Tuesday 31 May 2016

Reviewing the Classics #3 Treasure Island

                                                                                         Goodreads Summary:

The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!

The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil  

  As a child I was obsessed with Muppet's Treasure Island. This was not just a small obsession, this was watching it on VHS at least once a week and knowing every song and most of the dialogue. Although I loved The Muppets in general, I was never as obsessed with any of the other Muppet movies as I was with Treasure Island. There was just something about unknowingly sailing with a bunch of pirates that made it extremely exciting. However, for whatever reason I never did read the book that my favourite movie was based on. Although Treasure Island is a children's book, and I have been an avid reader since a young age I just never got round to reading it until now!

The first thing I have to say is that it is nothing like the Muppet movie that I loved so much as a child, and although Muppet's Treasure Island did include key points such as the apple barrel scene and the death of Billy Bones, there was a lot that was changed. Although this is a book about pirates, as it is a children's book I did not expect it to be as violent as it was. There are multiple deaths in this book, and although they are not too graphic, I still think that this would have shocked me if I'd read it as a child. I also felt that I would have struggled with understanding some of the words if I had read it around the time I was obsessed with The Muppets, so I'm actually glad that I waited until I was an adult to read this book, as I don't think I would have appreciated it much as a child. However that is not to say that children would not enjoy this book, as it is full of action, adventure and of course, the most important thing, pirates. I do however feel as if young children would benefit from having this book read to them by an adult rather than trying to read it for themselves.

I highly recommend the edition with illustrations by Michael Foreman, as I thought they were extremely unique and aesthetically pleasing, and helped to break up the text. Children often enjoy visual representations, so I think that this edition is perfect for children who aren't too keen on reading or find looking at page after page of text daunting or off putting. Although this book was far too large to take with me on public transport, it would make a perfect bed time story.

I loved that there were characters that I'd come across via the Muppet movie such as Jim Hawkins, Blind Pew and Long John Silver, but also characters who for whatever reason didn't make it into the Muppet movie such as Israel Hands. This made it interesting for me and although the overall plot was familiar, there was still a lot of differences to keep me interested and wanting to know what happened next. A lot of the violence was, for obvious reasons not in a Disney movie, so I loved seeing the bravery of Jim Hawkins when faced by deadly pirates and how he single handedly saved himself from their clutches.

Long John Silver was an interesting character, as although he is no doubt the villain of the story, we can't help but feel a little sympathy for him, especially towards the end of the book. Although he is at first the leader of the mutineers, they soon turn against him and he is forced to change sides. I also liked that what happened to him at the end of the book was open to interpretation, as once he escapes the ship with his money, Jim never hears from him again.

It is fairy obvious why this book has stood the test of time, as it is just as exciting now as it was when it was released over 100 years ago. It is a fairly quick read, and the fast paced action makes it easy to read chapter after chapter in one sitting. It has definitely made it's way into my top children's classics, and although purely for the sake of nostalgia I still prefer the Muppet movie, this was still an extremely good book!

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Review on The Raven Boys [The Raven Cycle #1]

Every year on St Mark's Eve, Blue Sargent has waited in the churchyard with her mother to discover who was going to die within a year. However, despite being part of a family of psychics, Blue has no psychic abilities herself, and has never been able to see the spirits. However that all changes when she sees Gansey's spirit, a boy from Aglionby, an all boys private school. Blue discovers that the only reason she is able to see Gansey is that she is destined to either kill him or fall in love with him. However, despite warnings from he family to stay away from Gansey, Blue finds herself wrapped up in his plans to find Glyndwr, a Welsh king who has been presumably dead for thousands of years. With the help of Gansey and his friends, Blue must discover and reawaken the ley line before anyone else finds it first.

I decided to read this book as my best friend would not stop talking about this series, and as always she peer pressured me into reading it. I'm so glad that she did as I absolutely adored this book! The first thing I noticed however was that the marketing was really bad, as the blurb on the back of the book focused on the plot point of Blue's true love dying if she ever kissed him. It made it sound like the book was extremely cliché and full of a cheesy romance, and honestly I would never have picked this book up from the blurb alone. However, this is not what the book is about at all, and the romance is extremely minimal which I was surprised at, seeing as it seemed to be marketed as a romance.

