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Plus+ : Style Inspiration for Everyone, edited by Bethany Rutter

Plus+

Plus+ by Bethany Rutter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every now and then I am reminded of an interview I read with Beth Ditto, back in the dawn of time when newspapers were still newspapers and still made of paper and print. The author wondered, in the way that was clearly his wont, at the fact that Beth Ditto did not smell like he expected a fat person to smell. And this line about Beth Ditto has stuck with me over the years, a splinter in my thoughts as a fat person learning to live my life and learning to live it on my own terms in a world so often determined to live it for me. The line became became less of a splinter as I realised an undeniable truth: the interviewer was a moron, and sentiments like this, wondered with a faux-artless air, were repellent at every level. He is dead now that writer, and I do not miss his work. But sometimes that line is still with me when I wonder if this is it: that to be fat is to be marginalised, to be brought down to the specifics of the fool that studies you as though you are something to be examined, to be found wanting, to be found nearer to Narnia than to a well-fitted peplum.

(“You read Vogue? … You?”)

And I thought about the Beth Ditto line again when I received a copy of Plus+ from a Twitter giveaway, and when I read it I realised that this is an important, important book. It is the sort of book that makes the line go away; that makes you realise that you exist, that you are – you are. I loved it. I would have cried were I given it as a child. I almost cried when I read it now, because it is so resplendent and so, so simple. Plus size women being fashionable. Plus size women being beautiful. Plus size women rocking something other than the sad-sack dresses that certain high street stores seem determined to perpetuate upon us! Plus size women being themselves. Gorgeously. Fiercely. Wholly. Such a simple thing, such a rarely rendered thing in mainstream publishing.

Were I running a school library, or indeed managing a public one, I would have a copy of this on the shelves – face out, proud, seen. It is a book that holds a thousand tiny revolutions inside it; we speak so often of getting the right book to the right reader at the right time, and I think if this book reaches somebody at the right time, it will change their world. It tells them that it’s okay to be who they are. It tells them not that they can be beautiful – but that they are. Such a quiet thing. Such a simple thing. Such a perfect powerhouse of a book.





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Blue & Other Colours with Henri Matisse

Blue & Other Colours: with Henri MatisseBlue & Other Colours: with Henri Matisse by Henri Matisse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book. Genuinely. It’s rare to find board books that slip into non-fiction but do it so deftly, so unconsciously, so ‘without getting massively educational in the process and whoah yes I’m bored and I’m three hundred years older than the target audience’ sort of thing.

Blue & Other colours is part of a series of ‘first concepts with fine artists’. This title focuses on Matisse and quietly works through a series of his works by picking out the colours. Every time ‘Blue’ is mentioned, the font turns blue, and as each new colour is introduced the font changes once more to reflect that colour. This is such a nice, subtle touch of design and will help immensely with both colour recognition and language development.

The captions are simple, ranging from: “Blue Again” through to “Blue and yellow, and look – orange dots too!”. Each caption is set against a clean white background which again is another good design; this book could have been very easily over-designed and too busy, particularly with some of Matisse’s more exuberant works, but it carefully stays away from that. It includes a little bit of blurb about Matisse at the end, which speaks about his methods and techniques.

This is such a delightful, solid book. I loved that it included a list of the works depicted throughout the book, because these are books to be shared. To be played with. To live with. I also suspect this will be a book that will last with the reader for a while and grow with them, particularly because certain elements of it do read up and towards imaginative play and craft activities. I loved it. More please.

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This Is Not A Book : Jean Jullien

This Is Not A BookThis Is Not A Book by Jean Jullien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shall we start the week off with a very good book indeed? Yes. Of course we should.

This is Not A Book by Jean Jullien is an outstanding thing; a board book that defies conventions and expectations by resolutely refusing to be a board book. There’s no linear narrative here, rather there’s a series of double page spreads where the book is something other than a book. It’s a set of piano keys with the sheet music for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or it’s a man walking across a tightrope, or it’s the inside of a tent, a girl sat on a chair reading a book to her pet dog, or a gorgeously simply rendered pink bottom.

