Wednesday, 20 June 2018

La Belle Sauvage, The Book of Dust: Volume One by Philip Pullman

"Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy...

Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust--and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl--just a baby--named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm."

Hardcover, 546 pages
Published October 19th 2017 by David Fickling Books

My Review

I am a big fan of the original His Dark Materials trilogy so I was very intrigued to find out what the new prequel trilogy would be like. Of course that also meant rereading Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, but I wasn't complaining - any excuse really! I'd say you don't need to have read the original series to enjoy this book, but I think it definitely added to my enjoyment recognising some of the characters and being back in Lyra's world, and finding out more about her start in life.

It felt like quite a gentle start to the book, introducing the main character Malcolm Polstead and his daily life helping in the pub with his parents, having an unspoken agreement to ignore the washing up girl Alice and visiting the nuns in his pride and joy, his canoe La Belle Sauvage. Whenever I read His Dark Materials and now La Belle Sauvage I almost feel like I'm going back in time and entering another pace of life, where children stay children for a lot longer and are content with simpler things.

However, Malcolm's simple world is turned upside down when he finds a secret message and becomes involved with spies working against the Magisterium (the church in this world).

The book soon becomes a bit of a mystery and an adventure story, with Malcolm braving many dangers to help bring Lyra to safety. The story also takes a darker turn at times and there are some more adult themes with a scene that suggests that a character is raped. Younger readers may not realise what has happened as it is tactfully written (if that is the right word) but you can tell that something violent and distressing is taking place.

I loved the relationship Malcolm had with Lyra, completely in awe of this tiny baby, and Lyra being equally intrigued by him. I really enjoyed reading about how different Pantalaimon (Lyra's dæmon) was when she was a baby, it seems strange but it didn't occur to me that he would be smaller! The author seems to always bring deeper questions to the fore of nature vs nurture and how personalities develop.

This is a really entertaining story which builds up the pace as the novel progresses and brings more to the world that Pullman created over twenty years ago. It definitely feels like the start of the story though as it ends on a cliffhanger.  I'm definitely keen to read the next instalment when it comes out. I've given this 5 out of 5. 


The Author




In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards for his literature, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for exceptional children’s literature in 1996, and the Carnegie of Carnegies in 2006. He is most famous for his “His Dark Materials” trilogy, a series of young adult fantasy novels which feature freethought themes. The novels cast organized religion as the series’ villain.











Also how beautiful are these 20th anniversary covers of the His Dark Materials trilogy?! I love them :)


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher


"AGAINST ALL ODDS, SHE SURVIVED.
THE FIRST GIRL BORN IN FIFTY YEARS.
THEY CALLED HER EVE . . .

All her life Eve has been kept away from the opposite sex. Kept from the truth of her past.

But at sixteen it's time for Eve to face her destiny. Three potential males have been selected for her. The future of humanity is in her hands. She's always accepted her fate.

Until she meets Bram.

Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom.

But how do you choose between love and the future of the human race?

EVE OF MAN is the first in an explosive new trilogy by bestselling authors Giovanna & Tom Fletcher."



Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 31st 2018 by Michael Joseph
With thanks to NetGalley and the authors for my copy of the book.

My Review

Wow, this had me hooked from the first page! Giovanna and Tom have created a well drawn out, complex society with a rich history. While I have read other books with a similar idea of girls no longer being born in the world, the authors have brought a fresh spin to the idea in a gripping and enjoyable read.

Eve is a likeable character, strong-willed but thoughtful and caring about those she knows and loves. She has been brought up in a very sheltered existence and is naive in many ways, but is always curious about the world. I loved seeing her character develop throughout the story and I look forward to seeing how she develops further in the rest of the trilogy.

The other key protagonist is Bram, who Eve has had a connection to all her life, although she's never known his name. I really enjoyed reading the story from his point of view. It helped me realise just how much Eve doesn't know about her world and just how many secrets are being kept.

The story is fast paced and there is an aura of mystery and secrets. I did find it a little cheesy at times when some of the characters talk about mother nature and what 'she' would want, but it did work in the context of the book. 

The book ends on a major cliffhanger and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. 5 out of 5 from me.

The Authors

Giovanna

Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books.

At thirteen she left Essex behind to attend the full-time Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she met her husband Tom Fletcher. Following SYTS she completed an acting BA (hons) at Rose Bruford – since then she's been acting, chaperoning mini actors and dabbling in a spot of freelance journalism.

Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at www.giovannasworld.com, or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher

Tom

Tom Fletcher is an English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and children's author.


Friday, 28 July 2017

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher - Blog Tour

Hardcover, 280 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by Viking, Penguin UK
With thanks to Penguin UK for sending me an advance reader's copy of this book.

Blurb:

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?

My Review:

This is a book that examines the grey areas in life and how hardship can push people to their breaking point.

The story is told between the present, where Beth is in prison, to the past, showing how Beth's life progressed. From trouble with foster parents, to issues at school and being thrust into the working world and supporting herself independently from a young age; Beth had a hard life. However, her counsellor Erika asks her to try to remember the good things in life and in doing so we realise there is more to Beth than meets the eye and Beth learns that too.

Most of the characters in this book frustrated me but at the same time I could see how they had become the way they were.

Beth's voice is very distinctive in the book, seeming both very young and older than her years. Her naivety and lack of knowledge about things everyone should have the right to know shocked me. Her crime wasn't a surprise but the journey of how she reached that point was heartbreaking.

This was an interesting, emotionally charged read and an apt social commentary which deserves discussion. I would give it 3 out of 5.

About the Author:

Clare Sita Fisher was born in Tooting, south London in 1987. After accidentally getting obsessed with writing fiction when she should have been studying for a BA in History at the University of Oxford, Clare completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls. All The Good Things is her first novel. She now lives, writes and works as a bookseller in Leeds.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Paperback, 548 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (first published October 2016)

Blurb:

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.





"There is a fire raging, and we have two choices: we can turn our backs, or we can try to fight it. Yes, talking about racism is hard to do, and yes, we stumble over the words - but we who are white need to have this discussion among ourselves. Because then, even more of us will overhear, and - I hope - the conversation will spread." - Jodi Picoult

My Review:

A few of my friends and I have started a little book group where we have chosen a few books each and are alternating each month between each others' choices. My friend Megan chose this book and I was initially a little reluctant to read it. I have read many books by Jodi Picoult in the past and I have enjoyed them all. However, I have found that they can be quite exhausting as they deal with such difficult issues. I didn't have that problem with this book. While it dealt with very difficult, relevant issues, I was engrossed and couldn't put the book down. When I finished I was left with my eyes open but not overwhelmed. This book deals with the fact that while race relations have improved massively in the last hundred years, there are still a lot of prejudices in society and outright racism in some circumstances which for the most part is ignored.

The story is split between three perspectives: Ruth, who is a midwife at the hospital where the baby died; Turk, the baby's white supremacist father; and Kennedy, the defence lawyer for the case. The author wrote with sensitivity from all perspectives. However, it was hard to stomach reading the sections from Turk's perspective. The outright prejudice and racism from him and those around him made me really angry while I was reading it. Ruth's perspective was enlightening as she encounters racism on a daily basis. Kennedy's perspective was also enlightening as she gets to know Ruth and is confronted with the harsh reality of the situations Ruth dealt with every day.  The relationship between Ruth and Kennedy was really interesting and I liked how it progressed through the novel.

In light of current events, it seems more important to me than ever to focus on the similarities between people rather than differences and to remember we are all human and have the right to expect the same treatment wherever we go.

Small Great Things is fast-paced and gripping. This is an incredibly moving and powerful story that has opened my eyes to the prejudices that still exist in our society today. I can't recommend this enough; it should be required reading! 5 out of 5.

About the Author:

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-three novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Between the Lines, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Website: http://www.jodipicoult.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodipicoult

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodipicoult

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson - Blog Tour

Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 20th 2017 by Harper Collins
With thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.

Blurb:

P is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift – the A-Z of Everything.

My Review:

Let me start by saying I love the cover for this book. It's so pretty and I like that different parts of the cover are raised to add texture to the book.

This book reminds me a little of P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern, but instead of a husband speaking to his wife, this is a mother trying to reunite her daughters who have refused to speak to each other for over a decade by leaving a collection of messages and memories to try to remind them of what it means to be sisters.

The story is told from the past and present, leading from the girls' childhood through to the event that divided them for years. It also told through the letters, videos and cassette recordings Andrea leaves for them to try to bring them back together.

I think my favourite character in this was Andrea, even if she was speaking from beyond the grave. Her warmth, humour and vitality leap from the page and her messages were very moving. I also liked her friend Lewis who supports her to the end and beyond and is the kind of friend we all hope to have. Rose and Poppy on the other hand were quite frustrating. They have gone to opposite extremes of their personalities so that they are not living their lives to the full.

I'd be interested to know what other people think about the reason for the rift between them; as upsetting as I could imagine it was, I thought that Rose overreacted to be honest and was a hypocrite about it all. This meant that I felt more sorry for Poppy than for her. Although Rose did also have to cope with some difficult relationship problems.

Despite my frustration over the reason for the rift, I really enjoyed following their story. This is a funny and poignant story of love in all its forms and I would give it four out of five.

About the Author:

Debbie Johnson lives and works in Liverpool, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework. She writes romance, fantasy and crime - which is as confusing as it sounds! Her first humorous contemporary romance, Cold Feet At Christmas, a seasonal tale of snow-bound fun, was released by HarperImpulse last year, and became an Amazon top ten best-seller. You can also find her supernatural crime thriller, Fear No Evil, featuring Liverpool PI Jayne McCartney, on Amazon, published by Maze/Avon Books. Debbie also writes urban fantasy, set in modern day Liverpool. Dark Vision and the follow-up Dark Touch are published by Del Rey UK. Debbie blogs at www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com. She lives with her family in Merseyside and is available to write features.

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