Posted in Book Reviews

Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest

I enjoy seasonal reads and Christmas at Woolworths was such an enjoyable and enlightening read!

This is my honest and unbiased review in return for a copy of this book from the publishers.

christmas at woolworthsI found myself fully immersed in the story all the way through the book.  The characters are well developed, authentic and endearing.  I loved that the women were depicted as strong, interesting and inspirational characters.

Right from the start, I was intrigued to find out what life was like for those amazing women living in Erith, Kent.  Freya, Ruby, Maisie, Sarah, Betty, Maureen, Vera and Pat to name but a few of the characters are all very different people drawn together during WWII.  Some of them have bonded whilst working at Woolworths, and others by living together and supporting one another in this tight-knit community.

Although I am too young to have lived during this war era, I found myself reflecting on what life must have been like for these people.  Their strength and camaraderie is inspirational and heart-warming.  Each character is highly motivated to do their part to try and end the war so life could return to normal.  They endured the constant threat of scary air raids and buildings being bombed, but all the while trying to lead as normal lives as possible.

Woolworths is the hub of the town that people relied upon to create a sense of normality and where women could prove that they are as capable of doing a magnificent job of running a business as men could.  As you are most likely aware, in those days, women were expected to stay at home and men ran the businesses.  These wonderful women fund-raised to support the war effort and also provided auxiliary support for fire services and ARP, as well as taking in refugees into their homes.

This wonderfully written, well researched book gives an amazing insight into the lives of these brave characters.  I enjoyed the interaction between the characters, which offered intimate glimpses into their budding friendships and romances.  The intrigue and mystery created by some new arrivals made me very curious indeed to keep reading!

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I was kept thoroughly entertained from beginning to end.  This book is full of exciting plots and interesting characters.  I didn’t want the story to end!

I can highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic Christmas read, but also as a heart-warming story that will leave you filled with good cheer and a sense of positivity for the festive season!

This book deserves

Posted in Book Reviews

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith

“Set in 1980s Newfoundland, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is the story of a 14-year-old girl who runs away to the city and is taken in by a street musician who lives with an eclectic cast of characters: a pot smoking dishwasher with culinary dreams; a drag queen with a tragic past; a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost.”

agony bun

Bun is fourteen and it’s 1986.  She has lived almost her entire life in a junk filled house with her hoarder mother.  Bun is kicked out of her home with no money and nowhere to go.  She finds a place to stay with a motley group of twenty-somethings.  Now maybe she can finally learn how to find her own way in life.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is a well written and interesting read. Smith has a unique style and Bun is a quirky and interesting character.  All the characters are real and engaging.

The plot is fascinating. Bun deals with love, loss, numbness all while trying to find her way in life. She has some interesting coping mechanisms, which you will read about in this story.

Smith deals with difficult subjects like abuse, AIDs, and prostitution in an appropriate way. The ultimate message here is about how to deal with real family and what it means to choose your own family. This leaves you feeling a little sad, yet uplifted at the same time.

I think that this book will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is a fresh and fascinating story.  I’m sure that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

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This book deserves

Posted in Book Reviews

Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask for by Sara Pascoe

Thank you to Netgalley, Sara Pascoe and the Independent Book Publishers Association for allowing me to read and review this book about a teen witch.  I enjoyed following Raya’s journey of self-discovery.

being a witchThis is a wonderful story about a young girl, who has had a difficult life and is struggling to come to terms with her past.  Raya finds it difficult to let anyone get close to her and vice-versa.  She is in foster care but wants to run away and be free to make her own choices.  In her quest to find herself and establish her independence, Raya quickly discovers that she is an integrator (witch).  This turns out to be a huge relief to her as it explains some of the weird things happening to her.

She is quickly immersed in a new world of adventures, which relies on her mastering her new skills to save herself and her companions.


Oscar, her talking cat companion, is a fun yet wise character.  Who wouldn’t want a talking cat?

Raya is a troubled teen, who is initially irresponsible and selfish, but later realises the value of her friends and lets them into her life.

Bryony is her tutor and attempts to help Raya practise her new time travel skills.  She even tries to save her when things go awry.

I liked most of the secondary characters as well.


I enjoyed the contemporary setting of the story as well as the historical period featured during the time travel.

