April Wrap Up

For half the month I’ve been getting through my backlog of review books, but towards the end of the month, I started going back to birthday and Christmas books. There’s just not enough time to read all I want to!

What I Read

Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Room Empty by Sarah Mussi

Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi

Labyrinth by Jim Henson and A. C. H Smith

The Circus by Olivia Levez

If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

Ms Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why

I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson

The Opposite of You by Lou Morgan

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

The Sign of One by Eugene Lambert

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honour Cargill

Book Post

The book post slowed down a bit this month, giving me a chance to catch up, but I still had a couple of fabulous books come through:

The Adventures of Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke

(Thanks Faye Rogers/Wacky Bee Books)

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

(Thanks Hachette Kids!)

What I Wrote:

After doing so well for the first three months of the year, I’ve given up tracking what I’m writing. But I’m still writing, and that’s the important thing! Now I’ve left my first draft alone a bit I’ve returned to it and am reading through, making notes and editing. Good news is it’s not as bad as I thought! Bad news is there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m enjoying it though, and that feels good.

What I watched:

TV

We watched the first season of Outcast, which was really good and has made me want to read the comics more. We went straight on to Legion, which was a bit weird and I wasn’t sure at first, but the ending was incredible and all the actors were just amazing. We’ve started watching Green Wing now, which is an old favourite of mine and never fails to make me laugh.

Films

I sat down to write what we’d watched this month and came up with one film…not like us at all! My sister came for a sleepover and we watched Knock Knock, an Eli Roth film. I’m a big fan of his but this wasn’t one of his best. Keanu Reeves was wooden (surprise!) and the plot was a bit meh. There were some fun moments though and the ending gave me a chuckle.

What I Did

This month I was lucky enough to see Garth Nix at the Oxford Literary festival. It was amazing to meet an author whose books I’ve been reading for so long! It was also my birthday, but this was a bit low key as we all came down with a vomiting bug – the perfect birthday present! We made up for it with a trip to a children’s farm – Little Moore loved pointing at all the animals and I loved feeding the goats.

What Little Moore Did

Little Moore has another two teeth and is moving around more than ever. He’s really into everything and it’s hard to keep him entertained sometimes, especially when all he wants to do is explore the kitchen cupboards (note to self: do more baby proofing). We went to a local farm and he enjoyed pointing at all the animals and watching me feed the goats. He’s also started trying to join in with hand actions when we do nursery rhymes and screams and claps when we finish. So cute!

Book Review: I Have No Secrets (Penny Joelson)

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

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 336

Release Date: May 4th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can’t tell anyone.

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change…

 

Review:

This book was so easy to read, I sped through it in a couple of days. The mystery is gripping but it was the character development that really kept me reading.

Jemma has severe cerebral palsy and is unable to communicate in any way. When her carer’s creepy boyfriend confesses to a murder she can’t tell anyone. But when someone comes up with a way that might let her communicate, Jemma realises she’s in great danger.

I loved Jemma as a character. It must be so hard to not be able to communicate at all and rely on other people to look after you and know what you want and need. When she’s ill she can’t tell anyone, she can’t say when she wants to go to bed or if she wants to watch TV. She has a great carer in Sarah and her foster mum and dad are perceptive and caring but they can’t get it right all the time and there’s a lot going on in the family. I’venot read a book like this before and it really made me think about what it must be like to be Jemma and how I’d behave around someone like her.

This was an emotional book but one section really made me tear up: when Jemma uses some new technology to communicate with her Mum for one of the first times. I had tears in my eyes for the whole scene. I thought it was written really well and it carried the weight and importance of that moment and it was a stand out scene in the book. I’d recommend people read it just for that moment alone.

This book was different to anything I’ve read before and I think it’s a really important read. The attitudes of people towards Jemma – the carer who treats her like a baby even though she’s a teenager, the policeman who thinks she’s making things up, the people who talk about her as if she’s not there – it all makes you think about how you’d behave in that situation and I think it’s really eye-opening to see things from Jemma’s point of view. This is a stunning debut and I’d recommend you all read it.

