Friday, 13 September 2019

A Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith Barton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 11th of July 2019 

How can I hold myself together, when everything around me is falling apart? 

Neena's always been a good girl - great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she's been slowly falling apart - and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous.

As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena's grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point.

But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.

What I Have to Say 

A great new novel to add to the ranks of excellent depictions of mental health in YA. This story explores grief and how much it can affect your mind. It shows Neena's spiral into complete breakdown in a slow gradual way, building up symptoms and issues, going unnoticed by those around her until it's too late. 

I love how deeply it delves into how the mind can trick you. How it can tell you things that you know can't be true, but still you believe them. The way Neena got so utterly convinced that her brother was helping her finish her paintings, the way that they were better when she woke up to them finished.

It was good to see a mental health book that really highlights the taboos surrounding mental health and discussion of it. The way Neena's mother doesn't leave the house but won't talk about it, pretending that everything is normal. The way she treats Neena's medication, hiding them away and treating them like a dirty little secret that she shouldn't tell people around. 

I also loved the cultural aspects. The descriptions of food made my mouth water! 

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

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: HQ Young Adult 
Released: 25th of June 2019 

Yumeko the shapeshifter had one task: take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple and prevent the summoning of the great Kami Dragon. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, has escaped and possessed the samurai she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with Genno, the Master of Demons, to break his curse and set himself free. But Genno wishes to overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness. To do that he needs only one thing, the scroll Yumeko is hiding. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross again the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.


What I Have to Say 

I fell back into this world so quickly that it was like coming home. Sometimes it's so hard to remember what characters are doing and who they are when you've had a year between books, but Kagawa has a knack of reminding you everything without making it feel like an info-dump. You just get back into a beautiful setting with fantastic characters. 

I loved seeing how much Yumeko grew in this book. It felt for a start like Kagawa was falling back into old patterns of having female characters being protected by the males because they have no fighting skills, but instead what we saw was Yumeko going through a journey of learning how illusion can be used to fight and do damage. She became a complete badass and I can't wait to see more of her fox magic, especially because it's such a unique form of fighting that isn't utilised much in books. 

I just love to get lost in Kagawa's writing so much. I love this setting and these characters. I can't wait for the third book. 

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

Sunday, 11 August 2019

We are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 
Released: 4th April 2019 

In a sealed-off city, it begins with a hunt. A young woman, Lena, running for her life, convicted of being a mage and sentenced to death. Her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear - those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. She knows only too well how the people of Duke's Forest loathe magic. Years ago she escaped before her powers were discovered. But now she won't hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud unites them. It descends over the dukedom and devastates much in its wake. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine ... Only Lena and Constance hold the key to destroying the spell. Though neither of them realise it, they need each other. They are the blood and they have the thunder within. 

What I Have to Say 

A fantastic new addition to the UKYA fantasy scene, Kesia Lupo brings in a fascinating new world full of prejudice, magic and elaborate plots. The different prejudices come forth right from the start where we meet Lena, banished to the tombs to tend to the dead out of sight of the general population. 

The intricacies of the fear and prejudices that have been built up to surround Duke's Forest and the way that they are used to keep the people under control, living in a state of fear of the storm and sickness that plague their land. 

All is not what it seems in Duke's Forest though and the twists and turns that surrounded it all were completely unexpected, but in such a skillfully crafted way that when everything slots into place and you finally see the full picture, it all makes perfect sense. 

I'm hoping to see more from this world, especially the places outside of Duke's Forest and the magic system they have in place. 

I can't wait to see more from Lupo in the future. 

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

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 374 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 
Released: 1st of July 2019 

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship...

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

TW: Mentions of Suicide/ finding someone post suicide, disability post suicide, pregnancy 

What I Have to Say 

This was such an interesting read, going deep into the idea of morality and the shades of grey that go with it. It follows the path of two teenagers, one who made a mistake and cheated on her SAT exam and another who has to deal with his father having cheated a lot of people out of a lot of money. It shows how the community sees these people and how they can recover from what happened. There's also the story of Meagan's sister who has to deal with a pregnancy and the fall out from that/ the power that the father of the child has over her. 

It also looks into the Robin Hood-esque concept of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. It debates whether stealing to help your friends buy food or expensive shoes that their mother needs for her job is okay if the people who have the money won't notice. It really looks deep into the issue and the opposing sides of the argument. 

It was most interesting to see Rob's side of things, with his father having been the one to do the crimes, but Rob having to suffer through the repercussions. Having lost all his families money, all his friends and having to help look after his father after the failed suicide attempt. It was really interesting to so how much Rob was seen as the villain by his classmates when it was his father who had done the crimes. 

A great read with deep complex issues. 

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

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 355
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 
Released: 11th of June 2019 

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn't want to go to parties - in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It's like she hasn't found her people ...

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING - especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it's the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed's fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself ...

