THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX, AND THE HORSE by Charles Mackesy

A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.


Title : The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse
Author : Charles Makesy
Format : physical/hardback
Page Count : 128
Genre : literary graphic novel
Publisher : HarperOne
Release Date : October 29, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

This is one of the easiest (and, likely, shortest) five star reviews I’ll ever write. Because this is simply one of the loveliest, sweetest, most wholesome, emotional, reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in front of my eyeballs. This might look like a children’s book but the messages within are ageless and cross all genres — this is meant for all people. And has likely never been more important, or needed, than right now.

Do you have any other advice?
Don’t measure how valuable you are by the way you are treated.”

This book is made even more special as it was a gift from my blog buddy. Thank you, Micky, for this loveliness. I can’t wait to reread it. I can’t wait to share it with my niece as she grows up.

I recommend it to one and all.

WORST OF THE WEEPIES (REALLY THE BEST)

Most of us love a good book that evokes all the emotions; maybe not all of the time, but at least occasionally. A private cry, a good book sob, can leave you a bit wrung out, yet having felt the book deeply is pretty satisfying. BUT it can leave you looking like that pug in picture, are we right? Micky doesn’t cry easily at books but some do just hit that spot, whereas Hollis has her eyes set on leak. We’ve listed some of our favourites by genre.

Some of the books we’ve listed are weepies in part because of the difficult issues tackled within the pages. We have starred the books that we think have triggers for some people and advise you to read the blurb so you know what you are getting into.

CONTEMPORARY YA

FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo *
AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando *
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma *
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone
THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END by Adam Silvera
A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL by Eric Lindstrom
ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS by Francesca Zappia
SHERWOOD by Meagan Spooner
FOOLISH HEARTS by Emma Mills

HISTORICAL YA

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

53 LETTERS FOR MY LOVER by Leylah Attar
MAKING FACES by Amy Harmon*
MISTS OF THE SERENGETI by Leylah Attar *
UNSEEN MESSAGES by Pepper Winters *
AN EXALTATION OF LARKS by Suanne Laqueur *
A CHARM OF FINCHES by Suanne Laqueur *
THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee
LONG SHOT by Kennedy Ryan *
STILL by Kennedy Ryan *
THE SIMPLE WILD by KA Tucker *
HEARTBREAK WARFARE by Heather M Orgeron & Kate Stewart
THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez *
FIVE YEARS GONE & ONE YEAR HOME by Marie Force
CRASH by Harper Dallas
WAIT FOR IT by Mariana Zapata
ON BROKEN WINGS by Chanel Cleeton*
STEADFAST by Sarina Bowen
THROWN OFF THE ICE by Taylor Fitzpatrick
LUCK OF THE DRAW by Kate Clayborn

WOMEN’S FICTION

THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks
PS, I LOVE YOU by Cecelia Ahern *
THE ORPHAN’S TALE by Pam Jenoff
THE BREAK by Marian Keyes
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah *
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens *
THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW by Tracey Garvis Graves
DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME by Mhairi McFarlane

HISTORICAL (FICTION OR FANTASY)

SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller
THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes


Do you like knowing a book might make you cry before you pick it up? Do you like being taken unawares? And, lastly, give us the book that makes you cry the m o s t.


THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


Title : The Book Thief
Author : Markus Zusak
Format : ebook
Page Count : 564
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Transworld Digital
Release Date : September 1, 2005

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Has anyone got a mop and bucket for my tears? I sure could use one right now. What a read and what a last part to the book, I don’t think I drew breath. This will be a short review so that I don’t spoil and because my heart is mush right now.

In terms of writing style and narrative, I think this is one of the quirkiest books I’ve ever read. Death was the narrator and Leisel was the protagonist. Each chapter was only a few pages and the saddest story in history was often told with an air of amusement in the background.

Leisel’s story was both ordinary and profound, her childhood before coming to live with her adoptive parents was brutal but she was resilient and kept some innocence about her. I adored her papa, Hans, just as Leisel clearly did. Their bond and connection was beautiful to read. Her mama and papa took steps to support the Jews and this formed a significant part of the story.

Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man’s gentleness, his thereness.

This story transported me to the context of a Germany under Nazi rule. More importantly, it transports the reader to an average Joe perspective, village life and an example of good German people just trying to survive the hideousness of war and the regime they were under. Told over decades, this was both a light-hearted and heavy and emotionally-laden tale.

This isn’t a 5 star read for me because the writing style was strange, I won’t say that I ever got on with it, but I rubbed along with it because of the great story and characters. I am left feeling very affected by the reading experience and that I may be a bit too emotionally raw to discuss this at bookclub tomorrow. Oops!

ONE YEAR HOME by Marie Force 🎧

He came home a hero and lost the only woman he’s ever loved…

John
I have no idea how to survive without my beloved Ava. She had no choice but to move on with her life during my six-year deployment and has now married Eric. I hate him for taking her from me. I’d prefer to wallow in my depression and heartbreak, but the whole damned world wants a piece of the SEAL Team leader who helped capture the world’s most-wanted terrorist. I need help handling the relentless requests, and when Ava sends her new sister-in-law to manage the media circus for me, I’m prepared to hate her on principle. Her brother took my Ava. What else do I need to know about her?

Julianne
It takes five seconds to realize Ava’s ex is going to be the most complicated and difficult client I’ve ever had, but the opportunity to represent the most celebrated man in the world could make my career. I’m determined to do the job, even if I dislike John from the moment I meet him. And I like everyone. So much so that my brothers worry about me being exploited by those who would take advantage of my unwavering love for others. But John… He’s in a class by himself, and his bitterness is a festering wound that I begin to wish I could somehow fix for him. The more time we spend together, the more our mutual disdain morphs into something that feels an awful lot like desire. There’s no way I can want this man, or so I tell myself, and when Eric finds out I’ve developed feelings for the man causing trouble in his new marriage, well…
That’s going to be a hot mess.


Title : One Year Home
Author : Marie Force
Series : Navy Captain John West #2
Format : Audio
Length : 8 hours, 37 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : HTJB, Inc
Release Date : August 20, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

If you were left after FIVE YEARS GONE (book one) satisfied like me, you might question the need for a second book. Ten minutes into this listen, I realised that this was the sequel I didn’t know I needed and I could quickly see I was in for an emotive and angsty ride.

I knew this story was going to centre on John, broken, battered and bruised both outwardly and psychologically. This reluctant hero, thrown into fame and fortune he didn’t want or seek, made for compelling reading. After FIVE YEARS GONE, I felt sorry for John but I still wasn’t his biggest fan, I wanted Ava with Eric so…yeah. Coming at this story from John’s POV meant everything from an altered perception and I became his cheer team.

John’s story included accurate and compelling narrative about recovery from amputation to shrapnel, PTSD and sepsis. I challenge anyone not to be pulled into the journey. Yet, most compelling was John’s mangled heart and broken soul. The story of John connecting to Julianne was fast but not too fast, and I devoured the story.

So you think you know where this review is going? Colour me surprised when this isn’t just John’s story but it was very much back to Ava and Eric. I didn’t know how I felt about that and what was happening with this very new HEA; it was a rollercoaster. I was just glad we had four fantastic narrators along to present the ride to the listener.

This duology has been one of my favourite and most memorable military romances. I don’t often seek out this kind of story but Navy Captain John West series is one you should read if you’re a fan of this sub-genre or if you’ve never tried it before. This duology has made a Marie Force fan of me and I am eager to try my hand at her other kinds of romances and in 2020, I will.

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright — restless, stifled — makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.

But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure — or the escape — that she hoped for.

That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman — and daughter of a notorious felon — the town wishes to forget.

Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost — and she needs Alice’s help.

Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship — and a life to call their own.

But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another — and the power of the written word — be enough to save them?

Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You


Title : The Giver of Stars
Author : Jojo Moyes
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph, Penguin Books
Release Date : October 3, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I should know…know that when I read a Jojo Moyes book that it’s going to pack an emotional punch but with this blurb, I just didn’t see it coming. THE GIVER OF STARS had me invested quickly and feeling like a family member to the librarian sisterhood, so that when things happened, I felt devastated and scared to read on. The themes of misogyny, racism and feminism made this both emotional and empowering.

The context of reading, teaching poor and downtrodden women, children and men to read through the distrubution of books was in the background but it also powerful to observe. These women on their riding rounds also comforted the sick, grieving and took on the role of friends, confidentes and substitute mother figures.

I didn’t expect this book to be unputdownable, but it was as Moyes made the mundane work of Alice, Margery, Izzy and Beth’s lives totally readable and absorbing. Alice was the main protagonist, an English newly-wed, a little prissy but a genuinely sweet woman. The life she found in Kentucky was not at all what she expected and I tore my hair out over her and Bennett’s relationship. There were some revolting men in this book but then there were also some fantastic characters in Fred and Sven, they were the light in my reading and this book.

There was a second supporting protagonist in Margery and she really captured my heart. I loved her rebelliousness, her unconventional ways and willingness to be different. Her later storyline had me distraught, sad and prone to weeping. I just did not know where this book was going to end, there were so many possibilities.

I have come away from this read inspired. Jojo Moyes took me on a journey with this story and I am all the richer for it. This is historical women’s fiction at it’s best and I will remember this book for years, I am sure.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


Title : Letters to the Lost
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Letters to the Lost #1
Format : Library ebook
Page Count : 393
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing UK
Release Date : April 6, 2017

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I am so late to this series but it is nice to be reading the backlog and not only that but reading the backlog and enjoying it. This contemporary YA packed an emotional punch from the first page to the last and it was a strap-yourself-in kind of ride.

The story of The Dark and Cemetary Girl aka Declan and Juliet was one shrouded in secrets, reveals, lies and anger. These two crashed into each other through letters and messages and I enjoyed the brief epistolary starts to chapters.

The experiences that underpinned the stories, slowly revealed in this book were hefty ones but not unrealistic. The story flowed around grief and loss, touched on abuse and addiction and had that hated element of nasty parenting too. I do struggle with awful parents in YA sometimes but I was able to push through those elements in this story.

One of the absolute strengths of this story was the intensity of the online connection that these two had, it belied their ‘in real life‘ connection. What was even more surprising was that their intense relationship was all genuine and platonic compassion, concern and shared experience. There was a low level of romance but it really was not at the fore, nor did it need to be. I think for the kind of genre this is, it is unusual as romance is often the platform for connections in contemporary YA; Brigid Kemmerer showed her skill in this.

LETTERS TO THE LOST took me on an emotional journey, I felt the sadness and empathised with the loss and despite the lack of hope threaded through, I did enjoy this. It was definitely difficult to put the book down. I am really anticipating the next book and who I think the main character is. However, I have already read book three, chaotic reader that I am.

If you’re one of the few who haven’t read this book, like I was, I do recommend.

STILL by Kennedy Ryan 🎧

I’ll be there.
Through thick and thin.
Ride or die.
You can count on me.

The promises people make.
The vows we take.
Assumptions of the heart.
Emotion tells us how we feel, but life…life has a way of plunging us in boiling water, burning away our illusions, testing our faith, trying our convictions.
Love floating is a butterfly, but love tested is an anchor.

For Grip and Bristol,
Love started at the top of the world
On a Ferris wheel under the stars
But when that love is tested, will they fly or fall?


Title : Still
Author : Kennedy Ryan
Narrators : Jakobi Diem, Maxine Mitchell
Series : Grip #2
Format : Audiobook
Length : 13 hours, 12 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Tantor Audio
Release Date : September 18, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

What a boom! of a completion to this series, which I think is my personal Kennedy favourite so far. My love for this series stems from the decency that is Grip. He’s no saint but he’s good guy born and bred. My second love of this series is the flawedness and loyal Bristol. She has been a growth of love on my part and growth in character on Kennedy Ryan’s part.