4

Book Review: Ms Marvel, Vol 2, Generation Why (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt)

Publisher: Marvel

Pages: 136

Release Date: April 7th 201

Summary:

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity — by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel’s life take over Kamala Khan’s? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Review:

I just love new Ms Marvel.

But I don’t love reviewing graphic novels – as I’ve said before, it’s like reviewing chapters of a book – so I’m just going to do a quickie of how awesome this second volume is.

  • Kamala is in it and she’s just as amazing as ever. She’s funny and nerdy and passionate and just the best
  • Wolverine is also in it. I felt so happy for her to meet him!
  • Lockjaw! I mean, enough said really. He’s so huge and cute and awesome
  • There were some interesting plot developments that I didn’t see coming
  • The general message was a really good, although it did get a bit heavy handed with the speeches and things towards the end

This was just brilliant and I can’t wait to read more of Kamala’s story.

4

Book Review: The Circus (Olivia Levez)

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

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Pages: 288

Release Date: June 13th 2017

Summary:

Why would a girl who has everything want to run away and never be found?

Willow has staged runaways ever since she was a little girl. She has everything a young person should want: a rich daddy, clothes, money, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. In reality, she has everything except the thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her.

Aged sixteen, on the eve of her father’s wedding, she ruins the bride’s dress and escapes through a window, determined never to return. Her missing mother was a circus performer, and Willow wants to follow in her footsteps. But the performers she meets don’t want her. When her last bit of money is stolen by Suze, another runaway girl she thought she could trust, Willow becomes really homeless. Then Suze comes tumbling back into her life and a desperate Willow has to decide whether to trust her all over again . . .

So begins their frightening, exhilarating odyssey through hunger, performance, desperation and dreams. Will they both survive and will Willow make it to the circus of her imagining?

Olivia Levez takes you into the very heart of a girl who wants so hard to be lost, but saves herself through a powerful friendship and the awakening of a need for home.

Review:

 I loved Olivia Levez’s first novel. It was gripping and powerful and her writing was a joy to read. After such an outstanding debut I think she had a lot to live up to, and this book didn’t disappoint!

Willow is a rich girl who has everything she wants, except her dad’s attention. On the eve of his wedding, she ruins his bride-to-be’s wedding dress, climbs through a window and escapes, deciding to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a circus performer. Things go downhill when all of her money is stolen and she only has the thief to befriend her.

As with Levez’s first book, The Island, I found the main character in this could often be unlikeable. Sometimes she came across as very selfish. Although I could sympathise with the lack of love and connection she felt from her dad, it’s also hard to ignore the fact that she was in a privileged position and sometimes it felt like she was playing at being homeless, compared to others she met who had no choice. I like difficult characters like this though: I rooted for her enough to enjoy the story, but all her faults just made her more real to me. Real people are flawed and you can’t like someone 100% of the time. And no matter how priviledged you are, you still have feelings and problems, which I feel people can forget sometimes.

I was surprised at how forgiving she was of Suz. If someone stole all of my savings and effectively made me homeless, I think I’d be mad at them forever. But the friendship they developed was really sweet, without being cloying. They supported each other but also both still had their own needs to look out for, and I was glad at times that Willow didn’t hold back.

The book’s in really short chapters and it made me just want to read more and more. When the end approached and things got more climatic, I raced through it and was completely unable to put it down. There was a really shocking, sad moment and a heart-pounding finale. It’s definitely a bittersweet ending, though some of the more sweet bits made me tear up, which is unusual for me!

This is a fast paced, gripping story of friendship, belonging and family. The characters are colourful, with great depth and will stay with you long after you finish reading.

4

Book Review: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (Jim Henson, A.C.H Smith)

Publisher: Archaia

Pages: 288

Release Date: April 22nd 2014

Summary:

Sarah has thirteen hours to save her brother from a land where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.

Finally back in print and for the first time in hardcover, the novelization of LABYRINTH written by A.C.H. Smith and personally overseen by Jim Henson, is the first in a series of novels from the Jim Henson Archives.