This is a delightful book because of its ability to give a constant surprise. It’s so defiant of convention and expectation that it manages to deliver something quite extraordinary. Not quite book, not quite toy, but rather wonderfully creative experience. I loved it. This is classy, brave and smart work.

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The Glass Bird Girl : Esme Kerr

The Glass Bird GirlThe Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s a lot of books out like this at the moment (no bad thing -ed). The school story with a hint of mystery seem to be having a little bit of a resurgence (like I said, no bad thing -ed) and that’s clearly no bad thing at all (finally -ed).

The Glass Bird Girl is a very beautiful little book. From the precise eloquence of that title, through to the old-time feel of it, it’s a book that harks back to the classics of the genre and one which both plays with and pays tribute to the genre itself.

The first in a series, it tells the story of Edie who’s been sent by her uncle to Knight’s Haddon School to keep an eye on the daughter of one of his clients. Anastasia, a Russian princess, is finding school hard and there’s something afoot…

It’s a book which I liked a lot but also had a few troubles with. It’s a reticent book which, I grant, fits the nature of the beast but it’s also one that is not quite easy to grasp onto. I liked it, as I say, but there were moments when I felt quite removed from it. I wonder if a part of that is due to the nature of it being an opener to a series (and thus, having to set A Lot Of Things Into Place), but it’s something I’d like addressing in the next title in the series.

What is clear, is that Kerr is an eloquent, graceful writer and she does something I will always admire and pay tribute to. She’s written a book where school girls are school girls and where adults are mysterious, fallible, and three-dimensional. It’s always good for a school story to acknowledge the fact that the adults are people too because it invariably adds weight to the text of itself. It gives the story, the world, import. And Knight’s Haddon is full of truth, of import and of weight. I loved that about it.

This is a perfect book for those readers who are looking to graduate on from something like Malory Towers or St Clare’s onto something a little more mature and challenging. Kerr writes in a lovely, eloquent and accessible manner (though some of the ‘home’ scenes are little difficult to reconcile with the grace of the ‘school’ story itself). A book of two halves! It’s a good job the school part works so well.

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Rose Under Fire : Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“And still the sky is beautiful.” (p26)

If there’s a phrase that sums this book up for me, and perhaps Code Name Verity too (which I reviewed here) it is this phrase, this poetic and graceful phrase that sings from the page. There’s something in the way both books look upwards, finding freedom, finding equality, finding hope even in the skies.

We are more than we ever think we are.

Rose discovers this about herself throughout Rose Under Fire. Through circumstance, through action, she finds herself in the darkest of places and she must survive for she has a story to tell.

Set after Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire provides the next part of the story for certain characters in that book. It also provides mild spoilers for Code Name Verity so I’d suggest reading that first if you’re anything like me. Whilst there could be an issue in returning to the scene of the crime (as it were), Wein handles this continuation very well. She closes the story and opens another, and perhaps eases us through the utter loss that Code Name Verity caused. She does this by this closeness, this reminder that pain and heartbreak was not something you escaped from in this war. It was not something that happened to a friend of a friend. It happened to everyone. That tightness, that narrative woven from the darkness of war, the way it is almost inescapable is very very cleverly done.

What shines here as well is the voice of Rose. She grows, unfurls, and then shrinks back inside of herself, recoiling at the horrors she is experiencing. That second unfurling, that coaxing out, that rediscovery of herself and that she still exists and that she *is* Rose Justice, is something that is heartbreaking and beautiful and viciously emotional to bear witness to.

I keep talking of beauty in this book, and I think that’s an odd thing to do. The subject matter is dark, dark, numbingly so but then again I think that Wein’s gift really does lie in beauty. It’s something she found in Code Name Verity and it’s something she finds here; that ability to find grace and in friendship, and hope and love and belief that the people that have been shattered by the world matter. In that they make a difference. In the way that we all make a difference.

