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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Library Resource: Poster and graphics maker website

I came across a fantastic website for creating posters, blog graphics and Twitter posts. It's https://www.canva.com/. There are great tutorials to try out to understand the basics. You'll see one of the blog graphics which I made here.

This year I want to share a lot more of the library resources I make on my blog. So here is the first one.

Three posters to encourage pupils to use the computer for different activities. You'll find them at this link. They are PDFs and you're welcome to download them and use them in your school library.

Here is a small  version as an example: 



Friday, 29 August 2014

Review: Grace

Author: Morris Gleitzman

Release date: 3rd Feb 2011
Target audience: 8+
Genre: Realism / Family story
Themes: Beliefs / Religion / Family
UK Publisher: Puffin

Grace is a contemporary story of belief, faith and family. It’s about being true to yourself and your beliefs and standing up for your religious freedom and right to think freely.

Grace and her family are part of a small religious community. Her Uncle has just been made an elder. A special role in their church and it is a time of celebration. But sadly for Grace, she seems to sin despite her good intentions. Her school project sparks outrage from their leader Mr Gosper. It sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the very foundations of Grace’s world.

As always, Morris Gleitzman delivers a powerhouse of a story in a beautiful simple way. The voice of the main character Grace leaps off the page and carries an important message without it ever feeling like a lecture or sermon.

At the heart of this story is a girl who believes in God. She is raised in a small religious community which is a branch of Christianity. Most likely a sect but the author never states the exact group. And in essence that is irrelevant because any system of belief can be corrupted and abused by man. I think I liked this book so much because it didn’t shy away from such a big topic. It explored it through the eyes of a bright, innocent, loving girl and made it easy for me (and young readers) to understand.

It was fun to read about a character who used words like “afflicted” and “wrath”. There aren’t many contexts where a Middle Grade character could use this dialogue and make it work but it really does here and it is rather endearing. There are also many references to bible stories which make this book really great for discussion and exploring Christian beliefs.

I admire Gleitzman for the risks he takes in this book. He puts Grace amidst extremely dangerous situations and deftly resolves them so satisfyingly.

Overall, Grace is a wonderful novel for readers 8+. Some children who have questions about faith will find this book comforting. Those who have no beliefs will understand those who do a little better. And those who love a great thrilling story, full of love, which undoubtedly enjoy this book.

Bought: Purchased at SLA Conference

Friday, 22 August 2014

Review: Assassin's Apprentice

Author: Robin Hobb

Release date: This edition 2014, first published 1995
Genre: Epic Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Series: Book 1 The Farseer Trilogy

Assassin’s Apprentice is an epic fantasy novel. It’s set in a world of kings, princes, allies and assassins. It’s an epic tale – rich on historical world-building.

This book absorbed from start to finish. It wasn’t a quick read. It was a slow burner that had me wanting to read into the wee hours because I was just so engrossed. I liked that it was sumptuous in the detail. This book felt like a fantasy rite of passage. Robin Hobb is obviously a huge name in my favourite genre and yet I had never read anything by her. I’m so glad I came across this book in the public library.

Fitz is the illegitimate son of Prince Chivalry Farseer. His earliest memory is of being dumped by his maternal grandfather at the feet of Burrich - his father’s loyal servant. Fitz grows up in the stables where Burrich tends to the horses, dogs and hawks. He grows up an outsider – always being viewed as “the bastard” child. He feels acute loneliness and yet great loyalty to the King and his uncle Prince Verity. There comes a time when he charged to learn magic known as the Skill. It is a dangerous pursuit under the instruction of a vile and cruel teacher. It tests him to the limit and it could break him. But without the Skill, the kingdom of the Six Duchies may fall to the evil Red Raiders and their mysterious soul-stealing.

The novel is told from Fitz’s point of view. At the beginning of each chapter there is an excerpt from the history of the Farseer and their kingdom of the Six Duchies. It’s the story of Fitz’s many roles in Buckkeep. He assists Burrich with the animals. He spends time training with weapons. He, as the title suggests, becomes the assassin’s apprentice. Not something a person might want to be but is driven to out of loyalty. It is a book about fate – sometimes our name dictates our nature, sometimes our circumstances. Sometimes it is merely that we are a pawn in other peoples’ games.

The characterisation is excellent. You feel every single breath Fitz takes but you also come to love Burrick, admire Verity and fear Galen. It is quite something the way this book is written. It really haunted me when I wasn’t reading it. I kept wondering about what would happen next. I loved that the author didn’t take the easy route. Characters are maimed, killed and utterly tormented. It made reading this book surprising, full of anticipation and an absolute nail-biting pleasure. If you haven’t read anything by robin Hobb, then begin with the Assassin’s Apprentice. You will not be disappointed. It was incredible!

