23 Apr 2015

The blood of Olympus - Review

Heroes of Oylmpus book five.
Available now

What's it about?
Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaia. Her giants have risen—all of them, and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaia plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake. The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps. The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaia's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
My review
What I loved most about the Heroes of Olympus series was the closer connection we got with the characters during the series and really seeing them grow up, it was something I never realised was missing from the original Percy Jackson series until I read this. Each book is told from multiple narratives from all seven characters in turn, all of whom are very different but come together to make a perfect band of misfits discovering themselves and forging forever friendships.
As well as a great story, these books also teach the importance of friendship, relationships and being yourself which are always great lessons for younger children, and sometimes even adults!
Although The blood of Olympus wasn't quite the explosive ending I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it. Everything was wrapped up nicely and I was genuinely happy with everyone's endings, the ones that were expected and the ones that weren't. And perhaps I'm the only one that may think this but I would love to see Nico get his own series as I feel like we've still only scratched the surface with who he is.
I'm so sad to say goodbye to the gang but I can't wait for Riordan's new series based around Norse mythology to start later in the year and in the meantime, there's the new Percy Jackson/Carter Kane crossover to look forward to!

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17 Apr 2015

Monsters love underpants - Review

Available now

What's it about?

Underpants are monstrously funny in this playful picture book from the team that brought you Dinosaurs Love Underpants and Pirates Love Underpants.
Monsters around the world have different ways to scare, but they all share a love for zany underpants! Every Saturday night, you will find them in a secret cave, showing off their pants as they dance the Monster Bop, but they have to make it home before the sun comes up. After all, who would be scared of monsters in pants that were stripped and dotted?
Our review
As with the rest of the books in this series, the kids really enjoyed it. It's bright and colourful and funny. I always prefer a book I can enjoy too when I'm reading to my children at bedtime because then we all have a good time and this fits into that category, I was giggling right alongside them as we turned the pages.
The illustrations are fun and stand out in such vivid colours that there's plenty to look at for all ages.
If you haven't guessed or aren't familiar with this series, then the book is about the love monsters have for underpants and when they like to wear them but that its a secret as they don't think we'd find them particularly scary if we saw them parading about in their pants and knickers.
It's short and rhymes making in very enjoyable and one that can be read over and over again as I'm sure it will be in my household, just like the rest of our collection.

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6 Mar 2015

Blog tour; Hook's daughter: Ten little known facts

Ten Little Known Facts About Hook’s Daughter
  1. Jocelyn is named, in a way, after Peter Pan’s mother. Peter was inspired by the friendship J.M. Barrie had with the Llewelyn Davies family, or more particular, the Llewelyn Davies children. The boys’ mother was named Sylvia, but Barrie preferred to call her by her middle name: Jocelyn. 
  2. I listened to the soundtrack to the 2003 live action Peter Pan film dozens of times as I wrote and revised, sometimes putting a single song on repeat for a chapter or two to help set the right mood.
  3. Eight years passed from the time I first began thinking about Captain Hook’s daughter to the time I held a finished copy of her story. 
  4. When my daughter was small, she was fascinated by the American television program, Dirty Jobs. In each episode, the host, Mike Rowe, spent a day working difficult, dirty jobs such as Garbage Pit Technician or Worm Dung Farmer. For some reason, my daughter got the impression that Rowe’s name was Dirty Bob. I thought that would make an excellent name for a pirate.
  5. Blind Bart was inspired by a character—a pirate with eye patches over both eyes—in the picture book, That’s How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon. 
  6. After offering to represent me, the man who would become my literary agent sent me a link to a song by the Decemberists: The Mariner’s Revenge Song. From that point on, I never started a revision session without listening to it to put me in a piratical mood. (You can listen here.) 
  7. Nubbins was originally named Stumpy. It was very late in the process—after the manuscript had been through copyedits—that I changed it. I was sitting in church when the new name occurred to me. Divine inspiration?
  8. Years before the character of Nanette Arbuckle came into existence, I caught a glimpse of a man as he drove past me. In the split second I saw him, he was just about to sneeze. I thought, What if he always looks like that? I wrote in my notebook: “He had the pinch-faced look of a man perpetually on the verge of a sneeze that never would come.” When I conceived of Nanette, that description seemed perfect for her.
  9. I don’t know exactly how many drafts I wrote before this story was finished, but I believe it was at least twenty. In the first drafts, Roger was a minor character and only mentioned in a few paragraphs.
  10. The letter Captain Hook writes to Jocelyn, sending her on her great adventure, has only changed by a few words from the version I wrote way back in 2006.

