The John Mason Shadowers

Create Group Magazine

Steady for This
'Steady for This' is an interesting novel that guides you through the journey of the protagonist as he: gains new experiences, encounters new characters and encounters changes in his relationships. I think this could be a really helpful guide to people who may feel lost or in a difficult situation as it provides a comforting outcome through a fictional (but realistic) character. It showcases the embarrassing moments in life as what they are: small, insignificant moments. One character I could empathize with was Siobhan; she is an outgoing and confident character who always tries to further improve herself and helps Shaun to do the same. Despite this, I didn’t particularly enjoy the story line of this book as I felt it was very predictable and cliché. However the key messages in this book are really helpful for working towards a positive mindset… Overall, this is a very powerful book that I would recommend for the real-life lessons you can learn.

Hollie

Crossing the Line
Tia Fisher’s “Crossing the Line” is a book about how events can spiral out of control from fighting back against a bully to being sucked into the cruel world of violence, gangs and drug dealing - a world where you question your safety at every turn. This story highlights how the wrong choices can tear apart your life; dominoes falling, tearing apart your friendships… tearing apart your family… tearing apart your life. “Crossing the Line” follows a boy, Erik Andersen, who’s life turns upside down after his dad dies during lockdown when he was only 11, and only 1 year later his mother becomes pregnant - the father being her boyfriend, Jonny, who leaves her after they get the news that they are having twins. Plunged into poverty, the Anderson’s family struggles to survive with two more mouths to feed and only one job to feed them all. Until two boys tempt Erik to skip school, giving him free fish and chips, bribes that suck him into into the world of gangs, who although funding the whole family, couldn’t care less about Erik’s life ( or death). Overall, I would give this book an 8.5/10! An insight, written in poetic verse, into the lives of children sucked into County Lines.

Hope

Choose Love
‘Away with Words’ by Sophie Cameron is a masterpiece with a concept worthy of gold. This novel follows Gala ( who just moved her whole life from Cataluña, Spain to Fortrose, Scotland to live with her dad’s boyfriend, Ryan ) in a world where words are physical objects that fall out of your mouth in different fonts, sizes and colours depending on your mood, personality and volume. There she meets Natalie, a girl with selective mutism ( meaning her anxiety makes her mute near new people and uncomfortable situations) who picks up other people’s words and presses them into paper, making poems and preventing the words from disintegrating. Gala befriends Natalie and starts making poems too but not soon after an anonymous bully starts spreading harmful poetry around school… This concept is unique and interesting and I would love to see more of Gala and her friends. Overall, I love this book and give it a solid 9.7/10!

Hope

Choose Love
‘Choose Love’ by Nicola Davies is an emotive collection of poems inspired by true stories of warfare and refugees. Split into three sections ( Departure, Arrival and Healing), these poems contain real life experiences of people who had to sacrifice everything to flee to safety but are still turned away by people unwilling to accept these people into their homes. Some of the most well written, rhythmic poems are ‘Mathematics’, which describes the perils of the fatal journey many refugees face, and ‘Artin’s Voyage’, a poem that describes how a young toddler - named Artin - drowned at sea and washed upon a beach after failing three times to cross the English Channel and escape from war. These poems shine a light on what is happening and how refugees must feel, almost bringing me to tears. Illustrated by Petr Horáček, these poems come to life with the help of abstract oil paintings that accompany these lonely tales throughout the pages. An amazing piece of pure artistry, a definite 7.9/10!

Hope

Away With Words
Given that 'Away With Words' has a different concept compared to what we are used to, it was quite quick to warm up to. I loved how Sophie Camron made everything so realistic even though she added something completely different into the mix. Gala's language barrier really stuck out to me as being so relatable. There are two characters who I loved and that I think Sophie Camron really gave a lot of thought to and that is Ryan and Gala's Grandma. Overall, I loved it so much and I would probably give it a 9/10.

Violet

The Door of No Return
Kwame Alexander’s ‘The Door of No Return’ was a step out of my comfort zone - being the first book I have read that is written in verse. This format was complicated to say the least and I found myself losing the plot at multiple occasions, having to read pages twice or three times through to understand what was happening. Another reason I had trouble reading this book was that there are not clear or frequent chapter breaks making me have to spend big blocks of time reading instead of being able to have a five minute escape from the outside world. In my reviews I usually like to write about the storyline but I am still having trouble figuring out what was happening in the first place and lost the plot so many times, I can’t even find a snippet of the book I understand. Overall, I found ‘The Door of No Return’ complicated and extremely difficult to understand. 1.8/10 - would not recommend.

Hope

Choose Love
Upon seeing the size and immediately obvious nature of 'Choose Love', I had little hope for an interesting and fulfilling read; especially since the aforementioned nature of the book was poetry. However after 5 minutes, when I completed the book I realised how utterly wrong my assumption was. The assorted poems were beautifully composed, and terribly impactful. It managed to weave a tapestry of separate stories so complete and full it was almost as if they had made for each other. At first glance when you see the artwork, it is easy to write it off as some paint thrown unnecessarily onto some paper. However upon closer inspection, shapes and images begin to seep through the cracks of the monotonous coating to reveal harrowing and touching images. I would rate the book a 8.9 out of 10, simply because of how short it was.

Ethan

The Door of No Return
I hated this book. I feel the characters and their story arcs were not properly developed and as such, I as the reader felt no connection or sympathy to the main character, making a dull and monotonous book that created no intrigue, interest, suspense and excitement. Secondly the ending fostered no emotional response from me, which is the exact opposite of what a “hard hitting” book should do. Thirdly , while the use of verse could vastly improve many titles, I do not think it was used correctly in this novel. Finally, however I will commend this book for attempting to tackle and difficult and tragic historical event. I would rate this book a 3.5 out of 10 .

Ethan

Crossing the Line
Overall I really enjoyed reading “Crossing The Line”. Sometimes I got a bit lost with all the characters but I eventually figured it out. I like that at the beginning it starts with a question. ‘Do you feel safe?’ I like how it got me thinking. In this book, I could really empathise with Erik and everything he was going through. I loved the description throughout the book especially during the scene when he was being attacked and on the train when he thought they were following him and that they were coming to get him. I also really liked how the format of where the words were placed also painted a picture and gave lots of effect.

Hannah

The Song Walker
In The Song Walker I loved how I got a real sense of friendship between the two main characters. Even when they had a big falling out they still stuck around for each other in times of need. They worked as a team to share food and resources. I also like the fact that the author also slowly incorporates the lost memories of the protagonist as the story progresses. I got a real sense of suspense during a really intense chapter where the main characters were on the run and accidently killed (or so they thought) a man. I like how Sienna goes on a literal and figurative journey about finding out who she is while also traveling through the Australian Outback. What I especially love about this book is that throughout there is a strong theme of violin music and it turns out that the author has actually composed some of her own pieces of violin music. Also the language of the Australian Outback (Alyawarra) is included which I find pretty cool.

Hannah

Choose Love
Filled with despair and inhumanity, ‘Choose Love’ is a beautiful yet heart-breaking story. From battles of death and despondency to a malicious interview and a cruel rejection, this book has it all. Expressing some topics that are not greatly talked about in our community till now, was really inspiring and giving us power through the opportunity for change felt very real that it's not just a story book that never happens. It's real. It's happening. It's happening right now. Choose love is short yet meaningful poems about asylum seekers personal journey and experience on many different stages. One of my favourite poems was called Five Minutes which was all about the race to flee your country and having to pack up possessions and relationships you've ever truly loved in just five minutes. The best line is probably ‘ You've got five minutes to count the cost, Of the past and future you just lost’ I think it's very powerful and I particularly like that it's in rhyme. Another one of my favourites is ‘Unbroken’ which is filled with hope and gives me a sense of stability and you were ok until it was broken. But never read a book by its cover because what might seem all lost can be found. The artwork of these poems as well is stunning, a real abstract feel yet some human shapes and relatable items such as a teapot, barbed wire and I especially like the piece with The Trials. I would 100% recommend this amazing book to anyone and everyone, it's absolutely stunning and I think if everyone in the world read this then there would be a lot less cruelty when it comes to refugees. Petr and Nicola and team should be very proud of creating this talented book and I will definitely be reading and viewing more of their pieces.

Amelia

Away With Words
A majestic book full of wisdom and endurance, ‘Away With Words' really took me on an experience through to a place full of frustration, anger and trying to find peace, yet in moments of all chaos and despair, we find beauty and love at the heart of family. We start with our procrastinator Gala moving to Scotland ,from her homeland Spain, with her Dad so they could live with his boyfriend Ryan ,who is a P.E teacher at her new school. Fighting a difficult journey of homesickness and learning a new language, Gala learns the true meaning of patience and hardship. On her first day of school she meets a quiet girl called Natalie, who we find out suffers from selective muteness. Even though communication is difficult, they find a connection through word searching, a game that brings them much joy. One day, a classmate tells them she has to have surgery and she's very worried, so they decide to make kind, inspiring poems out of the collected words. Eventually mystery poems are the talk of the school. Everyone wants to know who the anonymous poet is. But when mean poems also start getting sent round the girls find themselves in a sticky situation. Will they ever prove they're innocent? Even when times seem hard, they join together and lift each other up. My favourite character is Laia because she is such a sweet, loving Grandma with lots of mischief and friendship. My favourite part is when Natalie and Gala go to the beautiful waterfall and sit on the huge rocks, it created such a gorgeous picture in my mind. I also loved the fact there were words floating around the page which made it feel so special and fun. I would give this book a 9/10 because it's a lovely story, however to give it a ten, I’d have liked them to visit Cadaques to truly understand the contrast of her two homes. I would 100% recommend this book, it's one of the best so far and I think Sophie should be very proud to have created such a wonderful, diverse book.

Amelia

Choose Love
‘Choose love’ is a compelling collection of poems that will re-design your values as a privileged individual. These short poems and beautiful artworks include eye-opening and traumatic secrets many of us would never discover without reading this book. I found it shocking to hear about refugee’s deplorable experiences; how even in a country where we pride ourselves in inclusivity, these desperate people are being turned away with nothing but new-found loss. It truly does highlight the importance of this growing issue, and how under voiced it is. Although I can’t personally relate to any of these experiences, I do feel this book has given me a deeper understanding and sense of sympathy towards those in such vile situations. From this book you can expect beautifully curated artworks to reinforce the emotions from the poems, and will be wowed by the amazing content that has been fitted into such a short read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this subject, or anyone looking to learn more.

Hollie

Safiyyah's War
‘Safiyyah’s War’ is an inspirational story about how hope and friendship can shine through the darkness of war. Set in Paris during the invasion ( led by the Nazis in May 1940 ) and occupation of France, this book follows Safiyyah - a young Muslim girl navigating the changes in her life as her Jewish friends flee the country and soldiers roam the streets. She is sucked into a world of fear and chaos brought by the Nazis but still has to live her life as if soldiers weren’t arresting her neighbours; as if half her class had not turned up at school in weeks; as if she hadn’t noticed the Jewish people appearing in her home; as if she was still a clueless little girl. Seeing WW2 from a child’s view has opened up my mind on how even in the darkest times, there is always hope - whether that is studying maps in the library or eating oranges with Setti ( her grandmother ) there is always dots of light across the chapters. Safiyya, as a character, is written beautifully in this story loosely based upon reality, created by an author who could craft words like no other, Hiba Noor Khan. 9.8/10 - would recommend reading!

Hope

Safiyyah's War
This eye-opening story had me gripped from chapter one; from plot twists to anticipated heart-breakers, Hiba Noor Khan has brought it all to the table with this heart-warming read. ‘Safiyyah's War’ is a beautiful novel that had me laughing, crying and gasping along with the bumps and turns as the plot (set in World War Two) overwhelms the readers emotions, merging them with the well-developed characters. I really enjoyed this book because I loved that the characters not only had very intricate personalities, but also had contrasting and complex relationships with one another. One of the characters who I felt like I could relate to was Tim. He emerged into the book by chance, and I’m really glad that he did; he came into the lives of everyone at the Mosque and ended up really helping out everyone with the new skills he could offer. I feel like I can really relate to this character because he originally feels like he has nothing to offer, yet with the right nurturing and encouragement, he slowly rises to the challenge and becomes a quiet hero! I was also super excited to read the extra detail at the end of the book, which explained how everything worked out over time. Although the start of the book is quite slow and boring, I highly encourage you to push through as the second half is well worth it. Overall, a really great read that I would highly recommend for any history-fiction fans like myself, or anyone looking to push themselves or discover a new author, this is the book! 9/10

Hollie

Safiyyah's War
"Safiyyah's War" This book was extraordinary. The heart break , relief and warmth you felt for the characters was proof that the author has real talent. This tale which is based on true, harrowing events gives the reader a somewhat first hand experience. This emotional rollercoaster of a book is perfect for people who like semi-non-fictional books! Safiyyah was not my favourite character but i really think the bravery she portrayed complimented the other characters really nicely. My favourite character was Setti. The author created a really believable image of her in my mind. She felt like the light in the darkness . Although I really liked this book I found it slightly hard to start off, it was quite bland to begin but after the first few chapters I was intrigued to know the next part of the story...but with that aside it gave a great representation of a Muslims life in occupied France and the strength people would have had. Overall I would give this book an 8.7/10!

Ava

The Door of No Return
‘Door of No Return’ is an immersive experience, educating us on 19th century African culture and the atrocities of slavery through an exploration deep into the heart of daily West African life. From joy and excitement to pain and desperation we see how quickly the slave trade stole not only people but the spirit of Africa. We meet our protagonist, Kofi Offin and instantly I feel connection to a loving boy who simply wants to make his parents proud and find true love. Rich in tradition, yet in constant changing environments, Kofi lives with his parents, two sisters and older brother in their village called Lower Kwanta which is full of trees, rivers, yams and most importantly, wrestling; as he grows we see him try and transition to a respected adult and the ultimate struggles that come. Like a young bird learning to fly, Kofi's life continues to grow every day, as he explores the difference from rivalry to friendship, he covers tales from the past and moments long forgotten. When his highly regarded cousin challenges him to a swimming contest he needs all the support he can get from his best friends Ebo and Ama but what will he do when there's no one left to love? My favourite character is Ama because of how calm and composed she always is yet still full of mischief and undeniable knowledge. I liked this book because of the atmosphere of beauty, elegance, grace which can easily flow into betrayal, hatred and doom. It was both a nightmare and joy to read. Unfortunately I don’t think the book cover fully represented the whole story as well as it could have though I do appreciate it not having any spoilers before you've even read it. I would 100% recommend this book to anyone however I agree with the 12+ rating due to themes of violence and tragic loss. I was thrilled to see some more African culture as its not a topic I've read much about. Kwame Alexander wrote this story beautifully and I look forward to reading many more books of his.

Amelia

Crossing the Line
This book has it all, from moments of pain and devastation to liberation and joy, ‘Crossing the line’ really took me to another world. Tragic, tense, defeated yet powerful this book demonstrates the true definition of a captivating story. We begin with the protagonist called Erik starting secondary school, which I think definitely accelerated it for me because it makes it more relatable and feels a more personal experience. Sadly, he resonantly lost his father and his Mum is struggling with finance and relationships. She meets a guy who seems lovely, however she soon finds herself pregnant and gets abandoned. In days of desperation as a big brother and the now the man of house, Erik turns to a gangster group for support, but things start to spiral rapidly. Tangled in knots he can't untie, Erik begins to question everything he's ever known. Surprisingly, my favourite character is Ravi as he is a kind, loyal friend always there for the highs and lows of life and I think everyone should have a Ravi in their life. I would 100% recommend this book, although I'd personally rate this a 12+ due to the mature content and language. I’d give it 10/10, totally loved it from start to finish and I look forward to reading more of Tia’s books.

Amelia

Steady for This
Overall I found the book, 'Steady For This', very intriguing. It showed all the ups and downs, the twists and turns in Growls' life. I really loved how it gave examples of all the raps he wrote which explained how he felt. I also liked how how the story showed the other side of his friends' lives which he would not have known about unless he asked them or showed an interest. They also faced their own struggles. I found the way that Growls' older brother swooped in at the end to save him from giving up on his dreams on becoming a rapper inspiring.

Hannah

Crossing the Line
Overall I loved reading Crossing The Line, it was gripping and enticing. The style it was written in makes it very easy to understand and creates a fast but nice read. Although I really enjoyed reading this book, I do think that in the first few pages, I got slightly confused and didn't get stuck into the book as fast as I thought I would. Even with this minor issue I ended up loving it and I think that it was very creatively made. I do believe that it is sharing lots of awareness while also creating an amazing story.

Violet

Safiyyah's War
Safiyyah's War was a brilliant, page-turning book, with lots of twists and turns, anticipation and excitement. I could barely put the book down. It especially reminds me of Malala, a true story of a young girl fighting against war; like that, Safiyyah helps Jewish people in their time of need in the war. In particular, one of my favourite characters in Safiyyah's War is her Setti (grandma) because of how calm and reassuring she is ever in times of disaster. She enjoys the simple and little things in life. As well as this she pushes Safiyyah to be the best she can be and adds a lot to the story. Overall, I loved this book and I think it is an amazing representation of many peoples' hardships and battles during World war II. I give it a solid 9/10 and will definitely read it again.

Violet

Crossing the Line
The Yoto Carnegies, 'Crossing the line' by Tia Fisher I devoured this book, Crossing the Line . It was one of my favourite books; it was so gripping and I didn’t want to put it down. The way it is set out as poems is interesting but I found it made it easier to read in these little chunks. The story line is moving and at points I really felt for the characters, ( such as when Erik’s mum found out the truth about her son). I think the author was very talented in that sense . On page 344 the poem is very cool as it represent what it means . Another way of feeling connected to the book is on the final page as they address to the reader and they use the phrase “do you feel safe.” Which Is one of the many thought provoking phrases in the book. And finally I think the title is there to be interpreted because the boy is crossing county lines but he is also crossing the line of truth. I would really recommend this book.

Ava

Crossing the Line
The book is an incredibly good read and goes in depth into the struggles and hardship of poverty and coercion. The fact that it is in verse only adds to the beauty and contrasts the stark reality of crossing the lines. It also serves as guide to how to stay away from this horrific enterprise. I would rate this book a 9/10.

Ethan
Amelia
Hollie