Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bird Girl by Maudie Smith (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10E)

March 2017, Orion Children's Books, 208 Pages, Paperback, Personal copy, 

Book summary
Pink-haired Finch Field has always felt different. She dreams of flying - not in a plane, but swimming through the sky like a bird. Her classmates laugh, and call her Dream Bird. But when Finch goes to stay with her beloved Granny Field for the summer, she finds herself face-to-face with a monster intent on stealing people's dreams. Finch must find a way to believe her own dreams can come true if she is to save the dreams of everyone in Sunview on Sea.

Nayu's thoughts
I won this on a Twitter competition Maudie held. I was not thinking straight because somehow I thought it was a picture book and was super excited to see more pictures of Finch with pink hair. When I got it I smiled at my mistake - I love middle grade books so didn't mind it was for an older audience. 

I loved how idyllic Finch's grandmother's town is, how happy everyone is until the mysterious cloud appears. I liked that Finch's parents were archaeologists, and they named her after a bird. Through her at times perilous adventure Finch identifies what she wants to change about herself, which is important as we all have something to work on. She is a sweet, generous child, understandably wary of the strange boy who possibly mocks her like her classmates do. She likes hearing people's dreams, which is why it’s sad when they are dream-napped. I feel that how the people react to that depicts both depression and dementia, whether or not this was consciously intended to be interpreted that way. 

The only reason I can't give this full marks is a personal one: I'm scared of both the cloud monster and another character. I get freaked out easy by weird and wonderful things, and the latter had me skipping paragraphs to avoid then. The problem with having a highly active imagination is that once imagined I can't unsee weird & wonderful characters. Although just realised saying wonderful doesn't make sense, since they aren't wonderful to me, but it's simply the phrase that entered my head. 

I will always remember Finch's story, but because I dislike some characters I won't be rereading it, despite loving Finch and her granny to bits. It will find a home in a local primary school instead! 

Find out more on Maudie's website.

Suggested read 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and Gwenneth Jones (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)

6th April 2017, EK Books, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy, 

Summary from EK Books 
Sometimes Sophie worries — not during the day when she is busy with family and friends, but at night when everything is calm and quiet. Her family all try to help, but somehow they just make her worries worse. Until her mother thinks of a new approach … that might just involve an elephant or two!

Nayu's thoughts
While this book is aimed at children it's a brilliant read for adults with worries too. Everyone needs coping methods for worries. Sophie is fine when she is busy and distracted, but trying to sleep means no distractions so the thoughts whirl in her head. 

Whenever someone says don't do something, most people then want to do it. It’s impossible not to think of purple elephants when seeing the title (not only because there are some on the cover), so Sophie gets purple elephants doing fun things with personalities. I loved the bright illustrations which depict Sophie's unease and amusement well. Those purple elephants made me smile, as did the plot twist on the last page which reveals how wonderful imagination is. A must read for everyone! 

Suggested read

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere (Cozy Mystery, 10E/10E)

18th April 2017, Henery Press, 264 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Content: murder, mystery, some romance, humour, 

Summary from Henery Press
When Interior Decorator Madison Night accepts an assignment in Palm Springs with handyman Hudson James, she expects designing days and romantic nights. But after spotting a body in the river by the job site, she causes a rift in the team. Add in the strain of recurring nightmares and a growing dependency on sleeping pills, and Madison seeks professional help. She learns more about the crime than she’d like thanks to girl talk with friends and smack talk with the local bad boys. After the victim is identified as the doctor she’s been advised to see, she wonders if what she knows can help catch a killer. But this time, what she doesn’t know might be the one thing that saves her life.

Nayu's thoughts 
I can't put my finger on it but this is an incredible read. Considering I haven't read any of the other books in the series I didn't feel like I was in the dark about background stories, in fact the opposite is true. I felt like I already knew Madison, and was returning to be with old friends. Unlike Madison whose friends turn a bit less friendly with what looks like a mistake on her part but ends up being something sinister. I love how she doesn't give up her investigations especially when people are mad at her and danger seems to be coming from all angles. I liked the creativity of her decorating job, how it helped her spot clues others wouldn't notice. I liked how she struggles with both her past and medicine addiction which I know is a reality for many - it's refreshing to have a heroine with obvious flaws (that aren't personality driven).

There are several big plot mysteries that unravel and lead to a surprising end. Related to the end is the fact I was sad to see the story finish. Madison's voice is appealing and I'm glad I had a few hours in a row to read this, so I could read it uninterrupted. There's a good mix of humour and drama that makes it not too scary a read, unless you are on your own. Madison had help some of the time, but her independent streak nearly costs her her life on more than one occasion if I remember correctly. 

This would make an amazing audiobook if it isn't one already! Edited to add it is!!! Not knowing what was going on, the family drama and interfering police provided Madison with a lot of hurdles to get over. I'm looking forward to reading more of her adventures! 

Find out more on Diane's website.  

Suggested read


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Over On Nayu's Crochet Dreams #23...

She's so cute! One of many random pictures I find online. Love her odd socks which match what I wear ^o^
... check out what unusual gift I'm taking to my friend in Norfolk! I'm fairly sure she doesn't read my blog regularly - sorry if you've seen this though!

The Hounds of Penhallow Hall: The Moonlight Statue by Holly Webb (Children's, 7 years +, 8/10E)

Adore the girl, not so much the dog (see below for reasons)
February 2017, Stripes Publishing, 192 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: mysterious things, empty large house 
Summary from Little Tiger Press
For Polly, moving to Penhallow Hall is the fresh start she’s been longing for since the death of her father. Her mum has got a job managing the stately home and once the last of the visitors leave for the day the place is all theirs! One night, Polly sleepwalks into the garden and wakes to find her hand on the head of one of the stone dogs that guard the steps down to the lawn. Then she feels him lick her cheek! The dog introduces himself as Rex, an Irish Wolfhound who lived at Penhallow many hundreds of years earlier. And he is not the only resident ghost – Polly has also glimpsed a strange boy around the place. With Rex’s help she finds herself unravelling the story of his beloved master, William Penhallow, who was killed in the First World War aged only 17.

Nayu's thoughts 
I seriously hate giving a book from one of my favourite authors a less than perfect grade. But for me it wasn't perfect. I adore Holly's stories, it's just unfortunate I found this one a bit creepy. It doesn't help that I'm afraid of the dark and big dark coloured dogs frighten me, so a lot of what Polly does at night & during the day wasn't something I could lose myself in. Oh and the war theme (something I try to avoid reading about as it's upsetting)

However, there is still Holly's magic in how she phrases things, in the love Polly's mum gives her, the way that Polly has an incredible adventure when she needs company the most. I liked how the story of the boy was woven in, introducing the reader to historical situations, making them more interesting by being in a story. From the title I think this may be a series, but I'll need breaks before reading the next title. 

Find out more on Holly's website

Suggested read

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes (Non-Fiction, 9/10E)

February 2016, Claret Press, 70 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Book Summary
 Herodotus wrote the first history book in the world. That is why he is sometimes called the ‘Father of History’. He lived about 2,500 years ago in the fifth century BC. He was born at a place called Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. The modern names for these places are Bodrum in Turkey. 

Herodotus was a keen traveller who went all over the ancient world and was interested in everything he saw and heard. When he came back from his travels he went to Athens in Greece and gave lectures about the places he had visited. Finally he decided to write a book about them. 

In the later part of his life he went to Italy where he did more work on his book and finally died there in 425 BC. King Leonidas of Sparta and the Battle of Thermopylae, made famous by the blockbuster movie 300, began with Herodotus' stories. Retold to be accessible for children, these stories will delight readers of all ages. This book is appropriate to support the curriculum of Key Stage 3.

Nayu's thoughts
Children are very lucky to have Lorna's retelling of a few of Herodotus's tales! My degree was in ancient history, so reading the tales took me back to many happy memories at uni. I wish I had this during my degree because it explains some complicated tales clearly, which hopefully encourage the reader to investigate the stories for themselves. 

Lorna's narration is engaging and kept me wanting to know what happened next, even though in the depths of my memory I know what happened in the stories. There is lots of selfishness, betrayal, oracles, and much more for readers to enjoy. Personally I'd have preferred a brighter colour scheme and a few more illustrations, but the present ones fit the feel of the tales. I feel there is a lot of scope for both individual readers and achers to discuss whether they would have taken the same course of action as the characters, whether there was a right decision to be made, and just what the ancient world was like for the wise historian who I spent a year getting to know him well. 

I hope this brings about a thirst for the ancient world which started in my childhood then got a bit buried until my teenage years. It's so very cool that Lorna works at the British Musuem - the thoght of being surrounded by so many artefacts (including pot fragments which make me crazy happy) has me be a little bit fangirly! 

Suggested read
More ancient history is covered in this fact filled gem of a read Cool Mythology by Malcolm Croft (Non-fiction, Children's, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review) 

Another great non-fiction read for younger readers and those like me who like things simplified is DK My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things by Dorling Kindersley (Children's, Non-Fiction, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review) 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)

February 2017, Scholastic, 192 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Scholastic 
Pig, Duck, Cow and all the Sheeps are far away from their Farm and beloved Vegetarian Farmers. More fun, parps, slops and unbelievable adventure from this much-loved set of characters. Complete with illustrations throughout and printed in a unique diary format.

Nayu's thoughts 
I enjoyed book #1 tremendously and book #3 is equally hilarious and cute  (I'm sure book #2 is, just haven't read it). Pig has some manners, takes great delight in less savoury activities which younger readers in particular will find amusing, and which are vital to the story. What unfolds is unbelievable (in a good way), with Pig going to great lengths with current and new friends to save Cow whose sense of adventure gets them all into trouble. 

I was constantly flabberghasted by the accidents Pig and co have, they are kind hearted & don't exactly think their games through. But because of their damage causing antics they are able to find Cow and get to freedom, with a lot of help along the way. I love the unique meanings to ordinary words in Pig language, and how other animals view humans. I think there are several layers of humour, obvious humour and some which older readers will pick up on. Pig is a cheerful soul whose voice keeps me at the edge of my seat, making me laugh and despair in equal measure. Another for the reread shelf! 

Find out more on the exclusive Pig website!

Suggested read
Check out the other titles in the series including book #1 The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)