Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Six of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.  A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first. {Goodreads summary}

“Six people, but a thousand ways this insane plan could go wrong.”

Following my initial disappointment that All of the Above wasn't told from multiple perspectives, it was great to be able to move onto one that was! Six of Crows follows the adventures of a crew of criminal masterminds in the making, written from the perspective of five of them. The varying perspectives gave the novel a unique and exciting twist, and I was never disappointed when they switched as they were equally interesting. I'm not entirely sure why the sixth member didn't get chapters of his own (I spent most of the novel expecting him to die at any moment as a result!)  

“Kaz leaned back. "What's the easiest way to steal a man's wallet?"

"Knife to the throat?" asked Inej.
"Gun to the back?" said Jesper.
"Poison in his cup?" suggested Nina.
"You're all horrible," said Matthias.” 

When I started Six of Crows, I didn't actually realise that it was a companion novel to a trilogy; I'm not sure how, but Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy has managed to completely pass me by, but that's something I plan on correcting very soon. However, I would definitely say that you don't need to have read the previous series to enjoy Six of Crows; the world building is so fantastic that I never felt as though I was missing information or back story.

“How are you finding our country?” “It’s a magical place,” Nina gushed. If you like ice and more ice.”

The writing in this novel is beautiful. Spending a lot of time in GCSE English lessons means that my brain is subconsciously on a constant lookout for 'literary techniques' and there is some beautifully constructed imagery in this book:

“The heat of the incinerator wrapped around Inej like a living thing, a desert dragon in his den, hiding from the ice, waiting for her. She knew her body’s limits, and she knew she had no more to give. She’d made a bad wager. It was as simple as that. The autumn leaf might cling to its branch, but it was already dead. The only question was when it would fall.” 

I could definitely write a PEEL point on the imagery in that paragraph. But literary analysis aside, it's just so nice to read. 

"Being angry at Kaz for being ruthless is like being angry at a stove for being hot. You know what he is.” 

“The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true.” 

One of my favourite things about Six of Crows was the relationships between the different characters. Not just romantic ones, but friendships and, with a melting pot of different personalities and beliefs, the tensions. I particularly loved the arguments. 

“It's not natural for women to fight."

"It's not natural for someone to be as stupid as he is tall, and yet there you stand.” 

Trying to narrow down quote options for this review was really hard. I could have posted a review entirely made up of my favourite quotes, but at that point, you may as well just go and read the book. 

Go on. You really, really should. 

"Well, we've managed to get ourselves locked into the most secure prison in the world. We're either geniuses or the dumbest sons of bitches to ever breathe air.”

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Why We Love... Zoe and Beans

Picture Book Review: Zoe and Beans

I'm going to try and start posting a picture book feature on the blog once a month, about whatever me and my toddler have been enjoying recently, and there was no contest when deciding that the first book (series) to be featured was Zoe and Beans by Chloe and Mike Inkpen. 

I first came across this series in Waterstones just before my daughter was one and loved the adorable artwork and clever stories. Since then, we've bought all of the picture books and one of the board books. 

Zoe is a fantastic character. She's independent, resourceful, and clever, but she's not perfect and can sometimes be a bit grumpy and lose her temper (my daughter's favourite moment in the books is when she shouts her name at the uncooperative parrot in Hello Oscar).

The series is also great on an educational/interactive level as it introduces lots of new vocabulary, with enough repetition for toddlers to join in too. Zoe and Beans are huge favourites in our house and are read on a daily basis. I'm sure we're not going to tire of them any time soon.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Unmumsy Mum

The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner


The Unmumsy Mum writes candidly about motherhood like it really is: the messy, maddening, hilarious reality, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and how it is sometimes absolutely fine to not know what you are doing. The lessons she's learnt while grappling with two small boys – from birth to teething, 3am night feeds to toddler tantrums, soft play to toilet training – will have you roaring with laughter and taking great comfort in the fact that it's definitely not just you {Goodreads Summary}

Can I give this book a million stars please? The Unmumsy Mum's blog posts and FB updates brighten my days. As it says on the back of the book "This is not a parenting manual. This is real life!" I could relate to so many of the anecdotes in this book and I'm sure I'll be relating to many more over the next few years. 

This book made me laugh, smile and cry (the chapter dedicated to Turner's mum took me a few attempts to get through), but there was also a really serious message inside the book: that it's okay not to love every second of parenthood, because some days are just a bit rubbish, but the good days, the smiles, the giggles and the cuddles make it all so very worthwhile. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

All of the Above

All of the Above by Juno Dawson


When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles. {Goodreads Summary}

I'm going to start by saying that this book wasn't at all what I expected. From the title and the quote on the back, I was convinced this was going to be told Virginia Woolf 'The Waves' style with multiple protagonists. I got over my initial disappointment that this wasn't the case pretty quickly (I still have no idea what happened in The Waves; I never had a clue who's POV it was). All of the Above had me gripped from the beginning. I loved the style it was written in, the characters, the plot, the unexpectedness. This novel made me laugh and (very nearly) cry. 

"Only Orange smarties don't taste the same. So she picks them all out and gives them to me."

Toria was a fun character. Her desire to fit in at the beginning of the novel was really easy to relate to, and I loved her rules for making friends. I also loved her friends, especially Daisy *sobs quietly in the corner*. I wish Alex, Alice and Freya had been more developed. I would especially love to know more about Freya's backstory, particularly the story behind her outburst at towards the end. Basically, short stories from all the characters in this novel would be greatly appreciated; I'm not ready to let go of Toria and her gang yet! 

"Daisy. I didn't want her to become a cloud when she'd always been sunshine."

All of the Above is a story about growing up and self discovery. But above all, it's about love. It has a really uplifting message for teens who are struggling to fit in or are questioning their feelings. It touches on some difficult topics, like anorexia and self-harm, which would usually be the focus of their own book, but are shown here in the context of everyday life. Mental illness is all around us and All of the Above showed that really well.

"The room was empty now.The world was empty. It was just Polly and I dancing, a little island in a great big ocean."

All of the Above was the first book I've read by Dawson, but it definitely won't be the last.