February Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, it`s time for my February reviews post, which is a little bit later in the month than usual because I`ve had lots of school deadlines/speaking exams. Onto the post!


Vote for Effie by Laura Wood

In this fierce, funny and irrefutably feminist book, Laura Wood tells the story of Effie Kostas, who has decided to run for student council president in order to stop the injustices she sees taking place, despite the fact she is a brand-new student who barely knows a single person in the school. It was simultaneously brilliant fun and incredibly inspiring to follow Effie`s campaign and I absolutely adored the members of her campaign team too, as they all added something valuable to the cause and it was great that it changed all of them in some way too- Effie was the protagonist and most of the focus was of course on her, but the supporting characters all had arcs too. I also completely loved Effie`s family, particularly her hilarious little sister Lil. However, this excellent supporting cast certainly doesn`t overshadow the leading lady, because Effie is even more phenomenal. She is driven, determined and passionate, and I loved her a lot- her personality really comes through in her narration and it made for a great reading experience. Finally, I need to give a mention to how much I enjoyed the humour in this book because it was fabulous, and the frequent pop culture references (especially to Disney!) were also delightful. I can`t wait for more in this series, especially to see what Effie turns her attention to following the ending! 4.5/5

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

In her second novel, Karen M McManus takes us to Echo Ridge- a town where several girls have tragically disappeared/died prior to our story starting- and focuses on Ellery (the niece of one victim) and Malcolm (the brother of the main suspect in the other, later girl`s death) as they try to get to the bottom of things when it seems the killer is back in town and ready to strike them. Honestly, I was so disappointed in this. While I didn`t dislike them, exactly, I also didn`t particularly like either main character, and given how strong and distinct the narrative voices in One of Us Is Lying were, their voices felt extremely bland and similar to the point I genuinely got confused at points. I did quite like secondary characters such as Ezra and Mia, and just wish there had been more of them as they were one of the only redeeming qualities of this book for me. However, there really wasn`t that much of them, and other than this, I found the central romance distracting and unnecessary. On the mystery side of things, my feelings were also mixed with more emphasis on the negative. I thought the creepy atmosphere was really quite well done and I suppose I was interested to some degree as I couldn`t quite bring myself to DNF (though I did come close…). On the other hand, I saw just about every twist coming before it happened (including the one at the very end) and that just took away the addictive quality I love so much in mysteries. Overall, I was seriously disappointed in this and I hope the sequel to One of Us Is Lying manages to capture the same feeling as its predecessor. 3/5

The Day I Was Erased by Lisa Thompson
This is Lisa Thompson`s third book, and she just keeps getting better every time. The plot- which is quite reminiscent of “It`s a Wonderful Life” but is also totally unique from that- focuses on a boy called Maxwell who is constantly in trouble at home and in school, who wishes that he didn`t exist and then has to undo his erasion. First of all, I loved Maxwell. He is not always the kindest and doesn`t make the best choices sometimes, but I think it`d be impossible not to sympathise with him as you read because he has a heart of gold deep down (his relationships with Reg and Monster melted me) and his behaviour makes perfect sense when you hear his reasons for doing certain things/examine the subtext. His development throughout was fantastic too. I also thought the mystery was fantastic, as was the magical realism element. The mystery was so intriguing, with a perfect resolution and the way the magical realism tied in felt so believable and I loved uncovering its secrets. My other favourite thing was the ending in general rather than just that of the mystery plot strand, as it was perfect and made me cry! A thoughtful, interesting middle grade that crosses into several genres and does a great job in all of them. 4.5/5

Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of best friends Lewis and Rhona as they go on a school residential trip and become embroiled in saving the last unicorn herd from a cruel poacher. Lewis and Rhona are both great characters, and I definitely related big time to Lewis which was a lot of fun to read. I also thought the balance between the fantasy/adventure side of things and contemporary was super well done- the exploration of the characters` issues and how they affect their lives was gradually revealed and so interesting. I loved the unicorns and the way their customs and history were explained, particularly since they were very different to what I`d expected them to be and I liked what they actually were even more. The book`s villain also needs a mention, because they are absolutely CHILLING and gave me total Cruella de Vil vibes, which is not a comparison I make lightly seeing she is basically my favourite villain of all time. Finally, as a Scottish person I loved the use of slang in this book, as I think I`m from an area quite near to Lewis and Rhona`s (I say think because I`m hopeless with anything to do with geography…) and a lot of it was very familiar and I hear/use so many of the phrases daily. 4.5/5

Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

If you have ever read this blog before then there`s a fair chance you`ll know that the Geek Girl series by this author means basically everything to me- I wrote it a love letter once, and I still didn`t come close to capturing how I feel about it. The point of that little ramble is that I was extremely nervous heading into Happy Girl Lucky, which is the first thing Holly`s published out with Geek Girl, but thankfully I shouldn`t have been. I will admit it took me a little while to get properly into this- partially because Hope isn`t Harriet Manners and partially because Hope`s voice is very unique and takes some getting used to. However, after I got used to the way she narrates I really liked Hope- her positivity and daydreaming were so endearing and I found her inner strength admirable. I also loved the supporting cast quite a bit. Hope`s siblings are all fantastic (I adored their complex relationships and dynamic), her parents and grandmother were all very interesting to say the least and a special mention must go to Roz, because she is a queen (My notes on her simply read “ROZ!!!”, to give you an idea of how much I love her). I don`t want to say too much here, because I don`t want to spoil the book, but there is an also an antagonist I despised almost as much as Geek Girl`s Alexa, which I didn`t think was possible. My other favourite thing about this was the messages it conveys. I have said a lot of times that the most special thing about Geek Girl for me is its message of not having to change who you are to please other people and that you being who you are is amazing already, and I loved so much that this is present in this book too, even though Hope`s journey is entirely different and her own. I also think the way it handles emotional abuse is incredibly important. Overall, this is a really strong start to this series, and though I did feel like it was a little bit more serious in tone than Geek Girl, there`s still plenty of humour and heart and hope. I can`t wait to read the next story about one of Hope`s sisters. 4.5/5

Mo, Lottie and the Junkers by Jennifer Killick (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the first book in a new MG sci-fi detective series from the author of the (utterly wonderful) Alex Sparrow series. It introduces Mo and Lottie- whose parents have just moved in together- as they have to team up to investigate some very strange goings on that appear to be connected to their rather sinister new neighbours. First of all, I thought the format was so clever as it is a transcript of a video that Mo and Lottie are recording and this means there are so many marvellous moments where they go off on little tangents as they tell us their story. Their interactions in general were absolutely hilarious, and I loved them both so much as individuals alongside the friendship they form. On the plot side of things, the mystery is phenomenal. I was super intrigued from the outset and my desperation to learn more about the Junkers reached ridiculous levels as I read this. I always read (at the very least) one more chapter than I`d intended to in each session because I was so hooked and it`s very hard to put down. The conclusion was great too, and has left me very excited indeed for the follow-up. I was already thrilled Jennifer had two books out this year, and that`s even more true now; I can`t wait to see Alex and his world again in September before returning to Mo and Lottie next year! 5/5

The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her debut novel, Kirsty Applebaum tells the story of “middler” Maggie, who lives in a world where birth order determines your destiny (eldests are sent to camp to train for war, youngests are seen as a bit hopeless and middlers are mostly just forgotten altogether), and what happens when she meets wanderer Una and they develop a friendship, despite fraternisation with wanderers being forbidden by the town`s rules. I thought this concept sounded fascinating just from the synopsis, and the execution is even better; it was such an interesting world to spend time in and I thought the worldbuilding was superbly done in every way imaginable. Maggie is a brilliant narrator, and I was so sympathetic towards her, though I loved that the book explored the difficulties each sibling would have due to their birth order too. I adored her friendship with Una, which was incredibly complicated but they had so many beautiful moments too. There were some fabulous twists as well, and I truly didn`t know who to trust a lot of the time, especially as things progressed (I can`t say who they are, but I can`t put into words how much I despised the antagonist of this book!). I`m so excited to follow Kirsty`s career, because I think her future works will most likely be fantastic. 4.5/5

The Star Spun Web by Sinead O` Hart

I was lucky enough to read a proof of Sinead`s wonderful debut The Eye of the North, and as such I have had a very long time to get excited about her second book. If anything, it was even better than my astronomical expectations of it. It is the story of orphan Tess de Sousa and what happens when a sinister man claims to be her guardian and removes her from the orphanage, where she had one of the most wonderful found families I think I`ve ever read. Things get even stranger from there, and soon Tess is swept up in trying to prevent him carrying out his dangerous plans, which link to her mysterious (and possibly otherworldly past). Tess is such a fantastic, capable heroine and I admired her so much, despite having absolutely no personal interest in science, so I can`t imagine how much she`ll mean to girls who enjoy STEM subjects. I also loved Thomas and Millie, the aforementioned inhabitants of the orphanage and the absolutely brilliant/rather chilling baddies, but my very favourites were Violet and Moose, because they were SUCH awesome animal companions. The fantasy/sci-fi elements were incredibly interesting and made sense even to my very non-science wired brain, which isn`t always the case with science stories for me. This was so gripping as well, particularly towards the end, and though the ending was super satisfying I would love a sequel an infinite amount. This just feels like a future classic in so many ways. 5/5

The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

This is the sequel to the Elephant Thief, which I read and loved last year, and it focuses on Danny`s new life at Belle Vue being upended when animals begin escaping from their enclosures with some help from a saboteur and a man arrives claiming to be his father. Though things are very much explained in a way that means you could understand this perfectly without reading the Elephant Thief and wouldn`t have any of its epic twists spoiled, I`d very much recommend starting with the first book, because returning to these characters felt so emotional for me. I was still every bit as desperate for Danny`s life to be wonderful in every way, I still loved his relationships with his best friend Hetty and elephant Maharajah and I was honestly so invested in the outcome of every single character that I knew and loved already. Between this fact and all the things going wrong for them, I was absolutely glued to this while reading because I was so worried, just like I was with its predecessor. I can`t say much about the mysteries without spoiling anything so all I`ll tell you is that there are some brilliant twists, and you should expect to be biting your nails right down during the climax. A very strong sequel to one of my favourite reads of last year. 4.5/5

What books did you read in February, and would you recommend them? Do you have any thoughts on those that I read? I`d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

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Author: goldenbooksgirl

Middle grade/young adult book blogger

7 thoughts on “February Reviews 2019”

  1. I haven’t read The Day I Was Erased yet but as soon as I read about Maxwell I loved the sound of him. He’s definitely a character I think I’ll like!
    I’m so glad you enjoyed the new Holly Smale too! Not my thing (as I’m sure you’ll know!) but I know how much you love Geek Girl so glad this didn’t disappoint! Out of interest from a work point of view – would you say it’s similar age-wise to Geek Girl as I always find that goes down well for that tricksy innetween MG and teen stage you sometimes get?x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh I was hoping to talk you into reading GG one day, but totally fair if it’s not your thing! I’d def say HGL would work for the teen stage- if anything it reads like it’s for a slightly younger audience even. Hope you enjoy the Day I Was Erased; it’s such a clever, thought-provoking book! Have you read Lisa Thompson before? X

      Like

      1. That’s good to know, thanks. And sorry but it’s pretty safe to say you’ve no chance of getting me to read GG! Though I know I probably should!
        Yes, I like Lisa Thompson but she’s another author whose books I can see the appeal of and love to recommend to kids but don’t go wild about personally, though I always enjoy them if that makes sense?!x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I really do love Geek Girl but I def get that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea! I actually didn’t like it the first time I read it; I’m so glad I have it another chance after being gifted a later book in the series because it’s so important to me now!
        I enjoyed Goldfish Boy but didn’t love it IYSWIM, but I really, really liked Light Jar and the Day I Was Erased. I’m VERY excited about Owen and the Soldier in the summer 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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