Friday, 26 August 2016

Reviews: An Update

I'm sorry the blog has been a bit quiet recently. Over July, I had two really long books on the go (War & Peace and Winter) so I didn't actually have any finished novels to review. By the time I'd finally finished Winter, I had moved into my new house and it has taken almost a month of phone calls to sort out any kind of WiFi. But I finally have internet access again, so in the next couple of weeks you can expect reviews of Winter and Rebel of the Sands, as well as a War & Peace update. There will also be lots more picture book reviews coming up - my daughter has just had a birthday so we have lots of new books to post about, including Giraffes Can't Dance, I'm a Girl and The Trouble with Dragons. 

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend! I'll post again very soon.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Why We Love... Shh! We Have A Plan

Picture Book Review: Shh! We Have A Plan

"Tip-toe slowly, tip-toe slowly, now stop. Shh!"

I had my eye on Shh! for a while before finally getting round to buying it, and I'm so pleased that I did. 

Shh! is a fantastic story that's really easy to get involved in. There's so much repetition that, with a few prompts, my daughter can read me the entire book. When I get the chance to read, I find it really fun to say aloud.

My daughter loves the protagonists' comical attempts at capturing a bird, which are accompanied by bright, eye-catching artwork. It's a really lovely picture book.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Why We Love... Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Picture Book Review: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Tree is quite different to the sorts of picture books I normally buy. The only book we have that I could compare it to is Snow by Walter de la Mere, as it reads like a poem.

Tree follows the landscape through the seasons, as seen by an owl sat in his tree. Sections of the pages have been cut out, so the picture is built up gradually, with more animals appearing as the year progresses. The artwork in this picture book is really beautiful. The illustrator, Teckentrup, has done a wonderful job and I will definitely be on the look out for more of her work in the future.   

It's a calm, relaxing book which is good to read when you're winding down for bed or nap time. But there is still lots to get involved with, as there are plenty of animals to point out and name and it's a great way of explaining how the world around us changes throughout the year.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Grisha Trilogy

Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm / Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

I'm condensing my review of these three novels into one, as I read them one after the other and I think I'd struggle to separate my thoughts on each. 

My favourite thing about this trilogy is definitely the strength of the world building. It is phenomenally well thought out, with different countries, customs, languages and, of course, magic. I think Grisha power was very well defined and it's limitations explored and explained. I knew a little bit about Grisha magic from reading Six of Crows, but it was nice to see it as the main focus in these books.  

My favourite character was Nikolai, as he had such a fun and distinctive personality. But I also liked the time that was given to the Darkling's backstory; he was a well defined villain and Bardugo does an excellent job of humanising him at the end. 

“Watch yourself, Nikolai,” Mal said softly. “Princes bleed just like other men.”

Nikolai plucked an invisible piece of dust from his sleeve. “Yes,” he said. “They just do it in better clothes.”

As with Six of Crows, the dialogue is really strong, and there are witty exchanges a-plenty, particularly where Nikolai was concerned and I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud. 

“I took a breath. “Your highness—”

“Nikolai,” he corrected. “But I’ve also been known to answer to ‘sweetheart’ or ‘handsome.”

Overall, I don't think I enjoyed this series quite as much as Six of Crows, (I preferred the characters in the latter) but I would still definitely recommend it. 

“Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together, when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.” 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas's masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights. {Goodreads Summary}

Sometimes, I find that I enjoy the first book in a series so much, I'm reluctant to read the next novel,in case the story doesn't follow the trajectory that I am hoping for. This is the reason I still haven't read Half Lost, by Sally Green. It's a sort Schrodinger's book problem; so long as I don't read the book, the characters can have the ending that I want. Sometimes though, when I do finally relent and read the book, it's even better than I expected. A Court of Mist and Fury is one of those books. 

"We were a song that had been sung from the very first ember of light in the world."

I remember reading some less-than-positive reviews for A Court of Thorns and Roses due to the problematic nature of Feyre and Tamlin's relationship. ACoMaF addresses this, and then some. I don't want to give too much of the story away, but there are some really clear representations of what is and isn't a healthy relationship in ACoMaF. 

“He thinks he'll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out.”

“And I realized—I realized how badly I'd been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I'd been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.” 

Leading on from that, the other thing I really appreciated is Maas' portrayal of PTSD and depression. Often in books, characters move on from traumatic events with little or no effect on their mental health. Veronica Roth wrote a brilliant post on this topic on her blog. ACoMaF is not one of those books. Feyre's mental disintegration felt so real, as did her gradual recovery. She come out of the events of the books a stronger person, and I can't wait to see what she does next. 

"I was a survivor, and I was strong. I would not be weak, or helpless again. I would not, could not be broken. Tamed."

Also: feminism! ACoMaF really champions being your own person and rejecting any limitations people might put on you due to your gender. In the second half of the novel, Feyre refuses to let herself be sidelined from the action for her protection; she takes an active role and shows that she is every bit as strong and competent as the male characters. 

“She's mine. And if any of you lay a hand on her, you lose that hand. And then lose your head. And once Feyre is done killing you, then I'll grind your bones to dust.”

The ending. The ending! It's brilliant. It's terrible. It's fantastic. And it has made me more excited for the next book than I have been about a sequel since the Harry Potter years. I'll be reading book three the day it comes out. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Radio Silence

Radio Silence by Alice Osman

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. 

Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets. It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has. {Goodreads Summary}

"He smiled and looked away. 'Sometimes I think we're the same person...but we just got accidentally split into two before we were born."

The most important thing to tell you about Radio Silence is that it's different. It won't be like every other YA novel you read this year, or possibly like any YA novel you've ever read before. For a start, there isn't a major romantic plot line. Instead, it's friendship that takes centre stage; not only that, but a friendship between a guy and a girl, which most teen TV shows/novels like to suggest is impossible. Radio Silence felt very realistic throughout. Osman's characters are real teens, not book teens. 

I think Radio Silence has a really positive message when it comes to exam pressure and the stress of getting into university, which is such a huge problem for British teens and is easy to relate to. I saw a lot of myself in Frances when she went to her Cambridge interview. It's nice to find a book that reflects the impact this pressure has and also goes against the school-rhetoric that exams and university are everything. Carys was a particularly strong example of this. 

I loved that Radio Silence had a competent, involved adult figure who knew what was going on in her daughter's life and did her best to support and help her. Absent/incompetent parents have become an over-used trope in YA, and Frances' mother was refreshing. 

“You're an idiot,' said Mum, when I relayed to her the entire situation on Wednesday. 'Not an unintelligent idiot, but a sort of naive idiot who manages to fall into a difficult situation and then can't get out out of it because she's too awkward.” 

If you want to read something that is different, realistic and diverse, Radio Silence is a must. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Why We Love... Goodnight Spaceman

Picture Book Review: Goodnight Spaceman

With a forward by Tim Peake, Goodnight Spaceman is a must-have for any young space enthusiasts. It follows two boys as they get ready to fall asleep, imagining themselves going on a rocket into space to see their dad, who is an astronaut on the ISS.  There is some nice use of the ESA and Principia logos and it's a great way of introducing young readers to space terminology. There is also lots to point out and discuss in the adorable illustrations. Although both of the young children are boys, there are female astronauts on the ISS, so this book should encourage both boys and girls who dream of a future in space.