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An eclectic mix of reviews, recipes, crafts and cakes. There may be the odd dinosaur.

The book with no pictures

The Book with No Pictures - B.J. Novak

Normally I don’t do reviews for e-books, but I really wanted to read B.J.Novaks (Mindy Kalings BFF and writer/actor on the American version of the Office) children’s book The Book With No Pictures. So I applied (via bloggers required) and was selected. I’m so glad I was. This book is incredibly cute and funny and when I was reading it I could just imagine my friends little girl giggling away (made me chuckle a few times too). The title is completely honest, there are no pictures. However, the magic of books with words in them is that you have to read the words and when reading with a child you have to read out loud. B.J. (I feel I can call him that now as we’re obviously meant to be friends) cleverly plays on this, making the adult read out funny sentences and words, which will delight children of any age (and some adults too). You try saying ‘I am a monkey that taught myself to read’ and keep a straight face!

Ruby Redfort- Feel the Fear

Feel the Fear (Ruby Redfort) - Lauren Child

What I liked:

The cover- it’s beautiful.

The characters are interesting and realistic. Ruby is a spy, but isn’t applauded when she risks her life and is treated (when not being a master code-breaker/spy extraordinaire) as an ordinary teenage girl. However, her natural talents and intelligence are weaved throughout the story and it’s great having another interesting and intelligent girl as a role model for children.

Ruby’s friends and family are more than just background figures, and their relationships are again realistic.

When the story gets going the spy capers are fun and well written.

The codes throughout the book (and the importance placed on them) are excellent. Cryptography is a fascinating art.

The two things I didn’t like

Ruby’s attitude- she’s quite often downright rude and this is rarely picked up on. She’s excellent when she’s smart and sassy/witty but not when she’s rude for no reason (i.e. when having her cast removed).

The pace: this book took quite a while to get going. Once it did, it was worth the wait, but it took a long time getting there.

The Broken Bridge

The Broken Bridge - Philip Pullman

The main character Ginny is 15 and lives in a small seaside village in North Wales with her father. Her Haitian mother is dead, and despite her fathers many ‘breakfast ladies’ (women who appeared at breakfast, after spending the night). None of them stick around long enough to become family.

Ginny is a talented artist and excellent at French, which helps her feel closer to her Mother. She finds Welsh hard and as the only black girl in her school, often feels like an outsider. Her best friend Rhiannon is glamorous and funny and they, like all 15 year olds, are each others secret keepers. So when things start to fall apart Rhiannon is the first person she turns to.

The book interweaves the lives of Ginny and her family with those in the village, exploring themes of identity, family and how our upbringing can shape us as adults.

You can read an excerpt here on his website.

What did I think?

Like all of Pullman’s books the characters are exceptionally well written, not only do they feel realistic, they feel known to us, particularly as the story develops. There are twists and turns aplenty throughout the plot, which help deepen our understanding of how Ginny and her father’s lives have turned out they way they have.

Pullman perfectly captures what it is to be a teenager, the thoughts, desires, intense secrets and longings and I wish more writers wrote their characters like this.

I would highly recommend this book, and am so glad I found it. I’m going to donate it to our library at work and I’m sure whoever reads it next will love it.

Darkmouth

Firstly the book itself is gorgeous, bright and brilliantly illustrated, the front cover is tactile with the Legends scales picked out, and makes you want to stroke it (maybe that’s just me!).

The mist covered town of Darkmouth rarely has visitors (unless they’re lost), which is rather unsurprising really, considering the continual invasion of Legends. Which is not quite as fun as it seems, think Minotaurs, Manticores and other fang baring beasts, no sign of a friendly Pegasus here. It’s up to Finns Dad the resident Legend Hunter to vanquish (or rather dessicate) these beasts, and keep the town safe. All whilst training his somewhat reluctant son to become the last ever Legend Hunter, no pressure then.

Finn is a funny and sympathetic main character, who has a wholly believable relationship with his father. Always in his well meaning fathers shadow, Finn doesn’t particularly want to go chasing Legends. Danger, loss of limbs, impending doom, who can blame him? Secretly he wants to help people, like his mum (a dentist) and become a vet, just don’t tell his Dad.

When new girl Emmie (clever and brave) and her dad move to town, things seem to be looking up, well as much as they can be when you’re under constant threat from mythical beasts and keep tripping over your dessicator. At least Emmie likes him, but are her and her dad all that they seem?

Rather more importantly will Finn be able to save the day? Or at least work out why Darkmouth is the only village left with Legends? Whilst avoiding being scratched, beaten and breaking his bones, and that’s just at school. Maybe he had better start panicking.

Iron Golem

Monster Squad:  The Iron Golem - Christian Page

I really enjoyed this book. I love fantasy/Sci-Fi writing and anything that combines werewolves, minions, secret societies and monsters is all right with me! The pace is good, the characters are well written and interesting.

The involvement of classical monsters and historical events within the story is an interesting twist. I particularly liked the inclusion of modern scientific developments and the correct use of laboratory equipment (my not so inner scientist approved!).

There are villians aplenty and no-one is quite who they seem. I’m looking forward to the sequel (always a good sign), as the book ends on something of a cliff hanger.

The Least Envied

The Least Envied (Songs Unsung, Book 2) - Sean DeLauder

From the first page you are thrown in to a new and exciting world, which quickly becomes the norm. Full of strange creatures (Wogs sound terrifying and sort of cute at the same time- think bony gremlins), fascinating technology and well written characters.

One of the things I really liked about this book was it made me think, there are many philosophical threads throughout the story, but one of the most interesting is about heroes. What makes someone a hero? Is it a one off act of strength and bravery? Or a series of smaller actions? Once a hero is that you then stuck for life? Or can even initially dubious characters become the heroic archetype? Yet this is done subtly and cleverly throughout, no heavy handed take home messages here.

Something I enjoy in my fantasy fiction is humour, humour at daily events/ideals and humour between characters, knowing nods to us as readers that yes the world is a big and scary place, but it is incredibly strange and often hilarious. This is something that Sean writes well and makes the characters come to life.

The plot is quite complex and there were times I had to stop to remember quite what was happening. The only thing I would improve is the length, it’s slightly too long and would benefit from a couple of chapters being cut.

However, overall I thought this was a very good read, interesting, funny and thought provoking. Definitely recommended for fans of fantasy, westerns and Sci-fi.

The versions of us by Laura Barnett

The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

I must admit I was sceptical about whether I would like this book, after seeing it was set in different timelines. I can find non-linear books confusing or worse boring as they break up the flow of the narrative. Thankfully for 'versions of us' this was not the case. I became so involved in Eva and Jim's love story (and almost love stories) that I was able to follow the three versions easily.

Not wanting to give away any spoilers it is safe to say that I really rooted for Eva and Jim in whatever timeline they were in, and loved their interactions with each other and the supporting characters.

The stories are beautifully written and each individual seemed realistic, regardless of how briefly they appeared.

This was another book which really made me think. The idea of what if? What if I had said yes? What if I had been brave? Done this/not done this differently... It showcases perfectly how fragile life is and how the choices we make really do mould us and the paths we take. Of course we will never know, what if? As the choices we have made, the yeses and the nos have all brought us to here, wherever here may be.