Miriam’s Secret

Debby Waldman
In 1930 nine-year-old Miriam travels by train from Brooklyn to her grandparents’ farm in upstate New York. Her grandparents are kind, generous people, but they aren’t exactly ideal playmates for a lonely girl. When Miriam is not doing homework in the kitchen with Bubby or helping prepare meals for the migrant workers that Zayde hires to help out on the farm, she plays with the barn kittens born just before she arrived. Those kittens are her only friends, until the day Miriam discovers a young girl hiding in the barn. Cissy and her brother, Joe, who’s one of Zayde’s farm hands, are on the run from an abusive uncle back in Mississippi. Miriam and Cissy hit it off immediately. But their friendship is tested when Miriam is forced to choose between keeping a promise and doing the right thing.What were your initial thoughts on the book?
My initial thoughts about the book were that this book was a totally different style and by a totally different author to what I usually read, which means that I may not like it, but I was wrong.

I really did enjoy the book more than I thought, it is one of my very favourites, and despite it having 25 long chapters I finished it in only 2 days. I wish I had cheeked how many chapters there were so I could have savoured each sentence carefully instead of reading for hours and hours like I always do!

Who was your favourite character and why?
I have two favourite characters, Mariam and Cissy, because they are both very easy to like. They are brave, kind and funny but their lives are very different. Mariam has a great life in a warm house with food to eat whenever she is hungry however not all of us have a home, food or water and one of these people in this book is Cissy.

Mariam and Cissy might have opposite lives but that makes them perfect for each other.

Would you recommend this book?
I would recommend this book to older readers around the age 10 or readers that enjoy books set in the past.

Summarize the book in one sentence.
A nice book about unexpected friendships that you will enjoy.

Reviewed by Jimena (11)

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: eBook
Pages: 192
Genre: Hystorical
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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Poppy Pym and the Smugglers Secret

Laura Wood
Poppy is thrilled that they’re spending the summer at Smuggler’s Cove. It might even take her mind off the mystery of her past. But Poppy is about to make some amazing discoveries – and solve more than one mystery…

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

Another great adventure with Poppy and her friends and I think this one is my favourite mystery so far because there are actually 2 different mysteries, could they be linked together? I really enjoyed reading it especially after the cliff-hanger in the second book about Poppy and her birth mother.

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character is still Poppy because she is brave in every possible way. She handles mystery very well, especially the really scary ones, she listens to her friends even if she is the leader of the group, takes their ideas into the adventure, even if she might not agree with them and, most importantly, she stays a loyal friend to them even in the hard times.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys adventures and mysteries from ages 9 up, especially if they aren’t scared easily because this one is a bit scary.

Summarize the book in one sentence.

A great adventure that leads to more mysterious events in every chapter.

Reviewed by Jimena (11)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena (11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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When Dimple Met Rishi

Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

What are your overall thoughts?

I was initially attracted by the premise of a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of an arranged marriage. It was a premise that I hadn’t come across before in a contemporary romance and I couldn’t imagine how an arranged marriage, a concept that seems so completely other to my own background, would work in a setting with modern young adults, let alone how it could be written in a way that was comedic and romantic. I was curious to see how the author was going to make it work.

I was absolutely delighted with the results. From Dimples and Rishi’s refreshing first meeting (literal and figurative), until I turned the final page, what felt and inconceivably short time later, I sat with a goofy grin on my face, loving every awkward, romantic and snort out loud moment of it.

(Yes, it is entirely possible to give your e-reader a contented squeeze but points have to go to paperbacks, which are infinitely more confortable to hug).

What was your favorite aspect of the book?

Not since Jack positioned Rose on a chaise lounge aboard the Titanic has the pursuit of artistic expression gotten me so hot under the collar *fans self * who need chocolates and roses when these boys have stubby pencils and acres of talent to woo and seduce.

If you haven’t all ready surmised, I absolutely loved that we were able to explore Rishi’s passion for art, I only wish that we had spent a little more time exploring Dimples passion for computer coding.

