The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B – Teresa Toten

“The boy inhaled as the door opened. It was as if he knew. The girl stepped into the room, and within the space of a heartbeat, he was lost. 

The girl made her way towards the semicircle of chairs, not smiling exactly, but not hesitating either. She was older for sure. Probably. So it was hopeless, of course. She sat down directly across from him, at her end of the semicircle. Without looking up, she crossed her genius, perfect legs and flipped a long black braid behind her. By the time he exhaled, he boy was in love.” 

Adam has issues, and the main one at the moment is that he wants to be Robyn’s superhero. But with the focus on that he doesn’t realise that there are other things going wrong in his life, worse things, things that need to be addressed. He starts to act the superhero for Robyn, and in Group, but while he’s there for all the other guys, is he there for himself? For so long he’s put off writing a list and now all he can write is: 

1. Grow immediately 

2. Find courage. 

3. Get normal

4. Marry Robyn Plummer”

***

This book wasn’t what I was expecting. But it was what it needed to be. Realistic and gut-wrenching I was thrown into a side of mental health that I had never really seen before, especially in YA books, and it was incredible just for that.

Whilst I think that that side of things was incredible, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B actually didn’t woo me the way it should have done. It was slow and at times painful for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t feel a proper connection to any of the characters until very late on in the book and if I wasn’t so stubborn I probably would have given up on it a lot earlier than I did.

The setting and the way that the author dealt with mental health was a great positive for me. There was no real stigma, it was just there and it was a way of life for Adam and his friends. I really loved Adam’s neighbour and his little brother but the other characters fell a little flat for me. Adam himself was a brilliant character which made things awful because you wanted him to be a bit more selfish at times, you wanted him to take care of himself more than everyone else, but he just couldn’t.

I think I still have mixed feelings about this book because at times it felt brilliant and realistic but at others – especially when it came to the dialogue – it felt fake and a bit pretentious. I don’t know what it was but there were parts that really jarred with me and even though it was an interesting read.

With a slow start and a bit of a rushed ending I think that this book was a bit of a letdown for me but I did still enjoy it and I would be tempted to read more by the author as I believe she is a debut author.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B was published on March 5th by Walker Books. My copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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March Book Haul

March books-1This month has been a great month for books with a lot dropping through my door Ive been lucky enough to receive two rather large piles of books including one that I accidentally missed when I was taking the photos!

Books this month (first photo):

Suicide Notes to Beautiful Girls – Lynn Weingarten (Unsolicited), Remix – Non Pratt, Circus Mirandus – Cassie Beasley (Unsolicited), Conversation -Katherine Howe, Mindwalker – AJ Steiger, Minus Me – Ingelin Rossland, Nest – Esther Ehrlich (all unsolicited)

Thank you to Electric Monkey, Walker Books, Chicken House and Rock The Boat (the new YA Imprint from Oneworld Publications) for these books.

March books-2

Books this month (second photo):

Geek Girl: Geek Drama – Holly Smale (Bought), Killing the Dead – Marcus Sedgwick (Bought), Tideline – Penny Hancock (gifted), Phoenix Rising – Bryony Pearce (Unsolicited), My Smoky Bacon Crisp Obsession – JA Buckle (Unsolicited), The Sound of Whales – Kerr Thomson (Unsolicited), True Face – Siobhan Curham, Under My Skin – James Dawson, The Beloved – Alison Rattle, The Box and the Dragonfly – Ted Sanders.

Thank you to Stripes Publishing, Curious Fox, Chicken House, Faber & Faber and Hot Key Books for these books.

March picture booksPicture Books this month: Fuzz McFlopps – Eva Furnari & Alison Entrekin (Unsolicited), The Hog, The Shrew and the Hullabaloo – Julia Copus & Eunyoung Seo, Mr Mistoffelees – T.S Eliot & Arthur Robins, Daddy’s Sandwich – Pip Jones & Laura Hughes, Mystery of the Crooked Imp – Conrad Mason & David Wyatt (Unsolicited).

Thanks to Faber & Faber, Pushkin Children’s Books and David Fickling Books.

Finally the absolutely awesome and lovely Laura (AKA SisterMarch-baby-bookspooky) sent me Ant & Bee by Angela Banner, its a beautiful little alphabet book that tells a story and Laura sent it over with the first card for my baby! The message inside the card nearly brought me to tears (I am a bit emotional at the minute!) and I am so thankful to Laura for thinking of us! I will make sure Spike cherishes Ant and Bee and doesn’t eat any pages! I promise! hehe.

 

 

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Opal Plumstead – Jacqueline Wilson

Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson“‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ Olivia asked.

We were wandering through the graveyard, trying to find some privacy. Olivia had bought a penny farthing worth of Fairy Glen toffee chews and we were desperate to eat them. We had to be careful, though. Last week Miss Mountbank had caught us sucking sherbet on the way home from school. She’d pounced on us from a great height, her unfortunate nose more like a hawk’s beak than ever, and smacked us both on the back so violently that we choked.” 

Opal’s life was good, she was part of a loving family, had a scholarship to go to the nearby girls school, dreamed of university, and had her best friend in the world by her side. That was all until her father got caught up in a tangle of money and deceit. Now her father’s in prison, her sister is determined to mess things up further and she has to go to work in Fairy Glen factory. Things are dire but at least Opal has her new boss – Mrs Roberts – to look up to, and a whole new world where she is more understood than ever before in the Suffragette movement. Can Opal manage to make her life a bit sweeter thanks to Fairy Glen? 

***

I used to adore Jacqueline Wilson, and I mean adore. I dressed up as Mandy from Bad Girls for one primary school World Book Day and I undertook an in-depth analysis of The Illustrated Mum as part of my university dissertation. But since then I have read very little of the authors work and her later books have always passed me by. Thankfully Opal Plumstead landed, with a thump may I say, on my doorstep and now I’ve read it I can safely say that I’m glad Wilson is still writing!

Wilson has a fantastic ability to suck you in to girls’ lives who are going through tough times, for you to rally them on, keep them going and hopefully see them through to better days. Opal Plumstead is no different story wise and I did see similarities in the book to the others I have read before by the author. But what made it so special was the setting and how that had an effect on the live of Opal.

It was set in 1913/14 and it really captured the atmosphere of the time. That era was a time of major change for England, and a lot of that change did herald from London, so its natural that Opal got to see a fair bit of it. I loved that she bore witness to meetings of the Suffragette movement and met Emmeline Pankhurst within the book. She also saw the start of the war and it did change her character by the end of the book. The mixed views of the Suffragette movement in particular were aired throughout the book and the changes in society’s views could also be seen in it.

I loved that Wilson set a book at this time because her writing makes it incredibly interesting and by dipping the reader, who remember could be as young as 8 or 9 if the target audience is met, in to this world the way Wilson does, she may just entice them into finding out more about the movement… I really hope she does!

The writing is as you would expect from a Wilson book, its brilliant but simple and easy to read so its not too much of an issue of the targeted middle grade reader. The size of Opal Plumstead may put off some more reluctant readers as it does come in at a hefty 525 pages, but its large font and illustrated (By Nick Sharrat, of course!) chapter headings make that 525 pages look like nothing.

Opal Plumstead was a brilliant way for me to reintroduce myself into Jacqueline Wilson’s book again and I am very tempted to go back and pick out a few others that I have missed, like Hetty Feather and the like. If you have a keen historian or a bookworm who tends to like this kind of story and you want them to drop a little more history into the mix then Opal Plumstead is a must. I know I would have been moved by it had I been 9 or 10 when reading!

Opal Plumstead was Jacqueline Wilson’s 100th published book. It was published by Doubleday Children’s Books on October 9th 2014. My copy was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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The Honest Truth – Dan Gemeinhart

“The mountain was calling me. I had to run away. I had to. 

And I didn’t need anyone to go with me. 

I tightened the straps on my backpack and held the front screen door open with my foot. ‘Come on Beau!’ I called, and my voice didn’t shake one bit. It was strong. Like me.”

Mark had cancer. Now its back. He wants to stick around, play with his best mate Jessie, run with his dog Beau, but he can’t. He has had enough of hospitals, and treatments, and he wants out. So he does the one thing he can think of doing and runs away from it all. He runs to the one place he always wanted to go – Mount Rainier, even though theres a storm coming and climbing that mountain may be the last thing he does. 

***

I was expecting a lot from The Honest Truth and its safe to say it delivered. I was sucked in right from the start and devoured the book in two sittings, and its safe to say I was left with many different feels, most of them good!

The thing that stood out the most with this book is the way it was told. It was told with chapters and half chapters, the first with Mark tellings his story and the rest with Jessie talking about her experiences of Mark running away, and trying to work out whether to tell Marks parents about where she thinks he is. This was made even better with the conclusion of the book, but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone.

There were other things that I really loved and one of them was the sheer reality of Mark as a character. He was young and quite immature but he was only twelve and lets face it, if I thought I was dying at 12 I think I would have been the same! I loved his journey too because he did change and his character did grow so well through his journey.

The book was such a pleasure to read for me because I just rooted for Mark the whole way through. I wanted him to at least get to the mountain because I wanted him to tick it off his bucket list. Even if he got to the bottom and turned around I would have been happy! It was also very sad through because of what was going on with Mark.

I don’t want to go into much because the book isn’t very long, but I really enjoyed it, I think it was the perfect book for my mood at the time of reading and I would highly recommend it to many readers.

The Honest Truth was published on March 5th by Chicken House Books. My copy was sent in exchange for an honest review.
 
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Flesh and Blood blog tour: Scenes from the life of a horror fan

RE_FleshandBlood_CToday I have Simon Cheshire, author of Red Eye’s latest YA Horror Flesh and Blood on the site talking about the scenes from his life that allowed him to become the horror writer he has. Read on to find out more…

Who was it said “the child is father to the man”? Wordsworth, was it? One of those poets with billowing shirts, trudging over moorland, anyway. It’s certainly true that formative influences leave their mark.

SCENE ONE: my school friend’s hideout, 1971

Two of my friends from school and I went through a phase of listening to the same vinyl record almost every Saturday afternoon. We’d huddle under a huge blanket, to block out the light, and hear Christopher Lee tell ghost stories. It frightened all three of us silly, but we loved every minute of it. Of course, I was the sucker who always got shoved out from under the blanket to go and turn the disc over half way through, but that’s another story.

SCENE TWO: the living room, 1980

BBC1 showed the two-part TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I sat on the sofa, with my brothers, and watched that guy from Starsky & Hutch nervously tape sticks into a makeshift crucifix. My nerves turned to water when little Danny Glick started scratching at the window, and don’t ask what happened to me when Mr Barlow turned up at the prison. Seriously, don’t ask. Still the most frightening thing every shown on telly. Well, up to 1980, anyway. In 1984 they screened Threads, and I still can’t even hear that title without flinching.

SCENE THREE (a prequel): under the covers, 1969

An irresponsible cousin had given me a pile of reprinted American pre-Code comics from the ‘50s, which I read by the light of a torch every night for a month. Stories full of voodoo rites, vengeful corpses and assorted brutal crimes. They made UK weeklies like Beano and Dandy look just a wee bit tame. How I actually slept, I don’t know, because those stories haunted me for years.

Flesh and Blood was released on March 2nd by Red Eye, a Stripes Publishing imprint. You can read my review of the book here.

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Flesh and Blood – Simon Cheshire

flesh-and-blood-simon-cheshire“I didn’t want things to turn out this way. I really didn’t. 

