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Friday, 21 December 2012

End of Year Survey: Part One


It's nearly the end of 2012 and so I'm thinking about my reading over the year. There was a definite decrease in the number of books I read.

Anyway, here are my favourites from 2012 and the annual survey from Jamie at

THE SURVEY

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? 
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
Divergent by Veronica Roth

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2012?
Katie McGarry and Gabrielle Zevin
       
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
NYPD Red (my first adult crime novel... but it was by James Patterson and I am a fan of Maximum Ride)

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
Not sure I'll be re-reading any of them. So many books, so little time.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2012?
I actually don't have one.

11. Most memorable character in 2012? 
Akkarin (The High Lord)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read? 
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
I really can't think of one off the top of my head.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
Shortest book: Digging in the Dark by Hilda Offen
Longest book: The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - loved this book and couldn't wait to talk about it

18. Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Nastasya and Reyn (Immortal Beloved series)

19. Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Monday, 10 December 2012

Review: Every Other Day


Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Release date: 2nd February 2012
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Target audience: YA
UK Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-0-85738-970-1

Review:


Every Other Day is a paranormal thriller mixed with high school drama and a cool sci-fi twist.


The premise of this novel really got under my skin: A girl who is human one day and something more, something dangerous the next has only a day to save a girl at school and it’s not the other day. It’s clever and exciting.


Kali D’Angelo has been at her new school for three weeks. The plan was to hide in the background and be invisible. She’s spent her whole life putting up emotional barriers and keeping people at a safe distance. But when a girl notices Kali and offers her friendship, everything changes.


This day is her human day and on these days she’s like any other girl. You’d never know she craves the hunt of the preternatural beasts that stalk the world. In this novel Darwin discovered more than natural selection on the Galapagos Islands, he found hellhounds and many other paranormal creatures. When the school’s resident mean girl gets infected by a preternatural beast which marks her for dead, Kali can’t help but try everything in her power to save the day.


I loved the tone of this book and the style that it was written in. It was funny but also full of drama and emotion. The characters were quirky and each had their own personality which leapt off the page. I also thought that the author did well to play with my expectations. There was one point where I thought Kali was going to fall for the school’s cute guy and then, she didn’t. It was such a refreshing change. The plot was full of unexpected turns and great action sequences. I loved that it was more thriller, action story than a romance type book. I sort of want to say that it’s a Percy Jackson for teen girls minus the Greek Gods and with a bit of sci-fi thrown in.


There was really only one thing that I didn’t like about this book and it was the exposition towards the end. One character (who for fear of spoiling the story, I won’t name) had a big long paragraph explaining a bit more about the origins of the preternatural species and then at the end of it, basically said: but you’re too stupid to understand. Now the character was referring to Kali and not to the reader but it irritated me. I felt fobbed off. I’m sure the author had a clear idea of the issue so why not share it with the reader. It was more frustrating for it to be mentioned and then not explained, than not mentioned at all.


Overall, a pace-y read with lots of kookiness and high-octane action. It left me with a tear in my eye. Every Other Day is a great read for anyone who loves the paranormal genre but is stick of the same old love story stuff. It has bite to it!

Recommended for fans of:

Source: Review copy sent by the publisher. Thank you.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Review: NYPD Red


Author: James Patterson

Release date: 25th October 2012
Genre: Crime Fiction / Detective Fiction
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-1-7808-9067-8


Review:

NYPD Red is crime fiction for readers who love fast-paced action and are not fond of brutal minutely described homicides.


Detective Zach Jordan is a member of New York’s elite force NYPD Red. Their job is to protect New York’s wealthiest: the rich, the famous, the high profile figures. The story begins on the day Zach gets a new partner. His previous one is off work injured. Zach’s feelings about his new partner are mixed to say the least. No doubt that she’s a great detective but she’s also a maverick, a loose cannon and a rebel. But that’s not the real problem here. Kylie MacDonald is Zach’s ex.


Their first day on the job together and a high profile film producer appears to have collapsed during his breakfast. On closer investigation the detectives discover he has been poisoned. It’s a race against time before more of the industry’s illustrious figures are killed off by a mad-man/ disgruntled film extra.


