Book Review

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.

Book Review

PoPB: Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves.

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

Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler (illustrator). Little Tiger Press.
NoodleNoodle’s Knitting Noodle has ALWAYS wanted to knit. She even knows all the magic words:

“Knit one, purl one, knit two together!”

So when Noodle finds a ball of wool, she knits and knits and knits…

But soon Noodle knits herself into a very big pickle!

I’m convinced that Little Tiger Press is producing some of the cutest picture books going, Noodle’s Knitting is no exception to this. After spending months watching the farmer’s wife knit Noodle finally gets her chance to give it a go – she has a ball of beautiful purple wool, some Noodle sized knitting needles (trying saying that three times!) and away to go. Admittedly this cute book is a little low on story, but the story it does contain is lovely and has an ending that made me want to leap into the book!

The illustrations are as lovely as the story. They’re filled with beautiful colours, and I found myself wanting to find a ball of wool the exact same purple as Noodle’s – I’d love a scarf that colour! This book is a little bit different, it’s been enhanced with “soft-to-touch wool on every page”. This adds an extra element of interest to each page, I think little hands will love tracing the wool throughout the book. I loved the attention to detail with the knitting – I could clearly see the different stitches (Noodle’s scarf appears to be knitted in stocking stitch which has two distinct sides).

A cute read, perfect for the autumn!

Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves (illustrator). Bloomsbury.
MarmadukeMarmaduke isn’t like other dragons. He’s got big floppy ears, he’s orange and he doesn’t even fly! He can fly, but he won’t, because his wings… Well, they’re unusual.

But when Marmaduke embarks on a daring rescue mission, he has to make an important decision: will he keep his wings hidden, or will he dare to be different?

I love stories about dragons. I’m less keen on some of the princess related story tropes that often accompany dragons in stories, but it seems more and more books are trying to step away from these tropes. This book definitely tries it, first acknowledging the trope – the other dragons all protect princesses – and then showing a different story altogether featuring Marmaduke the very different dragon and Meg a very different princess. Marmaduke and Meg’s differences are carefully explored, along with everyone else’s reactions to them – this would produce some great discussion points in a nursery setting. I liked their story and I particularly liked its outcome.

The illustrations in this book are bold and colourful. They’re very attractive and appealing, I loved the contrast between Marmaduke and the rest of the dragons, and between Meg and the rest of the princess. I wouldn’t want to be a princess, but if I had to I’d want to be a princess like Meg! I’d also like a bedspread like hers, the bold colourful patchwork is beautiful.

This is a lovely addition to the dragon and princess story range. I’m very interested by the news that the author has another princess themed picture book coming out next year, The Three Princesses, it sounds like this one’s going even further to subvert the trope. It’s already on my list of books to look out for!

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

Book Review

MG Monday: The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth & The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth and The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook are both featured.

These two books are companion novels. The Windvale Sprites was published in 2011, and The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth was published in 2013.

LJoBTOne day I will be remembered as the greatest scientist that the world has ever known and so it is my duty to mankind to record my thoughts that future generations are able to study the progress of a genius.

I am eleven years old.

These are the recently discovered journals of Benjamin Tooth: alchemist, inventor and discoverer of the Windvale sprites. They chronicle his journey of scientific discovery from pompous boy to mad old man in his pursuit of the sprites on Windvale Moor. The sprites hold the key to eternal life, and Tooth is determined to capture it.

I read this book first, though I had been assured that it didn’t matter which order you read the books in. I chose to go chronologically – this book is set before The Windvale Sprites and so that made more sense to me.

I enjoyed the first part of the book very much. Benjamin Tooth is an engaging character, a young lad focused on science and his mission to excel in his scientific pursuits. Sadly, as the book progresses and Benjamin gets older I found him harder and harder to like, and found that I cared less and less about what happened to him. A couple of times I actually found myself wishing some great harm would come to him. I’m fine with characters not being likeable, but Benjamin was the sort of dislikable that made me consider putting the book down and not carrying on.

The journal format makes this book a quick read, this probably helped me to keep reading. When the sprites make their first appearance I found I was instantly taken by them – they’re an interesting creation and Benjamin’s observations of them are fascinating. I would have loved to read more about them and their society rather than his attempts to trap them.

WindvaleSpritesWhen a storm sweeps through the country, Asa wakes up the next day to find that his town is almost unrecognisable – trees have fallen down, roofs have collapsed and debris lies everywhere. But amongst the debris in his back garden Asa makes an astounding discovery – the body of a small winged creature. A creature that looks very like a fairy. Do fairies really exist?

Asa embarks on a mission to find out. A mission that leads him to the lost journals of local eccentric Benjamin Tooth who, two hundred years earlier, claimed to have discovered the existence of fairies. What Asa reads in those journals takes him on a secret trip to Windvale Moor, where he discovers much more than he’d hoped to…

Having not enjoyed The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth that much, I picked up The Windvale Sprites with a little trepidation. I quickly realised though that I was enjoying this far more, and this stayed the case for the entirety of the book.

This book is set in the modern day, the main character Asa also comes in contact with the sprites Benjamin Tooth had discovered and ends up finding Benjamin’s journal and using this as his guide to discovering more about the sprites. There are sections of text that are direct copies of the text from the journal – I liked revisiting this and seeing it through Asa’s eyes. Many of the issues I’d had with Benjamin were expressed by Asa – this reconfirmed by belief that these books have a real value in talking about science and the ethics of scientific investigation.

I really enjoyed the contrast between the two books, and I do think looking back at the two books I feel a little more kindly towards The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth if I considerate in its context as part of a pair of companion stories. I’m glad I read the books this way around rather than in the order in which they were published. Both books are illustrated by the author, these add a lot to both stories. Overall I found these books to be an interesting and thought provoking experience though maybe not one I’m going to be in a great hurry to repeat.

The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth and The Windvale Sprites are published by Faber & Faber in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review: The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene.

SeafrontTeaRoomsThe Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind…

Sometimes you want a book that you can dive in to head first, a book you can become completely wrapped up in and ignore the world. The Seafront Tea Rooms is just such a book, a truly lovely gem of a read. I liked the sound of it from the synopsis – what could be nicer than a book about tea and cake? Upon reading it I discovered that as well as being full of mouth watering descriptions of afternoon teas galore it was also full of life and heart.

The book centres around three women, Kat, Charlie and Seraphine. Brought together early on in the book, the trio work together to research the piece Charlie is to write on the best tea rooms in Britain. They each have challenges going on in their lives, and each have a need for the sort of support that comes from the best of friendships. Watching the friendship grow between the three ladies was wonderful, and left me thinking about the similar sorts of friends I have in my own life. I think sometimes that in fiction friendship can be overlooked in favour of romance so it was nice to see friendship take such a central role here. I particularly liked that the main friendships were all new yet strong – sometimes we meet someone and click as friends instantly, length of friendship isn’t necessarily an indicator of strength of friendship.

There are romantic subplots running through the book, I found that whilst I could see where Kat and Charlie’s stories were going fairly quickly it was Seraphine’s that was the surprise. I don’t want to elaborate too much, the synopsis and material around the book have been careful to allow the reader to discover this for themselves so it would be wrong for me to not follow suit. That said I will say that it was a pleasant surprise and added a whole new layer of appreciation for this book. There’s a gorgeous epilogue that ties up all of the romantic elements of the book, it’s beautiful and made me shed more than a tear or two.

In addition to the three main characters this book has a strong collection of supporting characters. These are well created, I felt like I got to know and understand them. Charlie’s sister Pippa was one of the stand outs for me – she has a long journey to go on throughout the course of the book and I found I cared a lot about this. Kat’s son Leo is very lovely, he reminded me a lot of children I’ve known in the past – always a sign that a young character is well written. And finally I must mention Bagel the Beagle – what a great name for a dog!

I haven’t read all that many books aimed at adults recently, this book has absolutely reminded me that the grass is green on every side of publishing irrespective of target audience. This is the author’s second book, I’m now going to be making sure I read her debut The Vintage Teacup Club too.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is published by Sphere in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan.

ShadowboxerThai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her…

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Every now and then I see a book talked about that hooks me instantly, I proceed to read it and love it, and then wonder how on earth I’m going to even attempt to review it. Shadowboxer is one of those books. I never realised I wanted a book about a female fighter as much as I did until I read this book and then it went and exceeded every expectation I didn’t even know I had.

