‘The Lie Tree’ – Francis Hardinge

the lie tree

I picked this up because it was on the Carnegie 2016 Short-list, and I was not surprised when it won the Costa Award.

Though it owes much to fantasy, this is a meticulously researched novel that offers a fascinating insight into the historical setting of the novel.

Faith wants to support her father in his research as a natural historian, but being female she is regarded as less than those around her. Her frustrations with the expectations of those around her made me so angry, but I felt the novel raised so many important questions.

Her father is forced to leave his home, accused of lying, and Faith is determined to prove his doubters wrong. Sadly, Faith comes to learn that things are not as simple as they seem. A dark yet delicious novel, that I think will appeal to many female readers with an interest in the world around them.

‘The Lost and the Found’ – Cat Clarke

the lost and found

Laurel was kidnapped at the age of 6. Her sister, Faith, and family never lost hope that she would be found but we see their lives are deeply affected by this event.

Thirteen years later, Laurel appears.

Things are not quite what they seem, and this was an interesting exploration of the impact of such an event on the family. I had my suspicions, but nothing prepared me for the sucker-punch of the ending.

I’d not read anything by Cat Clarke prior to this, but I am keen to try more by her. Though I didn’t particularly like the subject matter, I felt this was well-handled and the characters were sensitively portrayed.

‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ – Melinda Salisbury

the sin eater's daughter

Having read a rather scathing review of this, I admit to starting it with some trepidation.

Twylla is the Sin Eater’s Daughter, relied upon by her villagers to absolve them of their sins. Early in life she is taken to the castle and told that her role in life is to fulfil the wishes of the gods.

According to those she interacts with, Twylla can kill with a poisoned touch. She is chosen to marry the Prince, but the appearance of farmer boy Lief throws this into question.

Unfortunately, for large parts of the novel Twylla does nothing. She worries about everything but never actually takes any action.

I was annoyed by the epilogue as its ambiguity made little sense. Not one of my most enjoyable reads Ii have to say.

‘The Lake House’ – Kate Morton

the lake house

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One night, Alice’s younger brother Theo goes missing. Although the house was full of party guests, Theo is never found.

Many years later a police officer visiting her grandfather stumbles across Alice’s old family home, now deserted. She starts asking questions about the estate and what happened there.

Throughout the reading I was picking over every little detail and trying to work out what was significant. It felt like the stories took a while to weave together, but I quickly got caught up in it. Unfortunately, though I enjoyed it at the time I can’t help but feel the ending was contrived.


‘Mind Games’ – Teri Terry

mind games

‘Mind Games’ is set in a futuristic world, where people willingly plug into Realtime – a virtual world that allows them to learn and travel without their bodies having to go anywhere.

I loved the ‘Slated’ trilogy, so was curious to see what would happen in this story.
Luna refuses to join in the technologically-dependant lifestyle favoured by her peers. We assume that her misgivings are linked to something to be revealed later…they are.

I felt this to be a little slow initially. As soon as Luna is selected for the testing process, and we see the world unravelling, it became a book I can only describe as mesmerising.

Luna was a great character and this was an intriguing idea. I am not ashamed to admit I loved Gecko, and the revelation of what is actually taking place made me feel cold!


‘Jekyll’s Mirror’ – William Hussey

jekyll's mirror

I picked this book up as it was featured on the longlist for the 2016 Carnegie Awards.

Cyberbullying has become something of a hot topic in YA fiction, reflecting our concerns with just how the perceived anonymity of social media can impact on behaviour. This is a little more interesting because of its knowing nods to Stevenson’s Gothic classic.

Sam has had a hellish experience, seeing his mother murdered by his father, and he is obviously concerned about his own behaviour and potential for violence. He is asked by his English teacher to take part in a new project – ‘Project Hyde’ – and the experience is, initially, exhilarating. Sam quickly becomes aware of the growing obsession those in this group have with the project, and the impact it is having on their behaviour.

This was dark and fairly graphic on occasion, which might be off-putting to younger readers. However, with many teenagers now having to study ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ this is an interesting modern exploration of some of the novel’s key ideas.


‘Raining Fire’ – Alan Gibbons

raining fire

Ethan has a promising career as a footballer, and it is going to be his way out of the dead-end estate he calls home.

Unfortunately, things don’t go quite to plan. When his brother, Alex, is charged with assault it’s clear that Ethan is going to find it hard to escape the gangs that rule the estate.

Ethan tries to sort things out for his brother, but his actions have far-reaching consequences.

Like a number of Alan Gibbon’s novels, this is a fast-paced read that will hit the spot for younger – probably male – readers. I found it desperately bleak and, at times, quite unpleasant.

‘I Am Malala’ – Malala Yousafzai

i am malala


There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot by the Taliban for fighting for her right to be educated.

This book – now told in more of her own words – takes us back to the beginning of the story. We learn that Malala had written, under a pseudonym, a blog for the BBC about life in Pakistan and how daily experiences that many of us take for granted were affected by the changing political environment.

For teenage readers this is an interesting insight into a politically complex situation, telling us a story that you cannot help but be moved by.

As an adult I was amazed by the strength of character shown by Malala’s family as they come under pressure to shut down access to education for females. I admired the strength of will that was clearly shown by the whole family to try and ensure that everyone in their province would get access to what many of us see  as a fundamental right. I also admit to being more than a little humbled by the personality of such a young girl who, thanks to her family support, was determined to fight for what she believed to be right when it would have been all too easy to give up.

Though the novel is not well-polished, that isn’t important here. Malala’s voice shines through, and I felt it was important to get a sense of the girl behind the image. Her voice is engaging and honest. I enjoyed reading about how her family coped with the daily struggles of being uprooted from everything they knew, and I honestly believe that this is a book everyone ought to read.

‘The Copper Gauntlet’ – Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

the copper gauntlet


If you enjoyed ‘The Iron Trial’ (which I did) then you will probably be a fan of this second installment of the Magisterium series.

Cal returns for his second year at the Magisterium, and things are getting bad. Cal is convinced that he is the person that all the mages are fighting against, but he cannot tell anyone of his fears. His father is convinced Cal is evil, and seems determined to take whatever steps he deems necessary to protect those he cares about.

This picks up well from the first book in the series, and we get plunged straight back into the thick of the action. It reminded me a little of Harry Potter, but that’s no bad thing. Some great characters and I feel this has been set up well for the next part of the series.

‘The Light That Gets Lost’ – Natasha Carthew

the light that gets lost


When Trey is a young child he is witness to a traumatic event. In the real world, this would result in all manner of therapy and monitoring – here, he is kind of left to get on with things, determined to get his revenge on his parents’ murderer.

I wanted to like this book, but it was hard to get into. The initial idea that he would grow up a petty criminal and just happen to get sent to a juvenile detention camp where the killer is was a step too far.

There were some beautiful passages in the story, but not enough to really keep someone hooked. Towards the end it got interesting – but I can see many readers giving up before this point.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.