BOOK BLOG: YA wrap up!

Hello everyone!

I’m back at it again with some mini reviews! I’ve had a very busy August of reading so far and thought I’d share some mini reviews of some of the amazing YA I’ve been reading! 

Scars like Wings by Erin Stewart

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“Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her. A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever. But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.”

My my. Reading this book was like a punch in the gut. This book is one of those that makes an impact and fast. We all have scars, but not like Ava. Ava was burned in a fire and she’s hidden herself away from the world ever since. This all changes when she is told she is ready to go back to school. Obviously, a young girl who has been cordoned off from the real world for a year, who now has to go back into the world of school is going to be terrified. What happens when she gets there is an emotional rollercoaster. From her incredible family, to the friends she makes, to the shout outs to musicals, this book was just wonderful. It hit me where it hurt and made me cry. I love Ava’s group of friends; they’re all lucky to have each other. I’m sad to be finished; to say goodbye to the sarcasm, friendship, bravery and love they shared. Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!

I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

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“When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?”

MY GOD. I don’t know that I can use the word “enjoy” about this book because I hate Aaron SO MUCH. I can’t talk about this book without giving away too many spoilkers, but Aaron is possibly the WORST character I’ve ever come across. The ending was NOT what I wanted, no was it what he deserved. Telling a story of love, you see through both Gemma and Aaron’s eyes what their relationship is. This book was gripping, tough to read and made me so angry. I can’t talk about this book without being angry and I need someone else to join me in the anger. However, in amongst all of that anger and that weird obsessive Aaron behaviour, there’s also so much love, friendship, fighting for the ones you love and kindness. Gemma is surrounded by so much love (some of it more toxic!)

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

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“Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.
The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.
Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?”

I’m a sucker for a bit of romance. I’m even more of a sucker for “shouldn’t be trogether, but let’s be honest, they’re meant to be together”. This book tells the story of Stella and Will, two young people who are in hospital. Two young people who aren’t allowed to be around other people because it could be life-threatening. However, when they find each other, they find something they’ve both been looking for. I loved this book, an awful lot. I love Will. I love Poe. Stella is an angel. Barb is lush. This is a beautiful story of love at its limits. There’s just so much love in this book. Let’s not deny the fact that I definitely cried. There’s so much lush about this book. And now it’s been made into a film… but I don’t think my emotions are ready to be battered again just yet! Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!

Dead Popular by Sue Wallman

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“The reigning queen bee, Kate, knows that you don’t become the most powerful girl at school by playing nice. But when other students start revealing long-held secrets anonymously, she realizes someone is playing a much more dangerous game – and they know too much about Kate’s past. If she doesn’t figure out who’s behind this, her final year at Pankhurst could be exactly that: her final year.”

This tells the story of a boarding school full of entitled, posh scholars who are obsessed with beauty. I loved the setting of the boarding school and the beach. I think it’s a great combination. If you’re a fan of a boarding school book, this will be right up your street! I really really loved Munro – I think the characters in this book make it enticing and dark. There’s some dark motives and even darker deeds. There’s a mystery element that I enjoyed too… I didn’t see it coming, but when it did BAM! This is one of those books that starts to show itself to you slowly, but once you’re there, it’s like YEP that’s why you went a bit slower. You get to know the characters and their dynamics really well before you get into the action. Massive thank you to Scholastic for the review copy!

PHEW. There we go! Just 4 of the YA books I’ve read recently. I really enjoyed them all! If I had to pick a favourite though, I’d have to say Scars Like Wings would just snatch the title from I Hold Your Heart (seriously though, someone else be angry with me!). 

What have you read recently?
Have you read any of these books?
Can you recommend me a book?

Talk to me! I wanna know what you think of my wrap ups: do you like them? Do you prefer my full reviews? Do you not care? (ha!)

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Alice Broadway

Scar: a book that will leave an impression on ALL of your emotions

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“INK taught Leora that all was not what it seems on the surface. 
SPARK taught her that there are two sides to every story. 
Now Leora has had enough of lessons – she wants to make her own story.”

Scar sees the incredible Ink trilogy come to a close… and I was not ready. AT ALL. If you’re new to the Alice Broadway game then you need to catch up… my review for Ink can be found here, and my review for Spark here

Scar sees Leora taking on the final chapter of her current story. She’s been through a lot in the first two books and now she’s having to face some new scary things! Through Scar we see what happens when she realises she can stand up for herself, the things she believes in and finds herself dealing with some HORRIBLE people.

This book made me emotional. There are SO MANY THINGS THAT HAPPEN that I was crying a lot of the time. I was angry a lot of the time. I was suspicious and torn. I was comforted. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y in this review because you guys need to read this book: it is exceptional. Alice Broadway is a master of storytelling. 

Just as the other 2 books have dealt with storytelling, Scar has a big focus on storytelling. Leora is introduced to Mel (the storyteller of her village) and learns a lot about the power of stories and how stories can have many meanings. Leora has seen the world on both sides of the coins (she’s lived with the Blanks and the Marked people) and she teaches the people around her that every story has 2 sides. I loved watching Leora learn, but also teach, throughout the book. The infusion of the folk stories into this trilogy has been one of the most incredible things. The stories of the two sisters have been consistent throughout the books and watching that explored again in this book was incredible. The two sisters and their story is where this whole division of the people started, so it’s only fitting that their story has an important part. 

There’s some PROPER THINGS that happen in this book. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE CAUSE SPOILERS BUT OMG. There was one page (p227 for those who own the book) where I was GENUINELY shocked. I had to put my book down and text my friend to be like “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?”. I can’t wait to see everyone else freak out about this particular scene. I mean… there’s one particular character, a returning face, a surprise returning face who is a total PIECE OF WORK. I think I could write a whole blog post about why he is THE WORST, but he doesn’t actually deserve it. Having this character back and seeing his narcissism in Scar was FASCINATING. He clearly has a bit of a god complex… and it shows. He does some TERRIBLE things in this book. 

I loved being back in Leora’s world. I think it’s one of the most wonderful worlds that I’ve read recently. I love the idea behind it all. I loved being back around Leora’s people. Our girl, Leora, is just brilliant. She’s real. She’s definitely flawed. She’s brave. She’s bold. She learns in Scar that she needs to start standing up for herself, so she can be in control of her own story… rather than giving the control to the people around her. You’re only going to be remembered if you do something that’s worth remembering. 

Yet another shout out here to Obel. I was SO GLAD to see him back. The scenes between him and Leora were so filled with compassion and love and kindness and gentleness. 

I’m so sad that we’ve got to the end of Leora’s tale, but I can’t wait to see what Alice Broadway does next. She writes such incredible stories. There’s so many moments of juxtaposition. There’s love vs hatred; hard vs soft; the fear of forgetting vs the need to remember; routine vs change; embracing vs shunning. I loved all of these. 

I have so much more to talk about… but I need people to read this book before I can talk about it because I would HATE to spoil it for you all! It’s out in April SO GO GO GO. But also, preorder it because it’s SO WORTH IT. (You can preorder on all of the places!!)

My goodreads review:

I’ve waited SO LONG for this book. And my god it did not disappoint. There are scenes of GENUINE shock. I cried at the end. I hated Longsight SO MUCH. This book rounds off the trilogy so well and I’m so proud of how far Leora came. There’s SO MUCH about this story I can’t wait to shout about.

This week is the week of inspired moodboard, so here is my Scar inspired moodboard:

scar moodboard

A massive thank you to the wonderful humans of Scholastic for sending me a copy to review… you guys are the best!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Queen Mel

(hello, it’s me, I suggest you go grab yourself a cup of tea and a few biscuits if you’re here for the long run! I could be here a while… are you sitting comfortably? Then I guess we can begin!)

Song of Sorrow: SO BLOODY GOOD.

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“Sorrow Ventaxis has won the election, and in the process lost everything…
Governing under the sinister control of Vespus Corrigan, and isolated from her friends, Sorrow must to find a way to free herself from his web and save her people. But Vespus has no plans to let her go, and he isn’t the only enemy Sorrow faces as the curse of her name threatens to destroy her and everything she’s fought for.”

