March Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, it’s time for my monthly reviews post for March, and I had a pretty excellent reading month. Onto the post!


Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber Lee Dodd

In this magical realism adventure, we are told the story of Amelia, a girl who lives on a remote Scottish island and has her life disrupted when she makes a wish to be reunited with her mum and then starts intermittently disappearing to places on the island where they shared their most special moments. Amelia is absolutely wonderful, and I greatly admired her bravery in dealing with everything she is going through, from her new power to the bullies who torment her due to her dyslexia and other things beyond her control. I also loved Tom an awful lot, because he is a great friend to Amelia even though he`s dealing with his own issues too. Their friendship was great in general as it`s complicated and messy in places just the way they can be in real life, but they`re always there for each other when it really counts. Another character I need to mention is Pipi, because what an epic animal companion she was! My other favourite thing about this was how atmospheric it was, as it almost felt like I was transported to the island at some points and this came very much in handy given I read a lot of it while attending various hospital appointments. Finally, I thought the way this very subtly challenged gender stereotypes was fantastic. 4.5/5

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

This is a collection of essays by Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham, and they are a blend of being her personal anecdotes and advice for readers. This made me laugh, made me cry and told me several things I definitely needed to hear. The best way I can describe the writing style is that it`s like Lorelai Gilmore but even more fast talking and rambly, which was a lot of fun after I adapted to it. I loved just about every essay- there was just one I actively didn`t enjoy- while the rest were so amazing I`d struggle to pick a favourite (it`d be her epic takedown of diet culture if you really twisted my arm, but the Gilmore Girls chapters were so emotional too and just the whole thing is fabulous!) It`s so wise and witty and wonderful; a pretty special read that`s an absolute must if you adore Gilmore Girls, but also worth reading if you`ve never seen an episode in your life. 4.5/5

We Won an Island by Charlotte Lo (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In her debut novel, Chrlotte Lo tells the story of a family who are going through a pretty tough time as they move to a remote Scottish island after they win a completion run by the very eccentric billionaire who owns it. It is narrated by middle child Luna, who is so optimistic and caring that it was a joy to see things from her viewpoint. I loved her utterly. The supporting characters are also excellent- her siblings Fabien and Margot are delightfully, hilariously madcap in very different ways, Kai was a total sweetheart and I loved getting to know him and her parents and the vast array of quirky islanders were a lot of fun too. Another thing that was lovely about this book was how gentle it was, and how it still managed to be exciting and super fun to follow along with at the same time. This is basically sunshine in book form, and I highly recommend it if you`re looking for a book to brighten every day you spend reading it. 4.5/5

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

This is the sequel to last year`s State of Sorrow, and as it picks up pretty soon after book one leaves off, I can`t tell you a great deal about the plot other than that it sees Sorrow trying to adapt to her new life whilst keeping enemies at bay. Sorrow is such a phenomenal character- she is so strong and an utter badass, but she`s also flawed and complex; essentially, she`s just a perfect heroine. My other main note on character for this simply reads LUVIAN IS LIFE because I was being a tragic fangirl at the time- so in more coherent terms I love Luvian, who is Sorrow`s advisor, a whole lot. I love lots of other characters too (and am still convinced Vespus is one of the nastiest baddies ever), so it was really fun seeing how Sorrow`s relationships with them all developed in this. Another relationship I especially loved was that Sorrow shares with her romantic interest, because it had me absolutely swooning and is potentially a new favourite pairing of all time. Something else I loved in this book was how utterly gripping it was. The plot twists had me literally gasping aloud on a very regular basis and things were so exciting/terrifying that I couldn`t put this down. I couldn`t have imagined a better ending to this duology- all the loose ends are tied up and I felt as if everyone ended up in their rightful place. 5/5

