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May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: A heart-warming story about first loves, friendship and the power of kindness What’s important in life? Money, success, popularity are all words that float to the top of the list yet friendship, empathy, kindness and love are possibly where happiness really resides. This warm, heart lifting novel from Jennifer E. Smith encourages us to question what is really important in life. Alice buys best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his birthday as a joke. She doesn’t believe in luck and the last thing she expects is for Teddy to win and win big. Suddenly the comfortable life she has come to know is thrown in to disarray and things begin to change and the Teddy she thought she knew so well and who she’s secretly been in love with for years, begins to change. As she sees his popularity rise along with his bank balance and their hopes and dreams change, she begins to feel that she is losing him. But soon Teddy discovers that using his new found wealth committing random acts of kindness is the way forward and Alice joins him on helping to change the lives of random strangers. This thoughtful, inspiring story follows them on their adventure as they grow, sometimes together and sometimes apart, but both discovering a little more about each other and themselves along the way. For me Alice and Teddy’s story highlights the changes we can all make within our own world and the knock on effect that can have. It’s a wonderful message about love, hope and friendship, and ultimately about acceptance; acceptance that we can’t always control what happens in our lives but that our own actions have the power to change, maybe not the whole world, but certainly the world for at least one person through the kindness we can share. And that is a wonderful power to have indeed. ~ Shelley Fallows
May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Witty fantasy anti-hero forges his own path There’s trickery, traps, and action aplenty in this vividly conjured magical fantasy – the first in a series - about finding your place and discovering who you really are. Soon-to-be-sixteen, Kellen is one of the Jan’Tep (the ‘People of True Magic’) and about to undergo a series of trials to prove he has the “calibre of magic worthy of earning my mage name”. The pressure is immense, and failure “inconceivable”, for failure means living in servitude as a Sha’Tep. But there’s a problem... Despite being the son of a highly esteemed mage, Kellen has zero aptitude for magic, and so the arrival of straight-talking Ferius Pafax comes as a godsend. She saves Kellen’s life, and then her mysterious decks of cards leads him to question everything… What follows is a spectacularly cinematic experience that fizzes with action and jaw-dropping revelations. Oh, and a talking squirrel cat sidekick. This is fresh, funny fantasy made all the more appealing by Kellen’s wit and outcast status. ~ Joanne Owen
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | In a Nutshell: Compelling and compassionate account of a pregnant teen fighting an eating disorder | Insightful, authentic and profoundly moving story of a teenager facing the double struggle of discovering she’s pregnant while fighting an eating disorder. Hedda’s initial reaction to news of her pregnancy is that she has to “get rid of it”. With her relationship with her family in tatters, she lives alone in a rundown flat, and how can she possibly carry a baby when Nia (Hedda’s name for her personified eating disorder), tells her “that Thing inside you is going to make you fat”? But then the idea of adoption slips into Hedda’s head and she forms a truce with Nia: “When the baby is safely here and I’ve found it some proper parents, then Nia can have me back”. The arrival of a new neighbour – selfless, sensitive, nineteen-year-old Robin - further brightens Hedda’s outlook, and she begins to wonder if she might be able to bring up her own baby. And then there’s the presence of Molly, a friend from her former clinic, now gone, but a still ray of light in Hedda’s life. Hedda faces some huge decisions as she counts down the days and, with the odds stacked against her, she’s going to need tremendous strength to keep going. With heart-melting empathy, the author conveys how it feels to be in Hedda’s complex situation. I loved her inimitable, imagery-rich voice (“I spot myself, a long smear like a ghost in a shop window”). Yes, Hedda’s story is often heartbreaking, and the knockbacks and obstacles she faces are excruciatingly painful (especially in relation to her family), but the sting of disappointment and difficulty is beautifully offset by the kindnesses of strangers who show that while there’s no easy fix, there is always hope. This is an important, impactful, mightily impressive debut about love, reaching out and taking one step at a time. ~ Joanne Owen
**Recommended for 14+ In a Nutshell: High school hijinks (with a double side of heart 'n' hormones!) | This hilarious diary-format account of a year in a 14 year-old girl’s life is a madcap, modern day mash-up of Louise Rennison, Jacqueline Wilson and a teenage Bridget Jones. Chloe Snow (an emotional pendulum, by all accounts) is about to start ninth grade when her flighty mom leaves their suburban home to work on her novel in Mexico. Feeling somewhat abandoned, Chloe throws herself into realising her dream of actually kissing someone for the first time, and into performing in her high school musical. There are countless moments that will make readers LOL (the moment Chloe brazenly pops her kissing cherry is comedy gold), but it’s not all larks and laughs. Chloe really misses her mom, and her world kind-of caves in when she realises what’s really going on with her parents, alongside dealing with vicious trolls, and having her heart messed about with. Packed with witty one-liners and oodles of embarrassing episodes, this entertaining cry-with-laughter-cringe-fest is a delicious dessert of a read. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: funny contemporary dreams can come true story | Lizzie Brown is about to start 6th form, a chance as all teenagers understand to totally reinvent herself; no more boring Lizzie, she’s going to become someone seriously cool. Then on day one of her new life she meets Viv, the absolute epitome of hip and everything does indeed begin to change. This is a comedy of modern life, so things don’t go quite as Lizzie intends, and there’s pain and humiliation to be endured before she gets to her happy-with-who-she-is ending. Eleanor Wood writes particularly sharp teen dialogue and this lively genuinely funny story speaks directly to its intended audience. ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award In a Nutshell: Loss, friendship and the light of re-finding your way | An exceptional novel about grief, guilt and finding solace in celebrating loved ones’ lives. I adored the author’s haunting southern gothic-spiced debut (The Serpent King), and the same exquisite storytelling shines through here from the opening pages, when seventeen-year-old Carver reveals that his three best friends, Mars, Blake and Eli, were killed in a car crash as the driver, Mars, replied to Carver’s text. Collectively, they were the “Sauce Crew”, four creative teenagers with exciting futures on their near horizons, but now three lives have been cut short, and it feels to Carver as if his life is over too. He’s shattered by grief, and then a criminal investigation into the accident exacerbates his turmoil. But there’s hope to be had from the special memorial days suggested by Blake’s adorable, wise Nana Betsy. The characterisation is masterful, blending painterly personal detail with broader strokes that lay universalities bare, and the writing expresses emotional rawness - the choke of Carver's panic attacks, the blinding thunderstorm of his nightmares - with a powerful punch. Jeff Zentner is the real deal. ~ Joanne Owen
The powerful third story in the Noughts & Crosses sequence follows Sephy and her daughter, as she discovers the secret of her parentage and, as she grows into a young adult, the truth of the prejudices that surround her and control her. The originality of the plot is breathtaking and the characters superbly drawn.
This thrilling new title in award winning Malorie Blackman’s cleverly observed series, which began with Noughts and Crosses, captures the drama and potential violence of growing up – especially in a world where the Noughts are willing to use violence against the darker skinned Crosses. Violence erupts after a bomb goes off in a hotel killing Callie Rose’s grandmother. While everyone blames a Nought terrorist, Callie Rose knows the truth and it involves her boyfriend Tobey. Malorie Blackman has a great gift for showing all sides of an issue and how individuals make their choices. ~ Julia Eccleshare Lovereading comment: Explosively page-turning, dramatic and full of relevance for our world today, Double Cross is Malorie Blackman's fourth novel in the award-winning Noughts and Crosses sequence. Following in her parent’s footsteps, Callie Rose is determined to fight for equality between races and the kind of society she believes in. But violence from the past threatens to rob her of the future she craves, while her friend Tobey is thrown off the course of his life by the escalating violence of the gang culture that surrounds him. A fast paced thriller, Double Cross also takes a thoughtful look at the escalating violence of contemporary society.
The terrific sequel to Noughts and Crosses which continues the story of Sephy and Callum and their families. Full of mystery, suspense, romance and even murder, taking the reader through numerous different emotions but in the end you will be throughly satisfied - though desperate to read the next in the series, Checkmate.
Selected by a distinguished independent panel of experts including our editorial expert, Julia Eccleshare, for Diverse Voices - 50 of the best Children's Books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK. Michael Rosen on a compelling favourite: "A book that dared to go where no one thought you could with young audiences because it raises tough stuff to do with race." It takes a brave author such as Malorie Blackman to consider a sequence of the like of Noughts and Crosses and to pull it off with utmost aplomb. Award-winning author Blackman has tackled the issues of racism and prejudice in a world set in an alternate historical reality. Although 11 year olds will take great joy and learn much from reading this first one in the sequence, adults will devour it with equal enthusiasm. The contrast of the two main protagonists makes the novel totally compelling and the writing style is both original and superbly paced. The plot unravels at the pace of a thriller and as a consequence it’s a book that is almost impossible to put down. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
In a nutshell: upstairs downstairs time-slip adventure | Evie is feeling sorry for herself. Her mum has – selfishly in Evie’s opinion - gone on honeymoon with her new husband leaving Evie with a godmother she hardly knows. Her godmother lives in a flat, part of an old mansion house and Evie’s room seems haunted by the ghost of a girl with a sad story to tell. When Evie finds herself back in time and working as a lowly house maid she gets the opportunity to help the ghost. In the process she learns lots too about the ordinary lives of children the same age as her who had to work as servants in Victorian England. Beautifully told this is a thrilling story and will grip young readers; like Evie, they may see their own lives differently by the story’s conclusion too. This tale of adventure and self-discovery is one to recommend to fans of A Little Princess. ~ Andrea Reece The Editor at Nosy Crow says: “There’s so much to love about this book. It’s spine-tingling, moving, funny and heartbreaking – a real rollercoaster ride!
In a Nutshell: Grappling with grief | Facing the truth | Forging new paths | Intensely moving, uniquely premised story of two strangers torn apart - and brought together – by deep loss.Juliet’s mother was killed in a car crash on her way home from a photojournalism assignment in Syria. She tries to deal with her grief by writing letters to her mum, and leaving them on her grave. Then there’s Declan. Everyone has him down as a no-hoper bad boy from a messed-up family. He’s been in juvenile detention and is now doing community service maintaining a cemetery, which is how he comes to read and reply to one of Juliet’s letters. The path of their relationship - and the gripping plot - takes many heart-stopping turns as new revelations threaten to pull them under. Ultimately, though, both teenagers realise that the key to survival is finding the strength to make your own path. I was especially moved by Declan’s personal journey. He’s intelligent, sensitive, and his astute comments about free will and fate help set Juliet back on track. The novel also imparts an important message about the perils of making assumptions; people aren’t necessarily the person you think they are. Powerfully raw, and written with great clarity and a whole lot of heart, this is highly recommended for fans of stories with emotional grit. ~ Joanne Owen
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