October Reviews 2018

Hello everybody! Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on all the books I’ve read in October. Onto the post!

Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of Lily, a young fell runner who has been struggling in her races recently, as she goes to visit her grandparents and must come to terms with the way her gran`s Alzheimers is worsening. When she gets there, she comes across an old journal that her great-great grandfather, who was also a fell runner, kept during his time as a soldier in the first world war, which allows her to connect with her grandmother about running and also find wisdom that relates to her own life within its pages. I hadn`t expected there to be extracts from this journal throughout, but I really liked that there was and the way that it portrayed life on the front line. I found both narratives incredibly gripping, and because I was so invested in both I got through this really quickly, especially as there is a mystery in Ernest`s plotline that Lily is trying to discover the truth of: why he abandoned fell running after the war ended. I found this to be such an emotive read because of the portrayal of Lily and Ernest`s feelings over losing or being about to lose their family members; I was crying on multiple occasions while reading for both of them as I felt so sympathetic towards them and the rest of their families, especially in Lily`s case as it really came over that they were very close-knit and that it was deeply affecting them all. If you like stories about World War One, I`d definitely recommend picking this up. 4.5/5

Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens

In the 7th instalment of my favourite middle grade series, Daisy and Hazel are staying in London with Daisy`s uncle and aunt after their adventures in Hong Kong, and it focuses on them joining the prestigious but financially failing Rue Theatre as part of their production of Romeo and Juliet, and of course their investigation after one of the cast is murdered. The characters in this series are my very favourite thing about them, and I think Death in the Spotlight showcases this aspect of the books so well because the new suspects are as layered and interesting as ever and it was brilliant to see some of my favourite side characters (namely Uncle Felix and Aunt Lucy, who have hilarious interactions with Daisy and Hazel and are just generally fantastic, and also Inspector Priestly) again. Hazel and Daisy have developed so much from the first book, and I love that in every book we see different sides to them and learn more about them (the latter is especially true of Daisy in this book!), and see the dynamics of their friendship shift in some way. I also adore Hazel`s narration, and her subtle humour throughout that, and she really is so very likeable that it makes the book even more enjoyable because it`s from her perspective. Additionally, the mystery in this book is my very favourite of the series to date, because it was such an exciting, perfectly paced investigation, and the reveal at the end is simply spectacular, in my opinion. I can`t sing the praises of these books enough, and I can`t wait to return to Deepdean (the girls` boarding school, which has been a part of several previous titles) next year. 5/5

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of an Afghan refugee called Sami as he settles into his new life in Boston, and what happens when his musician grandfather`s rebab (a tradtional Afghan instrument that is one of the only things they were able to bring with them when they were forced to flee from the Taliban) and Sami decides to start trading objects/services in order to earn the money to get it back. As you might be able to guess from that premise, Sami is beyond endearing and I loved how determined he was to recover the rebab to bring happiness to his grandfather, who he has an incredibly lovely, special relationship with. It was a pleasure watching him begin to let the people around him into his world as the book went on, and I thought the friendships he formed were wonderful. Another thing I adored in this book was the way it weaves in a lot of Sami`s culture and language, which was really informative and interesting, and the way it slowly reveals the specifics of Sami`s life before he left in Afghanistan made it even more impactful, as it showed how it has affected not only him, but also his grandfather. Some sections were heart-breaking to read, but there`s more than enough heart and humour in here to mend it at the same time. If you enjoyed the Boy at the Back of Class or the Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, I have a feeling you`ll adore Sami`s story as much as I did. 4.5/5

Princess in Practice by Connie Glynn

I had mixed feelings on Undercover Princess last year, but for some reason I couldn`t resist picking this up soon after its release anyway and I definitely thought it was an improvement of book one. It follows a girl called Lottie Pumpkin, who acts as the Portman for Ellie, who is the princess of Maradova (this essentially means that she pretends she is the princess), and their Partizan Jamie (a very highly trained bodyguard to the princess) as they begin their second year at Rosewood after some shocking reveals at the end of their first year there, and it furthers the plot with that, and also has a standalone mystery: Rosewood students are being poisoned by chocolate, and the three friends decide to investigate. One of my main issues with the first book was that I didn`t enjoy it`s mystery plot, but I thought this one was plotted much better, and was a lot more intriguing. I also liked the secrets that they uncovered about the school, and the fact that I felt like I got to know the secondary characters much more as in book one I got mixed up between who they were quite a lot. I enjoyed the writing style more this time too, though I did still find some of it slightly clunky. I did, however, think the worldbuilding of the first as great, and that definitely continued here. I loved learning the Christmas traditions of Maradova, and a lot of things were expanded on. I`m looking forward to reading the next in the series, especially because of the rather ominous ending. 4/5

