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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review: Greyhound of a Girl


Author: Roddy Doyle

Release date: This UK Paperback edition June 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Family story
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Scholastic (Marion Lloyd)

Review:

Greyhound of a Girl is a story about family and about becoming a woman. If you’re feeling philosophical, you might say it’s a story about letting go and being open to change.


Mary is upset when her best-friend moves away but she’s consoled by the arrival of a woman in her street. But the woman who speaks like an old lady and dresses like she’s from an old movie is in fact youthful in appearance. Mary is not surprised to discover she is related to this lady and that the lady is in fact the ghost of her great-grandmother (not a spoiler, it states this in the blurb). Mary’s own grand-mother is in hospital – she’s dying of old age - and so Mary and her mum are trying to come to terms with the sad events to come.
This book has a lovely tone. The author has a distinctive voice and that shines through the setting and the characterisation. Each of the female figures has a similarity and yet a quality which sets them apart from one another. Mary has her cheekiness. Tansey has her old-fashioned dialect. Emer’s voice is from her childhood-self and then there’s Scarlett who likes to emphasize everything with exclamation marks. This seemed like a real skill to create four different sounding characters of a shared family and gender.


But at times I was still confused. I was a little overwhelmed by the four generations and all the grandmothers, mothers, great-grandmothers.I liked that this story was more about characters than action. It wasn’t a fast-paced, plot driven story but in essence is a story about being part of family, the history of your family’s past and also becoming a woman.


I didn’t quite understand why it all begins with Mary’s friend moving away. I do like things to come full circle in a book and so this felt to me like it was left hanging. I would have liked someone to move in next door or for Mary to get a letter. Just a tiny something to round it off.


Overall, Greyhound of a Girl is a beautifully written novel which has a heartfelt storyline and an unusual style.


Source: Borrowed from the school library.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Review: Endless Summer


Author: Jennifer Echols

Release date: This paperback bind up, US 2010
Genre: Romance, Contemporary YA
Target audience: 12+

Review:

Endless Summer is a contemporary summer romance set by a lake in the USA. It’s a romantic-comedy and was originally published as two separate novels – The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer.


Lori has lived next door to the Vader brothers all her life. She grew up wanting to be one of the boys but this year things are different. This summer she will do anything in her power to make the boys notice she’s a girl. She’s making an effort to give up her tomboy-ways and find her inner femininity. This year she will make Sean fall in love with her. She has a plan and she ropes Sean’s younger brother Adam into helping her. The course of true love never did run smoothly and this novel is no exception. It’s a funny mess that Lori winds up in but she risks heartbreak if she doesn’t work things out.


This is the third book that I’ve read by Jennifer Echols and it is by far the best. This storyline is at times a little melodramatic; however, the overall plot elements are much more plausible than say Forget You. The characterisation is also stronger in Endless Summer as it the quality of the writing. This book felt very polished and like the finished article which I think is lacking in Forget You and Going Too Far. But perhaps what is lacking in this book is the real sizzling chemistry that you find in the books I’ve just mentioned. I think this book is aimed at a slightly younger audience and it works just fine for them.


I loved the way the story all took place around the lake and over a short period of time. The landscape and the people really came to life and I felt that I could see everything in my mind’s eye. I think if you are looking for a sweet summer romance with a touch of comedy, then this is the book for you. It’s easy to read and it’s entertaining. Perfect beach reading.

  
Source: Books from Waterstones

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Review: Maggot Moon


Author: Sally Gardner


Release date: September 2012
Genre: Dystopian
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471400049


Review:

Maggot Moon is a dark almost dystopian Young Adult novel. It’s a story of oppression and the struggle for survival in an unjust society.


I’m not sure what I expected this book to be but it really wasn’t what it is. That’s not to say that what it is isn’t striking, refreshingly different, compelling and imaginative. It is all those things but somehow I got it into my head that this would be a comical tale of a boy not quite fitting in.


Standish Treadwell has never been any good at putting things now on paper. He can’t read too well but he does love words. He loves their sounds even if he finds their shapes elusive. He’s full of imagination and dreams of landing on a new planet. At school he is bullied by the other boys but he’s also picked on by the horrid Mr Gunnell. He’s pretty miserable there until he finds a friend in fearless Hector. They live in the same street. A street that’s almost deserted. People are taken without warning. Standish believes they become maggot meat. But really they are victims of the Motherland. Standish and his grandfather are living on the poverty line. The world of luxury is reserved for the people who live in Zone 1. Out in Zone 7, only the traitorous snitches have enough food to eat. A boy like Standish – who everyone thinks is dumb – holds the peoples’ freedom in his hands.


I found this book so easy to read. The chapters are short and the language is at once accessible and startlingly imaginative. The interesting thing about this book is that the dystopian society is not explicit. The author chooses not to spell everything out. So in fact I “read” it as more of a parallel universe story. This is an England where the Second World War was lost. It was not the Führer that lead the mass extermination of innocent people but a Mother-figure in this book. Well that’s my interpretation I’m sure there are many of equal value.


The characterisation was quirky and authentic. The capacity for humanity to do the most inhuman things is felt so strongly. But so is the capacity for random acts of kindness. The ending was bitter-sweet and left me with a lump in my throat.


So yes, what I got from this book, I never expected to. It was a pleasure to be surprised and though this book explores some very bleak, brutal issues, it is none the less a captivating read. Maggot Moon is a worthy contender for the Carnegie Award.


Source: Review copy from the publisher. Thank you.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Blog tour: The 5th Wave / Rick Yancey's Top 5 Childhood Reads



The 5th Wave is finally here. Are you ready for it? 


They are coming for us...



My Top Five Childhood Reads by Rick Yancey


  1. The Hardy Boys series by Frank W. Dixon. This series occupied an entire shelf in my bedroom; I still remember the blue covers and the cheesy artwork. Funny thing is now I can’t remember a single plot, but I do remember anxiously awaiting each instalment.
  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I remember the day I got this book, thinking, “Why does he have two middle names?” It was my first foray into fantasy, after which I dived into Terry Brooks and the Thomas Covenant books.
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. What can be said? Well, this: brilliant.
  4. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. I saw the animated version starring the voice of Bella Lugosi before I read the story. But I loved The Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham. Was never crazy about Cat and the Hat (it made me nervous for some reason). I am convinced now that my love of language, the way words sound and the way juxtaposition creates unforgettable effects, began with Dr. Seuss.
  5. Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol. A kid detective? And he’s smarter than his own dad? And the author is kind enough to put the solutions in the back of the book for thick-heads like me? Gimme!  
Ah, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is still popular in my school library. In fact all the Dr. Seuss books are still much loved by my pupils. It’s funny I find it hard to remember my favourite books as a child – I loved The Twelve Dancing Princesses – dancing all night, yes please! But I also loved The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton. (Another author who is still read by my pupils today.)


Tell us some of your favourite childhood reads in the comments. And don’t forget to enter the competition. 

Follow this link or use the sound cloud widget at the top of the sidebar to listen to the audio extract for the answer to this question:

What is Cassie’s name short for?


Send your answer in an email to Puffin. (Details on the banner below.)




Don't forget to read my review of this thrilling read! Follow this LINK

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Review: Forget You


Author: Jennifer Echols


Release date: UK Paperback 11th April 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA Romance
Target audience: 13+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978147718036

Review:


Forget You is a contemporary teen romance set in Florida. It’s a story of what’s said and what’s left unsaid, what you can remember and what you can’t. It’s also about overcoming family difficulties – parental divorce, mental illness and emotional abuse. But above all it is a love story.


Zoey has enjoyed the summer working at her father’s water park with the rest of the swim team. She got them all jobs except for Doug – who went to juvie and who hates her. She spent the summer listening to Brandon’s sexual exploitation of women. She never thought of him as anything but a friend. Things change the night she comes home to find her mum has attempted suicide. In a state of emotional turmoil, she goes to a beach party and gets it on with Brandon. A week later after another party, she has a car accident at 2.30 in the morning, she rescued from the wreck by Doug. But what happened between leaving the party and the accident is a mystery – she hit her head in the crash and she just can’t get her head around why Doug is acting so differently towards her.


At the very beginning I thought this book was not going to be for me. Zoey had some really unconvincing metaphors to describe her situation and it didn’t have an authenticity to it. But this was mainly in the first chapter, I kept reading and I did really get into the story. I wanted to know exactly what happened on the night of the car accident. I wanted Zoey to realise that actions speak louder than words and that Brandon was not boyfriend material.


However, there were also some flaws to the characterisation. I didn’t really get that Zoey was a control freak who put on a polished exterior. She was trying to put her best foot forward and give a sense that everything was normal in her life. As the reader, Zoey tells us that she spent ages choosing her outfits. But that was kind of where the polished behaviour seemed to end. The characterisation needed more work. Then there is the use of twins in the novel. I’m not really sure why one character with a more rounded, deeper personality would not have sufficed.


I was also completely confused by the reason given for Doug going to juvie. It just didn’t seem logical to me that this is something courts would have given someone a custodial sentence for (however short). Literacy licence perhaps.


So yes, this is book felt slightly hurried and not quite tied together enough. But, I did really enjoy it. I couldn’t wait to finish it. I was hooked in to the relationship between Zoey and Doug. That’s what made the book come to life. I was so into it that I went out and bought Endless Summer. A recommendation from Jenny @ Wondrous Reads who has read many books by Jennifer Echols and assures me is her best. I’ve already read Going Too Far and I really enjoyed that – another book where the lead characters have great chemistry.


Forget You is perfect for a beach read. You’ll race through it. If you love a good hopelessly romantic story, then give this book a go.


Wondering if you might prefer Going Too Far? Then you can read my review of that book at THIS LINK.


It’s now out in the UK too in both Paperback and eBook formats.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Blog Tour: The 5th Wave is coming


This is the coolest blog tour ever! It kicks off tomorrow on SugarScape

The 5th Wave is such a great book. You have to read it. I want to win a signed copy myself. If you haven't read my review, you must be crazy. Go HERE!

You should also visit the official The 5th Wave website:

Twitter and Facebook Links you should follow:


Rick Yancey: @RickYancey
Penguin Teen U.S: www.facebook.com/penguinteenbooks  @PenguinTeen
Penguin UK: www.facebook.com/PenguinUKBooks; @PenguinUKBooks; @PuffinBooks; @Spinebreakers + www.spinebreakers.co.uk
Penguin Teen Australia: www.facebook.com/PenguinTeenAustralia  @PenguinTeenAus

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Come and join me on PopCircle!



I'm a PopCircle Book Expert. You should all come and join me.

What is PopCircle?

A platform for sharing the things you love with people you trust. Rather than a website that generates recommendations based on some computer generated code, this is all about finding people who share your love of books, movies, music and TV and then using their recommendations to find more things to love. You know you all have a book twin that you've found through blogging, well this is about finding more and more like-minded readers, movie goers etc.

You can add trusted people to your circle and then keep up to date with their latest recommendations.

You can create collections of books. I'm adding everything from the best Reading for Writers to Great Picture Books to Read Aloud

We're still in BETA but I haven't noticed any glitchy happenings.

So come and join me. Click on this very important link



Thursday, 2 May 2013

Review: The 5th Wave


Author: Rick Yancey


Release date: 7th May 2013
Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller, Dystopian
Target audience: 12+
UK publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780141345833


Review:
The 5th Wave is a sci-fi thriller. It’s about an alien invasion of the most sinister and creepy kind. It’s a full-throttle page-turner and a story of survival against all the odds.


When the visitors’ mothership appears in the sky, the world waits with bated breath and delighted anticipation about the fact that we are no longer alone in the universe. But when the visitors make no attempt at contact or communication with humanity, things start to look bad. The first wave sends an EMP across the world – taking out all electronics – and killing half a million people in the process. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Humanity has yet to face the worse and all this is without ever seeing the face of this new hostile race.


There are two main characters in this story. There’s Cassie – she’s just an ordinary girl until the alien invasion. Then she becomes one of the few surviving humans left on Earth. She trusts no one and her survival depends on her isolation and willingness to kill anyone who crosses her path. Then there’s Ben – another survivor who struggles with the guilt of abandoning his sister. Their paths will cross. But not in the way you expect.


What I loved most about this book was that I had no idea how it was going to end. I didn’t know who to trust just like Cassie. That made it such a thrilling, absorbing book to read. Yes, I did find it awfully creepy. I guess I hope that one day we’ll find out we’re not along and that other races in the universe are loyal and friendly. This book dispels those illusions. It’s sort of plays with our idea of what an encounter will be like. It reminds us of those movies – Independence Day, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact – and then makes us feel kind of foolish for even thinking we can win out. This book has a point – any race advanced enough to travel to Earth would have to have technology beyond anything we have invented.


This book is well-paced. It has plot twists galore. It has convincing characterisation. I can’t remember the last time I started a book and couldn’t wait to get home to finish reading it. The 5th Wave has that must read on NOW quality about it.


Brutal and full of hideous deaths, The 5th Wave is a dark read. The menacing way it’s written will get inside your head. You’ll be thinking about it even when you’re not reading it. So of course, it is a must read. Especially if you’re enjoying the TV show Revolution on Sky 1, then you have to read this book. But even more so if you were hoping that show would be better (like me), then this will satisfy your craving. Until the end, when like me, you’ll be praying there’s a follow up. Recommended!


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