My Favourite Middle Grade Reads of 2019

Hello everybody, and welcome to my other favourites list that I mentioned the other day! Like with last year, I loved a lot more MG books than in other age categories, so this is a VERY long list because I just wanted to talk about all of them, and I’ve read more books this year so of course it follows that this one is even lengthier. Onto the post!


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Swimming Against the Storm– it feels so fitting that this was my first five star of the year, because Jess Butterworth is one of my favourite writers right now and I think she’s amazing. This one is set in Louisiana and focuses on two sisters trying to save their swampland home from a tropical storm (and later their lives). Jess is an amazing writer in a lot of ways, but my favourite things in here were definitely the relationship between Eliza and Avery and her vivid, descriptive writing that creates one of the best settings I’ve ever read.

Against All Gods– I can’t really say very much about the specific plot of this because it’s the fourth and final installment of a series, but it focuses on a young carer named Elliot whose life has become entwined with the Greek gods. They’re hilarious reads, but also have so much heart- there are parts of this one that are really difficult to read and I don’t see how anyone can pick them up and not feel awful for Elliot. Every single book has been phenomenal, honestly, and this was a really fitting send off.

Willow Moss and the Lost Day– this book was SO much fun. It’s a fantasy about a world where all magical people have their own unique skill, and specifically a young witch named Willow Moss who thinks her power for locating lost things is useless, until a powerful witch turns up on her door demanding that she helps to find last Tuesday, because it is missing and the world hangs in the balance. It’s such a great concept, Oswin is one of the best animal companions ever and the twist at the end totally caught me off guard (and made me cry!!). Can’t wait for the sequel in a few months.


Mo, Lottie and the Junkers– I would read anything for Jennifer Killick (see the fact that I plan to read Crater Lake even though I’m a MASSIVE wuss), which is how I came to read this sci-fi and fall in love with it. It’s about Mo and Lottie, who have just become part of the same blended family and have to investigate some rather strange goings on that are seemingly connected to their sinister new neighbours. As with all Jen’s books, it’s really funny and the mystery is great and Mo and Lottie have excellent banter. Something different to her others that I really loved, though, was the way it’s written- it’s like they’re transcripts of recordings and it’s really unusual and fun.

The Star Spun Web– I adored the Eye of the North back in 2017 and I loved Sinéad’s second book even more. It’s about an orphan named Tess who goes to live with a mysterious man after he turns up at her orphanage claiming to be her long lost guardian, and what happens when she has to stop him from carrying out his dangerous plans. It’s an absolutely cracking read- the science and fantasy elements can be complicated but they all just make sense and the action is fast paced and wonderful and the characters are amazing, particularly Tess. I REALLY want a sequel for this.


When We Were Warriors– if you don’t know by now that I love Emma Carroll, I’d be surprised, but in case you’re new here, Emma Carroll is a queen and I am yet to read anything by her that I don’t think is perfect. This is a collection of short stories that focus on life during World War 2- one takes place at Frost Hollow Hall, another returns to the characters of Letters to the Lighthouse and the final story is about entirely new characters. My favourite was the first one on account of the fact returning to Frost Hollow Hall is one of the most special literary experiences I think I’ve ever had but they were all brilliant and I thought the way Emma links them all was so clever.

The Last Spell Breather– this book is a debut, and honestly I couldn’t have guessed that if I’d not known going in, because it’s kind of amazing. It follows an apprentice spell breather named Rayne- who lives in a world where words are quite literally magical- as she accidentally damages her mother`s spell book and must embark on a quest in order to save her village as a result. The world is so interesting and layered and unique, I loved Raine an awful lot and Frank was the BEST. I had such a wonderful time reading this, and I’m so intrigued to read more from Julie in the future.


