Thursday 29 June 2017

Review on If Birds Fly Back

When Linny sees Alvaro Herrera, a writer who disappeared three years ago, and who was presumed to be dead alive and kicking, she is eager to talk to him. Linny's older sister, Grace, left home with no explanation, and Linny is desperate to find her. Maybe if she can discover why Alvaro came back, she can find a way to bring Grace back too. However, her plans are thwarted when she meets Sebastian, a boy who has his own reasons for wanting to talk to Alvaro. Linny and Sebastian soon learn that they have both lost someone important to them, but will Alvaro really be able to help them both?

I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this book or not, as although the main plot sounded interesting, I could tell that romance would play a big part of it. The book follows Linny, a girl who's older sister, Grace, has left home with no explanation as to where she is going, or why she left. When Linny starts volunteering at a care home during the summer, she meets Alvaro Herrera, an eighty year old author who had gone missing for three years, and who everyone thought was dead. Linny wants to find out why missing people return, and believes that Alvaro will be able to help her.

I loved how each chapter alternated point of views between Linny and Sebastian, giving us a personal insight into the mind of each character. I loved how a few of the scenes were repeated so that we could see the same event from both characters viewpoint. I felt as if this worked well when one of the characters had information that the other didn't, which led them to experience certain events differently.

The main characters being POC was great, and I especially loved that both Alvaro and Sebastian were bilingual. I particularly loved Alvaro being bilingual, as forgetting certain words in English and finding them in Spanish gave us an early indication that something wasn't quite right with him. I felt that the lack of LGBT+ characters let the book down in terms of diversity, as all we had was the token LGBT+ friend, who was Linny's best friend's friend. I felt as if him not being straight was just the authors sad attempt at throwing a LGBT+ character into the book. The fact that Linny initially thought that Ray was dating her best friend Cass, but then apparently had an on off boyfriend that we never actually meet showed that little thought had gone into his character, as aside from being the only character who isn't heterosexual, his only other role seemed to be driving Linny to various places.

So of course I have to talk about the romance between Linny and Sebastian, which I'm actually a little conflicted on. I did find certain things adorable, even if they were incredibly cheesy, and felt as if they had come straight out of a Disney Channel Original movie. Although it was pretty much instalove, I felt as if their relationship developed in a natural way, and didn't move too quickly. However, one of my most hated ways of creating character conflict crept up, miscommunication. I couldn't understand why Linny would keep information from Sebastian that he would obviously want to know. Although her excuse was that she didn't want to hurt his feelings, I knew from the minute she decided not to tell him that it would create problems between them later on. I felt as if the book didn't really need so much drama between them, and it felt as if the author had just decided there needed to be conflict, rolled a dice and picked miscommunication. I did think that certain scenes made up for it from pure adorableness, such as the stars scene, but I also felt as if the scenes where they were intimate with each other focused too much on what was happening physically, rather than on the characters emotions.

The storyline involving Alvaro was heart breaking, and I found it really sad that he felt like he had to hide from the world so that people would remember him for what he was like before he had dementia. As someone who had a family member with dementia, I always find these types of story lines upsetting, and I felt sorry for both Alvaro and Sebastian. I was sad that Sebastian never got to tell Alvaro what he wanted to, but I also felt as if it was realistic, and had more of an impact than if he had told him. It did make me wonder if Alvaro knew who Sebastian was, and as everything else was solved, I loved that this was left open for interpretation.

I thought Linny's character development was great, and I loved how she started out wanting Grace to come home, and trying to find ways to bring her back, to eventually letting her go and accepting she was probably never coming back. I adored how we got a bit of Linny's screenplay that she had been writing at the end of her chapters, and I felt as if it gave a good insight to how she felt about Grace leaving. I loved the wings metaphor, and how Linny felt as if Grace had taken all the colour from the world with her, and how Linny eventually rediscovered colour without Grace.

