S4S – 2018 Must Reads

Helloooo!

It is Sunday again, which can only mean one thing: #SixforSunday!

Continuing on our mission to spread the love of kids lit this month, today we are looking back to last year and the myriad of increidble books that were released! Today’s #SixforSunday theme is:

2018 Must Read Books

So here we are, 6 books that I read in 2018 that I think are MUST READS for anyone. 

2018 must reads

Brightstorm – an incredible adventure over snowy lands, with wolves, inventions and wonderful characters.

Truth Pixie – mental health meets kids lit in this incredible story of the Truth Pixie. Matt Haig can do NO wrong in my eyes!

Pages and Co – you can’t get better than a book featuring other books. I loved Anna James’ debut novel of Tilly and her wonderful bookish life. 

Secret on the Night Train – a surprise in this category, but I adored it. It’s a brilliant book for 5-8s and I think we need more books like this!

The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle’s debut kids novel was magical and EVERYTHING you could need from a beautiful book. I can’t wait for the sequel!

The Lost Magician – this book was another bookish book. I adored every page of it!

Don’t forget to share your must reads from 2018 with me! Use the hashtag #SixforSunday! Let’s get the world talking about kids lit! Celebrate the books that came out last year that we love. 

See you next week for 2019 must reads!

S x 

Best of 2018: YA edition

It’s time! It is the end of 2018 and here comes my “best of the year” series!

For books to be considered in the “best of 2018” series, I had to have read them in 2018. So this discounts some of my favourite 2018 releases…

Today’s best of series takes on:

2018 best ya header

Hello, my name is Steph and I love YA books. I am VERY sad because due to my own rules there are a few books which SHOULD be on this list but can’t be. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, The Exact of Opposite by Laura Steven and Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard. These books WERE released in 2018, but I read them in 2017 so could not be considered for the list. Sad sad times. BUT BLOODY BRILLIANT BOOKS.

Anyway… let’s get on with the list!

2018 best ya(there’s a lot of orangey red tones on this list!)

Fierce Fragile Hearts: Sara Barnard

Oh Sara. This follow up to Beautiful Broken Things turned me into a broken thing with a fragile heart. I loved everything about this book and I am yet to put my throughts into a cohesive bunch to write a review. Watch out for this in 2019 please kids.

Scythe: Neal Shusterman

GUYS. GUYS. THIS BOOK. I BLOODY loved this book. It had EVERYTHING I wanted in it. It was menacing, brilliant and clever. Just exceptional.

More Happy Than Not: Adam Silvera

THIS BROKE MY HEART. I loved little Aaron and have been in his shoes. Every now and again, I remember this book and it makes me SO SAD. But it’s SO worth a read. Go on.

Show Stopper: Hayley Barker

So it seems 2018 was the year I loved circus books. Show Stopper (and its sequel Show Stealer) was just EVERYTHING. There was danger, a horrible horrible villain and a brilliant cast of characters on the side of good. I devoured this duology in no time and would recommend you all do it too!

Floored: the Floored 7

Of course this book was going to make my list. I BLOODY LOVED IT. Such a clever idea. Such a brilliant story. I can’t wait to reread this book some time. If you wanna read a book by some of the most talented humans in the world, get your hands on this.

Six of Crows: Leigh Bardugo

Another book I’ve slept on for a while, but as soon as I started reading… that was it. SoC is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. Kaz Brekker is everything. There are no other words. I need more of Brekker in my life and you definitely need him in your life if you don’t know of him. Danger, wit and friendship.

Clean: Juno Dawson

This book made me swear on the tube it’s THAT good. It’s gritty and dark. Lexi is one of those characters who stick with you. I read this book months ago and she’s still there in my head.

Spark: Alice Broadway

If there’s one thing I love about a book, it’s when there’s a folklore woven beautifully into it and Alice GETS IT RIGHT EVERY TIME. Spark (and Ink, its predecessor) are just exceptional pieces of storytelling (GIMME THE 3RD ONE PLZ SCHOLASTIC)

A Thousand Perfect Notes: C.G.Drews

We ALL KNEW there’d be a book on this list that absolutely made me cry like a baby and here we have it. This book broke me in pieces. It’s SO horrific, but so light. I can’t describe how incredible this book is. It just is. Please go and treat yourself to it.

