MALAMANDER – Thomas Taylor

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Children’s, Middle Grade, Mystery, Fantasy

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl.

No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up.

And it just got stranger…

This book was a total cover buy; sure it sounded pretty good, but I saw it and I needed it on my bookshelf. That said…

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

I have found a new favourite middle grade book! Malamander is the first book in a long time that I have literally devoured; I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting! I think that I just loved the whole setting of Eerie-on-Sea, the characters, the attention to detail and yet so easy to get lost in style of writing.

Fun fact – Thomas Taylor is the artist behind the original Harry Potter illustrations.

With Malamander, he shows that not only is he a dab hand at art, but also at crafting an incredible world full of mystery and intrigue. Herbert Lemon makes for a brilliant narrator; it’s fun and gripping, and the atmosphere created throughout the book really makes you feel as though you’re there in the story!

I’m quite happy with this review just being a gushy length of text saying how much I loved the book! There are so many twists and turns, and this book really is an experience that I’d hate to even spoil one part of; it’s truly special! My advice is to get yourself a copy as soon as possible, admire the cover, check out the map of Eerie-on-Sea and then settle down for one of the best reads of this year.

On a side note, I’ve now decided that I’d like to work in the Eerie Book Dispensary; I mean, I have a qualification as a dispenser…and I love books…the job’s pretty much mine.

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THE PAPER & HEARTS SOCIETY – Lucy Powrie

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RELEASED: 13/06/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary, Teen

A brand new series from Booktuber Lucy Powrie – about what happens when you give up on trying to fit in in and let your weird out! It’s time to join The Paper & Hearts Society …

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

Ok, so I’m going to be honest; the main reason I wanted to read this book was because of it being written by the lovely Lucy Powrie (if you’ve lived under a rock in the book world, she’s a booktuber and creator of #ukyachat and is just generally a very good bookish person to be aware of!) and because I wanted to support her and to not be the only person not reading this book. The synopsis, whilst fairly good, just sounded too…happy for me. But,

OH. MY. GOD.

I hold my hands up; I was wrong. So completely and utterly wrong.

The Paper & Hearts Society is now one of my favourite books of all time, and if I can throw it at people and make them read it I will. Yes, it was fluffy and happy, but it also had all the feels that make a perfect teen/young adult book! This is exactly the book that I needed when I was a teenager. It makes you feel like you belong and captures exactly how it feels to be a teenager or, in my case, an adult who still feels like a teenager!

The Paper & Hearts Society members are like a little family of people who I instantly took to and they all bring something unique to the group. Please hear me out on the next bit; I’ve tried to word it right! The one thing I was worried about going into this book was having heard about the diversity and I wasn’t sure how that was going to be handled – I like diverse books, but I don’t like it to be the sole focus of the book or character. Personally, for me, it needs to just be a fact of life that doesn’t detract from the main story but adds depth and realism to the characters.

Lucy has mastered this perfectly.

I love how you get to know a character without any judgement and the diversity that’s included in the story is written sensitively and in a way that just makes it normal and accepting, which is how it should be.

So, what are the main things that I took away from this amazing read? Number one has to be the fact that it’s okay to be different and unique and to be passionate about something that you love! Secondly, you have no idea what people go through behind closed doors. Take the time to get to know people, and try not to judge too quickly. We all have our own battles and sometimes not everyone can see that. Finally, books! Above all, this is a book about books for bookworms and I saw books I love, and books I hate, feature throughout this book. It really reignited my love of books.

Now, if you don’t mind me, I’ll be impatiently waiting by my postbox for my preorder and my Paper & Hearts Society member pin to arrive…


Thank you to Hachette via NetGalley for approving my request to read this title!

THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY – Sharon Gosling

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Stripes
GENRE: Children’s, Mystery

The Golden Butterfly danced in the air, beautiful and impossible, yet there before their eyes. Then the Magnificent Marko flicked his wand again. There was a shower of sparks, a bang and … the Golden Butterfly vanished. 
It’s 1897 and since the Magnificent Marko dramatically departed the stage, no magician has come close to performing a trick as spectacular as the Golden Butterfly. With her grandfather gone, Luciana feels that the world has lost its wonder. Then the imposing leader of the Grand Society of Magicians appears, searching for something belonging to Marko, and Luciana is drawn into a world of danger and deception. As she battles to protect her grandfather’s greatest legacy, can she distinguish reality from illusion?
A dazzling tale of bravery and friendship in this fast-paced historical adventure for fans of Katherine Woodfine, COGHEART and THE NOWHERE EMPORIUM.

I’m so glad that I got sent this book for review; I’d not heard of it before and it’s now one of my go-to middle grade mystery books. I adored every second of The Golden Butterfly! This is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in recent years.

In The Golden Butterfly, Sharon draws together all the things that make recent middle grade mysteries so special; a strong female lead, an intricate mystery full of twists and turns and a brilliant setting, in this case Victorian England. I was hooked from page one and instantly liked Luciana as a main character. I liked how determined and forward-thinking she is.

I’d love to revisit Luciana and her friends and family and find out what happens next for them. Towards the end of the book, the points about women and their role in society towards the end of the Victorian era make for an interesting discussion and I’d love to see this explored further with these characters, so I’m definitely hoping for a sequel! That said, this is a brilliant standalone that’s fast-paced and gripping and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Thank you to Charlie at Stripes for sending me a copy of this book!

A GIRL CALLED JUSTICE – Elly Griffiths

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Middle Grade, Mystery

Missing maids, suspicious teachers and a snow storm to die for… For a fearless girl called Justice Jones, super-smart super-sleuth, it’s just the start of a spine-tingling first term at Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. For fans of Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine and Enid Blyton.

When Justice’s mother dies, her father packs her off to Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. He’s a barrister – specialising in murder trials – and he’s just too busy to look after her alone.

Having previously been home-schooled, the transition is a shock. Can it really be the case that blondes rule the corridors? Are all uniforms such a charming shade of brown? And do schools normally hide dangerous secrets about the murder of a chamber maid?

Justice takes it upon herself to uncover the truth. (Mainly about the murder, but perhaps she can figure out her new nemesis – the angelic Rose – at the same time.) But when a storm cuts the school off from the real world, the body count starts to rise and Justice realises she’ll need help from her new friends if she’s going to find the killer before it’s too late …

I knew, as soon as I read the synopsis for this book, that it would be right up my street and a book that I’d love. I’ve always been a massive fan of Enid Blyton, and in recent years it’s been all about Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, so as soon as you mention a middle grade mystery set in a boarding school I’m in!

Luckily, A Girl Called Justice did not disappoint!

From the very first page I was hooked and wanting to know more. Highbury House makes for a very atmospheric setting; it’s clear from the beginning that something is amiss and you’re really sucked into Justice’s world. I was very much reminded of the Murder Most Unladylike series in the way that the story was set out and how you never quite knew who to trust and where the next page would take you.

I’m very excited for more people to get their hands on this book so I have people that I can rave about it with; whilst it was a fairly quick read, it was packed with mystery and intrigue and a host of fascinating characters! I’ve heard wonderful things about Elly’s adult fiction books, and she’s proven with this one that she’s also a dab hand at children’s fiction!


Thank you very much to Hachette for sending me a copy of this title!

THE YEAR AFTER YOU – Nina de Pass

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PUBLICATION DATE: 14/2/2019
PUBLISHER: Ink Road Books
GENRE: Young Adult

“If guilt could kill, I’d already be dead, like I’m supposed to be …” New Year’s Eve, San Francisco. The most promising party of the year ends in tragedy. Cara survives. Her best friend Georgina doesn’t. Nine months later, Cara is consumed by guilt and grief. Her mum decides a Swiss boarding school will be the fresh start Cara needs. But Cara knows that swapping sunshine for snow won’t make a blind bit of difference. Georgina is gone, and nothing will bring her back. Up in the Alps, Cara’s old life feels a million miles away. At Hope Hall, nobody knows her past and she intends to keep it that way. But classmates Ren and Hector have other ideas. Cara keeps her distance, but she’s drawn to the offbeat, straight-talking Hector, who understands her grief better than anyone. Her new friends are breaking down the walls she has so carefully built up. And, despite it all, Cara wants them to. The closer Cara grows to Hector, the more Georgina slips away. Embracing life at Hope Hall means letting go of the past; of her memories of that fatal New Year’s Eve. But Cara is quite sure she doesn’t deserve a second chance.

My two favourite types of book are boarding school stories and young adult contemporary (especially mental health) and I’d come to accept that the likelihood of reading a book that ticks both of these boxes is very slim. Then along comes an offer to be part of a blog tour for a book from Ink Road…THAT TICKS BOTH OF THESE BOXES. Of course I had to say yes yes yes!

The Year After You is a book that as soon as I picked it up I couldn’t put it down; every time life got in the way I’d be anxiously waiting to get back to reading! In it, the characters are all so varied – they come from a variety of backgrounds and all have stories to share. I like how diverse the story was without it being thrown in your face; it was like life, just part and parcel of having a group of teens at school together.

Nina’s writing style was brilliant and she crafted a story that, although it covers some pretty difficult topics, ultimately was enjoyable and easy to engage with. Cara was a brilliant main character who was flawed but also vulnerable. It was refreshing to see a character who you’d think had it all but actually shows that situations can have an impact on anyone. I think the way that grief and guilt are tackled throughout the book makes this essential reading for young people too.

I’d highly recommend The Year After You, especially for fans of authors such as Sara Barnard, Gayle Forman and Phyllida Shrimpton, as well as people who may have grown up loving school stories and are looking for something a little more modern to love.


Thank you to Sarah at Ink Road for sending me a copy of The Year After You and for involving me in the blog tour!

SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN – Chris Haughton

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RELEASED: 06/03/2014
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

The winner of the 2014 Association of Illustrators’ Award for Children’s Books, Shh! is the covetable new picture book from Chris Haughton, one of the most exciting new voices in children’s literature. From Chris Haughton, the multi award-winning author-illustrator of A Bit Lost and Oh No, George!, comes a picture book about a beautiful bird, four friends and plans gone wrong… The friends are out for a walk. Suddenly, they spot it – a beautiful bird perched high in a tree! They simply must have it and – shh!- they have a plan. So they tip-toe very slowly, nets poised – “Ready one … ready two … ready three … GO!” But, at the turn of the page, we find a ridiculous bunch of very tangled characters and a blissfully oblivious bird, flying away. One hilarious foiled plan after another and it’s clear that this goofy gang cannot catch that elusive birdie! But the littlest of this group, a quiet spectator up until now, knows that a bit of kindness can go a long way… Will his friends follow his gentle lead or will they get themselves into even more trouble?

Such a simple concept, and yet it is absolutely perfect! This book makes me so happy and is so much fun to read aloud; it’s very repetitive, full of expression and is beautifully illustrated (like all of Chris Haughton’s books let’s be honest!).

Shh! We Have A Plan is one of my number one picks for storytime and is one of those stories that you can really make your own with actions and the different volumes, and is also a great choice for beginner readers due to the repetition. Whilst recently re-reading this, my little sister (although capable of reading much trickier books) had so much fun reading it confidently out loud and did all the actions and different SHH!s. It was brilliant!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you are looking for a quiet bedtime or fun read that will keep little ones engaged!


Thank you to Jo at Walker for sending me a copy of this book!

ENCHANTÉE – Gita Trelease

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RELEASED: 21/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
GENRE: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy

A compellingly beautiful tale of magic, intrigue and deception, set against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Paris on the cusp of revolution.

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries – and magicians . . . 
When seventeen-year-old Camille is left orphaned, she has to provide for her frail sister and her volatile brother. In desperation, she survives by using the petty magic she learnt from her mother. But when her brother disappears Camille decides to pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic Camille transforms herself into the `Baroness de la Fontaine` and presents herself at the court of Versaille, where she soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying life of riches, finery and suitors. But Camille’s resentment of the rich is at odds with the allure of their glamour and excess, and she soon discovers that she’s not the only one leading a double life . . .

Enchantée, a word which translates to enchanted…and that is quite literally how this book made me feel throughout my whole reading experience.

As a student of French, I am a sucker for a book set in Paris so of course as soon as I heard about this book I knew that it was one that I’d have to get my hands on. I squealed when I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy from MyKindaBook and was desperate to dive into the world of revolutionary Paris. I had very high expectations going into this book, and thankfully it was everything and more!

Camille is a very likable main character. She’s not perfect and has basic human flaws, but she is definitely a good person and cares deeply for her sister. The family unit in Enchantée is an interesting one, and it’s one that changes significantly as the story progresses. We see how situations can have a massive impact upon a person, and yet how, even in the hardest of times, love and caring for others can make a huge difference.

Talking of love…we meet a host of different characters both in Paris and at Versailles, but the one who absolutely stood out to me was Lazare. I adore him. He’s got his own brilliant character arc throughout the story, and, again, he’s not perfect! But that’s part of why I finished this book loving him so much.

La magie in Enchantée is also a fascinating take on the whole magician thing; the knowledge of how it works builds up gradually throughout the book and slowly intertwines itself in the story. It’s a very clever world that Gita has crafted; you truly believe that you’re in Paris at a time of change, and that magic truly can exist!

If you haven’t gathered by now, I can’t recommend this book highly enough! It’s perfect for fans of historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and the comparisons to The Night Circus and Caraval are very much deserved. If you like any of those, I implore you to pick up Enchantée and discover a new favourite book!


Thank you to Amber at MyKindaBook for sending me a copy of Enchantée!

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE – Jennifer Niven

holding up the universe4.5/5

RELEASED: 6/10/2016
PUBLISHER: Penguin
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary

“We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours. 

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are – and seeing them right back. 

I LOVE All The Bright Places so naturally was desperate to read Holding Up The Universe and it didn’t disappoint! That said, it is totally different to ATBP since it’s a slightly more cheerful topic, making it better suited to younger teens, and the ending wasn’t sad – since its publication I’ve reassured lots of fans of Jennifer Niven who were hesitating over not wanting a read that needs a box of tissues to hand and so I would like to reassure people that THIS BOOK ISN’T THE SAME!

Something that I love about Jennifer’s writing is that on the surface we have a typical contemporary teen romance, but underneath there are layers to the story and characters which confront common and often serious conditions (although Jack’s debilitating condition of prosopagnosia is one that isn’t commonly known about) in a way that makes the writing enjoyable to read. It feels like a key element of the characters is showing that even the people who appear to have it all can have problems behind closed doors and that it is okay to be different. The issue of weight and body image also continues to be a massive problem in the modern world and this book joins the ranks as one of the brilliant books for teens dealing with this.


Thank you to the Penguin Huddle for sending me a copy of this title!

snailycanflyy Book Award 2018

Last year, I hosted my first snailycanflyy Book Award, where I narrowed down my top books of the year, and after a fab reading year the award is back for 2018! Last year saw some tough competition from some amazing books featuring amazing authors and illustrators with the overall winner being the very worthy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson which still stands out as one of the best books I’ve ever read!

The award is split into three categories – Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade and Best Young Adult, with a winner in each category and an overall winner. The criteria is simply that it has to be a five-star rated book published in 2018 and one that I want to talk about, one that has stuck with me since reading and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. So, without futher ado, here are the category nominees:

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BEST PICTURE BOOK:

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn – Lou Carter, Nikki Dyson
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the FiddleDavid Litchfield
Ruby’s Worry – Tom Percival
Space Tortoise – Ross Montgomery, David Litchfield
The Story Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty Jessica Courtney-Tickle

BEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK:

The Truth PixieMatt Haig
Death in the Spotlight – Robin Stevens
The Eye of the North – Sinead O’Hart
The Light Jar Lisa Thompson
The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart

BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK:

I Was Born For ThisAlice Oseman
To Kill a KingdomAlexandra Christo
LegendaryStephanie Garber
Sunflowers in FebruaryPhyllida Shrimpton
The Exact Opposite of OkayLaura Steven

AND THE WINNERS ARE…drumroll please!

oscar the hungry unicornBEST PICTURE BOOK
Oscar the Hungry Unicorn

death in the spotlightBEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK
Death in the Spotlight

to kill a kingdomBEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK
To Kill a Kingdom

OVERALL WINNER
The Truth Pixie

A massive congratulations and thank you to all of the authors who’s books made it to the shortlist! All of these books are so incredible and I’ve loved reading them in 2018!

kayleigh

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – Kes Gray

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RELEASED: 04/10/2018
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Picture Book, Children’s, Christmas

A brilliantly funny Christmas picture book from the bestselling author of Oi Frog!

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and Santa is ever so busy … he’s got presents to wrap, reindeer to wake and a sleigh to start. But has he forgotten something? And, more importantly, will he be ready in time?

Inspired by Clement C. Moore’s classic festive poem, this hilarious, rhyming picture book is sure to have you ho ho ho-ing!

As soon as I saw Kes Gray’s name on the cover of this Christmas book, I just bought it, and I’m so glad that I did! Along with his typical fun rhymes in a story that’s both fun to read and listen to, Claire Powell’s illustrations are beautiful and really bring the story of Christmas Eve Eve to life!

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas is an enchanting book that’ll bring fun and laughter to everyone’s Christmas preparations, telling the story of how Father Christmas gets ready for a busy night! I can’t recommend this book highly enough and it has immediately become one of my festive favourites!