What I’ve Read / Beautiful Broken Things, Head Over Heels & The Ballroom

What I've Read / Beautiful Broken Things, Head Over Heels & The Ballroom
Here are three reviews of books I’ve read recently!

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

If you’re looking for books about female friendship, Beautiful Broken Things is an excellent place to start. It has one of the most honest accounts of friendship I’ve read so far. It tackles that intense feeling experienced when one of your best friends becomes better friends with someone else and what it’s like to see your friendship falling away – and not knowing what to do about it.
Caddy and Rosie are super close until new girl Suzanne comes along. She’s interesting and fun and beautiful. Caddy is suspicious of her until she finds out something from Suzanne’s past that no one else knows. As Suzanne opens up, Caddy finds herself drawn to this fascinating person who’s so different to herself – more daring, more fun, more exciting.

Beautiful Broken Things is difficult to read at times – Suzanne’s mental health and the things she’s experienced are horrendous. And at times it’s tricky to like Caddy as a character, with her comparably easy life of private school and zero Significant Life Events. And yet there are many people out there who haven’t had something traumatic happen to them but struggle through life all the same; feeling the pressure of society, parental expectation and their own self-criticism. Beautiful Broken Things shows what happens when Caddy and Suzanne are convinced they need each other – and who’s to say they don’t?

Head Over Heels & Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

Oh, what fun it is to see Harriet Manners again! Every time I pick up a new Geek Girl story, I’m transported to a happy place.

Head Over Heels is the fifth book in the series the perfect mix of modelling and the equally as eventful world of Harriet Manners. Team JINTH (Jasper, India, Nat, Toby and Harriet) have it down: they frequently meet at their favourite coffee shop (and have allocated seats) and have pre-planned sleepovers (Harriet has the schedule written up). Harriet’s had a difficult time making close friends up until now and so it was great to see her in this dynamic, even though it’s not as easy as she might think. And it was lovely to greet the supporting characters we know so well and love, from Wilber (even if he isn’t completely himself lately) and Richard (ever the quirky parent) to Rin (still kawaii) and baby sister Tabitha (and potential future model). I had a brilliant time reading Harriet’s fifth adventure – this time set in beautiful, colourful India – and didn’t want it to end.

But Sunny Side Up helped fill the spot nicely, with Harriet on a trip to Paris Fashion Week. I read it after Head Over Heels, but it actually takes place before the fifth book (a little tip!). It’s a short, sweet and fabulous summer novella, with more stunning outfits and hilarious antics. I also enjoyed the extra short: we get to see the first time Lion Boy meets Harriet, from his point of view. I’m ready for you, book six!

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

I’ve always been slightly fascinated by asylums – how easy it is to get committed, how difficult it is to get out, what defines mental illness and the blurry line between “sane” and “insane”. Asylums are a common appearance in horror stories, but they were a genuine horror for the people who had to stay in them.

The Ballroom is set in Sharston, an asylum located on the edge of the Yorkshire moors in the early 1900s. We hear from John Mulligan and Ella Fay – who meet and dance in the asylum’s elegant ballroom, a privilege provided to well-behaved patients – and Charles Fuller, a doctor who writes and researches the eugenics movement. Charles proposes that music therapy can improve the lives of patients, or the “feeble-minded” – until the reader begins to believe that Charles may be the only one who truly belongs at Sharston.

The Ballroom is incredibly compelling and one of the few adult novels I’ve had the chance to read this year. John and Ella’s developing romance is heartbreaking, as is the life of Clem, a bookish friend that Ella in her dorm. Eerie, bleak historical fiction that somehow still manages to leave you hoping.

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!

Book Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Book Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit


Shelved: Young adult fiction (historical)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Anna and the Swallow Man is stunning. It’s the first thing you’ll notice about the book – the captivating cover accompanied by instantly beautiful writing. It is among the few literary young adult novels I’ve read and it won’t be the last.

Anna and the Swallow Man retells a story we’ve heard a million times; one that needs to continue to be told, and it makes you feel like you’re hearing it for the first time. You feel the sadness and anger and confusion that our young protagonist feels, seeing the world change through her own eyes.

7-year-old Anna is incredibly close to her father – master of languages and lover of people – until, on the brink of World War II, he leaves her with a friend and never returns. As Anna worryingly waits for her father, she stumbles upon the Swallow Man – or you could say that he stumbles upon her. He’s a mysterious fellow who’s just as talented in linguistics as her father. She trusts him, because there is no one else left to trust, and they set off on what will be a never-ending journey for the pair.

As it’s a huge part of the story, the importance and significance of language constantly came through. Anna and her new friend are fluent in many languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, French – and even Bird. It is entwined with their identities. And Gavriel Savit shows how their identities can – and need – to change in these troubled times. Along their journey, they make a friend, dodge terrifying soldiers, and always manage to keep on walking. They never stop teaching each other about the world, using colourful imagery to describe why Germans, Polish, and Russians struggle to coexist.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a poignant story, but also at times hopeful and optimistic. If you love young adult or adult historical fiction and want to pick up something a little bit different, Anna and the Swalllow Man is for you.

“A friend is not someone to whom you give the things you need when the world is at war. A friend is someone to whom you give the things that you need when the world is at peace.”

Published: January 2016
Publisher:  Bodley Head (UK) Knopf Books for Young Readers (US)
Pages: 240
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Book Review: The Wolf Wilder written by Katherine Rundell and illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico

Book Review: The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell


Shelved: Children’s fiction (historical, adventure)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

“Stories can start revolutions.”

The Wolf Wilder was one of my most anticipated books of 2015. I worked at Bloomsbury Children’s before it was published and I refused to read my early copy as I wanted to wait to see Gelrev Ongbico’s divine illustrations . And it was well worth the wait. I cannot decide which cover for The Wolf Wilder I love the most; it’s a stunning book, inside and out.

The Wolf Wilder is a beautiful story about one girl’s treacherous adventure through dangerous, snowy Russia to save her mother, who has been attacked and captured by the Russian Army because she refused to give them what they wanted. They burned down the house and dragged her away to a Russian prison, as ordered by the diabolical general, Mikhail Rakov. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. Wolves are often sent back into the wild by rich owners who have grown bored – or afraid – of their good luck charms, but it’s bad luck to kill a wolf. Accompanied by three loyal wolves and a surprisingly trustworthy boy soldier called Ilya, Feo sets off into the woods and begins a journey that will change her life. Feo is a resilient and determined character, and an absolute joy to read about.

Wolves, like children, are not born to lead calm lives.”

It’s certainly been the year of the wolf because this is the second ‘wolf’ book to make my top ten books of the year. I loved learning about each of the wolves and their personalities: White, Grey and Black, plus the adorable wolf cub and Feo’s dutiful Tenderfoot. All of the wolves are characters in their own right and guide the courageous children as they defy the adults around them. Katherine Rundell’s picturesque and memorable writing combined with Gelrev Ongbico’s haunting and wintry illustrations create a fantastic adventure story for all ages. I do not have any excuses for not picking up my copy of Rooftoppers, do I?!

“It’s inhuman to take your books away before you know the end.”


Published: September 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (UK) Simon & Schuster (US)
Pages: 336

Books On My TBR / Autumn 2015Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Classic #10)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Classic #10)


Shelved: Classic (coming-of-age, historical fiction)
Published: 1940
Rating: ★★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #10
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my 10th post for the 2015 Classics Challenge!

“The world was hers for the reading.”

The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and suffering that were the lot of New York’s poor. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child, and of her family.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I was watching a video by Priscilla at The Readables when I came across it. Priscilla gave it an amazing review and so I asked for it for Christmas – over 3 years ago!

WHY I Chose to Read It
I chose to read it because I’ve had it for so long that it was about time. And this year I discovered that it was one of the most popular books on my TBR, much to my surprise.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn probably doesn’t count as a classic in the UK because it’s a very American story. Nonetheless, I’m sure children grew up in similar circumstances in east London in the early 1900s, too. I can see why it’s treasured across the pond. I wish it was as popular here because even though the historical setting may not be the same, the colourful characters go beyond time and place. It’s a classic coming-of-age novel; a story that’s quiet and yet full of life.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
It’s my first 5* classic of the year (excluding To Kill a Mockingbird, which was a re-read). Hooray! I was starting to worry that there wouldn’t be one this year but A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is sensational. I adored reading about young Francie Nolan, growing up as a ferocious reader (quite a Matilda-like character) and, later, an aspiring writer. It was both painful and heartwarming to hear about the troubles that her family go through, from her aunt Sissy’s miscarriages to her father Johnny’s alcoholism, and not forgetting her mother Katie’s determination and strength. Often Katie feels like a woman in her 40s because she’s been through so much, but she’s about my age! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an utterly wonderful and unforgettable tale of family and growing up.

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
It’s a beloved book in the USA and I’m sure it’ll be read for many years to come – Francie’s tale will never stop being poignant.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love young adult and children’s fiction. People who love slow (but not boring!) stories. People who love stories about people – especially bookish characters!

“And always, there was the magic of learning things.”

Books On My TBR / Autumn 2015