Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

TGoYaMOwen and Lucy are stuck in a life. As they await help, they start talking…

Though brief, the time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can’t shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can’t, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy – and pain – of first love.

As each makes their separate journey in search of home, they will discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.

I absolutely love Jennifer E Smith’s books. I’ve previously reviewed The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like – both were the sort of books that made my heart feel like it was singing. The synopsis for this new book made me think I was in for another treat, what could be better than a romance blossoming out of being trapped in a lift?

This book is slightly different to the ones I’ve mentioned, with the romance element having more of a slow burn quality. It’s gorgeous and wonderful and I found myself entirely wrapped up in the characters and their lives very quickly. The first part of the book introduces us to our main characters, Lucy and Owen, first with them stuck in the lift and then with them working out how to spend the time whilst the power cut causing the blackout is resolved. Their lives then pull them apart physically, and to an extent emotionally – though never once did I believe that these distances wouldn’t be bridged (yes, I’m a hopeless romantic).

I love the way the author creates characters we can really care about, Lucy and Owen are no different. Both of them are quite isolated in their own way, Lucy because her parents spend much of their time travelling abroad, and Owen because his father is trying to work out how to make a life for them since the death of Owen’s mother. I found it interesting to see how both of these family circumstances were explored, they’re not just convenient plot devices to remove the adults from the book – whilst they may not be all that present the parents are definitely felt in this book and their far from uncommon situations are handled deftly and thoughtfully.

Travel in books is a sure fire winner for me, both Lucy and Owen spend part of the book travelling. I particularly enjoyed Owen’s travel in the USA – he visits a few places I haven’t seen in books before and I love getting to experience new places through the eyes of characters.

This is a highly satisfying read. I would say though that unless you’re the sort of reader who reads a few pages at a time and then puts a book down you’ll probably want to start this book at a time when you can read and read and read. This is not an easy book to walk away from, you’re so quickly drawn into it and don’t want to leave the characters for any longer than you must.

The Geography of You and Me is published by Headline in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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Book Review: TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews.

TimebombNew York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

I am always on the look out for more time travel in books so the synopsis for this one definitely grabbed my attention. That the three main characters all came from distinctly different time periods added to the interest for me – this was surely going to add another layer to the story.

The story begins by introducing each of the main characters whilst they’re still in their own time, before they’ve made their first journey in time. Very quickly the time travel element is brought in, and the three are brought together. I was really pleased that when it comes to the time travel they’re all as clueless as each other, obviously their life experiences are hugely different so being in each other’s times is difficult for each in turn but the actual time travel concept is new to them all.

After the early part of the book has them in a future setting much of the action takes place in Dora’s time. This works really well, she still has the challenges of being around people whose frames of reference are so different to her own but doesn’t have to deal that much with the world itself looking and working so differently to her own. The historical setting also throws up plenty of challenges for the trio to contend with including the ongoing English Civil War.

The book is told from each of the main characters’ perspectives and occasionally from other characters’. I really liked this, getting to spend time with each of the characters gives the reader time to start to get to know them though their level of development does vary in this first book. Jana in particular remains a little of a mystery – maybe as much because it is she who comes from the future so there’s no easy frame of reference for the reader. I look forward to learning more about her in the next book.

No time travel story would work without a good villain, Quil in this book is no exception. She’s intriguing, she gets the narrative focus at various points during the story which gives us a little insight into her. I have a feeling that the more we get to know her the less traditional villain she’s going to become, hopefully the follow up to this will allow me to understand this feeling!

This is, as I’ve mentioned, the first book in a trilogy. It works well as an opener, there’s a clear story that belongs solely to this book as well as all of the threads that are going to flow into the rest of the series. Well worth a look.

TimeBomb is published by Hodder Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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PoPB: The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka and Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka (illustrator). Andersen Press.
TGBHWhen Simon the squirrel’s mum sends him off to the shop, Simon decides to fly to the moon in Old Uncle Somerset’s hot air balloon in search of cheese. Shopping in outer space is very exciting, but proves to be a bit of a distraction . . .

I previously read and enjoyed Peter Bently’s Cats Ahoy! so was pleased when I saw his name on the cover of this book – I had chosen it completely based on the title and cover. This book definitely lived up to my expectations, it’s the story of a shopping trip that takes a turn for the adventurous – a balloon ride through space. Each planet has its own speciality, my favourite was Saturn’s star-spangled pants! The rhyming text makes this book a pleasure to read, it flows beautifully and is very inventive. Some of the rhymes require the page to be turned for their completion – I enjoyed trying to guess what might be waiting.

Mei Matsuoka’s illustrations are wonderful. They blend the somewhat normal of the animals and Earth based content with the fantastical space and aliens with ease. The colours are strong, I loved their richness. There are lots of little details that carry through the pages including a stowaway for much of the story.

This is a very entertaining picture book. I really enjoyed reading it, I think there’s enough going on in it that it wouldn’t be a problem to have it requested again and again.

Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
SIFLGLincoln Green has a double, someone who looks just like him. Lincoln Green’s own mother can’t tell the difference between him and You Know Who. With his handy stand-in taking care of all the chores that just can’t wait, Lincoln Green has plenty of time to do the things he wants to do, like drink fizzy sarsparilla and shoot the breeze.

