I hope you’ve all been enjoying the summer holidays! It’s been a very busy one here in Book Lover Jo HQ, I’ve been working on a project for the Book Trust so I haven’t been able to share as many books as I would have liked. However last week I spent 7 days lying by the pool doing not very much apart from reading and I read 6 wonderful books that I want to share with you today. Two of these books I sneaked out of my 11 year old daughter’s reading pile as I totally underestimated how many books I would read on holiday, so I have her to thank for her excellent taste in books!
Simply the Quest – Maz Evans
So ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ is one of my stand out favourite debuts of 2017. Elliot and co. came flying into my life at Herculean speed (see what I’ve done there) and seeped into my brain and heart. Well now Maz is back with the sequel ‘Simply the Quest’ and I can confirm that it’s another divine comedy that can’t be missed. Elliot thought that banishing Thanatos would make finding the other Chaos stones easier but life is never going to be that simple for him. His mother is getting steadily worse and the complexities of his relationship with her are thrown into turmoil when he discovers a secret about his dead father. Elsewhere Thanatos is released by his even scarier Mum and things take a turn for the worse. Elliot isn’t sure who to trust anymore and this epic quest is filled with confusion, danger and temptation at every pass. But whilst this fast and furious plot is unfolding Maz manages to sneak in many moments of pure comedy genius. I was in fits of laughter at the interaction between the dastardly Patricia Porshley-Plum and Eliot’s hideous teacher Mr Boil at the self-scan till, it’s just brilliant and highlights Maz’s gift for observational comedy. ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ is superb but ‘Simply the Quest’ takes us to another god like level (sorry I couldn’t resist). Filled with pathos and humour it really is an irresistible combination, Maz has confirmed her status as Queen of children’s comedy.
The Starman and Me – Sharon Cohen
Back in June I was excited to do the cover reveal for Sharon Cohen’s debut ‘The Starman and Me’ and after reading the extract I shared I really was intrigued to find out more. When 12 year old Kofi spots something small and dark on a roundabout little does he know that’s he about to embark on a thrilling adventure full of wonder and discovery. Kofi isn’t sure who Rorty is or where he’s from but he knows he must protect him and keep him safe from the world. The story is compelling and the characterisation is sublime allowing the reader to really engage with this story on an emotional level. This exceptional debut will delight and enchant you in equal measures, I adored the relationship between Kofi and Rorty the bonds of trust and friendship that they build is truly beautiful. If you’re looking for an edge of your seat ride stuffed full of emotion then this is the book for you!
A Place Called Perfect – Helena Duggan
After doing the cover reveal for ‘A Place Called Perfect’ by Helena Duggen, I was drawn to this creepy world captured so perfectly by Karl J Mountford’s cover illustration. When Violet moves into a town called Perfect, everybody and everything seems well, just perfect. But what if you’re not quite perfect and don’t fit in what will happen to you, why is she being told to wear the glasses? Everybody seems to accept that all is well and just perfect so when Violet starts asking questions then the problems really begin. Refusing to conform she starts hearing a strange voice and she soon discovers that there’s somebody else who feels the same as her. Wonderfully weird and perfectly peculiar, ‘A Place Called Perfect’ magically transports the reader to an odd world where nothing is quite as it seems. I love how it’s the children who begin to understand that something sinister is going on and that it’s up to them to convince the adults to take a stance and be brave. This story is definitely one of my Middle Grade (8 – 12 years) highlights of the year so far, a real treat of a read.
Goodbye Stranger – Rebecca Stead
When Bridget survives being hit by a car and is left with thirteen broken bones and a punctured lung, she’s told by a nurse she must have been put on this Earth for a reason to have survived it. But when you take a year out of school to recover it’s not that easy to slot back into your life and Bridget finds it difficult to fit in with her friends. They had a pact never to fight but this is soon put to the test as they all feel different pressures forcing them to keep secrets from one another. Meeting Sherm who’s as much as an oddball as she is, helps Bridget start to feel better but unknown to her he’s hiding a secret too. Playing in the background there is a mystery girl who is struggling with an even more serious problem. A wonderful story about struggling to fit in and finding your place in the world when you’re just a bit different. An ideal first romance ‘Goodbye Stranger’ by Rebecca Stead is smart, funny and full of wisdom for young teens.
The Huntress: Sky – Sarah Driver
Sarah Driver is back with the next instalment in ‘The Huntress’ series with ‘Sky’, the follow up to the thrilling ‘Sea‘. Mouse is thrown into a dangerous new world in the Sky filled with ferocious beasts and enemies out to get her at every turn, in her search for the storm-opals. Time is running out for her to decipher her Da’s message before the ocean turns into ice, forever trapping the whales beneath it. With Stag at her heels anticipating her every move she battles to survive refusing to give up her search. Her resolve is tested to the limits as she leaps from one impossible challenge to another. A special mention must go to the glorious Skybary and Skybarian who guard the last books in the world, I found this totally enchanting. With the introduction of the fabulously kind and wise Kestrel who strives for peace and unity in this difficult times, ‘Sky’ moves the story along magnificently. Wonderfully atmospheric and deliciously dark you can’t help but being totally entranced by this beautiful tale.
Wonder – R. J. Palacio
Since my daughter read ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio in year 6 she’s been nagging me to read it. I’m ashamed to say even though I know by the power of Twitter that it is indeed a glorious book (that’s why I recommended it to my year 6 teachers to share) I’d never actually read it. So when I ran out of books on holiday I took the opportunity to read my daughter’s copy and I’m so glad that I did! August likes the things that any normal ten year old likes, ice cream, riding his bike playing on his Xbox but he’s not ordinary in the way he looks and that makes his life extremely difficult. After being home schooled Auggie’s Mum and Dad decided he should try school which has a number of expected and unexpected consequences for him. ‘Wonder’ is a perfect book for teaching empathy and understanding to children but it’s much more than that. Smart, funny and incredibly engaging I found myself totally immersed in the story. I love how the story is told from different viewpoints, especially from his sister Via. Her story shows that even though we may appear ‘normal’ to the outside world inside we may be a mass of worries and problems so we shouldn’t make assumptions about people from what we can see. This book needs to be read in every school, a truly extraordinary read.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my summer holiday reads, normal service will be resumed in early September. Thanks to Egmont, Quercus and Usborne books for sending me copies of these glorious books. ‘The Huntress: Sky’ is released on September 7th all of the other titles are available to buy from any good bookshop.