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Review: Rebound by Kwame Alexander

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Extract: 

‘Hoop kings SOAR
in kicks with wings.
Game so sweet
it’s like bee stings.’

(Rebound by Kwame Alexander.) 

birdSynopsis:

1988. Charlie Bell is trying to cope with the loss of his Dad, but he finds it difficult to express his emotions. When he gets into trouble following the wrong crowd, Charlie is sent to spend the summer with his grandparents. He is introduced to a routine of hard work, and respect … and basketball.

Charlie is a legend on the court. Can he stay out of trouble long enough to make something of his talent?

birdReview:

Kwame Alexander’s prose poetry novels have been one of my favourite discoveries of 2018. I picked them up at the Andersen blogger event earlier this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about them since. The poetry has a huge emotional depth. Prose poetry proves that one line can say more than a whole chapter.

Charlie Bell is the dad in The Crossover. Rebound is the story of his childhood, and how he came to play basketball. I felt as if I was right there with Charlie, following his ups and downs. He’s not a bad kid but he doesn’t know how to resume life after losing his dad. He would rather bottle his emotions up and isolate himself. This is making him vulnerable to trouble.  

Rebound is perfect for people who think they don’t like reading. The second-by-second account of basketball games will prove popular with sports fans, as will Alexander’s sports-based metaphors. Charlie is a relatable protagonist and the book has a strong supporting cast. Some of the poems are told through comic strips, which should engage fans of graphic novels.

The story is a prequel to The Crossover but the two can be read in any order. Having read The Crossover, I loved the extra information this gave us about Charlie Bell’s life, and I found the ending particularly poignant. If I had to recommend a reading order, I would suggest reading The Crossover first.

Another winner from Kwame Alexander. Be warned – buy multiple copies because you will want to share this with everyone.

 

Thanks to Andersen Press for my copy of Rebound. Opinions my own.

 

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Review: Kat Wolfe Investigates

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Extract:

Kat put down her smoothie. ‘That’s the worst ever crime in Bluebell Bay – A stolen pumpkin?’ 

‘It wasn’t just any pumpkin,’ said Margot defensively. ‘It was a County Fair prize-winning, record-breaking pumpkin.’ 

(Kat Wolfe Investigates, P71, Lauren St John.) 

 

birdSynopsis:

Strange things are happening in Bluebell Bay. 

Following a break-in at their London flat, Kat Wolfe and her mother move to Bluebell Bay on the Jurrasic Coast. Kat’s Mum takes a position as the local vet, Kat gets the pet of her dreams and she is able to set-up as a pet sitter in return for some pocket money. Best of all, Bluebell Bay is supposedly crime-free. Nothing has happened since the theft of a prize pumpkin.

Then a local man and parrot owner Ramon disappears. Kat reckons something terrible has happened but only ‘incorrigible’ Harper Lamb takes her seriously. Their investigations bring them to the attention of several people, including Kat’s estranged Grandfather, the Minister Of Defence. 

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Review:

Kat Wolfe starts a new series from the wonderful Lauren St John. I have enjoyed her books for a number of years. Like Enid Blyton, Lauren St John matches young detectives with animal companions to memorable settings. Her stories always come to a rewarding conclusion. She is my go-to for a middle-grade mystery binge-fest. 

Kat Wolfe has all the winning qualities of the earlier books. Kat Wolfe and Harper Lamb make a fearless female team, and a cast of supporting characters has been established. I particularly loved Edith, the grudgingly-retired librarian, and Kat’s grandfather Lord Dirk Hamilton-Crosse.

I enjoyed the case of the missing parrot-owner. What appears to be a straightforward mystery turns into something deeper and more complex. Apparently disparate events come together into something huge. Without any spoilers, I loved the answer. It is topical and thought-provoking. Lauren St John’s novels always teach me something about the world. 

Animals play a big part in the book. There is Tiny, who is half Savannah-cat, a horse called Charming Outlaw, Bailey the parrot, Toby the dog, Hero the rescue cat and Eva the capuchin. As a cat-whisperer and lover of animals, I loved the messages about respect for animal friends. Lauren St John’s books more than any other recognise the difference between treating animals as pets and respecting pets as animals. Kat allows Tiny to come to her, she knows Charming Outlaw is frisky because he needs lots of exercise and she liberates Bailey from his cage. Over and over we see Kat respecting the animals as living creatures and I want to give this a double thumbs-up. 

If you’re looking for a solid mystery story, look no further. I look forward to further adventures from Wolfe and Lamb. 

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Letter to Santa – 11 things I want this Christmas

wishlistbannerIf I get all this, it will be a sign that I’ve been very good this year. My wishlist says a lot about who I am. Reading and writing are the most important things in my life. Everything else makes those an even nicer experience.

