Friday, 26 October 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'Songs By Dead Girls' by Lesley Kelly (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am so excited to be bringing you another book review, this time of Songs By Dead Girls by Lesley Kelly, a brilliant crime thriller that will keep you hooked right from the first page until the last.

Songs By Dead Girls is set in post-viral Edinburgh, a world that is charged with darkness and permeated with crime. But no job is too hard for the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, and their work often leads them to deal with the most unsavoury of people. But their latest case is way more complicated than they previously believed, and they suddenly find themselves in a volatile situation concerning a dangerous drug baron, a prostitute on the run and an academic whose life is in grave danger. But this is all part of the job, right?

I was kindly sent Songs By Dead Girls by Ruth Killick Publicity on behalf of Sandstone Press.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


'Bernard wrenched open the door and ran back out to Carole, horrified to see her face was pouring with blood.'

A deadly Virus. A missing academic with a head full of secrets that could embarrass the government. A prostitute on the run. And a music-loving drug baron who needs a favour.

All in a day’s work for the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team.

Having not read the first book in the series, I wasn't sure if I would thoroughly enjoy this, having not had the background to this world the first book would provide me with. However, right from the first page I was completely swept into this world - a world where people live in constant fear and suspicion of the people around them. I haven't read a crime novel in absolutely ages and this one was a great place to start in terms of getting me back into the genre.

As with any good crime novel, I enjoyed the balance between mystery and humour - all of the characters bounced really well off each other and the dynamic between them all was brilliant. The characters were so divisive and realistic as to what I would expect them to be like, in a job like the HET. The sharp wit of the dialogue definitely pushed the book forward and make it altogether very enjoyable to read.

I think the book was structured really well and there were plenty of moments that had me impatiently turning over the next page to find out what had happened. There was a distinct sense of danger running throughout the book, that drove the plot forward and made me need to read the next book as soon as possible! Kelly's writing is very fresh and dynamic and she paints characters so brilliantly and realistically. 

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed Songs By Dead Girls, and will definitely be checking out more of Kelly's writing! 

Check out my post for the Songs By Dead Girls blog tour, where Lesley Kelly appeared on my blog to talk about the Spanish flu outbreak back in 1918, and how it influenced the writing of this brilliant book.








Tuesday, 23 October 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'I Have No Secrets' by Penny Joelson

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am so excited to be reviewing a fantastic book I read recently: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson. I was sent this book aaaagggeeesss ago but somehow it got misplaced with moving from a new uni house to back home to London, and then when I was sorting out books to bring to Oxford with me, I discovered it and had the realisation why haven't I read this before? This sounds brilliant!

I featured Penny Joelson on my blog a while ago, with a brilliant guest post where me and Penny shared secrets about our childhood and early writing! Check that post out here

I Have No Secrets follows fourteen-year-old Jemma, who lives with her foster parents and foster siblings Finn and Olivia. Jemma has cerebal palsy, but she doesn't let that hold her back from enjoying everyday things; she loves watching quiz shows, reading books and listening to her favourite band, Glowlight. Then a boy Jemma used to know is murdered. And Jemma finds out who did it. But how can she make sure justice is done when she has no voice?

I was kindly sent I Have No Secrets by Nina Douglas on behalf of Electric Monkey in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone.

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change... 

This book was unlike any that I've read before. I have never read a book when the protagonist has no voice, but has so much to say. It was so interesting to hear Jemma's thought process and how she navigated life. I think her character was developed so well and I loved her relationship with Finn, her carer, Sarah, and also another character I can't mention for *spoiler reasons*. I think that Joelson gave Jemma so much agency, which I was so pleased about, and I think this book could go a long way towards changing people's perceptions about those who live with conditions such as cerebal palsy. 

When I first started reading I had no idea where the story was going to go, and it did feel a lot like being on a rollercoaster, with lots of twists and turns I was not expecting. As soon as I got halfway through the book I just could not put it down until the end, which did not disappoint. Joelson's writing is just so sharp and she is a fantastic storyteller. It's very rare to find a YA book that is just so equally strong in terms of plot, characters and the writing. If you're stuck in the middle of a reading slump, or need a book to keep you company these long autumn nights, then I Have No Secrets is definitely the book you need!


Check out Penny Joelson here: http://www.pennyjoelson.co.uk


Until next time :)


Thursday, 11 October 2018

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | 5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Mary And Frankenstein' by Linda Bailey and Júlia Sardà


Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am so excited to be back with my children's books feature, after quite a long while! And what better book to start off with than the incredible Mary And Frankenstein by Linda Bailey and Júlia Sardà. This is unlike any picture book I have seen before and I was so thrilled to receive it and see what it was like. Spoiler alert: it's bloody gorgeous.