Although the book is set during a summer university coding program, it felt very much like the device to get the two characters in the right place at the right time, rather than an integral part of the story.

The majority of the focus of the summer program was spent preparing for a talent show. While I’m a little confused as to its relevance in a tech competition, I actually loved all of the preparation for the couple’s talent entry.

I really enjoyed the references to the characters Indian cultural heritage, it made me curious to learn more and I will definitely be searching out more books with culturally diverse characters.

Folllowing on for the book I am particularly keen watch a Bollywood movie and check out the dance numbers!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Rishi Patel. He was kind, generally level headed, considerate and romantic, a most swoon worthy leading character. I found myself sympathetic to his point of view when given the context of his passion for his heritage and his devotion to his family.

I really enjoyed how he an Dimples complemented and challenge each other particularly in relation to how they developed in their interactions with their families.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, it was the perfect coming of age, feel good summer romance.

Summarize in one sentence.
A thirst quenching iced chai latte, of a summer Rom Com, which I gulped down in a single sitting.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: e Book
Pages: 380
Genre: contemporary romsnce
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut author
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Chasing Danger: Mystery at the Ice Hotel

Sara Grant
After surviving a pirate attack in the tropics, teens Chase and Mackenzie escape to an exclusive resort in the Arctic Circle. But just after they arrive, suspicious accidents begin to occur. It seems like someone’s trying to scare away the guests. When the accidents turn deadly, it’s up to the girls to figure out whodunit … before they become the next victims.
This holiday’s going to be killer!

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My initial thoughts about the book were “I am going to love this book like I did with the first”, and I was right. I enjoyed this one even more than the first, because this one has more mystery, and it is longer!

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character or characters in this book are still Chase and Mackenzie because they are both very different, opposite characters one could say, and from time to time they have to do what the other one wants which is the opposite of what they would have done in the first place.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to older readers (10 upwards) who enjoy frightening bits, because it is a little bit scary, especially the murder or murder attempts.

Verdict: A scary adventure that you will enjoy. You won’t be able to wait to see what happens next!

Reviewed by Jimena (10)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx

Laura Wood
From the Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My initial thoughts of the book were, another mystery in Poppy’s first year at Saint Smithen’s School; this must be a busy year for Poppy! Poppy might want to take everything into her own hands but she still lets her friends have their own way from time to time, because she is their best friend, and listens to their ideas, even if they aren’t good ones in the end.

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character is still Poppy Pym because she is adventurous and will carry on with the mystery, even if it leads to a dead end after a nice try- she never gives up. I always seem to like the main character because most authors make the main character very likeable. The main character, in this case Poppy Pym, is always in the story, wherever it goes.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries and enjoys it, from ages 9 up, it is a bit scary so don’t read in the dark if you get scared easily (they mention it in the book).

Verdict: It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s and the village is putting on a play, but after a terrible fire and terrible incidents everyone believes the play’s jinxed. A wonderful yet mysterious story.

Reviewed by Jimena(10)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle Grage
Reviewer: Jimena (10)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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#LGBTQIARead…You Know Me Well

Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

You Know Me Well was the perfect start to this week long LGBTQIA read-a-thon. Not only does it contain a diverse cast of characters from across the LGBTQIA community, all of the action in this zippy little read takes place over Pride week. While the book alludes to some serious themes and introduces the characters at povital moments in their young adult lives, overall the book felt fresh and light and I was happy to be sweep up within its pages. I loved the premise that someone on the outskirts of your social circle, essentially a stranger, can at the right moment in time be exactly the person you need in your life.

There were some elements of this book that under different circumstances I would find frustrating (and possibly even eye rolling)- “insta” love, rapidly resolved dilemmas and heartbreak recovery- however, as supporting elements to what was Kate and Mark’s falling in to friendship story, they simply added to the intensity created by the bubble of Pride week and the rapidly dissolving school year.