The strength of this tale, this instalment, lies in the timeline. There is no rushing, it jumps and then it focuses in on hours and days and I cannot tell you how well that worked for me. Taking this approach just enhanced my connection to these characters and their lives, I felt like family.

There were some difficult storylines but when things were basically peachy at 70%, I smelled a rat and knew that I was about to take a dive off a cliff with these two. What I didn’t expect until I saw it coming, was that this would go into my work -life expertise. I cringe and worry when a story delves into writing these topics because I’ve seen it butchered. Yet, I remain conflicted because I want to see these topics make the cut in books. Kennedy Ryan narrated this emotive topic with sensitivity, research and excellence. There was some medical detail that was spot on but on the whole, she concentrated on the emotional narrative that had this person with a PhD in the subject with waterfalls down her face. You rocked this, Kennedy and I am beyond impressed.

I waited to experience this book by audio, having loved Grip this way. The narration brought this story and the emotions to life. These narrators epitomised Grip and Bristol.

Fiction is just that but excellent fiction takes reality and carves a life story. Kennedy Ryan wowed me from the first to the last page and I love that I was able to get this series signed in London recently. Read this series and feel from your heart to your soul, I did.

HEARTSTOPPER VOL 1 & 2 by Alice Oseman

Volume One

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

From the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence comes a bind up of the first two chapters of Heartstopper, an ongoing webcomic.


Volume Two

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 

This is the second volume of Heartstopper, with more to come.


Title : Heartstopper Vol 1 & 2
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : Paperback Graphic Novel
Page Count : 278/315
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : February 7, 2019/July 11, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Volume 1 – 5 stars

What a blissful, sink-into-the-story book this was. I was engaged from the first block and page with first Charlie and then Nick. It had my heart and my emotional buy-in immediately.

The protagonist, Charlie is 14, he’s gay, mature but knows his identity. He’s emerged of the other side of his coming-out and survived some intense bullying. Nick is in the year above in their boy’s school and he’s 16 and straight. These two are in the same form and their friendship is just gorgeous to observe evolving. The gentle interest, slow touches and flirtation were absolutely captivating.

Charlie’s identity as a gay young person was handled well in this storyline; he didn’t have it all sorted. Even better, I appreciated how Nick’s character and sexual identity emerged, how he handled his growing feelings and how natural these two were alongside one another.

There was realistic depiction of other friends reactions to both Nick and Charlie as individuals but also as friends, not all positive and empowering of course. The storyline of Ben was tough reading but gave some important representation of power, abuse, assault and broke through the stereotypical perception of these issues for young people.

I can’t describe how much I adored the illustration of this story brought to life. Alice Oseman narrated the story well but conjured it into being with the visuals of the characters and nuances of their characteristics.

This was an empowering read and I loved it.


Volume 2 – 5 stars

HEARTSTOPPER 2 blew me away as equally as Volume 1. This was cute but so real and raw. This volume deals with Charlie and Nick’s evolving relationship but it has a specific focus on Nick’s search for a sexual identity. It was quite beautiful.

Charlie was all insecurity and disbelief in this story, he had a sense of undeserving which was no doubt part of the bullying legacy he’d experienced. I loved the small snippets of Charlie’s family who were full on support and love. His sister cracked me up with her swift appearances and en-pointe observations (sip, sip). There was also a great concerned dad moment.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p, 461). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman

Nick’s storyline was intense to watch and read, full of beautiful emotion and difficult confusion. What came across throughout his story arc was what a bloody, great guy Nick was. He was just a great human, with admirable morals and natural loyalty. His nervousness with Charlie was adorable and these two together packed all the welcome heart thumps, all at once.

Friends had more of a focus, both good and bad in this book. Alice Oseman dealt with stereotyping, so-called good-natured (not so good-natured) teasing and exposed these experiences for what they were – unacceptable. However, this was a credible and tangible storyline where of course Nick and Charlie were encountering challenges and prejudice.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p.433). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman.

I simply could not be more enamoured than I am by this series. I continued to adore how Alice Oseman illustrated the emotions, chemistry and feelings on the page. I cannot wait until Volume 3 is ready.

Thank you to the publisher and amazon for this review copy.