Book Review – The Paper and Hearts Society

When I was at school I didn’t know anyone who loved books as much as me.  In fact, I can’t remember seeing many people reading for pleasure at all, although I’m sure they must have done so.  I felt that I was very different.

Once when we went on a sixth form college open day we passed two girls who were discussing the various merits of the Brontës.  My friends thought they were weird – I thought them wonderful (I can’t remember which Brontë those girls preferred but for me Anne is easily the best Brontë sister).

All of which means that when I read the blurb of Lucy Powrie’s debut book The Paper & Hearts Society I knew I had to read it and I could not have been more delighted when Hachette sent me a reading copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

A brand new series from Booktuber Lucy Powrie – about what happens when you give up on trying to fit in in and let your weird out!  It’s time to join The Paper & Hearts Society …

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in.  She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books.  What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back.  Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

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As soon as Tabby found the flier for the book club I was hooked.  They sounded like just my kind of people and I really wanted to join.  I was whisked away on the story and I loved it.

Lucy has managed to create a diverse range of characters without being heavy handed about it.  She treats people’s differences in a very matter of fact way without making a big deal out of them.  I have read books where it seems as if the diversity is included just for the sake of it.  That was absolutely not the case here – this is primarily a book about people who love books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I could see a lot of myself in Tabby and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or who just loves books.  Books are a key part of The Paper & Hearts Society and it is glorious.

Book Details

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

ISBN: 9781444949230

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

RRP: £7.99

Book Review – The Princess and the Fangirl

If you have not yet read Ashley Poston’s Geekerella I would highly recommend going and finding a copy. It is the most lovely book about fandoms and I adored it.  The sequel – The Princess and the Fangirl – has just been published and I was so excited to receive a reading copy from Quirk Books.

Publisher’s Blurb

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite Starfield character, Princess Amara, from being killed off.  On the other hand, the actress who plays Amara wouldn’t mind being axed.  Jessica Stone doesn’t even like being part of the Starfield franchise—and she’s desperate to leave the intense scrutiny of fandom behind.

Though Imogen and Jess have nothing in common, they do look strangely similar to one another—and a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon sets off a chain of events that will change both of their lives.  When the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, with all signs pointing to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible.  The deal: Imogen will play Jess at her signings and panels, and Jess will help Imogen’s best friend run their booth.

But as these “princesses” race to find the script leaker—in each other’s shoes—they’re up against more than they bargained for.  From the darker side of fandom to unexpected crushes, Imogen and Jess must find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations…and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

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This books continues the story of Geekerella but follows different characters through the story.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first – I wanted to know more about what happened to Elle and Darien!  I needn’t have worried though – Imogen and Jess had a brand new story and I was very quickly immersed in it.

The book is set at ExcelsiCon and is written in a way which made me very keen to find a convention to visit.  I’ve discovered that I love books about people who are passionate about something, be that a book, and film or a television show.  Stories really.  All of which means that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The thing I took most from it though was something Imogen’s friend Harper says.  She talks about how she doesn’t believe that, ‘…the only meaningful stories are the ones that are deep and pondering and boring… I think sometimes the stories we need are the ones about taking the hobbits to Isengard.’  I am often guilty of picking up books because I think I should read them.  If they don’t enthrall me I struggle through them but my reading slows right down and I get distracted much more easily.  The Princess and the Fangirl has reminded me that it’s okay to read ‘easier’, frivolous books if I enjoy them because that is the point.  As Ashley Poston says in her acknowledgements, we should ‘keep reading what makes you happy, and keep celebrating the content that makes you feel most alive, and carve out your spot in the universe.’

Book Details

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

ISBN: 9781683691105

Publisher: Quirk Books

RRP: £8.99

 

Book Review – We Won an Island

I was very lucky to be sent a reading copy of Charlotte Lo’s book We Won an Island by Nosy Crow Books.  I was very excited – the blurb made it sound like exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a child and as you may have noticed I am still very fond of children’s books!

Publisher’s Blurb

When Luna’s family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey!  But things don’t go entirely to plan – no one expects Luna’s younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example – and the secret festival they hold soon spirals out of control.  But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all…

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I read this book last Sunday sat in the shade by the stream and it was the perfect setting for it.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I loved the book.  The idea of escaping to an island is obviously wonderful and I thought it was very well written.  The childrren knew exactly what they wanted and just worked for it – no matter how unlikely success might seem.

Of course, they had their setbacks – not least their Father’s depression.  I thought the author portrayed this really well and in a way young children could understand, without becoming too overwhelming or scary.

As a child this book would have sat very nicely on my shelf with Enid Blyton and I have no doubt I would have re-read it many times.  This is a wonderful escapist read and perfect for the summer holidays.

Book Details

We Won and Island by Charlotte Lo

Publisher: Nosy Crow

ISBN: 9781788000413

RRP: £6.99

Book Review – Jane Austen at Home

Last year I went to see Lucy Worsley’s talk about her book Jane Austen at Home. Obviously I am a Jane Austen fan but I also love watching Lucy’s television programmes so I was very much looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed either – Lucy gave a fantastic talk and if you ever get a chance to see her I would thoroughly recommend going. Of course, I had to buy the book and get it signed!

Publisher’s Blurb

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

It took me a while to get around to reading it but it was always hovering at the back of my mind and when I booked to go to the Jane Austen Society study day I knew it would be the perfect companion for me. I was so excited to finally be reading it.

I sometimes struggle to get into non-fiction but I was immediately gripped by this one and I resented having to put it down to do something else. It was just as well as I had a four hour train journey so I needed something that kept me wanting to read!

This was a really interesting way to look at the life of Jane Austen and I did learn some things I hadn’t previously known. I loved Lucy Worsley’s style of writing and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

Book Details

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

ISBN: 9781473632202

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

RRP: £9.99

Medicinal Reading

For the past few days I have been suffering with a shocking cold which always makes me feel miserable.  At times like this I just want easy, comfort reading. Quite often that means children’s books and this time it is pony books I have been craving.

Anyone who follows my pony adventures will know that I am a huge fan of pony books anyway but over the past two days I have read three pony books and don’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Firstly, I have been catching up with Olivia Tuffin’s A Pony Called Secret series.  I adored the first book but it has taken me ages to get round to reading the others.  I am almost up to date with them now and am enjoying them as much as ever.  This is definitely one of my favourite modern series.

Sadly most of the more vintage pony authors I enjoy have gone out of print and often they are very expensive second hand.  However, I came across three at our local market just before Christmas and I couldn’t resist them.  I am very grateful for that weakness now!  I had only read one Joanna Cannan book before and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed her writing – I will definitely have to seek out more of her books in the future.

From past experience, my pony book obsession will last a few days – or possibly weeks – and I will then feel a desperate need to read something much more meaty.  However, while it lasts I am revelling in it!

Book Review – The Skylarks’ War

My colleague has been raving about Hilary McKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War for months now so when Macmillan Children’s Books sent me a review copy I was rather excited. Not least because I loved reading her Casson Family series as a child.

Publisher’s Blurb

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

I have to admit that when people repeatedly tell me how much I will love something I do start to be a little prejudiced against it. However, I really wanted to like this book so I tried to have an open mind.

It was definitely worth it – the book is beautifully written and I was completely absorbed in the plot. I stayed up far too late reading it! Although this is classed as a children’s book there there are some nuances which feel very adult and grown ups will certainly enjoy it just as much as the children.

Did I love it as much as I was promised? As I was reading it I didn’t think so but now I’ve finished and have had time to absorb it I’m not so sure. I was definitely very moved by it and I found it to be thought provoking. Either way, I didn’t want to stop reading and it has certainly stuck with me. I will definitely be recommending it to many people.

Book Details

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

ISBN: 9781509894963

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

RRP: £6.99

Book Review – The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting is a book I’ve been thinking about reading for a while – mainly because I’d heard it is similar in feel to All the Light we Cannot See which I loved.

I was therefore extremely pleased that my book club chose to discuss it at our meeting last night – I could add it to my teetering TBR pile without feeling at all guilty!

Publisher’s Blurb

Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery – he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother.

But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death – a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all.
Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey – from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France – to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is about the love of wood and finding your own self, a beautifully intricate and moving tale that spans an entire century.

I put off reading it until the last minute – as I’ve mentioned before, I like to read cosy wintry favourites over Christmas – mainly children’s books.

I loved this book – and for once so did most of the book club. I thought it was beautifully written and the author’s love of wood and well crafted objects really showed through – his descriptions were wonderful.

Besides that, the mystery element was intriguing and kept me guessing. I found myself riding my pony and occupying my mind with setting out the facts I knew and trying to fill in the gaps. This is a book which will stay with me for a long time and I will definitely be reading the next one.

Book Details

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

ISBN: 9780857056061

Publisher: Maclehose Press

RRP: £8.99

Book Review – Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

For the past year my friend has been telling me how fantastic Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is but it was only when I booked my Cheltenham tickets that I finally got round to reading it.