For anyone who is new around here (hello, introduce yourself to me, I’m quite friendly), I would just like to say now that I am one of the biggest Melinda Salisbury fans and this review will definitely reflect that. So if you’re not interested in that, then please check out something else on my blog…

If you’re still reading, then hello, welcome to Steph loved Song of Sorrow so much that it took her a long time to write this review and appreciates your patience and understanding. If you fancy reading my review of State of Sorrow, check it out here!

So, Song of Sorrow (let’s call it Song because that’s fewer words to read and type) continues on from where State of Sorrow leaves off. Sorrow Ventaxis is living her life, ruling her country after her dad died and she fought to be the ruler. She’s having to deal with some pretty shitty politics and, in turn, politicans. She has friends, but she definitely has enemies. Then let’s not forget to mention there are people who she doesn’t really KNOW/isn’t sure where they stand on the old love/loathe scale. Song follows Sorrow into the world of what happens once she’s got to being the ruler and the escapades that ensue with friends, family, secrets, lies, manipulation, love, hate and a little bit of magic. 

I’m going to try and make this review as un-spoilery as possible, but be warned, I have feelings that I need to talk about! My notes, which normally are a few bullet points, is a whole page, FILLED with things to talk about. If you wanna see my mood board I created for Song of Sorrow, go check it out here. Just look at my happy little face man when I received the book. 

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The first thing I want to say is Song of Sorrow was everything I wanted, many things I didn’t expect, but quintessential Queen Mel brilliance. When I started reading, I expected there to be much death, violence, horror and I was VERY scared for some of my absolute faves. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll go through this book and BE scared for our woman of the moment, Sorrow, but there’s so much more to this book that I didn’t expect. BUT I LOVED THAT. I loved that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. I was constantly surprised. I read the entire book on the edge of my seat and on the verge of MANY emotions. There’s moments of light and dark. There’s learning and growing. There’s a lot of love surrounded by moments of hatred and despair. There’s horrible actions paired with acts of compassion and love. This book manages to be hard and soft at the same time and I loved it. 

While I’m talking emotions… let’s just talk about them. I felt THEM ALL. I had SO SO many OMG moments. I laughed; I was shocked; I cried; I was angry; I was scared; I was relieved. There’s a few pages where you go from sheer shock and fear to complete and utter relief. You have no idea how much my heart was appeased when things went from TERRIBLE to brilliant (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know EXACTLY the bit I mean). I was so genuinely terrified for Sorrow at one point that when you have the reveal, I wanted to cry and/or punch someone with relief. Poor Sorrow goes through so much in this book – I definitely felt like I was going through it with her! There’s some proper lush moments of humour though too. One familiar returning face managed to bring a lot of light and laughter into the book (more on him later).

You may be in the familiar world of Sorrow’s life, but there is SO MUCH MORE in this second book. You get to follow Sorrow around on her travels to visit all of her worlds to see the people of the land. You learn so much more about the make up of the world and the world is just build up so much more from book 1. Mel writes such brilliantly vivid worlds that I didn’t think it was possible to understand the world more from book 1, but I loved that I got to know more about the world in Song. If you’re looking for an author who GENUINELY immerses you in their worlds, then look no further than Melinda Salisbury. Her worlds are so gorgeous, so vivid and so well described that you could quite happily walk along the road in your head and know exactly what was coming next and what was around you. 

So you’re in the familiar world and of course there are familiar faces left, right and centre. We have our woman of the moment, Sorrow, who is being Sorrow – stubborn, determined, brilliant, sassy, terrified, brave Sorrow. I love her so much. She grows a lot in Song. Just as Twylla did through The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, Sorrow goes on an incredible journey learning a lot about herself and making decisions which change her life. She finds out some things about herself in this second book and I appreciated it a lot (I mean, Sorrow is a bookworm which I DIG). She obviously continues to push people away to try and keep them safe, which in reality doesn’t work. Oh Sorrow. You are a disaster, but we love you.

