Reviews: Birds Flying High

Hello everybody! Today, I have a new review post to share with you, this time themed around birds, whether they feature prominently in the books or are just mentioned in the title. Anyway, onto the post!

The Swallows Flight by Hilary McKay (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

As you might know if you read the post where I reviewed the first book in the series, the Skylarks’ War has become one of my favourite books of all time this year, and Swallows’ Flight has also joined that list after I read it. This takes place in the lead up to and during the second world war, and primarily focuses on Kate (Peter and Vanessa’s youngest child), Ruby (Violet’s faughter) and Hans and Erik, who live in Germany and have their lives turned upside down as their country becomes unrecognisable. I’ve talked before about how interesting I find the German home front during world war two, and this book was no exception. The influence Hitler had on people and the slow, insidious way he introduced his regime is so frightening, and I feel like this book really captured the fact that many Germans had no choice but to comply or be punished. The sections set in Britain were fascinating too in terms of learning new things about our home front, and I loved the relationship between Ruby and Kate, not to mention the parts told from Pax’s point of view. Another very small part of the book I loved was the mention of Jesse Owens, and it kind of goes without saying but getting to see Clarry, Rupert, Peter, Vanessa and Violet as grown ups influencing a new generation was amazing. I’m so excited that there is another book in the works, because these are such wonderful, moving, clever books and I’ll never get quite enough of them.

A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

I was a huge fan of the Witch’s Kiss trilogy, and I thought this book by the same authors sounded fantastic, so it was a no brainer to choose it for this post. It takes place in a world in which nobles can transform into birds, and Aderyn, the new Protector of a kingdom, is unable to transform after a brutal attack that claimed her mother’s life and left her with both physical and mental scars. This is much more of a high fantasy than the Corr sisters’ previous trilogy, and I thought they did an amazing job with the worldbuilding and mythology and backstory. I also loved that it was more of a political fantasy, with lots of backstabbing and plotting and scheming, not to mention some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. The cast of characters were so wonderful, I especially liked Aderyn, who is a wonderful heroine who seeks justice and abhors the cruel treatment of “the flightless”, but her love interest Lucien was another of my faves, as were Aran and Odette, Aderyn’s cousins . And I can’t tell you who they are, but the villain is amazing and I didn’t expect them to be so sinister. The ending was so unexpected and clever, and I’m dying to pick up the finale to the duology.

If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

I’m a huge fan of Carlie’s MG books, so I have absolutely no clue why it’s taken me so long to pick up her debut YA, given I’ve always wanted to read it, but somehow it’s taken me 4 years. It’s about Linny, whose sister Grace recently disappeared, and Sebastian, who travels to Miami to meet the father he’s only just learnt about, and their love story. Although Linny and Sebastian find have other and attempt to find answers about the people in their lives who left, I think the most important part of the book is them finding themselves. They both grow and learn throughout the story, and I got so attached to them as I read. That said, there are some very cute and lowkey iconic scenes in this that do make the love story a very important element too, such as the ballpit scene and the constellations on the ceiling moment. The ending made me cry a LOT, but I loved the way everything got tied up, but didn’t feel neatly wrapped with a bow, like things are in real life. I’m really looking forward to picking up Wild Blue Wonder now, and of course for Carlie’s next middle grade.

Twitch by M.G Leonard

I’ve been so excited for this since I heard about it, because I loved M.G Leonard’s first solo series Beetle Boy, and her co-written series Adventures on Trains is great too, and I’m pleased to report that I think other fans of her work will really like it. It’s about a young birdwatcher named Twitch, and how he becomes embroiled in the search for an escaped robber who’s allegedly searching for hidden money in his local woods. Twitch is such a lovely character and his love for birds is so clear, and I loved the way it intertwined with the plot in such a natural fun way, similar to how much I learned about beetles while engrossed in Darkus’s adventures and trains when I’m reading one of Hal’s. His birds are all such fun, cool characters in their own right too, and I also really liked his mum. The mystery itself takes some great twists and turns, including one of my favourite ever plot twists that I don’t see nearly enough, and I liked the way things were resolved, as I could never have predicted all of it. I’m looking forward to reading the next Twitchers mystery!

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

I read one of Matilda Woods’ books back in 2018, and have been meaning to pick up her others ever since, so I was very pleased to finally get to this. It has the same dreamy, fairytale style feel, and this time focuses on the unusual friendship between the coffin maker of a town named Allora, and a runaway boy named Tito and his bird companion, who are in terrible danger if their past catches up to them. The writing is so lyrical and lovely, I adored the town of Allora and all it’s different shops and townspeople so much I kind of want to visit it, and although the plot is slow paced, it’s such an enchanted story it hooks you in and doesn’t let you go regardless. The relationship between Tito and Alberto, and the way they help each other find hope in a bleak time is beautiful, and I also found it interesting that it tackles domestic violence in a fantasy setting, which I can’t recall seeing before in a middle grade. This is heartbreaking in places, but overall full of hope and heart, and if you want a quick read that’ll stay in your mind for a long while, this is a great choice.

The Last Hawk by Elizabeth Wein (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I’ve loved all of Elizabeth Wein’s other Barrington Stoke titles, so I was very pleased indeed when this popped up in a recent blogger news email. It’s the story of Ingrid, who is a glider pilot and speaks with a stammer, which is incredibly dangerous in Nazi Germany, so she decides to do her patriotic duty by joining a propaganda tour when she is asked to increase her chances of survival under Hitler’s regime. Through this work, with the daring Hannah Reitsch (who actually existed and was so cool to learn about, even though she was an incredibly flawed person!), she discovers some dark secrets about German aviation, and has to decide how to handle this knowledge. I loved Ingrid as a character, as well as her friendship with Emil, plus learning more about glider pilots was fun too as I’ve never even heard of them before. I always feel like I learn something new every time I read an Elizabeth Wein book, in fact. My favourite part of this, however, was definitely the fact that it explores how dangerous having a disability was in Nazi Germany. As a disabled person I’ve done a lot of research on it in the past but I’ve never seen it depicted in a book and I think it’s so important to remember the horrors people faced because of Hitler. Overall, this may not be a long book, but it packs a real punch and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

This has been on my TBR for such a long time, but something has always got in the way of me actually picking it up, so it was one of the first books I chose for this post. It’s about a girl called December, who believes she is a bird and that the scar on her back is where are wings are trying to break out, and how her life changes when she gets a new foster parent and feels like she’s found a home for the first time in her life. My heart absolutely broke for December at so many parts of this, because I absolutely loved her and her knowledge of birds, and the way she slowly opens up to Eleanor, who is so patient and kind and wonderful. I also loved Cheryllynn, who is trans, and an amazingly loyal friend to December, even though she has so much going on in her own life. The bullies they face at school made me so angry, but the way they stick together is lovely. The subplot with December training a falcon is a wonderful addition as well. The ending was simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful, and very moving too.

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

This is another book I’ve taken far too long to read, especially given how much I loved Counting by 7s when I was at school and desperately wanted Willow for a friend, but I’m so glad I finally picked it up. It’s an epistolary, modern-day take on the Parent Trap, in which two girls named Avery and Bett scheme to split their dads up (and later get them back together), over the course of a year. The letters/email/text message format is insanely fun, and I really want to see it in more books! I especially liked the fact that we get to see the point of view of some of the adult characters through these, and it also added a lot of the book’s quirky, super fun humour. The relationship between Bett and Avery was such a cute friendship and I loved that they basically became sisters, even though the whole reason for them to start talking was to work out how to prevent that. I also love the fact that this has two gay dads who are absolutely wonderful fathers, and that the book makes clear that there isn’t really such a thing as a “traditional” family. Overall, this is is such a joyous little book and I recommend it highly to fans of contemporary MG with plenty of hijinks.

The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

I can’t remember where I first found out about this book, because it’s published by an Australian company and I haven’t seen anyone online chatting about it, but I’m so glad I did because it’s a wonderful fantasy novel and I need more people to read it. It’s the story of a girl named Olga, who lives in a Slavic-inspired fantasy world where birds and humans are in a tense peacetime following a brutal war in the skies, that led to magic being outlawed. When odd things begin to happen to Olga after she and her family are exiled into the Borderlands, she resolves to keep her newfound abilities a secret, but after the birds abduct her little sister, she is forced to harness her power and journey into the Republic of Birds to save her. Olga is such a wonderful main character, flawed but still wholly likeable, and she has a wry style of narration that had me chuckling often. I also adored the superb supporting cast of characters too, especially Mina and Anastasia, but Varvara and the yagas brought me a great deal of joy as well. The worldbuilding is so incredible and intricate and interesting, and I kind of want to read more books about this world because I’d love to learn more about it. I’ve had Elizabeth and Zenobia on my TBR basically forever, and after this it’s definitely a priority for me to pick it up before the end of the year, hopefully.

Call Me Alastair by Cory Leonardo

Oh my god, I can’t tell you how much I regret not picking this up sooner, especially given that a close friend told me I’d love it back when it first came out. It’s the story of an African Grey parrot named Alastair, who is delightfully grumpy, and his plans to escape after he and his sunny sister Aggie are bought by different people (an old widow named Bertie and a future doctor named Fritz respectively). Alastair has such a distinctive, tremendously fun narrative voice, which include his wonderful poems, and I loved the other perspectives we get through Fritz’s diary entries and Bertie’s letters to her late husband. The characters are all so utterly lovable and I fell in love with all of them and their personalities so much, and the friendship between Fritz and Bertie sparked by them buying the birds melted my heart. My other favourite thing about this book is how much it made me laugh. Alastair’s war of words and deeds with Tiger the cat are honestly hilarious, and the scene with Humpty Dumpty had me CRYING with laughter. I was also crying sad tears by the end though, especially in the flash forward we get, because even though I guessed what was about to happen, it didn’t make it any less sad to read. This is a stunning book, and I really want to read more from the author as soon as possible.

A Secret of Birds and Bone by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s fourth middle grade book is definitely my favourite thing she’s ever written. It’s the story of a girl named Sofia who lives on the outskirts of Siena with her mother and brother, as well as their pet crow Corvith (who is amazing and most definitely my favourite character), until a silver-veiled stranger changes everything and then after Sofia’s mama is arrested on her birthday and she and Ermin are taken to the city orphanage, she decides to work out what has happened to her mum and also solve some more of the city’s strange mysteries. Sofia is a wonderful heroine, who is clever and brave and just, and I loved Ermin too, especially as the story and their relationship progressed. As I’ve already mentioned, Corvith was 100% my favourite character, but a close second was Ghino, who is very complex but just has something really likeable about him. The magpies were such excellent animal companions for the villains (not least because I’m terrified of them anyway), and I can’t use names because it’d be a bit spoilery, but I thought the villains were both very sinister and scarily similar to some people I’ve known in real life. I feel like I’ve rambled for ages, but I also want to mention how much I loved the idea of bone building! This is such an atmospheric, enjoyable read, and I couldn’t put it down towards the end.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (TW: sexual assault/harassment)

I’m not 100% sure I fully understood all the nuances of this, as I often don’t when I read literary fiction (no matter which age group it’s aimed at), but this is such a strange, enchanting story that I fell in love with some of it anyway. It’s about a girl called Anna, who is just 7 when war breaks out in 1939 and her linguistics professor father is taken to an internment camp. His friend that is supposed to care for her instead casts her out, and she meets the Swallow Man, a master of many languages and a mystery in every sense of the word, and ends up travelling Poland with him. The relationship between Anna and the Swallow Man is odd but also gentle and rather sweet, and I loved how precocious Anna is (unlike many adults, I mean that in the very best way, and I’m not being patronising). I also liked the book’s portrayal of the war, and how vicious and cruel and pointless the reasons for it were. The thing I loved best about the book, however, was it’s focus on languages and how amazing it is to be multilingual, and I wish I had the Swallow Man’s abilities so much (especially if it meant I could speak to birds). An unusual, haunting tale with so many wonderful things in it, even though I totally lost track of what was happening at the end, and found some scenes incredibly uncomfortable to read.

Thank you so much for reading! Which bird-themed books would you recommend? Have you read any of the ones I’ve reviewed here? 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: | she/her

10 thoughts on “Reviews: Birds Flying High”

  1. Now you’ve given me an ear worm with that title!!
    I would add Swan Song which is beautiful and The Closest Thing to Flying both by Gill Lewis. Both use birds as a topic or hook to healing within the plot which also speaks of wider issues the former about male disenfranchisement in school and depression who finds his value in learning about the local swans, the latter a dual- time story about suffrage, the forming of the RSPB and human trafficking/ indentured slavery in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was initially going to call it High Flying Birds but I prefer Liam to Noal Gallagher, but I am sorry about the earworm 😂😂
      I loved Swan Song! I can’t remember which post it was for but I definitely reviewed it at one point. I’ve not read the Closest Thing to Flying though so I’ll need to keep an eye out…
      Have you read Flying Tips for Flightless Birds? I think you’d really like it x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No I haven’t read that- I have a review of Closest on my blog if you want to check it out (early days so possible cringe I don’t know!!!)
        Oh and I’m hearing Nina Simone Feeling Good, (later covered by Muse) I didn’t know it was a Gallagher thing!!!


    I’m glad you loved Twitch and Birds and Bone!
    I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again but I definitely need to read some Elizabeth Wein.
    I loved Anna and the Swallow Man when I read it a couple of years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my god I thought I’d told you! Hilary mentioned it when I interviewed her for the Swallows blog tour, I’m so excited!! I need to read more Elizabeth Wein too (I wished out of Code Name Verity when I was like 12, but I think I could cope now maybe 😂), so I’ll hold you to it if you hold me to it?! And I was very pleasantly surprised by Birds and Bone!! X

      Liked by 1 person

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