A Pocketful of Stars– this is another debut, this time by Aisha Bushby! I’ve been dying to read her full length debut since she wrote Marionette Girl for A Change is Gonna Come in 2017 and this didn’t let me down- it’s such an interesting, unique story about a girl who discovers her mum’s past via a virtual reality after she falls into a coma, whilst also navigating relatable friend dramas and changes to her life. It’s beautifully written, with vivid settings and a wonderful main character in Safiya. Team Tigerheart for life 💜

Wildspark– I LOVED Vashti’s debut Brightstorm, so I was both nervous and excited for this unrelated second novel. It’s amazing; the best way I can describe it is that it’s like the absolute best bits of His Dark Materials and Harry Potter combined, but it also has it’s own wonderful story to tell about a girl named Prue who moves to the City to join the “Ghost Guild”- a group of secretive inventors who capture spirits and place them inside mechanical animals. The worldbuilding can only be described as sublime, the characters are all wonderful and multilayered and the concept is just incredible.

Anna at War– I feel like this hasn’t been one I’ve talked about enough from this list, and I’m annoyed with myself for that because it’s about an area of history that deserves so much more consideration, at least in MG. I feel like there are barely any books about the effects of WW2 on Germany and German people, and this fills that gap so beautifully. It’s about a girl named Anna who is part of the Kindertransport scheme and I just loved that it talks about things like Kristallnacht and what happened to German Jews even before war broke out. I also loved the plotline involving the spy, and can I just take this opportunity to mention that Anna is kind of epic.


Spies in St Petersburg– I always enjoyed the Sinclair’s Mysteries, but like I said last year I feel like the Taylor and Rose spinoff series is just incredible. I don’t feel like a lot of authors could pull off 17 year old characters in middle grade but these work perfectly, and it also gives them such crossover appeal- they’re definitely ones I’d recommend to people just trying to get into MG for the first time (on this note, my dad loves them so much that he stole this one from my holiday TBR so he could read it before me!!). This time the action takes place in St Petersburg, which Katherine Woodfine conjures as amazingly as she does with all of her settings, it was great to see Sophie and Lil together more and I LOVED seeing Carruthers so much, I’m kind of a huge fan now. And the mystery was fabulous, but this is Katherine Woodfine so that goes without saying, really! That cliffhanger was VICIOUS though. I need the next one immediately please.

I, Cosmo– if you don’t already know, this is my absolute favourite book of any age category or genre in 2019 and honestly, quite possibly any year. It’s narrated by the loveliest elderly Golden Retriever named Cosmo and as someone who loves golden retrievers (and has two) it was just really special read. I wept solidly throughout because I was so overcome with my love for Cosmo and his humans, but also laughed and smiled a lot. I need more MG from Carlie IMMEDIATELY please.

The Garden of Lost Secrets- I have read some really incredible historical fiction this year, and this debut was phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve said this in a while, but WW1 home front is one of the periods I find most interesting, so this book was always going to be one I loved, really but it was still nice to have that confirmed! It is the story of a girl named Clara as she goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in the midst of the first world war, and the mystery she becomes embroiled in there about who is stealing fruit from the gardens of the estate her relatives work on. I know that sounds a bit random, but it’s so compelling and I cared very deeply indeed about the characters and this plot. It reminded me of reading Frost Hollow Hall for the first time, and if you know me you’ll know that’s not something I say lightly.

Begone the Raggedy Witches/The Little Grey Girl– I’m so glad I finally got to these this year, because I’ve wanted to since before the first was published. They’re about a girl who must journey into a fantasy world ruled by a tyrannical queen with her family after her dad is kidnapped, and they’re amazing. The first is an exciting, well written fantasy, but in the second book it’s really different from a lot of fantasy and it’s fascinating.


Top Marks for Murder– my love for Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells knows absolutely no bounds, and I adored their 8th murder mystery, which is set back at my beloved Deepdean School for Girls. My girls were as perfectly imperfect and amazing as they always are, I loved their dorm mates being involved in the case again, and the mystery is one of the cleverest Robin has written to date (and ALL her mysteries are insanely clever, so that’s not a backhanded compliment). It also features Inspector Priestly again, and while I do acknowledge that I shouldn’t fall in love with fictional detectives who are far too old for me, I do not care, and I’m obsessed with him. This was just perfection all round.

