Favourite Children’s Books | Top 5 Wednesday

Todays discussion is a Top 5 Wednesday topic where I’ll be discussing my favourite children’s books (or middle grade books) this week! This list consists of books that were mostly read in my childhood, so I apologise in advance if I have very little to say about them.

Personally, I very rarely dabble in books that are children’s or middle grade books, as I typically don’t enjoy juvenile aspects. However I can appreciate the following books in this list for what they were!

5. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 1: BFF by Amy Reeder

This is graphic novel was actually a very recent read. If the word ‘dinosaur’ is attached to a title, and a superhero novel at that, I am a very very likely to pick it up. The premise was incredibly inticing – a nine year old girl black girls, is who canonically the smartest protagonist in the Marvel Universe, teams up with a dinosaur? (Honestly, that sounds a little like a wet dream I had once.) Unfortunately whilst this book didn’t live up to my own expectations. I think it’s been wrongly genre’d as Young Adult, but I can definitely see this book appealing to those who fall under the Middle Grade audience.

4. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

I had a wonderful teacher in primary school who used to read this to my class. She had the most animated wonderful voice, that enamoured children who didn’t enjoy reading. This book has stuck with me ever since because of her. In fact, majority of the books I read pre-teens wasn’t self read but read via this teacher.

3. The WitchesMatilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is a treasure trove of children’s stories. The Witches, Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory are my specific favourites of his. He creates clever and innovative stories that every child should get to experience. Also Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory were some of my favourite movies as children. Even now I could watch those movies and still be enamoured by the stories!

2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I must admit I haven’t read the physical editions of the Narnia books. I did recently listen to the BBC audiobooks for the first two books, but they were shortened versions of the story and not really satisfying. I loved the movies when I was younger and would love to revisit these stories some day.

1.Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Similarly to my experience with The Enchanted Wood, this was read to me by the same teacher. I have faded memories of my class erupting in laughter because of this book and by extension the following instalments. I’d highly recommend this book for children.

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Thank you so much for reading my T5W list. Here is a link to the goodreads group with more information if you’d like to participate in future discussions! Carly

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Review: NERVE by Jeanne Ryan

SERIES: Standalone
GENRE: Young Adult, Thriller and Mystery
PUBLISHER: Dial Books
PAGES: 304 pages (Hardcover edition)
RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vee doesn’t know if she has the guts to play NERVE, an anonymous online game of dares. But whoever’s behind the game knows exactly what she wants, enticing her with lustworthy prizes and a sizzling-hot partner. With Ian on her team, it’s easy to agree to another dare. And another. And another. At first it’s thrilling as the Watchers cheer them on to more dangerous challenges. But suddenly the game turns deadly. Will Vee and Ian risk their lives for the Grand Prize dare, or will they lose NERVE?

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Late last year I came across a trailer for a film called NERVE. I was quickly enamoured by the vibrancy and manic energy this film presented. Soon after when I found out it had been adapted from a book, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up from my library. However despite it’s promising plot, I was less than impressed with the execution of this story and calling this book mediocre would be a compliment.

My first problem with Nerve was it’s woefully average characters. It’s evident the author was heavily relying on tropes. Our main character, Vee, is a depicted as the cliche shy teenager who lives in the shadow of her very outgoing best friend, Sydney. Alongside this, the side characters are also very cliche, such as the male sidekick that is secretly lusting over Vee whilst she lusts over the popular douchebag.

This book also has a really ambitious plot. Consequently, I felt that the introduction to the characters and who they are was a little lazy in order to move forward with the plot. I felt this way because I noticed how much time was spent telling the reader what the characters are like, as opposed to showing the reader through better dialogue and actions. For example:

“How could I be so stupid? Recklessness is not part of my personality. Shy, hard-working, loyal, all those boring Capricorn traits, that’s me.”

I’m as big of a believer in horoscopes as the next girl is, but this statement felt ridiculous. Who is possibly under the impression that they are limited by what they’re horoscope says? The fact that she’s a capricorn is mentioned multiple times in order describe Vee’s personality or actions and it really shouldn’t have been.

More over, these characters felt really un-organic. Along with my former complaint, I felt as if the author was trying too hard to make her characters sound like teenagers and for me their characterisation really suffered. A lot of dialogue employed was quite cliché, and I’d rather the characters say and act in accordance with personal character traits as opposed to what someone thinks teenagers say.

Some of the reasoning behind the dares was a little inconsistent. At first, it was obvious Vee was motivated to complete the dares because she wanted to shock people. As the dares become increasingly risky, her friends try to talk her out of it, but she remains quite naïve thinking that the game isn’t meant to ‘risk your life. Just make it seriously uncomfortable.’ But also, those things in some instances can be quite similar.

Therefore the justification of doing the dares becomes about the prizes, and as discussed by our protagonists ‘someone with a trust fund’ wouldn’t understand that motivation. However, when the rewards are initially phones, camping gear and pretty shoes…. I fail to see how someone’s reasoning for putting themselves in danger is by being ‘underprivileged’. The rewards do become worth their while as the dares become riskier, but there is no way they could’ve predicted this as Vee knew barely anything about NERVE prior to joining (even though it was a social phenomenon.)

I was also angered by some of the descriptions. They were nonsensical and/or unnecessary:

“A pink-cheeked girl and her boyfriend stroll past us on their way inside. They giggle and hold hands, their shy glances suggesting they haven’t had their first kiss yet, which makes me feel worldly in comparison, although I haven’t gone much beyond the kissing stage myself.”

Why was this even brought up? This is the most redundant think I’ve ever read.

“Daniella, freshly iced with thick lipstick that would give ancient prostitutes some serious competition…”

 

…okay, and?

I briefly touched upon the fact that a lot of lines were cliché, but that extends further than the dialogue. The relationships the character has and the characters, were very typical as well. Vee is always depicted as second best to her best friend Sydney, because Sydney is a blonde and her presence just ‘demands’ the spotlight. But Vee isn’t anything special because she has brown hair and blue eyes!? (Ahem, Megan Fox has brown and blue eyes.)

There was also a really weird prologue at the beginning of the story. I waited for this prologue to make sense but it never really did and I’m left with so many questions. (It is totally possible I missed something, but I can’t make a connection on how it fitted within the timeline of the story or what was even happening.)

Ultimately, I felt this was just a poor execution of a really good idea. The movie adaptation was definitely better and had an energy to it that was really enticing, with charming leads. I would highly recommend the movie over the book.

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Thank you for reading, and if you’ve made it here, thanks for managing to get through this long-winded rant review! Carly

Review: The Chronicles of Alice by Christina Henry

SERIES: THE CHRONICLES OF ALICE
GENRE: FANTASY, HORROR, RETELLINGS AND ADULT
PUBLISHER: ACE
PAGES: Alice and Red Queen: 291 pages (Paperback edition)
RATING: ★★★☆☆

‘Alice knew well, better than anyone, the dangers of curiosity.’

The two books in The Chronicles of Alice series are Alice and Red Queen. In the beginning of book one, we meet Alice as she resides in a mental asylum (‘the hospital’) in the Old City. Alongside Alice is her friend Hatcher whom is in the adjacent cell to hers at the hospital. The two have communicated only through a small mouse hole on the wall that connects their cell for ten years. Despite this barrier, the two have formed an uncanny and somewhat romantic relationship.

If you weren’t able to gather from the titles, Alice and Red Queen are retellings of Alice in Wonderland. Although the characters from the original tale are recognisable, if you aren’t fond of retellings that stray fat from the source material, then this isn’t the series for you.

‘The world gobbles us and chews and swallows us, I think happy endings must be accidents.’

23398606Christina Henry’s world is much darker than the Wonderland we are familiar with. In this series, Alice’s world is segregated into the pristine and fair New City, and the more bleak and dangerous Old City. Magic also is considered non-existent, as the Magician’s living in the Old City were hunted out years ago.

Upon escaping from the hospital, Hatcher (whom carries Seer blood), can sense the dangerous Jabberwocky, whom also escaped from the hospital the night it went ablaze. Despite Alice’s disbelief in the Jabberwocky, Hatcher’s fearlessness and drive for blood lead them on a quest to conquer the Jabberwocky.

‘You do not wish for a quiet respectable life. You had one of those and you ran from it, ran to a life of blood and death.’

Alice Henry’s writing style has a very readable quality to it. The beautiful simplicity of it made her Wonderland incredibly easy to absorb. I also loved how these books were relatively short for fantasy books, as each book is just under 300 pages. I appreciate how the author didn’t unnecessarily drag the book on any longer for the sake of things, as I liked how concise this story was. I was actually able to read both books in a week back to back, which is not usual for me!

Unfortunately the ‘horror’ aspect felt really lacklustre, which was kind of my main motivation for reading these books. Although, this could be dependent on what your idea of horror is. Personally, I anticipate to be made fearful or or frightened. I’m not someone who’s very easily scared from books and I felt very little suspense or tension throughout. However, Christina Henry’s world consisted of a lot of vivid and graphic descriptions of horrible things that although didn’t shock me, it may shock other readers.

To anyone considering going into these books, I must give a huge trigger warning for sexual violence of any sort. These book’s are pretty rife with it.

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series: The Witchlands, Book One
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult and Romance
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 416 (Kindle Edition)
Rating: ★★★★☆

I found that I had a really interesting and unexpected experience whilst listening to Truthwitch via Audiobook. At first, I was a little less than impressed. A lot of the criticisms that I’d heard about this book following its release rang true. However upon finishing this book, I was in disbelief I contemplated DNF’ing it earlier on, because by the end I was absolutely enthralled with the story and the characters. 

There is so much to grasp in this book, such as a plethora of new characters, terminology, empires and their respective political systems and the magic system. Trying to absorb all this new information can really take you out of the story. Therefore I can understand how this would affect someones reading experience or perhaps why some people even DNF’d this book. The reader is really expected to just go with the information given without a ton of explanation. Which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how much exposition you enjoy.

Eventually a lot of the information pieces itself together along the way, you just have to hang in there to see the potential this book has! Ultimately, I think Susan Dennard did her absolute best to disseminate information to the reader and I really appreciate how she’s created such a vast world for readers to enjoy.

The two central characters Safiya and Iseult where fantastic leads. It’s so refreshing to read a young adult novel where the two main female characters don’t secretly hate one another. They have very different personalities that work extremely well together. The theme of friendship was a prevalent underlying theme 21414439throughout this book and I loved the emphasis on it.

Aeduan, a blond monk, is also a fascinating character. I personally wasn’t as attached to him, but I can’t wait to spend more time with this character in Windwitch. I also really adored Merik, he makes me reminiscent of characters such Chaol from Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas and Finn from The Star Thief by Jamie Grey. As with Aeduan, I’d like to spend more time with him.

Another aspect I loved was the romance. It was a focal point of the story, yet didn’t overshadow the plot or friendships, which was fantastic. I was absolutely living for Merik and Safi’s relationship. It simultaneously felt like a good slow-burn romance, but there was also some parts that implied it was a little insta-lovey. For example, when they’re dancing together and their connection is described as ‘something as powerful as the wind.’ I think this could’ve been handled better so that it wouldn’t negate the slow-burn aspect of their relationship.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about my listening experience with this book via audiobook. I thought Cassandra Campbell was an excellent narrator and was well suited for this speaking role. Her speaking voice reminded me a little of Sarah Koenig (from Serial), like I experience the same experience whilst listening to Campbell and Koenig and that is I was engaged throughout the entirety of the story. I enjoyed how she used her American accent for the narration, and then employed an accent during the characters dialogue. She was, for the most part, fantastic at them. My only criticism is that I thought Safi and Iseult’s voices were very similar… initially I struggled to distinguish the two and they were probably a little too high pitched for my personal liking.

Alongside this (not a criticism of the audiobook), I think it’d be beneficial to have read this book.  I think I would’ve better absorbed the world if I had visually seen how the characters names were spelt, how places were spelt etc. for some reason. Alongside this, I predominantly listen to audiobooks whilst I drive (like 99% of the time) and so natural I’m not always mentally processing want I’m listening to if I’m concentrating on driving. In the future I’m probably less inclined to listen to fantasy books via audio.

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As always, thank you for reading, Carly,

Most Anticipated New Book Releases 2017

Whilst I’m typically a reader who gravitates towards backlist books more often than new releases – purely because I borrow 95% of books from the library and new releases aren’t easy to come across – a short amount of new releases do make it onto my radar that I can’t help but be excited for. I’ve tried to keep this list short and concise with only 13 books, enjoy!

June 

June 1st, The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett – This is an adult science fiction book with a really interesting premise. I’m mostly intrigued by the apocalyptic theme that will be present within this one.

June 27th, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee – I typically don’t read historical fiction but I’ve heard this book is so much fun and a ‘big gay 18th century road trip novel’ which also leaves me really excited. (This video by the author also made me really excited about this novel!)

July

July 11th, Because You Love to hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy – I blame V.E. Schwab for 31450752getting me hooked on villains with her novel Vicious. This anthology is different to most as booktubers are paired with authors to write one short story about a villainous protagonist. It features 13 authors, some of my favourites include Susan Dennard, Marissa Meyer and Victoria Schwab.

July 11th, Final Girls by Riley Sager – This story is about girls who were the only survivors of massacres, until the first ‘final girl’ of a massacre is found dead and now it’s believed that someone is trying to kill off all ‘final girls.’ That may have been a really poor explanation of this book but it’s what intrigued me to pick up this horror novel!

August

August 29th, Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – This book is undoubtedly my very most anticipated release. I’m really excited for the upcoming novelisation of DC 29749085Icons, starting with Wonder Woman of course. I’ve only read Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, and although I wasn’t a fan of the entire series, I was positively addicted to her writing style. I’m really confident in this author and DC Icon couple!

August 29th, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Caddock – I know very little about this book other than it’s a science fiction novel about a polymath princess and really that’s convinced me to read it. I also want to broaden my reading and I’m starting with science fiction!

 

September

September 12th, Warcross by Marie Lu – Marie Lu is a highly acclaimed author in the young adult book community. I’ve honestly only read Legend and I wasn’t really smitten with it. However this book about virtual reality and spies appeals to me very much. I believe the main character is a hacker.. and it’s making me reminiscent of the MTV show Eye Candy.

September 26th, There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – marketed as a ‘fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted’ I hope Perkins delivers with this young adult horror story!

October

October 3rd, Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – I’m really interested to read more 33158561magical realism books

October 10th, All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater – I know very little about this book and I think I’m going to keep it that way. But I’ve been having some serious withdrawals since the finale to The Raven Boys cycle.

November

November 7th, Renegades by Marissa Meyer – I read Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles a while back and those books were so much fun. I’m excited to see her tackling something that isn’t a fairy tale retelling (even though she has a knack for those!)

No set release date:

Fall Boys & Dizzy in Paradise by Jandy Nelson – I loved Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun and am so excited for this book as it’s also seems to follow sibling relationships. I’m not crazy about this title though as it is quite odd!

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab – There is so little information about the Vicious sequel and I’m doubtful it will be release this year because of the lack of updates and knowledge on goodreads. It seems to be on a ‘can’t wait books of 2017’ list but it could potentially be a 2018 release.

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Thanks for reading as always and please let me know if you have any anticipated releases you need to get to this year! Carly