The Mapmakers` Race by Eirlys Hunter (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

The Mapmakers` Race is the story of the Santander siblings- Sal, Joe, Francie and Humphrey- after they misplace their parents and decide to participate in a dangerous race to map a new railway anyway, alongside a new friend called Beck. I had been expecting something quite different when I picked this up, and while I thought some of it was great, there were other things that marred my enjoyment. I thought the writing style itself was great, especially the section where all of the different competitors are being introduced, and I also really liked the four siblings and enjoyed seeing the strong bonds they shared, as well as the way that the roles the different characters take on within the team defy gender stereotypes. However, I didn`t like the sections where Francie was “flying”, and I wasn`t keen on the campfire stories that were told as I didn`t think they were all especially relevant to the plot (with one exception), or even just find them generally entertaining. I also found the book slow paced in places, though there were some exciting moments as it approached the ending, and while I could picture the setting quite well, I didn`t understand when it was supposed to be set as some of it felt futuristic and other things seemed historical. The ending was left ambiguous, but was simultaneously satisfying, and I was glad that it was the way that the Santanders` story concluded. 3.5/5

Storm Witch by Ellen Renner

This is the story of Storm, a girl who lives on the fictional island of Yanlin, as she undertakes her Choosing ceremony (a custom of her world, in which one of the four elementals chooses you) and has to negotiate the way in which her life is turned up upside down when three of them claim her, and the fourth does something very unexpected. The world of Yanlin is so well rendered, and I loved all of the customs and traditions that are introduced; the worldbuilding is absolutely phenomenal, especially the Elementals (who of course represent Air, Water, Fire and Earth) and the idea of the choosing ceremony. I also loved Storm herself, especially the way in which she learns to embrace her power and is so strong in the wake of everything she has been through prior to us meeting her and is going through during the book, and that she challenges the ideas of the island elders she disagrees with in her narrative. The book is incredibly gripping and entertaining throughout, with so many exciting events and reveals that kept me hooked, but the climax was beyond thrilling and the reveal about a certain character was amazing; I was kicking myself for being too trusting of them! I`m not sure when sequel Under Earth (I`ve totally not been googling every day…) is out, but I can`t wait to read it whenever it is. 5/5

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This follows two sisters named Evie and Philippa, who were transported to a magical woodland kingdom six years ago during World War Two and lived there for many years before being returned to the exact same night that they left, and focuses on how that experience has affected them after their return. Evie has always struggled to reconcile herself with the real world, and after Philippa goes to study abroad, she tries to find her way home to the woodlands, and I thought this was a fantastic concept, and it was so well executed- we see things from the perspectives of both Evie and Phil in a dual narrative, and see sections both of their lives in the woodlands and back in the real world, and this meant that I felt like I truly understood how both of them felt about things. I loved both of them a lot, and thought they were so layered and interesting. My heart absolutely broke for Evie at so many points because she was so desperate to return to her life as a queen and she felt like she couldn`t let people around her in because they didn`t know who she truly was, and Philippa is so interesting too, and her love for her sister is so clear. The gorgeous lyrical writing was another highlight, as were the beautiful, touching romances that Evie and Philippa had with Tom and Jack respectively. The sections in the woodlands had just as compelling a plot as those in the present day too, which made this a gripping read in both timelines, (side note: I`d totally read a full book set there as the politics and characters were amazing, especially the Aslan-esque stag Cervus!) and as I was sympathetic towards both Evie and Philippa, I found both perspectives equally entertaining. If you`re looking for a YA fantasy with a bit of a difference, I don`t think you`ll go far wrong with this. 4.5/5

