Sky Chasers

Sky Chasers

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

An encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France.

Thoughts:

You might look at my previously read by the same author section and infer that I’m quite the fan of Emma Carroll. You’d be right. She’s one of my favourite authors. I always know that I’m in for a decent read when I pick up a book of Emma’s. I really enjoyed reading Sky Chasers and yet it again, it has me yearning to be in Key Stage 2 once more so I can teach it/read it to my class! They’re a little young this year for this book but it didn’t stop me thinking of the ways that this book could be used educatively.

This book comes from an idea by Neal Jackson who was the winner of Chicken House’s The Big Idea Competition. What an idea it was! Sky Chasers is a story that centres around the Montgolfier family. They are part of the race to discover the secret of flight. Alongside pickpocket Magpie, they begin to create a hot air balloon. They need to take it to King Louis XVI.  However, their mission is not easy and they have many obstacles in the way like spies and misbehaving animals.

This story is so much fun and I imagine children would be completely captivated by the tale. I know I was! Emma Carroll’s writing style is simply wonderful and always catapults the reader right into the action. I’ve mentioned before that it feels like you’re inside the story watching the action unfold.

Magpie is a wonderful female character. We’re always looking for strong female leads to inspire our girls at school because quite often it’s a strong male lead. Magpie had gone through so much. She experiences the loss of both parents and has to learn to live and survive on her own. There are some other brilliant characters who are so well developed. I immediately enjoy reading about characters in an Emma Carroll book because they’re well written and incredibly three dimensional.

It didn’t take me long to read this beautiful book! I definitely see myself using it if I ever get back to Key Stage 2. Until then I’ll highly recommend it to my junior colleagues.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful read! Highly recommended!

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The Disappearances

The Disappearances

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Every seven years something goes missing in the remote town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep and some secrets want to stay hidden – and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past.

A beautifully told story of love, loss and finding the truth – no matter how difficult that might be.

Thoughts:

I had a really weird experience when I read this book. I started off really loving it and was wondering why I had took so long to get around to it. However, when I got deeper into the book, I started to lose a bit of interest in it. I don’t know whether that’s because it took me so long to read because work was super busy or whether it just didn’t capture my attention as much as I wanted. Either way, The Disappearances is an interesting book full of magical realism. I’m not disappointed that I read it.

The Disappearances is set in the 1940s. It’s about a town where Disappearances occur every seven years. The people living in the town have lost strange things though like their reflections or their sense of smell. Aila is desperate to find out what is going on in the town. Is it a curse? The town has something called Variants which help to counteract the Disappearances but they can take some time to make. Aila wants to discover the truth and uncovers many mysteries along the way.

As I mentioned, at first I found this book really intriguing. It didn’t necessarily read like historical fiction. It was however, filled to the brim with magical realism. I think if you enjoy magical realism then you’ll really like the idea of the Disappearances and Variants. There were constant nods to Shakespeare, which didn’t really do much for me, but if you’re into Shakespeare then that might delight you!

I loved Aila as a character. She was feisty and I always enjoy a strong female character. I feel like Emily Bain Murphy really brought her character to life.

I don’t want to come across as negative about this book, because it was good. It was light-hearted and easy to read. It just wasn’t the read I thought it was going to be! It is however, unique and worth checking out.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

I had mixed feelings about this book. It is well written and unique though!

A List Of Cages

A List of Cages

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

Thoughts:

I had this book on my radar for 2017 but for some reason I never got around to it. I heard such amazing things about it, but you know what the life of a bookworm is like. Sometimes it’s hard to get around to every book. So I’m making it my mission this year to catch up on some debut releases from 2017.

I read A List Of Cages in early March and I thought it was a simply incredible book. I will warn you that it is intense. I wasn’t expecting that. I feel like I need to say that there is heavy abuse in this story, so if that is something that would be too much for you, then perhaps this book won’t be for you. If you can manage to read this book, even with a heavy heart, I do think this book is really worth a read.

It’s a book about Adam and Julian. Adam is a popular boy at his school. He has ADHD and finds sitting still a challenge. He becomes an aide for the school psychologist. He has to track down a peer that is completely avoiding the school psychologist. Adam realises that it’s Julian, a younger boy who used to be fostered by Adam’s family. Adam grows closer to Julian once again, but Julian is hiding massive secrets which will soon come to the forefront.

As expected, this book is not necessarily an easy read. It’s incredibly hard to read due to the abuse involved in the story. It absolutely tore at my heart. I was desperate for Julian to find happiness. I also loved how Adam, despite being four years older, was completely there for Julian. It was the sweetest and most genuine friendship.

Dual narratives don’t always work for me, but in this book they are perfect. I could get a sense of the characters from their points of view. They were so incredibly different. Adam was the life and soul. Mr Popular. Julian was deeply affected by his past and his current home situation. He was timid and withdrawn. I loved how Robin Roe portrayed Adam and Julian’s characters. Their friendship is one of the best I have ever read.

I also appreciated how the characters didn’t find school easy. Adam struggled with his ADHD and Julian struggled academically. I wasn’t overly impressed with how the educators in the story dealt with their struggles, but hey, you can’t win them all! Being a teacher myself it’s something that does grate on me.

This book doesn’t hold back any. It is raw, brutally honest and heart-breaking. Yet, there’s something hopeful about the future for these characters. Highly recommended!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

Stunning writing. A wonderful albeit hard to read book!

Words In Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue

How did I get it?:
Netgalley- thanks to Hatchette Children’s Books

Synopsis:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. 
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

Thoughts:

I had heard such good things about this book that I was almost worried to start reading it. That dreaded hype monster can get around sometimes and I was nervous that it might capture this book. I needn’t have worried though. It was a fantastic, easy to read book. It both broke my heart and warmed it at the same time!

First things first, this book is about BOOKS. A book about books. A sure way to a bookworm’s heart. It centres around Henry and Rachel who were best friends. Henry’s family own a second hand book shop. Rachel moves away and doesn’t keep in touch with Henry. After a terrible event, Rachel is back in town working at the bookshop and grieving at the same time. Books and letters bring Henry and Rachel together once again. It is just so precious.

There’s a lot to love if you’re a book lover in this story. There are so many book references as expected. It quite often brought a smile to my face when I came across a title that I knew. I loved that there was a nod to writing in books, annotating and leaving messages. I struggle to do that myself but I think it’s such an adorable idea. Conversations about books with like-minded people? Yes please! I loved that there was a section of the bookstore for writing letters and putting them into books for others to find. Just so sweet!

I really enjoyed most of the characters in this story. I say most because Henry frustrated me a bit at times, so hung up on someone else who really wasn’t worth the time. My favourite characters were Rachel and Henry’s sister George. I loved how the characters were complex. Rachel was struggling with grief and finding it hard to keep on living. George was cautious and holding back. There was also no insta-love in this story which gives it a huge thumbs up for me. That’s not to say there was no romance, but the romance that was included was definitely slow burning. I was also very surprised that I enjoyed the romance because… love triangles. Urgh, not my favourite thing. However, I didn’t mind them in this book.

I think this book has a lot of heart. In less than 300 pages, I really got to know the characters. I was rooting for my favourites to find happiness and begin to move on. All of the characters experienced tough times, it wasn’t easy going at all for them. I loved reading about them and would highly recommend this book, especially if you’re into YA fiction.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fabulous read!

Replica (Replica #1)

Replica (Replica, #1)

How did I get it?:
It was a gift from my sister, Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Panic

Synopsis:

Lyra

From a distance, the Haven Institute, tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida, looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, it is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed.

But when a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. As they make their way through a new and menacing environment, they meet a stranger named Gemma, who has embarked on a perilous quest of her own. And as Lyra tries to understand Haven’s purpose, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls.

Gemma

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. A sickly child, she has grown into a lonely adolescent whose life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April.

But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two human models, or replicas, 24 and 72—and a completely new set of questions. As Gemma tries to unravel the mysteries of Haven, she learnes terrible truths about herself and her family that will threaten to destroy everything she loves.

Two girls, two stories, one novel.

While the stories of Gemma and Lyra mirror each other, each contains revelations critically important to the other story. Their narratives can be read separately or in alternating chapters.

Thoughts:

I have read a few books by Lauren Oliver now although I’ve only reviewed one on the blog. I was so intrigued by the concept of Replica. Two separate stories that come together to make one. I was pretty much sold on that concept alone. I also loved the idea of it not being alternate chapters. It was one point of view and then the next. I was intrigued. It took me a while to get around to this book, but when I did, I was pleased I did. It took me a while to really invest in the story. When I had got engrossed, I really couldn’t put it down. It doesn’t matter whose story you start with, but I personally started with Lyra.

Lyra was born at Haven Institute. She interacted with doctors, nurses and replicas. Lyra was clever though. She learnt how to read and yearned for affection. When Lyra escapes after an attack of Haven, Lyra starts to realise what exactly Haven was doing to her. Gemma, meanwhile, has always been protected by her parents as she was a sickly child. Gemma rebelled against this protection and went away to search for answers about the secrets that her parents were keeping. There are some amazing supporting characters in Replica too. I loved Gemma’s friend Alice in particular.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the story as it is one with quite a few twists and turns. Both sides of the story have some clues towards the other character’s journey. It’s such a lovely reading experience when both stories meld together to find out what has been happening. I personally preferred reading Gemma’s story, but that’s not to say Lyra’s isn’t interesting. It is! It’s just I connected more with Gemma.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure if I’d read the next one, but as I got into it, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the story and I’m definitely intrigued to see what’ll come next!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful read that captured my attention despite it being over 500 pages!

Bad Romance

Bad Romance

How did I get it?:
It was a present from my sister, Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape. 

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. This book was absolutely incredible. I had high expectations for this book. I really did. I love Heather’s writing, but this book was something else. I think it’s such a powerful read that I wish was more widely read. I might as well just end this review here and just say BUY IT BUY IT READ IT READ IT!… but I think you need more convincing than that.

Bad Romance centres around Grace who has a pretty tough home life. Her stepfather scares her and her mother’s OCD makes Grace’s life incredibly hard. Grace is constantly doing jobs for her stepfather and scrubbing away making sure everything is super clean for her mother. Grace wants to escape her life. She wants to direct in NYC. She certainly has big dreams. She then meets Gavin. He’s totally gorgeous and talented. Grace can’t believe her luck. However, poor Grace actually finds herself in a controlling relationship. Grace and Gavin fall in love quickly and deeply and before she knows it, Grace is trapped in a dangerous relationship…

I love how Bad Romance is told. It recalls what has happened in the relationship with Gavin. Right from the start, the reader knows it’s not good news, but she slowly tells us the downfall of the relationship. Oh my goodness, it was such an intense read. It’s not easy to read but at the same time it was easy to keep turning the pages, desperate for Grace to escape from her toxic relationship and rubbish life.

Grace is an adorable character. She puts up with so much crap from her family. It was easy to see why she fell for Gavin’s advances so quickly. She just wanted to be loved. He was her hero, helping her get away from her family and it was easy to see why she was taken by him. I loved that she had strong friendships and I loved her theatre adoration. Even though we didn’t see Grace’s sister so much, it was nice to know she had that support system there as well. It was so tough to read about Grace’s experiences with Gavin and her stepfather because I was rooting for her to have her happy ending. I really grew to care for her over the course of the story.

I think this book is so vital because it sends a warning about how easy it can be to get into an unhealthy relationship. Gavin made my skin crawl. He really did. I hated how he made Grace feel and how he controlled her so much that she wasn’t even allowed to be friendly towards her male friends. He also affected her dreams. Grr, Gavin made me mad!

I will remember this book because I think it’s such an important, educative read. It will stay with me for a while.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

An incredible, intense read about a very dangerous relationship!

Ready To Fall

Ready to Fall

How did I get it?:
Sent from publisher, many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

When Max Friedman’s mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, Max imagines that her tumor has taken up residence in his head. It’s a terrible tenant–isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumor in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality. Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theater misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet and slowly becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumor is always lurking in the wings–until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumor, but about how important it is to let go of the past.

Thoughts:

I was immediately pulled in by the synopsis of this book. I knew it wasn’t going to be a particularly easy book to read because of its subject matter. I thought this book was an incredibly emotional read, but it was so compelling at the same time.

In Ready To Fall we are introduced to Max who is in a bad way after losing his mother to cancer. He’s not doing well at school, distancing himself from everyone and is also utterly convinced that his mother’s tumour has transferred over to his brain. The reader finds themselves completely urging Max to reach out and get some support but he is so damaged by grief. Gradually, Max begins to learn how to move on with his life after starting a new school, making new friends and opening up to one of the teachers. I appreciated how slowly Max stated to heal. It was realistic and made the book more believable.

This is the first time that I’ve read Marcella Pixley’s writing. I very much enjoyed her writing style. I found myself both sympathising with Max and rooting for him to speak out and get help. I feel like she perfectly portrayed Max’s grief and his confusion/worry over ‘his’ tumour. I thought this was a highly original way to demonstrate how Max was dealing with his loss. I also felt for Max’s father, who was clearly struggling as well but trying to hold things together for Max.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book any higher was because I didn’t really buy into the relationship in this story. I felt like it was a little unnecessary! That said, this book is well worth reading for its unique take on grief.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

This is not an easy read, but it’s definitely worth a read purely for its unique take on grief!