March MG/YA Reads

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Today it’s my third blog this year on the Big Project Blog. After a very busy month there has been a slight delay to my round up so  I’m sharing with you some of my favourite MG and YA books that I read in March and I’ve just sneaked one in that I finished reading today because I really wanted to share it with you. This includes reviews already featured on my blog, a review of three new books including a book that I haven’t read since I was 16, which in case you were wondering was quite a long time ago!

Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink – Jennifer Killick

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Meet Alex Sparrow a super-agent in training, who has been on a mission since he was 4 years old to be an undercover, super spy by undertaking an extreme regime of mental and physical activities. Well that may just be a slight stretch of the truth! Okay it is in fact a ginormous lie! I’m not sure doing a hundred star jumps a day and chasing the mangy cat from next door out of your back garden quite fits that description but nevertheless Alex is adamant that he has what it takes to be a real life super agent. Stuffed full of humour, mystery and the unexpected, this hilarious adventure is a laugh out loud extravaganza of a read. For me it is the subtle humour scattered throughout the book that is a real triumph, making me chuckle the most. I love how Alex is so caught up in his secret-agent persona he likes to narrate the action unfolding – in his best secret-agent voice – even if this means he might blow their cover. Jess (or Jessticles as Alex likes to call her) is an absolute gem of a character. Moody, fierce and downright fearsome she refuses to be Alex’s sidekick, she won’t take any nonsense from Alex and their relentless bickering is a total joy. Packed to the gunnels with brilliant, comic moments –  my favourite involves Bob, Alex’s rather remarkable goldfish and a can of energy drink. – ‘Alex Sparrow’ is an irresistible combination of humour and heart.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

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I first read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood when I was 16 and it is one of those books that has stayed with me ever since. Watching the trailer for the new adaptation, reminded me how powerful this book was and I was compelled to read it again. Surprisingly it had more of an impact on me know than back when I first read it. Then I just viewed it as a dystopian world that could never possibly exist but reading it now in the current day it felt that this could easily happen, people could easily be segregated and power taken away from a whole race at the switch of a button. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where her role is the to be the handmaid of the commander in a society where the birth of a child is praised most highly. With every moment and action of her life controlled, Offred remembers a past life with her husband Luke where life was totally different and she had unimaginable freedoms. How can she accept that her life is changed forever?  Brilliantly tense and wonderfully dramatic this story will make you hold your breath and be shocked to your core at the world of Gilead and the relationships within it. It’s definitely a book that I would urge everybody to read, I can’t recommend it enough.

Mold and the Poison Plot – Lorraine Gregory

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Lorraine Gregory’s debut ‘Mold and the Poison Plot’ is an absolute joy to read, filled with so much humour, bravery and heart, that you can’t help being enchanted by this magical tale. Meet Mold, a boy who was dumped by his Mum in a dustbin as a baby. An unusual boy who even the binmen didn’t want, not being  fair enough to sell at the rag market with his scraggy hair and huge nose. Luckily for him, old Aggy found him at the dump and took him under her wing. Lorraine has created this truly believable world of magic and mayhem in Pellegarno. It is magical realism at it’s very best, making you feel totally involved in the story as you’re transported into the heart of this new land. She manages to bring it to life in the most unexpected ways primarily through Mold and his nose, who take us with him on an perilous journey allowing us to gain an true insight into the lives of the people. His amazing power of smell helps him to understand individuals true character which comes in very handy when he’s trying to distinguish good from evil as he tries to complete his dangerous mission. An exciting and vibrant story filled with twists, turns and drama at every turn. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, Lorraine manages to surprise you with this remarkable plot. A wonderful tale about friendship, loyalty and learning to accept yourself for who you are, I absolutely loved it.

Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy – Lara Williamson

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Meet Adam Butters, who is on a mission to be a superhero because, well, every one loves superheroes, they solve problems and make people happy. And in Adam’s complicated life he  desperately feels the need to make people happy. He doesn’t know why, but his Mum needs cheering up and perhaps if he was an actual superhero his real Mum would want to meet him. And he’s convinced she must have thought he would be super as he discovers she called him Ace – when he finds his birth certificate. But it’s not the easiest of superhero missions. Adam’s project doesn’t go exactly to plan after he makes a painful discovery but eventually he realises you don’t have to be super to be a hero. Families are at the heart of all Lara’s stories and the family dynamic in this book is really interesting . We have his older sister Minnie who feels jealous about the amount of time Adam spends with their Dad, his Mum who is hiding a secret, a comic book obsessed Dad and Velvet the younger sister who drives everyone mad with her invisible dog called Sausage Roll. The family is under pressure and nobody knows exactly what is going on which causes misunderstanding and uneasiness amongst them. Lara examines the complexity of the relationship between an adopted child. their parents as well as their siblings. Illustrating how the need to discover more about their ‘real’ parents can sometimes be an overwhelming and uncontrollable desire. A truly emotional and stunning read, this story left me with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart.

The Lotterys Plus One – Emma Donoghue & Caroline Hadilaksono

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The first novel for younger readers by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of ‘Room’ is a heart-warming story of an unconventional family. Meet the Lotterys: a unique and diverse family including four parents, seven kids – all living happily together in their big old house, Camelottery. Their idyllic existence is turned upside down when their grumpy and intolerant grandad comes to stay and their lives changes in the most surprising of ways. It took me a while to get into this story but I’m so glad that I persevered because at the heart of this story the Lotterys are just like any other family. Although the story celebrates diversity and difference, the problems that they face are the ones that all families may face at one time or another. The voice of Summac – who tells the story – feels very honest and real.  Her perspective on the impact that the arrival of her Grandad is incredibly truthful and raw, she can’t understand why they need to support him and his struggles with dementia, she just sees it on a basic level that she has had to make sacrifices when nobody else has as she is made to give up her room for him. Caroline Hadilaksono’s black and white illustrations are warm and full of life and help make sense of a story filled with a multitude of characters. A charming and heart-warming tale which celebrates and embraces diversity.

And Then We Ran – Katy CannonAnd Then We Ran – Katy Cannon

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I absolutely adored this coming-of-age road trip from Katy Cannon, so why not grab a copy and allow yourself to become captivated by Megan and Elliott’s story. Megan know what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents think. Elliott has given up on all his old plans for the future- but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever. Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can predict where theirs will lead. This is the kind of book I would have loved to have read as a teenager, it captures wonderfully the rollercoaster of emotions that life has in store for you and the temptations that may lie in your path. Megan and Elliott go on an emotional journey on this road trip as they struggle with romance threatening their friendship and having to make decisions that will alienate them from their families as they pursue their respective passions. I was totally swept away by this story and devoured it greedily in one sitting, a truly irresistible read.

Thank you to Firefly Press, Macmillan Books, Oxford University Press, Stripes Publishing and Usborne for sending my copies of these books. To pre-order or buy any of these books just visit your local bookshop or  click on the title to order.

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