The Eight Books to buy this Christmas – my ultimate literary gift guide

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, children's books, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized

Stuck for present ideas? Look no further! A book is a thoughtful, pleasingly weighty and easily wrapped gift. It says, I’ve thought about you. I’ve considered what you might like. I’ve invited you onto a journey, nay, adventure, through these pages I have purchased for you. I believe that you can read.

And here I’ve done the thought and research for you. Pick the most appropriate gift for the person you love, tolerate or are obligated to buy for and get wrapping! Plus my top book of the year is hidden in there too…

Here are my top tips for:

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – a ridiculously good adventure that I’ve already read twice

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, children's books, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized

Morrigan Crow has always known when the end would come. As a cursed child, she is destined to die on her eleventh birthday, but instead at midnight Morrigan finds herself apprenticed and semi-kidnapped by an extraordinary figure called Jupiter North and taken into a land that she never knew existed, and where she finds she has been entered into a contest to join the mysterious Wundrous Society, despite her apparent lack of a qualifying ‘knack.’ But on the journey through her trials she finds freedom, fun, loving family for the first time and hopes desperately that there is something she can do to let her stay…

This book was just so good. It put an almost constant smile on my face the whole way through. It begins with the maudlin and melancholy of Morrigan with her family, but moves into such a fantastic blend of warmth, crazy fantasy and humour that I was completely enchanted. It’s probably a book for 9-12 year olds but I’ve been recommending it to anyone who loves this sort of thing anyway – and I can’t wait for the next in the series.

Still reminding me of Narnia and still a great read – Traitor to the Throne, book 2 from Alwyn Hamilton

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A year after Amani joined the rebels in the desert, she’s become well known as the Blue-Eyed-Bandit and honed her skills in battle and in her magic power. But still, she is captured and imprisoned in the Sultan’s harem, where she is stripped of her powers, her support and her freedom. But plots are thickening in the city and the rebels are determined to reach her – and she is soon embroiled in more plots and works from within for the rebels cause.

It’s been a little while since I read this, so some points are a bit hazy for me: but I know I really enjoyed it. As I commented on the first instalment, to me it feels like an expanded study on sections of The Horse and His Boy, which makes it hugely attractive to me! Remember flashes of it and writing this makes me want to read it again – so that’s definitely a win!

I’m amazed I could get into this – The Impossible Fortress by Jason Reculak

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1987. Computer obsessed and low-achieving teenager Billy and his friends are desperate to get hold of a copy of Playboy with the famous pictures of Vanna White, but at fourteen it’s a challenge. Along with a local hooligan they make elaborate plans to break into the local convenience store, but it all depends on Billy getting the code from the shopkeeper’s overweight daughter. But as he spends time with her he not only realises she may be the only person who can help him win a computer game design competition, but that she may be more than just a friend…

I don’t think I even read the description of this book before I got it, and now I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have thought a book with the storyline as described would ever be something I wanted to read, but actually I was touched and compelled by the humanity and understanding that it shows for a lonely teenage boy. We are drawn, totally and without any cynicism or mocking, into his world. And it was great.

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.

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.

My four former fictional best friends

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I had so so many imaginary friends. I’d say ‘growing up’ but I can’t really bear to think of them ceasing to exist so I haven’t culled them. They’ve probably just moved to a different country… mostly.

But fictional friends are different. These four are the ones I did important parts of life with, shared the journey with. I’ve probably moved on now (to real friends, phew!) but these have still got a special place in my heart.

Ferocious and fast paced but a bit claustrophobic – Golden Son by Pierce Brown

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Darrow, once a Red destined for a life mining Mars now transformed by rebels Sons of Ares into a ruling gold beat the training school in the last book, and is now in the middle of Gold society. But plots and factions stir constantly, and Darrow soon finds himself losing – until he wrests power and influence through unconventional methods. With enemies, schemes, greed and jealousy on every side Darrow feels he can trust no one and continues his campaign of violence, facing the monarch and everyone in his lonely quest for justice.

Oh my goodness! I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I finished Red Rising (my teenage sister read it too – here’s her review). And what a whirlwind it was! I can’t believe how much action and drama was packed into just one book! Though this is very much the same as the first instalment, I felt a bit that the reflection and character development was tacked onto the very full plot, which basically had a LOT of ground to cover. I came out at the end feeling as though I’d been on a really intense rollercoaster and needed a bit of time to settle. But it’s exciting, compelling and a worthy next step along the road for our hero.

Realia – more teen magic, adventure and friendship in Noni’s second instalment

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, teen book reviews, Writing, Writing Thoughts


Alexandra Jennings is back for her second year at Akarnae Academy in the magical world of Medora that she stumbled into by mistake last year. The enemies are still out to get her, the professors to teach her lessons she never thought she’d need to learn, and her friends to support and surprise her along the way. We explore the world more, and understand a bit better what’s going on.

Here we jump straight back into the world and into adventure, with Alexandra once again in danger, in deep with her friends and fighting for what she believes is right. So much so that it hardly seemed like a separate book to the first one (and I’m having a little trouble separating them in my mind) and so, like the first, is basically just tremendous fun.

Distance turned this story into a myth – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie Holmberg

Book Reviews, children's books, teen book reviews


Maire is happy in her small village, baking treats infused with emotion, strength and other qualities that she’s not quite sure how they got in there. But when her village is captured by marauders and she is captured by the sinister, cruel and strangely infantile and familiar Allemas, she is forced to confront the provenance of her gift and what it means about her past. As she completes challenging jobs for Allemas and survives his violence, a strange ethereal being called Fyel appears and gradually the story comes out…

After reading The Paper Magician series I was really keen to read more by Charlie Holmberg. This was totally different and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other, but in itself it was a worthwhile read. I think because there wasn’t that much described setting, and because Maire herself didn’t really know what was going it, it read a bit more like a fable than a normal story, but it was enjoyable for all that.