Guest Post

Guest Post: Books With The Boy

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Followers of my blog know that Charlotte from Charlotte Somewhere is one of my closest blogging friends. I love so much about Charlotte’s blog – her acerbic wit, her photography and her coffee recommendations come straight to mind. The other thing I love about her blog is a regular feature called Books With The Boy. This is a collaboration between Charlotte and nearly-7-year-old S. 

S has kindly written a guest review of Simon Sock by Sue Hendra. I’m particularly excited by S’s instructions for making a Simon Sock sock-puppet. Thanks to S and Charlotte for this wonderful guest post. birdI liked about Simon Sock when he had to run away from Mr Twinkle-toes so he did not get eaten. But I did not like when the spotties were mean to Simon because that is not nice. I would give Simon Sock one million and thousand stars out of five stars.

I made a sock puppet about Simon Sock with my mum, by doing these instructions:

sockpuppetYou will need a sock, some scissors for a grown-up, three pipe cleaners, googly eyes, superglue and the end of a cardboard box.

First you need to put on some superglue to stick on the googly eyes. You have to put the cardboard right down inside the sock, all the way to the bottom before the superglue goes on because otherwise the sock will get stuck to your fingers.

Then stick on the eyes to the superglue on the sock and hold it until the eye is stuck but don’t get your finger stuck. Aaaarrrgghhh.

Next you need to get a grown-up to cut two holes on the top and two holes on the sides. Cutting holes in socks is very dangerous so you need your grown-up to do this bit so you don’t get all cutted up. . You put one pipe cleaner through the middle hole and shape it into arms however you like. I was trying to tie mine in a knot to make some hands.

Then put two pipe cleaners in the ear holes and shape them however you like to make two sticking out ears.

And then that is it.

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Review: Rebound by Kwame Alexander

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Extract: 

‘Hoop kings SOAR
in kicks with wings.
Game so sweet
it’s like bee stings.’

(Rebound by Kwame Alexander.) 

birdSynopsis:

1988. Charlie Bell is trying to cope with the loss of his Dad, but he finds it difficult to express his emotions. When he gets into trouble following the wrong crowd, Charlie is sent to spend the summer with his grandparents. He is introduced to a routine of hard work, and respect … and basketball.

Charlie is a legend on the court. Can he stay out of trouble long enough to make something of his talent?

birdReview:

Kwame Alexander’s prose poetry novels have been one of my favourite discoveries of 2018. I picked them up at the Andersen blogger event earlier this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about them since. The poetry has a huge emotional depth. Prose poetry proves that one line can say more than a whole chapter.

Charlie Bell is the dad in The Crossover. Rebound is the story of his childhood, and how he came to play basketball. I felt as if I was right there with Charlie, following his ups and downs. He’s not a bad kid but he doesn’t know how to resume life after losing his dad. He would rather bottle his emotions up and isolate himself. This is making him vulnerable to trouble.  

Rebound is perfect for people who think they don’t like reading. The second-by-second account of basketball games will prove popular with sports fans, as will Alexander’s sports-based metaphors. Charlie is a relatable protagonist and the book has a strong supporting cast. Some of the poems are told through comic strips, which should engage fans of graphic novels.

The story is a prequel to The Crossover but the two can be read in any order. Having read The Crossover, I loved the extra information this gave us about Charlie Bell’s life, and I found the ending particularly poignant. If I had to recommend a reading order, I would suggest reading The Crossover first.

Another winner from Kwame Alexander. Be warned – buy multiple copies because you will want to share this with everyone.

 

Thanks to Andersen Press for my copy of Rebound. Opinions my own.

 

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Seven series I need to finish

There is something to be said for a good standalone. Or a trilogy. I am likely to finish a trilogy unless I don’t enjoy the first book, but it takes a compelling world and premise to keep me through seven or eight books. 

My unfinished series seem to fall into roughly two categories – 

  • Dystopian books popularised after The Hunger Games (which, tbh, seem to be languishing on my shelves)
  • Middle-Grade detective books (which I can’t wait to read, but haven’t got through yet) 

Do you notice any trends in your unfinished fiction? Do you plan to finish any of the unread series on your shelves? Let me know in the comments below. Leave your TTT links and I will get back to you ASAP. 

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Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden

Of all the dystopian books on my shelves, these are the ones I am most likely to finish. This is an Australian YA series written in the 1990s. It was republished and turned into a film in the wake of The Hunger Games. War breaks out. A group of teenagers who were camping when their town was rounded up form a rebellion. 

I am sorry I didn’t finish this back in 2010. It was a good series to read at 21, when I was closer in age to the 18-year-old protagonists. Read these outdoors on a hot summer’s afternoon. 

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

We all know our factions, we have strong feelings about Tris and Four, but how many of us finished the Divergent trilogy? I read Divergent before it was published in the UK, ran to the bookshop the day Insurgent was released … then never finished it.

