Butter by Erin Lange

This book is about an obese teenager, known as Butter, from Arizona, who is desperate for popularity. In fact, he will do anything to gain acceptance from his schoolmates, even gorge himself to death on a live video link for all his classmates to see. When he has promised this, Butter gains the approval of his peers, and he is admired for his audacity by all. However, though all they see is the suicidal, 423-pound teenager, we get to know the real Butter, who underneath the ‘fat suit’ is an amusing, creative guy and an incredibly talented saxophonist to boot. However, there is one question everyone is asking – will he do it? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I found this book very interesting because I think it covers a lot of modern issues in a small space of time. The first and most obvious one is our hunger for popularity – everybody wants to be famous because our society revolves around this idea that people who are famous are somehow better. The second issue is definitely, although you can’t really see it from my quick summary, the impact the internet has on our lives. In the book, Butter admits that “whatever appetite I lost for food I gained for Internet attention.”, and this is definitely one of the prominent points raised by the book, that just like we want to be popular in real life, we want to be recognised on the internet just as much, if not more, and this is damaging us. Another point is the obvious one about obesity, but I think it’s not really about Butter being fat, but how others view him because of it. We live in an age where image is a lot more important to most than our character, and this is especially showed throughout Butter’s relationship with Anna, a beautiful girl in his class, over the internet. She is completely won over by his alter ego, and even boasts about him to her friends at school, and this is because of Butter’s personality rather than his image. However, when he tries to talk to her at school, he is rejected as the “fat kid” and humiliated in front of everyone. In short, I really liked this books because I thought it was a great story when I read it, but even better to think about after I read it and seeing all the underlying messages between the lines, and I would recommend it to ages 12+

(I have described what I found interesting in the book in this review, but if all the messages about society and self image seem a bit too philosophical, you can almost ignore them and just think about the story. Which is also very good.)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Pip is a young boy living with his sister, the mean Mrs Joe, and her husband, the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, in the marshlands of Kent. His sister has never liked him, and is always reminding him of how she “raised him by hand”, and how grateful he should be about this.  Pip is sitting by his parents’  gravestones one night when an escaped convict grabs him and commands him to bring him food and a file for his leg irons. Pip obeys, but the convict is captured anyway. Soon afterwards Pip is taken by his pompous Uncle Pumblechook, to play at Satis House, owned by the mad Miss Haversham who has been driven  crazy after being left at the altar on her wedding day. She stays in her wedding dress all the time and even keeps all the clocks stopped at the time she heard of her lover’s betrayal; twenty minutes to nine. During his visit, he meets the beautiful Estella, who treats him coldly, but nevertheless he falls instantly in love with her. Pip dreams of becoming a wealthy gentleman so he may marry her, and even hopes Miss Haversham will help him do that, but his dreams are crushed when she apprentices him to  Joe Gargery, the blacksmith. Pip works unhappily, until one day a lawyer named Jaggers appears to tell Pip some brilliant news; he has been given a large fortune by an anonymous benefactor and is to leave for London to begin his education immediately. Pip guesses it must be Miss Haversham, and in London, he befriends a young gentleman named Herbert Pocket, and spends his days being tutored by Herbert’s father, Matthew, until one night the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, breaks into Pip’s room to tell him something life changing… What did he say? Why has he come back? And will Pip and Estela ever be together? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

At first, when I picked up this book, I thought it would be very dull and hard to understand, but by the time I had got into it I actually really enjoyed it! It is definitely a longer read, and some of the language is obviously hard to understand as it is an old book, but something I had really not anticipated was how exciting or how much of a story this book has. I really liked how all the loose ends were tied up in the final few chapters, apart from one or two, and all the twists there were as you learned more abut the characters and their acquaintances. I would probably recommend it to ages 12+, as it is quite difficult, but it is still a good story so by all means try it or read an abridged version if you are younger (or older). I think this was a great book, and although it was hard to understand at times it had a great storyline, and was exciting, scary, and even funny!
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Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

Zarita is the rich daughter of the town magistrate, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, 1483. Her mother is ill with Zarita’s unborn sibling, and when she takes a trip to the Church to make an offering, a beggar touches her in pursuit of a coin to buy medicine for his sick wife, and she accuses him of assault. The beggar is brought before the magistrate, where, against Zarita’s will, he is executed. The news that Zarita’s baby brother died comes soon after. The executioners spot Saulo, the beggar’s son, watching in the bushes, and they take him off to be a slave on a galley ship. Then Saulo takes up the narrative, and vows vengeance on the magistrate, Zarita, and all his family. He is put on a boat to be a slave rower, and there he meets Captain Cosimo, who takes him away on his ship, and, after after learning about the boy’s aptitude for maths and languages, makes him his navigator.Meanwhile Zarita’s mother has died soon after childbirth, and her father remarried to the spiteful Lorena, who does anything she can to make her step daughter’s life miserable. Zarita then remembers about the beggar’s wife, and goes out on a search for her, and with the help of a Jewish doctor, she finds her, dying so she takes her to her aunt’s convent and nurses her until her final hours. By now the Inquisition has arrived to drive out all the non-Catholics, and the town lives in fear, with people being tortured and burned for heresy. Zarita’s father then decides that, because she has not gotten married yet, and will not get married, she must be sent away to her Aunt Beatriz’ convent to be shut away and live life as a nun. Whilst this happens, Saulo is battling pirates, and when the ship is taken over and Captain Cosimo dies, Saulo is given his peacock-blue velvet coat, where the Captain has sewn his life’s earnings. Saulo is rich, and after meeting the renowned Christopher Columbus who is planning his journey across the Atlantic, he returns to Spain to seek his revenge. He visits the magistrate’s house, where he burns it to the ground, killing Zarita’s father, but not Lorena, who is about to give birth. She is taken to the convent, where a baby boy is born with the help of the Jewish doctor, but Lorena is dying, and she confesses everything she has done, including the letter she wrote to the Inquisition about Zarita. Then Zarita goes to the Royal Court where she is captured and given a sentence to be burned at the stake for heresy. Lorena told the Inquisition that Zarita and her father were Jews. Will she survive? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

In all honesty, at the beginning of this book I didn’t think it was incredibly interesting, and this continued throughout the first five chapters or so, as it didn’t really get off to a racing start. I would say that it is not one for everyone, but by the end I was more interested and involved in the story. I liked how the story starts by giving you a prologue of complete irrelevance to what you are about to read, and then the last chapter is just a repeat of the prologue which rounds off the story nicely. It was definitely a very well-researched book, with many of the facts and characters completely true, and overall I think it was well written, it just wasn’t the best book I had ever read.

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You can buy Prisoner of the Inquisition from Amazon here

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

In a derelict hotel in Occupied France, World War II, a girl sits with an iron rod bound to her back, bargaining with her interrogator. Her codename is Verity, and is a British spy, flown into France by her best friend,and has been captured by the Nazis, She is being held in the Chateaux de Bordeaux, where she strikes a bargain with her questioners, to confess everything about the British war effort, in return for her clothes. This book is what she wrote, how she came to be there, and what happened afterwards. It begins with her talking about her friend Maddie with her motorcycle in her hometown of Cheshire, and her time as a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force volunteer, where she made friends with Queenie, a German-speaking wireless operator after an incident involving a crash-landing German pilot. Maddie then goes on to become an Air Transport Auxiliary Pilot, and through an unseen course of events Maddie ends up flying Verity into France, where they are shot down and Verity has to make a parachute jump before Maddie crash-lands.

This book does not sound like it has a lot to it, but there are so many twists after what I have described, most of them completely unexpected. I like how the story starts off with the reader knowing very little, and slowly progresses until you can see the whole picture, and the changes of perspectives throughout the book. I also liked how things were revealed without Verity’s intentions, as others characters in the story point out things you hadn’t previously noticed, and, maybe it was just me, but how you warmed to the character as you read further, because at the beginning I quite disliked Verity for making such a cowardly bargain, but as I read more and learned more about her I liked her more and more. It’s the kind of book that slowly reels you in, and by the end you are so attached to the characters that the ending brings you into floods of tears and you wish you could jump into the book and change what happened. One thing I found slightly confusing was all the different names there were for the main character, which made it quite hard to keep up, but that was a very minor thing and all in all I thought the book was very funny, moving and ultimately, rather sad.