Source: Borrowed from the public library.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Crash

Author: Nicole Williams

Genre: Contemporary / Romance
Release date: First published July 2012
Target audience: New Adult
Publisher: UK Paperback Simon and Schuster
Publisher: Ebook edition Harpercollins

Crash is a contemporary romance. It’s a story of first impressions and the truth behind them. It’s a sweet love story.

Lucy has recently moved with her family to their lake shore cabin after losing their family home. She’s trying to make the best of it but things at home are difficult. She’s not looking forward to starting her final year of school at a new tough school either. As she reads on the beach, her attention is grabbed by a muscular young man playing a game of football. It’s the beginning of a friendship which could break them both in two.
This was not the most well written of novels. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure read rather than a thought-provoking one. I did enjoy it though. I was smiling while reading it. It’s sort of like I read it with one eyebrow raised the whole way through.

There were some things that didn’t quite work for me. The first is that Lucy and Jude seem to connect a bit too quickly. I’m not convinced that someone who has suffered as much as Jude would let someone enter his life so easily and so whole-heartedly. It seemed almost instantaneous. Then there’s the fact that Lucy was so passionate about dancing. At least we’re told that but we’re never really shown it. There just aren’t enough scenes with her actually dancing and feeling the movements and the music.

Having said all that, I wanted to know how it ended and I really wanted them to be together by the end of the novel. I read it really quickly too. So if you like a quick romantic read, then give it a go. I preferred Easy by Tammara Webber. There was more substance to that new adult novel and the writing was less cheesy. But hey, I did have fun reading Crash and I kind of want to know what happens next. Guilty pleasure, indeed.

Source: Bought and read on my Kobo.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: NYPD Red 2

Author: James Patterson (and Marshall Karp)

Release date: 5th June 2014
Genre: Crime thriller
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Century Random House
Series: NYPD Red #2

NYPD Red 2 is another fast-paced crime novel from the frighteningly prolific James Patterson. Think: cops, car chases, elite team, good guys, bad guys and city politics.

In this instalment top NYPD Red team Detectives Jordan and MacDonald are after a serial killer vigilant. This criminal mastermind has decided to become jury, judge and executioner. The media call him “The Hazmat Killer”. The case ends up with the Red team when a young rich socialite is found dead on a carousel wearing the calling-card Hazmat-esque suit. It’s a race against time to locate the bad guy and save the mayor’s political career.

Though I don’t normally read crime fiction because I’m a big wimp, for some reason the NYPD Red series is just not scary. It’s fast-paced and involves horrible torturing and murder but I guess it’s just a little too tongue in cheek to take seriously.

The voices of the main characters are so snarky and a little daft with their witticism that it makes the book more light-hearted entertainment than edge-of-your-seat thriller. And yet, I enjoyed it. The chapters are so short that you can speed through it.

If you’re looking for a quick, light read which is entertaining, then give it a go. If you love cop shows like me, but hate being scared, it’s just the thing.

Source: Borrowed from the public library

Monday, 11 August 2014

Review: Attachments

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Release date: 2nd Feb 2012
Genre: Contemporary / Modern
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Orion

Attachments is a contemporary romantic comedy. It’s a cute funny read that’ll warm your heart.

Lincoln works at The Courier as an IT guy with a difference. His job is to check that the staff are not abusing the email system. They are not meant to send personal messages and he has to send them warnings when they do. It’s not a great job. He works the nightshift and he feels kind of weird snooping on other people. But it is a job. When he starts reading all the emails sent by Beth and Jennifer things get complicated. Reading about their lives touches something in him and soon he can’t stop. He’s falling for Beth and her witty charm. But now he’s been reading her emails, how could he ever ask her out? Oh, and she has a boyfriend too.

Oh, how sweet this book is! I loved it from the beginning and I read it so quickly. Time just seemed to disappear when I was reading it. Lincoln is an adorable character. Still healing from the broken heart he got in college, he can’t move on. He’s back living with his mum and letting her make him backed lunch. Beth is a funky girl with her movie reviewer job but she’s also a fun friend. Of course, you want them to be together. But soon you’re wondering how they’ll ever manage it. The book keeps you guessing and hoping for love.

Told through Lincoln’s narrative and the emails, the book has a lively style to match its quirky characters. Even the other characters like Doris are endearing to read about. This book charmed the socks off me. It's a story about embracing who are and letting go of the past. It's about just being yourself. If you love a good love story, then read this. Attachments will leave you with a big dorky grin on your face.

Source: Borrowed from the public library.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Review: Spy for the Queen of Scots

Author: Theresa Breslin

Release date: 6th June 2013
Genre: Historical Thriller
Target audience: YA
Publisher: Doubleday, Random House

Spy for the Queen of Scots is a story of political unrest, spies and betrayal. It’s a historical novel set in the late sixteenth century in both France and Scotland.

Lady Ginette – known as Jenny to her friends – is a one of Mary Queen of Scots’ ladies. They spent much of their childhood playing together and now as young women, they are close friends and confidants. Mary is soon to marry the Dauphin Francis and his mother Catherine D’Medici does not look kindly on her future daughter in law. Living in Catherine’s court is a dangerous place for Mary. Jenny as her closest friend begins to fear Catherine’s ruthless hand. Jenny is soon witness to the horror of Catherine’s cruel and tyrannical power. As a loyal friend to Mary, she secretly begins to spy to protect the Scottish Queen. Sometimes aided, and sometimes thwarted by the mysterious Sir Duncan Alexander, Jenny must decide who truly supports the true heir to the Scottish throne and who is at the heart of her betrayal.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The turbulent history of the late sixteenth century came to life and I learnt much about the reign of Mary Queen of Scots as well as the rule of France under Catherine D’Medici as a regent queen. There was also the conflict between the Protestant and Catholic religions in Scotland and England to try to comprehend and I enjoyed musing over it all even when I wasn’t reading the book.

Jenny’s character was both likeable and courageous. I found her mistrust, as well as affection, for Duncan Alexander compelling to read about. Of course, I was hoping that this would be a love story and not a tragedy. The prologue gives the reader a glimpse of Mary moments before her execution which makes it clear that this story is not going to rewrite history. It is partly Mary’s story. It is sympathetic portrayal of a young queen trying to find a way to prevent all out civil war in her country and war with its closest neighbours. But this is also Jenny’s story. She is the eyes through which we view momentous events and the more private moments of the life of her monarch friend.

The plot is thrilling to follow. Uprising, military coups, poisoning, explosions – there is death and danger around every corner. I found myself enthralled by it all. And also charmed because there is also the story of romance for Mary and for Jenny, and as a hopeless romantic, I was hooked.

Spy for the Queen of Scots was well-written and brilliantly paced. It was an educational read as well as an engaging one. Another excellent historical novel from Theresa Breslin!

Source: Borrowed from the public library.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erin Johansen

Release date: July 2014
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Random House

The Queen of the Tearling is an epic fantasy, it's almost a fairy tale story of a great monarch. This is the story of how a leader comes to be a legend. It's full of tension, secrets and the dark deeds in the search for power.

Kelsea was raised in the forest hidden away from all in her kingdom, the heir to the throne of the Tearling she had a price on her head. She never knew her mother but always imagined she would have been a great queen. When Kelsea turns nineteen, the Queen's Guard come to take her to her kingdom. There are many who stand in the way of her coronation - her letch of an Uncle, the Caden (a band of assassins) but her biggest enemy is the Red Queen of Mortmense. The Red Queen is rumoured to be a witch who is has all the surrounding realms in her suffocating grasp. Kelsea's heard of The Mort Treaty but she knows nothing of the terms. Her Guard have made a vow of secrecy to her mother so there are many secrets which Kelsea must discover. They will obliterate any idea of her mother as a great ruler. But will her own reign last long enough for her to change things?

I loved reading this book. I found it so compelling and well written. Kelsea is an interesting character. Living a life with foster parents and being educated to make a great queen, she should know all there is to know about the Tearling but there are many things she is unaware of. She has to learn quickly in order to survive.

The characterisation in this novel was excellent. The author gave each character a strong motivation to drive their actions: vanity, pride, rage - the characters were dynamic and convincing. I thought the Mace and the Fetch were both strong male voices and their relationship with Kelsea made great reading.

I really liked the exploration of the theme of monarchy and leadership and the idea of nature versus nurture. The setting for the Tearling realm is a land which is depleted of resources but almost felt medieval. It was like reading a historical fantasy yet the book is in fact set in the future. Many years ago there was the Crossing to these new lands under the idealist William Tear - he had hopes of building a utopian society but sadly that dream has long since been lost. What actually happened pre-Crossing was a mystery to me but I think that is also how it is for Kelsea. I'm sure that this will become clear in future books.

The magic is also just beginning to reveal itself by the end of the book. This is not Hogwarts. There's no spell-learning. The magic comes from a mysterious source and has the potential for good or evil deeds, I think.

I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling immensely. I can't wait to read the next instalment. If you enjoyed Trudi Canavan's Age of Five series or Kristen Britain's Green Riders, then you'll love this. I know I did. A thrilling read indeed and everything you want in a fantasy novel for adults.

Source: Netgalley.