This is possibly the cleverest book I’ve ever read – The Changeling by Victor Lavalle

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A new father is obsessed with his baby. Proud, loving, caring, desperate to care for it. But it’s mother does not think it’s a baby. When she commits the unspeakable then disappears, the father is left devastated – but in the middle of his grief and anger is drawn into a far stranger world than he ever imagined, which he must conquer to recover what has been lost.

This is probably the strangest book I have ever read – and certainly one of the cleverest. And also one of the most difficult. I am thoroughly glad I read this book a few months ago and not after my baby has been born (scheduling ahead from maternity leave here…) as I could only just about cope at that moment. It crosses boundaries books don’t usually broach, but follows it up extremely well. I was left shocked, surprised, thrilled, confounded and delighted by different parts of the story, and continue to think of it with complete amazement. What a triumph!

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This book was so much more fun than I thought it would be – Welcome to Lagos by Chibundo Onuzo

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Chike Ameobi is running away from the army. As he heads towards Lagos he finds himself picking up other runaways, and by the time they reach the city there are five of them, including a nervous woman escaping a bad marriage and a boy desperate to be on the radio. Their arrival coincides with a political scandal: the minister of education has disappeared with a large amount of money. Their attempts to create new lives for themselves and find opportunities leads them to consequences they would never have imagined…

I didn’t know what to expect here. I’d been to an event with the author and really liked her so was excited to delve in, but, with complete prejudice which I repent of totally, I expected this to be very worthy, very intense and probably a little boring. It was anything but. The plot was compelling and fascinating, the characters relatable, their interaction convincing and the setting varied. I felt thoroughly pleased to have read this book, and am this very moment thinking through who I should buy it for.

Am I finally getting too old for YA? The (fantastic) Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy – Laini Taylor

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Stunning, secretive Karou has lived a strange life in different cities, never putting down roots or having a real family. But that’s because she lives at least half of her life elsewhere – in another world, where a strange monster who is the closest thing she has to a parent sends her on missions to collect teeth. But when angels, and one particular, very handsome angel, crash into her world and a supernatural, inter-universal war that has continued through centuries…

Obviously I can’t really summarise three action and emotion packed books above, but that gives the kind of basic setting. This is a huge, ambitious, far-reaching and cataclysmic trilogy with exceptionally strong world-building, well established foundations and sympathetic characters who weave their way compellingly through gripping circumstances. It’s got gorgeous young adults who fall passionately in love, it’s got supernatural powers, friendship, betrayal, crazy monsters… just all you could possibly need from a YA fantasy series. And in many ways, I loved it. But in the end I think I’m left feeling I’m just a bit too old.

I learned less but felt more than I expected in Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

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The Gods of Asgard live a strange existence; seeking knowledge, battling enemies, trying to contain the nefarious Loki and restrain the hot-headed Thor. Gods, giants, trolls and more plot, scheme, fight and invent in this series of myths spanning from creation through to Ragnarok; the end…

I was really excited to read Gaiman’s retelling of Norse myth. For several reasons: I love Gaiman, I love Norse mythology, and I wanted to know more about it. The book wasn’t quite what I expected. I was looking for more depth, more information and a more cohesive plot. But that’s not what myths are, and soon I found myself bewitched by the simple storytelling and strange world that I was encountering.

The White Queen totally overruled my anti-Philippa Gregory bias

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Widowed Elizabeth Woodville stands ready to greet her King, her sons in tow and dressed at her most beguiling. The bond they forge leads to a passion that leads her family to the highest position in England – but not a stable one. Elizabeth must plot, scheme and do all in her power to subdue her enemies, please her husband and protect her family, but the odds against her are great…

Historical fiction based on real people is always troubling for me. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about a person and period in a fun and interesting way – but on the other, I resent that thoughts, actions and motives are placed upon them in a way that just cannot be accurate. Imagine someone in four hundred years trying to piece your life together into a story… I don’t think I’d like it much. BUT despite my reservations and long term avoidance of Gregory also due to an aversion to Tudors caused by their over-study in the British history curriculum, I was hooked.

Harmony – cults, autism and family life in one intriguing novel by Carolyn Parkhurst

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When Tilly is kicked out of school and deemed to be on the autistic spectrum, her mother Alexandra is at the end of herself; and hearing of Camp Harmony and it’s engaging pioneer seems to be the answer that she has been looking for. Younger daughter Iris isn’t so sure; and has a distrust of everything that is happening as they move in with other families to start the camp and follow the edicts of the enigmatic leader.

I was really intrigued to read this book. In many ways one knows exactly where it’s going; we’re going to witness the start of some sort of cult, it’s going to be bad, people have been hoodwinked. But it doesn’t matter – I’m still fascinated.

When the Floods Came – a different treatment of a common trend by Clare Morrall

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Rosemary and her family have lived in the block of flats for as long as she can remember, safe from the scavengers and dangers of post-flood Britain. Despite the draw of Brighton, the last society around, they stick it out as a family – until a new arrival shatters their worldview. Rosemary’s world, her relationship with long-term finance Hector from Brighton who she’s only ever met online, her view of her family and her certainty in her future are all thrown into relief as they try to decipher the strange world around them.

The only other book I have read by Clare Morrall was just SO different to this!! It felt like an already established author taking a dip into the post-apocalyptic trend, but once I’ve got used to the idea, it definitely worked. It was more thoughtful and less action packed than other books I’ve read of the same premise, but all the more interesting for it. It was great!

This book was like going to Narnia – The Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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Amani is sick of the small town life she seems destined to live, and the family determined to marry her off. Using her unusual sharpshooting skills she escapes into the desert – and into even more danger. Here she meets magic, a mysterious stranger and the rebel force, and finds herself drawn into what she never knew would be a destiny.

My VERY FAVOURITE THING about this book is that it reminds me so thoroughly of The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. It’s probably not that similar, but from the very start I was transported to my mental landscape where that book takes place, and I like it there. Hooray! Otherwise, this was a pacy and exciting book without too many original ideas but a thoroughly good mix up of old ones that take you on an exciting adventure.

What is it really like to be a Chinese person in America? I’m a little closer to knowing thanks to Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes

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Young Ah Ling, son of a prostitute and white man, lands in 1860s California and navigates his way through the laundries of his Chinese heritage and the railroads of the white men; never quite at home with either people. Years later Anna May Wong; Hollywood’s first Chinese film star, must take seductress roles and cannot kiss a white man onscreen – visits China, and her father, and feels alien. Years later again, Vincent Chin is murdered in a bar because he looks Japanese. And years later again, half-Chinese writer John Ling Smith visits China to adopt a baby girl.

Though in style this book was like a fictionalised documentary, it got me completely. I was hooked on every story, and so enjoyed the experience of entering into each of the four worlds it portrayed. And I think the fictionalisation probably made the points the more poignant: we were taken intoworlds and saw different themes and ideas that run through the whole thing. Like being offered the proof rather than the conclusions. I really enjoyed it!

A collection of treasures in The Keeper Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

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Anthony lost the medallion his fiancee gave him before she died in an accident, and ever since he has collected any lost things he can find in hope of atonement. Laura, his cleaner, finds solace in his house, and inherits his quest when he leaves it to her, along with Freddie the gardener she can’t help fancying and Sunshine, a young girl with her own special way of thinking and Downs Syndrome. Meanwhile many years ago, Eunice saw a man drop a gold coin on her way to the job interview that would shape her life, and the long, fulfilling friendship with the man she loves but could never marry. The lost items and stories they tell bring together these and more characters with just the right amount of hope.

This book was lovely. Full of real characters, interesting stories, satisfying relationships and the stuff of live woven together to make something very beautiful. Like Anthony’s collection of lost things, here we find lost stories; people whose lives are the ones that people ignore rather than write about, collected together and woven beautifully into one tale. I loved this.