No not like an actual wheel for a wagon… um… no, I mean the biscuit. The delicious, delicious biscuit.To me, historical books are like wagon wheels*.
No not like an actual wheel for a wagon… um… no, I mean the biscuit. The delicious, delicious biscuit. Let me explain. I don’t have wagon wheels very often but when I do I savour them, love them, vow to eat more of them and get marshmallow in my hair. Similarly with historical YA. I don’t read many of them but when I do I savour them, love them, vow to read more of them and get marshmallow in my hair. Um…
I’ve spent the last few hours searching my house for a project I did in primary school about the Black Death. It was actually on the plague when it was around in 1665 which, I’m a bit reluctant to admit, I thought was the only plague. Is that a common misconception or am I just ridiculous? You see, I had it all planned out that I would end this review with a clever “Oh… I hope Sally Nicholls writes a sequel to this book, she could call it ‘Fetch the Water’ or something.” But I guess seeing as the Great Fire of London was over 300 years later… it wouldn’t really be a sequel would it? Is there a time limit for sequels? Either way, with the risk of sounding morbid, I was obsessed and I honestly couldn’t tell you the amount of times I dragged my dad to Eyam, a village in Derbyshire where the inhabitants chose to isolate themselves to stop the plague spreading. I think I actually uttered the phrase “I wish we lived in a Plague Cottage” once before I snaffled an entire bag of Derbyshire fudge.
I don’t actually know why I told you that because like I said, All Fall Down is actually set 300 years before this time but I guess that’s the reason I picked this book up. Sometimes it’s wonderful being a bit thick because if it weren’t for my lack of historical knowledge (and my creepy morbid love of all things plaguey) then I would never have picked up this book and that would have been a terrible shame. I even learnt things, guys! I know. I know.
Like Ms Anderson Coats before her, Ms Nicholls writes such an original and fascinating story about a period that, let’s face it, doesn’t get much air time in YA fiction. But you can tell that she wrote this book not because it’s a bit different and will definitely get her a publishing deal (which she actually already had) but because she was genuinely enthralled about the era and the history. This research that must have gone into this book is absolutely remarkable. You can really tell that Ms Nicholls loved writing this book and it makes a whole world of difference when you read a book written by an author who is passionate about their subject. If you can’t imagine what Northern England would look like in the 14th Century pick up this book. If you can’t imagine what Northern England would feel like in the 14th Century, again pick up this book.
Be warned though, no details are spared. I probably don’t need to tell you that this book is extremely grim and incredibly moving.
I guess the thing that puts me off from picking up a historical book is that I sometimes find it difficult to relate to the story. The only thing I know about that period (after a cheeky look online) is facts and figures and geography. The glorious thing about this book is that Ms Nicholls breathed life into these facts and by adding a personal feel to it. It not only makes it more accessible. The characters, both main and peripheral, were so believable and, perhaps more importantly within a historical book, accurate. I completely believed in Isabel and there was never once a moment where I thought she was just a modern girl with modern problems shoved into a petticoat. I really loved Isabel. She isn’t perfect and she’s not always likeable, but she’s fourteen and the world is falling apart around her and she has to grow up, even if she doesn’t want to and she doesn’t feel ready for the responsibilities that she now faces. Isabel is frightened, alone and extremely lost… yet she continues on, regardless of everything. I guess having your loved ones dying and being buried unceremoniously in a field does that to a girl.
If reading a book about the plague is off-putting, and it is a bit grim in places, I would still wholeheartedly recommend reading this one. The characters, their relationships, the setting, the era would really take your mind off things if you’re feeling a bit squeamish. If reading a book about the plague is getting you all giddy because you love dystopian books … well, this actually happened. Can you get better than that? Nope.
This book was wonderful and a complete surprise.
Now how about that 300 years later sequel…?
*Yes, I am comparing books to wagon wheels. Have I lost my reviewer’s edge? Did I ever even have an edge?
Some of the best books I read are the ones I stumble on accidentally. I can’t even remember why I decided that I might like this book. I’m not a hugeSome of the best books I read are the ones I stumble on accidentally. I can’t even remember why I decided that I might like this book. I’m not a huge fan of the 70s. I have an aversion against bands in YA fiction. I’d never even heard of Kevin Brooks.
So why would I read this YA book about a fictional band in the 70s… written by Kevin Brooks? Maybe I was feeling particularly crazy that day. I don’t know, but I did and it was brilliant. Seriously, it was brilliant. If I could sum up what this book was about in one word it would be ‘passionate’. Every single character in this book is passionate about something. Well, OK, not Stan but I’m passionate about Stan so that’s OK; we’ll kind of balance each other out. Whether it’s music, drugs, punk, sex, - it seeps from the page and it’s practically impossible not to be drawn into it whether you care about it or not. This book is everything that YA should be- breathless, messy, funny, heart breaking, intriguing. OK, I was going sum up this book with one word wasn’t I? Whoops.
I loved everything about Mr Brooks’ writing. I found myself underlining so many paragraphs it got a bit daft, especially when I found that my favourite quote ended up coming pretty early on in the book. And when I say early I mean the first paragraph.
“My heart was born in the long hot summer of 1976; my life was made, my love was sealed, my soul was lost and broken. It was the summer of so many things – heat and violence, love and hate, dreams and nightmares, heaven and hell- and when I look back on it now, it’s hard to tell the good from the bad. It was all good and bad. Altogether, all at once. It was everything.”
Isn’t that one of the best openings ever? I could wax lyrical about how brilliant his writing is and how it really transported you to exactly where he wanted you but well, we don’t have all day, do we?
I have quite an eclectic taste in music but I’m not the hugest fan of punk music, which is basically what this book is about. The closest thing I am to being a punk is having a nose piercing and that one time I ripped my skirt and had to use a safety pin to save myself from an awkward situation. Punk rocker, thy name is not Jo. But it honestly didn’t matter to me because I was too busy loving this story and the characters to care. I think that’s one of Mr Brooks’ main talents. Not many YA readers could honestly say that they are true, true, true fans of punk music (and no, wearing a Ramones t-shirt from Topshop doesn’t count) but he makes sure that you’re never out of your depth. Mr Brooks has this great way of telling a story that heavily relies on the setting and the culture of the 70s without coming across as one of those pretentious music fans. You know the ones… the ones who corner you at a party and they know everything and they heard of that obscure band before you did and omg they’re so retro and how have you never heard of them? You know the ones…. The ones you want to thump? Mr Brooks is as far from that as you can get. Which, um, is good because I like to think that I’m not the kind of girl who would attack bestselling authors and also I can’t throw a punch to save my life.
Let’s talk about Naked. Normally I find fictional bands, YA or not, completely horrendous. They seem to be so cringey and fake and terribly unrealistic. But Naked?
“The sound was electrifying, stunning, the crash of chords ripping through the air like a thunderous shot of adrenalin, and when I started playing […] and the stage erupted in a blaze of lights, it all felt so good that I thought for a moment my heart was going to explode. The sound was almost too good to believe. We were so loud, so fast, so tight…. We were so there.. .it was incredible.”
I’d definitely go and see them and stand at the front and be doused in the blood/spit/bodily fluids of the nearest tattooed punk rock-…..
Hahahaha, I’m totally kidding. I’d be at the back because I’m a delicate girl who values her limbs and face. Also, I find only a certain kind of person can truly look good in a leather bra and swastika tattoos.
If, however, you aren’t too fussed about punk music please stop backing away from this book slowly. It’s not all punk and swastikas and Johnny Rotten. Do you like David Bowie? Of course you do, because who doesn’t? The Buzzcocks? Velvet Underground? Pink Floyd? THE WURZELS? Yep. This book comes with one of the best readymade soundtracks I know. See? I’m not a complete dunce in 70s music. But if I had been alive in the 70s, I like to think that I would be cool enough to be looking upwards… a bit more…. Northern. Things were happening up there. I dunno, you may have heard of them?
And while I’m talking about awesome things from the 70s that came from my neck of the woods…
“The shop was called Sex, and over the years it came to be known as the birthplace of the sex pistols. When Curtis first took me there, in August 1975, it already had a growing reputation as the place to be. It was owned and run by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood.”
Dame Vivienne Westwood. Need I say more? Northern England sure produces the most excellent of artists… *cough* I think this book would be perfect for anyone who is interested in reading something that is a bit different from the norm. This isn’t a book set in a high school and it’s not set in a dystopian world. It is truly sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll punk rock. But the glorious thing about this book is that it won’t just interest people who are interested in the 70s or music but anyone who is interested in British and Northern Irish history as a whole. Mr Brooks sets the scene perfectly and it’s rough and it’s uncomfortable and it’s so, so good.
Anyway, enough with the setting. I think we’ve established that Mr Brooks knows his stuff. My favourite thing about this book were the characters. I absolutely loved Lili, our narrator. She was such a gorgeous, vibrant and clever heroine. I loved how she held her own in a very masculine world. She was such a caring character who, even though I didn’t always agree with the things she did, always tried to do the right thing and stand by the people she cared about no matter how close they were to crashing and burning. She was also hilarious.
“I bought most of my clothes from jumble sales and charity shops, and – as far as I remember- my hair at the time was a failed attempt at a Suzi Quatro-style layered cut, which might not have looked all that bad if I hadn’t recently attacked it myself with a pair of blunt scissors… an exercise that resulted in me resembling a slightly deranged medieval waif.”
Also she plays the guitar like an absolute beast! While I’m talking about Lili, I have to talk about something else….
I also loved the relationship between William and Lili so much. As much as I loved Curtis Ray in all his tragedy and beauty and I appreciated how magnificent he is as a character, William Bonney takes the biscuit. I just loved how he treated Lili.
“It made me feel how I was supposed to feel at my age. Excited and stupid… But stupid in a good way.”
I’m not going to talk about these two too much because I think it’s best to meet them on your own terms but I will say one thing, something that I think will sum up their relationship. On one of their ‘dates’ they walk around London discussing the genius of David Bowie and whether it was Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane who had the orange stripe across their face.
If you can give me an example of a more perfect date, consider my reviewer’s bonnet eaten.
End of slight spoiler.
The only problem I had was this book was the ending. Not the ‘just before the ending’ ending which I really loved, but the proper ending. I was OK up until then. Then things got a little too neat and tied up and lovely. BUT…. After the angst Mr Brooks had put us through, a nice ending was a bit of a reprieve. Hey, I’m a Brit- I like my endings messy… don’t judge me.
