Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review on Promised Land

Jack, a young farm boy is always getting in trouble for not doing his chores. That is until one day, Jack and his puppy, Milo, encounter a mysterious tree spirit. Jack soon bumps into Leo, a prince who's mother is under a spell by the evil Gideon. As Jack and Leo grow, so does their relationship, which soon blossoms into love. However, Leo can never be truly happy until he gets his mother back. Will Jack and Leo manage to break the spell on Queen Elena, or will they soon have no choice but to bow down to Gideon?

When I got sent a request for this book and saw that it was a picture book, I almost immediately dismissed it. I rarely ever review picture books, not because I think i'm above them, but because they're so short I feel that I will run out of things to talk about, and of course I can never do the gorgeous illustrations justice! However, when I saw the topic of this book, I knew that I had to make an exception!

The book follows a young farm boy named Jack, who is given a puppy by his mother to teach him responsibility. Jack and his puppy, Milo, soon become best friends, and explore the forest together. One day, Jack finds Prince Leo, who informs Jack his mother, Queen Elena is under a spell. I loved the friendship between the two boys, and how their relationship developed as they got older. Although the book is very short, their relationship grew over a period of time, and it felt like a very natural progression. The gorgeous illustrations of the two young men spending time together were completely adorable, and I loved how it was shown as such a healthy relationship. I adored that although there was such a huge class difference between them, they treated each other as equals.

One thing that I adored was the complete lack of homophobia. Children's fairy tales often involve a prince falling in love with a peasant girl, or vise versa, and this story felt as if could have come straight from Disney, except the characters who fall in love just so happen to both be male. I adored that although the characters had problems, non of them stemmed from their relationship with each other. I loved how accepting their parents were when they informed them of their relationship, as they acted no differently than if they had been a straight couple, which of course is how all parents should react. We definitely need more books like this to teach children that it doesn't matter what the gender of the person someone falls in love with is, and that love is love.

I have to talk about the map at the start of the book! Although the characters don't actually visit most of the locations on the map, I still loved it, and found it extremely clever that all the locations were named after LGBT celebrities. Although I was a little disappointed the characters never actually visited Mt. Ellen, I was happy that it existed in their world.

The female characters in this book were fantastic! I particularly loved Leo's mother, Queen Elena, and I loved that Leo looked up to her and wanted to grow up to be just like her. She was definitely not a damsel in distress, and I loved how she ended up saving herself and everyone else. I also loved Carol, Jack's mother, who stood her ground against the villain and refused to give up her land. As there is no mentioned of Leo and Jack's fathers, I can only assume that both of these women are single parents who have both succeeded in raising brave, intelligent and kind sons.

The only negative thing I have to say is it was extremely short! Although I do realise it is a picture book and that is just how picture books are, I loved these characters and with all the locations on the map that we never learnt about, I felt as if it had potential to be developed into a children's chapter book. This book has done a fantastic job at normalising LGBT people, and I honestly wish all young children could read it. This was a lovely dedication to the Pulse 49 who tragically lost their lives, and I recommend this fantastic book to all parents who have young children!

Promised Land is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon | Promised Land Store

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Reviewing the Classics #8 The Great Gatsby

                                                                                  Goodreads Summary:

Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past. As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby’s impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.

Regarded as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Great Gatsby is a vivid chronicle of the excesses and decadence of the “Jazz Age”, as
                                                         well as a timeless cautionary critique of the American dream.    

For my first classic of the year, I have decided to go for one of my favourites! I first read this book as part of my English Literature degree, and I loved it just as much then as I do now. However. As Alma books sent me a gorgeous new copy, I decided it was time for a reread. The book follows Nick Carraway, a man who has recently moved to New York. Nick soon meets his neighbour, Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man with a mysterious past. Of course there are a number of themes that run throughout this short novel, including the American Dream, wealth and social classes. I feel as if this would be too essay like if I went into too much detail about the themes, so I am going to stick with what I do best and talk about the story line and characters!