Although I loved both Linny and Sebastian, I felt as if their personalities didn't really stand out from other contemporary YA characters. There are always those characters who you discover and fall in love with who end up being one of your all time favourite characters. Unfortunately I don't think Linny and Sebastian are unique enough for that, and sadly I will probably forget all about them in a few months. The only character who stood out for me was Alvaro, as I loved his unique personality, and I wanted things to get better for him. I feel as if we need more grandfatherly figures in YA novels, and although Alvaro had made some mistakes in his life, I loved that he tried to make up for them.

I found this book to be a fairly quick read, and I overall enjoyed the main plot, and felt as if it gave some important messages, particularly about following a career path you want, rather than doing what your parents want you to do. Although the romance wasn't really for me, I feel as if anyone who actually enjoys cute and cheesy teen romance would love it. I don't normally give books half ratings, but I think I would give this one a 3.5

If Birds Fly Back is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Monday 26 June 2017

20 years of Harry Potter

 Oh my wizard god has it really been that long? I honestly feel ancient. So what kind of Harry Potter fan would I be if I didn't make a blog post for the 20th anniversary of Philosophers Stone? Ok so confession, I didn't get into Harry Potter the day it came out. At the time I was five years old and was probably more interested in making mud pies than reading books. It took a couple more years for me to get into the series, and I have to thank my year 4 teacher, Miss Ellis for that. I remember the first time I heard the words “Harry Potter” were from my mum. By that time I was seven, and I was slowly getting into books. I adored anything by Roald Dahl, my favourite being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was also going through a phase of loving animals, particularly horses. Yes I was the weird horse girl for some time, but there was a series I adored called Animal Ark. I'm not sure if anyone will remember these books, but they revolved around a young girl called Mandy who's parents were vets, and they all had names like kittens in the kitchen and pony in the parlour. Thinking back to it, they weren't all that great, but I have them to thank for getting me started on my reading journey.

Anyway, back to Harry Potter. I remember thinking “Harry Potter” was the most boring name on earth. To me, it was as bad as being called John Smith. Because of this, I really wasn't interested in
 reading these books. I'd heard they were about magic, but how could a book about someone called Harry Potter be interesting? I continued to ignore all things Harry Potter, until year 4 English class. Now I adored English class, particularly because of Miss Ellis. I thought she was really cool and she had us reading The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson which I ended up loving. Miss Ellis was younger than the other teachers, around her mid 20's, so I think she was a little more down with the kids that the other teachers. Now I wasn't in Miss Ellis's form group, but I knew she was reading Harry Potter to her form group for half an hour every day at the end  of the school day. I didn't really care much about this, until the faithful day my form tutor was sick and there was no cover for him, so my class was merged into Miss Ellis's for the day. Miss Ellis decided to continue her form group as normal despite the extra students, which included the end of the day reading of Harry Potter. Despite her already being halfway through the book, I was completely hooked! I had been wrong, Harry Potter wasn't boring. Harry Potter was amazing.

So what was a kid to do when she wasn't in the awesome Harry Potter reading Miss Ellis's class? Well firstly, I was extremely jealous that some of my friends were getting read this amazing story every day. I think my friends in Miss Ellis's class were getting sick of me asking about Harry Potter. I couldn't just switch classes, so I did the only thing I could do. I picked up a copy of Philosophers Stone from my school library, and I started reading for myself. By this point, Prisoner of Azkaban
had come out, so I practically whizzed through the first three books, and waited patiently for book four. By year five, the movie adaptation of Philosophers Stone was coming out, and I think I was practically shitting myself with excitement. I originally planned to go see it with my mum, but my school arranged a school trip, so instead of forcing my mum to come with me I went along with the school. I was in awe of seeing everything I'd read come alive on the big screen. It was the first time I had watched a movie adaptation of a book I'd read, and I honestly thought it was the best thing in the world that I knew what was going to happen next. I think I annoyed my friend who hadn't read the books by telling her what was about to happen, and how something “scary” was coming up. I had to explain a few times that I hadn't seen the movie before, I'd just read the book.

