The Glittering Court – Richelle Mead

“I belonged to one of the noblest families in Osfrid, one that could trace its bloodline back to the country’s founders. Sure, my title might have been more prestigious if my family’s fortune hadn’t evaporated, but that was easily fixed. All I had to do was marry well. And that’s where all my problems started.”

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Blurb: “Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.”

Richelle Mead is another author who I knew of but had never read her books. Like a lot of readers of the YA genre, I used to eat up anything about vampires but her series Vampire Academy just never appealed to me and after watching the film adaptation I was even less inclined to do so. Soundless peaked my interest but after hearing it was a stand-alone (which didn’t seem to work) and a lot of readers had very mixed opinions, I decided to steer clear. So you’re probably wondering what made me reach for The Glittering Court. Well, quite simply, I am a sucker for political intrigue.

The Glittering Court follows the countess of Osfrid who is stuck in the middle of her family’s diminishing wealth. As is the case in this particular period, she must marry in order for her and her loved ones to keep their social status. Unfortunately for the countess, her arranged suitor is in fact her cousin. When an offer to join The Glittering Court is offered to her servant it isn’t long before the countess takes her place, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to escape. The Glittering Court is an institution that takes low birth girls and trains them to be respectable ladies in order to gain an offer from a rich suitor.

First, I want to make the point of how gorgeous this book cover looks. I’m not normally one for books that have models on the cover but this is so breathtakingly beautiful. I was hooked on this story. I have no way of guessing how the story would unfold because there were so many secrets and so much intrigue around this group.

There were plenty of things that made me thoroughly enjoy this book but I did have quite a few issues. However, the latter won’t stop me from picking up the next book.

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No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

“He gave me back his eyelashes,
the back of his neck, his palms. We held every piece we were given like it was a nectarine – might bruise if we weren’t careful- we collected them like we were trying to build an orchard.”
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Blurb: “In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Sarah Kay navigates a decade’s worth of writing to present us with a book that combines new poems and beloved favourites. Both fresh and wise, Sarah Kay’s poetry invites us to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her.”

I had never read poetry of my own free will. By that I mean I hadn’t read poetry that wasn’t something being studied in the confines of a classroom. It was an art form that I never really paid much attention to until I made friends with someone at university a few years ago who loved poetry and was a poet himself. He introduced me to a YouTube channel called Button Poetry which features lived performances from poets (mainly America based). One day a video popped up of a performance from a woman named Sarah Kay in which she presented her poem The Type I was simply in awe. Her performance was pure magic and it was hard to believe that four minutes had passed by so quickly. I have followed her ever since. However, it was only recently that I discovered she actually had a book out in the world.

Sarah Kay has gathered over 12 million views online and leapt onto the poetry scene with her Ted Talks such as If I Should Have A Daughter. This collection included poems from ten years of her life and they’re just as beautiful to read as they are to hear.

It was nice to come back to personal favourites such as “Private Parts” and “Montauk” along while developing some new favourites.  It’s really hard to explain Sarah’s poetry without shoving it in your face and screaming “READ IT.” She has a way of stringing together words and ideas that just make you sit there amazed that someone has finally found a way to put certain thoughts and feelings into words. I genuinely believe her poetry is the closest thing to pure magic.

I highly recommend you check out both her poetry book and her live performances.

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Furthermore – Tahereh Mafi

“Colour was life. Colour was everything. Colour, you see, was the universal sign of magic.”

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Blurb: “In a world brimming with colour and magic, Alice’s pale skin and milk-white hair mark her as an outcast. For the people of Ferenwood, colour and magic are one and the same. Alice is determined to prove her magical abilities and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. To do so she’ll have to travel into the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore. But nothing there is as it seems, and Alice may never find her way home.”

Ferenwood is a place which is alive with colour. It’s a land rich in the natural resources of colour and magic. Every citizen was born with some kind of magical talent, given to them by the land. If they want any more magic then they have to buy it. Alice is a girl completely without colour except for her eyes; a fact which makes her stick out like a sore thumb. Every year the Surrender comes around which gives children of the age of twelve the opportunity to present their magical talent in exchange for a task to prove themselves. This year is Alice’s turn and she’s hoping it will give her the chance to find her missing father. Her adventures take her to the land of Furthermore which has countless rules where breaking them means death. Thankfully, Alice doesn’t have to face this alone as she finds a companion in the form of Oliver a boy with the power of persuasion.

