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Did Not Finish - The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I got this book as part of Sarah's Round Robin which had stopped for a while but it's got going again now. While it didn't look like my kind of thing, I thought I'd give it a go. It is intriguing, but the story wasn't moving fast enough for me and at a hundred pages in I gave up. I feel like I gave it enough of a go!

The story is set in the late 1800s and it's sort of steampunk in origin, which would appeal to a lot of readers. Thaniel works as a telegraphist at the Home Office and one day someone breaks into his bedsit and leaves a watch on his pillow. He can't work it, or open it up, but then one day there's a bomb threat from Clan Na Gael (an Irish independence party) and the watch ends up saving Thaniel from getting killed. He then discovers the watchmaker and sets out to meet him. Meanwhile, a young woman called Grace is a student in Oxford and she has a watch too, although at the time I gave up nothing had happened to her with hers. We also saw flashbacks of the watchmaker, Keita Mori, and his life in Japan.

I liked the writing in this and thought it was quite poetic and lovely in places, but like I say the story just didn't move fast enough for me. I hate not finishing books but now I'll pass this on to the next person in line!

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford - Review

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Where did I get it? In a swap I did at Christmas! It was on my wishlist

What's it about? At the beginning of the book we meet Olivia, near her 17th birthday. She's having a part for it. Her best friend Nicola is there, her boyfriend Jonty, her friend Ben, and her sister Alice. Her parents have gone out and Alice is getting stressed. Jonty is extremely jealous with Olivia, and then to top it all off Nicola gives birth in the bathroom! She didn't know she was pregnant and now there's a whole new life in existence. Olivia catches a look between Nicola and Jonty and wonders exactly who the baby's father is... 

The next chapter is told from Nicola's point of view as she struggles with motherhood. In the next one we meet Alice, Olivia's younger sister, and while you could exclude her point of view, I liked seeing her make a friend and learning more about her. The next chapter is from Jonty's point of view and we learn more about why he acted the way he did. There are explanations but not excuses. The last chapter is from Ben's point of view and ends off the novel nicely.

I liked the concept, but I didn't like this book as much as I hoped I would. I really liked Olivia and Nicola, and wanted more of their points of view on everything, not just on the happenings in the book. I think you could write a whole book from Jonty's point of view and see him as a real rehabilitated character by the end. I liked Alice's point of view, as above, but I didn't really like Ben's, and I didn't like the 'twist' that there was - it felt very out of nowhere and didn't get adequately resolved. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Ben's gay

Are any main characters people of colour? It's not mentioned if they are

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Alice is probably on the autistic spectrum and I really liked how this was described 

Is there any sex stuff? Not really, it's not explicit 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? Only a couple 

What criticisms do I have? As above really. I wanted to like this more, I don't think it was executed very well 

Would I recommend the book? Probably not 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It pointed itself out on the shelf to me when I was browsing them the other night 

What other books is it like? The style reminded me of Non Pratt's writing, but I'd say read Non's books instead 

How many stars? Three out of five 

Where is the book going now? I'm not sure. I might donate it!

Freedom by Catherine Johnson - Review

Thursday, August 2, 2018

I saw Cat tweet about how she has two books out this summer starring black male protagonists, and given the recent studies showing that black and minority ethnic authors and characters are disgustingly under represented in UK publishing, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and support a black author writing about black characters. So I ordered both of Cat's new books, the other is on pre-order but this arrived straight away

Set in 1783, it's about Nathaniel Barratt, who is a slave on a plantation in Jamaica. At the beginning of the book, his mother and sister have been sold and moved away from the plantation. Nathaniel dreams of freedom, dreams of buying the freedom of his mother and sister. At the plantation, he is under the whip of the young master Barratt, and his nasty mother.

Then Nathaniel is sent on a ship to England. His mother always told him that there was no slavery in England, so Nathaniel is hopeful for the future. On the ship, he meets Henry, the cabin boy, who tells him of a pub in London where Nathaniel might find him when he is free.