I don’t think I’ve ever read an adult crime novel before. I have read James Patterson’s fiction for teens – the Maximum Ride series and I did once attempt to read The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. I decided to give this a go for two reasons. The first was that I needed something really easy to read and not too wordy. The second reason was that I love TV cop shows. I don’t however enjoy things that are really scary. This book is the perfect middle ground. I wasn’t at all scared of the criminal mind who was attempting to take down the film industry. I actually felt a bit sorry for him. But I was still cheering on the detectives and interested enough to keep reading.


I liked the humour and the connection between Zach and the two women in his life. This was definitely a quick read and I enjoyed it enough to want to read the next book in the NYPD Red series.


Source: Bought from Amazon

Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: A Corner of White

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Release date: October 2012
Genre: Fantasy / Magical realism
Target audience: 12+
Australian publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN:978-1-7426-1139-6


Review:

A Corner of White is a tale of two worlds: the real and the fantastical. It is a story of belief in oneself and belief in the magic that one can never really know is there. It's bizarre and it is undoubtedly brilliant - mindbogglingly so.


This story is split between the two worlds of Cambridge, England and The Farms, Kingdom of Cello. There are two central characters Madeline Tully and Elliot Baranski. Madeline lives in a very familiar Cambridge and her life is a strange one. She ran away from home and her mother came with her. They left their wealthy lifestyle behind and now they live in an attic apartment and eat baked beans every day. Madeline's mother is often working on the sewing machine to pay for the baked beans but all the while she is playing her favourite quiz show (and getting all the answers wrong). Madeline and her two friends (Belle and Jack) are home educated by a hotchpotch of people recruited by her mother.


Elliot lives in a magical world. A world of agriculture and a royal family. Elliot is determined to travel to the Lake of Spells and catch a "Locator" spell. Elliot believes that his father has been taken by a Purple and is trapped in its cave. The Colours are dangerous waves that sweep through Cello disturbing everything in their path. Some colours are more dangerous than others. 


The characterisation in A Corner of White is both comical and inventive. Madeline has a quirkiness about her that her friends both love and disbelieve. Elliot is a heroic sort, a fixer, a problem-solver and an utterly determined young man. We follow both their lives as they collide through a crack in a parking meter and a broken TV set. Although they never meet, through the crack between our worlds, they strike up a friendship and have the power to change each other's lives for the better.


The only thing to really say is that I love this book. I love its originality. Take the game of deftball, it had me chuckling to myself and trying to explain it to everyone I met. There's the layer of our history too. There are so many fascinating references to Byron, Isaac Newton and Charles Babbage. 


The themes which run through the book can touch the heart of any person - illness, friendship, denial of the truth and believing in the seemingly impossible.  


Jaclyn Moriarty is an incredible writer. Her voice is so distinctive. It's zany, it's imaginative it's comical and it is completely unique to her. 


I really cannot wait for the next novel in the series. I just know whatever comes next, it will be brilliant.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Review: Operation Bunny


Author: Sally Gardner

Illustrator: David Roberts
Genre: Magical Realism / Fantasy
Target audience: 7+
UK Publisher: Orion
Series: Wings and Co. Book 1


Review:

Operation Bunny is charming story of magical mayhem and fairytales colliding with the real world.


Emily Vole is left inside a hatbox in the centre of a train station when she is just a baby. The Dashwoods are so desperate for a child that they wish for a baby. When they see the story of the abandoned baby on the news, they ask to adopt Emily. But life with Emily is not the fairytale ending Mrs Dashwood expected. Emily just doesn’t fit right. Her hair is the wrong colour and so Mrs Dashwood makes her wear a wig. Her eyes are the wrong colour and so Mrs Dashwood makes her wear contact lenses. In fact Emily is so unsatisfactory that Mrs Dashwood wants to send her back. When Mrs Dashwood discovers she is having triplets, Emily’s life takes a sadder turn. She is demoted to living in the laundry room and being the Dashwood’s servant.


But Emily is a resourceful and determined young girl. Though she can’t read or write, she likes to make up stories about the fairytale pictures in her book. One day when Emily is hanging out washing she finally meets her next door neighbours: Miss String and her man-sized cat Fidget. Knowing that Mrs Dashwood despises them, she can’t wait to get to know them better. They become friends and soon Emily realises that the magic in fairytales is real.


