Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

Last Bus to Everland - graphic

 

If you’ve not yet read Sophie Cameron’s debut novel, Out of the Blue, then you won’t know what a magical treat you’re in for. With her second novel, Last Bus to Everland, Sophie has once again delivered an emotional, realistic, contemporary novel, full of love, hope, and magic.

The novel is set in Scotland as well as a magical Narnia-esque place, and delivers its story with such a light touch, while still reaching deep into some serious issues. The way the story deals with bullying is exemplary, and allows us to follow Brody through a full arc of emotions in how he deals with (or doesn’t deal with) bullies. I really appreciated how Brody doesn’t just suddenly find an inner strength out of nothing in order to cope with his bullies, but slowly builds up to a place where he can confront them and start to push back.

One of the things that is explored superbly in Last Bus to Everland is poverty. Brody is part of a working-class family, and Sophie Cameron approaches that head on, never shying away from the hardships his family faces, and providing no magical cures. We definitely need more books that deal with parents working shifts, cutting back on food, and struggling to pay bills – and discussing this with their children. How this is portrayed, and Brody’s reactions to this, are carefully weaved into the magical storyline, allowing the reader to feel a part of the family and the struggles they are going through.

Brody is not a perfect character, he has flaws and complexity. This was exhibited fantastically in how he responds to his father’s mental illness. Brody tries to sympathise, but often times doesn’t quite know how to keep being understanding when faced with all the difficulties the family faces. This  realistic response is portrayed with subtle understanding and compassion by Sophie.

As with her debut, in Last Bus to Everland Sophie Cameron delivers a novel of quietly built tension, low-key passion, and believable love and friendship between a diverse cast of LGBTQ teens. A brilliant novel that will appeal to fans of contemporary or fantasy YA.


I received a copy of Last Bus to Everland by request to the publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books. It is released in the UK and Ireland on 16th May, and in the US in June.

You can pre-order a copy now via this affiliate link: http://bit.ly/2IG0sl7

 

The Sin Eater’s Daughter Trilogy

When a trilogy comes to an end what do you do with your life? Go back to staring at walls and mumbling about how the world is a cold and lonely place, obviously.

Let’s look back to 2015, when I first encountered the world gifted to us by Melinda Salisbury in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Little did I know what joys I was letting myself in for.

Before I read The Sin Eater’s Daughter I didn’t read much YA, or fantasy, or trilogies – now I’m addicted to all three.

It tells the story of Twylla, the living embodiment of a goddess, betrothed to the prince, and with the ability to kill with a single touch.

What I loved so much about this was all the things I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting Twylla to be as vulnerable and lacking in power over her own life, but still be able to take charge and face up to a world that feared her, with courage and dignity.

My favourite character after Twylla was Lief, her guard. I loved his complexity that was never fully explained but seemed so very human.

I remember where I was when I finished reading the book, because I screamed out loud and ran around telling everyone how amazing it was.

I was expecting a lot from the second book, The Sleeping Prince, and I was not disappointed. Once again the book hit me in unexpected ways. I thought it would continue right where we left off, but instead we get told another person’s story.

Errin is not living so much as surviving. After the death of her father and the disappearance of her brother Lief she finds herself caring for her sick mother and barely managing to keep her head down and unnoticed by those around who who might not have her best interests at heart. When war comes to the village Errin is forced to make difficult decisions and rely on those she isn’t sure she can trust in order to save what is left of her family.

The Sleeping Prince delivers a complex and well developed plot, drawing in multiple layers of folklore and history. Errin’s world is full of uncertainties and her cautious but confident approach to getting what she wants makes her a character that I instantly loved.

By the second half of the book all the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together and draw the first two books closer. I love the way Melinda shows us the interconnected nature of the characters’ lives and how there can still be strength in vulnerability.

By the time book 3 came out I was not emotionally ready for this story to be over.

The Scarecrow Queen takes us into the final battle with Errin and Twylla fighting to save the people they love and themselves from The Sleeping Prince as he attempts to destroy everything around them.

I’m not going to say any more about the book so I don’t give away any spoilers, but if you’ve not read any of them I urge you to get hold of a copy now.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy is a brilliantly written tale. It gives us two young women who find the strength to stop all the forces that are intent on taking away control from their lives. It gives us flawed characters that aren’t romanticised or excused, but are presented to us as real and oh so human. It is a gripping, beautifully imagined, rich fantasy world you won’t want to leave.

To find out more check out Mel’s website, Twitter, and just go and buy the books dammit!

The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Book cover of The Sleeping PrinceI don’t have much history of reading series of novels. I like stand-alone books that deliver all the emotion and heartbreak I need in one painful sitting. I think this mostly boils down to how impatient I am – I want the whole story and I want it now! So it’s with much surprise that over the last two years I find myself reading more series, and loving them.

One of the principal reasons I love The Sleeping Prince (the follow-up to The Sin Eater’s Daughter) is that it doesn’t just start where we left off, the story is told from the perspective of a completely different narrator.

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Errin is not living so much as surviving, after the death of her father and the disappearance of her brother Lief she finds herself caring for her sick mother and barely managing to keep her head down and unnoticed by those around who who might not have her best interests at heart. When war comes to the village Errin is forced to make difficult decisions and rely on those she isn’t sure she can trust in order to save what is left of her family.

The Sleeping Prince delivers a complex and well developed plot, drawing in multiple layers of folklore and history. Errin’s world is full of uncertainties and her cautious but confident approach to getting what she wants makes her a character that I instantly loved.

To stay away from spoilers there is little I can say about the second half of the book, but I loved how the pieces quickly started to slot in place to tie The Sleeping Prince into the narrative from the first book. I love the way Melinda shows us the interconnected nature of the characters lives and how there can still be strength in vulnerability.

When I finished The Sleeping Prince I wanted to go back, to the start of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and start reading again. I wanted to immerse myself in this rich and varied world, where the intimate private lives of such seemingly ordinary women create a dramatic impact on those around them and each other.

Buy the Book!

Ace of Spiders by Stefan Mohamed

Ace of Spiders CoverIt’s always a little nerve-racking to sit down and read the sequel to a novel you loved so much you’d sell your own mother just for a chance to read it again, so it was with many nervous glances towards the book at the top of my to-read pile I picked up Ace of Spiders.

I’d love to say I read it in one sitting, but actually I got tonsilitis on the day I started it, and the antibiotics knocked me out so much that I could barely lift the book, so it took me a week to get to the final dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

Is this book as good as Bitter Sixteen?  Yes.  Was it the sequel I was expecting? Absolutely not. Do I still think Stefan Mohamed is one of the best writers in the known universe? Do bears crap in the woods?

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After discovering his superpowers at the age of 16, Stanly is now frustrated at the reality of day-to-day living, even for someone who can fly there’s not a lot happening and he craves adventure and excitement.  Oh my does he get some!  Old enemies mix with new enemies mix with Stanly’s own shortcomings and frustrations to create an explosive mix of plot twists and revelations that had me gasping in shock, or running to hide behind the sofa.

I reluctantly read the last few chapters, not wanting to leave the Bitter Sixteen world so soon, not wanting the ending I could see was coming.  At the last few lines I felt like I was abandoning Stanly to an uncertain future.  The strength of the book lies, not only in Stanly’s immensely likeable personality despite his failings, but in Stefan Mohamed’s ability to draw you in to a complex and fast paced but entirely believable world of monsters, superpowers, and sarcastic teenagers.

If you haven’t read Bitter Sixteen, do it, and then grab Ace of Spiders off the shelf as quickly as you can – you won’t regret it.

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Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed

I first read Bitter Sixteen last summer and subsequently spent the next few months telling anyone who would listen that they should definitely read it. Now. In fact, I’ll walk you to the book shop myself. It reached the stage where people were asking me if I was taking commission from the publishers, or if the author was a friend, one I owed a big favour to.

No, none of that, I just fucking love this book.

Not everyone was annoyed at my insistent Bitter Sixteen pushing, one friend messaged me:

Oh my fucking god! I just finished Bitter 16…. That was by far one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time! I have pretty much recommended it to every person I know! Dude… Good fucking call! It felt like he wrote it specifically for me…If I found out Stefan Mohamed lived in my loft and had been watching me for years…. I wouldn’t be surprised!

So don’t take just my word for it, take the word of my crazy friends too.

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Stanly Bird wakes up on his 16th Birthday with superpowers, a surprising but welcome fact he shares with his best friend, his talking beagle Daryl.  Before too long though, Daryl’s secret is in danger of getting out and he has to leave his small Welsh town and head to London. In London Stanly learns more about his abilities, and learns he’s not the only special one around.

This is one of the most original and funny books I’ve read in a while.  Stanly is immensely entertaining with such a clear and distinct voice that it’s hard not to become best friends with him.

I work with a lot of teenagers and Stanly reminds me of my favourite parts of all of them, he has a quiet confidence when it comes to the things that really matter to him, but he has an almost constant internal dialogue of insecurity.  Mostly he seems worried about doing the wrong thing and making an arse out of himself, a trait we can all identify with.  He is passionate, loyal, and hyperactive, all in the body of a cynical teenager.

Stefan Mohamed managed, with just one book, and one amazing character and his talking beagle, to muscle his way into my list of favourite authors with his flawless, witty, insightful, brilliant writing.  If you haven’t read Bitter Sixteen yet, why not?

Buy the Book!