Perhaps a little unrelated, I read this book on my Kindle which is such a shame because I would have LOVED to have seen the faces of my fellow commuters as they saw what I was reading. Live fast. Play dirty. GET NAKED. LOL. Anyway, this book is spectacular and you should be reading it.
“I see it in your face, Gwenhwyfar. And believe me, I’m sorely tempted to let you, but by God, we are not animals, no matter how many times they say“I see it in your face, Gwenhwyfar. And believe me, I’m sorely tempted to let you, but by God, we are not animals, no matter how many times they say as much.”
Wow, this book was not what I expecting. For a start, I seemed to have got it into my head that this was set in the Victorian times (don’t ask why, I have no idea!) and secondly, I thought it was a murder mystery (again, I have no idea). I’ve told you before that I have a strange habit of reading synopses for books, ignoring them and just completely making up a new one, and then I’m surprised when the book isn’t what I was expecting. But if I had known that this book was set in the Middle Ages and was about burgesses, markets, servants, the difficult relations between the Welsh and the English, I would have left it where it was and never looked back, because it would not be my thing at all. But I read it and I’m so glad. If you’ve ever read any of my reviews or know anything about me, you may be aware that I have a few connections in North Wales. I spent three years at Bangor University, about 50% of my friends are from Gwynedd and a great chunk of my family are from t'area too. So when I saw that this book was set in Caernarfon, wait… Caernarvon, I was so excited. This book is told via dual narratives. Cecily is the daughter of a Lord who decides to uproot them to Wales to “live among savages”. Needless to say, Cecily is not best pleased. She’s dramatic, she’s impossible, she’s entitled and she’s, well, spirited to say the least. Gwenhwyfar (pronounced Gwen-who-euw-var… ish. My Welsh friend tried to text it to me phonetically and that’s the best I can do) , or Gwinny, works as a maid in Cecily’s house but she lives outside the city walls with her sick mother and her brother, Gruffydd (This one I could handle on my own: Griffith). And, as you’ve probably guessed, they don’t get on. Cecily resents Gwinny for daring to meet Cecily’s eyes and Gwinny hates Cecily for being entitled, a “brat” and another reason, but… spoilery. I loved these two narrators and the girl’s characters, feelings and actions complimented each other perfectly. Both Cecily and Gwinny had such fiery, distinct personalities that it was difficult not to love them, even if they did things that I didn’t always agree with. These girls were wicked and they were….wait for it...wait for it... just. It’s a really apt title. I liked how Ms Coats didn’t make one girl be the “bad one” and the other the “good one”. She didn’t manipulate the reader into taking sides and I think that’s incredibly important in a book like this. Both sides were given a voice and it was left up to the reader to make the decision. As much as it was a historical novel, I feel that this book was also an exploration of the relationship between two people living on different sides of conflict. What happens with the delicate power balance is shifted and the tables are turned? Are wicked deeds justified if they’ve been done to you first?
It was also fantastic to read a book about an era which I knew nothing about. It’s relatable to people who, like me, may not be familiar with the era but I felt that it wouldn’t be dumbed down for people who are. It is obvious that Ms Coats knows the Middle Ages inside and out and absolutely no detail was spared. Which wasn’t always a good thing when it came to the descriptions of the stench hovering around the market crowds as the sweat and grime of the English and Welsh mingleD together... Yum.
This book was filled with excellent characters, tons of actions, heaps of emotion and kept me up until way past my bed time.
I’m really looking forward to see what Ms Coats writes next.
Exciting Extras. Seeing as I love any excuse to attach pictures of Welsh castles to my reviews, here is a picture of Caernarfon Castle on bizarrely warm day a few summers ago. I assure you, the sky in Wales looks like that approximately one day.... a decade.
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.
You can read this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog here....more
I guess when you finish a book that you absolutely loved and you sit down, notebook fill of coherent notes, to start writing a review it’s easy to staI guess when you finish a book that you absolutely loved and you sit down, notebook fill of coherent notes, to start writing a review it’s easy to start using clichés. I find this is especially true when it comes to those Australian authors. You’ve heard it before, haven’t you? Is there something in the water Down Under? Well, I don’t think there is. Nope, not at all. You don’t see me reverting to those tired and ridiculous clichés, do you? My suggestion as to why these Aussie authors are so ridiculously good? There’s something in the shrimps that they put on all those barbies.
In all seriousness though, this book is good. Great. Cracking. Brilliant. All the superlatives you can think of. I don’t really want to talk too much about the plot because this book is a mystery, both in plot and character. But right from the beginning, so full of suspense and unease, to the breathless "thisiswhathappened" ending, I was completely captivated.
The characters are brilliant, especially Jasper Jones although I so desperately wanted more of him. Although saying that, I’m a bit torn in this aspect because I adored him when he was on the page and I loved the interactions between him and Charlie... but I loved the mystery and intrigue around the character even more. Misunderstood and with a heart of pure gold; Jasper Jones is the kind of boy who you’d want to go on adventures with. Sure you’d come back from those adventures slightly sunburnt and dishevelled with random insects in your hair, scraped knees and faced with the inevitable grounding from your parents but it would always be with it. Simply put, I loved him and my heart ached for him. Also, I had lots and lots of time for Eliza. Such a little sweetheart.
I also loved how multi-faceted this book was. If I told you just what the basic plot of this story was (which I’m not going to) I would probably be missing about 75% of what this book actually covered. History, racism, Australian culture, prejudice, the subtle interactions between families, the damage of secrets and rumours and cricket (yeah, I could have probably have done without the cricket aspect of things. Cricket, to me, is a game we were forced to play in PE at high school when it was too sunny for bench ball.) Mr Silvey perfectly balances all of these issues without being overly clunky and preachy.
A little bit unrelated and possibly a little thematic spoilery, I often wonder how the context in which you read a book effects how you feel about it. It was a complete coincidence that I read this book the weekend when this had been in the news once more. I had no idea what this book was about before I picked it up so it was quite daunting to read a book that, although set in the 60s, felt so current. It’s difficult to put into words how that whole story affected and still continues to affect the British public so it was strange to read this book with that very much in my mind (they also have a brief mention in this book). I know I would have found Jasper Jones moving if I had read it a few months ago but would it have affected as much as it did? I don’t know but it certainly left an impression on me and proved to be a great deal more topical than I thought it was going to be.
One of my favourite things about Australian YA books is the sense of place that the authors create and Jasper Jones is no exception. It takes a lot to be transported from a clammy, rainy town in Greater Manchester to the bone dry, dusty, desolate Western Australian town but for the few hours it took me to read this book, I honestly was.
The scene, the story, the writing and the characters combined with the wonderfully cinematic and satisfactory ending (where all those story threads that you so desperately want to have been tied up into a lovely bow are still dancing in the Australian breeze and you wouldn’t want it any other way) this book was glorious and definitely not a book that has been puffed up by the hype.
At the end of the day, this book was what would happen if you took a copy of Jellicoe Road and Brown Skin Blue and smushed them together making loud kissing noises. I’m not sure if you’re going to get a higher recommendation than that from me.
STORY TIME [Don't worry, it includes pictures] When I saw all the cool kids were reading this I, being a marginally less cool kid, wanted to get involved.
But disaster struck when I went to buy a copy and I was shocked and appalled (well... not really) that you couldn't buy the copy with the bloke having a brew on the cover. I wanted that cover. Sure the other covers are fine but it was too late, I had already fallen in love.
So I threw a huge wobbly and whinged and moaned and glared at inanimate objects.
Step in the ever so lovely Rey, who offered to send me a copy of Double J with the awesome Aussie cover.
And the parcel came today. I almost didn't want to open it because look at the beauty!
And it got better! Remember when you were a kid and you played pass-the-parcel and there was always that one stupid kid who the music always seemed to stop on and they got all the sweets and the packet of stencils or a colouring book or whatever? TODAY I WAS THAT KID!
And as it's a law to take a picture of your copy of Jasper Jones and seeing as I don't live in paradise Australia and I don't have beautiful golden beaches at my disposal and the thought of sitting in a blustery, rainy, possibly snowy Mancunian park and taking a picture was just too depressing...I took a picture of it with my new teapot.
Rey, I love you. And I must read this book soon. ...more
A note: This review is going to be a bit vague because I really, really, reallyreally don’t want to spoil this book for anyone. Because oh my gosh….
AA note: This review is going to be a bit vague because I really, really, reallyreally don’t want to spoil this book for anyone. Because oh my gosh….
A note on the note: This review really is going to be vague unlike all my other ‘vague’ reviews which go on for about a year.
The first thing I did after I finished reading this book was to pick up my phone and text my best friend, who I have known since I was eleven and has been there through every single one of my problems and ill-advised fringes, and tell her that I loved her.
The second thing I did after I finished reading this book was flip back to the beginning and start reading it again.
I don’t mind admitting that it took me and this book a while to really get going.. The way this book was written with all the capital letters bothered me and the changing in perspectives and everything really confused me. It took me a good 100 pages to get into but seeing as this book is over 400 pages long; that was absolutely fine. And after those first 100 pages, I learnt the truth and that is: This book is fantastic. I knew I’d love it when I was noseying at the wonderful Chachic’s status updates and then I read the synopsis.
Spies? Pilots? Codes? Secrets? History? Best friends? Mancunians?! These are a few of my favourite things…
I loved the setting. I loved the plot. I loved the era. And the twists absolutely threw me (although, I did have the smallest of small inklings of one thing but that’s only because I have a clever dad who eats history books for breakfast and I accidentally asked a question that got made me put a few things together…) The twist and the ending…. I just can’t even think about them without jibbering.
Like I said above, the second thing I did after I finished reading this book was to go back to the beginning and read over certain parts again. I know that this book will be one of those books that will get better and better every time I read it. I loved Verity. I loved Maddie. They were real girls. They laugh, they cry, they flirt with boys, they gossip, they’re loyal, they fly planes, they can land planes, they can speak different languages, they can crack codes, they can do the unthinkable, they do the right thing. I loved that, with Maddie and Verity, Ms Wein showed that you can be strong, you can be brave, you can be good at what you do, you can be the best at what you do and you can do all this without sacrificing your femininity and/or becoming a passive-aggressive “message”. There was never a sense that these ladies did what they did in a “Look! Look! We can do it too. We’re just as good as boys!” and because they had something to prove. They were such rich and beautiful characters and I loved, loved, loved them both so dearly.
And, anyway, boys didn’t even get a look in. They wouldn’t be able to keep up with any of the girls in this book. Pffft.
The phrase “Careless talk costs lives” is mentioned frequently in this book and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this poster:
Also, the fact that that I own that very poster [bought from the Imperial War Museum North, I’ve still not been to the London one, or the Churchill War Rooms, yet… one day :) ] and it is hanging up on my bedroom wall….that helped too.
