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Mini Pin-It Reviews #23 – Four Graphic Novels

Published August 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four graphic novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Coraline – Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

What’s it all about?:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

This beloved tale has now become a visual feast. Acclaimed artist P. Craig Russell brings Neil Gaiman’s enchanting nationally bestselling children’s book Coraline to new life in this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel adaptation.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Full Metal Alchemist Vol 1 – Hiromu Arakawa, Akira Watanabe (Translator)

What’s it all about?:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Manga Classics: Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen, Stacy King, Po Tse (Illustrator) Morpheus Studios (Illustrator)

What’s it all about?:

Beloved by millions the world over, Pride & Prejudice is delightfully transformed in this bold, new manga adaptation. All of the joy, heartache, and romance of Jane Austen’s original, perfectly illuminated by the sumptuous art of manga-ka Po Tse, and faithfully adapted by Stacy E. King.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Lighter Than My Shadow – Katie Green

What’s it all about?:

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books from Netgalley.

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Banned Books 2018 – JULY READ – Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Published August 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Miyax, like many adolescents, is torn. But unlike most, her choices may determine whether she lives or dies. At 13, an orphan, and unhappily married, Miyax runs away from her husband’s parents’ home, hoping to reach San Francisco and her pen pal. But she becomes lost in the vast Alaskan tundra, with no food, no shelter, and no idea which is the way to safety. Now, more than ever, she must look hard at who she really is. Is she Miyax, Eskimo girl of the old ways? Or is she Julie (her “gussak”-white people-name), the modernized teenager who must mock the traditional customs? And when a pack of wolves begins to accept her into their community, Miyax must learn to think like a wolf as well. If she trusts her Eskimo instincts, will she stand a chance of surviving?

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the seventh banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

AUGUST: I Am Jazz– Jessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star Runner– S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George

First published: 1972

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)

Reasons: unsuited to age group, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  Sigh. As I’ve mentioned in past Banned Books posts, sometimes I can see why people have issues with some of the books we review for this feature. Not that I think they SHOULD be challenged/banned but I can see why they might be offensive or problematic. Then there’s other books that we read and throughout the book, I’m struggling to see how anybody could have a problem at all, especially when I look at the reasons behind the challenge. Julie Of The Wolves was one of these latter books for me, I read through it thinking: “Aha! NOW I’m going to find out why there are issues!” And nope, I didn’t. Not even once. Even when I think about back in the early seventies when this was first published – could there have been reasons then? You’ve guessed it – no. I normally like to try and guess the potential reasons and I’m always, always wrong. With Julie Of The Wolves, I couldn’t find a single one!

CHRISSI: I am genuinely confused as to why this book is challenged. I didn’t find it at all offensive. I really am stumped with this one. As for one of the reasons being violence? Really? Children see more violent things on the news which is actually happening in day to day life sometimes so close to them. Video games are a hell of a lot more violent too. I really didn’t see this book as particularly violent. Hunting and death do occur within the story, but it makes sense to the story and most people could rationalise that…

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over forty years old and as it was only challenged/banned in 2002, I don’t believe attitudes have changed much either in the years post publication or since 2002 to the present day. Particularly with these reasons they are giving – I mean, come on! Unsuited to age group?! Where were the unsuitable parts, please someone tell me because I feel like I’m going mad. Seriously. It’s marketed as young adult (possibly even middle grade fiction) and at no point did I feel like this was either too traumatic or indeed too violent for the younger audience. There is hunting and death, sure but it’s necessary for our character to survive out in the Arctic conditions for goodness sake. I honestly think there are many more children’s books (hello Watership Down!) that are more emotionally affecting than this one. *rolls eyes.*