When the average person thinks of a classic, they probably think of books with hundreds of pages that are often long winded and contain archaic language. One thing that I love about The Great Gatsby is how short it is. I do feel as if some classics can drag out and get a little boring, so I love how The Great Gatsby is short and to the point while still feeling that it is enough to fully immerse you in the story, and not feel as if it is too short to tell Gatsby's story. I feel as if this is the perfect book for anyone who wants to read a classic, but finds Jane Ausen and Charlotte Bronte's books to be a little overwhelming, as this book can easily be read in one sitting.

I have always adored the setting of The Great Gatsby, as I love reading about The Jazz Age. I think everyone has wished at some point that they could attend a party just like Gatsby's, and I love reading the party scenes! I also love how American this book is, and I especially love that it is set in New York.

The characters in this book are interesting, with their different beliefs and class status'. I love that non of these characters are perfect, as even Nick has his own problems. I think that the character who we all mutually hate the most is Daisy's husband, Tom Buchanan. Along with cheating on his wife, Tom is extremely classist ans racist, believing in white supremacy. Tom believe he is better than others because he is a rich white man, and the book makes it extremely easy to hate him. I think it's interesting that although Tom is a terrible person, he doesn't suffer any consequences for it, which really shows the truth that money talks, and rich, corrupt people tend to do well in society.

One thing that has always drawn me to Gatsby's character is how mysterious he is. Few facts are known about his past, and each character who Nick comes across seems to have different theories about his past. Although Nick describes Gatsby as being his friend, he is not even aware that he still has living family members, and is shocked when Gatsby's dad shows up.

The Great Gatsby has certainly earned it's title of being a classic, and I love how many of the issues raised are still relevant almost 100 years later. This book will forever be one of my all time favourite classics!

The Great Gatsby is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Review on Damage

Gabi is grief stricken after he grandfather dies. Her mother refuses to talk about him, and she doesn't want to weigh her friends down with her own burdens. The only thing that ever seems to take her mind off it is skateboarding at her local skate park. Soon, even this isn't a good enough distraction for Gabi, and she turns to self harm. Gabi's friends must help her through these upsetting times, and make he realise that she doesn't have to bare the burden alone, and it is okay to ask for help.

I always find it the most difficult to read and review book on sensitive subjects such as this one. This book focuses on self harm, an upsetting but important topic that shouldn't be ignored. It is a myth that young people self harm for attention, and a fact that many don't let their friends and families know they are self harming. Books like Damage are extremely important in helping people receive a more accurate interpretation of what it's like for young people who self harm.

The book focuses on Gabi, a fifteen year old who has recently lost her grandfather. Although the first few pages of the book did immediately draw me in, I did feel as if it was overall too spoilery, as it is actually a repetition of a chapter towards the end of the book. It is not difficult to work out what is about to happen, so I felt as if it was a little anti-climatic that half of the book was building up to an event that we already knew was going to happen. As the blurb on the back of the book mentions Gabi having a terrible secret, I wasn't too sure if revealing that secret to the reader in the first few pages was the best idea.

The book is split into two parts, with half of it focusing on Gabi's present life, and the other half on the build up to the death of Gabi's grandfather. I loved that I was equally interested in both parts of the story, as usually when this happens in books, I tend to prefer one story over the other. Although the main focus of the book is self harm, I loved that other important topics were also briefly dealt with, such as alcoholism, anxiety and depression. I loved Gabi's best friend, Amira, and as someone who has anxiety, she was the character who I related to the most. Amira is constantly worrying about little thing that to most people would seem trivial, but to people with anxiety can feel like the end of the world. I also loved the pre-party scene, as I know I would have reacted exactly like Amira in that situation.

Gabi is reluctant to let her friends and family know she is self harming. However, she does post on a self harm forum, and talks to strangers online who are going through the same thing as her. I loved that although she felt unable to tell anyone she knew, she did realise that she couldn't face her problems alone, and needed help. Talking to a stranger can often be easier than talking to a family member, so I loved how she was getting advise to seek help. However, the sad truth is that there are a lot of trolls online, who could do more harm than good, so although the forum did help Gabi, I felt as if it could easily have gone wrong, and people in a similar situation to Gabi should instead call a confidential helpline.

I loved that although Gabi assumed that her friends would judge her, that wasn't the case at all. They were extremely understanding, and tried to help her as best as they could. We all deal with grief in certain ways, but the most important thing to realise is we never have to suffer alone, as there is always help out there. I found it upsetting that Gabi's mother would shut down every time Gabi tried to talk to her about her grandfather, as I felt as if it would have been extremely beneficial for both of them to be able to talk about their problems.

One thing I didn't like too much was that the ending was rather ambiguous. Although it is up to the reader to be optimistic, I would have preferred it if the reader had been driven towards the direction of Gabi getting help. It is extremely important for readers who are self harming to see that there is help available, and I was a little disappointed that Gabi wasn't used as a better role model.

I loved that there were helplines and websites at the back of the book, and I feel as if any book that deals with important topics like this should include these. I have learnt a lot about self harm from reading this book, and think Eve Ainsworth has done a brilliant job writing on such a sensitive subject.

Damage is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon Book Depository 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Review on Rasputin's Supernatural Dating Service

Eli Kowalski works as a Certifier for Rasputin's Supernatural Dating Service, where he must sort out the fakes from the real supernatural creatures. However, when he meets Meri, a witch with a bad dating history, Eli gets involved in more than he bargained for. Meri's ex boyfriend has stolen an ancient tablet which has the power to kill all supernatural creatures. With the help of Meri, Rasputin, Frankenstein and H.P Lovecraft, Eli must stop him from using the tablet before it is too late.

So this is the third book by David Hammons that I've read, and I am quickly becoming a fan! Although I wasn't too keen on Alice Takes Back Wonderland, I did adore Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas, and as this book seemed to also be going down the comedy route, I thought I would give it a go. The book follows Eli, a man who works for a dating website for supernatural creatures. I thought the idea of Raspuin still being alive and running a dating service hilarious. However, from the book title and the cover, I assumed that setting supernatural creatures up on dates with each other would be the main plot, so I was a little d isappointed that this ended up being more of a subplot, with the main focus being on trying to stop Meri's ex boyfriend from killing all Supernatural creatures.

I found the antagonist of this book hilarious. Maxwell is a rogue, fedora wearing witch, who believes that women never want to date “nice guys.” Maxwell plans to destroy all supernatural creatures so that guys like him have a better chance at dating women. Maxwell was practically the embodiment of a man child. Although Maxwell seemed to be a satire, the sad thing is that I have seen guys who act exactly like Maxwell!

Although I did find certain parts of this book funny, I didn't find it quite as funny as Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas. I did love some of the minor characters like H.P Lovecraft, Steve and the ghosts, but I didn't care too much about the three main characters. I felt as if Raputin had potential to be a really funny character, so I was disappointed that he wasn't in the book more. As I adored Lewis in Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas, I was hoping that there would be a character similar to him in Rasputin's Supernatural Dating Service, but unfortunately I didn't find a character who I thought was as funny as Lewis.

The storyline itself was ridiculous, and although it wasn't what I was expecting, I still loved it. The humor is very immature, and I feel as if more serious, adulty adults might not find it funny. Although I didn't find it as funny as I thought I would, I adored Rasputin and Steve the troll, and felt as if they needed to be in the book more. I did however love the anime con scene, and especially loved Steve being an anime fan, and everyone hating bronies.

As most of the books that I read have serious topics, I felt as if this one was exactly what I needed to take a break. The moral of the story is to not be a fedora wearing douchebag who treats women like objects, which I think is beautiful. On a more serious note, I adored Eli's conversation with his dad, and although 90% of this book is silly, it did make a good point that yo u can't run away from your problems forever, and you'll have to face them eventually.

