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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


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


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.