Thursday, 26 November 2015

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Even now she can't decide. She thinks about flipping a coin. Heads she goes, tails she stays. But isn't indecisiveness an early sign of mental illness? Didn't she cover a story about that a few years ago? Or is it that she conflicted? Conflicted is better than indecisive Why is she thinking this way?

Published by Picador in June 2015

Pages - 402


When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.” Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly. But life goes on and Blume digs deep into her characters—we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between. . . . 
I didn't grow up reading Judy Blume books. In fact, I've never read a single one until now. I was determined to read her latest and I'm so glad I did. It has definitely made me curious enough to want to read the rest of her novels. 
In The Unlikely Event is a book that can't be rushed. At 400 pages and jam packed with characters, with their stories being told through multiple points of view, you need to take you time to get your head around it and work out who is related to whom. There are lots of stories that must be told and the book can be confusing at times, but worth the effort in order to get the full picture. 
The book deals with fictional characters during a real life event. In 1952, three passenger planes actually crashed within three months of each other in the town of Elizabeth, where Judy Blume grew up. So the author had a real understanding and knowledge of the events that occurred. It sounds too coincidental for three planes to crash in the same place in such a short space of time, but that's just what it was - an unfortunate coincidence. 
Blume expertly weaves the stories of the town folk together, showing how their lives dramatically changed after the accidents. It appears that no one was left unscarred by what they witnessed.
I love the way the story is written. Blume has really brought the fifties alive in this book with such detailed writing and I got a real sense of how it felt to live during that era. There are a lot of characters to learn about and sometimes I found myself a little confused, but they each play an important part in the story. 
The main character is Mira, a fifteen year Jewish girl, living with her single mother, and grandmother. Mira is stronger than her family realise and has to deal with a lot of issues that many girls her age would have struggled with.
This is a dark story with lots of morbidity, but one that needs to be read. A truly moving tale    while beautifully written. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Electrigirl by Jo Cotterill, illustrated by Cathy Brett

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, started by Jill at Breaking The Spine, highlighting future book releases everyone is waiting on!
Electrigirl - written by Jo Cotterill and illustrated by Cathy Brett is published in February 2016 by Oxford University Press.

I am really looking forward to this Middle Grade book! Not only is it written by one of the UK's favourite Middle Grade authors, but it's also illustrated by the extremely talented Cathy Brett, who is an author as well. Also it's about a girl with super powers. What's not to love??

I used to be plain old ordinary Holly . . . but now I've become EXTRAordinary Holly!
Being struck by lightning and getting an amazing superpower wasn't how Holly thought that her day would go. But now it's happened, she might as well make the most of it . . . if only she could work out how to stop blowing everything up!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

TREE Written by Patricia Hegarty & Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

In the forest, all is still,
Gripped by winter's icy chill.
Owl sits watching in his tree…
No one sees as much as he.

Published by Little Tiger Press in 2015

Summary From Little Tiger Press
Explore the beauty of the changing seasons in this timeless tale of new beginnings, with beautiful artwork from the award-winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup.
With lyrical rhyming text, follow the life cycle of a tree through spring, summer, autumn and winter. Peek through the holes in the tree to find a busy world of nature at work through rain and shine, wind and snow. Each season of the year is brought to life by Britta's beautiful artwork and the clever die-cuts on every page create a stunning layered effect.

This book tells the story of the seasons in rhyme. It has a gentle, lilting quality and is a useful tool in teaching children about nature through the year, though some of the language is a little old fashioned, for example:
Birds flit through the leafy bowers,
The forest is abloom with flowers. 

There are holes cut in the pages which young children will find perfect for little fingers and the illustrations of the changing tree, and the animals, birds and insects that live in and around it, should encourage plenty of chat about leaf colour, the weather and other aspects of nature. 
The illustrations are colourful, which could help if you're teaching your child colour recognition, and there are counting opportunities, too, particularly with the animals and birds. Do look out for the spider's web and mark its progress through the seasons.
This is not a story exactly, but it is a book for nature lovers and one which young children will enjoy.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Monster by CJ Skuse

That last week at school before the Christmas holidays, death was in everything.

Published by Mira Ink in September 2015

Pages - 318

At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.
I'm taking a  extremely wild guess here and presuming that the author got the story idea  from the Beast of Bodmin legend, the story of the phantom wild cat, that is supposed to live in Cornwall. I loved the whole concept of this book and it made me curious to find out more about the Bodmin beast. 
The story is set in a boarding school, which I was worried might feel old fashioned. However, the author really pushed the boarding school setting into the 21st century.
C.J. Skuse is the Queen of Dialogue. I really do love her writing style. The conversations held in the book had me constantly swaying from giggles to shivers.  
Maggie was by far my most favourite character in the book. In fact, she may be my most favourite character all year! She is hilarious, dramatic, troublesome and full of satirical comebacks. 
The story really heats up in the second half of the book and it starts to become very uncomfortable reading at bed time. I didn't have a clue where the story was leading and I was completely surprised by some of the incidents that happened. I honestly did not see the ending coming, so kudos to the author for excellent plotting and pacing. 
CJ Skuse is a fantastic UKYA author, who really knows her teens! If you haven't got it yet, make sure you have it ready for next Halloween. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Fantasy Dinner Party with Gabrielle Kent

I am pleased to welcome author, Gabrielle Kent onto the blog today. Gabrielle debuted this year with her Middle Grade novel, Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, which was published by Scholastic. Her novel was highly praised and thought to be an ideal for fans of JK Rowling, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.
My dinner party would also have a fantasy feast and setting. I’d have the whole glorious table spread from the film Pan’s Labyrinth, but without the terrifying eyeball monster that chases you if you eat anything! I’d have a couple of guests from Hogwarts, so I’m hoping they could pick up some butterbeer for everyone, as well as some lovely sweet treats from Honeydukes.

The party would take the form of a masquerade ball taking place in Doctor Who’s Tardis, and my guests would be a wonderful mix of some of my favourite characters and people.
1. Nanny Ogg from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books: Nanny would really get the party started with some of her home made scumble. Pretty soon everyone would be listening to her racy stories and singing along with her dirty songs.
2. Amelia Pond from Doctor Who: The girl who waited would be the perfect person to have on hand should any supernatural or alien trouble arise. I’d love to hear more about her adventures with doctor, and maybe between courses she could take the Tardis on a trip through time so that we can watch the birth of the universe over amuse-bouche.
3. Hagrid: Even though we’d probably have to put up with Fang slobbering over our feet as he begs for scraps under the table, Hagrid would be a very entertaining guest, especially after a few drinks. He’s also a great person to know if you need to get hold of anything that might be a little bit dodgy. Hopefully he won’t bring any blast ended skrewts with him, but I’d love to meet Buckbeak the Hippogriff and learn a bit about where to find magical creatures.
4. Actress Eva Green: I have a bit of a crush on Eva and love every character I have seen her play, Artemisia in 300, Serafina Pekkala in Golden Compass, Vespa in Casino Royale, Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful… She is an incredible actress and oozes class and cool. Maybe she could give me some lessons! If anyone can keep Nanny Ogg in order, I’m sure it would be her. I won’t be asking her to participate in a séance though!
5. Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth: Because… Bowie! Jareth might be arrogant and duplicitous, but I think the poor guy could use a break from hanging around with goblins all day. I’d be certain to claim first dance with him during the masquerade ball part of the evening, although I might have to fight off Nanny!
6. Tiffany Aching from Wee Free Men: Tiffany is a very practical no nonsense character with some very interesting friends. There would be no need to invite the Nac Mac Feegle, as they go everywhere that Tiffany goes. She would have to keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t run away with all the scumble and food while she’s telling us about her adventures on the chalk of the Discworld.

