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April 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Falling Angels | Rising Hope | Falling in Love Compelling magic realist debut in which a fallen angel named Teacake helps heal a teen girl’s grief. Across the world angel-like Beings are falling from the sky. Their winged bodies seep golden blood on impact with the earth, and then they die. In the aftermath of the first sightings, the world exploded in an apocalyptic frenzy, yielding religious cults and angel-exploiting money-makers. Alongside this, Jaya is also dealing with a personal apocalypse – the sudden death of her mother. While Jaya struggles with her guilt-ridden grief, and with losing contact with Leah, the best friend who might also have been her girlfriend, she’s also irritated by her dad’s fanatical angel-chasing. But, as things turn out, it’s Jaya who’s there when an angel falls, and, for the first time, this angel survives. Angels don’t exist in Jaya’s mum’s Hindi religion so she pushes aside any thoughts that this is somehow a sign. But amidst the frenzy of the Edinburgh festival and the aggressive fanaticism of the Standing Fallen cult, Jaya does everything she can to protect this shimmering rose-gold Being from harm. The angels are never explained, or fully understood, but that isn’t necessary, for this isn’t about hard scientific facts, this is about matters of the soul. It’s a charming debut, radiant with humanity and heart. ~ Joanne Owen
A story about identity, courage and searching for the truth of who you are. This book made me cry, it made me feel, it made me think and it made me want to read on. Emma Young brings us a whole new take on the issue of identity and body image. The idea of waking up with a completely different body was incredibly thought provoking, from looking at a different face in the mirror to discovering new freckles, the shape of your knuckles and the fall of your hair. After years of being trapped in a body slowly dying of a nerve disease, Rosa is offered an experimental brain transplant and given the chance to live. Yet as she struggles to come to terms with her new body she begins to question who she is and if she even deserves this healthy, able body when the girl who it belonged to is dead. She is told very little about her donor Sylvia, yet she knows she was young, pretty and a girl who seemingly had everything to live for and yet whose body has given her, Rosa, the chance to live. Soon Rosa becomes obsessed with finding out more about Sylvia and who she was. As Rosa embarks on a journey to discover who Sylvia was, can she find a way to rediscover and accept herself? ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here. Perfect for fans of Extraordinary Means, Faceless and The Art of Being Normal.
In a Nutshell: High Fantasy | Hidden Heritage | Political plotting | This exuberantly ambitious fantasy debut set in an alternate 16th century sees seventeen-year-old Brienna embroiled in treasonous plots and passionate encounters galore. With her mother dead and a father whose identity is unknown to her, Brienna’s grandfather’s sends her to an esteemed boarding house at which students study the passions (art, music, dramatics, wit and knowledge). Brienna is aware that this is not the kind of place a girl like her usually attends – “it wasn’t designed for girls who were lacking, for girls who were illegitimate, and certainly not for girls who defied kings” - but here she finds herself desperate to discover and perfect her passion in order to be selected by a wealthy patron. She struggles to see her true passion emerge, and so winds up choosing knowledge. She also winds up without a patron, and left with little choice but to accept a belated offer from a disgraced mysterious lord. It’s not long before Brienna discovers that the lord sought her out for a very specific reason and she’s faced with high-stakes dilemmas that threaten the very stability of two lands. Brienna’s first-person voice is lively and engaging, as is the highly visual writing, fascinating magic system, compelling court intrigues and dashes of romance. Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cassandra Clare will surely welcome this tantalising trilogy opener. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: gripping YA thriller | Two damaged young people are the central characters in this gripping novel. Rev, who lives with his adopted parents, still bears the scars inflicted by his abusive father, and fears that he may one day meet the man again or, even worse, turn into him. Em’s homelife is toxic, her parents argue all the time and her mother often attacks Em too. She takes refuge online, but that space stops feeling safe when one of the vile trolls who target her (mostly for being female) tracks her down in real life. Em and Rev meet and become friends, but the tension and dangers to both mount. The suspense is maintained throughout, and Em and Rev are compelling characters. Some scenes will upset readers but it’s a powerful exploration of abuse and recovery. ~ Andrea Reece Holly Goldberg Sloan writes equally well about this topic in her YA novel I’ll Be There.
Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | In a Nutshell: Circus girl searches for roots amidst real-world cruelties A dazzlingly powerful kaleidoscope of magic realism, folklore and the brutalities of people-trafficking in which a fourteen-year-old circus girl seeks to uncover her identity. As a baby, Sante was washed up with a chest containing a bamboo flute and a leopard skin drum, and welcomed into Mama Rose’s travelling circus. Fourteen years later, still haunted by dreams of the sinking ship, and of those who furnished her with special objects to see her through life, Sante recognises two people from her dreams during a performance. “It's her all right. She plays just like Mamadou used to”, one of them remarks. But how do these people know her? Why does she dream of them? And who is Mamadou? Reluctant at first, Mama Rose reveals that Sante’s trunk also contained other treasures, including a note from her mother. With the strangers set on claiming Sante’s riches, she and snake charmer Cobra decide to discover the truth for themselves. Throughout, Sante’s story sings with the hauntingly potent voice of the human spirit as it combines timely, poignant truths about refugees with timeless storytelling. This really is a triumphant, thought-provoking treasure trove of a novel. ~ Joanne Owen The Branford Boase Judges said : ‘packed with memorable scenes and an extraordinarily vivid sense of place’; ‘language and story are equally interesting’; ‘things don’t come more original than this’.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on. Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”. Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top. ~ Joanne Owen
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | | Susin Nielsen puts her protagonists through the most terrible situations, but always manages to keep the tone of her novels light, positive and ultimately uplifting. Teenager Petula’s little sister died in tragic circumstances and the effect on the family has been shattering: her parents are both coping in their own way, but growing further apart, while Petula sees danger and threats in everything. Because of her terrible anxiety she’s been signed up to a youth art therapy group which is where she meets Jacob. Jacob has his own tragedy to deal with, but his arrival changes the dynamics of the group and helps all the different members to move on in one way or another. He and Petula become a couple, but there’s a growing realisation for her and readers that he’s not been completely honest. Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope. Recommended for readers who enjoy Nielsen’s poignant, sensitive novels is I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | When Alice's family home has to be sold, she and her father Barney will do whatever it takes to buy it back - even if whatever it takes isn't strictly legal. Both hilarious and heartfelt, this is the classic adventure story brought bang up to date, and told in Natasha's inimitable voice.
In a nutshell: families lost and remade through love, friendship and music Lexie is a rescuer: it starts when she finds a lost tortoise and leads to her setting up the Lost and Found group at school. That’s meant to be a talking session for the lonely, but turns instead, thanks to the input of school bad boy Marley, into a vibrant musical band. Forming the Lost and Found helps Lexie understand her own feelings - she’s been looking for her mum who disappeared when Lexie was just nine. It also helps her finally accept the love of her foster family. It’s a typically heart-warming story, filled with characters young readers will understand, and shows how we can all find communities to love and support us. Cathy Cassidy writes with the insight and lightness of touch that marks out Jacqueline Wilson, and this new series will be another favourite with readers. ~ Andrea Reece
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2018 Revered and deservedly popular as a Queen, Victoria was much less successful or celebrated when she was still a princess. TV historian Lucy Worsley spins a wonderful adventure around the childhood of the queen as seen through the eyes of a girl of the same age brought in to be a playmate for the headstrong young princess – and to spy on her. Packed with sinister intrigue and adult dishonesty the adventure is gripping. So too is the portrait of a difficult young royal being brought up in very challenging circumstances. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for February 2018 Kevin by Rob Biddulph My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley Lots: The Diversity of Life by Nicola Davies A Busy Day for Birds by Lucy Cousins Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal The Iron Man by Ted Hughes Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram No More Kissing by Emma Chichester Clark
In the gossip-fuelled world of Victorian London, Persephone Lavelle is the name on everyone's lips. As Mary's secret identity is exposed and rumours fly, she flees the scandal by escaping to Venice. Lost among the twisting alleyways and shadowy canals she encounters a mysterious, masked young man. He offers her the world, but at what price?
TV historian Lucy Worsley is gifted at bringing the past to life and shows it to great effect here. Her detailed knowledge of the Tudors, the people and above all the places, provides the perfect background to a coming of age story set in a different time. Eliza Camperdowne comes from an old but impoverished family; she knows that the future of her family’s fortunes depend on her making the right kind of marriage. Ideally, that means marrying a man with money and a title. But Eliza’s life plan is changed when she is sent with her cousin to be a maid of Honour at the Court of King Henry V111. Katherine may be a cousin but can Eliza trust her? As Katherine finds favour with the King himself, Eliza must learn to survive the intrigue and treachery of the court. ~ Julia Eccleshare