Today, I`m going to be reviewing all of the books I read in May, apart from Northern Lights as it`s so well known and beloved by so many it just felt very odd trying to review it! Given I had only read 5 books by the 16th May, I`m incredibly pleased with how much I managed to read!
What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is about Lexie, a young Greek Cypriot, as a new girl and her family arrive in their close-knit community and this sets in motion a chain of events in which Lexie tells a lie about a family heirloom that threatens to break her family, and her friendship with cousin Eleni, apart forever. The friendship Eleni and Lexie had was so sweet, and I absolutely adored the heart-warming big family dynamic of the book. I thought Lexie was a fantastic character even though she has flaws, and I thought the situations she faces, such as how people treat her when she `tells tales` are incredibly relatable and will be to lots of people who read the book. The subtle humour throughout made me chuckle often, and while I was unsure how things would end for most of the book, I thought the climax and the ending fit the book perfectly. A truly lovely contemporary MG. 4.5/5
Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This book has such a unique premise, which I`ve never read anything similar to that I can recall; it`s the story of Lily, who wakes up one morning on the side of the road and realises she has died, and we follow her as she watches her family grieve and then later as she is given the chance to take over her twin`s body and be alive again for a few days. Lily was such a likeable character, and I felt so upset for her as I was reading, and I also loved seeing glimpses of her relationship with her twin Ben (the scenes between them made me shed quite a few tears). Watching her family grieve was deeply emotional, and though it was initially slightly confusing I thought being able to have Lily`s first person POV and a third person POV focusing on how others were feeling worked really well. Finally, I loved Lily`s narrative voice; the writing was absolutely exquisite in quality, yet it gave such a sense of her personality and felt authentic. 4.5/5
Max and the Millions by Ross Montgomery
This is the story of Max, who is deaf and attends a boarding school, as he discovers an incredible miniature civilisation (created by his school caretaker) who are desperately in need of his help (which I think is such a cool concept!). The story is told in a dual narrative, with 3rd person POVs of Max and Luke, who is the prince of the Blue group within the civilisation, and I found seeing both perspectives really interesting. The budding friendship between Max and Sasha was absolutely adorable and drives home the message that you shouldn`t make assumptions about people before you really get to know them. The humour in Luke`s sections provided plenty of chuckle-worthy moments, and I was a big fan of side character Ivy in his sections and Sasha`s sister/ the builders in Max`s. Even more than all this, I loved the fact that Max wore hearing aids. While my hearing loss is less profound than his, a lot of his experiences resonated, and it was amazing to have that as part of the book. 4/5
The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This book sees a Scottish bully called Caylin and a Syrian refugee called Reema who is newly arrived to Glasgow team up to save a fox and her cubs, discover a shared passion for running and forge a friendship that alters both of their lives, and it also explores their family lives/the grief they are navigating from the recent loss of family members. It is every bit as heartbreaking, yet ultimately heartwarming and uplifting as that description makes it sound. The characters are so complex and imperfect, yet I loved both of them a lot, and was beyond desperate for their lives to improve and for them to succeed with running. Their friendship was beautiful too; it took a while for them to move past their initial dislike of each other, but it was wonderful watching them support each other once they were friends. The book tackles alcoholism and depression, which Caylin`s mum has, and also explores how refugees may feel when arriving in a new country, which is an all too often ignored perspective, and both of these added to my love for the protagonists as I had so much sympathy for how much they had to face. I highly recommend this if you want to read a contemporary MG that make you consider what life would be like for people who have led very different lives to you. 4.5/5
Rose`s Dress of Dreams by Katherine Woodfine and illustrated by Kate Pankhurst (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is part of Barrington Stoke`s Little Gems series, which are short, young MG stories with full colour illustrations, and this was a lovely first one to read. It`s a delightful story, and I think it`ll appeal to a lot of people. Kate Pankhurst`s illustrations are gorgeous, and my personal favourites were the one at the opening of chapter 3, and that on page 43. The descriptions of Rose`s designs were divine, and I was able to picture them vividly even without an accompanying illustration. Lastly, I really liked Rose as a character because she was so determined to achieve her dream, and it was interesting to learn that she was based on real historical figure Rose Bertin. 4/5.
The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
This is the story of Jamie, whose dad is an astronaut, as he receives alien communication on his phone whilst his dad is away on a dangerous mission. Jamie was an incredibly endearing protagonist, and I also had a soft spot for Buzz and his granddad. I like that the book acknowledges women can be astronauts and scientists too, and I also liked the message that families don`t have to be conventional to be happy that`s shown throughout. Like with the Many Worlds of Albie Bright, I felt the science elements complemented the contemporary storyline, and is better explained than science in the vast majority of books. 4/5
Gangster School by Kate Wiseman (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I am all over books about boarding schools, and with a concept as interesting and different as a boarding school for future criminals, I knew I had to read it, and it twisted boarding school tropes fantastically in a way that made it feel different but also maintaining the quite cosy feeling you get reading a boarding school story. The book particularly focuses on Milly and Charlie, who have just begun their time at Blaggard`s and I really liked both of them as they rather stood out by being less ruthless than some of their schoolmates. I especially liked Milly, as she was incredibly quick thinking and clever. The plot of defeating villain Pecunia Badpenny was fast paced and exciting, and I`m looking forward to seeing what Milly and Charlie get up to next as the series continues. 4/5
Across the Divide by Anne Booth (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In this timeslip middle grade, we follow Olivia as she is sent to stay with her estranged father on Lindisfarne after her mum gets arrested at a peace rally, and she is attempting to work through her thought on her mum and recent arguments among both her family and friend group focused on her wanting to join the new cadets group at school. I`ve never seen the theme of pacifism explored before that I can remember, and if I have, it certainly wasn`t as fascinating, well balanced and thought provoking as the way in which it is tackled here. I also liked that the timeslip plotline included discussion of conscientious objectors, which is in my opinion a heartbreaking historical event that isn`t remembered anywhere near enough. I liked Olivia lots as a protagonist; she manages to deal with all of the situations she faces in a very mature way, and I also really liked William, who is the boy she meets from the past. Finally, the setting brought me so much joy. Northumberland is pretty much my favourite place in the entire world, and seeing places I know and love referenced was lovely! 4.5/5
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
As I read this, my main thought was that Alice Oseman is incredible at writing character driven novels. I Was Born For This is about a fangirl called Angel, and a member of the boyband she loves (the Ark) called Jimmy, as their lives collide over one week and they question whether they actually want to dedicate their lives to the Ark anymore. The dual narration worked perfectly as both Angel and Jimmy`s voices were so clear and distinct, and it allows the positive and negative effects of fandom to be explored from both sides. The book was utterly gripping, and I`m super glad I could read it in one sitting as I was very concerned for each and every character, and needed to know they`d be okay. Finally, I have to talk about the characters, who are diverse and all round phenomenal. Jimmy and Angel are of course amazing, but my personal favourites were Rowan, Jimmy`s bandmate and longstanding best friend, as he was such a grumpy, hilarious delight and Bliss, who I think it`s a spoiler to describe the role of, other than to say she is a complete and utter queen and I love her more than I can express. 5/5
How to Bee by Bren MacDibble (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I had heard amazing things about this, but overall it didn`t live up to my expectations. It`s about a dystopic future in which bees no longer exist, and specifically a girl called Peony, who desperately wants to become part of the group of children who now carry out the work of bees but is forced into moving to the City and then has to find her way home. While the idea sounded amazing, I found this hard to get into as it was so slow paced, and the writing style was also a factor in this. I found the slang that Peony uses jarring, and it took me a while to work out what everything meant. Additionally, I liked some of the ending, but found another part very confusing. However, I loved the friendship between Peony and Ez, as they brought out the very best in each other and had such a lovely relationship. 3.5/5
Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury by Jennifer Killick (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
After their last mission, all has been quiet for Alex and Jess, but when animals in their local area start behaving in bizarre ways, they start volunteering at their local animal sanctuary to work out what`s going, and who`s behind it, coming up against several foes in the process. Alex is a tremendous character- he`s so cheeky and cocksure, and never far from a smart remark, but he has a heart of pure gold and this is shown so well by his relationship with one of the new animal characters Mr Prickles (who is absolutely adorable, and caused me to be in tears more than once during this book). Jess is also a fantastic character, and I envy her gift of speaking to animals so much. Her bickering, bantering friendship with Alex is just brilliant, and the dialogue in these books is definitely what makes them so hilarious. The animals all add to the humour too, and I was delighted to see the return of Bob the goldfish and to meet new introduction Harry the horse (and, as you already know, I was enchanted by Mr Prickles). Alongside how much the book made me laugh, Alex and Jess`s new mission ensures it`s super-fast paced, packed full of tension and full to the brim with excitement. 5/5