Girl 38– this was the book of all these that I could never have predicted would be on here, which isn’t to say I thought I’d hate it; I just didn’t think it would affect me emotionally as much as it did. This is the story of a girl named Kat, who is having a really difficult time due to toxic friendship, as she meets her neighbour Anja and learns about her past- specifically what happened to her and her best friend during World War Two. Like I mentioned with Anna at War, I’m really interested in the Holocaust/the period leading up to it’s impact on places that were not Britain so I loved the past timeline, and the present timeline honestly kind of broke me because Julian’s storyline is just heartbreaking and I loved him. If you’ve read this, this might sound weird based on Kat’s role in that but I did also really love her- shes frustrating but you also completely understand her and why she does what she does. Such a clever, moving book.

Under Earth– I loved Storm Witch last year and this sublime sequel follows our heroine Storm, who is the new weather witch of Yanlin, as she sets sail with their fleet to Bellum Town, a much richer island with sinister secrets who are desperate to use Storm`s power for themselves. Storm is a fascinating character and her development in this gave me life, to be honest, because I love that she’s starting to learn how to use her power in a way that benefits her, and the world is one if my favourites, possibly ever. Reading these feels like reading books that I’ve waited my whole life for without ever realising, which sounds ridiculous but is honestly true.

Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse– I’ve been reading Alex Sparrow since either just before or just after the release of book one, and they’re just so much fun. Alex and Jess are both hilarious and their friendship dynamic is even funnier, I love their slightly unusual superpowers and the mysteries they’re involved in as a result and they’re just an absolute JOY to read.


The Girl Who Speaks Bear– I loved the House with Chicken Legs last year and didn’t think this could possibly be better even though everyone told me it was, and past me was SO WRONG. First of all, this has Mousetrap, and he is one of the most sensational animal companions ever- I was honestly hyena laughing at this at points (I have quite a hyena laugh in general, which used to bother me but I have now embraced), and I also thought the structure was phenomenal because I generally get very bored of stories within stories but the folk tales in this fit seamlessly around Yanka’s story and tie into it and are really necessary, which I can’t say about a lot of similar books. Also, I related so much to her difficulty accepting her height (not so much the strength, but definitely the height!) and if I’d read this book when I was a child or honestly even a couple of years ago, it would have made me feel so much less alone with that.

The Somerset Tsunami– of course I have two Emma Carroll books on this list! Would I even be me if I didn’t? This is about a girl named Fortune, who is sent away to try and find work (masquerading as a boy, obviously, because girls couldn’t do anything as outlandish as work in the 1600s 😱) after someone in her community is accused of being a witch. I loved Fortune (Emma writes amazing heroines, so this wasn’t a massive surprise), the people in the house she finds work in are all very interesting in different ways and I love the adventure she gets swept up in following the tsunami. Also, Dr Blood is one of the best villain names ever, I think we can all agree.

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge– this is one of my favourite series ever, and this third installment sees my beloved Explorers journey to Black Ice Bridge in order to find a way to save Shay and his shadow wolf after the events of Explorers on Witch Mountain. I ADORE the characters in this beyond anything I can put into words and the character development from book one has been amazing to see, I love how they feel both gentle and incredibly high stakes and the magic is just so very magical and special and I love this world and the creatures within it. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to cope when they aren’t a thing anymore, because their release every year is a huge highlight of my bookish calendar.

The Star Outside my Window– this was one of my last books this year, and one of the most memorable. It’s about two children who go and live in a foster home after losing their mum, and their quest to have a star named in her honour. It’s so well done- it utterly broke my heart but also has so much hope in it, and is different to anything I’ve ever read about domestic violence in the past. Onjali is so talented, honestly.


What have your favourite middle grade reads of 2019 been? Have you read any I’ve mentioned, or are you thinking of picking any up? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

2019 End of Year Book Survey

Happy new year everybody! Today, for my first post of the year I’m going to be doing the End of Year Book Survey for 2019, and it’s been such a joy writing this. Thank you so much to all the authors who wrote the books in here and all the others I’ve read this year because you’re all amazing and I feel so lucky that I get to read your words. Now, onto the post!


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My Favourite Young Adult and Adult Reads in 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be talking about my YA/adult favourites of 2019, and they’re a pretty brilliant bunch, so onto the post!


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The Curses– this is the sequel to the Graces, which was one of my favourite books in 2017, and somehow this managed to be even better. It takes place a year later and is from the point of view of Summer Grace, and I can’t tell you anything about it without spoiling it, pretty much. If you like your books dark but funny and with loads of intrigue, get on these two. There’s a scene in this that legit made me laugh like a hyena.

Song of Sorrow– I really enjoyed the first in this duology, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t expect to be anywhere NEAR as blown away as I actually was by this. It made me gasp and shriek and laugh and cry, I had multiple meltdowns in various contexts over Luvian (if you’ve read them, you KNOW what I mean, that man is magnificent!) And it’s just really bloody brilliant political fantasy.

A Girl Called Shameless– I loved the Exact Opposite of Okay, but again this sequel was even better. It follows Izzy as she attempts to get the law on revenge porn changed, and it’s just spectacular. It’s funny and clever and says so many crucial things, and I loved it. Also, Carson is an excellent book boyfriend and I love him.

Paper Avalanche– this book is so wonderful, and I’m VERY excited to be part of the blog tour next month. It’s about a girl named Ro, whose mum is a hoarder, as her life changes when she meets a girl called Tanvi and it kind of broke my heart, but it also put it back together again so Lisa is forgiven for that. The friendship between Ro and Tanvi is one of my faves ever, and Ro and her mum’s relationship was so complex and interesting and nuanced. If UKYA contemporary is your thing, you need Lisa in your life.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder– this is a YA mystery, which I don’t tend to read that many of, and it’s easily my absolute fave YA of this year. It’s about a girl called Pip (who I think I’m very like, although she’s a much better version) who solves the cold case murder of Andie Bell, who is from her town. I devoured it in a couple of hours, even though it’s pretty lengthy, and I was very proud of myself for partially guessing what happened! And Ravi is everything.

Jemima Small Versus the Universe– this is Tamsin Winter’s second book, and it is wonderful. She wrote the incredible Being Miss Nobody, if you’ve not heard of her, and this one focuses on a super clever girl named Jemima who is forced to join her school’s new “Fat Club”. It says some very important things, and it made me cry, and it’s just brilliant. Tamsin is just brilliant all round, to be quite honest.

The Paper and Hearts Society– this is Lucy Powrie’s debut, which I feel like I’ve been waiting on FOREVER. It’s about a girl called Tabby who becomes part of the titular book club when she moves to a new town, and the ensuing literary adventures they share. It is SO much fun, I’m in love with all the characters (if I don’t get an Ed book I’m going to be very upset) and the literary references brought me a lot of joy.

Sasha’s Secret– I wasn’t very sure whether this should go on the MG or YA list because it’s very much a teen book, really, but there’s less on here so that’s why it ended up on this one! It’s the latest in the brilliant the Lost and the Found series, which is about a literal band of misfits. This one specifically focuses on Sasha, the lead singer, and her issues with anxiety and absence seizures. I loved her so much, I adore the rest of the band too, I really enjoy reading about famous people and the romance is gorgeous. And the Pretty in Pink reference 🥰🥰🥰

Sealed with A Kiss– this is the story of a woman named Kate who moves to a remote Scottish island after getting dumped and falls in love with the rather handsome young Laird. It’s romantic and funny and has an absolutely evil cow of an antagonist in Fiona (and believe me, I want to use a stronger word there because that’s insulting to cows. She’s an absolute SNAKE, and I despised her with a passion). I loved spending time in Auchenmor, and it’s just joyful all round.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public– this is the latest Holly Bourne book, and it’s definitely my favourite of her standalones. It’s about a girl called Amelie retracing the steps of her abusive relationship to try and work out exactly where things went wrong, by going back to all the memories of the times Rhys made him cry in public. It was so cleverly written, Amelie is an amazing character and this book DEFINITELY made me cry in public, multiple times.