Hero at the Fall: Alwyn Hamilton

HOW SAD I AM THIS SERIES IS OVER. But this book was the most satisfying end it could’ve had. I was STUNNED at one point. It made me cry, it made me happy, it shocked me. Jin ❤

THERE WERE SO SO SO MANY MORE that could have been on the list. YA in 2018 seemed to be on another level. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store, 2018 has set the bar PRETTY high. 

A massive thank you to all of the brilliant publishers who have sent me books this year. You guys are amazing. I love reading your books and then shouting about them all over the internet. It makes me so happy. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Rosie Loves Jack

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m here as part of the blog tour for the brilliant Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon.

They can’t send you away. What will we do? We need us. I stop your angry, Jack. And you make me strong. You make me Rosie.

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they’re separated, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. 
Even run away from home.
Even struggle across London and travel to Brighton, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though people might think a girl like Rosie could never survive on her own. 
See the world through new eyes in this one-in-a-million story.

This is a blog tour like no other… today, in the spirit of the book, I’m going to share with you some people that I’d quite happily write to every day and why I think it’s important that we don’t let the art of letter writing die!

Dear everyone I love,

I think letter writing is a brilliant thing, that unfortunately is getting lost. It’s getting lost in our need for immediacy. I get it. I know that letter writing isn’t a thing that is necessary in the world of emails, text messages and WhatsApps – we get the answers we need today much faster. However, as much as it might not be necessary, it is JOYOUS. Tell me there’s something more exciting than receiving a letter in the post. Tell me there’s something more lovely than knowing someone’s taken some time to write you a letter.

I love receiving a letter. It makes me so happy. I’m not talking about bills and pension statements: I’m talking about letters from friends. Even the people I know the best in the world. I love receiving letters from them. One of my best friends and I go through phases where we write letters to each other and it makes me so happy. The sending and receiving of letters. I sent all of my children a postcard in the Summer holidays and the joy it brought them, and their parents, was such a testament to the power of letters for me.

Now I know I can’t write letters to everyone I know, every day of my life. If there was one person I had to write to every day, I would choose my brother or my best friend Kelly. Both of these people have a MASSIVE impact in my everyday life. Neither of them live particularly close to me – Kiruna (Sweden) and Cardiff… both FAR AWAY.

However, I’ll write to anyone who is willing to write back. There’s something very personal and therapeutic about writing a letter. I love that Rosie Loves Jack explores letters.

So hello, yes, you reading this – write someone a letter. If you don’t think you have anyone who would like to receive a letter, then send it to me. I’ll happily respond. It’s a lovely thing to do!

You’re all brilliant,

S x

Massive thank you to the brilliant humans of Usborne for asking me on the blog tour! It was a lot of fun getting to ramble on about writing letters and my love of it!

S4S – Bookish highlights

Hello there! Here we are for #SixforSunday again! 

(Sorry I’m late today… I don’t know where my draft of this post went!)

Today we’re here to talk:

Bookish highlights

I’m going to use this prompt to count down 6 books that surprised me and blew my socks off this year!

  1. Show Stopper and Show Stealer by Hayley Barker
    I BLOODY adored these two books. I knew I would enjoy them, but I wasn’t expecting to love them just as much as I did (I almost used a swear word there… that’s how much I loved them!)
  2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
    This is one that I’d seen EVERYONE talking about… which always makes me suspicious… but my word, guys, THIS BOOK.
  3. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
    I hadn’t read an Adam Silvera book before, but guys… this book broke my heart SO MUCH. I have such vivid memories of sitting in Waterstones Piccadilly crying my heart out. 
  4. Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes 
    This isn’t out til next year but I won a proof at YALC. I just can’t with this book. It’s so heartbreaking, but so so brilliant. It made me go WTF at a few points, but it’s such an incredible story. Please PLEASE get this read next year when it comes out.
  5. The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin
    THIS BOOK MAN. I read this book MONTHS ago and it’s still one of those books that I want everyone to read. I just adored it. I think it matters so much cause it hit a chord with me too. 
  6. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
    I knew nothing about this book when I read it, but I ADORED IT. It’s dark and twisted and delicious. Go read it man, you won’t regret it!

And there we have it! Six books which surprised me this year! Thanks for popping by for this week’s #SixforSunday.

See you next week!

S x 

Looking for a brilliant read for a teen in your life?

Here we are, day 3 of my gift guide. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them! It’s been a blast looking back at my year in books and thinking which ones I would recommend people buy and read AND SHOVE IN EACH OTHERS FACES *ahem*.

