Top Five… Sisters

(That’s Top 5 sisters in books – I’m not numbering my siblings in order of preference. That would be mean.)
Today my older sister turned 27, so I thought I’d dedicate my Top 5 to her and my other two (younger) sisters. Girls seem to run in my family a bit – my mum had the four of us, and she had five sisters of her own.
I also love writing about sibling relationships and it’s something that drives my own work. So this week I’m looking at my favourite sisters in books I’ve read.
5.
 
 
I’ve loved this book forever, not only as a ballet nerd but as it has three (adopted) sisters who all have dreams to follow and achieve them through working hard. I love how rounded and different they are as characters: they can all be flawed at times but ultimately they pull through for each other.
 
4.
 
Not only is Georgia’s little sister Libby hilarious throughout the series, she also reminded me a lot of my relationship with my youngest sister (she’s now 12 and behaves a lot more ‘normal’ mostly…) She was the kind of kid that you couldn’t trust around a new boyfriend because she’d definitely come out with a Libby line.
 
3.
 
Katniss and Primrose have a memorable relationship and it’s Katniss’ love for Prim that gets her into the Hunger Games in the first place. When I read this the first time, I was around Katniss’ age and one of my sisters was Prim’s age and I just knew exactly how she felt. I’d go through a hundred Hunger Games for any of my sisters.
 
2.
 
I loved Pilbeam and Appleby’s relationship in the Mennyms series. I think the main bit for me was when Pilbeam was introduced as their sister and snapped Appleby out of her brooding. Although they fight often and can be such different people/ragdolls, they are also really good for each other.
And the winner is…
 
 
1.
 
My Naughty Little Sister is something my big sister used to read to me (even though I’m sure she was the naughty one really…) I can’t remember either of the sisters names – maybe they weren’t mentioned – but I do remember these being some of my favourite stories as a child and, even if one sister was often naughty, it showed a really lovely relationship.

Book Review: It’s the End of the World As We Know It (Saci Lloyd)

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

Series: Book 1 in the series
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 288
Release Date: 1st January 2015
 
Summary (From Goodreads):

Welcome to a world controlled by a megalomaniac Lolcat. A world where data pirates, zombies and infobots on surfboards roam free. A world at war over cheese … When teenager Mikey Malone gets sucked through a wormhole into this parallel world, he discovers a power-crazed corporation is planning to use Earth as a dumping ground for an uncontrollable poisonous algae. It’s a race against time for Mikey and his rebel friends to stop the ruthless tyrants from getting their way.
 
Review:

I admit my attraction to this book was mainly because of the cover (a bad habit for me) but I think this ultimately worked against my enjoyment of the book, as I was mentally comparing it to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is a lot to live up to.

I did ultimately enjoy the book, and I’d recommend it to others, but there were some things that hampered my enjoyment of it, so I probably won’t be reading the next instalment. I think this is more to do with personal taste though, which is why’d I’d still recommend you giving it a read.

My main problem was with the dialogue. A lot of the characters speak in a kind of internet/text slang which I found really jarring (possibly old age showing or just the fact that even as a teenager I didn’t really use ‘text slang’). If it was just a few words to show character here and there I could forgive it, but several characters did it constantly and I just found it really hard to read.

When there was no dialogue I was able to involve myself in the book a lot more. There were some funny moments, though I wouldn’t really say it was a ‘laugh out loud’ book, more just a gentle smile or approving nod. The plot was interesting enough, but I felt that the ‘rip’ that featured prominently in the book became a bit of a writer’s convenience: it showed up and got the main characters out of trouble a few times too often for me.

Overall, it is one crazy ride that anyone with a love for the weird and wonderful with appreciate, but I think this is one book that is just not for me.

My Verdict:

3

Book Review: Love Hurts (Malorie Blackman and more)

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

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 576

Release Date: 29th January 2015

Description:

Malorie Blackman brings together the best teen writers of today in a stunningly romantic collection about love against the odds. Featuring short stories and extracts about modern star-crossed lovers from stars such as Gayle Forman, Markus Zusak and Patrick Ness, and with a brand-new story from Malorie Blackman herself, Love Hurts looks at every kind of relationship, from first kiss to final heartbreak.

Review:

Before I start gushing, I must say this book is probably not for everyone. I’m a fan of short stories, so I enjoyed that aspect, but if you don’t then I’d steer clear. The rest of the book is excerpts from previous works. As I’ve spent the last few years basically reading the same old books over and over, almost all of these were new to me (except for Naughts and Crosses and Northern Lights of course). But, if you’ve read the books before then this may feel like a redundant collection.

On to the gushing.

My gosh I loved this book. The depictions of love are really varied (including several LGBT characters, which was refreshing) and range from exciting, to sexy to heartbreaking. I raced through them. It was so easy to absorb myself into one story after another. It was occasionally irritating to have gotten so involved in a story and then have the extract finish too soon, but I’m looking at it as a positive thing: now I have so many more books that I want to read.

In a collection with so many stories I knew I would never get on with all of them, but even the ones I didn’t like so much were good stories, just not my cup of tea. There are so many stories I don’t think I’ll comment on them all, but just mention a few that stood out to me, for better or for worse.

I loved reading the two stories I already knew: the extracts from Naughts and Crosses and Northern Lights. These were easily two of my favourite books when I was a teen and reading these little snippets of them has reminded me why and made me want to read them all over again.

Of the short stories, I loved Gentlewoman by Laura Dockrill. I felt anguish with the main character, Danni (previously Dan) who fretted about going to school now dressed as a girl. I felt uncomfortable reading it as I really didn’t want anything bad to happen to her, but the ending was so uplifting it actually bought a little tear to my eye.

I also really enjoyed Endless Love: The Valentine of Daniel and Lucinda by Lauren Kate, but I wanted so much for it to be part of a longer story. I loved the idea of Lucinda travelling across time to find Daniel but I wanted to find out more about why and what had happened.

One that I didn’t really get into was Tumbling by Susie Day. I put this down to the fact that I’m not a Tumblr user and not quite down with the lingo and all that (god I sound old now!) and I also just don’t have the fan girl mentality that the main character has, so struggling to connect with her. But the story did have one of my favourite lines, describing a girl as Taylor Swift Malfoy (I won’t spoil the line, it’s genius and you have to read it).

For the extracts, I especially enjoyed Echo Boy by Matt Haig. I’ve not read anything by him yet (though I did by The Humans for my boyfriend at Christmas, so I’ll get to read that eventually) but this really made me want to read on. I can’t claim to know exactly what was going on but I was definitely intrigued by the plot. I also really want to read Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. The love in that story was more forbidden than in anything I’ve read before, but even from that short extract I couldn’t completely condemn it. Even when it’s wrong, love is love and circumstances can be cruel.

I love that this book has given me so many new books to look into. If you’ve read them before then it might not be such a big deal, but if you haven’t then I urge you to do so. It’s an easy book to dip into and read a quick story or extract and there really is something for everyone in there, whether you love boys, girls or don’t want to be forced into a couple at all.

My Verdict:

4

Book Review: Nightbird (Alice Hoffman)

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

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 208
Release Date: 26 February 2015
 

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, baker of irresistible apple pies. A new girl in town might just be Twig’s first true friend, and ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse. A spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town’s famed apple orchards.


Review:

I enjoyed this book: there’s something very easy going about it. As a MG book it’s not too taxing or complicated in its plot. Twig is a lonely girl with a family secret to hide, but it all soon unravels when a new family moves next door, a family who just happen to be descendants of the witch who cursed the men in Twig’s family to be born with wings.

Alice Hoffman weaves a beautiful tale of this isolated family and their struggles and creates a very real town with some beautifully written characters, in such a natural way that it didn’t feel like reading fiction at all. My criticism would be that some things were found out a bit too easily: a lot of clues were handed out to the young girls when I think we could have had more fun searching for clues with them. The revelation of Twig’s father was very predictable too, and while Twig admits she probably knew it all along, it would have been nice to hear her musing on the idea.

The ending felt a little rushed and stilted: a lot of information is told very quickly and I felt I would rather have experienced them as a few scenes rather than “this happened and this happened”, but it was one of those stories where I was glad to have a happy ending for everyone. Despite some of the tough times Twig goes through and the rough mix of emotions she feels, I felt it was an overall happy book. There was little doom and gloom about their situation even if no one was exactly over the moon about it. It has some great messages for the younger readers as well: conservation and friendship being two of the key ones.

This is the kind of book I’d be happy to pass over to my little sisters: light and engaging with some relatable characters and good sprinkling of magic.

My Verdict:

3

Book Review: The Harsh Cry of the Heron (Lian Hearn)

Details:

Series: Tales of the Otori
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 630
Release Date: March 2006
 
Blurb:
Lord Otori Takeo and his consort Kaede have ruled for over sixteen years. The Three Countries are rich, peaceful and prosperous. The sacred birds, the houou, nest at Terayama and a fabled creature, the kirin, has appeared on their shores. Heaven seems to smile on them.

Yet their very success has attracted the attention of the distant Emperor and his general, the warlord Saga Hideki, who covet all the wealth of the Three Countries, and especially Takeo’s heir, his eldest daughter, Shigeko, now of marriageable age.

At the same time the violent acts and betrayals of the past will not lie buried. The renegade Tribe family, the Kikuta, seek revenge on Takeo for the murder of their leader; they have an eager ally in his brother-in-law Arai Zenko, who has never been able to forget or forgive his own father’s shameful death. No one escapes the Tribe forever.

Takeo has many other concerns, above all for his younger daughters Maya and Miki, whose strange talents lead them into the world of shadows and ghosts. And other secrets that cannot be hidden. Everything that he and Kaede have achieved is threatened.

Review:

Ooo I have been so conflicted during this reread. As a huge fan of the series, when this sequel to the original trilogy came out I devoured it. But it’s not as easy a read as the other books and it doesn’t have the ending that some fans might want. I’m not really a fan of a happy ending – I prefer the bitter sweet – but this one is almost soul crushing.

It’s a long book and weaves in many different plot threads – Takeo trying to control the Three Countries through peaceful means, the Kikuta still seeking to destroy Takeo, Kaede’s longing for a son, the twin daughters’ mysterious Tribe talents, the threat from Arai Zenko, and a ton more. While it all adds to create an intricate and complex plot, I feel some lines were not explored enough: the foreigners, for example, while important for the majority of the book (and who are, incidentally, travelling with Takeo’s long lost sister) disappear towards the end and play no part in the climax. For what felt like such a big plot thread, I would have liked more of a resolution with them.

Similarly I felt the twins storyline could have been developed more. Maya is featured a fair amount after she is possessed by a cat spirit but I felt her twin was neglected and I was very interested in how Maya’s cat spirit affected her. We only really saw her with her twin, which was a shame as I felt she deserved more plot of her own.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the ending but I find I can’t really agree. While it might seem strange to have the climatic ending revealed through one character telling another, it felt right to me. It was sobering, after all the action and worrying, to have the events related like that (and I also felt I couldn’t really have handled ‘living through them’ myself).

I struggled to get into the book at first as it does jump a lot between different plot lines and different characters but as the stakes were raised I found myself getting more and more involved. By the end I found myself resisting finishing as I knew what was coming and just didn’t want it to end like that. It’s so hard, after loving these characters for three previous books and seeing their struggle for peace, to have it all crumble around them. The ending left me sad and I think some people might prefer to end with the previous book (Brilliance of the Moon) so that Takeo and Kaede can stay happy.

But what I love about this book is how real it feels. There is no happy ever after: we see the natural continuation of their story after their happy ending and its just as harsh as their previous journey. But that’s life. With Shigeko inheriting the Three Countries at the end, it felt like I could read on with their history forever, following her trials and downfall and the same with her children, and so on. I feel that’s a tribute to the amazing world the author has created here.

In summary, if you’re a fan of happily ever after then maybe stick with the trilogy, but if you think you can take the heartache, this is definitely worth a read.


My Verdict:

4

Top Five… Childhood Books

I’m cheating a little with this one as some aren’t from my childhood as such, but ones I read to my little sisters when they were babies and I was 9/10ish.
5.
This is one that I’d read to my sisters. I used to do silly accents for everyone afraid of the spider and we’d laugh so much. And pretend we weren’t afraid of spiders for a while.
4.
This is another I used to read to my sisters and we all adored it. It’s such a perfect bedtime read, and other books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler never fail to amuse and entertain.
3.
I definitely couldn’t leave this book out. I think I remember it as one of the first books I read on my own and I could still read it today and enjoy it. It’s a simple but beautiful story and the illustrations really bring it to life. I loved recounting everything he ate!
2.
An amazing ‘I don’t need no man’ independent princess book. We didn’t have our own copy but my Aunt and Uncle had a ‘library room’ in their house with a kids sections and this was always the first book I read.
And the winner is…
1.
It took me a while to find that picture. I’m not sure where my copy of this is (my older sister may have claimed it for herself). This tells the story of Kate, who becomes Splodger and does lots of naughty things and when she gets in trouble she reverts to being Kate again. I remember loving this one an awful lot, although in my own Splodger moment I ripped out one of the pages so we could never read the whole thing.
Do you have any childhood books that really stick in your mind? I’d love to hear what you loved as a kid!

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I am completely unfamiliar with these things, but the lovely Eve Estelle over at Edge of Night has nominated me for this award, so I shall give it a go!
 
 
  • #1 Favorite book author?
Ah this is such a tough question! For now, I’m going to say Patrick Ness, as I’ve really been enjoying his stuff lately. But I don’t think I could ever really pick one favourite author.
  • #2 What inspires you?
 
I think reading in general inspires me. I love delving into other worlds and other people’s heads and it inspires me to keep writing myself.
 
  • #3 You’ve won a free, all-expenses-paid trip to anywhere in the world. You’ll be there for one week. Where do you go?
 
I don’t have a specific place I want to go right now, just somewhere warm with a beach and a pool where I can read and do nothing else.
 
  • #4 What song is stuck in your head right now?
 
All American Girl by Carrie Underwood – its on pretty much all my playlists at the moment.
  • #5 If you could give one piece of advice to your past self, what would it be?
 
Chill out. Keep reading, keep writing. Be wiser with money!
Like Eve, I will keep it to five questions to answer, and they are:
  1. What book are you currently reading and what made you choose it?
  2. If you only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  3. What book would you love to see turned into a film/TV show?
  4. Which author would you love to meet and why?
  5. Finally (non book related) What’s your favourite joke?
And so, nominations. I’m only a couple of weeks into blogging and don’t know many people so I won’t do too many.
Nominations:
Priya @ Priya Piggle
Send me the links if you do it, I’d love to see your answers 🙂

Book Review: The Land of Dragor: The Gift of Charms (Julia Suzuki)

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

Publisher: Dino Books
Pages: 288
Release Date: 4th September 2014
 

Blurb:
In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world’s remaining dragons, hoping the dragsaur beasts have vanished forever.
Here they try to go about their busy daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading. Things change, however, when, from a strange egg, Yoshiko is born – a dragon with a unique destiny.

 Great adventure lies ahead for him, as many challenges must be overcome, leading to a dangerous mission to the human world in attempt to return to the clans their missing magic!

Can Yoshiko make it in time?

Review:

I did want so much to like this book. I read great things about it, but I feel it just did not live up to my expectations. I should also mention that this is more of an MG book than the YA I would normally review, so I did try to take that into account when reading and reviewing.

I found the plot entertaining enough, if not slightly predictable: a young dragon, different from the rest who must cope with bullying and then become better than his classmates to fulfil a secret destiny. It might be a bit well worn but it can make for a good read.

I didn’t, however, find the characters very relatable. They were all a little flat: the bully was full of nasty comments and stands up to his father at the end, the protagonist is initially wound up by him but learns to rise above it. I think a lot of this was in the dialogue, which was quite wooden at times and just didn’t sing to me. I found the dragons too human in their character and habits: why do they need to fry food and write things down in records? I would have been more interested in them having their own way of living rather than it being so similar to humans.

The book spent a good amount of time building up the story and training Yoshiko for his destiny, all of which was enjoyable, if not a little fast paced. So when it came to him fulfilling this destiny, I was surprised to find how easy it was. I know we saw him do a lot of training, but when he flies out of Dragor to find the charms, he flew out, found them and flew back. For a hero’s journey, I’d expect some more challenges and excitement.

Overall I found the whole thing quite rushed and not in depth enough for my liking. I liked the idea and I think with a little more character development and some more exciting plot twists, it could have been a good read.

My Verdict:

My Christmas Book Collection

 It’s a little late but I thought I’d go through the books I got for Christmas and why I’m looking forward to reading them 🙂
We’ll start with top left:
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
I saw this in Waterstones and wanted it immediately just because of the cover (and yes, I know you shouldn’t judge like that but I think first impressions mean a lot to me). It’s already been included in my Top 5 Book Covers.
The Mist by Stephen King
This doesn’t really fit in with the YA theme of the blog but I thought I’d throw it in anyway. I’m a huge fan of horror films and the adaptation of this book is one of my absolute favourites.
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
I don’t think I’d heard of this one before I got it, but my boyfriend bought it because I love fairy tales and Neil Gaiman, and also it is beautifully illustrated.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
Another one that I’m not sure really fits in with my YA theme (it’s a comic series) but also another that has beautiful illustrations and sounds right up my street as an epic fantasy/space opera. It’s a library edition and looks lovely on the shelf.
The 100 and Day 21 by Kass Morgan
I saw the adverts for this on E4 before I’d heard of the book. I like the sound of the programme but never got round to watching it and then I found out it was a book series first, so obviously it had to be read before it could be watched.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
If you’ve read any other posts/seen me on Twitter you’ll probably know I’m a pretty big Patrick Ness fan. This one has been on my wish list for a while and is another one with really incredible illustrations to go with it (that cover is so beautifully detailed).
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
This was another present from my boyfriend, who wanted to buy my favourite Roald Dahl book (The Twits) but couldn’t find it in store, so he bought his favourite one instead. Still, I love the story and you can’t beat a bit of classic Dahl.
(I’ve also realised I missed out my Maze Runner boxset from the picture, but I also got the four of them for Christmas and am really looking forward to seeing if they’re as good as the hype. And then I can finally watch the film as well!)
So that’s my Christmas collection and quite possible the last (physical) books I’ll get until my birthday (only a few months away). I’d love to hear what everyone else got this year!

Book Review: Watersmeet (Rachel Cotterill)

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

Series: Twelve Baronies

Pages: 428

Release Date: December 25th 2014 (eBook) January 14th 2015 (paperback)

Blurb:

When a stranger tells her she’s a mage, Ailith is intrigued but she’s also afraid. Magic is heresy, and heresy means death under the Temple Law. Even literacy is suspect in a girl of her background, and her sister’s impending wedding only serves as a reminder that she should be focusing on her future. Then a local priest asks her to rescue his son, and she starts to wonder if her talents could be a blessing, after all.

The Lord Baron of Watersmeet, Leofwin isn’t accustomed to welcoming uninvited visitors. A commoner turning up at his gates should be no more than a minor footnote to his day, but something about Ailith catches his attention. Alchemy can be lonely work and an apprentice might be just what he needs.

As their lessons grow into shared experiments, Leofwin wonders if he might even trust her with his greatest challenge. But Ailith can’t forget why she came to the castle.

Review:

(Warning: spoilers ahead)

This is the first novel of the Twelve Baronies. The upcoming sequels (although not promised to make twelve in all) will not follow on from the first but be self contained stories, set in the same world. I really love the idea of this and would be interested to see what came next in the series.

I found the story a little slow to begin with, but not necessarily in a bad way: I enjoyed the way the story and world were set up, with various things established, such as the religion and rules of this fantasy world. I’ll admit to stumbling on the first page when reading about Ailith and her twin sister Aidith (I know they’re twins but if they look alike do they have to sound alike too?!) I got used to that though, and also the twin doesn’t play a huge part in the story so she didn’t matter so much after a while.

I enjoyed the characters in this book a lot. Ailith makes a great protagonist and is very relatable, although I found that throughout the book, her lack of concern for her family started to bug me, and because of this, when they were used to blackmail her near the end, I didn’t feel as much of the emotional anguish as I think I should. She does mention missing them occasionally, but I thought they should play a bigger part, especially the twin sister, who you’d think she’d miss most, but is hardly mentioned once she’s married off.

I was pleased when Ailith’s relationship with Garrick didn’t go the way I thought it was going – although I’m fine for romance, it seemed a bit predictable – and he made an interesting villain as the spoilt, less powerful lord to Ailith’s new love.

Which brings me to Leofwin. I loved him as a character and I could see why Ailith loved him too (eventually) but I felt his character could have been revealed better. After Ailith has entered the castle and we have a chapter from Leofwin’s point of view, all the tension that had been built up over his supposedly evil nature vanished. It didn’t matter to me any more that Ailith was still dubious over his intents, because I knew he was a good guy (for want of a better term). I think it would have been more interesting to have the reader learn to trust him with Ailith rather than revealing his real nature so soon.

I think tension was my main problem with the book: when there was some, it was quickly solved. Once Ailith discovered Anselm and found our Leofwin wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t really sure where it was going. I felt like there needed to be more of a threat from Garrick, and that the ending needed slowing down a little. No sooner was Ailith captured than she’d found a way out and they were all about to live happily ever after.

BUT, despite all I’ve just said, don’t let that put you off. It’s an enjoyable read and I’d be interested in where the series would go next (if not a little disappointed that it might not feature Ailith and Leofwin again!)

3