'll ever get bored of all the interesting and different ways that people find to tell a story. 

Perfect for anyone who loves plucky young girls trying to change their parents dating lives. 

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

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Agatha Oddly: Murder at the Museum by Lena Jones

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 7th March 2019 

A second mystery for thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of this stylish new detective series.

Agatha Oddlow’s set to become the youngest member of the Gatekeepers’ Guild, but before that, she’s got a mystery to solve!

There’s been a murder at the British Museum and, although the police are investigating, Agatha suspects that they’re missing a wider plot going on below London – a plot involving a disused Tube station, a huge fireworks display, and five thousand tonnes of gold bullion… 

What I Have to Say 

A lovely new voice to the MG detective scene! Though this was the second in the series, it still gave a really nice introduction to the characters. I don't normally like coming into a series on the second book, but this one just really worked for me. I might go back and read the first book at some point, but there was enough detail in the book to catch me up with what happened. 

I loved Agatha's character a lot. I loved how she liked fashion and looking good alongside codebreaking and investigating. Often girls who are active and adventurous in children's book are made into tomboys and are given less feminine-attributes so it was really good to see that Agatha was allowed to be feminine alongside her dectectiving. I also loved her friend Brianna who was more of a sciencey-girl and helped Agatha out with the science side of her investigations. I loved her style too. I'm not sure what she was like in the first book, because I know she was a popular girl in the Chic Clique , but in this book she was awesome. 

I also really liked how detailed it went into Agatha's code breaking when she was working through the tests for the Gatekeeper's Guild. It made me really want to learn how to code break and send secret messages for my friends. 

This is definitely a book for any fan of MG detective so if you have a murder-mystery obsessed kid or just want to investigate Agatha's world yourself, go pick up this book or the first in the series! 

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

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Fated by Teri Terry

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 448
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 7th of March 2019 

I'm just one girl. What can I do?

Sam's cosy life as daughter of the Deputy Prime Minister is about to end. These are turbulent times. Borders have closed and protests are turning violent. The government blames the country's youth, and is cracking down hard. Mobile phones are blocked, gatherings are banned and dissent is brutally crushed.

Sam is torn between family loyalty and doing what is right. when she meets Ava and Lucas her mind is made up.

One girl, one choice. She can make a difference: she must. Even if her life - and her heart - are on the line 

What I Have to Say 

I loved the Slated series so much and though my reread put me off it a bit, I was still really excited to read the prequel. It caught the feel of the original series really well while giving us a really good look into what happened to change everything into the Dystopian society we see in Slated. 

It felt a bit bleaker reading this book than it did originally reading Slated. For one thing, some of the things that triggered the world to change are actually happening, most importantly Britain Leaving the EU. Slated was always a world where things were startlingly close to real life, but reading Fated , things felt way too close for comfort! 

I really liked seeing how the world came to be. How little things that change, slowly taking away the rights of teenagers, can change the country into something so scary and controlling. A lot of dystopia takes place after major wars or world changing events, but Slated showed little things that can be used to slowly place control on people while they don't notice. It's the way that real places change, real dictators take control, so it's both fascinating and really interesting to see. 

I loved the characters. The two girls had great voices and made the story really good to read. I loved them both so much. They were also both super attracted to each other and f/f relationships make my heart melt from happiness, so that made it even better! 

If you're a fan of the Slated series then this is a must read!! 

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