A Witch Come True by James Nicol

In the final book of the Apprentice Witch series, we see Arianwyn navigate the sudden reappearance of her father and the mysterious spreading of dangerous hex that we first learned about in book two, alongside her daily duties in Lull becoming more demanding and difficult due to Yule. I have always liked these books a lot and this instalment is no exception. My very favourite thing about them is how cosy a vibe they have despite the fact they`re so full of mystery and intrigue and action at the same time. I also adore Arianwyn herself, as well as her friendships with Estar and Salle- which do an excellent job of showing the complexities and nuances of friendship. The magic system and world are also fabulous- it was brilliant to learn even more about it and I don`t think I`d ever tire of finding out more and more information. Yule was also just as wonderful a time setting as I`d hoped for, and seeing all the various traditions was a total delight! I look forward to visiting whichever world James Nicol writes about next. 4.5/5

No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is a beautiful contemporary middle grade about a young Syrian refugee called Aya, who is attempting to attain a prestigious ballet school scholarship whilst also negotiating the difficulties of being an asylum seeker- namely the threat of deportation now she and her family are in Britain and the trauma of her father having went missing on their journey. It is so incredibly moving and emotive- my heart quite literally ached for Aya and her family and the kindness that people showed them renewed my faith in humanity quite a bit, especially since I read this just following the utterly deplorable attack in Christchurch. It is also an absolute masterclass in how to write characters, in my opinion. Aya is a tremendous heroine- she is so brave given what she`s went through and is still going through, and the joy her dancing brought her made me very happy too because I loved her so much. Each and every supporting character felt so real to me too, and I loved that they aren`t stereotypical or one dimensional, but are instead multi-layered. A special mention must go to Miss Helena too, because she is wise and wonderful and though I spent a fair bit of this in tears (aka all of it), there is something she says regarding scars that made me particularly emotional. I`ll admit I was sceptical, but let me assure you that this deserves every single comparison to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, because it truly does feel like a modern reimagining of that story that is entirely original and special in its own way too. 5/5

Pog by Pàdraig Kenny (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of siblings Penny and David, who are grieving the loss of their mother, as they move to a new house and must team up with Pog- one of the “First Folk” who lives in the attic of the new house-to defend themselves from the far more nefarious creatures. Pog is utterly endearing and I could not have loved him more due to his caring, compassionate nature and the beautiful bond he forms with Penny and David. I also became very fond of Penny and David, who are interesting and so wonderful , and I found the antagonist very sinister indeed. I also loved the way this was paced- it unfolds very slowly but it suited the story perfectly for it to be that way and it allowed me to fully get to know the characters. The ending was so moving, and I thoroughly enjoyed this. I`m very much looking forward to going back and reading the author`s debut, hopefully soonish. 4.5/5

St Grizzle`s School for Girls, Gremlins and Pesky Guests by Karen McCombie and illustrated by Becka Moor

This is the fourth and final book in the St Grizzle`s series, which this time sees the eccentric boarding school`s staff and pupils forced to accommodate some of Twittering Primary`s when the local school is flooded. The introduction of pompous Mr Puddock and reappearance of Spencer and his friends made this the funniest yet for me, and it was so much fun to see the St Grizzle`s gang bring them all down a few pegs. It was also just super lovely to see all of the characters I knew and loved again and even though I`m really sad this is the last time I get to see them, I thought the way things ended for all of them was perfect. Becka Moor`s illustrations also need a mention, because they`re as fabulous as ever here and complement Karen`s quirky, funny writing perfectly. 4.5/5

Not My Fault by Cath Howe (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of two sisters involved in a tragic accident- Maya, who was injured, and Rose, who feels responsible for what happened- as they go on a school residential trip together. It`s very much character-led rather than plot driven and so it was important that Maya and Rose were complex and interesting, which I definitely think they were. I loved the exploration of their relationship too, and really appreciated the way in which the dual narrative ensures we fully understand and empathise with both points of view, and it made me really root for a reconciliation as well. I particularly liked Maya as I related to her a lot, as while my health condition is very different there were some parts of her experiences that definitely resonated a lot. There is also a great ensemble of secondary characters- my particular favourite of whom was Bonnie- who form a very realistic-feeling class. A thoughtful, interesting contemporary. 4.5/5

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of a boy named Alex- who is an aspiring magician- and what happens when he is swept into a magical adventure after a chance encounter with real magic in Mr Olmos` garden. Alex is a brilliant hero- I felt so much sympathy for him and loved how his becoming involved with the ifrit and Mr Olmos impacted him. I also absolutely loved Mr Olmos and Freddie, who are both hilarious in their own ways and add some comic relief to moments that would be super tense otherwise (though they are still totally heart-stopping, fear not!). I also thought there were some amazing reveals and twists throughout this, a lot of which took me totally by surprise and one of which that made me gasp aloud. I need to mention the worldbuilding too, because it was great. The magic relating to the jinn was so unusual and really interesting, plus it was so well explained and exemplified that it felt very plausible that you could encounter it in real life. A funny and exciting fantasy that feels fresh and different. 4.5/5

A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven

Since I was lucky enough to win a very early copy of Laura Steven`s debut, it feels like I`ve been waiting on her second forever. My expectations were very high, and I`m so thrilled that this somehow managed to exceed them. This picks up a few months after Izzy`s slut shaming scandal, and it sees her attempt to get state laws on revenge porn changed after a similar incident to her own happens to a girl in her school. Izzy is still one of my favourite narrators ever, and I love her an infinite amount. I also love the very lovely Carson (seriously, I was updating a friend on my thoughts as I read this and most of them are just to the effect of I WOULD DIE FOR CARSON), her awesome besties Ajita and Meg and her gran Betty, because they are all epic and I love what they all bring to her life. Laura also did an excellent job of making me genuinely despise certain other characters, so I think it`s safe to say she`s just brilliant at writing characters in general. I`m also a big fan of the humour of these books. Izzy`s narration is full of wit and snark and pop culture references, which obviously had me laughing loads, and the dialogue is just fantastic too. That said, there are also some really important and impactful messages in here, and I love that the book manages to be both incredibly entertaining and utterly powerful at the same time. If you like your YA funny and feminist, definitely get onto reading Laura Steven sharpish. 5/5

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko

In this middle grade fantasy, Kamilla Benko tells the story of a girl called Claire, who must summon the courage to go back up the ladder in the fireplace of their new house into a fantasy world called Arden, in order to save her missing sister Sophie. I loved this concept so much as it`s such a classic fantasy setup, and it really lived up to its potential. Arden is an absolutely fantastic world that feels both original and somehow familiar, and I adored how intricate the history and worldbuilding were. I also really liked the characters- Claire is a fantastic protagonist and you can really feel everything she does, but the supporting characters like Sena and Thorne are also multi-layered and so interesting. The other thing I enjoyed a lot while reading this was how great the writing itself is. I loved Benko`s writing style itself as there is some excellent figurative language, but I also thought it was perfectly paced and constructed really well in terms of twists and reveals. After that ending, I definitely plan to get to book two pretty soon! 4.5/5


What did you read in March? Would you particularly recommend any? Are you planning to read any of the books I’ve reviewed here? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Author: goldenbooksgirl

Middle grade/young adult book blogger

13 thoughts on “March Reviews 2019”

  1. What a stellar selection of books! I loved Lightning Chase Me Home too and can’t wait to read Witch Comes True -I have my copy waiting! I want to read ALL of these now after reading your great reviews – There Are No Ballet Shoes in Syria will be the first on my list I think x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have several of these books in my queue to be read, plus TEOOO as you have persuaded me. I’m looking forward to starting The Apprentice Witch so I can catch up with this series. I also have my eye on Firemaker and we won an island too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You know No Ballet Shoes in Syria is on my list! I’m enjoying The Apprentice Witch series too – I admit though, I haven’t read your review of book 3 yet, I’ll wait til I’m caught up!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so excited to see what you think of No Ballet Shoes! So glad you’re enjoying Apprentice Witch too, and I’d be interested to see if you enjoyed Pog as well, as I’ve said before x

    Like

    1. I really loved both of those! Thank you for putting up with my live reactions 😂. I think you’ll really enjoy the Fire Maker. Especially as I can affirm it does indeed have LOTS of fire! X

      Like

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