I am lucky! Since beginning to write a book column in North of Scotland newspapers, I have been sent books! Actual, physical, lovely review copies, all in exchange for an honest opinion.
So I thought I’d round up a few faves from the last month or so. I genuinely enjoyed these. Check them out (if you’re that way minded):
Lily’s Just Fine, due for release July
Lily is a fabulous character. FABULOUS, I say, and exactly what Scotland needs. The author demonstrates very clearly that a small canvas of small town politics and hierarchies (rather than monsters, dragons, disasters and dystopian apocalypses which normally dominate teenage fiction) can be as vivid and memorable as a sweeping saga.
The key to its success is Lily: successful, pretty, confident, irreverent and utterly compelling. The genre might be romance, but there is plenty to occupy readers’ minds here: bigotry, materialism, chronic illness, mental health and school pressures are all explored. Alternating narrators can be predictable, but chapter transitions were handled with fluency and speed, just like thrillingly speedy racket exchanges over a net.
I very much look forward to the next Galloway Girls instalment. And I hope Lily’s voice takes centre-stage again!
Sonny and Me
The Titanic Detective Agency
Even as a child, I had a mild fascination with the Titanic, reading and re-reading contemporary accounts, so it was a welcome surprise that the characters we most care about on the ship are based on real people, with photographs to inspect at the end of the book.
Bertha feels like the kind of kid you want to be friends with: opinionated, interested, charismatic and full of fun. She does, however, feel ‘real’ too, with her impatience with adult talk and church services lasting too long. The greatest strength of this novel is that Bertha’s childlike concerns are front and centre throughout. The horror of the sinking is not brushed over in any way, but the lingering memory of this read is of riddles and mysteries, chases and secrets – in short, of Berth’s concerns.
For any fellow teacher who may be concerned, this is a very sensitively handled account, with Bertha facing up to the horror of the sinking, but experiencing it from a distance in her lifeboat.
The period detail is meticulously researched, the characters utterly compelling and not a word is wasted.
This is the kind of children’s novel that would have got me into reading if I was a kid all over again. 🙂