It’s not easy being the daughter of Captain Hook. Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of following in his footsteps – but her grandfather sends her to finishing school instead.

When her father meets his unfortunate end, Jocelyn sails to Neverland to avenge his death. But she hadn’t bargained on ticking crocodiles, lazy pirates and a trouble-making boy called Peter Pan.

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2 Mar 2015

Looking for Alaska - Review

Available now
What's it about?
Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. It is poignant, funny, heartbreaking and compelling.
My review
Considering Looking for Alaska was first published ten years ago, it seems a bit late in the day to posting a review right? lol. However, it just so happens that I read it at the start of the year, when it was Alaska day and then a few days later a beautiful surprise 10th anniversary edition arrived through my letterbox and so how could I not express my feelings for a book I thoroughly enjoyed? The answer is that I couldn't of course.
Looking for Alaska actually started off kind of slow to me, I liked Miles but I wasn't a big fan of Alaska herself, and I still wasn't by the end, but it's a compelling story and Miles gives good narrative.
This is (at least partly) a story of unrequited love, something I think most of us have felt at some time and can relate to. Miles is such a nice, sweet guy and he falls hard for Alaska. Alaska on the other hand is very flaky and self centred, I'm not entirely sure what he saw in her beyond her looks, I think perhaps that he just wanted to 'fix' her and look after her.
Romantically, Miles and Alaska never would've worked but I think she, unintentionally, gives him something more than that, there's definitely a life lesson in this story for Miles as he tries to uncover the mystery that is Alaska he actually learns a lot about himself and the world, he grows up, he feels and he faces some hard times. It was these points that really made the book brilliant for me.
Looking for Alaska was a thought provoking and beautiful read, it'll make you stop and think and feel and then feel some more.

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27 Feb 2015

Captive - Review

Available 29th january 2015

What's it about?
I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a slice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. 
Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.
Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.
Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all...
My review
I read Captive two months ago and then totally forgot to write my review! Luckily it was a good enough book to stick with me so that I can still remember enough to put some thoughts together about it for you.
For starters it felt very realistic and I flew through the pages, reading it in just a couple of days. It could've been a lot more in depth and complicated but I liked that it wasn't, Captive is more about Robyn's isolation than it is about politics, it's about her feelings as she discovers secrets she's not sure she wants to know and meets a boy in a highly unlikely situation.
As the story is told from Robyn's point of view, when she is held captive we feel held captive with her because we know as much as she does about what is going on in the outside world, which is nothing. We're locked in a room right alongside Robyn and only know what our kidnappers are telling us with no idea if it's the truth or not.
As a reader, I felt you really get to feel the solitude and confusion Robyn feels as the book progresses, which was explored well within the writing.
Robyn was a strong willed character and very likable, okay it wasn't the best love story in the world but that's not why I picked up this book anyway, I read it for the psychological and thriller aspects of the books, and on those points, it delivers, And considering the love story was developed under intense circumstances, I still think it was handled very well, I'd like to have seen more of what happened after.
After reading Captive I'd be interested in reading more by this author for sure, its a great debut set at a satisfying pace, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next from her.

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12 Jan 2015

Liquorice book cover - Review

Executive book cover 

But, what is it?The stylish Bagabook book cover comes in a variety of patterns and colours and also comes with a range of matching products than can be purchased separately.
It comes with a Unique Inner Support to fit a variety of book sizes of paperback and hardback, also diaries and note pads and a magnetic clasp. Other features include a hand strap, integrated bookmark, pen holder, travelcard and ticket slot and a concealed zipped pocket ideal for mobile phones and valuables.
Measures: 17.5 cm (6.9") L x 22 cm (8.7") W x upto 6 cm (2.4") depth depending on thickness of book.
My review
This book cover is a handy little accessory to have around. I pretty much always have a book with me when I go out but, as many book lovers will know, having them in my shoulder bag along with my purse, keys, lipstick and other bits of rubbish that are in the depths of my bag, some of my books have gotten bent and battered and even ripped in, sad times right! So why its taken until now for someone to create this, I have no idea! Unfortunately its a bit too small to fit a tall hardback into it, so a range of sizes would be awesome, but its great for a paperback or smaller hardback. I was worried about having to bend and stretch my book to get it into the case initially but actually the case is pretty flexible so I didn't have any trouble and I was able to read my book just fine with the cover on.
I also like the built in bookmark that can be tucked under at the bottom so there's never any fear of it falling out and it doesn't dangle out the bottom either.
And if you enjoy taking notes when reading, there's a penholder and a pocket in the back where you could easily fit some notecards or a small notebook so you'll always have them to hand.
In my opinion is a must for any book lover, its perfect for protecting those precious paperbacks and keeping your little book tools in one place.

Still not convinced? Here's a LINK to the whole collection and enter the code BH020 for 20% off and be sure to check out the matching scarves, tote bags and iPad cases.

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2 Jan 2015

Briar rose - Review

Briar rose by Jana OliverAvailable now 
What's it about?For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.
My review
Picking up Briar rose, I wasn't sure what to expect from this modern day retelling of Sleeping beauty, I questioned how the fairy tale would fit into our world, but I needn't have worried because Oliver did a great job of making it seem believable.
Only a small portion is set in the present in Georgia, while the rest is set in Briar's dream, when, instead of dying she awakens in a literal fairy tale and must find a way to fight her way out if she wants to live.
I really loved this mix of reality and fairy tale, it gave the story a ring of truth and gave it all a magical feeling, while also being a completely new take on a classic story.
This is my first book by Jana Oliver and I found her writing to be on point throughout, the world building was great and imaginative, while still leaving room for me to daydream about how it looked as well.
I liked the characters and the back story and was pleasantly surprised at some twists that I hadn't been expecting and at Oliver's own little add ons to the story.
So, if you like your fairy tales dark and scary then I would recommend picking up Briar rose right away, its a great book set in a richly imagined world with some wonderful characters.

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8 Dec 2014

Blog tour: SeaRISE; Character book review of The time machine

The Time Machine by H G Wells

Review by Donald Ferguson, St Kilda, Scotland, 8th December 1918

It was H G Wells and not Jules Vernes who wrote The Time Machine in 1895, just over a decade before I was born. For some reason I get those two authors mixed up. It’s a story about a man who builds a machine that can take him to the future. I was in the middle of reading it when something very strange happened, so strange in fact, that it’s taken me quite a while to get round to finishing the book.
The Time Traveller in Wells’ story goes to a distant time in the future when there are two kinds of odd-looking humans on the Earth – the Eloi and the Morlocks. He rescues an Eloi girl called Weena, but as they are escaping they get caught up in a forest fire. Later when he gets back to his house in Richmond in Surrey in his own time, he proves to his friends he has been gone for ages in the future (even though he was only missing for 3 hours) by showing them two flowers that Weena had put in his pocket. But if you think that’s strange, then my story is even stranger.

One day in May this year, when the war was still raging, I spotted two girls down on the beach. They seemed to emerge from a large black cube that I’d never seen before. It turned out the younger girl was called Alice, who said she was also from St Kilda, but 100 years into the future, and the older girl was actually a lady called Karla Ingermann, who is the Seabean’s (that’s the name of the black cube) inventor from Germany. They had a blue parrot with them too. My mum, Dora Ferguson, who is our teacher, was worried about it all, but I was very excited to meet some people from the future. Alice wore very strange clothes – Wellington boots with flowers on them, and a sweater that was made of a strange material patterned with rainbow-coloured stripes. She showed us inside the Seabean, and told us that she could command it to go anywhere. It was just bright white inside until Alice started singing an old Scottish sea shanty and then the Seabean started to display moving pictures of a sea voyage and you could hear the seagulls crying and everything. It was incredible! I persuaded my mother to let us go back in time like Alice had done, and in just a few moments we found ourselves at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851! There were elm trees growing inside a vast glass building, and the parrot who was called Spix flew up into the branches and then Alice picked up a seed that had dropped from one of the trees. We accidentally left the parrot behind, which was a shame, but Alice still had the seed in her pocket, just like the Time Traveller in Wells’ story.

When we arrived back on St Kilda, at first it was the right place but the wrong time – instead of 1918 it was still 1851, and Alice realized she had made a mistake. However, when we finally arrived in 1918, our island was being attacked by a German U-boat. It was all very frightening. Alice and Karla were taken prisoner because the islanders thought they were spies. It’s a long story, but eventually I helped Alice to escape back to her time in the Seabean and she gave me the elm seed as a goodbye present. Now Karla has disappeared too. I still don’t know if she managed to find another Seabean, but now I wish that instead of going to the past I had gone with Alice to the future, like the time traveller in The Time Machine. I’d like to know what the future is like in 2018
where she came from, and be able to tell her I planted the elm tree seed and that it’s started to grow.

Donald Ferguson features in SeaWAR, the prequel to SeaRISE by Sarah Holding.

SeaBEAN Book three

In the thrilling final part of The SeaBEAN Trilogy, Alice and her five classmates are - for reasons they have yet to discover - abducted to 2118 in the C-Bean, their time-travel device, only to find the world is a difficult and alienating place. 

How will they survive their terrifying ordeal? Who can help them figure out a way to get back to their own time? Will they escape before their captor Commander Hadron catches up with them? Who is he anyway and what's his connection to the mysterious Dr Foster? 

Unsettled by the devastation they find everywhere in the future and armed with new knowledge about the C-Bean's ultimate purpose, Alice and Co scour the planet, confronting many challenges in pursuit of answers to their questions. But can they figure out a way to restore the Earth's delicate ecological balance for good?

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8 Nov 2014

I was here - Review

Available 29th Jan 2014
What's it about?
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything - so how was there no warning?
But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington.
About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open - until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
My review
I was here is a sometimes sad but overall heartening story. While it explores the delicate subject of suicide, its just as much about Cody's journey in discovering just who she is and finding love in a very unexpected place.
As Cody follows the trail to find out just what was going on with her best friend in the time leading up to her suicide she feels a range of emotions which are bought forth really well in Forman's wonderful writing.
She's understandably shocked to find out just how Meg was feeling and the things she never told her that she ends up forced to question her own feelings towards life and even thinks about suicide in ways she never imagined she would have before her best friend did it.
Cody also feels a lot of confusion as she tries to match up her memories of Meg to the person she is hearing about from people she's never met before and even from people she's known a long time. It's definitely a hard time for Cody as she blames herself, blames others for what happened until coming to an eventual acceptance and some kind of closure.
Not only is this a wonderful story, it feels truthful and would be thought provoking to anyone who knows little about suicide not to mention creating a little awareness to the dark side of the internet.
Just like previous novels from Gayle Forman, I was here did not disappoint me and I don't think it will disappoint other fans of her books.

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20 Oct 2014

Antigoddess - Review

Goddess war book one
Available now
What's it about?
He was Apollo, the sun, and he'd burn down anything that tried to hurt her... Cassandra and Aidan are just your average high-school couple. Or so Cassandra believes. Blissfully unaware that she was once a powerful prophetess, Cassandra doesn't even know thats god exist... Until now.
Because the gods are dying - and Cassandra could hold the answer to their survival. But Aidan has a secret of his own. He is really Apollo, god of the sun, and he will do anything to protect the girl he loves from the danger that's coming for her. Even if it means war against his immortal family...
Sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; relentless action and suspense - ANTIGODDESS is the YA novel you've been waiting for.
My review
While my review for Antigoddess is positive it does come with a but. The book is well written, exciting, with interesting characters (Athena kicked butt.) BUT I was so disappointed by the end when nothing about the main plot gets explained.
The Gods are dying but they don't know why, they''re all fighting each other to stay alive but how do they know that will work when they don't know what's happening and how do they know if they're on the 'right' side. No effort is put in to finding a reason why, which I found incredibly frustrating.
Other than this though, the rest of the book was really good, there's a lot of action and plenty of references to Greek mythology stories, though it mainly focuses on the battle of Troy there are subtle references to other tales and each characters origin. As a lover of Greek mythology I was happy to see how well researched that side of the book had been and it was woven in well to the main story.
The book follows two perspectives in alternate chapters, firstly Athena and Hermes in a quest to find Cassandra and then Cassandra herself and her friends. I much preferred the chapters with Athena and Hermes over Cassandra, they had more action to them and I just preferred the characters, they were more complex and interesting. Cassandra and co just didn't have the same spark for me and I found myself rooting for Athena even though she does some questionable things.
The writing was pretty spot on too, I immediately felt engaged in the story and characters and was wrapped up in the world fairly quickly and despite feeling disappointed by the end that I had raced to get to, I know I'll be reading book two looking for more of the same and hoping for some answers.

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