Monday, 9 January 2017

Review on The Christmasaurus

William Trundle is a young boy who is obsessed with dinosaurs! When he writes a letter to Santa asking for a dinosaur, the last thing he expects to wake up to is a real life dinosaur in his house! However, William soon discovers that the dinosaur has in fact got lost. William must help the Christmasaurus get home to the North Pole, but with the infamous Hunter trying to shoot the dinosaur to claim as a hunting trophy, it may be more difficult than William had hoped.

So I have to admit that the main reason why I bought this book was because I adore Tom Fletcher. I've been a huge McFly fan for over ten years, and I was excited when Tom announced that he was going to be writing a children's novel! After the success of his dinosaur that pooped series, a collection of picture books co-written with fellow band mate Dougie Poynter, Tom has decided to take his obsession with dinosaurs and Christmas a step further in the form of a novel.

One of the first things I noticed about this book was how much Tom put his personality into it. As a pop star and YouTuber, Tom is very much in the spotlight, and as well all know, famous names sell books. There has been some controversy in celebrities having their books ghost written, so I was glad to see that was definitely not the case with this book. The Christmasaurus practically oozes with Tom's personality, and I loved picking up on little things, such as Tom naming William's dad after his own father, and loosely basing the character around himself.Tom has a great sense of humour, which comes across brilliantly in this book, and had me laughing out loud several times! This book will definitely have children and non boring adults laughing. Along with the humor, I also loved the poetry. As a song writer, Tom is extremely talented at writing both lyrics and poetry, and I adored how the elves tried to make all their sentences rhyme.

One of the main things that I loved was that this book has a disabled protagonist. I feel as if disabled characters are usually defined by their disability. It is often the first thing about them that is described before things such as looks, likes and dislikes, so I loved the fact that the book didn't mention that William was in a wheelchair until the seventh chapter, by which time we had learnt other, more important things about him. William's wheelchair is a part of who he is. There are no miracles where the endgame is William being able to walk again, and William has come to terms with his disability, and doesn't feel sorry for himself. I loved that William was so confident, as I feel as if characters like William could give disabled children the confidence boost that they need. We are not made to feel sympathy for William due to his disability, as although he does have problems, they don't revolve around him being disabled. I loved that William was able to go on an amazing adventure without his disability holding him back, and I loved how it gave a positive message that just because a child has a disability, it shouldn't stop them from going on adventures and achieving their dreams.

I loved how this book was full of fun, Christmassy magic, from miracles, Santa, flying reindeer and showing toy making in a whole new perspective! Although this is not a picture book, it was still full of gorgeous illustrations that helped to break up the walls of text. I felt as if this was great for children who had the skills to read this book for themselves, as young children often have a short attention span, so I felt as if the illustrations would keep children interested in the story for longer.

The only negative thing I have to say about this book involves the ending. One thing I hate is the idea that a family isn't a real family unless it involves a mum and a dad. There are so many children who live with either a single parent or same sex parents, so I always feel as if showing that a “normal” family has to include a mum and a dad can be harmful. I initially loved the idea of Bob Trundle being a single parent, and doing a brilliant job of raising his son. However, I was disappointed when William's biggest wish was for his dad to find a new girlfriend. I was hoping that Mr Trundle would explain he didn't need a romantic relationship to be happy, so I was disappointed when he suddenly became interested in William's enemy-turned-friend's mum in the last few pages, who had previously snubbed him. I was disappointed that the only adult female in the book turned out to be nothing but a love interest for one of the male main characters. As the only other female in the book was an ableist bully for half of it, I felt as if this book really needed more positive female characters.

Apart from the disappointing ending, this book is full of magic, plot twists and character development, and is the perfect festive read for any dinosaur lover!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Reviewing the Classics #7 A Christmas Carol

                                                                                  Goodreads Summary:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a lonely, miserly old man who hates Christmas, which he dismisses as "humbug". One Christmas Eve, however, he is visited by a series of ghosts who reveal to him the innocence he has lost, the wretchedness of his future and the poverty of the present; which he has so far ignored. This experience teaches Scrooge the true meaning of the holiday and leaves him a transformed man.

