Book Review | The Forest of Ghosts and Bones – Lisa Lueddecke

The Eve of Saints approaches and the poison rain which shrouds Castle Marcosza strains at its boundaries. When Béata’s brother is taken by the rain, Béata and her friend Benedek must make a perilous journey of discovery to uncover the root of her secret – why she is the only person who can walk through the rain unscathed. But Béata is soon caught up in a game of cat-and-mouse with mysterious Liljana, a girl with hidden powers of her own.


I preordered The Forest of Ghosts and Bones because I LOVED Lisa Lueddecke’s debut A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It was vivid and delicious and atmospheric.

I found TFOGAB a little lighter on the atmosphere side, but it was still incredibly evocative. The forests of Marcosza, the ominous Castle Vyesta, the dangerous city of Târu. Even the mage kingdom of Muranj, although we never see it, feels like somewhere we know pretty intimately. I liked the idea of the rain being dangerous – the most unsettling things to me are the most innocuous ones, so the weather being able to kill you is effectively creepy. The baddies are genuiblnely nasty, too.

There were a few niggly things that dragged me back out of the story – the romantic undercurrent between Béata and Benedek didn’t do it for me, and I found Béata and Liljiana likable enough if quite one-dimensional, but overall it was a solid fantasy read, and great for the evenings drawing in.

Also the front cover is stunning. 10/10.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

World Mental Health Day | YA Books Tackling Mental Health

Mental health is a subject close to my heart – I had a nervous breakdown when I was 14 and have struggled with depression and anxiety ever since. I nearly dropped out of uni, I’ve been on medication since I was 19 and I’m currently battled postnatal depression.

I lost my teenage years to mental illness and it’s something that I’ve struggled to come to terms with. It has a profound effect on you if you suffer in your adolescence. The social and emotional development that comes with going through high school just didn’t happen for me, and I had to try and find my way through it in a couple of years in my early 20s. It was awful.

That’s why I’m such a huge advocate of mental health representation in Young Adult books. Being able to see your own emotions and experiences is incredibly validating, and it can help you to recognise aspects of mental illness that you perhaps hadn’t picked up on. Reading about other peoples’ experiences can help you understand and empathise with the suffering of others.

Here are three of my favourite YA books that tackle mental health issues, and a selection of books from my TBR list that come highly recommended.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

There are few authors who do it as well as Laurie Halse Anderson. The Impossible Knife of Memory tackles parental PTSD and narrator Hayley’s trauma as she struggles with her past, caring for her veteran father and starting a new school.

I like the angle of having Hayley be the onlooker while a close family member suffers through their mental health. It’s something that affects a lot of young people and allows them to find a character going through the same struggle, as well as providing PTSD representation.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

I spent a lot of high school too anxious to speak to anyone, and it had a disastrous effect on my social and emotional wellbeing. Steffi’s experience of social anxiety really spoke to me, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a book I really wish I’d had as a teenager – I had no idea what selective mutism was, and it might have empowered me to look into ways of coping.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – Holly Bourne

I’ve read a fair few books on anxiety and depression, but bipolar disorder is still a hugely stigmatised and misunderstood condition, particularly in young people.

Olive isn’t a likeable character, but mental illness – especially before you get help – can make you unlikeable, and a lot of people don’t realise that it’s a symptom. I think education is vital to prevent misconceptions and judgements about how people struggling with their mental health are “supposed” to behave, and hopefully to increase understanding and empathy.


Here’s what’s currently on my TBR in terms of YA mental health. Most of these I’ve been meaning to pick up for months (or years…) so hopefully as my major reading slump falls into the distance I’ll get to them. They all look INCREDIBLE. In terms of both cover and content.

What am I missing? Who’s got some great MH rep coming out next year? LET ME KNOW.

Six For Sunday | Autumnal Colours

I LOVE AUTUMN. Not only does it mean it’s my birthday, but there’s something really magical and delicious about the days getting shorter and the sun generally getting lower and bringing out the jumpers and hot water bottles. Here are six of the books that make me feel like it’s just around the corner.

Ink – Alice Broadway

Shiny bronze cover with leaves and birds? I can almost taste the November wind in Princes Street Gardens just looking at the cover of Ink.

I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman

I love Alice Oseman’s books and orange screams “autumn” to me. Leaves and Halloween!

The Crow – Alison Croggon

Again, I will never pass up an opportunity to stick a Pellinor book into the conversation.

Refuge – Dina Nayeri

I picked Refuge from my TBR list on Goodreads because at first glance I thought these were golden apples. They’re cherries, but I’m still getting a definite autumn vibe.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Lianne Oelke

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is one of the multitude of TBR books I’ve been meaning to pick up for years. Even her clothes on the cover seem autumnal to me!

Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

I don’t know if it’s because I burn a lot of candles as the evenings get earlier or because it reminds me of the fire pit in my parents’ garden, but the smell of wood smoke makes me think of autumn and winter. Bonfire looks like the kind of book I’d pick up on a rainy October afternoon with a coffee.


I can’t wait to see the other autumn books in this Six for Sunday. I’m so ready for summer to be over this year, so anything that gets me in the mood early is a bonus!

Six For Sunday | Summer Colours

Thoroughly tired of summer after heatwave after heatwave and attempting to keep a very small baby happy. I can’t wait to start wearing my 4756435 jumpers again, but in the meantime here’s some summery-looking books.

The Square Root of Summer – Harriet Reuter Hapgood

This was such an obvious pick it almost seems too easy. Perfect summer holiday reading.

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon

A book that’s on my “I haven’t read this for ages and I’ve forgotten what happens but I know I enjoyed it so I’m going to read it again” list. Top tier colours, too!

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Euginedes

I picked his because the cover looks summery but honestly I fucking hated this book. I’m sure it’s really poignant and clever and there’s probably a whole load of metaphor but I found it desperately pretentious.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

John Green’s writing doesn’t really vibe with me – his dialogue always feels a bit “off” – but he’s resonated with so many young people and given then hope and joy and I have a huge amount of respect for him.

Boy Meets Girl – Meg Cabot

Romance isn’t a genre I go into very often – most of the time if I pick up a romance book it’s on a whim, or there’s nothing else available. I found this one in a charity shop and bought it because I loved the Princess Diaries books, but I ended up really enjoying it. I’ve reread it loads.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth

TMOCP has been on my TBR for so long it feels like a personal attack whenever I come across someone talking about it. Also the cover is stunning.


Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Book Spotlight | I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

iwbft

I love Alice Oseman. Radio Silence and Solitaire are both books I wish I’d had when I was in high school. Instead of trying to look at them from the perspective of the current young adult audience, these books resonate with Younger Me in a big way, and it’s both heartbreaking and pretty therapeutic.

I Was Born For This is both completely different and exactly the same.

It’s the story of how pervasive and consuming pouring your heart and soul into something can be. A band, a TV show, a book…it’s an authentic look at how how important, and how destructive these things can be when they become everything. It’s also a testament to the friends and communities that build up around things can be to someone who’s lonely or struggling. It can save lives.

So why only four stars?

This didn’t resonate with me in the same way the previous two did, which is not a fault of the book. Most of my fandom adventures were solitary, borne of loneliness in school and mental illness, and I didn’t have anywhere near the experiences of Angel and Juliet. If I’d been more heavily involved? Hell yeah, I can see another version of me in this book.

Overall, not my favourite Alice Oseman book because it didn’t hit my buttons in the specific video-game-puzzle-solving order like the previous two, but still a gr8 book. Alice Oseman is one of the very best YA authors around, and I have absolutely no doubt that pretty much everyone who’s ever used the internet will see themselves in the pages.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Six for Sunday: Favourite Books People Never Seem To Know About.

MY DUDES. My time has come.

Six for Sunday is a weekly book meme hosted by Steph at Alittlebutalot. There are so many books that I never see getting any love, so strap in, I’m about to take you on a trip through six of them.

The Entire Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

I found these books in a charity shop and have been heavily obsessed ever since. I love all of the characters, I love the plot, I love the setting, I love how heavily the arts influence the world and the lives of the people who live there and it’s just GLORIOUS.

Guitar Girl – Sarra Manning

Guitar Girl

This was one of my first, if not THE first YA book I ever owned, and I love it. My dream as a fourteen year old was to be in a band, despite having only the bare minimum of musical talent, so I lived vicariously through other mediums. Molly, the lead protagonist (and singer) of Guitar Girl writes songs about Hello Kitty and working a dead-end job and is pretty much a straight up BAMF. All the characters are so flawed and precious and it’ll break your heart and make you want to form a three-chord band. AND SO YOU SHOULD.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is my hero. Speak is a book I bang the drum for at every opportunity, but The Impossible Knife of Memory is a brilliant book. It’s the story of Hayley and her war veteran father who suffers from PTSD and traumatic flashbacks, and the struggle as they move back to their home town after a nomadic life. LHA’s books are always so authentic, and her characters so acerbic and vulnerable and Hayley is no different.

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows – Nora Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Nora Raleigh Baskin is also a QUEEN and one of the staples of my early YA reading. WEGEMK is a book about a young girl who has grown up with her father and older brother and is desperate for a stepmother so she has someone to teach her the things that all the other girls learn from their mothers. It’s a gorgeous wee book about friendship and growing up as a girl and finding out who you are. I loved it when I was eleven and I love it now.

Dogger – Shirley Hughes

dogger

This is a book that very few people seem to remember. I loved Dogger when I was really young, although it BROKE MY HEART because I was an overly sensitive child. Thank god it has a happy ending.

Based on the name people seem to assume that I’m making this book up but I’m not. Promise.

If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot

if only they could talk

I basically swallowed these whole as a child. I’m pretty sure everyone will have heard of James Herriot, but I’m not sure how many people have read his books. They’re incredibly sweet, a glorious trip through the Yorkshire countryside, and they’re so hysterically clever and witty that I challenge you read this without at least cracking a smile.

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I’m now in the mood to read all of these again. Except maybe Dogger. Probably not going to pull Dogger out on the train.

What books haven’t I heard of that I should have? Please open my eyes.

Book Spotlight | The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A soc has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is widely accepted as the first ever “proper” Young Adult book. It was published at a time when books for young adults were, as author S.E. Hinton says, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero and ends up with the boy next door and has a good time anyway.”. Or horse books.

It’s the story of a gang of “greasers”, who have a long-running rivalry with the “Socials” or “Socs” – who’re essentially the jocks in this scenario. Think Grease, but with fewer cars and lots of drama and bloody fighting instead of pink ladies and singing. Hinton was sixteen years old when she wrote it. Respect to her. When I was sixteen I could barely get out of bed and she wrote a friggin’ classic.

The Outsiders has been banned in a number of schools because it portrays gang violence, underage smoking and drinking and a bunch of other “sensitive stuff”. Ironically, Hinton points out in the edition of the book that I have that “every teenager feels that adults have no idea what’s going on”. GEE.

Banning books is dumb. Books like this can open up discussions and give young people an avenue to feel like they have a voice, instead of feeling adrift. Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, articulating the gritty, grubby, very real issues she was seeing in her school and neighbourhood. More than a few of these are still relevant today.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

tree

I think USYA gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. There’s a bit of a vibe that UKYA is a gritty, honest, dirt-under-the-fingernails look at what it’s like to be a teenager, while USYA is more like…902010 or something, with main characters played by 30 year olds that look nothing like anyone we went to school with.

As someone whose entire YA education came in the form of books sent over to me by my Auntie Fee from New York, I take issue with this. While I could slam a list onto the table, let’s look at something I read recently, courtesy of the March Wildest Dreams book box.

Far From The Tree is the story of three siblings, all given up for adoption by their mother, who find each other in their teenage years. Each of them has a different set of circumstances and background. They team up to find their birth mother, and in the process must find out where they fit into the world.

While they find each other at particularly difficult times in their lives – teenage pregnancy, the foster care and adoption system, relationship problems, family break-up and mental health are all big players in this store – the plot mainly centres on their growing relationships with each other. I hate the word “heartwarming” because it makes me cringe so hard I want to chew my own knuckles off, but it is. It’s well written, and the characters are defined by their relationships with each other, rather than their circumstances, which is nice.

I’d 100% recommend this to any young person – fifteen year old me would have binged through it. It wouldn’t have been one of my favourites (I didn’t cry like everyone else seemed to, but then I am a robot) but I can appreciate a book about finding your place in the world as much as anyone.

Rating: ***