There have been deaths, and worse. Even if there’s no blood on my hands, not directly. I have to face the consequences of my actions, of what I did do. If events had happened differently, if I hadn’t been so intent on following my theories, then perhaps I wouldn’t be here now, sitting at this desk, writing out what some might see as a confession.” 

Sam is new in town, moving onto one of the best streets Hadlington has to offer is more than his parents could have dreamed of months ago. But its turning into Sam’s nightmares. The street’s residents seem strange and when his parents go into the same trance like life, Sam is worried. The only neighbours who seem normal are the Greenhills – described as pillars of society the family history of medicine and wealth has contributed to many good things in the town. But Sam knows they are hiding something, he can hear it on a night and see it on the news. There must be some connections to the strange goings on in the town and the Greenhills, but as his investigation unfolds Sam suddenly becomes aware that he’s stepped into dangerous territory and the lies reach much further than he ever imagined. 

***

The latest book to be released under Stripes Publishing’s Horror imprint – Red Eye – really does deliver. With odd goings on and the threat of murder imminent you can see that there is something not right about Sam’s neighbours. You are thrown in at the deep end with Sam almost sounding as if he’s writing a confession, and soon you are sucked right under with him.

Flesh and Blood is not a nice book – by no means of the imagination. It is creepy and gory and if you get squeamish just from hearing the title then its probably not for you. Thankfully I am very much on board with gore and guts and I loved the story from the start.

The way the story is told it is clear that Sam is writing up an account of things that have happened from after they happen. With hindsight he keeps referring to clues and things that should have warned him away from his investigation – without actually revealing what happens or really whats to come. I loved this because it really made me connect with Sam as a character and want to read on to know how he got through everything and if he’s as ok as things would suggest – I knew he’d survive because he was telling the story. Things aren’t that simple though and what actually happens is really interesting. I won’t give too much away but even with Sam giving clues I didn’t see what happened coming at all and I very much doubt anyone would work out what happened before it is properly revealed.

The first half of the book covers around 6 weeks worth of Sam moving to a new place, getting his bearings and collecting his theories all together. The majority of the second half of the book accounts for around one day of Sam’s life and that made things speed up drastically. I thought things were rushed almost but I think its because theres so much going on in that half of the book that theres no way you want to put it down and wait to find out whats going on.

At first it took some getting used to Sam’s way with words and even now I don’t think he’s got that much of a realistic teen voice, but its not enough to put you off completely and I got used to him quite quickly. With the Red Eye imprint really impressing me so far I can’t wait to see what horror the team at Stripes pull out for us next!

Flesh and Blood was published on March 2nd by Red Eye, a Stripes Publishing imprint. My copy was sent to me  by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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Hook’s Daughter – Heidi Schultz

Hooks Daughter by Heidi Schulz“There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was almost certainly planning to sail in and take it from her.”

Jocelyn Hook dreams of following the footsteps of her father, the great Captain James Hook, but her grandfather – and sole guardian – has other ideas. When she is shipped off to finishing school she knows its not the place for her, but she can’t let her dreams die. When she receives word that the fierce era of Captain Hook has ended she sets sail to Neverland to avenge him. But what Jocelyn meets there will be a surprise to everyone, including herself. 

***

Hook’s Daughter wasn’t how I expected but it was brilliantly put together and I think would make for an exceptional story to any middle grade reader who is after adventure and excitement – especially if they are looking for a girl who isn’t into the typical ‘girly’ things you often see represented in that age range of books.

The story is brilliant and mixes the idea of a posh victorian boarding school with pirates, mystery and mayhem. The link to Peter Pan as we know him isn’t that huge a thing at the beginning of the story but as it goes on it gets better. I expected more of Neverland which I think caused me to read the story a bit too slowly to begin with but once Jocelyn landed on Neverland things really picked up for me.

I loved Jocelyn as a character because she really knew her own mind and was determined to do what she had to to get where she wanted to be. She was by far my favourite character and I liked that she didn’t rely on anyone else to jump in and save her or do anything for her. The friendship between her and Roger was one of my favourite parts of the story because I think they were the best characters and I really enjoyed how that changed and grew in the book.

The book fell a little flat for me and I’m not sure why. I fully expected to love it but for some reason I struggled with it and it took a bit too long for me to really sink my teeth into. I can see that it is a fantastic book with brilliant characters and a great story but I think I struggled with he writing, and I honestly don’t know why, I think it just wasn’t for me. I loved the way the narrator kept popping out of the story and making reference to the reader but other than that I couldn’t get into the flow of the story and there was a lot of stop starting for me. I do think this was more of a me thing than an issue with the book itself though and that other readers won’t have the same problem at all!

The addition of Peter Pan towards the end of the book was fun and I liked the way he was portrayed, the Lost boys were great too and I hope for the sake of other readers and they turn up in the second book. This is the start of a new series and I think it will probably be a great one, but liked that I could stop at Hook’s Daughter and wasn’t left hanging on for the next. It was a well-rounded story all on its own with just the slightest tease of what will come next for Jocelyn.

Hook’s Daughter was published by Chicken House on March 5th 2015. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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Juvie – Steve Watkins

“My three-year-old niece, Lulu, sits alone at the kitchen table, eating a frozen waffle. It is early, barely sunrise, the day I have to turn myself in to juvie.  

‘Hi, Lulu,’ I say as I stubble in. I haven’t really slept. 

‘Hi, Aunt Sadie’, she says back.

 I pour myself  a cup of coffee that smells hours old and sit next to where Lulu pear he’s sideways on her booster seat.”

Said will do anything for her niece Lulu. She’s even prepared to take the wrap for her sisters stupidity and got to juvie for her. Sadie was always the responsible one, despite being younger. But now she’s taking the blame for a crime she didn’t commit to save her niece from losing her mum. It as meant to be a community service order, then the judge changed his mind. While Sadie is whine bars can she find it in herself to face up to the consequences and forgive her sister, or will it serve as time to sit and stew. 

***

Juvie is one of those books that really surprised me. I went into it expecting to enjoy it and it was ok to start off with. But then as the story progressed I got more and more into it and by the end couldn’t put it down!

The story is brilliant and is told going back and forth between the present time, when Sadie is starting and is in juvie, and the past events including the thing that puts her in there and the fall out from it. By the end of it the past sections are just coming round to the point where the present ones take off and I loved that style of writing for this book as it worked so well for getting to know Sadie more as a character.

The whole book comes with a message which I think is really important. It’s subtle and isn’t really enforced in anyway but it kinda serves to remind you that all actions come with consequences and sometimes, though it’s hard, we have to take responsibility for those actions. Sadie was in the wrong place at the wrong time but her story shouldn’t focus on that too much and it doesn’t, or at least it didn’t for me.

I really enjoyed juvie and think a lot of people will. It’s gritty in the right places, and the flashbacks allows for breaks in the really crappy juvie environment. I thought it was interesting to read because I’ve not read a book in that setting before but with comparisons to Orange is the New Black I’m not sure someone who’s a fan of that show would necessarily be blown away by this book! I definitely would recommend it to young adults who like the grittier story though.

Juvie was published by Walker book on January 1st 2015. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
 
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Dark of the Moon – Siobhan Curham

“Hortense lights the final candle and steps away from the altar. Tendrils of incense smoke twist through the darkness like ghostly snakes, filling the air with the scent of sage. She takes a small wooden doll from her pocket and places it in the centre of the altar. A sudden breeze rushes through the trees like a nervous gasp, as if the island itself knows what’s about to happen.”

Days after first arriving on a seemingly deserted island, Grace and her friends finally seem to have found a way off.. but things can’t be that easy, surely? Not when theres a voodoo queen on the warpath who needs Grace to stick around for a while longer. As the boat sets sail things appear fine but then a wind knocks them back and Grace, her soulmate Cruz and the others in their group find themselves back on the island, but its different this time. On the other side oft he island they appear to have found a community, a few other people within a retreat, who promise them escape in just a few more days. Can the group last that long when they’ve lost so much already, or is there more to this retreat than it would appear there is? 

***

The second in the shipwrecked series Dark of the Moon, was pretty darn impressive as far as second books go, there was intrigue, and mystery and a fair few plot twists that kept me on my toes. I definitely liked the way the series has gone and the plot opened up a few more questions that I definitely want answering.

The story follows straight on from book one, with the characters waking from the sleep they started right at the end of Shipwrecked. Things are odd straight away though with them having trouble waking Belle up from a horrible dream, and her waking up to blindness. Being thrown straight in at the deep end made me glad that I only read the first book a few weeks ago, and I would recommend a recap for sure because there aren\t many useful hints and reminders dropped into the story, it is very much its own.

I loved that this book involved a change of scenery with the introduction of a new part of the island and new characters, it kept everything feeling fresh and new and allowed the shipwreck to carry on, without dragging it out too much. The change in the characters from the first book to the second is also worth noting as I liked a lot of them more with what they showed in this book than in the first.

There is obvious scope for a third book but I read on the authors website that it is being held until a TV series, which is apparently in production, catches up. I am really hoping they don’t leave things too long because the ending, even though it wasn’t a cliffhanger as such, wasn’t satisfying enough for me. I need more, I need a full conclusion and it will probably drive me mad while I wait for that!

As always with Siobhan Curham’s books I was able to lose myself in the writing and the setting of Dark of the Moon. Everything I have read by her flows so well and is so brilliantly written that I can read hundreds of pages and then suddenly realise that I was meant to stop reading an hour ago. I love that her work is so easy to read but also so comprehensive and I would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for a story to dive right in to.

Dark of the Moon was published by Electric Monkey in July 2014. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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February Book Haul

Another good month for books in February with a lot of unexpected books turning up at my door and some that I’ve been waiting for eagerly! yay!

Feburary book hual

Book received:

1st pile:  Lottery Boy – Michael Byrne, Shadow of the Wolf – Tim Hall (gifted), Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein, Hook’s Daughter – Heidi Schulz, The Magnificent Lizzie Brown and the Mysterious Phantom – Vicki Lockwood (unsolicited), The Dolls – Kiki Sullivan, The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge (unsolicited), Butterfly Club – Jacqueline Wilson (unsolicited).

2nd pile: Jinx’s Fire – Sage Blackwood (unsolicited), Gypsy Girl – Kathryn James, Flesh and Blood –  Simon Cheshire, Nobody Saw No One – Steve Tasane, One of Us – Jeannie Waudby, The Honest Truth – Dan Gemeinhart, The Whisper – Emma Clayton (unsolicited), Big Game – Dan Smith (unsolicited), A Cage of Roots – Matt Griffin (Unsolicited), If You Were Me – Sam Hepburn (unsolicited).

My thanks go out to Chicken House, Quercus, Walker Books, Red Eye, O’Brien Press, Electric Monkey, Curious Fox, Usborne/ Lovereading4kids.co.uk, MacMillan and Random House for sending books this week.

February book haulI am also starting to reviewing kids books in preparation for the fact that these are pretty much the main things I’ll get to read soon! Thanks to Little Tiger for sending these over to me:

Chicken Licken – Mara Alperin & Nick East, Rumpelstiltskin – Mara Alperin & Loretta Schauer, The First Slodge – Jeanne Willis & Jenni Desmond, Cheep Cheep Pop-up Fun – Jonathan Litton & Kasia Nowowiejska, My Little World: Egg – Jonathan Litton & Fiona Galloway.

 

 

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