Hello everybody! Today, I have a little mini batch of reviews for you, all of which have a character’s name in the title (there would’ve been more, but you all know I’m mood reading loads at the moment and also buddy reading and then some other things for different posts have been calling to me and there were some that could’ve ended up in a few different ones, so at the risk of sounding like someone on Love Island … it is what it is).
Also: heads up that there may well be another post with the same theme soonish because I have so many books with names in the titles on my tbr right now, I swear! Onto the post!
The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott by Sharon Gosling (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I’ve read and really enjoyed a couple of Sharon’s books now, and was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for this, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating picking it up and when I finally did, it didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of a girl named Katy, who lives at Kew Gardens and dreams of adventure, and she then joins an expedition to Brazil, which is going in search of a fallen meteorite. I loved how brave and noble Katy is as a person, and my favourite thing about the whole book is probably the characters because the secondary cast are so well drawn that they felt real, and Katy learns so much from almost each and every one of them. The setting is so beautifully described that again, it felt very three dimensional to me, and I also really liked the focus on nature/the importance of plants and wildlife. The ending is one of those full circle, perfect moments that was so well done it made me cry and also cheer, and as I always say when I review a Sharon Gosling book, I can’t wait to see what she does next; her books are always so different but have the same themes of family and friendship and feminism to tie them together like sisters.
Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave with illustrated from Tom de Freston
(CW: suicide attempt)
I buddy read this with Soph, and I was very intrigued by it because this is a very different kind of book from Kiran, and based on this, I honestly love the new direction she seems to be going in. It follows a girl named Julia who goes to stay on a small Scottish island with her parents so they can work on projects there; her dad is working on the lighthouse, and her mum is attempting to find the elusive Greenland shark. As Julia settles in and makes friends, her mum’s mental health begins to deteriorate, and she sets out to find the shark as a way to help and ensure her mum’s safety. Julia is such an amazing character; she cares deeply for people and is so loving and warm, her family is imperfect but so caring and gorgeously depicted, and the friendships are real and complicated but also deep and moving and important. I’ve never been to Shetland (despite being Scottish), but I really feel like I have after reading this, because the writing is so evocative and just brings it to life. While the writing of this is already enough to make it stunning, the illustrations elevate it even further into that territory, and the climax/ending made me very weepy. I’m already very much looking forward to reading the forthcoming Leila and the Blue Fox.
Ellie Pillai is Brown by Christine Pillainayagam
I won a giveaway copy of this ages ago and I knew I’d enjoy it, so I have no idea what took me so long, but I know myself well (at least in terms of books!) and I was absolutely right that it would be an enjoyable read for me. It follows a Sri Lankan-English girl named Ellie Pillai, who is navigating the stresses of school and shifting friendship dynamics, which become even more complex when a new boy starts at school and she falls for him despite him being with her best friend. I think my favourite thing about this was that it very much has the coming of age, British John Hughes-style vibe I was expecting, but kind of turns some the typical beats of that story around and subverts expectations, to the point I actually wasn’t sure who would end up with who because there were so many plausible possibilities for how things could turn out. The characters are all so multi dimensional and layered that again, no one felt like a stereotype or even like a character because they just felt like people you could know for real, which again was reminiscent of John Hughes (for the record, he is my favourite director/producer of all time, so this is a Very Big Compliment in case it is construed in a different way). The music references totally did it for me and my music geek heart, and the main romance lowkey gave me butterflies because it was adorable and built on connecting through songs and it just made me happy. The way it did turn out, though, was for the record the way I wanted it to be, and I’ve heard there’s going to be a sequel so I will absolutely be reading that so I can see some more of these characters.
Etta, Invincible by Reese Eschmann
If you’re new around here, you may not know that I am disabled, and as part of that have major issues with balance and dizziness, and am also hard of hearing, so while I do not have menière’s disease, it’s one I am so similar to that I sometimes get pamphlets when I go to the hospital as the symptoms are so similar to the issues I have but my condition is too niche for pamphlets. So, I already liked the sound of this and was thrilled when I won a copy in the author’s giveaway, and then I heard it was about a young girl recently diagnosed with Menière’s and I was even more excited! It follows Etta, her new friend Eleazar and his dog Louisa May Alcott as they journey through this seemingly amazing magical train to find Louisa after she runs onto it, but then they discover that it is malfunctioning, making things become even more difficult for them. I’ve been saying this forever, but it’s no less true now, so this year has been revolutionary for disabilities rep in kid lit and it makes my heart happy. What a gorgeous, glorious gift it is to see people in books like me who aren’t tragic side characters, or villains. I could relate to so many of Etta’s issues, and although I also loved how artistic and caring she was as a person too, relating to her so much was one of the main reasons why I loved her. Her friendship with Eleazar is super special and lovely, I adored her supportive parents and you know I love a dog character. The secondary characters they meet on the train also had their own interesting stories, and add so much to the book! The worldbuilding is worth noting too, because it’s so original and fun, and I loved the kind of superhero vibe to it as well. Basically, if you want to read something that’s like Circus Mirandus mixed with Marvel, this book’s got your back!
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna
This came very highly recommended by my friend Izzy, so I was excited to finally be reading it, and as I expected, I really enjoyed it. It follows a girl named Kiki, who is very anxious (and also has some OCD traits, in my opinion, as someone who struggles with them), and she takes solace in her sketchbook, until she finds out that a malevolent figure from Hindu mythology has brought her imaginary world to life and is causing huge issues both there and in attempting to break into the human world. She then has to venture into the world and defeat Mahishasura with the help of a gang of child rebels she has invented, and also a lion named Simha. Simha is the **best**, and I loved the camaraderie and found family vibe of the Crows, led by a girl named Ashwini. My favourite was probably Pip, but I was also a huge fan of Jojo and of course, it’s wonderful to see how they make Kiki’s life better from knowing them. As ever with this sort of book, I love learning more about the myths and folklore of other cultures, and this was no exception; I’ve read about Hindu myths before so there was a good balance of things I knew and new information. There was also a twist towards the end that I genuinely didn’t see coming, which I always love because I read a LOT and as such am usually pretty good at guessing, and I’m really interested to see what happens in the next book, particularly with regards to Kiki maybe having some treatment for her mental health issues.
The Many-Half Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
(CW: transphobia, assault, detailed discussion of trauma, including self harm)
This is the story of an autistic, nonbinary teen named Sam, who moves to a new town after a horrifying hate crime attack in their hometown, and when they get there, they discover that they are sleeping in the bedroom of a boy who was seemingly murdered 30 years ago, and with the help of theiir new friends from their new school’s LGBTQ society, set out to investigate. While I liked Sam, and their friends Shep (well, she’s maybe more than a friend 👀) and Sky and Ronnie very much, and was so pleased to see some supportive staff at their school such as Mr Quach, my favourite was undoubtedly Sam’s super supportive, ridiculously cool and unbelievably kind dad Junius, a Black aroace man who adopted Sam when they were seven and has had their back in every way possible since. The mystery was incredibly intriguing, and I also liked the indepth exploration of Sam’s identity and their trauma. Overall, this was an interesting read, and definitely one I can see a lot of people enjoying.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read any of these books, or are they on your TBR? Can you think of anything you’ve enjoyed recently with a character’s name in the title? I’d love to chat in the comments!