This book has a very whimsical feel to it and that comes across in the writing style. However, at time I found it hard to picture and understand things and even had to re-start the book a few times to make sure I could fully understand the world. As the story gets more and more into the plot it’s a lot easier to follow. The chapters are quite short and then become longer once Alice reaches Furthermore which I felt reflected how Alice was engaging more with the world around her and gains more of a purpose.

Alive is a character very set in her ways and quite stubborn at times, especially when in Furthermore. I don’t think she could’ve done this adventure without Oliver (who I found annoying at times but he did have all the answers).  Though I loved the character of Alice, the one scene that really stood out to me is when she dances. It was written in such a vivid, beautiful way that it was like watching her perform before my eyes.

The ending is much like being brought to a halt. It’s abrupt and while answers a lot of questions, doesn’t give that feeling of closure because it is so unexpected for the story to just end.

The moral of this story is important. It showcases the fact that you should take what you consider to be a weakness and turn it into a strength.

A wonderful little adventure story that will satisfy the magic-minded.

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We ComeApart – Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

“I can’t put on a brave face and pretend that at

The end of this

Things will be different.”

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Blurb: “Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?
For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.”

 

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Sarah Crossan won the 2015 Carnegie Medal for her free-verse novel One, which I’ve heard a great deal about and Brian Conaghan is shortlisted for the Costa Book Prize for Children’s fiction for his novel The Bombs That Brought Us Together. This was the first book that I had read from either author and I am always a sucker for co-written books; there just seems to be an extra bit of magic decorating the pages. While I requested this book from the publisher, which they approved, I didn’t expect much from this book. This is one of those many times when my preconceived ideas have been wrong.

We Come Apart is told in two perspectives:  a Romanian boy named Nicu who wants to improve his English and fit in while worrying every day that he may be sent back to his home country, and a girl called Jess who lives in an abusive household. Both end up in series trouble which results in the pair having to spend time on a rehabilitation scheme which is where the two characters meet.

The unique factor of this book is that it’s free-verse, meaning it is essentially several poems from the point of view of each character. (Crossan’s novel One was written in the same format)  Normally I hate “simple” things. I need tons of description to really enjoy a book but the format of this book took that away. I hate to use the word “simple” but I’m sure you understand what I mean. I was left stunned by how such small verses could pack an almighty punch.

The characters are both loveable in their own ways and I found it interesting how Nicu’s character spoke in broken English; it added to the factor of how separate his and Sarah’s lives were.

I feel that it’s so easy to get caught up in the romance with this book but it’s about so much more than that. We Come Apart is about not letting differences separate you, that it’s okay to embrace them and stand up for what you believe is wrong and help someone out, regardless of what other people may think. It’s about standing up for yourself, being willing to learn about others and most importantly knowing that sometimes you have to let things go.

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Replica by Lauren Oliver

“No one sees or hears the same thing in exactly the same way… In that way we truly are inventors of our own experience.”

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Blurb: “Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.”

Have you ever wished that you could read the same book over and over but in a way in which you get more out of the story? Then Replica by Lauren Oliver may be the book for you.

I have to confess that I hadn’t read any of Lauren Oliver’s previous books prior to Replica and it was the format that drew me to it. This book has two stories in one and you can start with Gemma’s story then flip the book over and read Lyra’s story (or vice versa) and then you can alternate chapters between both characters. For the purpose of this review, and also to fully appreciate the story, I have read both stories.

Replica follow a girl called Gemma who is an outcast with an overprotective mother. Her father spends a lot of time away on business and during one of his brief returns home she overhears him talking with her moth about someone escaping from The Haven. She starts investigating this strange place and her father’s connection to it. On the other side is a girl called Lyra who lives inside The Haven and hears of how someone managed to escape. Through a series of events she finds herself running for her life, straight into Gemma’s path.

I decided to read Gemma’s story first because I liked the idea of discovering all the secrets along with the character and then I flipped the book over and read Lyra’s story to fill in the gaps. Lauren Oliver provides a note at the start of each story explaining why she chose to tell the story in this format: she says that no two people experience the same event in the same way. While portions of dialogue are the same in both stories when the characters do meet, each character perceives the situation in a different way.

The story itself was different to what I expected and the two characters actually spend enough time apart for them to stand as individual characters and makes you feel like you’re missing out by not reading the other story. Having said that, the story is very predictable and, while it’s the first in a duology, the ending feels kind of abrupt, like we’re approaching the main aspect of the plot only to be brought to a swift stop.

This is very much a character driven story and if those are the kind of books you love, then you’re sure to enjoy Replica.

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The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters – Nadiya Hussain

“It’s not as if we get to like everything in life, but we accept it and get on with it.”

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Blurb: “The four Amir sisters – Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae – are the only young Muslims in the quaint English village of Wyvernage. On the outside, despite not quite fitting in with their neighbours, the Amirs are happy. But on the inside, each sister is secretly struggling. Fatima is trying to find out who she really is – and after fifteen attempts, finally pass her driving test. Farah is happy being a wife but longs to be a mother. Bubblee is determined to be an artist in London, away from family tradition, and Mae is coping with burgeoning Youtube stardom. Yet when family tragedy strikes, it brings the Amir sisters closer together and forces them to learn more about life, love, faith and each other than they ever thought possible.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book is the debut from Nadiya Hussain – the winner of Great British Bake Off 2015. I’ve noticed that Nadiya has dipped into creative writing before with her Bake Me A Story which is a recipe book accompanied by original stories but this is her first full-length novel.

The story is centred around the Amir Sisters, living in a small English village. Fatima is in her thirties and has failed her driving test fifteen times and gains her income from being a hand model, Mae is a teenager with a YouTube channel that has gained over 11,000 subscribers, Bubblee is an artist living in London and Farah is married to her cousin. There is also a brother in the family called Jay though he’s difficult to get hold of. When Farah’s husband is involved in a serious car accident, secrets start to reveal themselves causing severe tension within the family.

I really liked the diverse aspects of this book as Nadiya has ties to Bangladesh and this is something she translates over to this story. It was nice to learn something about a different culture. The story is told in multiple perspectives, alternating between each of the sisters. However, the narratives of each sister weren’t obvious meaning I had to go back several times mid-chapter to clarify which sister I was currently following. As Farah is more of the central character plot-wise it would’ve made more sense if everything was from her perspective but I understand the need to split the story in the way it is.

The first half of the book was very bland. It seemed to take a very long time to establish some kind of path the story was going to take and once it reached that point, the story improved greatly and the second half was much better. The book overall just felt very empty. It wasn’t clear where they characters were based and when Bangladesh was introduced there wasn’t much distinction between the two made. It was hard to picture what the characters looked like either as there were barely any descriptions given.  It just feels like it needed more adding to it.

Having said that, it is Nadiya’s debut and the only thing she can do with her next book is keep writing and as she continues to do so, her writing will get better and better.

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The Christmasaurus -Tom Fletcher

“This story starts like all good stories do, a long time ago. Not just a long time ago, but a very, very, very long time ago.”

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Blurb: “Forget everything you thought you knew about the North Pole, pop a crumpet in the toaster and get ready to meet: a boy called William Trundle, Santa Claus, an elf named Snozzletrump, Brenda Payne; the meanest girl in school (possibly the world), a nasty piece of work called Hunter and a most unusual dinosaur…”

The Christmasaurus is the first full length children’s novel from Tom Fletcher, known for his best-selling picture book series The dinosaur pooped…

It’s now a new year and if you’re missing Christmas then this book is the perfect read to keep the festivities alive for just a little while longer.

The story follows a boy called William Trundle who loves Christmas but nowhere near as much as his dad who has a decorated Christmas tree in his cupboard and wears Christmas jumpers all year round. William also loves dinosaurs and wants a real one for Christmas and it just so happens that the elves at the North Pole have dug up a dinosaur egg.

It’s rare that I find a book where I can’t uncover any faults but The Christmasaurus is one of those books.  William Trundle is in a wheelchair which is so important to have represented, especially in a book aimed for children, as it shows that anyone can have an adventure. The Christmasaurus struggles to cope with the fact he is the only dinosaur left and through a series of magical events, he ends up in William’s house on Christmas Eve.

This book is definitely written in a way where it’s meant to be read aloud (there are some words in bold, big font or italics for emphasis).  There are lots of rhymes too as that’s the way the elves speak which provides opportunities for Tom to showcase his song writing abilities. This book also features the most beautiful illustrations I have ever seen. Shane Devries does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life with an extra bit of magic. I somehow felt closer to the characters by seeing the scenes depicted in drawings alongside the story.

The Christmas song from the announcement video for this book also makes a relevant appearance in the book along with sneaky references to one of Tom’s previous books.

The Christmasaurus is a testament to the fact that you can enjoy any books at any age.

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