I thought that the time travel, which wholly depended on Raya’s wishing to be elsewhere, was believable and added significantly to the storyline.

Raya’s past and her perceptions of her life were explained in an authentic and easy to understand way.  I think that it helps the reader understand her character better and allows them to relate more easily to her.

There was a well thought out moral underpinning the story.

I think that teens aged 13–15 would especially enjoy this story.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read giving a troubled teen a voice and letting her find and embrace acceptance and love.

This book deserves

Posted in Book Reviews

Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessy

I enjoyed reading Like Other Girls and I think that Claire Hennessy dealt with several difficult issues faced by teens/YA sensitively.

like other girlsLauren is a 16 year old girl, who thinks that she doesn’t fit in.  She feels like she doesn’t have any real friends at her posh all-girls school.  To make matters worse, Lauren’s mother is recently been appointed as head teacher.

She has fallen out with her best friend, Steph or should I say Evan?  Lauren is confused about her sexuality.  Although she has a boyfriend, whom she feel just uses her for sex, she is also attracted to girls.

Lauren feels overwhelmed by the stress of trying to deal with her friendships, family and her love life.  As a result, she starts to drink heavily to escape from her feelings and makes some risky choices.

One drunken night, Lauren breaks up with her boyfriend only to find out that she is pregnant.  She doesn’t know who to confide in and feels totally alone.  The problem with living in Ireland is that it is impossible to receive any meaningful help so she decides to fly to England for an abortion.

Having gone through this procedure all alone and being unable to talk about it with anyone, Lauren continues drinking heavily and finds her life spiralling out of control.

In an effort to help Lauren, she is convinced to meet with a counsellor.  At first, she doesn’t think it will help but slowly comes to realise that it will help her deal with her issues.

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Eventually, Lauren confides in her mother and her friends and attempts to take back some control of her life by campaigning for better help for Irish women who find themselves pregnant and in need of intervention. And the best news for Lauren is that she reconciles with her best friend, Steph.


I think that the subjects of teenage pregnancy, abortion, gender identity, sexuality and alcohol abuse are dealt with in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner in this novel.

Teens and young adults should read this book as it explores many subjects that they struggle with.

I would like to thank Bonnier Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book rates a deserving

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews

Open A Toolkit For How Magic And Messed Up Life Can Be by Gemma Cairney

I arranged an author visit from Gemma Cairney  at my school through Elaine at Silverwood Events on 15 March 2017.

Gemma is Open a toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be by Gemma Cairneycurrently touring the UK to promote  her debut book, Open A Toolkit For How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be.

The Book

When I received my advance copy, I was so impressed with the content and the unique, easy to read format of the book.  It’s colourful, well illustrated and highly appealing to teenagers.  It will become “a wise best friend in a book” as quoted by Caitlin Moran.

Gemma covers all issues experienced by teens such as family, friendship, love, stress, loss, addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, body image, etc.  Too many to mention here, but so relevant to life in the 21st century. These issues are sensitively dealt with and beautifully explained in language that teens will relate to and understand.

Besides being highly recommended for all teens, I think that this book will be a fantastic resource for all parents, guardians, carers and staff working in education or with teenagers in any other capacity.

The Author Visit

Gemma spoke to my Year 8 students and they hung on her every word.  She used the platform of an informal chat on stage with Bea Cross, from Macmillan Publishers, dsicussing the content of her book and her own experiences.  Students asked lots of interesting and relevant questions, which Gemma happily answered.

The letter that Gemma had written to her 14 year old self, which she read at the end of her talk was truly inspiring.  It appears at the end of her book.

Afterwards, Gemma signed a pile of books and spoke to a queue of students.

Some of the students stayed on to participate in recording a podcast with Gemma, discussing some of the issues they had experienced in their lives.

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The students, who attended the author visit are still talking about how much they enjoyed the talk and meeting Gemma a week later.

Gemma, touring in her bright yellow double decker bus, spread positivity with her sunny disposition amongst the students and staff at our school.  It was a thought provoking and inspirational visit.

I wish Gemma every success on her continued tour and feel honoured to have spent time with her.  She clearly cares about helping teenagers cope with life issues.

Lancashire Telegraph news article about the visit.

Her book deserves .

Pan Macmillian book announcement.


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