But upon arrival in England, Nathaniel discovers that he is not free at all. He also hears about a ship called the Zong, from which slaves were thrown and described as "cargo". He must fight for his own freedom in London.

The Zong massacre was a real thing that happened and which went part of the way towards the abolition of slavery. The end of the book has a historical note explaining the time period and a brief history of slavery, which I think is a great addition to a middle grade book like this, because it teaches kids a little bit about the truth behind what they've just read. Some of the characters in the book are real characters, which I really liked and thought was cleverly done too. I really liked Nat, I thought he was a very sympathetic character and a great hero for a book like this.

There is some description of violence, obviously, but I felt it was age appropriate for a ten/eleven year old. This is a good story and I am really glad I read it. Five out of five!

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan - Review

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Where did I get it? My mother in law bought it off my wishlist for me at Christmas. I don't know why she chose it out of loads of others, but I'm glad she did! 

What's it about? It's told in verse the same way Sarah's other books are, a medium that I'm really getting into. It's about Joe and his family. At the beginning of the book Joe is seven and his older brother Ed has taken off, and they get a call from Texas to say he's been arrested for murdering a cop. Ten years later, we join Joe who is now seventeen and who is heading down to Texas for the last weeks of his brother's life, as Ed is on death row. 

Joe finds himself an apartment and kind of a job, and visits the prison to see the brother he barely knows and can hardly remember. 

Through the poems we see the very last weeks of Ed's life and the appeals by his lawyer and learn about Joe's family and Ed's place in it. 

I loved this, I think telling stories through free verse of such varying lengths is a fantastic way of getting your point across in really poignant ways. I liked Joe as a character and I liked the glimpses of Ed that we got. 

What age range is it for? 15+, I think, because of the nature of the story

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it's lovely, I loved the way it was described. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, it is somewhat graphic 

Is there any talk of death? Obviously. I thought there was a lot to unpack about being sentenced to death. 

Are there swear words? Maybe a few? Not many for sure 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none - as always I just want more of these stories, I wanted the ins and outs, but I understand that's not the nature of novels told through poetry. I liked Joe a lot and I liked the little life he carved out for himself in Texas. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? You know, I don't know. I was just considering my next read and remembered this, so I found it on the shelf. I messaged my mother in law to tell her I was reading it and she seemed quite intrigued that it was written in poetry so maybe I'll lend it to her. 

What other books is it like? It's like Sarah's other books too I think. 

How many stars? Four out of five

Where is the book going now? Like I say, maybe I'll lend it to my partner's mum! 

I took this photo while reading on my front lawn!

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne - Review

Friday, July 27, 2018

I borrowed this book off my friend Laura when we did a book swap a couple of years ago, and although I read lots of the book she'd lent me, I hadn't got to this one. I realised it was still on my shelves while looking for something the other day and decided to pick it up.

It's a dual narrative novel, focussing on Daniel, who in the present day is 35 and a lawyer. He is estranged from his adoptive mother, Minnie, and gets the news that she has died and has left him the farm she owned. At the same time, he's appointed as the lawyer for Sebastian, an 11 year old child who stands accused of murdering a smaller child one August afternoon.

In the other narrative we see Daniel's younger life and how he came to live with Minnie. We see the two of them get to grips with each other and see why Daniel is so angry and feels so abandoned. We see why present day Daniel identifies quite so strongly with Sebastian, and throughout the novel we get to see why Daniel eventually cut Minnie out of his life.

I loved the descriptions of Minnie's farm near Carlisle, and I liked that Daniel was from the north east and from a deprived family yet had gone to university and done really well for himself. I liked the present day narrative and the trial. I did however think that in general we needed more exposition about Sebastian's family and about why Daniel and Minnie had fallen out. So I'm giving this three out of five - readable, but not fantastic.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti - Review

Monday, July 23, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle a few weeks ago, it was just 98p

What's it about? It's a middle grade book about an Italian girl called Mafalda. She is nine years old and she has Stargadt disease, meaning she is going blind. There are dots in her eyes and degeneration of her macula. I had heard of this disease before, because Kaitlyn in Floored has it too. It turns out that the author of this book, Paola Peretti, has it too, so she's obviously writing from a place of knowledge.

Anyway, Mafalda is going blind faster than she and her parents and her doctors hoped, meaning that is likely to be left in the dark within six months. And like she says, all children are afraid of the dark. 

Mafalda has a list of things she will no longer be able to do, and as she stops being able to do them, she crosses them off. She also watches to see how many steps it is between the cherry tree and when she is able to see it. The tree is outside her school and it means a lot of Mafalda. 

At school, one of the caretakers, Estella, is a particular friend of Mafalda's, and I loved this relationship. We also see Mafalda make a new, careful friendship with a boy in the class above her, Filippo. He is a "bad" boy and at first their relationship is very stilted, but I loved how we got to know him through Mafalda.

This is an almost perfect example of a middle grade book. It deals with some really hard themes in a very simple but never simplistic way. I loved Mafalda, I thought she was a really likeable and relatable character. I also really liked her parents. And her cat!

I thought the ending was brilliant too - I think I stopped breathing at one point. It is hard hitting but done in a really, really beautiful way. I would definitely read anything 

What age range is it for? 9+, I think 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, and Estella is an immigrant into Italy, I liked how this was deal with. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Obviously. I loved how Mafalda described things, like some things were "fuzzy", or she had to get up really close to things, or how she looked at herself in the mirror. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, it is done beautifully. I thought it was extremely age appropriate 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Honestly, barely none. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. I think this would be a lovely book for a parent and child to read together, too.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I actually had it earmarked to read on holiday but I didn't have internet connection to download it, so I had to wait until I got home

What other books is it like? Gosh, I can't think of any 

How many stars? Five out of five. Like I said, it is a great example of middle grade contemporary

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood - Review

Friday, July 20, 2018

Where did I get it? I got a free proof copy at the Northern YA Lit Festival in March

What's it about? It is set in 1929 in Cornwall. Lou, the second eldest in a large family, spends her days, at the beginning of the book, trespassing on the island just across the causeway from her village, in the Cardew House. There's no one there, so Lou spends her days eating apples and reading books in the huge library. 

But then she's caught. The Cardews are back. There's dashing Robert, heir to the Lordship title, and his sister Caitlin. Lou's family life is a little in turmoil. Her sister Alice is getting married, and Lou feels like marriage and children is the path she's destined for too, even though she doesn't necessarily want that. She likes to write - she writes romance stories. So escaping to the island is something she needs, but when the Cardews turn up she can't imagine how she'll fit into their moneyed, privileged world. But she ends up spending the summer with the siblings and their friends, seeing a glimpse into a life she'll never have.

I had seen this book touted as being a bit like the Great Gatsby, which I guess I kind of see, because there's a big house and rich people and a lot of fabulous parties and more fabulous dresses. I guess I can see those comparisons but they're quite superficial.

What age range is it for? 13+, probably. There are a few heavier themes but they're not
mentioned in great detail.

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? There is a person of colour, although not a main character, but I have to say that I thought this subplot was handled fairly poorly 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Not really? 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Not really

Is there any talk of death? A little, I guess some of it could be triggering.

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? I'm not entirely sure where to begin. I didn't like this book very much. It isn't written badly, but I found it very superficial. I didn't like Lou very much, I thought she made stupid decisions. I liked Caitlin and Robert, but I didn't understand why Lou was so into Robert. I don't think we saw enough of Lou's family to understand why she felt the way she did; I felt like Alice was quite patronising towards her at times. I didn't feel like some things were explained enough. I'd also seen it described as a romance when there's very little actual romance in it. I don't know. Not my cup of tea 

Would I recommend the book? Most likely not

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd heard good buzz about it 

What other books is it like? None that it's better than, for sure. 

How many stars? Two and a half out of five.

Where is the book going now? I'll probably trade it if I'm honest!



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