What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

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The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

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What I’ve Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl

What I've Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl
Here are three reviews of books I’ve read recently to get me get out of my reading slump – everything from survival stories to boyband lit and awesome girls doing sports!

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, narrated by Emily Bauer (Audiobook)

I first read Life As We Knew It five years ago when I couldn’t get enough of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. This time, I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on my commute and after a few failed attempts at reading paperbacks while squished on the train, a re-read seemed like the perfect choice!

I loved Life As We Knew It originally because it made me feel like I was surviving alongside Miranda after a meteor collides with the moon, altering the Earth’s climate, making it almost impossible to continue with life as it was. If anything, the audiobook was even more atmospheric. Miranda reading her diary aloud meant that I caught little bits of the story that I think I missed the first time – Emily Bauer has done a fantastic job at narrating the audiobook. It’s been 10 years since it was first published, but Life As We Knew It is still one of the few YA post-apocalyptic novels that had me thinking about it after I put it down.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

I was introduced to Songs About a Girl at a blogger event at Hachette Towers, and this is where we also got to meet the fabulous author, Chris Russell, who’s an utter delight and self-confessed fanboy. He’s in a band himself – The Lightyears – and has previously written for a One Direction fansite, so is in a perfect position to write about the world of music.

I assumed Songs About a Girl would be told from the point of view of Fire&Lights – a hot new boyband – but it’s actually the incredible Charlie Bloom we get to hear from. 15-year-old Charlie is invited to be the band’s photographer after Olly, one of the band members, comes across her photos. Charlie’s a refreshing protagonist who’s simultaneously unaffected by the boy’s popularity and intrigued by their music and complicated friendship. Plus she’s being targeted on social media by jealous Fire&Lights fans; has discovered a baffling secret about her mother, who passed away; and is stuck between frontman Gabe and bandmate Olly and their curious conflict. (I prefer Yuki myself!).

Songs About a Girl was a fun story to read over the summer and I’m looking forward to meeting up with my new friend Charlie in the sequel next year.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Oh, I loved Roller Girl. I came across it during a shopping trip at Gosh! Comics with my friend Daphne and one glance at the cover me it was the graphic novel for me! Roller Girl is the heartwarming tale of friendship and roller derby over one summer, beautifully written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be growing up when you’re not a child, but not quite a teenager.

Astrid is 12-years-old and does everything with her best friend Nicole – until Astrid signs up for roller derby and Nicole starts making new friends at ballet. I wish there were more contemporary graphic novels because it’s a wonderful, underrated format for them. Not only do we get a fantastic story, but are able to experience visually the pain, frustration and heartbreak of real life.

I love coming-of-age stories and in Roller Girl, we get everything from realistic confrontations with parents to what it feels like to be the worst at something you so desperately want to conquer. I also learned a lot about roller derby and feel like I got bruises from just reading about it – ouch!

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake (Classic #5)

George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (Classic #5)

Shelved: Classic (children’s, humour)
Published: 1981
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics – #5
Buy: Foyles
More: Goodreads

This is my fifth post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 450+ other people in reading one classic each month.

George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma’s in for the surprise of her life—and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I wasn’t aware of George’s Marvellous Medicine until I bought my beautiful Roald Dahl box set three years ago. I’ve been slowly (obviously!) making my way through it and it was George’s time.

George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake (Classic #5)WHY I Chose to Read It
Much like with Agatha Christie, it was time for my annual dose of Dahl.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s one of Roald Dahl’s lesser-known novels – a short and eccentric story about what happens when you get a taste of your own medicine.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
George’s Marvellous Medicine was super fun! What happens when an 8-year-old boy tries to kill his horrible old grandma (who he believes is a witch) with a home-made concoction? Chaos!

Most of the story is made up of George brewing his inventive medicine, throwing in anti-freeze, horse tranquillizers, engine oil and much more. I enjoyed seeing what George was going to add next – and I couldn’t help feeling a little terrified! If you did drink his medicine, it would almost certainly kill you. But it was fun seeing what happened when George tried to replicate his potion… including his grandma turning into a really tall chicken. It’s not my favourite Roald Dahl so far, but it was short and sweet.

“Never grow up…always down.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure Roald Dahl’s stories will be read for many years to come!

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who have only read Roald Dahl’s most popular books. People who love short, quirky stories.

 

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to Us

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsIt’s been an odd few weeks and I’ve been neglecting Pretty Books a little since I moved house. But I’m currently sitting in a local cafe with bookish housemate Charlie and ready to review!

Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Delicious Intriguing Mysteries edited by Katherine Woodfine

I was excited to see Egmont publish a collection of crime short stories by some of my favourite children’s authors, such as Clementine Beauvais and Katherine Woodfine. In Mystery & Mayhem, we solve baffling crimes occurring in locked rooms, encounter a whole host of canine capers, and more; it’s a fun and varied collection of stories.

I’m sadly not a short story convert (still!) because more often than not, the stories end just as I start getting into them. However, the young detectives are a delight. We get to solve The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls with Lil from The Clockwork Sparrow series, and help Minnie from Marsh Road Mysteries track down which dastardly character destroyed the feathery carnival costume. I might stick to full-length stories, but I’m looking forward to reading more from The Crime Club.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

One of the most beloved Aussie young adult novels, I borrowed Jellicoe Road from Daphne after seeing so many people over the years say how amazing it was. I began reading on a busy tube and quickly decided this wasn’t the way to go. Jellicoe Road is not a story to be dipped into, but one that demands your attention, and one you must devour in one go.

Taylor Markham’s home is a boarding school where disputes between teenagers – the visiting Cadets vs. the local Townies – are rife. It’s at first puzzling and confusing but this passes as we begin to uncover Taylor’s past. She’s struggling with the fact her mother left her all those years ago, and when her friend and mentor Hannah disappears, Taylor is confronted with a lot more. The leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, once again enters her world. Taylor’s story is also interwoven with memories from the past, involving a fierce group of friends: Tate, Narnie, Fitz, Jude, and Webb. Jellicoe Road takes you from bemused to clear in one fell swoop and is certainly a unique one.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

I’ve (almost) always lived in London and adore books set here, especially when they’re written as well as London Belongs to Us.

London Belongs to Us takes us on a fast-paced London adventure: 17-year-old Sunny receives a photo of her boyfriend kissing another girl, so she leaves Crystal Palace to find out what’s going on and ends up at Alexandra Palace 12 hours later. It’s an unpredictable, colourful journey that takes Sunny through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho and more. I’ve been to almost every place and with Sarra Manning’s help, could vividly picture Sunny on her madcap journey with French cousins, Jean Luc and Vic – and not forgetting the many other diverse characters Sunny encounters on the way.

I rarely read a book that’s so much fun as London Belongs to Us. It was such a joy to read about my home city in all its glory, not forgetting the gritty parts. As an east Londoner, I enjoyed the attitude to the (so far away) south London and the characters they meet on the way, from drag queens and rickshaw drivers to lead singers and the awfully posh. It’s a delight!

Thank you Hot Key Books and Egmont for sending me two of the above books to review!

Blog Tour: Mystery and MayhemMini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsBehold the Pretty Books! / April Book Haul

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic #3)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Classic #3)

Shelved: Classic (children’s, fantasy, science fiction)
Series: Time Quintet (#1)
Published: 1962 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #3
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my third post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 430+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
It’s a children’s classic that I’ve been aware of since joining the book community. It’s super popular in the US, but not so much in the UK. Last year, Puffin got in touch to offer me a bunch of newly redesigned and published Puffin Classics. I couldn’t say no and requested A Wrinkle in Time.

WHY I Chose to Read It
A Wrinkle in Time is not only a highly-regarded classic (it won the 1963 Newbery Medal), but a much-beloved classic. I was excited to finally pick it up.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s a novel that is seen to be for 9 to 12-year-olds and yet tackles highly complex themes. Good vs. evil – illustrated in the story as light vs. dark – and conformity vs. freedom are woven into the plot. It’s scientific and philosophical, and some say religious.

Jean Fulton wrote: “L’Engle’s fiction for young readers is considered important partly because she was among the first to focus directly on the deep, delicate issues that young people must face, such as death, social conformity, and truth.”

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was intrigued, particularly by the concepts of wrinkling time and tessering; folding the fabric of space and time. Meg, Charles and Calvin are promised that they’ll travel from one area of space to another and arrive back home five minutes before they left. As for the characters, I adored 13-year-old Margaret “Meg” Murray and her younger brother, 5-year-old Charles Wallace, who is both a genius and telepathic. They are the key to saving their father, a scientist studying tesseract, who is being kept on the planet Camazotz.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the few children’s science fiction classics I’ve read. It’s impressive, challenging and ambitious. As my experience of science fiction is limited to dystopia and post-apocalyptic – and so therefore much easier concepts to grasp – I just about got my head around the science. But I appreciate that it was explained. I attended an event about writing children’s science fiction a few years ago and a comment was made that it’s easier to write for children because there’s less to explain. I’m sure Madeleine L’Engle wouldn’t agree. Rather than simply “travelling through time”, the reader becomes more invested in how this might happen and what could go wrong.

Even so, A Wrinkle in Time was often a little too bizarre for me, as someone who generally reads contemporary fiction. I was hoping that I’d get into the story much more than I did. But I thoroughly enjoyed the personal journey that the children went on and it’s one I’d happily give another shot.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.” 

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure it’ll continue to be popular within in the US, but it may be a little too peculiar to be reintroduced to the UK – but time will tell as a new adaptation is currently being made!

“They are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space.”
“Oh,” the thin beast said. “Aren’t they lonely?”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love science fiction. People who love stories about complex and challenging themes.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”

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