This story has a wonderfully contemporary feel to it. The language is modern and the pace of the story is fast and exciting. Yet there is also a very Dahl-esque darkness to the tale. Emily is quite simply abused and neglected. There is loss and cold-blooded murder. I liked that the story wasn’t sugar-coated. There is also the satisfaction for the reader of the child out-smarting the adults. Operation Bunny has all the magic ingredients for a perfect children’s novel.


My favourite part of the story was the characterisation of Fidget – the cat man. He has all these catterisms and fishy-sayings that bring the story to life and give it a unique twist. I really enjoyed this kooky story. It was funny and endearing. The illustrations were brilliantly entertaining. I especially loved all the different expressions on the faces of the rabbits. Operation Bunny is a quirky tale full of imagination. I highly recommend it. I’m sure it will become a favourite among newly fluent readers.


Source: Finished copy sent for review.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

GIVEAWAY: Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan

To celebrate today's release of the Darkness Falls paperback, the second book in Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved series, Hodder Books have given me three copies to giveaway!

I am such a huge fan of Cate Tiernan. You can read my review of Immortal Beloved HERE and Darkness Falls HERE.

This is the book summary from the publisher's website:


He is the thorn in my side, nightmare of my past, destroyer of my family . . . And the one whose fevered kisses I had relived over and over as I lay exhausted and unable to sleep.  

And yet night after night, he - who had kicked down hundreds of doors - had not brought himself to knock on mine.  

Nastasya has lived for more than 400 years but things never get any easier. As she learns more about herself, she questions whether it will ever be possible to break free from the darkness of her former life. Can she turn away from the one person she wants to be with above all others? Should her past determine who she should - or should not - love?  

Desire, death and painful secrets are revealed in this compulsively addictive sequel to Immortal Beloved.

To enter the competition:


  • Fill out the form by following this LINK
  • Under 16s must get parent / guardian permission before entering and provide their parent's email address rather than their own. Check my Contest Policy for further information.
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • Closing date: 30th September 2012
  • Successful entrants must reply to confirmation email within two days or new winners will be selected. 

If that isn't enough of a treat, you can also read my interview with the wonderful Cate Tiernan HERE.


And finally, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the paperback cover. What striking eyelashes! Tell us what you think in the comments.

***Thanks to Hodder Books for inviting me to host this giveaway***

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Paralympic Experience

I was lucky enough to get tickets for Tuesday evening's athletics. I've been meaning to post a few photos since but what with it being the first week back at school, I haven't had the time or energy. Anyway, here are a few. Credit for all the pictures goes to my husband who was like a man possessed. He was even more excited that I was.


Here I am on the way into the Olympic Stadium.


And here I am inside the stadium. We were sitting in Row 18. The stadium is much smaller than it seems on the TV. That really surprised me.


Here is the Paralympic cauldron. This was my first ever sporting event and it was an awe-inspiring experience. The atmosphere was incredible as we waited for the session to begin the air was humming with anticipation.



This is what the stadium looks like when it has 80000 people inside it.  For the first time in my life I experienced a wall of sound. The crowd were so loud and we were all there to see amazing sporting feats. 


This is the T13 1500m race. Spot David Devine in the Team GB kit. He won a silver medal. The stadium went mad.


And here is David Weir warming up for the T54 1500 m final. Which, if you've been following the Paralympics, you'll know, he won. What an achievement! 

One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. A night I will never forget. It was full of emotions: elation,  wonder, surprise, tension, pride.

Thank you to all the Games Makers, the organisers, the athletes and their coaches for making the Olympics and Paralympics so fantasic. Also thanks to TFL for the really easy journey to and from the Olympic Park. 

I'm so proud to be British right now. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Review: The Search for WondLa


Author: Tony DiTerlizzi

Release date: 1st October 2010
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster


Review:

The Search for WondLa is an imaginative sci-fi adventure story written in the tradition of classic children’s literature.


