Guest Post – Dan Metcalf on Why He Writes.

Today I’m pleased to be welcoming Dan Metcalf to my blog – he’s launching a new children’s series The Lottie Lipton Adventure tomorrow with the first two titles, The Secrets of the Stone and The Curse of the Cairo Cat. He’s written a great post on why he writes, so with no further ado here’s Dan.

The title of this blog post is a lie. It leads you to assume I’m going to tell you exactly why I write, when in actuality, I have no idea.

I’ve always written. Not direct from the womb, obviously, but ever since I could hold a pen and get my thoughts down on paper. Before that I would make up stories and tales (and lies, let’s be honest) about everything I did not understand. I thought that was how the world worked – you don’t know something? Just create it. I remember innocently asking where babies comes from and my mother cleverly turning the question around on me.

“Where do you think they come from?” she asked. I created a grand fiction where there were hundreds of babies in a factory, lying on conveyer belts, deflated like a punctured beach ball. Someone would come along and plug a hose into their bellybutton and pump them up like a bouncy castle. Well, why else would you have a bellybutton?

At school the only thing I was ever good at was daydreaming. If there was a window, I’d stare out of it. If the teacher gave us free reign to write whatever we wished, I would create page after page of fantasy/scifi/adventure stories. None ever got finished but some still live in my mind like a stubborn squatter.

When it came to choosing careers, I had no clue what I could do. The computerised test brought up ‘scriptwriter’ and so I enrolled on a degree course, graduating with several hundred pages of cringingly bad stories but having had a really good time.

And from there I moved into my first love of books, rising at 5am to cram in a few hours of writing my opus before going to work to argue with students about overdue fines. Slowly but surely my technique refined.

But why do I write? You might as well ask why an athlete runs, or why a fish swims, or why a dog does that thing with other dog’s bottoms. It’s what we’re good at. It’s all we know. It’s in us, and has to get out.

Which is why when my agent told me that Bloomsbury Publishing wanted to put my books out, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer the schoolboy staring out of the window. I had now graduated to being a grown-up, one who stares out of windows and then writes down what he sees.

Why do I write? Probably because I can’t turn off that compulsion to daydream, so instead I just write it down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to look absently into the distance (it’s work, I promise…)

Thanks Dan, I always love hearing writers talk about writing!

Dan’s books are out tomorrow, published by A & C Black, a Bloomsbury imprint. I haven’t read them myself but they sound great, they’re described by Bloomsbury as “Perfect for developing and newly confident readers, Lottie Lipton Adventures are packed with action, adventure and puzzles for the reader to solve” so I’m definitely planning on checking them out! You can find out more here.

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May Reads – Part 2

Time for the second half of my reviews of the books I read in May. The first six books were reviewed here.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs. Quirk Books.
The first I heard about this book was when the poster containing Sam Maggs’ fangirl manifesto appeared online. A strong call to arms for geek girls everywhere I knew this book would be something I would want to read. The reading experience was a little different to the one I was expecting, I think mainly because I couldn’t quite fit myself into the target audience – much of the book seems to be pitched at newcomers which is brilliant, though it meant there was little new for me to discover. There were moments though that felt geared more towards me, and I didn’t mind at all reading the introductions to different aspects of geekdom – I think I just wanted a bit more. It was certainly nice to read sections and find myself nodding along as I remembered experiences of my own. One thing I would caution prospective readers is that the book talks mainly with an American focus, the publisher and author are American and so you might find yourself falling in love with the sound of a convention and then discovering getting there would involve a transatlantic flight (yes, I’m speaking from experience here).

A Coach Trip Adventure: My Life by Brendan Sheerin. Michael O’Mara Books.
I have been a fan of the tv series Coach Trip since it first started so when I saw that tour guide Brendan Sheerin had released an autobiography I thought there’d probably be a lot in it that I’d find interesting. I was pleased that it didn’t just focus on his time with the series but instead covered his life before tv beckoned – it was nice to get to know more about him and his life as a whole. In terms of talking about the tv series the book was published in 2011 so it only covers the first few series, I found that I quickly remembered the contestants and incidents Brendan talked about – I just wish that the book had been reissued with an update, at least for the digital copy. Brendan’s voice shines through with this book, he had me laughing and crying at different points.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. Vintage.
This book was recommended to me back in December by a bookseller friend who’d received an early advance copy. The premise sounded so good and the wait to get hold of a copy seemed endless. Eventually though I got a copy via NetGalley for review and put it top of my holiday reading list. This book is a complete love letter to books and to reading and to readers everywhere. It made me smile, made me remember reading experiences of my own and most of all reminded me of the power books hold in my life. The cast of small town dwelling characters that the author has created are wonderful, I felt as though I was moving among them as I read – they’re so vivid. This book is a translation which is something that I’ve not always got on with very well but reading this book was an easy, seamless experience that’s got me rethinking how I feel towards translations. A book about reading that’s changed my own reading? Can’t get much better than that!