But Lincoln Green’s not the only one who doesn’t like doing things they don’t like doing. It’s not long before You Know Who has teamed up with Billy the Kid Next Door, which is a lot more fun than doing things for Lincoln Green, that’s for sure. And that’s when Lincoln Green finds himself in BIG trouble.

This book is by David Mackintosh, I liked and reviewed his book The Frank Show earlier this year. I really enjoyed that book but sadly this one fell a little short for me.

The concept of the book is great. Lincoln Green has a double, this means Lincoln can do all of the fun exciting things whilst his double does all the boring things he needs to do – things like chores and homework. Sounds good? Of course it does, and of course things start to go wrong when his double realises he too could be having fun rather than standing in for Lincoln. Up until this point I really enjoyed the book – it’s fun and I found myself daydreaming about having my own stand in. The resolution of the book however is disappointing, it didn’t make a lot of sense and I found myself left with lots of questions.

I really enjoy Mackintosh’s illustration style. The lines all have the appearance of having been drawn in wax crayon, giving the illustrations a playful feel. Colour is used carefully throughout the book so as to not overwhelm the very detailed pictures. I loved how detailed the pictures were, every page has so much to look at.

This was a decent book but the ending meant it fell short of being as good as I had hoped it would be.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

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MG Monday: Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well written by Elli Woollard and illustrated by Al Murphy earns his turn in the spotlight.

WoozyTheWizardWoozy the Wizard is a well-meaning wizard who just wants to help his friends. But sometimes his spells (and he) get all mixed up! So then he has to get back on his broom with his pet pig and zoom around the village trying to put things right . . .

Hilarious rhyming verse for children aged four and up, starring Woozy the Wizard and his pet pig!

Woozy the Wizard looks a lot like the wizards you imagine; long grey beard, flowing cloak and pointy hat, wand in hand. Where he differs a little from other wizards however is that sometimes his magic isn’t all that good. That’s the problem facing Woozy in this book, the villagers are all sick and no matter what he tries he just can’t magic them better. Whether it’s his books not having a suitable spell, or a lapse in memory, Woozy has to try all sorts of different things in his mission to cure the village.

This story is told in rhyme with some repeated stanzas that will encourage participation from young listeners. The back cover blurb suggests this story is for those aged four and up – it’ll work well at the younger end of this as a book to read out loud. The rhyming structure makes for some amusing word choices, these are always entertaining rather than feeling shoe-horned in for the sake of the rhyme.

The book is illustrated by Al Murphy. His illustrations are bold and colourful, working really well with the humorous text. They are very clear, with strong lines and solid colours – I think that this was a great choice, busier pictures might have distracted from the rhyming text. As it was I found it easy to give both the text and illustrations my full attention. I think my favourite illustration is from when one of Woozy’s spell attempts goes wrong and Woozy and his pig end up being pelted with vegetables – it made me laugh!

This is a really great, fun book. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to sharing it with others. Woozy is going to be back in the Spring in Woozy the Wizard: A Broom to go Zoom – I’ll definitely be reading this.

Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well is published by Faber Children’s in the UK. I won my copy of the book in a giveaway by the publisher, all of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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PoPB: The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland. Hodder Children’s.
TVCBIn the Jingle Jangle Jungle
on a wet and windy day,
four little friends meet
a very cranky bear.
Can they cheer him up?

I liked this book, I liked it a lot. The story is told in rhyme, it follows four animal friends who are looking for somewhere dry to play. They find a cave but don’t realise its already occupied, by a bear who just wants to sleep. Each of the animals thinks it knows the best way to cheer the bear up, initially this results in a very amusing but unsuccessful result. It takes an animal who is prepared to listen to what the bear actually wants in order to solve the bear’s problem.

The book’s illustrations are bold and striking. The colours are very rich and the pictures feel like they have a real depth. The depiction of the rain is very effective, I felt cold every time I saw a rainy picture. Of the animals my favourites were Lion thanks to his shiny, golden mane and Sheep thanks to her lovely soft looking fleece. I wasn’t 100% sure of the need for the two female characters Zebra and Sheep to have eyelashes and pink cheeks to signify that they were female, this information is conveyed in the text. One of my favourite details was that it was cards the animals wanted to play, as a keen card player I liked seeing these animals wanting to play too.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It would work really well as a group read with a nursery crowd, it would allow for discussions of hibernation and of how we can best help others.

Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas. Child’s Play.
HaroldHarold is an amazing mimic, and can imitate the sound of everything in his home. Tired of repeating the same old noises, he yearns to find out what other voices there are in the big, wide world. But what happens when he suddenly realises that he doesn’t yet have a voice of his own?

This fantastic debut by author/illustrator Courtney Dicmas recounts Harold’s hilarious tale. It’s full of colour, humour and invention, and children will love to join in with Harold as he mimics everyday noises.

I loved this story! Harold is a parrot who is an incredible mimic of all of the sounds around him. His range is extensive, from alarm clocks to blenders, showers to vacuum cleaners. When he gets the opportunity to escape the flat he lives in he quickly adds lots of new sounds to his repertoire. When he realises he doesn’t know what he himself sounds like he has a go at making his own noise, and is pleased with the result. It’s a fun, simple story, I think it’s absolutely begging to be read aloud. It would require a bit of practice beforehand, I’m still not entirely sure how to try and make the noise of the blender!

The pictures are colourful and busy, occasionally to the level of feeling a little chaotic. This works well for the story but I was pleased that the very busy pages were infrequent. My favourite pages were the ones that just showed Harold, particularly a double spread where he is pacing and thinking. There’s so much movement and expression in this page, it felt very real.

Such a fun book, one that should be making its way into any nursery or childcare setting’s collection.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

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2015 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal nominations announced.

CKG

There’s great excitement this morning as the nominations lists for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have been released. The process was changed last year, bringing three lists stages – nominations then longlist then shortlist.

Today’s press release states:

91 books have been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and 71 nominated for the Kate Greenaway medal. The official long and shortlists identify a range of outstanding books for children and young people of all ages and interests and enable the 100,000 pupils in our 5,000 shadowing groups to engage with world-class literature and illustration from new and established authors and illustrators.

I’m not going to duplicate the lists here – that’s a combined 162 books (well, not quite as a couple are nominated for both awards) which would make for a very long post. Instead here is the link to the CILIP Carnegie Medal nominations and here is the link to the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal nominations.

What I will list is the books from the lists I’ve reviewed – this isn’t to say they’re necessarily my favourite, just that they’re books I’ve shared my opinions on. From the Carnegie nominations:

Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown

Carroll. Emma. The Girl Who Walked On Air

Hall, Tim. Shadow of the Wolf

Robinson, Hilary. Where the Poppies Now Grow

Sharpe, Tess. Far From You

And from the Kate Greenaway nominations:

Browne, Anthony. What If…?

Impey, Martin (illustrator) Robinson, Hilary (author) Where the Poppies Now Grow

The next stage in the process is the announcement of the longlists on 10th February 2015, then the announcement of the shortlist on 17th March 2015. The winners will be announced at the ceremony in June, the exact date is still to be confirmed.

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Book Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.

FamousInLoveShe fell in love with him in the books – now she has the chance to star opposite him in the film…

Paige doesn’t think she’s particularly special, but after getting the starring role in a massive film adaptation of the bestselling Locked trilogy, the rest of the world would disagree. Now she’s thrown into the spotlight, and into a world of gossip, rumour and deceit. The only people who know what she’s going through are her two male co-stars, and they can’t stand the sight of each other. Paige knows it’s a mistake to fall in love on the set of a movie, but days of on-screen romance and intensity start to change her mind. The question is, can she keep what happens behind the scenes a secret when the world is watching her every move?

This book feels really current and very relevant, it focuses on Paige a young actress who gets the lead role in the latest YA movie adaptation. She’s done lots of acting locally, but never dreams that she’s going to be successful at the open audition looking for an unknown actress.

The book opens with a prologue that’s set at some point in Paige’s future. She’s already a famous actress at this point but she suggests that all is not as it seems. The story then leaps back to just before she gets the role, and then follows her through the filming of the first movie in the trilogy (like most existing YA movie adaptations the fictional story is a trilogy with fantasy elements and two boys vying for the girl’s attention).

Paige narrates the book, this along with the use of the present tense makes the book feel fresh and draws the reader into Paige’s life. Paige struggles with the transition from regular teenager to lead actress in a film that matters so much to so many fans, whilst this is generally well done she does from time to time come across as unnecessarily angsty.

The author works hard to explain to the reader that Paige isn’t your typical teen, she doesn’t read gossip mags and is happiest hiding in her local bookshop reading screenplays. This is necessary so that when she meets Rainer and Jordan, the two male actors she’ll be filming with, that she doesn’t know anything about them, their pasts or the trouble there has been between them.

There is a section in the book where Paige reflects on her favourite film, one with a makeover reveal scene – she talks at length about how much she loved the way the character becomes beautiful. She experienced a similar sort of makeover and is entirely buoyed by how everyone reacts to her – it made me sad that she bought so firmly into the clothes and make up and image thing. I really wished that she could see how false this was – I didn’t feel like it fitted in with what we knew about Paige either.

Like the fictional YA book that is the focus of the movie being filmed, this book has a love triangle. This lacked some subtlety, the tensions between Rainer and Jordan left me thinking they were both lying and manipulating Paige at points in the book. The ending felt very abrupt, lots of things slotting into place in a very short space of time. I think this was meant to reflect the whirlwind nature of the press commitments for promoting a film, but it didn’t translate so well.

I had lots of quibbles with this book but I did enjoy reading it. It’s certainly not one I’d be rushing to return to, and I won’t be racing to read the subsequent books in the series or the novella of the fictional book being made into a film (yes, the author of this has written and released the book that features in this book under the pseudonym of the fictional author – there’s no easy way to write that). I will more than likely read the later books at some point, if only to find out where the prologue of this book fits. This could have been a great book, but sadly it’s execution just falls a little short of its concept.

Famous in Love is published by Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK from 23rd October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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