I was kindly sent Mary And Frankenstein by Andersen Press in exchange for an honest review :)





Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


It began with a girl named Mary. She liked to daydream and imagine. And she grew up to write Frankenstein. The inspirational true story of the great writer Mary Shelley, brought to life for children in this stunning picture book by multi-award winning author Linda Bailey and with beautiful illustrations from Júlia Sardà. Mary loves stories, but the stories in her daydreams are far more thrilling than those in any book. 

After a troubled childhood, eighteen-year-old Mary runs away to Switzerland with the famous poet Percy Bysse Shelley, her step-sister in tow. One dark and stormy night at his house by the lake, they huddle around the fire, telling ghost stories. But Mary can imagine better than those! After learning about electricity that can make dead frogs twitch, she has a nightmare that triggers the birth of one of the greatest scary stories of all time: Frankenstein... A perfect read for the very youngest aspiring writers, and for fans of Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell’s The Sleeper and the Spindle.

Mary And Frankenstein is honestly the most perfect picture book in every way. It is interesting and informative, the illustrations are beautiful and evocative, and most importantly, it is a brilliant story. So whether you are reading this to a young child for a bedtime treat, or reading it to an older child to get them interested in Mary Shelley, this book is perfect for children of all ages. I have loved Frankenstein ever since I first read it four years ago, and it was wonderful to see Mary Shelley's life, which was troubled and tragic as much as it was brilliant and creative, depicted in this way.

Although a lot of Mary Shelley's life may seem unsuitable to be described to children, Bailey tells the story of Shelley's life in a gripping and wonderfully descriptive way, in a way that children will find both magical and compelling. Sardà's descriptions are suited perfectly to the writing and really bring the words to life. The illustrations in Mary And Frankenstein are probably my most favourite illustrations in a children's book EVER. They are so atmospheric and gorgeously Gothic, and tie the whole book together.

Overall, Mary And Frankenstein is one fantastic picture book, and I urge you all to go and grab it for these Autumn months! It is a brilliant story about one of the most interesting and talented authors who lived, who had an imagination that spanned galaxies and was a pioneer for the science fiction genre as we know it today. This book should inspire the young writers in your life that their imagination can take them wherever they want it to.


Check out Linda Bailey here: http://www.lindabaileybooks.com/books.html

Check out Júlia Sardà here: http://www.juliasarda.com

Until next time :)


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'No Fixed Address' by Susin Nielsen

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am thrilled to be back with a book review - I am sorry I haven't blogged for absolutely ages, but since the last time I blogged I have moved to Oxford and started my new job - so it's been pretty hectic round here!

However, I have actually read a load of amazing books recently, so definitely be expecting a lot more book reviews coming your way...


Today I am so happy to reviewing a brilliant book I read recently, which happens to have been published last week, called No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. No Fixed Address is a moving story following twelve-year-old Felix and his mother Astrid, who through a series of circumstances, end up living in a camper van. Felix thinks it will only be for the summer. But when September rolls around and he has to go back to school, the van is still their home, and things begin to get tricky. After reconnecting with an old friend and making a new one, Felix finds himself having to lie, in case the truth of his situation lands him in the clutches of the Ministry of Children and Child Development. When Felix's favourite TV quiz show opens auditions for kids, Felix believes his luck will change. But will the truth catch him out before then?

I was kindly sent No Fixed Address by Andersen Press in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


From beloved Governor General Literary Award--winning author Susin Nielsen comes a touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship and growing up when you're one step away from homelessness.


Felix Knuttson, twelve, is an endearing kid with an incredible brain for trivia. His mom Astrid is loving but unreliable; she can't hold onto a job, or a home. When they lose their apartment in Vancouver, they move into a camper van, just for August, till Astrid finds a job. September comes, they're still in the van; Felix must keep "home" a secret and give a fake address in order to enroll in school. Luckily, he finds true friends. As the weeks pass and life becomes grim, he struggles not to let anyone know how precarious his situation is. When he gets to compete on a national quiz show, Felix is determined to win -- the cash prize will bring them a home. Their luck is about to change! But what happens is not at all what Felix expected.

I had no idea what to expect going into this book, as I have never read any of Nielsen's books before. However, now that I've read No Fixed Address, I need to grab all her other books ASAP; I loved it so much. Right from the start I fell in love with Felix's voice, he is such a relatable, funny, smart protagonist and my heart honestly ached for him throughout the whole book. Nielsen's writing style is just so warm and sensitive and funny. The writing actually reminded me of The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen, which I similarly loved.

