Monday, 24 March 2014

Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman | Review

Ever since I heard that Philip Pullman was releasing a re-imagination of some of the best loved Grimm Tales, I knew that it was something that I wanted to read. Philip Pullman brings worlds to life, and I knew that he’d put a fantastic spin on these stories and really draw them out of the pages and into the readers mind.

In this compilation, Pullman has taken 50 of the tales from the Grimm’s catalogue and rewritten them to flow elegantly for the contemporary reader. At the end of each story, there is a short explanatory afterword, which explains some of the changes that he may have made and the context of the original version. It was a really helpful way to keep track of the changes that he was making in his retelling.
Obviously, as it is a compilation of stories – it is large. It took me a long time to get through, but that’s because it was the kind of book that you’d read one story and then put it down. That didn’t detract from it in my opinion, but made me enjoy it more as I was taking my time with it and making sure that I had full comprehension. 

It was great to read these stories again, that I had not read for years. The same moral lessons are there, and they serve the same purpose. It was nostalgic and wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with this one.

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Friday, 21 March 2014

The Boy in the Smoke - Maureen Johnson | Review

The Boy in the Smoke, released as part of World Book Day, is a prequel to The Name of the Star/ The Shades of London series. I adore Maureen Johnson and the Shades series, so I was very excited to read this. The Boy in the Smoke follows Stephen Dene as he comes to terms with the hand life has dealt him, and how he becomes head of the Shades.
I’ve become very emotionally invested in Stephen Dene’s story, and I couldn’t wait to read more about him in this book. There was definitely a worry that the book might not appeal to those who haven’t read the Shades books. And admittedly, it’s true, this book gave current readers a really big understanding into Dene’s character and motivations. However I felt the story existed in its own right. Readers could read The Boy in the Smoke and not take another foray into the Shades universe if they didn’t want to. However it also wonderfully sets the scene, should they go on to read The Name of the Star, The Madness Underneath and subsequent books still to be released. 

The narrative in this book is beautifully written, and makes a nice change from the slightly angsty feel that Rory usually gives to the book. Instead it’s just heartbreaking. As I said earlier, I’ve become emotionally invested in Stephen’s story and some things definitely felt like a punch in the chest. It’s undeniably sad at parts, but there’s a lot to be said for the way in which certain themes are explored and not at all glossed over. 

I really enjoyed it, and couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic for the old fans and new ones alike and I'm sure many people enjoyed spending their £1 book token on it.

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Friday, 7 March 2014

Writes of Passage | 50 Books That Will Change Your Life

Hi guys, did you all have a lovely World Book Day? I spent it attempting to articulate into words how much I liked Maureen Johnson's book for WBD, The Boy in The Smoke, and reading a bit more of Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales. I've been reading it for over a month now, but even if it kills me, I'm going to get the to the end of that book.

Released on World Book Day was the Writes of Passage, 50 books which have been nominated by Young people and adults as the books that will change your life. I thought I'd pass it on, and go through it and see how many I've read.

Books that will...Scare You
  • The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  • The Rats by James Herbert
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Lord Loss by Darren Shan
Score: 1/5.
I don't do well with being scared. I can't even watch Pretty Little Liars after 8pm. The only book I've read here is 1984!

Books that will...Teach You About Love
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Forever by Judy Blume
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Score: 2.5/6. Better! I've read Anne Frank's diary, Twilight, and some of Pride and Prejudice, hence the .5! Typically, How I Live Now is very high up on my reading list.

Books that will...Make You Laugh
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
  • Geek Girl by Holly Smale
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
Score: 3/6 - I sense a theme here. I've read Hitchhiker's, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.  I was seven or eight when Angus... came out, who would have thought it's been that long!? I wanted to read the series when I got to about 12/13 but my mum never let me, so naturally  I did it anyway.

Books that will... Transport You
  • The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  • Percy Jackson (series) by Rick Riordan
  • Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Score: 3/6, technically. I haven't read all of the Percy Jackson books, just the first one. Obviously read Harry Potter and who hasn't read the absolutely fantastic Northern Lights.

Books that will... Change The Way You Think
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  • A Streetcat Named Bob by James Bowen
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack
Score: 4/7. Noughts and Crosses is one of the books I thank for my love of reading and writing stories. Perks I read recently, same with Wonder. I read Curious Incident not long after it came out, and I want to read it again soon, as an adult. I'm currently reading The Book Thief but didn't want to cheat and include it.

Books that will... Make You Cry
  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
  • The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • My Sister's Keeper by Jodie Picoult
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Score: 1/7. Dropping way down again! I read War Horse when I was much younger - and yes it did make me cry!

Books that will... Help You Understand You 
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Score: 2/5 - TFiOS and The Knife of Never Letting Go. 

Books that will... Thrill You
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Gone by Michael Grant
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
Score: 2/7, The Hunger Games and Divergent. 

Ultimate Score: 18/50. 
Wow! I expected to have read much more of them. Bad book blogger. Looks like my TBR list will be going up a little bit!

How many have you read?

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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Tribute - Ellen Renner | Review

Zara is a mage, one of the elite in a world where magic is power, and the non-magic majority live as slaves. When her slave child best friend is killed for the crime of literacy, Zara seeks revenge by spying for the rebel Knowledge Seekers. 
But her bravery and magical skill tested to the limit when a hostage from the other side of the wall arrives at her palazzo. Seeking a kindred spirit, she promises to help him - but before she can, her secret is discovered. Hunted by her own kind, she must convince the Knowledge Seekers that she is really on their side. But can she convince herself?
First of all, I just want to acknowledge how utterly gorgeous the cover is. Beautiful. Anyway, on with the review.

Tribute is quite unique, not least in the way that it tackles racism. In this world the mages dominate over the non-magic users - who they call kine, like cattle. These non-magic users are oppressed and downtrodden and loathe the mages. Zara believes that both groups are as human as each other and are equals, a spirit she inherited from her late mother. Zara is impressively imperfect - she's been brought up with the most racist of views and they still surface sometimes, and to experience her dealing from it from her own perspective is impressively distinctive.

There's a lot of big ideas in Tribute. Some common YA themes all thrown together and I feel like none of them were really given enough justice or explained fully. Even after the book has ended I have no idea about most of the world Tribute is set in, even though the first half of the book felt like little more than world building. I wish that more focus was given to the factions and guilds and what have you that I felt were mentioned randomly and not really explained. I kept thinking that I'd missed a few pages and found myself coming up confused quite often.

 I honestly found it hard to get in to at first. It is such a big story and while the world-building was necessary, it was definitely boring me slightly. I spent much of the book struggling with the language, only to finish it and find a glossary at the back! About mid-way into the book, when the 'mission' of the story begins to get started it really begins to pick up and from then I couldn't really put it down.

All in all, I do feel that the second half of the book saved it for me. The plot moved quickly and the writing was excellent. It's set up the second book fantastically and I'm looking forward to reading it.

3 out of 5 stars. Honestly, I've found it really hard to rate! I really liked it, particularly towards the end but unfortunately the story ran away with itself and left me behind too many times for anything higher.

Tribute is released tomorrow March 6th! Let me know in the comments if you pick up a copy!

*I received my copy of Tribute from Hot Key Books. Thank you to them!

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Monday, 3 March 2014

The Year of the Rat - Clare Furniss | Review

The world can tip at any moment … a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister. Told across the year following her mother's death, Pearl's story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mum, but also the fact that her sister - The Rat - is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around…
The Year of the Rat is the debut novel by Clare Furniss, a look at grief through the eyes of a bereaved sixteen year old. 

I knew that I would like The Year of the Rat when I cried a few pages in. Nothing particularly sad or bad had happened (apart from the death of Pearl’s mother, but that was a predetermined event just before the book takes place) but all the emotional that the characters were feeling came over me like a wave. Everything Pearl and her family goes through and feels is raw and real and carries you through the story.  

Throughout the book Pearl talks to her mother, who occasionally appears to her. In these appearances Pearl’s mum has gone back to everything she was before she had Rose – before everything so dramatically changed: she no longer has a baby bump, she smokes again, she’s annoying and she’s normal. In the beginning, while Pearl’s grief is so new she screams and shouts for her mother to appear to her. As the book reaches its conclusion her mother appears less and less until Pearl is finally able to let go. This is such a unique illustration of grief and really touched me.

So much admiration has to go to Clare for writing so well, and this is honestly fantastic for a debut novel. I have a feeling big things are coming for her. I have so little to fault this book on, and as soon as it’s out I’m going to be recommending it to everyone I know, teenagers and adults alike. 

Without any doubt it’s 5/5 stars from me.

The Year of the Rat is published on the 24th April.

*I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. A big thank you to Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

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