Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Review: Solace of the Road


My first thought when I saw this book was how pretty the cover is. I love the dress (or skirt). "Solace of the Road" was released in 2009 but the new rejacketed version (as seen on the left) is released Spring 2010. Unfortunately, Siobhan Dowd passed away in 2007 because of cancer. So when you buy a book that's written by Siobhan Dowd, the royalties will go to the Siobhan Dowd Trust. The Siobhan Dowd Trust aims to bring the joy of reading and stories to children who have no access to books and reading, especially children in care and other unfairly disadvantaged young people.

Here is the blurb for Solace of the Road:
I put the wig on and I thought myself into Solace. I was Solace the Unstoppable, the smooth-walking, sharp-talking glamour girl, and I was heading into a red sky thumb out and fag in hand.

Holly is sick of being told what to do. She's ditching her old life and she's heading off. She puts on her blonde wig, blows herself a kiss and flutters her eyelashes. And now she's ready. She's Solace, Solace of the road.

I wasn't at all sure of what this book was about when I read the blurb. However, when I started reading things started making sense. The first chapter starts off at certain event. And then the next chapters are from beforehand and what has lead up to the event. Once you've caught up with the story, the story progresses. I prefer books where you just enjoy the story as it progresses and the time unravels in a linear way. Otherwise, I'm just waiting until I've caught up the entire time. However, I was intrigued as to how Holly had got in to her current predicament.

The main character is Holly. Holly was taken away by social services when she was young and has grown up in care. She has previously been fostered by a couple before who had other children and hated it. Holly's deepest desire is to meet her mam in Ireland. She has a key worker who she really likes but he has to leave. Holly is really insecure and struggles with her emotions. She is fostered by a new couple but she doesn't believe they really want her. Holly as a character is okay if you're reading because you can understand her emotions. But I imagine if you met her in real life you might get frustrated.

We aren't really told why Holly was taken by social services apart from her own reasoning. However, as the story progresses you get the impression that she has less than stellar memories. But she shoves them in to a box in her mind. The story unfolds quite quickly which I like. I don't feel like I'm waiting around for something to happen.

I enjoyed this story and I really liked the ending. I've had mixed feelings over some of Siobhan Dowd's work before having loved "Bog Child" but not being as keen on "A Swift Pure Cry". Overall, I would recommend this book. I'm interested in becoming a social worker when I'm older so this book was particularly interesting to me. I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide

I've wanted to read "The Spiderwick Chronicles" for a long time. So I thought where better to start than the first book "The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 1 The Field Guide" by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. It's going to be a long time until I finish this series because I only have the first book and am cutting back on book buying. If you don't know what the first book is about, here is the blurb:

We are very proud (and a bit wary) to announce the publication of The Spiderwick Chronicles. But beware, the faeries will use all their power to stop you from reading these books. Book 1 of The Spiderwick Chronicles in which Mallory, Simon and Jared get acquainted with their new home but find many unexpected things. It all starts when Jared Grace find their great uncle's book, "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastic World Around You." and realises that are not alone in their new house. Now the Grace kids want to tell their story but the faeries will do everything to stop them...Its up to you to spread the word about their discovery. But heed their warnings, wear some red, turn your clothes inside out - all anti-faerie devices - and get ready to enter a world that you never knew existed...Its closer than you think!

I wasn't entirely sure what this book was about before I bought it. I knew there was a film about it and I'd seen clips of it. I'd glimpsed an intriguing world so I thought I'd ask for this book for Christmas. The main three characters are Jared, Simon and Mallory. I occasionally got confused between Jared and Simon. Mallory is the one who loves fencing and is also the oldest. I liked Mallory because I've tried fencing and I can see why she loves it. Jared is the bravest of the boys and I like him. He seems to be the one who always gets the blame for things though as he's been in trouble lately at school. Simon is a great animal lover and is the reader out of the two brothers. But it's Jared who finds "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide".

The plot of this story is quite good. However, not a lot happens in this book. I imagine the story will unfold a lot more in the coming books. But as a singular book, the amount of content wasn't particularly impressive. I'd like to read the remaining chronicles and then see the film. This book was enjoyable but I don't think it's worth reading unless you plan to read all the chronicles. I read this a few days after Christmas so my memory is a little sketchy but I flicked through it as it didn't take me long to read originally.

