Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Time for Jas by Natasha Farrant

Related Posts: Book Review: After Iris |  Book Review: All About Pumpkin

Published 18th August 2016 by Faber and Faber.

29361182Goodreads Synopsis: Bluebell and her siblings are beginning a new school year. Suddenly everyone is freaking out. Twig has taken up violent team sports, poor Jas is being bullied by the ghastly Cupcake Crew and Blue has a big decision to make.

There are fights and crying fits. Halloween parades gone wrong and secret graffiti artists. Confusing friendships and life-changing choices. But there is also laughter and above all, there is love – and that’s what being a family is all about.

My Review: I’ve adored The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series from the start, and was so excited to read this latest title. I think this is actually the last book, and I’m really sad to see this series coming to a close – the story of Bluebell and her family has been such a lovely story to follow!

The main thing I love about this whole series is the format in which the books are written – it’s half in Bluebell’s physical diary entries, and half written as transcripts of her filming, as she’s a budding documentary filmmaker and watches her family through her camera lens. I adore the switching styles, and it brings such a unique perspective to the story – it feels fun, refreshing and energetic.

It actually felt incredibly nostalgic to be revisiting the Gadbsy family again, as it’s been a while since the last book! They’re such a chaotic bunch of people, and it feels like I know them. I’ve never loved a fictional family so much. In this book, I loved how Farrant takes the time to explore how each of the children develop as they start a new year at school. Each of them is grappling with a new challenge – from Jas facing bullying, to Flora starting a drama school far away. If this is indeed the last book, I’m going to miss reading about them so much.

Farrant has squeezed so many important topics into this story – from family and peer pressure, to scary big changes. There’s also of course still the overhanging grief of Bluebell’s lost twin sister, which has been talked about throughout the series. In this book, the theme of grief isn’t as prominent – Blue addresses her sister a couple of times and it was really emotional to see how she’s developed and changed her life. Oh my god these characters feel so real.

The events in the book were really cute and heartwarming. I love how Farrant writes about some really emotional stuff whilst still managing to keep it upbeat, hopeful and hard not to smile at. It may have been just because I haven’t read this series in a while, but nothing completely blew me away – that’s not to say it wasn’t a great read at all, which it was. It was so enjoyable (and a lovely break from my boring A Level reading!) but not something that massively moved me.

Overall, Time for Jas was a really enjoyable read – perfect for middle grade readers as well as readers of younger YA. As with the rest of the series, it touches on many interesting and complex themes, and is simultaneously really engaging and funny too. I highly recommend this, and the whole series, if you haven’t yet gotten around to it! The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby are undoubtedly one of the most heartwarming and loveable series out there.

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of Time for Jas from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley

Related Posts: Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley | GCSE English Literature: A Call for Diversity on the English Curriculum

Published 6th September 2016 by Mira INK.

28218948Goodreads Synopsis: Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

My Review: Words cannot express how much I adore Robin Talley’s writing. She burst onto the LGBT YA scene with an unforgettable debut, and I’d argue that she’s one of the most important writers in YA at the moment! From the moment I heard that she was writing a retelling of Macbeth, I was practically jumping around with excitement, and my fangirlish-ness hit the roof when I was offered the chance to review it.

As I Descended is based loosely on the story of Macbeth, but not so much that you need any knowledge of the play. Secret power couple Maria and Lily are two of the most intelligent girls at Acheron, their prestigious boarding school, and if Maria can snag the Crwaford Kingsley prize, she and Lily will be set to carry on living together happily at college. However, when certain students start to get in the way of their plan, both girls make plans to eliminate their competition; and things take a dark turn with help from the unknown, darker side to their school.

I have to mention in this review how important books like these are – because they’re out there, but they’re very rare. Most of the main characters in As I Descended are LGBT*, and the ‘coming out’ side of their stories is not the whole focus of the novel. As important as coming out books are, I think just seeing LGBT characters engage in adventures themselves is imperative. It should be a norm in YA 🙂 (if anyone has any LGBT non-coming-out books they’ve enjoyed, let me know, I need more of these in my life!)

I absolutely adored all of the characters; Robin Talley takes the time to examine the backstories and the internal conflicts of each student, and they all felt incredibly real to me. I ended up feeling so conflicted about Maria and Lily especially (in a good way!) because they are both such loveable characters, and yet do such incredibly dark things. What I also loved about the characters is that they’re refreshingly diverse, beyond the angle of sexuality; Lily is physically disabled from a car accident, Maria and Theo are Hispanic, and Brandon is illustrated as being “fat” whilst not being portrayed in a negative light.

As for the story… whoa. I had assumed it would be quite dark, as after all, it is based on the plot of Macbeth. However, I didn’t anticipate it being just as dark as it was! Mostly, I read this book during a week’s internship – on my lunch breaks and commute into London – and I was so absorbed, I didn’t want to put the book down! It grips you from the opening pages, and leaves a ghostly imprint on your mind when you’ve finished it. Eerie doesn’t even begin to cover it; I’m not usually so spooked by horror novels, but this was definitely an exception, as there were so many parts that literally evoke shivers. The book begins with a Oujia Board experiment that doesn’t go to plan, and the events of the novel cleverly spiral out of control from there, weaving in myths about the boarding school. Robin Talley does an excellent job of writing a fantastic, classic-feeling horror story, that still doesn’t feel cheesy or cliche at all.

Overall, I highly recommend As I Descended – it ticks all the boxes for me. It’s addictive, well paced, with an excellent plot and a memorably diverse cast of characters… Not to mention, it’s incredibly creepy! It’s the perfect read to gear up for Halloween with – just don’t read it in the dark (or in the bathroom…)

four and a half

I received a copy of As I Descended from the publisher, via Lovereading4kids, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review: Wonderboy by Nicole Burstein

Published August 2016 by Andersen Press.

27430362Goodreads Synopsis: A funny and frank superhero story set in the world of Othergirl.
Joseph ‘Wilco’ Wilkes is one of life’s loser’s – he’s picked on, pushed around, and bullied by the rugby boys at the posh private school he attends on a scholarship. But his life is about to change: Wilco learns he can move things with his mind. Will this be his chance to play the hero, get the girl and finally stand up for himself? Or are things just going to come crashing down around his head? Becoming a proper hero will be quite the leap of faith…

My Review: I absolutely adored Othergirl, Nicole Burstein’s debut novel – so when I discovered her second book was coming out, I was eager to give it a go!

I dove into this thinking it was a sequel to Burstein’s debut – but it’s in fact simply set in the same world as Othergirl – a world much like ours, but with global network of superheroes called the Vigils. Wonderboy can be read as a standalone novel – though, to appreciate a couple of scenes even more, it’s definitely worth reading Burstein’s first book too!

I really loved reading about the alternate world this is set in. Burstein visibly draws on her love of X-Men, but her universe is hardly a knock-off of the franchise; it’s really enjoyable and brilliant fun – from each of the Vigils, to their secret operations and offices. I love how the classic elements of a superhero story have been taken straight from all my favourite comics, and reworked to create a fantastic novel: it’s not cliche, it feels like a fresh new perspective on classic superheroes. A homage to comics. 🙂

I love that, despite Wonderboy being a brilliantly adventurous story, it’s still down to earth in the sense that it addresses some serious topics as well. Quite cleverly, when Joseph reveals his identity, it mirrors coming out in a couple of scenes, which I thought was actually a very cool and important thing to do, especially for an audience of young readers. Joseph’s life also really well explored, and we learn lots of things about his life that are the reason why he is bullied; for instance, how his mum doesn’t have very much money, so he’s in a private school on a scholarship that is looked down upon.I really liked how Burstein wrote about this so realistically.

It is so hard to not love the characters. Of both books Burstein has written, I have adored all of the protagonists. They’re just fantastic!  Joseph was really relatable, I think, and such a well fleshed-out character. Although we didn’t see very much of him ‘in action,’ (this is more of a story about him discovering his powers) I grew to love reading about him.

Overall, Wonderboy was a really brilliant read, from an author I know will be only be gaining more and more attention in the world of fiction. Nicole is a fantastic writer, and has crafted yet another enjoyable story in her instant-classic superhero world. Fingers crossed there’ll be another title soon!

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of Wonderboy from the publisher, via Lovereading4kids, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

Published 9th June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

29604253Goodreads Synopsis: When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn’t just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

My Review: With Malice arrived in the post by surprise, but I was was desperate to start reading it after looking into what it was about. Psychological thrillers are right up my street, so I was really sure I’d find this great!

The plot is centered around Jill, who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the last six weeks. She discovers that she was involved in an accident that the press is not obsessed with – but was the accident her fault? Is she to blame for the tragic outcome?

I’ll get the slightly negative part of this review out of the way – I couldn’t like Jill. She had many likeable traits, but there were so many reasons why I just couldn’t feel for her. It meant I felt a little distanced from the story – though not entirely, it was incredibly addictive. Maybe it’s because of the way she was portrayed by the media excerpts in the book, maybe it was because she didn’t seem to mourn after the accident – she just seemed a little two dimensional to me, though that’s not to say everyone else will think that. I’m sure many readers will engage with her.

I really did enjoy the story, because it’s full of many unexpected twists, especially towards the end. It feels like a very classic mystery, with modern elements. Whenever I wasn’t reading, I was coming up with theories as to what could have caused the accident!

I really enjoyed the way in which the story is told. It isn’t told in modern day extracts and then flashbacks, like I’d expected. Instead, we follow Jill in the present day, and between chapters are extracts from various news channels, witness interviews, and blogs, which allow the reader to see into the mystery from multiple perspectives – characters close to Jill, hateful media perspectives, and anonymous blog trolls. It was really interesting to see the story told from lots of different perspectives – it also revealed lots of little hints and different theories, which kept me hooked.

Overall, With Malice was a really brilliant and addictive read. It’s the perfect book if you’re looking for a thrilling read for this summer. I really enjoyed the story, and although I had a couple of problems with the characters, I’m sure many people will love it.

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of With Malice from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review and Film Discussion: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Today’s post isn’t a conventional review! I was kindly sent a copy of Arthur Braxton, a book I have wanted to read for months, and given that the movie adaptation is out soon (and that this new edition of the book has just published), I thought I would make this review a part-discussion, too!

I’ve been a fan of Luke Cutforth on YouTube for a long time, so when I discovered he was making his first feature film, I was jumping around in excitement. I can’t wait to see it.

Review and Discussion:

Written by Caroline Smailes, published by 4th Estate; adapted into film by Luke Cutforth.

Goodreads Synopsis: Arthur Braxton runs away from school.

He hides out in an abandoned building, an old Edwardian bathhouse.

He discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool.

From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.

My Review: It’s hard to put how I felt about this book into words. It is equal parts strange and wonderful and messed up, but that’s why I liked it.

Reading this book was an incredibly weird experience. Although I enjoyed it, it didn’t instantly blow me away, but it properly hit me after I’d put the book down and began mulling it over. The story, to anyone going in unknowing of the plot, is bizarre, but captivating; teenage Arthur Braxton finds his way into an abandoned bathhouse on a desperate night, and what he finds in there changes his life forever.

I couldn’t like Arthur very much at all, which was sad – but the characters I did adore were the ones that he finds in the swimming pool. Without giving away anything, I’ll say that their stories brought me to tears, and were told in such memorable ways. Lots of people adore Arthur’s character for how brutally honest the representation of his character is, but for me I couldn’t enjoy it too much. I’ll admit that I found it a bit crude in places (even though that is how it’s supposed to be!). Despite being an accurate depiction of a teenager, I just wished he had some qualities I could’ve liked.

I can’t wait to see how the film adaptation presents all of the characters on screen. I’m not sure how accurate they can be (given that there’s a lot of nudity and swearing, and I’m assuming the producers will be aiming for a 12/15 rating) but it’ll be really exciting to see how they appear. The casting looks fantastic so far, and features lots of upcoming talents, so I’m really excited!

The format of the book was really interesting, and not what I had expected! Different characters told their stories in varying styles – parts were in script, parts were conventional storytelling, and a couple of chapters were simply just dialogue. I adored the way in which the plot was told and presented – it felt very refreshing and kept me engaged. I’d love to read more books told in quirky ways like this.

What I also enjoyed about the book was the setting, and how there’s a lot between the lines to read into. Most of the book is set within the Oracle, an abandoned bath house set to be demolished and rebuilt. I envisioned it as a really haunting looking place, but the BTS photos of the set so far are very different – though it looks awesome!

If I am completely honest, I was not blown away by this book whilst reading it – not every aspect appealed to me, and parts were very unsettling. However, I think part of the reason I didn’t fall in love with it was because I wasn’t taking in the mythological aspects of the book – it flew right over my head! I read up on it after reading, and began to appreciate the story much more. There are many layers to this unique story, and it’ll be really interesting to see how Luke, director, translates these from page to screen.

Overall, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton left me in a very weird state after reading. It’s unlike anything I have ever read before; strange, haunting and weirdly wonderful. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a very unconventional story; one that will make you laugh and cry.

I think Luke is the perfect director for this film. By looking at his YouTube channel, anyone might think he’s a strange choice – most of his videos are on the bizarre, funny side – not serious. But I think he’ll bring the brilliant crudeness to the film that the book has; and also, from his directing of various music videos on YouTube in the past, I can tell he’s definitely made for this sort of thing. It will be awesome to see his skills adapting to a much bigger project.

The new edition of this book (cover pictured at the top of this post!) also contains a new introduction written by him – so it’s definitely worth checking that out!

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

Published 1st June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

26177619

Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

My Review: I was sent this book by surprise, and although I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be something I’d enjoy, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sarra Manning’s other books, so I was eager to give it a go!

London Belongs to Us is a brilliant tribute to London. It’s set over one crazy, eventful night, and roughly each chapter is set within a different iconic place – from Crystal Palace to Chelsea – and with each new change in scenery brings a little chapter introduction with facts about the place. It’s written almost like a love letter to London; all of the research, and attention to detail that’s gone into describing the locations. I really enjoyed reading it, as there is so much emphasis on the setting, and being a Londoner (or near enough) I adored the familiarity and how easily I could envision so much of the book.

The story is hectic, as it starts in Crystal Palace Park on a late evening, and finishes the next morning – with so much happening in between. Sunny unexpectedly receives a photo of her boyfriend with another girl, and a wild chase across London ensues to solve the story – along the way, there’s all sorts of craziness, from mopeds to nightclubs and concerts to The Ritz. It was fast paced and adventurous; so much fun to read, and it’s short enough to enjoy in a day. It’s a silly thing to pick up on, but I did question the plausibility of some of the wild things that happened… To think that some people roughly my age did some of those things, and all in one night, is crazy 😀

One thing I noticed about the story, and really appreciated, was that the topic of racism was brought up. Sunny, the main character, is mixed race, and over the course of the book multiple comments are made by other characters about her colour of her skin, making snap judgements and rude stereotypical statements. I think the way the author wrote about these was incredibly realistic and I like the way the topic was treated; it’s something I’d love to see a lot more in books.

Overall, London Belongs to Us was a fun book, and one that’s perfect for you if you’re looking for a short but enjoyable summer story… Or an ideal London train read! I really enjoyed reading about Sunny and Emmeline, and the ridiculous things they did all in one night. It’s very quirky and very random – a great tribute to an equally quirky and random city.

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of London Belongs To Us from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Published February 2016 by Macmillan.

25437747Goodreads Synopsis: I was brave. She was reckless. We were trouble.
Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting.

Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be.

But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

My Review: Beautiful Broken Things had been on my to-read list ever since I saw its beautiful cover in late 2015! I’m very much a ‘judge a book by its cover’ type. I actually went into the book knowing very little about it, other than that it was about friendship, and by my guessing, would be quite a sad read.

It took me a while to read this because it was the first book I read after exams; the last two months have been a massive reading slump and I’ve been so out of the loop, and out of the reading mindset. However, on a long bus journey the other day, I devoured over half of the book. Sara Barnard really draws the reader in, and gets them totally engrossed in the story.

Beautiful Broken Things follows the story of Caddy, who is living what she feels is a boring, average life. When her best friend Rosie introduces her to Suzanne, a new girl to Brighton, everything begins to change. Suzanne went through some horrible things before moving to Brighton with her aunt, and Caddy finds herself drawn to her, wanting to be there for her. Events begin to spiral out of control – and nothing’s the same.

The premise of the story was brilliant. Even though I did think the story was a little predictable, I still found myself feeling for the characters are the story played out. I loved the setting; it feels like Barnard’s debut is like a love letter to Brighton, highlighting its beautiful places in the pivotal scenes of the story.

The characters are all really well developed and felt very real to me, but for some reason I just didn’t connected with them like I’d expected to. Especially Suzanne. It’s not that I explicitly didn’t like the protagonists, but some of the decisions they made just didn’t add up for me and I felt a bit detached from them. I feel like if I’d grown to love them more, this book would have deeply impacted me much more.

Overall, Beautiful Broken Things is a really great debut novel, and one I’d certainly recommend. It’s a riveting contemporary story, with some characters that I’m sure most will find very memorable. Sadly, something just didn’t click for me, whilst I was reading – however, it was still a brilliant read 🙂

My Rating:

three

I purchased a copy of Beautiful Broken Things.

Graphic Novel Review: Alex + Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

Published July 2014 by Image Comics

21823465Goodreads Synopsis: From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5.

My Review: This graphic novel was recommended to me on Amazon, after I’d read the likes of The Wicked and the Divine. I fell in love with the simplistic but beautiful cover, and the synopsis made it sound incredibly interesting. It reminded me of a lot of Sci-Fi I know and love, with its classic-feeling near-future-androids-are-becoming-independent vibe, but I was eager to try it out. I’m so glad I did; Alex  + Ada may not be the most original of stories, but it’s told in an incredibly unforgettable way and I adored it.

I’m always a little scared when I start an ongoing comic series, as like with The Wicked and the Divine, I can sometimes get too lost in a complex story. However, with this, I became absolutely absorbed in the story, and it was really easy to follow. Issue one begins with Alex, a relatively normal guy who is quite lonely, and living in a near-future world where many tasks are now performed by androids and robots. All over the news is talk of a Robot Rights movement, and a massacre caused by sentient androids, which is stirring tension. When an X5 android turns up on his doorstep, the newest in lifelike technology, and something he doesn’t desire – he reluctantly boots it up. Soon, he finds himself falling into a complex world of android politics, and discovers that Ada is seemingly more than just an android.

The story feels like an instant classic, and after binging the five issues in this collection, I was really eager to start the next volume. I often feel like the first few issues in a series can be a little dull, just introducing us to characters and story, with lots of yet to be answered questions, but with Alex + Ada, I felt immersed in the story straight away and loved the way everything was executed. I think some people might find it a little dull, as Alex isn’t set up to seem like the most exciting of characters, and his interactions with other characters aren’t that thrilling – but I really loved that! It shows how a lonely guy can become so isolated by the things around him, like the technology that’s running almost his whole life.

The artwork is pretty great. It’s a simplistic style, with a limited blue/grey colour scheme for the most part, but I really liked the way it reflects the sterile, depersonalised feel of the comic’s setting. It would have been nice to see some more variation in the style, but I do think it works with the story really well.

Overall, Alex + Ada was a really enjoyable graphic novel; one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend whether you’re a fan of Sci-Fi, or looking for a way to get into reading comics, as it’s a very accessible story. These first five issues are captivating and enthralling – and a brilliant set-up for what I’m sure is going to be a brilliant story  in the next instalments. I can’t wait to see what direction the story goes in the next volumes – this first one was a fantastic introduction to a Sci-Fi world that has a lot of promise.

My Rating:

four and a half

I purchased a copy of Alex + Ada Vol. 1 online.

Book Review: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Published April 2016 by Little, Brown.

26030682Goodreads Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

My review: Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I do not shut up about Monica Hesse’s début YA books, STRAY and BURN, which are two of my all-time favourite books, ever. My excitement went through the roof when I found out that Hesse had written another YA book – and I was very interested to see her genre choice jump from Sci-Fi to historical fiction. I was delighted to have the chance to read it.

Girl in the Blue Coat is set in wartime Amsterdam. Hanneke is secretly running illegal errands, delivering extra rations of food to local people, and staying under the radar. But when one of her clients asks her to help search for a missing Jewish girl that she’d been hiding, her life is turned upside down as she is catapulted into a complex mystery, and begins to unravel dark secrets about the what is happening to Jewish people being captured in Amsterdam.

Story time: I visited Amsterdam last year, and had the chance to also visit Anne Frank Huis. It was really heartbreaking and moving to walk around the tiny place the Frank family had to hide in for years – it’s incredibly eye-opening, and hard to believe that this was a reality for many Jewish people during the second world war. Monica Hesse’s attention to detail is admirable; her extensive research is evident in her meticulous descriptions – from the streets of Amsterdam, to the place Jewish people were inhumanely held, to the hiding spaces in Dutch households.

The plot gripped me from the start and hasn’t really let me go, even after closing the book. I’m still thinking about the story weeks later. It’s rare to find something so incredibly raw as this is – the emotion in this book is so intense and it can be quite hard to read the brutal nature of events at points. Admittedly, I don’t take history, but I’m sure the level of detail Monica Hesse explores in Girl in the Blue Coat can exceed what people learn in schools. This has really opened my eyes to what happened in Amsterdam, and I’m eager to learn more.

Hanneke is one of those characters I couldn’t help but adore. From the opening pages, I admired her daring nature, and her realistic inner conflict about searching for a Jewish girl in a dangerous world. I was rooting for her all of the way through, and loved the unlikely community she finds in the book, during her search. All of these characters will definitely stay with me for a long time – many scenes where their backgrounds are explored really moved me.

Overall, Girl in the Blue Coat was an incredible read. Monica Hesse has transcended into the historical fiction genre beautifully, with a powerful and mesmerising novel about the brutality of wartime events in Amsterdam, highlighting the bravery and selflessness of those who resisted Nazi efforts. The story is hard to fault, and was hard to put down; I was desperate to unravel the truth about this mysterious girl for myself. The ending was incredibly unpredictable, and the final events of the story brought me to tears! Highly recommended if you’re looking for a thought-provoking read.

My Review:

four and a half

I received a copy of Girl in the Blue Coat.

 

 

Book Review: The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

This edition published January 2016 by Curious Fox books.

The Diamond ThiefGoodreads Synopsis: No one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Rémy Brunel. But Rémy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

Meanwhile, young detective Thaddeus Rec is determined to find the jewel and clear his name. Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Rémy that he needs to save?

My Review: This book has been on my to-read list for ages, and for some reason, I’ve simply never gotten around to buying a copy. However, when Curious Fox were kind enough to send me some of their titles a while ago, I saw that it had been given a cover makeover – I’m in love with the new look! I thought this was a great opportunity to finally get into the trilogy.

The Diamond Thief pulled me in immediately, with a beautifully written and gripping trapeze scene  – and all the way through, there was never a dull moment. Protagonist Rémy is not your usual travelling trapeze artist – as well as a secret and mysterious past that she doesn’t fully understand herself, she lives a double-life as a jewel thief and is in London to steal a famous gem.

The plot was gripping and entertaining. Not so long ago, I was hugely into steampunk and fantasy stuff – I feel like more recently, I’ve moved into reading more contemporary fiction. The Diamond Thief felt like coming home to an old friend that I haven’t seen in a while. It was 300 pages of pure, riveting escapism – a classic steampunk-inspired story with some beautifully elaborated Victorian elements.

Rémy is an awesome main character – she’s a classically adventurous and courageous heroine. Also, kudos for her to standing up for herself and refusing to be defended. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about her and another character, whose chemistry is hinted at and I’m sure will be evident in the next book! However, I really did enjoy reading about the unlikely gang Rémy finds herself banding together through her journey to get the diamond and uncover the truth.

Overall, I definitely recommend The Diamond Thief to anyone who loves mystery stories, or ones with steampunk elements. It was a really great read – perfect for fans of Pantomime by Laura Lam and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. I can’t wait to read on in the trilogy and see how Rémy’s story develops.

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of The Diamond Thief from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Intrigued by The Diamond Thief, or already a fan? Come back to this blog this time next week, for an interview with the author!