Category Archives: Book Reviews
Be charmed by 2021’s most unforgettable heroine
I’m pleased to be kicking off the blog tour for the delayed release of this wonderful book. They say that things happen for a reason and Hope is definitely something we need right now. Publishing on 22nd July so do grab yourself a copy and delve in.
About the Book
‘In life you meet many people. Some you admire, some you wish you’d never met. Few make you think: ‘When I woke up this morning, I didn’t imagine that I would meet somebody like you.’ When you do, it’s rather like taking a step and finding gravity has relaxed. Hope Nicely is a little like that.’
‘A sunburst of a story, full of love, kindness and one of the sweetest, most engaging central characters you’re likely to meet. An absolute joy’
Sarah Haywood, bestselling author of The Cactus
Hope Nicely hasn’t had an easy life.
But she’s happy enough living at 23 Station Close with her mum, Jenny Nicely, and she loves her job, walking other people’s dogs. She’s a bit different, but as Jenny always tells her, she’s a rainbow person, a special drop of light.
It’s just . . . there’s something she needs to know. Why did her birth mother abandon her in a cardboard box on a church step twenty-five years ago? And did she know that drinking while pregnant could lead to Hope being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
In a bid to find her birth mother and the answers to these questions, Hope decides to write her autobiography. Despite having been bullied throughout school, Hope decides to join an evening class where she will not only learn the lessons of writing (including the number one golden rule of ‘show don’t tell’), but may also begin to discover more about the world around her, about herself and even make some friends.
But when Jenny suddenly falls ill, Hope realises there are even more lessons to come . . .
Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life is the novel we all need right now, a heart-warming tale of loneliness, friendship, acceptance, kindness, and, above all, hope.
‘A heart-bursting book, full of tears, laughter and hope. Gorgeously written with an incredible protagonist, I can’tit recommend enough, it’s FABULOUS’
Jessica Ryn, author of The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
‘A gorgeous, funny, heart-warming read. Leaves you smiling’
Ericka Waller, author of Dog Days
About the Author
Caroline Day is a freelance journalist and consultant editor, living in Crouch End, married with kids and two dogs. She is an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course and has written extensively for national media, with a focus on the human side of health and family issues.
She first started writing Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and successfully completed her 50,000-word target in the space of a month (although she has since edited it a lot).
Caroline is in close contact with a Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder support group from whom she has received an enthusiastic early response and she does have some personal experience which has both given her the idea for the novel, ‘where Hope comes from’ as she describes it, and huge respect for those living neuro-diverse lives.
About the Audiobook Narrator
Zoe Croft is a multi-award-winning actress and filmmaker who is passionate about representing neurodiverse characters in the media. Her acting career thus far includes appearances in several BBC dramas, including as a series regular in ‘Holby City’. Like Hope, Zoe always wanted to be author. But, like many children who have learning disabilities she struggled in school and was told by a teacher that ‘people like her’ don’t become writers. Nearly a decade later she decided to prove them wrong! Her first short film, ‘Some Way Out’, that she wrote, illustrated and starred in won several awards – including best writer! Zoe is thrilled to be voicing Hope and *hopes* you enjoy the story as much as she did!
Zoe is represented by VisABLE People, an agency which specialises in finding mainstream opportunities for artists with disabilities.
What I Thought
Agents and publishers talk about finding a book with a strong voice so they must have leapt at the chance to represent this one. Although, it is perhaps easier to ‘find the voice’ in a first person narrative, that doesn’t make Hope’s voice any less valid. After all, that’s kind of what the story is about. Finding your voice, speaking your truth, and being your authentic self.
As a writer I loved that the book was structured as Hope’s autobiography and also that the chapters focused on a different aspect of writing a book. It was almost like a mini writing exercise in itself.
The cast of characters are bought vividly to life through Hope’s narrative, with their flaws and strengths on clear display through her literal responses to them, and their responses to her, which aren’t always as positive as I’m sure the readers will be.
Our narrator Hope has FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). Although I read a printed ARC I have listened to the sample of the audiobook narrated by Zoe Croft and based on that I’d happily recommend either option. Hope’s voice leaps from the page but Zoe also helps bring her to life.
There are some serious topics considered in the book with her adopted mother Jenny’s illness and her search for her birth mother. And I’m not going to say you won’t need tissues to hand. You will likely laugh and cry, and feel a hundred other emotions.
TW: Suicidal Ideation, Ableism (by some characters against Hope), Adoption.
Do take a look at the introduction to Hope’s Golden Rules (pictured above) – I think a certain government might – flip a pancake – learn something from Hope.
If you’d like to find out more about FASD check out the U.K. Network here: http://www.fasdnetwork.org/what-is-fasd.html
A huge thank you to Tracey at Compulsive Readers and the publisher for the gifted ARC for the purposes of an honest review. See what everyone else on the tour thought over the next few days too.
About the Book
Eleven-year-old Casey is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.
Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong.
Keeping his identity hidden–while struggling to prove he fits–is hard enough, but Butcher Beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.
A fast-paced middle grade fantasy/adventure book with all the monsters kids could ever hope for.
About the Author
AJ Vanderhorst has had many jobs, including journalist, paramedic, escape artist, and baby whisperer. One time in fifth grade, he built a traffic-stopping fort in a huge oak tree, using only branches and imagination, and slept there for a week.
Now he and his wife live in a woodsy house with their proteges and a ridiculous number of pets, including a turtle with a taste for human toes. This makes AJ an expert on wild, dangerous things—invisibility spells, butcher beasts, hungry kids, you get the idea.
He is the only author in the world who enjoys pickup basketball and enormous bonfires, preferably not at the same time. He and his family have drawn up several blueprints for their future tree castle. Visit AJ online at ajvanderhorst.com.
(Bio via Goodreads)
What I Thought
This was a very interesting book, almost like a cross between The Magic Faraway Tree and Bridge to Terabithia (but without the same level of heartbreak as the latter!).
The tone it sets is surreal and you aren’t always sure if we are in a world of imagination or magic. The Monsters are creepy but the threat level is right for the intended audience.
There was one occasion I wasn’t quite sure if the POV slipped but otherwise we remain along on this wild ride with Casey.
The characters are Alice in Wonderlandesque in their oddity and this would make an amazing cartoon film. I loved the relationship between Casey and his younger sister Gloria and it’s great to see Gloria with some agency too.
The book has a satisfying ending but is open for a sequel and – yay for me – it’s already out. A school is going to be the setting so right up my book nook. We got glimpses of it in this book and I’m certain with AJ Vanderhorst we’ll be in for another thrilling adventure.
This reminds me of the magic of watching The Neverending Story as a child and I liked the slightly unique take on the chosen one trope.
Thanks to Dave at The Write Reads and the author for an e-copy of the book for the purposes of this honest review – just off to buy book 2.
About the Book
#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with a new and utterly unique romance.
Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum for another woman – she’s even throwing out her beloved romance novel collection.
When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out – from the moment they first catch each other’s eye to the last bitter moments of their break-up.
For Evie, it confirms everything she thinks she knows about love – that it doesn’t last.
But at the dance studio she meets X – tall, dreadlocked, fascinating – and they start to learn to dance, together. Can X help break the spell that Evie is under? Can he change Evie’s mind about love?
Praise for Nicola Yoon:
‘Gorgeous and lyrical’ New York Times
‘Powerful, lovely, heart-wrenching’ Jennifer Niven
‘This extraordinary first novel about love so strong it might kill us is too good to feel like a debut’ Jodi Picoult
About the Author
Nicola Yoon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Instructions for Dancing, Everything, Everythingand The Sun Is Also a Star. She is a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient and a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner. Two of her novels have been made into major motion pictures. She’s also co-publisher of Joy Revolution, a Random House young adult imprint dedicated to love stories starring people of color. She grew up in Jamaica and Brooklyn, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the novelist David Yoon, and their daughter.
What I Thought
The perfect summer read with an excellent life lesson – and I’m not talking about the dancing. With a dash of the supernatural/magical realism this reminds me of films like Freaky Friday and this book would make an awesome film.
Although the love most focused on is romantic, friendship and familial love also plays a role and the other relationship we see Evie struggle with is between her and her dad.
I really felt for Evie and could sense her hurt oozing from the page. X is the quintessential book boyfriend but, like she threw away her favourite romance books, will Evie throw him away too? I’m sure plenty of us would happily be his new dancing partner if she does.
Seeing everyone else’s comments on the tour with talk of needing tissues meant I started reading with some trepidation because expectations!!! I’m not sure if this helped me figure something out but oddly enough for me I didn’t cry. I found it sweet, uplifting and just the right side of saccharine – with one scene reminiscent of Disney’s Up.
That’s two of Nicola Yoon’s books now I’ve read and enjoyed so I’m going to grab the third one and keep an eye out for any future releases.
With thanks to Dave at The Write Reads and the publisher for the gifted ebook for the purposes of an honest review.