 

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens 

I am working my way through this series at the moment. It is a middle-grade mystery series which is particularly addictive. The clues are spelled out by the fictional detectives in a way which enables the reader to work through the puzzle. 

 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I remember this dystopia being well-written. It was set in an unusual world and there were some interesting sibling relationships. 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was another US hit which I heard about ahead of the UK release. I liked the concept of building a story around vintage photographs. The story itself didn’t hook me. I’ve read better timeslip novels. I would love to see the Tim Burton adaptation, however, because I can’t think of a better director-novel pairing. 

 

Ruby Redfort by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort is recruited by top-secret agency SPECTRUM to help them break a secret code. The first book turned into an amazing action-adventure. I would love to return to this series. 

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies is centered around a brilliant premise. It is set in a world where everyone is operated on to become beautiful at the age of 16. The world is divided between uglies and pretties. A young girl realises there is more to this set-up than meets the eye, and the further she investigates, the more lies and corruption she finds. I enjoyed Uglies and Pretties, but by Specials, I found the plot a bit melodramatic and difficult to believe. I should return and finish the series because I would like to know how the story ends. 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Boy Underwater by Adam Baron

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Synopsis:

Cymbeline Igloo has never been swimming. He’s never known why, but he thinks it has something to do with his Dad. The one who died when he was small.

Then an incident during a school swimming triggers Mum’s depression and makes Cymbeline question what happened. What is the real reason he has never, ever been swimming? Together with his friends Cymbeline pieces together the clues and goes in search of the truth.

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Review:

 A heartwarming mystery about grief and honesty. This reminded me of My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Anabel Pitcher. Both stories are about the parents as equally as they are about the children, both are humorous and both stories feature young protagonists with captivating voices.

You will laugh as much as cry. Cymbeline (‘yes really’) tells it like it is. The story captures the child’s worldview perfectly, from the characters at school to the way he maps the local area by places he has been to for parties and clubs. I love the part where is out after dark and he realises he is the only child outside. Suddenly everybody and everything looks a bit creepy and it brings back memories of being exactly the same age.

One of the big themes is about the importance of being honest about difficult subjects. Children are born with a radar for unsaid words. Not explaining something properly leaves children to fill the gaps for themselves, and this can be more frightening than knowing the truth. The story shows how children pick up on the smallest clues.  

The other storyline I loved was about Cym’s aunt and uncle. They have more money than Cym’s Mum, and they beahve as if they are in a different league to other people. The books pokes gentle fun at them while showing that they aren’t particularly happy. The story concludes that making money is well and good, but treating other people with courtesy is more important. 

A lovely book for raising empathy, for PTSD-awareness and for thinking about how we relate to other people. Cym is the sort of character who stays in your head. I have a sneaking suspicion I will read this one again.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour –

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Thanks to Laura Smythe PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Opinions my own.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Five Books to read by the pool

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June 21st marks the longest day of summer. We’re in the lightest weeks of the year. What is is about long summer days and contemporary fiction? Suddenly I want something lighter, brighter and totally relatable. 

I like to read outdoors on a lounger, or in the summer house. The swallows are here at the moment and I love looking up from my page to see them diving around like ariel acrobats. Storm Hector aside, we’ve had some lovely weather. Being outside makes me appreciate life and be in the moment. There is something about being in a place with no WiFi. 

Whether you are heading somewhere hot or plan to spend some lazy afternoons outdoors, you need good TBR pile. These five books would make excellent summer reading. 

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How To Write A Love Story by Katy Canon 

Tilly has always wanted to be an author like her gran, the bestselling romance novelist Bea Frost. When Gran asks Tilly to write her next romance novel, Tilly is forced to confront the fact she has never been kissed. She sets out with an action plan but finds that real life isn’t like a novel.

Read my review of How To Write A Love Story here. 

 

Floored (Collaborative) 

Six teenagers from different backgrounds are thrown together when they watch a man die in a lift. They meet on the anniversary over the next five years, falling out, falling in love and supporting each other through their different problems. 

Seven of the biggest names in UKYA have joined together to produce an epic novel. It hasn’t been revealed which author wrote which part (the six characters and the narrator.) This is causing huge conversation in the online YA community. 

 

The Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Bennet’s bookshop has always been a refuge for sixteen year old Paige. It is where she can earn some money and escape from her sleepy hometown. When Bennet’s is threatened with closure, Paige is determined to save it. How can she get people interested in their local bookshop. 

I spent 18 happy months working part-time in an independent bookshop. I can’t begin to tell you what that shop meant to me, or what I would have done to save it. Bookselling is different from other branches of retail. The conversations between staff and customers make it about so much more than shifting units. A bookshop can be a community. 

 

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington 

Everyone is happy about the new non-uniform policy at school except Andy. How is she supposed to compete with the kids who have money for new clothes? Then Andy finds a bag of designer clothes in her mum’s vintage shop. Can she embrace vintage and help to transform the shop into something special? 

Laurel Remington is the author of the hugely readable The Secret Cooking Club books. I am on the blog tour for The Polka Dot Shop and look forward to telling you more ASAP. 

 

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt 

Hope lands an internship working backstage on a major production. Her plans to work hard and make a name for herself are sidetracked when she meets an insanely talented understudy. What should take centre stage – romance or ambition?

I love stories set in theatres and performing communities. The old-fashioned theatre setting won me over before I had even finished reading the blurb. I have high hopes for this and look forward to telling you more. 

 

What are you reading this summer? Do you read any particular genres over the summer months? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

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Extract:

Time is standing still. It has become trapped inside an eighth of a second like a luna moth inside a mason jar. There is a way out, of course. There is one means by which the moth can escape and time can fly irrevocably free. Each of you must vote during the last three minutes of every wake. You must choose the single person among you who will survive.

(Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. P31.)

birdSynopsis:

Bee hasn’t spoken to her best friends since her boyfriend’s death a year before. Now she is ready to face them. On the night she confronts them, she and her friends are in a car crash. They are transported to a Neverworld Wake – a strange dimension where pockets of time repeat themselves. A sinister man known as the keeper tells the friends that only one of them can return to life. There must be a consensus about who that person should be.

Trapped in a strange reality, Bee and her friends hash over what happened the year before as each tries to figure out ways to manipulate the Neverworld Wake.

birdReview:

Imagine The Secret History, throw in some physics and add a Hunger-Games style survival contest. That’s Neverworld Wake. If it sounds like an odd combination, just you wait. It doesn’t just work. It sucks you in and keeps hold of you until you’re on the final page.

If physics and alternate realities aren’t your thing, don’t be put off. The Neverworld mirrors the characters’ lives, so most of the locations from the real world feature in the story. Essentially the world enables the characters to move about in time and space. This allows them to solve a case which has been written off as a suicide. 

There are two major questions throughout the novel:

1.) what happened to Jim Mason – rich kid, musical genius and Bee’s boyfriend?

2.) which of the five friends will return from the Neverworld Wake?

Like Bee, the reader is not quite certain who to trust. The mystery is layered and complex. As soon as one question is answered, two more are posed. This kept me turning the pages because I wanted to reach the moment where all became apparent.

I read Marisha Pessl’s debut when I was seventeen and I remember being totally hooked. The book was not branded as YA, but I have always wondered if it would be rebranded. It is one of the novels I remember best from my teens. It kept me hooked with its mix of insanely wealthy characters and unsolved mystery.

I recommend this to readers of mystery novels and to people who like worlds which are slightly dark and edgy. I’m pleased to see Pessl working in YA and look forward to reading more of her work.

 

 

 

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

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Extract:

Hard as I try, I just can’t imagine a world where the next few months working with Callie aren’t miserable. Maybe Callie isn’t the biggest bully in school, but she is not what I would call nice either. 

(Puddin’ by Julie Murphy.) 

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Synopsis:

Millie Michalchuck has spent every summer at Daisy Ranch fat camp. This year will be different. There is a job at her uncle’s gym, her secret crush and she is determined to make it to broadcast journalism camp

 Callie Reyes lives for the Shamrocks, the school dance team. She wants to get to nationals with her team and doesn’t care what she has to do to get there. Millie and Callie have nothing in common. So they think. An act of retribution brings the girls together and they find they have more in common than they thought.

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Review:

A feisty, chatty read full of friendship and attitude. Confession: I haven’t read Dumplin’. It was one of those books everybody was talking about last year, but I never got around to adding it to my pile. Puddin’ is the companion novel, but it works well as a standalone. So well that I am going to put Dumplin’ on order and I have a chart counting down to the film release. So what is the fuss all about?

The first thing I can say is Puddin’ is totally relatable. It is about finding out who our friends are and making choices for ourselves. It also challenges the American High School stereotypes. Sure, at its heart it is about a pretty girl and a smart one, but instead of making them polar-opposites it shows that both have vulnerabilities and flaws. Both girls are regularly judged on their appearance. People write Millie off because she is fat – her word – and everybody assumes Callie is stupid because she is pretty. This shared revelation brings the girls closer.

The other storyline I loved was about Millie’s friend Amanda. Amanda comes out as biromantic ace (that’s someone who is asexual but crushes on both genders.) How refreshing to see a character on the asexual spectrum beginning a relationship. Amanda explains that she knows her sexuality the same way as any straight person knows. Asexuality is the last big unknown in LGBTQA+ and huge numbers of misconceptions still exist.  It is wonderful to see this representation, and three cheers for Millie who accepts and supports her friend.

Friendship, girl-power and chasing your dreams. I have mega-love for this book and look forward to reading Dumplin’.

 

Louise Nettleton

Have you read Dumplin’? Who would your dream cast be for the film? Let me know in the comments below.