Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love Monster & the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright

When Love Monster finds a mysterious box of chocolates at his door, he can't believe his luck. But he's soon thrown into a whirlwind of turmoil. Should he keep the chocolates for himself... or risk sharing his good fortune with his friends?
This super-funny-rumbly-tummy-sherbet-explosion of a story shows that when faced with the selection box of life, following your heart brings you the best treats of all!

Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

Although my year 2 class love receiving and reviewing books from all the wonderful publishers who send them, the children are as stingy as me with their 5 star ratings. However, in this instance my class were unanimous. We all agreed that Love Monster & the Last Chocolate was a worthy winner of the rare 5 star rating. We absolutely loved it!

Returning from his holiday and feeling slightly down in the dumps, Love Monster finds a mystery box of chocolates on his doorstep. This discovery instantly cheers him up and Love Monster finds himself hoping that his favourite chocolate of all time will be inside - a double chocolate strawberry swirl. Lots of the children, and myself included, agreed that this is definitely the best flavour in the box. When asked which flavour was the worst the children screamed 'COFFEE' and to our delight we soon discovered that this was also Love Monster's least favourite chocolate. However, before tucking into the chocolates, Love Monster finds himself in a 'whirlwind of turmoil.' He is a good monster deep down and knows that he should share his good fortune with his friends! Love Monster descends into a debate with his own conscience; he just doesn't know what to do. 

One of the children described Love Monster as adorable as she "thought he was going to eat all the chocolates himself but his heart told him not to." The children were delighted that Love Monster made the right choice with one child saying, "He wasn't selfish as he changed his mind and did the right thing." This book teaches children the importance of sharing  and thinking of others. My class went on to express how they wished someone would leave a box of chocolates on their front door so they could share them with their friends. Maybe Love Monster will pay their classroom door a visit soon!


The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton

 When Peep awakes one morning to the sound of beautiful birdsong, he follows the melody and finds the Dawn Chorus. Their music enchants him - if only he could sing with them! But despite trying his hardest, Peep realises he doesn't fit in with the other birds in the Dawn Chorus. 
What Peep doesn't know is that he's about to meet someone very special who will change everything...

Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

First of all my Year 2 class and I must say a big thank you to Bloomsbury for sending us this beautiful hardback version of The Dawn Chorus. The illustrations are exceptional and really add to the charm of this book. 

The Dawn Chorus tells the story of Peep, a young bird desperate to fit in and find his place in the world. One morning he awakes to the beautiful sound of birdsong and sets off to discover where this sound is coming from. Along his way he meets some characters who helpfully direct him to the source of the sound - The Dawn Chorus - which is essentially a choir made up of birds. Desperate to be a part of this amazing sound, Peep auditions for the choir but a series of unfortunate events means he is unsuccessful. Feeling sad and alone, Peep meets a bird who looks just like him, a bird who will change everything. 

As usual, my class had some comical contributions towards the review of this book. Overall the children enjoyed it but they seemed to be annoyed with Peep for being so lazy. One child commented that "Pip shouldn't have been late for his audition. If you are going to turn up late then of course you are going to fail." Another child suggested that the book would have been better if Pip had decided to build his own choir, not just of birds but an assortment of different animals. This lead on to a ridiculous discussion about singing frogs and rabbits that could play the piano. I couldn't help but think of the scene from The Little Mermaid at this point.
As stated, this is a heartfelt story of a tiny nightingale desperate to belong, by an exceptionally talented new author-illustrator.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail

 Hanna Mendel was going to be a famous pianist. But the Nazis had another plan. Thrown into Auschwitz, she plays piano for a camp commandant and wears a dead girl's dress pinned with a yellow star. 
And she is falling in love - with the wrong boy.


Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

With the recent commemoration of WW1 I was eager to read a book related to the war. I have always been interested in books, TV and film that depict the heartbreaking realities of war. This book by Suzy Zail focuses on a concentration camp in Auschwitz during WW2. 

The Wrong Boy tells the story of Hanna Mendel, a gifted pianist who finds herself  thrown into Auschwitz and separated from her parents. Hanna has a strong bond with her older sister Erika who struggles to survive the bitter cold and starving conditions. Thinking of her sister, Hanna auditions to become an in-house pianist for one of the camp's commandants and, in successfully getting the job, manages to steal some extra food for her dying sister. The relationship between the two girls was heart wrenchingly real and how I would hope my own sister and I would survive in a similar situation. 

The events that Suzy Zail writes about are incomprehensible and a terrifying reflection on the horrors of war. Although it is hard to imagine being in such a situation, Suzy Zail manages to write in a such a way that the reader almost feels they are there in Auschwitz witnessing these dreadful events for themselves. It is clear that WW2 is close to Zail's heart as her own father survived the Holocaust. Throughout the story there are many references to the lack of food amongst the camps, something that Zail's father must have remembered clearly. Although based on fictional characters, the story was entirely believable and reads as if it were a true account. 

As stated in the title and blurb, whilst working as a pianist for the commandant, Hanna slowly falls for the commandant's son who in all essences is 'The Wrong Boy'. Anyone who has read my other reviews will know that I am not a fan of fictional romances. Particularly young adult romances that appear from nowhere and form in the matter of minutes. Thankfully the relationship between Hanna and the commandant's son was not insta love and developed subtly and slowly as the story went on. Although a big part of the plot, this did not detract from the reason I wanted to read the book, which was not for romance but a powerful tale of the horrors of war. 

This book was easy to read, powerful and has left me wanting to watch a whole array of war films including The Pianist (one of the best war films out there.) A highly recommended and poignant read! 


Friday, August 8, 2014

Dragon Loves Penguin by Debi Gliori

Sometimes things happen for a reason...

When one dragon in need of an egg discovers a lonely egg abandoned on an ice-floe, a delightfully heart-warming relationship develops.

                        Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

Let me start by saying this could possibly be one of the cutest books I have ever read!!
Having recently performed an end of year play entitled 'Eddie The Penguin Saves The World', my Year 2 class have read an awful lot of penguin themed books recently and this is up there with the best. 

Dragon Loves Penguin begins at bedtime with Bib asking his mummy for a bedtime story. It is worth mentioning here that Bib is the CUTEST PENGUIN EVER and had my class oohing and ahhing from the start. The story his mother tells involves tales of dragons, fire and volcanoes and includes enough danger to keep even the boys in my class interested. 

The revelation at the end of this book is both unexpected and charming and had my class gasping in delight. The story deals with important issues such as bullying and accepting people who are different. The illustrations are beautiful with a different crayon type look to them. This book certainly melted our hearts! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Auctioned as a surrogate to the highest bidder.
Imprisoned in the opulent palace of the Duchess of the Lake. 
Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises.

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

Star Rating

Upon reading the blurb for this novel, I was excited to read another dystopic tale reminiscent of one of my favourites - The Handmaid's Tale. This is the first in a new trilogy by Amy Ewing of which I have read mixed reviews. Some will love it. Some will hate it. I will go on to explain why. 

The Jewel tells the story of Violet, one of the 'chosen' women born with special abilities and sold to be surrogates for the royals. Children born with the auguries (powers) of colour, shape and growth are taken away from their families and held in a special facility before being auctioned off. Early on we find out that Violet is a much sought after surrogate and the Duchess of the Lake buys her for 6 million diamantes.  

Throughout the story, Amy Ewing refers to the different houses in the royal circle. This was sometimes confusing and the book could have done with a family tree style map at the front to explain this clearly to the reader. There is much competition between the women from these different houses but they all have the same common goal - to obtain a daughter who will be chosen to marry the future Exetor and succeed to the throne. 
The Duchess of the Lake demands that Violet produce a daughter who is beautiful, smart, strong, ambitious, determined, courageous and of, course, irresistible. However, the thing she wants more than anything is a daughter born first, before any others, and Violet is instructed to use her third augury to make this happen - a three month pregnancy instead of the usual nine. 

Up until this point, I absolutely loved this story which addresses some interesting themes such as slavery and class. However, there was a palm to the forehead moment when suddenly, plucked from nowhere, Violet falls in love with a boy in the palace named Ash. I won't bother explaining who he is and why he was there because quite frankly his existence and role in the story was ludicrous. This forced romance was entirely unbelievable and detracted from the main focus of the story. I am sure people will love the romantic twist to this tale but unfortunately I would have much preferred this story without it.

Violet's relationship with her friend, Raven, however was believable and really made the reader empathise with the situation these young girls are in. I had mixed opinions about the Duchess of the Lake and found myself wondering who would be a good actress to play her in a movie of The Jewel. At times she appeared kind and caring towards Violet but there is always an underlying evil that Ewing subtly reveals throughout.

Vomit inducing love story aside, this is still a very good dystopic tale with a brilliant ending that will leave you wanting to read the next installment. And who knows, maybe Ash will get killed off in the next one...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BookTube-A-Thon Catchup

So I kind of epically failed with the BookTube-A-Thon challenge reading 4 of my 7 chosen books. However, I am now on summer holidays so the good news is I have weeks of reading time  ahead of me!

I really enjoyed The Year Of The Rat by Clare Furness which I would give four out of five stars. This book tells the story of Pearl and her sister Rose, who Pearl refers to as 'The Rat'. Clare Furness writes beautifully and explores Pearl's grief following her mother's death over the course of a year. During these twelve months, Pearl sees, hears and speaks to her deceased mother as she slowly comes to terms with what has happened. Blaming her new baby sister for her mother's death, Pearl struggles to bond with 'The Rat' - a concept that Clare Furness deals with delicately. This book is both funny and heart wrenching and will leave you captivated throughout. 

I also managed to read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Unfortunately, I watched the film before I read the book. The two are soooooo different and, as expected, the book is a million times better than the film. I won't say too much about the differences as I don't want to give away any spoilers. This book is excellent and explores the theme of mental health exquisitely. Both the relationships between Pat and his father and Pat and Tiffany made the book a real success and the story entirely believable. If you have yet to read it please please please do so without seeing the movie first.  

My graphic novels I devoured very quickly and will upload separate reviews ASAP.
As soon as I finished Saga I rushed out to buy the next two episodes in the series. This series is amazing and a must read for all lovers of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. 

One thing I have learned from attempting BookTube-A-Athon is that I don't like audio books. I downloaded the audio version of Mockingjay from my local library service and could not get past the first chapter. The narrator's voice was whiny, mono-tone and dreary and hurt my ears!! I will definitely give another audiobook a try but this experience has certainly put me off for the time being!!

Love At First Write Competition

So the lovely Alison at Atlantic Books recently asked if I would cover this new competition on my blog. This sounds like an amazing opportunity for all the new writers out there to get their work recognised and out to the public. I will attach the information below and look forward to reading the winners entry in November. Good luck guys!! 

Do you have a romantic novel in you? Is it based around an original first encounter?

From Romeo and Juliet’s fateful kiss to Elizabeth’s clash with the proud, rude Mr Darcy at the Meryton ball, writers have proved that true love springs from the most unlikely of encounters.
LoveAtFirstWrite is looking for a romantic novel with an original set-up, written with flair and charm, so that its creator can find their happy-ever-after with their new publisher.
So if you are a debut novelist looking for your first publisher, it's time to enter theLoveAtFirstWrite competition in partnership with Corvus and Lovereading. Simply tweet the idea for your novel @CorvusBooks #loveatfirstwrite and send us a book synopsis and first chapter to loveatfirstwrite@atlantic-books.co.uk between 12th September and 12th October 2014.
Entries will be read by the Corvus editorial team, then a shortlist judged by a dedicated panel of experts, including Maddie West, Corvus Editorial Director, Sarah Broadhurst, Lovereading Lead Reviewer, Elisabeth Gifford, author of The Secrets of the Sea House and Lindsey Mooney, Kobo Vendor Manager, UK & Ireland.
Entrants will need to submit the following:
1) A book synopsis
2) The first chapter (no more than 5,000 words)
3) The story can come from any genre of romantic fiction but the entry must show the protagonists’ first meeting.
Entrants must not have been previously published.
Entrants are also encouraged to tweet how their characters meet in less than 140 characters @CorvusBooks.
The winner will be announced in November 2014, and will have their novel published by Corvus as an eBook and paperback original in 2015.
Good luck & happy writing!