In a way, through shining a light on the story at the heart of Rose Under Fire, and through the hope that by telling this story this will never ever happen again, Wein reminds us that sometimes the most powerful weapon is our voice. And if you do not will Rose on by the end of this, turning the pages and hoping, just hoping that she will come back to us, then you are reading a different book than the one I held in my hands.

If you’re recommending or working with this book and young adults, I would suggest taking some time over the excellent afterword from Wein. In this she’s provided further resources that illustrate the awful truth that is behind this story. I would also draw your attention to Lydia Kokkola’s excellent Representing the Holocaust in Children’s Literature, something I discuss in a blog post here.

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The Blue Lady : Eleanor Hawken


Blue Lady front coverThe Blue Lady
by Eleanor Hawken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is the best school story I’ve read this year.

I tweeted about this book and that feeling still stands. There’s something about The Blue Lady, that dark meshing of The Craft and the close, almost Stepfordian potential that the genre always has. Because that’s the thing about boarding schools, they hold secrets. Every school does but there’s something about the forced insularity of a boarding school that heightens that tension. You are forced to be in a community, sometimes against your will, and you’re adopting a world that is not your own. It is the Chalet School meets 1984: you are assimilated into this society or you are not.

Hawken plays with that, very gorgeously, throughout this book. St Mark’s College is layered in secrets, thick and ghostly secret stories and spaces, shadowy and terrifying. Frankie arrives to this world, and she gets lost in it, drawn in by the entrancing and exciting Suzy.

I loved this book. There’s genuine edge here, and Hawken makes you shift from protagonist to protagonist, never quite sure who to root for or who to feel heartache for. It’s a powerful, shivery book that I’d massively massively recommend for school story fans, scary story fans and anybody who thinks they’re brave enough to learn about the truth of the Blue Lady.

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Pantomime: Laura Lam

Pantomime (Pantomime, #1)Pantomime by Laura Lam

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ve come a long way, you and I. You’ve listened to me obsess over the nuances of the Chalet School, the way Clara Vulliamy is so perfect in her picture book construction and the way I get slightly evangelical when somebody tells me that Children’s Literature does not matter and if any of that counts for anything, I would ask that you do not read the blurb on this book.

Because this book is not about that blurb.

Pantomime is one of those curious fantasy books that worked for me, and it worked very well. There’s a sensitivity to it, a humanity, that translates through genre to deliver a nuanced and engrossing read that moved me. Hugely. I’m not one of those people who can read fantasy easily. Tolkien, Trudi Caravan (lolz), the odd Marion Zimmer Bradley (is she officially fantasy? Can you tell how much I do not know about this genre?) are about the limit for me. A lot of my feelings about the genre are summed up in this fascinating review of Urgle.

There’s a part of that review that I want to draw attention to. Bradman says that: “Good fantasy is such a hard act to bring off. If your characters are two-dimensional and your plot uncompelling, it won’t matter how incredibly detailed and believable your fantasy world might be. Equally, the slightest suspicion that you haven’t expended enough effort on building your world can bring the whole thing down like a house of cards.”

That’s what works here for me in Pantomime. The way that, when it all comes down to it, Lam is writing about people, and choices, and being who we are and not who we’re wanted to be. It’s a brave, thoroughly fascinating novel that deserves a lot more attention outside of its genre because it’s very quietly delivering one of the most complex and fascinating protagonists I’ve ever read.

Just don’t judge it on that blurb.

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Under My Hat : ed. Jonathan Strahan

Under My Hat: Tales from the CauldronUnder My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron by Jonathan Strahan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a smart, stylish collection of witch stories all based around the starting point of a tall black pointy witch hat. The hat may be real, metaphorical, allusive, and the witch – well, might be anything.

I really enjoyed this. It’s a collection of some stunning names and I was excited to see Peter S. Beagle and Frances Hardinge in the mix alongside Holly Black. Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman.

The joy of a short story collection is that you can flip back and forth in it and wholly skip stories that aren’t working for you. Following the sensitive and astute introduction by editor Strahan, we slip straight into a stunning opener by Diana Peterfreund and this was probably one of my favourite stories in the entire collection. All of these stories are written with vivid skill but something about Peterfreund’s really hit home.

I also had a lot of love for Hardinge’s contribution. She’s an author I need to read more of and on the basis of this, will definitely be doing so.

There were stories in this that didn’t quite work for me but there were so many that did. This is a really clever, unusual, and occasionally very dark collection of stories that reward the reader hugely.

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Mezolith : Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank

Mezolith (Dfc Library)Mezolith by Ben Haggarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s hard sometimes to review something which wholly and completely leaves you breathless. Mezolith is that something.

Part of the increasingly impressive DFC imprint, it’s a collection of several short stories delivered by the dynamic team of Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank. It’s a match made in heaven; Haggarty’s short, elegant and terse stories play against the rich restraint of Brockbank’s artwork to stunning effect.

Mezolith is scary, and it’s genuinely so. There’s an awareness of the form they’re working in, an adept handling of comic structures and pacing. The use of frames, splash pages, and pageturns is something quite superb in this book. It’s not one to be read late at night! There’s a tension in nearly every frame, a sort of balancing on the edge of this world and the next that’s quite something. Stories, back at the dawn of mankind, were stories that were borne from truth and it was a truth more immediate than anything we could maybe imagine nowadays. Things like Red Riding Hood, the old woman being a witch, or the wicked stepmother, they all have their basis in fact and the society of the time. This is something that Mezolith handles very, very well. It balances on the edge of stories, using young warrior Poika to explore the shadows that form the barrier of our world and the beginning of the next.

I can’t get over how impressive this is and it’s something quite unique. It’s bold, dark, and painted in shadowy, scary, earthen shades. I’d recommend giving it a read yourself beforehand as the impact of this book is substantial and, for the more imaginative soul, could prove quite genuinely scary. Just don’t let any of that put you off. This is stunning, stunning work and it’s a book that deserves a whole world of attention.

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A Monster Calls : Patrick Ness

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Monster Calls is, quite simply, extraordinary. The original idea came from Siobhan Dowd and following her untimely death was carried to fruition by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay.

Ness is outstanding. It is so awfully beautifully written. A Monster Calls has an unreal feeling of being ahead of its time and a classic in the making. It is superb. Ness writes with a sympathetic, warm, dagger-sharp clarity and it is a joy – a near privilege – to be able to read this book.

Visually, A Monster Calls is beyond magnificent. It is painfully perfect. The illustrations by Jim Kay are stunning and add so much to this story. Frankly a good amount of them, if not all, can be described as genuinely breath-taking. Sometimes with a heavily illustrated book, the use of illustrations can be somewhat arbitrary and lose their impact. That’s not the case here. A Monster Calls has the strange, almost elemental quality of word and images which seem to come from the story and are not “imported” to it. It’s hard to define what I mean. I think the best analogy I can give is if you consider something like the Mona Lisa. It’s an image we’re able to see pretty much anywhere – postcards, tea-towels whatever – and accept it. The imagery in A Monster Calls is so palpably connected to the text that you can almost see its umbilical cord. The two of them are symbiotic. They need each other to live.

Books like this are not easy to read. Thematically A Monster Calls goes hard and it goes deep. When you read this, and the illustrations take you, and the prose breaks you, and you fall inside this awful brilliant book, you realise just how outstanding children’s literature can be. If this book does not live for years upon years then it will be a travesty.

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A trio of picture book reviews

There's Going to Be a BabyThere’s Going to Be a Baby by John Burningham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s Going To Be A Baby is a quietly lovely little book. There’s a gorgeous intimacy about it which envelops the reader from the front cover image of parent and child trustingly holding each other. I loved this. It’s just lovely. Lovely. (It was very good)

Drawn in a clear and concise style and mainly structured in a text / picture (verso / recto) style, there’s a delightful warmth about the artwork. You can see the mother’s pregnancy developing the further you go through the book and there are some very nice touches about how she’s presented throughout. I particularly enjoyed how she quietly shifts through a whole range of emotions from fatigue through to utter contentment. It’s a very sympathetic book which sat well with me.

From a textual perspective, it’s fascinatingly evocative of a small child’s fractured speech and sparky thought process. It is very well done.

Or, to put it another way, it’s lovely.

Guess How Much I Love YouGuess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Guess How Much I Love You is one of those books which, Gruffalo-esque, has firmly rooted itself into popular culture. This review specifically relates to the pop up version from Walker Books (2011).

God I love pop up books. I really really do. A lot of this is due to Huck Scarry’s Looking Into The Middle Ages which I read at an early age and have remembered for the past twenty five odd years primarily because of the fact it had POP UP FREAKING HORSES which frankly would endear anything to me regardless of literary value.

The pop up version of Guess How Much I Love You moved me to incredulous tears. It’s beautiful. Pop up, when done well, is breathtaking. This book is gorgeous. It is worth noting that a few of the more elaborate settings may be slightly difficult for smaller fingers to manipulate and that the book as a whole may not be the most robust. But regardless of that, it is worth persevering to deliver the full effect of the pop up as it’s very much worth it.

And jeepers but the last double-spread is beyond lush.

Chilly Milly Moo

Chilly Milly Moo by Fiona Ross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chilly Milly Moo is one of those books that took me by surprise. With a distinct artistic style, both in palette and use of line, coupled with a pleasing story about accepting difference, it’s a pretty unusual book.

Chilly Milly Moo is the story of Milly – a cow who can’t produce milk. We eventually learn that she does have her own special skills that make her pretty damn cool (no pun intended) to have around. There’s an allusion to bullying (there’s a crowd of three “normal” cows that engage in an occasional dialogue with Milly) but this is fairly subtle and may require a rereading to pick up.

I had a little bit of difficulty with the colour story. It’s a fairly muted palette of earthy tones – browns, greys and the occasional washed out pastel background. There’s a lot of intriguing subtlety in this book that may be missed in a traditional classroom context. I felt it would work stronger in smaller groups and one-to-one settings in order to allow more interactivity with the text.

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Behemoth : Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Acting as the sequel to Leviathan, Behemoth tells the story of Deryn and Alek and their role in an alternative version of world history involving war, revolution and fantastical machines. Elements of their journey are joyous and the illustrations in this book are worth a star in themselves. The impact they add to the text is near unquantifiable.

I would say that you need to read Leviathan beforehand or at least be acquainted with the steampunk genre. There’s a lot of world here to comprehend and whilst that detail is entrancing once you’ve got used to it and understand the world, it can equally act against your initial comprehension of the book. Despite that there’s still a lot to comprehend in Westerfeld’s use of language; he’s able to elaborate in great detail where necessary and yet also dial it back.

Behemoth is a beguiling tapestry of a book. Full of richness and detail, it’s one that will reward repeated reading to pick up the finer points of an intricately crafted universe.

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Fury : Elizabeth Miles

Fury (Fury Trilogy 1)Fury by Elizabeth Miles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s some strange and awful goings on in Ascension. People keeping secrets. Lots and lots of secrets. And sometimes secrets get out whether you want them to or not. And sometimes people get hurt…

Perhaps it’s just a reaction of reading too many YA paranomal / fantasy bks where the hero/ heroine is all Geeky Yet Secretly Sexy and Misunderstood But Worthy Of Better Things but I devoured Fury. It intrigued me. It’s almost an anti-genre novel; it rampantly ignores the (perhaps too) dominant pattern of sexy girl meet sexy boy/vampire, sexy girl and sexy boy/vampire get it on, sexy couple remain sexy couply til the end of the book and remain All Sorts Of Sexy in the inevitable series which follows.

It also hits a little too close to home sometimes with the topics it covers but that’s not a reason to dislike the book. I’d rather people read books like this and use the experience of reading them to reflect on their own behaviours. Read it self reflectively. I mean, I’ve read A Clockwork Orange but at no point did (or do) I wish to go and attack somebody in the street. Books throw up a mirror to society and allow us to think about what we do and why we do it. Fury made me squirm uncomfortably during some of the more intense moments and that’s a mark of the impact of the text.

I did like it. I liked it a lot. The prologue itself is excellent, a definition of how to hook a reader. There are a few moments when the writing goes off the boil but I’ll let that slide. What I can say is that this kept me reading. I was loath to pick it up at first but when I did I couldn’t let it go. It’s not the highest piece of literature but what it is is a curiously atypical YA paranormal / fantasy (pafa?) that’s well worth a detour.

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Neversuch House : Elliot Skell

Neversuch HouseNeversuch House by Elliot Skell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Neversuch House. A curious location, home to the Halibut family who live in a cloistered existence from the world outside. Everyone’s pretty much fine with that until one day Omnia Halibut finds herself involved in a series of extraordinary events.

Hear that? She’s involved in Extraordinary Events. You’ll hear it several times during the book as the text can’t quite resist telling you that there are Extraordinary Events going on and you should pay attention to them because they are Extraordinary Events (they’re Extraordinary, don’t you know?). I can’t help but wonder how this was let through the editing process as all it did was make me think of a Series of Unfortunate Events – the Lemony Snicket books. A comparison is inevitable when the narrator keeps blinking banging on about Extraordinary Events and it’s a comparison that sadly Neversuch House tends to lose.

And that’s a shame because this book could have been a lot better. The conceit that there’s this family which exist quite happily in isolation from the world is ripe for exploration. It could have led to something quite dark and intriguing but it doesn’t. The house itself and the location is splendidly gothic and weird with hidden towers, rooms and mysteries everywhere. This could lead to so much but unfortunately we’re just told about it and left with the distinct impression that this is all building up for a series of sequels.

So if this does (and it so will) become a series; less of the arch narration and self conscious style please? If you’re going to be a fairytale, or a gothic fairytale, or a genre mashup hithertofore unseen; be it wholeheartedly. Because I think this is the problem. It is, as my Northern side would describe it, neither nowt nor summit. Neversuch House doesn’t know what it wants to be. There are some glorious moments in it and some very visual moments that are a delight but they’re rare. In between these moments is a lot of huff, a lot of puff and it’s in these moments, the chapter upon chapter of padding and self-gratification that Neversuch House falls right down.

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Birthmarked : Caragh O’Brien

BirthmarkedBirthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Birthmarked tells the story of young midwife Gaia Stone who helps deliver babies to the Enclave – a walled, er, enclave who brings up the children inside of the, god this is going to kill me, Enclave and forget their previous lives in the process. They become privileged citizens, able to live in a luxury denied to those outside the, er, *collapses* , Enclave.

I just didn’t get on with this. I actually enjoy a good dystopian. The Hunger Games was something quite excellent and I’ll be one of the first in line to see the film. But oh, Birthmarked made me lose the will to live a little bit.

Let’s start with the cover. It looks amazing on the little image here. But in reality it’s just so busy, you lose the title and you lose the author. Kind of important. And the text, whilst stylistically interesting and certainly different, isn’t the title. It’s just recycling the blurb. And if you can make the blurb that pithy that it fits into two sentences on the front, then why on earth do you have two incredibly dense paragraphs on the back?

The story itself opens well. Very well. There’s a dark, and dank feeling to it that pervades the pages with a sense of slow horror. The birth scenes are handled excellently and there’s a real sensation of being on the edge of some central terrifying moments.

But then that’s about it. It slides very heavily into standard dystopian tropes and does that with all the subtlety of a kid hyped up on chocolate.

Gaia is actually sort of annoying. She just reacts to things. I have a rule of thumb, if I can’t figure out what her voice is – like what she’d say to something in a conversation – then I’m struggling. And I couldn’t. She’s surprisingly anodyne. I’d be depressed if my niece found her inspirational.

The construction of the world jarred with me as well. Lexically, there were quite a few moments which just made me go “Oh what?”:-

1. Gaia referring to her mother as ‘mom’. Just seemed very much out of place.
2. The Tvaltar. Right. Really. I get it.
3. Gaia and (POTENTIAL SPOILER, DON’T DO IT, OKAY YOU ASKED FOR IT) Maya. Really? Really???

I also don’t know if it’s the edition I read but there were a few copy errors which jarred. These were mainly towards the end of the book.

And also – please can somebody show me a dystopian YA where the men are the nurses and the women are the soldiers? I am sick of gender sterotypes being one of the few things that survive into the future.

Note: I won a copy of this directly from the Publisher via a competition on Twitter.

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Hunting Lila : Sarah Alderson

Hunting LilaHunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books like that one beginning with a T and the interminable recurrence of “kids with powers” has kind of put me off YA Fantasy recently. To be honest there’s only so much you can do with the format and a lot of it has been done better elsewhere.

But Hunting Lila actually sort of, just a little bit, managed to bring me back into the fold. There’s a curiously solid feel to this book; written by debut author Sarah Alderson (who now, a quick Google reveals, lives in Bali so I think I hate her a little bit 🙂 )

Lila is a smart, clever creation. She’s not one-dimensional but she’s full of love, bravery, passion and intelligence. I really enjoyed being able to take her journey with her. Her emotions are drawn well – and realistically – and thank god she’s not just a damsel in distress.

Alderson’s writing style is competent and pacy. It’s very swift and you rocket along with Lila’s journey, despite her not actually finding out ‘the truth’ until a good few pages in. I did lose track sometimes of who was where and what was going on but whenever this happened I managed to pick it up again fairly quickly. This was the main reason it lost a star for me. I’d have liked a bit more explicit guidance during these moments.

There are several key twists in the narrative that aren’t signposted at all (which is good). The big one left me genuinely surprised and I have to admit I like what could happen there.

And I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the sequel. Which, to be honest, is a total rarity for me and this genre.

Note: I won a copy of this directly from the Publisher via a competition on Twitter.

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Dewey, the true story of a world-famous library cat : Vicki Myron

Dewey: The True Story of a World-Famous Library CatDewey: The True Story of a World-Famous Library Cat by Vicki Myron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this a really charming little book and genuinely enjoyed reading it.

The story of Dewey the Library cat, kitten rescued from a freezing alley and given home in a public library, has been adapted specifically for younger readers. As such it’s a light and lovely read and the language used is very accessible and clear.

Although the obvious happens at the end (cute-cat-death alert people, be prepared), I still can imagine this being shared well between adult and child.

It’s also one of the most effective pieces of #savelibraries propaganda I’ve read. Really lovely.

And I really want a library cat for my library now.

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Book Reviews

Where is Binky Boo

Zoe and Beans: Where is Binky Boo? (Zoe & Beans)Zoe and Beans: Where is Binky Boo? by Chloe Inkpen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picture books, regardless of reader-age, are able to give pleasure to pretty much everybody. As they’re often read by adults to children, there’s a subtle acknowledgement of this in the text and few small side-winks to the adult inside them. They appeal to everybody because they have to.

And this is just gorgeous. I couldn’t get enough of it. The artwork is very very lovely. There’s a double page spread involving a sandbox that is laugh out loud brilliant. I can’t wait to share this with the younger members of my family.

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