Today, on this here final day of recommending, I’m sorting through the MANY MANY YA books I’ve read this year and giving you 12 that you ABSOLUTELY need to buy for the YA fan in your life! (Just as the past few days, none of these books will REALLY come as a surprise!) Without further ado…

2018 ya recs

Scythe/Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (while we’re at it… The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy too, LBR)

Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard (and ANY of her other books too)

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Show Stopper/Show Stealer by Hayley Barker

White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock

The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

Clean by Juno Dawson

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber (and Wing Jones too)

Floored by the Floored Seven

TADAAAAH. You made it. This list could’ve been so much longer. GO AND BUY THEM ALL. READ THEM ALL. LOVE THEM ALL.

Do you agree with my recommendations?
Can you add any to my list?
Which of these books have you loved most?

Talk to me in the comments! Are you SHOCKED by my choices?

S x

“Which books should I add to my Christmas list, Miss?”

Yesterday, I shared 10 recommendations for emerging chapter book readers – check it out if you’re after recommendations for 6+ years! Today I’m sharing books that I’ve shared with the kids in my class, school and life! Today is the turn of those who are confidently reading longer chapter books – longer chapter books that are BLOODY BRILLIANT.

None of these books will come as a surprise to ANYONE who knows me, but nevertheless. I think one of the best books you can buy kids is a book. These recommendations are books I’ve loved, but also books that my kids have wholeheartedly taken under their wing!

2018 mg recs

(I know right, SHOCKERS)

Now, some of these are book 1 in a series that I would recommend the whole series of… but if I’d put ALL of the books in the series of, I would have been here forever!

The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club series – Alex Bell

A Place Called Perfect series – Helena Duggan

Armistice Runner – Tom Palmer

The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson

Tilly and the Bookwanderers – Anna James

The Way Past Winter – Kiran Milwood Hargrave

Snowglobe – Amy Wilson

The Nowhere Emporium series – Ross Mackenzie

Brightstorm – Vashti Hardy

The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle

Who Let The Gods Out series by Maz Evans (Simply the Quest reviewBeyond the Odyssey review)

And there you have it… my second lot of MG recommendations which are perfect to buy for any budding bookworm in your life!

Have you read any of these?
Do you have any favourites?
Would you recommend any for me to add to my list?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Come back tomorrow for YA recommendations!

S x

 

“You know books… can I have some recommendations?”

The amount of times I’ve been asked for recommendations over the past few weeks is LUSH. Whether it’s from my kids for what to read next, for parents on what to buy their kids for Christmas or from my colleagues on what to read, it’s all lush to talk books.

Over the next 3 days I’m going to collate 3 different lists for books I’d recommend – be it to read or to buy someone for Christmas!

Today I’m tackling 7+ (ish) recommendations

Tomorrow will be 8+ish and then Wednesday will be YA recommendations! There are LOADS of recommendations out there, I just decided to collate my favourite 10 from the past year (or so)!

If you have a reader who is just starting to read chapter books, or likes the look of illustrated chapter books, these books are brilliant.

2018 recs

Violet and the… series by Harriet Whitehorn

Fabio – The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective by Laura James

Royal Rabbits of London series by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

Amelia Fang series by Laura Ellen Anderson

Max – The Detective Cat series by Sarah Todd Taylor

The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown

The Twitches series by Hayley Scott

Sam Wu series by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Horace and Harriet series by Clare Elsom

There you have it! 10 of the best books for Y2+ I’ve read recently. I’d love to know your thoughts! Let me know!

Have you read any of these?
Do you have any recommendations that I could add?
Which of these would you like to pick up most?

Talk to me!

Remember to come back tomorrow for recommendations for books for those 8+ years!

S x

BOOK BLOG: April Tucholke

The Boneless Mercies: a beautifully brilliant book!

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“Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work. Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate. But glory comes at a price …”

ANY book that has this gorgeous a cover is SURE to catch my eye. Just look at that turquoise, the black and the foil… and yes, that gold is metallic and shiny (my picture just does it NO justice at all). I had high hopes for a book with such an incredible cover, and my gosh, this book did not disappoint. 

The Boneless Mercies tells the tale of Frey, her friends and a journey through some wicked and wild enemies. Frey and her friends are Boneless Mercies – young women who are hired by people to do mercy killings for anyone who can pay. None of these girls fell into being a Mercy on purpose, they all became mercies because of the way their lives fell into place. No matter though, they are frightfully loyal to each other and there is an awful lot of love between them. I think they friendship might be one of the things I loved most about this book… their unrelenting loyalty and love for each other. We all need friends like that. 