So with all the reading and not really having many friends, the characters in Harry Potter practically became my best friends, particularly Hermione. Seeing a girl who was a bit of a nerd, loved reading as much as I did, but who was loved by her friends and helped to save the world was such an inspiration
to me. I went through junior school getting bullied, and only having one or two friends by year 5. I would often spend break times in the library with Harry rather than going outside. Every time a new book came out, I was ecstatic, and would practically lock myself in my room until I'd finished it. I remember reading Order of the Phoenix in two days because I knew there was a character death, and I didn't want it to be spoilt for me. I loved queuing up outside the book store at midnight, ready to be one of the first to grab the new Potter book.

These books definitely shaped my childhood, and even though I moved on from junior school to high school, where I practically left all my old friends behind and made new ones, the friends who I did bring with me were Harry, Ron and Hermione. I made a few friends who loved Harry Potter as much as me, and even into college I made Potter friends who went along with the movies to me. It is true that we do grow out of things as we get older, but Harry Potter is something that grew alongside me. When the movies came out, I was the same age as the actors, and as the books started to be published less frequently than every year, I ended up close to the age of the book characters too. I think I truly was the Harry Potter generation, and I'm so thankful that I had these slightly older characters to look up to. I think I still adore Harry Potter now as much as I did then, and I'm still constantly watching the movies and reading the books. I've even been to a Harry Potter convention and the studio tour! I've also had the opportunity of meeting a few amazing people, including some of the cast of Cursed Child, Warwick Davies, and Chris Rankin, the awesome and lovely actor who plays Percy Weasley who I get the opportunity to chat to twice a year at my local comic con!

I think I'll love Harry Potter for years to come. I honestly can't see myself ever “growing out of it”. Harry Potter is so much more than just a children's book series. As I grew up, the books grew up with me, and I think that's a magical thing that future generations won't be able to experience quite in the same way. When people ask me in forty years if I still like Harry Potter, my answer will be


Saturday 24 June 2017

Review on George

George is just your average ten year old. She lives with her mum and older brother, goes to school and has a best friend. The only problem is that everyone sees George as a boy instead of the girl she truly is. When her teacher announces the class will be doing a school production of Charlotte's Web, George is desperate to play Charlotte. She is heartbroken when her teacher tells her she can't play Charlotte because she's not a girl. However, George's best friend, Kelly is determined to help George achieve her dream role, and help her to show the world who she truly is

I wanted to read this book the minute I saw what it was about! Really, how often do you come across a middle grade book about a trans kid? The answer is obviously never. The book follows George, a fourth grader who wants to play the role of Charlotte in her school play. However, everyone sees George as a boy, including her teacher, who tells her the role has to go to a girl. It was heartbreaking seeing the struggles George had to go through, with everyone telling her she is a boy, when she knows in her heart that they're wrong. Although the trans community is becoming more visible in the media, it is still something that is stigmatised, particularly by the older generation. I felt as if these different opinions due to generation was shown perfectly in this book, with George's best friend and her older brother understanding and accepting her quite quickly, while her mum took a little longer to come to terms with it. I did however love that her mum eventually took her seriously, telling her she would take her to therapy. Unfortunately some trans kids aren't so lucky, and have their gender identity completely dismissed. Parents tend to force gender and sexuality on their children from the moment they're born. We often hear parents say their five month old son is a ladies man when he looks at a baby girl, yet they are quick to tell their LGBT child that they are going through a phase, and they are too young to decide on their identity. We need to stop seeing cisgender and heterosexual as the norm, as this is damaging to LGBT children who are too scared to come out. Although this book is intended for young readers, I feel as if parents of trans children would greatly benefit from reading it.

