Happy Birthday Little Moore!

So, somehow, Little Moore is turning one today!

Well, I guess not technically: seeing as he was born in a Leap Year, he doesn’t get his proper birthday for another 3 years. But we’re celebrating today instead.

It’s been a crazy year since he was born. I’m not going to lie and say it was all fun and easy – parenting is exhaustingly hard work – but I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s a happy little boy with a wonderfully cheeky (still toothless) smile.

I love hearing him chatter away to us and to himself, even when it’s 5am and we just want some bloody sleep.

I love watching him crawl commando style around the living room and try to grab all the things I don’t want him to.

I love that in the bedroom, he always crawls to my bookcase and pulls out Alice in Wonderland.

I love seeing him fall asleep in my arms, just like he did as a tiny baby.

I love seeing him play with his cousin and I hope they grow up to be great friends.

I love seeing him play with his Dad and hear him say ‘Da da’ all day long.

I love that he’s learnt to blow raspberries on my tummy – I thought I was supposed to do that to him?!

I love that he know when to clap in ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ or just generally when he’s done something he’s pleased with.

Happy Birthday my little boy. You are so very loved <3

Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol 2, Friendship to the Max (Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen)

Publisher: Boom! Box

Pages: 112

Release Date: October 13th 2015

Summary:

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

What a mystery!

Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are not your average campers and Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types is not your average summer camp. Between the river monsters, magic, and the art of friendship bracelets, this summer is only just beginning. Join the Lumberjanes as they take on raptors and a sibling rivalry that only myths are made of.

Review:

I enjoyed this book but this will be a brief review as I feel I already said a lot of what I wanted to say in my Volume 1 review. That’s what I find hard about reviewing graphic novel volumes: it’s like reviewing a few chapters of a book at a time, instead of the whole story.

So once again the gang are back and getting themselves into trouble. This time there’s dinosaurs, mythical gods and the mother of all sibling rivalry to contend with. I still love the relationships, the gung-ho, in your face action and the overall positive, happy feel of the book.

There was a joke in the first story that actually made me laugh out loud and I immediately had to show Nathan it because it made me chuckle so much. There was also a cliffhanger bit that made me gasp and *forced* me to read another issue before bed.

This is a series that I’ll definitely be carrying on with, and if you’re looking for a fun, colourful book with strong female friendships then I’d definitely recommend it.

4

Book Review: Silver Stars (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 479

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The summer of 1943, World War II. With heavy memories of combat, Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the rest of the American army are moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. They are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. They will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of WWII; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

Review:

I adored Front Lines last year and was really grateful receive a copy of the sequel in the post, big thanks to Egmont UK!

Just as with the sequel, I did find this a bit hard to get into at first, but once I got into the swing of it I loved it. We still have our unnamed narrator framing events, with a small section at the start, middle and end of the book. I have a theory on who this is now, but we’ll have to wait until the next book to find out!

Rio, Rainy and Frangie are back and still at war. Rio is in the midst of the fighting, Frangie is doing her best to patch people up and send them out in – excuse the pun – fighting condition, and Rainy is on a secret mission that sees her meeting the Mafia and the British navy.

I kind of think of Rio’s story as the main one, probably just because I like her so much, and she’s the one doing the actual fighting, which, while not necessarily the most important job, it is the one that springs to mind when you think of war. She’s a good soldier and that’s leading to promotions she doesn’t want, because it’s easier to follow orders than to give them. But Rio isn’t able to shirk away from the responsibility and it leads to guilt, a battle within herself and tensions with Jenou, her best friend and fellow soldier.

Frangie has a doubly hard war to face: people might not like women soldiers, but what they like even less is coloured women soldiers. I think Frangie’s story is so important and so eye opening. Towards the end, after conversations with a certain character (no spoilers!) she sees how she is treated like a second class citizen, and how she even contributes to that, because that’s what’s been drummed into her. I know things aren’t like they were back then, but we still have a long way to go with race relations and I think reading Frangie’s story is really important. There’s also a note from the author at the back of the book on racism in the war. One bit that really stuck with me was when he said how black American’s had to fight to be allowed to fight in the war for a country that hated them. There’s real bravery and patriotism there.

Rainy’s journey takes her to dangerous territory: an invaded Italy is no place for a young Jewish woman. I admired Rainy’s resourcefulness and determination throughout and wished things worked out differently for her (no spoilers again!) It’s hard to say a lot without ruining things but some parts of her story towards the end really made me want to cry. Also, kudos for the mention of periods, wasn’t expecting that in this book at all and it was something I’d wondered about.

I was reading some reviews of Front Lines on Amazon and one comment stuck out to me. Someone said they thought they enjoyed the book because it was similar to the Animorphs series, by Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant’s wife. I was also a big Animorph fan – still am in fact, I think they’re an incredible set of books – and I think the comment rings true for me too. While they’re quite different in one respect – Soldier Girls being about WWII and Animorphs set in the present with an alien invasion – they’re both still kinds of war stories. While I loved the action in Animorphs, what fascinated me the most was the way the war changed the kids. Fighting like that, taking lives and making tough decisions changes people, and I loved reading about how it affected them. It’s the same with this series: now they’ve been at war for a while and all three have suffered and seen so much, we’re seeing the way it changes them, for better and for worse.

This book was a triumph, again. I’m more invested in the characters than ever and I really hope (though somehow doubt) they all survive the war. I loved that their paths are beginning to cross more and hope there’s more of that in Book 3, plot allowing.  I’d love to see more of Frangie and her struggles because she felt a little more absent in this book and I do love reading about her. If you’ve not picked up this series yet then I really recommend you do. It has three amazing, complex and very different female characters that are all inspiring in their own way and are great role models in YA.

4

Book Review: Scarlet Witch, Vol 1, Witch’s Road (James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, Javier Pulido)

Publisher: Marvel

Pages: 112

Release Date: July 19th 2016

Summary:

Witchcraft is broken – and the SCARLET WITCH is on a journey across the globe to fix it. From the back alleys of Manhattan, to the serene Greek Isles, to the bustling streets of Hong Kong, Wanda will have to face down her foes and find out who her true friends are. But as Wanda solves magical crimes and pieces witchcraft back together, the most important question remains: Who is the mastermind that broke it in the first place?

Review:

I love the Scarlet Witch’s character and was excited when I unwrapped this Volume 1 on Christmas Day. I’m not sure it really lived up to expectations though.

To start with the art, the book is stunning. The different artists give the book an inconsistent look but it’s actually the best thing about it. The Greek issue was probably my favourite: the colours were gorgeous and just everything about it was beautiful.

Sadly, I just didn’t think the stories were as good as the art. The main problem for me was that the climax always felt the same: whatever happened, the Scarlet Witch just did a spell, which looked pretty but was ultimately boring to read. I wanted more from it and it just wasn’t there, which is a shame.

So this one wasn’t for me. It looks good but I just didn’t find it interesting, and I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series.

3

Book Review: Dead of Night (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 85

Release Date: February 23rd 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set in the alternative World War II scenario of his Front Lines novels, Michael Grant, author of the bestselling GONE series, has written this story exclusively for World Book Day 2017.

Rio Richlin doesn’t have superpowers. She is an ordinary young woman. A soldier in the American army, wearing a uniform, carrying a rifle, and fighting alongside thousands who are trying to make a difference, trying to change the world.

At least, that’s the plan. Right now she’s part of a squad on a training exercise in some place called Wales. They’re cold, they’re wet, and Rio’s pretty sure they’re also lost. Spending the night in a creepy old inn wasn’t part of the plan at all…

Rio’s only training. But soon, the fate of the world will be in the hands of the soldier girls.

Review:

I really enjoyed the first in this series, Front Lines, last year and was excited when I received the sequel and this World Book Day story in the post.

On a training exercise in a dreary part of Wales, young soldier Rio Richlin finds herself in a creepy inn listening to stories of wars past, present and future. That’s right, this is a kind of A Christmas Carol story, with Rio being visited by ghosts who tell the story of how they died, while giving a bit of background to the war they were fighting in, both in a historical and personal way.

I liked the format of this once I figured what was going on, and it was a great way for Grant to give some commentary on war without being too preachy. I was curious where it was going when the second ghost said she had to learn to hate the enemy – while this is probably true in the case of war, it seemed an odd message for the story, but the third ghost came and told his story and it all made sense then.

This was a great little read and a good way to get back into the world and characters after a year away from it. I’m really excited to see where all the girls go next and I hope lots of people will be picking this up for World Book Day.

4

Book Review: Blood for Blood (Ryan Graudin)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.

For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Review:

I enjoyed Wolf by Wolf  last year and was really excited when I was approved to read the sequel. Unfortunately I really struggled to get into it. I don’t know if it was because I’d just read an amazing book and my mind was still on that one, or if it was because I’d not read the first book in a while, but I got to about 30% through and was ready to give up. I was confused by some of the names and couldn’t see where the book was going.

I took a break from reading and came back to it a week later and finally got into the swing of it. The pace picked up, they had an aim and I had some idea of where the book was going, although it took a lot of twists and turns, of course. I remembered why I liked the characters and after an incredible finale I was really glad I stuck with it.

The book picks up straight after where the first one left off, with Yael on the run after shooting Hitler. With Luka and Felix, she must do all she can to support the uprising and finish the mission she started. Luka has his eyes opened about what life in the Fuhrer’s Germany is really like for non-Aryans and Felix has to make a difficult choice but family and doing the right thing.