Eva Nine is a rebellious twelve year old girl who has grown up in the Sanctuary. She has never met another human and her only companion is robot Muthr – her surrogate mother. Eva dreams of escaping the sanctuary and seeing the world above. She wonders what it would be like to see trees stretch up to the sky. But Muthr will not let Eva leave the Sanctuary until she is ready. At the beginning of the story Eva fails her survival simulation exercise and storms away from her robot caretaker. Whilst she is hiding with her toys, a great blast sends a shock wave through the compound leading to Eva’s adventure into the world above.


This book is a challenging read for target age group. The language is more complex than I’d expect to see in a book with this type of adventure story. Words like pastoral and confluence stood out to me as being particularly difficult for a ten year old reader. The Search for WondLa is written in a traditional style and reminded me very strongly of the classics. I don’t want to say too much because it will spoil the reading experience but homage to a certain classic children’s book was definitely the author’s intention.


The illustrations in this book are incredible. They are charming and really bring the characters to life. The book explores a world which is largely alien to the reader – plants, animals and landscapes are transformed – the concept is so otherworldly that I don’t think I could have visualised it without DiTerlizzi’s beautiful drawings. The vast world that is built within this book is a wonder and it without doubt the book’s greatest strength.


The plot of the book follows Eva’s journey into the world beyond Sanctuary. She is searching for WondLa and the other humans that. The author explores themes of loneliness, loss, family and friendship. My favourite part of the book was when Eva felt insignificant looking up at the stars. I loved the way the author managed this feeling. It made me think about our place in the universe in an entirely new way. Sadly I am not fond of stories which follow the journey plotline. I struggle with the slow pace and the inevitable movement across the landscape. I just can’t engage with that. And for me personally, reaching a destination isn’t a strong enough goal (even if it is to find out if there are more humans left in the world). But that is me as a reader and I know children who love this type of story.


The Search for WondLa is full of inventive world-building and quirky characterisation. The sparky illustrations bring the breath-taking concept to life.


Recommended for fans of classic children’s fiction including: Journey to the Centre of the Earth / Around the World in Eighty Days / The Wonderful Wizard of Oz / Peter Pan

Source: Review copy sent by the publisher. Thank you.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Discussion: Do you remember learning to read?

Because I don't. Not really.

I've been thinking about the physical process of learning to read this summer.
I read this book: 


And to be honest, it was a bit too research based for me and lacking in actual practical things to implement in the library but it did get me thinking about my experiences of learning to read.

This is what I can remember:

  • Reading Billy Blue Hat and Roger Red Hat
  • Reading words out of a tin. I still remember the smell of the tin.
  • In Year 6 my teacher telling me to "sound it out" when I stumbled over a word
  • Magic e
  • Reading The Twelve Dancing Princesses (many times) a Ladybird book
  • Going to the public library and borrowing the same poetry treasury over and over
So not much. I have no memories of my parents listening to me read or reading to me. Seriously. None. I find this so strange. I think it's because it was never made into a big deal. If I read, I assume it was because I enjoyed it. Not because I had to. I became a librarian so I guess this method worked for me.

Do you remember reading aloud in class?
I know some people hated it. I didn't. But whenever I read aloud to the class I was so busy making sure I said every word correctly that I had no clue what was happening in the story. I lost my ability for comprehension.

From reading the above book, I'm taking away this: For pupils with weak comprehension skills recommend illustrated novels and graphic novels. Pictures aid comprehension.

Okay. I'm taking away more than that really but I can't manage to summarise my thoughts enough for this blog post. 

But I'm interested to hear from anyone who can remember any aspect of learning to read? Positive or negative experiences? Anything that transformed how you felt about reading?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: Debutantes


Author: Cora Harrison

Release date: 2nd August 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books


Review:

Debutantes is a sweet historical novel set in the 1920s Kent countryside. When I was reading it, I kept thinking this is Pride and Prejudice meets Dawson’s Creek. It is a romance but it’s also a novel of friendship and making your own way in the world.


It’s the story of four sisters who are the daughters of an Earl. Sadly, the Derrington’s fortune was lost on a mining business venture and so the family estate is in a state of disrepair. There is no male heir and so the estate will pass to a cousin on the death of Michael Derrington. The family’s hopes lay with the eldest daughter Violet. If she can have a season and marry a rich aristocrat, then all will be well. But there is no money for a debutant season for Violet. Yet the main character of the story is Daisy. She wants to be a film director and has a plan to make Violet famous in one of her movies.


The great thing about this book is Daisy and Poppy (her twin sister). They both have separate interests – directing films and jazz music – which evoke the dazzling 1920s era. It was great to see young women empowering themselves and following their dreams. I love that message. All the references to film-making were fascinating to me and captured my imagination. I loved visiting Sir Guy’s film studios and seeing behind the scenes. This is where the book excelled and brought the era to life.


However, I did have difficulty visualising the characters’ outfits. One of the things I thought worked really well in I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend was the illustrations. They complimented the story so well and brought it to life. I really wish that this book had contained black and white photos or film stills taken by Daisy. It would have given the book a wow factor and helped me to picture the girls’ attire and hair dos. There is such an emphasis on fashion of the period in Debutantes so I would have loved to have seen it.


There were also some errors in the proof copy. I think the author had changed Justin’s name from an earlier draft and so I was confused when a Julian randomly appeared. I’m sure this will have been rectified when the manuscript went to print though.


I wish I could have turned off my critical faculties and just enjoyed this story. But I kept wondering why Rose was there. (She is the youngest sister at twelve years old). What was her plot purpose? She wanted to be a novelist (and here I can see the link to Harrison’s previous novels) but did she really need to be there? At times it was hard to keep track of so many characters and I think the novel may have benefited from one less sister. It couldn’t be the eldest sister Violet because she is the “damsel in distress” and very much in need of a husband with a fortune.  


Despite my criticisms, I did find Debutantes to be a sweet and engaging read. It’s historical fiction and yet it is very accessible and has a “contemporary” feel to the language. Girls will love the fashion theme, the go-getting Daisy and jazzy parties. A great first novel for preteens who want to try the historical genre.


Source: Proof copy sent for review. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Review: Angel


Author: James Patterson

Release date: 3rd March 2011
Series: Book 7 Maximum Ride
Genre: Action / Sci-fi Thriller
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Random House

Note: This review contain some spoilers for previous books in the series.

Review:

Angel is the seventh book in Maximum Ride series – an all action, angry attitude and mad-scientists taking over the world story.


This novel begins with Max in emotional turmoil following the ending of Fang (book 6). It’s been a week since Max’s world fell apart and so we find her up a tree and for once wallowing in self-pity. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last for long. Max is her usual chip on the shoulder, the flock against the world self when human kids start turning up brainwashed by the Doomsday Group. Max knows she is destined to save the world but she was happier when it was a small step at a time rather major catastrophes waiting to happen.


I do love this series. Max is a great strong female lead – she’s sarcastic, she’s not one for emotional displays (unless it’s anger) and she’s ready to kick evil scientist butt. The great thing about these books is they are easy to read. They take no time at all – this one took me just a couple of hours and I did enjoy it with a wry humour. And it was satisfying. For readers who love short snappy chapters, colourful characters and not much description, then these will be a winner.


However, there is very little thematic depth to them. You’re not going to come away with questions to contemplate about human existence. You might think genetic experimentation on humans is wrong or open to debate but that’s pretty much as far as it goes.


The plot is typical of this series too – the flock against the scientist baddies. Entertaining for sure but not complicated. At this point having read seven books, I began to doubt that the ending of the series is in sight. I wonder if the author even knows how it ends and that made me a little unsettled. How much commitment to a series should an author expect from a reader? Anyway, when I got to the end of the book, there was a page saying the finale is out this year. So that’s a relief. I want to see it to the end and know that there is a thought out character arc and climax to the story.


No review would be complete without mentioning Angel as within the series context this is her book. At seven years old she comes of age in this book. But her intentions are never clear. Is she a manipulator or has she accepted that Max is the rightful leader of the flock? I should mention here that Angel can read minds, breathe underwater and kick some serious butt.


Overall, a page-turning thriller full of mutant-bird kids attempting to save the world from destruction and mass murder. What’s not to love?


Source: Borrowed from the public library.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: All These Things I've Done


Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Release date: 6th April 2012
Genre: Crime / Dystopian
Series: Book 1 Birthright
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Review:

All These Things I’ve Done is a futuristic novel and yet it’s not like any dystopian novel I’ve read. It’s more a family saga or a coming-of-age story. Its Godfather-esque mafia crime meets high school drama. And let’s be clear here, it’s absolutely brilliant!


Anya Balachine is sixteen and the night before the new school year starts her Neanderthal boyfriend – Gable Arsley, tries to take advantage of her. (That’s the polite version of events). This is just one of the many problems that Anya faces. Being the daughter of a deceased mafia boss is her greatest burden. It’s an inheritance she could do without. She’s responsible for her siblings and wants to protect them from the clutches of the gangster world. Her older brother Leo has a mental impairment and relies on Anya to offer comfort and stability. Her younger sister Natty is still suffering from the trauma of witnessing their father’s murder. Her Grandmother is bedridden and is being kept alive by machines. Anya’s goal is to go keep her family situation under the radar until she is eighteen and can be made legal guardian of Natty.


In this future there is no grand apocalypse. How refreshing! Rather there is a return to the prohibition years of the 1920s/30s. Coffee is illegal. Chocolate is illegal. Resources are sparse. There’s rationing for many things. Hence organised crime and the black market are big business. The Balachine Empire is a supplier of chocolate. And it’s chocolate that really kick starts the plot moving. Gable Arsley has a real thing for chocolate. When Anya gives him two bars of the illegal sweet stuff to get rid of him, it has unexpected and dangerous consequences.


I found this book so easy to read. Anya’s narrative is direct and it feels as if she is speaking directly to you. The writing is hypnotic. It’s compelling and uncomplicated. You just have to turn those pages. In among the “crime plot” there is the “romance” plot. What could be more complicated for Anya than falling for the son of the Assistant DA? Win is a charming character. I felt we only scratched the surface in getting to know him when compared to how well we get to know Anya. We learn her deepest fears, her practical reasoning, her resilience and the wisdom that her father shared. Anya is a real daddy’s girl and not in the usual meaning.


The questions this book explores are fascinating: when is it right to legalise a substance? Do some laws encourage crime? Does the punishment of a crime lead the perpetrator to commit another? Honestly, I was enthralled. These are the sorts of questions about society that really interest me. At the heart of the book is the most important question: are our lives self-fulfilling prophecies? If we’re born into a life of crime, can we ever escape it?


This is the first novel by Gabrielle Zevin that I’ve read but I’ll certainly be reading more. All These Things I’ve Done is thought-provoking, compelling and action-packed. But there’s warmth, humour and friendship too. One of my favourite books I’ve read this year. Fantastic!


Recommended for fans of:

Source: Review copy sent by Macmillan Children’s Books. Thank you so much!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Review: Priestess of the White


Author: Trudi Canavan


Release date: This paperback edition 2005
Genre: High Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Orbit


Review:

Priestess of the White is the first novel in Trudi Canavan’s Age of Five series.


Set in a fantastical world where Gods have chosen representatives to do their bidding in the world, this novel mixes magic and religion. The leaders of Hania are the White – five powerful sorcerers who are guided by their Gods. Auraya is the youngest of the White and the novel begins with her joining the Priesthood and her commitment to devote her life to the will of the Gods.


It is the Gods’ will that all of Northern Ithania be united and at peace. Auraya is a problem solver by nature, she is patient and caring. She had a childhood friendship from a Dreamweaver and this makes her more open-minded and accepting of their choices. It is this unique vision that makes Auraya a great peace-maker and her role as a servant of the Gods sees her travel to form alliances with other races in Northern Ithania.


This is an epic book and I feel the challenge of summarising the complicated history of the Gods’ past is beyond me. Those who do not follow the Gods they are known as Dreamweavers – the White view them as heathens. The leader of the White killed the leader of the Dreamweavers and there is a deep rooted hatred between these peoples. Dreamweavers are healers and pacifists. They were persecuted by followers of the White and were massacred in the past. Auraya hopes to change the dynamic between the White and the Dreamweavers.


While the nations of Northern Ithania are debating alliances with the White, in the South the heathen cult known as the Pentadrians (who follow fake Gods) are readying themselves for war.


Trudi Canavan’s storytelling leaves me awestruck. There are so many different plots and subplots running through this novel and they all link together in a coherent mesmerising way. The story is told in Canavan’s usual style – a third person roving viewpoint. We still the events of the story from so many different characters and it could be completely overwhelming but Canavan’s writing is so incredibly clear that it isn’t.


The themes in this novel are war and loyalty, the idea of devotion and free will, power and sacrifice, strength and weakness. It was fascinating to read about characters who range from fervent in their belief in their Gods to absolute hatred towards the Gods. It made me feel impartial to all the different social groups. If there was a character that stole my heart it was Mischief – Auraya’s pet veez – he added a much needed humour in the darkest times.


I can’t wait to see where this story goes next. The thing I love most about Trudi Canavan is her novels never disappoint. Great epic fantasy at its best.


Recommended for fans of:

Source: Bought from Waterstones in Oxford

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Holiday Snaps: Yorkshire Dales

It's that time of year again when I share with you my holiday snaps. 

This year the hubby and I were stayed in the UK. We headed for the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Here is our cottage. We were staying in Leyburn, Wensleydale.


We did a five mile walk around the spectacular waterfalls at Ingleton.


I took the Wensleydale railway into Redmire to visit Castle Bolton while my poor hubby walked the eight miles to get there (he is insane). I hired an audio guide to give us the history. It was hilarious. My hubby said it was worth the money for the comedy value alone. Let's just say that a bit of editing goes a long way!


Here I am at the riverside in Middleham after having tea in the village square and watching all the local riders come back from exercising their horses.


I don't think I've ever eaten so much cheese as I did on this holiday. I discovered that I love Wensleydale with Pineapple after we taste tested cheeses at the cremery in Hawes. We also spent a day in York but I was too tired to take any pictures. It turns out that I love the Yorkshire Dales. I love the slow pace. I love the streams and becks which are everywhere. I love the smell of countryside. I love the peace.

Well that concludes the holiday snaps for 2012!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Books for Olympics-inspired pupils

I'm anticipating that my pupils will all be wanting to read sport-themed novels when we get back to school in a couple of weeks. So I'm looking for new titles to add to the school library so I asked Twitter for recommendations. I also scanned Amazon and used the school library online catalogue to come up with this list to help anyone looking for an Olympic read.

Sporting Reads Book List


  • When Granny Won Olympic Gold - poetry collection
  • Medal Mayhem (Stunt Bunny) by Tamsyn Murray
  • Football Academy (series for 7+) by Tom Palmer
  • Foul Play (1st in series for 9+) by Tom Palmer
  • Striker Boy by Johnny Zucker
  • Gym Stars: Summertime and Somersaults  (1st in series) by Jane Lawes
  • Girls FC (series) by Helena Pielichaty
  • Stadium School (series) by Cindy Jefferies and Seb Goffe
  • Running for Gold by Owen Slot
  • Cycling for Gold by Owen Slot
  • Cows in Action: The Moo-lympic Games by Steve Cole
  • TJ and the Cup Run (Theo Walcott Series) 
  • The Kick Off (1st in the Jamie Johnson series) by Dan Freedman
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (for the sailing references)
  • London 2012 Novel: Deep Waters by Robert Rigby
  • London 2012 Novel: Running in Her Shadow by Robert Rigby
  • London 2012 Novel: Wheels of Fire by Robert Rigby
  • Berlin Olympics: Olympic Swimmer (My Story Series) by Vince Cross
  • Olympia the Games Fairy by Daisy Meadows
  • Sam and Ruby's Olympic Adventure by Tony Bradman and Martin Remphry
  • Downtown Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Olympics by Jeanne Willis and Arthur Robins

  • B.A.S.E. Camp (Black Cats) by Rob Childs
  • The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog Goes for Gold! by Jeremy Strong
  • Vulgar the Viking and the Great Gulp Games by Odin Redbeard
  • Camp Gold: Running Stars by Christine Ohuruogu
  • Camp Gold: Going for Gold by  Christine Ohuruogu


Thanks to: @Nictheauthor, @rebeccabooks, @jonnybid, @kpaice, @wesatdown for their recommendations.


If you have any recommendations, please share them in the comments or tweet me @the_bookette.

I haven't found any basketball, hockey, canoeing or kayaking novels and many more Olympic sports are missing from this list. I wonder if Team GB athletes could work with editors to produce a great new series...