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...

Thursday, 7 April 2016

April Books I'm Excited About

We're a week into April already and the April showers have come out in force. Do I need to go out in a rain coat, or sunglasses? Sandals or snow boots? Is the car going to be covered in blossom or frost? I wish the British weather would make up its mind! Until it does, I think I'll be safest tucked up indoors with some of the amazing books that are being published this month. These are the three I am looking forward to the most.

{published 19th April}

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them...until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett's stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off. {Goodreads Summary}

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here is a novel about a girl who starts writing fan fiction about her CLASSMATES. It's an idea so brilliant I sort of wish I'd had it while I was at school. I think this is going to be really funny and I can't wait to start reading it. 

The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
 {published 26th April}

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love. {goodreads summary}

I think I gushed about The Wraith and The Dawn enough in my review for it to come as no surprise that I am very, very excited for the sequel. I'm not really sure where this story is going to go next, but I'm hoping for more magical elements, as well as romance, of course.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
{published 26th April}

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself. {goodreads summary}

Bustle described this as "a loose interpretation of the Cupid and Psyche tale woven into Hindu mythology" and the Classics geek in me wanted to pre-order it immediately. Chokshi's Pinterest board for the novel is really pretty too.

Happy reading everyone!