Hello everybody! Today, I’m back with another review post, and this time all the books have some connection to the solar system and/or space (Luna Rae’s connection is the title, as I speak Spanish and therefore I’ve decided it absolutely counts because I really wanted to read it). This is a couple of days late on account of the fact I had an oral exam on Friday and spent so much time stressing over that I needed a couple of extra days to put this together. Onto the post!
Starboard by Nicola Skinner and illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino
After reading Bloom in January, I immediately declared myself a lifelong Nicola Skinner superfan and decided reading her other books was one of my main priorities in 2021, and so my expectations for Starboard were stratospherically high. The book itself exceeded every single one of my expectations, and therefore this is going to be another blabbering review where I try to express how clever Nicola Skinner is and how much I need everyone to read her books. This is the story of a girl named Kirsten, who is the star of a popular reality TV show, and what happens when a very old, famous ship decides she is her new captain when Kirsten visits her on a school trip, and sort of kidnaps her to go on an incredible journey, along with her ex best friend Olive and some mannequins who have come alive. The main thing I love about Nicola’s writing is how funny it is– it’s so subtle and witty and I couldn’t stop laughing at some of the exchanges between Kirsten and the SS Great Britain, and also her and Flatty’s dynamic was amazing. Kirsten wasn’t always likeable, as such, but she’s such a flawed, unique and interesting character and I felt so much sympathy for her by the end, once I came to understand her better. The ship herself and Flatty were definitely my faves though, they were just incredible! Alongside the humour, it’s also incredibly wise, and says so many true, important things that I also ended up in tears at a few points. It’s very hard to describe this book, and before I read it I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen in it, but it’s at its core a story about finding yourself and friendship and how what you want to do isn’t always the same as what you need to do. I remain now, and always will be, a Nicola Skinner fangirl, and I cannot wait to get my hands on whatever she writes next.
Luna Rae is Not Alone by Hayley Webster
I was a huge fan of One Christmas Night, which is an adult title Hayley wrote, so I’ve been excited for her first middle grade ever since I first heard it was happening. It’s the story of Luna Rae, and what happens when her family moves to a new house and amidst the stress and chaos of that, she also has to worry about why she hasn’t seen her mum since they moved in, especially as she is desperate to enter the school baking competition with her. Luna is such a wonderful main character and I especially loved how protective she was of her little sister (who was, coincidentally, adorable). Her relationship with her new friend Rudo was super lovely, and I found the adult characters in this book so interesting, as they show that adults are also flawed and don’t actually have all the answers in life. I really didn’t expect some of the reveal moments in this, mainly something that happens with Rudo and then when Luna discovers where her mum is. This is such a compassionate, heartwarming comfort read, and I love its message that no matter how alone you feel, there are more people looking out for you than you think.
Murder on the Safari Star by M.G Leonard and Sam Sedgman, and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
After thoroughly enjoying Kidnap on the California Comet in March, I wanted to get to the third book of the Adventures on Trains series as soon as possible, and this is easily my favourite of Hal and Uncle Nat’s adventures so far. It takes place on a train ride through South Africa, which allows for safari excursions, and Hal must solve the murder of a fellow passenger after they are found dead in a locked room, with the help of his uncle (one of the very best uncles in middle grade), his new friend Winston and a yellow mongoose. Hal is such a great character, and I love how much of a role his artwork plays in the story, and I really love that he has a different friend in each book- I think Winston may be favourite of all of them so far, not least because of how much he loves Chipo. The cast of suspects were are all, rather appropriately, super suspicious and I didn’t see the twist at the end coming at all, and I’m still kicking myself for not getting it in hindsight. The setting was just incredible, and I loved all the facts about safari animals and how trips like that would work I got to learn. Think First Class Murder meets the White Giraffe, and you’ll have a pretty good picture of how epic this is!
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando (TW: suicide, bullying)
Before I start this review, I want to make it clear that if you have experienced bullying or suicidal thoughts before, I highly recommend making sure that you’re in a slightly better place and working through this trauma before you pick this up, because it’s incredibly raw and painful and truthful about what it feels like. Moving on from my lengthy disclaimer, this is the story of Nate and Megan, who are brought together in very unusual circumstances after Nate’s brother takes his own life, and they team up to discover why as neither can understand why Al did it. I loved both characters, as though neither of them were perfect, their hearts were absolutely always in the right place, and I loved how dedicated they were to preserving Al’s memory. I was absolutely hooked as they set out to discover why Al felt so trapped and hopeless, and the twists and thorns just got worse and worse, but also kept me utterly gripped as I despised the bullies in this to such a huge extent. The ending made me cry so much, and also get incredibly angry about how many extraordinary people suffer unnecessarily because others judge them for being different. This book is powerful, and hugely important.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
I have been meaning to read this for the longest time, even though sci fi isn’t my usual favourite genre, because I’ve heard such good things about it, and although I was apprehensive going in I ended up really liking it. The title is a fairly literal description of the plot- it follows the crew of the spaceship the Wayfarer as they make a long journey to a small, angry planet, and specifically how the arrival of the new clerk Rosemary Harper impacts the dynamic of the crew. The characters are definitely the highlight of this as it’s very much character driven, and it’s so difficult to choose a favourite because they’re all so incredible in their own different ways. If you made me, though, I’d probably go for Sissix (I especially loved her relationship with Rosemary), and Kizzy, who was so clever and eccentric and funny, although I also had a huge soft spot for Corbin (you’ll understand why if you’ve read it). There are a few directions the plot takes that I absolutely didn’t expect, and I just adored the balance it achieves between keeping things exciting and being cosy and about a found family. I’ll admit I found the science hard to understand, but I did very much like the intricate, complex world Chambers has created. I’m definitely planning to continue in the series, too, as there’s so much more I want to learn about this world and some of the characters we didn’t get to see a lot of in this instalment.