This beautiful hardcover features unpublished goblin illustrations by legendary illustrator and concept artist Brian Froud and an exclusive peek into Jim Henson’s creative process with 50 never-before-seen pages from his personal journal, detailing the initial conception of his ideas for LABYRINTH.

Review:

The first thing to say about this is it’s a massive nostalgia fest. I’m not sure you’d get as much enjoyment out of it if you weren’t a fan of the film/hadn’t watched it when you were younger. This doesn’t apply to me as I was a huge fan of it when I was younger. It came out about five years before I was born but I remember having it on VHS and watching it over and over with my sister and cousins.

Labyrinth is a coming of age fantasy about Sarah, a young girl who resents her stepmother and half brother and wishes the Goblin King would take him away. Lo and behold, the Goblin King (still David Bowie in my head when I read this) does just that and gives Sarah thirteen hours to solve his labyrinth and save her brother. She meets a whole host of colourful characters, learns some lessons about fairness and friendship and eventually faces down the Goblin King. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure story with some great puzzles and riddles and some truly weird characters.

Throughout reading, I was constantly picturing the film. The prose was fairly simplistic: I’m not really sure what age this is aimed at, other than people like me who loved the film. While I really enjoyed reading it, I think it lacked a bit of the magic of the film, and that’s because it didn’t have the film’s amazing visuals: the puppets, the amazing sets, David Bowie… It did remind me how much I loved the film though.

In this edition, there’s extras at the end which were really interesting. There’s several pages of original drawings by Brian Froud, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator, and notes from Jim Henson when he was coming up with ideas for the film. Froud’s drawings were truly amazing and I could spend ages looking at them. I struggled with Jim Henson’s notes: while the idea of reading them was exciting, I’m terrible at reading handwriting, and couldn’t really make out what a lot of it said. That’s a personal thing, though.

If you’re a fan of the original Labyrinth film and want to have a good old dose of nostalgia then this book is definitely for you.

4

Book Review: Here Be Witches (Sarah Mussi)

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

Publisher: Shrine Bell

Pages: 476

Release Date: March 1st 2017

Summary:

All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the middle of a BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL. A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake; mythical creatures and evil ghosts have risen. And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD. Thank heavens for loyal friend George, disloyal bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey. Armed with Granny Jones’s potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to REVERSE THE SPELL, stop the EVIL White Dragon and find Henry. As an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just THREE DAYS to SURVIVE and complete their quest.

Review:

When I was contacted about reviewing this book, the main reason I wanted to was because of the setting. I went to university in Bangor in North Wales and lived there for five years. There’s something weirdly exciting about reading a book set where you’ve lived. I got a little thrill when she mentioned Bangor, could really picture the scary beauty of Snowdon and even picked out the odd Welsh word I knew (my Welsh is terrible). Bonus points also as my best friend, who still lives there, is called Eli.

That’s a pretty personal reason for liking a book, so I’ll move on…

This is the second book in the Snowdonia Chronicles series. I haven’t read the first book but managed to pick up enough from this one to figure out what had been going on in it. I don’t think it really affected my reading and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Ellie is a fun narrator. She’s funny and sarcastic and I loved how she’d sometimes write what she meant, then cross it out to put something nicer. The narration style was very chatty and that made her feel relatable, like you were reading something from a friend. I also loved George’s Gran, who was a bit eccentric but also right about all the weird things she said and gave them good advice with her sound knowledge of Wales and folklore.

I wasn’t as keen on George and Rhi. George’s love for Ellie just seemed odd to me. It felt weird for him to keep going on about him fancying Ellie to her face all the time: it would make me feel awkward if I were her and I just didn’t like the relationship. Rhi was another thing altogether. She does some pretty bad stuff (no spoilers) and while Ellie is mad at her for it, she forgives her far more easily than I would have. Rhi also goes on about loving George all the time to and I found that weird.