So that’s it. That’s my review. It doesn’t do this book justice in the slightest but it’s the best that I can do.
Arm yourself with tissues, read this book, prepare to be amazed and always fly high.
Read this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog here....more
“Do ghosts drink tea?” “They don’t,” said Tansey. “But this ghost would love to see a cup of tea in front of her. It’d be lovely.”
This book3.5 Stars.
“Do ghosts drink tea?” “They don’t,” said Tansey. “But this ghost would love to see a cup of tea in front of her. It’d be lovely.”
This book was so sweet. I know that sounds like an “Oh God, what can I call this book? Quick gimme a word, gimme! Ahh, sweet will do” but it really isn’t.
It truly was sweet.
As the synopsis says, this is a story about mums (sorry mams) and daughters and the connection between them.
I wish this story had been told solely from Tansey and Emer’s perspective because I felt those were the strongest sections. The story thread that was set in the present, although it did have some very sweet parts and proved incredibly useful to me re: How to smuggle a ghost into a hospital, began to grate after a while.
I just felt that Tansey and Emer had a bit more spunk to them than Mary and Scarlett. Maybe this was because their stories were a lot more fleshed out. I just adored the feel of these chapters.
What I did love about this book was the portrayal of mums and matriarchal love. I often think that in both YA and MG books, mums tend to get a really rough deal. They’re either screaming harpies with unreasonably strict rules or completely absent. But all these mums, both past and present, were so strong and so feisty.
So yeah, I’m sticking with my original conclusion: This book was incredibly sweet.
And it has encouraged me to start saying “grand” in every day conversations.
Things I Have Learnt From YA Books #678019 : When the Monstrumologist gets scared… you should too.
Honestly, I didn’t think that Mr Yancey could top ThThings I Have Learnt From YA Books #678019 : When the Monstrumologist gets scared… you should too.
Honestly, I didn’t think that Mr Yancey could top The Monstrumologist but he did… and then some.
The plotting is immaculate. The characters are absolutely superb. The setting is one of my favourites. It is both terrifying and heart breaking. Stomach churning and butterfly-inducing. Thought-provoking and all the superlatives I can think of. “Let us go then, you and I, like Alice down the rabbit hole, to a time when there still were dark places in the world, and there were men who dared to delve into them.”
The thing that struck me most about this book was Mr Yancey’s vivid attention to detail to the dichotomy between the natural world and what dwells in its darkest shadows.
And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write in one of my reviews.
I sound like I’m writing a uni essay on it! But that’s it, I could write an essay on this book. I don’t know whether it’s just because I’ve spent too much time with Dr Warthrop and his thirst for knowledge has rubbed off on me but I almost, kinda, definitely want to write an essay on this book. There are so many layers that I want to strip back and make notes about in margins and highlight with gel pens and write a few paragraphs and then watch a bit of Come Dine With Me and then go back to it and think “What? When did Will Henry make a soufflé and how does that relate to the idea that sometimes it’s us that make the monsters that haunt our dreams?” and then spend all my washing machine change on the photocopier that always eats your change because my library books are due back and that hill to the library is just too.damn.high to crawl up in Welsh weather.
I mean, I already have my last few sentences written. I always liked to end my essays on an epic line that required a pause after you had read it. A pause of reflection. And learning. And italics.
And it would be: “In Yancey’s writing, he explores the relationship between the natural world and the one that lives within its shadows. Both are treated with the utmost respect because unlike us, the stars in the sky, oblivious to fleeting human activity, and the monsters who stalk us are eternal.”
Yeah, I never said I was the best student, did I? Eh?
God knows what Dr Warthrop would think of me seeing as he dislikes poets and writers and dreamers (“The poet’s voices will be drowned out by the gears of progress.”). He is one of the most fascinating characters in any book I have ever read. This would be the bit where I tell you that he’s not always likeable but he has a good heart but I’m just going to make two minor adjustments to that sentence: He’s never likeable but he has a brilliant heart. And I love him fiercely.
And of course we can’t forget Will Henry who is one of my favourite heroes. He’s had to go through so much, he’s seen so much and he’s lost so much. And he’s only twelve. He doesn’t have any friends his own age. The only regular conversation he has is with a cantankerous doctor who cares more about teeth and raspberry scones (although, who can blame him? I always get cravings for raspberry scones after I have finished one of these books) And he gets nibbled on by monsters an awful lot. I adore him.
And of course, the relationship between these two characters was just as fascinating, sad and beautiful as it was in the first book. Perhaps even more so as we got to see a bit more of an insight into each character, especially Dr W. And I lovedlovedloved the slight shift in the relationship between Will and Dr Warthrop and I don’t mind admitting that I read that final paragraph with slightly misted eyes. I can’t wait to see where their story goes in The Isle of Blood.
Just as in The Monstrumologist, this book is vile. And graphic. Oh so beautifully graphic. But what I loved about these descriptions (in addition to being a sick sick sicko) was that you could tell it wasn’t just a way of Mr Yancey channelling his inner Mel Brooks but that it was vital to the story. It set the blood-soaked scene, it created the terrifying atmosphere and, more importantly, it established the characters and the themes that are explored as the story goes on.
It also provided some of my favourite passages of the book:
“Ice crystals glittered like jewels festooning his ribs, lining the walls of his ripped-open stomach; his lungs looked like two enormous multi-faceted diamonds; his frozen viscera shone as brightly as wet marble. It was terrible. And it was beautiful.”
Just one example… there are many writers nowadays that relish in their ability of turning something beautiful into something horrid. There aren’t many who do the opposite so convincingly.
(I can’t tell you how many quotes I wrote down from this book. There were so many I could probably start a Tumblr entitled “Rick Yancey Talks About Life and Stars and, In Doing So, Speaks Directly to My Soul” and I would never run out of material.)
Mr Yancey doesn’t seem to be a fan of happy endings or, actually, even hopeful endings. But they’re realistic… in a way a book about monsters can ever be realistic. These characters survive, they live to tell their tale, whether that’s a happy ending or whether that’s a curse is left to you to decide. I think the way Mr Yancey has constructed this story (with the added narrative of him finding Will Henry’s diaries) makes everything all the more poignant because we know the beginning and, unfortunately, we know the end. So what about the middle? Well… I guess Will Henry’s not finished just yet. Seeing as I’ve already used my fantastic line that would have got me an instant first in my essay and I can’t end my review on an epic and solemn and thought-provoking way, I’m just going to say: If you ever see this book lying around in the shop or the library or wherever, please get yourself a copy. Come on, snap to!
Unless you’re squeamish at the thought of “curdled arterial spray” and “empty oracular cavities”. If so.. um… you should probably give this one a miss.
“Whales, porpoises, mermaids and mermen, dead sailors, fishes, crabs, tiny shrimps; the sea is forever full of eyes that watch me. I never fly far b “Whales, porpoises, mermaids and mermen, dead sailors, fishes, crabs, tiny shrimps; the sea is forever full of eyes that watch me. I never fly far beyond the shore. If my town were a map the bay would have Here be Monsters written on it in golden ink.”
It always feels a cop out when I write a review about a book such as ‘The Earth Hums in B- Flat’ because I’m going to go on and on about how much I enjoyed it and you’ll read with wide-eyes shining, practically quivering with excitement because you want to know more and more… [I may or may not picture everyone who reads my reviews reading them like that. *cough*] And then I’ll be like: “SORRY! No can do, my friend, because if I say anything else the book will be spoilt and the only thing as bad as a book being spoilt is when someone pokes you in the side in the middle of a stretch.”
So I’m going to try and be clever and get you to want to read this book without me actually telling you anything about what happens. Right from the start you are transported into post-war (I never actually got a hold of the exact date but I’m guessing late 50s because there is mention of the Munich Air Disaster) North Wales. It feels close and comforting and there are friendly Welsh people chatting with each other, making buttermilk and washing their front step. It is a wonderful setting; extremely quaint and rural and it almost made me feel nostalgic for not only a place I’d never been to, but also an era. Everyone in this village knows everyone and everyone knows everything about everyone. There is a lot of curtain-twitching in this book. There’s just something about nosey neighbours that I love so much, don’t ask me why. But all the secrets and the gossiping and the hearsay and the whispered rumours can only lead to two things: 1) Bad things happening. 2) A book that I couldn’t put down.
Twelve year old Gwenny was such a delightful and unique character. I simply adored her. But I guess that doesn’t really say much because give a girl an imagination and she’s already a million times better than a lot of literary ladies. She’s inquisitive, she is clever and the people of her village and her family think she’s odd because she’s different. Isn’t that just the best way to be? I just loved her. She went through so much and she still had time to be cute as a little button all the way through.
But it was the sense of family that really got to me in this book. Ms Strachan wrote these scenes impeccably. It’s all about family secrets, ancestry and it’s about finding out where you fit in amongst all that. My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Gwenny is creating her family tree. She goes around to her Nain’s to listen to stories about her family, goes and visits the gravestones of her relatives looking for their tales now forgotten and buried and then fills in the details with her bright pencil crayons. But these families have skeletons in their closet. Ms Strachan was able to really delve deep into the family dynamics and didn’t let you dare look away when things got a bit rough. And boy, did they get rough. Some scenes in this book were so tense I had to stop reading because I felt so claustrophobic.
All of these characters had secrets and a lot of them were broken and Ms Strachan plants you firmly in the midst of it. I really connected with all of these characters and I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to cuddle them, scowl at them, ignore them or throttle them. All of the above, maybe.
The only reason why I’m not giving this book all the praise is because I worked out both of the major plot twist pretty early on. I think if anyone knows their historical figures will be able to guess at some things. Ooooh, cryptic. Also, some of the story-lines/character’s situations were left unopened and I almost got the impression that the reader is just left to assume a lot of things. But given the clues/evidence/what-have-you we’d be given along the way and even the ‘big reveal’ at the end, there were still a lot of things that I was unsatisfied with. And one more thing (real spoiler guys.. skip if you have any intention of reading this book): (view spoiler)[I couldn’t commend Ms Strachan highly enough on how she dealt with mental illness, especially the town’s reactions to it. I felt considering the era and the small-town mentality, it was really realistic and never once sensationalised. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was sometimes used as a fall-back excuse for a lot of the major things that happened in this book. Why does her mam hate Gwenni so much? Depression. Why did Gwenny’s mam cheat on her husband? Depression. Why did Ifan beat his wife? Depression. Why doesn’t Richard’s dad believe in God? Depression. To me anyway, it sometimes felt a bit… easy and I guess I wanted more of an explanation as to why these things happened. I understand that mental illness could and probably was a factor in all of those things, but that was the only explanation we seemed to be given. And I guess I just needed a bit more of a concrete one.
(hide spoiler)] [Wow, OK… maybe I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I did. Maybe I was in a post-reading glow.]
But apart from those bits, this book was glorious and I would wholly recommend it to young adults and real-life adults alike.
Gratuitous Castle Picture. I never actually got a hold on which town Gwenni lived in but I know it has a castle and it’s across the water from Cricieth. Which also has a catle but it’s nothing in comparison to hers.
“In my sleep I have to fly up and up and up to avoid the gatehouse and the Red Dragon on our castle before diving again to the sands and the sea.”
But it’s still pretty impressive, no?
This review is part of Wythnos Cymraeg || Welsh Week. Find out more!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"A missing piece can be very bad for the puzzle, whether in the natural world, or politics, or here in the belly of an airship."
Initial Final Page"A missing piece can be very bad for the puzzle, whether in the natural world, or politics, or here in the belly of an airship."
Initial Final Page Thoughts. That’s what I want to know, Alek. That’s what I want to know.
High Points. Deryn. Alek. This world… wooow, why doesn’t it exist yet?! Huxleys. Darwinists. Clankers. Flying wales. Cow farts. Trinkets&Diddies. Messenger lizards. Science. Nature. Snowshoes. Tazza. Dr Barlow. Frostbitten bums. Odd kind of tingling. The prospect of sequels…
Low Points. I think I’ll appreciate this book all the more when I look back on it after reading the others… which may or may not be zooming down the motorway to my house as I type. This isn’t a gripe directed solely at Mr Westerfeld… more like everyone who has ever written a story where a girl dresses up as a boy and no one notices. Yes, that’s right. It’s also directed at YOU director of Shakespeare in Love and that film where Channing Tatum takes his top off a lot and there’s football… sorry, soccer, involved! She’s the Man. Basically this rant is aimed at Shakespeare. *shakes first* Sure, I could get over it if the girl in question was like… a baby. People would notice a sixteen year old girl (who looks extremely pretty in the illustrations, I need to add!) was gallivanting around a whale! Even if her diddies are on the small side. The whole idea of people changing one thing about themselves and all of the sudden are unrecognisable is a serious pet peeve of mine (I go off on one provide an extremely sound and mature argument in my Shadows on the Moon review.) But you know what?! I don’t care because Deryn is brilliant and if anyone could fool a ship full of silly boys she could!
Hero. Oh Alek, I think you’re going to end up getting overshadowed in this review which is completely unfair because you are brilliant too. But… well… Derynissocool……*whines* Sorry, Alek. I’m back with you, promise. You have all this ridiculous stuff happening around you and you still have the time to be a Grade A sweetheart? I applaud you because if I was an Austro-Hungarian prince I would be whinging like nobody’s business. I loved how he was innocent and naïve and a bit of wimp but he was determined to learn and break-free of people’s perceptions of him and his ancestors and all that shebang. I’m really excited to see where Alek’s learning curve takes him. Also, the banter between him and Deryn was hilarious.
“Listen, I’m not really supposed to be this far from home. I just happened to be out hiking when I saw your ship come down.” “Out hiking?” Deryn said. “In all this barking snow? At night?” “Yes. I often hike on the glacier at night.” “With medicine?”
And I can’t wait to see what happens when what I think will happen happens!
Hero.Heroine. Hero?Jo’s Best Friend. YES YES YES. I’ve only read one book but already Deryn is one of my favourite female heroines. She can fashion a zipwire while dangling under a squid-thing! I’m going to start adding that to my necessary friend requirements. And this is the point where I would get slightly nervous because I always fall in love with fantastic heroines in the first book of a series and then get my heart dashed as it goes on (Looking at you, Katniss!)… but I have no doubt that Deryn and I are for keeps. *fingers crossed* And OH, I caught you with your tingling feelings after a certain prince hugged you. Don’t think I didn’t see that! Just because you’re a soldier doesn’t mean you can’t twist your skirts every now and again… or um, you know… your uniformed pants.
Again, I can’t wait to see what happens when what I think will happen happens !
Illustrations. When the wonderful Catie recommended this book to me to be part of my Illustrated Book Week I was sceptical because it didn’t look like the kind of book that should be illustrated. I mean it wasn’t about magic or fairy tales or monsters. It was about alternative war and machines and.... boy stuff. But, boy am I glad it was illustrated?! I think they are particularly important because they are so detailed and perfectly capture Westfeld’s fantastical world. They almost looked like they had been produced with the smog and grime and grease from one of the Clanker's machines. What I loved was that even though they were highly detailed and intricate, they also managed to maintain their cartoon-ness (Is there a word for that?). I loved the pictures with the characters on them the most because Mr Thompson got their facial expressions perfectly. Also, the fact that Deryn is taller than Alek was brilliant!
Theme Tune. I couldn’t find any song that really went with giant whale airships and clanking. So I’m* going to choose a song for my girl, Deryn.
Just a Girl by No Doubt. *Well, I say I’m- fellow music lover Catie chose this one because I was too busy buying the next two books. Sadness Scale. 3/10. Almost zilch but I think Alek’s story (if you know your…um, alternate history you’ll know what I mean) was really sad. Poor little pup. And also, while I’m thinking about it, Deryn’s story is sad as well. But she doesn’t tend to dwell… I hope we’ll get to find out more about these and their feelings as the series goes on.
Recommended For. People who are looking for a fast-paced, high-action book with great characters and fantastic potential for the rest of the books. People who live in places where they can’t get mobile reception but have an abundance of lizards who seem to listen to your conversations! People who think that the smell of fish and cow farts always lead to adventure. People who would look great in a bowler hat. People who actually use the words “boffin” and “ninny” in everyday conversations (I actually do, you know, when I’m not swearing like a lorry driver.) People who always take medicine when they go on their glacial hikes. Boys who couldn’t recognise a girl if she cut her hair short and wore pants. People who are suspicious of eggs. People who can’t wait to see what happens when what they think will happen happens.
You can read this review and other exciting things on my blog here....more
“We’re all the same here, he told himself; a handful of life trying to preserve itself like the candle light in the bunkers, a bundle of duties in un“We’re all the same here, he told himself; a handful of life trying to preserve itself like the candle light in the bunkers, a bundle of duties in uniform, feeling and thinking like human beings, but trained to act like automatons.”
Well, I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. To say reading it was a bit of a slog would be doing it a great disservice and one that would be unfair. So, because I’m a crazy kid and whatnot, I’m going to split this book into two. Not the review. No no. The actual book.
And the first book I will be reviewing will be known as Cross of Iron: The Book Jo Disliked. (TBJD) The second book I will be reviewing will be known as Cross of Iron: The Book Jo Liked. (TBJL)
Because this book made me feel conflicted something rotten. I’m going to start with TBJD. I remember this conversation I had with my friend about protagonists and how I didn’t mind if they were a bit… unsavoury. Some of my favourite protagonists are, in fact, mental psychopaths. And I stand by my decision. I like my main characters with a bit of edge, I like them to have flaws and I like them to be a bit prickly. But this book really took that to a whole new level though. I think out of all the men in this book I liked about three of them. And they were hardly in it (view spoiler)[or at least not for long! (hide spoiler)] Steiner was a really interesting and complex character but I found him often to be too callous, too calculating and unnecessarily cruel. Saying that though, I did like the parts where this book was told from his perspective the best. Also, and this isn’t really fair because it has nothing to do with the story itself, but my gosh whoever translated this book needs to pull up their socks. Unless it’s just the fact that Mr Heinrich really wanted stilted dialogue and I’m just not with it. Then I apologise. And the word “grinned” often used where I have the feeling Mr Heinrich probably meant “grimanced”. Or at least I hope so. It makes an alarming difference when men are grinning when they are being insulted and/or seeing their comrades being killed next to them. And while I’m having a bit of a rant... when another person starts talking in a conversation you start a new paragraph. For the love of all things literary! There were huge chunks of this book where I didn’t have the foggiest as to who was saying what because all of the dialogue was shoved into one paragraph and they were all grinning and gah.
Moving on to my next review for TBJL. The beginning of this book was infinitely better than the second half. As Steiner and his men journey through the depths of the Russian forests the setting is so impeccably realised that you can almost hear every single pine cone being trodden on. I really loved the conversations and banter between the men. It felt silly, yet frighteningly honest. I’m still laughing about Funder and his cologne. And even though I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, I loved them as a whole. Their relationships, petty arguments and their intelligent, almost philosophical, conversations about their life all felt extremely authentic. Also, I can completely see how Mr Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was influenced by this story (or the film at least) because Stranksy and Landa are definitely cut from the same evil-man cloth. I have to admit that my notes (and my attention span) dwindled at around page 300 and I ended up skimming the last 100 pages or so. Until, that is, the end chapter which blew my mind, broke my heart, and other metaphors that haven’t even been invented yet. Wow, just wow. Extremely haunting.
So, my rating for TBJD would have been a 2 and my rating for TBJL would have been a 4. I’m settling on 3.
This review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more here.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
“You must always think of it like that if you can. Think of it as – as romantic. It helps.”
This review is going to be a quick one because it’s impos“You must always think of it like that if you can. Think of it as – as romantic. It helps.”
This review is going to be a quick one because it’s impossible to really go into depth without spoiling the story. I don’t normally read plays because they seem to unleash a wave of high school-related memories and trying to think of quotes and line numbers and acts and basically getting myself into a tizzy. But I love the theatre and I’ve wanted to read Journey’s End for a while now because I’ve heard it was beautiful and tragic. And they are my favourite adjectives when it comes to literature. Journey’s End is an extremely claustrophobic play, set in the trenches in March 1918 as the war is drawing to a close. It tells the story of a group of officers and their commander over a course of three days. Apparently R.C Sherriff intended the play to be called ‘Suspense’ or ‘Waiting’ and, I have to say, they both would have been perfect titles for this. This play was so tense. And a lot of people may dismiss the scenes and the conversations as slow but I think that is the whole point and what makes the. In the films set around WW1 there is always something happening, shells exploding, machine guns hammering but in reality there was a lot of time where the men were just waiting. Instead of writing a play that is about the combat, Sherriff chose to focus on the men and their feelings. The most striking part was that he could have chosen any group of soldiers on either side of No Man’s Land and still had the same play, the same feelings and the same message. I loved the characters, each and every one of them feeling real to me. Complex Stanhope with his inner conflicts and extremely human fears, the dark humorous banter between Osborne and Mason, Hibbert and his terror, the ever changing relationship between Stanhope and the young Raleigh, the enthusiastic, optimistic officer who becomes more and more disillusioned when he begins the truth and sees what happens to men who are fighting. I loved them all. This play reminded me of the preface that Wilfred Owen wrote: “This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.” And it’s so true. The scenes between the men were extremely subtle and really drove home the complete and utter futility of it all. And I think it’s this subtlety that made the final scene all the more haunting. Maybe I shouldn’t go and see this on stage… the public tears could be embarrassing.
This review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more here. ...more
This review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more about it here.
“Below me were my wooden soldiers. The nutcracker men wereThis review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more about it here.
“Below me were my wooden soldiers. The nutcracker men were hidden in the dark shadows of the tree and the wall, but the moonlight gleamed on my Frenchmen and my Tommies…The guns in France pounded away with their faint little thunder, and I thought that my real dad would be just like my model, wide awake, watching the sky.”
This was one of those rare, wonderful books that you read without knowing anything about. The idea of the book fascinated me: a toy maker is drafted to the trenches and sends carved soldiers that he sees to his ten year old son, Johnny, back in England. As Johnny collects the toy soldiers and creates an army to fight back the strong nutcracker soldiers that his dad made him before he went, he notices that the battles he makes up in the mud under the beech tree are becoming more like the ones that his dad writes about. Doesn’t that sound like a brilliant and unique way of telling a story about a boy whose dad is fighting in WW1? Yes. And it really was.
This book had me captivated and I read it within a couple of hours, not realising how much time had passed until I realised that the day had slipped into dusk. Whoops. I was riveted by Johnny’s story (I would also like to be best friends with him) and the unlikely friends he makes while he is living in Kent, avoiding the dangers of London. The only thing that is preventing me from giving this book the full five stars were the letters that Johnny received from his dad.
And I have to admit I’m still not sure I should be so picky. And I am being picky so please take that into account. I found it very difficult to believe that a father would write to his ten year old son every minute detail of what happened to him when he went over the top . I understand the necessity of telling children the truth about the horrors of the war, or at least explaining that it isn’t like playing with toy soldiers in your back garden, but there is a difference between telling them the truth and scaring the living daylights out of them! Poor Johnny. Surely he would have liked a bit of reassurance that the dad he was already worrying about wasn’t going to die like the men mentioned in the telegrams the postman brings around. But, like I said, I am being picky because if I ignored the niggling in the back of my mind… the letters were really well executed and, as this is really Johnny’s story in England, allowed the reader to get a sense of what is happening over there. And the soldiers that accompanied these letters, becoming more and more twisted and broken, was a really effective and poignant way of illustrating that war, as the tagline suggests, is no longer a game.
So I don’t mind admitting that I’m the world’s biggest wuss when it comes to anything that resembles a puppet, clown or ventriloquist dummy. And nutcracker men don’t necessarily come under this category but there was definitely something extremely… eerie isn’t the right word… but well yeah eerie about these little guys. I loved how Mr Lawrence introduced an extremely subtle yet intriguing element of magic within this story. As he states in his author’s note at the end: “There was something about the Great War that inspired the belief in the supernatural”. Whether this was the sightings of apparitions of English archers protecting the soldiers from the Germans on the same ground as they did against the French centuries earlier, ghostly soldiers or the famous case of the Angel of Mons. I thought the mystery behind what was really happening with those wooden soldiers and their influence was in equal measures unnerving and poignant. Oh and one last thing… that last paragraph? Urrrgh, shivers.
"None of us - teacher or taught- realised how an imagined life can sustain you as a possibility, a hope, and remain just that. Like parallel train tra"None of us - teacher or taught- realised how an imagined life can sustain you as a possibility, a hope, and remain just that. Like parallel train tracks, it runs alongside, but will never meet the life you are living."
This book took me absolutely ages to get into and I have no idea why. You know when you know a book is going to be good and the writing is fantastic and the story is brilliant but there is just something stopping you from tearing through it? I think the main problem that I had was that I seemed to have missed the one sentence that explained the date when each narrator was so I was getting all muddled. But that’s not really my fault because no one told me that when you read a book you actually have to … you know, read it. Anyway, this book was fascinating. I loved the era, I loved the story. The characters, well, I could’ve done with a bit more connection to them. It seems, from other reviews on here, that I’m not the only person who felt this book would have been so much better if it was a non-fiction. I’ve never read Funder’s Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall but from the merits of this book, I really want to. It is clear that Ms Funder knows this era and is passionate about it. I swear I could almost smell the cigarette smoke in the bars that Dora, Ruth and Toller visited. It was impeccably researched and I loved the cameos of prominent figures like Auden and Isherwood. In my third year at uni I took a module of British Writers in the 1930s so I read Auden’s poems and Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains (and it was possibly my favourite module of my uni time, with the possible exception of Detective Fiction) I think this book would be a great one to read for that module. Hmm, maybe I should send my lecturer an e-mail. Sorry, where was I? The main problem I had was that even though I liked the main characters, I didn’t really feel emotionally connected to them. Which is strange because the subject of the events that inspired this story is full of emotional intensity. The characters all just seemed so… removed, which I know was the point and I loved Funder’s exploration of memory and perception and reconstructing the past. It seemed very evocative of The Blind Assassin in that way, but not as in depth. “Sometimes the imitation is brighter than the real.” I think out of the two narrators, my favourite (read: the one that broke my heart the most) was Toller. I’ve never read anything of his so it was fascinating to learn more about him and even if it was fictionalised story. In All That I Am, Ms Funder produced a fascinating book telling a story that I was admittedly extremely ignorant about. It is a story of determination and fighting for what you believe in an era when it would have been easier, and safer, to sit back and do nothing. It’s definitely encouraged me to read more about the true people who resisted Hitler and the Nazis and sought to tell the world about his plans, because it truly is an inspiring tale.
An advanced copy of this book was kindly provided by Viking.
“The advantage to using the stuff of real life is that one really is left with people who are far more interesting than what one could ever make up.”“The advantage to using the stuff of real life is that one really is left with people who are far more interesting than what one could ever make up.”
OK, when I first started reading about this book and people were saying that this book was I have to admit I was sceptical. Graphic Novel Fun Fact: Maus was the first graphic novel I ever read and anyone knows me and my reading tastes will know that I will defend the graphic novel to the death. So, needless to say, it made an impression on me.
The book is split up into the three questions that Mr Spiegelman has been asked throughout his life. Why the holocaust? Why mice? Why comic books? Spiegelman has such an easy way of combining hilarious anecdotes with fascinating historical background to provide an interview that is always compelling . From stories of his visit to Auschwitz, to how a Neo-Nazi ended up with a poster of Maus on his bedroom wall and how the idea of assigning each nationality with an animal came to him, Spiegelman, like his character in Maus, talks candidly about how he came to create one of the most memorable graphic novels ever written… or, um, drawn. I love how Spiegelman is never afraid to tell it how it is (a particular interesting part was the discussion about the pitfalls of creating a book/film about the Holocaust and how it can so often “risk the melodramatic trivialization of their suffering” or, as he puts it, “Holokitsch”) and he doesn’t worry about how his image will come across. As in Maus, he openly discusses the often difficult relationship he had with his father but how “it never occurred to [him] to try and create a heroic figure” in either his father or himself, which could have easily happened with a story like Maus. I think this honesty makes the original story so much more effective because it’s real. Every page is a visual treat. It sounds like a cliché… but I don’t care. It truly was. All through the book are examples of Speigelman’s original Maus sketches, photographs, unseen drawings, other artists illustrations and snippets of books, pamphlets and leaflets that he used for research. The book also comes with a disc of a digitalised version of the novel, complete with hyper-links, audio and the sketches of his original panel ideas. I spent a good few hours clicking through it and I know I didn’t even scratch the surface of what is included.
This book is an absolute must for fans of Maus, fans of history and fans of graphic novels. I truly couldn’t recommend this more.
The only slightly negative thing I had to say about it is that MetaMaus is best read with a copy of Maus in the other hand. But that isn’t a negative thing at all because I loved the opportunity to re-read it. But it did lead to the dilemma of which one to put down when I wanted a sip of my tea… because, honestly, I couldn’t decide between the two.
I didn’t think I could enjoy Maus more than I did… but it seems MetaMaus proved me wrong.
(Note: This is one of those books that to truly grasp it properly, I will have to do numerous re-reads. But I’m looking forward to every one of them.)
An advanced copy of this book was provided for review by Viking. ...more
There are slight spoilers hovering around in this review… I’m going to try and not spoil it outright but if you don’t want to know anything about it…There are slight spoilers hovering around in this review… I’m going to try and not spoil it outright but if you don’t want to know anything about it… here’s the short version: read it read it read it.
“Together always. Free… And their lives ahead of them, around them, spilling from them as they screamed Whoooooooooo like three demented owls. What joy it was to be, what joy.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts. Breath taken and hairs on the back of my neck standing up… wowowow. This book was spectacular. High Points. Shell. Father Rose. Trix. Jimmy. Caves. Rhymes. Altar boys who think unholy thoughts. Buckets and spades. Doing a Mary Magdalene. Ireland. Jezebel. See Shells. Piers. Mirrors. Faith. Spirituality. Bras. Hope. Ferris Wheels. “The dreams and laughs and tears. The here-and-nows and the here-afters.”
Low Points. I honestly can’t think of one that won’t sound lame like “It wasn’t long enough”. So… I’m passing on this one.
….. But it wasn’t long enough. I wanted to know what happened after… what happened to Shell, what happened to Father Rose, what happened to Trix and what happened to Jimmy…. *sulks*
Heroine. Oh Shell, my heart is bleeding for you. But you’re the kind of heroine who wouldn’t want my sympathy… so I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. I was emotionally invested in your story, your narration, your circumstances. And I still am. If it helps you also have my utmost respect because you are one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever read. Shell’s narration often had me stopping and reading over the paragraphs again because they were so beautiful.
“In the triptych of mirrors was the image of him standing there, again and again, into infinity, reaching out forlornly into another world, a world in which Mam had gone and the living could not follow.”
Shell’s narration is so breathless and passionate and so full of feeling, it was impossible to look away. There was one scene… in a cave… with the boy… that was possibly the most compelling sex scenes I’ve read in YA fiction. Not a “deflowering” in sight either… Hurrraaaah. Ms Dowd’s portrayal of Shell’s battle with her faith, after everything she’s been through, was so compelling. But what I loved most about this book was after I finished it, I still had no idea where Ms Dowd stood on religion. I think with books with ‘controversial’ subjects, it is so easy for authors to inject their own beliefs and write a story that is basically a vehicle to bully them on to their readers. But this never happened. Shell was so resilient and even though she would have had my full support if she wanted to crawl under the duvet and weep into her pillow, she never did. She stands alone throughout most of this book but, even when everyone turns their back on her, she remains true to herself. And, throughout it all, she still has time to raise her brother and her sister without a second thought. I think Shell and I are going to be friends for a while.
Father Rose. “Coolbar isn’t ready for a gum-chewing priest.” Maybe not, but I definitely was. Lovedlovedloved this man. And his car, Jezebel. And I loved his ending. “Isn’t the world a mad fandango?”
Here be minor spoilers.
Love Interest The Boy. OK, I know, I knowww. I’m not supposed to like Declan after everything he did and after everything he didn’t. But I so so so did. Yes, he’s a bad boy but not a cliché bad boy who dwell in dark classrooms of YA books that stare and leer and brood from the side lines. He’s actually a boy. A realistic boy that you can imagine sitting at the back of the bus, scrawling crude graffiti on the back of the seat, grabbing at you, making suggestive comments to you when you walk by, who wonders what kind of bra the Virgin Mary would wear and calls going to have a quick shufty in a field “Doing a Mary Magdalene”. I think Shell understood this too.
“He wasn’t like the blacksmith in Mam’s old song. Unlike him, he’d never made any promises. He’d never written a letter. He was maybe a heart-breaking smooth operator… but he’d never pretended anything else.”
See? If Shell still likes him… how can I hate him? I don’t think Ms Dowd would have wanted me to, anyway. I bet she had a lot of fun with Declan. I know I know. He made some bad decisions. But they were realistic decisions and he wasn’t to know and I like to think that if he had known, he would have made different ones. I think he really did care for Shell… and, not because he had to like Trix and Jimmy did. But because of her.
“They made me dizzy. But not as dizzy as you made me, Shell. I still remember.”
After the Storm by Mumford & Sons. And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
I don’t know what it is about Mumford and Sons but they always seem to find the words to emotions when I can't. The more I listen to this song, the more I realise how perfect it is for this book and mirrors the journey that Shell goes on and how she comes out of it all stronger and braver.
Sadness Scale. 10/10. I don’t usually cry at books and this one was no exception… probably because my body felt so numb and my mind was so fixated on Shell’s story that I forgot how to cry. When you find out what this book is about, whether it’s from reading the book or reading a review or whatever, you will no doubt roll your eyes and think “Oh god, not one of those stories”. Believe me, I did it too. Ms Dowd created a novel that is equal parts harrowing and beautiful. It’s a story that is told without judgement or an agenda or melodrama. Even though this book is awfully sad and one that will stick with me for a long time, what I loved most about it was the hopefulness at the end. No, it wasn’t a happy ending as such. The characters are still shrouded in uncertainty and there are still problems and Ms Dowd doesn’t insult the intelligence of her readers by suggesting everything is going to be fine. But she leaves us with such hope and positivity and joy that there is a chance, even if it is small, that they will all make it through. And I think they will.
Recommended For. Everyone. People who want a realistic novel that focuses on the heroine and her strengths rather than how she acts around a boy. People who wonder if the altar boys are always thinking holy thoughts. People who like to pick up stones for no reason. People who like make up rhymes. People who think a smooth stretch of sand on the beach is for jumping on and messing up. People who aren’t top of their class but who are in a class of their own.
You can read this review and other exciting things on my blog here....more
"I tell you, if we had one jot of the courage of these animals we should be in ParisThis review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature.
"I tell you, if we had one jot of the courage of these animals we should be in Paris by now and not slugging it out here in the mud... It was not their fault they were sent on a fool's errand. They are not circus animals, they are heroes, do you understand, heroes, and they should be treated as such."
So I have to admit when I first started reading this book, I didn’t have high expectations. There are three reasons for this: 1) It’s so short! I know less is sometimes more but… it’s 165 pages. That could get lost in my back teeth! 2) It’s aimed at younger readers. And I mean…. younger readers. I’d say middle grade at least. 3) I’m kind of scared of horses ever since the one time I went camping with Brownies and a horse chomped on my culottes. They’re just too big and scary with their nickering and … *shudders*
And then I found out it was told from the perspective of a horse and…. OK, I really didn’t know much about this book before I started it so I was kind of aghast when I saw how short it was, how it was probably written for people half my age and that it was told from the perspective of probably the great great great granddad of the horse WHO NEARLY ATE ME. And that, my friends, is why you should always do your research. But research can sometimes be a problematic thing because if I had read about this book and found out the aforementioned stuff and I know I would have given this book a miss. And I would really have missed out on a wonderful book.
(It’s still too short though.) Joey’s story starts in the tranquil fields of a Devon after being bought as a young colt from an auction house when Britain was on the cusp of the First World War. He is soon sold into the cavalry and shipped off to France. Even though this book is aimed at a middle-grade level, this book didn’t read like it. The language was evocative, descriptive and captivating. Mr Morpurgo never talks down to his readers and choosing honesty rather than sheltering them from what really happened in WW1 because it could be too distressing. What I enjoyed most about this book is how Joey was used as a vehicle to explore the feelings of the soldiers, on both sides of no man’s land. As the book, and the war, goes on and his circumstances change, Joey’s journey leads him to meeting a handful of characters in the war torn fields of France. Whether it was Captain Nicholls, Friederich, David, Emilie or Topthorn, his fellow horse, the connections he made with them were always true, even if they were fleeting. I loved how the soldiers (and let’s not forget Emilie!) saw Joey as their fellow comrade, feeling comfortable to sit with him in his stables and tell Joey their secrets, their worries and their futures. For me, it was these interactions with “the real heroes” that made this story so powerful and intricate, even though the pages were minimal. It is a poignant story that combines the themes of determination, unwavering devotion, bravery and compassion with a story that a lot of people will find interesting. Before reading this, I knew little of the cavalry in WW1 or actually how many horses served over there. The scenes with the Veterinary Corps were particularly interesting because you don’t really think of things like that when you think of the First World War. OK, maybe you do. But I certainly didn’t. I can understand why this book, which was first published in 1982 , is so widely read in schools and of course why it is now an award winning stage play (which I desperately want to see by the way. I saw a documentary about the making of it and it looks brilliant). A lot of the feelings and emotions that Morpurgo explores are not only universal, but timeless too.
I could, with mild reluctance, say that Joey would be the only horse I would be willingly friends with. And I’d even let him have a bit of the crusty bread. As long as he promised to leave my garments alone. ...more
“I nodded subserviently while inside I was chewing over his words: tipped the balance of power. It seemed a strange expression to me becaus3.5 stars.
“I nodded subserviently while inside I was chewing over his words: tipped the balance of power. It seemed a strange expression to me because it gave me an image of a seesaw, and when one end was up the other was always down. It was never actually balanced.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts. What… wait.. was that…? No.. it couldn’t be. Could that be an epilogue that didn’t make me superfluously angry?! I believe it was. Gosh. And also… sadness.
High Points. Let’s hear it for the boys. History. Unflinching. Raw. Nelson. Snakes in the grass. Honesty. Brothers. Thought-provoking. Difficult questions. The writing.
Low Points. Oh won’t somebody think of the children parents? Seriously… I know in YA Land parents are normally dead/divorced/ awol for unexplained reason and I’ve come to accept that. But this was ridiculous. These boys were just running around like the lost boys at the end! And speaking of the ending, it was.. um.. interesting but a little unconvincing and about as subtle as a ton of bricks. Also, I wish we had spent more time in 1985. It was nice to see Robert starting off in the boarding school but I think it went on for a bit too long and, I know Mr Wallace had to set the scene because some people (like moi) may not know about this era at all, but I would like to have had more time looking at Robert when he was older because I think his character really started to develop and, of course, break my heart and make me scowl and sigh in exasperation and write ‘ROBERT NOOOO! Come on!’ and ‘Robert don’t do that. Why are you doing that?!’ and ‘PLEASE JUST STOP EVERYTHING THAT YOU’RE DOING’ in my little notebook.
Hero….ish. Alright Robert. I would call you Bobby or Jacko because that’s what your… friends call you. But, to be honest, I don’t know if I want to be your friend because it seems you’re not a very good one. I won’t go into the details because I know it’s a sore subject and it just makes me upset to think about it because I thought we were going to be close and then you ruined it all (oh and also spoilers). But you know what you did or what you didn’t do. So we’ll leave it at that.
The journey that the reader goes on with Robert is fascinating and often difficult to read. It was hard to see Robert, the nervous and shy boy in the first chapter, be seduced by Ivan’s manipulative ideas and turn his back on everything he knew was right because he was afraid to standout and have Ivan’s bullying turn on him.(There is a moment where Robert says that he “hid by joining in” because it was easier to go along with Ivan’s “games” than it was to call him out.) Even though I didn’t necessarily like him, I felt like I knew him. And even though I didn’t agree with the choices he made, I understood why he made them. Robert was a fascinating character and it was impossible not to sympathise with him, in spite of everything. I thought it was really effective seeing the events occur from his perspective as it introduced a lot of the thought-provoking questions that made this book so compelling.
But yes... Robert was definitely an interesting character and I’m still not 100% sure I had him completely figured out. One minute I wanted to hug him and tell him all was forgiven. And then the next minute I wanted to throttle him or at least frown until he understood that I was angry with him.
This book will stay with me for a long time and definitely made me think. That’s right… think. *looks suspiciously at the book*
I’m missing out a whole lot of these headings because I really don’t want to ruin anything for those interested in reading it.
Theme Tune. Not so much a theme tune but more a topical tune.
I have so much love for this man and this song and this video is just fantastic.
Sadness Scale. 10/10. It’s weird to give this book such a high rating because it didn’t make me cry so much as it made me uneasy and on edge and I honestly don’t think making his audience sad was Mr Wallace’s intention and he didn’t make me… wait… ok, I’m gonna change things around before I give myself a nosebleed. Gimme a sec.
Distress Scale. 10/10. OK, that’s better. As I was saying, this book had me on edge. About everything. And it distressed me. I finished this book yesterday and I’m still thinking about certain scenes and fretting about them. I’ve been dithering to and fro writing this review and I’m still not 100% sure that what I’m saying is going to make sense. I don’t really want to go into the parts that I found most distressing because, obviously, they are more effective when you don’t know they are coming. Wallace doesn’t keep any of his characters safe, something tragic happens to pretty much every single one of them, but it never feels forced or as if Wallace has sat at his desk and thought ‘Damn, that character is in danger of having a happy ending. Quick think of something hideous to happen to them.’ And the fact that these issues were never milked or dwelled on for too long made them all the more upsetting. The conclusion of one of the events that I’m still thinking about was given approximately three lines… yet it still chilled me to the bone.