I overall enjoyed this silly and fun read, and although I do feel as if it could have been better, it was a nice change from the books I'm used to reading. It has definitely made me want to go outside my regular genres more often and read more comedy books!

Rasputin's Supernatural Dating Service is now available to purchase!


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Book Club Picks #8 Margot & Me

When Fliss's mum decides to spend some time living on Fliss's grandmothers farm in South Wales, she is reluctant to go. Fliss's grandmother, Margot, is mean, and Fliss hates her. Fliss soon comes across Margot's diary, which she had kept during the war as an evacuee. Fliss decides to read the diary in an attempt to find something she can blackmail Margot with. However, she soon discovers a horrible and shocking truth.

 I was so excited when HotKeyBooks sent The Book Club Margot & Me for our January read! I adore Juno Dawson's work, and I was so happy to be one of the first people to receive it! The book follows Fliss, a fifteen year old girl who has been forced to leave her home in London to live with her grandmother on a farm in a small village in South Wales.

Fliss's mother is in remission from cancer, and tells Fliss she wants to recover in the countryside before returning to work. However, Fliss struggles with the move, missing her friends back home, and hating such a huge change. I loved that although Fliss was a likeable character overall, she was far from perfect. She was initially selfish and stuck up, thinking she was better than her fellow classmates because she was from London and knew what was fashionable. I loved that she was soon brought down to earth with the knowledge that she wasn't going to be popular, and that the two friends she did make were considered to be nerds.

The book is split between two stories, taking place in the same location in different time periods. The main narrative focuses on Fliss's present life, while we are also told Margot's story from 1941. I feel as if skipping between stories can often be confusing, but Juno has set this out perfectly, making it extremely clear who's narrative we are currently in. Although I was more interested in Margot's story than Fliss' I still adored seeing Fliss develop as a character.

One thing that I adored about this book was the setting. The book is set in South Wales, with a large portion of it being set in the 90's. I feel as if the majority of contemporary novels are set in the year that they were written, so this felt like a nice change, and with typical 90's themes being brought up, such as dial up internet and The Spice Girls, it all felt very nostalgic and made me miss the 90's. I was also extremely happy to discover that the book is set in Wales! I adored the Welsh characters, and as a Welsh person myself, I felt as if the way they spoke was extremely accurate! I also loved how a few Welsh words were thrown in. Juno has obviously done her research, and made the characters accurate and believable.

Something that made me cringe quite a bit was Fliss's crush on the school librarian. I think most of us are guilty for having a crush on a teacher at some point in our lives, but I found it uncomfortable that Fliss believed she had a chance of making it work. Teachers can get into serious trouble for having a relationship with a student that isn't a strictly student/teacher relationship, and Fliss clearly didn't realise what her actions could do. I loved that her friends tried to explain to her why she couldn't pursue a relationship, and was happy that things got sorted out instead of turning into a huge scandal.

My favourite part of the book has to be Margot's diary entries. I am a huge history nerd, and I adore reading fiction set during the World Wars. I adored young Margot, and some of the things she had to endure were heartbreaking and chilling. Juno has done a brilliant job of portraying Margot's emotions, and it is impossible to not sympathise with her. Margot is an extremely strong and brave character, and the diary entries give us a clear understanding of why Margot is now the way that she is.

There were some great plot twists towards the end of the book, and although they were heartbreaking, I was not expecting them at all! This book is very character driven, and I loved how there were some diverse characters in the form of Andrew, Reg and Danny. I adored Margot's reaction to discovering one of her friends was gay, as we all know homosexuality was a s crime during the 1940's, so I adored how Margot accepted her friend for who he was, and didn't treat him any different because of it. I also loved how Fliss mirrored her grandmothers actions when one of her classmates used a homophobic term towards her friend.

The book has some important but upsetting themes, such as racism, homophobia and dealing with the repercussions of life threatening illnesses, including cancer and HIV. It definitely does not have the traditional miraculous happy ending, but shows us that life has its ups and downs, and sometimes terrible things happen that you have no choice but to recover from. I loved how Fliss managed to create her own unconventional happy ending, and started her journey on moving forward. Juno Dawson has once again manged to captivate me , and remind me why she is one of my all time favourite authors!

Margot & Me is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon Book Depository 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Review on Blue Screen of Death

When Colby Stevens is six years old, his father mysteriously disappears. Ten years later, the magic contained within Colby that his father tried to suppress comes to the surface, and Colby must learn how to control it. With the help of #Magic, an app Colby creates to help him control and understand the runes, Colby must learn to use Emassa, the source of his magic. However, danger lurks around every corner in the form of Shizumu, demon-like creatures who posses people. With the help of a blue cat and his best friend Gary, Colby must discover the secrets of his past, while attempting to protect his fellow classmates.

I thought this book seemed really interesting, and I loved the unique idea of magic and technology being combined. We are used to seeing magic in technology devoid settings, where it either doesn't exist, or isn't used, so I loved how the two were successfully combined. The book follows Colby, a sixteen year old boy who has recently discovered he possesses magic. Colby was an interesting and likeable character, although he did have a tendency to get angry easily, causing him to lose control over his magic. I loved how he adapted to his new ability, even going so far as creating an app to help him with his struggles of understanding the runes.

The characters were interesting, and I especially loved Gary, Colby's best friend. I feel as if there is always a lot of rivalry between teenage boys in YA novels, so I loved that they had a strong relationship and never argued. It was clear that the boys cared for each other a lot, and I think there definitely needs to be more friendships like theirs in YA fantasy.

Sadly what let the book down slightly for me was two of the female characters, Darla and Rhea. Although I was happy that a romantic relationship didn't form between Colby and one of the girls, I found them to be quite dull, and thought Darla to be quite annoying, especially her constant flirting with Colby, who towards the end of the book didn't seem to be interested in her at all. However, as is it was hinted at that the girls may possess their own powers, I'm hoping I like them more in the rest of the series.

Although Jasper was Colby's main bully, I couldn't help but feel that there was more to him than met the eye. Until they went to different schools, Colby and Jasper were best friends, so this made me wonder what had happened to make Jasper start to bully Colby. There is usually a reason behind why children bully others, which usually stems from their personal lives, so rather than hating Jasper, I was more concerned about why he had changed so much. I think Jasper has potential as a character, so I would love to see some character development instead of keeping him as a mindless bully.

I though Fizzlewink was the most interesting character, an alien in the form of a little blue man who often disguises himself as a cat. Although I loved learning how he got stuck on Earth, I found it to be a bit of an info dump, and I feel as if I still don't fully understand his backstory. I also found myself being completely lost over the runes, as although they were meant to be complicated, I thought my brain was going to explode when the rules were being explained. As Colby later goes on to create an app that deals with the runes, I found making everything into a complex explanation a little unnecessary.

I was a little confused over who the intended audience for the book was. The plot itself felt like a children's book, as it involves magic, school and a talking cat. However, there is quite a bit of swearing in the book, which I felt was the only grown up theme in this book I felt this was a bit of a shame, as with all the adventure, talking cats, magic and lack of romance, I felt as if it could have been a book that could be enjoyed by all ages.
I overall enjoyed this book, and am definitely hoping to read the rest of the series. Quite a lot was left unanswered,particularly the whereabouts of Colby's father, so I am looking forward to everything being revealed!

Blue Screen of Death is now available to purchase!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Review on Heartless

All Catherine Pinkerton wants is to open her own bakery with her best friend, Mary Anne. However, Catherine is the daughter of the Marquess, and soon discovers the King of Hearts is planning to propose to her. Hen she leaves the King's ball early, she runs into Jest, the court joker. Cath soon develops feelings for Jest, and with the help of Hatta and Raven, Cath decides she must leave Hearts forever. However, the once mythical Jabberwock is terrorising Hearts, putting her friends in danger. Cath must make a difficult choice, but will it be the right one? 

