Sunday 29 October 2017

Review on A Shiver of Snow and Sky

Red, red, the lights glow red
                                                          Beware the dangers up ahead

Seventeen years ago, The Goddess sent a warning. A warning that meant the villagers would soon be in life threatening danger. Only a few days later, the villagers were struck by a plague that killed many, including Ósa's mother. Now the time has come for the red lights to appear in the sky once more, bringing with them a future filled with certain danger. Ósa must find out what the lights mean, and find out how to prepare for the oncoming danger before even more of the villagers die.

 I felt as if the blurb was quite vague for this book, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. From looking at the cover, I figured it was going to be some type of fantasy romance. Something that I rarely enjoy is romance being a key element in a fantasy book. When I pick up a fantasy book, it is always because I want to read a fantasy book, not a romance. My first impression of a book is usually quite accurate, but to my delight, my first impression of this book was completely wrong! The phrase “never judge a book but its cover” has never been more accurate than it is with this book.

The book follows Ósa, a seventeen year old girl who's mother died when she was just a baby. When the plague that took her mothers life threatens to return, Ósa must find a way to stop it before more lives are lost. Something I adore seeing in fantasy novels are epic quests and adventures. One of my favourite books as a child was The Hobbit, and I grew up watching The Lord of the Rings movies. The thought of going on an adventure to a dangerous and distant place was always appealing to me, so I was hoping Ósa 's adventure into the mountains would be full of excitement and danger!

Although I loved most of the characters, one character that I just couldn't stand was Ósa's father. I think them not getting along is a huge understatement, as I was completely shocked that he sent her on her quest alone, when he understood how dangerous her journey would be, and there was a high possibility that she wouldn't come back alive. I also hated that he had such little faith in her, and although Ósa starts to mend their broken relationship towards the end of the book, I wasn't able to forgive him so easily!

Once Ósa leaves the village, the book is split into two parts, with one focusing on Ósa 's journey, and the other focusing on Ivar and what was happening in the village. Although Ósa 's chapters are narrated in first person, Ivar's are narrated in third. This didn't make much sense to me, as I saw no reason why both narratives couldn't be told in either first or third person. It is occasionally necessary for a book to be narrated in this way, but I felt that it was a little pointless to do it in this case, as I prefer when books aren't constantly switching between first and third person.

I did love both Ósa and Ivar, but I ended up being more drawn into Ósa 's story. I think this was probably down to my love of adventures, but I was always eager to get back to Ósa 's chapters. I think the only thing I disliked about Ósa 's story was that she was alone for most of her journey. Even Frodo had Sam to help him get to Mordor, and I felt as if having a companion would have made the story more interesting. I did love when she teamed up with Sejer, but I thought it would have been better if they had met earlier on in the story, and if Sejer had had a bigger role to play.

Even though the villagers are expecting another plague, the main threat becomes the Ør, the same creatures that forced the villagers ancestors to find new homes. Although the Ør were given a description, the name is so close to Orc that I couldn't help but imagine them as Tolkein's Orcs. It made me wonder if Lisa drew some inspiration from Tolkein's work, as I found a few similarities throughout the book.

My favourite part of the book was towards the end, where Ósa has to get through a number of rooms to reach the Goddess, each with something in it to deter her. This part felt like a brilliant mixture of Philosopher's Stone, Doctor Who and The Hobbit. I particularly loved the stone creatures, as I found them quite creepy, and they reminded me of The Weeping Angels.

Something that I always like to see in a fantasy novel is a good battle scene, and this book definitely delivered on that! I adored the battle, and how Ósa harnessed her new powers. The one thing that I found a little confusing was the dragon. You would think that having a dragon on your side would guarantee victory, which made me confused as to how the Ør were winning. The book mentions later on that the dragon was incinerating the Ør, so to me it made no sense why the dragon wasn't just creating a wall of flame to force the Ør to retreat.

I overall really enjoyed this book, and it went above and beyond my expectations. I loved that the main plot focused on the fantasy, and the romance was just a small subplot. The book was more plot driven that character driven, but this didn't bother me too much, as the plot was so good! I recommend this book to fans of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Review on Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types is the best summer camp around! From working towards badges, to making friends with fellow Lumberjanes, there's never a dull moment at camp, especially when you happen to stumble upon a unicorn! When April, Jo, Ripley, Mal and Molly come across a lost unicorn, they decide to help it find it's way home. However, their adventures go astray when they decide to climb a mountain. A mountain that isn't on any maps, and seems to be undiscovered. The five friends soon find themselves stuck in the clouds with no way back down. Will the girls find a way back to camp, or will they be stuck drinking cloudy tea forever?

So I have to admit that I've never actually read the Lumberjanes comic books. I don't tend to read many comic books, so although I had heard of them before, I'd never actually picked one up. However, novels are definitely my thing, and when I got an email from Abrams asking me if I wanted to review a novel adaptation of the comics, I of course accepted!

The book follows April Ripley, Jo, Molly and Mal, a group of scouts who share at cabin at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. While working towards their Living the Plant Life badge, Ripley discovers a unicorn wondering through the forest. Ripley does what we would all do in that situation, which is of course scream and run after it. The girls soon discover a whole rave of unicorns, along with a huge mountain. A mountain that has never been documented on a map. A mountain that seemingly doesn't even exist!

The first thing that I noticed about this book was that the text is GREEN! I was concerned about my eyesight for a moment before realising that nope, it actually was green. I've never come across a book with green text before, and as green is one of my favourite colours, this made me very happy! As this is a children's book, I thought this was quite a clever design choice, as children are always more interested in colourful things. The green text along with the short chapters and gorgeous illustrations made it the perfect transition between picture books and chapter books.

One of the many things I adored about this book was the focus on the importance of friendship. I love seeing strong friendships between girls, as girls can often be horrible to each other, so having a group of girls loving and supporting each other was lovely to see. I loved that although each girl had different interests, they all supported each others hobbies, and helped out even if the activity wasn't something they enjoyed much. This was such a positive message, and I loved how it showed that girls don't have to limit themselves to fit into the female gender roles. Girls can pursue any hobby and achieve anything!

I loved each girls unique personality, especially Ripley's. I just loved how she was constantly energetic and having fun, and how she greeted strangers with a hug. Really we need more Ripley's in the world. I also adored April, the leader of the group. I loved how although she was brave and confident most of the time, she also had a moment where she doubted herself. April feels as if she has to single handedly get the girls back to safety, but has no idea how. I felt as if the girls helping her showed that some tasks are just too big to take on alone, and it's ok to ask for help.

So I have to talk a little about Barney, who despite being a side character, was extremely important. Although we aren't told in detail how Barney identifies, we are told that they use they/them pronouns rather than he/she. I have never come across a fictional character before who uses they/them pronouns, so I was a mixture of shocked, excited and happy to find out this information about Barney. I loved the way Barney was treated by the girls, as no fuss was made over their preferred pronouns at all, and they were treated the same as everyone else at the camp. This was such a positive message to young non binary and gender fluid people, as they are often ostracised and bullied by their peers. By not making a big deal over Barney's gender identity, the book took us in the right direction to normalise children like Barney for younger generations. Clearly there are not enough characters like Barney in middle grade and YA fiction, the age range where people can struggle with how they choose to identify. I really hope this book can pave the way for more authors to include characters like Barney in their books! While I'm on the subject of diversity, I adored the fact that Jo had gay dads. I was so happy how this was casually thrown in, and the drag race comment was comedy genius!

I honestly don't think I have anything negative to say about this book except that I wanted it to be longer! I'm usually not a huge fan of cliffhangers, but the ending definitely made me want to continue reading this series. This is an important book that I think all children would enjoy, as I think all children would benefit from discovering how awesome girls truly are! I adore the Lumberjanes and will definitely be looking into getting hold of the comics.

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Thursday 5 October 2017

Review on There's Someone Inside Your House

When Makani Young's parents divorce, she is forced to move away from her home town in Hawaii to Nebraska to live with her grandmother. However, Nebraska isn't as peaceful as Makani thought it would be, as a year after starting at her new school, one of Makani's classmates is brutally murdered in her own home. As more of Makani's classmates start to be murdered, it is soon apparent there is a serial killer on the loose, targetting students seemingly at random. When Makani herself becomes the next target, she starts to wonder if the attacks are truly random after all. Could Makani's past have something to do with her being targeted, or could it be for a completely different reason? 