Nielsen portrays homelessness in a way that is thoughtful and compassionate, and also realistic. No Fixed Address made me consider things about homelessness that I hadn't thought about before, and also made me feel so grateful for the things I have, and how much I sometimes take for granted.

 I think Nielsen's characterisation was fantastic and I loved all of the characters and their quirks, particularly Felix and his friends Winnie and Dylan. I think that Astrid presented in an incredibly compassionate way. Astrid could have easily been stereotyped as 'the bad mum', but instead the way Nielsen wrote her showed all the different sides of her, how much she had been through, and how partly this was to blame for the situation her and Felix ended up in.

I also loved the quiz show element of the book; it was a very unique aspect that I haven't come across in a YA novel before. I was so happy with how the story turned out at the end, and it really made me think about what we and our government could do to solve the housing crisis, and to always act with kindess, understanding and compassion.


Check out Susin Nielsen here: https://susinnielsen.com

Until next time :)

Friday, 31 August 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Scythe' by Neal Shusterman

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am thrilled to be sharing with you a review of a brilliant book I read at the weekend, which I could not put down. As soon as I read the blurb for this it sounded so tense and exciting, and I knew I had to read it. Scythe has been given raving reviews from bloggers left, right and centre and I'm happy to be adding to that pile of 5* reviews! 

Scythe is an explosive dystopian story following Citra and Rowan, as they have to make a moral decision they thought they would never have to make. In their world, death has been conquered, and life is pretty much as perfect and as effortless as it could be. But the circle of life still has to run its course, and that's where the Scythes come in. Angels of death, bringers of inevitable destiny. People revere them and fear them in equal measure, but they are vital to the smooth running of society. Citra and Rowan never thought they would have to take up that duty themselves, but do they really have what it takes to be the figure that everyone is most afraid of?

I was kindly sent Scythe by Walker Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.


Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Right from the first page, Shusterman hooked me in and didn't let me go until the very last page. Everything from the writing to the characters to the plot was so carefully crafted that I never wanted to let this world go. This world has to be one of the most exciting, tense and brilliantly descriptive worlds I have ever come across in a book. Scythe is both terrifying and enticing in equal measure. Every chapter there was something new, something that shocked and intoxicated me. I think it's fair to say I haven't been this attached to a book in a looooong time. 

I think Citra and Rowan are such great characters, and complex to the level that I don't think The Hunger Games quite accomplished. In a world that is so far removed from ours, whose morals we don't recognise (nor would we want to), I was glad to see that these characters were not simply people we would recognise from our own lives, but different in a way that fit in perfectly with the Scythe world. The characters and plot were so elaborate and convulated that I had no idea what was going to happen in the end. It's fair to say that the ending made me want to rush out straight away and buy the next book in the series (and devour it as soon as I possibly can!) Also, did anyone else hear about the movie?! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!


Check out Neal Shusterman here: http://www.storyman.com

Until next time :)



Monday, 27 August 2018

5 * BOOK REVIEW | 'Friendship Fails of Emma Nash' by Chloe Seager

Hey guys, and happy Bank Holiday Monday! Today I am excited to share a book review of a YA novel I absolutely love, Friendship Fails of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager. I read and adored the first book in the series, Editing Emma, a few weeks ago, so I was excited to dive into this. I found that so many elements of what I loved in the first book was continued in the second, and in my opinion this book was even better!

Friendship Fails of Emma Nash follows Emma as she makes a vow to move on from trying to find the man of her dreams, to trying to expand her friendship circle. Her two best friends having recently acquired boyfriends, Emma finds herself painfully bored and in need of some creative inspiration. The school fashion show offers itself up as a potential cure from her Gilmore Girls addiction, but it isn't very long before it creates a whole bunch of problems of its own...

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...


Emma Nash is back….and determined to work out the world of friendships and relationships once and for all (…ish).

Now she’s in the sixth form, Emma’s expecting life to be a breeze but when her best friend Steph suddenly has a boyfriend who she’s spending more time with Emma’s not sure what to do with herself.

So Emma’s got a mission in mind: making new friends. Signing up for the school fashion show seems like the perfect opportunity. Although soon, through a series of mishaps that are absolutely not Emma’s fault (well, sort of), her world is teetering on the edge of disaster again.


Would going back to creating a life for herself online reaaaaaallllyyy be so bad?

I absolutely adored Friendship Fails of Emma Nash. Everything I loved in Editing Emma I was so happy to see in this book: gut-busting comedy, cringey moments and also the challenging of real issues so many young people face today. I loved Emma even more in this book and found her character to really develop; I spent the whole book rooting for her, as every good writer should encourage you to do. The development of the friendship between Emma and Gracie was so nice to read about. I think that Seager perfectly captures what friendship in your teenage years is like; when everything is suddenly and helplessly changing around you. I think Emma's reactions to everything that was going on in her life and in the lives of others around her were so realistic and honest, and I think Emma's musings have the potential to provide great support and perspective for teenage (or adult!) readers who may be going through the same things.

As with Editing Emma, I have to applaud Chloe Seager for creating a book that is so gorgeously funny and a delight to read, all whilst keeping it very authentic and inclusive of subjects that are often considered taboo, such as periods, masturbation, sex, and the pressures and pitfalls of social media. More than anything, the Emma Nash series is a perfect portrayal of what it's like to be a young person in today's world, but with it Seager maintains a perfect amount of humour and compassion. What I love about Emma as a protagonist is that however tough her life gets, she has a strong sense of herself, and won't let anyone or anything change that. I think all of us, teenagers or not, could learn a few things from Emma Nash!

If any of you are in a summer or a bank holiday reading slump, make sure you pick up the first two books in the Emma Nash series. You won't regret it <3



Check out Chloe Seager here: http://chloeseager.com

Until next time :)

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

BLOG TOUR | EXTRACT | 'Show Stealer' by Hayley Barker

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you an extract of the brand new novel Show Stealer by Hayley Barker, which was published at the beginning of this month. Show Stealer is the second book in the Show Stopper series. Check out the blurb here...


Hoshiko and Ben have been on the run since they burned Silvio Sabatini's circus down to the ground at the explosive finale of SHOW STOPPER. But Ben's mother will stop at nothing to track him down and get her revenge: backing him into a corner where he is forced to sacrifice himself to save Hoshiko. The deadliest show on earth has been resurrected and if Ben thought he'd seen into its dark corners as an outsider, the true extent of the horrors that lurk beneath the Big Top are about to be revealed as he becomes the circus' new star attraction... 

And today I am thrilled to be sharing an extract from Show Stealer! If you like what you see be sure to grab the book for your summer holidays or to cure your back to school blues :)

Ben 

As we approach, a helter-skelter looms in front of me, rising up over the fences and, in the distance, an enormous big wheel towers over everything. It’s not enough any more to just to have the shows and the side stalls – there’s a fairground now too. No, not a fairground, a theme park: vast, expansive. 

I think of everything we’ve been through, Hoshi and Greta and me.

We blew up the arena. We escaped. So what? 

They killed Amina, the person Hoshi loved most in all the world – strung her up in the arena and auctioned off her parts on the internet to the highest bidder. They killed Priya – the first person in the world to ever tell me the truth about anything—and turned her into a zombie, there to be used as target practice by excited thugs with their shotguns. 

What did they die for, Amina and Priya? 

Nothing. We achieved nothing. 

The Cirque has picked itself up, dusted itself off and risen up, bigger, better, stronger than ever. 

People will go on dying in the name of entertainment, just like they always did; there’ll just be someone new at the helm. 

Still, whoever it is can’t be as bad as Silvio Sabatini. I shudder just thinking of him. At least we destroyed him. They’ll never be able to take that away from us.

“Why have you brought me here?” I call out, as the car rolls ever onwards. 

The officers ignore me.

We pass a road sign. The Cirque, it says. Two hundred metres.

“Stop the car!” I shout.

We turn left, past a huge plastic clown face grinning inanely at us as we pass, its wide eyes moving from side to side, and proceed up a long driveway, past the huge empty car parks until we reach a wall, covered in bright three-dimensional images of lions and elephants and acrobats and more clowns.

The officer driving the car winds down his window, tapping a code into a panel outside. 

The wall moves then, and I realize it’s not a solid wall at all; it’s a pair of huge double gates. They swing slowly open, the action apparently signalling the start of music. 


It’s the same music as before, gaudy hurdy-gurdy circus music which once, a lifetime ago, filled me with excitement but now fills me with dread and fear and loathing. Waves of panic rise up inside me.

“Stop the car!” I cry again. They just ignore me. I try the door. It’s locked. “Stop the car! Stop the car!” 

There’s nothing I can do.

I don’t want to be here. I should never have let them take me. Once I’d seen Hoshi and Greta and Jack were gone, I should have just shot myself.

We’re in a huge open-air entrance hall lined all across with ticket booths, gleaming and new and unused. In the middle of them, a huge sign flashes its greeting in bold neon 
lights.

Welcome to the Cirque! it declares. The Show Must Go On!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3

Buy Show Stealer here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Show-Stealer-Stopper-2/dp/1407179683/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534267845&sr=8-1&keywords=show+stealer

Check out Hayley Barker here: https://twitter.com/hayleyabarker?lang=en

Until next time :)