7. Artan the flying, talking bearskin rug from my book, Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle: Okay, so Artan doesn’t exactly need to eat, but I’m sure Hagrid, Queenie, the twins and Matilda would find his puns hilarious. Plus he could take us all out on a night-time flight to the Eiffel Tower after dinner.
8. Patrick Stewart: He could come as himself, Jean Luc Picard, or Professor X, I love them all! His witty repartee would keep us all entertained and he would add an air of gentility to the party, until Nanny’s dirty stories begin. He has a great singing voice and might even be able to make her songs sound slightly more classy.
9. Queenie from Blackadder: I was obsessed with Queen Elizabeth I when we studied the Tudors in juniors, her unbelievably strong character, flaming red hair and elaborate clothes. Apparently she was very intelligent and witty. Queenie has the hair, clothes and shrewdness, but not quite the same level of intelligence. However, she has a wicked sense of humour and the stomach of a concrete elephant, very important for Nanny’s scumble!
10. Fred and George Weasley: We’d have to be very careful with those two around. I wouldn’t want a puking pastille slipped into my soup, or nosebleed nougat in my jelly. They could put on a magic show after dinner, and bring some Peruvian Instant Darkness along on our flight on Artan, just in case we need to make a quick getaway from monsters in the sky!
Alfie Bloom's life is dull. Dull and lonely. All of that changes when he is summoned to the bizarre offices of mysterious solicitor, Caspian Bone, where he inherits a castle full of wonders that has been sealed for centuries. Alfie is astounded to learn he was born in that very castle six hundred years ago during a magical timeslip. There, Orin Hopcraft, the last of the druids hid an ancient magic inside him, which others seek but should never be used. With the help of his cousins Madeleine and Robin, a shapeshifting solicitor and a flying bearskin rug Alfie must keep the magic from terrifying adversaries and ensure that the secrets of hexbridge castle stay secret, forever!
To find out more about Gabrielle Kent:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, started by Jill at Breaking The Spine, highlighting future book releases everyone is waiting on!
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman is published by Walker Books in January 2016. 
This book has been on my radar since YALC. Ever since I saw the postcard advertising it, I've wanted it!

ondon, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen. Her life should be about gowns and dancing, and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family's housemaids goes missing, Lady Helen is drawn to the shadows of Regency London.

There, she finds William, the Earl of Carlston. He has noticed the disappearance, too, and is one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of powerful demons that has infiltrated every level of society. But Lady Helen’s curiosity is the last thing Carlston wants—especially when he sees the searching intelligence behind her fluttering fan. Should Helen trust a man whose reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her headstrong sense of justice lead them both into a death trap?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton

Almost everyone Lily knew had gathered in the town hall. Her mum was sitting on her right, humming along with 'O Little Town of Bethlehem', and Lily's seven-year-old brother Jimmy sat next to mum. 

Published by Piccadilly Press in November 2015
Pages - 160

When a town's Christmas wishes get mixed-up, can one little girl and her dog put them right? 
The little town of Pinewood can't wait for Christmas this year. They're going to celebrate by putting up a giant Christmas tree in the town square, and asking all the townspeople to hang a Christmas wish on its branches. Everyone is feeling very festive, including nine-year-old Lily - although she's not sure she believes in wishes. Then a very strange storm blows in, scattering all the wishes...and Lily wakes up the next morning to a bit of a surprise. Bug, her adorable pug puppy, can talk! It's magic - and a wish come true! But it's not Lily's wish...
Lily and her little brother James soon discover that something must have happened during the storm - the town's wishes have been granted, but to all the wrong people! Lily, James and Bug must work out which wish belongs to who, and sort everything out before Christmas Eve - otherwise no one will get what they want for Christmas.
I picked this book up just to read the first chapter, to get a feel of what it was all about. Two hours later, I realised I'd read the whole book without stopping! I absolutely LOVED IT!
Keris Stainton immerses you into the gorgeous little town of Pinewood, which is something like the Christmassy towns you see on the Christmas channel. It's seriously heartwarming and you soon discover the Christmas spirit has embraced you. I seriously want to visit shops such as Our Daily Bread and Kate's Kakes. 
Lily and James are adorable, but I do think the star of the book has to be Bug the Pug. I won't let out any secrets, but readers, you are going to love him!
All the characters are adorable yet current, which will help to make this a modern day classic. 
This book could easily be made into a film. And it has the potential for merchandise with it. I want a Bug Pug soft toy! Seriously, someone pass this book onto Debbie Isitt, the director of the Nativity films, because I'm positive she will love it.
Everyone Christmas I normally recommend a book to go into a child's  Christmas stocking, this will be the book I'm recommending this year. 
I really hope we get to revisit Pinewood and it's inhabitants again one day as I'm sure that  town has more magic hidden within it.