Title: Far From the Tree

Author: Robin Benway

Pages: 389 Pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster’s Children’s

The Blurb

‘Sometimes, family hurts each other. But after that’s done you bandage each other up, and you move on. Together. So you can go and think that you’re some lone wolf, but you’re not. You’ve got us now, like it or not, and we’ve got you.’

When 16 year-old Grace gives up her baby for adoption, she decides that the time has come to find out more about her own biological mother. Although her biological mum proves elusive, her search leads her to two half-siblings she never knew existed.

Maya, 15, has been adopted by wealthy parents and seems to have the picture-perfect family – that is, if you look past her alcoholic mother and the fact that Maya stands out like a sore thumb.

Older brother Joaquin hasn’t been so lucky. At 18, he’s shuffled between foster home after foster home, always careful never to get attached to anyone or anything, because it always gets taken away. 

When these three siblings come together, they find in themselves the place they can belong, while the secrets they guard threaten to explode…

For fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and Nicola Yoon, Far From the Tree is a raw, compelling, and ultimately uplifting story of what it means to be family. 

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Sometimes a book comes along that sweeps you away. It is the sort of book that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page and it will be the book that you shove into the hands of others because you know that they have to read it. For me, this book is Far From the Tree.

Far From the Tree is the story of three siblings who have all been adopted or fostered to different families and who didn’t know the others existed until recently. Along with finding siblings they never knew they also set on a journey of finding themselves.

I honestly loved Far From the Tree. I was hooked from the very first page and it is a book that I have now read with my teenage reading group. It deals with issues such as slut shaming, adoption, the foster system and finding a sense of belonging. Far From the Tree tore my heart out but it also repaired it.

I constantly say it and I am probably boring others with my repetition but YA fiction is the genre that is the most prevalent at the moment. With books like Far From the Tree in its midst you can see why it is a flourishing genre.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is available now.

For more information regarding Robin Benway (@RobinBenway) please visit www.robinbenway.com.

For more information regarding Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK) please visit www.kids.simonandschuster.co.uk.

Title: Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel

Author: AW Jantha

Pages: 528 Pages

Publisher: Freeform

The Blurb

Hocus Pocus is beloved by Halloween enthusiasts all over the world. Diving once more into the world of witches, this electrifying two-part young adult novel, released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1993 film, marks a new era of Hocus Pocus. Fans will be spellbound by a fresh retelling of the original film, followed by the all-new sequel that continues the story with the next generation of Salem teens.

Shortly after moving from California to Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison finds himself in hot water when he accidentally releases a coven of witches, the Sanderson sisters, from the afterlife. Max, his sister, and his new friends (human and otherwise) must find a way to stop the witches from carrying out their evil plan and remaining on earth to torment Salem for all eternity.

Twenty-five years later, Max and Allison’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, finds herself face-to-face with the Sanderson sisters in all their sinister glory. When Halloween celebrations don’t quite go as planned, it’s a race against time as Poppy and her friends fight to save her family and all of Salem from the witches’ latest vile scheme.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I absolutely adore the movie Hocus Pocus. I was ten when it was released in cinemas and it as the first time that me and my older sister were allowed to go to the cinema by ourselves. It has always been a firm favourite of mine, one that I re-watch every Halloween. Now, I have my niece watching it (although she did make me watch it three times in the space of 24 hours).

So you can imagine my joy when I saw that the movie has been made into a book AND that there was a sequel included also. Joy of joys.

Firstly, let’s talk about Hocus Pocus. It doesn’t deviate from the film and for that I am thankful. The film is perfect. You should never monkey around with Bette Milder – whose hands are perfect in that film might I just add.

The sequel, however, was surprising. It follows on from the adventures that Max, Dani and Alex had 25 years ago and the story centres around Poppy, Max and Allison’s daughter (it is nice to know that they stayed together). The reason why the story is surprising is the LGBTQIA element to the story. Essentially, Hocus Pocus is a Disney classic and whilst strides have been made recently to make Disney more inclusive (just this week it was announced that there will be an openly gay Disney character in one of their next up and coming movies) it is still a major step for the wholesome Disney family oriented image. I, for one, salute this move and hope that it brings about more.

Ok, so the sequel wasn’t (and probably – in my eyes – never could be) as good as the original. However, a modern audience may appreciate it more than me. I did enjoy the story though and I loved revisiting much loved characters. I kind of hope that they make it into a movie – that would be amazing.

Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel by AW Jantha is available now.

Title: Songs About a Girl

Author: Chris Russell

Pages: 496 Pages

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

The Blurb

Heartbreak, romance, fame and pop music – for anyone who’s ever dreamed of saying ‘I’m with the band’.

Charlie Bloom never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she’s asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band, Fire&Lights, she can’t pass up the chance.

Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman Gabriel West and his boy-next-door bandmate, Olly Samson. Then, as the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mindblowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs …

The Review

So, it was always my dream – to say I’m with the band. It never happened for me sadly but I got to live that dream vicariously through the awesome YA fictional story of Charlie Bloom.

Songs About a Girl is the story of Charlie Bloom and how she is fast-tracked to the world of fame – something that she didn’t expect or actually want. Charlie is asked to take photographs for TV talent show winning band Fire&Lights and whilst taking the photographs she finds herself becoming the proverbial Yoko Ono. She begins to fall for frontman Gabriel West who she has this bizarre connection with and it upsets the delicate balance of the how the band works.

Amidst all of this Charlie is dealing with family issues, falling out with her best friend and dealing with her new found infamy. No one ever said that being a teenager was easy.

I absolutely adored Songs About a Girl. It made me want to be a teenager again….which as a 34 year old woman is not something I say lightly or often. Chris Russell really has got down to the nitty gritty of what it is like to be a teenager.

I am so glad that I have the sequel to this book downloaded and the third in the series pre-ordered.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell is available now.

For more information regarding Chris Russell (@chrisrusselluk) please visit www.chrisrussellwrites.com.

For more information regarding Hachette Children’s Group (@HachetteKids) please visit www.hachettechildrens.co.uk.

Title: Second Best Friend

Author: Non Pratt

Pages: 82 Pages

Publisher: Barrington Stoke

The Blurb

Jade and Becky have always been best friends; inseparable and often indistinguishable. But when a spiteful comment from an awful ex pushes Jade to the edge, she begins to see that she has always been second best in everything. When the school election offers her the chance to finally be number one, Jade learns just how far she is willing to go to be better than her closest friend.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Non Pratt is one of my go-to authors. Ever since I read Trouble I have been hooked on her writing which makes it rather strange that it took me so long to read Second Best Friend. This is her second dyslexia friendly text released through Barrington Stoke and I must say, Non Pratt does not patronise her readers.

Second Best Friend is the story of Jade and Becky – best friends but political enemies in an upcoming class project. However, the seemingly perfect Becky is beginning to push Jade’s buttons – through no fault of her own, I might add – but jealousy and a mild inferiority complex turns Jade into the worst version of herself. Through her manipulation she realises that the grass isn’t always greener and most people do not have all of their ducks in a row.

I really loved this story. It displayed how toxic even some of the best friendships can become when outside influences start rubber-necking. Non Pratt also focuses on the morals of teenagers without being condescending – she knows that teens are going to do questionable things but rather than tell them off she shows them the consequences of their actions along with recognising how difficult it is to grow up in a social media age.

What I really love about Non Pratt’s Barrington Stoke releases is that she still writes for a mature audience. I work in a school and in particular with weaker readers and some of the stories available to them are – for want of a better word – boring. They don’t speak to a modern teenager. Non Pratt has her finger firmly on the pulse of the young adult genre and Second Best Friend is a clear example of this.

Second Best Friend by Non Pratt is available now.

For more information regarding Non Pratt (@NonPratt) please visit www.nonpratt.wordpress.com.

For more information regarding Barrington Stoke (@BarringtonStoke) please visit www.barringtonstoke.co.uk.

Title: Cold Bath Street

Author: AJ Hartley

Pages: 316 Pages

Publisher: UCLan Publishing

The Blurb

Preston Oldcorn is in a desolate void between life and death. In order to save his soul he must brave his greatest fear – Cold Bath Street. A gothic thriller – think Hunger Games crossed with Artemis Fowl – that will keep you gripped to the end. Stunning black and white illustrations throughout.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

What are you supposed to do when you are lost in that precarious world between life and death? Preston Oldcorn has to figure this question out because since he died he has been stuck in a sort of limbo, consorting with ghosts and occasionally going back to his old home in Preston, Lancashire. He hasn’t gone to heaven and he knows he hasn’t done anything bad enough to send him to hell. But he does seem to be unable to get away from his home town.

Preston’s story mixes local ghost stories and spooky history from the Lancashire town. Author, AJ Hartley grew up in the area and has used real life locations to shape and develop his tale of lost souls. We see the sadness of unfinished business juxtaposed with the light of making new friendships and making the best of a bad situation. Hartley manages to bond the natural and the supernatural together in such a believable way that you will not be able to put the book down until you know just how it end.

Cold Bath Street is a really good ghost story. It is creepy and mysterious and keeps you guessing to the very last page. It is a very entertaining read and perfect for those who like to be scared.

Cold Bath Street by AJ Hartley is available now.

For more information regarding AJ Hartley (@authorajhartley) please visit www.ajhartley.net.

For more information regarding UCLan Publishing (@publishingdeb) please visit www.uclanpublishing.com.