BOOK BLOG: Kirsty Applebaum

Troofriend: a little bit creepy, a little bit scary, but SUCH a good story!

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“Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human?”

I AM A TROOFRIEND.
I DO NOT BULLY. I DO NOT HARM. I DO NOT LIE. I DO NOT COVET OR STEAL OR ENVY.
I AM YOUR PERFECT FRIEND. YOUR ONE TROOFRIEND.

Troofriend is the second book from the brilliant Kirsty Applebaum, author of The Middler, which was one hell of a book. I had high hopes when I saw there was a new book and I really enjoyed Troofriend. It was the perfect mix of creepy and thought provoking. 

Troofriend tells the story of a world set in the near future where parents can buy a Troofriend for their child. A Troofriend is the “perfect friend” for their children. They don’t bully, harm, lie, covet, steal or envy. What could go wrong? Sarah is a young girl whose parents do just that: they buy her a Troofriend because they’re very busy and she wants a puppy. When things start going wrong with other Troofriend Mark IVs like Ivy (Sarah’s Troofriend), we see an exploration of what it means to be human, what it means to be friends and some interesting talking points about robots! 

I really enjoyed this book. The story is told from Ivy’s point of view and I found that really endearing. You got to see into the world of the robot. You got to watch as Ivy changed and became something different to what you’re originally led to believe. Sarah isn’t convinced about Ivy to start with – she has Ivy turned off a lot of the time at the beginning, but as she starts to warm to Ivy, things start to change. Sarah wants to use Ivy to show off to her friends at ‘Bring Your Tech To School Day’.

I loved the ending. I thought it was very touching!

I read this book with a very ominous, tense feeling throughout. It was sold to me as Black Mirror for children and I can totally see it! There was always a feeling that something was going to go HORRIBLE wrong with the robots. This is the kind of book that I can see kids absolutely loving. I can’t wait to put it in the hands of some of my Year 5s and 6s.

It is going to create some real good talking points. This book lends itself to some brilliant converstaion starters/PSHE lessons about friendship, is it ever OK to lie and the future of the world with robots and AI becoming more and more prevalent. 

 My Goodreads review:

I really enjoyed this! Lots of brilliant talking points and I really loved the characters! I was tense a lot of the time. A lot of gripping reading!

Are you excited for Troofriend?
Would you want a Troofriend?
Can you recommend me any books like this?

Talk to me! I’d love to know your thoughts!

Massive thank you to the publishers, Nosy Crow, for sending me a proof copy of Troofriend for review! It;s sat in my classroom waiting to find a new friend after half term! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Laura Steven

The Love Hypothesis: hilarious, relatable and a whole lot of brilliant

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“Physics genius Caro Kerber-Murphy knows she’s smart. With straight As and a college scholarship already in the bag, she’s meeting her two dads’ colossal expectations and then some. But there’s one test she’s never quite been able to ace: love. And when, in a particularly desperate moment, Caro discovers a (definitely questionable) scientific breakthrough that promises to make you irresistible to everyone around you, she wonders if this could be the key. What happens next will change everything Caro thought she knew chemistry – in the lab and in love. Is her long-time crush Haruki with her of his own free will? Are her feelings for her best girl friend some sort of side-effect? Will her dog, Sirius, ever stop humping her leg?”

As a massive fan of Laura Steven’s other books, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy of Love Hypothesis as soon as humanly possible. Luckily for me, the brilliant publishers at Egmont sent me over a copy and, as soon as I finished the book I was reading, it went to the top of my list. I was hoping for a funny story with relatable characters and what I got was those things AND SO MUCH MORE. 

The Love Hypothesis tells the story of Caro – a bloody genius with 2 hilarious fathers – and her struggles with finding love in her teenage years. She’s always been the smart girl, and the people around her are always getting boyfriends and girlfriends, but she’s never managed to quite get there, until she discovers she can buy some dodgy pheromones from the internet, which will make people fall in love with her. Despite the fact she’s a genius, she thinks this is a stellar idea and what ensues is HILARITY, a lot of embarrassing situations, relatability and a story which I devoured in a matter of hours. 

