Friday, 30 April 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Dear Blog,
I thought I might participate in the Book Blogger Hop this week.  I've never participated but it looks like fun and a good way to discover cool blogs I wouldn't have come across otherwise. 
It's hosted over at Crazy for Books.  *reccomends all those who haven't to join*.

So, well, I'm supposed to make a post telling you that if you followed my link from the Mr. Linky, you've come to the right place, etc. etc.  So here I am *waves*.
*goes off to read new blogs*

Foreign Language Friday: The Princess and the Captain

Dear Blog,
I thought it might be fun to do a feature every Friday about, well, books originally published in other languages to my native one, i.e English.  So, well, here goes.  Every Friday I'll talk about non-English language books, authors and poets.
I'll start with one of my favourite books ever, The Princess and the Captain by Anne-Laure Bondoux.

First published in: France
Original title: La Princetta et la Capitaine
Translated by: Anthea Bell.  She translates everything!  I can't think of a novel in German or French that she hasn't translated. 

Summary (from Malva is the princess of Galnicia, destined to marry the Prince of Andemark. Or so her parents think. On the eve of her wedding, she escapes at dead of night from under her parents' noses, little realising that she is letting herself in for a life of peril and adventure, including being shipwrecked in a huge storm and captured as part of a harem. Hugely visual, the book tells of the wonder of frozen steppes and oriental palaces, of sailing ships and treasure islands. This is a book of drama, magic and excitement, where challenges have to be overcome, friendships cemented and hearts broken.

Review: I want to say soooooo much about this book.  But I need to review it in a calm, book-bloggery sort of way and not in an Oh my God this is the best book ever amazing amazing amazing *screams like a tween JLS fangirl* sort of way, which is what I'd like to do.  I need to explain why I love it so much.
First things first: well, is there a first things first?  Until I get my brain in order, which is too busy reeling at its amazingness even though I've read it three times in three years, I'll say, um...the cover is nice. 

The plot itself is perfect in every way.  People on writing courses should study this book.  It has a beginning, a middle and an ending, it's perfectly paced, the translation is excellent, and it's always, always exciting. It's one of those books that gets slightly damp pages because your palms are sweating so much.  You grip it so tightly you think the spine will make a weird cracking noise and break slightly. 
My friend Sophie's copy got slightly mauled by her dog.  He probably loved it so much he decided to eat it.  It's certainly wonderful enough to eat.  But alas she didn't actually get much of a chance to read it because her dog ripped it apart.  Too bad. 

The characters too are wonderful.  Malva herself is a fiesty, brave heroine you always find yourself rooting for.  Orpheus is the first character in a book I probably had a slight crush on.  Hob and Peppe are the comedy duo of the group, but their fates are equally heart-rending (the characters drop like flies in part two of the book, "Wandering").    And the Archont?  He is wonderfully evil.  You can almost hear his evil "bwahahahahaha!" laughter as he appears on the page.  If it was adapted into a pantomime, the audience would yell, "BOO!" and hiss every time he came onto the stage.  If it was a play in Shakespearean times, which this book would be good for because of  its sheer epic-ness, no doubt the audience would throw cabbage and eggs at him.  Yes, yes, he is a wonderful villain.

The only thing that annoys me about this book is the ending .  WHY, GOD, WHY???  I won't say anything else because I want the reader to read the book .  Even if it means that they end up screaming and throwing the book against the wall..  Most of the reviews on Goodreads knock two or three stars off for the ending.  They knock aforementioned two or three stars off because, well, it's so heartbreaking.  It's exactly what you don't want to happen to Malva for her to find true happiness.  But, well, I guess it stops the ending being too fairy-tale ish and perfect.  But, still.   *mourns it anyway*. 

Summary: well, how can I summarise?  In three words: (in my opinion) Best Book Ever. It is an epic novel full of wonderfullness on every single page. 
Rating: 5.
Next Friday: Tell Me What You See  by Zoran Drvenkar

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Review: The Fall

Dear Blog,
this will be a very short review, because my mother keeps nagging me to finish a hat I'm knitting.  I don't think she realises that knitting is supposed to be fun.    Oh well, that's my mother for you.
So in an attempt to get out of repeatedly poking myself with double-pointed needles, dropping and losing count of stitches and misreading the pattern, I'll review The Seventh Tower: The Fall by Garth Nix.  Then I must face this stupid hat. 

I was interested in reading this because I'm a HUGE fan of the Old Kingdom Trilogy. They're probably some of the best books I've ever read. So when the Seventh Tower was released in the UK I was excited and voted for it at a book club I go to. Compared to two other books shortlisted for What We'll Read Next, The Fall won. I sat down in a quiet corner with it ready to be as wowed as I was by Sabriel.    
Alas, it was, in four words: Not The Old Kingdom. In five, Definitely Not the Old Kingdom.

This is for many reasons.  In short, compared to the wonderfully thought-up world that is the Old Kingdom, Tal's world is definitely not as mind-blowing. Tal himself seems underdeveloped and I had no reason to feel sympathetic towards him. That said, none of the characters had me rooting for them.  Are we supposed to like Milla? *shrugs*  Perhaps so, but I didn't.

It's just, well, too short.   Which is funny, really, considering the preceding sentence is: much like A Series of Unfortunate Events, the series doesn't need to be so long.  There are seven books, which could be compressed into two or three and certainly made much more interesting (but A Series of Unfortunate Events just got samey after a while).  It's too short for you to relate to the characters, for there to be a proper plot.   I can say much the same for the second book, Castle, which I've also read and I put down thinking, "Okay, so they got into the castle...apart from that, what else did they achieve?"
Nothing seems properly explained.  Why, exactly, are the Sunstones so important?  What illness is it that threatens his mother's life?  Perhaps these questions are just left unanswered so you buy the other six books. 

However.  Maybe this is all just because I've read the Old Kingdom trilogy and to me no other book by Garth Nix will ever live up to it.  I'm sure if I hadn't read them then I would have enjoyed The Fall much more than I did.  I can sort of imagine my ten-year-old self reading them and probably going "wow!", much as my own little sister does with this series. 

Summary:  Give it to any  9-13 year-old who's slightly too young for the OKT.  They can read Sabriel later and be blown away by it.  But anybody who has read it probably won't like it much. Because I fall into the latter group, I'll give it a 2.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Dear Blog,
Yay!  Today I got If I Stay by Gayle Forman!  Hoozah.  Review coming soon.  Also coming soon, a regular feature every Friday. 
I got the UK edition, but I keep comparing them in  my head:
Hmm.  I love them both!  I love them both so very much.  In terms of which is more relevant to the book, it's sort of hard to tell, but I think the UK cover it more relevant?  Probably more so than a tree.  But a stark little tree all by itself with one single bud just looks so...beautiful.  And I am a sucker for pretty covers.  *sigh*  But we need nice covers, don't we? *another sigh*.  So I'll say it's a draw.  US-1, UK-1.
I just felt like sharing my joy with the world, is all.  Hooray!  I also bought Stolen by Lucy Christopher (review coming soon).  But, well, this isn't In My Mailbox so I better go.  I got Laputa: Castle in the Sky off and I better go and watch it.  
*goes to watch film*

Sunday, 25 April 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

Dear Blog,
the weekly meme that is is IMM returns to my blog.  It's hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.
Since I slightly bought/borrowed slightly too many books this week, I didn't get much. 
nothing again.  How ironic. *wishes publishing companies would discover my blog*

Nothing.  Saving up for Stolen by Lucy Christopher and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.  Being a lowly teenager, I am somewhat poor at the moment and lack sufficient book money.

Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones (you can see my review here. )
Canada, published by Lonely Planet.  I know it's not fiction, but I still borrowed it, didn't I? As part of my quest to find out as much as I can about Canada.

  Well, that was my quiet week.   What did you get (I hope it was more than me)? 

Friday, 23 April 2010

Review: Stop Pretending

Dear Blog,
It's late I feel like I should say something, no matter how much, about Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones .  Sorry this entry's so small.  But a blogger needs her sleep and I shall have to go and get some of it soon. 

Summary (from Goodreads): It happens just like that, in the blink of an eye. An older sister has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. A younger sister is left behind to cope with a family torn apart by grief and friends who turn their backs on her. But worst of all is the loss of her big sister, her confidante, her best friend, who has gone someplace no one can reach.

In the tradition of The Bell Jar, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and Lisa, Bright and Dark comes this haunting first book told in poems, and based on the true story of the author's life.

Review: I love blank verse novels.  Maybe because I love blank verse. The added bonus of a plot is, well, fantastic!  I spend hours searching Goodreads for good YA blank verse books.  My main problem with it is that normally novels in verse are annoyingly short.  I mean, just because it's poetry why should it be only 150 pages? Many poets should take a leaf (or six hundred) out of Ellen Hopkin's  YA novels in verse, which are epic.  I've never read any, but I've been meaning to read Crank  for a while. (On the author's website there's a list of other YA verse novels.   But I think it works well that Stop Pretending is so short.  The language is spare and intense, and the words sit in a solitary way by themselves on the page.

The story itself is thought-provoking, and I imagine the theme of mental illness would spark much discussion at a book club. I like that it's told from the point of view of a relative and not the person themself (e.g, A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma, which is). A relative is close enough for their whole world to be shaken up, and a friend (e.g Life, Love and More Good Sense by Amber  Deckers) isn't  It's a tricky subject but Sonya Sones writes it well, maybe because Stop Pretending is semi-autobiographical and her own sister had a nervous breakdown.

And what do I make of the main character herself?
I both feel like I was right over her shoulder, nay, I was her, but on the other hand I barely knew her at all.  I didn't even know her name.   I feel like I should have at least found out that much.   Although the reader sees right into her world, the mysterious narrator seems to keep us (meaning, the readers) at a distance and seems drawn inside herself. That took some getting used to, and it made it quite hard to relate to her, but thinking about it I suppose it was quite   effective.

Summary:  Short, deep and ultimately hopeful.  I shall most likely read some of her other books.  Who wouldn't want to read a book called One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies?!
Rating: 4

Review: Elsewhere

Dear Blog,

It's been a couple of days since I did a review.  Oops. Well, I'm back with a review of Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, which I've literally just finished.  It's a reasonably short review, but is there such a thing as reviewer's block?  If there is, I think I may have it.

Summary (from the blurb): When Liz is killed in a hit-and-run accidente her "life" takes a very unexpected turn.  At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, new relationships are formed and old ones, which had been sadly interupted, are renewed. 

Review: First things first- it is true that "books narrated from beyond the grave are fast losing their novelty", in a quote from the Sunday Telegraph.  But, well, this isn't narrated directly from beyond the grave.  It's told in a spare, simplistic third-person present tense that reminds me a little of Exodus by Julie Bertagna.  Elsewhere is a sort of  Lovely Bones meets Benjamin Button novel.    Because in the afterlife you can't exactly grow old and die, you get younger and younger until you're seven days old, when you're sent downriver and back to Earth to be born again.  It's a wonderful idea.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Liz.  By half-way into the book I wanted to yell, "you're dead, get over it!" (I just re-read that and realised how hilarious that sounded) But I don't know how I would react if that happened to me.  Who knows, I could be as whiny and depressed as she was.  I do hope not.   Anyway, the third-person-present-tense narration didn't really seem to get inside her head, as if it truly was being told by somebody watching from a distance.  It didn't really explore her -or any of the characters, really-in depth. 

The other trouble with this book is that after a while Elsewhere (the place I mean) sort of loses its novelty.  The beginning of this book was good, and the last 50 pages or so were good as well (when the plot really picked up).  But there was a big space in the middle of the book where there was nought but...words.  And they weren't very exciting words, either.  Because Elsewhere is so like Earth, apart from the one obvious difference (one is reality and one is the afterlife), it sort of loses its, "wow!  This is the afterlife!" feel. And when Liz (eventually) gets used to it, nothing happens until the end.  BUT it's well worth reading to the end because your efforts shall be rewarded and ultimately you shall be a better person for reading it.  It's one of those books you finish a little wiser than when you started. 

Summary:  I would probably read Zevin's other book, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.  If only because I'm drawn in by the plot.  It was an original idea and worth the read, but don't expect it to be as fantastic as the two pages of critical acclaim would lead you to believe. 
Rating: 3.25

Monday, 19 April 2010

Review: a Swift Pure Cry

Dear Blog,
*sits down on chair*
Now then. A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd.

Summary (from the inside flap): For 15-year-old Shell Talent, life has been hard since the death of her mam. Her dad has given up work and turned his back on reality, leaving Shell to care for her younger brother and sister. She’s bored of church and regularly skips school. With her friends Bridie and Declan, she shares cigarettes and irreverent jokes.
But when Father Rose, a new young priest, arrives in her small Irish community, something mysteriously shifts. Mam’s spirit seems to return to earth, a kindly ghost. Shell tries on the old pink satin dress hidden in the back of Dad’s wardrobe-to strange, disturbing effect.
Soon Shell finds herself in the centre of an escalating scandal that rocks Coolbar to its foundations and has repercussions across the country. All her courage and strength is needed to face the ordeal, in this magnificent and heartbreaking novel, inspired by a true story.

The blurb gives away very little about what happens later on in the book. It just sort of paints the picture-her mother is dead, her obsessively religious father has left work and given up everything, and she's left to take care of her younger siblings. It doesn't reveal that her "friend" Declan takes advantage of her and she ends up pregnant.  I can't say anything else because it will spoil a truly brilliant book.

Review: On the front of the edition I read, it says, “Sometimes a classic comes out of the blue.” I have two things to say about this-
a classic It annoys me when critics call books “modern classics” or say, “people will read this for years to come.” I mean, there are several modern YA classics- Junk, Forever, Out of the Dust, How I Live Now, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Book Thief, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time…the list goes on. But it’s hard to tell really if something will be a classic. Will these books still be around in 50, even 20 years?
So I was wondering if A Swift Pure Cry really joins such books on the shelf. I think, well, it kind of does. In a quiet sort of way. It sits on the shelf and people pick it up and read the blurb and either buy it or think about it and buy it later or whatever. But it has a place on every Waterstones and Smiths’ shelf, and finds a way into your life. Whether you’ve read it or not, if somebody mentions it, chances are you’ll say “oh, yes.” And recall seeing it on Amazon/in the library/on a bookshelf. It is everywhere.

Out of the blue Personally, if I was Siobhan Dowd (she died in 2007 but say she was still alive), I would be slightly annoyed at this-like my popular novel had just appeared from somewhere of no importance. That I was unimportant and from nowhere special. But since it’s publication Siobhan’s books Bog Child, The London Eye Mystery and Solace of the Road (the latter I’ve been wanting to read for a while) have been published, and she is not so out of the blue anymore. So you’d think.

Anyway. Apparently A Swift Pure Cry is based on a true story. It is certainly somewhat believable as something you might read in a paper.
First things first: It is a pretty heavy book dealing with pretty heavy issues. It's one of those no-hope-in-sight books that compells you to keep reading to find out if there is any.  Hope, I mean.  If they made it into a film (It would be fantastic if they did), I should hope Laura Marling's song (No) Hope in the Air would feature somewhere in the soundtrack.  I imagine soundtracks to books all the time.   Anyway, Hope in the Air practically tells the story of the book, with lines like "Our hearts are small and ever thinning/there is no hope ever of winning" but- "there's hope the air/there's hope in the water" (Though that's followed by, "but sadly not me/your last serving daughter).  Either way, it shows that despite much despair there is hope somewhere.  There's a whole, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" thing going on* For example, when Shell is giving birth and her brother and sister help in whatever way they can, is particularly touching.  Shell's pregnancy and when she gives birth reminds me a little of Melissa in Jamila Gavin's Coram Boy.  Except that Melissa was not entirely alone. 
I'm not quite sure what to make of Shell, the heroine. She seemed both strong and small and innocent and sometimes a little bit stupid- what she sees in Declan is beyond me.  And how could she **MAJOR SPOILER LOOK AWAY IF YOU'VE NOT READ IT** not realise that her baby was dead?!  **MAJOR SPOILER OVER**  But I think that balance makes a good character; nobody's perfect.  Nay, some characters annoy me with their perfect-ness, like they were made for saving the world.  Lyra from His Dark Materials  for example.  Is she really 12?  22 more like.   Anyway, Shell's innocence sometimes seemed to be more like ignorance, as the above spoiler shows. 
Anyway, when it is innocence, Shell's innocence sort of makes it more gripping when her life is collapsing around her.  And you shout, "yay!" when she finally  emerges at the other end and all is (slightly) well.

I found A Swift Pure Cry interesting at first, and then suddenly it stopped being interesting and instead got  so compelling I read the last half in one sitting, intent on unravelling the truth.  It's a beautiful story about love, loss,  life, death, corruption, and grief.  Warning: afterwards you may feel the need to read something happy. 

Reccomended for: Teens and adults with a box of tissues to hand, and free time so they can spend hours just reading.
Rating: 3.5 (would have been 4 but I took some off because of Shell). 

*my friend Emma says "when life gives you lemons, throw them back and demand Edward Cullen!" Personally I find him creepy and I would say, "throw them back and demand Yuki Sohma!" *happy sigh*  or "books!" or, "Japan!"

Sunday, 18 April 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge

Dear Blog,
The title says it all I suppose.  I think the 2010  Debut Author Challenge looks like fun and apparently I'm supposed to make a post saying that I want to take part.  I hope it's not too late for me to  participate.
The minimum amount of books you have to read in the challenge is 12.  I don't know how many I will read in total, but here are 12 to get me going:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Line by Terri Hall
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Claire De Lune by Christine Johnson
Faithful by Janet Fox
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
To Come and Go Like Magic by Katie Pickard Fawcett
The Invisible Girl by Mary Hanlon Stone
Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber
The Mark by Jen Nadol

*rushes to library to order copies*

In My Mailbox (2)

Dear Blog,
good morning.  Here I am once more participating in the weekly meme that is IMM, hosted by The Story Siren.  Again, I am new to the complex world of memes so I'm sorry if I do it wrong *laughs bitterly at self*.

none, ironically.  Heh.


The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd.  Yay for climatic disasters and the end of the world! 
The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai.  It looked sort of similar to Sally Grindley's Broken Glass, which I loved, so I'm going to give it a go.
UPDATED: 2 books I forgot to mention and am now adding upon editing the entry-
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Ties That Bind, Ties that Break by Leslie Namioka

Dear America: A Light in the Storm  by Karen Hesse
Dear Canada: An Ocean Apart by Gillian Chan
Dear Canada: With Nothing but our Courage by Karleen Bradford
 Whenever I order some more Dear Americas off the internet my family rolls their eyes and they say, "You're still getting them?" (I've been reading them since I was nine).  the answer is, YES OF COURSE! I must read them all..  I am obsessed with North American history. They keep saying, "have you not outgrown those yet?"  The answer is OF COURSE NOT.   I think you only outgrow books when you tell yourself.  I still read the Clarice Bean books, but I can't help it!  I find them as awesome now as I did when I was about seven.
And I've recently got into Dear Canada   in my unending quest for good historical fiction.  The trouble is, they are even harder to get than Dear America here in the Sceptred Isle.  *sigh*.  Oh well.  If ever I go to Canada (and America too-why, God, why does Hear My Sorrow cost over £50 to buy off Amazon?!) I am sooooo going to just load up on books that otherwise cost loads or aren't even available in England.   

 Oh well.  That's me.  What books did you get? *stares in a slightly creepy but friendly sort of way out of computer screen*

Friday, 16 April 2010

Review: Strawberry Marshmallow

Dear Blog,
I'm currently reading The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd, and I'll write a review when I've finished.  But for now I'll review (at least what I've read of) the Japanese manga series Ichigo Mashimaro, or Strawberry Marshmallow to the English-speaking world.  Personally I like calling it Ichigo Mashimaro.  It sounds better.  Anyway.
I first came across them by way of Amazon.  I thought they looked pretty similar to Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma, a.k.a the first manga I read.  And probably still my favourite (Actually, I like Ichigo just as much).  Anyway, seeing as like Azumanga Daioh  it was the seemingly ordinary (but hilarious) escapades of a group of girls, I decided to give it a go.

Author: Barasui (a nom-de-plume it seems).
Volumes so far (in English): 5
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: 13+

Summary: Volume 1 starts with sixteen-year-old high school freshman Nobue Ito (also occasionally romanised as Itou or Itoh) introducing herself and her twelve-year-old sister Chika (who, according to Nobue, "specialises in being totally generic").  She introduces Chika's friends, the energetic drama-queen Miu (age twelve also) and crybaby Matsuri (age eleven, pictured on the bottom right) In volume two they're  joined by Ana Copolla, an English girl who's lived in Japan so long she's forgotten how to speak proper English. 
 The books follow their many adventures about the extraordinary behind the everyday. Among other things they run a doctor's surgery, pretend to be Ninjas, hilariously re-tell Cinderella, go to the beach, hold a bet to see if Nobue can quit smoking, visit a bath house, etc. etc.  There's no real plot as such.

Review: first things first (lol, that seems to be my reviewing catchphrase)- it is the cutest, fluffiest, funniest, silliest manga in the history of the world.  That is exactly why I love it.  *lists other manga read* Azumanga Daioh, Yotsubato, Tori Koro...As well as other shoujo manga with more plot like Fruits Basket and Translucent, you can see a sort of similarity between them.  That's why Ichigo is right up my street.
Some people don't like it because, well, it's plotless.  That's the point!  It is a slice-of-life manga.  Unless you're in a soap opera, life has no particular plot, does it?
Another thing some people dislike is that Nobue is a chain smoker and that sets a bad example to others.  Um, excuse me, but what teenager would read it and think, "Nobue smokes. Cool.  Now I want to!"  We all know the dangers of smoking, don't we?!  And there is yang to this yin (or yin to this yang) as she never has any money because of it, and Chika comments now and again that she'll get cancer.   An unhappy review on says it was suggested for her eight-year-old daughter *tut tut tut* and, "boy am I glad I did [decide to screen it]".  As one commenter pointed out (and I agree), "just because it cute makes it for kids?"  The answer is NO.  However: if you are 13 or over and liked Tori Koro or Azumanga Daioh, you will throw these two comments aside and enjoy it.  Preferably on a dark night on a comfy chair and a mug of hot chocolate.

Ichigo was originally published in a Shonen magazine, but I think that Shojo fans will enjoy it as much as Shonen readers (Shojo-aimed at girls.  Shonen-aimed at boys). Though I imagine boys reading it if it was serialised in their magazine, I can't imagine them buying the books.  The covers, I imagine, would appeal more to girls *shrugs*.  Either way.
Since I care not about Nobue smoking and the lack of plot, my only (slight) complaint is that in the first few chapters of volume 1 some of the charachers undergo lots of changes: Chika and Miu look almost identical, and Nobue's hair is blonde and much longer.  It's strange because in the opening few pages, when Nobue is introducing herself and the girls, her hair is as it is for much of the series (short and black).  But then as the story itself begins, it switches to its long blondeness until a few chapters in.  Very strange.
My favourite of the 3 I've read* is probably volume two, when it really gets going and Ana joins the gang.  It's particularly laughable when they go to the bath house and try running a doctor's surgery.  Volume 3 isn't my favourite if only because Miu seems to hog the spotlight a bit.  I know that's because of her personality but I think Chika's total word count for volume 3 is about 50.  Oh well.  
My favourite characters are probably Ana and Nobue.  And Matsuri.  And Chika and Miu.  They're all wonderful!  Such wonderful, unique, fully-formed, three-dimensional characters.
I also love the humour; sarcastic, quick-witted and dry.  Timed perfectly to boot.  I don't know why but some of it reminds be of Chandler's one-liners in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.  It's the same style of hilarity I guess. 
Summary: read it!  read it!  Ichigo is guaranteed to make you smile.  Nay, it will make you cry with laughter.  Moe has never been so cute nor so funny.

*I'm going to order volumes 4 and 5 after ordering some more Dear America/Dear Canada books from the US.  I truly live by the Erasmus quote "when I get a little money I buy books; and if there is any left, I buy food and clothes".After buying one lot of books I start saving up for another *sigh*.  Oh well. 

Sunday, 11 April 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

Dear Blog,
my first In My Mailbox.  I'm supposed to tell you it's hosted by The Story Siren so, well, it's hosted by The Story Siren.  I can't believe that I've been blogging for about five years and I've only just discovered what memes are (memes, e.g IMM=on a certain day each week you write a post on that topic)
Ironically I didn't actually get any books "in my mailbox".  Neither did I get any "in the post", as I say.  Though they're both the same thing I got neither.  But I did get:

PhD: Phantasy Degree by Hee-Joon Son
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
Alice in Love & War by Ann Turnbull
Big Woo! by Susie Day
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

from the Prospect Hospice charity shop.  The total price for all 3 books was only about £1.50.  Dissapointingly, 2 of them were in the  20p box and had "20 PENCE" scrawled across the front.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dear America? Dear World?

Dear Blog,
I write you today on the subject that is the relaunch of the Dear America series.  I have been rummaging around in the blogosphere a little more and I came across an idea that is pure awesomeness:  Why just Dear America?  Why not Dear World?
I found two blog entries on this subject: Here  and  here.  But my blog entry about this subject may not work because, well, I live in the UK, which has it's own equivalent of Dear America, which is My Story (which I talked about in my entry Why I Dislike the My Story relaunch).  And the two blog entries talk about My Story , Dear Canada, and My Australian Story being more available to readers of Dear America (The equivalent to these in New Zealand is called My Story as well).  And the two links are about making them more available to Americans.  No matter.
I've been reading My Story and Dear America for years, and I've just started reading Dear Canada as well.  Yes, as you may have guessed I love historical fiction in diary form muchly.  
I think the whole idea: Dear World I mean, would be quite interesting. Yes, yes.  Historical journals from every corner of the Earth.  YES! YES! YES!  But I don't think that Dear World is such a good title.  Dear Canada  is translated into French as Cher Journal (Dear Diary).   That has more of a ring to it.
Anyway.  It would be a good idea, since D.A spin-offs are written in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France and Mexico as well.  It'd be various books from all such series' rolled into one, perhaps.  I know I'd buy it.
It'd be something for Scholastic to think about.
I better go.  My sister wants to use the computer *sigh*. Oh well.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Dear Blog,
I don't know if anybody else does a post where they post their favourite book covers on a regular basis.  If they do, I'M SORRY and I do not mean to steal your idea.  But I am a relative newbie to the book blogosphere and I have yet to explore it all.
Either way. I thought once a month or so I'd post my favourite book covers, why I like them, reccomend the book, share them with the world or some such things.  And of course categorize them.  Cheesy covers, blue covers, spotty covers, covers with models, minimalist covers, etc. etc.  I thought I'd start with some truly beautiful/pretty/gorgeous covers. 
So.  Let it begin.  But first: Presume that all these mentioned are given their UK covers.  Because I live there, they're generally (and slightly obviously) the covers I get.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen-and anything else by Sarah Dessen.  I love her covers just because of, well, their sort of simplicity at a first look, but when you look closer, you see they're bursting with stuff that relates to the book.  And more often than not the books are just as wonderful.  Though the formula is sort of similar in all her books (girl+boy+life changing summer=pretty much anything by Miss Dessen (except Dreamland, in which case it's girl+boy+abusive relationship), it's good fun.  It's nice to read a romance novel without vampires and creepy things lurking round every corner (I'll rant about urban fantasy later).  This is the first of her books I read and I loved it.  I read it in about two days.
River Secrets by Shannon Hale- again I mean pretty much anything in the Books of Bayern series (anyone know how many books are going to come out?).   This is the one I'm reading right now (and I'll do a review of later), but also the only one I could get a good picture of.  But no image on a blog does this justice.  The Books of Bayern covers are undoubtedly my favourite covers of any book.  They're so wonderful you want to put off reading them and just keep them in pristine condition.  It's been over 2 years since I read Enna Burning. but for one of those aforementioned 2 years I was travelling Europe so I guess it didn't count.  Anyway. 
The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett-They say you should never judge a book by it's cover.  Alas, despite my best intentions more often than not that's what I do.  But what are covers there for?  To pull us in and make us interested.  Exactly.  The publishers are just begging you to judge their book covers.  Well, this is the one book in today's list that you should not judge by its cover.  Despite the beautiful covers and illustrations inside, the story itself isn't good.  At all.  I suppose my main problem with it is the main character, Maddy.  She travels the world for the first five pages and then pines after Feather for the next 200 odd.
Cyrano by Geraline McCaughrean- is based on the famous French play.  I prefer to say "based on" than "adaptation" because more often than not adaptations are lame versions for kids, like a yummy freshly squeezed orange juice diluted with too much water.   I'm familiar with two covers for this, and both are equally wonderful.  This is one of them *points to shown cover*.  And the book is truly worthy of it.  Despite the short-ness, Cyrano  will make you laugh, cry, and reccomend it to everyone you know.  In that order. I've been meaning to read the play for a while, but in truth, it's one thing to read the script and another to see actors performing it in front of you.
The Declaration by Gemma Malley=a truly amazing dystopic novel.  The cover does it justice.  It has a certain stark beauty about it.  I would ramble for ages about it, but my little sister wants to use the computer now.  Alas.  I better go then.  All for now.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Review: Gone

Dear Blog,
Today's review is for Gone by Michael Grant.  I've spent  many many late nights reading it.

Summary (from Goodreads): In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...

Review: First things first: I much prefer the UK cover (the one I've posted), to the US one. I generally prefer UK covers. Not just because I live there, but because often I just think they're better, is all.
Second things second: Take seriously the 12+ rating and WARNING: CONTAINS SCENES OF VIOLENCE AND CRUELTY sticker on the back (again don't know if that's on the US cover).  Either way, do not misinterpret it.  It's the most graphic book I've read in ages.  Even Persepolis isn't that graphic, and that's a graphic novel about growing up during the Iranian Revolution.  If  they make it into a film (which it would be the purest awesome if they did), I should expect to recreate the true horror of the book,it would have to be a 15.  I certainly think the age rating on the back ought to be 14+.  Some parts of it are very gruesome, very graphic, very creepy and very, very disturbing.
I can't remember which newspaper said that if Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, then Gone would be it.  I've read Lord of the Flies and I also read that part of The Green Mile where Edward Delacroix's execution goes wrong and he's fried like an egg.  I wish I hadn't.  Oh well, I was 11 and curious about the dark world of horror fiction.  What more can I say?  Either way, that quote completely nailed it and that's how I would describe it to somebody who asked what it was about. 
Although it's so gripping you would want to stay up all night reading, I'd suggest you don't.  Last night I was reading it and I kept looking around my bedroom to check everything was in its right place.  Perhaps it's just me being a wuss because despite my slightly creepy love for end-of-the-world apocalypse fiction, this is almost a horror novel and I read very little of that.  Or perhaps it was just the contrast between Gone and the book I read right before that, Strawberry Marshmallow (Ichigo Mashimaro) 3, a.k.a the cutest, fluffiest, silliest manga in the history of the world.

The book, for all its size, is set over the point of 299 hours and 54 minutes, so there's always something going on.  It drives me round the bend when books say "weeks passed", or "months passed".  In that sense, *Gone* is brief and gets right to the point.

Most likely my only complaint is that I wish you found out more about the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone, the name the kids give to their world-without-adults). Why's it there?  How long will it be there? Is there any way out? What was giving the kids powers? (I assumed it was something to do with nuclear radiation or something but isn't really explained) Who (or what) exactly is The Darkness?  What exactly was Little Pete's connection to the FAYZ? I read the scene where that question comes into the equation three or four times but it still didn't make much sense.  I can't say much more about that because it is a major spoiler that gives much away.  If you can make sense of it. Either way, it seemed to ask more questions that it answered, but it's going to be a 6-book series and no doubt more and more will be revealed about it as the series goes on. The second and third books *Lies* and *Hunger*, are out already in the US (alas *Lies has only just been released in the UK).  As soon as they're out in the library I'll definitely be reading them.

Rating: 4.5

Friday, 2 April 2010

Review: The Sweet Far Thing

Dear Blog,
well then. The conclusion to the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The Sweet Far Thing.
This epic tome is 820 pages long and if ever I wanted to take it anywhere with me I had to use my mother's old Fat Face shoulder bag, which is smallish on the outside but within is like a TARDIS and fits about 5 or 6 books/journals/notepads in it. Carrying so many books no doubt does untold damage to my spine, but it's worth it to have a novel or three at hand.

Summary (which I pinched from Amazon. No copyright infringement intended, bla bla bla, but I'm going to town in an hour and time is of the essence):
It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Having bound the wild, dark magic of the realms to her, Gemma has forged unlikely and unsuspected new alliances both with the headstrong Felicity and timid Ann, Kartik, the exotic young man whose companionship is forbidden, and the fearsome creatures of the realms. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test those bonds. As her friendship with Felicity and Ann faces its gravest trial, and with the Order grappling for control of the realms, Gemma is compelled to decide once and for all which path she is meant to take. Pulled forward by fate, the destiny Gemma faces threatens to set chaos loose, not only in the realms, but also upon the rigid Victorian society whose rules Gemma has both defied and followed. Where does Gemma really belong? And will she, can she, survive?

Review: First things first-it is a brilliant (albeit tragic) (though I knew what happened already because somebody wrote a major spoiler in their review on Goodreads and didn't mark it as a spoiler post) ending to a brilliant trilogy. Every plot thread is neatly tied up.
There are a couple of flaws, alas. But many good things to balance it out. To every, "hmmph" there is a "yay!" So here they are.
Hmmph It doesn't need to be 800 pages long. Very little happens for the first 700 pages or so. Which is tricky because those 700 pages are important in a way. You find out more about the Order, the Rakshana, discover sinister secrets, etc. etc. But despite these important things, it could be at least 200 pages shorter.
Yay! When it does get going, it's so gripping your fingers hurt from, well, gripping the page so tight. And the edges of the pages are damp from your sweating hands. I stayed up til gone midnight many many nights reading it.
Hmmph it is a little predictable what happens to Pippa. We all knew she was going to turn into an evil power-crazy demonic creature. She reminds me of Cate Blanchett in the latest Indiana Jones (but minus the cringingly bad Russian accent): "It is me! I am the chosen one! The power is mine! Mwahaha!"
Yay! this isn't really a "yay!", but it is the balance to the previous "hmmph": I suppose if she had been brought back or at least hadn't turned into a creepy demon, it would have been a bit, "oh." But interestingly enough **SLIGHT SPOILER**, being a demon wasn't actually her ultimate demise.
Hmmph It's set in 1896. But the main characters all talk like they were from a much more modern era. Not the 21st century perhaps...but still, more recent than the time.
Yay! the few references to high society in the day were quite interesting and added the period backdrop, to remind you what century you were in after lesbianism, drug addictions, rebellious attitudes to religion and other such issues. Scandal, debutantes, balls, exclusive gentlemen's clubs, etc. remind you where you are. If you want any more, I suggest you seek out The Luxe sequence. 400 pages of, as all the critics say, The OC but with bigger frocks and more dashing boys. There are 4 books so far. That's 1,160 pages of gossip in 1899! Personally I'm not fussed on all this but it added some era detail.
Hmmph The ending was a bit sudden and "oh. Ok then." Though I accepted it, it seemed sort of rushed.
Yay! What characters survived the climax met their futures and everything was resolved. As I said at the start, everything was perfectly tied up without it seemingly overly easy.

Additional thoughts: a prequel. yes! yes! yes! Set 25 years before, perhaps alternating point of views between Gemma's mother, Sarah Rees Toome, Mrs Nightwing & all others concerned. What a sock-rocking fanfic that'd make. Bagsy me! Either way, Libba Bray ought to write it. If she isn't already.
Another Additional Thought: despite the many "hmmphs" I have mentioned, perhaps I've only thought these over because I'm writing a review. As you're reading, you throw all these "hmmph" moments aside and follow the plot like Alice follows the white rabbit down his hole. You're too sucked in to stand back and think, "hmm, that's a little annoying." Why complain about the modern dialogue and stuff when Gemma is facing her most dangerous trial yet, the Order and the Rakshana are closing in around her trying to steal the magic, and she needs to uncover the truth about the Tree of All Souls?!

Rating: 4. Not as good I suppose as the first two, but still AN ABSOLUTE MUST for everybody who enjoyed aforementioned first two.