Friday, March 27, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman.

Title- Nightbird.
Author- Alice Hoffman.
Publish date- March, 2015.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
There's a certain magic that abounds in the town of Sidwell, from the pink apples that grow there and nowhere else, to the monster that the townspeople claim live in the forests. The monster, they say, that is becoming dangerous and needs to be captured.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review copy!
Image Source: Simon and Schuster.

What I thought:

Nightbird was a middle grade read I could’ve read as a younger person, when I was eight or nine, and it would have engaged me and amazed me and I would always have looked on it fondly. It would have been one of those favourite childhood reads that you pass on and treasure the memory of, and I hope for at least one child who reads it they find that book. But I also think that if it had been one of those favourite childhood books, it would also have been one I’d read again, older, and feel disappointed by. It has magic and wonder and so much potential, Nightbird, but I feel like it kept it simple, too simple for me to really get into and feel like I could be there, or for me to cherish; it’s a wonderful story and premise and idea, and I think it would be an excellent book to give with the intention of helping a middle grade reader enjoy reading and feel impassioned by stories, but as a reader personally I would have liked to see the magic embellished and heightened, the beauty of the forest and the town of Sidwell strengthened, the chapters more full of detail and less the quick passing of time and few happenings that they were.

I’m not sure how I felt about the characters, on the whole. I did feel for Twig and the way of life her mother had forced her into, didn’t get the mother’s reasoning as being practical or likely, was a bit frustrated by the way Twig thought Julia, the girl who moves in next door and who is very sweet, wouldn’t want to be her friend anymore because she had got other friends at school now (she shared her mother’s shaky reasoning, here), and my eyebrow quirked at the whole dynamic of the romance between two other characters, which was very much made of insta-live and thou must take the high moral standing because thou knowest best.
It was a book of big things that were taken on my young characters who didn’t always seem to have that means of background proof they thought they did. Throw caution to the wind! We can do it, kind of thing. These were characters who seemed to think they knew best, despite a lack of evidence to that case, those elements you sometimes find in books you grew up loving and later become a touch suspicious of.
Yet I did enjoy it. For the magic. (Though I wish there’d been more!)

Rating: Hmm...
I wish it had had more magicality and more reasonable characters, but this was a neat, enjoyable, good basis for further reading.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hold Me Closer by David Levithan...

Title- Hold Me Closer- The Tiny Cooper Story.
Author- David Levithan.
Publish date- March 25th, 2015.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
It is Tiny Cooper's time, and he is going to tell his story, and he's going to tell is via musical, written by and starring himself.

Thank you to Text Publishing for this review copy!
Image Source: Text Publishing.

What I thought:

A YA novel that is written as if it were a musical? Stage directions, ideas for actors, dance sequences, songs and all? Well I am in.

I enjoyed my reading of Hold Me Closer, despite not having read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, from where the character of Tiny originates, though I wouldn’t say it was all I hoped it would be.
It was possibly more amusing and less wonderful.
Tiny Cooper’s story didn’t really speak to me, but the little bits in between songs and acts, where he writes these sections of backgrounds history and the aforementioned stage directions, those were the spots I felt his character in a way that was raw- a character who was the one starring in the show, but also a more emotional, real character- and I really felt impressed by the way I learnt about Tiny the character in those sections. They felt like more important- and beautiful, emotion and writing wise- revelations than anything I got in the musical, and that was really well done.

Now this would be a completely hilarious and wonderful musical if it were to be performed; I feel like I got half the experience, reading the script, as it were, and can practically feel how brilliant it would be live, all those (occasionally powerhouse) musical numbers, the brilliant mention in the beginning that anyone who would object to the musical would’ve left by the first song, and the appearance of the ghost of Oscar Wilde, who sings his very own song; really it was odd and ingenuous and would be a really good, stereotype smashing musical for high schools and collages to perform.
I’d go see it.
It mightn’t have been a brilliant book. It might’ve lacked depth and I may have wanted it to give me more, but to see Hold Me Closer actually performed is something I will hold out for, because I believe it is certainly worth holding out for.

Rating: Hmm... sometimes better and sometimes not.
I had a certain amount of trouble reading the back cover (so. very. glitzy.) and it was not an excellent read, but it had more than one moment of brilliance to it, this clever, amusing book, and I enjoyed it most of the time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Feature of Pictures (and books!) No. 9

I welcome you back to this (possibly forgotten) feature! Today I have a book that was a beautiful almost disappointment and one that was a beautiful work of I WANT THAT ON MY WALL NOW PLEASE THANK YOU. And also a book o beards. Who'd have thought it, I ask you? Happy times!

Title: Nature's Day.
Author: Kay Maguire.
Illustrator: Danielle Kroll.
Publisher: Quarto UK.
Publish Date: February 25th, 2015.
RRP: $29.99 (AUD)

I admit that at first I did struggle to find something, apart from those gorgeous illustrations, that I could gladly sink into with Nature’s Day, because whilst no doubt interesting, the numerous facts and tidbits bored me, felt disengaging and a tad monotonous, but somehow (don’t ask me, I don’t know) I did, all of a sudden, and I enjoyed it. Not hugely, not exuberantly, and it isn’t, I feel, a book that is wholly accessible to me, but I would give it with verve to a new, wonderous reader (possibly I won’t be passing on my copy as a certain animal decided to chew a spot of the spine to mush) who was excited by the facts and happenings of the passing seasons- though note that some facts will be irrelevant to those in Australia and other countries where some of the animals don’t live.
It is, however, a gorgeous book, and I enjoyed seeing different landscapes (it goes through places like the farm, orchard, pond, street and forest in a seasonal cycle) as the year moved. Particularly the forest, as I have more than a soft spot for those.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image Source: Allen and Unwin.

Title: A River.
Author (and illustrator): Marc Martin.
Publisher: Penguin Random House.
Publish Date: March 25th, 2015.
RRP: $24.99 (AUD)

I checked out Marc Martin’s tumblr (yes here is a link do not thank me), when I considered requesting a review copy of this, and when I saw how beautiful, detailed and, honestly, “I would have that on my wall” the art was I didn’t hesitate a moment longer.
This was incredible.
I have a thing for picture books. It’s a fact. It is THE fact. They are very tiny stories that can appeal o all ages, have art through them, and teach valuable lessons amidst an engaging story that lasts very few pages. And A River?
Best Picture Book of 2015. It is only March, yes, but I truly believe this is going to remain in the top three, at least.
The story, for one, is simple and delightful. Imaginative, dreamy and soaring, it tells the tale of a girl following the river she can see from her apartment window. It goes through the city, past hills and farms… all drawn so carefully and so detailed. Which takes me to the art. Arguably the thing I love the most about picture books, and this… oh my. This is quite close to the art I see in my dreams and imagination. It’s detailed and wonderful and I feel like I could live in it, with no help at all.

Thank you to Penguin Australia for this review copy!
Image Source: Penguin Australia.

Title: Book-O-Beards.
Author: Lemke and Lentz.
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont.
Publish Date: March 2015.
RRP: $14.95 (AUD)

Oh oh oh. This!

And that’s the end of the review! Good day to you!

Alright. Well. Well! This, I say, is a wonderful idea for a series of board books. Wearable books- and this one about beards! I admit, I think mustaches have a little more  …  to them (thank you Magnum and Poirot for ingraining this into my mind), but how fun is this! Only one of the pictures doesn’t include a mustache, actually, so this is practically perfect (I don’t love the pirate, but oh well).
The beards/staches are colourful, amusing, diverse and offer tremendous amusement that does not end with children. Technically I’m more of an adult, but this is a book I WILL use. Oh yes. And there was racial diversity in the characters whose beards you’ll be wearing, which I had looked for and was very glad to see.
Basically, this is terrific. Off to beard!

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for this review copy!
Image Source: Hardie Grant Egmont.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bookish Identity Tag?!

What is this magic? Another tag. Yes. Yes. And another yes because three is apparently the magical number. That and seven. Nine, too? Sidetracked. Let's just go and pretend that didn't happen, right? Right-oh.

I wasn't tagged for this post (I saw it on Paper Fury, so thanks to Cait for doing it and making me see it) and I won't tag anyone, but do it if you'd like to! 

Which dystopian/fantastical world would you want to live in?
That would be the world of Ink from the Inkworld trilogy (it's always in the name, right?). It's a world that was told in a book but kept going on after the book finished, though some characters are still bound by the fates set by the story! Strange, fantastical, completely magical and brilliant. Not necessarily safe, but glorious.

Who would your partner be?
I vote for Celaena. Protection, snarky friendship, a huge dog (I love big dogs, and I'm pretty hers is some sort of wolfhound so *swoon*), a love of books. She could teach me some fighting skills, too.

Which house would you be in? (From HP)
Ravenclaw is the house I have been sorted into on more than one occasion- each occasion, actually. And I'm very happy with that. I think it's definitely me.

Which faction would you be in? (From Divergent)
That would be Dauntless. Am I dauntless? CERTAINLY NOT. But that's what I'd choose. I'm also Divergent, when I take tests, and I feel like that is correct. A mixture between factions, though I'd choose Dauntless, I think.

What would your daemon be? (From His Dark Materials)
A Snow Leopard! Ideally it would be one that would never solidify into one single thing. Changing between a bird of some sort (a swallow or something big enough to carry me) and a snow leopard.

So fun but so short! Give me links if you've done this or do it! It's veerrry fun. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mini Review (12)


Sue Saliba’s Alaska was one of the first review books I ever received; I have fond memories with the time I spent with it, and it’s possibly because of this and some other factors that I tried so hard to keep reading For the Forest of a Bird when I knew it wasn’t working for me. I dearly wanted to be able to at least finish it, but unfortunately that didn’t work out and I ended up reading… nearly half, before deciding to stop.

Nella is the protagonist of FtFoaB; she is fifteen and lives with her controlling, moody older brother and her mentally ill mother, after her father left the family. She goes to a creek in her town and awaits the return of the swallows, and just when she finally decides to tell her father, to show him the magic of her secret, like she’s planned to for years, there is an accident and Nella’s perspective changes over the course of all that happens.
I wasn’t sure of Nella. I liked her passion, but I felt mostly worried and concerned for her- living with a mother whose mental stability seemed dangerously fragile and a brother who seemed to have an aura of “dark” about him, she had so much going on and a lot of hope, but I felt as if her hope made her practically delusional at times, and she also seemed rather childish; I struggled with her voice and the direction it took the story.

I adore the cover, though, and was tremendously excited to see it- it’s such a lovely array of colour, texture and type.

Thank you to Penguin for this review copy!
Image Source: Penguin.

Thank you to Murdoch Books and Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image Source: Allen and Unwin.

Oh. Simply oh. Italics and all. This was, truly, quite lovely. The colours are vibrant and the art feels like I've stepped into one of those lovely picture books from the 60s and 70s, with shapes made from block colours, all put together to create a distinct shape or thing. This was fun, too, all about teaching first readers to count and read and name things (people, seasons, numbers, animals) and I can tell that this will be such a fantastic book for teaching, being captivating in it's design- brilliant for teaching how enjoyable learning is and can be.
I thought it was great! I loved the use of colour, the style of the art, the distinctness of it all; it is a book I like now and one I would have liked even more as a child. Also, it shows you 100 things, and it's startling how few that seems to be!

Monday, March 16, 2015

A tag of Heroines.

Because, and I mean this quite literally, what could be better?
I love to celebrate the achievements of women, so a tag that highlights heroines? Well, my dears, I was sold two decades ago on that.

I wasn't tagged for this Heroine tag. That doesn't matter. I saw it in all it's glorious beauty on Paper Fury and that was enough to have me here.

1. Which heroine would you trade places with?
I'll ignore the fact that this means they would not exist. Lets change this to- which heroine would you want to stand beside forever and ever, shall we? Good. Right.

Luna Lovegood.

2. Which heroine would you push off a cliff and hope that there are some jagged rocks at the bottom?
Now cruelty has no place here, thank you very much.

3. Heroine you couldn’t care less about? They’re so bland that they don’t even trigger the hate in you?
Well the questions aren't as positive as I remembered. OH NO. For reads this year, my least favourite heroine would be Margo, from Paper Towns, though. I felt very little for her, it has to be said.


4. Heroine you thought you wouldn’t like and ending up liking and vice versa?

Didn't think I would: All of the characters from Beauty Queens. Because truly they are AMAZING.

Thought I would: Hello again Miss Margo.

5. Side heroine who is much more interesting than main heroine?
I can't remember who it was... Ah ha! Mary Lou. She was bril.

6. Which heroine would you want as your friend?
Celaena Sardothian and Lyra Belacqua. Luna Lovegood and Kasta. And Kami Glass, of course.

7. Which heroine do you wish would just CHOOSE (between the guys [or girls] in her little love triangle)?That would be Kami Glass.


8. Bad girl heroine?
Eh... probably Celaena. But I don't believe in labels, for the most part. This is bad as in bad-ass.

9. “Good girl” heroine?
Labels labels labels. Maybe Meggie from Inkheart, though, because she did try. Most of the time.

10. Your favorite heroine of them all? (If you can’t choose, pick your top 3.)
In no order: Celaena, Luna and Lyra.

Want to do it, too? Then do it. And leave a link so I can ooh and aah.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell...

Title- The Last Leaves Falling.
Author- Sarah Benwell.
Publish date- 2nd February, 2015.
Publisher- Random House.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Sora has ALS and he feels his world shrinking, with each day and each movement he struggles to do on his own. His mind is full of thoughts and fears and questions, and no one can answer them, it seems. And answers are what he needs the most.

Thank you to Random House Australia for this review copy!
Image Source: Random House.

What I thought:
The Last Leaves Falling was for me a beautiful book, though I don't think I realised this until it no longer was; it is a story that is gloriously sweet yet terribly bitter, strained and heartfelt and powerful, and tough I only moderately enjoyed it to begin with, I realised how much I had enjoyed it only when it  was much too late.
The novel tells the story of Sora, a teenager who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Louie Gehrig disease, and the frinds he finds, the thoughts and fears he has, and the adventures he is part of as it progresses. The pain felt by Sora felt real, his anguish and frustrations and pain, all so palpable and true, and Sarah Benwell crafted a story that, though a huge element of it was this teenage boy's pained struggle, is striking in the way it so often exudes happiness. Scenes with icecream made me smile and outing to giant karp pools made me feel glad, with such a feeling of "spend your time in a way you will remember gladly" coming from the whole thing.
Inevitably this is not going to be a book that was overwhelmingly happy- it's about a boy who is dying, painfully and with visible progression- but it had gladness to it. Promise and happiness.

I try to remember the things that made me like it: the sweet friendship Sora finds, the subtle romance, the thoughts and questions that the characters had thsat, some, seeped into me, and the wonderful, distinct setting of the book- Japan- that opened my eyes and swept me up, but in the end it is... difficult. Because I found the ending totally... unforgivable? I don't quite know. I certainly didn't agree with it, hardly even understood it, and... maybe I am not one who should speak about such things, not knowing the true pain and struggle of someone facing this disease, but this is a novel. And I am angry. I am mad at Sora. At all of it. The things that happened in the last pages were alienated from the characters I had read about for 330 pages, so void of... what I thought I knew of them.

So only too late did I see how much I'd been enjoying this. And... I don't know if I can get back to that.

Rating: Ooh very good-oh nooo-this is the worst possible time for an explosion.
So good, for 3/4, but the end just... was not for me. It left me without all that I had felt for the book, and I'm really quite angry, now.