July Reviews 2018

Hello everybody!

Today, I`m going to be reviewing all of the books that I read in July, which was mainly another really great reading month for me, in terms of both quantity and quality. Onto the books!

State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
When I saw this described as a fantasy version of the West Wing by someone on Twitter, I knew I had to read it, and it lived up to the promise of that elevator pitch. It’s about a girl called Sorrow, who lives in a country called Rhylla which has been forced into perpetual mourning by her drug addict father, who is the chancellor, for her brother Mael and mother Cerena, both of whom died 18 years ago on the day Sorrow was born, and what happens when the political landscape changes very suddenly, and she must compete to become the new chancellor. First of all, I loved the characters who populated this world, even if I didn`t actually like them as humans, which was the case for a few. Sorrow was a character I was immediately backing to the hilt, as the way she`s been treated by her father is abhorrent and she has just lost her grandmother, who protected her from having to essentially run the country single-handedly. I thought she was incredibly strong to be able to do what she does with such little belief in herself as a result of her childhood, and I loved watching her grow in confidence. I also need to give special mentions to Luvian, who is Sorrow`s advisor/campaign manager, who was delightfully charming and cocky and made me laugh, and Vespus, who was a villain so vile and well written that I physically recoiled on numerous occasions where he popped up. The plot was intriguing from the very first page, and the twists and turns this book took most definitely shocked me; I was hooked throughout and kept very much on my toes. Finally, I thought the worldbuilding was excellent and unique, so I`m very excited to return to see more of it, and of course how Sorrow`s story ends, in the 2nd book of the duology. 4.5/5

Lou Out of Luck by Nat Luurtsema

This continues the story of Lou Brown, who we met in Girl Out of Water, as her life becomes even more hectic than in book one due to her parents both losing their jobs, her best friend and boyfriend abandoning her to be part of the prom committee and a debate club respectively, and her sister Lavender competing in a modelling contest, to name just a few of the worries she records in her worry diary, which was a fun inclusion throughout. My favourite part of the series is Lou`s family, as there`s so much love between them and they`re all really funny, and it reminds me a bit of the way Harriet`s family are in the Geek Girl books. While I really missed a few characters (such as Pete) as they weren`t as prominent as they were in the first book, it was nice to get to know Lou`s best friend Hannah better, and I also enjoyed new additions such as Dermot. I was chuckling quite a bit throughout, mainly due to the fab members of Lou`s family, Lou`s reactions to their money saving measures and the new job her dad manages to find, and the club she attends with Dermot, and I hope this isn`t the last I see of Lou and the rest of her family and friends. 4/5

The Elsewhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

I was so excited to return to the Shop from Nowhere after really enjoying the Nowhere Emporium early this year, and the Elsewhere Emporium more than lived up to my incredibly high expectations. It takes place on a dual timeline again; in this present-day narrative, we see Daniel six months into being the new owner of the Nowhere Emporium (which is a magical shop powered on imagination that creates “wonders” for members of the public in ever changing locations to enjoy), and he and his companion Ellie`s journey to find the shop after it goes missing, and in the past, we see a group of magical investigators hunt a dangerous force. I was equally gripped by the mystery and intrigue in both timelines, as well as enjoying the dynamics between all the different characters in each and found it incredibly satisfying when the plots and the characters of both began to intersect. Ross Mackenzie`s writing is so immersive and it really brings the magic of the awe-inspiring wonders Daniel creates and the magical world as a whole to life. Lastly, I have to mention how lovely I thought Daniel and Ellie`s friendship was, and it was nice to see that they`d become even closer in the time since we last saw them. I found this even more enchanting than its predecessor and believe it`s a sequel that`s sure to both delight fans of the first book and attract new fans who`ve never heard of it too. 5/5