As always, I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible because I wold hate to ruin your lives by giving away everything! 

This book, like Laura’s other books, just oozes charm and wit. From my cackle on the first page to my sheer tears in the final pages, this book is one of those stories that I just wanna shake in front of everyone and tell them to read. I’ve read books where I’ve related to the main character many times before, but with this one there was a LOT of stuff that close to the bone and there were many times I was PUNCHED in the gut. But that’s why I loved it. There’s a certain magic in seeing yourself in a book, and while I’m no supergenius like Caro, I’ve been where she is. I am who she is. I’ve struggled like she does. I’ve thought to myself ‘I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m funny, WHY DOES NO ONE WANT ME?’. So reading this book was a bit like reading my thoughts.

I always love reading female protagonists, but what Laura’s got here (like she had with Izzy) is someone who is funny, clever and brilliant. You can’t read The Love Hypothesis and not find Caro endearing. I love reading clever characters. They’re one of those niches I love reading. Caro doesn’t shy away from being science-y in her story. She makes mistakes; she has to say sorry; she does most of this with grace and with her tail between her legs. She realises that there are some things more important than being wanted. She has those tough conversations and realises things about herself through the book and going on that journey with her felt like a bit of a priviledge. She goes through some HILARIOUS things – enter her two dads, who I will get to in a minute. 

Her dads. Man. I can’t NOT dedicate a little bit of space to her dads. They are HILARIOUS, SHAMELESS and MAJESTIC. I just loved them. They gave this book such warmth and love. They filled the pages with hilarity and compassion. I loved that it was SUCH a positive representation of a gay relationship and it wasn’t just there to tick a box: they were her dads and they loved her endlessly. I also love that they loved each other endlessly. They were the ying to the other’s yang. They both seemed to fit. I really loved their relationship. I loved that they were shameless dads: telling dad jokes, embarrassing Caro at every opportune moment. Vati was definitely an early favourite for me, but Dad definitely came into his own later on in the book. I’d LOVE  a book just about the dads. I bet they have some MAD stories to tell. 

Can we take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous cover? I love how bright it is! It looks gorgeous on my shelf! It’s so science-y, just like Caro!

This book is a wonderful story of love. Love in all its guises. Caro goes through an awful lot through this story, but it all comes down to love. Self love; love for your friends; love for your family; unrequited love; parental love. There were many moments where I was punched in the face because I had been there. Caro’s feelings about herself were especially poignant for me because she learns that she has to love herself just as much as she would love others. 

There’s some wonderful chats in this book about consent. Consent between people in a relationship and consent between friends. You don’t see the latter talked about often, but I think it’s so important that books talk about these things. 

Yes. There’s a ship. It’s a ship that I SHIPPED SO HARD. 

My Goodreads review:

This is proper triumph: funny, meaningful, clever. I’ve proper cackled, cried and learned things. I wanna hug this book and it’s characters: they’re just incredible. A massive shout out to the dads – they’re the best. There is SO MUCH OF ME in Caro that this hit close to home at times. Reading some of this was like reading my own thoughts. This books just brilliant. It’s funny, it’s full of love in all its guises.

My moodboard for this book because I couldn’t NOT show my love and appreciation for this book in more than just words!

LOVEHYPOTHESIS moodboard

A massive massive thank you to the publishers, Egmont, for sending me an early copy of the book for review. I just adored it. 

Have you read Love Hypothesis?
If you could take a pill and make everyone fall in love with you, would you?
IS THIS BOOK ON YOUR TO BUY LIST? 

Speak to you all soon! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Melinda Salisbury

Hello. It is me. Your resident superfan of Melinda Salisbury. You might need a cup of tea and a biscuit to get you through today’s post. I’ll try and keep this as brief as I can, but I can not promise anything. So get comfy, and prepare yourself for an epic review. 

Hold Back the Tide: a slightly terrifying, but incredible, piece of storytelling

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Everyone knows what happened to Alva’s mother, all those years ago. But when dark forces begin to stir in Ormscaula, Alva has to face a very different future – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…

So Mel. Writing a bit of horror are we? Well. I was ready, or at least I THOUGHT I was ready. I don’t think I actually was ready. I’m not a massive reader of the old horror books (I’m a total scaredy cat) but I will read anything Mel writes – superfan here.

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First up: LOOK HOW HAPPY I WAS WHEN IT ARRIVED.
I’ll not tell you that I cried and did a MASSIVE SQUEAL when I opened it though. When it arrived, it PROMPTLY went to the top of my TBR because, let’s be honest, that’s how it was always going to be! (There’s also a hilarious outtake of this picture that I’ve only shared with about 3 people that is my true fangirl spirit coming out). I’ve been waiting a year for this book friends. It was finally time. 

Right. Let’s stop putting off my inability to put into words what I truly thought of this book. Let me preface this review with my usual spiel: when I love a book, I find it harder to review because I always worry that my words will not do justice to how much I loved it. I always worry that it won’t come across what I thought of the book. So just know now that this book was everything I wanted and so much more. 

Hold Back the Tide tells the story of Alva, a young woman who lives with her TERRIFYING father in a cabin in the glorious north of Scotland. Her dad is, we learn in the first chapter, a murderer and Alva lives her life trying to make herself seem useful and/or silent in her father’s wake, so that nothing happens to her. Her father murdered her mother and Alva does everything to make sure that she’s not the next one. We learn quite quickly that Alva is planning to escape her father’s clutch and the place she’s known her whole life for a new life. But when things start going very wrong, Alva has to make a decision between staying and fighting, leaving behind everything and everyone she’s ever known or following her dreams. 

FIRST UP. I have to just say how much of a PUNCH the first chapter gives you. It might be one of the best first chapters I have ever read. It’s Alva’s rules for living with a murderer and it ends with one of those lines in a book that just punch you in face… If you were lucky enough to get a sampler at YALC, you know exactly how much of a banging first chapter it is. I must’ve reread my sampler about 20 times before the book arrived JUST for that first chapter. The rest of the book is JUST as terrifying.

This is going to be hard to write without going SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. So if I’m crypic, please bear with me haha 

You open the book with an incredible first chapter, and so you’re starting in a bit of a tense mood. You’re not sure what’s going to go down. You’re a bit scared; you’re a bit worried; you know Alva is a proper badass. And the book carries on in much the same vein. You get a lot of unexpected goings on. There’s a lot of moments where I was like OMG WHAT NO. There’s so many twists and turns and things I didn’t see coming that I was just engrossed. There were shocks and surprises. There were moments I needed to stop and just take it all in. People came who surprised me. People went who I was glad to see the back of. 

Much like Joey in Friends, there was a moment or two when I wanted to put the book in the freezer. There’s a wonderful kind of tense terrifiying-ness in this book (which for me made it all the more scary). I was on the edge of my seat a lot. I didn’t know what was coming, whcih made me both more scared and more gripped. I’m not a massive horror/scary book fan, but this was one that I needed to get through because I needed to know what was coming. I needed to know what the FRICK was going on. Poor Mel had to put up with a lot of my messages about my theories and predictions – but that’s how you know you’ve got a good book! A book you’re involved in and theorising about is a book that you’re gripped on! 

The setting is wonderfully done too. Something Mel does wonderfully is world building, so I was really looking forward to seeing how she did this different genre. It’s a wonderfully spooky and kind of uninviting setting. It sets the scene so gloriously for what’s going to happen. You get a complete sense of the setting so brilliantly from Mel’s writing. You’ve got this village out in the woods by the loch where the people aren’t too inviting. Alva and her father are out in their house. There’s a lot of isolation. There’s a brilliant bit with Ren’s house (we’ll come to Ren later… *swoon*) that really bloody kicked me in the feels. The settings are all so vividly written without being forced. (Just don’t expect me to go there cause I don’t think I am tough enough ha!)

I’d like to take a moment for you all to enjoy the cover designed by Jamie Gregory. It’s the very best mix of spooky, creepy and ‘WTF is that?’ – just like the book.

Image result for hold back the tide

Did you appreciate it? Good. I’m glad. 

I can’t go through this and not talk about the characters. We all know – if you’ve been here a while – that I love a character. You could give me a shit book with brilliant characters and I’d enjoy it. I stan good characters… and let me tell you, BRILLIANT CHARACTERS APLENTY here (which is no surprise to be honest).

Let’s start with Alva. Oh Alva. Brilliant, wonderful, brave Alva. (side note: I bloody love the name Alva). She’s got a kind of strength I’d love to have. She’s got dreams she wants to chase and she’s got a plan. She knows what she wants. She’s secretive and bold with it. She’s a little bit proud. She’s a bloody badass. I mean she’s much braver than me. She does things that she HAS to do. She stands up for herself. She stands up for other people. There’s a gorgeous softness about her too. She pushes on through some HORRIFIC and SCARY things that are going on. She fights against BAD MEN (Giles, I’ll get to you in a second). I just think she’s a brilliant main character. Mel always writes the best female main characters (hello Twylla and Sorrow).

I can’t not go through this and give a massive shout out to Ren. Gorgeous, kind Murren Ross. I just adore him. He’s the kind of friend everyone wants to have. He doesn’t leave Alva’s side, even when she hurts him. He’s got his own crap going on, but he’s always there. He’s just wonderful. He goes through a lot being Alva’s friend. He remains at her side. I love that he’s just so loyal and protective without being smothering. A lot of my converns throughout the book were not for if Alva was hurt (I know that girl can protect herself), but for Ren. I needed him to be protected and OK. I love him with all of my soul. 

This book of course has some baddies. We all love a ruthless baddie in a book. The baddies in Hold Back The Tide are quite psychologically testing. Like Giles. Giles is a BAD BAD MAN. He makes Alva do things which are plain creepy. He does things to Alva that show how terrible a person he is. I would like to use a swear word to describe him, but I’ll not. He just is one of those BAD TO THE CORE men. He’s the kind of character who makes my skin crawl. Mel has always written delicious baddies, but I think Giles might be the worst of them (and that’s saying something cause I HATED Vespus in Sorrow). Friends, I just need you to read this book so I can talk about the bad things he’s doing. 

THE FEELS. PLEASE SEND HELP.

I finished this book 2 weeks ago now and I am STILL scared, triumphant and slightly heartbroken. We all know I cry at all of the books, but I wasn’t expecting to have to cry at this. There’s a lovely scene between Alva and her dad that just made me feel a lot of things. It’s just a small thing, but my god. There’s other moments in this book that just punched at my feels so hard. I went through a lot of this book on the edge of being sheer terrified. It’s a very tense kind of vibe. It’s delicious in that way. 

My Goodreads review:

JUST WHAT. This book was everything I wanted and hoped for from Mel: incredible characters, a spooky setting, wonderful writing and scary. I just went though every emotion… mainly being SCARED. This is a wonderfully atmospheric story set in the wilds of Scotland with an incredible main character and her murderer dad. There’s so much appearances can be deceiving moments here and I was here for all of them. Yes, I cried. I love Ren with all that I am.

Naturally, I finished this book and NEEDED to make a little moodboard. I hope you all like it. For me, this moodboard is this book in like 7 pictures. 

HBTT moodboard

YOU MADE IT TO THE END. Congratulations. 

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s not often I write mammoth posts like this. 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jennifer Killick

Crater Lake: a wonderfully scary, but fun book!

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“Who is the mysterious bloodstained man who stops their coach? Why is no one around when Lance and the rest of Year Six arrive at the brand new Crater Lake activity centre? But this is just the beginning of the school trip from hell; a fight for survival that sees five pupils band together to save their classmates from an alien fate far worse than death. But whatever happens, they must Never. Ever. Fall asleep!”

Crater Lake tells the story of young Lance and his classmates who are going on their Year 6 residential. We all know residentials are a brilliant time for teachers and kids alike to have fun and get to know each other as people, create memories and just relax for a little bit. Lance and his friends all hope that Crater Lake is going to be that residential for them. They’re excited. When things start going a bit awry on the bus to their residential place, Lance and his friends start worrying that maybe it won’t be this wonderful thing they’ve built themselves up for.  

On their drive up to their residential location, the bus is met by a bloody man who looks a bit like a zombie which makes Lance and his friends start to worry. The teachers seem to be not too bothered by it. They carry on their journey despite worries, but when they get to Crater Lake nothing quite seems right. There’s not many staff, it’s boiling hot and the meals aren’t even worth looking at never mind eating. Add this to the fact there doesn’t seem to be much to do: none of the typical residential type activities and you’ve got a very confused Lance. When bedtime comes around, Lance and his friends stay awake, which is a good thing because a lot of their classmates QUICKLY seem to be different people. It is up to Lance and the few remaining classmates who managed to stay awake to save the day – but they MUST stay awake… not an easy feat when you’re exhausted. 

This book has quickly become a favourite in my Year 6 class. It was my ‘Recommended Read’ a few weeks ago and word of mouth has spread that this is a little bit spooky, a little bit funny and a lot brilliant, so almost half of my class have read it! We’ve had a few children even comment on the fact they hope we don’t all get possessed while on residential in the Lake District haha! There’s a wonderful balance in this book between a little bit scary, funny and a brilliant story which made me devour this book in a matter of hours. It’s not scary enough to terrify children, but it’s spooky enough to make them want to read on! It’s a brilliantly fast paced and clever book that is going to have a big fan base! I can’t wait to see if Jennifer Killick writes more books like this because this is a proper hit! I devoured it in a matter of hours and that’s a testament to the brilliant characters, plot and clever writing. 

Words from my Year 6s:

“I loved this book because it was scary but it didn’t make me too scared. Also, the characters were like me and my friends”

“We can’t go on residential like this miss. I don’t wanna go there. This book tells the story of a proper bad residential, but it was loads of fun. I’m glad that Lance and his friends talked about his secret – it’s good to have great friends like this”

“This was a good story because it shows that children can be really brave and they come up with brilliant plans – even better than teachers (haha)” 

My Goodreads review:

Brilliantly fun and paced. I don’t wanna visit Crater Lake. It’s a bit scary for my likes but if I get to go with Lance and his friends, I think I’d be ok! I’m definitely going to have dreams about wasplike humans now though!! Great MG sci fi book!

Have you read Crater Lake?
Where did you go on residentials?
Can you recommend me some other books for my Y6 class?

Talk to me in the comments! I’d love to know your thoughts and recommendations! Massive thank you to the publishers Firefly Press for sending me a review copy!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Sofa Surfer

Sofa Surfer: a gorgeous story with helping people at its heart

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“15-year-old Tyler’s teenage angst turns to outright rebellion when his family leave London for a new life in Yorkshire. He’s angry with his parents about the upheaval and furious at losing his home. With only the dog to confide in, Tyler has no idea that a chance meeting with a skinny girl called Spider will lead him into a world he never even knew existed. Spider is sofa surfing and Tyler finds himself spinning a tangled web of lies in his efforts to help her escape her world of fear and insecurity.”

Now, it is well documented that I was a MASSIVE fan of Malcolm’s first book ‘Me. Mam. Me Dad. Me’ (if you’ve not read it please go and do that because it is bloody magnificent) which came out last year, so when I was asked if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for his second book, I jumped at the chance. I knew that if his first book was anything to go off, this book was going to be a proper hit… and let me tell you, it did not disappoint at all! 

Sofa Surfer tells the story of lovely Tyler, a young lad whose life has been turned upside down by a move away from London to Yorkshire. He hates it. He’s angry with his mam and dad cause they’ve pulled him away from everything he loves: his friends, his hobbies, his school. Now he’s somewhere new with no-one and nothing to do apart from walk his adorable dog. Through the story, Tyler grows to like the place he lives in. He finds friends in unexpected places and learns that lies, even when they’re there to try and help, are not a great thing. 

I loved reading this book. The characters in particular have a proper big place in my heart. Besides the fact that one of them is a Geordie (yes, we all know I STAN a Geordie character, it makes me feel at home in a book), they’re so brilliant written, they’re fully formed and they’re flawed.

If we start with Tyler, here you have a young man who is so gorgeously kind hearted, naive at times and so keen to help. He starts the book understandably angry and a little bit distant, but as you go through the book you learn more about him and see that he is someone who just wants to help. He makes mistakes; he says things that he shouldn’t; he chooses to do things that are questionable, but ultimately he’s human. We’ve all done it. We’ve all made mistakes in life that we have to learn from. He tries his very hardest to fix the things he’s done wrong. 

Tyler of course is only trying to help Spider. Lovely, lovely Spider. Spider, who we initially meet who seems quite cool and put together, whose story we learn as we go through the story. A character who teaches us about some of the realities of being homeless. A character who teaches us about the importance of listening. A character who is trying her best to do the best for herself. A character who wants so much but asks for so little. She gets woven into this story in such a gorgeous way. I fell for her straight away (being Geordie aside) because she oozes a kind of confidence. As you go through you see that a lot of it is a facade (as a lot of confidence can be!) and she’s just trying to put on a face. 

I think this story is one that has the potential to open a lot of conversations. It’s one I think a lot of people are going to love. It’s a story about friendship and standing up for what you think is right. It’s a story about two teenagers who have very different lives, who are brought together for a reason. It’s one of those books that sticks with you. I just adored it. 

My Goodreads review: 

I loved this an awful lot! An incredibly duet of characters: one who wants to help, albeit not in the the best ways, and one who didn’t ask for help. I love reading Geordie characters so Spider being a Geordie made me so happy. You see the realities of being a youngster who is homeless in this and I really felt for Spider. I’d love to hug her. Another brilliant story from Malcolm Duffy: I look forward to whatever else he writes!

A massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of this book and I can’t wait to see what Malcolm writes next – if it involves more Geordies, I’m already going to be won over! 

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

SOFA SURFER BANNER

S x 

January in books

I can’t believe I’m already here rounding up a whole month of reading… and I can’t quite believe HOW MANY BOOKS I READ. It wasn’t until I started looking to do this post that I realised just how many books I read last month. It certainly took me by surprise!

January was a good month. I moved into Year 6. We had a wonderful first month together. I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m doing well. It’s definitely somewhere I’m challenged enough without feeling out of my depth.

I read 19 books! 

How bonkers is that?!

MG books I read…

Jan in book MG 2020

LOOK AT THAT VERITABLE FEAST. 

I devoured my way through 13 A gorgeous array of books and something for everyone in there! I’ve managed to write some reviews of some of these which you can check out below. The rest are coming I promise (I’ve promised to write a review, of some description, for every book I read this year!)

MG Mini Reviews!

BOOK BLOG: ANNA HOGHTON

BOOK BLOG: Louie Stowell

BOOK BLOG: Jason Reynolds

YA books January blessed me with…

Jan in book YA 2020

but it also blessed me with…

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As well as all of those MG books, I worked my way through 6 YA books. Who knew?! Reviews for all of these are to come in the following weeks… however I’m still very ded from getting my hands on Hold Back the Tide so sorry about that haha!

Bookish targets

As usual I’ve set my Goodreads to 52 and I’m aiming for 52 kids books alongside that. So yes, 52 is way more than achievable, but trust me there are some weeks I read NOTHING and other weeks where I read LOADS… so just because I’m doing great this month doesn’t mean I’ll keep this going!

Goodreads: 19/52
52 kids books: 13/52

And that’s my January round up!

Did you have a productive January?
What was your favourite read in January?
What’s on your February TBR?

Speak to me! I’d love to know what you loved reading in January!

S x