The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin. OUP Children’s Books.
This book made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot, but it also made me think a lot. It’s got a great premise, a young boy, Joe, challenges the prime minister in public, it’s filmed and uploaded to YouTube where it goes viral. Soon enough Joe is taking the reins as prime minister and finding that being in the spotlight is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. I enjoyed seeing politics through Joe’s young eyes, his take is clearly a somewhat simplistic one but it did leave me wondering whether parts of Joe’s might not be a welcome addition. A quick, highly entertaining read with the potential to provoke brilliant discussions amongst its young readers.

The Vintage Cinema Club by Jane Linfoot. Harper Impulse.
I must admit that I judged this book by its title and expected it to be about a club watching vintage films. It’s not, it is instead about a group of women who run a vintage shop inside a classic cinema, and about how they pull together when its future is threatened. I absolutely loved this book, I always enjoy books about groups of women, seeing their friendships and how they support one another and this book was no exception. I was quickly drawn into their lives, I liked the fact that they made decisions that weren’t necessarily the good or best ones, but they were the right ones in the time – I do like characters who are at least a little fallible. My only sadness is that the book is a work of fiction and that this wonderful sounding shop is not around for me to visit – my bank balance is probably pretty grateful of this fact!

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry. Mira INK.
I’m a huge Katie McGarry fan, I’ve loved every book in her Pushing the Limits series so I was keen to try this, the first title in a new series. The fact it involved a motorcycle club upped the interest for me, I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy for the last few years but until now hadn’t seen an MC featured in a young adult book. I was interested by the way it was established early on that this MC is a law-abiding one – this distinguished it from the ones I’m used to seeing on tv and made me interested to discover what the differences were. The very inclusion of an MC makes this book have problematic elements – like the ones on tv this club is shown to have some pretty poor attitudes towards women and I decided early on that I was going to accept that this was a world with rules I didn’t like.

The story itself does feel like the sort of thing I’ve come to accept from Katie McGarry. It’s told in dual narrative, has a burgeoning romance between a girl and boy from opposite sides of the tracks, and plenty of drama along the way. I found that I didn’t love the characters quite as much as I had for previous books, mainly because I found Emily a little harder to take to. I enjoyed Oz a lot and was very invested in his story, I just wish I’d felt equally invested in Emily’s. I’ll certainly pick up the next book in this series – there’s enough about the world to make me look forward to revisiting it.

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May 2015 Reads – Part 1.

Time for me to round up the books I read in May and share my thoughts on them. I read lots in May, I spent the last week of the month on holiday which allowed me a bit more reading time. I finished 12 books in total, though I read about 85% of another at the end of the month but didn’t finish it until 1st June so I’m being good and not counting it as a May finish. I’m splitting the round up into two posts with six books in each so here’s part 1.

Wait for You by J. Lynn. Harper.
I really don’t read many New Adult books, when I do they tend to be ones I’ve had recommended. This was an author recommendation rather than a specific book one, luckily it still worked out well. The book centres around the growing relationship between the two main characters, Avery and Cam, they both have difficult things in their past and the reader is drawn in to rooting for their development both as individuals and a pair. I must mention that Cam having a pet tortoise called Raphael brought in an extra thing for me to love about the book.

Joe All Alone by Joanna Nadin. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
By the time I started reading this book the online buzz was already building well, this of course meant that my expectations were really high. I was very pleased with how well they were met, this is a really good book. Joe has been left home alone while his mother is on holiday with her boyfriend, to begin with he manages well (particularly when you consider he’s just 13) but as the days go on the challenges he faces just grow and grow. This book is the sort of book that gets under your skin, it’s absolutely brilliant but I found that for days and days after I finished reading it I was still thinking about Joe and his life. This book made me laugh out loud and it made me sob, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. Balzer + Bray.
This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and years but have just never got around to. I found it a really interesting reading experience, I thought I knew what it was about but it turned out what I knew about the book didn’t happen until a good way through the book so there was a lot to come first. I enjoyed this book a lot, though there were times when I wished the book would just get on with it. I found this to be a fairly slow paced and wordy book, whether part of that was down to my inaccurate expectations of it I’m not sure. I also found I didn’t entirely connect with Cameron herself, I think this again may be due to the wordy nature of the book. I realise this all sounds a bit negative, which is not how I felt about the book – as I say I did enjoy it a lot, I just didn’t love it the way I expected to.

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot. Macmillan Children’s Books.
I haven’t read many of the Princess Diaries books but I’ve loved the ones I’ve read. When I saw that Meg Cabot was writing a new series linked to them I was really excited for it, when I started reading this first book in the series my excitement just grew and grew. I loved this book, it’s funny and cute and just downright lovely. The princess in question is Olivia, her mother died and her father is absent so she lives with her aunt and uncle and cousins. When she discovers there’s more to her family tree than she realises we get to experience her joy and excitement first hand – I found reading this I smiled so much my cheeks actually ached a little. Familiar faces from the Princess Diaries return along with a whole host of new characters, I can’t wait for the next book so that I can spend more time in Genovia and more importantly with Olivia.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Indigo.
I’m not actually sure where to start with reviewing this book. It’s brilliant, and I loved it, and I’m not entirely sure how to be suitably eloquent about this. This is a fantasy ya filled with fae but at the same time its contemporary setting is filled with the characters’ personal lives and interactions, being a teenager is hard enough without having to navigate all of the rules of the fae. I really liked the setting of this book, the fae are known and a part of the fabric of Fairfold and so this means there was no need for some of the secrecy that can come with fantasy books that mix the real world and some sort of other world. There is of course secrecy, and hiding activity from adults – what good fantasy adventure doesn’t have some sneaking around – but this is allowed to be more story specific because of the town’s knowledge of the fae. I loved the characters and their relationships, I was completely drawn into their lives and found that as the peril was increasing so too was my worry for them. This book was a real contrast to the other Holly Black book I’ve read (The Coldest Town in Coldtown) but I loved it just as much.

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell. Jo Fletcher Books.
This book was recommended to me separately by two friends, I’d fallen out of the habit of reading adult fantasy and they both knew that this was a book I may have missed but needed to read. They were both absolutely right, within the first chapter I was in love with this book and these feelings only grew over the time I was reading it. It’s the sort of book that sucks you right in, I found I was really resentful of the times when I had to put it down and do other things. This fantasy world has magic and some fantastical creatures, it also has a hugely corrupt political system with Dukes over throwing Kings and it is the aftermath of these struggles which provide the backdrop for the book. Our focus for the book is Falcio, one of the remaining Greatcoats – a group who had served the King travelling far and wide to uphold the law. Named for the magnificent coats that they wear, the Greatcoats were effectively disbanded during the Dukes’ victory and now Falcio and his close friends Brasti and Kest are in the wind. This central friendship is wonderful, the closeness of the bond that they share leaps off the page and is one of my many favourite things about the book. There’s so much action in this book, so many brilliantly written fight sequences, and then at the same time some truly beautiful quieter moments. There are also some twists that I didn’t see coming – it absolutely felt like everything I’d known about the book had been ripped away but at the same time felt entirely right to the plot, in hindsight nothing came out of nowhere. This book is truly brilliant, the sequel Knight’s Shadow has been published already and is waiting on my Kindle for me, and then there are two more books planned in the series.

My copies of Joe All Alone, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess and The Darkest Part of the Forest were all provided for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Guest Post: Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs by Sarah Forbes.

I’m thrilled today to be welcoming Sarah Forbes, author of the excellent Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, to the blog as the last stop on her tour. When I was asked what I would like Sarah to write about for me I knew instantly, the book is filled with wonderfully awful characters so I wanted to hear more about them and how Sarah created them.
Elspeth Hart cover

Writing baddies:
The awful characters in Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs

I don’t know about you, but I love a good villain. Sometimes we love rooting for a protagonist who so obviously deserves to have things work out for them. Other times it’s sheer joy to lounge about reading stories about vile people doing things we would never dream of doing.

I was channel-surfing one evening and saw a remake of Fame the movie on TV. Watching it, I thought about how, as a quiet person, that would be my worst nightmare – being in a school where performing all the time was key to success. That might have sparked off some ideas for the awful show-offs in the school where Elspeth’s story is set! I wanted to have an incredibly vain ringleader character (Tatiana Firensky) and for her to have a couple of sidekicks (dim-witted Octavia Ornamento and gymnastic star Esmerelda Higginsbot). What was really fun for me was seeing how James Brown, the illustrator, interpreted my character descriptions when I’d finished writing the story. He absolutely nailed it and often draws little extra details that I’d never have thought of, really making the books come alive.

The teachers in the book area bit awful too: there’s Madame Chi-chi, who used to star in Italian soap operas and has an awful temper, Madame Stringy, who is small and fragile and cries easily, and Professor Bombast, who isn’t a professor at all but just bought a certificate off the internet saying he was. I think the idea of things (and people) being fake is a driving force in quite a lot of the story!

As for the REALLY awful characters, Miss Crabb and Gladys Goulash: I think they just seemed to appear in my mind as soon as I thought about having evil dinner ladies as the baddies in the book. They’re pretty disgusting – always burping, farting, scratching their armpits or putting slugs and cockroaches in the school dinners. I have to admit, though, they are really fun to write!

One thing I’ve learned from writing illustrated children’s books is just how useful it is to have a clear idea of how your characters look and move around. My top tip for anyone writing young fiction would be to write a really detailed character brief for each of your characters. Even if you’re not working with an illustrator, it can really help to know exactly what your characters look like, as you plot their adventures!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog! x

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April 2015 Reads.

Another text based round up of my reads for April. I think I’ve resolved my vlogging issues though so all being well my May round up will be back to video.

April was the month when I moved to London and started my new job so I had a really busy time of it. I was pleased to still read 7 books, I did think my count might have dropped a little.

A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey. Stripes Books.
This was a pretty quick, fairly enjoyable MG fantasy read. I liked the world set up as far as it goes but would definitely have liked to see more of it. My one criticism of the book as a whole is that it just wasn’t enough, I wanted more of everything – including the plot. This is the first book in a planned quartet, I think I’ll wait now until all of the books have been published and then read them together in the hope they’re more satisfying this way.

Eternal Hunter by Cynthia Eden. Bello Books.
This was another book that left me wanting more, but this time in a good way. It’s fast, fun and pulpy – it focuses on Night Watch, a company of supernatural bounty hunters and the murky underworld they deal with. A wide range of supernatural creatures get a mention, it doesn’t rely simply on the tried and tested vampires and werewolves though they do of course get a mention. I enjoyed re-encountering creatures I’d come across in tv shows like Supernatural and Teen Wolf – I think this book is a good match up for shows like them. I’m really looking forward to reading more of the books that feature the Night Watch.

A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install. Doubleday.
Some books are just unique. You read them and realise nothing else is ever going to match that specific reading experience and that’s okay. This book was, for me, definitely one of those sorts of books. Tang, a beaten up old robot, appears in Ben’s garden at the very time he needs a change in his life. Their stories become instantly entwined as they begin a journey that ticks both the road trip and coming of age boxes. Tang is a wonderful character, I found myself very emotionally invested both in his story and in his relationship with Ben. This is a great book, one that I think will stay with me for a long time.

That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson. Arrow.
I have been a huge Dorothy Koomson fan for years and I’m always eager to read her new book, usually I pick a time when I can sit and read the whole book uninterrupted. This was exactly what I did for That Girl From Nowhere, much to the amusement of my new flatmate as she found me making a cup of tea with the book still in my hand! The book itself lives up to my very high expectations, it brought everything I expect from a book by Dorothy and in such style. I found that I really took to the main character, Clemency, from the first page and that her story was one that really made me think. Photography and jewellery making feature heavily in this book, I love the former and admire the latter so this book had added interest for me. There are so many layers to the stories in this book, I think it’s going to be a great one to re-read.

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan. Bloomsbury.
This is probably the hardest book of the month for me to review. A few weeks after reading it I’m still not entirely sure what I think about it. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I think it’s a very good book and I’m really glad that I’ve read it. It’s certainly a challenging read in places, but I think this is a definite positive – we all need challenging reads in our lives.

I’m sorry I don’t have more organised thoughts about this book, I’m going to keep thinking about it and maybe come back to it.

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. New American Library.
I absolutely loved this book. I had it recommended to me after a discussion about Shakespeare and interpretations of Shakespeare by my good friend Liz. It is a re-working of Romeo and Juliet, its focus is not on the star-crossed lovers but instead on Benvolio Montague. Romeo and Juliet do of course play their part, and Mercutio’s storyline is significant, but it is Benvolio who takes centre stage. I wasn’t sure initially how interesting I would find another take on Romeo and Juliet but the shift in focus works really well, and whilst there are elements of the story that are familiar much of it feels new and fresh. There is comedy and tragedy a-plenty, I shed more than a few tears whilst reading this on public transport! My only criticism of the book has to go to the cover, I’m afraid I don’t like it at all and think that the book deserves far better – it definitely wouldn’t entice me to pick the book up and what a shame it would have been to have missed out on it.

The Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall. Sphere.
My final April read was a historical book for grown ups, something I don’t read often. Oddly it is the second book I’ve read this year to feature elements of Mussolini’s Italy (Black Dove, White Raven was the first) – before this I don’t think I’d ever read anything about this element of history. This story focused on Isabella who lost her husband, one of Mussolini’s Blackshirts, in an attack some years before the book takes place. She has built a life for herself but this is affected entirely by the fascist regime and incidents make her start to push at the limits around her. This book is an odd, yet very successful, mixture of tense thriller elements (at times I was reading whilst holding my breath) and more gentle, quiet plot. I enjoyed reading it a lot, and will be interested to read more from this author.

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Wandering, wondering. *

My new job has lots of nice elements, one of these is that you’re strongly encouraged to take your whole lunch hour. I’ve fallen into the habit of spending a good proportion of it outside, my office is located in Central London so there are plenty of places to go and browse. Today however I moved from my desk to the student common room and spent the hour sitting at a computer doing some work of my own that needed to be done. It was as I was on the train home that I realised how tired I was feeling, the same sort of tired I’ve felt in other jobs when I’ve ended up not getting away from my computer for any time during the day.

I decided this evening to do something about it. My Fitbit was showing I was a bit short of my new personal target, the weather was dry and mild, so I pulled on my jacket and boots and got walking. I turned left out of my building, I turn right every day to go to work and so there’s a whole half of the area I live in that I haven’t really seen yet. I started walking, and my thoughts turned to the day.

Social media’s been abuzz with election chatter for weeks now. I’ve observed it but haven’t really engaged, a combination of barely being able to keep up with any social media as I adjust to my new life, and a feeling of not having a lot to add to what’s already being said. Yes, today I’ve tweeted about voting, and hit the I voted button on Facebook, but that’s as much. I’ve been thinking a lot about it though, plenty about who to vote for and plenty about voting as a whole.

While I walked I passed 3 polling stations. Each of them had people on their way in to cast their vote and people leaving having done so. None of them had obvious queues though when my flatmate went to ours earlier on this evening she said there were two fairly significant queues for the two wards based there. Every group of people I passed were talking about the election, from groups of friends on their way out of the local sports fields to a group I spotted of strangers who’d stopped to chat – inspired I assume from the elderly vicar’s visible sticker proclaiming that he’d voted Labour.

My thoughts turned to my grandad after seeing this particular group. This is the first general election since he died, and whilst I always feel his absence it’s obviously on significant days that I feel it the most. My grandad, you see, is responsible for much of my interest in politics, he was active in local politics for years, and the older I got the more politics entered our discussions. He was always a patient and interested conversational partner, and even when I was pretty young and naive never dismissed what I had to say instead choosing to take the opportunity to encourage me to learn and grow. I found myself imagining the discussions we’d have had over the last few months if he’d still been here. I can imagine all too well what his reactions would have been to many of the goings on, and I know like me he’d have felt a real sense of concern about what the count will bring.

This general election is going to be the first in a while that sees me not watching any of the count. I was actually involved in the 1997 count, and then watched many hours of the coverage for the next three. My job is particularly busy at the moment so there’s no annual leave allowed. It’s a shame, if I could I would have booked tomorrow off and sat up for as long as I could stay awake. Instead I will simply have to go to sleep and wake up to see where things will stand.

*The title of this was almost entirely influenced by the song I Wonder as I Wander – one of the male voice choirs my school choir used to regular share concert bills with sang this song and I could never work out if they were thinking whilst walking or vice versa, the two words sound exactly the same in my accent.

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March 2015 Reads – the text version.

Before I moved down to London I made sure I recorded my vlog for my March 2015 Reads. I knew I wouldn’t have time to edit and upload it, but as long as I had the data I could do that once I was moved. Unfortunately disaster struck that raw data, I managed to corrupt it beyond the point of retrieval so unfortunately there will be no March 2015 vlog. I didn’t want the 6 books I read in March to miss their time to shine however, so here’s a text based version of my thoughts on the books.

The Sleepover Club: Summer Secrets by Angie Bates.Harper Collins.
The first book I read in March was a really sweet middle grade read. I did a full review of it for Middle Grade Strikes Back, you can read that review here.

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs by Sarah Forbes. Stripes Publishing.
This was another great middle grade read, it doesn’t come out until 4th May though so I’m not saying much about it. I’m going to be reviewing it in full for Middle Grade Strikes Back and hosting Sarah on her blog tour so there’s lots to come for this book!

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein. Electric Monkey.
I was really keen to read this book, I really enjoyed the author’s debut novel Code Name Verity and thought the synopsis for this sounded great. It was a really interesting book, I think it’s a very good book but I found I didn’t love it. I’m not sure if this was to do with the really high expectations I had or whether it was something else. I didn’t connect entirely with the two main characters, again something that was very different when I read Code Name Verity.

What I did really like about this book was the historical setting, inter-war Ethiopia. I knew a little of this history as I studied it at school but I’d never seen it featured in a novel, and seeing Mussolini’s invasion through the eyes of teenagers was a bold, effective reading experience. Just as I’d expected Wein doesn’t shrink away from the horrors of this time, I actually found myself stepping away from the book a couple of times for a breather.

Overall as I say, a very good book.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. Headline.
I again came to this book with high expectations having read a previous book by the author, Notes From An Exhibition. This book completely lived up to my expectations, I was quickly swept up in the story and found myself transported to its setting – both in terms of time and geography. Before reading this book I didn’t know anything about the way the British went to Canada and began farming its prairies, this book taught me a lot and left me with a lot to think about past actions. That’s only one element of the story though, the main character Harry is first introduced as an inpatient of a mental health institution and the book then skips between this time and Harry’s past as we begin to build a picture of this man and how life’s twists and turns have brought him to the point at which we meet him. This plotline is skillfully handled, the jumps in time are seamless and never jar. There are elements of this book I wasn’t expecting based on the blurb (though in hindsight they’re alluded to) and these added a real depth to the story.

I really enjoyed this book, I realise there are other books by this author that I haven’t read – I now feel encouraged to carry on working my way through his other works.

Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norris. David Fickling Books.
Francis has never had a friend like Jessica before. She’s the first person he’s ever met who can make him feel completely himself. Jessica has never had a friend like Francis before. Not just because he’s someone to laugh with every day – but because he’s the first person who has ever been able to see her…

This is a book about identity and belonging, about understanding your place in the world and the people around you. It deftly handles big issues; bullying, loneliness and isolation, mental health difficulties and suicide – it explores them with care, reassuring the reader all the way. I’m sure many young readers will identify with the things they read in this book, whether they affect them themselves or someone in their life.

The book has a real warmth to it, and a real sense of hope. It made me shed a tear or two as I read, when I put the book down having finished reading it I felt really glad I’d had the opportunity to do so.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
This book is another contender for my end of year best books list, I loved it so much that when I finished reading I was tempted to go back to the start and read it all over again (an idea I must admit that had been put in my head by George Lester who actually did do it – you cans see his review here). This book is sweet and warm and funny and emotional and thought-provoking… it’s been nearly a month since I read it and I’m still thinking about it and still not really able to get down coherently why I loved it so much.

The two main characters, Simon and Blue have been emailing for some time but other than knowing they’re both at the same high school they don’t know who the other is – I must admit I did guess Blue’s identity but was so thrilled to keep reading and discover that I was right that I didn’t mind working it out at all. The slow burn of their relationship, and their own understanding of themselves is just wonderful and so well done.

In short this book is brilliant and everyone should read it!


So there we have it, quick thoughts about the books I read in March. I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen about my April Reads round up. I’d like to get straight back to the vlogs but I have a few logistics to work out first. I shall do my very best though to have something up early in May.

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