You can buy Code Name Verity from amazon here, or Elizabeth Wein’s other book, Rose Under Fire, here, which I will be reading as soon as possible!

Revolver by Marcus Sedgewick

‘Revolver’ is set in the freezing, icy tundra of the Arctic Circle, in the midst of a gold rush in 1910. Sig Andersson has found his father frozen to death, on the surface of an ice-covered lake he has warned all the family to stay off. Why? Sig is completely clueless, until there is a knock at the door, and a huge, hostile stranger lumbers into the cabin, a revolver around his belt, and demands the gold Sig’s father owes him, the gold Sig knows nothing about. As the plot unwinds, Sig learns so much about his father, his life and how he came to be standing in this freezing hut in the midst of an icy landscape. At the end, however, the stranger still wants the gold, and Sig has no idea where it is, or if it even exists, but all the time Sig is thinking about his father’s most prized possession, a Colt Revolver and the eight bullets that lie inside its wooden case, and just how easily he could get to it…

I really enjoyed this book, so thanks to Emily for recommending it to me ☺︎, I liked the way the author unraveled the plot by changing viewpoints every chapter, so you would have one chapter with Sig and the stranger inside the freezing cabin, and then you would have one at the very beginning of the story with Sig’s father, slightly starting from both ends of the book and working inwards. I really liked his writing type, and I think the slow suspense that led up to the ending was very clever, keeping the reader gripped throughout. I seem to be reading a lot of books with brilliant endings recently, and this book was no exception, I won’t give too much away but it definitely proves that if you look hard enough, there are always three ways out of a two-way situation.

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Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Georges is a boy in 7th grade, living in Brooklyn. The ‘s’ in his name has got him a lot of unwanted attention at school, his mum works night shifts so they never see each other, and his family has just moved house, leaving the home Georges has known all his life behind. Life seems to just keep getting worse, until he finds a note in the basement about a “Spy Club Meeting.” He meets Safer, a boy living upstairs who is intent on finding out what the mysterious Mr X is up to, and his little sister Candy, and soon Georges is swept up into a world of lies and spying, all controlled by Safer.  As the bullying at school gets worse, Georges begins to think. Just how far is far enough? Are Safer’s demands, and the bullying at school, becoming too much? Helped with some logical reasoning from Candy, Georges decides that the bullying must come to end, and starts making his own rules…

This was a great book, which had loads of twists and turns that were completely unexpected. I absolutely loved the ending, but I won’t reveal anything because what made it great was the element of the unknown… Like “A Street Cat Named Bob” the cover was quite misleading, and I ended up reading a completely different type of story to the kind I had expected, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I would recommend this book to ages 9-12, as a quite short but nonetheless brilliant read!

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

James is a homeless man living in sheltered accommodation. Everything has gone wrong in his life, and there seems no hope until he meets a stray cat, who he takes in and quickly christens Bob. Bob’s appearance into his life begins to turn it around, at the beginning in a very literal way, as he comes busking with James and attracting a lot of extra attention and money by sitting on his shoulder, but also by being there to support James on his journey to try and stay off the drugs he has depended on for so much of his life. The cat becomes an amazing, strong character in the book but isn’t afraid to remind James he can still fend for himself, even though he will always come back in the end. Along the storyline, there are lots of ups and downs, which can make you grip your seat in anxiety or make tears of happiness run from your eyes, and one of my favourite parts of the story was when James decided to go and visit his mother for the fist time since he moved out, and because this is a true story it just goes to show how people can go right from the edge back onto the right path again. I was given this book by one of my mum’s friends, and at first I thought it wouldn’t be particularly good, because of the title and the cover, but when I started to read, it became one of the best books I have ever read, so I would like to thank her so much for giving it to me. My favourite thing about the book has got to be the fact that it’s true, and the man who started off as a helpless addict living hand-to-mouth has not only got his life back on track, but has now managed to write a brilliant book about everything he went through, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I would recommend this book to anyone from around ten to around one hundred, as it is an amazing, moving story that I think both adults and children alike will love.