A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In her first novel in the YA age category, Laura Wood tells the story of a girl named Lou, as she becomes embroiled in the lives of the ultra glamorous Cardew siblings when they return to Cornwall for the summer of 1929 and is swept up in their world of lavish parties and societal politics. The beautiful descriptive writing conjured images of the lush setting and stunning outfits in my mind, and it was so immersive. Lou was a wonderful protagonist; headstrong, feisty, determined and funny, and I fell rather in love with her love interest Robert, who was arrogant yet deeply charming at the same time. Their relationship was super slowburn, and I was desperate for them to get together. His sister Caitlin was a total sweetheart and such a good friend to Lou, and Lou`s family were so eccentric and humorous. The company the Cardews keep is as interesting as you`d expect, and it was really fun seeing who showed up to which party and how that effected everyone else there. The secrets of the Cardews are revealed gradually, and the tantalising hints are what I think made the book so exciting. All I can really say about the ending is that it was perfect, and I can`t wait to read more from Laura. 4.5/5
Evie`s Ghost by Helen Peters
I`ve had this book on my TBR for so long, and I`m kicking myself for not reading it sooner; it came highly recommended and sounded like the sort of thing I tend to really enjoy. It tells the story of Evie, as she is sent to stay in the middle of nowhere with a godmother she`s never met, and finds herself transported back to the past, where she assumes the role of a maid in order to save someone in the mansion from a terrible fate so she can return to the present day. As the book is timeslip, Evie knows very little about life as a maid, and this means that the reader is able to learn a lot alongside her. Learning about the lives of servants in the past also allows Evie to really develop as a character to become kinder and more empathetic, and my heart ached for so many of the characters in the past (the servants, and also Sophia, who is the person in desperate need of Evie`s help). I was so glad the ending gave closure to all of their stories as well as Evie`s, along with the way everything tied together and made sense. 4.5/5
The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
From the moment I heard this existed, I was 99.9% sure I`d enjoy it; a middle grade mystery/fantasy blend combines several of my favourite things, and the book lived up to my high expectations of it. It`s about the Last Chance Hotel`s much put upon kitchen boy Seth, when a group of mysterious magicians arrive for a secretive dinner party, and he is accused of fatally poisoning the VIP, Dr Thallomius. Each and every other person within the hotel is a viable suspect, and this coupled with the fact we got to get to know each one in quite a lot of detail made it all the more fun to try and be a detective alongside Seth and try and work out whodunit. I`m not entirely sure if I was meant to, but I loved enigmatic Angelique, and I was rooting so much for Seth, who was so loveable I dare anyone to read this and not adore him, to clear his name. His rather critical, gloriously funny cat Nightshade was definitely my favourite though; she was a phenomenal animal companion. The magic system was really unique and clever too, and I hope to learn more about it in a sequel (or possibly several sequels, given the exciting loose ends the ending left). 4.5/5
Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John and illustrated by Beidi Guo
The Laura Marlin Mysteries are one of my very favourite mystery series, and I have a feeling Kat Wolfe Investigates is going to live up to that. It follows Kat as she and her mum, who is a vet, relocate to idyllic Bluebell Bay, and Kat gets caught up in a missing persons case after starting a pet-sitting service. She soon meets an American girl called Harper, and together they decide to investigate. I thought they made a great detective team as their strengths really complemented each other, and their friendship was fantastic too. I also adored the wide array of animal characters, who you can see beautiful illustrations of on the French flaps at the back of the book (and opening those at the front of the book will give you the treat of seeing the map). Though the mystery plot doesn`t really kick in for a little while, this worked well as we`re given a comprehensive introduction to both the setting and the cast of characters, and once it going I thought the mystery was unique fast paced, with chapters from the point of view of the antagonists adding even more intrigue/tension. 4.5/5
Which books have you particularly enjoyed this month? What are your thoughts on the books I`ve mentioned? Are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!
11 thoughts on “May Reviews 2018”
Some great sounding books here Amy. Sounds like you had a great month.
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I was so pleased with how much I managed to get through! Doubt I’ll get through as much this month though x
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Sounds like a great reading month!
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It was; both quality and quantity 😊 x
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You read so many books! How good was I Was Born For This? I LOVED that book!
Lainy x https://bookishbitsblogblog.wordpress.com/
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I know, took AGES to write all these 🤣
It was AMAZING, wasn’t it?! Alice is incredible x
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You had an incredible month for reading!
I really need to read A Sky Painted Gold.
Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/
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I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did! X
Wow, what a lot of books you got through in a month. I’m going to try and get my hands on The Last Chance Hotel. My top read in May is The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. It took me to a time and place I knew little of; a fishing village in Holland and their tradition of putting a wagon wheel on their roof to encourage storks to nest there. It gave me insight into the Dutch countryside and their lifestyles.
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Hope you like the Last Chance Hotel!