Category Archives: Books

Review : The Swap by Megan Shull

Middle-grade book review of

The SwapThe Swap by Megan Shull

Goodreads Blurb

“You be me…and I’ll be you.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives – and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties, while Ellie’s reigning as The Prince of Thatcher Middle School.

As their crazy weekend races on – and their feeling for each other grow – Elli and Jack begin to wonder if maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being somebody else.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about the souls of a boy and a girl swapping into the bodies of the other.

One Friday afternoon during the last lesson, Elle and Jack happen to be in the nurse’s office at the same time. The next minute they find themselves in each other’s bodies. They have less than ten minutes to come to terms with the swap and agree to meet up on Monday morning to find that missing nurse-on-duty. In the meantime, they have to lead each other’s live for the weekend. Both agreed to lock themselves in their rooms all weekend. Except it was a lot harder to do that.

This book is written in alternate POVs. Elle has friendship issues with the mean girls at school. Jack trains hard at hockey with his four brothers. If you can look past the gender-stereotyped characters, the rest of the book is good fun. I enjoyed how the ‘typically’ male or female lingo flew over the heads of each other and how they had to guess their way through, making hilarious and embarrassing mistakes along the way. Because they live in such opposite worlds, they experience a whole universe and see a new perspective in life.

I would recommend this book, with a warning sign to the intended target audience about gender-stereotypes in the story. 4/5

Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

YA book review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer (Raybearer, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book is about a girl brought up to kill her mother’s nemesis.

All her life, our heroine craves the love of her mother, who hardly sees her and on the rare occasions when she does, plays with her affections. Without warning, her mother sends her away to be selected as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If this was not traumatic enough, her mother’s parting words were strict instructions to kill the prince as soon as she gains his trust.

It is very easy to root for our heroine who, on one hand craves her mother’s affections and on the other, wants to be true to her conscience and not kill the innocent prince. The concept of the Council of Eleven is unique.

If you enjoy dystopian fantasy, check out this one. 3/5

Six Foxy Books

It’s National Fox Day on 17 Sep. Here are some fiction books starring foxes.

1. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)Goodreads Blurb

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

My review : Shadow of the Fox

2. Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt

Maybe a FoxGoodreads Blurb

Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

My review : Maybe a Fox

3. Pax by Sara Pennypacker

PaxGoodreads Blurb

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

My review : Pax

4. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Cogheart (The Cogheart Adventures, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat…

Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends—Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox—Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.

5. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

The Fox Girl and the White GazelleGoodreads Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?

My review : The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

6. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsGoodreads Blurb

The winter isn’t ending. Nobody knows why.
And Odd has run away from home, even though he can barely walk and has to use a crutch.
Out in the forest he encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle – three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is faced with a stranger journey than he had ever imagined.
A journey to save Asgard, City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It’s going to take a very special kind of boy to defeat the most dangerous of all the Frost Giants and rescue the mighty Gods. Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever.
Someone just like Odd…

My review : Odd and the Frost Giants

Do you know of any books with foxes in them? Drop them in the comment below!

Review : The Chessman Thief by Barbara Henderson

Middle-grade book review of The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson

The Chessmen Thief with Lewis Chess Pieces

The Chessmen ThiefGoodreads Blurb

Win. Lose. Survive.

I was the boy with a plan. Now I am the boy with nothing.

From the moment 12-year-old Kylan hatches a plan to escape from his Norse captors, and return to Scotland to find his mother, his life becomes a dangerous game.
The precious Lewis Chessmen pieces—which he helped carve—hold the key to his freedom, but he will need all his courage and wit to triumph against Sven Asleifsson, the cruellest Viking in the realm.
One false move could cost him his life.

Barbara Henderson has woven a thrilling origin story around the enduring mystery of the Lewis Chessmen, their creation in Norway, and how they ended up buried in the Hebrides before being discovered on Lewis in 1831.

My Thoughts after Reading

This story is perfectly pitched for middle-grade.

Our protagonist is a slave boy determined to return to his roots and find his mother. His ability to speak Gaelic and carve ivory into chess pieces convinces a prominent man to take him away from Norway on this journey to Scotland.

This books has Vikings, pirates and sea adventures. It also has plenty of heart: a young slave separated from his mother, seeking his freedom.

I love it that this story was inspired by the famous 12th century Lewis chess pieces found on a Scottish beach. A must read for chess and history lovers. 4/5

If you are looking for middle-grade books with a chess theme, also check out Check Mates.

Review : Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

YA book review of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and ShadowGoodreads Blurb

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

My Thoughts after Reading

Set in Mexico, this YA book interweaves their myths and legends with contemporary life in the 1920s.

Our heroine is the Cinderella equivalent in her family home. Her widowed mother struggled to make ends meet after her father died and came crawling back to her haughty family. Casiopea is her grandfather’s carer. She has to put up with his bad-temper and her golden-boy cousin’s taunts. The only thing that keeps her going is his promise of inheritance after his passing.

One day her defiance gets her into trouble and she is left behind in a family excursion. She finds the key that her grandfather usually hangs round his neck and opens the mysterious box in her room. Her adventure begins.

In similar vein to Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson and Greek mythology, this story is imbued with Mayan gods and beliefs. The detailed description of places took me to the heart of Mexico. I enjoyed getting to know the two main characters and their development as the book progressed.

