What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

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The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

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What I’ve Read / Iron to Iron, Love and Other Alien Experiences & Another Together

Mini Reviews
I have mini reviews of three eBooks for you today!

Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin

Wolf By Wolf was one of my favourite books of last year so I absolutely had to download Iron to Iron, a novella that takes place before the events of the first book.

Iron to Iron is narrated by Luka Lowe as he tries to figure out newcomer to the world famous Axis Race, Felix Wolfe – Adele Wolfe in disguise. Even though we already know the outcome of the dangerous motorbike race, the relationship between Luka and Adele is still a little bit of a mystery, so it was great to get to know them both better (since Adele is rather… occupied in Wolf By Wolf). It’s still just as tense as ever and I’d really love to re-read Wolf By Wolf, to see whether the novella has affected how I see Luka. It was a great way to whet my appetite before the highly anticipated sequel, Blood For Blood. It’s definitely worth reading if you loved the first book.

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfry

I had wanted to read fellow YA blogger Kerry’s novel for a while and so when I was in a reading slump, whereby I could only read fun contemporary young adult novels, it seemed like a perfect choice.

Mallory Sullivan has suffered from severe anxiety and agoraphobia since her father left without warning. She hasn’t left her house in weeks and is humiliated when her classmates pick her to be on the school prom committee. Because high school is cruel, they start the #stayathome hashtag and she desperately tries not to follow the nasty things they tweet about her. As a lover of all things paranormal, she instead finds solace in talking to her friend (or is he more than that?) BeamMeUp on the We Are Not Alone online community.

Even though Mallory feels alone, her brother Lincoln, best friend Jenni, and the neighbourly Kirkpatrick boys are also there to help. Even with their support, it’s tough to see how judgemental people, especially your own family, can be. Mallory feels like she’s the town “freak”, but she’s a fantastic, intelligent character with a lot of wit and sarcasm (a Sullivan family trait) and a surprising talent for flirting. It’s the characters that bring this story to life (but the puppies help, too). Even though it may seem serious, the characters’ conversations and relationships are light and fun – something which helps Mallory more than she thought. Love and Other Alien Experiences will be available in print next spring and you’ll definitely want to pick it up!

Another Together by Lauren James

If wonderfully written historical romance and time-travelling sound like your cup of tea, then The Next Together should be on your wishlist. Another Together is a standalone short story set in the same world. It’s 1940 and war is upon us. Kitty and Matthew, codebreakers at the famous Bletchley Park, are determined to solve a different kind of puzzle – a murder has taken place and the investigation isn’t all as it seems.

Another Together is a sweet story that provides a more insight into the relationship of one of 2015’s favourite literary couples, set during a time that’s always fascinated me. It’s over super quick, but it’s a little bit of fun to get you ready for the companion novel, The Last Beginning. Let the reincarnation romance continue!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic #3)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Classic #3)

Shelved: Classic (children’s, fantasy, science fiction)
Series: Time Quintet (#1)
Published: 1962 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #3
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my third post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 430+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
It’s a children’s classic that I’ve been aware of since joining the book community. It’s super popular in the US, but not so much in the UK. Last year, Puffin got in touch to offer me a bunch of newly redesigned and published Puffin Classics. I couldn’t say no and requested A Wrinkle in Time.

WHY I Chose to Read It
A Wrinkle in Time is not only a highly-regarded classic (it won the 1963 Newbery Medal), but a much-beloved classic. I was excited to finally pick it up.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s a novel that is seen to be for 9 to 12-year-olds and yet tackles highly complex themes. Good vs. evil – illustrated in the story as light vs. dark – and conformity vs. freedom are woven into the plot. It’s scientific and philosophical, and some say religious.

Jean Fulton wrote: “L’Engle’s fiction for young readers is considered important partly because she was among the first to focus directly on the deep, delicate issues that young people must face, such as death, social conformity, and truth.”

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was intrigued, particularly by the concepts of wrinkling time and tessering; folding the fabric of space and time. Meg, Charles and Calvin are promised that they’ll travel from one area of space to another and arrive back home five minutes before they left. As for the characters, I adored 13-year-old Margaret “Meg” Murray and her younger brother, 5-year-old Charles Wallace, who is both a genius and telepathic. They are the key to saving their father, a scientist studying tesseract, who is being kept on the planet Camazotz.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the few children’s science fiction classics I’ve read. It’s impressive, challenging and ambitious. As my experience of science fiction is limited to dystopia and post-apocalyptic – and so therefore much easier concepts to grasp – I just about got my head around the science. But I appreciate that it was explained. I attended an event about writing children’s science fiction a few years ago and a comment was made that it’s easier to write for children because there’s less to explain. I’m sure Madeleine L’Engle wouldn’t agree. Rather than simply “travelling through time”, the reader becomes more invested in how this might happen and what could go wrong.

Even so, A Wrinkle in Time was often a little too bizarre for me, as someone who generally reads contemporary fiction. I was hoping that I’d get into the story much more than I did. But I thoroughly enjoyed the personal journey that the children went on and it’s one I’d happily give another shot.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.” 

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure it’ll continue to be popular within in the US, but it may be a little too peculiar to be reintroduced to the UK – but time will tell as a new adaptation is currently being made!

“They are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space.”
“Oh,” the thin beast said. “Aren’t they lonely?”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love science fiction. People who love stories about complex and challenging themes.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”

A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin

Book Reviews: Christmas with the Savages & Lily and the Christmas Wish

Book Review: Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive


Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: October 2015 (originally September 1977) by Puffin
Pages: 186

Okay, it’s a little late (or early?!) for Christmas stories, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two wonderful children’s books. Mary Clive’s Christmas with the Savages was the perfect children’s classic to read in December. It’s about Evelyn, an 8-year-old who much prefers the company of adults to other children. Evelyn is dismayed when she is sent toTamerlane Hall, a large Edwardian house in the countryside, where she finds more children than she’s ever experienced before – the Glens, the Howliboos, and the Savages.

Christmas with the Savages was a delightful festive read, full of humour. It’s based on Mary Clive’s own experiences growing up – and it was lovely to be transported into this eccentric family’s holiday celebrations. All the children are left to roam the house and gardens, so it’s full of hilarious escapades and antics. I loved Evelyn’s prim and proper opinion on just about everything, from the youngest of children to the Nannies, who can’t quite cope with all 13 children!

Christmas with the Savages is a classic I only discovered this year and I’m so very glad I did. If you’re participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge, be sure to consider this one for December!

Book Review: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton


Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: November 2015 by Piccadilly Press
Pages: 160
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I think festive children’s stories have to be among the best kinds of stories. Keris Stainton’s Lily and the Christmas Wish was a welcome addition to my winter TBR pile. As Christmas approaches, the little town of Pinewood is so excited that they give everyone a wish to hang up on the town’s giant Christmas tree. But a storm strikes and something odd happens. Christmas wishes begin coming true – but for the wrong people! And Lily discovers that her puppy – an adorable pug named Bug – can talk! Can two children and one pug help make everyone’s wishes come true before it’s too late?

Lily and the Christmas Wish is an incredibly sweet story about festive cheer, fun, and family. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see if Lily – accompanied by her younger brother James – could match up everyone’s Christmas wishes in time. And it was heart-warming to see what everyone wished for: some wishes were funny, some were a little sad. Keris wonderfully blends fantasy with reality. Even though there’s a little bit of magic to the story, it’s really a contemporary tale of a sleepy town and the people who live there. A beautifully wintry story for younger children.

Is it also possible for me to get a talking pug?

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith


Shelved: Children’s fiction (fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I must confess, I bought Coralie Bickford-Smith’s The Fox and the Star purely because it’s utterly beautiful. Given the name of this blog, it’s probably no surprise. I was especially intrigued when it won the Waterstones Book of the Year. It’s the sort of book that you discover while browsing the shelves of your favourite bookshop and cannot help but pick up, although I bought my copy from a small bookshop that I hadn’t visited before.

Coralie Bickford-Smith is the award-winning designer of the iconic clothbound Penguin Classics and so I knew before I peeked inside that the illustrations would be as beautiful as the exquisite cover design. The Fox and the Star is inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and the art of William Blake and is certainly an experience. Much of the book lets the pictures speak for themselves; words are unnecessary. But that doesn’t mean that the words aren’t lovely too. The Fox and the Star is the sweet story of one fox finding the courage to step out into the dangerous, dark world to find his lost star.

The Fox and the Star is a glorious book that I immediately put on display on my desk, the perfect gift for all ages.

“Once there was a Fox who lived in a deep, dense forest. For as long as Fox could remember, his only friend has been Star, who lit the forest paths for Fox each night. But then one night, Star was not there, and Fox had to face the darkness all alone…”


Published: August 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 64

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-SmithBook Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-SmithBook Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith