Saturday, 14 May 2016

Why We Love... Hugless Douglas

Picture Book Review: Hugless Douglas 

We have been enjoying the World Book Day edition of Hugluss Douglas for a year now, but we have only recently tried the longer stories. The characters in Hugluss Douglas are charming and the series places lots of emphasis on friendship, which is great to see. 

One of the best things about this book is there are lots of excuses for cuddles and any book which encourages those is a hit in my eyes. 

The books are bright and cheery, with lovely artwork and typography. There's also a nice number of words per page, and lots to point out and discuss in the pictures, so they hold my daughter's attention really well. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

War & Peace: Post Three - Half Way

Half way! Half way! Half way!

That's right, recently I got to see THIS amazing update at the bottom of my Kindle - and we're not even half way through the year yet!

Unfortunately, I am also up to the part of the novel that I was dreading reading, and I hope my reading speed doesn't slow down as a result. I normally read the second half of novels more quickly than the first, so fingers crossed War and Peace will be no different. 

Overall, I am still really enjoying Tolstoy's epic. I may have started reading it for a challenge, but I'm continuing because I love it. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters. {Goodreads Summary}

"I meet his gaze and sneer. My arm is a steel band around his waist. "I choose you," I say. "Simon Snow, I choose you.”

Carry On is the third Rowell novel I have read and it's the first novel I've finished this year by an author I have read before (Tolstoy doesn't count as the end of War & Peace is still twelve hours of reading time away...) It's also the third novel I've read this year written from multiple perspectives. 

“Just when you think you're having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”

I had seen a lot of love for Carry On online before I started reading it, but when I started I was a little disappointed and began to wonder what the hype was about. Then I read the first Baz chapter, and I was hooked. 

“Everyone’s still gossiping about where he’s been. The most popular rumours are “dark coming-of-age ceremony that left him too marked up to be in public” and “Ibiza.” 

I loved Baz. His perspective on the story was brilliant and not at all what I was expecting from Simon's complaints (which I guess was the point, but it still took me by surprise). I loved his dry humour and most of the funniest lines in the novel were his, but so were the most intense and the most romantic.

“Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.

He's constantly drawing you in. And you're constantly stepping too close. And you know it's not good--that there is no good--that there's absolutely nothing that can ever come of it.
But you do it anyway. 
And then...
Well. Then you burn.”

There are so many subtle Harry Potter references and parallels that I was thinking about them even while I wasn't reading. I had lots of fun spotting them. I also loved the pop culture references Rowell included through her spells (her whole concept of magic was really unique and interesting) and kept getting songs stuck in my head as a result. Despite being written by an American author, Carry On felt very British, from the language to the Bacadri Breezer references. Rowell has also given new meaning to the word 'numpty'.

“The front seat is for people who've never been kidnapped by bloody numpties. Jesus Christ, Baz.” 

I've purposely not included my favourite quote from the book, even though it appears four or five times in the Goodreads quote section, because I think you have to read it in-situ to get the full effect. When it occurs, at the end of one of Baz's first chapters, it starts the novel on a whole other level of amazingness. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Why We Love... Kipper

Picture Book Review: Kipper

I was already quite familiar with Kipper before Kipper's Visitor came out for World Book Day, as my younger sister used to watch the TV show and we had a few of the books when she was younger. I was really excited to introduce my daughter to another Mick Inkpen series, after the success of Zoe and Beans and Kipper's Visitor was a great introduction. It's a very simple story, but also very funny and my daughter loves shouting 'honk' when prompted. 

We picked up Kipper's Beach Ball from the library and it's been an instant hit. I was worried that there would be too many words on some of the pages to hold her attention, but that hasn't been the case at all. She is mesmerised by Kipper, Tiger and their beach ball and happy to listen to every word.

The books were re-released with new covers a couple of years ago to celebrate Kipper's 25th birthday (it turns out Kipper is older than me!). Unfortunately you can't buy them as a collection at the moment, so I think we'll be sticking to library copies for now as the entire series would be quite an investment. I will, however, definitely be digging out my sister's old copy of Kipper's A to Z next time I'm visiting my parents. Our Kipper adventure will definitely be continuing!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Forbidden Wish

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin {Goodreads Summary}

"Oh, my naive thief. " I pause briefly to meet his gaze. "Love is rarely a choice.” 

