Completely Cassidy – Accidental Genius by Tamsyn Murray

Completely Cassidy – Accidental Genius by Tamsyn Murray

Completely Cassidy - Accidental Genius: Completely Cassidy (Book 1)Completely Cassidy – Accidental Genius: Completely Cassidy by Tamsyn Murray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great fun middle grade book about girl friendships, navigating the new world of secondary school, and finding your hidden talent. Cassidy is such a strong character with a distinct twelve year old voice and a funny outlook on her changing life: new friends and social groups at secondary school, and a growing family (her mother is pregnant with twins). It reminded me at times of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4ths. There are also some hilarious gags – especially in the reply letters Cassidy get from the various organisations she writes to trying to discover her talent.
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Trouble by Non Pratt

Trouble by Non Pratt

TroubleTrouble by Non Pratt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written. It made me tear up a couple of times. Both Hannah and Aaron felt so real – a mass of contradictions, bad decision, stupid bullish or bravado teenage logic.

Hannah at first was grating in the extreme. But then her character really grows in a subtle way across the course of the book. It is brilliantly done – and it doesn’t feel like a character ‘arc’ – more like, as she moves away from her old life, another side of her personality comes out. I did feel there could be a little more about her actual pregnancy and her worries about being a mum, but in a way it is kind of a character trait that she’s not thinking so much about the future only about the things going on now.

Aaron was a lovely character too, trying to atone for his past by being the perfect guy to Hannah. At points he comes over a little too perfect, like the hero Hannah needs, rather than how he might behave considering his own self doubts. I totally loved him and believed him as a character, but I wanted Hannah to confront his oddness a bit more, and I get why she wouldn’t – because she doesn’t want to spoil things. But he is like a cuckoo child a little bit, adopting someone else’s family, and this creates a conflict near the end.

Both characters are so likeable and full of depth. I love how the book ends, and I would definitely read a sequel to see how they deal with parenthood and their mixed up friendship/relationship. The nature of which is something created out of both their needs in that short space of time, and how would it develop when the rules changed? All this is so interesting that at the end I wished there was more. I so wanted to know how Hannah dealt with being a mother in her unique, sometimes insightful, sometimes scattered way. There’s just so much potential for looking at that in the way she oscillates between being teenage and more mature in her handling of things. And how Aaron dealt with the truth being out there about him and the potential of a shift in his relationship with Hannah and her family, and how he’d be with the baby. And I would’ve loved to see how all the kids at school would be with Hannah as a mum. All that made me wish for a sequel and I hope one gets written one day!

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The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken

The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken

The Cuckoo Tree (The Wolves Chronicles, #6)The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dido Twite is a great heroine, all mouthy action, sharp elbows and ideas, and this is the first of the series I’ve read where she’s the main character, but I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as my other two forays into Joan Aiken’s many books – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and Black Hearts in Battersea – which I thought were both brilliant. Somehow the plot here is not as strong, it feels as if there’s too much beginning and not enough end, because the denoument has brilliant possibilities, but is dealt with rather fast. Also the biggest disappointment for me in the book, there were no wolves, despite the fact the book starts with a big coach crash and Dido spends most of the time wandering round the countryside. It still has a lot of fun stuff though – including another of those outlandish and nefarious villainous plots that the baddies in Joan Aitken always seem to come up with.

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Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

RooftoppersRooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written story, filled with zingy one liners which made me laugh out loud, and had to be underlined for later.

Sophie is a spirited girl, who was found as a baby floating in a cello case on the ocean, one of few survivors from a shipwreck. Now, age twelve, and on the run from the British authorities, who want to put her in an orphanage, she travels to Paris to search for her mother, because ‘you should never ignore a possible’. With the aid of Charles her absent-minded but loveable long-legged guardian, and three rooftop living children – gruff Rooftopper Matteo and tree-dwelling sisters Safi and Anastasia – she gradually finds clues to her cello playing mother’s whereabouts.

It reminded me in elements of Peter Pan and also of Baron in the Trees as well as many other stories, and it has that classic timeless feel in spades, but packed with modern pithy humour in all the dialogue and description, a lovely middle grade book, that already feels like a classic.

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Sabriel

Sabriel

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)Sabriel by Garth Nix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant, a page turning fantasy with an amazing kick-ass magical heroine in Sabriel, and a sarcastic talking cat. The book is also amazingly plotted, especially at the end which manages to somehow bring things almost full circle to the first few moments of the story and tie up all the elements in a personal way, which is such a hard thing to do in such an epic sweeping fantasy.

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RailHead

RailHead

RailheadRailhead by Philip Reeve

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was given a proof copy of RailHead to read and loved it. Packed with adventure and filled with unique story elements, it’s a great sci-fi heist story with a retro steampunky feel. Set on an interstellar rail network winding through the stars where, instead of spaceships, old fashioned trains travel through wormholes to visit other planets.

There’s lots of intriguing world building that feels very immersive but is also in service of an interesting plot – rather than as can sometimes be the case, where you get slightly lost in the details of the world. It reminded me in parts of Perdido Street Station, and other theme elements are reminiscent of The Diamond Age or The Windup Girl, but being YA SciFi it feels more zingy and fun, light on its feet! Plus there’s lots of amazing cliff hangers as Zen the young petty thief must use all his wits to perform the heist of his life on a speeding train!

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