Friday, 21 April 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Phantom Limbs' by Paula Garner

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am excited to share a review of a book with you I read over my Easter holidays, and absolutely adored. It was one of those books that, once I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading it! It held me captive from the very first page, and didn’t let me go until I had closed the cover.

Of course, this novel is none other than Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner! If you’ve read this book you will understand why this book enraptured me so much. I was kindly sent Phantom Limbs by Walker Books in exchange for an honest review.

Phantom Limbs follows Otis – a keen swimmer, floating through the awkwardness of his adolescent years, missing his once best friend Meg and his deceased younger brother, Mason. Otis is under the control of Dara, who is coaching him for the Olympics, however things begin to unravel when Meg expectantly moves back to town. Suddenly, everything that Otis has known for the past three years is thrown up in the air – and he thinks he can never be the same Otis again.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here…

How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

As soon as I read the first page of Phantom Limbs I knew it was a book I would devour in a mere couple of days. I was completely swept up in the writing – it was humorous, heartfelt and overwhelmingly honest. Otis is such a wonderful character and entirely believable, and I was rooting in his corner the whole way throughout the book. All the characters in this book jumped out from the pages right into my heart – my favourites were Otis, Dara and Meg – even through sometimes she infuriated me so much that I wanted to scream into the book (not recommended – people will think you’re crazy). All of the characters and the situations they found themselves in were so relatable and realistic – Garner has a knack at writing teenagers, for teenagers. 

There were so many layers to this book – it was something I could lose myself in and was the perfect holiday novel, but Garner also touched upon so many important issues that are vital for people, especially young people, to read about. Grief, relationships, sexuality, disability and mental health are all delicately and brilliantly handled - I didn't felt patronised as a reader, and really appreciated this insight I received into the characters' minds.

Phantom Limbs is a book that is desperately sad, but leaves the reader with a distinct sense of hope for the future - that is not cheesy and hard working. This is an intensely realistic book that portrays life as it is - all with it's knocks and bumps and jolts along the way. Garner shows us that life isn't always perfect, but when things go wrong, there is always a happiness to be found in something. 

Garner's writing is fresh, invigorating and magnificent - this is about as good as YA gets. This is an extraordinary debut, and I can't wait to see what Paula Garner writes next <3

I adored Phantom Limbs, and I'm sure you will too! Rush out to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy, or click the link below.

Buy Phantom Limbs here:

Check out Paula Garner here:

Until next time :)

Friday, 14 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW | 'And Then We Ran' by Katy Cannon (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am delighted to be sharing with you another review of a book I finished this week... And Then We Ran by the wonderful Katy Cannon. And Then We Ran  is a beautiful story following Megan and Elliott and their adventure of a lifetime. It's a novel about following and chasing your dreams no matter what anyone else has to say. I think it's a brilliant book with a great message at it's heart, with perfect writing and unforgettable characters that won't leave you, even after the very last page.

I was kindly sent And Then We Ran by Stripes Publishing, in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

A road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.

Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.

Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future – but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead…

And Then We Ran was a brilliant book from start to finish, with a great fast-paced storyline and vibrant yet realistic teenage characters. The book is blurbed as being perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, and I definitely got that heartwarming, reassuring, summer-reading vibe from this book (despite the fact that it's set in winter!) I really liked the Welsh setting, and it gave the book a sort of individuality to set it apart from other road trip novels. The small town of St Evaline was so well depicted and described and I think it was the perfect setting for this book.

I love novels whose narrative are split into two different perspectives, and this book was no different. Megan and Elliott were two strong, likeable characters that were sharply and smartly written. They were totally believable and I can actually imagine the two of them existing somewhere, which is important when depicting teenage characters. Their relationship was very well developed and great to read about. Cannon is evidently a master at writing characters who the reader can connect to, and actually care about.

I think that YA fiction is massively ignoring the issue of further education, and I think that it should be written about much more. Cannon tackles this issue and I could definitely relate to the way Megan was feeling (I was very determined about taking a creative writing degree - much to the bewilderment of some of my teachers, and at first, my parents) and I think the issue was very well dealt with in this book. Cannon was not patronising in the least and I like how she gave her characters the chance to grow and develop and make their own decisions, all whilst showing the importance of having a healthy and respectful relationship with parents.

I liked the back-story of Lizzie's death, though at times I felt that it was slightly forgotten about, even though it clearly impacted about many of the events that occur throughout the novel. I wanted Lizzie's death to be dealt with more, maybe some flashbacks to the court hearing and so forth, and this is the only reason this review is 4*s instead of 5.

However, overall I loved this book, and the ending was everything that I wanted it to be. I definitely got that warm, comforted feeling once I turned the very last page, which is everything you want at the end of a book like this.

So rush down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy of And Then We Ran! I promise you you won't regret it, I can definitely see it being one of the books to read this summer. 

Last week I was part of the blog tour for And Then We Ran - where Katy Cannon spoke about her own career journey, and the importance of not only realising but actively pursuing your dreams. Check out that post here

Buy And Then We Ran here:

Check out Katy Cannon here:

Until next time :) 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | 5* REVIEW | 'The Mysterious Librarian' by Dominique Demers

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be sharing a review with you of another gorgeous children’s book – The Mysterious Librarian, by Dominique Demers, illustrated by Tony Ross. Over Christmas I reviewed the first book in the amazing Miss Charlotte series, The New Teacher, which you can check out here.

I was kindly sent The Mysterious Librarian by Alma Books, in exchange for an honest review :)

The Mysterious Librarian is the second book in the Miss Charlotte series, following this eccentric lady as she embarks on another adventure – this time, the taking over of a library, in a town that seems to have forgotten about the vital importance about books. Constantly in battle with the grumpy mayor, Miss Charlotte soon enough succeeds and transforms the library into a magical place that the town’s children fall in love with, however problems arise when Miss Charlotte gets a little too engrossed in the books. Will the children be able to wake her up again? Or will they lose her forever?

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here…

When the mysterious and eccentric Miss Charlotte arrives in the village of Saint-Anatole to take over the tiny library, the locals are surprised to find out that she does things differently. Wearing a long blue dress and a giant hat, she takes her books out for a walk in a wheelbarrow and shows the children that reading can be fun and useful. Sometimes she is so caught up in the magic of the stories she shares with her audience that she forgets all sense of reality - so much so that one day she loses consciousness and the children must find a way to bring her back.

The second in Dominique Demers's popular The Adventures of Miss Charlotte series, The Mysterious Librarian, brilliantly illustrated by Tony Ross, is a wonderful story about the magical and inspiring power of books.

I absolutely loved everything about this book, hence the 5* review. Yet again, the illustrations were top-notch, and really did bring the story to life. The characters in this book were just as realistic and loveable as in the first book, and the storyline was as exciting and gripping and action-packed as I expected it to be. Miss Charlotte is certainly a character that all children will fall in love with, and ardently care about, until the very last page.

I loved how the importance of reading (and the sheer joy of it) was emphasised in this book, also the significance of libraries – a very topical issue at the moment! This is truly a magical book, made even more magical by the fact that it shows that reading is just, if not even more, exciting than watching TV!

The letters between Leo and Marie were such an adorable inclusion to the book, and I loved how a character from the previous book was included in this one. Demers writes in such a fresh, exciting way that will immediately grip children’s imaginations and wish that they had a librarian like Miss Charlotte! The characters are larger than life – I especially liked the Mayor Mark Peevish with his love of ginormous pastrami sandwiches!

This book is recommended for children aged 6-8, however you could read this book aloud to children younger than this – it is honestly a book that every member of the family will enjoy – including the grownups!

Buy The Mysterious Librarian here:

Check out Dominique Demers here:

Check out Alma's brilliant selection of children's books here:

Until next time :)

Monday, 10 April 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'The Possessions' by Sara Flannery Murphy

Hey guys, and happy Monday! I hope you have all had lovely weekends and have been making the most of the gorgeous weather.

Today I am very excited to be sharing a review with you of a book I read recently, which I absolutely adored. Just before Christmas Scribe Publishing sent me a wonderful package complete with chocolate, bath bombs, lipstick and a book that looked as delicious as the rest of the goodies. As soon as I read the blurb I knew The Possessions would be a book I could devour in a few days, and I wasn't wrong!

The Possessions is a haunting novel following Edie, a young woman who works for the Elysian society, a place where people who are grieving can reconnect with their lost loved ones. Edie spends her days channeling the dead, escaping from herself and her dark, troubled past. But when she gets too deeply wrapped up in the life of one of her clients, and his wife's mysterious death, Edie begins to lose a sense of herself, and gets lost within the shell of this other woman, who suddenly seems to not be entirely different to herself...

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients. 

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls. 

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets. 

A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

From the very first line of The Possessions, it's fair to say I was hooked. Sara Flannery Murphy has such an electrifying way of writing, in a way that is fresh and inventive and vibrant. Although this novel is set in an unnamed city, I had such a sure idea of the setting and this anonymity of place really added to the dark mystery colouring the novel.

I thought Edie was a brilliant character and I think the way the novel was written really brought out the elusiveness and distance of her character. There was also a sense of unpredictability with Edie and I never knew what she was going to do next, which kept me turning the pages impatiently until, sadly, reaching the very last page.

The Possessions is a novel that is so brilliantly fast-paced and sharply written, perfect for fans of Only Ever Yours - defined by realistic characters, haunting secrets and definitely a feminist edge. It is a novel full of grit and darkness, but there is a sense of hope at the end, one for a future that will allow Edie to move on from her distressing and traumatic past. 

I felt like I was on tenterhooks throughout the novel and I loved the way that Sara Flannery Murphy didn't reveal Edie's haunting secret until the last few chapters. It kept me guessing throughout and, coupled with Edie's eccentric and unpredictable character, this made for an incredibly tense reading experience. There were plenty of twists and turns throughout The Possessions... Sara Flannery Murphy has perfected the art of sharp, electrifying writing. This is an absolute belter of a debut novel and I can't wait to see what Murphy comes up with next!

I think it's pretty clear from this review that I adored The Possessions and I think it makes for perfect holiday binge-reading... pop down to your local bookshop to grab it for your Easter holidays!

A few weeks ago I participated in The Possessions blog tour, where I got the opportunity to interview Sara about all things ghost stories, the importance of writing through self-doubt, and the influence of the Gothic in the novel. Check that interview out here: 

Buy The Possessions here:

Check out Sara Flannery Murphy here:

Until next time :)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

BLOG TOUR | 'And Then We Ran' by Katy Cannon | What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Hey guys, and happy Saturday! Today I am very excited to be on blog tour, to celebrate the publication of the WONDERFUL And Then We Ran, a YA coming-of-age road trip story filled with adventure, romance and all the feels. As soon as I heard about this book I knew that I needed to have it in my life, especially as the book is blurbed as being perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Rainbow Rowell (two of my favourite authors!) 

And Then We Ran is a beautiful story following Megan and Elliott and their adventure of a lifetime. It's a novel about following and chasing your dreams no matter what anyone else has to say. I think it's a brilliant book with a great message at it's heart, with perfect writing and unforgettable characters that won't leave your heart, even after the very last page.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

A road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.

Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.

Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future – but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead…

A review will be shortly coming up on my blog, but in the meantime, here is Katy Cannon herself talking about her career journey, and what it feels like to be doing a job that she is truly passionate about...

Some people, it seems, know exactly what they want to do for a living from a very young age. (My husband, for instance, knew he wanted to be a scientist long before he first blew up the family garage at the age of ten.) Others don’t have a clue, and try out lots of possible jobs before they find the one that suits them best. And for some very lucky people, the perfect job finds them when they’re not looking. 

In AND THEN WE RAN, Megan knows she wants to be a photographer - and she’s willing to go to almost any lengths to escape her parents’ expectations for her and achieve her goal. Her childhood best friend, Elliott, has always wanted to study archaeology, but knows the money isn’t there for him to move to London and do the degree he wants, so he’s given up on his dream. At least, until Megan shows up with an outrageous proposal that could get them both exactly what they want.  

But of course, a job isn’t ever your whole life - or it shouldn’t be. It’s only one aspect of things. And Megan and Elliott learn a lot about the other things that matter - family, friends, love - as they take a road trip that could change both their lives forever. 

Personally, I knew I wanted to be a writer from when I was quite young, but like Elliott, I didn’t think it was an achievable goal. I mean, who really gets to make stuff up for a living? No one was ever going to pay me for that. So I figured I needed a back up plan.  

I went to university, got a degree in English Literature, then moved down to London to find work. I temped for a while, and finally got a job organising conferences. This was fantastic as it gave me the chance to travel the world, see places I’d never have visited otherwise, and meet people from all walks of life. It also meant I spent a lot of time in airports, at the back of conference rooms, or in hotels, often alone, and often jet lagged, or waiting for something. It wasn’t exactly downtime - I needed to be where I was, and couldn’t wander off and do something else - but I also wasn’t really working.  

To start with, I read a lot, of course. But then I realised what an opportunity these times were - and I started pursuing my dream again. I started writing a book.  

Once I got back into the habit, it became easier to find ways to slot my writing into my days. When I was at home, I got up an hour early and wrote before I went into the office. On weekends or evenings, I’d take an hour or two to do a little more. And when I was travelling, I took advantage of those pockets of time when all I had to entertain me was my imagination.  

The point is, even though I was working full time in a job I enjoyed, and I had friends and hobbies and family I saw often, and all the usual life stuff going on - I was also a writer, because I was writing.  

That’s basically the only criteria. Writing. 

These days, I’m a published author, I write full time, and I can officially say on forms that my occupation is: Writer. (And I always grin when I do.) It’s by far the best job in the world, and I know how fortunate I am to be doing it. Turns out, it wasn’t impossible, or unachievable after all - it just took a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of learning and an awful lot of faith. Now, I am exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact, these days I get to focus on becoming a better writer, with each new book I write. 

So if you have a dream, don’t assume you can’t have it. Look for ways that you can. It might take a lot of work, it might have to be something you do on the side - as well as school, or work, not instead of - but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still leading you the way you want to go. Learn about the paths others have taken to get where you want to go, research the opportunities that could help you, find ways to get better and better at what matters to you. And most of all, don’t give up.  

Because I can tell you, the feeling of getting exactly where you were always meant to go is the best thing ever.  

Thank you so much, Katy, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the tour <3

Buy And Then We Ran here:

Check out Katy Cannon here:

Until next time :) 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | BOOK REVIEW | 'Who Let the Gods Out?' by Maz Evans (****)

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am very excited to be sharing with you a review of a book I read aagggggeeees ago, but due to the pressures and stress of this semester I never got the chance to write my review!

Today I am going to be reviewing Who Let the Gods Out? by Maz Evans. Who let the Gods Out is a brilliant children's book packed full of adventure, humour and plenty of heart. As soon as I heard about this title I knew I had to read it, and I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy!

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Elliot's mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo - a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world - and solving Elliot's problems too?

Who Let the God's Out is one of the best children's books I have read in a while. Packed with jokes for the grown ups, and characters that will stick with you long after the very last page, this is truly a book that people of all ages will enjoy. I love the way that Evans writes; she simply does bring the story and the characters to life. My favourite characters were Elliot, Virgo and Zeus and scenes with them were nothing but absolutely hilarious.

However, there is a lot more to this book than simply the humour. Who Let the Gods Out? also tackles some serious issues - obviously addressed in a way for children to understand - such as Elliot being a young carer. I found the moments between Elliot and his mum really quite upsetting but also heartwarming to read, and this relationship was such a great and important edition to the story. 

Maz Evans does not patronise readers and the novel is not only brilliantly nuanced and smartly written but there are also so many bits to appeal to reluctant readers. From the actual aesthetic of the book (those sprayed edges, oh my) and the superbly sharp illustrations, to the dramatic action and tension, Who Let the Gods Out works as a book to get your child reading, or for reading out loud at bedtime. The book also encourages some extra research into mythology and I can definitely see it inspiring kids to find out more about Zeus and all the other gods!

Overall I think it's pretty clear that I loved Who Let the Gods Out? and would recommend it to readers both young and old! 

Check out the interview I did with Maz Evans on my blog here:

Buy Who Let The Gods Out? here:

Check out Maz Evans here:

Until next time :)