With its memorable cast of characters such as Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the most heart-warming of seasonal tales, a timeless classic that continues to enchant readers around the world and a lesson in charity and hopefulness that is as powerful today as when it was first written in 1843 .                                        

So I have to admit that I am cheating slightly here, as I have read this months classic several times before, but as it is Christmas, I think I can be excused just this once! I have a Christmas tradition where every year, I read this book aloud to my dad. He doesn't really read himself, but he adores all of the A Christmas Carol movie adaptations, and the novel has now become his favourite book! As my copy was looking a little dog eared, I was delighted when the lovely Alma Books sent me a brand new copy with a gorgeous cover! I was happy to discover that the book also included other festive stories by Charles Dickens that I had never read before, but for the sake of the length of this review, I am going to stick to only reviewing A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol is probably one of the most well known classics in the world. Everyone has heard of Scrooge, with the name often used to describe a cruel and selfish person. There are several movie adaptations, with my favourite being A Muppets Christmas Carol, but I do often wonder how many people have actually taken the time to read this festive classic. It is a short book that can easily be read in one sitting, and although I read multiple Christmas books every year, I always find myself coming back to this one. As we all know, the main theme that runs throughout this book is to treat others with kindness, and to spend with with friends and family over the holidays. I feel as if we tend to forget to do this in modern day life, and people are a lot more solitary than they used to be. We are all so focused on our own problems, that we have no time to be friendly to strangers, so I love how this book shows what a huge difference a random act of kindness can make.

Something that inevitably happens when reading a classic is coming across archaic language. Language is constantly changing, and there are many references that the average person living in 2016 wont understand. I loved how this edition took this into consideration, and in most cases where I didn't understand something, I could flick to the back of the book where it would be explained. I love when classic books do this, and I feel as if this should be done in all classics.

I have always adored the characters in this book, especially the Cratchet family. The love that this family has for each other is heart warming, and Dickens perfectly shows the grief that they feel over Tiny Tim's death.

I feel as if this book will remain a classic for many years to come, as even over one hundred years later, it remains relatable, and shows us the true meaning of Christmas. I will definitely be keeping up my annual tradition, and I look forward to rereading this book for years to come!

A Christmas Carol is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Review on What Light

For as long as she can remember, Sierra has lived a double life. For most of the year, Sierra lives at her parents Christmas tree farm in Oregon. However, every December they move to California, where they sell their trees. Although Sierra's friend Heather wants her to have a holiday romance, Sierra is determined not to get involved with anyone. That is until she meets Caleb, a boy who spends his money on buying Christmas trees for families who can't afford them. Sierra soon develops feelings for Caleb, and with the uncertainty of if she will return next year, Sierra must decide if getting involved in Caleb is the best decision.

I was excited to receive this book from the lovely people at MyKindaBook, and decided to wait until the festive period to read it! What Light follows Sierra, a girl who lives on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, but has to move to California every year during December to help her families to sell the trees. I thought the plot seemed cute, and I love reading happy, lighthearted books at this time of year. Sierra soon meets Caleb,a boy who initially seems sweet, but has a dark past. Sierra hears a rumour that Caleb attacked his sister with a knife, but isn't sure how much of the rumour is true. I felt as if Sierra should have got to know Caleb a little more before trusting him enough to be alone with him. I felt as if Jeremiah, Caleb's best friend, had a more realistic reaction to him, as he initially kept a little distance between himself and Caleb.

Sadly I did not fall in love with these characters like I hoped I would. I found them to be a little dull and cliché, and we don't discover much about their personalities. We don't really learn anything about Sierra other than the fact that she lives on a Christmas tree farm, and although the book is quite short, I was hoping for characters with more individuality. I didn't care about Sierra enough to become invested in her story, and her relationship with Caleb just seemed like your average cliché YA romance. This is very much a love at first sight story, and as I've mentioned probably hundreds of times before, I hate instalove. As Sierra is only in town during the festive season, their relationship develops extremely quickly, and I felt like rolling my eyes at certain parts. Their relationship turned into a huge cliché, and as I had heard nothing but good things about Jay Asher, I was disappointed.

Sierra has a solid group of friends, which include Heather, her friend in California, and Elizabeth and Rachel, her friends back home in Oregon. I always adore strong friendships in YA contemporary novels, and it was clear that all of Sierra's friends had a strong bond with her. Because of this, I was annoyed when Sierra chose spending time with Caleb over going to see Rachel perform in a play. I felt bad for Rachel, as Sierra chose a boy she had only just met over her best friend. I often feel as if friendships are more permanent than romantic relationships, and as Sierra had known Caleb for such a short amount of time, I was overall annoyed that she chose Caleb over Rachel.

I felt as if Jeremiah, Caleb's best friend, had more potential as a character than what he was given. I was hoping that he would become a good friend to Sierra, and provided us with more backstory on Caleb, but unfortunately that never happened. To me it felt like Jeremiah was more of a plot device than a character, and I was hoping that he would become more central to the plot than he was.

My expectations for this book were pretty high, and sadly I have to say that it did not meet my expectations. This book was a cheesy, contemporary cliché romance, with forgettable characters, and the type of romance that has been done thousands of times. Although the idea of this book was cute, I felt as if it failed to deliver.

What Light is now available to purchase!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Review on Mrs Miller-Christmas Killer

When Holly Glover transfers schools in December, she is surprised that she can't see a single Christmas decoration. However, it doesn't take long for her to discover the reason. Holly's head teacher, Mrs Miller, despises Christmas, and won't tolerate any festivity. When Mrs Miller leaves the school to attend a conference, Holly decides to give Mount Pleasant primary school the Christmas they have always wanted.

 When I got send a request to review this book, the title immediately caught my attention. However, one of the first things I do before reading the summary is look at the cover, and my first assumption was that it was going to be a sexy book! Although the cover does make sense in context, I felt as if no one would look at the cover and assume it was a children's book, so I felt as if it was a little misleading.

The book follows Holly, a girl in year six who has just changed schools. I loved the setting of this book, as I don't come across many books that are set in a school in Britain. Holly was a likeable protagonist, and although I found her dads antics with his tanning van funny, I also felt second hand embarrassment for Holly. Holly's days just keep getting worse, and the only thing she has to look forward to is her schools talent show. I loved how although everything was going wrong for her, Holly never gave up on her goals, and finally achieved what she wanted.

One thing that I loved about this book was Holly's family. Whenever we think about family, we usually picture a child living with their mum and dad. However, Holly's mother has died, and she lives with her gran and her dad. There are many children who have families similar to Holly's, so I loved that Holly's family was different to what we are used to. Families come in many different forms, no matter if it's a child being brought up by a single parent, or a child living with gay parents. I loved that this book helped to show that although Holly's family didn't involve a mother, her family still loved her and cared for her adequately.

Something that made me a little uncomfortable was the way Mrs Miller's Stop Christmas At Mount Pleasant (S.C.A.M.P) group were treated. Mrs Miller gives a task to three of the children to report back to her if they discover anyone celebrating Christmas. Once Mrs Miller leaves the school and the teachers start organising the talent show, they make sure that S.C.A.M.P are out of the way every day by giving them unpleasant chores to do, such as cleaning the bathroom and picking up litter, much to the delight of the rest of the students. There is no other word for what this was but bullying. From what I could see, these children had not volunteered themselves to be a part of S.C.A.M.P, and although Crystal was unpleasant, I could not see anything that the other two children had done to deserve such treatment. I felt as if this could potentially be harmful to young readers, and could lead them to believe that this behaviour is acceptable.

I was quite shocked by the ending of the book, as I didn't expect it to take such a dark turn. However, I did love how Mrs Miller had a genuine reason to hate Christmas, and she had a satisfactory redemption. However, I felt as if it was a little unnecessary and random for Mrs Miller to marry Holly's dad. I felt as if it was a little too far fetched, and made it seem as if Holly's family actually did need a mother figure after all. I was disappointed in this, as I felt as if it undermined the idea of a family being functional and happy without a mother figure.

