Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [1].

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

Missing Mummy by Rebecca Cobb. Macmillan Children’s Books.
This book is subtitled as a book about bereavement and as such I was able to prepare myself for what I anticipated was going to be a sad read. This is a lovely, simple exploration of a young child grieving for a parent, it touches on the some of the emotions a child might experience and some of the misinterpretations a young child might make – e.g. thinking that mummy has gone away ‘cos he was naughty. The illustrations have a childlike quality, they are done in nice bold colours throughout rather than taking a more pastel approach. I think this book would be good for a child in this situation and it would be good for their peers too.

It’s a Book by Lane Smith. Macmillan Children’s Books.
This book is a real love letter to books – Monkey is reading a book and his friend Jackass doesn’t understand what a book is, his love is for everything digital. I thought it was really funny to see all the questions Jackass asks, they all focus on the things computers can do and need and patient Monkey explains that his book doesn’t do or need any of them. I thought the mention of the library was very nice, and the outcome of the book left me feeling very satisfied.

Hudson Hates School by Ella Hudson. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
This book is about dyslexia – the reason Hudson hates school is because of how hard it is and the way the other children think he’s stupid. The author has dyslexia herself so this book has been created from a real place of understanding, she can help the reader to understand how Hudson is feeling. I think young children who are having difficulties with literacy, including those who have dyslexia could find this book a comfort and something that gives them hope.

Book Meme

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To.

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature created by The Broke and the Bookish so that bloggers can share lists of bookish things.

TTT3W

Debuts is the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I love this idea for a top ten as it’s made me go and have a look to see what debuts different publishers have, I’ve stuck to books being published in the UK and aimed at children and teens. I’ve sorted my list by publication date, like always images and synopses come from Goodreads or the publisher’s website.

SplinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard. Published 1st January by A & C Kids.
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

SorrowlineSorrowline by Niel Bushnell. Published 3rd January by Andersen Press.
The past is not a frozen place. Graveyards are not dead ends. And if the Sorrowline lets you in there is a hidden world of adventure waiting behind every gravestone.

Just when 12-year-old Jack Morrow’s life is falling apart he discovers his natural ability to travel through Sorrowlines: channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death. Confused and alone Jack finds himself in 1940. He embarks on an adventure through London during the Blitz with Davy, his teenage grandfather, to find a mystical Rose that might just save his mother’s life, a mother who he has already seen die. But the terrible power of the Rose of Annwn, is sought by many, and the forces of a secret world are determined to find it first. With a league of Undead Knights of his trail, commanded by the immortal Rouland, can Jack decipher the dark secret hidden at the heart of his family? Can he change his own destiny and save his mother?

TragedyPaperThe Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. Published 10th January by Random House Children’s.
Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

PantomimePantomime by Laura Lam. Published 7th February by Strange Chemistry.
R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

InfiniteSkyInfinite Sky by C.J. Flood. Published 14 February by Simon & Schuster.
Iris Dancy’s free-spirited mum has left for Tunisia, her dad’s rarely sober and her brother’s determined to fight anyone with a pair of fists.

When a family of travellers move into the overgrown paddock overnight, her dad looks set to finally lose it. Gypsies are parasites he says, but Iris is intrigued. As her dad plans to evict the travelling family, Iris makes friends with their teenage son. Trick Deran is a bare knuckle boxer who says he’s done with fighting, but is he telling the truth?

When tools go missing from the shed, the travellers are the first suspects. Iris’s brother, Sam, warns her to stay away from Trick; he’s dangerous, but Iris can no longer blindly follow her brother’s advice. He’s got secrets of his own, and she’s not sure he can be trusted himself.

Infinite Sky is a family story about betrayal and loyalty, and love.

ZombieGoldfishMy Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara. Published 28th February by Macmillan Children’s Books.
‘Sami was still holding the goldfish. “Swishy little fishy,” she whispered, over and over. Frankie stared at her with his big, bulging, glowing eyes. Suddenly a little light bulb went on . . . Frankie was a Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and somehow he’d hypnotized my best friend’s sister!’ Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom’s new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge . . . Tom has a difficult choice to make – save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend?

AcidACID by Emma Pass. Published 25th April by Corgi Children’s / Random House Children’s.
ACID – the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.
They see everything. They know everything.
They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.
I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong.

IfYouFindMeIf You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. Published 2nd May by Indigo.
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon. Published 7th May by Strange Chemistry.
Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.

But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.

Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore. Published 20th August by Bloomsbury USA.
If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. Her father owns one of North Carolina’s most successful barbeque joints and she’s been shredding pork and basting baby back ribs since she could reach the counter. When Taste Test, a reality cooking show for teens, accepts her for their fifth season, it’s a chance for Nora to get out of her humble hometown and break into the big leagues of the culinary world. When she shows up on set at the North American Culinary Academy, however, it’s not just the New England weather that’s ice cold. Fights with her high-society roommate and run-ins with the son of a famous chef force Nora to work even harder to prove she’s a force to be reckoned with. But, despite winning challenges and falling for a fellow contestant, Nora can’t ignore the mysterious accidents that are plaguing the kitchen arena. It seems like someone is conducting eliminations of their own and Nora’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before she, or anyone else, is “86ed” for good.

Book Review

Book Review : Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

When the Tooting family finds an old engine and fits it to their camper van, they have no idea what kind of adventure lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary car . . . and it wants its bodywork back! But as the Tootings hurtle across the world rebuilding the original Chitty, a sinister baddie is on their trail — one who will stop at nothing to get the magnificent car for himself.

Fueled by wry humor, this much-anticipated sequel to the children’s classic by Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond — featuring a contemporary family and a camper van with a mind of its own — is driven by best-selling, award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce and revved up by Joe Berger’s black-and-white illustrations.

I’ve been meaning to read something by Frank Cottrell Boyce ever since I discovered he wrote the book Framed that was adapted by the BBC a couple of years ago. Then lovely author Keris Stainton tweeted that she’d enjoyed this so I thought I would give it a go. I loved the film and the stage adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so the idea of a follow up really appealed to me.

The first thing I have to say about this book is how much fun it is. I grinned all the way through it and laughed so many times. The plot is quick, and quirky and really entertaining. I loved the idea initially of a camper van that had been modified with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang style features, but the quick realisation that actually the original Chitty is trying to reassemble itself made me love it even more.

The book focuses on the Tooting family; Mum, Dad, and their three children Lucy, Jem and Harry. I loved Dad’s mad inventor side and eccentricities. The children were all brilliant characters, I’m not sure I could pick a favourite between them though Harry the toddler would probably make a good case for it being him. It wouldn’t be a good follow up to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang if there wasn’t some sort of scary character, Nanny makes a pretty good job of it though I was pretty pleased to see that she wasn’t as scary as the Childcatcher of the original story.

The book is a pretty quick read as an adult, it’s the kind of story that I imagine would work really well for bedtime storytelling. I’ll certainly be picking up more books by the author in the future.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again is published in hardback and eBook by Macmillan in the UK.

Book Review

Book Review : Lottie Biggs Is Not Mad by Hayley Long.

My name is Lottie Biggs and in three weeks time, I will be fifteen years old. At school, most people call me Lottie Not-Very-Biggs. I’ve never found this particularly funny . . . My current hair colour is Melody Deep Plum which is not as nice as Melody Forest Flame but definitely better than the dodgy custard colour I tried last week . . .

And this is my book – it’s about important things like boys and shoes and polo-neck knickers and rescuing giraffes and NOT fancying Gareth Stingecombe (even though he has manly thighs) and hanging-out with your best friend having A BLATANTLY FUNNY TIME. It is definitely not about sitting in wardrobes or having a mental disturbance of any kind!

Painfully honest and laugh-so-hard-you-forget-to-breathe funny.

I can’t quite remember when I heard about Hayley Long’s series of YA books about Lottie Biggs, though I think the conversation had something to do with Wales. The blurb on the back of the book grabbed me instantly, Lottie sounded like lots of fun and I couldn’t wait to get reading.

The book takes the form of Lottie’s English coursework – a piece of extended personal writing. She begins by writing about the general things she is doing; things that are happening at school, about the boy she fancies, how rubbish her part time job is. Slowly though the book deepens as Lottie reveals more of herself.

I really enjoyed reading about Lottie. I think she’s a really well created character, the structure of the book means you really feel like you’re getting to know her. The supporting characters are also brilliant, the girls she works with are again great teenage characters – reading about them transported me back to being a teenagers with ease.

I liked the way that the author blended the plot about being a teenager and the difficulties and angst and fun that this time contains with an exploration of mental health issues. Everything was dealt with carefully but never strayed into the territory of instructing or preaching. I think this approach would appeal to teenagers.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m thrilled there are two more books in the series, I don’t want to say goodbye to Lottie just yet!

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad is published in paperback by Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK priced £5.99