Oh my word, I loved it so much! I actually felt a bit bereft after I finished it and not really sure what to do with myself. Imagine how excited I was when a few days later I received a reading copy of book two from Hachette!  By the time I met Jessica at Cheltenham (she was so lovely) I had already devoured this book too.

Publisher’s Blurb

Imagination, discovery and friendship await Morrigan Crow when she escapes her deadly curse and joins the Wundrous Society. It promises her protection and belonging for life – but then Morrigan doesn’t receive the welcome she hoped for…

Has Morrigan’s dream of escaping her cursed life ended before it truly began?

I loved this book. I was having a stressful week and this was everything I needed to relax. I could completely immerse myself in Morrigan’s world and not worry about anything else. It is so wonderful to find a book which will do that.

I very much enjoyed finding out more about Nevermoor and the people within it. When I saw Jessica Townsend at Cheltenham she suggested this might be a nine book series which was fantastic news and I am already looking forward to book three – although as this one isn’t officially published until 31st October I might have a rather long wait!

Book Details

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

ISBN: 9781510104440

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

RRP: £12.99

Book Review – The Moonstone

I have wanted to read The Moonstone ever since Kate Summerscale talked about it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – and I read that book years ago!

Somehow though, I just haven’t got around to it before now. When I was in Dartmouth I naturally visited every bookshop I found – including the Community Bookshop. It is a lovely little shop and as I gravitated towards the classics section I found several books with the best covers. They were all published by Alma Classics and I so wanted to have one of those covers! I seemed to own all of the titles already though and it was only a determined second look which unearthed The Moonstone. It’s like it was meant to be!

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Publisher’s Blurb

When Rachel Verinder’s legacy of a priceless Indian diamond is stolen, all the evidence indicates that it is her beloved, Franklin Blake, who is guilty. Around this central axis of crime and thwarted love, Collins constructs an ingenious plot of teasing twists and surprises, and an elaborate multi-voiced narrative that sustains the tension all the way to its stunning ending.

Described by T.S. Eliot as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is an important precursor of the modern mystery and suspense genres.

This was my first proper Wilkie Collins book – I used to have an audio book of The Woman in White but it was a dramatisation and not the full novel.  However, I knew I had enjoyed that so I was fully expecting to like this one too.

I was right – it was an intriguing mystery and although I guessed the culprit fairly early on there were so many twists and turns that I was never quite sure of myself.  I also think that I was basing it more on my dislike of the character than any actual evidence! The methods used to solve the crime were fantastic too and I was very satisfied with the ending.

It was a much easier read than I expected and I very much enjoyed it.  I will definitely be seeking out more of Wilkie Collins’ books.  Perhaps I’ll even finally read the whole of The Woman in White!

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Book Details

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

ISBN: 9781847494221

Publisher: Alma Books

RRP: £5.99

Book Review – ‘Theatrical’ by Maggie Harcourt

I don’t read a great many young adult books. Partly I think because I don’t remember my local libraries or bookshops having young adult sections when I was a teenager. I assume they had them but I just completely skipped them.

Sometimes though, a YA book screams at me to read it and it is only polite to do so. Last year one of those books was Maggie Harcourt’s Unconventional which I loved – if you haven’t read it already then I highly recommend it. At the time I said that it reminded me why I love reading so much.

Therefore, when I saw that Maggie Harcourt had a new book coming out I was very excited indeed. I was lucky enough to be sent a reading copy of Theatrical by Usborne and I could not have been happier.

Publisher’s Blurb
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool…and her secret.

I was captivated by this one straight away – the first scene is just wonderful – and I was so pleased to be back in Maggie’s world. I also loved the fact that it ties in with Unconventional.

I thought the book had a great storyline and I very much enjoyed reading it. The best thing for me though was how invested I was in the characters. I have read several books recently – mainly ones chosen for my book club – where I have just not engaged with the characters at all so I didn’t really care what happened to them and thus wasn’t driven to keep reading. I definitely wanted to keep reading this one! I even found myself getting quite emotional as the first night performance was about to start. A few tears may have been shed.

I very much identified with Hope, the main character. There were several times when I paused my reading because she expresses how I feel so well. Moments like this: ‘I can almost feel the quiet seeping into my skin like a dye, a drug. I will always be chasing this; this exact silence, because this is the only place I can find it.’

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I will definitely be looking out for the next one.

Book Details

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

ISBN: 9781474940689

Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd

RRP: £7.99

Classification: Young Adult