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

TW: Friendship endings, mental health, panic attacks

What I Have to Say 

THIS IS THE BOOK THAT HAS BEEN MISSING FROM EVERY BOOK LOVERS SHELF! Especially for contemporary fans. Lucy Powrie has written a book lovers dream, filled with references to so many of my favourite books! Every time a title of a book I loved was name dropped, I felt a rush of excitement!! It especially feature a lot of UKYA books, which Powrie has always been a big supporter of, which I found so great because it's always nice to get some good British culture in books that I can relate too! 

As a former resident of Bath, I loved the bits where they were in Bath. It's just always so fun to see familiar places in books. And though there were some very important places missed out (Sally Lunn's Buns? THE JANE AUSTEN CENTRE!!!) it was written so well that I can definitely forgive Powrie for her oversights. I very much loved the scene set in Topping's Bookshop as that is a lovely place to shop for books! 

The issues tackled in the book were so important and well written as well. Obviously, I want to spend this whole post fangirling about books, but it was so good to see Powrie tackle the break down of a friendship and the after effects of that kind of life event and how it can haunt you and follow you as you try to make new friends. 

This book has so many things going for it. I can't sing it's praises enough.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder Children's Books for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 342
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: 7th of March 2019

With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia Beaureguard, the former favorite Belle, must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia's imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camille, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen.

With the help of an underground resistance movement called the Iron Ladies--a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely--and the backing of alternative newspaper the Spider's Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and attempt to restore peace to Orléans. But enemies lurk in the most unexpected places, forcing Camille to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice to save her people.

What I Have to Say 

I loved the Belle so much, so I was really excited for this one! It was so easy to sink back into the world of Belles and Beauty work where everything is so defined by how you look. The writing is so evocative and I just love how Clayton shows so many different definitions of beauty in her books. She shows people picking out any skin colour or eye shape even while showing the dark side of this obsession with beauty and pushing the limits of what's possible. 

Everlasting Rose really upped the stakes for Camille and the other fugitive Belles. They really did deep into how much the Belle system is being abused and Sophia tightening her grips on the society. Sophia is such a frightening character. She shows the abuse and addiction of both the thrill of power and of the beauty work that the Belles do. 

I have so many questions about the world. I want to know more about the Iron Ladies and the Gris. I feel like there are more lies to be uncovered and so much more to tell about the world. I look forward to seeing what comes next. 

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Blog Tour: Peril on Point: Writing What You Know with Helen Lipscombe

Today we are lucky enough to have with us the lovely Helen Lipscombe, author of the new middle-grade spy series, to hit the scene: Peril on Point, to talk about the ultimate piece of writing advice! 

On Writing What You Know 

When I tell people I’ve written a children’s book about ballet and spies, the first question they ask is, are you a dancer? (Luckily, they never ask, are you a spy? Because then obviously I’d have to kill them).

In fact, far from writing what I know (which is usually the first piece of advice you hear as a newbie writer), I found myself writing about something I didn’t. It was fun dreaming up impossible spy gadgets and evil ballet mistresses, but I was anxious. I wasn’t being authentic.

The truth is my ballet career went down a plug hole – quite literally – age six, but that’s another story. So what did I know about ballet?

I knew it was tough. It was technical. It had a language all of its own. Taking on the subject as a non-dancer, I felt like an imposter. I began to read books with impossibly beautiful photographs, articles on the shoemakers’ craft. I attended adult ballet classes, a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House. I went to see Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. I watched films on tutus, on ballet shoes, on rehearsals – all part of the Royal Ballet’s excellent online resource.

I still felt like an imposter.

It’s no surprise that I didn’t know much about spies either. It’s not easy to research secret agents – they’re, well, secret. My knowledge extended to James Bond movies circa 1979, reading my dad’s library books as a child, and the books my sons loved by Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore. I turned to autobiographies, journalistic accounts, stories about the incredible female spies of the second world war.

It was only when I’d finished my second draft and started thinking about the central themes in Peril En Pointe, I realised that I did know about some things – school, friends, bullies, family, fear, love – that feeling of never being good enough. Maybe if I could convey how Milly felt when she danced – the fear and excitement of being a spy – I could still make my story work?

I also had other experiences I could draw on that related to my story.

I’d lived in London.

Growing up, my grandmother and aunties all performed in the local theatre.

Who hasn’t experienced teachers who have favourites; those kids who always get to play Mary in the school nativity?

I thought back to some of my friends at school; sensitive boys, sometimes eccentric, who despite the tropes, were often best friends with the confident sporty types who got away
with everything. And I recalled an old friend who’d put me up in Singapore for six months. She was kind. She was loyal. She was tiny. She was fierce.

And even though it wasn’t consciously done, a little bit of me is in Milly. We both suffer from imposter syndrome. We both rely on our friends. We both love our mums.

My anxiety began to subside. Perhaps I’d been writing what I knew all along?

PERIL EN POINTE by Helen Lipscombe is out now in paperback 
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at and follow Helen on twitter @Helen_Lipscombe

Want to follow along with the tour? Here are the hosts for the rest of the stops!