 I have always adored Alice in Wonderland, so I was excited when I found out what Heartless was all about. Rather than following Alice, this story takes place long before Alice arrived in Wonderland, when the ruthless Queen of Hearts was just a teenager. Not a lot is known about the Queen of Hearts from Carroll's work, so I loved seeing Marissa Meyer's interpretation of what she was like before she became Alice's antagonist.

We all know how the Queen of Hearts' story ends, but ho did it begin? Well according to Marissa Meyer, it started with a sweet girl named Catherine Pinkerton who wanted to open a bakery. I initially loved Cath, and a part of me hoped she would get her bakery, marry Jest and live happily ever after. But of course, we already know Cath's fate, so I was apprehensive right from the start! Knowing something bad was going to happen to change Cath's whole personality but having no idea what that would be created a brilliantly suspenseful atmosphere, and I was constantly anticipating the moment something would trigger that changing point.

Wonderland is one of my favourite fictional worlds, and I loved Marissa's interpretation of it. Although it wasn't quite as weird and wacky as Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, it still felt magical. I loved Cath's interactions with her surroundings, and I loved how some recognisable things were thrown in, such as the rabbit hole and playing croquet. I also loved how things from both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass were both incorporated into the one story.

One of the things that I loved most about this book were the characters! I loved seeing the characters we all know and love from Carroll's work, which included The Hatter, the March Hare, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle and the Jabberwock. The interpretation of these characters was fantastic, and it was very believable that they would eventually become the characters who help Alice on her adventures. However I was a little confused over the characters who weren't from Carroll's works, such as Peter Peter and Raven, who seemed to be the same raven as the one in Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem.

Along with the characters who we have already come to know, there was also a few original characters, the main one being Jest, the court joker. I adored Jest from the start, and my initial reaction was that he seemed to be a little like an anime character, which only made me love him more. I loved Jest's physical description, and I was easily able to create a mental picture of what he looked like. I initially found him witty and funny, as a joker should be, but I was a little disappointed that this didn't end up being a fundamental personality trait. Although we find out that there is a lot more to Jest than being a joker, he is appointed as the court joker by the King, and although his tricks are quite impressive, I didn't find him to be very funny overall.

Although I loved Jest as a character, the one thing that I wasn't too bothered about was the romance between him and Cath. In hindsight, I realise why their romance was crucial to the plot, but as it developed, I didn't think they had enough chemistry to make me care too much. I felt as if their relationship was too cheesy, and a little cliché, especially with Cath having seen Jest in a dream before meeting him, and sneaking out her window in the middle of the night to be with him. I feel as if “forbidden love” is overdone, and Cath's initial reaction to Jest was a little too close to instalove.

One thing that I was a little disappointed in was that the characters never travelled to Chess, the land that Jest, Raven and Hatta are from. There is talk of a war that has been going on for years, which Jest never really elaborated on. I would have loved if they had actually entered Chess, even if it was very briefly.

I found the first three quarters of the book to be a little slow, as it focused on Cath's romance with Jest, her courtship with the King of Hearts, and her dream of opening a bakery. I wasn't finding it as wonderful and magical as I was hoping it would be. Although I enjoyed the story-line involving the Jabberwock, I still felt as if this story-line was a little overdone, particularly with the Tim Burton movie having already covered this. I would probably be giving the book three stars if it wasn't for the last 100 pages, which I loved! I adored the plot twists, as they were completely unexpected, and was shocked over what triggered Cath's change. I felt as if the majority of the book lacked action, but I practically raced through the last 100 pages, and wished I was able to enjoy the whole book that much, as it would easily have earned a five star rating if that had been the case!

Although I found it to be a little too slow, I still really enjoyed this book. As was expected, the book did not have a happy ending, and I think that it may have managed to shatter my own heart! This was overall a very clever and well thought out origin story, and I loved how it gave explanations for the small things, including where the White Rabbit got his pocket watch, and why the white roses are painted red. I think any Lewis Carroll fan would enjoy this book!

Heartless is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon Book Depository