Jade, our main character, is truly awesome. She’s tough talking, tough acting and this has the potential to get her into lots of trouble both inside the cage where she fights and outside it. She has huge potential as a fighter, but she’s angry. So angry, and this is putting that potential at risk – you can’t have a fighter with poor self control. She gets sent to Thailand to focus on training and that’s where the secondary plotline of the book really starts to twist around Jade’s story.

We have another great girl character you see, Mya. The first couple of times we meet her I must admit I was a little lost as to what was going on, there’s a strong mythology feel to her story and it didn’t relate to anything I knew. I had the gut feeling that I just needed to go with it though and this was absolutely right, the more I saw of Mya’s world the more I understood what was going on. Since reading the book I’ve discovered that the story around Mya in particular draws from Thai mythology – I definitely want to read more now and learn about these fascinating stories.

The plot is really exciting, I was warned that once I started reading I wasn’t going to want to stop – this was very accurate. There are plenty of twists and turns and unexpected reveals – there were a couple of things that became apparent about key characters that I really hadn’t expected, though they felt very true to the characters and what we knew about them. It’s really hard to talk about them because you really do need to discover them as you read, I’m looking forward to re-reading the book knowing what I now know.

This book has a really fresh feel to it. It is exciting, energetic and just down right brilliant. I find I can sometimes get a bit lost when reading written fight scenes but in this book there was absolutely no chance of that happening. They’re written really clearly and are very engaging – the author has martial arts experience and this shines through in the writing. The characters leap off the page, they’re well imagined and feel very real. There’s plenty of diversity represented within this book, many of the characters are from different ethnic backgrounds.

I absolutely loved this book, my only sadness was that it had to end. I think I could have read about Jade for a lot longer!

Shadowboxer is published by Ravenstone in the UK from 9th October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

PoPB: Danny’s Adventure Bus by Lucy Marcovitch & Paul Cemmick and Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey.

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

Danny’s Adventure Bus by Lucy Marcovitch & Paul Cemmick (illustrator). Tamarind Books.
DannyWhen Danny and Mum get stuck in a traffic jam, Danny pulls out his special driver’s hat and takes the bus on a great adventure through deserts, high mountains and deep beneath the ocean…

Where will he turn up next? Keep your eyes open…

I liked the idea behind the story of this book a lot, bored with being stuck in a traffic jam Danny takes over driving the bus and takes it on a very odd journey. Each time Danny evades a traffic jam and drives the bus through another unusual place he encounters another traffic jam to evade and so the story goes on. The landscapes that the journey takes in are brilliantly varied, and the things causing the traffic jams are inventive. The story telling is very structured, it follows the same pattern each time and the way the text is structured across the pages there are some great opportunities for predictions. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, a few of the phrases felt a little cumbersome when I read it out loud but like I say this is purely my personal feeling about it and I’m sure it wouldn’t bother many readers.

The illustrations are bright and bold, they’re colourful and really stand out. This is an active story and the illustrations reflect this, there’s certainly a feel of motion and busyness to them that works really well. There’s a playful nature to many of the illustrations – a bunny rabbit ice skating at the top of snowy mountains, a goatherd wearing a peg on his nose – I enjoyed spotting all of these.

There’s a lot of focus on the need for the representation of diverse characters in books. This book, published by Tamarind Books, is a great example of how this can and should be done. Danny and his mother are black, but they just happen to be. They’re not written any differently, they’re just the main characters in the book. It’s really great to come across books where this is the case, here’s hoping we see more and more!

Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey (illustrator). Strauss House Productions.
WTPNG “This is Ben and his best friend Ray
Who are two of the children that like to play
Out in the field where the poppies now grow.”

Childhood friends Ben and Ray find their innocent war games become real as the Great War rages around them.

Set during the First World War, in simple rhyme, Where The Poppies Now Grow takes readers on a journey of friendship set against a changing landscape of innocence, of war an then finally, of piece.

This book is beautiful. It takes a really difficult, emotive subject and puts it across in a wonderfully careful, thoughtful manner. With each page the poem telling the story of Ben and his best friend Ray is built up, starting with their youthful games and following them through adulthood and their wartime experience. It’s gentle but unflinching, it does not shy away from the horrors of the First World War but conveys them in a very age appropriate manner.

Martin Impey’s watercolour illustrations are the perfect pairing for the text of this book. I love his art style in any case and it works so well for this book. The illustrations use lighting and weather very cleverly to convey mood and tone, in the early pages as the war is getting closer to the two main characters’ lives a storm appears to be nearing, the scenes that take place at the front line itself are played out against dark stormy skies. Similarly to the text, the illustrations do their very best to convey how awful the circumstances appropriately and quite subtly.

There is so much going on this year marking the 100 years since the First World War broke out, and I know they will continue for the next 4 years until we reach the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. I think this book is a must have addition for primary school libraries, it’s perfect for key stage 1 and could just as easily be used as a resource with other age groups. There is already a second book by the same author and illustrator pairing – The Christmas Truce – which I will be looking out for, and according to the publisher’s website there will be a third book published in 2016 (though they’re keeping the details of this a closely guarded secret at present).

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

Book Review

MG Monday: Pea’s Book of Birthdays by Susie Day.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, Pea’s Book of Birthdays by Susie Day earns her turn in the spotlight.

PBoBIt’s Pea’s birthday, and all the family are gathered around to celebrate. But there’s one person missing – her dad. She has never known him, but is the story Mum always told her (the one about Dad being a pirate) really true? What is this mysterious Piratical Father doing now? So begins Pea’s quest to track down her dad once and for all . . .

This series of books featuring Pea Llewellyn is one of my absolute favourite series, regardless of target age. So much so that after I fell completely in love with Pea, her sisters and mum and all of the rest of the cast of characters in the first book I decided that I needed to not immediately read the next books in the series but instead space them out and savour each one. This weekend I finally picked up this, the third book in the series.

Having dealt with the family’s move to London in Pea’s Book of Best Friends and then deciding what you want to be in the future in Pea’s Book of Dreams, this time Pea’s focus is more on personal identity and knowing who you are and where you come from. Pea has never known her father, all she knows is where her mum met him and that he left shortly after she was born. Knowing that he is out there somewhere, and reminders about family leave her wondering about him and wanting to track him down. The book takes place over the month of May when Pea and her sisters and mum all have their birthdays, Pea’s is latest in May and she shares it with her mum so what better opportunity to try and track down the mystery Ewan McGregor (no, not that one).

One of the things I adore about Pea is that she’s such a thinking girl. She’s a budding writer, always creating characters and plot lines, and when she’s not doing this she has a tendency to overthink her current situation. In this book trying to choose a birthday party theme that is sufficiently “mature and sophisticated” proves really hard, she doesn’t really feel grown up but feels like she ought to. Pea is so much the kind of young person I was, I know I would have loved reading about her when I was similarly aged (pretty much like I do now). Life is full of anxieties, even when you’re young, and seeing them dealt with in such a reassuring manner is just brilliant.

The family dynamic between Pea, her sisters and mum is just brilliant. So too is the dynamic of the Paget-Skidelskys who live next door, and then the relationships between both families. I would have loved to have good friends living next door like this. I particularly like Pea’s friendship with Sam One, I always like seeing girl boy friendships in the books I read.

One thing I must highlight is the ease with which Susie writes diverse characters. This whole series of books is filled with them, all included seamlessly and naturally. Their differences are acknowledged but not dwelt on, they’re simply presented as the way of things which is of course what they are. This series is one that should be held up of an example to show that it can be done!

I loved how funny this book was at the same that it was covering some really important issues. The blend of the drama and comedy of real life works really well and results in a hugely readable book that is appealing and very lovable. The whole series is like this, and that’s why I love it so much and find myself recommending it as often as I can. The next book in the series is Pea’s Book of Holidays which includes a visit to Corfe Castle (inspiration to Enid Blyton) – I wonder how long I will be able to resist it? Not long I wouldn’t think!

Pea’s Book of Birthdays is published by Red Fox in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf.

IronSkyThe year is 1845. Since Napoleon’s famous victory at Waterloo, France and Britain have been locked in a long and bloody war for global supremacy. This breathtaking steampunk adventure introduces an alternative 19th century of giant airships soaring through the skies above the English Channel, fantastical, steam-powered automata, aerial steam carriages, floating cities, giant mechanical birds and a new kind of secret agent. Enter the world of Iron Sky…

In this version of reality, an ageing Napoleon is threatening a full-scale invasion of Britain. Opposing him is Sir George Jarrett, head of the Imperial British Secret Service, helped by an all-female team of aerial spies known as the Sky Sisters. The youngest of them is Lady Arabella West. As war clouds loom, airships start to disappear, and rumours spread of a mysterious terror in the skies. Arabella, with the help of her automaton sidekick, Miles, sets out to investigate.

I haven’t read many steampunk books, but those that I have read have been brilliant. When I heard about this new book coming from Alex Woolf I had high hopes, I’d enjoyed everything else of his I’d read and had a feeling that this book was going to be pretty great.

The story takes place over only a short period of time with the bulk of the book occuring in just 3 days. This works really well, keeping the action going and adding a sense of immediacy to the book. After a brief prologue that roots the book firmly into its historical context the plot gets going very quickly. We meet Arabella, our leading lady, as she undertakes a mission in her role as one of the aerial spies Britain is using in its efforts to defeat Napoleon’s efforts to invade once and for all. From the very first pages Arabella’s story is filled with action, this continues throughout much of the book. Whether she is trying to break in to somewhere to acquire information, or lead a reconnaissance mission she has a knack both for getting into and back out of trouble.

Like many reviewers I’m always on the lookout for really great female lead characters. Arabella is most certainly this, and the fact she is one of the Sky Sisters – 5 female aerial spies each with their very own highly specialised skill set was a most welcome discovery. It made me think of two other books I’ve loved in recent years, Code Name Verity and The Beauty Chorus. Whilst all three books feature teams of young women flying planes as part of military efforts they’re all then incredibly different, but I was pleased with the realisation.

In addition to loving Arabella I completely fell for automaton Miles (a Mobile Independent Logical Englishman Simulacrum). I think I’d like my only Miles, his ability to analyse situations instantly and tell you just how bad your plan is would certainly be useful! The other character that really stands out in the book is Commodus Bane. He’s just so completely and utterly awful, I found him really disturbing and found myself trying to hold the book a little further away when he appeared on the pages!

This is a very attractive book. It’s a hardback book with beautiful end pages, a map (I do love a book with a map) and four double-sided glossy gatefold pages covered in design illustrations (for more about how Alex came up with the various airships and other devices make sure you read his brilliant guest post here). It’s clear that a lot of care and attention has been put into this book’s creation and it’s certainly paid off.

My only sadness about this book is that ends just as another really exciting mission is being launched. I’m assuming that this means this isn’t the last we’re seeing of the Sky Sisters, I can’t wait to be able to read more about their adventures!

Iron Sky: Dread Eagle is published by Scribo Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour · Book Review

Blog Tour: Review of A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.

I’m very pleased to be sharing my review of Susan Fletcher’s new book A Little in Love as one of two stops today on the blog tour. Please see the banner in the side bar for the list of other stops the book will making over the next couple of weeks.

ALILParis, 1832.
A street girl lies alone in the darkness, clutching a letter to her heart.

Eponine remembers being a child: her swing and the peach tree, and the baby brother she loved. Bt mostly she remembers being miserable. Taught to lie and cheat, and to hate the one girl, Cosette, who might have been her friend.

Now, at sixteen, the two girls meet again and Eponine has one more chance. But what is the price of friendship – the love of a boy?

I’m a huge fan of the musical version of Les Miserables, it’s right up there towards the top of my favourite musicals list. I’ve seen it a couple of times and have more than one cast recording on my iPod. The one thing I’ve never got to grips with though is Victor Hugo’s novel that first told the story. I started reading it years ago, put it down to read something else, picked it up and read a bit more and then repeated this sequence time and again until one time I just didn’t pick it up again. The dense, long sections of history were off-putting and so it remains my oldest unfinished read. When I received the information about A Little in Love I knew this was going to be different – a book focusing on the story of Eponine, one of my favourite characters, sounded right up my street.

It is no spoiler to say that Eponine’s story is a tragic one, the blurb from the back of the book does this for me and the prologue of the book confirms it. After the prologue the book jumps back to a much earlier time in Eponine’s life, back to her earliest memories of the hardship she was born into and the parents she had the misfortune of belonging to. Narrated by Eponine the book tracks through her memories bringing the reader right up to the point at which the prologue started. This is a really effective style for this story, the first person narrative makes everything feel so much more personal and significant.

I had found that I’d understood Eponine more from my unfinished reading of the original Les Miserables, reading this was an even better experience – it functions as such a close character study. I found that by the end of the book I loved Eponine even more, seeing how she struggles with the villainous nature of her family and how big her heart is made her even more endearing. Her sister, Azelma, acts as the other side of the coin – whilst Eponine fights to rebel against her upbringing Azelma is completely fine with joining the family’s criminal activities. I found the differences between them fascinating to read, though they made me so sad too.

I found that I flew through this book, even though I knew the bare bones of the story and knew exactly what was coming at the end I was so completely drawn into this version of events – it felt like a completely new tale. Being able to focus primarily on one of the many key characters in the Les Miserables story meant there was time and space to include so much detail, making this a beautifully rich reading experience.

One thing I cannot confidently comment on is how this book will work for readers entirely unfamiliar with Les Miserables in any of its forms. I feel like I’ve known the story for too long to be able to completely remove any knowledge of it from my mind. I do think though that this book will stand on its own really well, it’s such a well written, complete story.

This has been my first Susan Fletcher book. I really loved it and will definitely be looking out for other books by her in the future.

A Little in Love is published by Chicken House in the UK from 2nd October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

PoPB: What If…? by Anthony Browne and Doodleday by Ross Collins.

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

What If…? by Anthony Browne. Picture Corgi.
WhatIfJoe is nervous about his first big party, and as Mum walks him along the darkening street to his friend’s house, his imagination starts to run wild. They search for the right place, looking through the windows, wondering “What if…?” while making surprising discoveries along the way.

This book explores the anxieties children may have about going to a party – something many children will experience to some degree. Joe, the main character in the book, has lost the party invite so doesn’t know which house the party is. He and his mother move along the street from house to house, trying to find the right one – each wrong house allowing Joe to air another concern about the upcoming party and allowing his mother to reassure him. The things Joe’s worried about are pretty universal, I think many adults will identify with them let alone young readers.

The illustrations generally alternate between a page where Joe and his mother are pictured alongside the next house, and a double spread looking through the window of that house. The pages which focus just on Joe and his mother are done beautifully in blue tones, their simplicity really allows the text to get the focus it deserves. The double spreads are stunning, though I didn’t personally like all of them. Whilst I understand this is a book about anxieties and fears there were a couple I found really disturbing. I love Anthony Browne’s style though – both the shaping of his people and the gorgeously rich colours used in particular.

I liked a lot of this book, but the couple of illustrations I didn’t like were enough to alter my overall feeling about it. I don’t think this is a book I’ll be rushing back to, but I’m glad I know it exists and I like the way the story handles its purpose very much.

Doodleday by Ross Collins. Gullane Children’s Books.
DoodledayMom has just one thing to tell Harvey on Doodleday-no drawing allowed! But surely drawing one little fly can’t hurt. Not until Harvey’s fly comes to life and starts to wreck the kitchen, that is! What can Harvey draw that will catch it? A spider! But the spider proves to be even more trouble. Only one thing is capable of stopping Harvey’s rampaging doodles… Mom!

One of my all time favourite picture books is Ross Collins’ Dear Vampa, whilst I didn’t love this book as much as I loved that one I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action starts pretty much as soon as the book does, despite Harvey’s mum telling him not to draw on Doodleday he can’t resist the temptation and it all goes wrong from there. Harvey’s first drawing is of a fly, which comes to life – this is what happens to drawings drawn on Doodleday and so he solves the problem the best way he can think of and draws a spider to eat the fly. The story as a result is reminiscent of the old woman swallowing the fly, and also Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck which also features a young boy trying to solve a problem and then the problem that his solution has caused.

The story is very amusing, and is kept on the brief side – a proper solution is found before things can get out of hand and silly. I must say though, if Harvey’s mum had actually explained why he shouldn’t draw on Doodleday none of what happens would have happened, she has to shoulder a little responsibility for the chaos he causes! I think this in itself could make for an interesting discussion point.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They’re filled with so much detail, particularly once the drawn creatures come to life and start causing chaos. I loved the childish creatures, their simplicity works well against the busy backdrops spread across the pages.

A really great read that will be enjoyed by readers both young and old.

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