Tag Archives: MG

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 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!

Book Review: Big Game by Dan Smith

Published 1st January 2015 by Chicken House books.

22892753Goodreads Synopsis: Written by acclaimed children’s novelist Dan Smith, BIG GAME is a stunningly told survival story set in the icy wilderness.

13-year-old Oskari is sent into the cold wilderness on an ancient test of manhood. He must survive armed only with a bow and arrow. But instead, he stumbles upon an escape pod from a burning airliner: Air Force One. Terrorists have shot down the President of the United States.

The boy hunter and the world’s most powerful man are suddenly the hunted, in a race against a deadly enemy…

My Review: I started Big Game a little apprehensively. I had read and really enjoyed Dan Smith’s previous historical novel, My Brother’s Secret (review here!) – though this new book is a novelization of a movie script, for a film of the same name. I wasn’t sure how I’d find it, because of that – would it be as good as Dan Smith’s historical YA? Would it be as enjoyable? I was a little nervous but very eager to read it, as the synopsis was awesome.

I loved Dan Smith’s writing yet again. It was fast paced and I was sucked straight into the story. I really loved Oskari’s narration. He’s comes across at first as a character defined by his flaws, but he flourishes throughout the story as an incredibly brave, powerful protagonist. He was so fun to read about! I really enjoyed seeing him develop.

The plot was so great and I am really looking forward to seeing it played out on a big screen. On the night before Oskari’s birthday, he must embark on a journey to the Finnish forest, and stay there for a night and a day. When he returns, he will be a man and must present a trophy – a hunted animal that will reflect his personality.

However, when he finds the president of the U.S.A in an escape pod after witnessing terrorists land close by, Oskari realises there’s a much bigger game being played than his own hunt. It felt really original and exciting to me; a real pulse-raiser of a book.  The ending felt a little abrupt, but made me smile.

Overall, I enjoyed Big Game a lot and I definitely recommend it. Smith’s writing is fantastic and enthralling, and he’s channelled the personalities and emotions of the characters brilliantly. I felt really attached to Oskari by the end and found myself wanting to read some more about him – the ending did make me smile but was a little abrupt. I can’t wait for the movie, which features Samuel L Jackson as the president – and I’m also eagerly awaiting Dan Smith’s next book now. 🙂

My Rating:

four

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

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Book Review: The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

Published (in paperback) 1st January 2015 by Harper Collins.

21096480Goodreads Synopsis: Half of your soul is missing.
The lost part is in the mirror.
And unless Sylas Tate can save you, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for the nature-influenced magic of the Fourth Way, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place.

Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas as to the true nature of the Other. As violence looms and the stakes get ever higher, Sylas must seek out a girl called Naeo who might just be the other half of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…

My Review: I had seen copies of The Bell Between Worlds everywhere last year, when it was first released in hardback, though didn’t get around to reading it – so I was really pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of the paperback edition, which had just been released. I hadn’t read a huge amount of fantasy so far this year and I dived straight into this not knowing too much about the story, apart from what the synopsis said!

I was really taken by Johnstone’s writing style. In a lot of places, it was very lengthily descriptive. I really loved that; visualising this fantastical world so clearly was as much fun as reading about the events within it unfolding! Though, in some places, it did mean the story dragged a little, especially in the more action-packed parts, or that it took a while to get to the action.

The world building is stunning and unforgettable. I am in love with the concept of the mirrored worlds – our world of science, and the Other; a world of magic – as well as all of the fantastical elements such as the Passing Bell. The world of The Mirror Chronicles quickly became one of my favourite fantasy settings – and considering I decided this halfway in, and this is only book one, I guess that shows how much I loved it.

Overall, The Bell Between Worlds was a much more enjoyable read than I’d actually anticipated! I haven’t been reading much fantasy lately but this has definitely rekindled my love for the genre and I’m looking forward to reading many more similar books, as well as the next Mirror Chronicles book, Circles of Stones. Johnstone’s fantastical world has a very unique feeling to it, and the characters are fantastic. I can’t wait to read more about Sylas, Simia and Naeo!

My Rating:

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

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Book Review: The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold (Illustrated by Emily Gravett)

Published October 23rd by Bloomsbury.