Sorrow is very lucky (and in some cases not so lucky) to have some recurring characters in her life. All of who I love (even when I think they’re the absolute worst). Irris continues to be that best friend that Sorrow needs. Irris is one of my favourite best friends that you have in books. She’s just very constant and Sorrow needs a constant. I have a lot of love for Irris. Vespus returns to wreak havoc all over the world. God, I hate that man. SO MUCH. (My notes just say ‘Vespus tho’)  I get that he has a motive that he THINKS is the best thing for his country… but NO. I don’t appreciate you blackmailing my girl. Charon continues to be that father figure that Sorrow has always needed. I forgot how much I adored Charon from book 1, so when he returned for this book, I was DELIGHTED. Rasmus is back and I LOVED the resolution for the Rasmus/Sorrow relationship that happens. I think Rasmus is a brilliant representation of the fact that you CAN be friends with people who have meant a lot to you. Mael is still around and still creating unanswered questions for Sorrow (and me… Mel, I’m looking at you!)

GUYS. LUVIAN THO. It makes me so sad that I can’t be spoilery in this review… but I really don’t want to spoil it for you. Luvian has SUCH A GOOD BOOK. He’s such a bloody brilliant brilliant thing for Sorrow. He’s funny, charming, smart, sexy, snarky. There are some incredibly touching moments between Luvian and Sorrow in Song and I just want a book of Luvian/Sorrow please. I loved the exploration of Luvian’s family and his relationship with Sorrow in this book. The ending of State of Sorrow leaves their relationship in a very precarious place, so when I found that it was going to be explored more in Song I was DELIGHTED. I had waited A LONG TIME to get more Luvian Fen in my life… and this book did NOT let me down. (Please, if you love Luvian as much as me, I need you to talk to me. I want to start a Luvian Fen fan club)

There’s also some brilliant new additions to Sorrow’s world that enrich it a lot. So we find out more about Luvian’s family of one of the best characters to come out of Sorrow’s world. (I won’t spoil HOW we come about being with Luvian’s family because that’s one of my FAVE things about this book and SPOILERZ). We meet his mam, Beata, who I was TERRIFIED of initially. She’s TERRIFYING. She’s like this brilliant, scary, powerful Mama Bear. Poor Sorrow when she meets this terrifying mama bear… you’ll see she’s not so bad though. We find more about Luvian’s family in general through the book, but another of his family we see more of is his brother, Arkady. Guys, he’s like a brickhouse. I just imagine him being built like a proper house and scary af. He’s a PROPER softie though. He has a lovely little arc with another of our familiar friends and I LOVED IT. Outside of Luvian’s family, we meet Vespus’ new wife Tassus. GUYS JUST NO. This woman terrified me. She’s got a power that just makes me VERY scared. She’s NOT OK. She’s PERFECT for Vespus’ plans however. We all know what a terrible human he is. (My notes for Tassus just say “creepy wife” which I think are a perfcect description of her!)

I may have finished this book a few weeks ago but I am still not quite over it. The way in which this book ended just blew my mind. I think it’s just the perfect ending. I love that Sorrow has taken control of her life. She’s empowered and doing something for her, without the shadow of the rest of the world hanging over her. There’s a LOT that happens in the last few chapters and it’s a lot to process. There’s a particular bit when shit goes down in the castle and my god… it was INTENSE. A fitting end for some of the characters however. I still have some unanswered questions, but I think I need to put those questions to bed. As Mel told me, I know what I need to know. 

The book hangover is real! I can’t wait to see what’s next from Mel. I know that Sorrow’s story is over, but I just need more. I don’t care who I’m introduced to next. I know it’ll be brilliant. I’m very sad this duology is over; I grew very fond of Sorrow and her world. I will definitely be finding myself rereading these books though (for Luvian more than anything!).

A massive massive thank you to Scholastic for sending me an early copy of this book, and to Mel for having her amazing launch on a Saturday so I was able to go along and celebrate this book with her! 

If you want to buy this book, which you probably should, it’s available now on Amazon, Waterstones (if you buy it on/at Waterstones, you may even get the very fancy sprayed edges version like the one below) and every other book selling place. 

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Now, I need to go and have a lie down. I’m sure you do too.

S x  

Song of Sorrow mood board

Well hello! Happy Wednesday. How are we all?

Today is a very exciting day. Today is the day before the official release of ‘Song of Sorrow’ by one of my absolute faves – Melinda Salisbury. I have, of course, read the book already (thank you Scholastic, you guys are my faves) and needed to share my thoughts and feelings with you all (you’ll see that tomorrow in my MASSIVE REVIEW). Today however I’m sharing my mood board. 

Now, for those of you who have read Song of Sorrow, I’d like to think you can find the symbolism in my pictures before you read my spiel, however if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. My mood board and description are SPOILER-LESS (which, let me tell you, is VERY tricky for me because all I want to do is go OMGOMGOMGOMG SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER). 

I had a whole load of fun doing this and hope you guys like it!

Song moodboard

Let’s start with the abandoned corridor – this for me depicts one of the more unexpected settings of the book. It’s eerie, it’s spooky, it’s somewhat inviting though. It’s intrigue, it’s curious, it’s ‘what’s down the hall?’. Sorrow finds herself somewhere she’s never been before and as soon as I saw this picture, for me, this could’ve been where she was. 

The poison bottle – obviously this is a Mel book, so there’s SOME kind of poison going on. For me reading Song, there’s both literal and figurative poisoning going on. There’s poisonous people, poisonous thoughts, poisonous actions. It’s a bit of a thread. I loved this picture and thought it was spot on.

The girl looking out of the window could be Sorrow or it could be Irris – I didn’t really know. Sorrow makes some BIG decisions in this book and there’s a feeling of loneliness at times too. I saw this picture and it screamed ‘contemplation, loneliness, betrayal’ – pretty perfect for Song of Sorrow tbh.

The butterflies flying from the jar are beautifully symbolic of freedom. Whether that’s freedom from physical restraints or freedom from thoughts. Sometimes you’ve got to make a MASSIVE jump to free yourself: from yourself, from your past, from other people, from expectations on your shoulders. Sorrow is the butterfly and the jar is the life she’s been living for her whole life.

Man, those creepy hands and thorns. Now this is quite a literal depiction of a scene from the book BUT it could also be reaching out for help. I can’t go into too much detail here because SPOILERS. This was the perfect “saw this and thought of you” picture.

The holding hands represent again another MASSIVE SPOILER, but they also represent strength. Sorrow needs to find a lot of strength in this book (because she’s living her life, she needs it surrounded by bloody Vespus) and she finds it through some familiar faces. We all need those people who will stand by us and hold out hands (both physically and figuratively) because let’s be honest, we all need help in life. 

The last picture (the quote from Mandela) might be one of my favourite quotes that I didn’t know existed. It’s one I’m all about in my own life, but it’s also one I think Sorrow so brilliantly lives. She’s terrified (and rightly so) and makes choices out of fear, until she maybe doesn’t anymore. 

(All of these pictures I found on Pinterest! All rights and all that jazz to the people they belong to!)

I hope you enjoyed my mood board, and let me know if you read Song of Sorrow…. I am ALWAYS here to talk Mel!

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: Cory Leonardo

Call Me Alastair: touching, charming and filled me with hope!

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“Born in the back of a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape, to fly off with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by 12-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by Mrs Albertina Plopky, Alastair’s hopeful vision for the future crash-lands. In-between anxiously plucking his feathers, chewing a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to Aggie and their flight to freedom.

This debut novel is a heart-felt, bird’s-eye view of love and what it means to break free from the cages we build for ourselves- and the courage it may take to finally let go.”

It’s not every day you pick up a book that is written from the perspective of a grey parrot, and I’m not going to lie… that was half of the reason I picked it up. The other half was the cover. JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER MAN. However, once I’d picked it up and started it, I found a book that packed a punch, had some BRILLIANT messages and made me feel ALL of the feelings. 

Call Me Alastair follows the story of Alastair, an African grey parrot, who loves poetry, his sister and cherries, and his exploration of freedom, love and loss. When we start the book, he’s living in the pet shop surrounded by some brilliantly hilarious fellow pet shop inhabitants. It was so lovely to read a book told through the eyes of a parrot – it’s not often you get to read a book from an animal’s perspective and that was totally refreshing. It really really helps that he’s really endearing too! 