CHRISSI: Definitely not. Again… I’m baffled why this book is challenged. I don’t mean to repeat myself too much but I think the hunting and death in the story is relative to the plot. Children aren’t precious snowflakes. I’d say that from middle grade up they can handle a story like this when worse things are happening in the world that they constantly see, read and hear about.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I thought it was an okay read! I enjoyed Julie’s relationship with the wolves (as a big fan of White Fang when I was younger) and the description of the harsh environment she had to survive in was beautifully done. It was a quick and easy book to get lost in and I thought the illustrations were particularly lovely but I felt Julie’s time spent with her people wasn’t as engrossing or as well written as the parts when she has to get by on her own.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t captivated like I wanted to be. I really liked the illustrations and thought that was a nice touch to the story. I actually wish there were a few more illustrations because I didn’t think the writing of the setting was as evocative as it could have been, especially if we are thinking that children are the target audience for this book. I’m glad that I read this book but it’s not one that will particularly stick with me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I wasn’t captivated but I could appreciate the story!

3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up in the last Monday of August on Banned Books: we review I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye – Cynthia Hand

Published August 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

What did I think?:

The title of this book might give some clues as to the themes within but even still, I wasn’t prepared for the immense sadness and depth of emotions that would continue to surprise me as I read through it. I first came across Cynthia Hand’s writing in her Unearthly series (which I highly recommend to lovers of YA fiction) but I haven’t read anything else by her for a while so I was intrigued as always, to read something else by an author that I’ve previously enjoyed. Hand is a master of beautiful, lyrical prose for young adults and with her writing, you always feel that you’re tapping into something a little bit special and I definitely found this was the case with The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

Cynthia Hand, author of The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

Based around the traumatic topic of suicide, it’s always going to be an unsettling read and I did find myself moved considerably by the whole narrative but I also want to press the fact that I think it’s an important read for teenagers that find themselves in that horrendous situation where they’re dealing with the loss of a family member and they need to have that reassurance that they’re not in it alone, no matter how isolated and devastated they may feel. Sadly, Cynthia herself has personal experience with the loss of a close family member and this really came across in her writing. Essentially, (and the synopsis above really says it all) it’s about a teenage girl, Lex who is struggling to deal with the suicide of her younger brother, Tyler and discover the reasons behind why he wanted to end his own life. As well as this, she’s just trying to live her normal life – keep up her relationships with friends, support her mother who becomes increasingly fractured in the days after Tyler’s suicide and try to come to terms with the fractured love she has with her father who has separated from her mother and built his own, new life away from the family.

I found The Last Time We Say Goodbye to be an incredibly haunting, thoughtful read about such a crucial subject that I really think people need to be more open and honest about. If we have the opportunity to help even one more person and prevent them from taking their own lives, that can only be a good thing. Depression and anxiety is such an isolating, terrifying condition that has the power to overwhelm a normally rational mind and unfortunately, I speak from personal experience. In the novel, Tyler feels that he’s not able to talk to anybody else about what he’s going through, especially not his own family for reasons that become clear as the novel continues.

Obviously, this is clearly a case of his poor mental health over-riding the more reasonable parts of the brain and the fact that his family is having their own issues prevents him from speaking up, and as a result, they are so completely unaware of his dangerous misery in the first place. The sadness about this whole story is that if he had spoken up, especially to his sister Lex, whom he had a previously close relationship with, his death may have been preventable. Afterwards though, there’s that horrible guilt that Lex feels regarding the fact that if he WAS trying to reach out, she may not have realised how crucial it was that she should have talked to him at that particular time.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is another powerful and emotive read from Cynthia Hand that cements her place as an insightful, talented young adult fiction author that is definitely one to watch in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of five):

four-stars_0

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand was the forty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in The Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Thunderhead (Arc Of A Scythe #2) – Neal Shusterman

Published August 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). We read the first book in a new YA fantasy series, Scythe and both instantly fell in love with it. There was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to carry on with the series and continue to buddy read them together so about a month ago, we read the second in the series, Thunderhead.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review this book – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Thunderhead at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Start/1st Break

Beth: Don’t you worry, just whenever you’re ready. I have in my sticky paws a copy of Thunderhead!! When do you want to start and how do you want to divide it up? 🤔

Stuart: We did 100 pages, halfway, 3/4 and the end last time didn’t we? plus little comments here and there 😀 same again?

Beth: Perfect! See you soon! 👍🏻

Beth: Hey Stuart, shall we read until the end of Chapter 9? p100 falls right in the middle of a chapter. 😀

Stuart: Sounds good. I still need to finish my current read so J might be a bit behind you but I will read furiously to catch up.

Beth: Don’t you worry. Take your time, I’ve got plenty to read whilst I wait for you. It’s started off very strong!

Stuart: ‘A scythe in black’

Stuart: 😁

Beth: Yesssssss. Did you see the front cover too? One Scythe in turquoise, one Scythe in black…🤔🤗

Stuart: This cover art is just as superb as the first. I am onyl about 20 pages in due to a busy work schedule but I should be up to speed by tonight!

Beth: 👍🏻

Stuart: Woah! You were right about a strong start. I am glad Lucifer is in it from the beginning, I would have missed him too much if he was a ghost. We are getting some decent insights into The Thunderhead now as well (should have guessed due to the title). That was a bit of an epic moment to stop reading 🤣. Are you as happy with the narrative this time around as you were with Scythe?

Beth: I am, it feels familiar and comfortable to read, like being with an old friend if that doesn’t sound too odd? I am loving how both Lucifer and Anastasia go about their tasks. That scene when Lucifer is confronting Brahms at the beginning – holy hell that was tense! And did you feel as creeped out as I did about the way that Brahms gleans? I used to have a doll that played that lullaby so know it well and the thought of it is plain eerie! 😱

Stuart: I sing Brahms Lullaby to my children! Ruined that forever 😂. I think Thunderhead is actually a lot cooler than Scythe. Looking into more interesting Scythes. What is Scythe Rand going to do with Rowan’s friend? Who is after Citra and Curie? Why is the Thunderhead protecting Lucifer? I need answers! You’re absolutely right about fitting right back in with the story. It is good to be back!

Beth: Haha oh no!! 😳🤣 You’re right, it’s just thrown up so many questions and I’m so intrigued to find out what’s going to happen. We’re getting little snippets from the Thunderhead- are you as surprised as I am about it’s attitude/feelings? I wasn’t expecting THAT! 🤔

Stuart: Very unexpected. It has kind of evolved and moved on from just pure calculations. It has consideration and semi opinions. I loved the image of The Thunderhead nurturing the neglected young man. I am enjoying the insights into its mentality and how it invests time into progressing humanity whole reminding where we came from.

Beth: It’s quite canny as well isn’t it? If it’s limited in its own capabilities it’s quite astute at using other people to get the result it wants! Shall we read on? Where do you want to read to this time?

Stuart: Chapter 26 is central..ish p268. Is that good for you?

Beth: Perfect. See you there. 👌🏻

2nd Break

Stuart: Ooooooh Brahms is going to pay!!!!

Stuart: I’m ready when you are! Lots to talk about 😁

Beth: Ok I’m there! WELL, where do I start? Brahms? The Emerald Scythe? How frustrating I’m finding Tyger? I thought it was bad enough when he was obsessed with splatting in the first

book but now? 🙄

Stuart: He does seem to be Rowan’s weakness though. His oldest friend who stuck with him always. I want to talk about Greyson! What a change of tone for the series. When they were in the prison I laughed to myself and wondered if I was still reading the same book 😅. I do like his addition to the narrative though as it keeps it fresh, I think anyway. I wondering what he is going to do now he is alone? Rand is going to be interesting. Rowan should have seen that coming from a mile off. I am enjoying Scythe Constantine’s unpredictability. So much has happened! Shusterman knows how to keep driving a story forward!

Beth: For sure. Yes the whole Greyson “unsavoury” thing is really interesting! This world just keeps on developing- now we have bars where people can be rude and beat each other up and the staff are employed to take that? To keep the unsavoury contingent happy? Crazy! It’s like they can live out their bad side in a controlled environment? The Thunderhead is also really surprising me in that it has a very deep conscience and can mourn just like everyone else. 🤔

Stuart: Yes indeed. I wonder if it will actually cross a line in the future to save someone or something. I am fascinated by the way it operates and experiments with guidelines and trusting people with their secrecy. It has taken all the necessary steps to allow humanity to flourish and itself to stay fair. I can see it may be becoming corrupted in the future? Manipulated. The rain bit made me sad 🤧. I would say my only problem so far is that Rowan is falling into a trap he should have seen coming due to the fact he has been living in hiding, observing and only striking when needed. Foolish mistakes don’t make sense to me, do you agree or am I wrong?

Beth: Totally agree. I mean, he’s been trained by one of the best, Scythe Faraday and he KNEW he was being hunted so you would have thought he wouldn’t have walked himself straight into that situation, it was naive and didn’t make sense with the character he had become. I guess you could maybe say he was allowing his emotion about his father to cloud his judgement?

Stuart: But he wasn’t that emotional about his father… I guess he is more hurt by the betrayal of a scoundrel Scythe. What do you think Purity has planned? Are you enjoying Thunderhead as much as Scythe?

Beth: Ooh I think she’s been taken in by a rogue Scythe! I have my suspicions who but don’t want to voice it in case I spoil things. I am enjoying it very much, it does feel slightly different though, I can’t explain why? What do you think?

Stuart: It is different but not at all in a bad way. I am impressed by Shusterman’s momentum

and how he manages to make even the slightest development feel pivotal to the overall plot. Everything is changing continuously and I really like it that way. The halfway point means it can go any which way, I suggest we crack on to find out more 😀 Meet back at p409?

Beth: 👍🏻🤗

3rd Break

Stuart: P312! What the hell!

Beth: Aaaaaargh!! I wasn’t expecting THAT!! 😱

Beth: p345 name of one of the Scythes. It’s killing me!! 🤣🤣🤣

Beth: Ready whenever you are! 🤗👍🏻

Stuart: That was pretty funny! I have never known in all my time as a reader an author who can drive a narrative forward with such precision and fascination than Neil Shusterman. The mythology, chaos, calm and considered moves and plenty of raw emotion. What about that twist! Everything is up in the air!

Beth: I know I was so surprised 😳 how on earth are we going to talk about it without giving away major spoilers?! Did you see it coming? Also, I had a feeling that the Tonist cult was going to play a larger part in the narrative, I don’t think we are done with them yet!

Stuart: That seen with Greyson was quite sad. I should have seen it coming but I would have never imagined it would go from that to that in such a short window of time. Crazy! I do think he is going to win though as it would be rock bottom for everyone. I thought Scythe was twisty and riddled with turns but Thunderhead has way surpassed that. I don’t know about this excursion by Faraday. It is the only part of this novel I feel doesn’t fit.

Beth: I feel exactly the same. I’m not sure why they’re going, I think Shusterman is being deliberately vague but he suddenly talks about what all the other scythes in the world are doing and we just haven’t heard anything about that so I’m wondering how it’s all going to fit together? 🤔 I am intrigued though by Scythe Curie’s past gleanings which keep getting alluded to. Have we heard anything about that in the first book or have I missed something? 😅

Stuart: I know what you mean. I must have missed that too. The global view is intriguing but we both know Shusterman always has another great reveal up his sleeve. I have no idea what happens next. With anyone. Especially Greyson, he has been one hell of a journey! Do you have any spoiler free predictions?

Beth: Haha so tricky to find something to say that isn’t a spoiler! 😂🤔 I think that the High Blade will be appointed and it won’t be the best decision 😉 then things will kick off royally across the world and the “incredible journey,” will prove even more important. I am worried for Rowan though especially with the percentage odds The Thunderhead gave him! 😳

Stuart: I like those odds 😀 This post is going to be infuriating because no one has a clue what we are chatting about 😂 only those who have read it will get it. I am looking forward to Endura, let’s continue and meet back at the finish.

Beth: Okay see you then! 😁

Finished

Stuart: What an ending! Neil Shusterman is pure genius! I can’t believe it 😂😭🤯. Good stuff.

Beth: OH. MY. GOD. Just finished. I don’t know what to say! Just when I think I can predict what’s going to happen, he blows it out of the water once more. I thought things might go down in the worst way possible but I still never anticipated that! Haven’t read an ending that good in I don’t know how long?! 🤗😰😭😱😳

Stuart: Totally blew me out of the water (excuse the pun). I don’t know what to say either… Bloody hell 😂. He made me believe right until the last second that there might be salvation and then boom, gone. I can’t imagine what book three is going to look like…

Beth: 😂 I know and Citra and Rowan and Scythe Curie and…the sea life?! It was just brutal and so incredibly tense. I seriously don’t have any nails left, they’re bitten down to the end!!

Stuart: It was a real edge of your seat, hands in the air, talking out loud to nobody pure mayhem finale. I need the next book now!

Beth: I knowwwwwww. When’s it out again?! 😅

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

As you can probably tell, like with the first in the series Scythe, both Stuart and myself absolutely loved this book. It’s always difficult with the second book in a series, particularly if the first one has been so good to live up to the same expectations and I think I can say without any reservations at all that this one is one hundred percent a worthy successor and sequel. From that stunning cover art to the fast-paced story within, Neal Shusterman doesn’t hold back and constantly manages to surprise his reader on every turn of the page.

Neal Shusterman, author of Thunderhead, the second book in the Arc Of A Scythe series.

You might already know that I try to be clever and to anticipate an author’s *moves* before they’ve made them in the narrative. It must be years of reading crime fiction/thrillers and becoming aware of potential twists and turns of a plot? Well, with this series Shusterman has me completely foxed. I NEVER know what to expect and especially what journey he’s going to send his characters on next despite how cunning I try to be with my predictions! However, I think the beauty of this series and the reason I’ve rated both books as high as I have is that it genuinely seems to have it all. I’ve already mentioned the element of surprise but then there is his world-building which is so extraordinarily imaginative and intricate, I feel like he must have spent years dreaming it up. Then there are the characters, particularly Citra and Rowan who are incredibly relatable but I felt strangely connected emotionally to both in addition to this. I really care about each one as an individual, including urging them on, hoping for them to achieve great things and of course, shouting at them when they do something stupid.

I can’t even talk about the ending to this second book in the series. Seriously. Not just because of spoilers but because I’m honestly flabbergasted at the way the author has chosen to take the story, leaving the reader on a precipice, not knowing what on earth to expect when we eventually open the final book in the series. My heart was pounding, my heart was breaking and I was completely astounded by the way events twisted and lurched, leaving the world we have grown to know so well in a very precarious situation. Now I think we have to wait until 2019 to read the final book in the trilogy and I already know it’s going to be one of the most difficult waits I’ve ever had to do for the next novel in a series.

Thank you once again to Stuart for an amazing buddy read experience. I look forward to reading the final book and finishing this series with you! Check out his site today for his thoughts on Thunderhead.

For our non-fiction buddy read: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt, please see our post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

How Not To Disappear – Clare Furniss

Published July 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself” and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery — Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

Non Pratt’s Trouble meets Thelma and Louise with a touch of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Clare Furniss’ remarkable How Not To Disappear is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that will make you laugh and break your heart.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a big thank you to my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for recommending this book as part of my most recent Chrissi Cupboard Month, a bi-annual event where I attempt to get through some of the huge pile of books she has loaned me! I was first compelled to read this novel after being initially attracted by the front cover. Now I don’t normally like “people” on covers but for some reason, I find this one really appealing, there’s something about the colours and the attitude of the woman on the front that makes me smile. Then I read the synopsis and when I realised it touched on the subject of dementia, it was a no-brainer that I had to read it. Dementia is a topic really close to my heart for personal reasons, it’s probably my worst fear of getting older and I was completely right in thinking this would be a touching, emotionally poignant exploration of what it’s like to suffer from it.

