Seed by Lisa Heathfield

I was lucky enough to win a fabulous little book giveaway from Chelley of Tales of Yesterday.  ‘Seed’ was the first of the novels I decided to read. I went into this book blind; I had no idea what to expect, I did not even read the blurb as I decided I just wanted to jump straight in and give this novel a go.

I will admit, I was surprised by the setting – it does not spoil it to mention that it is set among a cult – and therefore it does go on to tackle all the issues that come with such a life. It also skillfully weaves in an ongoing mystery for our heroine Pearl – who is she really? It is a fascinating study of human nature and could encourage us to contemplate that ever-present question – nature versus nurture. The characters with different backgrounds certainly have very different perspectives of the lives that are led inside ‘Seed’ and on the ‘Outside’. The strength that comes with knowledge could be the only thing that could cause Papa S’ kingdom to fall.

I have to admit that, at odd moments, the novel could be a little uncomfortable to read. There is a simple suggestion made about the experiences of those young people of ‘Seed’, but this does not take away from the desire to find out hoe the book will conclude. You certainly do become invested in some of the characters and develop a thorough dislike for others, which also encourages you keep reading.

I am glad to have discovered the work of Lisa Heathfield and I look forward to seeing where the other novels take me.

Have you ever been surprised by the setting of a novel?

The Hate U Give (THUG) by Angie Thomas

So, I am a little late at picking up a copy of this novel but this is certainly a case of better late than never. Recently the winner of ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’, and it really is a deserving winner.

I am not sure I can do this title justice in a blog post. There is so much in this novel that deserves praise and recognition that I honestly do not think I have the skill to comment on it all. However, I am going to do my best to share my thoughts on ‘THUG’.

However, first it is another novel with a fantastic female lead in Starr. She may not have an easy ride for a whole load of different reasons but she is someone that you can imagine wanting to be friends with. You root for her from the word go; even if you don’t always agree with some of her actions, you can certainly understand them.

In fact, this whole novel is probably an important lesson for us all. Angie Thomas was inspired to write this because of the #Blacklivesmatter campaign and really shows us why we should use the voice we have been given to speak out for what we believe in. After all, our voice is our most powerful weapon. This is an incredibly thought-provoking book and is essential reading for all of us.

I really do not want to spoil this novel for anyone who has not read it, because it is such a powerful book. However, I will say that it is an emotional page-turner which will probably make you take a long, hard look at the world we live in and some of the actions we witness on a day-to-day basis.

So, whenever I am asked for a book recommendation this will be top of the list. If you haven’t read it, go out and find a copy and dedicate some time to Starr and her friends and family. They might all teach you thing or two.

One by Sarah Crossan

One had caught my eye many times when I was book shopping. It has a stunning and intriguing cover with two faces so close together and similar that they could almost be the same person – and never has a novel had a cover that demonstrates the story so perfectly but without spoiling any of the beauty of the novel. I have finally read this beautiful tale thanks to my book buddy Hayley, from Hayley from Home (anyone would think we are both avid readers), as she popped some lovely book post to me recently.

I am not sure that I can do this book the justice it deserves as I, of course, can not reveal any spoilers, but I really do want to share my thoughts on this novel. I will share that this book has the beautiful Grace and Tippi at the centre; two such different characters, but they share so much being conjoined twins. This story is beautifully written and presented, to convey to the reader all of the emotion of the story, not only for the two girls, but for those that they encounter on their path through life. Despite their unusual situation, they have one desire, to be able to have the same experiences as others of their age, they find happiness and friendship with Yasmeen (another girl who has always faced life a little differently to others) and Jon. However, despite this opportunity, they are constantly reminded that they are not like everyone else, and how will they ever tackle falling in love and accepting that they can be loved for who they are?

Despite the obvious focus this novel has on the girls, there is also an examination of the impact that their situation has on the family. Another struggle that the girls must face, as they feel an element of guilt as elements of home life appear to unravel, in some aspects obviously and in other ways slightly hidden from sight.

As we begin to reach the conclusion of the novel, there is a twist. You know it is coming to some extent, but maybe you do not expect it to happen in the way it does. You are so invested in this novel by the end, thanks to the beautiful writing of Sarah Crossan, that to be honest you are left wanting more. Although, I think this novel will stay with you long after you read the last word and you will be imaging your own next step for the characters.

This post may not have done this book justice – the only thing that will is you picking it up and reading it yourself. Have you read any Sarah Crossan novels? What should I read next?

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

So, if you read the posts regularly, you will know that Hayley (Hayley from Home) rather enjoy sharing books, and ‘Eleanor and Park’ was another gem that she passed my way.

I had no idea what to expect from this book, as it was not one that I had been particular aware of – but that is all part of the fun of sharing books, because it always takes you on a new adventure. This novel was one that I struggled to put down because I just wanted to find out more and more about Eleanor and Park. This is a book where the characters are really the most important aspect, possibly even more important than the tale itself, as they are the tale.

Eleanor is the quirky new girl in town; nothing about her conforms to the teenage ‘norm’, and this brings her to attention of Park, who has also not really been sure if he fits into the ‘norm’ that everyone expects him to. However, there is so much in Eleanor’s life that almost prevents her from being the ‘norm’ even if she wanted to, and creates barriers that she struggles to knock down.

The relationship that blossoms between Eleanor and Park is romantic and grounded in comic books and music – but becomes so much more. I do not like to write posts that are spoilers, and I am not about to change that now, but this book has one of the most wonderful last lines of any novel I have ever read. The fact it is so open to interpretation means that this novel will stay with you long after you have read the final words – as you find yourself trying to create the ending for characters that you wanted, or accepting that maybe it was not meant to be the ending you had always imagined.

This really is a tale about falling in love for the first time – the all-encompassing love that becomes the only thing that really matters, whatever the situation.

I enjoyed the style of this novel as it flitted between the thoughts of our two central characters. This kept the pace of the story going and allowed you to feel like you were really getting to know the characters. I am keen to read more titles by Rainbow Rowell and I am thankful that, through the shared love of reading, another new author has been brought to my attention to be added to the ever-growing ‘to be read’ pile.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The ever-fabulous and dedicated bookworm Hayley, of Hayley From Home, sent me the novel ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’. She told me that she hoped I would enjoy it because she knew a number of people had not given it the best reviews. So, immediately I knew it had to go to the top of my to-be-read pile, because I was intrigued, as I had only ever heard great things about Patrick Ness novels. I had also been a huge fan of ‘A Monster Calls’ when I had read it a few years back.

Before I started this novel, I did not read anything about it; I had no idea of the genre or the concept of the tale, so I knew I would be reading it without any predefined ideas. As I picked it up and saw that each chapter had quite an introduction, I was curious about the need for it and as I moved through the novel I loved the fact that these introductions were another story, that of the Indie kids, unfolding as we followed the adventures of the main characters. Now, at moments, I was not sure I fully understood the tale; it took me a little while to get my head around the fact that the title actually makes it very clear that we are following those that ‘just live here’, as all sorts of strange goings-on are happening all around them.

The interesting concept for me was the actual desire of the main characters to really want an ‘ordinary’ life; for example, the desire for the main character Mikey to be with the girl he believes he is in love with and make it to his high school graduation, and be able to leave the town for college with his best friend. He does not want any drama to take over and he certainly does not want his high school blown up again. Although, he is also fighting his own demons, even if they are not zombies with blue eyes. However, as the story unfolds, I really enjoyed the exploration of ‘ordinary’ – are any of us ordinary, or are we all on our own extraordinary adventure that is our life?

Something that really struck me with this novel was the care and empathy with which Patrick Ness tackled some very sensitive issues. The one that really struck me was the lead character Mikey and his sister dealing with the idea that they are ‘messed up’ or ‘broken’ by their personal issues and how over-protective that makes them of their ‘normal’ younger sister and, in turn, of each other.

This is a fabulous coming of age novel that really gripped me from the moment I started reading it. I am really keen to find some more Patrick Ness novels to read now, because I have been impressed by this and ‘A Monster Calls’.

Have you read any Patrick Ness novels? Are there any more you would recommend?

 

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

October was an exciting month for YA fans because John Green’s newest novel was published. Like many fans, I ensured that I purchased a copy and, from that moment, it was topic of conversation with so many other book lovers.

Now, I know it is November, but my ‘to be read’ pile is always growing and I have a strict one-book-at-a-time rule, so I got this title a little later than I would have liked at the beginning of November. I was hooked from the first page because not only is John Green a wonderful storyteller but the characters that he creates are always so engaging and so real. I may no longer be a teenager but I can still relate to some of these characters and the experiences that they go through. He also tackles issues that are part of our everyday lives but sometimes are considered taboo or simply are too difficult for some people to talk about. A novel is a chance for people not only to escape, but also to gain experience and grow as individuals.

The central theme in this novel is mental health. It is a sensitive but engaging exploration of not just how the issues can impact one individual but those around them. A moment that really struck a chord for me is when the central character, Aza, realised that she was a character in her best friend’s Star Wars fan fiction. As she saw herself there, she has a real moment of reflection about herself and how others view her. It goes on to be a wonderful turning point for her, even if it is not the easiest moment for her to handle.

There is so much in this novel and I do not want to spoil the full tale for anybody. All I will say is that if you are a John Green fan, and even if you are not, this is a wonderful book to read, especially with all the positive attention that mental health is finally getting in today’s world.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

This was a title that had been intriguing me for a while. I had seen a few people out and about reading it and I had added it to my mental ‘to be read’ list.

So, when I found myself without a book on a recent day trip, this was the book that I picked up – and I am glad that I did. This novel reminded me of the classic crime of the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. The reason I make such a bold statement is because the characters were so well developed throughout the tale. Each appeared to have no or very little connection to each other, yet they are drawn together by the mysterious death of their school mate, Simon. There is also a clever use of ‘secrets’ to help weave the tale as it reaches the conclusion. After all, will they work to protect them or free themselves from their burdens?

Although this is a YA novel that works well as an adult novel, I think those of us a little older than the intended audience may read it with a little nostalgia in their hearts. I felt there was a little nod to all those teen ‘friendship’ groups we loved growing up, such as Buffy and her friends (although this novel has nothing to do with vampires, other than a slight goth character), or those misfit teens we spent detention with in ‘The Breakfast Club.’

So, it you love classic crime and want to be reminded of those ‘popular culture’ teen years, then this is the novel for you.

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

This was not a title I was sure I would enjoy – despite how beautiful the cover is – however, I really enjoyed it.

This was an engaging tale of mystery and intrigue. Set in the world of gaming, it reminded me of the Hunger Games as the teams took on their challenges, although it is all a virtual world. However, virtual reality does not mean it keeps the central character Emika Chen any safer – in fact, it probably puts her in more danger. Is she blinded by the ‘new’ life she is experiencing in Tokyo as part of the games? After all, it gives her the kind of life she has probably been craving for longer than she realises.

For me, the attraction of this tale was that nothing at all is as it seems. It is a clear warning of the power that too much technology could give one individual. Will we reach a point of technology giving too much control to the minority rather than the majority – an all-too-real fear even now in the 21st century. Lu cleverly leaves you wanting more as she concludes this novel, leaving it on a clear but not too dramatic cliffhanger. I certainly can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Any one else given Warcross a go? Have you found it a surprise?

Wonder Woman – Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman has been BIG in 2017, in fact it has been quite a year for Girl Power as a whole. So, that makes Diana the perfect character to launch Penguin’s collaboration with DC to bring 4 of their most iconic characters to a new generation of YA readers.

For me, this novel was a little slow to get started with a lot of scene-setting. Although, as there is the aim to hook a whole new generation then they need the background to give them the context of the wonderful Wonder Woman.

Once the pace of the novel picked up, it was a thrilling read. It is action-packed once the story is established. There are well-crafted nods to Greek mythology (as you would expect) and it spiked my interest in that fascinating era.

The thing for me which really stood out in this story were the incredibly strong female characters. Wonder Woman aside (as we all know what a star she is) but also the two other key female leads. Alia, has struggles of all kinds as she has grown up as part of an important family but she knows her own mind and has a true sense of responsibility (especially once she is aware of the secret she did not know she held). Her best friend, Nim, is another girl who for different reasons has not always found it easy. She is an openly gay character but it is clear that, despite her outward confidence among her friends, there is a cultural struggle for her. It is great to read a novel of such fantasy having such real characters who can really bring such modern issues to readers.

This is similar to the theme of the novel – war. It is such a current story (and sadly, one that won’t date) that has certainly picked out some of the biggest issues of the twenty-first century. Maybe even some of the fears of the people who are reading the book.

Overall, a clever concept that will bring a whole new generation to Wonder Woman.

Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence

Having read the award-winning ‘Orangeboy’ earlier this year, I was excited when I realised that ‘Indigo Donut’ would be published in mid July.

First of all, how can you not be intrigued by the title? It is a fabulous name for a book and a great way to be introduced to the lead character, ‘Indigo’. She is a fascinating character and, despite all the complex paths she has taken through life, has become a stronger fighter. However, it is the friendship of Bailey that makes her realise her true self-worth. It is a fascinating study of human nature and how we have a desire to know where we come from and what makes us ‘us’.

There is, similar to ‘Orangeboy’, a clever use of music and the love of music (in this case, a lot of Blondie), entwined in the narrative. I certainly need to find a copy of ‘Parallel Lines’ now and blast it out. (I am sure the neighbours wouldn’t mind.)

When, reading this, I laughed, I cried and I reflected on the importance of all the bonds and ties we make through life and how family can mean so many different things to so many different people.

So, go on, give this wonderful book a go.