The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
Every time I read an Eva Ibbotson book, I become even more convinced that she really was one of the greatest writers of all time, who can transcend genre and target age to create stories that are always exciting, moving and above all, have this lovely comforting feel to them, like being wrapped in a blanket but with words. The Star of Kazan is the story of a girl named Annika, who is raised as a servant after being abandoned in a church as a baby, by a loving if unusual found family, until a dazzling aristocratic woman arrives and takes her away, claiming that she is her long-lost mother. Annika must try to adjust to a new life that has very little in common with the dreams of her childhood, and when she discovers that all is not quite as it seems, she ends up in a very precarious situation. The main thing I love in Eva’s writing is the writing style itself, which is just so beautiful that I never wanted to put the book down. It made me want to visit the Austria of the time period in which the book is set, and utterly fall in love with each character. Annika is so capable and kind, I adored her surrogate family of Ellie, Sigrid and the professors, and Zed was just the absolute best, and I loved how good a friend he was to Annika and also how his life changed over the course of the book. The mystery element was so intriguing and I loved the way that all the loose ends were tied up at the end. I can’t wait to read more of Eva’s books, although I have no idea what I’ll do when I run out.
The Kid Who Came from Space by Ross Welford
This is the story of a boy named Ethan, whose sister Tammy disappeared on Christmas Eve under very odd circumstances, and his journey through time and space to save her from an awful fate. I loved the wry writing style and some of Ethan’s one liners, and also his bravery, but I think his companions were both absolutely brilliant characters. Iggy is someone who a lot of people have written off as a bad kid, even though he’s actually very resourceful and bright, and Hellyann (the “alien” who aids the boys in their mission to save Tammy) is an absolute sweetheart, and I couldn’t have loved her anymore if I’d tried. The addition of Philip the AI also added a lot of humour, and the camaraderie between the characters was touching and entertaining in equal measure. I also found the worldbuilding of the other planet and its people and their customs fascinating- it was so detailed and intricate, and also allowed for the exploration of the idea of what makes us human, both good and bad. I also liked the way it explores the morality of zoos through this sci-fi lens, and it’s incredibly powerful and moving in places. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read and I’m hoping this will be the year where I finally get through some more of Ross Welford’s previous titles.
Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery
This has been on my TBR for ages, and although the plot was admittedly quite different to what I was expecting, I really enjoyed reading another book from Ross Montgomery’s back catalogue after adoring the Midnight Guardians last year. It’s about a girl called Caitlin, who lives on a secluded island and doesn’t fit in at school, and how meeting a mysterious creature named Perijee changes her life forever. It’s hard to say more about the plot than that, but I loved the apocalyptic twist it took, and the exploration of how people act in unprecedented situations, some of which seemed very familiar from the beginning of the current pandemic. Caitlin is such a darling and her naive, optimistic view of life made her so endearing. I also loved her friends Fi and Frank, who show that friendship can be found in unlikely places with unlikely people, but it doesn’t make it any less valid or beautiful a friendship. My feelings for Perijee were a wee bit complicated, which you’ll understand if you’ve read this I think, but I did feel very sorry for him and I liked his bond with Caitlin. As you’d expect from one of Ross’s books, this was very funny indeed in places, and utterly heartwarming too.
Artic Star by Tom Palmer (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I’ve read almost all of Tom Palmer’s Barrington Stoke titles and thoroughly enjoyed them all, so it was no surprise that I thought this was another compelling, moving story about the Second World War. This time, it is the story of three young Naval officers (Frank, Stephen and Joseph) who are part of the Artic Convoy, ships who transport goods to Russia and then back on a horrific journey, which not everyone makes it through alive. Frank is a very sympathetic narrator, and I found Joseph an interesting character, but Stephen was undoubtedly my favourite, given his dark sense of humour. I also liked how much this delved into the politics of this era and so many different facets of how tumultuous and dangerous it was. I also really liked learning more about the Navy, and some of the action scenes were heartstoppingly tense. I very definitely started crying at a few points during this, but it has a hopeful tone overall, and it was fascinating to learn about a part of history I had shamefully been oblivious to previously.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? I’d love to hear in the comments!
4 thoughts on “Reviews: To Infinity and Beyond!”
Great reviews, I do enjoy your themed review posts.
I really, really need to read Starboard asap! I’d like to read Arctic Star too, I really need to read some more Tom Palmer.
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PS hope your oral exam went OK on Fri.xx
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I’m so glad you like them, I find them so much more fun than the way I did review posts before! The oral exam was a nightmare but I’m so glad it’s over with! Only 2 exams left then I’m finished 2nd year 😱😊 xx
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Woohoo! Nearly there!
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