When my parents asked what I wanted for Christmas this year I said Moomin Bedding. I’ve wanted this for a year or two, but constantly forgotten it around birthdays and Christmas. The chocolate is sorted. We’re planning a family trip to Kennedy’s, and this being an important event we’ve marked it on the calendar. 

There are more books I want than I can possibly name. My family suggested I tell them a smaller number, to ensure I get the ones I really, really want. I chose the illustrated edition of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris and Daemon Voices by Phillip Pullman. My sister also hinted that she’d bought me a picture book because she knows I like the illustrator. I have a sneaking suspicion I know which book, and am intrigued to find out whether I am right.

I’m off shopping – my family are so generous with present-buying that I owe them presents they actually want. In the meantime, here is my wishlist for Christmas 2017. 

 

 

What is on your Christmas wishlist? Have you sorted your pressie buying? Let me know in the comments below.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ruth Lauren 

Fantastic Q and A between Amy at GoldenBooksGirl and Ruth Lauren, author of A Prisoner Of Ice And Snow.

Golden Books Girl

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m hugely excited to have Ruth Lauren, who wrote one of my favourite reads of this year, here for an interview.

Let’s get started!

HiRuth! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview; welcome to Golden Books Girl

It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

1. Can you please describe Prisoner of Ice and Snow in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read it?

Prison Break meets Frozen

2. What inspired you to write the book? Had you always envisaged it as a series, or did you originally plan for just one book?

The idea began when I was watching Prison Break with my son. I wondered what that kind of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead (and then if it were set in a fantasy land where I could add all sorts of interesting…

View original post 696 more words

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Waiting on Wednesday – Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

piglettesSynopsis (From Goodreads):

A wickedly funny and life-affirming coming-of-age roadtrip story – winner of France’s biggest prize for teen and YA fiction. Awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze trotters after a vote by their classmates on Facebook, Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are officially the three ugliest girls in their school, but does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it?
Well… yes, a bit, but not for long! Climbing aboard their bikes, the trio set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, their goal: a garden party with the French president. As news of their trip spreads they become stars of social media and television. With the eyes of the nation upon them the girls find fame, friendship and happiness, and still have time to consume an enormous amount of food along the way.

Reasons:I can’t wait to read Piglettes:

  • It has similar themes to Editing Emma, for example self-worth. The Trotters? How mean does that sound? Perhaps taking off on a hiking trip will give the girls new things to aspire to. I hope a little distance from the people who judge them will give them space to rethink their priorities.

 

  • Social media – again, this follows on from Editing Emma. Will their new-found following go to their heads, and distract them from their initial goal? Will it bolster their resolution and help them spread their message? In Editing Emma, there was interesting exploration of the impact social media has on mental health. I want to find out whether the girls in Piglettes find their online life has a positive impact on their real lives.

 

  • Personal one – as a young woman, I wrote a story about a girl taking off on a bike journey through post-war Europe. Looking back, it was pretentious and poorly written, but it got a distinction at that level of my degree.

 

  • Look at the cover! Pink! Pretty. It screams summer read.

 

Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

Pushkin Press

Published 6th July 2017

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First Line Fridays – 12.05.2017

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First lines Friday is a meme hosted by Wandering Words. It is approach a book with preconceptions – never mind the cover, we all form opinions about genres and age-ranges, authors’ previous works and publishing formats.

First line Friday takes all that away, and start with what matters: the words. 

 

“Alice Silver had never met anyone who had killed before, but that all changed the day Dorothy Grimes walked past the window of Alice’s favourite coffee shop. “

Scroll down to see which book this is from. 

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The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

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What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . .

Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and – most of all – stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.

When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.

But every tale has its villains – and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . .


 

I read The Other Alice over Christmas, and think I may reread at some point this year to write a review. Think Inkheart –  a writer goes missing, and her brother finds her characters have taken on a life of their own. I loved Midge’s perspective, and I loved the fact Alice’s characters were not 2D tropes – their quests were as important as Alice and Midge’s.

 

Thanks to Wandering Words for hosting, and for the banner and arrow image.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling

 

witchborn-667x1024Synopsis (from Chicken House website)

It’s 1577. Queen Elizabeth I has imprisoned scheming Mary Queen of Scots, and Alyce’s mother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Alyce kills the witchfinder and flees to London – but the chase isn’t over yet. As she discovers her own dark magic, powerful political forces are on her trail. She can’t help but wonder: why is she so important? Soon she finds herself deep in a secret battle between rival queens, the fate of England resting on her shoulders …

A dark, twisty and thrillingly original Elizabethan fantasy, exploring true history through a fantasy lens. 

 

Why I can’t Wait:

 

  • This is a fascinating era of history. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction about this time period, but it all began with my Phillipa Gregory filled teens.
  • Persecution is a big theme at the moment, and witch hunts are an example of history we do not want to repeat. This looks like it might use the past to explore themes which are particularly relevant to the present.
  • Fantasy is such a great way to explore big themes. This looks like it might be similar to the work of Marcus Sedgwick and Frances Hardinge, and frankly I can’t get enough of either author’s work.
  • The cover??! Just look at it. The problem will be how I stop looking, when I finally get my paws on it.

 

Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling

September 2017

Chicken House Books

 

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Thank you for hosting.

Uncategorized · Young Adult Reviews

Review – Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell

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Extract:

‘The second trial comes to an end and you have failed it,’ she said, without a trace of sympathy in her voice. ‘Now you fear you will fail the third as well.’

‘How can I create a spell using two disciplines when I can’t break even one of my bands.’

‘I told you once before; do not ask questions to which you already know the answer.’

‘Then … it’s over. My sixteenth birthday is in a few days. I’m never going to be a mage. I’m going to be a Sha’Tep.’

I felt myself becoming dizzy, as if just saying the words had drained the strength from my limbs. Mer’esan held my arms. ‘You will never be a Jan’Tep mage like your father and mother. Whether you become a Sha’Tep servant like your Uncle is up to you.’

(Spellslinger – Sebastian de Castell. P163.)

 

Synopsis:

Kellan is at the start of his mage trials. Pass, and he will become a Jan’Tep mage, and help rule society. Fail, and he will become a Sha’Tep servant. Kellan’s magic has faded, and he has four weeks to get it back. Otherwise, he is destined to a life of servitude.

Enter Ferius Parfax, and the most interesting deck of cards since Wonderland. Ferius says she is an Argosi traveller. Everybody else reckons she is a Daroman spy, sent to influence the forthcoming election of the new Clan Prince.

In Jan’Tep society, family strength is more important than individual strength. With the election fought between Kellan’s father, and scheming Ra’meth, Kellan is the card everybody is trying to play right. There is only one problem – Kellan may have no magic, but he has a great talent in thinking for himself.

Challenged by Ferius Parfax to look for his own answers, and the three-hundred year-old Dowager Magus to ask the right questions, Kellan uncovers some uncomfortable truths about his society, and decides who he wants to be.

 

Review:

To decide who he wants to be, Kellan must learn about the people around him. Does he get any say? At the start, he believes his future as a Sha’Tep servant is inevitable. The book explores the degree to which individual decisions can be made when society seems to prescribe our roles. Ferius Parfax enters Kellan’s life as the ultimate outsider, and shows him the wider picture.

I loved Ferius Parfax. She’s a non-stereotypical female, (straight-talking, smoke-blowing, free-thinking,) but she also has a story. We only start to understand this at the end of the story. With five more novels due in the series, I hope we will learn more about Ferius’s history. Ferius was not the only interesting female character. There’s Nephenia, who puts up with male prejudice to earn her name as a mage, and Kellan’s sister Shalla, the most powerful of all the initiates. Shalla is treated as a kind of substitute-son by her parents. With Kellan’s magic weakened, their hope is placed in Shalla’s strength. Will Shalla reject Kellan, as their father rejected his Sha’Tep brother? Shalla is a character to watch.

The other fascinating character is the Dowager Magus, wife of the late Clan Prince. If Ferius teaches Kellan to look for the answers, the Dowager Magus challenges him to ask the relevant questions. Her character forms a sub-plot, the final scene of which is beautiful.

The world is fascinating. We learn about the different societies mainly in relation to the Jan’Tep, and the Oases which is the source of Jan’Tep magic, but there is enough detail to give us a clear picture of the difference between the societies, and to whet our appetite for the coming novels. I love the fact the history of relations between the different societies was used to inform us about each society’s present condition. De Castell has a clear sense of how a society is not ‘static’ – there is so much more beneath the surface of the present day.

If I used a star rating system, I would give Spellslinger five of the shiniest stars. Fantasy is my comfort zone, as is YA fiction with themes of political injustice, but Spellslinger said something about that theme which I have not heard before, and the story is a real page turner. Each character is on their own journey, and the relations between the characters change with new revelations. It is also beautifully written – De Castell writes the kind of sentence you say out loud to savour, and makes great use of telling description.

Don’t be put off by the fact this is the first in a large series. The adventure may start here, but as a stand-alone, the novel has a satisfying resolution. True magic.

 

I won my copy in a  Readers First draw. This does not affect the honesty of my review. Many thanks to Readers First and Hot Key Books for my copy.

 

Hot Key Books

Page Count: 396