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Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | In a nutshell: be careful if you’re what others wish for | The three Graces, twins Thalia and Fenrin and their younger sister Summer, seem to have everything: attractive, popular, rich, no wonder everyone wants to be their friend, or that rumours spread that they have magical powers. Our narrator is new to the area and determined to become part of their inner circle, for reasons that seem obvious, but which are only fully revealed at the story’s end in a climax that will have readers immediately turning back to the very beginning. This twisty tale of small-town witchcraft is distinguished by its brooding, claustrophobic atmosphere and a heroine – we know her as River, a name she chooses for herself – who deceives the readers as completely as she does her friends and family. Recommended. ~ Andrea Reece
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: ways to change the world Joseph is not classic super-hero material: he’s asthmatic and rubbish at sports, bullied regularly and nicknamed Wilco because he always complies when someone demands he does their homework. Imagine his surprise and excitement therefore when he develops special powers including telekinesis. Could this be his chance to get his own back on the bullies, impress the gorgeous Indira and even join super-heroes unlimited the Vigils? Well, yes and no. The story that follows is a sharply-observed comedy of teen life, with a serious undertone. Amongst the comic-book action Burstein shows what heroism - the kind that calls for real courage – really is, and reminds readers that heroes and villains too are often those we least expect them to be. ~ Andrea Reece
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | August 2016 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: cake baking | works | magic | A delicious concoction of friendships, family and food and a worthy winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2015. Oh my goodness, I just loved this gentle, warm, funny tale. Laura’s writing is mouth wateringly wonderful and her characters lovable and real. Poor Scarlett is the inspiration behind her mother’s cringeworthy, embarrassing blog and with headings such as Tap-dancing…did I give birth to three left feet? Or Did something die in that PE bag? we can understand why. Although anonymous, everyone knows that the posts are about her and hating her new found celebrity status Scarlett tries to disappear into the background leaving her friendless and lonely. Life has become a daily grind of keeping her head down and trying not to provide her mum with any new material - until that is she discovers an empty kitchen and a mysterious old cookbook. As she secretly teaches herself to cook Scarlett begins to wonder if she’ll ever find the magic ingredients for friendship and family. This lovely tale is like a delicious cup of hot chocolate – sweet, scrumptious and will warm the cockles of your heart. ~ Shelley Fallows One of our reader reviewers, Isaac East, loved this book so much he made some of the delicious recipes to treat his Granny and Grandad to afternoon tea!
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Feminism | Friendship | Fighting back |Inspirational and insanely funny, this third and final book in the Normal trilogy is a motivating must-read manifesto for young women, not to mention a powerful wake-up call for detractors of feminism. When two men subject Lottie to threatening sexual harassment, she feels embarrassed, afraid and, most of all, outrage at the male entitlement that led them to believe “my body was theirs to comment on”. With the backing of her college FemSoc and Spinster Club friends, she decides to (literally) call-out every single instance of sexism for an entire month by honking on a clown’s horn, and so the Vagilante Project is born. To help the Project gain ground, and to document her experiences, Lottie reluctantly recruits aspiring filmmaker Will. While he might be a “cocky jerk”, Will’s talent (and hipster good looks) can’t be denied and the campaign soon attracts major media attention. But the Project’s stresses take their toll on both her mental health and grades as her Cambridge University entrance interview looms. If that wasn’t enough, national coverage of the Vagilante Project brings out the trolls, and Lottie has to dig deep to stay sane and keep all her goals in her grasp. For me, one of this novel’s highpoints is its incisive exploration of cognitive dissonance. For example, Lottie knows the social norm of having hair-free legs is a patriarchal imposition, but it takes great guts to ditch the razor and go au naturel. That such issues are handled with both insight and humour makes this novel all the more authentic, and Lottie’s story is full of madly funny moments, such as when she mimics a man-spreader on the tube, or when she staggers from Will “like some pissed-up feminist gingerbread man” because she doesn’t need a male companion to walk her home. Packed with wit, warmth, honesty and passion, this novel will surely forge a path of empowerment for legions of young women (we could do with a real-life Lottie realising her ambition to become Prime Minister), while eliciting more than a few belly laughs along the way. ~ Joanne Owen
Bobby and his teacher don’t get on, in fact in his eyes she’s a monster. An accidental meeting in the park however, when Bobby saves Miss Kirby’s favourite hat (it was a present from her granny) changes his view of her completely: before our eyes Miss Kirby gradually transforms from an ugly green ogre into a smiling curly-haired young woman. It’s a witty way to show that teachers are human too, and that the way you treat people affects the way they behave. Brown’s stylish illustrations are wonderfully expressive and there are two superb wordless scenes, one that perfectly captures the awkwardness the two feel at their accidental meeting, the other demonstrating Miss Kirby’s new generosity to Robert. An original picture book that cleverly delivers its message. ~ Andrea Reece
Shortlisted for Best Crime Novel for Young Adults, CrimeFest Gala Awards 2017 | July 2016 Book of the Month | In a nutshell : tense, unusual thriller Set in a not-too-distant future in which, following the collapse of the EU and a major recession in the UK (that must feel much more prescient now than when the book was being written), jails are filled not just with criminals, but the innocent family members of those who have committed crimes too, Simon Mayo’s first YA novel is a gripping, well-thought out thriller that asks interesting questions about our pre-disposition to apportion blame as a way of avoiding more difficult questions about what’s really gone wrong. The central character Ant, imprisoned with her foster parents and little brother Mattie, is the kind of feisty, impulsive and courageous heroine who lights up the best YA. ~ Andrea Reece One to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games. Readers who enjoy this kind of thoughtful political thriller will also like One of Us by Jeannie Waudby.
July 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Awesome Empowerment * Sisterly Support * Pursuing Passions This inspirational story about following dreams and the power of female friendship is as rich, warm and cheering as being curled up with a mug of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day. Amber lives near London’s cosmopolitan Brick Lane with her gay dads. She loves words, Oscar Wilde and all things vintage. She hates the small-minded bullying “OMG girls” at school, and feels certain that “there must be other people like her out there somewhere. Other people who didn't fit it, or want to fit in.” And so, inspired by an Oscar Wilde quote, Amber seeks out sister Moonlight Dreamers, kindred sprits who also “dream of freedom and adventure”. The girls who respond to Amber’s call come from very different worlds, but they come together in a spirit of solidarity to create their own secret society in which difference is celebrated, and following your dreams is de rigeur. At the inaugural meeting of the Moonlight Dreamers, they each declare their dreams and pledge to pursue them. Amber is desperate to visit Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris. Shy photographer Maali yearns for the confidence to talk to boys. Poet Sky dreams of performing at a poetry slam, and New Yorker Rose wants to own a Harley Davidson and become a patissier, against her model mom’s desire for Rose to follow in her expensively-shoed footsteps. Utterly charming through even the girls’ most challenging moments, the author’s portrayal of female friendship and self-empowerment is sublimely enriching, and the novel ends with a glorious sense that the girls' journey is only just beginning: a lifetime of fortifying friendship and Moonlight Dreaming awaits. ~ Joanne Owen
July 2016 Debut of the Month Absolutely compelling. I have to admit to being rather surprised by ‘The Otherlife’, I think I was expecting a rollicking fantasy adventure, instead a startling, yet subtle and thought provoking read awaited. Either told from the viewpoint of Ben as he is about to take his GCSE’s in 2012, or through his classmate Hobie’s journal in 2008, The Otherlife focuses on the importance of friendship and a variety of issues such as the pressure of being a teenager and parent’s expectations. While Ben copes with pain, both physical and mental, Hobie bulldozes his way through the school year, with few morals, and little thought. Julia Gray sets the Otherlife flickering on the edge of the page, on the knife edge of reality... waiting. As I settled in and felt as though I was beginning to understand, the writing ripped my thoughts apart and set me off on a new path. An intruiging, slicing read, The Otherlife, is also warmly tender and compassionate, and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson
In a nutshell: the agony and the ecstasy of the pre-teen The return of Arthur Bean, self-proclaimed creative genius and star of one already highly successful diary-based narrative is to be welcomed. Arthur is a rather special voice in fiction for young people: he’s smart, perceptive (except when it comes to his relationships with girls), frequently cynical and often very funny. His adventures – mostly concerning girls and the accidental loan/theft of a video camera, something that weighs heavily on him - are recounted in a variety of forms, from diary entries, texts and emails to homework assignments, even the script of a zombie movie he’s writing. It makes for varied, refreshing reading and feels both real and true. As well as the usual issues of friendships and first romances, Arthur is also mourning the loss of his mother, and this too is sensitively handled. ~ Andrea Reece
In the expert hands of James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein middle school is the funniest place on earth, especially in this series starring Jamie Grimm, the wheelchair-using kid with the super-sharp line in banter. Things should be looking good for Jamie following his triumph in the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic competition, but part of his prize is the starring role in his own sitcom and Jamie’s not sure he wants that. Plus, there’s a new bully at school who is impervious to Jamie’s secret weapon – comedy. As ever the story moves so smoothly that readers won’t even notice how quickly the pages are turning while Jamie’s resilience as much as his comic timing make him a hugely appealing hero. ~ Andrea Reece
This is a hilarious story of dead fish, gorillas with bananas in their ears, poetry, cunning plans and highly legal documents (kind of). Oh and iPads, iPhones and vlogging of course. I’m sitting at home chortling away at How To Update Your Parents when Ben suddenly looks up from his gamepad and asks… ‘Whatcha reading Mum?’ ‘Oh just a book I’m reviewing.’ I say and carry on reading. Not long after he can’t help but come and take a peek. The cover alone is enticing and the title well… ‘Does it really tell you how to update your parents?’ And then I tell him it’s about a boy called Louis The Laugh who is really funny and all he wants to do is make as many people as possible laugh so he attempts to start his own comedy vlog. However his parents think he spends too much time ‘glued to a screen’ and have decided that their home should become totally device free. Louie of course thinks they’ve ‘totally lost the plot’. Oh the horror, the indignity! Yes, Louis and his younger brother Elliot are forced to return to ‘ye olden days’. The days when people would sit around the fire playing board games, take long walks and do jigsaw puzzles – all the time. ~ Shelley Fallows A Piece of Passion from the Editor How to Update Your Parents is the fourth instalment in the highly successful and popular Louis the Laugh series. Louis is an aspiring comedian and, with the help of girlfriend and ‘agent’, Maddy, he sets out to conquer the world of comedy using vlogs and social media. But there’s just one rather big problem – his parents have enforced a total ban on technology! This results in Louis’ hilarious attempts to get his parents to change their minds and to make them see the error of their ways.Will Louis convince his parents that social media and technology are good things after all? Or will Louis have to find another way to make his voice heard? You’ll have to read the book to find out!In an age where the issue of technology and social media addiction is becoming ever more topical and debated, How to Update Your Parents provides a fresh outlook on the subject and shows both sides of the argument in a thoroughly entertaining, non-judgmental, and hilarious way.
In a Nutshell: the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth! If they gave out black-belts for telling fibs, Beaky Malone would be a seventh Dan master. All that changes though when he steps into a rusty metal box that appears to be a truth-telling machine and becomes incapable of uttering a single untruth. It’s a brilliant comic set-up, made even more entertaining thanks to Beaky’s family situation: his bickering aunt and uncle have just arrived for the weekend, with his cousins Max aka ‘Satan in shorts’ and creepy Sophie in tow. Add his teenage sister Jodie into the mix, and their nutty dog Destructo, and the stage is set for a very silly, but very, very funny adventure. Barry Hutchison expertly keeps the plates spinning and there’s an involving adventure beneath the absurdity. ~ Andrea Reece
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