If you are looking for a book set in South America, check out this one. 3/5

Review : The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose by Mary Hooper

YA book review of The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose by Mary Hooper

The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose

Goodreads Blurb

Ousted from her family by her new stepmother, Eliza Rose makes her way to London–only to be thrown straight into prison for stealing a bite to eat. Her life takes a remarkable twist when she is rescued and befriended by the infamous actress Nelly Gwyn. Nelly introduces her to the courtly intrigue, politics, and glamour of the court of King Charles II, as well as to a handsome young man known as Valentine Howard. Eliza is smitten, yet their love cannot be, as she is only a lowly maid and he is an aristocrat.

From orange seller to mermaid and to a lady about town, Eliza will take on many remarkable guises, but will she ever find what she yearns to know–a place where she truly belongs?

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA historical fiction gives a good feel for what it was like to live in the restoration period in London.

Our heroine has been turfed out of her Somerset home by her stepmother, and she makes the journey to London to find her father, a mason working to rebuild London after the Great Fire. Unfortunately she was so hungry she stole a some food and ended up in prison. Her adventures took her to several places in London. I particularly enjoyed reading about Nell Gwyn and the theatre life.

The author has written a lot of little details of life back then. I was fascinated with how they lived in the clink prison. This is a relaxing read that ticks along slowly, with enough intrigue to keep interest, but not too much suspense and drama that keep you reading into the night. 3/5

Review : The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

YA book review of The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book of time-travel, sea adventures and history has a great opening line and scene that pulls you right in.

Our main character is the daughter of the captain of the time-travelling ship. They travel round the world and through time to acquire rare and mystical artefacts, especially maps.

I part-listened to the audio book and part-read the paperback. In each destination, I enjoyed learning about the time and place. The author has done a great job giving us a feel of the places and the eras. I got to know the characters and really liked the Kashmir. The author has also taken pains to sneak in nautical terms in the narration, reminding us that our heroine grew up in a tall ship. 3.5*

Review : Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

YA book review of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Goodreads Blurb

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.


Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA fantasy is about a down-trodden magical tribe under the dictatorship of a cruel king.

Our heroine has inherited her late mother’s magical powers. Together with her non-magical brother and father, they eke out a living as the maggots of society. Fate takes a turn when brother and sister go to the city to make a trade. There Zelie gets entangled with the runaway princess and a stolen scroll that could bring magic back to these maji and diviners.

The story is told in 3-POVs: our heroine, the runaway princess and the crown prince who is trying to stop them. The author has done a brilliant job with both the plot and the characters. There is tension in every scene, and I felt for every character. It felt slow to begin with, as world-building takes time. But once this is established, the story just sweeps you along.

A brilliant read. 4.5/5

Review : With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

YA book review on With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High

Goodreads Blurb

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain—and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life—and all the rules everyone expects her to play by—once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book is about a teen mother and her journey back to school after giving birth.

Emoni is a gifted chef, but the path ahead is not clear and simple. She lives with her grandmother and has a young toddler. They eke out a living with her grandmother’s disability allowance and her part-time work at a local fast-food outlet. The father of her child has visitation rights once a fortnight. Her home-room teacher has fought hard for her to remain in main-stream education, so she can graduate at 18 with the rest of her cohort.

Through the amazing writing, we get to see what life is like for Emoni as she tries to juggle everything. On top of this, she has to think about her future, which is a difficult concept when day-to-day living is a struggle already. This book sends out a strong message of resilience. Whilst she has people rooting for her, she has to make the difficult decisions. There were some parts so well written I just had to go back and reread it again. I also enjoyed reading about the history, background and culture of Puerto Rico.

The ending sentence is brilliant. She talks about the dish flamble and faith : ‘what better way to take a leap of faith than to set something on fire and trust it will not only come out right, but that it will be completely delicious?’

Quite simply, an amazing read. 5/5

Review : Petals in the Ashes by Mary Hooper

Young Adult book review of Petals in the Ashes by Mary Hooper

Petals in the Ashes (Sign of the Sugared Plum, #2)

Goodreads Blurb

This gripping account of London’s Great Fire of 1666 is a worthy companion to At the Sign of the Sugared Plum. Only one year after the city suffered such terrible losses during the Plague, London is recovering and Hannah convinces her parents that, with her younger sister Anne’s help, she can return to the city and manage the sweetmeats shop on her own. The girls are thrilled to be back in London, and Hannah even finds her old beau, Tom, alive and well and working for a magician. But her newfound happiness is short-lived as fires begin to spring up around the city and quickly move closer to their shop. Finally, Hannah and Anne are forced to abandon their home to save their lives. When the fires have abated, the girls return to find their shop in ruins. They also find Tom, beaten and injured after being chased by a mob that blamed the magician for starting the fire. Despite their losses, Hannah is sure that one day she will rebuild her shop and once again trade under the sign of the sugared plum.

My Thoughts after Reading

This young YA book is set in the mid-1660s. It is a direct continuation from Book 1, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum. For continuity, I recommend readers to read this straight after you have read the first book. The book blurb suggests the story is about the Great Fire of 1666, but the start of the story ties up the ends of the previous book.

In our last book the heroines have escaped the clutches of London’s plague. They journey to Dorchester to deliver the baby orphan girl To her aristocrat aunt. Eventually Hannah makes the decision to return to London without her older sister, but takes her younger sister along instead. Hence at the fresh start in London it was reminiscent of the first book, except this time round Hannah is the teacher.

The book give a good insight into the lives in London as they emerge from the depths of the Great Plague. When the fire came, the author has skilfully brought the reader right into the midst of the trauma and mayhem. You feel as if you were there when it happened, and the great loss afterwards.

A good read. 3/5