Despite me starting this review stating that it was essentially a light summer read, there were some moments that really resonated with me and made me pause. As an adult who reads YA I could really relate to the sentiments expressed about why the adults in the story were so fascinated by the protagonists life experiences. The limitless possibilities of youth and their wrestling with the huge decisions which focus and reduce those choices further is one of the reasons I gravitate toward young adult fiction- the absence of the daily grind, bill paying and the cynicism are some of the other reasons. Twenty years down the road, I still remember those feelings of pressure, excitement and fear, of being on the precipice and having to make what felt like irrevocable, life defining choices.

I loved the inclusion of expression and art in many forms from music, clothing, painting and photography, through to a poetry slam which was simultaneously the most educational, eye opening and moving part of the entire book.

I will definitely be checking out the authors other works.

Verdict: Fast paced platonic love story.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: June 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 248
Genre: LGBTQIA, Friendship
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: LGBTQIAReads

Personal Read-a-thon aim: Two books
Number of books read: One
Currently reading: Pantomime by Laura Lam

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The Soterion Mission

Stewart Ross
In a post-apocalyptic world where no-one lives beyond their teenage years, the mysterious Roxanne arrives in Cyrus’s village, fleeing the barbaric Zeds. She claims to be on a mission that can save them all, but can she be trusted? Cyrus joins her in her quest for the legendary Soterion, but the Zeds are determined to get there first. The mission is to find the Soterion, which is the last library left in the world, and to teach people to read again as the skill has been lost.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
As soon as I started reading this book, I was intensely addicted to the story. I struggled to put the book down, found it difficult to get on with day to day tasks without my mind wandering back to the book in some way. Fortunately I was able to spend the time my brain needed to speed my way through the book and I’m so glad I did. The book is intense, interesting and ultimately a little heart-breaking as well. It was emotional in ways I truly didn’t expect. The plot was interesting, unique and fascinating. I loved the dystopian world it is set in and I could really imagine what was happening. After finishing the first book, it is impossible not to continue on to the next two books in the series. And as a quick spoiler – the ending of the third book makes everything worth it!

Who was your favourite character and why?
By far, my favourite character was Roxanne. She was so strong but also weak. She was smart and driven but she also cared, and was essentially truly loyal. She took things hard but kept things light. She was just such a wonderful character that really brought the group together and made this a very intriguing read. I would love to spend more time with Roxanne and to learn more about her past and how she came to be where she was at the start of the book.

Would you recommend this book?
Absolutely. If you’re looking for a book that is different but still addictive with a very imaginative world, then you should definitely make sure that you read not just this book, but the entire trilogy. Stewart Ross has done a fantastic job of creating a book with a wonderful diverse cast of characters that you get connected to, as well as building a world that you can truly imagine. This whole trilogy is one that will really make you think and it is just truly fascinating. I would highly recommend it.

Verdict: An addictive, thought-provoking, emotional and action-packed read that is a truly unique dystopian read.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Curious Fox
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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#LGBTQIARead

After a bit of a hiatus I have been trying be become a bit more active in the blogging community. One of the things that I have always enjoyed is taking part in read-a-thons, we have even co-hosted one (#FinishItFeb) here on Big Book Little Book.

Read-a-thons are a great way of tackling the TBR from a new perspective, hi-lighting those books you were keen to read and purchased, but somehow got buried under the next shiny thing. They are a fantastic way of interacting with other members of the book blogging community and readers who wouldn’t ordinarily share their reads as everyone who signs up reads books from a particular genre or around a particular theme. It helps to spotlight the theme/genre and produces many wonderful recommendations. My TBR might shrink following a read-a-thon, but my wish list inevitable ends up longer!

This week I will be taking part in the #LGBTQIARead read-a-thon. Co- hosted by our very own Faye, on her personal lifestyle and book blog (here), and blogger extraordinaire George Lester (visit George’s blog here) the read-a-thon encourages people to read and share books with LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) characters/themes.

As this is only a week long challenge, and I acknowledge that my reading powers are not what they were, I am aiming to read two books.

As I like to read by mood I have collected together a selection of LGBTQIA books from my TBR pile from which to pick from.
I haven’t even decided which book to start with!
I may add to this list as I receive recommendations and once I’ve had a proper look through my shelves and kindle.
Please feel free to tell me which of the books you think I should read and pass on your recommendations in the comments below.

If you want to sign up to join the challenge yourself everything you need to know and the sign up sheet can be found here

#LGBQTIAReads TBR
Paper
Release by Partrick Ness
Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
You Know Me well David Levithan and Nina Lacour

Ebooks
Pantomime by Laura Lam
Carry On Rainbow Rowell
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Posted by Caroline

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Royal Bastards

Andrew Shvarts
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.
At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey

What are your overall thoughts?

I have to admit rather predictably that it was the title that first grabbed my attention; among the residents of my monstrous inbox (if only it was due to popularity rather than inept email management) it certainly stood out. The synopsis seemed right up my street, courtly intrigue, fantasy, magic, an epic journey- so far so Caroline.

The title should have given me some clue that the author was not going to pull his punches. One minute I’m floating along, very contently I might add, on a familiar cloud of hooped skirts, banquets and a gathering of unlikely companions about to impark on a risqué nocturnal excursion, which will undoubtedly trigger the aforementioned travel …

…then KABOOMB (literal explosions) sh*T gets real, and from that moment the book flips from a predictable band of teenagers hiking across the country to thwart a dastardly plot, to something more.

Sure, there is a collection of young adults with powers and ability’s beyond their years, there’s hiking across the country and there’s even evil to foil. But this book was so much more than I anticipated; it had more energy, more action, more gruesome ends and more pulse raising horrors- from the shuddering inducing cave dwellers to the horrific aftermath of war.

From the moment the group made their clandestine trip to the cove I was so caught up in the non-stop action and griped by the adventure, that I risked developing a DVT from immobility. Thankfully aside from a numb bum and a mild case of sleep depravation I am no worse from reading the novel in a single sitting.

What was your favorite aspect of the book?
My favorite aspect was the main character, Tilla. While I don’t claim to know many royal bastards to form a truly informed opinion, Tilla felt authentic and she was easy to relate to. Tilla, is no chosen one, she doesn’t suddenly discover immense magical powers, her badassary is developed through weeks of training and she questions why she has even gotten involved with events.

I liked that she didn’t blindly follow some pre ordained destiny, allow herself to be used as a political pawn or take up a moral crusade without questioning why on earth she had gotten involved in the first place. In fact she strongly considers taking the easy option and getting out of dodge. Her reasons for staying the course felt relatable and believable.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Probably our protagonist Tilla, although I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters and I look forward to getting to know them further as the trilogy progresses.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, it was a gripping, fast paced read. Fair warning- parts of the book make uncomfortable reading, particularly those with a gentle disposition and a completely understandable aversion to our eight legged friends *shudders*

Summarise in one sentence.
Not your predictable fantasy road trip

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: June 2017
Format: ARC
Pages: 346
Genre: Fantasy, magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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The Salvation Project

Stewart Ross
Humanity’s hope of salvation lies within a single laptop…
A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse this pandemic died before their Salvation Project was complete, leaving behind the results of their research in a sealed vault – the Soterion.
122 years have passed. The civilisation of the ‘Long Dead’ is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by brutal tribes of Zeds. Cyrus, Miouda and Sammy flee their burning city with a laptop rescued from the inferno. They believe it contains the key to the Salvation Project. But its batteries are dead, there is no electricity to power it, and murderous Zeds will stop at nothing to get it back…

Today is release day for this fantastic book and we’re here to celebrate it!

This book is the third and final book in the Soterion Mission trilogy and it is a brilliant conclusion to this series. You will not want to miss it!

Pop back on the blog on Monday 26th June for Faye’s review of the book!

About Stewart Ross

Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989.
With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.
Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer.
In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.

Publisher: Blean Books
Publication Date: June 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 279
Genre: Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by Author
Challenge: None
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