Tag Archives: MG

DIVERSITY IN YA: Book recommendations!

I was sitting at my computer, procrastinating by scrolling through my twitter feed, last Friday night. I was completely stuck for blog post ideas: I’ve been so behind with blogging because the first term at school has been hectic, to say the least!

I’ve been very aware of the inspiring, brilliant #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter since it launched, but seeing tweets from that evening’s #SupportWNDB talk were the deciding factor that led to me making this post. Also, that I haven’t done a infographic post in quite a while. I hope you enjoy it!

There were a lot of books to pick from to fit onto this quick graphic, but picking out of my recently used Goodreads shelves… I honestly didn’t actually find it difficult to narrow it down, to pick only a few titles with diverse characters; of colour, a different cultural background, an LGBT* identity or disability. I think that proves that a) I really must seek out more diverse books, and read those sitting on my TBR, and that b) the WNDB campaign is so necessary: I’m so glad it’s encouraging and publicising books that otherwise wouldn’t be as visible.

Anyway, I’m aware I’ve rambled on a bit, and this post was meant to be just an infographic… (:

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I hope you liked the infographic! I would love to take any recommendations on books similar to these (or completely unique ones of course!) and hear what you thought of these titles. There’s a lot of amazing sounding YA/MG fiction that’s out next year also, like Lara Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal (A very hotly anticipated one!) – are there any titles you are looking forward to reading?

Book Review: Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

*unrelated note: I have been so busy, with school ending, and working at a school summer project, and other things, that I haven’t posted a book review in almost a month… *hangs head* Sorry D: But now I’ve finished school-related things properly, I’ll hopefully be neglecting the blog a lot less! Yay! (:*

Published September 2014 by Doubleday books.

13608989Goodreads Synopsis: From NEW YORK TIMES best-selling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

My Review: 

I started The Iron Trial really excitedly. I’m a big fan of both Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, so I thought that both of them collaborating on a book was a brilliant idea! For the first half of the book, though, I did struggle to get into the story… I definitely had a few issues with the story but towards the end I did enjoyit.

I did really like the characters- namely Call, who’s the main protagonist. As this is an MG book, and the start of a series, I think lots of younger readers are going to grow up loving him and the rest of the students at the Magisterium.

I grew to really enjoy Magisterium, but, mainly for the first half, there were so many points where I got agitated by it. I just found so many parallels to Harry Potter – wizards hiding in plain sight in an ordinary world, secret school, trio of kids (on the front cover) who look a little too much like Harry, Ron and Hermione… yup. (I know the themes are in lots of books, but still…) There were some really great plot twists, mainly towards the end, that made me grow to love the story a lot more, but for the first couple of hundred pages, I was a bit disappointed, because of the similarities.

Okay, ignoring the negative aspects for now; I really did loved the writing! I enjoy Cassie’s writing and adore Holly Black’s, so the two put together was just awesome. They’ve adapted their voices really well for an MG audience, I think. I will probably carry on reading the Magisterium series, as I love their joined writing style.

Overall, I did enjoy Magisterium, but it definitely didn’t live up to what I’d expected. The writing was superb and will definitely draw readers in, but the storyline didn’t do the same for me. I think, growing up with Harry Potter, I’m a little protective of it, so I just disliked reading a very similar story. However, after the twists at the end, I hope that the rest of the series will have a more original sound – I’m sure I’ll be making time for the sequel when it comes out!

My Rating:

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

Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Published May 2014 by Piccadilly Press.

21367449Goodreads Synopsis: In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

My Review: When I started Counting by 7s, I knew I was in for a very emotional book. I think I probably underestimated just how emotional, though. Holly Goldberg Sloan’s novel was heart breaking and heart warming simultaneously. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. And everything in between. I really, really highly recommend it; it’s been a while since I finished it and I still can’t stop thinking about the characters!

Admittedly, it did take me quite a while to get into the story. I was a little confused by the narrative at first, as it does switch between Willow’s first person voice, and a third person focus on supporting characters and I got a little bit mixed up. I think one reason for that, though, was that was I started this in the middle of exams and revision, so I only had the chance to read a couple of pages at a time.

However, once I got into the story properly, Willow’s narrative had me completely hooked and didn’t let me go until the really teary, beautiful ending. Twelve year old Willow’s voice is very powerful, very unique and special – she reminded me a lot of Auggie from Wonder, who also has a really powerful young voice. I think Willow will be loved by anyone who picks up the book, adults and children alike.

Willow was an amazing protagonist. I loved her narration, which was very different to recent books I’ve read, all short, choppy, hard hitting sentences. She goes through so much and I really just wanted to hug her. And I wanted to hug everybody else too, like the friends Willow makes and Pattie and Dell. Every character was really well fleshed out and I do probably say this quite a bit in book reviews, but I really, really did feel like I knew and lived with them. The main characters all come together in such unlikely ways and it made for such a lovely ending.

Counting by 7s deals with grief and loss and family in a very raw and emotional way, and while I was thinking about the themes I found the raw intensity of everything reminiscent of a few of my favourite books. If you loved Annabel Pitcher’s books, or Bird by Crystal Chan – I really definitely recommend it.

Overall, Counting by 7s was such a compelling MG/YA contemporary read. The characters were all really fascinating, and I’m still thinking about them and the ending, even though I’ve read five books since finishing it! To sum it up; it’s raw, emotional and poignant. I’m definitely going to look out for more by Holly!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Counting by 7s from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton

Published May 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

18870172Goodreads Synopsis: Quirky twelve year old Noelle (Know-All) Hawkins may be one of the brightest girls in her class but even she can’t explain how her dad, wacky scientist Big Brain Brian, spontaneously combusted while sitting in a portaloo. It’s true that he was working on a new top secret Brain Ray machine and was on the point of a great break-through when he vanished – could this have had something to do with his disappearance? Know-All is sure all is not as it seems and with the help of her sister Holly she is determined to find out what really happened to her dad!

My Review: I started The Case of the Exploding Loo really excitedly, as I haven’t been reading many MG books lately, and this looked really quirky and funny. It definitely was! I ended up reading it in two sittings and I really recommend it if you’re looking for a really clever, giggle-inducing novel.

The Case of the Exploding Loo follows young, smart and inquisitive Noelle as she tries to uncover the reasons behind an exploding toilet that’s supposedly killed her dad, after starting to find lots of suspicious activity around her neighborhood. The plot is so wacky and crazy, with brain washing rays, lots and lots of portaloos and suspicious teachers. It’s completely unpredictable!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s full of so many things that worked so well. I really loved reading it; once I started it was actually quite hard to put down; there’s a new clue every few pages. It is quite a fast paced book, which made it a little hard for me to gather everything at first, but I did get used to the pace and was able to follow the story quite easily.

Noelle was such a brilliant main character. She’s nicknamed “Know-All,” a play on her name as she’s a bit like a human Google- she’s pretty dorky. That made her really fun and loveable. I really loved her inquisitive nature. I hope there’s another book based around her in the future, because I found her so adorable!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Case of the Exploding Loo. It’s a fun, quirky and genius début novel, from an author I’m sure will have many more hilarious books out in the future. The story has not just a memorable protagonist, but also lots of funny punchlines and a clever conclusion. Being quite scientific, it remind me a lot of the Doyle & Fossey: Science Detectives series for children- which was awesome because I adored those books a few years ago. Recommended if you want something that’ll make you giggle! (:

My Rating:

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

Book Review: The Julian chapter by R J Palacio

Published 1st May 2014  by Random House Children’s books.

20878809Publisher’s Synopsis: Over 1 million people have read Wonder and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. Now readers will have a chance to hear from the book’s most controversial character—Julian.

From the very first day Auggie and Julian met in the pages of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wonder, it was clear they were never going to be friends, with Julian treating Auggie like he had the plague. And while Wonder told Auggie’s story through six different viewpoints, Julian’s perspective was never shared. Readers could only guess what he was thinking.

Until now. The Julian Chapter will finally reveal the bully’s side of the story. Why is Julian so unkind to Auggie? And does he have a chance for redemption?

My Review: The Julian Chapter was a story I fell in love with from the start. It’s engaging, emotional, and incredibly powerful. Spinning off from Wonder, R J Palacio’s much loved début, The Julian Chapter tells the story of the bully who hated Auggie for his looks.

As soon as I’d gotten an email about this spin-off chapter, I was too excited for words! I fell in love with wonder last year. It was so moving and powerful. I couldn’t wait to hear more from R J. I started the story straight away and once I’d begun, I couldn’t stop. I was so engrossed in the story! Julian was a character whose narrative wasn’t in Wonder, which switched between the viewpoints of lots of people in Auggie’s life. I was so glad I could finally see through Julian’s eyes.

The writing, of course, is brilliant. R J Palacio has adopted the voice of a middle-school kid really well. Julian’s voice is really distinctive and realistic. I could feel his anger and fear about the situation he was in because of Auggie. If you read Wonderyou’ll have really disliked Julian for the things he did to Auggie. I did. But in this novella, I got to understand all of the reasons behind his actions. Obviously, the things he did are still awful- but The Julian Chapter has made all of his actions make sense, and it’s built a really good back story to one of the most complex characters in the story.

The Julian Chapter tells Julian’s side of the story in Wonder, then goes on to after the events of Wonder. I loved how much Julian develops throughout the story. He changes into such a different person over the course of the novella, and honestly, the last few chapters made me start crying. I grew to forgive Julian, and liked him by the ending; The Julian Chapter shows how it wasn’t all Julian’s fault- how his actions were caused by so many things. I love that R J Palacio has made Julian such a more understandable character with an eighty page story.

Overall, The Julian Chapter was just… amazing. It’s poignant, honest, and written so well. I loved hearing Julian’s voice, and learning about his life and back story. The Julian Chapter gives a whole new side to the story. If you loved Wonder, I cannot recommend this highly enough! For an under-100-page story, it’s unbelievably emotional and engaging. I won’t be forgetting The Julian Chapter any time soon!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of The Julian Chapter, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

Published April 24th 2014 by Random house.

18160169Goodreads Synopsis: Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed the day she met her first fairy…

When Alice’s father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon–an uncle she’s never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it’s hard to resist. Especially if you’re a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

My Review: The Forbidden Library series is bound to be the next big children’s fantasy sensation. The concept was really original and fun- I really recommend this is you’re a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia!

As soon as I’d started, I knew I was going to really like it. I was drawn in straight from the start; I really liked the quiet, hard-working protagonist Alice, and felt like crying with her after she finds out about her father. I was really absorbed in the story as she finds herself in a new, strange house with a relative she never knew she had.

After enjoying about a third of the book, I don’t know why, but I lost interest a little… I thought maybe I was just in the mood for another genre, so I read a couple of books  in-between. It took me a while to get back into the story. I really, really did love the concept and the magical books idea, it was so awesome, but for some reason up until the last hundred pages or so, I found myself just reading and not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I’m really not sure why!

Django Wexler’s writing really is great, it felt so descriptive and fun.I did find bits a little fast paced…. But it’s definitely worth a read, though, if you love fantasy; it ticks all of the boxes.

I really liked Alice, for the most of the story. She was a really relatable girl. She’s a bit lonely,but very adventurous. And, of course, she loves reading. 😀 A little way into the story, though, her personality just suddenly seemed to change. She was really… quiet sounding at the start, though very inquisitive, and then once the supporting character is introduced she suddenly seemed a lot different, I can’t quite put a finger on why… she just seemed randomly snappy? I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I’m not sure if that was just because I’d been dipping in and out of the story, though!

Overall, The Forbidden Library is definitely worth reading if you love fantasy books. I’m sure it’s going to be the Next Big Series for middle grade readers! I really did love the concept of the story… it’s a book about books, how can you not love that? 😀 Mostly, I was really absorbed in the story. It did take me a long time to read, and I was mixed a little about the protagonist, but I will most definitely be looking out for more from Django Wexler in the future!

My Rating: 

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

 

Review-Graphic: The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas

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Sorry for the relatively short review graphic… I had to make this in a bit of a rush between revision-y things because it’s the start of the exam season! But, honestly, I can’t recommend The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas enough- one brilliant author, one brilliant illustrator, one fantastic MG read (: