Review: Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Goodreads | Waterstones

Being the smallest doesn’t stop you having the biggest ideas.
Eleven-year old Noah sneaks along on his big sister’s geography field trip. Everything goes wrong! Six kids are marooned on an uninhabited island. Their teacher has vanished. They’re hungry. Their phones don’t work and Noah has broken the internet. There’s no way of contacting home . . . Disaster!
Until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang goes in search of gold.

This book was so much fun. I can’t even tell you how many times this book made me chuckle and fully laugh out loud, which I always find rare with books.

This one follows Noah, who has snuck in the back of the minibus on his sister’s geography field trip. The unlikely gang end up on a deserted island, and now they have to band together to try and survive on the island and maybe also fix the internet too (I still don’t quite understand what that bit was all about!).

I loved this unlikely group, who were so much fun to read about and had some great interactions. Noah made such a funny narrator with a lot of honesty that I think so many kids will relate to. The illustrations were so good and complemented the story so well too. This one is definitely an adventure story at it’s heart, and I really enjoyed blasting through it and seeing where it was going to go.

The friendship group were so heartwarming to read about and there was also some interesting discussions of living without technology too. It’s great to see these kinds of stories being so popular with children.

Although there was a lot of fun plot, I didn’t quite understand where the ‘internet’ aspect fit, which did let it down a little bit for me. I just feel like this book was strong without this extra seemingly quite random aspect to the story that also didn’t feel fully fleshed out.

Overall, this one was so much fun and I’ll definitely be recommending it to a lot of kids at work!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Goodreads | Waterstones

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy.
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.
Welcome back to the Sinclair family.
They were always liars.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’m glad I grabbed the opportunity to pick up this book when I was offered the chance, because I honestly don’t think I’d have picked it up otherwise. Reading We Were Liars and Family of Liars back to back was such a great experience, I really felt the atmosphere and got so tangled up in the writing.

I really like the unique writing style of the Liars books. I’ve read quite a few of E. Lockhart’s books over the years and We Were Liars was always the most memorable one for me. The atmosphere is also impeccable and may well be my favourite thing about this series as a whole. It made me feel like I really want to go on holiday and gave me all of the summer vibes, despite the dark undertones to these thrillers.

I felt quite a lot of disconnect between the characters from Family of Liars and We Were Liars, and I also found them harder to like and relate to in this book. I have mixed feelings for all of the Liars, but this one just felt a little more forgettable to me.

Overall, I did enjoy a lot of aspects of this book and it definitely kept me reading! Thank you Hot Key for the opportunity to read-along this one!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Goodreads | Waterstones

We are the Liars.
We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.
We are cracked and broken.
A story of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
You decide.

I have actually read this one before, but it’s now been 6 years since I first picked it up. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book half as much as when I first read it, honestly, but I did still enjoy it a lot. This one is definitely aimed at a much younger audience than me, and I did love it as a teen, but it’s still enjoyable now. I wasn’t necessarily aiming to re-read this one, but when I was offered a copy alongside Family of Liars, I decided to go for it.

I’m glad I picked it up, and it was exactly what I needed at the moment. The chapters are only a couple of pages, which means it was super quick to read and easy to get through. It’s also only just over 200 pages, meaning I read it in a couple of days.

We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged.

I’m glad it’s been so long since I read it, because I had honestly forgotten completely what happened at the end and I was shocked and surprised all over again. The writing was also brilliant, and once you get used to the prose, it’s unique but really enjoyable to read. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d get back into it, and I’m glad I read Family of Liars directly afterwards while I was still in the same mood.

I do have mixed feelings about the family themselves and the characters, but I did still enjoy reading their story. Even if I didn’t like the Liars themselves, the way they were written about was so clever, powerful and emotional.

We are cracked and broken.

Overall, this might not have been quite as enjoyable on a 6 years later re-read, but I did still really like it and I’m glad I picked it up again!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Good Intentions by Kasim Ali

Goodreads | Waterstones

It’s the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve and Nur is steeling himself to tell his parents that he’s seeing someone. A young British Pakistani man, Nur has spent years omitting details about his personal life to maintain his image as the golden eldest child. And it’s come at a cost.
Once, Nur was a restless and insecure college student, struggling to present himself after being transplanted from his hometown with only the vaguest sense of ambition. At a packed house party, he meets Yasmina, a beautiful and self-possessed aspiring journalist. They start a conversation–first awkward, then absorbing–that grabs Nur’s attention like never before. And as their relationship develops, moving from libraries and cramped coffee shops to an apartment they share together, so too does Nur’s self-destruction. He falls deeper into traps of his own making, attempting to please both Yasmina and his family until he no longer has a choice. He must finally be honest and reveal to those who raised him the truth he’s kept hidden: Yasmina is Black, and he loves her.

Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I thought I’d like this book, but I didn’t quite expect to love it as much as I did. I picked this up because it reminded me a little of The Big Sick, which I really enjoyed. This one follows Nur as he struggles to face his parents about his relationship with Yasmina.