I loved Yael again: she’s just as strong and focussed as before, although I wasn’t keen on the lean towards romance in this book. While I liked her and Luka as a couple, I just wasn’t that bothered about the story line there, and felt they should be concentrating on more important things, like saving the world! Still, I loved Yael’s depth and complexity and wish there were more characters like her around.

I found Felix’s story really interesting. I was never sure what choice he would make, nor what was the right one. Morally speaking the choice is obvious, but when family comes into it, nothing is straightforward. I knew whatever he chose, I’d understand the decision behind it.

The climax was fantastic, one surprise to the next that left me breathless and desperate to read more (I actually read one of the chapters on my phone while pretending to be busy at work…) It was satisfyingly dramatic and intense with enough success and heartbreak to keep me happy. But one of my favourite bits was the last chapter, where we catch up with the characters shortly after those events. I liked that everything wasn’t suddenly happy and perfect in Germany and the world: war raged on and things weren’t okay overnight, but the big steps had been taken and they were on their way to change.

I’ve marked this down for the beginning as I just felt the pacing was really off in the book. While Yael and her friends didn’t have a concrete aim it felt like the book meandered for a bit. But it really picked up once they got going and I’m glad I stuck with it.

3

Guest Post: Ambiguous Characters by Sharon Gosling

Today on the blog I am excited to welcome Sharon Gosling, author of the latest chilling book in the Red Eye series, Fir. She’s talking about ambiguous characters, something I found really interesting and different in her book.

So without further ado, welcome Sharon!


What’s in a Name?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by ambiguous characters in literature, especially when it comes to narrators. Reading a book as told by one character requires trust, doesn’t it? The reader knows nothing at all about the person telling the story – the first time we’ve ever meet them is when we turn to the first page of that book. So who’s to say that what they choose to tell us is the absolute truth? Even if they’re trying to tell us the truth, can they? A first-person perspective can’t but be subjective, can it? It’s not even necessarily that the narrator is deliberately setting out to lie to the reader. But we all know how the same events can seem vastly different when seen from a different perspective. One of my favourite episodes of The X Files is ‘Bad Blood’, in which we see the same events twice, from Scully’s point of view and also from Mulder’s. They’re seeing the same things, but the way they experience them is so completely different, not through an attempt at subterfuge, but just because their own personalities and expectations make them see things differently.

That goes for readers too, of course. One person’s response to a book can be vastly different to another’s for exactly the same reason – we all see things from a different angle, there are always different moments that strike us as significant or themes that stand out to one person that may not even occur to another.  

One of my favourite poems is Dialogue, by Adrienne Rich. The first time I read it, it was as part of a lecture about the role an author plays in the way a reader experiences a text. Is it necessary to know anything about the author, or is the author a surplus component once the text is written? I first read the poem without knowing who the writer was. Finding out that the writer was a woman and not a man as I had originally assumed not only made me think differently about the poem itself, but it also made me question my approach and how my own assumptions and preconceptions had altered my understanding of the text.

When I set out to write FIR, I thought it would be interesting to do something that might similarly challenge the reader. I decided to write the book from a first-person perspective, but never stipulate either a name or a gender for the narrator. The absence plays with larger themes of identity – if we don’t have a name, what permanence do we have in the world? If there comes a time when no one remembers our name, how would anyone know we had ever existed? – but it also makes the reader think about why they choose to think of the narrator as either female or male. What is it about the character’s actions and personality that leads the reader towards one or the other? Is it more about the reader’s perspective than it is about the character as written? It’s been interesting to talk to people who have read the book about whether they think the narrator is a boy or a girl. There seems to be a pretty equal split between readers who experience the narrator as female and those who think of the narrator as male. When I ask the reader why they’ve made their decision, though, most don’t seem to be absolutely sure as to the reason. Some point out that the narrator is a skateboarder and listens death metal, which they think of as being more of a boy’s interests than a girl’s, but then with more thought – often unprompted – the same readers observe that they also know girls who share those interests. Others who think of the reader as a girl cite the narrator’s relationship with the mother in the story. Others who are friends of mine say they think of it as a girl because they know me, they know I wrote it and they know I’m female, and without something to definitively tell them otherwise they think of me as they are reading.

So how do I, as the writer, think of the narrator? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?


Thanks so much to Sharon for being on my blog today.

Check out my review of Fir here.

You can by Fir from Waterstones, Wordery, Amazon or your local bookstore

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Book Review: Orangeboy (Patrice Lawrence)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

Pages: 448

Release Date: June 2nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Marlon has promised his widowed mum that he’ll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. It’s easy when you keep yourself to yourself, listening to your dead dad’s Earth, Wind and Fire albums and watching sci-fi. But everything changes when Marlon’s first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre’s old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It’s time to fight to be the last man standing.

Review:

I was lucky enough to have this granted as a wish on NetGalley, so big thanks to the publishers for the e-copy.

This was a great book to read as it’s contemporary but not something I have any experience in: gangs in London, drugs and guns, death and danger. It was fascinating and uncomfortable and I really enjoyed it.

Marlon is the good boy of the family, doing well at school and staying out of trouble, unlike his older brother Andre, until the accident… But when a first date with a beautiful girl ends in tragedy, Marlon is forced into Andre’s world of gangs and danger and things start spiraling out of control.

I loved how Marlon changed throughout the book. He gradually made more and more dubious decisions, each one making his situation worse and worse. Although I didn’t always agree with moves he made, I also could see what led him to those decisions. From the beginning it’s clear that the police aren’t on his side so I can see why he felt he had to do things outside of the law, even if I was yelling at him in my head not to be so stupid.

I really felt for his mum, who was caught up in the middle of everything that he and Andre did. She’d already had a hard time of things and each time something bad came to her door I just wanted to hug her. I really cared about what happened to her and Marlon, which I think showed what life like characters they are. I had a soft spot for his best friend Tish too, and loved how she and his mum did everything they could to help Marlon, even when he wouldn’t tell them the whole truth.

This book is fast paced and tense, with a really gripping climax, and one that I’ll definitely be recommending.

4

Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol 1, Beware the Kitten Holy (Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen)

Publisher: Boom! Box

Pages: 112

Release Date: April 7th 2015

Summary:

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Review:

This was a Christmas present from Nathan, and the sneaky guy bought me Volume 2 the other day and stuck it into my TBR pile when I wasn’t looking. Lucky I enjoyed this one and want to read the next!

This is a colourful, whimsical tale about a group of girls at Lumberjanes camp, making friends and earning badges and investigating the mysterious things that keep happening. I liked that you’re just plopped right into the middle of the story: there’s no slow introduction of characters or anything, it’s just BAM we’re in the middle of the forest fighting three eyed foxes. As you do. It definitely grabbed my attention.

I loved all the girls in the group and loved their diversity even more. They’re all very different and I think there’s someone there for everyone to connect to. My personal favourite was April, who might be the smallest in the group, but she had no problem beating a giant statue in an arm wrestle. Ripley was a little annoying to me but hey, we all have a friend like that tin the group.

The art style is quite cartoony, very fun and colourful and I really liked it. It reminded me a lot of Adventure Time, not just the art but the phrases and maths and science etc. “Math and science and logic TO THE MAX!”

I loved the puns, the female friendships and I especially liked the interaction with the boys camp. The introduction of their camp leader was my favourite bit: he’s got his rather stereotypical notions of what boys should be doing, and it doesn’t involve being clean or baking cookies like his campers do. Best line of the book: “I AM GOING TO CATCH A FISH BY WRESTLING IT AWAY FROM A BEAR”. Proper made me chuckle.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the book at first but it definitely grew on me and by the end I was hooked. I’m intrigued to know what’s going on and I’m lining up the second volume to be read already.

4

Book Review: …And a Happy New Year (Holly Bourne)

Publisher: Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 224

Release Date: November 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Evie, Amber and Lottie are having a new year party to remember.

For the first time since leaving college, all three girls are back together. It’s time for fun and flirting, snogs and shots.

(And not tears or tantrums or terrible secrets)

Because everything’s going great for these girls – Spinster Club for ever! Right?

Review:

I loved reading the Spinster Club stories last year: they were the perfect tales of friendship, feminism, and mental health issues. I went out and bought this last book as a Christmas present for myself and read it on New Years Eve (because I’m rock and roll like that).

Evie, Amber and Lottie have finished college: Lottie is at uni in London, while Amber and Evie have stayed closer to home. Despite their strong friendship, the girls have drifted apart as they’re all keeping secrets from each other. At a New Years party they reunite, argue, and spill secrets.

It was great to be back with the girls in this short novel that rounds everything off. I know what it’s like to go your separate ways after school: no matter how strong your friendship is there, everything is different when you’ve moved to different places, had different experiences and started making new friends.

Things aren’t working out for the girls how they thought it would, some for the better and some for the worse. But hiding these things from each other causes fractures and it all spills out in a big drunken mess on New Years eve. I really felt for Lottie, who is one of my favorite characters and is finding it harder to fit in at uni than she thought she would. And Evie’s situation was a really difficult one to be in and I could understand why she didn’t feel she could talk to the others about it.

This is the perfect ending to one of my favourite contemporary YA series. If you haven’t picked them up yet then I’d really recommend you do.

Copy of an art exhibit