There’s some BRILLIANT themes of life and death in this story. The way that death is approached in this story was fascinating to read. There’s no glorification of death, but a gentle acceptance of it and a giving of death. I loved the girls’ dedication to their jobs, even when they don’t want to do that job anymore. 

Another thing I love SO MUCH about books is the incorporation of folk stories and myths (I know, what a surprise, I’ve definitely typed that sentence before) and this book doesn’t shy away from it. There’s a lovely sense of storytelling in this story. “Storytelling can keep you warm on the coldest of nights” (that’s not a direct quote, but it’s paraphrasing a quote!) You see the girls’ lives and the lives of the ones they meet through their storytelling, and it made me feel like I was sat by a fire, listening. This is the perfect book to read while sitting next to a fire… just incase you want a recommendation! 

I have to take a very little moment here to write a little appreciation for Trigve here. I don’t wanna give any spoilers, but guys. I think he’s just wonderful. If there is to be a book 2, I need my shipper heart to be happy, thanks! 

I’m not gonna lie, yes, there was a bit when I cried (again, no one will be shocked by this!). This book made me 100% invested in these girls’ lives, and I needed them all to keep powering on, keep surviving. Cause I tell you now… I WOULD NOT. In the cold and the snow and the outside all the time? NO THANKS. 

If you, like me, are a lover of books with BRILLIANT characters, some incredible storytelling and set in an intriguing world, then this is 100% the book for you! GO GO GO FRIENDS.

My Goodreads review:

A brilliantly written book with characters I absolutely adored. There was so much in this that I need time to process it. Badass characters, a sense of mythology and an interesting world. I REALLY hope there’s going to be a second one.

Have you read The Boneless Mercies?
Do you think you’d be a good Mercy killer?
RECOMMEND ME BOOKS LIKE THIS PLZ. Thanks.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, because I need to know if ANYONE ELSE was with me on the Trigve thing. I love him. A massive thank you to Olivia at Simon and Schuster for senging me this book! I wholeheartely loved it! 

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: David Levithan

Someday: what happens when you accept the love you never thought you could have?

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“For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who had a life like this. But A was wrong. There are others.

A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to—and what it’s like to discover that you are not alone in the world.”

As one of the biggest fans of David Levithan, I knew that I needed to read this book as soon as I heard that it was coming out. For those of you who aren’t sure about this world, A never wakes up in the same body twice. Rhiannon is a young girl who A met in book 1 and their tale is one that’s stuck with me for a long time.

Immersing myself back into the magical world of A and Rhiannon again was such an incredible experience. I’d loved their story for a long time. The thought of not being the same person every day terrified me though. The thought of the person I love not being the same every day equally baffled me. Through the book, you get such an overwhelming feeling of yearning and want from both sides. They both might have “moved on” with their lives… but they still feel this invisible thread holding them together. We’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to speak to soneone we can’t anymore. If we were given the opportunity, should we take it? Would it be any help?

Honesty time: I’m going through this a bit at the minute. There’s people from my past that I’d love to just talk to, so I know how both of them are feeling.

Different from the other books in this series, there’s another character who is like A. X is a bit more sinister, a bit more evil than A. X’s perception of what they do is different to A’s. They both come at what happens to them with different motives in mind. X is quite a desctructive force; A wants to be a positive force in these people’s lives. X scared me at times. They were everything A isn’t. My brain struggled at times to accept that there could be “bad versions” of A in this world. 

One of the things I love most about Levithan’s writing is that it makes you question so much. What is it to be human? What is it to love? Are we ever the same person every day? Don’t we all change? What is a soul? I love a book that makes me think. I love a quotable book. There’s so many passages in this book that I could quite happily go back and highlight, frame and preach forever. This one about everyone’s story just made my soul sing when I read it:

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This book was everything I wanted from it. There’s a gorgeous gentle ebb and flow of loving, missing, adjusting, accepting – just as there is in life. I felt protected and trusted this book (which could be a weird thing to say? I don’t know how else to explain it!) 

So yeah. Go read this whole series. Imagine living in A or Rhiannon’s shoes. You are already living them – you’re never the same person you were when you woke up yesterday. 

If you so fancy it, I have the ABSOLUTE honour of chairing a chat with David Levithan and Laura Steven (author of the incredible The Exact Opposite of Okay) at the end of October (30th to be exact) at Waterstones Newcastle. Come along and hear me fangirl and not know what to say to two authors I absolutely admire. It’ll be lots of fun! Tickets are only £3 can be bought here or in the shop! I’d love to see lots of friendly faces! 