The Train to Impossible Places by P.G Bell and illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino

In his debut novel, P.G Bell introduces us to a normal human girl named Suzy Smith, who is awoken one night by a ruckus in her living room, and goes downstairs to discover that a magical train is passing through, and what happens when she gets aboard, and the first package she is told to deliver begs her not to do so. It turns out to be the Impossible Postal Express, which delivers post throughout the different areas of the magical land of the Union of Impossible Places, and I thought it was so clever to make something as familiar as the postal system into something so very full of magic. I also loved the narration style because it really plays to the absurdity of the situations Suzy finds herself in and made me chuckle often, and also offers peeks into different areas of the Impossible Places and these help to thread the plot together and foreshadow some later events. I also loved the team of the Express, especially Wilmot and Ursel, and I loved Lady Crepuscula and Frederick as side characters too. Suzy is a fantastic main character, and I loved that she is really into physics and is a female role model for readers who also have an interest in STEM subjects. Another thing I found really fun was seeing paralells between our world and the Impossible Places, as well as just seeing all the different locations themselves. The plot is well paced and exciting, and I`m really looking forward to joining Suzy and the rest of the Postal Express team in their 2nd adventure. 4.5/5

To All the Boys I`ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

After loving the film of this, I had such high expectations of the book and it didn`t disappoint. I`m sure most people will know the plot by now, but if not, it`s the story of a girl called Lara Jean, whose secret love letters to all the boys she`s ever loved are stolen and sent out, which turns her life upside down and she ends up agreeing to fake a relationship with one of the recipients, Peter Kavinsky, as this would have benefits for them both. I adored the fake relationship plot and the way it unfolded, and I think Lara Jean and Peter are amazing together; I ship them HARD, especially as I`m not keen on Josh, the other boy in the love triangle of this book at all. I also loved the family dynamic of Lara Jean`s household so much as they`re so close and have such wonderful relationships. The dialogue between the characters is often very amusing, especially some of Peter and Kitty`s lines. Another thing I loved about this book, which isn`t especially quantifiable, was the super cosy vibe it had, which was added to even more by Lara Jean`s love for crafts and baking and the fun seasonal scenes, such as Halloween and Christmas. This made me laugh and swoon and cheer ridiculously hard for a couple to get together, and I`m so looking forward to continuing with the trilogy and seeing what trouble the letters might get Lara Jean into next (especially since I know there`s a new addition to the love triangle in book 2!). 4.5/5

The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

In this ode to Narnia, Piers Torday tells the story of siblings Simon, Patricia, Evie and Larry as they journey to the world of Folio, where a war is raging between the Reads (fairytale/story characters) and the Unreads (robots who don`t value stories and intend to eradicate them and replace them with facts), and they become involved. The book`s structure is very similar to Narnia`s, and I liked the homages throughout, but Folio is an entirely different world to Narnia and I really liked the concept of it and the worldbuilding. I also enjoyed Piers Torday`s writing style, and I found the book super engaging; I often found myself saying “just one more chapter and then I`ll go to sleep/do whatever I was supposed to”. However, I had more mixed feelings on the characters: the only one of the four I really loved was Larry and though I did find Evie interesting, I struggled to connect to Simon or Patricia even slightly, especially as the siblings rarely came over as being that close to each other. I felt similarly about the supporting characters too, as only the Three Bears (especially Baby Bear) and Tom Thumb really stood out. I also struggled with the Never Reads as villains, particularly as the reason for them being evil was essentially that they didn`t read. The ending felt as if there may be a sequel, and even though my reaction to this was so mixed I would definitely pick it up as there are loose ends I`d like to see tied up. 3.5/5

The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods and illustrated by Anuska Allepuz (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the tale of a girl called Oona Britt, the daughter of aship`s captain who wanted a son and shuns her, who dreams of boarding a ship and exploring the North, and especially wants to discover the mythical nardoo, as she stows away on her father`s boat to avoid being married off, and her adventures on this voyage. I thought Oona was a phenomenal heroine as she is so resilient during her time with her family and on the ship, and I loved her compassion to those around her and her determination and passion too. The other titular characters, Barnacles the ship cat and Haroyld the navigator, are also wonderful, because Barnacles is just utterly brilliant in every way and Haroyld is so kind and clever. Something else I really enjoyed was the writing style, which feels like reading a fairy tale or myth, as well as the humorous asides following secondary characters, such as Oona`s sisters journeying to the South to find husbands or the fortune teller Freydis. The writing is also really effective in creating the world, which is partially realistic and partially fantastical, and in creating vivid settings and a real image of the world in my mind. The ending was perfect, and I can`t wait to go back and read Matilda Woods` debut the Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker soon, and discover more of her work in the future. 4.5/5

Frost Fire by Jamie Smith (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In this perilous wintry adventure, we follow Sabira, a girl chosen by her village for the honour of bonding with a frostliver, after an avalanche destroys her route home and she must find another way back, amidst dangerous enemies also being present on the mountain. I thought flashbacks were utilised really well at the beginning to fill the reader in on Sabira`s backstory, particularly the focus on the loss of her brother and the political situation of where she lives. I also admired Sabira as a character, because she has so many difficult decisions to make throughout her journey and she copes incredibly well and is capable and resourceful. My favourite character though, was Sabira`s frostsliver, who really made me laugh, but also made my heart melt a little as it really began to care for Sabira the more the book went on and their interactions were fantastic. I also thought the reveal regarding what really happened to Sabira`s brother was amazing, because I had felt very smug and thought I knew what was going to happen but was completely wrong, and the truth was so much better than what I thought was going to happen. The worldbuilding of the frostlivers and the two warring groups was also super well done, with lots of detail, and the villain was impressively sinister too. Everything was wrapped up really well at the end, and overall, I thought this was a really enjoyable read, especially for the upcoming winter season. 4.5/5

The Great Diamond Chase by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, and illustrated by Kate Hindley (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is the third instalment of the Royal Rabbits of London series, and while I`m yet to read the first few books, there wasn`t anything in this one that I didn`t understand due to this. It focuses on Shylo, the newest recruit of the Royal Rabbits of London (a group of rabbits who protect and aid the royal family), as the Queen`s diamond is stolen and they must track it down. I loved all the different characters and groups that pop up throughout, especially the foxes, and I enjoyed the dynamics between them too. I also enjoyed the mystery, which took some unexpected twists and turns, and I thought the emphasis on being kind to and considerate of others was so lovely, as was the way it depicts friendship. Shylo was such a sweet character, and overall I just really enjoyed how happy and feelgood this is in general. The illustrations throughout were fantastic too. I`m really looking forward to going back and reading the first two books at some point, and following the series as it goes on. 4/5

White Feather by Catherine and David Macphail (received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This story takes place following the Armistice, but for our protagonist Tony, the war isn`t quite over yet. His brother was allegedly a deserter and was shot for cowardice, but Tony can`t believe his brother would do such a thing, and when he starts to investigate, things don`t quite add up and he sets out to discover the truth of what really happened to Charlie. It`s such a gripping read, and I raced through it so I too could discover the truth, as while I had a general idea of what occurred I desperately wanted the full story. I also loved that the book shows the way that men who were deserters or were seen as cowards in general were treated as it highlights how dangerous stereotyping men as strong and tough can be, even now, as well as how it impacted on their families too, which wasn`t something that we covered while studying this era in history. I also appreciated the way that it showed the psychological impact on men who returned from the front line. However, while I completely understood them, I did struggle a little with the methods that Tony uses to get to the truth, which made me a bit uncomfortable towards the climax. Overall though, I found this compelling to read, and very honest in the portrayal of people`s attitudes to those they perceived to have not done their duty for their country, even though they didn`t perhaps know the full details of someone`s situation. 4/5

What were your favourite reads of October? Do you have any thoughts on the ones that I read? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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

7 thoughts on “October Reviews 2018”

  1. Wow you’ve got through so much this month – and such an amazing diversity of books as well! Storm Witch and Frost Fire sounds incredible reads, I’m definitely going to have to check them out. Great post – really enjoyed reading through this.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Most of them. Especially interested to read The Light Between Worlds and The Train to Impossible Places. I also have To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on my TBR so I should probably read that


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