Overall, I'm giving this book 3 stars out of 5 stars. I'd like to give it more as it was enjoyable but there just wasn't enough content in the book.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Review: The Splendor Falls


I was really surprised to receive "The Splendor Falls" by Rosemary Clement-Moore in the post! I'm going to assume it came from Random House, so thank you Random House! Here is the blurb for "The Splendor Falls":


Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can't dance. A broken leg ended her career, but what broke her heart was her father's death, and what's breaking her spirit is her mother's remarriage.

Still reeling, Sylvie is shipped off to stay with relatives in the back of beyond. Or so she thinks, in fact she ends up in a town rich with her family's history... and as it turns out her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys she can't stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, is the expected choice. But handsome and mysterious Rhys has a hold on her that she doesn't quite understand.

Then Sylvie starts seeing things - a girl by the lake and a man with dark unseeing eyes peering in through the window... Sylvie's lost nearly everything - is she starting to lose her mind as well?

I'd read the blurb before but it was a while before I read the book. Before I read the book all I remembered was the end to Sylvie's dancing career. And in a way, I much prefer reading this way. I'm not waiting for certain events to happen and I can just enjoy the story as it goes along.

I like Sylvie as a character but I think there will be quite a few people who don't. She doesn't sugarcoat things and tells things as they are (rather like my own sister). I like Sylvie's cutting remarks and the way she responds when people insult her. She's also quite an intelligent person. I sympathise with Sylvie because she has just had her whole world come crashing down. I enjoy dance too but I'm nowhere near as passionate nor experienced as Sylvie. Rhys is a Welsh heartthrob. He's kind and Sylvie can't tell why he feels so familiar. There's also Shawn, a local gorgeous boy with a Tom Sawyer kind of charm. The town all seem to love Shawn who has his eyes set on Sylvie. But Sylvie is not so keen.

The plot follows Sylvie as she is shipped off to Alabama. It took me a while to work out my bearings. Sylvie had originally left New York. I worked out in the book that Yankee just means someone from New York (lots of us Brits or Limeys - we have many nicknames - believe it just refers to an American person). Sylvie starts seeing what can only be described as ghosts. She had previously had to see a shrink so she starts rationalising - after all, who wants to believe they're crazy. But as the presence she feels starts getting worse and there is actual violence towards a member of the household, Sylvie has to start unravelling the mystery of the woman who runs through the woods towards the sound of the baby crying and the man with black eyes who watches from the balcony.

This book is quite long (about 500 pages or so) and as such I could put it down, even if I do like reading a book in one sitting. I loved reading the story as it unfolded. However, there is a lot of history of the town involved. I could keep up but wasn't able to absorb all of the facts, and don't recommend other readers try. I got the gist of this book but there were some really fine details which - although it makes the story interesting - it seems to make the story too compact. If you're not familiar with ballet or dance terms, you may get frustrated reading this book as quite a few are brought up. I didn't mind this because I recognised a few terms and the others I googled.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars

- I also want to say that I really don't think this book will be liked by everyone. I think it's going to be a little like marmite, you'll either hate it, love it, or a little of both. -

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Review: Girl, Aloud

I loved reading "Girl, Aloud" by Emily Gale. If you're not familiar with the story, here is the blurb:

This is serious.
This is big.
Dad has finally lost it.
He's entered me for The X Factor.
This would be slightly less of a crisis if:

1. I could sing.
2. Any part of me wanted to be a star.
3. I hadn't lost my two best friends over a boy in brown boots.

Inside I'm screaming, I just wannabe... me!

I loved this book. I picked it up and just expected a fun read. What I found was an amazing book. When I picked up this book I was a little prejudiced. I expected it to be light and fluffy. In contrast, I found a book with a lot of depth. It touches upon some important issues e.g. the effects of having a bi-polar parent and what can happen if a boy goes too far when you tell him to stop.

The protagonist is a teenager called Kass. She's a fun person who deals with everything the best she can. Kass also has two best friends: Izzy and Char. Izzy has been seeing a therapist since her parents split up and as such, tends to psychoanalyse people and their problems. Char is the quite and kind one.

I never realised that Kass' dad had bi-polar until it was pointed out. I guessed it was some kind of mental illness but had difficulty pinning down which one as my knowledge on the subject isn't that great. I think the book does raise a great issue. At one point it focuses on how people joke about mental illness. And I think it's still true to say there is a fair amount of stigma surrounding mental illness. Not far from the end another big issue is raised where Kass decides where her loyalties lie. However, I can't go in to this without spoiling the book.

