Crooked by Bronwen John

It is my stop for this thrilling read on its blog tour, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts (so I hope you keep reading).

I was gifted a copy of ‘Crooked’ and I know you should not judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately intrigued by this YA thriller. And this continued as soon as I started reading.

You are immediately thrown into the action; in central London, you meet Ash and her friends as they are involved in a bit of a con. It seems to be quite a money maker for the gang, until they select the wrong mark. And, a turn for the worse, as Ash is dragged into conflict with a dangerous London gangster – or two.

Now, this is another brilliant read that I do not want to spoil for you all. However, I can say that something that I thought was excellent about this book is that there are strong, independent female leads. And they are not scared to take on the men.

There are so many twists and turns in this book that you are not sure who you trust – and who the characters trust. I just had to keep reading, keen to know what revelation would come next and who was really conning who.

So, if you love a thrilling read (and an adventure), whatever your age, then this is the book for you. So, why not pick up a copy and give it go?

Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence

I am always excited to read new books by Patrice Lawrence and, when ‘Eight Pieces of Silva’ hit the shelves this summer, I knew I needed to find a copy.

This book did not disappoint, and I found it a page-turner from the moment I started it. This is a mystery novel, but not in the totally usual sense.

Silva doesn’t return home after taking her parents to the airport and her sister, Becks, is worried. As time passes Becks realises her sister may need her help and finds eight clues in Silva’s room, which reveal a whole secret life Becks and her family had no idea about.

What is so brilliant about this novel is that it tackles a whole number of key issues in its well-crafted and engaging narrative. Becks deals with her complex relationship with family, friends and her own romantic relationship. As well as ideas about healthy and unhealthy ‘romantic’ relationships of others in the tale – and the importance about talking about emotions and mental health.

However, what is again wonderful about a book from the pen of Patrice Lawrence is that there is a brilliant collection of characters. And at the centre is the brilliant Becks – a strong female lead character who knows exactly who she is and exactly what she likes.

This is a fantastic YA novel which I hope many readers will enjoy. There are so many important lessons amongst the pages and, hopefully, it will encourage conversations about many of them too.

Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman

I am a huge fan of Alice Oseman’s graphic novels ‘Heartstopper’. So, when I knew that a novella about our heroes Nick and Charlie had been released, I knew I had to read it.

This is set after ‘Heartstopper: Volume 3’, but you could easily read it as a standalone story. Nick and Charlie are in love but approaching different times of their lives. Nick is about to head off to university and Charlie will be left behind in sixth form. They have agreed to carry on a long-distance relationship, but Charlie starts to struggle with the idea of the changes ahead.

This novella centres on Nick and Charlie having to deal with their emotions about lies ahead. It really highlights the need for couples to communicate and talk about feelings. However, that is something that males often find harder. Yet it certainly becomes harder for them, as they fail to talk about things. Although, maybe love will win.

These books are always lovely to read and really highlight issues that shoulf be brought to the attention of readers. YA readers are lucky to have the books of Alice Oseman as they tackle those teenage years.

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green

Now, it is not often I read a sequel so quickly, but as I am reading with pride this month, I had to find out what happened next to Noah Grimes.

I enjoyed this title even more that the first one. I mean, poor Noah’s awkward adventures do feel like they only happen to him, but – just like the first – I think we all remember how everything seems like such a big deal when you are young. Especially, in this case, if you took part in a school exchange (mine was to Italy).

However, what is really important in this book is the development of Noah and Harry’s relationship. There is such a minefield to teenage relationships and the insecurities that come with it. I felt it was handled really well in Green’s novel, He makes it clear, through Noah and Harry, that there is no ‘normal’; all relationships are individual. By the end, I think Noah learns a very important lesson about love.

There really are a lovely light-hearted read, especially in these strange times. I mean, who can’t help getting the giggles at the thought of a goose swallowing the diamonds (although I did wonder if this was a nod to ‘The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle’ by the wonderful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). And, if you are a fan of pretty much any detective novel, you will relate to Noah’s rather over-active imagination.

There books are simply a delight, with a colourful cast of characters finding their way in the world (and that is not just the teenagers) and through relationships.

The Paper & Hearts Society – Read With Pride by Lucy Powrie

This is the second novel from Lucy Powrie about ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’, and this novel focuses on Olivia Santos founding member.

This is a fabulous book for any lover of books and great stories. This is not just a story – it is an education, too. Olivia Santos has found her book-loving people in The Paper & Hearts Society (Tabby, Cassie, Ed and Henry). However, as the new school year starts, she starts to realise that maybe she can help other people find their people and do something about the fact that freedom of choice has been removed from the school library. Why should pupils be stopped from reading LGBTQ+ books?

Yet, as Olivia becomes more involved in the project, can she juggle all her personal expectations? Or will the pressure that she is putting on herself cause her to burn out? Not only impacting her but also those that she loves.

A real positive about this novel is the fact that it entertains and educates. It discusses the importance of diverse representation in novels and for people to feel seen. It also discusses the importance of wellbeing and good mental health. But possibly the most important this it shares is how significant great friendships are.

However, a danger of these fabulous books is that you will probably finish them with another reading list. It was great that so many books I have enjoyed were mentioned and, also, so many more ideas.

So, if you love books, YA novels and great characters, then this is the book for you.

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

June continues, as does my readin books with Pride. This next one was another I chose because of Bookstagram (maybe I am easily influenced) but, in all fairness, I have had my eye on ‘Noah Can’t Even’ for a while.

Now, to begin with, I was worried this book was farce. A little too silly and far-fetched, over-emphasised the awkward humour of being a teenager. Specifically, a teenage boy. However, my opinion changed as I read more of the book. In fact, as the story and characters developed, it became more charming.

Noah Grimes’ journey of self-discovery could certainly be relatable to so many readers. I mean I am pretty sure that many of us would agree that those early to mid-teen years are a bumpy road. Especially when it comes to fitting in (although we all know now that is not the be all and end all), and the pressure surronding sexuality. Although, poor Noah Grimes does seem to experience a series of unfortunate events on his journey. He thinks he wants a ‘normal’ life but, really what is ‘normal’?

Noah is such a great character who, at times, you may think is not making the best choices, especially when it comes to his best friend Harry. But you really do hope he will find his happy ending. And, maybe, he should accept a new idea of normal.

This is probably a younger YA book and would probably be a great one if you have some reluctant readers. But, to be honest, if you love to laugh and enjoy a good story, I would recommend this book.

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

This book was in that I chose to read as June is Pride Month. It is a book that, again, I have discovered thanks to the Bookstagram community.

‘Hideous Beauty’ is quite a book. There is so much amongst its pages to think about – this is certainly not just a story. This is a book that tackles some really complex issues – well, to be honest it should not be complex but sadly for some people it is and it is reality.

This book is clever. It has within its pages a mystery that needs solving – what are the secrets that Ellis has been keeping from Dylan? However, is it just about Ellis’ secrets? This is quie an investigation of relationships. Relationships of all kinds – romantic, family, friendships – all are tackled in this book and, in parts, quite closely examined. Sometime with surprising outcomes and, sometimes, with really tragic outcomes. (There will be tears).

However, as William Hussey says himseflf in a letter to his readers, he has tackled some of the ugly reality faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. For some, that may make for uncomfortable reading, but if it makes for people think and causes them to take responsibility for their education, or re-education that can only be a good thing.

I feel I can do this book justice. It needs to be a book that is read to be fully appreciated. It is a real emotional page-turner that will stay with you for a long time. If you are going to pick this novel up, know that it does contain a trigger warning for some of the issues it tackles.

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

I absolutely loved ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’. It was one of those great YA novels that could be enjoyed by more than its ‘target’ audience. So, when I saw that the sequel was out, I knew I had to read it, especially as escapism in these lockdown times.

‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ is just as wonderful as its predecessor. Pip has found success with her true crime podcast ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’, and believes she will now hang up her (metaphorical) detective’s hat. However, when there is a local disappearance, can she avoid getting involved? I don’t think it is a spoiler to say, of course she gets involved – we wouldn’t have a book otherwise. However, this is still a fresh story; this is a current case.

This novel is an excellent continuation from book one. The characters evolve naturally (you find out so much more about Pip) and there are links to the previous tale.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is not simplistic – it is a well-constructed crime novel. I worked out one teeny, tiny part of the story but that was it – the rest I discovered alongside Pip and her friends as they carried out their investigations.

I really hope there is more from the pen of Holly Jackson, because she really knows how to put together a contemporary and engaging thriller that can be enjoyed by so many fans of the genre.

Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I have been desperate to read this book for ages – so decided to order a copy as a lockdown treat. And what a treat this book is – I am not sure that I can do it justice.

This is a stunning novel, in more ways than one. Just starting with the cover; what a beauty. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful and bring the wonderful words to life.

We follow Michael in this coming of age story. Michael blossoms into the beautiful Black Flamingo – as his find his identity and place in the world as a gay man. This touches on so many subjects, like racism, homophobia, realtionships (of all kinds) and identity; all handled so well through the beautiful writing of Dean Atta. His perfect prose tells Michael’s story with such warmth and emotion, creating a beautiful page-turner that is impossible to put down.

This lovely YA book is one that I will be recommending to everyone to read, as it is absolutely brilliant – I can already see a re-read on the horizon.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Sara Barnard writes books that tackle some excellent key issues. I didn’t read the blurb before I read the book – I just dived straight in. I was struck immediately by the subject of this novel. Barnard tackles the subject of ‘grooming’ in this YA book. However, this is not the only significant issue – relationships of all kinds are tackled, adoptive parents and their children, that ‘perfect’ family and what does it really mean to be ‘best’ friends?

In the eyes of Eden (who feels she is not quite as good as she should be), Bonnie is perfect and the friendship is perfect. Or is it? Is there, in fact, any such thing as perfect?

I really enjoyed this book, it really is a thought-provoking tale. And really brings to the attention of readers some key issues that may not be discussed quite as much as they should be.

I have enjoyed every book I have read by Sara Barnard but I feel that this was the best. Engaging, thought-provoking and wonderfully written, it is a book I hope a lot of young people will pick up and take important lessons from. Especially about relationships.