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:

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:

Check out Júlia Sardà here:

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:

Until next time :)