This one discusses culture, religion and race in a lot of depth, which was super interesting if a little difficult to read about. It flicks between Nur and Yasmina meeting to present day, where Nur has finally faced his parents and told them about his relationship. Even though we skip months of time in places, I still felt really close to Nur and the other characters.

Sometimes there is an emptiness inside him so large it would take the entire world to fill. 

Even though Nur makes a lot of questionable and regrettable decisions, I couldn’t help but relate to him on many levels. He suffers with anxiety and panic attacks, and I felt like these were quite emotional moments which I related to on a personal level.

There was a lot of discussions of difficult issues outside of this too, including depression and suicidal thoughts. I would have liked to have seen a discussion of therapy, but I did like the focus on friendships and family relationships. I listened to the audiobook of this one and I really enjoyed it, and it was easy to follow between the changing times and years.

It comes and goes as it pleases, triggered by nothing specific.

I must admit I felt really emotional at the end of this book, which I didn’t expect. I’m not 100 percent sure how I felt about the ending, but I will admit it really gave me a lump in my throat. I really enjoyed it overall and would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you’d enjoy!

CWs: past self harm, racism, anti-Blackness, colourism, past attempted suicide, panic attacks

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Moominsummer Madness (#5) by Tove Jansson

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The Moomins, in case you didn’t know, are kind, philosophical creatures with velvety fur and smooth round snouts, who live in a tall blue house in a beautiful woodland valley beside the sea.
One summer a grumbling volcano causes Moominvalley to flood, forcing the Moomin family to leave their beloved home and find refuge on a floating theatre. When this casts adrift, leaving Moomin, the Snorkmaiden and Little My marooned on land, Moominsummer Madness ensues. Will they all be reunited before the final curtain?

I’ve wanted to read a Moomin book for such a long time, and Courtney bought me this one for Christmas to sink my teeth into! Even though this is the 5th book in the series, she did some research and found this is the best one to start with.

I was thrown into this whimsical, magical world of the moomins, which was even weirder than I expected. There’s even a note in the back of this book commenting on how this one stands out for it’s weirdness. What I absolutely adored about this book was how heartwarming it was. Despite all of the randomness, there is also some beautiful sentences that really stood out for their beauty.

I can’t wait to read more from the Moomin adventures! I’d also like to find one of the TV shows to watch somewhere, because I love the look of the new Moominvalley show.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs

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The last thing Jacob Portman saw before the world went dark was a terrible, familiar face.
Suddenly, he and Noor are back in the place where everything began – his grandfather’s house. Jacob doesn’t know how they escaped from V’s loop to find themselves in Florida. But he does know one thing for certain: Caul has returned.
After a narrow getaway from a blood-thirsty hollow, Jacob and Noor reunite with Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children in Devil’s Acre. The Acre is being plagued by desolations – weather fronts of ash and blood and bone – a terrible portent of Caul’s amassing army.
Risen from the Library of Souls and more powerful than ever, Caul and his apocalyptic agenda seem unstoppable. Only one hope remains – deliver Noor to the meeting place of the seven prophesied ones. If they can decipher its secret location. 

So it’s been 7 years since I read the first Miss Peregrine’s book, and I finally finished the series! Thank you to the audiobook versions of the last two books in the series for helping me finally pick them up after owning them since release – I really enjoyed listening to these and it definitely helped with the daunting size of The Desolations of Devil’s Acre.

After following these characters for 6 books, it was definitely bittersweet to see them go, but I’m also ready to move on at the same time.

In the end, our real home had always been one another. 

Maybe it’s just me – but it honestly felt like Ransom Riggs crammed so much plot into this one book, that it’s almost on par with the plot of the first 3 books all together. I was honestly astounded by how much he managed to fit into this last instalment in the series, as I was definitely expecting a shorter wrap-up with not quite as much at stake, but this one definitely went out with a bang.

Although the plot packed a lot in and was quite action packed, it did also feel pretty predictable after 5 of these books. I never felt particularly worried for the characters or on edge, which did let me down. There was just such a lack of tension there for me.

My favourite part of the book was definitely the group of friends, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the ending. Seeing them band together throughout this book and witnessing their banter and the way they treat one another did warm my heart.

And a real home was all I’d ever wanted.

Although I enjoyed this one and the series as a whole, I sadly felt like there wasn’t enough tension to keep me hooked, feeling a bit predictable and quite long!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Goodreads | Waterstones

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

I’ve been wanting to pick up Paper Girls for a long time, having seen it around everywhere and heard many recommendations for it. My boyfriend, Mark, bought me the first volume for my birthday last year, and I finally decided to read it. I’ve heard Paper Girls be compared to Stranger Things, and I loved the parallels between the 1980s paranormal sci-fi you can see in both series.

My brain hasn’t been able to focus much on reading lately, so picking up a graphic novel was just such a great format to be able to sit and digest in half an hour. The text is clear and well spaced, and isn’t overwhelming in the least. It’s also complemented well by a beautiful colour palette and striking illustrations.