One thing that I am not ashamed to admit is that I am a huge horror movie nerd! From the most terrifying, jumpscaresque, to the truly ridiculous, I will gladly watch them all. When I saw that There's Someone Inside your House was being compared to Scream, one of my all time favourite horror movies, I was excited to read read it!

The book follows Makani Young, a girl who's parents send her to live with her grandmother due to their divorce. However, we soon learn that this isn't the only reason for the move, as Makani has commited a crime, forcing her to change her name to stop her new friends from discovering her old life. I loved that the book immedietly gave us unanswered questions, such as what Makani had done in the past, who the killer was, and why were they targeting certain individuals.

The way the book started out was perfect! It immediately gave off a creepy vibe, and by chapter two, I could definitely see why the book was being compared to Scream.Although I thought the first chapter was shockingly brilliant, the novelty wore off by the third time that a chapter opened with a character other than Makani, as it was obvious what was about to happen. It felt a little repetitive after a while, as I just knew what was about to happen. I felt like the only time the book diverted from this was when one of the chapters focused on two characters, where only one was the killers next victim. I loved this chapter, as I had no idea which character was going to be the next victim, and it created that brilliant suspense that I last experienced from the first chapter.

I loved the characters in this book! Although 
there were a few minor characters in the book, there wasn't too many major characters. I particularly loved Darby, one of Makani's friends. I feel as if there are never enough transgender characters in YA, and when there are, they are almost always girls, so I was extremely happy to find a transgender boy in this book! Although Darby tended to jump to conclusions, and was quick to accuse Ollie, I loved how much he cared for his friends, and how determined he was to keep Makani safe. I also loved Ollie, as he was such a shy and sweet character. However like Darby, I also had my suspicions about Ollie! As we all know from the Scream movie (spoiler alert) the boyfriend ends up being the killer, so Ollie was definitely in my list of suspects!

So sadly I have to talk about something that I really wasn't keen on, which was the romance. There was just so much of it! Now I realise that Stephanie previously wrote a contemporary romance series, but the title and description of this book definitely aren't screaming out romance. I was both confused and disappointed that after the first murder, the plot focused on the romance between Makani and Ollie, and nothing else really happened until past page seventy. I was not expecting the book to be centred on romance as much as it was, and I almost DNF'd it at one point because of this. I felt like I was just slogging through the first quarter of the book, waiting for something to happen that didn't involve Makani and Ollie kissing or having sex. I felt like it had a great start, but then just petered out until the next murder. I personally felt as if the romance needed to be toned down quite a bit!

Something that bothered me was the fact that Makani barely knew most of the victims. The deaths were mostly characters who were only mentioned once or twice before being killed off, and I felt as if their deaths would have made more of an impact if they had been Makani's friends. As a reader we don't actually have any emotional attachment to the characters who are killed. I felt as if the book would have been scarier if the killer had been targeting Makani's friends earlier on in the book.

Although I wasn't keen on the romance, I did love some of the other real life aspects, particularly Ollie's relationship with his older brother, Chris. After their parents died, Chris was forced to take on more of a parental role, having to take care of Ollie by himself. I felt sorry for Chris, as he was forced to grow up quickly, and act more like a parent than a brother. There were times where you could see just how truly young and vulnerable Chris was, and I felt sorry for him losing his parents and having to worry about if Ollie would be the killers next target.

Apart from the few things that I mentioned, I did eventually end up enjoying this book, and I'm glad that I gave it a chance. I loved the final showdown with the killer at the end of the book, and how everything was tied together to answer all the remaining questions. I thought the murders themselves were pretty gruesome, so maybe avoid the book if that makes you squeamish! I loved how there was mixture of horror, slasher and murder mystery. I always love a good whodunnit! If you're looking for a creepy slasher to read this Halloween, this is your book!

There's Someone Inside Your House is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository