Sunday, 20 December 2020

The Boy I Am review

They say we’re dangerous. But we’re not that different.

Jude is running out of time. Once a year, lucky young men in the House of Boys are auctioned to the female elite. But if Jude fails to be selected before he turns seventeen, a future deep underground in the mines awaits.

Yet ever since the death of his best friend at the hands of the all-powerful Chancellor, Jude has been desperate to escape the path set out for him. Finding himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor, he finally has a chance to avenge his friend and win his freedom. But at what price?

A speculative YA thriller, tackling themes of traditional gender roles and power dynamics, for fans of Malorie Blackman, Louise O’Neill and THE POWER.

Content warning: eating disorders, sexual aggression, trafficking, murder and surgical procedures

The Boy I Am is a smart, beautifully written twist on the dystopian novel that will grab your attention and make you think.

The pace of this novel is perfectly balanced between heart-pounding action and moments of human connection. There is also enough worldbuilding to create a rich background to the plot, without overwhelming it.  

Jude is the heart of this book. He's such a relatable, multi-faceted protagonist and I just loved him! His reactions to the events are very believable, and I was rooting for him all the way.

The idea at the centre of The Boy I Am is really inventive. It flips and explores gender stereotypes to make you examine the boxes people are forced into. I found myself doing a lot of reflection when I was reading, which is such a good thing!

The Boy I Am is not always an easy read because of the characters' experiences, but it is a necessary one. It's an engrossing book, with sweet and joyful moments amidst the gritty action. A must read for 2021!  

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

The Creature Keeper review

The perfect magical read for kids who love animals and care about saving the environment!

Creepy Direspire Hall sits glowering on the moors - and if you stray too close then beware the growls and scary sounds from within... When animal lover Cora learns that Direspire's mysterious owner is looking for a new Creature Keeper, she realises this might just be the chance she's looking for to save her parents' farm.

But Direspire Hall is a spooky place and the strange creatures who live there are nothing like Cora is expecting. As Cora settles into her new life, it soon becomes clear that Direspire has its secrets, and that somebody will do whatever it takes to keep them...

I've read some brilliant children's books in 2020 and this one definitely stood out! It's gorgeously written, the characters are amazing and it has a wonderful message.

The Creature Keeper is the perfect blend of creepy suspense and adventure. I wanted to read it slowly because the writing was so gorgeous, but I ended up racing through to unearth Direspire's secrets.

I loved how inventive this book is. The fantastical touches fit beautifully within the crumbling mansion of Direspire and the animals are described so evocatively that they felt real.

The book has the feel of a timeless modern classic, but at the same time taps into very current issues. It really made me think about how animals are treated and our role in the future of endangered species.

Just writing this review is making me want to read The Creature Keeper again. It's one of those books that I can't stop thinking about and I'll definitely be buying it for all the children I know!


Sunday, 6 December 2020

Independent bookshop spotlight

I'm so excited that bookshops are open again! I'm planning to visit two of my favourites next week. Today, I have Susan Brownrigg, author of Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest, talking about Broadhursts of Southport. Another one to add to my list! Thank you for the lovely post, Susan.

We are so fortunate in the north west to have a number of brilliant independent bookshops and choosing just one as my favourite was very hard! In the end I've chosen one of the region's oldest bookshops - Broadhursts of Southport.

Broadhursts is a real seaside treat, based in a mid-nineteenth century listed building on Market Street, the shop has a fabulous glass canopy to keep you dry while you admire the double-fronted window displays that will surely lure you inside.

Established in 1920, Broadhursts has a magical atmosphere! There are four floors to explore - the ground floor is the new bookshop with adult fiction and non-fiction, then upstairs you will find an extensive children's department (my favourite), eight second-hand book rooms and two rare book rooms. I especially love the narrow staircases and fireplaces that make you feel like you're exploring a private library - only all the books are for sale!

You can spend hours browsing - or if you're in a hurry they also offer 'click and collect' service, particularly useful in 2020!

The staff are lovely and extremely knowledgable, and will always try to help. I especially like that they will wrap any purchases in brown paper for you - and if you visit you are sure to have a few!

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Last One to Die review

Young, brunette women are being attacked in London.

16-year-old, Irish-born Niamh has just arrived for a summer of freedom, and quickly discovers that the girls being attacked look frighteningly similar to her.

But Niamh is determined not to let her fear destroy her Summer. But can her new friends be trusted?

Will she be able to stay ahead of the attacker?

Or will she be next?

Packed with voice-driven whodunit storytelling, and a retro slasher-movie feel reminiscent of cult classics Scream and Urban Legend, this dark, pacy, and irresistibly-creepy debut really has something for everybody!

Do you ever read a book that ticks off absolutely everything you want? I knew when I read the blurb of Last One to Die that I would love it, and it more than lived up to the hype!

It's been my quest since the 90s to find books that read like Point Horror. Last One to Die does exactly that but with a fresh and modern voice. I'm quite hard to scare and it got me on more than one occasion! The horror is balanced out with world building, characterisation and lighter moments.

The plot of the book is gripping and well-paced. I loved how it wove in local mythology and history. I was constantly guessing and changing my mind about how it was all going to end!

Last One to Die is a fast-paced, fun read with genuinely scary scenes and a cinematic feel. I'd highly recommend it to fans of horror movies and the Cassidy Blake books by Victoria Schwab.