I loved the group of characters, who are absolutely badass as a group but are also brilliantly bold with one another. At first, I was a little concerned about some comments one of the characters makes, but this is immediately called out.

This one definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved the mixture of paranormal and real-life 80s neighbourhood. The ending and last few panels left me needing the next volume immediately!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: Skandar the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Goodreads | Waterstones

Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets—especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I was so excited when I received an advanced copy of it last year. The world of middle grade fantasy is rapidly expanding and seeing these new and exciting stories is so heartwarming. Giving out chapter samplers for this book at work has generated a lot of excitement, and I’ve heard a few parents mention how much their child is looking forward to the release after reading the first chapter – now I can see why!

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is jam-packed with magic, excitement, adventure and danger. It will help to generate a whole new generation of readers, and hooked me from the first page. Skandar has wanted to travel off the mainland to become a unicorn trainer for his whole life, but when he finally gets the chance, it doesn’t happen quite in the way he expected.

There’s an edginess, an element of danger, that I loved about this book and I can see it appealing so much to younger readers. It feels almost forbidden with the edge of darkness but was still crammed full with adventure and entertainment.

My only small complaint is it felt a little long and the characters felt a bit underdeveloped for the length of the book, but I still enjoyed the read. I can definitely see this one being a big middle grade release of the year and I think a lot of younger readers are going to love it!

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Conference of the Birds (#5) by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads | Waterstones

With his dying words, H—Jacob Portman’s final connection to his grandfather Abe’s secret life— entrusts Jacob with a mission: Deliver newly con­tacted peculiar Noor Pradesh to an operative known only as V. Noor is being hunted. She is the subject of an ancient prophecy, one that foretells a looming apocalypse. Save Noor—Save the future of all peculiardom.
With only a few bewildering clues to follow, Jacob must figure out how to find V, the most enigmatic, and most powerful, of Abe’s former associates. But V is in hiding and she never, ever, wants to be found.
With enemies behind him and the unknown ahead, Jacob Portman’s story continues as he takes a brave leap forward into The Conference of the Birds. 

Let me just start by saying I see these six books as two separate trilogies. It’s been absolutely years since I read (and really liked!) the first three in the series, and going back to A Map of Days felt a little unnecessary. I was happy with how the series had ended, and I didn’t feel like we needed more. But I did also enjoy reading the series, and found myself wanting to know what would happen when the gang toured America.

It’s been a while since I read A Map of Days, and although I didn’t feel like I needed in-depth knowledge of the first 3threebooks, I did want to refresh myself on the fourth book. I used this recap guide by Penguin Teen and watched the video linked at the bottom of the same post, and I must say that it allowed me to dive straight into the fifth book without any problem!

There’s an art to fleeing casually. 

I chose to listen to the audiobook of this one, and I did quite enjoy it, even though I feel like you miss some of the ambience by not being able to view the pictures interspersed throughout the story at the same time as reading. I did make sure to go back and flick through my physical version, but it’s not quite the same. I thought the narration was really good, but it did make me realise how stereotypically British these characters are. I think part of this is because some of the characters are from the 1940s, and they do use some very British turns of phrase that may have been more current to the time. It didn’t annoy me too much, but it could have easily got on my nerves a little!

Although this book definitely didn’t blow me away, I did still enjoy it, and I remember feeling the same about A Map of Days. These books aren’t amazing, but they’re fun adventure stories with characters I will always root for, so I made sure to enjoy the book for what it was.

It’s not easy, running from something that might kill you while not attracting stares.

Mostly due to the fact I read the audiobook, I actually managed to read this in a day. It was just so easy to listen to and I had a day of doing mindless cleaning tasks at work, which allowed me to read most of the book. I sped through it and I found the story very entertaining, they just don’t feel super unique at this point.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #80

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to write a Stacking the Shelves post, but unless I’m somehow missing a lot of books off of this list, I’m actually not doing too badly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Imagine making friends with a polar bear… The Last Bear is perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

Goodreads | Waterstones

What if you could communicate with a whale?
Rio has been sent to live with a grandmother he barely knows in California, while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

I picked up both of Hannah Gold’s books in hardback over the past few weeks and have already read The Last Bear, which I absolutely loved. I can’t wait to read The Lost Whale!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Goodreads | Waterstones

On a school field trip to the river, Sandy wanders away from her classmates and discovers an empty turtle shell. Peeking through the dark hole, she suddenly finds herself within a magical realm. Filled with sculptures, paintings and books, the turtle’s shell is a museum of the natural world. But one painting is incomplete, and the turtle needs Sandy’s help to finish it.

I also bought and have already read Nightlights and Hicotea, a cute graphic novel duology!

Goodreads | Waterstones

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

My lovely friend Amy gifted me her Fairyloot copy of The Atlas Six, which is so pretty and will match the gorgeous Waterstones edition of The Atlas Paradox perfectly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

I also received my beautiful copy of Heartstopper Vol 2 from Fairyloot. What perfect timing for the Netflix show!

What have you bought or received this week?

-Beth

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