The Wild Places – Robert MacFarlane


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“I could not say when I first grew to love the wild, only that I did, and that a need for it will always remain strong in me… It conjured images of wide spaces, remote and figure less. Isolated islands off Atlantic coats. Unbounded forests, and blue snow-light falling on to drifts marked with the paw-prints of wolves.”

Published: 2007
Publisher: Granta
Genre: Non-Fiction/British Travel Writing

Are there any genuinely wild places left in Britain and Ireland? That is the question that Robert Macfarlane poses to himself as he embarks on a series of breathtaking journeys through some of the archipelago’s most remarkable landscapes. He climbs, walks, and swims by day and spends his nights sleeping on cliff-tops, in ancient meadows and wild woods.

The “book is a map” as MacFarlane writes, tracing journeys from Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, across valleys, through forests, along ridges and down into holloways. Beginning and ending in Beechwood, it marks a journey of thought also. At the start, MacFarlane writes that to “reach a wild place was” for him, “to step outside of human history” but by the time he returns, he has had a change if heart. Standing on the summit of Ben Hope, shivering, he realises that this version of ‘wilderness’ is bleak, meaningless and comfortless. He feels the “blazing perception of the world’s disinterest” in humanity- a thought so simple and yet so frightening.

Lleyn Peninsula

MacFarlane frequently mentions those whose lives and works have influenced his own. He talks of monks, poets, writers, philosophers and seafarers; many living and many dead. One of these people was his dear friend Roger Deakin who wrote books such as Wildwood and Waterlog (amongst others.) He writes fondly of Deakin- of his cottage called Walnut Tree Farm with it’s creaking timbers and windows thrown open regardless of season.

5/5 stars. I adore everything  MacFarlane writes, and The Wild Places was no exception to this. Beautiful and lyrical, filled with bright and rich evocations of the natural world and our place within it.

If you liked The Wild Places, you’ll also like THE OLD WAYS and HOLLOWAY.


Tinder – Sally Gardner


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Tinder by Sally Gardner

“Once in a time of war, when I was a soldier in the Imperial Army, I saw Death walking. He wore upon his skull a withered crown of white bone twisted with green hawthorn. His skeleton was shrouded with a tattered cloak of gold and in his wake stood the ghosts of my comrades newly plucked, half-lived from life.”

Published: 2013
Publisher: Orion
Genre: YA Fiction

As winner of the Carnegie medal and Costa Book Prize 2013, Sally Gardner almost needs no introduction. Her latest novel Tinder, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Tinderbox is an exquisitely written and beautifully illustrated work.

Our protagonist Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he begins to walk a dangerous path. A strange half-beast half- man gives him shoes and  dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery.

This book is a truly modern fairy tale, weaving through vast forests covered in powdered snow, towering castles and small villages filled with suspicious characters. It has everything you look for in a fairy tale too; a brave soldier, a beautiful princess, heroes and villains- werewolves, witches and dogs with eyes the size of millstones.10383858_731925223537664_3177894454417122088_o

But this isn’t Disney, and if you’re looking for a happy ending then this isn’t where you’re going to find one. Otto is on a dangerous journey and he has already suffered great loss. Nothing will be easy for him, and as a result, this won’t be an ‘easy’ read either. It’s an incredible novel full of hope and despair, absolute beauty and heartbreaking cruelty. Accompanied by hauntingly beautiful illustrations by David Roberts; this isn’t a book you’ll ever want to part with.

5/5 stars. Filled with poignancy, beauty and cruelty; Tinder is a book that is impossible to forget in a hurry.


She Is Not Invisible – Marcus Sedgwick


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“I bit my tongue and waited a moment, and tried to remember that Benjamin was only seven, and that I had abducted him, that he was up way past anyone’s bedtime, let alone his, and that no one might ever forgive me for any of this anyway”

Published: April 2013
Publisher: Orion (Indigo)
Genre: YA Fiction/Thriller

Laureth Peak’s father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers- a skill at which she’s remarkably talented. Her secret though? She’s blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her little brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness.

She is Not Invisible is a fast paced thriller, with one crucial difference. Our main character, Laureth, is blind. How’s that for an unusual choice of leading lady?

But this is not a book about being blind, or about defeating disability prejudices (or anything else cheesy like that) It’s about a teenage girl, looking for her father- in a world full of mysteries and patterns and strange coincidences.

The only parts I was less than fond of were 1) the often lengthy snippets of her Father’s writing which became boring to read and 2) that the ending seemed to come together far too neatly. Almost like a children’s book with a ‘happily ever after’ tacked onto the end. But these criticisms aside, it was really rather good.

I have long been a fan of Marcus Sedgwick, though it’s been a while since I’ve picked up one of his books. This was a refreshing change from some of the romance-orientated summer reads currently circulating. A fast paced YA thriller that is absolutely worth your time. 3.5/5 stars.

The Lottery – Shirley Jackson


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The Lottery and other stories“The people of the village began to gather in the square…. around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days”

Published: 2014 (First in 1948)
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
Genre: Short Story/Thriller

This little edition of The Lottery is barely 12 pages long but don’t let that fool you. This is a short story that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.

Goodreads says: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What’s there to be scared of?

Sounds rather chilling doesn’t it? Well it is. Shirley Jackson keeps you on your toes until the very last page, slowly building the suspense until it’s almost too much to bear. When The Lottery was first published in 1948, readers were apparently so horrified by the story that they sent her hate mail but it has now become one of the most iconic American stories of all time.

It’s very hard not to give it all away, so I’m not going to say too much. However, this is one incredible short story – thrilling, dark and well written with a huge twist at the end. 4/5 stars.

If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch


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if you find me paperback“The room fills with Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’, the crisp, sparkling notes dusting everything fresh and new. Our instruments blend together until there’s no separation, no space between us, no end and no beginning.
‘Put it into the music,’ Mama used to say. ‘The anger, sadness, worries- there are notes for all of it.’ There are notes for happiness, too, if you listen past the ache.”

Published: 2013
Publisher: Orion (Indigo)
Genre: YA Fiction

If You Find Me is the debut youth fiction novel from US author Emily Murdoch- and oh my god is it incredible.

The Guardian says:  “Carey and her sister Jenessa have been abandoned by their neglectful mother and they are stranded in the woods, living off their last cans of beans. They are not even living; simply surviving. However two people approach their camp that will change both their lives forever.”

This is a novel filled with hope, but also with sadness and poignancy. It tells us that children are incredibly resilient but how far can this resilience be stretched? Our protagonist Carey spends 10 years isolated in the woods- bringing up her little sister and trying desperately to keep them both warm, safe and fed.

As readers, we empathise with her every step of the way, and I think, this is where the power of the novel truly lies. We identify with Carey- with her isolation, her inability to forget her past or to let go of the woods and to feel like she truly deserves happiness. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have any light-hearted moments. It’s also funny and sweet and girly with a dash of romance and some very teenager-y moments.

I only picked up is book because it just happened to be lying on the top of my to-read pile, but now that I have, I almost can’t bear to put it down. It’s that good, trust me.

It has been nominated for the 2014 Carnegie Medal, shortlisted for the Waterstones children’s book prize, named Editors choice by the New York Times for  June. And quite frankly, I’m unsurprised. It’s one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year- so make sure it’s one of yours too. 5/5 stars.


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