I think there is a sequel to the book called “The World According To Bob”, so I will definitely be reading that at some point!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Tris is an Abnegation living in future Chicago, a place where mankind has created world peace by preventing the human traits that cause it. They split themselves into five factions – Candor – the honest, Erudite – the intelligent, Amity – the kind, Abnegation – the selfless, and Dauntless – the brave. When a person is sixteen they must take a test to help them determine which of the five factions they should choose, but Tris’ results are dangerously inconclusive, giving her a choice of three factions. It means that she is a Divergent, one of the few people with a special mind and capabilities, but in a world where the factions dictate everything, being different can lead to death, and she must keep it hidden. The day of the choosing ceremony comes, and Tris chooses Dauntless over Abnegation, bravery over selflessness. After that danger sweeps her up in its path, with even the route to the Dauntless compound being fatal for some. She then begins training, and the risks during this are far more than anyone could imagine, turning Tris’ life into a whirlwind of pain, adrenaline and fear, but something sinister is going on beneath the bravery. Is there more to Dauntless than meets the eye? One thing is for certain, if Tris is going to survive, she needs to hide her differences.

This was a really exciting book that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it, it was very gripping and I devoured it eagerly! It was a little bit overly-violent  for the book at some points, but overall it was great and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the The Hunger Games, as the two are very similar, but Divergent’s plot is a little more complicated and intriguing.

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Spies in Disguise: Boy in Tights by Kate Scott

Joe is just an ordinary boy, until he finds out his parents are spies, and it turns his whole world upside down! The whole adventure starts with an exhilarating car chase, which gets Joe feeling pretty excited. When his parents tell him he has to move house and completely change his life, he is a little disappointed, but now he’s going to be a spy, what could be better? There is a catch, though. Joe is going to have to be…

A girl.

Yes, a girl. And that’s where things start to fall to pieces, as Joe has absolutely no idea, and no interest, in anything girly whatsoever. Worse still, is the horrible frilly concoction of a dress his dad has bought for him to wear, which makes him the laughing stock of the school. Just as it seems that nothing can get any worse, Joe overhears a suspicious phone call and suddenly he’s doing some spying of his own, borrowing gadgets from his parents’ large supply and figuring out this little mystery…

Will Joe catch the bad guy? Or is he just not cut out to be a spy? You’ll have to find out!

I really enjoyed this book, as it was full of hilarious moments and twists and turns in the plot. The storyline was really interesting, including some of those really cringe-worthy moments and some bits that were simply just hysterically funny, and although it was maybe a little easy for me, I still loved it as a short, funny book! One of the things I most enjoyed about it could be that it was very accessible for younger readers, but it was still enjoyable for anyone to read. I would recommend it to ages 7-10 but anyone can read it and will love it, I guarantee.

Thank you SO much to Kate Scott at Piccadilly Press who so kindly sent me a copy, the sequel for, for anyone interested, is out soon!

Geek Girl 2: Model Misfit by Holly Smale

Harriet Manners is back, and now she’s a glamorous, elegant creature who is at one with fashion, the perfect model…. As if! The truth is, Harriet is geekier than ever, even studying physics on a photo shoot. However, Harriet is somehow picked to be the face of Yuka Ito’s new brand, and is taken by her grandmother to Tokyo! Her grandmother is rather irresponsible though, and leaves her next to her flat without so much as a goodbye. Harriet gets to know the two other models who live there, Poppy and Rin, and finally works out what it’s like to have friends. But it’s not long before Harriet’s modelling career starts to go horribly wrong, starting by covering a unique dress in blue octopus ink, wearing HEELS in a sumo ring (strictly forbidden), and smashing a massive glass box. Is someone sabotaging her career? Or is Harriet just destined to fail? You’ll have to find out.

I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who liked Geek Girl (obviously!) or Withering Tights. I definitely think that the sequel is as good as the original and it was an amazing book. Thank you HarperCollins for so kindly donating it.

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