Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Why We Love: The Lion Inside

Another brilliant library book! The Lion Inside is one that has popped up in my Amazon recommendations a few times, so it was great to get to read it. 

The Lion Inside follows a quiet, often overlooked, mouse on his quest to speak up and be noticed - and who could teach him to be loud better than a lion?

It has cute artwork and a lovely rhythm, which makes it a lot of fun to read. I like the varied use of typography too, as it places emphasis on certain words. Bravery, friendship and self-confidence also all play an important role in bringing depth to this lovely story. 

It's been the favourite of the books my daughter borrowed from the library and we will be very sorry to return it. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld. {goodreads summary}

Brilliant heists, amazing characters and a curve ball at the end that I didn't see coming. 

“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once. You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede. You are overwhelming.”

Crooked Kingdom follows Kaz and his band of criminal teenagers as they attempt to rescue Inej, reclaim the money Van Eck swindled from them and bring down Pekka Rollins. And they attempt it all with schemes, teamwork and a healthy dose of magic. 

“Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too. They don’t forget. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for.” 

It was really interesting to see the subtle progression in Kaz and Inej's relationship. Their final chapter together was sweet and also felt realistic given everything they have gone through. Crooked Kingdom had romantic plot lines without the romance having to be at the centre of its characters every action. They were free to act on their individual dreams and wishes as well as forming relationships. 

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting.” 

I really liked the inclusion of characters from the Grisha trilogy and the part they played in the narrative. Bardugo has brought her two series' together seamlessly and Crooked Kingdom is a spin off which is faithful to the original world, but moves the story in an entirely fresh direction. 

“Jesper couldn’t quite believe he was having a conversation with the Sturmhond. The privateer was a legend. He’d broken countless blockades on behalf of the Ravkans and there were rumors that… “Do you really have a flying ship? blurted Jesper.


“I have several.”
“Take me with you.” 

Spoilers ahead: Veronica Roth and George RR Martin have a lot to answer for. However, I do love that I no longer read YA expecting all of the major characters to make it through to the end of the series.

Friday, 26 May 2017

CBeebies Bedtime Stories

My daughter doesn't really watch kids TV yet, but recently we decided to introduce CBeebies bedtime stories into her evening routine, as it seemed like a good way for us to discover new books without having to spend a small fortune buying them all! Here's a quick round up of the one's we've enjoyed best so far:

A great message for siblings. Three bears question which of them their parents' loves the most, and the mummy and daddy bear have some great answers. 

Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (We're Going on a Bear Hunt) so the art work is adorable. I loved this story and it was great hearing it read aloud by Simon Callow. 

This one I might actually buy so we can keep reading it. It's a great story about having out of control emotions and how to deal with them - perfect for toddlers with a tendency to throw dramatic tantrums!

We've also loved the Very Busy Spider and My Mum has X-Ray Vision. 

This week, they've actually done two stories we own - Zoe and Beans: Where is Binky Boo, and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon. It's really interesting getting to hear stories you've read on repeat in a different way, with different emphasis and voices. 

You can catch up on any stories you've missed on the CBeebies website. If you watch them too, which ones have been your favourites?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Why We Love: Tidy

Last week I finally managed to get the little ones registered at our local library and we borrowed a selection of lovely picture books while we were there, one of which was Tidy, by Emily Gravett. 

This is the second Garvett picture book we have read, as we got Where's Bear in a Bookstart pack.

Tidy is a funny, clever story that follows a badger called Pete on his quest to make the forest tidy. It wasn't at all what I expected from its title, however, as Pete is interested in tidying far more than just litter! As a result, the story contains an important message about the vital role trees and natural spaces play in allowing the world around us to thrive.

Tidy is a really lovely book and I would definitely recommend it.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raach

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. {goodreads summary}

Snow Like Ashes has been on my tbr since I first saw the cover; it was too beautiful to ignore. The picture above really doesn't do it justice. 

“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake.”

Meira's kingdom has been defeated and enslaved for the majority of her life, and she'll do anything to help rescue her people. She's desperate for a chance to prove herself, learning to balance what is best for herself with what is best for the people who depend on her. 

“Holding on to some part of your past even if it means also holding on to the pain of never again having it. That pain is less horrible than the pain of forgetting.”

I loved the twists and turns in this novel; it didn't always go in the direction I was expecting and I often found myself looking at how many pages I had left, wondering how everything would be resolved in time. 

"Someday we will be more than words in the dark."

The world building was a real strength, with the kingdoms and their magic fully worked out. I felt really immersed in Meira's world and am looking forward to hopefully finding out more about the other kingdoms in the rest of the series. 

“Sometimes placing our belief in something bigger than ourselves helps us get to a point where we can be enough on our own, magic or no magic.” 

Meira was a fantastic character. I loved watching her develop as the novel progressed, weighing up how the decisions she makes affect not only her own life, but those of the people she cares about. There are interesting observations on selfishness and selflessness, courage and resilience, throughout the novel. I'm really interested to see how her character will progress in the next novel. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Why We Love: I Don't Know What to Call my Cat

Choosing what to name your pet can be a difficult decision - there are so many to pick from: from Ethel to Rocky to My Maestro... The wrong name can have unexpected consequences. 

I Don't Know What to Call my Cat has adorable art work and a very funny storyline - which I hadn't expected because I thought the book was just going to be a list of names.

However, my daughter is quite young and a lot of the story is hidden in the pictures, rather than obvious from the text, so so do feel like a lot of it is going straight over her head. She really likes the busy artwork and has fun spotting the cats on each page, but I think this is a story she'll get more out of in a year or so.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Sleeping Prince

The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom. {goodreads summary}

Reading the Sleeping Prince reminded me why I should try to read novels in the same series more closely together - it's been so long since I read the Sin Eater's Daughter that I had forgotten a lot of the plot lines and back story, which made reading the first third or so of the book a struggle in places. 

“The apothecary, the monk and the living Goddess went to war. We sound like the start of a joke.”

I'm not usually a fan of books in series which follow different characters to the original, but TSP is definitely an exception. I really loved Errin and Silas - they were such complex, interesting characters and a real credit to Salisbury's world. They also meant that TSP nicely avoided the mid-book slump that it all too common in YA trilogies, giving the story a fresh twist with the changed perspective.

“Fortune favours the bold." I smile weakly."So does death," she counters immediately. "The craven tend to live much longer than the heroic.” 

I adored the world building, and found myself lost in Salisbury's fantasy world for days after I'd finished TSP, even though I'd started on another book. I just couldn't get it out of my head. The backstory and mythology is incredibly detailed.

When I asked him why, he told me it was safer like that. For us both. And to not ask again.
Mysterious boys are not as enjoyable in reality as they are in stories.

I'm going to make an effort to read The Scarecrow Queen quite soon, so I don't encounter the same issues that I did at the start of TSP. I can't wait to see how this series ends. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Why We Love: Oh No, George!

George said he'd be good and he wants to be good, but being good is tricky when there are so many fun temptations to be found when you're alone in the house... 

George is like a toddler who's been left alone in a room for five minutes while you try to make a cup of tea/put the washing on/brush your hair/hide and eat a biscuit. He means well, but temptation keeps getting the best of him and before he knows it, the whole house is a mess!

We bought Oh No, George! on the strength of Shh! We Have a Plan and I'm sure it won't be the last Chris Haughton book we read together. The art work is so distinctive and the repetition in the text is great for getting little ones involved in 'reading' the story; Oh No, George! is full of questions which you can discuss with your little ones, getting them to guess/remember what happens next. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Half Lost

Half Lost by Sally Green

The Alliance is losing the war, and their most critical weapon, seventeen-year-old witch Nathan Byrn, is losing his mind. Nathan’s tally of kills is rising, and yet he’s no closer to ending the tyrannical rule of the Council of White Witches in England. Nor is Nathan any closer to his personal goal: getting revenge on Annalise, the girl he once loved before she committed an unthinkable crime. An amulet protected by the extremely powerful witch Ledger could be the tool Nathan needs to save himself and the Alliance, but this amulet is not so easily acquired. And lately Nathan has started to suffer from visions: a vision of a golden moment when he dies, and of an endless line of Hunters, impossible to overcome. Gabriel, his closest companion, urges Nathan to run away with him, to start a peaceful life together. But even Gabriel’s love may not be enough to save Nathan from this war, or from the person he has become. {goodreads summary}

I put off reading Half Lost for a very long time, mostly out of concern that it wasn't going to end the way I wanted (I'm so team Gabriel that I don't read a book without my Gabriel bookmark).

“You've been away a long time. Were you lost?

I was wounded, not lost.”

Half Lost follows Nathan learning how to use his new powers and master his all-consuming desire for vengeance against Annalise, culminating in the final battle against Sol and the Hunters.

Gabriel turns to Greatorex, saying, ‘It’s him. But still feel free to shoot him.”

Nathan is a really interesting character - he's dark, with a bloodlust and violence that's unusual in a YA protagonist. He's volatile and angry, often pushing those closest to him away. Green's writing style really helps you to get into his head, her narrative voice matching perfectly with the way you would expect him to speak to you.

“I’m tired of your revenge, your anger, your hate. The war is killing you.” 

The ending: oh wow! I don't want to say very much, as I'd hate to give anything away. It's one of the best series endings I've come across in a while though, even if it did break my heart. I can't wait to read whatever Green publishes next.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Why We Love: Edie

Edie is helpful. So helpful. She wakes up her parents, keeps the dog looking smart and tells her little brother 'what's what'.

Parents of toddlers will instantly recognise Edie's behaviour. I feel like it could have been written after watching my little girl for an afternoon. Edie's 'helping' is usually more of a hindrance to her family, but her sunny attitude and desire to make everyone's lives easier makes this book a lot of fun.

Throw in some adorable art work and you've got a real winner of a picture book. I'm already planning how I can dress my daughter up as Edie for next world book day!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Elements of Power on Wattpad

Last week, after four and a half years of updates, I posted the final chapter of Air and therefore the conclusion to the Elements of Power trilogy, on Wattpad. 

I am so grateful for all of the support, votes and comments I have received for the series on Wattpad. I'm going to miss my weekly check in with Roxy and Jasmine a lot - I learnt so much by working on this series, not just about writing but publishing, marketing and promotion, and it will always be very special to me. 

At some point, I would really like to work out the formatting so that the trilogy can be available in paperback on Amazon, with new covers more like the ones I use on Wattpad. Until then, you can still get the ebooks from all major ebook retailers, or read the full series on Wattpad: