Monday 29 November 2021

Review on Can You Keep a Secret?


The dragons in Winnie’s village became extinct long ago… or did they? After being swept up by a gust of wind, Winnie finds herself on the back of a real life dragon! The dragon reveals it is the last of it’s kind, but will Winnie be able to keep such a huge secret?

 I was sent this gorgeous picture book from Scholastic and as I’m in a bit of a reading slump I thought I would put my usual YA books aside and read it. I immediately fell in love with the art style, as I adore illustrations where you can tell they’ve been hand-drawn. Although digital art can obviously be amazing, I just love the idea of traditionally drawn art. The art style is gorgeous and unique, and I spent a good amount of time looking at the details on every page.

The story follows a young girl called Winnie who grows up believing that her ancestors killed all the dragons. However, she soon finds out that isn’t true when a big gust of wind blows her away, causing her to land on the back of a dragon. Winnie soon learns that the dragon along with it’s friends the gryphon, the winged lion and the tree man are the last of their kind, and must stay hidden in order to avoid being killed by the humans. I loved how Winnie immediately sympathised with the creatures despite knowing how her parents felt about them. It’s important to teach children to listen to and understand those who are different from them, so I loved how this important message was shown.

 I loved that Winnie was shown to be from a multiracial family, something that I rarely see in children’s books, and YA for that matter. It’s important for children to be able to relate to the characters they read about, so I think it would be perfect for a child with a similar family to Winnie to come across this book. I absolutely love how we’re starting to see more diversity in picture books!

 This was a simple and gorgeous picture book with a clear message of acceptance and love, and how it’s important to overcome any prejudices we may have learned from our parents. I think it’s a brilliant starting point to teach young children about these important topics and gives parents a good starting point to teach them about love and acceptance


Monday 15 November 2021

Review on The Forest of Ghosts and Bones


The deadly rains have been falling around the castle ever since Beata can remember. The King and Queen were slaughtered when Beata was born, and ever since, anyone who tries to enter the castle is consumed by the rains. However, Beata has a secret she’s never told anyone. When she was young, she entered the rains and survived. With the help of Benedk, a boy who somehow has inside knowledge of the castle, Beata decides she will enter the castle and put a stop to the rains once and for all. However, things won’t be easy, as Liljana, a mage who has had to flee her country is on Beata’s trail after being promised a new life where she will be safe. Beata must discover who she really is while saving her hometown from the darkness threatening to consume it.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw what this book was about! I took part in the blog tour where I interviewed Lisa (you can find that post HERE) but today I want to talk about my thoughts on the book. I found out from briefly looking at other reviews that the book is inspired by Hungarian mythology which sounded super interesting! I know barely anything about Hungarian mythology but I did no a little research and was excited to find out how the book would use it.

 The story has an almost fairytale feeling to it, with Kings and Queens, cursed castles, an evil mage and a magical land beyond a door. I’ve always been a big fan of fairytales, so I loved being transported to a different world full of magic! The book is however much darker than most fairytales, as there’s some pretty gruesome murders and death scenes. The main villain Moros was pretty terrifying and would stop at nothing to achieve what he wanted, and h was pretty dark and twisted, much worse than your average fairytale villain!

 The characters were interesting, and I particularly loved Liljana, a mage who is on the run from the town she has lived in for years after the King starts to round up mages to slaughter them. After losing her best friend, Liljana becomes somewhat of an anti hero, as although we are rooting for her, she also does some terrible things and isn’t the typical hero who tries to save everyone. Liljana tries to preserve her own life at the expense of others, and even agrees to hunt down Beata to get what she wants. I adored her character development, as she starts out not caring about anyone but herself, but goes on to befriend Beata and Benedek and risks her own life to save the other mages. I was a little disappointed that her end goal never changed, as it almost felt like all her character development was for nothing. I always hate when the end of a character's journey has the same outcome it would have had had they not gone through everything, so I was disappointed that despite having changed so much, she still went through with her original plan. 

 Although Liljana was my favourite character, I also loved Benedek, a boy who Beata befriends after finding out he knows her secret. Although he isn’t a mage, Benedek has knowledge of the castle layout to him harbouring the King’s soul. I really wish Benedek had his own chapters to narrate, as I really wanted to know more about how that made him feel. Despite having no magic, he is still swept up in a world of mages, and I felt it would be interesting to hear some things from his point of view. I felt like this was a bit of a missed opportunity as his character had such potential, but he was often pushed to the side in favour of following Beata, who I honestly found to be the least interesting character in the book. He felt a bit like a sidekick to Beata rather than a friend or a love interest, and as he was carrying many of the same burdens as Beata, I was disappointed we didn’t hear more about his struggles. 

 The story lagged in places, but I found the story of how Moros came to overtake the castle really interesting! Moros was probably the character with the most interesting backstory, and I love how we slowly got to learn more about him throughout the book. For some reason he reminded me of Ansem from Kingdom Hearts, especially since he was trying to get through a door into another world and used dark creatures to do his bidding. I especially loved the final battle with him, and the terrifying Sarkul, a giant creature who easily devoured souls. It felt like an action scene and made it impossible to put the book down! 

 I feel like the book may be a stand alone, but I would definitely read more about this world. As both Beata and Liljana never really learn how to master their powers, I would love to see what they are truly capable of. I’m also really curious about Muranji, the world where Moros was from, and where mages are able to live in peace. None of the characters ever get to visit this world until the very end of the book, so as a reader we never get to experience it. I would love something like a spin off following Liljana as she navigates the new world. Although it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to seeing what Lisa comes up with next!