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My five star reads of 2018

I've managed to read a fair few books this year. At the time of writing this I am part way through book 175. Looking back over the books I've read this year is really interesting for me as a reader. I've read more broadly in one sense in that I no longer read just YA books and have read a real mix of books from picture books to adult books. I've also found myself reading and loving a bit of non fiction which isn't something I've done in years and years. However in lots of ways I feel like my reading habits have become narrower. I tend to only read what I like with a focus on contemporary and historical fiction or non fiction focused on history books on parts of history I get really geeky over. I am also a serial DNFer. If I'm not enjoying a book even after the first page I tend to ditch it. This does mean that out of the 174 books I've finished so far only seven haven't been rated three star or above as I do tend to really enjoy what I read.

Out of …

A year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester's bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn't think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there's support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb's co…

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson

'Bonnie. Never Mum or Mummy or Mother. Just Bonnie.'

When it comes to flying under the radar, Ro Snow is an expert.

No friends.

No boys.

No parties.

And strictly NO VISITORS.

It may be lonely, but at least this way the truth remains where it should – hidden.

Then Tanvi Shah, the girl who almost died, comes tumbling back into her life, and Ro finds herself losing control of her carefully constructed lies.

But if Ro’s walls come crumbling down, who’s going to take care of Bonnie…


*** 
I loved paper avalanche. I've been excited about this novel for ages because I love Lisa's novels and  was not left disappointed because this was excellent.

What I found to be particularly excellent about this novel is the character voice. The main character Ro lives with her mother who hoards everything. The relationship they have is unconventional with Ro often trying to fulfill the adult role in the household while still in school. She worries about money and is desperately embarrassed about h…

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more...?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn't been too great, but at least he's not being bullied anymore, and he's sort of got a boyfriend, even if he's kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He's heard a little about Charlie - the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months - but he's never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn't think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are…

Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

Lily has lots of worries. She's struggling to compete in her fell-running races and, worse, she's losing her gran to Alzheimer's. But then she discovers her great-great-grandfather's diaries from the First World War. Could his incredible story of bravery help her reconnect with her gran and even give her the inspiration she needs to push through and win

***
Such an interesting novel which was poignant and thoughtful. I also enjoyed how it taught me about another facet of World War One that I didn't know much about at all namely the runners used at the front line to send messages and share information across the front. 
I also love how brilliantly accessible Barrington Stoke novels are whilst being cracking novels giving children who find reading more of a challenge stories that will engage and excite without patronising them. I have already put my copy in the school library and will be recommending it regularly to my students

Firebird by Elizabeth Wein

Nastia is no traitor. She is a daring pilot, the daughter of revolutionaries, and now, as the Second World War descends on Russia, she must fight to save the glorious Motherland. But all is not as it seems, and when the battles begin, secrets are revealed and everything that she once knew is challenged... A thrilling adventure brimming with historical detail and powerful female characters. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+.

***
I really enjoyed this book for several reasons.

Firstly the historical side was cracking. A really thoughtful story that was clearly well researched and felt true to the time period it was set in.

I loved how exciting the story was following the main character who is a female pilot serving during World War Two accused of treason.

I'm so pleased that I have access to these cracking novels from Barrington Stoke which I can use in the classroom.

The Strange Diaries by Elly Griffiths

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers...

***
A real page turner. I'm not a huge crime fan but I love Elly's Ruth Galloway and decided to…

True Sisters by Keren David

Ruby has had a lot of foster siblings over the years, but none of them have been anything like Clara. After growing up in almost complete isolation, Clara is distraught at being separated from her mother and overwhelmed by life in a world she doesn’t understand. But the more Ruby tries to help Clara fit in, the more she realises she has to face up to some struggles of her own.

***
Another cracking story from Keren David. She really nails it when it comes to writing relationships and this is what this book does really well. I really enjoyed seeing the way in which the relationship between Ruby and Clara developed over the course of the book.

What is even more impressive is how this book manages to do this as well as having a lot of say about not judging people in a more compact format being a shorter novel for Barrington Stoke.

Giant Days by Non Pratt

Based on the hit graphic-novel series from BOOM! Studios, the publisher behind Lumberjanes, Giant Days follows the hilarious and heartfelt misadventures of three university first-years: Daisy, the innocent home-schooled girl; Susan, the sardonic wit; and Esther, the vivacious drama queen. While the girls seem very different, they become fast friends during their first week of university. And it's a good thing they do, because in the giant adventure that is college, a friend who has your back is key--something Daisy discovers when she gets a little too involved in her extracurricular club, the Yogic Brethren of Zoise. When she starts acting strange and life around campus gets even stranger (missing students, secret handshakes, monogrammed robes everywhere . . .), Esther and Susan decide it's up to them to investigate the weirdness and save their friend.

I enjoyed this a lot it captured everything that was wonderful about the comics whilst being brilliant in their o…

I invited her in by Adele Parks

‘I invited her in… and she took everything.’
When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay. Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.
Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different. Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben. Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.
Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence. Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her. Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it. So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal. And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and sup…

Buffy the vampire slayer picture book

The cult classic ’90s TV show is now a charming book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture book story brought to life with enchanting, colorful illustrations, kid readers can learn about what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like when she was a kid! What’s that strange sound coming from inside the closet? Join little Buffy, Xander, and Willow as they investigate bumps in the night, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter all your favorite Buffyverse monsters. Complete with gorgeous illustrations by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book makes a perfect bedtime story.


This is the cutest thing in the world. If you love Buffy you'll adore this and making squealy sounds as you read it and then want to buy numerous copies for all of the small people you know to share the Buffy joy.

No fixed address by Susin Nielsen

Twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old Felix Knutsson has a knack for trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix's mom, Astrid, is loving but can't seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can't tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he'll be taken away from her and put in foster care.

As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he's determined to earn a spot on the show. Winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don't turn out the way he expects. . . .

Susin Nielsen deftly combines humor, heartbreak, and hope in this moving story about people who slip through the cracks in society, and about…

Rosie loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they're split up, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. Even run away from home. Even cross London and travel to Brighton alone, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though any girl might find that hard, let alone a girl with Down's syndrome. See the world through new eyes in this one-in-a-million story about fighting for the freedoms that we often take for granted: independence, tolerance and love.

I raced through this book and it is just really awesome.

Rosie loves Jack is the story of Rosie a downs syndrome main character. Her boyfriend Jack has recently been moved across the country and Rosie is very upset about this and resolves to find her own way to visit him despite her parent's best efforts to stop her for making contact.

I really enjoyed it as Rosie managed to find her way to Brighton using public transport. For me what this book highlighted is the way…

Review: Turtle Bay Norwich

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to Turtle Bay Norwich to review their new menu.

The meal my husband and I had was excellent. Both of us have recently discovered in the last month or so that we have food intolerances. He is gluten intolerant and I am lactose intolerant. As we have quickly discovered working round those while eating out has been a bit of a challenge. However we were excited to see, when looking at the menu online in advance, that there were lots of options for us. The website has a full allergens menu which specifies which allergens are in which dish along with options of how to make some dishes allergen free with a small modification which was reassuring information to have in advance of our visit.


 We arrived a Turtle Bay and was promptly shown to our table. We started by ordered cocktails. We arrived during happy hour (11:30 - 7pm and 9:30pm onwards Thurs to Sun and 11:30pm - 7pm and 10pm onwards Fri- Sat) which meant all cocktails were served as 241…

Can't wait to read

These are the latest books to be added to my wishlist. I can't wait for them all.

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox


Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…


This looks epic. 

Th…

Review Books I've read this summer: YA fiction

I've read lots of awesome YA fiction for review over my summer holidays. These are the ones I loved.

You only live once by Jess Vallance


The start of a hilarious new teen series for fans of Geek Girl.

Gracie Dart has always worked hard and she's got a wall covered with revision timetables and French verbs to prove it. But now GCSEs are behind her and she suddenly starts to think: what was the POINT of it all?

When Gracie thinks she's dying of a disgusting tropical illness, she starts to worry she's been wasting her best years being sensible. It's like people say: you only live once - so isn't it about time she started LIVING?
(OK, so the tropical illness turned out to be a fake-tan miscalculation. Anyone could make the same mistake.)

When Gracie decides to do something, she does it properly. Gracie Dart is about to live out her dreams. However embarrassing.


I enjoyed this book because it was funny and sweet. The main character has just finished school and i…