The folklore in the book was really interesting and has made me want to read up on some of it more. I loved that it referred to The Mabinogion a lot and used a lot of Welsh words and phrases. A lot of things were explained with footnotes, which was handy, although they were often explained between the characters in the book too, which felt a bit like overkill.

 I didn’t always feel the danger of the book: while they kept saying the stakes were high, I don’t think I always felt it. I found some of the characters a bit too annoying and unrealistic, but others, like Ellie, felt spot on.If you like fantasy and folklore then this is a great book for you. There are some things you’ll probably find familiar but a lot might be new to you, as it was for me, and I know I want to look into some of these things more.

3

Teething: It Finally Happened

It’s been a little while since I posted ‘Please Don’t Say Teething‘. But now I’m saying it because it’s finally happened!

After months of suspecting it and blaming every grizzly stage on supposed teeth, we’ve had four pop through in the last month. Two on top, two on bottom, and we can see more trying to poke through now.

It’s hard to see him in so much pain, especially as he doesn’t know what’s going on. We use a combination of Ashton & Parsons teething powder, Dentinox teething gel and Calpol when he’s really bad. We have a good supply of teethers kept cool in the fridge but he doesn’t seem too keen on them. Sticks of cucumber seem better as he’s more likely to have a good munch on them.

I have to admit, I do miss his gummy little smile. I got used to seeing him like that for over a year and it’s a bit odd to see teeth in his mouth now! It’s nice to see he’s finally catching up with his cousin in the tooth department, and he’s able to take bites of food now properly. He’s even had a go at eating meat, chunks of chicken etc, which he’s avoided before and we think was because it was too hard to break down without teeth.

Teething can cause hell at nights and the only thing you can do is offer as much comfort as possible and pray for it to be over. It’s not really what you want to hear when you’re sleep deprived and up at 3am for the third night in a row but trust me, I’ve tried to Google a magic solution and there isn’t one. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible but remember they’re in pain and might need a little extra love until they push through.

Garth Nix at Oxford Literary Festival

I was lucky enough to win two tickets to see Garth Nix speak at the Oxford Literary Festival last weekend. Big thanks to Maximum Pop for the tickets!

I’ve loved Garth Nix since I was a young teen, so getting to see him was a bit of a dream. I took one of my friends from uni with me, who is just as much of a fan and I know she really appreciated the chance to go.

Little Moore also came along with us, as Nathan was working at the weekend. I was a bit worried as you don’t want to be the annoying person that’s brought a screaming baby along to a talk. My plan was to give him a bottle and for him to fall asleep while Garth Nix spoke, but of course, that’s not what happened! As soon as the talk started he seemed to perk up (despite having got up at 6am to get to Oxford!). He kept chatting along with Garth Nix as he spoke, which was kind of cute and funny but I was really worried about annoying people and interrupting things! We had front row seats and I eventually decided to pop off towards the back to try and be less disturbing.

Despite all that, everyone afterwards said how good he’d been, including Garth Nix, which was really sweet. He even tried to make Little Moroe laugh, but that’s easier said than done!

The talk itself was brilliant. Garth Nix is charismatic and a born storyteller. He made the audience laugh a lot and kept us all really captivated. The hour went far too fast! The audience got involved too with a fun game with some beautiful Frogkisser! cards. I also got my old, battered copy of Sabriel along for signing. This was the first Garth Nix book I read and it was really special to me to get it signed.

This was a really great day out and it was amazing to meet one of my favourite authors. It’s made me want to get all my old Garth Nix books out and give them a read again.

Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited (Becky Albertalli)

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

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 300

Release Date: April 11th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Review:

This was a really cute, fun book about romance, crushes and family. There’s a great diverse range of characters and three of the most lovely little love stories.

Love story one, and the main one of the book, is Molly. She’s had 26 crushes in her life – 25 of which have not been Lin Manuel Miranda – but she’s never acted on any of them. Enter cute, hipster Will who’s fun and friendly and also the best friend of her sister’s girlfriend. If she can date him then she can keep her sister close and have her first kiss too. But then there’s Reid, her nerdy co-worker who she’s super relaxed around and might just be even better crush material, as long as he doesn’t fall for her best friend Olivia…

Reid was the obvious contender for a real crush in my eyes, despite Will being very cute. I thought he’d end up being a stereotypical good looking ass but he was actually very sweet. To me though, he just wasn’t the right one for Molly, while Reid was someone she could talk to and hang out with, which is more important to a relationship than butterflies in the stomach. I liked Molly’s theory about why she had never acted on her crushes and how she just needed to be rejected to get it over with. When you’re young you sometimes think that being rejected by a crush is the worst thing that could happen, and while it might not be great and could be awkward for a while, you’ll very soon get over it. Trust me.

Love story two is Molly’s twin Cassie and Mina, a girl they meet in a club and who becomes Cassie’s first serious girlfriend. These two are adorable together and I loved the way their story was written. The;r relationship puts a strain on Cassie and Molly’s relationship, which Cassie does her best to balance but things inevitably get complicated along the way.

The third is between their two moms, Nadine and Patty. Patty had the twins via a sperm donor, and many years later Nadine had their little brother Xavier by the same donor, which I thought was really sweet. During the book, gay marriage is legalised and Nadine and Patty can finally get married. I think what I loved most about this was just seeing an LGBTQ+ family living a normal and happy life. It just made me smile.

There’s ups and downs in the book as Molly and Cassie fall out, Mina meets their slightly racist Grandma and Reid looks like he might get his head turned by newly single Olivia. I got frustrated with Molly because I just wanted her to talk to Cassie and Reid rather than making assumptions about what was going on with them. Communicate, people, it’s important!

This was a book that just made me smile with all its lovely characters and relationships. It’s great to see a diverse range of characters in a book, and I love an LGBTQ+ book that isn’t a coming out story too. If you’re looking for a diverse contemporary romance read then this one’s for you.

4

Book Review: Room Empty (Sarah Mussi)

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

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Pages: 304

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary:

Fletcher and Dani are fighting their own inner demons just to stay alive. Dani is ravaged by anorexia and hasn’t eaten for days. Fletcher is fighting to stay off the streets and to stay off drugs. Will their attraction to each other save or destroy them?

Both patients at the Daisy Bank Rehab Centre, Fletcher wants to help Dani find out about the Room Empty at the heart of her pain: What happened to Dani in that room when she was four? Whose is the dead body that lies across the door? Why won’t her mind let her remember?

As Dani and Fletcher begin to learn how to love, Sarah Mussi weaves an intoxicating story of pain, fear and redemption.

Review:

As you can see by the summary, this book is set in a rehabilitation clinic and may not be suitable for those who find themes of eating disorders, addiction, abuse and drug use disturbing or triggering.

This book was a bit of an odd one for me. I didn’t really get on with the narrative style: it might have been done to show Dani’s confused thought processes but I just found it jumped around quite randomly and it made it difficult to read sometimes.

There’s a mystery to the story as Dani tries to figure out why she was found in a locked room with a dead body when she was younger. This was interesting but didn’t always seem the focus point of the story: recovery and her relationship with Fletcher were the main bulk of it.

The relationship part was a tricky one. There’s so many books out there that have a ‘love cures all’ story line, which I hate. This didn’t go down that road but I still thought it could be problematic. It’s made clear that Fletcher is trying to ‘save’ Dani and that’s part of his own addictions and problems. I just didn’t like the way he would make deals with her to try and force her to eat. I also found Dani’s friend Kerstin really weird. She didn’t talk like a real person to me: I just couldn’t see her as anything other than a character.

I liked the characterisation of anorexia as an alien. This was something I’d not seen before and helped you to understand what Dani went through a bit better. It did take a little getting used to at first as I didn’t really understand what she was talking about when an alien popped up out of nowhere, but I soon got used to it.

This was an interesting read on a very dark topic – it’s not one to read if you’re after something light and pleasant. I don’t think it’s really for me but if you like the sound of it then give it a try!

3