As the book progresses, we get to the inevitable – the two parrots (Alastair and his sister) have to be separated. Aggie is taken in by a brilliant young man, Fritz, who has aspirations of being a doctor and Alastair is taken in by Bertie, a wonderful old woman. What ensues is an adventure to try to get his sister back, while trying to ensure that everyone around him stays happy. 

We see this story through three different perspectives and I think my favourite was Bertie’s – the old woman who decides to buy Alastair. She decides to buy Alastair to help with her loneliness, broke my heart. She writes letters to her husband. It was heartbreaking to read these letters to him. She just wants someone to talk to, and as always in life, you find these things in the most unlikely of places! 

Alastair is a brilliant character to read because he’s quite dimensional (as much as an African grey aprrot can be I guess!) There are so many nods to sadness from Alastair, and in an MG book it’s important. It’s important for kids to know that you can feel sad and that people will care about you and try to help! He’s funny, sweet and charming. I really liked him! 

My Goodreads review does the honours of reviewing this book in a much more concise way:

A brilliantly moving tale about a young parrot who wants bigger and better things for him and his sister than the shop they live in. This book made me cry, made me laugh and made me hopeful – that’s not something you say after reading many books from a parrots perspective. I love Bertie – she made this book for me! I loved the mixed narrative – Alastair’s perspective through narrative and poetry; Bertie’s perspective through her letters and Fritz’s perspective through his log. Just a lush book.

Call Me Alastair is out now! A massive thank you to publishers Scholastic for sending me a copy to review!

What was the last book you read that was told from the perspective of an animal?
Which animal would you love to see the perspective of?
If you were an animal, what animal would you like to be?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk!

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Amber Lee Dodd

Lightning Chase Me Home: Middle grade with a whole lot of punch!

Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber  Lee Dodd

“Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum’s favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. But Amelia herself doesn’t always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star. Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea..”

Lightning Chase Me Home is the story of Amelia. Amelia is a young girl who lives and with her father, grandfather and their dog. They live in the cold and wet island of Dark Muir, Scotland. The island has a rich and deep history of myths and legends (which, as we all know, I was ALL ABOUT) and there is the forever foreboding sense of a storm brewing on the horizon. I loved the use of this constant threat of storm coming… it kept me on my toes throughout the book! 

As the story advances, unusual things start happening around Amelia. These unusual things happen to coincide with Amelia’s birthday and the wish she got to make as part of the island tradition. Who wouldn’t want to visit somewhere called Serpent’s Tooth Rock?! (I mean me, that sounds ominous as anything and I’m a right scaredy cat). Amelia’s wish made really emotional and over time it becomes apparent that the wish she made has stirred some deep and potentially dangerous magic on the island. 

This book will keep you gripped throughout. You’ll be under the spell of the incredible writing style and the infusion of incredible settings and characters with folklore. Amelia is a really great protagonist that I know lots of children will take to. The unusual events and the rumbling of storms and the growing of the magic over the story kept me flicking the pages til there were no more pages to flick. I think every kid will see themselves in this story because we’ve all dealth with some of the things Amelia has to deal with: a poorly grandparent, bullies, a new school, struggles in school. Pair all of these things with ultimately a BRILLIANT magical mystery and you have a total winner! 

Here we have another bloody brilliant example of an MG book that deals with some pretty tough stuff but in a beautiful way. It’s a book full of spirit, adventure and warmth and absolutely has a place in EVERY classroom, school and home library!

Have you read Lightning Chase Me Home?
Would you like to visit Amelia’s island?

A massive thank you to Scholastic for asking me to be on this blog tour! I can’t wait to see all the love this book is going to get! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Vote for Effie

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy being on the blog tour for Vote for Effie – the first in a new hilarious series by Laura Wood (author of 2018 YA sensation A Sky Painted Gold) for 9-12 year olds. Inspired by 2017’s Women’s MarchVOTE FOR EFFIE is extremely timely and the perfect antidote to the current political climate; it will inspire young readers to stand up for the issues that matter to them, whatever that may be!

I’m honoured to be on this blog tour as each stop on the tour is written to celebrate a young female activist and/or inspiring girl who is working to change the world; each post will include a short profile on the person written by Laura.

vote for effie cover

Mari Copeny

When she was only eight, Mari Copeny wrote a moving letter to President Obama about the Flint water crisis. Not only did Obama reply, but he came to Flint to meet with the people there, and he eventually signed off on $100 million funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system. Mari is known as ‘Little Miss Flint’ as she continues to fight for her city, and raise money to tackle the problems they are still facing. Now, aged eleven, she is a fierce advocate for change and she uses social media to share her message. 

Mari has said that she’ll be running for president in 2044, but, until then, she wants other kids to know “you’re never to young or to small to change the world.” I think Mari is an enormous inspiration. She hasn’t let being young stop her from being heard. When people weren’t listening, she didn’t give up… she made more noise. I love her confidence, her intelligence and the sense of empathy that drives all of her efforts. I see these qualities so often in the children I meet while visiting schools and it makes me feel so hopeful. These girls really are the leaders of tomorrow.

If you would like to see why Mari is so amazing, and why I think she and Effie would be best friends, you might like to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML2dRP9i3FQ

Yes for women and girls who are doing good things! 

Do you have an inspiring woman who you’d like to shout about?

You should definitely go and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour. There have been some absolutely incredible women highlighted in the posts and it’s certainly been inspiring! Plus, there’s some pretty incredible bloggers on this tour too! Massive thanks to Harriet at Scholastic for inviting me to be on this incredible blog tour! I hope you all enjoyed the post and go and check out Vote for Effie – out now! 

vote for effie blog tour

Speak soon, 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jan Eldredge

Hello friends!

Today I have an absolute treat for you. Jan Eldridge, author of the brilliant Witch Girl, is here to talk about weaving inspiration into a story! I hope you enjoy this post, I loved reading it and am very grateful for Jan taking time to write such a brilliant blog post! Hearing there’s a sequel to Witch Girl also made me VERY happy! 

WEAVING INSPIRATION INTO A STORY

By Jan Eldredge

Inspiration is everywhere. It can strike at any time, and often where you aren’t particularly expecting it. It’s when you take that flash of an idea, brainstorm it a little, then merge it with some other interesting ideas, that you generate an exciting new book concept. It’s a bit like weaving a magic spell, and it was this process that brought WITCH GIRL to life.

I’m a huge fan of spooky, magical stories for kids. In fact, I seldom read grownup fiction. My towering stack of books-to-be-read is made up of children’s fantasy adventures. I especially love monsters and ghosts and all such eldritch things that go bump in the night. So much so, that the shelves in my home office are filled with encyclopedias and field guides featuring mythical creatures from around the world.

A few years ago, while I was browsing through a used book store for more supernatural reference books to add to my collection, I came across an old dictionary of superstitions. As I thumbed through its pages, I was instantly captivated. Inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted to write a story incorporating some of those fascinating beliefs.

It went without saying, that this story about superstitions would have to contain ghosts or monsters. Having grown up in Louisiana where belief in the supernatural runs deep, and where strange occurrences are a natural phenomenon, my home state felt like the perfect place to set such a tale. I knew in my gut I had the ingredients for a unique and exciting book. All I needed was an interesting protagonist to add to the mix.

At the time, I’d been reading, and very much enjoying, some middle grade fantasies about young apprentices, but all the apprentices in those books were boys. The idea of making my adventurous, superstitious monster-hunter a girl was another one of those elements that just felt like a perfect fit. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do much character brainstorming. My protagonist, Evangeline, as well as her Gran, quickly formed in my mind, as though they were real people I’d already known. Even Evangeline’s sidekick, Julian Winterbourne, didn’t take much work to develop since he was heavily inspired by my son.

Armed with a cast of quirky characters, some intriguing story elements, and a strong gut feeling, I set about writing the kind of book I love: a spooky, adventure, mystery with dashes of humor, a story for kids, but one that teens and adults will love to read too.

I’m now in the process of writing the sequel to WITCH GIRL, and I’m keeping my eyes open for the next strike of inspiration that I can weave into Evangeline’s witchy world.

WITCH GIRL by Jan Eldredge out now in paperback (£6.99, Scholastic)

              @JanEldredge  www.janeldredge.com @Scholasticuk

S x

BOOK BLOG: Hayley Barker

Show Stopper/Show Stealer: thrilling books excellently paced that you just can’t put down!

Show Stopper and Show Stealer is a duology written by Hayley Barker and I JUST ADORED THEM OK? I picked up Show Stopper a while ago based solely on the cover (just look at it man!) and once I had dived into the world of the twisted circus and got to the end, I needed the second one. I bought Show Stealer (the sequel) about 2 days later and immersed myself right back into the world. 

Show Stopper:
Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

I won’t share the synopsis for Show Stealer because spoilers… but if you’re curious click here.

I’ll try and keep this review as un-spoilery for both as possible!

In the world of these books, you’re introduced to a society of the Pures and the Dregs (yes, I couldn’t unsee the Six of Crows either!). The Pures are the rich and the Dregs are the poor. The Dregs live in the slums and do the menial jobs in the world of the Pures. If you’re an unlucky (or lucky, depending how you see it) Dreg, you might be taken in by the circus and be trained up to perform for the Pures. The Dregs aren’t treated well, but as they have no rights, this happens for the entertainment of the Pures. As the books progress, you see the inside of the circus and the deplorable ways in which the performers are treated. 

I adored the circus setting. I’m well into books that are set in the circus (if you have any recommendations, please tell me because I am all about them… kids and YA please!) The setting is so brilliantly described in book 1, but in book 2 these descriptions are just taken to another level. The circus changes for the worse in book 2, so the descriptions get DARK to match the new look circus. 

As well as the incredible setting, there’s a bunch of characters who will pull at your heart and make you angry and make you see the good in people and make you want to punch things and make you look at the world these people live in, as well as our world! I think it was the characters that made me fall into love with these books even more:
Ben – he’s brave, honest and compassionate. You feel the real pull in Ben’s heart between what he has been taught and what he believes is right. I loved Ben a lot. He’s a very good egg. He goes against everything he’s ever known because he sees an injustice happening. I fell for him quickly. 
Hoshi – she’s fierce and fearless, particuarly where the people she loves are concerned. I loved seeing her growth. She’s like a Mama Bear. Hoshi is one of those characters that have so many layers – once you get under her skin there is still so much more to learn.
Viviene – Ben’s mam, politician. This woman is just disgusting. Some of the things she believes and fights for are vitriolic and I genuinely despised her. We need to talk about her more, but I can’t help but get a little angry about her.
Roger – Ben’s dad. I have quite different emotions for dad than mam. At first, I thought he had no backbone, but that changes. I can’t reveal why I have such a soft spot for him because MASSIVE SPOILERS, but trust me he is a good man.
Silvio – the ring master of the circus. GOD THIS MAN. He’s an egomanic and true narcissist. He ONLY gets worse as the books go on too. 
Jack – he makes an appearance in book 1, but is pretty important in book 2. I adore him. He is an actual hero.

There are more characters than this… there’s some wonderful additions to the circus in book 2. I could talk about the characters in these books for many words, but I won’t!

(I wanna go and reread these books now! I miss these characters quite a lot)

One of the things that surprised me about these books were how politically driven they were. I didn’t expect to read these and think politics, but the politics of the world is one of the prevalent threads throughout and I quite adored it. There’s a lot to learn from these books. There’s many a comparison that can be made between these books and the world that we live in today. If people could just find in them a smidgen of compassion, like Ben, then we would have a much kinder world. We can change minds and we can be wrong, but we should ALWAYS be kind. Jack is one of the most important characters in these books. Please can we all appreciate him please? Books like these show that the good guys can win and that kindness will get you further than hatred. 

My goodreads reviews of these books:

Show Stopper: 

If I could swear here, I would swear. What an absolute winner of a book here. My mind is 100% blown.

Show Stealer

I have THOUGHTS and FEELINGS about this book. More feelings than thoughts.

This book manages to encapsulate the absolute brilliance of book 1, but is more despicable, horrifying, compassionate and honest all at the same time. I just can’t get the words right now.

Shout out to Roger 💛

Ha. I love the Goodreads version of me. 

Have you read Show Stopper or Show Stealer?
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THEM PLEASE?
Can you recommend any circus books?

Talk to me in the comments, or on twitter please! I need more people who love these books in my life!

S x