I love fairy tale retellings, which I guess is unsurprising since I've been working on some of my own. I also love Aladdin and One Thousand and One Nights, so I knew I was going to love The Forbidden Wish from the moment Khoury started posting about it on her facebook page. When I finally got to read it this month, it didn't disappoint. 

"As the poets say, stories are truth told through lies."

The Forbidden Wish is a story of magic, love and friendship. Friendship was so important in this novel and that was really great to see, especially since it is so often overlooked in YA. Zahra's friendship with Roshana was just as important to the plot as her relationship with Aladdin and the relationship Caspida (the princess) has with her handmaidens made them a formidable force. I would love to be a part of their gang. 

“There is only one thing more numerous than the stars,” I say, looking up to the heavens. “And that is the darkness that holds them.” 

The world Khoury creates was vivid, exotic and inviting. I hadn't read anything by her before, but I would definitely read more on the strength of The Forbidden Wish. 

“Because happiness itself is a mythical construct, a dream you humans tell yourselves to get through each day. It is the moon, and you, like the sun, pursue it relentlessly, chasing it around and around, getting nowhere.” 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Why We Love... Blown Away

Picture Book Review: Blown Away

I first heard about Blown Away when it won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize last year. For some reason, the fact that it won the prize made me assume that I wouldn't enjoy it; I didn't want to read a stuffy 'critics choice' that was bound to be too artsy and clever for my lively toddler. I could not have been more wrong. 

When I saw Blown Away in the library, I decided we should give it a try. It was free to borrow, so we had nothing to lose in trying it. I am so pleased we did. Blown Away is brilliant. It's funny; it's easy to read aloud (it scans beautifully); and the pictures are adorable. As soon as I finished reading it, I turned back to the start and read it again. 

It's got the seal of approval from my toddler too - she's brought it over to me a number of times asking for the 'penguin story' (she's one and a half, so I'm translating here; what she actually says sounds a bit more like 'pen in stor', but it's enough for me to work out what she wants). Invariably, when I get to the end, she says 'again' and flicks back to the beginning. 

The moral behind this blog post is that picture book awards clearly know what they are talking about and I will never doubt them again. I'll be buying a copy of this year's winner, The Bear and the Piano, very soon!

Friday, 8 April 2016

A Writing Update

I haven't posted on of these in a while and it's long overdue. Here's what I'm up to, writing-wise, at the moment:

Mirrored Snow

Mirrored Snow is currently a featured story on Wattpad! I had so much fun writing this last year and it's great that it's now being shared with more people. 

Princess Charming

To celebrate Mirrored Snow making the featured list, I've started work on a companion short story called Princess Charming. It's a gender-reversal retelling of Cinderella and it's proving as much fun to write so far. Here's the synopsis: 

Every culture has its own version of Cinderella, whether it features glass slippers and fairy godmothers, or enchanted trees and magic fish, the love story endures and goodness is always rewarded. 
But in this story, Ella has been replaced by Elliot and her beloved prince is a princess severely lacking in charm. 
Elliot's step-father expects him to work from dawn until dusk, leaving him no time to miss the life of happiness and comfort he once knew. When the rest of his family are invited to a series of balls, held in honour of the Princess Charmaine's return from school, Elliot longs for a night off and the opportunity to reconnect with his childhood friend. But his step-father is busy plotting how his own son can win Charmaine's heart and doesn't want Elliot getting in the way. 
They will soon discover that Charmaine won't be easily charmed. She doesn't need a husband to rule by her side and she's going to use these balls to prove it. That is, until a friend from her past reappears and she discovers that falling in love doesn't have to mean losing control.

Amber & Ice

I think I might be on my fifth redraft now, although I'm losing count. More major plot changes being made, as well as more emphasis on explaining the tech and the way the world works. I'm really, really hoping to start querying agents about this later on in the year, although I need to come up with a new title first...