Clare Furniss, author of How Not To Disappear.

This is the story of a young woman called Hattie who finds herself unsure about her future path in life, exasperated with her siblings, mother and stepfather and abandoned by her best friends whom it seems, have moved so far away (Edinburgh and Europe) that keeping in touch via email and the occasional text is the best form of contact she can hope for. Worst of all, she now finds herself pregnant with her friend Reuben’s baby and completely stuck as what to do as it seems unlikely Reuben would be willing to settle down. Surprisingly, Hattie then finds herself in contact with an old relative on her late father’s side, Gloria who also finds herself alone, troubled and in need of a friend. Gloria suffers with dementia and whilst her memories are starting to fail her she is determined to travel the length and breadth of the country with Hattie in tow in order to tell her story and make sense of a shattered past. As the two women travel and get to know each other, Hattie might just find the comfort and answers she desperately desires and Gloria may finally find peace along the way.

Hattie and Gloria go on a road trip across parts of the U.K. as we get flashbacks from Gloria’s past.

This book really knew just how to tug on your heart-strings. The dementia is obviously a huge part of the story and it’s absolutely gut wrenching to see how Gloria deteriorates, even in the short time that Hattie has with her but I also found it all so life affirming if that makes any sense? Gloria writes down everything in her little notebook, including tid-bits that Hattie shares with her about her own life and her problems regarding the pregnancy (in that she doesn’t know HOW to feel about it). It really warmed my heart the lengths Gloria went to and how hard she concentrated on trying to get to know Hattie better by any means necessary despite the failures in her own brain. One of my favourite things about this story just has to be Gloria as a character however, she was quite simply wonderful in every aspect of the word. From a very young age, she’s independent, says what she thinks and has a bright spark of a personality that refuses to be tamed. She goes through so much in her life, huge events that attempt to dampen that spark and sadly, they kind of succeed in one way but in another way, you can still see that old Gloria in there, refusing to lie down and be silenced. That just broke my heart.

This is a work of young adult fiction but to be perfectly honest, at no time when I was reading it did it feel that way for me. It delves into some very dark, difficult areas including teenage pregnancy, mental illness, domestic violence and emotional abuse and the intricacies of family relationships and these were all subjects that were handled so sensitively and intelligently that I constantly wanted to read on and uncover the mystery of Gloria’s life. This is a novel that has so much heart and soul emanating from every page and although it made for some tough, bitter-sweet reading moments at points, I’m ever so glad I read it and will certainly be watching out for anything Clare Furniss writes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss was the thirty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #22 – Four YA Novels

Published July 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA books for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) The Swan Kingdom – Zoe Marriott

What’s it all about?:

Shadows have fallen across the beautiful and lush Kingdom. The queen was attacked by an unnatural beast, and the healing skills of her daughter, Alexandra, cannot save her. Too soon the widowed king is spellbound by a frightening stranger – a woman whose eyes reflect no light. In a terrifying moment, all Alexandra knows disappears, including her beloved brothers, leaving her banished to a barren land unlike her own.

Alexandra has more gifts than even she realizes as she is confronted with magic, murder, and the strongest of evil forces. She is unflinchly brave and clever as she struggles to reclaim what she knows is rightfully hers.

This new voice in fantasy weaves a tale rich in visual detail, peppered with a formidable destructive force, and sweetened with familial and romantic love.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place #1) – Maryrose Wood

What’s it all about?:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place are no ordinary children, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess, and mysteries abound in this first volume in a new series for ages 9+.

Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.

Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.

But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance’s holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Drowning (The Drowning #1) – Rachel Ward

What’s it all about?:

What happens if you’ve done something terrible? But you can’t remember what. And you don’t know how to put it right …When Carl opens his eyes on the banks of a lake, his brother is being zipped into a body bag. What happened in the water? He can’t remember And when he glimpses a beautiful girl he thinks he recognizes, she runs away. Suddenly he knows he must find her – because together they must face the truth before it drowns them.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Follow Me Down – Tanya Byrne

What’s it all about?:

The sensationally good Tanya Byrne returns with her new novel – a dark, compulsive tale of obsession and betrayal.

When sixteen-year-old Adamma Okomma, a Nigerian diplomat’s daughter, arrives at exclusive Crofton College in Wiltshire, she is immediately drawn to beautiful, tempestuous, unpredictable Scarlett Chiltern. Adamma and Scarlett become inseparable – until they fall for the same guy. Soon the battle lines are drawn and Adamma is shunned by Scarlett and her privileged peers. But then Scarlett goes missing and everything takes a darker turn. Adamma always knew that Scarlett had her secrets, but some secrets are too big to keep and this one will change all of their lives for ever.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Graphic Novels.

 

The Curse Of Time (Bloodstone #1) – M.J. Mallon

Published July 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who’s imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house. When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden pathway where she encounters Ryder, a charismatic, but perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set, and some crystal wizard stones she discovers the truth about a shocking curse that has destroyed her family’s happiness.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the author for getting in touch via email and offering to send me a copy of her debut novel, the first in the Bloodstone series, The Curse Of Time in exchange for an honest review. The author is a fellow blogger and publishes a wide variety of posts including book reviews, author interviews, haiku poetry and snippets of her own writing life. Visit her website HERE. I’ve been in the mood for a good young adult fantasy for a while now and as soon as I read the synopsis, with the promise of a magical curse and a female lead character with a difficult past, I was instantly intrigued to get started. Generally, I found this to be a highly imaginative work of fiction with bucket loads of promise for both character and plot development. I have to admit it took me a little while to get into the flow and rhythm of the story, but once I was there, it was impossible to put the book down without becoming quite embroiled in a fascinating mystery.

M.J. Mallon, author of The Curse Of Time.

I don’t want to delve much deeper into the plot of this novel, the synopsis above does that more than adequately and the beauty of this story is definitely discovering all its secrets for yourself. I do want to touch on a few things that I really enjoyed and mention why I haven’t given it a higher rating. To begin with, I’d like to mention the characters which were perfectly drawn and enjoyable to read about. I particularly enjoyed our heroine, Amelina and Ryder (although the less said about this latter character the better, I believe saying anything would be giving away major spoilers!). Indeed, it was Ryder and Esme, the girl trapped in the mirror who were the most interesting aspects of this story for me. They both had an air of mystery, desperation, sadness and curiosity and were probably the most compelling reason for me wanting to read on. I also want to take a moment to mention the gorgeous illustrations in my copy of The Curse Of Time which really added something special to my reading experience and that I was delighted to share on my Instagram account, I was so entranced by them:

Esme And The Mirror by Carolina Russo – visit her website HERE.

As I alluded to earlier, the breadth of the author’s imagination is undeniable and I loved her foray into the powerful properties of crystals, the importance of friends and family and (one of my favourites) magical talking household objects! Who doesn’t love that? I also admired that she isn’t afraid to go to some dark places in her fiction, including dysfunctional relationships, self-harm, emotionally unhealthy relationships etc and this only served to make her narrative more gritty and authentic. My only slight issue with this book is that because so much seemed to be going on at once, occasionally the story felt a bit “busy” and everything just felt a little bit rushed where at times, I did struggle to catch up. Unfortunately, I did feel that sometimes the dialogue between the characters suffered at these points and became a little stilted which was a shame.

On the other hand, it did wonderfully illustrate the veritable explosion of great ideas M.J. Mallon has and certainly no one could ever accuse this novel of being dull or lacking in originality. If you’re a fan of fantasy/magical-based narratives that walk on the slightly darker side of life I would definitely suggest The Curse Of Time as an intriguing read from a hugely promising author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Curse Of Time was the thirty-fifth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!