Although I did have a few issues with this book, I did enjoy it overall and loved the positive character development. It felt a little similar to one of my favourite Christmas books, A Christmas Carol, and it was a quick and fun read that I easily managed to finish in a day.

Mrs Miller-Christmas Killer  is now available to purchase!

Monday, 28 November 2016

GUEST POST: What is Your Book About? - Kaitlyn S.C Hatch

Today I bring you a guest post from Kaitlyn S.C Hatch, author of Friends We Haven't Met

I’ve been a writer since I can remember, or, as I like to say, since before I could spell. Writing, to me, is like breathing. It’s necessary, essential, and I do it regardless of what else might be going on.

But going from simply writing a book to actually publishing it and sharing it with the world, is entirely different. When something we’ve written is put out there, it means we’re going to get asked questions. Of course, being asked questions is not a bad thing. Questions are incredibly valuable. They remind us to keep learning, they keep minds open, and an excellent question will lead to more questions.

I get asked questions about my method and how long it took to write my latest published book or where I got the idea for it, and most of them I’m totally prepared to respond to. But one question, the question I get asked most often, continues to stump and baffle me:
What is your book about?

You’d think this would be easy to answer, right? I wrote it. I came up with the characters and the plot, developed the tension, re-wrote chunks, edited it. I know it inside and out. It is my creation. How could I struggle to say what it’s about?

The thing about creativity is it does not happen in a vacuum. I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes it:
“… it's a collaboration between a human being's labours and the mysteries of inspiration. And that's the most interesting dance that I think you can be involved in. But you are very much an agent in that story. You're not just a passive receptacle. And also, it's not entirely in your hands.”

Part of being an agent for creativity, of creating anything, is that it changes once it is shared. Art, science, writing, film, performance — so much of what these things are or what they have become is as a result of the audiences, from the way it was experienced and understood by others.

It makes me think back to an experience I had in an English class when I was fourteen. We were studying The Raven and the teacher was going on about what Edgar Allan Poe meant with this line or that word or what he was trying to say. I put up my hand and asked where she was referencing this from. Where was Edgar Allen Poe’s book titled ‘What I Meant When I Wrote the Raven’? I was, admittedly, being a contrary teenager, but I’ve come to see the value in such a question as it reminds us that our interpretation is part of what gives meaning to the things we consume. 

So I could say, and often do, that Friends We Haven't Met is about a group of six people living on the same floor of an apartment building in Wimbledon. I could and do tell people, it’s about learning to relate, about understanding each other. I could and do tell people that it’s an invitation for us to see shared emotional experience, regardless of our very different embodiment's and identities. Or I explain it in the most clinical sense as a character based narrative of contemporary fiction. And it is all those things. But it will also be about something else to each person who reads it. In one of the reviews published about Friends We Haven't Met, the reviewer said they found it confusing because the characters aren’t named for the first few chapters, but once they were named, they found it much easier. Another reader said she absolutely loved how the characters weren’t named in the first few chapters because it forced her to get to know them by their emotional landscape, their internal dialogues and thoughts. It made her love them more because of it, and she found the book difficult to put down, but she didn’t want it to end either. 

I will say that the latter reflects the intention I had in writing it, but that doesn’t make the former less valid as a description. Initially, yes, the book is about unnamed strangers, even to us, the reader. How we take that is up to us. It could be uncomfortable. It could be confusing. It could just fall flat. Or it could inspire curiosity about the people we meet each day and the trials and tribulations they are going through, the things they are fearful of and what they hope and dream for.

The question: What is your book about? Freezes me in my tracks because I worry my response is either inadequate—it’s about people and relationships—or too complicated and wordy. Sometimes I don’t freeze, and my response is clear and leaves both the questioner and me satisfied. Ultimately, though, I am learning that it is a question that does not and never will have a definitive, singular answer, and that is not a problem.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Kaitlyn for stopping by! You can find out more about Kaitlyn through her website

Friends We Haven't Met is now available to purchase!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review on All the Light We Cannot See

Shortly after Marie-Laure turns six, she loses her sight, and her father helps her to navigate the city by building a miniature version of it, which she can explore through touch. However, threats of a second war soon approach, and Marie-Laure must leave her home town of Paris and move in with her Agoraphobic uncle. Meanwhile, a young German boy named Werner I recruited into a Hitler Youth school for his talent at fixing radios. As the war continues, Marie-Laure and Werner's lives will collide in unexpected ways.

This book was meant to be one of our book club reads in September, but as we were extremely busy, most of us never got round to it! However, as it has had a lot of hype, I decided I would read it anyway.

The book follows two separate story lines, which eventually interconnect with each other. Half of the book focuses on Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, who is forced to evacuate Paris during the World War II. The other half focuses on Werner, an orphan German boy who has a talent for fixing radios. Their journeys finally interconnect when Werner finds himself on Marie-Laure's street, where he is tracking radio signals from the enemy.

As someone who doesn't often read adult fiction, I was worried this book was going to be quite monotonous with lengthy chapters. At 530 pages, it is by no means a quick read. However, I was surprised that the chapters were so short, which I felt helped me get through the book a lot faster than I would have with long chapters. However, I did feel as if the plot progressed extremely slowly, and nothing much happened to keep my interest for a good portion of the book. Although I was disappointed that the story lacked action, the book is written beautifully, and the imagery is fantastic. It is clear from this book that Anthony Doerr is a brilliant writer, but unfortunately for me, the plot itself just wasn't interesting enough, and at times I found it difficult to get through this book. Although I almost marked this down as a DNF, I'm glad that I managed to see it out until the end, as the last quarter was by far my favourite.

I adored the characters in this book, especially Werner. I felt as if he went through fantastic character development. Werner was initially cowardly, as when his friend, Frederick, was being abused, he did nothing to stop it. However, he eventually risks everything to save the life of Marie-Laure, which was extremely kind and courageous. Although Frederick was only a minor character, he was my favourite, and I felt as if he was extremely important to Werner's character development. Frederick is extremely brave, and refuses to continue torturing a prisoner, despite knowing he will be severely punished. I adored Fredericks bravery, and how he never blamed Werner for not sticking up for him. He is pure of heart, and I loved how he showed his vulnerable side to Werner, such as his love for birds and the fact that his eyesight was not perfect, and needed glasses. I was heartbroken at what eventually happened to Frederick, and it perfectly showed the harsh reality of terrible things happening to the kindest and least selfish people.

Marie-Laure was an interesting character, and I loved that although she is blind, she is extremely independent and never feels sorry for herself, or seeks sympathy. I loved her strong relationship with her father, and how much they cared for each other. I also loved her relationship with her great uncle Etienne, a man who she has been told is crazy. Etienne was an interesting character, and I loved that although is is agoraphobic and hasn't left his house in years, he forces himself to go outside when he believes that Marie-Laure is in danger. It was nice to see such strong family bonds in a novel that is set during a war.

Throughout the majority of the novel, I was looking forward to Marie-Laure and Werner finally meeting each other. Their lives are connected to each other quite early on in the novel, when Werner and his sister come across a French educational radio broadcast of Marie-Laure's grandfather aimed at children their age. However when they did finally meet, it was extremely short lived and felt unsatisfactory. I did love that it fit in with the theme of nothing being fair in times of war, but at the same time, I wish there had been a little more interaction between the two.

The subplot involving the Sea of Flames diamond was an interesting one, and I honestly had no idea where it was going! It initially felt a little trivial, and an excuse to create some drama in Marie-Laure's storyline. Although the diamond was the catalyst for a number of outcomes, the one that stood out to me involved Werner. It is stated early on in the novel that the diamond is practically priceless, and only the strongest would be able to resist the temptation to take it. The fact that Werner retrieved the model house, but left the diamond behind really showed how far he had come as a character, as he went from not helping his friend to avoid being punished himself, to saving the life of a French girl he had only just met, and resisting taking the diamond.

Although this is not a book I would normally choose to read, I do like to occasionally break out of my comfort zone, and I'm glad that I did that with this book. If you decide to read it, my advice would be not to rush through it, as I did find it quite mentally draining, and it is definitely not a happy book. I thought the ending was quite bittersweet, and I felt as if going forward in time to see what the characters lives were like after the war was a good way to end it. If you enjoy war stories and beautifully written prose, then I recommend this book!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Book Club Picks #5 Our Chemical Hearts

When Grace Town walks into class a couple of weeks into senior year, Henry Page is immediately intrigued. However, it is not her beauty that interests him, but the fact that she wears boys clothes and walks with a cane. Henry is determined to find out this girls story. However, he soon discovers his idea of Grace Town is not who she truly is.

 As this book has been compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, I was really hoping I was going to enjoy it! It is told from the point of view of Henry Page, a high school senior who is hoping to become the editor of the school newspaper. However, everything changes when the new girl, Grace Town is appointed as co-editor, but refuses the position. Grace Town is a huge mystery, and Henry is determined to solve her.

I found this book to be quite cliché and similar to other contemporary YA novels that I have read. Although the blurb does compare the book to John Green's work, I did not expect that to mean that a large part of the book is almost identical to Paper Towns. I found the ending to be almost exactly the same as John Green's novel, and it gave the same message that it is often dangerous to fall in love with the idea of a person, rather than with the person themselves. Although it is a good message to send out, it is by no means original, and my overall thought on this book was was that it was a slightly worse version of Paper Towns.

As far as plot is concerned, it felt as if the author had a checklist of things she wanted to include to make the book relatable to a teenage audience, and proceeded to add them in a haphazard way. Although I usually enjoy pop culture references, some of the them seemed a little forced in this book, almost as If the author had spent ten minutes on Tumblr and declared herself the “Meme Queen”

Although I was initially amused at Henry's quirky parents, I found them to be extremely over the top and unrealistic when they decided to randomly dress up as Star Trek characters. I did however love how well his parents got along with each other, so I was disappointed when it was revealed that was not the case. Although it is true that a lot of romantic relationships don't work out, I was disappointed that literally all of the characters relationships didn't work out, as I would have loved for the book to have shown that not all relationships end in heartbreak.

I didn't really become emotionally attached to any of the characters with the slight exception of Grace. I felt as if Grace seemed like the only realistic character, and her grief towards the end of the book seemed raw and real, with real emotion behind it. I hated how Henry ruined this, as although Grace had a genuine reason to show grief, Henry locks himself in his room and listens to Taylor Swift songs, which I felt lessened the impact of the previous scene. I found Henry to be quite selfish, as he seemed to care more about the fact that Grace wasn't in love with him than he cared about what Grace was going through.

I loved the diversity that came in the form of Lola, but I did feel that making her both a person of colour and a lesbian made it seem like all the diversity was packed into one character. I also felt as if making her a lesbian was an excuse for her to be able to hang out with the boys without entering a romantic relationship with them, as for some reason it often seems the case that authors feel as if heterosexual males and females can't possibly have a platonic relationship.

Although Murray was there to be the classic “funny friend” I found him to be a little over the top and occasionally annoying. I didn't really see much of a purpose to him, as all he seemed to do was over exaggerate being Australian, get drunk and cry over his ex girlfriend. Although I do usually like funny characters, I just couldn't get myself to like Murray.

I did think that the book redeemed itself a little towards the end, but unfortunately it was not enough to make me enjoy the book overall. It wasn't original enough for me, and the characters seemed like recycled versions of John Green characters. However, as we often do, the book club members had mixed opinions on this one, and we were split almost evenly between who enjoyed it and who didn't. Although this book was unfortunately not for me, I would still recommend it if you love John Green and contemporary YA is your favourite genre.

I don't usually give half ratings but I would probably rate this one a 2.5

Our Chemical Hearts is now available to purchase!