THE YEAR AFTER YOU – Nina de Pass

the year after you5/5

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!
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THE VALENTINES: HAPPY GIRL LUCKY – Holly Smale

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RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
GENRE: Teen, Young Adult, Contemporary

Introducing The Valentines. Fame – It Runs in the Family!

Sisters Hope, Faith and Mercy have everything: fame, success, money and beauty. But what Hope wants most of all is love, and it doesn’t matter how far she has to go to find it.

Except real-life isn’t like the movies. Even if you’re a Valentine . . .

Happy Girl Lucky is the first hilarious, heart-warming book in The Valentines series. From the internationally bestselling author of Geek Girl, Holly Smale.

Growing up, my favourite books as a teenager were your typical teen books such as those from Cathy Hopkins and Jacqueline Wilson, so when Holly Smale burst onto the scene with the Geek Girl series I was delighted! Her writing was something new, combining the things that I love about young adult contemporary fiction with the best part of teen fiction thus making books that were perfect for both markets. The Valentines is no different; whilst it tackles genuine issues that affect teens, it’s not romanticised or overly fluffy yet it gives you all the feels and enjoyment that you’d get from a nice light teen read.

I was very quickly drawn into Hope’s world in Happy Girl Lucky and found her to be an adorable main character. She’s not perfect; she’s ditzy and has her head in the clouds, but that’s what makes her such an interesting narrator! The story moved at a good pace which is what kept me reading on and on, and it touches upon some heavier topics that many teenagers deal with relating to dysfunctional families and first love. That said, Hope’s love interest was…interesting!

Going into this book, I did expect to like it, but I didn’t expect it to necessarily be a five star read, but I was so pleasantly surprised and couldn’t put it down! It’s the perfect read for younger teens right the way through to adults, so I’d definitely recommend it.


Thank you to HarperCollins via NetGalley for the eBook of this title.

THE STAR-SPUN WEB – Sinéad O’Hart

the star-spun web5/5

RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Stripes
GENRE: Middle Grade, Magical Realism

With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…

Sinéad O’Hart stormed into the Middle Grade scene last year with her fantastic debut The Eye of the North, so there were high expectations riding on her second book, The Star-Spun Web. Aside from the fact that Sara Mulvanny and Sophie Bransby have done a stellar job on the cover again (it’s BEAUTIFUL!), this book was just as engaging and enjoyable to read as book one!

50210701_324361354859487_5763330421077364150_nThe Star-Spun Web is a mysterious story full of magic, science and wonder…and, despite my intense dislike of spiders, I actually began to warm to Violet, Tess’ pet spider! It’s a book that I was always excited to get back to reading; I genuinely cared about the characters and was rooting for Tess! As a character, she is one of my favourites I’ve come across in middle grade books; she’s just the right amount of feisty, vulnerable and intelligent. It’s refreshing to have a female character who is so independent and inquisitive. That said, she also relies on other people at the right times, showing how we can think we can do something alone but actually we need other people sometimes to help, whether that’s from our family or friends.

I’m not sure whether this book is going to be a stand-alone; there is a lot of potential for a sequel in this world! I’d love to revisit Tess and all her friends, and discover what happens to the villains of the story too!


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

 

 

OH NO, GEORGE! – Chris Haughton

oh no, george!5/5

RELEASED: 01/03/2012
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

It’s hard work being good all the time. And it’s especially hard for a dog like George! Harris is off to do some shopping. “Will you be good, George?” he asks. George hopes he can. He really wants to … but chocolate cake is just so very delicious and he does love to chase cat… What will George do now? Chris Haughton’s distinctive artwork perfectly accompanies the innocent charm of affable George, a dog trying to be good – with hilarious results!

Oh No, George, like all of Chris Haughton’s books, is full of humour and bold illustrations, with an adorable dog as the our main character. It’s impossible not to love George with his good intentions. But sometimes eating that cake or chasing that cat can prove just too much, and no matter how hard George tries he just can’t help himself!

This book is such a brilliant story to help children learn the difference between right and wrong and about making good choices. Although George doesn’t always get it right, we see how he learns about how doing the wrong thing makes Harris sad or cross so he tries very hard to make amends for his behaviour when he meets all those temptations again! The book ends on a decision for George which leaves it open to either scenario and it’s quite fun to wonder which choice George makes.

I have had the pleasure of meeting George, and I must say that he was behaving very well in the Waterstones tent considering how many wonderful books and snacks hanging about. He did very well to resist the temptation!


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

YOUR MIND IS LIKE THE SKY – Bronwen Ballard, Laura Carlin

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RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Picture Book, Mental Health

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds? This beautiful picture book, written by child psychologist Bronwen Ballard and illustrated by award-winning artist Laura Carlin, shows children that worries and negative thoughts are normal and helps them develop healthy thinking habits. Tips on mindfulness and extra resources for parents are included at the back of the book.

As someone who struggles with controlling my thoughts, I was very intrigued when I heard about this book. Mindfulness is something that I haven’t found useful in the past, much as I’d love it to be! So, I was really hoping that a picture book aimed at children may help me a little bit more…

Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Your Mind Is Like The Sky is a beautiful book with a powerful message; whilst you can’t control your thoughts, you can accept them and learn to deal with the different types. I love how thoughts are personified into clouds; this makes them seem less scary, and shows that, despite how dark they can be sometimes, they are only thoughts and they will pass. Unlike many books that focus on mindfulness, there isn’t too much text which made this book stand out even more. It reads just like a normal story and is just the right length to make it useful but not overwhelming.

At the back, something that’ll make this book more useful for parents and teachers is the breakdown of how mindfulness works and what you can do to help children. That said, I think that this book is useful for people of all ages who struggle with raincloud thoughts making this an essential addition to your collection of books about mental health.


Thank you to Ellen at Quarto for sending me a copy of this book.

THE BOOKSHOP GIRL – Sylvia Bishop, Ashley King

the bookshop girl5/5

RELEASED: 06/04/2017
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
GENRE: Young Reader, Middle Grade, Mystery

This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret … she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

I would happily be abandoned in a cupboard if it meant that I could live in a bookshop, just like Property Jones.

From the fantastic duo Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King (Erica’s Elephant…one of the best books of 2016) comes a brilliant new story full of mystery, fun and, most importantly, books! We meet Property and her family as they leave their little bookshop after winning Montgomery’s Book Emporium, an incredible bookshop full of wonder, but all is not as it seems and soon they encounter a dastardly villain with a cunning plan! It’s up to Property and Gunther the Cat to save the day…but will they be in time?!

Again, Sylvia has created a heroine who you immediately love with a story that captures the imagination from the word go. Her writing style really is engaging and helps the plot to move along at the perfect pace. Coupled with Ashley’s illustrations which capture the characters, story and magic of the Montgomery Book Emporium perfectly (check out page 73…BEST. ANGRY. FISH. EVER.), this really is a story for all ages to love!

 

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST – Susin Nielsen

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RELEASED: 02/03/2017
PUBLISHER: Andersen Press
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary

Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she’d kept an eye on her sister, if only she’d sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only… Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula’s ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats. But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it.

As someone who is relatively pessimistic, I was really looking forward to this one. They say that you should never judge a book on its cover…or in this case its title…but it definitely persuaded me to give this one a go!

Optimists Die First is a contemporary YA book that is at its core a romance and touches upon several different issues that can affect teenagers – we meet several troubled teens who are kind of thrust together at a “therapy” setting at high school. One aspect of this that I did like was that on the surface some of them came across as self-centered or off the rails, but underneath there were some insecure young people who had reasons behind why they felt and acted the way that they did. That said, I did find it odd how quickly the trigger behind Petula’s anxiety and obsessions was explained; this is a storyline that I expected to develop further into the novel and not a few chapters in! I’m glad that I did persevere with this title though as it was an enjoyable read and there were some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and some interesting developments with some of the characters that I could not have predicted.

Many of Petula’s anxieties are highly relatable, especially when the relationship between her and Jacob starts to develop. Whether you’re a teenager or a young adult, those worries are still there and the aspect of letting down your guard is terrifying! It was nice to have a character who did have those reservations about a new relationship and didn’t rush in to it as such.

Finally, whilst I’m certainly not a cat person, it’s hard not to love the idea of a film of Wuthering Heights shown with cats as the cast!


Thank you to Anderson Press for sending me the proof of this title.

SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN – Chris Haughton

shh we have a plan5/5

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

47584789_2034450909979277_7616072665545668784_n5/5

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!

A CHILD OF BOOKS – Oliver Jeffers, Sam Winston

a child of books5/5

RELEASED: 1/9/2016
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

The book: nothing is more important or more precious. In his first collaboration with the award-winning Walker Books, illustration hyperstar Oliver Jeffers – the genius behind the instant-classics Lost and Found and How to Catch a Star – has joined forces with ground-breaking typographer Sam Winston to present the extraordinary A Child of Books.
Soaring passages from masterworks such as Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Great Expectations and Treasure Island form a very literal and brilliantly-released landscape of adventure. Two children – one a girl who lives for reading, the other a boy yet to understand – embark on a stunning voyage of discovery, gloriously captured by Oliver Jeffers’ unique imagination.
A Child of Books will be one of those very rare volumes that will bridge both those new to the pleasures of a book and for those already deeply in love with its promise.

Ironically, words can not do justice to this book. It is simply stunning, utilises the wonderful storytelling and illustration of Oliver Jeffers and an exciting new talent in Sam Winston who uses typography to incredible effect in this book.

A Child of Books makes the perfect gift for children to treasure and enjoy, and for adults; every time you read it you take something new away from it and everyone can interpret it in such a different way. The use of typography is such an innovative idea for a picture book and I loved how the texts chosen had clearly been selected carefully as they related to what was going on in the story at that point; if you want to spend some time fully appreciating each page you can find extracts from many of your favourite books growing up accompanied by Oliver’s lovely illustrations.

The campaign that surrounded this release has really stuck with me and is something that I closely relate to the book; we are all children of books, and it’s interesting to think how there is usually a specific book or author that sparked that love of reading and literature within us all, thus creating “a child of books”. For example, Enid Blyton made me A Child of Books! I’ve loved seeing the different titles that have inspired so many authors, booksellers and readers.

A Child of Books is an essential upon every child’s bookshelves; it’s a wonderful story for bedtime, to read with family or to read independently. There is so much to discover on every page if you want to spend time on it, so it’s a book that brings joy time and time again.


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