22443909Goodreads Synopsis: Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.
Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?
A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

My Review: I opened The Imaginary looking forward to a really cute story about friendship, and intending to read just the first few chapters before I did some blogging. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting, and getting what wasn’t quite a cute story, but a beautifully told tale full of hope, friendship, terror and adventure. Pageturner is definitely the right word to describe it: I simply couldn’t stop reading… And there was a surprise around every corner, none of which I was expecting.

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The Imaginary is marketed as an Middle Grade book, but I’m confident that teenagers and adults will fall in love with the story too – it’s got lots of crossover appeal. The plot was actually quite a bit darker than I was expecting – the antagonists were really freaky and sent shivers up my spine. However, the eerie elements of the story contrasted with the beautiful aspects of friendship and the power of imagination.

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The characters were perfectly crafted and realistic: Amanda and her imaginary friend, Rudger, are truly unforgettable. Amanda is such a bubbly and bright character, and her personality made me love her instantly! Rudger was everything I’d love in an imaginary friend for myself, and I was unable to put the book down, wanting to know what he did next.

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The story was captivating by itself, but Emily Gravett’s illustrations brought it to life. The character depictions were just as I would have seen them in my mind if the story wasn’t illustrated. I loved poring over the gorgeously detailed spreads. The use of Black and White versus colour was a very clever and pretty way of depicting normality/reality versus imagined worlds, too. I hadn’t seen any of Emily Gravett’s work before but after The Imaginary I’d love to read more MG books with her illustrations!

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Overall, The Imaginary was a really stunning book and definitely exceeded my expectations. As soon as I’d started it, I didn’t want to stop reading – and as soon as I’d finished it, I wanted to flip back to the start to read it again! A F Harrold’s writing was fantastic; it’s sad, sinister, unforgettable and magical-feeling all at once – perhaps a little nostalgic too for everyone who’s had an imaginary friend. I really recommend Harrold & Gravett’s book – whether you’re an MG reader or older, looking for a very beautiful and captivating book.

My Rating:

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

Anti-Bullying Week: #ChooseKind & GIVEAWAY!

I’m really excited about today’s blog post!

Anti-Bullying Week starts today, the seventeenth, and runs until the 21st. It’s celebrated in schools across the UK to raise awareness of bullying, and how to prevent and solve it. (Last year, I made a blog post for Sophie’s themed week.)

Penguin Random House are the publishers of the fantastic WONDER by R J Palacio, and they’ve teamed up with the Anti-Bullying alliance to bring the #ChooseKIND campaign to schools (find out more here). It’s a brilliant scheme to raise awareness of bullying and promote kinder behaviour, especially in youth – and inspired by Wonder, which is a beautifully written tale of bullying, bravery and kindness.

I read Wonder at the start of 2013, and was completely blown away by its raw emotion and beautiful narratives. It’s marketed as a Middle Grade book, but can be read and adored and treasured by anyone of any age. It’s a novel about a boy called Auggie, who’s just about to start middle school after years of being home-schooled, and his ups and downs of navigating a new life while being labelled as different because of the way he looks. It’s unforgettable, moving and inspiring.

365 Days of Wonder is a tie-in gift book that was released earlier this year. It was inspired by precepts and quotes given by Mr Brown, Auggie’s teacher in Wonder – and all of the inspirational quotes readers sent in response, to R J Palacio. There’s a quote for each day of the year – it’s such a beautiful book to treasure.

To coincide with Anti-Bullying Week, and the #ChooseKIND campaign, I’m running a giveaway! One person will win Wonder & 365 Days of Wonder. Entry by the Rafflecopter link below…

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click on the link below to go to the Rafflecopter widget!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bibliomaniac/330168953761504?sk=app_228910107186452

 T&C’s, etc.: Unfortunately I can’t cover the cost of sending the prize overseas – this is a UK only giveawayThe giveaway prize was provided for me by the publisher, and I will be posting it myself: I’ll let the winner know when it’s been posted. The giveaway will end on Monday, 24th November. To be completely fair, I’ll pick the one winner through Random.org. I’ll try to post it before December 10th, so it doesn’t get lost in all the Christmas-post madness!

 Good Luck! You can check out more about #ChooseKind by using the hashtag on Twitter or clicking here.