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

In the sequel to last year`s Noah Can`t Even, we once again follow Noah Grimes, who is navigating his relationship with Harry, the obstacles flirty French exchange student Pierre presents to that and the strange goings on that Pierre and another exchange student called Eva (who`s not even French, much to Noah`s disgust) may be involved in. He`s also dealing with a drag queen moving into his house, and his half brother and dad`s latest shady scheme. As that lengthy description implies, there`s a lot going on in Noah Could Never, and the plot is jam packed and very fast paced. There are plenty of humorous moments and comments in the 3rd person narration, and I love that we have the both the feeling of the book being narrated and a lot of insight into Noah`s thoughts. I thought Harry and Noah`s relationship was really sweet and they made a great couple, and that Mick/Bambi (the aforementioned drag queen) made a brilliant addition to the book, as he was so funny and I liked his unconventional friendship with Noah. A final thing I really loved in both the first book and this new one is that avid Agatha Christie fan Noah gets to solve a few mysteries, which is so fun to follow along with and try to solve too. I`m not sure if this is the last Noah book (and I hope it isn`t) but if it is, I was really happy with the way things were left at the end of the book. 4.5/5

The Secret Ruby by Imogen White

This is the 2nd in the Rose Muddle series, and it sees Rose and her friend Rui (along with their excellent monkey companion Bahula) travel back to Rui`s native India and become swept up in another mystery involving the sinister secret society they came up against in book one, as well as the precious ruby they`re returning to India. It was great to learn more about both Rose and Rui, who make a brilliant pair of detectives, and I felt a lot of sympathy for them due to the things we learn, as well as very angry at some of the people around them because of the way they treat them. The Indian setting was another of my favourite things about the book; it felt so vibrant and chaotic, with really well written descriptive passages and I liked the references to Indian culture and history as well. The mystery was interesting, with a few twists I didn`t anticipate along with some I did, and the climax was so tense I started crying at one point, and was holding my breath through it all. Everything wraps up well, but there`s also a slight cliffhanger with the final page that reveals the next destination Rose and Rui will be heading to and has made me excited for the 3rd book. 4.5/5

The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr
This is the story of Danny, a pickpocket who lives under the rule of a brutal gang leader in Edinburgh, until he meets Maharajah the elephant and is given the chance to become his mahout, provided he can get him from Edinburgh to Manchester on foot in a week in order to win a bet. Of course, that isn`t enough of a feat to pull off, and so someone is attempting to sabotage them. I felt so much sympathy for Danny because of the situations he has been put in during his past and watching him become increasingly confident the closer he gets to intelligent, serene Maharajah is so incredibly special that I welled up during more than one scene between them. Another character I was particularly fond of was Hetty, as she is so unfailingly kind to Danny, and helps him whenever he`s in a bad situation. Speaking of bad situations, there are plenty of heart-stopping moments in this book when Maharajah or Danny are in danger, and I was glued to the page every time I picked this up. On that note, the mystery as to who was causing the disruption to the journey kept me guessing, and I was pretty shocked to the point of gasping when the real culprit was revealed. I think this would be perfect for fellow fans of Emma Carroll. 5/5

The Secret of Supernatural Creek by Lauren St John

I waited almost a year to read this even though I was beyond excited to see another Laura Marlin Mystery, but it was just as good as the original series, and I`m really glad I finally have. It sees Laura and best friend Tariq travel to Australia on a school trip to try and relax after their recent (in the book, anyway) battles with the Straight A gang, who are now mainly in prison. But when they arrive, some strange accidents happen, and Laura is convinced that the gang is lurking nearby and out for revenge. Laura was just as inquisitive and intelligent as I remember, Tariq is so lovely and such a good friend, and I also really liked the new addition of Elspeth, who provides some assistance in working out what may be going on. I did miss Calvin Redfern and Skye a little as they only popped up briefly a few times, but it was still so lovely to see them again. The narration has a fantastically dry wit to it in quite a few places, which I loved, and the danger and drama as the book nears its end is phenomenal, as things get incredibly dangerous (the Straight As were the cause of this and lived up to their “Brotherhood of Monsters” nickname yet again). Finally, the investigation into who was the inside operative for the gang on the school trip was really interesting, and though I was convinced it was one of the red herrings, the person it actually was made perfect sense, and I loved the subtle hints I noticed when I went back and read a few paragraphs after the reveal. I hope this isn`t the last I`ll see of Laura, and that I don`t need to wait four more years to reunite with these characters. 4.5/5

Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano
In this fantastic debut that I`ve heard described as the UK`s answer to Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (an accolade it lives up to), we`re introduced to Dylan, who is on holiday in a caravan park, as he decides he likes Jayden-Lee from the caravan next door and sets out to win his heart, despite the hamster mascot of the park foiling him at every turn and the fact that his best friend Kayla does not approve of Jayden-Lee at all. I entirely agreed with Kayla that Jayden-Lee is pretty horrible and does some unacceptable things, but with the exception of him I could not have loved the cast of this book any more, particularly as they were so diverse. Dylan was such a fantastic narrator and he made me laugh so much, Kayla was so supportive (both in the sense of encouraging Dylan and helping him achieve his goals, but also trying to steer him towards better decisions when he was being naïve or selfish), as well as a great character who carries some important messages for readers in her own right, especially because of how body positive, and Dylan`s family were fantastic. His little brother Jude was so sweet, and it was super clear how much his mum and dad adored their children. I also loved Leo, though I don`t want to say too much about him as it spoils a piece of the plot. The romance of the book was absolutely lovely and possibly a new favourite book relationship of mine, and I shipped them so much because the chemistry between them in scenes was perfect. 4.5/5

Houdini and the Five Cent Circus by Keith Gray (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
This is about Harry Houdini, when he was young and went by the name Erik, and is narrated by a girl called Mattie, who tells the story of how his famous underwater trick originated. While some artistic licence has been taken, there was a lot of really interesting information about Houdini in this, and as I knew only the very basics it was fascinating to see how talented he was as an escapologist and learn about his past. I thought the explanation as to how the trick was done was amazing, and the sequence preceding the first time we see it was a very exciting few pages as it was so full of danger (because of the rather nasty villains and the situation Erik and Mattie are in) and wondering whether or not he would be able to pull it off. The American small-town setting is really enjoyable too, and feels a bit like a cowboy film, which I liked far more in book form than I tend to on a screen. This was a short read, but it`s full of facts and has a fast-paced story and a pleasant narrative voice that makes it easy to get through quickly. 4/5

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf

This is the story of a group of children as a new boy appears in a seat at the back of their classroom, who they discover is a Syrian refugee with an incredibly tough past and they decide to not only befriend Ahmet, but also attempt to find the family that he lost during his journey to the UK. The narrator of the story, and their friends Josie, Michael and Tom were all such lovely characters, and the amount of compassion and care they put into helping Ahmet begin his new life was so heart-warming to read, especially given the far less accepting reception that Ahmet receives from more judgemental pupils, staff and parents. I was so glad, however, that the majority of the adults in the book provided them with advice and information and showed them that it`s not right to make false assumptions about people. Another thing I enjoyed and found interesting as a technique was the way that while the narrator is very much a character, their identity wasn`t revealed till almost the end, which meant I ended up picturing myself in that situation. Finally, I thought the subtle humour throughout was fantastic and it made smile a lot as I was reading, but there were also scenes, such as when we gradually learn the extent of what Ahmet has been through that were so emotional I was crying. The narrator and their friends` friendship with Ahmet also made me shed happy tears and the ending was especially touching, so what I`m really trying to say is that you should be prepared for lots of emotional ups and downs, similar to books like the Fox Girl and the White Gazelle (which tackles a similar theme) and Boy Underwater (which has a similarly sweet narrator and sense of humour). 4.5/5

Access All Awkward by Beth Garrod

In the 3rd book of the Bella Fisher series, we see Bella and her friends taking their exams, and then later head off to a musical festival for the weekend (which doesn`t end up being the celebration they wanted after they decide to protest against a sexist artist who`s performing, they come up against a trio of mean girls and Bella and Tegan have to work as litter pickers to afford tickets). Bella is such a relatable narrator, and I found myself nodding in agreement to some of the things she says about exams, and her feelings afterwards. She`s also very funny in the way she describes all the embarrassing situations she gets into (My favourite by far in this book was the scene where she meets her boyfriend Adam`s parents), and her pop culture references and puns made me smile a lot. Bella and Adam`s relationship is so nice, and I love how supportive they are of each other, which also applies to the dynamic between Bella and her best friends Tegan and Rachel. While I don`t think Bella would necessarily agree, I`m an even huger fan of her big sister Jo than all of those- she has a brilliant sense of humour that makes me laugh every time she appears, and even though she teases Bella I love how much she cares for her deep down. I absolutely loved the music festival setting as it`s been ages since I`ve read a book with one, and they`re always such fun. I also loved being able to cheer on the girls with their campaign, and I desperately wanted them to succeed. Definitely my favourite of the series to date. 4.5/5

St Grizzle`s School for Girls, Geeks and Tag-Along Zombies by Karen McCombie and illustrated by Becka Moor

In the 3rd book of what I`d say is my favourite young MG series at the moment, we are taken back to madcap boarding school St Grizzle`s where our main character Dani has recently become a pupil, and this time we see them deal with a new student called Boudicca who is struggling quite a lot to adapt, as well as Dani`s best friend Arch, who has run away from home due to a difficult situation there. While I have to admit I don`t know how I`d like being a pupil at the school, I really do love the welcoming, supportive atmosphere it has. The way all the pupils and staff try and make Boudicca and Arch welcome is so nice, and I like that everyone looks out for and is kind towards everyone else in general. As well as this making the book enjoyable, there are lots and lots of moments that made me giggle, mainly due to Twinkle the goat and the way the other people react to her, and also Dani`s view of the world. In addition, Becka Moor`s illustrations are just fabulous; she`s one of my absolute favourite illustrators. Her illustrations are quite detailed, which makes me feel like I`m there watching everything unfold and also adds even more personality to the characters, and I think her easily recognisable style meshes perfectly with Karen`s distinctive writing style. This was such a lovely read, and I`m looking forward to reading book 4 after it`s out. 4.5/5

Firebird by Elizabeth Wein (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

This is set during World War 2 after Russia joins the war, and focuses on Nastia, who is a pilot for the Soviet Union. We meet her in the prologue, and she tells us she has been accused of treason, which is a pretty gripping opening that compelled me to read on. That stayed the same throughout the whole book, as I really wanted to find out how she got to that point, and the simple and elegant writing style was another thing I liked a lot. I admired Nastia a lot, not only because of her talent with flying, but also because how brave she manages to be throughout all of the terrifying things that happen to her as she fights for her country, as well as coping with more personal difficult situations. It was also fantastic to learn about Russia under Stalin`s rule, and the atmosphere of not no one knowing who they can trust adds further to how thrilling this was, as I was on edge waiting to see if there would be any betrayals. Finally, I really didn`t expect the huge reveal at the end, and I`ll think about that and the final page for a really long time I think. 4.5/5

Flash the Sheep Dog by Kathleen Fidler (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

This is the story of Tom, who is sent to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm after his sister gets married and moves to America without him, and he becomes involved with training his new dog Flash to take part in a sheepdog trial. I really struggled to get into this as it was quite slow paced, and I also couldn`t connect to Tom very much, though I did warm to him slightly more when I saw how kind he was to the various animals he meets. I did, however, like his aunt and uncle and the bantering relationship they have, and I thought Elspeth was a supportive friend. Another thing I found interesting was learning a bit about how sheepdogs are trained. Finally, while I didn`t love the writing style, I did like seeing the use of Scots language and I also thought it had a cosy, nostalgic feel to it that reminded me of reading things such as the Caravan Family and Jess the Border Collie when I was young. 3.5/5

What books did you read during July? What were your thoughts on the ones that I`ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy x


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: goldenbooksgirl@gmail.com | she/her

12 thoughts on “July Reviews 2018”

  1. Wow Amy! It looks like you have read so many great books in July! I love the sound of Access All Awkward as Bella sounds like a very relatable character. Also, I’d be interested to read The Secret Ruby, I’d love to visit India some day as the vibrant and chaotic atmosphere is always seems so interesting. I’d love to read more about it. Thank you for the recommendations and hope you are enjoying your books this month too! 💖 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com


  2. Ooh I’ve heard lots of good things about The State of Sorrow but I’ve never heard it compared to The West Wing! I’m obsessed with that show so I think I’m going to need to buy this book!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can watch the we changed time zone clip over and over. And Jed’s speech at the end of those episodes about the streets of heaven being too crowded with angels tonight 😢


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