True Story by Kate Reed Petty

Wishing a very Happy Publication Day to Kate Reed Petty for her startlingly original and intriguing debut novel, True Story.

It’s safe to say I have never read a book like this one before! Marketed as a genre-defying campus novel, psychological thriller, horror AND crime noir (hence the 4 different covers), the narrative is told through a mixture of straight text, film scripts, emails and drafts of the main protagonist’s statement for her college application.

The story centres around Alice who, drunk, and on the way home from a high school party shares a lift home with 2 male members of a lacrosse team, who later claim to have sexually assaulted her when she was asleep. It looks at how profoundly the events of that night affect Alice’s future and the futures of her alleged attackers and close friends.

From the beginning the reader is unsure what is truth and what is imagined, exaggeration or rumour. I really liked the idea of trying to piece together the true version and impact of events through the different media and viewpoints, including that of Nick, a member of the lacrosse team that hadn’t directly been involved in the attack but became complicit through having to blindly back up his teammates. Kate Reed Petty’s writing style is really engaging, and there were some sections that I struggled to put down.

However, I’m not sure I fully “got” all the subtleties and symbolism that she’s clearly spent a lot of time and thought weaving into the plot. Some of the switching between characters and narrative styles felt a little jarring to me (I’m sure completely intentionally on the author’s part), and I couldn’t quite make out the relevance of a couple of the sections, even after I’ve spent quite a while mulling it over.

It’s the kind of novel that would make an excellent book club choice as there’s just so much to discuss and I’m certain it would divide opinions within many groups.

True Story is published by Riverrun/Quercus and is out today! With thanks to the publishers for gifting me a digital copy for review.

Little People, Big Dreams: Aretha Franklin by Isabel Sanchez Vegara ; illustrated by Amy Blackwell

The Little People, Big Dreams series published by Quarto Kids is the most beautiful set of illustrated books I think I’ve ever seen. This new addition to the series, about the life and achievements of soul goddess Aretha Franklin, releases today and it is absolutely brilliant!!

Before reading it I’ll admit to knowing very little about her life, although I can blast out a mean R-E-S-P-E-C-T on karaoke 😏🎤 I found her story fascinating and completely inspirational, and this is perfectly complemented by the accessible language and breathtaking artwork. Some of the spreads I would genuinely have framed on my wall!

For anyone looking to diversify their children’s bookshelves this is an absolute must-buy, as it opens up conversations about racism, black history and culture. It’s also a great one to encourage any budding musicians to follow their dreams.

I will say that I think I love this one more than Wee Reader does but I think it will be one we keep coming back to and he may get more out of as he gets a little older.

Do you love this series as much as I do? The question is, which should I buy next??! I’ll definitely be purchasing the recently announced Elton John instalment. But I really fancy the David Attenborough one and possibly David Bowie too? Which one is your favourite?

Little People, Big Dreams: Aretha Franklin publishes today. With thanks to Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for this gifted e-copy for review.

The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens

If what this adorable and funny new picture book, The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens, tells us is true and grumpy creatures are a goblin’s favourite food, then my youngest should definitely have been gobbled up this weekend!! 🙄🤣 But then again, as far as I know she isn’t a fairy, so perhaps that’s why she’s still here stomping and tantrumming… 🤦‍♀️

I bet you thought that all fairies are kind and sweet didn’t you? Well, not these ones! They’re full-on pouty, frowny and pretty dissatisfied most of the time. But they’re also very clever, so when a hungry goblin turns up with a hankering for a grumpy fairy or two they come up with a cunning plan to avoid becoming dinner!

This book has such a great premise, which Bethan Stevens has executed to perfection. Wee Reader loves to spot the sneaky goblin on each page, while the fairies are too preoccupied by grumbling to notice. The tension and suspense really ramps up as the story progresses and the first time we read it WR almost jumped out of his seat, trying to warn the fairies of the approaching danger!

The muted, natural colour palette along with the expressive way in which the characters are illustrated give the book a very classic look, which is absolutely stunning. We are very much enjoying having this as one of our bedtime stories!

The Grumpy Fairies is published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and will be published on Tuesday. The publishers gifted us an e-copy for review but the opinions are all our own.

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Wishing Lia Louis a very happy e-book publication day for her clever, funny and unashamedly romantic new novel, Dear Emmie Blue, a book I absolutely devoured this week! It’s just 99p for a limited time so if you’re after a love story whose ending will make your cheeks hurt from all the smiling then you won’t get better value than if you buy this one!

Aged 16 years old a lonely Emmie Blue releases a red balloon with a message attached. In France, Lucas finds it and gets in touch, and a long, close friendship is born. Approaching 30 Emmie is convinced that Lucas is about to suggest turning their friendship into a romantic relationship. But he actually announces he’s getting married to somebody else!

With a meeting like theirs, who could fail to believe that their love story was written in the stars?? But as the book progresses, it starts to look increasingly doubtful. Luckily Emmie has some wonderful friends at the hotel where she works who always have her back, steering her in the right direction when it looks like she might make questionable decisions. I just loved some of her WhatsApp correspondence with Rosie, who is completely hilarious.

Though largely set in the present day we are given snapshots of Emmie and Lucas’s pasts as the narrative flashes back to important moments since their first meeting. In the present, I really enjoyed how Emmie’s relationship with her landlady, Louise, develops over time, adding depth to the story and to Emmie’s character.

There are frustrating moments, some where I wanted to give Emmie a good talking to, some where I wanted to basically punch Lucas but this just added to the satisfaction of the wonderfully heartwarming and uplifting ending.

If you’re craving a beautiful love story or an easy and satisfying read then this book is for you. Lia Louis writes in a fresh and relatable way about relationships and female experience and Dear Emmie Blue is a fabulous book: I loved every single page of it.

It’s published by Trapeze/Orion and is available to buy in e-book now and the paperback is released on Thursday. With thanks to the publisher for gifting me a digital copy for review.

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

You can always count on Mike Gayle’s books to be heartwarming and beautifully written, and All the Lonely People is no different. It is an uplifting and heartwarming story of friendship and community, tracking some extraordinarily likeable characters as they try to put an end to loneliness in Bromley. I really enjoyed it!

Octogenarian Hubert Bird lives alone in Bromley, a town he moved to many years ago with his wife. Now Joyce and his 2 grown up children are no longer around and most of his friends have either died or moved away, he spends much of his time alone with his cat, Puss.

Then one day a phone call brings him to the realisation that he needs to make a change, and he begins to admit to himself that he’d quite like to make some friends. As luck would have it his new neighbour Ashleigh, a young single mum to a toddler, is keen to get to know people in the area too and they start to form a very unlikely friendship.

This is a dual timeline narrative with details from Hubert’s present day alternating with snippets from his past. As a young Jamaican man newly installed in London in the 1950s we see how Hubert has to battle racism and prejudice in both his personal life and the workplace. It’s a love story too, and we gain an insight into the wonderful highs and tragic lows of his long marriage.

What is particularly thought-provoking here is how the book shows that nobody is immune from becoming lonely at some point in their life, and the consequent potential value of inter-generational friendships.

If you’re looking for an uplifting book containing characters to fall in love with then I’d highly recommend giving All the Lonely People a try. It’s published by Hodder and is available to buy now. With thanks to the publishers for gifting me a digital copy for review.

Sophie Johnson: Sports Superstar by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad

Sophie Johnson is back and this time she’s training hard for a gruelling sporting event (well, fun run) in Sophie Johnson: Sports Superstar by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad. She’s thought of everything: the diet, the exercise and she’s made sure she’s had enough rest so she’s in the best form of her life! On race day, what could possibly go wrong?

Oh we just love a book where the illustrations tell a very different story to the text, and Sophie Johnson: Sports Superstar is such a great one! We have spent a lot of time poring over each spread to work out what is really going on, because Sophie herself certainly doesn’t paint us a wholly accurate picture. From her special training diet of sweets, biscuits and chocolate to her unique route to the finish line, each page has had Wee Reader laughing out loud at our little protagonist’s antics.

Sophie is a fabulous character whose positivity, confidence and determination is utterly infectious. Along with Ella Okstad’s gorgeous, incredibly detailed and clever rainbow-filled artwork, we think this book is a wonderful addition to the series.

Sophie Johnson: Sports Superstar is published by Simon and Schuster and is available to buy now. With thanks to the publisher and to Toppsta for this gifted review copy.

She Rex by Michelle Robinson; illustrated by Deborah Allwright

Does your little one like books about dinosaurs? If so, then they’re going to love this forthcoming book by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by Deborah Allwright: She Rex.

Maisy’s big brother, Ed, refuses to believe in the She Rex that Maisy insists is real.

[Maisy]:She Rex is a big and burly,

Multicoloured Dino girly,

I just saw one,

I should know…

[Ed]:well, if you saw one,

Where’d it go?

Ed thinks a “girlosaur” would trot around in high heels and skip around holding hands with her friends but we find out that She Rex is huge and colourful, fierce and strong and easily a match for any other dinosaur. After Ed finally comes face to face with Maisy’s dino friend, it’s safe to say he’ll think twice about stereotyping females in future!

I love a picture book that smashes stereotypes and this is a great one! Not only is She Rex a female character to be reckoned with, little sister Maisy is clever and feisty and refuses to be put upon by her big brother. She challenges his outdated and basically sexist learned assumptions, coming out on top at the end!

As always, Michelle Robinson’s rhyming text is witty and hilarious and we are huge fans of Deborah Allwright’s bold and colourful depictions of the dinosaurs, particularly when they form a rock band! Wee Reader has requested we read this book over and over again for the last week or so, so it’s an emphatic thumbs up from us!

She Rex is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books and will be released on the 6th August. The publisher provided us with an e-copy of this book via Netgalley for review but the opinions are all our own.

Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin

I absolutely loved Anna McPartlin’s The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes so I was beyond excited to be invited onto the blog tour for its sequel, Below the Big Blue Sky. And wow, it did not disappoint! Starting this book gave me such a comforting feeling, like revisiting old friends. It follows the Hayes family as they deal with the aftermath of the tragic and untimely death of their daughter, sister, mother, and best friend.

This is a clan you really want to be part of. Full of the most wonderful, larger-than-life characters, they love wholeheartedly, argue fiercely, and welcome others into their fold with open arms. Rabbit’s death rips their worlds apart and this time round we are with them as they try to learn to live without her and to piece their lives back together.

Matriarch Molly Hayes, Rabbit’s mother, is the standout character for me and in this book we see how Rabbit’s death impacts both her religious faith and her faith in her marriage. The narrative alternates between her perspective and that of Grace (her daughter), Davey (her son), Jack (her husband), Juliet (her granddaughter) and Marjorie (Rabbit’s best friend).

This is a book that makes you feel every possible emotion. It’s obviously incredibly sad and, in parts gets even sadder than I imagined it could get. And yet I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud, with some completely hilarious moments and one-liners cutting through the tension. Anna McPartlin’s whip-smart writing is wonderful, and I now need to read everything she’s ever written!

Though Below the Big Blue Sky follows on from The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, it has been written so it can also stand alone and you can easily still read and follow it if you haven’t read the first book. But, trust me on this, you’re definitely going to want to read both because they form part of the same beautiful, moving, hilarious and unforgettable story. They reflect the messy reality of life’s ups and downs, loves and losses, life and death and I wholeheartedly recommend them both.

Below the Big Blue Sky is published by Zaffre and is available to buy now. With thanks to the author, publisher and to Tracy Fenton for this gifted eARC for the blog tour, do check out some of the other stops if you get the chance.

Potion Commotion by Peter Bently and Sernur Isik

Today we’re sharing another one of our lockdown library books; one that I’ve had to order our own copy of as it’s so well-loved! Read at almost every bedtime for the last 4 months, Potion Commotion by Peter Bently and Sernur Isik is one of Wee Reader’s firm favourites.

When mini witch Betty’s mum goes out, Betty decides to try her hand at cooking to surprise her. But after chucking in all manner of ingredients the spell goes a little wrong and, on her return, her mum has to come to the rescue.

Just as it looks like the day has been saved a huge dragon turns up hoping to fill his belly. And he sets his sights on the townspeople… perhaps Betty’s crazy potion might come in handy after all!

  • Magic ✅
  • Dragon ✅
  • Food ✅
  • Rhyming ✅
  • Funny ✅
  • Bright and engaging illustrations (plus sparkly cover!) ✅

This book is basically all of my 3 year old’s favourite things, neatly packaged into one story. Possibly not for the very faint-hearted or any little one prone to nightmares since the dragon really fancies gobbling up people. But it doesn’t take much for our hero, Betty, to change its mind and find something much tastier for it to chomp on. And her solution is fairly permanent so they won’t have to worry about becoming that creature’s dinner ever again.

Have you purchased your own copies of any of your lockdown library books?

Potion Commotion is published by Scholastic and is available to buy now.

Olive by Emma Gannon

Olive by Emma Gannon was one of my most anticipated books of the summer so I was thrilled to be gifted an eARC to read in advance of today’s publication date.

This is a book that’s going to resonate with an awful lot of women. Olive is 33 years old, very successful in her career at an online magazine, and has a close-knit group of friends. But as the years go by she feels their paths starting to diverge, and they seem to drift apart. Olive sometimes feels like the odd one out and starts examining the validity of her life choices. But do the others really have their sh*t together? And can they find their way back to each other?

Olive battles with other people’s perceptions of her being childfree by choice and how it affects her relationships and sets her apart from those with children. It was refreshing to read a book written from this perspective, and I think a lot of women will nod along with Olive’s narrative. Emma Gannon’s writing style is really engaging and her characters are very relatable. The story is so engrossing that I flew through the book in a couple of days!

This novel was not at all what I expected. I thought it was going to be quite a light and easy read but I actually spent a lot of it feeling pretty sad and pondering on fertility, relationships, and career choices and how they have affected my own long-standing friendships. The moment I had turned the final page I genuinely picked up my phone and got in touch with some close friends that I hadn’t messaged for a while, some of whose stories mirror those of Olive’s friendship group. It made me realise that, though we’re all walking completely different paths we are still essentially the same people we’ve always been, and I miss them!

Thought-provoking, witty, funny and ultimately uplifting, to pack such an array of emotions into 400 pages is incredibly clever. I can’t wait to read what Emma Gannon has in store for us next!

With thanks to Harper Collins for this gifted e-copy for review. Olive is out now!