I did initially feel as if I wasn't going to like the book as much as my friend seemed to, as I thought that it was a little slow at the start and there wasn't enough going on to keep me fully interested. Blue didn't grab my attention from the start as much as I thought she would. I felt that her character development was a little on the slow side, and I didn't start to really like her as a character until she started interacting with the boys. Blue is a no nonsense character, and I loved that she was never intimidated by the boys, and easily put them in their place. I especially loved her relationship with Ronan, as Ronan initially didn't like her and tried to intimidate her, but once he realised it wasn't working he started acting a lot nicer towards her. I also loved that although a romantic relationship was forming between her and Adam, there was little hints that her destiny was to be with Gansey. Although Adam is extremely sweet and I love both him and Blue, I wasn't too keen on a romance forming between them and enjoyed Blue's interactions with Gansey a lot more.

I absolutely adored the strong friendships between the boys. I find that there is a severe lack of lasting friendships between boys in YA, and that they usually tend to argue with each other over a girl. I loved that this was not the case with these characters, and you could tell that they all really cared for each other and would never let a girl come between them. I loved that although they had all been friends for a few years, Blue easily fitted in with them and quickly caught up to where they were up to in their search for Glyndwr.

I have to talk about the character's themselves, as they were all so perfect and I loved them all. Although I hate picking favourites, I have to admit that Ronan Lynch stole my heart. I'm always trash for cocky characters with a tragic back story, and Ronan definitely did not disappoint in this aspect. I loved that although he looked intimidating and was an all round bad boy, he was also extremely caring towards his friends, and helped Adam with his problems at home without questioning him or putting any blame on him. I also loved how gentle he was towards his pet raven, as it showed a completely different side to him.I adored Adam, as although he is the only one out of the boys who isn't rich, he tries to fit in with them as best as he can. I loved how independent he was, as although it would have only been too easy to accept hand outs from Gansey and Ronan, he worked multiple jobs to pay for his tuition alongside trying to keep up his good grades and helping Gansey in his search. Adam was extremely sweet and although I didn't enjoy the romance forming between him and Blue I could definitely understand why Blue liked him. I loved that non of these boys were the typical perfect, brooding YA male protagonist, as they all had their faults, from having severe allergies to doing badly at school. I always feel as if characters who have some sort of fault always seem more human and relatable, as no one is ever completely perfect in real life.

I loved that although this book focuses on ghosts, psychics and ley lines, it also included some important themes, the main one being child abuse. I was absolutely heart broken that Adam's father physically abused him, and I wanted so badly for him to get out his parents home and be somewhere safe. I felt awful for him and the fact that he believed that he deserved to be abused. I also loved how Ronan's sexuality was brought up in an extremely subtle way, and that Blue didn't react to it in any way. I feel as if a character's sexuality being revealed as anything but heterosexual causes a huge stir in most YA, so I loved how the approach to it in The Raven Boys was completely different to anything else I've experienced when it comes to gay characters. Ronan was treated exactly the same as the straight characters, which is exactly how it should be.

Although it was pretty obvious who the villain of this story was, there was still some major plot twists that I was not expecting at all. I also loved that the plot focused on a Welsh king, as being a Welsh person myself I feel that it is extremely rare for YA authors to even realise that Wales exists. As there is a University in my home town named after Glyndwr, I was already vaguely aware who he was and of the legend, so I loved learning more about it from this book. I also loved that the magic was mixed perfectly with contemporary. I feel as if once a YA character makes a huge discovery such as magic existing, their previous life disappears entirely, so I loved that although finding Glyndwr was the most important thing to the boys, they still had to make time to study for school and go to classes. I am extremely excited to continue this series and can not wait to get my hands on The Dream Thieves!

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Review on The Outliers

When Wylie's best friend, Cassie goes missing, she is determined to find out where she is and bring her back home. With the help of Cassie's boyfriend Jasper, Wylie must follow the clues of Cassie's whereabouts via a series of texts. However, there is more to Cassie's disappearance than meets the eye, and Wylie soon learns that not everyone can be trusted.

The story follows Wylie, a teenager who suffers from anxiety and recently lost her mum due to a car crash. I loved how perfectly Wylie's anxiety was portrayed. I feel as if anxiety is often seen as a quirk rather than a mental illness, so I loved that that was not the case with this book, and we got a good insight to how anxiety affects Wylie's every day life. However, I felt as if more attention could have been put into her being agoraphobic, as I felt as if she was able to leave the house a little too easily, and her anxiety about being in public spaces seemed to quickly disappear.

I felt as if the first quarter of the novel was a little slow, and it didn't really start to pick up until Wylie and Jasper started driving towards where Cassie was telling them to go via text messages. Jasper was by far my favourite character, and I loved how Wylie's first impression of him was completely wrong. Although Wylie initially sees Jasper as a typical high school jock, her feelings towards him change once she realises how much Jasper truly cares about Cassie and how he was trying to talk her out of drinking too much. Jasper is an extremely sweet and caring character, and I felt bad for him, as so many horrible things had happened to him.

Once I had got through the first quarter of the book, it became the action packed thriller I had been hoping it would be and I couldn't put it down! The action packed sequences and plot twists just kept on coming, and although I figured out a couple of plot points before they were revealed, there were still plenty of surprises. I also loved that romance was kept to a minimum, as I'm never a huge fan of romance being a main plot point in this book genre. Although I feel as if a romance developing between Wylie and Jasper at some point is inevitable,  I hope that it will not be too big of a plot point in future books.

The one criticism I do have about this book is that everything seemed a little too unbelievable. I felt as if Wylie and Jasper needed an adult character who genuinely wanted to help them and wasn't going to betray them, as I ended up not trusting any of the new characters that they came across, and with good reason.  I also found that the man allowing Wylie and Jasper to take his truck was both too convenient and too far fetched, as it is extremely unlikely that a stranger would let two teenagers take their truck.

I had a hard time placing this book into a genre, as although the majority of the book fits into the mystery/thriller category, the last quarter of the book included Sci-Fi elements. I found the Outliers storyline a little confusing and felt that it needed a better explanation as to why so many people were after Wylie's dads research, and who North Point were.

I can not believe that this book ended on a cliff hanger! It has definitely made me excited to read the sequel, and I have no idea how I'm going to be able to wait so long for it to come out!  I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast paced thriller with plenty of plot twists.

Friday 6 May 2016

Review on Megan's Brood

When Megan's parents decide to move to a different town, she is sad to leave her friends behind. However, things start to look a little more exciting when she finds a cocoon in the attic full of tiny creatures. Megan decides to keep her discovery a secret, but what hatches from the cocoon is not what Megan expects.

I loved the cover of this book as it reminded me of the covers for A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although the book is small and can easily be read in one sitting, it is both fast paced and exciting.

The story follows Megan, a girl who finds a cocoon full of what she assumes are bats. However, once they hatch she realises they are tiny human like creatures who all have unique abilities. I loved Megan's interaction with the creatures and how they learnt new things by mimicking her actions. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat, hoping that Megan's parents don't find out her secret.

The cover and the gorgeous illustrations give the book a middle grade feeling to it. However, I felt that some of the words in the book were quite difficult for children of this reading level, and that children under twelve would probably find it a little difficult. I also disliked the romantic subplot between Megan and Cutter, as I felt as if this would have been more suited for a YA book. Younger children are rarely interested in romance, so I felt as if this let the book down a little. I also felt as if Megan was the only developed character, and that other characters, particularly Casper, had potential to be something more. I was hoping that Casper would become a good friend and ally to Megan, so I was disappointed that he didn't have a bigger role to play.

I felt that combining themes of fantasy and coming of age was a bad idea for such a short book, and I would have enjoyed it more if it had focused solely on the fantasy elements. To me, the book didn't seem to fit neatly into either the middle grade or YA categories, and seemed more to balance precariously in the middle. I have read books where combining fantasy and contemporary themes have worked perfectly, but for me this was not the case with this book.

I loved the last chapter, as it was action packed and brought the book to an exciting climax. I loved seeing the creatures developing their own unique powers, and using them to work together. The epilogue gave an exciting insight into what is to come in book two in the series. Although I would not enjoy a development with Megan and Casper romantically, I would love to see more of Casper in future books and have him help Megan and her brood. I overall enjoyed this book and would love to continue reading this series.

Megan's Brood is now available to purchase!