Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Miss W loves Sarah Crossan’s novels and, not that long ago (although maybe it was quite a while ago), she lent me ‘One’. That was an incredible book but then somehow, I paused on reading any more. However, that changed when I saw the amount of love for ‘Toffee’ everywhere.

Sarah Crossan writes in a wonderful prose style, short chapters that even laid out in the book to represent the narrative. It is always difficult to put Sarah Crossan’s work (that I have read) into words. What impresses me the most is that she tackles some really interesting topics. In ‘Toffee’ there was so much discussion about relationships (good and bad), dementia and youth. They come together in this beautifully emotive novel.

I think it is so important to bring some of these issues to the attention of the YA audience because life can be strange (as we are all currently discovering) and young people do not always have the chance to discover the stories of others. This book can start conversations and even, possibly, encourage people to find help and support.

Toffee is a book that I would suggest everyone should read, because it is simply beautiful and will make so many reflect on their lives and experience.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to go to an event at Birmingham Waterstones with Becky Albertalli and Aishs Saeed. Two American YA authors who have co-written the wonderful ‘Yes No Maybe So’.

This is such an appropriate novel for the current age, and was inspired by the experiences of Becky and Aisha when they decided to canvass for their local Democratic candidate – as they are not huge fans of the current political situation. It is so wonderful to come across two people who are so passionate about playing their part – and writing a novel which will hopefully so the same for their fans.

Jamie (written by Becky Albertalli) and Maya (written by Aishs Saeed) are reunited when they are both encouraged to canvass for their local Democratic candidate in a special election. Neither of them is old enough to vote but both have families who are keen for a bit of political change and think you are never too young to become involved with some political campaigning. However, as a young Jew and a young Muslim this was of passing the summer becomes something so much more. They both have personal reasons to want to see change and learn so much about themselves and their friendship along the way.

This book is one that tackles so many relevant issues to create a story that is relatable and entertaining. Audiences will be left reflecting on their involvement in politics – are we doing enough to ensure change – and considering some of those injustices and prejudices that people sometimes turn a blind eye to, or just don’t seem to care about.

I thought this book was brilliant. Such a great read for the current time – and, sadly, possibly for some time to come.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Crime fiction has often been my genre of choice in February. I am not sure why, but it just seems to have been the theme.

‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ has been on my tbr pile for a little while but, as it has been nominated for the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020’, I thought it was about time I picked it up.

This is a great piece of crime fiction – that all readers can enjoy, it does not need to be defined by YA.

Pip decides to tackle a cold case as part of a college project. She is convinced that Sal was not responsible for the disappearance of Andie. As Pip investigates the case, with the help of Ravi, Sal’s brother, she uncovers far more secrets and mysteries that she was expecting.

Although, I solved a small part of it as I read the book (too many crime novels and TV shows in my formative years), there was plenty I did not work out; plot twists galore.

Pip is a great lead character. A strong-minded, determined young lady – who values education and is loyal to those that matter to her. It is great to see another strong female lead in a novel who can be an inspiration, although of course I would not expect us all to go off and investigate cold cases.

I really enjoyed this book and wish it lots of luck in the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’. I, also, can not wait for the release of ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ later in the year to join Pip on her next escapade, and enjoy more of Holly Jackson’s writing.

Random Attachment by Gertrude T Kitty

I was lucky enough to win a copy of ‘Random Attachment’ by Gertrude T Kitty. And, what can I say, I am so glad I did. My copy arrived in a parcel of lovely goodies, but the loveliest touch was the inscription at the front of the book.

This is a YA crime thriller (although definitely for the older YA audience) and a real page-turner. Dark. gripping and chilling, it takes you on quite a rollercoaster ride.

Mia, a council estate girl, has a troubled background she is keen to escape. Fynn, a posh boy, has been born into a wealthy background, although not without its own troubles. They are drawn together, but in the shadows is The Wolf, stalking and kidnapping local girls – if not worse. Mia and Flynn find themselves in this dark world as Mia is keen to find the truth – or is she the target?

I am so glad that, through the great Bookstagram community, I have managed to find Gertrude T Kitty’s work. She has a real passion for sharing her stories with the world, and I hope that this little blog post will help other keen readers discover her work. Especially as her second novel, ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle’, has just hit Amazon.

If you are a fan the gritty crime thriller then ‘Random Attachment’ is a book you will enjoy and want to dive into. So, why not support an author who has a real passion for her work and a love of bringing her to readers?

One of Us is Next by Karen M McManus

January was supposed to involve a book-buying ban – a promise to myself that I would finally clear some of those unread books – however, ‘One of Us is Next’ came out and I had to know what was going to happen next. So, bam – there went my book-buying ban.

‘One of Us is Lying’ was such a great piece of YA fiction, I was so excited to know how the story continued. We returned to Bayview as ‘Truth or Dare’ game appears to have taken hold of the community. Suddely, it appears to end in tragedy. Again the teens of Bayview are brought together to try and work out who ‘Intense Guy’ is and what the connection is to their little community.

The conclusion of this novel is a good one – I was honestly surprised by the outcome but, to me, that is simply the sign of a wonderful mystery book. Yet this is not just about the mystery, it also explores relationships – between family members, peers and strangers – as the friends also establish their place in the world. There was one moment between father and son that even caused me to shed a tear.

This is a well-written tale that should not be defined as a YA novel but also one that adults will enjoy too. I hope there is more heading our way from Karen M McManus as she certainly has a talent for the mystery book.

The End of 2019

It may be the first day of 2020 but, with festive days having been full of excitement, I have missed a round-up of the final books of 2019.

So here we go…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book crossed over from my ‘Non-fiction November’ into December. ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is a book that I have always wanted to read but it had never quite happened.

However, this is a book that I feel many of us should read. This is not just a memoir of Maya growing up in America, but it is a study of the society and culture at the time too. It tackles some uncomfortable issues – but that is the tale of the young girl’s life, however hard it may be for us to read.

This book is an inspiration, and I am keen to read the books that follow, to learn more about this inspirational lady.

Murder at Christmas

I enjoy a festive read and I enjoy a murder mystery – so this seemed a winning combination.

A collection of short stories – classic crime capers. Some were stronger than others as tales. However, overall it was an enjoyable collection of tales for these winter nights.

The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig

Matt Haig is a writer that I admire for a number of reasons – but one of those reasons is that he can turn his hand to writing for both adults and children.

As I purchased this book, the bookseller also mentioned that he was a Matt Haig fan, but that this book may be too young for him. I tolf him that was not true, as I think anyone can enjoy these books about the Truth Pixie. They contain ideas and themes that we should all take note of.

Told in rhyme and supported with the illustrations of Chris Mould, this book is good fun for all ages, as we have all needed the friendship of the Truth Pixie from time to time.

Let It Snow

Having watched the Netflix Original Film and always enjoying some YA fiction, I have this book a read for the festive season.

A collection of three tales by three different authors, but all centred around the same town. Love and friendship are the main themes of all the tales. It is a nice read for the festive season and will inject you with the spirit of Christmas – and the desire for a white Christmas.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Maidens of Murder December pick.

This may not be a traditional setting for a Christie novel – Ancient Egypt. However, it has all the other elements of a classic Christie novel. An enjoyable read as the tale unravels – I do not want to give any spoilers.

My only slight issue as a reader was getting my around all the names of the characters – but that was probably just me.

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

A classic that I am not sure I have ever read – why not? Who knows? I saved this until December because I feel it is a really festive tale, maybe because it is now a classic pantomime.

This book was an absolute joy, as I knew it would be. There is adventure, heroes and villains, and a little bit of magic. It is just a wonderful tale – and makes you appreciate the importance of family and friends at all times.

Som there we are; quite a collection, there was one more but that will have a post of its own – as bookstagram made me do it.

Happy New Year – here is to happy 2020 reading!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Fantasy is a genre that I am never sure if I enjoy or not. I am a fan of the likes of Harry Potter and Narnia, but I rarely advance on that. Yet, I had seen a lot of hype about ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ and last year it was Foyles Children’s Book of the Year.

So, again I am a little late to the party (story of my bookish life, it would appear) but I am glad I have picked this book up. It seemed like an ideal October read with its dark and mysterious cover. As I started it, I was a little put off by the length of the book – I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its length – as I often worry that it can cause a novel to lose momentum. However, this was not the case here; the narrative was broken down into individual chapters focusing on three of the central characters, Zelie, Amari and Inan, which kept up the pace of the tale. There is also so much action packed into the pages as the maji fight to have the rights they deserve and reinstate their place in society.

The novel tackles some excellent topics that are always part of the society we live in. The story addresses the fear of difference caused by lack of understanding – how easy it is for history to be moulded to suit those with power adn suppress those considered the enemy of the power. For me, it is always a clever book and talented author who can make readers think, not only about the book, but also about bigger issues.

I am intrigued where these stories continue to go. They are excellent for young adults and adults alike – especially as there are stong female lead characters in Zelie and Amari, who are keen to fight for what they believe in.

Fantasy fan or not, I would suggest giving ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ a read, because it is more than a fantastic YA novel.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

It is October and I am trying to ensure that all my reading has a thrilling or spooky the to it.

So, my first choice was the new YA novel from Kiran Millwood Hargrave: ‘The Deathless Girls’. Before I even talk about the story, I have to talk about how absolutely beautiful the cover is. It immediately evokes a Gothic atmosphere with its dark background, gold and autumnal hues, and symbols that represent various themes of the tale. Simply, it is stunning and really represents the contents of the novel.

And now to the tale – Kiran Millwood Hargrave has decided to tell the story of the Brides of Dracula; those women who do not have a voice in the myth of Dracula. She does this beautifully; you are involved in the story from the start. The twins Lil and Kizzy are captured by Boyer Volcar, forced away from their Traveller community and frightened. However, there is an even darker cloud hovering over them – the myth of the Dragon and the young girls that he takes as gifts. When Kizzy is taken, Lil must find her sister before the worst might happen…

There is so much wonderful tension in this book because the atmosphere is created through the beautiful writing. It is truly the perfect novel to read on these dark nights, especially by candlelight.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.