I adored the characters in this book, especially Kelly, George's best friend. I always feel as if friendship is one of the most important relationships, and this was definitely the case with George and Kelly. I loved how much they cared for each other, and how Kelly was completely understanding and selfless, helping George to get her dream role so she could show the world who she truly is. The last chapter was probably my favourite. It was so heartwarming to see George finally get to express herself, and go out for the first time in girls clothes. I loved how helpful and kind Kelly was, allowing George to borrow some of her clothes, and calling her by her preferred name. I felt as if it was the perfect ending to show trans kids that there is always hope.

I have to talk a little about George's older brother, Scott. Although the siblings do get along, Scott is a stereotypical boy who is interested in first person shooters and gory movies. I thought he would have a negative reaction to George telling him that she is trans, so I was pleasantly surprised that he was so accepting. I did feel as if he asked some inappropriate questions, such as if George was going to “go all the way”, but as he is young, and school sex education is usually terrible when it comes to LGBT issues, I think it was due to a lack of understanding.

I don't really like labelling books as “important reads” but I feel as if I'm going to have to with this one. Children are a lot more open minded than adults, and I feel as if children around George's age who read this book will come away with a much better understanding of what being transgender is like, and will be less likely to bully trans children. It is also obviously an extremely important book for trans children to read. Seeing how George overcomes the struggles of being trans, and how her life turns in a positive direction is inspirational, and shows children in a similar situation to George that there is help out there, and they don't have to suffer in silence.

I would recommend this book to both children and adults, as I feel as if everyone would benefit from reading George's story. It is a wonderful story full of hope, friendship, and the importance of being yourself. Alex Gino is a fantastic author, and I am looking forward to seeing what they write in the future!

George is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Saturday 17 June 2017

Review on Dark Lands #2 The Not-Where

After almost losing his sister to the Requiem, Webb Thompson is ready to take a break from the chaos of the Dark Lands, and settle into life at Glorian. However, Webb has started having a reoccurring dream about a large and formidable tree, which transforms into the Dark Man, Glorians most feared enemy. Webb soon wonders if it really is just a dream, or if it's something more. Webb soon discovers the Not-Where, a place where your nightmares become reality. If he is to ever stop the nightmares, Webb must enter the Not-Where, and come face to face with the Dark Man himself.

So I may have jumped straight into this book after finishing the first one. The book continues to follow on from where the first one left off, where we discover that Webb has started having nightmares about the Dark Man emerging from a tree. Webb discovers that someone known as the Mind Stalker is manipulating his dreams, which esculate into him hallucinating while awake. He finds out that the Dark Man is behind it, attempting to lure him out into the Not-Where. Although this series has been compared to Harry Potter, I didn't see too many similiarites in the first book. However, I did feel as if the plot of this one was very similar to Order of the Phoenix, where Voldemort manipulated Harry's dreams to get him to go to the Department of Mysteries. Once I saw this similarity, I did find myself subconciously comparing things to Harry Potter, such as the tree being similar to the Whomping Willow, and the Dark Man being similar to Voldemort.

I loved how the characters were developed in this book, particularly the characters who had a more minor role in the first book, such as Kane. I loved learning a little more about Kane's past, and how Webb started to see him on a deeper level, eventually changing his opinion on him. I also loved how Raven became more important to the story rather than just being there to serve as the love interest. I continued to feel bad for poor Caleb, who has still yet to purposfully do something wrong, but who has now been accused of betraying Glorian, and been forced by Webb to explain something that was clearly an upsetting topic for him. I honestly just want to give this poor boy a hug!

The idea behind the Not-Where was really interesting, and I found having a place where your nightmares became a reality a unique idea. I loved learning about the origins of the Whoop-Dingers, and how they were created from a childs nightmare. As there was less backstory to go through in this book, I felt as if the story flowed better, and there wasn't too many needless filler chapters.

Something that did continue to irk me was the relationship between Webb and Raven. The instalove was explained away with the revelation that they were “soulmates”, which although was a valid explanation, continued to make me roll my eyes. I did try to give this relationship a chance, but instalove and soulmates just really aren't my cup of tea. Relationships where the characters are “destined to be together” are just a little too cliché fo me. Although I do love both the characters seperately, I just can't make myself care about their romantic relationship, and I much prefer Webb's interactions with Sundown and Caleb.

Without spoiling too much, I want to talk a little about the ending. I have grown up adoring battle scenes, from the battle of Hogwarts to the battle of five armies. This one was no exception, and I was completely hooked for the last few pages. Also, I can't believe it ended on such a huge cliffhanger! I was not expecting it to end the way it did at all, and I'm excited that the next book will potentially have more focus on Sundown, as she has been my favourite character throughout the series so far. I feel as if this series is just going to continue to improve, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of it!

Dark Lands: The Not-Where is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday 9 June 2017

The Pick ‘n’ Mix Book Tag

 So my friend and fellow book club member Rosie tagged me in this and I thought it was a cute and fun idea so I thought I would give it a go!

1. Fizzy Blue Bottles.

They look strange, and they taste strange, but you like them. Name a book or series with a really strange plot that you couldn’t help but love.
Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas by David Hammons. It's probably one of the strangest books I've ever read! It's about a man named Hank Rose who goes on a quest to find the best food he can find in his post apocalyptic world, and find out why the bombs fell. On his travels he meets a mutant called Lewis, who has a tentacle for an arm and is able to regenerate his body. It reminded me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and was very weird but very funny! You can read my review on it here

2. The Metre.

It goes on forever. Name the longest book series you have read.
I think this one has to go to Harry Potter! I may possibly have read a longer one at some point but I can't think of any I've read that are over seven books long at the moment. Also I've read cursed child so i guess that counts as eight!

3. Chocolate Raisins.

No amount of chocolate can hide what’s inside. Name a book with a great cover but a disappointing story.
What Light by Jay Asher. The cover looks so nice and festive but I was really disappointed with the story! It was very instalovey and not my cup of tea at all.

4. Chocolate Mice.

They look sweet, but they’re secretly vermin. Name a book that surprised you with it’s villain. (Be careful not to give spoilers!)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was so wild I honestly still don't know if it was a real thing or a strange fan fiction.

5. Hard Gums.

You take a bite but almost break your teeth. What book or series was hard for you to get into?
Heartless by Marissa Meyer. The majority of the book honestly bored me and I was disappointed as I usually love Alice in Wonderland retellings! Although I did enjoy the last 100 pages, I was sad that the majority of the book revolved around a romance that I just wasn't invested in.

6. Cola Bottles.

Some are sweet, some are sour. Name two similar books, one you liked and one you didn’t.
The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. I find John Green books to all be very similar, with similar protagonists and teenagers who seem a little too clever. Although I adored The Fault in Our Stars, I just couldn't get into Looking for Alaska and found it quite boring. Although I do realise Alaska and TFIOS were written around ten years apart, and obviously writers improve with time, I still felt as if there was a big difference between the two not plot wise, but writing wise.

7. Fried Eggs.

Some love them, some hate them. Name a book that matches the way you feel about Fried Eggs.
I weirdly love the white foamy part but not so much the yellow centre, so I'm going to go with Strange the Dreamer. I loved the main plot of Strange the Dreamer, but the romance part was just too instalovey for me and I didn't enjoy it much.

8. Smarties.

No matter what you do, they’re everywhere. Name a trend or trope you are tired of reading.

INSTALOVE! I have ranted so so many times about how much I hate this but it seems to crop up everywhere! No matter if i'm reading contemporary or fantasy, instalove always seems to raise it's ugly head in a book that I am otherwise enjoying.

 9. Gummy Bears.

Name your favourite fictional creature or animal.
Probably the Hippogriff! I adored Buckbeak and I would love to be able to ride away into the sunset on one.

 9. Pick ‘n’ Mix! 

So many sweets, so much variety. Name some of your favourite diverse books!
  • Carry on-Rainbow Rowell
  • All For the Game- Nora Sakavic
  • The Raven Cycle- Maggie Stiefvater
  • You Know Me Well- David Levithan
  • More Happy than Not Adam Silvera
 I'm tagging these wonderful bloggers!

Jemima from drinkingbooks

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Review on Dark Lands #1 Requiem

When Webb Thompson wakes in an unfamiliar land with no recollection as to how he got there, he is fearful for his life. After a battle with some grotesque, alien like creatures, Webb and his sister, Sundown, run into Uncle Mike. Finally someone they know who can explain what is going on! There is only one problem, Uncle Mike died several years ago. Webb and Sundown soon discover they have died, leaving them in the Dark Lands, a world between the living and the dead. However, there is a way for them to return to the land of the living, they just need to find the right path. The Dark Lands are anything but peaceful, and the siblings must help defeat the Dark Man before he finds a way to return to the land of the living and wreck havoc.

After reading quite a few contemporary books, I was excited to start a new fantasy series! This book follows Webb, a seventeen year old boy who finds himself waking up in an unknown land, along with his younger sister, Sundown. I loved how the book immedietely gave us questions to ask, such as where were they, how had they got there, and what on earth was chasing them. I thought the chase scene was a brilliant way to start the book, as it instantly had me hooked on the story.

The world building in this book was fantastic! I think I was imagining Glorian as looking similar to Hogwarts, so of course I immedietely wanted to visit. I also loved how they just had to think about what food they wanted to eat, and it would appear on the table in front of them. Imagine having that power! I adored the animals that seemed to only exist in the Dark Lands, particularly Gustafson the Felidaes, a big cat like creature. However I did find the Whoop-Dingers ridiculous, due to their name sounding like it had been pulled straight from a Roald Dahl book. As these are one of the more menacing and frightening creatures Webb comes across, I felt as if their name didn't fit them at all, and would have been more suited for a cute and tame creature. All of the Glorians having a power was also interesting, and I particularly adored Sundown's power. I did however feel as if Webb's power was a little boring, as every YA fantasy protagonist seems to have similar abilities to Webb.

I adored the characters in this book, especially Sundown. I felt as if she had a more natural response to what was happening, and I felt bad for her having been taken away from her friends and family at such a young age. Although I did like Webb, he was a little too angry to say the least. It made me wonder what had happened to him while he was alive to make him that way. I adored Caleb, and felt bad for him when Webb accused him of being a traitor. I thought Caleb was a sweet character who just wanted to have a friend, and I felt Webb treated him unfairly. I was however happy that Webb eventually apologised to him.

Sadly there were a couple of things I didn't like, one in particular being that Webb accuratley predicted who the traitor was long before it was revealed. In these circumstances, I always like to be shocked. I like when the sweet, fatherly figure turns out to be the villain, so I was disappointed when it turned out to be someone who Webb hadn't trusted from the start.

Another thing I didn't like was the romance between Raven and Webb. Although Raven's age is never mentioned, she is described as being a woman, and I pictured her as being in her early twenty's. The fact she was attracted to a seventeen year old boy seemed weird to me, and although they were mutually attracted to each other, I felt as if it didn't go beyond them finding each other physically attractive. They didn't spend enough time together to “fall in love” but I felt as if it was trying to imply that Raven was in love with Webb. I felt as if the mutual attraction came out of nowhere, as although Webb was instantly attracted to Raven's appearance, there was nothing to imply that the feeling was mutual. I found the situation a little uncomfortable, as there was no build up to their feelings, and it felt as if it had been thrown in for the sake of a romantic subplot. I also felt as if the book needed more female characters overall, as Raven and Sundown are the only two that are frequently mentioned.

I enjoyed this book overall, and I'm planning to immediately devour the sequel! There are still many questions left unanswered, and Webb and Sundown are both past the “tutorial” phase, and are ready to explore their powers on their own. I would love for the Dark Man to have more of a presence in the next book, as he is still a very mysterious character. I recommend this book for YA fantasy lovers, and for all the Potterheads!

Dark Lands: Requiem is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository