Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews


Joined November 2016

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Won a Giveaway 16th October '18

Book pages Timelines of Everything
Timelines of Everything Author: DK Contributor: Smithsonian Institution

Entered a Giveaway 11th October '18

Book pages Placeholder Book
Timelines of Everything
For Ages
7, 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12
No. of Copies
End Date
16th Oct '18
Open to residents of Republic of Ireland & United Kingdom

Wrote a Review 11th October '18

Book pages The Boneless Mercies
The Boneless Mercies
I read it (an adult)
Boneless Mercies: nomadic women earning their living performing mercy killings - ending the suffering of the elderly, ill and wounded. As women with weapons, the Mercies are distrusted by their society, yet they do work that men won't - killing without prestige.

One group of Mercies have grown tired of their way of life and hunger for glory and riches. Ovie, Runa, Juniper and Frey (the group's leader and the story's narrator) - hear about a monster terrorising a nearby kingdom, and of the reward for killing it. The promise of fame and fortune seems like an answer to their prayers. But at what cost?

The Boneless Mercies is an atmospheric fantasy novel, heavily inspired by Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology, culture and folklore, and is a loose retelling of Beowulf. It features an array of interesting female characters (the story's main heroes and villains are all women or girls) and I appreciated the strong platonic male-female friendships - you don't come across this often in YA (don't worry, there is romance too!). One real strong point of the book is the relationships between the various characters.

The book starts quite slowly, and it took me a while to get into it, but by the second half of the book I was hooked - the action cranks up significantly at the end of the first part and doesn't let up until the end (except for a few 'calm before the storm' moments).

This is a book for older readers, but could be great to use in English classes that are looking at Beowulf. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to fantasy readers - especially fans of authors like Sarah J Maas. 

The Boneless Mercies is an engaging, atmospheric fantasy adventure with great world building, engaging characters and a satisfying conclusion.

Wrote a Review 11th October '18

Book pages The Weight of a Thousand Feathers
The Weight of a Thousand Feathers
I read it (an adult)
17 year old Bobby Seed has too much on his plate. Any time not spent at school doing A Levels is spent at home looking after his mother, who suffers from MS, and his younger brother Danny, who has his own needs. 

When Bobby's school counsellor suggests he joins a young carers' support group, he is torn between the desire to have some time away from his responsibilities and the guilt at not being there for his family. He decides to give it a go - with his best friend Bel helping out at home while he's away. 

And so he meets a group of scared and lost teens, hiding their fear behind a wall of cynicism. On top of everything else, Bobby finds himself falling for the group's American bad boy, Lou - he's never really had the luxury of time nor headspace to even think about romance before. But then his mother asks him to do something for her, and Bobby Seed is never the same again.

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers was an emotional and powerful read - not surprising given the topic. What was surprising was just how much humour there was in the book. A large part of how Bobby related to his Mum and to Bel was through humour - who would have thought that the last line of a book about teen carers and euthanasia would make me laugh out loud?! 

Early on I was struck by the realisation that I am of a similar age to Bobby's mum - same taste in music, same cultural references - which helped crank up the empathy on my part

This book could be a powerful aid in an ethics class on euthanasia, but definitely one for older students: on top of some very upsetting interactions between Bobby and his mum, there are also a few scenes of drug taking. I would definitely recommend this book to older teens who like to keep a box of tissues handy when reading!

Wrote a Review 11th October '18

Book pages The Island
The Island
I read it (an adult)
Three years ago, life changed for homeschooled American Link Selkirk - he started school for the first time. Not just any school, but a posh private school in the heart of Oxford. Unusually for a school associated with a university like Oxford, Osney prizes sports and games over academic ability - so much so that students' status in school is determined by how quickly they can run around the school's square. The fastest students are 'Ones', the slowest are 'Elevens'. Link does so badly that he becomes a 'Twelve' - a magnet for bullies.

After three years of misery at Osney, Link decides to quit school after his GCSEs - if he could just convince his parents. They eventually agree, but only if he spends the summer on the school's overseas camp. On the way, their small plane goes down on a desert island, and seven Osney students find themselves stranded and alone. Link - who has grown up reading desert island 'Robinsonade' adventure stories - sets about establishing a new pecking order, and plots revenge on his tormentors...

I enjoyed M.A. Bennett's STAGS last year, and The Island has similar preoccupations. Both books feature scholarship students coming into posh private schools, facing institutionalised bullying by privileged rich kids. The Island, however, flips this to ask what could happen when the meek inherit the earth.

The writing in The Island was easy to read and engaging, although I found it a much harder book to like than STAGS, primarily because the protagonist was deeply unpleasant for much of it. While the author makes it clear that this was a deliberate decision, it didn't make for an enjoyable read.

The mystery element of the plot was well done, although the resolution was ridiculous and over-the-top. This is definitely NOT a realistic, contemporary YA story! 

Overall, The Island was an easy-to-read thriller let down by an over-the-top ending and an unlikeable protagonist.