February’s Reading Rundown

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I know it’s rather late for this post but I blame the fact I managed to get through a whopping 25 books in Feb. I also haven’t managed to get round to doing any individual book reviews so I’ve plonked them all here which means the post is rather epic! This month has been heavy on the YA, having read nineteen titles compared to five middle grade and only one adult book. During March I’m going to try and read more books intended for adults but they take me three times as long as a YA. In a couple of days I’ll be posting about my march TBR Tower where you can see some of the fantastic purchases I’ve made at WNDA Charity Bookshop, plus what sneaky previews the publishers have been sending my way.

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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Although a slow mover, The Beast is an Animal will work it’s hypnotic charm on you from the very first page. The creepy cover sets us up for an opening that is rather sinister, where we meet orphan twins Angelica and Benedicta who soul eaters. They take the souls of the adults in the village but spare the innocent children, including our heroine Alys. Alys is not scared of the twin monsters, but is scared of the possibility that there is a monster inside herself. This is a supernatural, atmospheric tale like no other – be sure to grab a copy.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

My first thoughts on this title were ‘not another romance’ but Love & Gelato is so much more than that. And oh my…. the setting is just gorgeous. I now *NEED* a holiday to Tuscany, it sounds too good to be true with sunshine, architecture and history all on offer. And the ice cream!! I’m quietly confident that this Stracciatella flavour is going to change my life. ANYWAY, moving on before I talk for hours about gelato – this is a story with a big heart. If you’re after that hopeful, feel good novel then this is definitely one for you.

Coyote Summer by Mimi Thebo

Mimi has done it again with another insanely good novel, this time set in good old Kansas. Jules is sent away to the prairie by her mum after her behaviour gets too much and someone ends up badly hurt. Jules feels she is never good enough, something I’m sure we have all felt at some point in our lives, and feels like a failure. It’s only when she forms a bond with a coyote that she realises she can be whoever she wants to be, she just needs to work at it. Mimi’s distinctive writing is very special indeed and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

This is an awesome, gem of a book with some of the best world building I have ever read. Although the concept is quite hard (a time-travelling ship but only if you have a cartographers map and even then only to travel to the time period it was drawn) it worked so well! Nix’s father wants to travel back to a time when Nix’s mother was alive and he is desperate, so desperate he appears to be willing to sacrifice his daughters life. Mainly set in 1880 Hawaii, a place of contrast with its opium dens set amongst paradise, this is unlike anything I’ve read before. The characters are wonderful, the creatures are fascinating, the storyline clever & original – I really REALLY enjoyed this one and pretty much read it in 24 hours! I highly recommend – maybe even demand (pretty please) – that you read this book. Also, if you’re taking part in #diveristybingo2017 it is an awesome choice to fulfil the biracial MC square.

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas

This own voice novel is a wonderful, wonderful book which gives us a glimpse into what it is like living with Asperger’s. Grace immediately stole my heart. I felt a real connection with her, especially her awkwardness and her bond with her horse (and my gee-gee Amba certainly has the same spirit as Mabel). This is a must for every school library – female autistic MC’s are hard to come by and romance novels featuring autistic characters are even rarer. I am so thrilled that we are seeing more diversity from publishing every month. The State of Grace is an ideal read for the own voices square on the #diversitybingo2017 board. You can view mine here and please do let me know your recs!

More Than One Way to Be a Girl by Dyan Sheldon

The very first thing I have to say on this title is MAKE SURE YOU GET PAST THE FIRST FEW PAGES! As I select books for schools I have to always be conscious of the messages put across in books. Fiction that tackles difficult subjects are 100% necessary for school libraries and the ultimate message needs to be a positive one, which I’m glad to say this book has.

The opening is infuriating, it had me shouting at the irritating Zizi things like ‘ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?’, ‘what is wrong with you?’ ‘seriously?’ and so on. BUT…she does redeem herself and by the end of the novel we were best friends. Loretta was a character I loved from page one and she is the embodiment of what I wish I was like at her age. Their unlikely friendship made for enjoyable reading and their differing perspectives on what it meant to be a girl were thought-provoking. It would be great to use for PSHE discussions now that sex education is going to be compulsory outside of science to combat ‘sexual bullying’ – something that is STILL prevalent in high schools.

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Zizi and Loretta swap personas to see who can last the longest in the others shoes and this social experiment is extremely entertaining to watch unravel. Dyan Sheldon hits so many nails on the head when it comes to how people treat you according to how you look. The reactions both girls get from the swap is typical of today’s gender stereotyping and highlights the massive need for change in what people perceive to be as ‘feminine’. It’s also worth noting this book touches upon male stereotyping too. More Than One Way to be a Girl grabbed me hook, line and sinker – another highly recommended purchase for individuals and school libraries alike.

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

YESSS, finally a novel with a girl wannabe astronaut and a passion for science. I will never get enough of books like this. Stargazing for Beginners had me wishing I could do another degree to chase one of my many science related dreams – the others being anthropologist, geneticist, archaeologist, entomologist to name just a few.science.gif

I loved all the characters in the book. They weren’t all one-sided; Bella wasn’t consciously a bully, she just didn’t think before she spoke, Ed was popular as well as extremely smart, Annie was a fantastic friend despite being angry all the time. The author allowed her characters to be more than just labels.

Meg herself was captured perfectly. I can identify with the whole not putting your hand up because class mates will take the mick and I’m glad by the end of the book she really doesn’t care whether people call her geek. In fact, she is proud to be a geek which is how it should be! Being smart is NOTHING to be ashamed of and this book got that message across perfectly, without being preachy in anyway. I highly recommend picking up a copy – suitable for 12+ as it’s very clean teen.

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Oh boy, did this novel make me cry. I have two young nephews and I could not stop imagining what it would be like to lose them at such a precious age, or any age for that matter! A very real, very raw portrayal of grief and how it can literally tear families apart. This debut has made it crystal clear that Paula Garner is a master storyteller and I’m hoping that Phantom Limbs is the first of many more exceptional stories to come.

Countless by Karen Gregory

I’ll touch more upon this title in my body image blog post which should be up around the end of March so I’m not going to go into massive detail here. Anorexia figures in teens may be down from 2015 but there were still over 2,600 cases of female anorexia alone from Feb 2015 – Feb 2016. What makes Countless stand out from other titles that tackle anorexia is that Hedda, the main MC, becomes pregnant. The argument in her mind between listening to Nia and doing right by her baby is a continuous struggle. Countless does not glamorise the disorder in any way and is actually rather frank. Heart-breaking yet hopeful, this beautiful novel is definitely worth checking out.

Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield

Another powerful book from Lisa Heathfield, author of Seed and Paper Butterflies. Lo and Rita rae are close sisters who form part of a travelling circus, a type knit group of people who appear as if they would do anything for each other. But when Lo starts to fall for a flattie and hidden secrets begin to surface all sorts of trouble breaks loose. I won’t get in to the repercussion’s of this trouble, but I will say it’s a very moving and thought-provoking story. Lisa’s writing regarding life and death really got under my skin and the final third of the book haunted me for a good long while after finishing.

The Possible by Tara Altebrando

This is an intriguing story about Telekinesis and whether it truly exists. We have all had those moments where we feel we have some kind of power – picking up your phone randomly and then at that exact moment your phone rings, thinking about someone in particular then they message you, wanting two sixes on a dice and getting them etc… There are lots of twists to make you sway either side and is filled with suspense to make sure you keep turning the pages. Also touches on bullying via social media and morality in general. A great read for KS3 or any fans of Derren Brown/ David Blaine.

Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin was an interesting concept that is certainly worth a read. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein was a slow burner but I really enjoyed the historical time period and it did take me a while to clock the whodunit aspect. This Careless Life by Rachel McIntyre is a modern retelling of The Inspector Calls which was enjoyable but if you’ve read the original you can obviously predict what is happening. Squirrel Girl by Shannon and Dean Hale is a new one from Marvel but I’m under embargo not to say ANYTHING (this makes me feel very VIP but also slightly scared). Beck by Mal Peet was unfortunately a disappointment but I’m sure there are going to be people out there who adore it. Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery and Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl both featured around reality TV which I really struggled with due to my unrelenting dislike of them. Similarly, I struggled with No Filter by Orlagh Collins as this focuses on social media which, minus blogging, I also can’t stand the majority of the time.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

This was a weird one for me. After the fame of To Kill a Mockingbird it was going to be near impossible to live up to its standards so I didn’t go in to this novel expecting it to be just as good. Which worked out well – it wasn’t ‘blow my socks off’ amazing  but it was intriguing to see how Harper Lee had originally written the characters. Atticus has certainly fallen from his pedestal!

Kid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith

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I thoroughly enjoyed this totally bonkers book with its oddball style and creativity. There are popular culture references (but with a twist) dotted throughout and a huge amount of sound effects making it fab for reading aloud. Kid Normal is going to be an immediate favourite with  middle grade readers. But don’t just take my word for it. Jamieson is a ten year old voracious reader who has this to say:

Kid Normal is epic!!! I’ve read so many books in my life but this is one of my favourites by far. Murph is an ordinary boy with some extraordinary friends. It’s not so bad to be normal. So many funny parts. I kept being told off when I was supposed to be asleep. 10/10″

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Jamieson as Kid Normal on WBD

Giant by Kate Scott is a beautifully written, poignant story that any 9-11 will enjoy. Funny and warm with an important message, this would be a great one for classroom discussion. Bad Mermaids by Sibeal Ponder is sure to be a hit with KS2 girls and I did have fun reading out the puns in the office. Revolt Against the Romans by Tony Bradman is a perfect read for any 9-12year old who enjoys their history. Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage by Paul Whitfield is a delightfully funny and wacky adventure perfect for 7-9 year olds. Certain parts had me cackling out loud in the office, there are so many great characters and accents that make it absolutely perfect for parents to read aloud or a teacher to read to the class.

So it really was an awesome reading month. I enjoyed the majority of the books plus have a brilliant book haul to add to my TBR, to be posted soon. Let me know what you’ve been reading, I’d love to know. Also,  I’m after more titles featuring females in STEM so if you have any recommendations send them my way, fiction or non-fiction. 

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