Wednesday 30 October 2013

The One Dollar Horse by Lauren St. John (****)

I have suddenly realised that what with my perpetual and intense love of reading, so far with the four book reviews I have done I have not rated a single one under four stars. Now tell me if this is normal, but I think that I have never actually read a book that I have actually disliked. When I read reviews in newspapers or magazines there is usually a wide range of good and bad reviews, which ultimately makes reading reviews less boring. Therefore, on reflection, there are two things which I must profusely apologise for, if they relate to you: making reading my reviews intensely boring, or not varying the books I am reviewing enough. If you have any ideas for books that you have hated or think I would hate, please, please comment below. Save my guilty conscience.

Anyway. Back to the review (which regretfully, is four stars). When I was younger, about every second weekend I would visit the beautiful children's Lion and the Unicorn Bookshop in Richmond (which, sadly, has only recently closed) and one of my favourite choices would always be Lauren St. John's The White Giraffe series, which I devoured. Therefore when I saw not one, but two new Lauren St. John books on the Indigo Bloggers News I couldn't resist. Keeping with the animal theme like in her other books, St. John doesn't fail to enrapture and enchant readers with her classic yet fiercely different tale of a horsey cinderella on her journey to become a full-blown princess (or winner of Badminton, in this case!)

I found the overall appearance of the book totally endearing, and yes, I am talking about the beautiful bright pink-edged pages! There is nothing else that attracts a girl to anything more than pink, and if I am ever lucky enough to have my own book published I will definitely have colourfully-edged pages. However, aside from the pink, I found the book itself completely not what I was expecting. When I was younger, I would read animal books a lot, though as I grew into a terrible teenager they didn't interest me as much. At a first glance, after reading the first chapter actually, I thought this would be the typical story of a girl who has nothing finds a horse (completely out of the blue, of course!) then becomes a champion horse rider at the end. However I was delighted whilst reading that I was very wrong; there were many twists and turns that were completely unexpected and page-turner moments that were unique yet comfortably familiar that comes with reading a feel-good novel. I found the protagonist Casey an extremely loveable and strong character who had an interesting and complex relationship with all the other characters, and I enjoyed following her journey.

Overall, I think that the most important aspect of the book was the cliched sense that 'nothing is impossible', yet this was paired with the sense that if you want something, you can't just wait for it to come to you, you need to put everything into it to get what you want out of it. I think that this is a very important message to everyone in the world today: work hard, and achieve your dreams.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading St. John again, and I hope that she writes more books for teenagers. My review of the next book in the trilogy, Race the Wind, will be up soon as well!

Thank you for reading, as always!

Sunday 27 October 2013

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick (*****)

This was a complete and utter gem of a book, and I loved it so much that I even re-purchased it for my friend (I pray that she isn't reading this now!) as a birthday present. Right from the first page I was enchanted by the characters and the storyline, aside from the fact that I knew I was meeting the author in a week's time for an interview, so I knew that I could ask any questions that I felt needed answering, as I often wish after I have read a book. However when I finished reading it I felt no discontentment, no confusion, no feelings at all other than sadness that the book was over. As far as the interview goes, I had to record it on my IPad so it is taking quite a while for me to type up, however when I do eventually finish it, it will be up on this blog!

Firstly, I thought that the way Sedgwick started the book was perfect. I immediately felt the strong, very adolescent voice of the protagonist, Laureth, instantly come through, and that's what I appreciate the most about books. If I can't relate, or at least feel for the main character, I find it incredibly difficult to get through the book. In the first chapter, Laureth and her strange yet instantly loveable younger brother Benjamin are at the airport planning to run away to New York to find their father, and there is a section where Benjamin is worried that his toy Raven called Stan won't be able to get on the plane as he doesn't have a passport. A short tennis-match disagreement follows, and this immediately reminded me of the many arguments I have had with my younger sister- a reminder to many of us I am sure that, like Laureth, maybe we need to be a bit more patient with our younger siblings! Overall, I think that the thing that possibly made the book was the unbreakable bond between Laureth and Benjamin, and it gave me a lot to think about, mainly that family is the most important and vital thing in your life, whether you are visually impaired or not.

The one thing I found most interesting about this book was the way that the minor characters appeared more intriguing than in any other book, as Laureth couldn't describe what they looked like, we are free to imagine that for ourselves. The major shock at myself was when I imagined Michael as white- as he said Laureth did- and this shows what our society is like, and still like, even though we are in the age now when we think we are perfect. Sedgwick's method of description was a much better way of going about it... Describing the air around the character rather than their visible appearance.

Like any brilliant book, 'She Is Not Invisible' included many merits: it made me laugh, it made me cry, but most of all, it made me think. Throughout the book, there were many points at which I completely forgot that Laureth was blind- and that, I think, was what Sedgwick was trying to get at. Any good book challenges prejudices- and that's what this book did, for me. The fact that at no point Laureth moaned about her inability to see the world around her surprised me too, as did the fact that she never blamed anyone else about having preconceived opinions about her. The book was, as a whole, brutally yet heart-warmingly honest, and that's what I think the best thing about this book was. Once I had finished the book, I found the note which Sedgwick had written saying that the first word of every single chapter spelt out the overall message of the book:

'One thing: when you learn what she deals with you might love the blind girl who knows that it's never been her sight that she needs, that it's trust, love and faith also.'

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Shadow and Bone + Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (****)

It's even past the point now where I can apologise. But I will. I'M SORRY. I finished these two books in July, and haven't even written the review until October. For anyone, that would be unforgivable. But because it's me, it's even worse, as this should be the one thing in my life I do not put off doing, but I have, just because I never quite had the moment to sit down and actually think about what I could write about this book, which is in itself quite a challenge.

But yes. Apologies over. Let's crack on with the review.

When Shadow and Bone & Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo arrived for me in a big heavy cardboard box in the post the day after finishing my exams, I do have to admit that my heart sunk a little. Fantasy books, let alone epic fantasy books, scared me slightly, and the size of this one was little more than terrifying to a realism-detective-romance kind of girl. Admittedly, I have never even read the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings novels, so I was not really in a position to receive one of the few remaining double-bound copies of Bardugo's work, but I was lucky enough too, so I swallowed my nervous feelings of teenage wizards and long treks through countries that don't even exist, and began reading.

The first thing I realised was that the main characters of Alina and Mal were not only extremely likeable, but also believable; unlike the students at Hogwarts they appeared like regular teenagers, even though they couldn't be living in a more contrasting world. The way that Bardugo wrote made me feel that (cue the cliche) I was experiencing the same unbelievable things as Alina was, as I could relate so easily to her. The build up to the action was slow and intense- just the way it should be. The more normal that Alina was presented as made me even more curious to find out what would happen and low and behold: I was soon introduced to the beautiful, black, glittering world of the Grisha. I have just three words for you: vampires... But cooler.

Along with the teeth-clenching suspense woven perfectly in with the beautifully crafted storyline along with the meticulously created protagonists were the other characters in the novel, who filled in the gaps that the protagonists left behind. I felt compassion for Genya, even when she... (Removed to avoid any spoilers), and even Sturmhond, who together revealed a lot more about Alina than I had imagined. The Darkling however, I was slightly confused about. I am really curious to find out whether anyone else pictured this powerful slightly-scary creep to be about forty years old? I thought it was a nice twist to have the villain to be another teenage heartthrob, and I can't wait to see who is cast in the movie (Robert Pattinson, are you available?) However I guess if the Darkling was a creepy middle-aged man that would be a complete other story...

It's hard to say which of the two books I preferred, because they were those kind of books that work completely on their own yet perfectly complement each other, and the reason why I decided to review these two books as one was because I found the best way to read them was straight after one another (Not in the same night though, because that really isn't good for your eyes). Shadow and Bone & Siege and Storm were the kind of books you could easily just lose yourself in, and there was nothing better than curling up with them on a cold, rainy Cornish summer's evening, and being swept away by a world which, let's face it, is ten times more exciting than our own.

So overall, to sum up these two fantastic novels, I would say that they are two incredibly unique books that are a completely unique kind of YA fiction. I sincerely hope that books like these will map out the ever-promising future for YA fiction- away from the world of High School crushes and creepy vampire babies. And yes, before you ask, I am now an Epic Fiction Convert.