S x

BLOG TOUR: The Hurting

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting Lucy van Smit, author of The Hurting on my blog. I was originally asked to be part of the blog tour with a review, but then I was asked if I’d like to do a Q&A and I was thrilled. I really enjoyed The Hurting… it’s a LOT. My review is coming in the next week or so, so I won’t spoil it too much! 

Image result for the hurting lucy van smit

Check out my Q&A with Lucy and go out and buy the book (it’s out now!)… it’s a gripping read!

1) Where did the inspiration for The Hurting come from?
The Hurting started with the abduction of the baby originally as an exercise on my Creative Writing MA to show a character through her actions. I love literary Nordic Noir thrillers, but I don’t like violence, and stealing a baby as I’d lost a child myself, was the worst thing I could imagine. A writing friend scoffed, and told me I’d never get the story published, and that made me stubborn and I found a way into the story that was uplifting – a girl finding redemption after being led astray. I dug deep into myself and explored my Catholic childhood, and Nell calls on almost supernatural mystical powers to try and rescue Ulv Pup. Like Nell, I didn’t believed in romantic love as a girl, but fell in love at first sight with my husband. I really wanted to explore that immense emotion, and wonder what it would it take to fight such an infatuation. It’s a challenging story, and I’m lucky I have wonderful publishers. I was nervous in case adults misread the story, but I just got this terrific feedback from a school librarian

“Dear Lucy,  It’s brilliant! Really, really good – and I’m not just saying that.  I finished it last night and was genuinely sad it had come to an end.  It’s very powerful and so vivid;  some authors are good at characterisation, some at setting…you seem to excel at both.  I’m seriously impressed. I’m thrilled actually, as for me the very best YA books (and the ones that I encourage our Year 8s to read) are those which are well-written, powerful reads on often quite dark subjects but which don’t resort to gratuitous sex or violence.  Personally, I think you’ve nailed it.”

2) Did you always know that Lukas would be as sinister a character as he became?

Hm, Lukas sinister? I don’t see Lukas that way. I perceived Lukas as a very beautiful, damaged, wild, passionate boy raised by wolves, who had vowed to save his wolf pack on the Norwegian fjords. Lukas never intended to fall in love with Nell. She was his prey, but he is hugely romantic. A poetic Lorca character with a dark brooding soul, obsessed with death. Technically, it was extremely tricky to write a thriller in the first person, present tense, so I added a few Lukas scenes in his point of view, to rack up the tension and suspense and explain Lukas’s actions are driven by love to save his family.

3) What did you want a reader to take away from this story?

It’s a Sleeping Beauty fable; at the beginning of the novel, Nell says, ‘I’ve thrown away my life like toilet paper, and never noticed.’ She is woken by a kiss, but finds herself through her connection with the baby Ulv Pup who represents Nell’s innocence and pulls Nell back to her true self. I wanted a reader to notice themselves more, their own lives more and how much is wonderful in ourselves and our immediate families. 

4) Your setting is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, did you visit any exotic locations for the story?

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Wow!  Thank you so much. I am a painter and used to work in TV. I guess I am a visual writer.  I took my family on a trip to Norway and we visited the Norwegian Fjords, the famous Flam Railway and Bergen and Oslo, and the Pulpit Stone in Stavanger down south, which I ‘moved’ in my story and called Sermon Rock.  I chose Norway because I needed wolves because of Nell’s fear of dogs, but I fell in love with the fjords. It is the most beautiful county. On the trip, we stayed with farmers who had a local wolf problem, where a lone wolf was behaving out of character and killing dogs in the woods and attacking goats in front of people. Norwegians kill a lot of wolves and an alpha left isolated without a pack becomes unpredictable and aggressive. I picked up loads of lore about Norway along the way.

5. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the book, are you a plotter or do you let your plot take you by surprise when you write?

Definitely a plotter when it comes to a thriller. I use a lot of TV tricks, sets up and pay offs. I’d see an image or a clue earlier on, so when the twist comes it feels more plausible. For the more lyrical sections, where Nell tunes into her singing and her response to the landscape and her feelings for the baby, that often sprang out and surprised me.

A massive thank you to Lucy for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s always fascinating learning all about books from the author themselves!

Check out the rest of the people on the blog tour… there’s some cracking posts!

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S x