Recommended For. People who are looking for a compelling historical YA novel that deals with difficult subjects in an honest and insightful manner.
You can find this review and other exciting things on my blog here....more
It’s normal in Cairo- the city of magic and ancient mysteries- for rich and poor to stand side by side, to share the same doorways and bui3.5 stars.
It’s normal in Cairo- the city of magic and ancient mysteries- for rich and poor to stand side by side, to share the same doorways and buildings, the same streets, without ever really seeing each other.
“Nothing can satisfy our minds like the kinds of journeys we are capable of when we use our imaginations. Only then can we discover the truth.
When I visited Cairo a couple of years ago, the thing that struck me the most was how fascinating and incredibly daunting it was seeing two completely different lifestyles living within the same city. On one hand you have the cool, air conditioned museums, the restaurants, the five star hotels, the tour buses full of tourists who are suffering from incredible cases of sunstroke. (Well, ok, that may have just been me. My skin can’t even handle a Mancunian summer, I practically combusted in the Sahara.) But on the other, the side that they don’t cover in the guide books, is something completely different and this is what The Glass Collector is about. From the first page I could tell how passionate Ms Perera was about telling Aaron’s story. It’s honest without being too preachy. It’s harrowing without being too intense. It’s sweet without being too saccharine. And I really appreciated how Ms Perera portrayed Aaron’s happiness with the same importance as his struggles. The only problem I had with this book was the style in which it was written (third person, present tense) and I’m not sure whether it’s just because I’m not used to reading books like this or what, but I can’t say I was a fan.
But other than that it was a really fascinating look into a subject which is very rarely addressed in literature, never mind young adult/middle grade books. I’d really recommend it, especially for readers on the younger side of YA.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers....more
“Never date a guy who can fit into your jeans- Adriane often warned me- failing to mention that it was because I might someday need him to save me fr“Never date a guy who can fit into your jeans- Adriane often warned me- failing to mention that it was because I might someday need him to save me from a secret society of murdering Renaissance Faire rejects.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts. Sigh…. And we were doing so well. OK, up until about 80% this book would have been a 5 star book. I was happily ignoring the mental far-fetchedness of the plot because I loved the characters and the setting and the writing. But even I couldn’t suspend my disbelief at the end. More on this later….
High Points. Boys, boys, boys. Nora. Friendship. European globetrotting. History. Murder. Love. Double crossing. Churches. Prince Charming. Language. Latin. The writing. Letters. Secrets. Blood. Conspiracies. Ninja moves. On the lam. Novelty underpants.
Low Points. OK, the last 20% were just ridiculous. So much crazy stuff happened that even if I ignored my no spoiler rule… I don’t think I could actually tell you everything that happened. Some of the reveals I had ‘guessed’ (when I say guessed I mean I thought ‘Oh no… that’s not going to happen is it? He’s not… she’s not… Oh god… he is, they are!’ way) and they still confused me. Others were just so random. And then there were the chosen ones and guns and the melting faces. Also, I’m particularly good at ignoring historical inaccuracies (within reason) and authors bending theories to fit their stories because that kind of thing isn’t my strong point. So I’m not entirely sure, if that is your area of expertise how you’d feel about this book. But I’m just saying… it wasn’t a low point for me but it could be for others. But other than that… I really did enjoy this book. The story was a bit fanciful and I haven’t been completely sure about religious sects and secret societies and whatnot post-Mr Brown… but the characters, the writing and the narration made up for this. But…authors: STOP KILLING OFF LOVELY LOVE INTERESTS. Seriously, I have only just got over the fact that I could never be with Charlie and then you throw Chris at me. No fair, Ms Wasserman. No fair.
Heroine. Nora, I’m pretty sure we’re the same person. We have the same views on EVERYTHING including religion, school, love and just life in general. So… that makes me as awesome as you, right? Right. I loved how, even when the plot booked a ticket to Fruit Loop Town, you stayed extremely normal and you didn’t turn into a crazy person. I just loved your narration… seriously, I underlined practically everything you said.
“I hated romance novels, romantic comedies, and cheesy love poetry with equal passion- but I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could ignore them, I believed in happily ever after as much as anyone because Jane Austen, Prince Charming, and Hugh Grant promised me it could happen. But maybe that particular delusion was universal.”
And it didn’t even bother me that you were a bit angsty (because, with everything considered, you deserved it!) or that there were a lot of boys in love with you. Because I think I was a little bit in love with you by the end. There was the bit that I thought you were going to turn out to be Jesus… but it turned out fine so the above statement still stands.
Elizabeth. I actually loved the connections between Elizabeth, her story and her letters, and Nora. I was a bit unsure about them at first but they really grew on me. They effortlessly merged together and they never seemed forced. They were also beautifully written and poetic without being too over the top.
“I have discovered what fills the vacuum left by love. It is called necessity, and it will not be denied.”
I’m so so glad that you didn’t turn out to be like that godawful Sabrina film that I watched when I was ill. You know, the one with the locket and a painting and the fact she was her long lost, long dead relative. You don’t know the one? Neither do I. Heh heh. *flees*
Best Friend. I could write an essay on my feelings on Adriane. But I won’t, don’t worry…. Because there are a lot of twisty turns in this book and it’s good not knowing. Every time I read the name ‘Adriane’ I got that song from The Calling in my head and all I could think of was of the lead singer’s crazy eyebrows and his ridonkulous hair and his rooftop angst. This has nothing to do with the story or this Adriane …. ALTHOUGH, the lyrics are quite apt. Anyway… moving on.
Love Interest. I literally have NO idea where to start with this. When I pick up a book there is about a 91% chance that I will fancy someone within the creamy pages. In this book... there were THREE. (It didn’t stay that way though…. My loyalties were tested in this.) We first meet Chris, who is quickly dubbed as Prince Charming because he is HOT STUFF and sexy and funny and has curly hair and Nora is instantly in love with him….because she’s human. Sounds simple, right? NO. Because he’s dead. This is not a spoiler because it tells us in the synopsis and it’s also his blood splattered across the walls in the first page. *sob* He’s genuinely dead and buried and it’s very sad but he’s still so cute and he’s not really a love interest but I couldn’t not include him. Because I love him. BUT WAIT… there’s more. Then we have Max… awkward, brooding, a little unhinged. Stereotypical love interest? No siree. He likes history. He quotes poetry. He treats Nora with respect. He wears vintage t-shirts. He likes to travel. Sure.... he has some faults. But I won’t go into them… *cough* BUT WAIT… I’m not done yet. Because here comes Eli. Oh Eli. You dark horse with your mystery and your humour and your snarky retorts. And you are cultured, you can speak Czech, you are intelligent and you have ninja moves. I also appreciate your love for wearing novelty t-shirts to bed (Dennis the Menace). Also.. Tweety Bird undercrackers. What girl could resist? Again…. you have some faults. And again, I won’t go into them.
So, all in all, out of the boys (with a pulse) Eli, you are a WINNER. Hurrah for you.
Theme Tune. I struggled with this one because there were a lot of feelings and ideas covered. But I kept circling back to Nora and the way she was so guarded with her feelings and was reluctant to move forward and how, even though she pretended to be tough and cynical and whatevz, she was vulnerable and sad inside. Which, considering the crap she’s had to deal with in her sixteen or so years on this earth, is perfectly understandable. I loved that the ending was so ambiguous and Ms Wasserman allowed us to fill in the blanks. So this song is my blank.
The New by Interpol And I know you don’t believe in happy endings and they are for optimists and dreamers… but I hope you get one, Nora. It may take a while, but you’ll get there. And tell him I say hi.
And if not… screw you, Hugh Grant. *shakes fist*
Boy Angst Level.
I’m skipping these two because it would be impossible to talk about them without ruining everything.
Recommended For. People who like adventure stories with heaps of mystery. People who like strong and hilarious heroines. People who can read the Da Vinci Code for the entertainment side of things and not get angry and stabby. People who like letters…. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. People who can’t resist a boy who has a European accent… that isn’t English. People who blame Richard Curtis for all of their love problems. People who want to travel to Prague… without, y’know, all the murder. People who like boys to wear novelty underwear.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers. It will be published early next year.
You can read this review and other fun things on my blog here....more
"Don't you know that it is only very foolish folk who talk sense all the time?"
Another Series of Letters.
Manchester, A woman picked a leaf out of"Don't you know that it is only very foolish folk who talk sense all the time?"
Another Series of Letters.
Manchester, A woman picked a leaf out of my hair on the bus today (true story… it's very windy and I don’t brush my hair there are a lot of trees near me). Also, I’m pretty sure One Direction (and their fan girls) were on the same bus this morning. (Brits… you’ll understand my pain. Everyone else, you don’t want to know...I promise you.) Also, the postman didn’t knock on the door and just shoved one of those ‘SORRY YOU WEREN’T IN’ things through my letter box. That would not be tolerated on Prince Edward Island. You’re making my decision to move all the more easier. Yours faithfully, Miss Williams.
Dear L.M, Re: Moving into your mind. Did you get my previous letters? Have you had chance to think about me moving into your mind? Only I have a few friends who would probably be quite interested too. We won’t make much noise, we’ll take off our shoes before entering and we’ll always use a coaster. Please think about it! Kind Regards, J. Williams.
Dearest Anne, I fear I must apologise for laughing so heartily at the firecracker incident. I promise I was laughing with you and not at you. I hope my honesty and my apology will still allow me to be your kindred spirit. Lots of love, Jo.
P.S. Re: Gilbert. ANNE. You have no idea how much I wanted to strangle you with that descending veil of yours at the end.
Dear Gilbert, Sigh. If only you were real your heart didn’t beat in time with another’s.
Yours Truly, Jo.
Miss L- They say life starts at 40….. And I’m sure the handsome prince will help. ;-) –J.W
Paul, Stay away from Davy, I don't want your innocent and sweet mind messed up by him. He is obviously up to no good and only naughty people will be silly enough to play with him. Best wishes, Jo.
Davy- Meet me in Dora’s room. I’ve got those toads you asked for- J....more
“What can I say; I have a thing for guys in period dress, okay? That’s just who I am.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts. This book3.5 stars... rounded up.
“What can I say; I have a thing for guys in period dress, okay? That’s just who I am.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts. This book was like the younger tag-along sibling of Jellicoe Road and Frankie Landau-Banks. Very cute, a bit silly, surprisingly funny, sometimes annoying but ultimately, wholly charming.
High Points. Chelsea. Fiona. Ice cream connoisseurs. History. Original and hilarious setting. “Pony tails are just a deal breaker to me.” YES. Essex Village. Renactmentland. Secret loves. Kidnapping. Pranks. Petticoats and bonnets. Trampolines. Redcoats. Cheerleaders. Telephones. Family secrets.
Low Points. Chelsea started to grate on me a bit. I don’t like it when fictional best friends fight. There were a lot of unnecessarily long paragraphs about METAPHORS and HIDDEN DEPTHS and LATE NIGHT LIFE CHATS and it sometimes got a bit BORING.. I mean boring sorry... got carried away with the capitalisations. I liked what Ms Sales was saying but I didn't think it really fit with the tone of the book on some occasions and it often felt quite jarring. Like I was laughing one minute and then something serious was mentioned and I felt guilty for laughing and I had to be all serious all of a sudden. Chelsea, mate, you’re sixteen… there’s plenty of time to have angsty boy times and intense talks with a boy you have only just met. Please, just enjoy jumping on a trampoline with said cute boy. And that’s not a euphemism… *clutches pearls* Also, there is a bit at the end that really reminded me of the bit in Mean Girls when Cady gets Prom Queen and the principal says “You know, winners aren’t required to make a speech.” Which made me laugh and think I need to watch that film again soon….
Heroine. Well, when I say you started to grate on me… I mean that I wanted to you to stop talking about Ezra and just call Fiona and eat ice cream and tell you to shut the eff up. Because Fiona and I pretty much had the same mind. You were funny, appreciated history (sometimes I wish I had taken A-Level history) and you love ice-cream. BUT…You were a bit whingey and you were a bit stupid when it came to the people of the male disposition but you get Brownie points for wanting to get over McDouche. Even if you dragged your heels in actually doing it… And also you can work a historically accurate costume. Praise needs to be given for that. It takes a real woman to look good in a historically accurate costume.
Best Friend. YES. I loved Fiona. Although she did let Chelsea get away with a lot of her whinging. If I were ever to moan that much about a boy I just know my friend would throw a dollop of ice-cream at me which I would proceed to eat anyway…. Waste not want not. But I liked their ending.
Love Interest. Ezra= yuck. Why was he even still in the picture? He had absolutely no personality and he was definitely not someone who is worth all the pining he got. In a word… yawn. Dan= OK, now we’re getting somewhere. Although, I feel I don’t really you well enough. I would like to have had a bit getting to know you style flirty conversations (But not about difficult family situations…. Because we’ve only just met. And it would be intense.)
So… what’s your favourite colour? Why do you like the Sex Pistols so much? Why don’t you brush your hair?
Although why there was even a competition between a boy who wears historically accurate costumes (It actually reminds me of when I visited Warwick Castle and there was a bloke in a powdered wig who was pleasing to look at but he was, I repeat, in a powdered wig and it was confusing to say the least) and a boy who doesn’t like sledging… I don’t know.
Theme Tune. History- Funeral For a Friend. See, we were having fun weren’t we? Talking about boys in period costume and messy hair and crooked grins and stuff and then BAM… I hit you with this song. About metaphors and history and love and ANGST. Kinda ruined the mood, did it not? This is how I felt about this book a little. FUN FACT: FFAF are from Wales which is where I first encountered people who thought it was socially acceptable to dress in chainmail and walk around the streets re-enacting things with blunt swords and beards and dressed like wizards. Yeah.. the jury’s still out on this one.
I'm going to shake these reviews up a bit from now on to make things a bit clearer in determining the sadness of the book and the amount of love-related angst.
Boy/Girl Angst Level. 9/10. Jeez. OK. Well… this book had the usual amount of boy angst you can expect when the heroine is confused about which boy she loves. I mean… I guess I need to cut Chelsea some slack. It is difficult to choose between a complete loser who doesn’t have a personality and treated you like crap and a cute boy with a bit of a rebellious side but actually truly cares about you and he’s a great big brother and he looks good in tweed pants and braces. It completely needs a bajillion pages to work it out. Harumph.
Sadness Scale. 2/10. This book was very tame in the sadness scale because it was mostly funtimes all around so I didn’t get choked up about anything. I did like the part where Chelsea was looking through the memory box and remembering her relationship how it really was as opposed to the rose-tinted view she had before. I thought how Ms Sales depicted that bitter-sweet feeling of looking back into the past and being almost afraid to move on was interesting and realistic and almost excused the way Chelsea was behaving towards Ezra.
And also, Dan’s history was interesting… would have liked to have explored that a bit more.
Recommended For. People who like history. People who would choose the boring boy over the cute boy with a lopsided grin. People who are wondering what the girl on the cover of this book licking rain has anything to do with this book… SPOILER: Nothing. People who are wondering how one would go about becoming an ice-cream tester. People who think that trampolines are for jumping on, not oversharing on. People who want a surfer soul connection. People who always wonder whether the people in museums/history villagers are hot under all that material. People who want to know where the toilets are.
I received a copy of this from the publisher.
You can find this review and other exciting things on my blog here. ...more
(Deciding to re-read this book was inspired by the wonderful ladies at Gathering Books and their fantastic bimonthly meme‘Everything Dahl and Magical’(Deciding to re-read this book was inspired by the wonderful ladies at Gathering Books and their fantastic bimonthly meme‘Everything Dahl and Magical’. Which I absolutely adore. )
“When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty. I must tell you, therefore, that it was I and I alone who had the idea for the great and daring Mouse Plot. We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine.”
I first read this glorious memoir aged twelve when I had to do a project in history on a historical person of my choice. I went to Staples, giddy as a kipper, and bought about five piles of coloured sugar paper and two packets of gel pens (the smelly glitter ones, of course) and set about completing possibly my favourite piece of homework. I was minding my own business in the classroom, armed with a Pritt Stick and a copy of every one of his book, when this absolute… so and so… in my class said ‘Roald Dahl? Historical? I don’t think so. You should have chosen a monarch or something. You’re going to get a rubbish mark.” Because I was a shy and retiring wallflower back then, I muttered something under my breath and glared at her from underneath my unfortunate fringe. BUT, if she had said that to me today I would have found a desk, stood on it and, with my chest puffed out, I would have declared: “Roald Dahl is a historical figure because if Roald Dahl hadn’t written his books then British children’s fiction… nay, British fiction would have been far too bleak to tolerate. He captured the imagination of so many children and wrote timeless stories that encouraged, and continue to encourage, children who would never normally pick up a book to do just that. And if making generation after generation fall in love with his writing doesn’t qualify him as a historical person then I don’t know what does.” But… like I said. Mumble. Glare. Unfortunate fringe. Anyway, I got my project back (and I still have it!) and my wonderful history teacher wrote: “Fantastic and original work here. You really did justice to a wonderful figure in British culture. 10 credits” 10 credits? Fantastic and original. YEAH. Anyway... back to the book. I loved how Dahl only briefly mentions the stories that he is known for once. It is only right near the end where he is describing how Cadbury’s World (Which is just like Charlie's Chocolate Factory by the way!) used to send the boys of his boarding school sample chocolate to taste and how this lead to him writing Charlie and his adventures. So whenever it was mentioned that his grandfather was nearly seven foot tall or how the young boy used to wonder how gobstoppers worked, you can’t help but feel that Dahl is giving you a knowing wink or whispering a secret that only the two of you are privy to. Witnessing these glimmers of inspiration that lead him to write his beloved stories, all those years later, was definitely my favourite thing about this book. Mrs Pratchett with her blouse covered in “toast-crumbs and tea stains and splotches of dried egg-yolk” and hands that “looked as though they have been putting lumps of coal on the fire all day long.” Remind you of any one?
Or the Matron, that “large fair-haired woman with a bosom” who “ruled with a rod of steel.”
And Dahl’s Bestemama with her perpetual chair rocking or Bestepapa, who sits “saying very little and totally overwhelmed.”
Paired with photographs, hand-written letters home and, of course, Quentin Blake’s glorious illustrations (My favourite one being the bug-eyed, twitching Captain Hardcastle), Boy is still one of my all-time favourites.
I could quite happily fill this review with quotes.... but I'll just leave you with this one...
“Anaesthetics and pain-killing injections were not much used in those days. Dentists, in particular, never bothered with them. But I doubt very much if you would be entirely happy today if a doctor threw a towel in your face and jumped on you with a knife.”
You can find this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog here....more
It would have been practically impossible to write one of my usual reviews on this wonderful graphic novel from Trina Robbins because it is3.5 Stars.
It would have been practically impossible to write one of my usual reviews on this wonderful graphic novel from Trina Robbins because it is so short. I had drawn and coloured in (within the lines, too!) a sprawling and epic graphic review of this novel and it was spectacular but just as I was about to scan in my masterpiece onto my computer…. It, um, broke. *cough* So yeah, you’ll have to make do with this bog-standard review. This graphic novel follows the story of Lily Renee Wilhelm, an Austrian girl who was sixteen when the Nazis forced her family to uproot and move to Vienna. After witnessing the horrifying and brutal acts that took place in this period (Especially the mention of Kristallnacht, an event that I learnt about in my history GCSE but never read any books that depicted it!), Lily is sent to England in a short-lived scheme set up by Germany to protect the children from the inevitable war. Before I started this book I knew nothing about Lily’s life and I found her story of surviving against the odds to become a hugely successful comic book illustrator fascinating. But I couldn’t help but feel like this book was a ridiculously fast-paced and rushed in some parts. I would have loved to have read more about Lily’s time in England and for Ms Robbins to have explored the complex feelings that the British undoubtedly felt towards Lily (along with the other Austrian/German children who were evacuated) while their cities were being ravaged by German bombers. Also, I think the story would have benefitted from a bit more detail on what happened to Lily when she landed on America and how she became to be a noted illustrator. There were a lot of gaps that could have been filled in by just adding a few more pages, just to clear things up and make the transitions feel less hurried as they did. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and the aesthetics of this book did not disappoint me. It is blatant that Ms Robbins is a master illustrator and knows exactly what she is doing when it comes to creating affective and beautiful drawings. The vivid and lavish colours of the illustrations really complimented Lily’s fascinating story and the tragic history of the period. After a few hours snooping on the Internet, I feel it is well worth researching the life of Lily Renee Philips. Her life is a fascinating and remarkable story and one that I feel should be much more widely known about.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers.
You can read the review for this book, others and plenty more exciting stuff at my blog here....more