I had real trouble putting this book down because I wanted to see how Kass would deal with all her problems and the mounting pressure as The X Factor drew nearer. Overall, I would give this book: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, 19 February 2010

Review: Monster Republic

I was really curious read to "Monster Republic" by Ben Horton when I first saw it. The cover and bold font promise action and the challenge written on the front cover "Have you got the guts?" only spurred me on. Here's the blurb:

An explosion in a nuclear power plant.

Kids patched up with scavenged body parts and bionic implants.

A growing army of superhuman soldiers programmed for destruction.

Cameron Riley is about to discover that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...

I can see this book as the perfect gift for boys who don't like reading. It's got action, it's not too long, the font is relatively big and at the end there is a comic version of everything that has happened in the story. I love the illustrations by Christian Scheurer.

The story centres around Cameron Riley. He's an athletic guy who genuinely seems quite sweet. Cameron's going out with prettiest girl in his class, Marie Lyons. Unfortunately, he has also made himself a bit of an enemy with the school bully Carl Monkton. My favourite character in the book is Smarts, a blind kid that cracks sight jokes. Things are simple in Cameron's world, that is until the day of the accident...

When a school trip goes wrong, Cameron awakens to see "mechanical components exposed through tears in his skin" and "the emotionless O of the mouth of a gun barrel". Obviously he's scared about what has been done to him. Cameron trusts a stranger to help him escape from the place that has done this to him. After being shunned by his family, Cameron finds hope in a group called the Monster Republic. There are others like him and he's not doomed to have to live alone. However, he must still stay hidden from the public. But what if the Monster Republic isn't everything it's cracked up to be?

The pace of this book is quite fast which I like. It meant that it was hard to put down as there was constantly something I wanted to see resolved. The ending left me on tenterhooks. Cameron is offered something by the man who took away his old life if he'd only change sides. This book is the start of a series. I'd like to see the story progress in the sequel and see how Cameron feels about the man who has changed his life forever. On the negative, I just wish a little more had happened. I could have done with the book being a little longer.

Overall, I would give this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Today's Task

I'm going to finish "The Splendor Falls" by Rosemary Clement-Moore. And then I have four reviews I am going to write up. I'll schedule them over the four days. The reviews will be of "Monster Republic", "Girl, Aloud", "The Splendor Falls" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide". If I have time, I shall do some more reading.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Recommendations?

Okay, I've enjoyed lots of books. But the two series that I first read and fell in love with are the Alex Rider series and the Harry Potter series. I started both of these series when I was quite young. I loved the action in the Alex Rider series.

I don't know what it is I love about the Harry Potter series. It's just... everything. It was a whole new magical world. The storyline and characters had me captivated. I genuinely cared for the characters. I cried and laughed throughout the series and was shocked by twists and turns. I grew up with this series and waited at midnight to get it! It will always be a series with a special place in my heart. Children everywhere do owe JK Rowling a lot.

But my question is, I've read and enjoyed these books, I wanted to know if anyone can recommend something that is similar? Not necessarily in storyline but something that will compete for the top spot as my favourite book series? And just a quick question for anyone who has read the Lord of the Rings series, what are the orders of the books because I'm not sure if the Hobbit is related? And is the series by J.R.R. Tolkien any good?

Today's Task...

Catch up on other people's blogs!
Not too difficult. I take Lent seriously. Not because I'm really religious, I just like to challenge myself. For example, for my New Year's Resolution I decided to give up chocolate for a year. I'm the biggest chocoholic ever but I'm still going strong!

As for Lent, I'm giving up biscuits, crisps and ice cream. What is everyone else giving up?

Contrary to popular belief...

I am alive. I've just taken the hugest blogging break ever. I tried to focus on my grades. But after still failing, I decided it was pointless. Who am I kidding? I even managed to procrastiante for studying, I've just been lazy. So if you've sent me any emails and I haven't replied, it's not that I'm ignoring you, it's just that I haven't checked my emails in months.

Lent has started. As well as giving stuff up, I'm gonna start something. I must do one thing blog related a day whether it be some reading or writing a post. I've set goals before, but this one is achievable :)