Tag Archives: friendship

Book Review: Girlhood by Cat Clarke

Published May 4th 2017 by Quercus.

26224552Goodreads Synopsis: Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can’t escape the guilt of her twin sister’s Jenna’s death, and her own part in it – and she knows no one else will ever really understand.
But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels…loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died.
Then Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper’s? And why is she so obsessed with Harper’s lost sister? Soon, Harper’s closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.
How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her?

My Review: I first heard about Girlhood at YALC last year, so I’ve been really excited about getting a copy for a while. Cat Clarke’s last three books were incredible, so I had high hopes for this one.

Girlhood takes place at a Scottish boarding school, where Harper has spent the time since her twin sister died. When a new girl joins Harper’s tightly knit group of friends, and seems to feel the same way as Harper, the group’s friendship is put to the test as dark secrets surface.

I really liked the set-up for the book. I haven’t read many books set in a boarding school and I feel like it set a really fitting tone for the story, isolating the girls so the main focus is on their relationship dynamics. It definitely added an eerie atmosphere to the story.

One of my favourite things about Girlhood is that the friendship group was refreshingly diverse. Hell yes for a bisexual protagonist! And a gay roommate! And a friendship group that isn’t all white! I think the characters all had a really interesting dynamic too. I wish that some had been explored further, such as Ama, but the story was still really engaging and I loved the protagonists and their chemistry.

I feel this book was quite different from Clarke’s previous ones, as it felt less suspenseful to me – but it was still an incredibly riveting read. I ended up devouring it in a day, pretty much in one sitting, because I was so eager to understand why Kirsty’s actions were obsessively mirrored Harper’s. I did predict part of the truth revealed at the end, but it was still such an engrossing story.

Overall, Girlhood is another exciting book from Cat Clarke that I definitely recommend reading. It’s a really captivating read, that had me intrigued form start to finish. It explores so many different themes, from family death to the complications of friendships when you’re a teenager. I feel like it’s quite different from some of Cat Clarke’s books, like Undone, but it’s still a fantastic read.

My Rating:

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

Book Review: Fish boy by Chloe Daykin

Published February 28th 2017 by Faber & Faber.

32490590Goodreads Synopsis: Billy is a lonely boy. He’s obsessed with swimming in the sea, which is where he goes to wash his problems far, far away. Thanks to his mum’s mystery illness, his dad has been forced to work extra hours to make ends meet, so Billy locks himself away with David Attenborough films, and ponders the magic of nature. Meanwhile at school, bullies mercilessly seize on Billy’s ‘otherness’ and make his life as miserable as possible – but then new boy Patrick Green, with “fingers like steel, strength of a bear”, joins Billy’s class. And when a mackerel swims up to Billy’s face, blows bubbles into his Vista Clear Mask goggles and says: Fish Boy – Billy’s whole world changes.


My Review: A lot of people know I’m totally one to judge a book by its cover – this is a prime example! I loved the gorgeous cover artwork for this book, and it intrigued me about the story – so I eagerly requested to review it. I’m really glad I did – it’s nice to dip back into Middle Grade fiction again, and this was great.

Fish Boy follows Billy, a boy estranged from other children his age, who bully him. Between that and his mother’s illness, his only solace is swimming in the sea – and that’s where he meets the fish that starts talking to him, which opens him up to a strange new world with his new friend.

What I found really unique, and perhaps the best bit about Fish Boy, is the ambiguity of the whole story. Is it literal – does Billy really find talking fish, who talk to him and seemingly become his new friends? Or is Billy’s surreal swimming experience his brain’s coping mechanism; a distraction from the world around him? I really loved trying to read between the lines of this book. It’s a very layered story, and that’s why I think readers of all ages can enjoy it – they can take away whatever message they want.

Fish Boy combines some heartbreaking, relatable issues with a touch of magical realism that makes for a very unique story. It touches on bullying, how it feels to be different, and also the experience of having a parent who is ill, and what that entails for your family. I found it really touching and moving in places, particularly with the family themes. I loved the close family Daykin has constructed at the centre of this book – they’re wonderful to read about.

Billy’s voice is strong and authentic, and I really enjoyed his perspective while reading. I think it was especially a great narrative to explore family issues through. The friendship between the protagonist and a later character, Patrick, is very bizarre and entertaining – their dynamic was really fun and something that I’m sure readers will adore.

Fish Boy is a bizarre book. There is no avoiding that. It did take me a few pages to get into it, and I can’t say I was a hundred percent engaged in it the whole way through. It’s incredibly weird at points! A couple of things didn’t make much sense to me – it took me a lot of thought after reading to understand what the magical fish thing was about – but I do think it’s still a book with a lot of appeal to those who like similar things – who says that strange is a bad thing?

Overall, I definitely recommend this, especially to middle grade readers who are looking to read something new, with echoes of David Almond and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls (except this one is a bit less sad!). Fish Boy, albeit a bizarre story, is imaginative and incredibly original. It touches on themes of family, friendship and what it means to be human, with just the right amount of surrealism.

My Rating:

three

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

Book Review: The Deviants by CJ Skuse

Published 22nd September 2016 by Mira INK.

23126437Goodreads Synopsis: the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.
When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

My Review: I didn’t know a huge amount about this book, and hadn’t read any of CJ’s books before, and needed something to read for fun instead of for studying – so I chose this from my TBR pile on a whim! I’m very glad I did, and I don’t think I’ve raced through a book so quickly in a long time. The Deviants had me entirely engrossed, and left a mark on me.

Firstly, the characters: we’re introduced to them all in strange, different ways. These five inseparable children have all grown apart after Max’s older sister’s death, but they unexpectedly find themselves joining together again, under dark circumstances, to begin wreaking revenge on those who have hurt them. All of the characters were visible so clearly in my mind – Skuse goes into such detail with all of their backstories, and as a result I don’t think I could forget any of them any time soon. I became really attached.

I really liked the way that the story is told! All of the chapters are told from the perspective of Ella, whose personality I was most attached to – I sympathised with her so much. Each chapter ends with a question that feeds into the next part of the story, and they feel like interrogation questions, leading up a completely unexpected ending. The questions at the end of each chapter were definitely what kept me hooked – I wanted to read on; discover the truth; see who was asking them (AND WOAH I DID NOT EXPECT IT OH MY GOODNESS).

The Deviants felt quite bizarre at first, then a little creepy – then it spiralled into an incredibly dark and horrific story. Every turn was completely unexpected – there are subtle, clever hints throughout the plot, but I could not have possibly predicted where the book ended. I was on the verge of tears the whole way through the book, and I literally couldn’t hold it in for the last 30 pages!

A warning to those who want to read this, though – The Deviants is incredibly dark, and quite traumatic in places. It was much more grim than I thought it could be, and I think it could be quite sensitive for some readers – without giving anything away, there’s prominent themes of abuse and violence. However, if it’s something you can read, I do definitely recommend it – it’s rare to find a book that discusses its main theme so vividly, without sugar-coating it. It’s devastating in places, and hard to read, but I think that’s what makes it important.

Overall, The Deviants was much darker and sinister than I predicted, and its vivid approach to some sensitive topics can make it a hard to read in places. However, it can’t be doubted that it’s an incredible, incredible book. It was really eye opening to read about such terrifying events that still happen to so many people every day, and these characters and their stories will never really leave me. This is a very hard-hitting book, which will definitely make you think and it can be really upsetting – but at the same time, it’s important, and I really do recommend it to those who can read similar things.

My Rating:

four

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

Five Reasons to Read Lumberjanes

FIVE REASONS SO READ LUMBERJANES HEADER
Lumberjanes-Vol-1

It occurred to me a while ago that, despite Lumberjanes being one of my favourite comic series ever, I hadn’t talked about it on this blog! I have no idea why. I love this series, and the five campers, to bits. No matter what you are, or what age you are; if you’re looking for any comic book series to start, I’d mention this first. It’s such a brilliant, unexpectedly hilarious and riveting adventure, made ten times better by the fact that it promotes positive female friendships and girlpower.

Persuaded? Good! Go get started! Let me know what you thought of it 🙂

Volume 1 collects issues 1-4; volume 2 collects issues 5-8; volume 3 collects issues 9-12; volume 4 collects issues 13-16

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.

Book Review: Off The Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Make sure to scroll down after my rating – there’s an awesome bonus thing about this book! 

Published 4th June 2015 by Hodder.

25001544Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Delilah is finally united with Oliver—a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale. There are, however, complications now that Oliver has been able to enter the real world. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to take Oliver’s role in Delilah’s favorite book. In this multilayered universe, the line between what is on the page and what is possible is blurred, but all must be resolved for the characters to live happily ever after.

My Review: A few years ago, my dad passed me the proof copy for Between the Lines, a book he thought I might like because it was about story characters coming to life. I LOVED it. I wanted more! Coincidentally, a few days after I finally bought a finished copy of Between the Lines only a few weeks ago, I was emailed about reviewing the sequel. How I had missed that news before, I have no clue. Needless to say I have never responded to an email faster.

Off the Page is, essentially, a sequel –  it follows Oliver adjusting to life in the human world with his love, Delilah, after he’s left his fairy tale – but it’s not actually that hard to follow for someone who’s new to the story! Following the events of Between the Lines, Oliver and Delilah can finally be together in the real world – and Delilah thought that teaching him basic human-world skills would be hard, but when something in the book is starting to mess everything up, Delilah realises it’s going to be a lot harder…

Admittedly it did take me a little while to become properly engrossed in the story, but once I was, I didn’t want to stop reading. The plot progresses brilliantly, with some twists and turns I couldn’t guess were coming. The ending was really satisfying and actually made me tear up a tiny bit!

Just as Between the Lines was, Off the Page was superbly written – a blend of humour and heart that’s hard not to fall in love with. Mother and daughter duo Picoult & Van Leer are both so talented and I love their writing – I would love to read more from both in the future, collaborative or not! There’s something about Off the Page that I can’t quite define. It, along with the first book, just seems to stand out against the rest of its genres – feeling like an old classic, but upbeat and modern too. They seem to be very popular in the US , so I really want to spread the love for them over here in England!

Overall, Off the Page was a fantastic companion novel that I highly recommend – whether you have read Between the Lines or not. The beautifully crafted contemporary world with a fantasy twist will certainly appeal to fans of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke! Whether you’re looking for a gripping fantasy story, or a beautifully written romance, Off the Page is perfect. I can’t wait to read more from Picoult & Van Leer in the future – it was sad to see this story finish!

My Rating:

four

 


ALSO! ZAPPAR FEATURES: On the front of the hardcover book, you’ll find a sticker that asks you to scan the book with Zappar – an app available on iOS and Android. I was expecting this to be simply a link to a description of the book or something similarly generic – so I was stunned at what scanning the book revealed! Excuse my bad attempts at getting photos…IMG_5469

The words on the front cover animate a spiral off the page, then the book characters bursting off the page literally do jump off the page. Through your phone or tablet, you can watch them dance around – and flip your camera to take a selfie with them! Here’s dad looking baffled because technology.

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

Book Review: The Beloved by Alison Rattle

Published 5th March 2015 by Hot Key Books.

23524576Goodreads Synopsis: Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place.

Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother’s rule.

After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands. She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last.

But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince’s strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man’s charm. Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?

My Review: loved Alison Rattle’s previous YA novels –The Quietness and The Madnessso when I heard of her latest title coming out, I was ecstatic! From the synopsis, The Beloved looked like it was going to be just as haunting.

I knew from the opening pages that I was going to like Alice, the protagonist: In the first chapters she’s described as mad and insane and hysterical by her mother – but when reading from Alice’s perspective, you get to understand her and realise she’s not what everyone thinks she is.

I loved the first person narrative to the story as Alice’s outlook on the world was really interesting. What I found strange at first, though, was that every few chapters, there’s a third person chapter. It took me a while to get used to that but it was pretty effective, actually, as after being sucked into Alice’s story, you get to see the impact of her escaping on her family.

I actually thought this was going to be some kind of dark, runaway romance book – because when Alice first sees Henry Prince, preaching on a street, she is captivated; and soon after she escapes to find him, in hopes of finding a new way of life. From the moment Alice steps through the gate to his ‘Abode of Love,’ there’s suddenly a strange, sinister undercurrent running through the book.

The plot spirals quickly into really creepy territory. It was much more haunting than the first half of the story: And that was chilling! The final pivotal event in the book was completely terrifying, but I didn’t want to stop reading. The last chapter was very unexpected, but I found myself liking that outcome of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Beloved. It was yet another brilliantly chilling tale from Alison Rattle and I can’t wait to read even more from her in the future. Alice was a realistic and vulnerable main character, and I really felt for her. The plot is pretty alarming at points but it’s a riveting story. I was in disbelief when I read that it was based on a true story (Details in the author’s note at the end!). Highly recommended!

My Rating:

four and a half

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

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