Book Review

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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