The Turn of the Key– this is, I’m fairly sure anyway, the first adult thriller I have ever read, and honestly I will be surprised if I ever find one that I love as much as I loved this. I picked it up because I was in the mood for something dark, which is not very like me, and I devoured it- I started late on Monday and finished on the Tuesday morning. It’s about a nanny with plenty of secrets to hide who goes to work for a family who live in a smart home in the Highlands. It’s the creepiest, most chilling thing I’ve ever read, hands down and it’s so cleverly written with the epistolary format of letters from prison recounting the events leading up to the death of one of her charges.


Which books from these age categories were your favourites this year? Do we have any in common, or are you planning to read any? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

My Most Anticipated Releases- January 2020

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be talking about my most anticipated releases for next month, which are a pretty brilliant bunch that are getting the decade off to a great start! Onto the post!


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A Throne of Swans– this is the new book from Kate and Liz Corr, who wrote the brilliant Witch’s Kiss trilogy, and I’m so excited for it. I’ve heard only good things from people who’ve read it already, and it sounds super interesting- it’s about a girl who must take on the role of Protector early when her father dies, and her struggles in doing so.

Sunny– this is the 3rd of Jason Reynolds’ Track series and I’m pretty confident it’ll be great, because everything I’ve read from the author so far has been. Each book in the series focuses on a different member of the team, and this one is Sunny’s story. I can’t wait to meet him properly.

Shadowsea– this is the fourth (and apparently final) Cogheart Adventure. I took forever to read Skycircus, which ended up being pretty great, because I thought that was the last one, but I’m going to try not to be a wuss about saying goodbye to this world this time and get to it soon. I have predictions about what will happen and I’m EXCITED. Although I hope Malkin features a bit more heavily this time round!

The Telephone Box Library– I read a lot of Rachael Lucas last year, and her 2020 release sounds SO good. It’s about a woman named Lucy who moves to the Cotswolds, who despite her best intentions to only research the nearby Bletchley Park while she’s on sabbatical from teaching, becomes involved in turning the local telephone box into a makeshift library. I assume there’s a romance somewhere too, given that there is in all other Rachael books to date.

The Boy Who Fooled the World– this made it on my TBR automatically because Lisa Thompson is consistently excellent, but the premise itself is really interesting as well- it’s the story of a boy who becomes a massive celebrity when one of his paintings gets spotted, but he has a guilty secret that threatens to ruin everything if discovered. My library copy is in early so I’m hoping to read it very soon!

The Kid Who Came from Space– I did not fulfill my promise to read more of Ross’s back catalogue in 2019 (they are still languishing on my TBR, even though I really do want to read them!!), but I’m still excited for his new release all the same. It’s about a girl going missing, and her brother going to extraordinary lengths to get her back, given he is the only one who knows the strange truth of where she is.

The Ice Bear Miracle– I didn’t get on with Cerrie Burnell’s the Girl with the Shark’s Teeth at ALL, but this title has intrigued me enough that I want to give it a go! I don’t really know much about it, other than thinking the title is gorgeous.


Which books are you looking forward to in January? Do we have any in common? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Five Backlist Books I Want to Read in 2020

Hello everybody! I’m not really sure why I’ve decided to write this post because it’s by no means an extensive list and technically all my 2019 books I’ve not read will be backlist too in a few days, but I wanted to share some of the books that aren’t 2020 releases that I hope to read. Onto the post!


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo/Taylor Jenkins Reid’s entire back catalogue- I’ve heard a LOT about Taylor Jenkins Reid in 2019 (mostly from Jess, whose opinions are generally pretty aligned with mine) and at this point the curiosity is killing me to be honest. Evelyn Hugo is apparently the best one to start with, but so many other concepts sound so interesting as well and if I like one I’ll probably read the whole lot!

Podkin One Ear– the amount of times I’ve said I’ll read this book and haven’t done so is really embarrassing at this point, seriously. If I read nothing else off this list, please can someone shout at me and remind me I need to read Podkin?

The Frozen Telescope– I really, really liked the Crooked Sixpence back in 2016 and enjoyed the second in the trilogy, so it’s a disgrace I’ve not read the 3rd yet. I’ve missed the chance to read it at the right time of year AGAIN so my only goal this time is to read it at some point.

The Tale of Time City– funny story, I heard about this book one day and was seconds off of buying it when I did an unhaul and discovered a copy was sitting on my TBR the whole time. Literally no idea where it came from, but the book sounds brilliant (I think it was Robin Stevens who I saw recommending it, and we all know how I feel about Robin Stevens!).

Shadowsmith– I’ve adored both of Ross Mackenzie’s books I’ve read so far, and while I’m scared to read this since it’s about a different world, I think I’ll very likely still love it!


Which backlist books are you most hoping to get to in 2020? What are your thoughts on the ones I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

The Harry Potter Christmas Tag

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be doing the Harry Potter Christmas tag, which was created by Charleigh Writes, and which I found on Fantastic Book Dragon. Onto the post!


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Ten Books on My Winter TBR

Hello everybody! Today, I’m taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, for which the theme is ten books on our winter TBRs. I find of failed at my autumn one a bit because uni deadlines were manic but I’ll hopefully get to all of these! Onto the post!


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REVIEW COPIES

Little Bird Lands– this will probably be my next read, because I really liked the first in this duology. This one follows Scottish girl Bridie, who lives in the time of the Highland Clearances, as she and her family attempt to start a new life in America. I think it’s going to be WONDERFUL.

Orion Lost– this is about a spaceship getting lost in deepest space, and a girl called Beth who must subsequently save her friends. I don’t read a huge amount of sci-fi but this definitely sounds intriguing, plus I know Lily enjoyed it and we have REALLY similar taste.

Demelza and the Spectre Inspectors– this is one of Chicken House’s biggest releases for 2020, and it sounds so great- very classic MG adventure in tone, I think, based on the blurb. It’s about a girl called Demelza who can see the dead, who must use her unusual ability to save her grandmother when she’s kidnapped, alongside her best friend Percy. I think it’ll be great!

The Mask of Aribella– this is about Aribella, who is the daughter of a lace-maker in historical Venice, as she joins a group of magical warriors. I think the setting will be brilliant and I’m intrigued to learn more of the plot, because the blurb is fairly vague!

Queen of Coins and Whispers– this is an f/f court fantasy romance about a queen falling for her new spymaster. I’m hoping for lots of political intrigue and a couple I can absolutely get behind.

OTHERS

Unleashed– this is one of the things on my bought TBR I’m most excited for. It’s the sequel to 2018’s Jinxed, which ended on an absolutely BRUTAL cliffhanger and I really need to know what happens next, I’ve just never quite got round to picking it up.

The Star Outside My Window– this is the new Onjali Q Raúf, which focuses on two children who have just lost their mum to domestic violence as they try and get a star named in her honour. I think it’s going to break my heart, but it sounds incredible and incredibly important so it’ll be worth it.

Frostheart– I honestly don’t know very much about the actual specifics about the plot of this, other than that it’s a wintry adventure with cool illustrations. I think it has something to do with like, a sleigh? I’m excited to read it anyway!

Forest of Shadows– this is a prequel to Frozen 2 by Kamilla Benko, who writes the brilliant Unicorn Quest books, I went to see the film over the weekend and LOVED it, so can’t wait to spend more time in Arendelle soon.

Coming up Roses– I’ve read a LOT of Rachael Lucas in 2019 and this is the only one I wont get to before 2020, so I’m hoping to read it in the first half few months of the year if I can. This one is about a woman named Daisy who moves to a small village when her parents go off travelling during their midlife crisis, and her falling for an Irishman named George, whilst making new friends and saving her new home from developers.


What books are on your winter TBR? Have you read any that are on mine? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x