20 Books of Summer #3 – The Poet X

My third book of this year’s 20 Books of Summer challenge is one that has been sat on my TBR shelf for way, WAY too long!


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A coming of age tale about finding your voice and making a stand for what you want and what you believe in.

Xiomara is faced with a great deal of internal conflict as she tries to navigate a world dominated by the ways others perceive and treat her as well as their expectations of her.

With a highly religious mother, a father who’s barely there (and seems absent even when he’s present), a twin she’s close to but nothing like, and a faith that is being more than questioned, it’s a time of turmoil for Xiomara as she approaches confirmation  (unwillingly), falls for a boy and has her first kiss (illicitly) and begins to question the status quo.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love a novel written in verse, and this was no exception to that rule.


As well as being the perfect format to write about Xiomara discovering her own voice as a poet and the way she uses poetry as an outlet to both express and deal with her feelings, the verse style also added grit and punch to the story.

I thought it also helped Xiomara’s background, home and culture shine – I especially loved the way Spanish words and phrases were interspersed, as well as the religious metaphors and images.
Likewise, I’ve mentioned before that contemporary YA isn’t really my thing but this is SO MUCH MORE than a sweet-but-angsty first-kiss-and-finding-yourself teen read.

The oppression, prejudice and expectation – both immediate from her mother and in a wider, cultural and societal sense – and how we see these threaten her twin brother too (despite initial appearances) make this a much more important and much more powerful read.

There is a thread of hope through this, but nothing is certain and Xiomara’s situation looks pretty hopeless at times. I really felt for her, but also – more importantly – I really, really admired her for so many reasons.

I don’t think my own adolescence or background could have been more different, but I still found such a lot to relate to and reflect on. I wish I’d had her strength and self-respect.

The thought of young women growing up reading this, seeing this and hopefully feeling more seen, more heard and more confident from it makes me glad.

Similarly, my own relationship with my mother was nothing like Xiomara’s, but I still found myself with all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings about and towards her mother, their relationship and my own, as I read through.

Undoubtedly this would have been more black and white if I’d read it at the time, but it shows the depth of understanding and tenacity in the writing that Acevedo is so able to create a sympathy and understanding for Xiomara’s mother even as we root for Xiomara herself.

In a similar vein, I loved the way we saw Xavier (Twin)’s story through Xiomara’s too.

This was one of those books that provoked so many thoughts and feelings in me as I read. It’s a must-read and I can’t wait to get stuck in to Elizabeth’s next two books now too.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own, and I have since bought a finished copy too.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

I loved The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley’s first novel, and Bedlam Stacks, which was her second – a standalone that nevertheless ‘overlaps’ somewhat with Filigree Street in a rather pleasing way – so I was incredibly excited about a sequel to Watchmaker, but would it deliver?

In short, yes! If you enjoyed Watchmaker you must read this (and if you haven’t read Watchmaker stop now and go and read that first!)

We return to Thaniel, Mori and Six a few years after we left them, this time as they embark on a journey to Japan; Thaniel for work and health reasons and Mori to finish something he started decades earlier…

I loved seeing Mori’s home and the way the Japanese setting affected our characters. As with Natasha’s previous books, her love and knowledge of the country, its history and culture are clear and give us an immersive sense of time and place.

I must admit that after the somewhat softly spoken, almost genteel feel of Watchmaker I found the harsher, cruder tone a bit surprising and hard to get into at first, but I soon did and it soon felt much more appropriate for the story too. I also found the author’s note on the language and her choice of and use of it very interesting.

Likewise, I struggled to see Thaniel as a big man, a boxer as that’s not at all how I’d imagined him in Watchmaker, but I soon grew into this ‘new’ Thaniel and it worked very well.

Mori might just be one of my favourite ever fictional characters and here he is as enigmatic and magnetic as ever. I thought the way that despite thinking I trusted him absolutely and feeling such warmth towards him, we’re still led to doubt and second guess him, and by extension our own judgement. It’s so cleverly written.

There’s some new characters too who are brought to life just as well, evoking a host of different reactions and feelings between them. From the power-hungry Kuroda to the ruthless Tanaka to the complex, strong and determined Takiko Pepperharrow.

I will struggle to say much about anything without either giving away huge spoilers or just sounding confusing, but it is brilliantly sprawling and intricately woven, as one would expect if you’re already familiar with Mori.

Seemingly unconnected, insignificant or minor events come together to create a puzzle which only reveals itself once all its pieces are in place.

Bringing together folklore, superstition and an air of the supernatural in a rich, historical tale of power, love and destiny, this is an outstanding sequel and joins The Watchmaker of Filigree Street as one of my favourite books.

The Bedlam Stacks

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

I thought I’d reviewed this but it turns out I’d only posted it on waterstones and not on the blog (maybe it was before I had the blog?) but as I’m posting my review of The Lost Future of Pepperharrow today, I thought I’d throw this one in too!
When my proof copy (received in exchange for review) arrived, I was both excited and apprehensive about how Natasha Pulley would follow up The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which I loved – could she do it again?
Superbly written, combining historical fiction with wonderfully imaginative surroundings (exploding trees and moving statues for starters) and believable characters the answer is an emphatic yes.

I loved this just as much – fans of Watchmaker will not be disappointed and will be pleased by some subtle (and not so subtle) nods to her first novel. For those who have not read Watchmaker – if you enjoy this, I urge you to also read that!
Bedlam Stacks is cleverly written with an underlying sense of mistrust and doubt: can others be believed? Can the character’s own minds be believed? Are the statues really moving, is it a trick, or are they really some sort of gods?

The scenes are brilliantly set – richly described, with a perfect balance between the hard terrain, extreme weather and altitude sickness that roots them in reality and the glowing pollen, glass rocks and cities in the treetops that steeps it in an air of mystery.

And the story similarly manages to walk the tightrope between historical fiction rooted in fact and magic, myth and folklore.
An utterly brilliant book, which has confirmed Natasha Pulley as one of my favourite authors.

Top Ten Tuesday – Love is in the Air

Top Ten Tuesday is run by That Artsy Reader Girl, who provides a weekly prompt for us to respond to with our Tuesday top tens on that theme.

Today’s prompt is

A Love Freebie

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I really don’t do love and romance! So, I’ve decided to pick out ten give books which I love despite the love!*

*I’m sure there are lots more, but I can’t think of them and was trying to keep it a mostly recent-reads-ish list!

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

2. The Binding by Bridget Collins

3. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

4. North Child by Edith Pattou

5. The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

Which books involving love would you recommend to someone who doesn’t do romance and hates a relationship getting in the way of a good story?!

Library Love 10/5/19

After posting about our first trip to the library with Peapod, I’d wanted to try and make a library post a regular thing.

This week, we went to a new storytime session (new to us not the library) run by Twinkleboost. It’s designed to be very multi-sensory and really promote speech and language development (it’s run by S&L therapy assistants and they also work with schools and nurseries).

We really enjoyed it, especially because they use Makaton signing which, while it does differ from BSL, isn’t so different from the signs we learn and use at Tiny Talk (a baby signing group also designed to help communication).

Whether either actually help, there’s stories and songs and puppets and toys and ribbons and scarves and we’re out of the house, so they help as far as I’m concerned!

Well, I’m enjoying myself anyway!

Since we’re planning to keep going to this on a Thursday, my plan is to also make Thursday our main library day, with a Library Loves post on Friday with the books we took out and the books we took back.

(Doing well with that plan already as it’s nearly Saturday and I haven’t posted it yet!)

What we took back

  • Socks by Elizabeth Lindsay and Nick Sharratt Perfect for fans of Pants or Octopus Socktopus, and taking a very similar approach in taking the familiar and everyday and turning them pun-tastically sockish! The only thing I didn’t like (and god, it really did wind me up more than it should have) was the repeated refrain of “Socky Wocky Doo Dah!” We’d borrow this again, and if I can get past SWDD, we’ll buy it.
  • Doug the Bug that Went Boing by Sue Hendra An enjoyable enough book taking on friendships, fairness and falling out with the aid of a bug ball game and a dangerous mission to retrieve said ball.
  • Poo in the Zoo by Steve Smallman Let’s face it, a picture book about poo will always be popular. This one falls somewhere in the middle for me, I didn’t love the storyline, but the actual poo-related parts were quite informative, funny and well written. No gratuitous poo here.
  • Puffin Peter by Peter Horáček We really enjoyed this one. A twist on the traditional ‘Where’s my mummy?’ story, Peter has lost his friend Paul and sets out to find him with the help of a whale. Of course they find all sorts of other black and white birds, but no Paul. I liked the way the similarities between the birds built up over the story, great for animal lovers as an introduction to features of different birds, and the illustrations are gorgeous. We’ll be buying this one.

What we took out


We don’t read any in the library (we look at their board books instead) so they’re all a surprise – to be reviewed next Friday!

Have you been to the library recently?

Have you read any of these?

WWW Wednesday 8/5/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Wild Folk Rising by Sylvia Linsteadt, cover art by Sandra Dieckmann

I have been SO looking forward to this after loving book one last year (my review of that one is here) I started it last night and stepped straight back into Farallone. At the moment, though I know danger lurks, there’s a real feeling of comfort and excitement to be back. If you missed book one, make sure you read it now – it was a real favourite of mine from last year.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, audiobook read by Stephen Briggs (cover art pictured by Laura Ellen Anderson)

I’ve just moved straight onto this from The Wee Free Men (see below) today and am enjoying it immensely already.

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy, cover art by George Ermos (eBook)

OK, I haven’t actually got further than opening this up on my library app but I’m excited to finally be getting round to reading it!

What have you just finished reading?

Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll (eBook)

This was an enjoyable read, I really liked the supernatural theme and as always from Emma Carroll the historical nature of the book felt spot on, really believable and as if you’re in it. I was less keen on the romantic slant of the book though, and didn’t like the narrator’s obsession with Kit. Overall, I enjoyed this but not as much as the other books I’ve read by Emma Carroll.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (paperback)

I loved Bren MacDibble’s How to Bee (you can read my review of it here) and I really enjoyed this too. One of the things that really stood out for me was how engrossing the book was with just two main characters journeying across an almost deserted land, which is vividly described. There’s strong themes of family and the environment and it’s a really cleverly balanced, absorbing book.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, audiobook read by Stephen Briggs (cover art pictured by Laura Ellen Anderson)

I was struggling to find audiobooks I wanted to read from my library app so caved, bought some more audible credit and started on the Tiffany Aching books.

It’s years (at least decade but that makes me feel very old!) since I read Discworld but I used to absolutely love them and have been planning to go back to them and re-read them for ages. I always see the Tiffany Aching books in work too and think “I really must read them” so that’s where I’ve started.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Pratchett’s trademark dry, clever and observant humour runs through it. The Nac Mac Feegles are brilliant, Tiffany is a hugely likeable and relatable main character and my heart positively leapt when Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg made an appearance! I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

What are you planning on reading next?

Audio

I love that I can download audiobooks from my library but I’m going to have to get much more organised at reserving them in plenty of time as so many of those I tried are on loan! I have Murder Most Unladylike and the Finn Family Moomintroll reserved so they’ll be up soon, til then I’m working through the Tiffany Aching books.

E-book

I’ve only just started Brightstorm, so it’ll be a while before I’m ready for a new one. I might try another Emma Carroll (The Girl Who Walked on Air is a string contender) but who knows – by then I might have found something that I must put straight to the top of the pile!

Physical copy

Nosy Crow very kindly sent me a proof of Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton so that’s jumped to the top of my TBR, especially after being so highly recommended by Amy over at Golden Books Girl!

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 17/4/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

A Witch Come True by James Nicol (ebook)

I had thought I was going to have to wait for this as it wasn’t available as an ebook from the library, but I found kobo which had £3 off your first book so got it as a bargain ebook from there! I just couldn’t wait when book 2 ended as it did! I’m only a couple of pages in so far…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling (audiobook read by Stephen Fry.)

I’m still really enjoying the Harry Potter audiobooks. I’m right near the end of this and have just reached that ‘no…no…surely not…but it can’t be…NO’ point (if you’ve read it you’ll know, if you haven’t I don’t want to give it away!) As I mentioned last week, I really haven’t remembered this book at all but as this part approached all the familiar feelings of disbelief and hope against hope from the first read were well and truly back!

The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher, illustrated by Sam Usher

I started this last night after much deliberation over what to read next! I’m only a couple of chapters in but very much enjoying the tone and feel of it so far.

What have you just finished reading?

Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

Oh, this book! It is incredible. Its gone straight into my favourites from this year, last year, possibly just ever. The sheer imagination in it is wonderful and it seems to take all the best aspects of Abi’s previous books and put them together with a new magic too. I’ll review it in the next week or so, but honestly – you can’t fail to love this book.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King (ebook) .

I read this in a night (so those of you who know me will know this makes it a very quick read indeed!) and I LOVED it! What a fun, funny and generally fantastic book. Brilliant characters, a bookshop to die for (the imagination that’s gone into the book emporium is phenomenal and I really, really wish it existed in real life!) a snappy, pacey adventure and a rather grumpy but very clever cat – it’s simply fab!

A Witch Alone by James Nicol

I enjoyed this even more than the first book – just as easy and enjoyable a read but with more drama, more dark magic and more secrets and suspense. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out in book 3!

What are you planning on reading next?

It’ll be a while before I finish anything I think, but when I do:

Audio

I’ll be on the last of the Harry Potter books, Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows, soon!

E-book

Murder Most Unladylike is available from the library from early May so depending on how long A Witch Alone takes me, I’ll either go straight onto that or squeeze in Erica’s Elephant, another Sylvia Bishop, in between if I have time.

Physical copy

To be decided on…Peculiar Peggs, A Darkness of Dragons, Scavengers, The Dog Runner, The Girl With Shark’s Teeth…plus I have a couple of YA proofs on the way that I’m actually looking forward to (I know, shocking!)

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 20/3/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi.

I was so excited to receive a copy of this to review as I’m such a fan of her writing and it’s turning out to be as weird and wonderful as I’d expect from her! It took me a while to find my stride with it but I’m loving it now.

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

I’ve done it. I’ve caved. I’m reading an e-book. I’m so disappointed in myself but it means I can read in bed again without waking Peapod! Now I just need to be able to keep my eyes open…

I’ve been meaning to read this series for AGES! Everyone has raved about it and I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I can see why!

What have you just finished reading?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry.

I’m still really enjoying the Harry Potter audiobooks!

It’s funny re-reading them after so long though – I’m still hooked, I still think they have an incredible magic to them (no pun intended) and I still love them…but I am also noticing little things that perhaps I’m less keen on (the whole yule ball and coupling up in this book for example) or simply that I wouldn’t have noticed first time around – there could easily be a Harry Potter drinking game where you take a shot each time someone or something glided somewhere or Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled!

What are you planning on reading next?

I’ll definitely be continuing to binge Harry Potter on audio and have The Order of the Phoenix ready to go. If memory serves this is one of my favourite in the series.

I am SO EXCITED too to have a copy of Abi Elphinstone’s Rumblestar on its way so that will be jumping to the top of the pile!

What are you reading at the moment?

Flights of Fancy

I requested and received an advance copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

97814063846597019486236904744467.jpg

In this lively anthology, the UK’s best-loved writers and illustrators share their top tips and ideas to inspire budding artists and writers.

Published to celebrate 20 years of having a Children’s Laureate to champion any and all aspects of children’s reading, writing, illustrating, book-loving this is an absolutely wonderful collection of insights, ideas and inspiration.

There’s a chapter from each of the ten Laureates with a short discussion about where they get their ideas, the way they work, things they did as Laureate, what’s important to them etc. followed by their own tips, suggestions and prompts for getting creative in one way or another and a piece of text or art from each.

Because it’s written by such stars in their field, it’s pitched perfectly: accessible and understandable but not simplified or dumbed down. And because they’re from such varied backgrounds with such different interests, strengths and audiences, it contains everything from short stories to sketchbooks, doodles to descriptions and poems to plays. There’s word play and shape games, design ideas and creative writing starters.

My favourite chapter was Lauren Child’s because I’ve been a huge fan of hers for years and I love her style.

It’s also beautifully presented (I’m not sure if there’s a paperback version on the cards, but the hardback is such a lovely quality book and would make a great gift too) and £1 from each book goes to Booktrust (a brilliant charity helping get all children access to books – their bookstart packs alone are worth it! But I digress…).

There is so much creativity jam-packed into this it’s impossible to read and not feel like cracking out the pencil case whatever your age!

WWW Wednesday 6/2/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. Read by Stephen Fry.

I’ve been saying for over a year now that I’m going to re-read the Harry Potter books and I still haven’t – there’s just too many new books clamouring to be read in a TBR pile that just keeps growing!

I’ve also kept saying I was going to give audiobooks a try since having Peapod and finding I have a lot less time to pick up a book.

So, this morning I decided to combine the two and try the audio version of Harry Potter And the Philosophers Stone. The fact that it was read by Stephen Fry gave me high hopes and so far I’m really enjoying it – it’s a totally new (to me) way of reading but it was brilliant – feeding a wriggly worm? Still reading! Pushing a sleeping sausage round in the pram? Still reading! Preparing our breakfast with a hungry horace in his highchair? Still reading!

I’m only a couple of chapters in but so far this is getting a massive thumbs up from me!

What have you just finished reading?

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison. Cover design by Melissa Castrillon.

I really enjoyed this it had aspects of lots of different story types I enjoy all rolled into one – magic and fantasy, history and adventure. I had a proof copy of this to read for review, but I’m going to be buying one of the beautiful finished copies – the artwork is fantastic (and as for those purple sprayed edges!) Full review will follow this week or next.

What are you planning on reading next?

As ever, I’m not sure! Either Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie, The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder or Monsters by Sharon Dogar.

As for audiobooks, it’ll either be Chamber of Secrets and I’ll binge HP before reading anything else, or Mary Poppins as that is another book I want to read this year and it’s read by Olivia Colman who I’m a huge fan of.

Have you read any of the books here?

Which book should I choose next?

What are you reading at the moment?