Review: The Ethan I Was Before – Ali Standish

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Genre: Middle grade, contemporary

Publication Date: June 29th 2017 by Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group

Format: ebook sent to me for review from Hachette Children’s Group via Netgalley

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. 

Ethan’s new home feels like the place for second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. 

The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope. 

(from goodreads.com)


When the write-up on Netgalley described this as ‘Wonder meets Goodnight Mr. Tom’, I had to request it. I loved both of those books and Goodnight Mr. Tom especially is an all-time favourite. The Ethan I Was Before was so so wonderful. It was heartbreaking but also uplifting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There was an element of mystery surrounding the character of Kacey and the events that caused Ethan to move from Boston, and it kept me intrigued throughout the novel. Once I found out what they were, it broke my heart, especially as they were told through Ethan’s perspective. I don’t want to say too much, because it would be a massive spoiler as the whole book is about Ethan dealing with events that are left unexplained to the reader until the end very end, but his point of view just made the story even sadder.

I loved the massive focus on both friendship and family. The family is central in the narrative, with the beginning being their moving in with Ethan’s grandfather. There is wonderful development in the relationships within the family unit too, and it was fantastic to see that a constant (which many see the family as, and it is the same for Ethan) can still change and evolve through time.

I also loved the character of Coralee and the story that she has, which I won’t go into because again, spoilers. She’s an adorable character and despite her age, she is sassy and stands up for what she believes in and I think that is an incredible message for kids to read. Her friendship with Ethan is fabulous and the pair of them just made me happy to read about.

The plot of this novel was quite complex, but very easy to follow nonetheless. I honestly loved it, and there is quite a lot that is hinted at but largely left unsaid until the very end, which picked up the pace and kept me intrigued and hooked until the reveal.

This was a wonderful book, and I would highly recommend it. The story was unique, fun, and interesting, and I think it’s fair to see that it’s a book that you can’t help enjoying for one reason of another. The characters are great with their antics, mishaps and friendships, and I’d say anyone could pick this up and fall in love with them, no matter what their age.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.

Review: Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

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Genre: Contemporary, YA,

Publication Date: January 5th 2017 by Walker Books

Format: Purchased paperback, (from Waterstones – I remember buying it on a whim, what a good decision that was!)

With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

(from goodreads.com)


This book is hands down one of my favourites of this year. I devoured it. It was refreshing, unique, well-written and just downright wonderful. Heartbreaking too, but brilliant.

Wing Jones is just a fabulous character. She isn’t perfect but then nobody is; she wasn’t your generic, blonde, slim, rich girl with flawless skin and features. (Nothing wrong with that but please we need variety and representation of other cultures / races). She’s not happy with her looks but she’s happy in other aspects of her life, and honestly it was brilliant to see, because she seemed like a normal person.

I also loved the contrast between her grandmothers and the aspects of their different cultures that continually shone throughout the novel. It was so interesting having two completely different cultures come together and so unique – I’ve noticed that mixed race characters in YA often tend to have a white parent, so it was refreshing to see a character that didn’t.

The plot was heartbreaking but equally uplifting, and there is a super strong focus on family. Thankfully a lot of YA now has veered towards a positive focus on families of all kinds, but I think this one takes the crown as in a way, it is entirely about family. Of course there are friendships and a bit of romance etc in here, but family is number one and I absolutely loved it.

It is also a book about running, and not only that, but a female running. I don’t think I’ve read a book where the female does sport and is also super good at it. I love running (nowhere near as much as Wing though), so personally I felt I could relate a little bit to her, or simply just understand why she enjoys it. It made me want to tie on my own trainers and go out for a run; it made me feel as though I could.

I’m struggling to find anymore to say about this book without overusing the same adjectives so I’ll leave it here: this book is amazing and you should definitely read it soon.

Also Katherine Webber is the sweetest person and I was so pumped to be her first YALC signing and I still haven’t got over my excitement. Her trainers on day 3 of YALC were also amazing. Just saying. (They match the cover).

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.

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Review: Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

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Genre: YA, contemporary, poetry

Publication Date: September 7th 2017 by Bloomsbury Childrens

Format: eARC from Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via Netgalley

‘They think I hurt someone. 

But I didn’t. You hear?

Coz people are gonna be telling you

all kinds of lies.

I need you to know the truth.’

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

(from goodreads.com)


I can honestly say that I have fallen head over heels for Sarah’s writing. I read One last year, and this year I was thrilled to receive an early copy of Moonrise and it didn’t disappoint. I rarely cry at books (yep I’m heartless which is hilarious because in ‘real life’ I cry at everything but hey), but this brought tears to my eyes (as did One).

I don’t think I’ve read a book that focuses on death row; I know they exist but not really in the YA genre (or none that I’ve found anyway) and it was so fresh and unique. I loved that she chose to narrate it from the perspective of the brother, as it gave a different view of the impact death row can have on someone. So often the media singly focuses on the prisoner and their crimes, but the family goes forgotten or they are simply guilty by association. Here, this idea is explored, and it delves into the effect that family and childhood can have, but also how the family deal with having a member on death row, as the siblings are completely innocent and are just trying to make their way in the world.

There was so much variety in the characters and their situations which was amazing. To see them come together around the central focus of the prison and death row in spite of their differing positions and stories was fascinating, and I really, really loved it. My heart repeatedly broke for Joe and the struggles he went through, and honestly he was just a wonderful, but tragic, character.

As I’ve said, I love Sarah’s writing style so, so much. The poetry isn’t technical, but this story would not be half of what it is with ‘technical’ poetry. It’s simple, but it’s cutting and beautiful and everything it needs to be and more. It perfectly captures moments and feelings without dragging them out or going into too much detail. This is one of those stories that is all about moments and feelings, and this style tells it perfectly.

The pacing is fairly slow, but as I’ve said, this books is about capturing snippets of time and emotion. So, as a result, it doesn’t feel slow at all. I felt completely caught up in everything that was going on; in the stories of all of the characters, in the hope and heartbreak and everything else in between.

I loved this book, and I think that’s clear in this review. Sarah Crossan has become an auto-buy author without a doubt (I bought the rest of hers at YALC last weekend!), simply because of her uniqueness, wonderful storytelling, and ability to make me feel every emotion under the sun and bring tears to my eyes.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars.

Review: The Sound of the World by Heart – Giacomo Bevilacqua

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Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 11th April 2017 by Magnetic Press

Format: ebook sent to me for review by Magnetic Press via Netgalley

An experiment in social isolation turns into a journey of self-discovery as a photojournalist commits to spending sixty days in New York city without talking to a single person. More than just an exercise in observation and self-control, he’s hoping to forget a troubled past and mend a broken heart. But the city has a sneaky way of throwing the best laid plans and noble efforts to waste, revealing secrets that lie right in front of him. All he has to do is open his eyes…

A touching, vividly illustrated journey through contemporary modern New York, exploring what it takes to find yourself — and maybe your soul mate — in the middle of a crowded, bustling modern world.

(from goodreads.com)


This graphic novel completely took me by surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect as I went into it but I ended up really enjoying it.

The cover gives very little away in terms of the art style, I’d say, however the pages inside are so gorgeous and to be fair I was far more interested in the images than the actual plot. The colours were so soft and lovely and it was one of the most pleasing graphic novels I have read. The art was unique and so immersive, I was drawn into it without even realising.

The plot I found to be a little confusing at times, though thankfully everything was cleared up at the end and I loved the way that it ended. The writing itself was beautiful, there are a few pages with longer passages on and they are like poetry. The story itself was wonderful (confusion aside), especially the ending, though I genuinely loved the concept and I felt that an aspect of the character (that I’m not saying because: spoilers) was actually portrayed really well throughout the graphic novel, without it being specifically mentioned, only to be cleared up at the end. Thinking back on this, it made the whole reading experience a little surreal and like being in a bubble, which is exactly the feeling I imagined the character to have.

This was such a wonderful, short tale of finding yourself and others around you, and I truly loved it. It read almost like a modern day fairytale, as it had a ethereal feeling at times, be it because of the isolation in the plot or because of the poetic writing style that features throughout. If you’re looking for a new graphic novel to read that isn’t all action and drama and space etc (which make up the majority of comics / graphic novels – not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just nice to have a change), this is definitely one to pick up.

Rating: 4 / 5 stars.

Review: The Princess Saves Herself in This One – Amanda Lovelace

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Genre: poetry, feminism, non-fiction

Publication Date: April 23rd 2016 by CreateSpace

Format: eARC from Andrews McMeel Publishing via Netgalley

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

(from goodreads.com)


The message in this collection is one of the most powerful I’ve read in a while. Every poem in here just screams empowerment and they really spoke to me. Some of the words in here I felt I really needed to read, and that’s why I loved this collection so much.

This whole book centres around the idea that women should be proud of who they are as females – in fact people should just be proud of themselves – and that they don’t need to depend on anyone to lift them up, so to speak. The title of the book really does sum it up. It is a story that is personal to the author – their own story of escaping abuse and finding empowerment – and thus I don’twant to say too much on the actual story, other than that it is incredible and inspiring.

The main issue I had with this book was the actual writing itself. Technicalities, I guess. As a creative writing student who primarily focuses on poetry, I do query whether some of the poems are truly poems – though I am most certainly not alone in thinking this and conclude that it is an issue that cannot be ignored and put down to pickiness.

Let me say this now: pressing enter after every line does not make a poem. What the ‘poem’ is saying is absolutely wonderful – the words themselves work beautifully. But leave it as a sentence maybe. It would work so, so much better. If you read other anthologies in a similar style, you’ll realise that a new line is begun because the word is particularly relevant, because starting a new line at that point symbolises something. I was often reading these poems and feeling as though enter was pressed haphazardly after a paragraph had been written – keep it as a paragraph.

I still loved this though. It was beautiful, heartfelt, and powerful, and something that I really felt that everyone should read (I then went and nagged my friend to read it!). Just because I didn’t feel as though the formatting of the words was relevant or particularly well executed, I definitely do not feel the same way about the words written and the messages within the book. Will I be picking up more by this author? Definitely. I’m looking forward as well to seeing how her poetry style improves and changes in her next book.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars.

Review: Somewhere in Between – Katie Li

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Genre: YA, fantasy

Publication Date: August 25th 2015 by Kung Fu Girl Books

Format: eARC from Broad Universe via Netgalley

Two friends find a portal to another dimension and use this “in-between place” to avoid the stress of their everyday lives. What they don’t realize is that every time they enter, they alter reality. 

Pseudo-punk Magnolia and underachieving gamer-geek Rom are two unlikely friends who only hang out during their walks home together after school. When they find the a portal that leads to different worlds, they use the “in-between place” as an escape from their lives in high school, then later, after college. 

Their visits through the portal bring them teetering along a tight-rope of fantasy and reality, where they don’t always believe what is in front of them, not even their feelings for each other. 

The book is about changes—the ones that you can control, and the ones that you can’t. It’s about commitment and friendship. It’s about the stages in between where you have nothing but the unknown ahead of you.

Inspired by the work of Haruki Murakami and films like Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Somewhere In Between is metaphysical coming-of-age story about defining love and finding yourself.

(from goodreads.com


I feel that the best way I can describe this book is confusing. I read it a while ago, and I freely admit that a year of uni has got in the way of me remembering this clearly, but even then, I distinctly remember being very confused as I actually read this book.

That being said, the concept was extremely interesting and I feel as though this book is definitely for someone who enjoys reading books that are ambiguous, odd and have a very fine line between what is real and what isn’t. That person isn’t me, though I still found it interesting. I’m that person who likes my questions answered (although I equally love philosophy, so who knows what I actually like), and when certain events happened in this book I struggled to work out whether the characters were deceived or whether they had actually happened. One thing I can’t stand is being confused by a book. (Again, just me – I’m also very easily confused, it’s actually frustrating).

I found the writing to be quite choppy, with the flitting between times and memories and places, all adding to the confusion. I found myself getting quite mixed up with what was going on and also as to who was who as a result of this. As for the writing itself, there was something lovely about it, though I couldn’t say what – it was just really pleasant to read.

The characters were very unique and I liked their quirks and differences, it made it easier to distinguish between them. Magnolia in particular I liked for her uniqueness and how she stood out from all of the other characters.

This was an okay read, though I didn’t enjoy it so much as I repeatedly got confused and honestly I don’t really know what happened. However it was also enjoyable if you take it for what it is; an ambiguous story where reality is distorted, and that is why my rating isn’t that low. Not everyone would enjoy this, but it’s okay, not everyone has to. If you’re the kind of person who likes a book that is different and slightly odd, mixed up with a contemporary feel, then this is probably for you.

Rating: 3 / 5 Stars.

Review: Beautiful Broken Things – Sara Barnard

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Genre: YA, contemporary

Publication Date: February 25th 2016 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Format: eARC from Pan Macmillan via Netgalley

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

(From goodreads.com)


I really enjoyed this book, I’m saying it now. I’ve since read Sara Barnard’s second book and loved that probably even more. It focuses on friendship and trauma and family and it really was a great read. Not that it doesn’t have problems, but it was really difficult to put down.

The principle problem I had with this book was Caddy. Honestly, this would probably have been a five star book without her. I understand unlikeable characters, such as Suzanne’s aunt (others may disagree with me here but her seeing Suzanne as a burden was just cruel after all she’d been through), but Caddy was ridiculous in some parts. She’s jealous of her best friend Rosie and her sister Tarin because her Rosie lost her baby sister when she was younger and Tarin is bipolar. I just cannot fathom how someone can be jealous of either of these things – she wants to be interesting, fine, but does she honestly want either of these things to happen to her? Really?!

Caddy is just selfish and shallow, she provokes Suzanne despite having researched what triggers mean and knowing that she will hurt her. I know there are people in the world who would act that way but I’d bet that they’re in general not nice people, but Caddy is portrayed throughout as a decent human being. It’s kind of confusing. Basically she’s jealous of Suzanne, jealous that Rosie has a new friend, jealous that Suzanne has had something happen to her in her life, regardless of the pain and upheaval it has resulted in. In short, she’s just jealous.

On the other hand, I loved the characters of Rosie and Suzanne, the latter in particular. Suzanne’s story was heartbreaking and painful and about recovery and it was so much more interesting that the main storyline. (Caddy’s life goal was to get a boyfriend. No, she’s not twelve). Rosie was a great character too, a little simple at times, but I felt that it was just the way she is; seeing the good in everything and wanting to do the best for everyone.

So much was happening in this book, with everything linking in places, but I found that I didn’t get confused. Barnard is such a wonderful writer and it was such a compelling read – I just wanted to read on and on and on, regardless of whatever stupid thing Caddy said or thought. It was genuinely such an enjoyable book and I was dragged in by the plot and its fast pace. I’d highly recommend this to any lover of contemporary YA, and Barnard has definitely become an auto-buy author.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars.