Monday 14 October 2013

Moirai, by Ruth Silver - review and excerpt

Moirai (Aberrant #2), by Ruth Silver

Olivia has been on the run from the government of Cabal since the marriage ceremony. Finally settling in and finding herself a place to call home in Shadow, Olivia and Joshua prepare for the uprising that they and the rebel alliance have been planning for months.
With new abilities and special talents from Mindonsiphan, Olivia learns she can do more than most ordinary eighteen-year-olds. Learning both to hide and perfect her skills will be one of the biggest challenges she’ll be forced to face.
A constant rollercoaster of emotion and adventure await Olivia and Joshua as they embark on a journey to the rebel city of Torv, and what was once home, Genesis.

The much-awaited sequel to Aberrant is finally out, and it's definitely worth the wait. Olivia and Joshua now have special powers and are taking on more and more responsibilities. As you can see in the excerpt below, there are children, bloody corpses, and general rebellion.
I heard it first: the loud high-pitched scream of a child. It was Adelaide. No doubt in my mind. I took off running in the direction of the sound, west. Her screams didn't diminish in the slightest. “Adelaide!” I called, hearing the ear-piecing scream of a child. She sounded afraid. My heart pounded and my nerves wrestled with me. There was nothing I had to be frightened of. Adelaide was okay, she was screaming, right? That had to be a good sign?
“Olivia!” Her voice answered me with another shrill scream as I tore through tall grasses, running towards the stream where I'd been just before our last council meeting. I could hear Collins lag behind me, trailing in my footsteps. He wasn't far but he wasn't as fast either.
“I'm coming,” I answered, my knees lifting higher as I stopped dead in my tracks, finding a bloody corpse. I glanced up, seeing Adelaide bent over the body, her clothes covered in blood. Her cheeks flushed and eyes filled with tears.
“He's dead!” She wailed as I bent down to pick her up, trying my best to shield her from what she'd seen, though I knew it was too late.
I could hear Collins’ muttered curse as he finally caught up, seeing the disfigured corpse. “This isn't good,” he rasped, glancing from me to the little girl. “Take her home, get her cleaned up. We're having an emergency meeting this afternoon,” he announced. “There's an outlaw near Shadow.”
 The pace of the action was no slower in this book, meaning I enjoyed it just as much as the first. I still have to say I enjoyed Aberrant more, probably because there was slightly more danger and a faster pace, but that's the only bad thing I can say about it.

I was a little confused by the title, until it was cleared up in the book; they appear in Greek mythology, more commonly known as the Fates, and each three of them allocated a part in each person's life.

A lot of issues that came up (i.e. Olivia's parents) were addressed in Moirai, which made it flow really naturally from its predecessor, and made me invest even more in Olivia and Josh's characters.

A brilliant read - if you loved Aberrant, you'll like this!

Friday 13 September 2013

Everything Roald Dahl: an A-Z


Take a look at the Puffin website or the Roald Dahl Day activity pack for loads of Dahl-themed things to make and do. Try the one to the left, for example!


The BFG was published in 1982, and is a story about a 24 foot 'big friendly giant' who visits in the night to spread good dreams. However, he is 'puddlenuts' (short) in comparison to the other giants, who like to eat people!

The people-eating giants' names were: Fleshlumpeater, Bonecruncher, Manhugger, Childchewer, Meatdripper, Gizzardgulper, Maidmasher, Bloodbottler and Butcher Boy. Ooh err! According to these giants, people taste like the area they come from. Nobody likes eating Greek people as they taste greasy, but if they want something fishy, they'll go to Wales. I wonder what English people taste of?!

The story is about a little girl called Sophie and her adventure with the BFG. Sophie is based on Roald's granddaughter, Sophie, who we know as the model Sophie Dahl. The queen in the story is the UK's Queen Elizabeth II!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This is arguably one of Dahl's most popular books. It was written in 1964 and inspired by Dahl's schoolday experiences, when Cadbury would often send test packages to schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions.

In the early drafts, there were originally seven children instead of five, and it was called Charlie's Chocolate Boy. 

As of today, there have been two films, a Radio 4 adaptation, a themed attraction at Alton Towers, and, as of May 2013, a musical adaptation. Roald Dahl hated the 1971 version of the film, thinking it put too much emphasis on Wonka as opposed to Charlie. He therefore blocked permission for any more films to be made in his lifetime. 

The idea I loved the most about this book was lickable wallpaper, although thinking about it now it would be really gross to lick something someone else had already tried. What sparked your imagination the most?

Dahlicious Mischief and Mayhem

It's Roald Dahl's birthday today, and if he was still alive, he'd have been 97. In memoriam, it's 'Roald Dahl Day', and as this site points out, it's Friday the 13th this year, which means even more mischief and mayhem! The website includes party packs, and the option to come in fancy dress to the Roald Dahl Museum on Sunday.

Esio Trot

A cute love story centring around the title (read it backwards!). 

According to this website, this is being made into a film for the BBC (with filming having started this summer), and it'll star Dame Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman. How cool does that sound?!

Fantastic Mr Fox

Published in 1970, this story features a clever fox trying to find a way to feed his family by stealing from the nearby farms, despite the farmers' efforts to stop him. Boggis, Bunce and Bean don't quite succeed though!

In 2009, this was made into a film starring George Clooney.

George's Marvellous Medicine

This one's my favourite, and I already reviewed it a little while back. Published in 1981. George lives with his really nasty old grandma. It's his job to give her her medicine at 11am - prompt! One day, however, he decides to make his own version, using things he found around the house. The results are hilarious!

Some ingredients include 'Nevermore Ponking' deodorant spray, toothpaste, lipstick, antifreeze and a quart of dark brown gloss paint. Yum!

Miss Honey

Miss Jennifer Honey appears in Matilda as the namesake's teacher and only kind adult. After the death of Jenny's father at the age of five, she was taken in by her cruel aunt, Agatha Trunchbull. She later adopts Matilda after her parents go on the run.

Fun fact: Miss Honey's Liccy doll is named after Roald Dahl's wife, Liccy (short for Felicity). It's also a play on words - Liccy Dahl/Liccy doll.

I didn't know that!

Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for the Bond movie You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and can be credited with inventing the child catcher.

He wasn't just a children's writer. He wrote short stories for magazines such as Playboy, and apparently only started writing children's books when he ran out of ideas for adult ones.

He was an agent of MI6 during the war, sent to spy on the US.

He co-invented the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, which allows fluid to be drained from a child's brain, after his son Theo's bad car accident led to him developing hydrocephalus.

James and the Giant Peach

Published in 1961. I remember this one more as a film (which had Joanna Lumley in it) than a book - I know, blasphemy! - but it's still got Dahl's vivid imagination written all over it.

Originally titled James and the Giant Cherry, the story involves a boy called James escaping his wicked aunts Spiker and Sponge on a magically-grown peach the size of a house. He has six magically-grown friends, and together they manage to get to New York. Due to its dark content and occasionally scary themes, this is a book that has been regularly censored.


Roald and his first wife Patricia had five children - Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy. Sadly, Olivia died at the age of seven after a bout of measles developed into inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and Theo was also left brain-damaged after a New York taxi smashed into his pram when he was a baby.

I love this quote - any talk of bones creaking and bedtime stories reminds me of my grandpa! Ophelia Dahl said: "Every evening after my sister Lucy and I had gone to bed, my father would walk slowly up the stairs, his bones creaking louder than the staircase, to tell us a story. I can  see him now, leaning against the wall of our bedroom with his hands in his pockets looking into the distance, reaching into his imagination."


Co-creator of the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, as mentioned above.

Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity - Set up by Liccy Dahl in 1991 after Roald's death, this charity helps children with haematological and neurological problems. These were the issues that affected Roald the most - two of his children had neurological (brain) issues, and he died from a blood disorder (haematology).

And, of course, 65 children's books!


Published in the year I was born - 1988! Matilda's a really clever girl in a family that doesn't prize intelligence. The story's about her telekinetic powers, which she uses to help the only adult she has a bond with, Miss Honey. 

I'd be very surprised if you hadn't heard of/seen the film, and there's also a theatre show now too!

"So Matilda's strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone."


Roald Dahl was part Norwegian. Although he was born in Llandaff, Wales, his parents were both Norwegian. He was named after the national hero Roald Admunsen; the first person to reach both the North and South poles.

Oh, what a wife!

Dahl's first wife was an actress (who later won an Oscar) called Patricia Neal. They had five children together, and divided their time between England and America. They divorced after he admitted to having an affair with one of her good friends.

After Roald and Patricia divorced, Dahl married Felicity 'Liccy' Crosland in 1983. According to, Patricia and Liccy are now friends and there is a large extended family between the two marriages.


A bit of a tenuous link to 'P' maybe, but Roald Dahl did write The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, which I remember reading in the hospital waiting room a few times as a child! Published (I think) in 1985, the story involves Billy, a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey, who help catch a cat burglar.

Quentin Blake

I've already written about Quentin Blake before - here. When people think of Roald Dahl's books, most associate them with Blake's illustrations. His drawings are even used on the official Dahl website.

Revolting Recipes

An awesome book full of the recipes we'd love to try, and in some cases, maybe not so much. I bought it to see how the magnificent chocolate cake in Matilda was made! Some of them look really fun for the kids to try too. Also though, the picture shows how to make the enormous crocodile - another of Dahl's books.

Service during WW2

Dahl was 23 when war broke out, and he signed up with the RAF as a pilot officer. He wrote a book, Going Solo, in which he talks about what happened during his service. He was transferred to Washington as an air attaché in 1942, where he met a writer that led him to his new career.

The Twits

Published in 1980. Dahl hated beards, and The Twits was a funny book that made fun of them. Mr Twit's beard covers the whole lower part of his face (apart from his nose, obviously), and he often gets scraps of food stuck - a generally filthy man. Mrs Twit used to be pretty, but she had too many horrible thoughts, which made her ugly. They're generally a really nasty couple, but they get their comeuppance.

Uniformed listeners

OK, another tenuous link, but Roald Dahl books are really popular school story-time books (at least in the UK!). I remember being read Fantastic Mr Fox and George's Marvellous Medicine, as well as being in the teacher's chair and reading The Enormous Crocodile myself. I'm sure once my nieces and nephews reach the right age, it'll be read to them, too! I remember loving them, and also seeing the reaction from the children sitting on the floor - having books that accessible is what makes me sure that Roald Dahl is the most loved children's book author.

Veruca Salt

Veruca appears in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I mention it because it's so unusual. Mind you, in one of his drafts, Roald Dahl had thought about writing Mike Teavee in as 'Herpes Trout'. Oompa Loompas were also known as 'Whipple-Scrumpets'.

The Witches

Published in 1983, The Witches always made me watch out for women wearing gloves and scratching their heads when I was a child! It's another book that has been censored a lot, although I never found it that scary. Witches look like normal people, which makes them dangerous, but there are signs to watch out for, as a boy is warned by his grandmother. On a family holiday he ends up bumping into the grand high witch, who has a wicked plan...uh oh! There's a film based on this book, with Anjelica Huston starring as the grand high witch.

EXperimenting with words

Roald Dahl is renowned for the number of made-up words in his books. There are some absolutely brilliant ones that roll off the tongue and make the book a lot more fun to read aloud. For example, the BFG eats snozzcumbers and drinks frobscottle. His farts are called whizzpoppers! You can read more here about some of the notes Dahl made in creating these. My favourite of his words is 'scrumdiddlyumptious' - what's yours?

Young lad

Roald Dahl was born on the 13th September 1916, the only son of a second marriage. His father and sister died when he was three, so he and his five half-siblings were raised by his mother. He got some inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while attending Llandaff Cathedral School between the ages of seven and nine. He wasn't keen on the school, but his main memories of the time were of the sweet shops, and wondering how gobstoppers change colour.

Zzzzz (Dahl's death)

Roald Dahl died on 23rd November 1990 at the age of 74, from myelo-dysplastic anaemia.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Review and excerpt: Render, by Stephanie Fleshman

Before I start on the review, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who entered my birthday giveaway. I'll definitely hold more! A winner has been chosen: Mary B. If this is you, I've emailed you!

Render, by Stephanie Fleshman

A betrayal born of blood. A curse for a gift. A love worth saving…
Seventeen-year-old Raya Whitney thought she knew Koldan – until a sudden turn of events threatens both their lives.
I was given this book free by Novel Publicity in order to take part in their Render blog tour. I am very grateful for this, but in the spirit of honesty, must confess that I didn’t really know what to make of the plot.

The story is written from the point of view of two characters: Koldan and his girlfriend, Raya, whom Koldan intends to propose to. While this isn’t usually a problem, I found that the ‘voices’ of the characters were fairly similar, so I didn’t think the technique added as much as it could have. Both seemed older than their years in their knowledge (at 17, Koldan has already been to pre-med training at Harvard) and speech; it’s only certain aspects of their behaviour that reveals them to be teenagers.

Then there’s something that is probably only my bugbear. As a couple, Koldan and Raya are very touchy-feely, and at times this overwhelmed the other feelings they were supposed to be having at different points in the book. For example, just before Koldan’s grandfather’s funeral, I didn’t get any real sense of sadness, just lust, where he wanted to keep kissing Raya. There are also hints of teenage angst in their love for each other, even when there’s no reason for there to be.

Despite what it sounds like, there were parts of this book I enjoyed. When the action got going, the pace was good and there were some parts of the plot and setting that were really original and that I wasn’t expecting. The banter between the characters (and in this I’m including Koldan’s brother, Lukas, and best friend, Ethan) was quite funny at times, too.

The moment I ‘got into’ this book was at 70%, which generally I wouldn’t count as brilliant, but I have a feeling it’s intended to set the scene for the next book/s. The background is a little complicated, and I think Stephanie Fleshman wanted to establish the background between Koldan, Raya and the others, as well as the family history, before branching into the ‘real’ action. The book gets 2.5-3 stars from me for the last third of the book that was good, although I’m not sure if I would read the second book. That’s just me though – I think those with an interest in mystery/action books who don’t mind a bit of in-yer-face romance and are always looking for something original would love it.

* * * * * * * * * *

  As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, Render, the debut YA Paranormal novel by Stephanie Fleshman, is on sale for just 99 cents! What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment - easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Get Render at its discounted price of 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of the page
  3. Visit the featured social media events
  4. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Render Tour BadgeStephanie Fleshman graduated with a degree in psychology and has family throughout the United States as well as in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece. Visit Stephanie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Render: an excerpt

I spin around and pull her to me, sighing as her arms lock around my neck. I lower my face to her hair, turning it into the curve of her neck to breathe her in.

 Her body molds to mine, lithe and boneless, and my arms swallow her as I tighten my hold. It softens all the hard points, the tension I’d been holding onto, smoothing the muscles in my shoulders and back.

 “You have great problem-solving skills, by the way,” I tell her softly in her ear.

 Keeping her arms around me, she leans back against the wall to look at me, a baffled expression on her face, whether in relation to the compliment or the unexpected direction in conversation, I don’t know.

 “Do I?” Her voice lifts in a flirtatious pitch.

 “Mmm. It’s why I asked you out,” I tease. “You solved most of my problems just by agreeing.” Looking back, I realize just how true this is, though I doubt she’ll take me seriously.

Her lips curl in an obliging smile, and her eyes say it all, disbelieving in their beauty, corroborating what I already knew. But she’s still smiling, and I alone am responsible for that.

 She curls her hand around the side of my neck, and I feel her thumb glide over the scar behind my earlobe, one I incurred at fourteen, when Lukas slammed my head into the bathroom mirror. Then I broke his collarbone. Both of us ended up in the emergency room that morning, an incident that resulted in our father leaving for work a half hour later. It’s always quieter when our father is home.

 “How are you doing?” she asks, looking up to search my eyes.

I slide my hands from the small of her back to her waist, as my gaze sweeps from shoulder to shoulder. I can already feel the ground of normalcy beneath me, her presence holding the pieces of my life together, when it seems everything can come apart at any moment. “Good now that you’re here.”

 This seems to make her both happy and sad. A look of gloom passes over her face even as a small smile touches her lips. Then her eyes trail down the front of my body, taking in my suit jacket and pants. “You look like a lawyer,” she comments. “Straight from the courtroom.”

 I can’t remember a time when she’s ever seen me in a suit. The closest is the tux I wore to her senior prom two months ago, which is not much different than what I wear now.

“It suits you.”

I raise my eyebrows in doubt. “What? Looking like a lawyer?”

“Not just a lawyer. You look…professional.” Then, with a full smile, she adds, “I like it.”

“Ah,” I say, mirroring her smile as I grasp her meaning. “I like that you’re my biggest fan.”

Her teeth shine bright against her tan skin. She drops her arms to her sides, and I lace my fingers through hers. She smells of honeysuckle, vanilla, and lavender all at once, with soft underlying notes I can’t name, a scent that swirls inside me, tantalizing every cell in my body.

I lean forward, canting my head slightly to fit my lips to hers. I have to fight to keep the rhythm slow, to savor every second. But when her mouth opens, urgency builds within me, and I press farther. Too soon, though, she’s pulling away, leaving my blood pumping in a hot stream and my heart pounding against my chest.

I place a hand on the wall behind her and lean forward, closing the narrow space she’s put between us.

“I wasn’t finished,” I say.

I’m already tilting my head to kiss her again when she stops me with one word. “Wait.”

“Wait?” I mutter against her lips. I feel her palms on my chest, easing me back. It’s hard to concentrate on anything but touching her, but I slowly resign myself to the conversation that is apparently inevitable, when my only instinct is to kiss her. I straighten and meet her eyes, which does nothing to tame my thoughts.

“I got your note,” she says.

When I started mowing Mrs. Whitney’s lawn, Elizabeth gave me a key, so I could let myself in when they weren’t home. In the beginning, I would leave Raya notes on her dresser, not knowing at the time that she’d actually keep them. When she showed me every note I’d ever written her, my first instinct was to laugh, because it seemed senseless. But then I saw how impressed she was and felt empowered that I could make her so happy. She probably has a shoebox full of notes by now.

 I back her against the wall until we’re touching from hips to shoulders. Her eyes, as warm and green as summer leaves, meet mine. She’s looking at me as if I did something amazing, but just in case, I ask, “Is that all? Or is there something else you want to add, because I’d really like to kiss you right now?” Her eyes dip momentarily to my mouth.

“I was going to thank you for the note, but you distracted me.” 

“You don’t need words for that.”  

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Saturday 7 September 2013

Fear Week, by Andrew McBurnie

Fear Week, by Andrew McBurnie

It's 1962, the week of the Cuban missile crisis, and the world is threatened by nuclear war. Teenager Adrian Thorby is about to experience a week of embarrassing and comic incidents, but he's scared. He's a science-fiction fan who fears he will never live to see a futuristic world of high technology, including space travel and robots, and will never have a girlfriend.
The seven days of the novel depict a family living under the threat of nuclear war in a family that is still flattened from WW2 bombing. Despite the menace, Adrian's parents and everyone else continue with their lives as if everything is normal. This behaviour is a mystery to Adrian, who is also dealing with awkward sexual problems and with falling in love.
I was sent Fear Week by Andrew McBurnie, the author, in exchange for an honest review. The plot appealed to me as I'd never heard of, let alone read anything about the Cuban missile crisis, and I wanted a chance to learn about that and the Cold War.

The story centres around Adrian Thorby and the events that happen to him over the week of the Cuban missile crisis. His age is never mentioned, but I'd put it at around 13. The tension between America and Russia is affecting Hull in 1962, but those aren't the only things that worry Adrian that week.

Generally, when starting a book I read as little of the blurb as possible, so I was a little shocked when, on the second page, there's the line:
"He felt his willy twitching..."
Don't get me wrong, it's realistic, but I hadn't been expecting it! There was more on this subject throughout the book, and at times it was somewhat awkward, but this was probably proportionate to the embarrassment Adrian was feeling!

McBurnie created really realistic relationships between the characters, whether Adrian's family or friends. I loved the sibling rivalry, and could really relate to the sense of panic Adrian's friend Tim and he felt when they 'lost' his brother's book.

It took me a little while to get into this, but once I did, I enjoyed it. It's a creeper! McBurnie captures the little things really well - fears about the nuclear threat, and family niggles, for example. I also thought that, once it got going, the story managed to evoke the history it was representing. The casual acceptance of caning in school helped with a lot of this, haha!


Tuesday 3 September 2013

Billy and the Monster Who Loved to Fart, by David Chuka

Billy and the Monster Who Loved to Fart, by David Chuka
Published by Pen-n-a-Pad Publishing

Billy loves Monster and Monster loves Billy. They play together. They have a bath together. They even go to school together. There's just one thing that threatens to spoil their friendship.
Monster loves to fart! And everyone blames Billy for it!
Will Monster make Billy the uncoolest kid at school? Will Monster cause an irreparable hole in the O-Zone layer? Will Monster and Billy both learn to behave properly in a social environment?
I was aunty babysitter again the other night, and managed to get Caitlin and Lewis to bed fairly easily by taking them up to read a story. While the pictures on my Kindle Paperwhite aren't the  best, I was reading out the titles of books I could read to them, and as soon as they heard the word 'fart', that was it, book chosen.

It was a great choice, because all three of us were in fits of laughter. Things like "rumbles in my tummy [felt like] bubbles doing a salsa dance" were really easy to engage the kids with, as I'd tickle their tummy, and they understand all the words really well.

When we got to farts sounding like "a rocket launching into outer space" and that "started real low but ended real high". Bearing in mind that I was doing all the sounds, we all had tears in our eyes and their parents (who hadn't quite left yet) were laughing just hearing us!

If you've got a child or children who love to hear about farts (which I imagine is most children, haha!), I'd recommend this book 100%. Many thanks to David Chuka for sending me this book and the others in his collection, although please note that this has not affected my review, which is completely honest.

Also, don't forget about my giveaway, which is still running!

Thursday 29 August 2013

It's my birthday!

It's my 25th birthday today, and to celebrate, I thought I'd hold my first giveaway! I'm offering two books - one of them a children's/YA book of your choice up to £15 (or the equivalent if you live abroad), and for the other, you can choose one of any of the books I've reviewed on this blog. I've put a widget below so you should be able to click a picture to see what Goodreads says; alternatively you can look at my 'What I've reviewed' page for a link to my reviews. A few books in the widget may not be in my review list yet because I won't be posting them until halfway through the giveaway.

I'm running the giveaway through Rafflecopter, and the winner will be picked at random. It'll run from today until the 12th September, and I'll announce the winner as soon as I can, although definitely within 2 days.

Thanks guys, and happy entering!

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Monday 26 August 2013

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent #2), by Veronica Roth
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and unrest surges in the factions all around her. Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
This is the second book in the Divergent series, and the action was as thick and fast as the first. Its fast pace and some unexpected twists have left me really frustrated that the next book isn't out until October. Having finished Insurgent, I sounded like Verruca Salt when talking about Allegiant - "I want it now!" I recently read one of Veronica Roth's tweets that said it'll be from both Tris and Tobias's points of view - intriguing!

Anyway, going back to Insurgent, I loved that as a reader I got to peek into the lives of the other factions, and the factionless. Candor's truth serum and Amity's happy drugs were really interesting, and totally believable in the dystopia it's set in. Something else I could really believe in was Tris's grief and shock over who she killed in the first book. I could completely understand why she was afraid to shoot a gun, and it added human vulnerabilities that can sometimes be lacking in female protagonists.

The only possible issues I had with Insurgent was that there were issues between Tris and Tobias. This is where my hypocrisy kicks in, haha! It's completely understandable that sometimes they have arguments, but sometimes I was a little frustrated by it. Roth writes the sexual tension between them really well, and I wanted more of that and less of the squabbling, haha! It's a brilliant book, and I'll definitely be reviewing the next one once it's out!

It's my birthday on Thursday, and to celebrate I'll be hosting a giveaway - a book of your choice worth up to £15 (or equivalent), plus a book of your choice that I've reviewed on this blog. Please stop by in a couple of days and enter!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Orangey the Goldfish, by Eddie Bee

Orangey the Goldfish, by Eddie Bee
Published by Fiction Entertainment

This fun children's picture book follows the story of a growing relationship between an adventurous boy Billy and his new pet goldfish named Orangey. As Billy learns how to take care of his new pet goldfish who really loves to eat, we learn Orangey is a goldfish that talks.

I bought this a while back - it was a freebie on the Kindle charts. I hadn't looked at it since then so I took a small risk when I was visiting my brother's family and the kids asked for another bedtime story (we'd just read Billy and Monster's New Neighbor has a Secret).

Orangey the Goldfish isn't a very long story at all, and for a bedtime story, probably isn't the best. It's told in speech bubbles, so I had to try and change my voice a lot so the kids didn't get confused about which character was speaking. It's very simplistic, but ends really abruptly. I don't think I'll be buying the next book, so I don't know if it picks up at the beginning of #2, but it ends with Billy leaving Orangey to have his dinner, and Orangey getting panicked about where he's gone. That's the end. Very odd.

A sweet idea, but it didn't follow through properly. Probably one for children to read themselves.

Thursday 15 August 2013

A Little Owl Called Hooty, by Diana C Vickery

A Little Owl Called Hooty, by Diana C Vickery
Published by Swankypants Books Ltd

When Hooty's brothers and sisters are big enough to leave the nest, little Hooty stays behind. He has a BIG problem: he is afraid of heights! Can Swankypants and Chatterbox find him the help he needs?
This cute little book was given to me by someone I work with - his mum is the author. Hooty is part of the Magical Journeys of Swankypants range, which follows a cat called - believe it or not - Swankypants in several adventures.

It's a really nicely illustrated story about a small owl who is scared of heights and can't quite find the courage to fly and catch his food. It has a rhyming scheme that helps the story bounce along well and is easy to read along to with the kids. I read it to Caitlin last week, and she was really engaged, particularly with the pictures. At first she wasn't sure why Hooty didn't want to fly, but got into urging him along when the big owl came along to show him how it was done! I must admit, she had a little bit of trouble with some of the words. While they were easy enough to explain (such as 'wise'), I think she'd probably enjoy it a lot more in a year or so (when she's 6).

It's definitely a book I'd read next in conjunction with the other Swankypants stories - knowing who Swankypants and Chatterbox are is really helpful, as Caitlin was always asking which cat was which. It's always the little things, haha! The series has just started hitting some big shops in America, and having looked at some of the potential illustrations on their facebook page, I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the books to come. Have a look at the pictures - Lewis would love the bark creatures (as they look like dinosaurs!), and I think the witches look awesome!

Also, I'm hoping to get an interview with Diana C Vickery, the author, soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday 11 August 2013

Weekend Walkthrough: Newes From the Dead

What was happening in 1650?
The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and still wasn't officially over by 1650. Charles I was executed in 1649, and his son, later to be Charles II, was exiled. In 1650 England therefore had no monarch, and existed as the Commonwealth of England, a republic under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. It was therefore a time of great instability and uncertainty, which is often apparent in the book.

As Mary Hooper pointed out in a note at the end of the book, a statute was passed in 1624 that effectively made an unmarried woman guilty until proven innocent. After this statute became law, it became a capital (which means punishable by death) offence for unmarried women to conceal the birth of a child. It's worth noting that it's only in the past 30 years or so that illegitimacy has become accepted/more acceptable.

According to this website, it has been argued that convictions for infanticide between 1580-1700 resulted in more executions than the witch craze of the same period. The unmarried mother needed at least one witness to prove that her child had been born dead. Even if she was able to do this, often she was still sentenced to death for the crime of concealing a child, which shows that the statute was just as much to prevent illegitimacy as to punish infanticide.

Being hanged
Hanging was a common form of execution in England, with the first hangmen records dating from the 1360s, and the last hanging being surprisingly recent, in 1955.

The picture to the left is a common hangman's scaffold. A noose would be fastened around the person's neck, and a trap door under their feet would be opened. If the noose was knotted properly, and the knot was in the right place, the person's death would be quick, as their neck would be broken by the pressure put on it during the fall. If it wasn't, death would be from suffocation, and could take a lot longer. As I've mentioned before, it could be sped up by friends/family pulling and swinging from the person's legs.

A macabre thing to note is that hangings were, most of the time, public, and many people attended, as it was a popular form of entertainment. If you think about it, it makes sense as there was likely to be little to do for fun in those times, but it's still not a nice thing to think about!

How did she survive?
As Mary Hooper mentions in the back of the book, it is likely that the knot of the hangman's noose was in the insufficient place to break Anne's neck, meaning that death would have taken longer while she suffocated. Friends hanging off her legs (as they did) would have made it slightly quicker, but it still wouldn't have been instantaneous. It was a really cold day, too, and she wasn't wearing very much, so the most likely explanation for her survival is cryogenic preservation. Sub-zero temperatures mean that the brain is frozen, and therefore can't be starved of oxygen, which is what causes death.

Given the religious fervour of the time, Anne's recovery prompted officials to grant her a pardon. It was felt that god had sent a sign of Anne's innocence, and as such would be blasphemy to sentence her to death a second time. Something that strengthened this view was the illness and death of Sir Thomas Reade a couple of days after Anne's recovery. Given that he had ensured Anne did not receive a fair trial in the first place, this was seen as a further omen of God's will.

Going off on a tangent, while instances like this were rare, it would have been similar cases (or other medical anomalies) that made it necessary for the 'saved by the bell' legend in the 17th and 18th centuries. The picture to the right is a drawing of a 'safety coffin'. The hand of the deceased was attached to a bell, so if they, by some weird chance, woke up while buried, they could ring it and be saved. This followed stories written by Edgar Allen Poe and rumours of corpses being dug back up with scratch marks on the inside of the coffin.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Newes From the Dead, by Mary Hooper

Newes From the Dead, by Mary Hooper
Published by Totally Random Books

In 1650 Anne Green, a young servant girl, gave birth prematurely to an illegitimate child. Sadly the baby died and poor Anne was falsely accused of infanticide. In front of a large crowd she was hanged and then carried to the College of Physicians to be dissected for medical science. But as Anne's corpse lay on the table and the doctors assembled, a strange rattle was heard in her throat. Could she still be alive?
First off, sorry for the lateness of this post - I meant to do it for last week, but haven't been too well, and writing was the last thing on my mind! The history post will be published tomorrow as I've been thinking that the posts get a little too long both with a review and history!

I stumbled across the blurb of this book while looking at the Totally Random Books website. It's really intriguing and, as I read around, I could see that the book is based on a true story. That was it, I had to buy it! It didn't disappoint, and I read it in a day.

While this is a YA book, it's worth pointing out that it deals with some really adult themes, which is something to consider if you're thinking of letting a teenager read it. I'll outline the main points in the next paragraph, so if you don't want any spoilers at all, skip this bit. The chapters flick between the events that led up to Anne's hanging, and what happens while she's laid on the dissecting table, apparently dead. Her downfall comes when the master's grandson promises her the world in exchange for him getting his end away, shall we say. As tends to happen, she becomes pregnant, which she manages to keep a secret until she miscarries. She has the 'audacity' to tell people who the father was, so never receives a fair trial, and is sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of her child. Her sentence is carried out, but she regains consciousness while on the dissecting table. However, she's unable to move a muscle, even to scream.

Anne is a nice girl with a promising, if humble, future, and I liked her. Even while I was willing her not to trust the father of her child, I could understand why she did what she did, and I felt really sorry for her as she lost a lot. The events of both storylines were fascinating, and in the dissection chapters I was constantly willing the doctors to notice what was going on. Although I knew they wouldn't cut into her and it was a little drawn out, some parts got quite tense, which I liked.

Being a sucker for history, I really liked the way everything was portrayed. Mary Hooper, the author, made me realise how important it was in how you were perceived in those times - if you think gossip can be bad now, it was a million times worse in 1650, when holding someone's hand, even for an innocent reason, can potentially start a deadly rumour. I thought the book brought across everything that would have happened at the time really accurately and realistically. I know the author had true events to go on, but Anne's life before her hanging was all imagined. There's a note from Hooper at the end that specifies what records say about what happened to Anne Green after her hanging, which is also really interesting. I'll definitely be checking out more of Hooper's books!

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties (Uglies Quartet #2), by Scott Westerfeld
Published by Simon & Schuster UK

Tally has finally become 'pretty'.
Her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are cool, her boyfriend is totally gorgeous, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun - the non-stop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom - is a nagging feeling that something is very wrong. Something important. And sure enough, when a message from Tally's 'ugly' past arrives, the fun stops cold. Now Tally has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life...
The effective cliffhanger of Uglies pulled me in, and I couldn't resist reading Pretties. Tally is in full-on 'pretty' mode when the book starts, and although I did have to push the annoying lingo to one side, I was hooked from the beginning.

The world of a pretty sounds very frivolous, and operations such as 'surges' are available. For instance, Tally's friend Shay gets crystals put around her irises, which are then revealed to be a backwards clock. Then there's a hole in the wall that gives people anything they want to wear - as someone who struggles to find nice clothes, that appealed to me! It's so over the top that even though I know I would probably hate it there, I couldn't help but be fascinated by all the technology - be it cosmetic or purely gadget.

This book introduces us to Zane, who becomes Tally's boyfriend. Things aren't black and white about whose side the reader is supposed to be on, so I knew things were going to be even more complicated with David when they met again (because I knew they would). Even though I liked David in Uglies, I also liked Zane in this book. Either way, the love interests don't overwhelm the plot, making it a better story.

Like in Uglies, there's nonstop action, a wicked-fast pace, and a 'bad guy' that's close enough to home and intriguing enough to warrant its own book (Specials, next in the series). I loved it. I think the two books in the series I've read so far would translate well to film - I'd be intrigued to see what they would do to (already gorgeous, no doubt) actresses; whether they 'uglied' them up in the beginning, or made them completely gorgeous. Or both, I guess!

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan
Published by Penguin

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, teenager Will Grayson crosses paths with ... Will Grayson! Two teens with the same name who run in two very different circles suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions. Culminating in epic turns-of-heart on both of their parts, they team up to produce the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high-school stage.
 I've had this on my Kindle for a while, but having seen Jo's (Once Upon a Bookcase's) great blog post on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I thought I'd leap on her coattails a little and mark the end of LGBT month. The book discusses homosexuality in a way that some teens may be able to relate to.

The story is told from the perspectives of both Will Graysons, with alternating chapters. The first is written by John Green, and Will is a somewhat awkward teen, dealing with life by deciding not to care. I loved John Green's The Fault in our Stars, and his writing voice was really clear in his version of Will Grayson. David Levithan writes the second Will. I haven't read David Levithan before, so I couldn't compare his chapters to anything else. I originally found his chapters a little disconcerting though - they were written without capital letters. The plots that unfold in his chapters about Isaac, however, were really imaginative and I found them really interesting.

The two Wills are linked by a character called Tiny, who is the first Will's best friend. His name is ironic, and he's described to be really large, in all senses of the word. He's extremely flamboyant, and is said to go through love interests really quickly. Throughout the book he organises a play called Tiny Dancer, which is performed at the end of the book. There were vulnerabilities and flaws about Tiny that made the book more realistic for me - who doesn't have a friend that forgets about you a bit when they have a new love?! Even though he's portrayed as totally over the top, he's still likeable.

It was a really interesting plot, and the two writers worked really well together. I think Will Grayson, Will Grayson managed to mix the obviously fictional/over-the-top with the subtly realistic, the effect of which I really liked. There was only one thing I wasn't a fan of, though, which was how the second Will Grayson describes Tiny when he's supposed to 'like' him. To be honest, it's probably just me being a little too sensitive about weight issues, but likening your boyfriend to the size of a state of America is not something I appreciated, even if it is supposed to be true. The second Will isn't the nicest of characters, which is why I don't rate it higher.

Monday 22 July 2013

Nosy Crow

I haven't mentioned it yet, but not long after getting back from holiday, I joined the Nosy Crow Crew! Nosy Crow is a really creative children's publisher, and I love what I've read of them so far. My reviews of their stuff will always be completely honest, but it just means I'll be talking a bit more about any of their books/apps that I love the look of or have read.

Little Red Riding Hood, app

As you may have guessed, this app tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood; the difference is, though, that it can be tailored to your child's reading needs. The app can read all the writing to them, or they have the option to read it themselves, with an option for how long the text stays on the page: slow, medium or fast. Once you've ticked your option, the story begins. The story will appear at the bottom, and you can click on the characters to see what they say. Quite often they'll set you a task - the first one is for Red/the player to pack the basket she'll be taking to her grandma's. You then press the arrow to move on. This is brilliant and kept Caitlin engaged, although one thing I will say is that it's not all that quick to load the activity, so sometimes I'd press the arrow to move on and end up skipping the activity. It's easy to go back though.

There's then a map you can go onto to select the route Red should take to get to grandma's. Again, it took a small amount of time to figure out I had to use the map (as otherwise Red just walks, with nothing happening). As you can see from the picture, there are a series of pictures you can click on to walk through on your route. Two items found from your journey will be used in Red's subsequent fight with the wolf. I thought this was an excellent idea, and Caitlin loved doing things like picking up all the daisies to put into the basket.

Everything's voiced by children (even the adults), which I'm not sure Caitlin noticed but probably made it more appealing. The whole app is a brilliant way to tell the story, not only for children, but for adults too. When I first bought it, I spent ages going through all the possible scenarios and finding out just what I could do. It's also one of Caitlin's favourites, and I'm looking forward to showing her the (award-winning!) Nosy Crow Cinderella app I bought recently.

I'd highly recommend Little Red Riding Hood, although a some supervision is probably needed at the beginning to make sure the child doesn't miss anything.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Published by Katherine Tegen Books

She turns to face the future in a world that's falling apart.
For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead...
Wow. Wow. Just, wow. That was brilliant. I've read many blog posts that say how good Divergent is, but it's still taken me this long to read it. I've just finished it, and the effect is like any of the greatest books: I feel as though I've been taken on the biggest, fastest rollercoaster, then been dragged through a hedge backwards, and I've got the biggest grin on my face. There'll be quite some book hangover tomorrow.

At the age of sixteen, every teenager must choose a faction in which to live the rest of their lives. Tris (or Beatrice) can choose to stay with her family in Abnegation, which values selflessness above all else, or choose one of the other four and go it alone. However, where for most teenagers it's a simple choice, Tris thinks differently to other people, and this makes her life dangerous. She's divergent.

I found Tris to be a really relatable character. Strong as hell, obviously - which YA protagonist isn't, nowadays?! Plus, while it was obvious to see who was good and who was bad, there were flaws even in the good characters that made the relationships really realistic. I must admit, it took me a while to see the appeal of Dauntless, a faction that values bravery, but there's so much action, and I was rooting for Tris the whole way.

Plus, if anyone regularly reads my blog, they'll know I hate all sorts of insta-love and romance in YA in general. BUT... The relationship between Tris and Four was really well written, with a lot of build up. Some of Tris's fears about it are also shown, which again made everything so much more realistic.

Everything that happened in the book was so vivid, I can easily imagine what the film will be like when it comes out next year. Tris is being played by Shailene Woodley, who is also going to be playing Hazel in The Fault in our Stars, so the actress has a lot to live up to! Four is being played by Theo James, and while he wasn't what I was expecting, phwoar! 'Nuff said.

Read the book. Read it. Go on! As for me, I'll be buying Insurgent as soon as I press the publish button.