Thursday, 28 July 2016

Book Review - To The Bright Edge of the World

Now, I'm not sure how to review this. This is going to be a toughie.

Ok backpedal a little. Back in April, I got a proof of To The Bright Edge of the World after begging/annoying the heck out of the people at Headline/Tinder Press on Twitter. You see, I loved Eowyn Ivey's debut, The Snow Child, and I have been eagerly anticipated her next novel ever since. So, when Bright Edge came through my letterbox in April, I tweeted very excitedly for about half an hour, then cursed my planning as I had Murder May so I couldn't start till June. And for nearly two months, I have been reading this VERY SLOWLY (will explain further down).

Told in a series of diary entries, letters and reports, To The Bright Edge of the World primarily follows  Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester and his young wife, Sophie in 1885. Allen Forrester has been given the commission to follow the impassable Wolverine River of Alaska, where previous missions have failed in tragedy.

But in do this, Allen Forrester has to leave Sophie behind. Newly discovered that she is pregnant, Sophie doesn't relish the idea of behind left behind and having to stay on a military barracks. But little do either realise that each of them need every fibre of courage throughout the upcoming year.

As you guys are aware, I was a HUGE fan of the Snow Child and I flew through that. So, reading this was a mix of excitement and terror.

So, reactions. Reactions are mixed and muddled and varied. But I have reasons.

Let's start with the writing and the story. Both are these are the strongest part of the story. The two stories of Sophie and Allen were interesting and strong. If Eowyn decided to split them up into two separate novels/novellas, they worked really well separately but, together, they blend and help stand the other up. Plus, we have letters and notes from other times - one of my fave was from modern day between Walt and Josh (Walt Forrester has Sophie and Allen's diaries due to be related and letters and he has sent them to Josh Sloan who is a curator of a museum in Alaska). I found their letters a joy to read and I love their interaction and their relationship.

Sophie and Allen I really enjoyed. I found that, out of the two, I enjoyed reading Sophie's story a little more than Allen's but I found both of them enjoyable to read.

Because this is written in a style am not use to reading (diary entries and letters) and the story is a little slower pace than what I am use to, this book took its time to be read. I believe this book has to be read slowly and it has be enjoyed this way. You can't rush this book. You have to slip into it like a hot bath.

But, because of this slower style, some readers might not the speed this book takes. For the first 3 quarters of the book, the story is much slower but the last quarter picks up the pace. But the pacing is slower than The Snow Child. You have to invest time into this book. And I say this as, while I did enjoy reading this, there were times I wished the book would pick up the pace a little.

This is an very interesting second book from Eowyn Ivey and it shows her as a storyteller to watch. This book might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I am intrigued over what Eowyn writes next...

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Book Review - Introducing Teddy

I've been aware of this book for a while. Am surprised that the publication of this went by without me knowing as when I first heard of this, I knew I had to read it and rave about it. It was Chouett who did a review on this and reminded me that this got published. Because of my excited tweet, the lovely Liz at Bloomsbury sent me a copy for review (with a rainbow bow tie. Which I think I might wear just to annoy some friends at their wedding... Maybe...). My thanks goes to Liz for this.

Errol and Thomas the teddy bear are best friends and play together every day. But one morning, Thomas is sad and Errol is worried. Even the swings at the park cheer Thomas up. Thomas has a secret that he wants to share, but it's difficult to say and he's scared Errol won't want to be his friend anymore...

Not going to say more, as this is quite a hard and yet easy book to review. This is a picture book and it's wonderful. It's charming and heart-warming and all that goodness that tackles issues little ones need to know such as acceptance, friendship and being true to yourself.

I fear this book might upset some parents as it tackles an LGBT theme (won't say what, but some parents might feel it's unacceptable for their child), but I think every child should read this. The world is a dark place at the moment, and we need a little more love, tolerance and acceptance.

I know this isn't much of a review. Like I said earlier on, this is a hard book to review and yet, remarkably easy. It's simply charming and heart-warming.

Friday, 22 July 2016

NetGalley Declined Requests - REVEALED (Again)

Am I the only book blogger out there who, when he gets declined a read on NetGalley (that VERY dangerous website for TBRs and eReaders everywhere!), I get a little excited/relieved? Just me? Ok, can live with that!

So, early last year, I wrote a tiny blog post about stories that I requested on NetGalley and I was declined over for one reason or another (and I went "YES! THANK YOU!!!" for one reason or another - mainly location). The reason I wrote it was because I wanted to show you guys that there are other books out there! Other books that I really want to read but can't for one reason or another (plus, am awful with NetGalley. The amount of books I get approved for then forget to read [hence that horrible "I'm sorry for not reading this in time, please don't hate me!" message I send to publishers]).

So, am going to show you a few more (because am in the mood to blog and this seems to be the thing I wanna blog about in this BLOODY AWFUL HEAT!!!) and, quick note to NetGalley or publishers on NetGalley, if you see my name, you can decline me. I will be ok with you if you do!

So, let's get started...!

BLONDE HAIR, BLUE EYES by Karin Slaughter
(Cornerstone/Random House - Goodreads Link)
As you guys know, I like dipping in and out of crime. When I get that itch to read a bloody murder, that itch is strong. So, this seems like a natural choice, don't you think? Expect... I have a bit of a weird relationship with Karin Slaughter and her writing. I audiobooked Kisscut and really enjoyed myself with it. It was crime and it was dark & didn't end all happily ever after (in the ye old days of 2011, every time I read crime, it ended with good conquering evil so this was a shock/refresh!) so I attacked to novellas - The Unremarkable Heart and Thorn in My Side - and they were just ok. So, while I was in two minds over this, I wanted to give Karin one more chance. I still do - but alas, not meant to be...

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE by Carrie Ryan
(Penguin US - Goodreads Link)
Do you guys remember that US TV show, Revenge? No? It was a modern day reimagining of The Count of Monte Cristo but with female leads and a very soap opera feel to it. It's addictive viewing. So when I saw this on NetGalley, I knew I had to at least try to see if I could read it. A story about revenge and with this sounding just as addictive as the TV show, I was sold. I got declined but am investigating this as I need a fun, addictive, slightly insane read!

ONCE UPON A TIME: RED'S UNTOLD TALE by Wendy Toliver
(Disney Book Group - Goodreads Link)
I dip in and out of the TV show Once Upon A Time. I do like watching it and I know my limits as I know if I start watching it, I would lost days (and I know my Other Half will hate the show!). One of my fave character's is Ruby. I really like Ruby and, when I requested this, I was excited to know more about her. It might not be the read fans of the show wanted to read, but I thought it would be a fun retelling (though, I prefer the story from season 5 where Ruby falls in love with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Shame it was in one episode and in another land. Would be great if we saw this relationship grow and develop throughout the season, rather than rushed into one episode...)

HALF LIES by Sally Green
(Penguin - Goodreads Link)
Yes, I know. I know I bought this and yes, I know I reviewed it already (ta-dah!). But I got declined from NetGalley and I was... er... not happy. I had just read Half Bad & Half Wild, I think, and I was desperate to read more from this world. I fell for this series hard. So not getting this made me very upset. But as soon as I could, I preordered it and waited...

CHAMPAGNE KISSES by Lynda Aicher
(Riptide Publishing - Goodreads Link)
NetGalley is one of those weird places where I like to take little risks in my reading. As a book blogger, I sometimes think we should push ourselves to try new things. If we don't try new things, how will we know if we like them or not? So, when this caught my eye, I impulsively requested it. No idea why. I saw the words "Christmas Eve wedding" and went for it. I'm pretty certain that, if I was approved, I would have read it and not been a fan. But, like I said, if you don't try new things, how will you know if you like them or not?

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera
(Soho Press - Goodreads Link)
This was one of those books I kept hearing about. It's YA LGBT with a twist on Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. Ok, that sounds interesting. And different. Something new for me to try. And I thought that if I didn't like it, at least I can get discussions started with this book. I got declined for this book (US only - oh well!) but I saw a copy in Foyles so I got a hardback waiting on my TBR...

LEGACY OF KINGS by Eleanor Herman
(Harlequin Teen - Goodreads Link
Last one - honest! And TECHNICALLY, this is still a "Currently Pending" but it's been nearly a year so am pretty sure this is a decline. Oh well. But this book was a mix of genres I either love or want to read more about. Magic? Check! History? Check! Mythology? Check! And with so many people I follow on Twitter read and raving, I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I still do, so one day... one day...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Book Review - Mango & Bambang: The Not-A-Pig

I randomly got this when I was at Walker Book's #InkSlingersPicnic (you can read my write-up on the event here). On a table within the food/drink room, was some books Walker Books left out for us to take if they called us. This was one of the books on the table which, at the very last moment, I grabbed because... well... not sure why. I think it was because of the colour. Maybe it's because I saw someone else pick it up and thought "Why have I not seen that before". Maybe it's because I thought "I don't really read any books for younger readers. I really should. Oh, this and its sequel look perfect"  Or maybe it was because I sensed that I will need light, fun read.

Mango Allsorts is a girl who is good at all sorts of things. Bambang is a tapir - not a pig - who travelled from the jungle to the city. When the two meet at a zebra crossing (after Bambang got scared over the noise of the city), a friendship between the two begins and the adventures they have together become more fun when you're doing them with a friend.

This is a short and quite delightful book, good for kids aged from around 5/6 upwards. With four short stories within this book (each are quite short), this is a book I feel would be perfect for children to read out loud or to read together with a adult. The stories are sweet and simple for younger readers. The illustrations that are on every page fits perfectly with the story and with the use of a very small colour palette (black, white and grey with a splash of colour - in this book, it's lilac. In the second volume, it's red and in the third, pale blue).

I really like this and I think little ones will devour this. Now... onto book two! 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

5 Questions with Emma Carroll

Today, I want to welcome Emma Carroll to blog! Emma is the author of books such as Frost Hollow Hall, The Snow Sister and her latest, Strange Star. Now, Emma will talk briefly about Strange Star below but if you like creepy stories, you might want to get your mitts on this. (plus, if you wanna read a tiny taster, you can pop over to Tales of Yesterday's blog and read an extract!)

To celebrate this book's release, Emma Carroll is here to answer 5 quick(ish) questions about Strange Star to wet your appetite!

So, before I throw you into the deep end of my hard (*snorts with laughter*) questions, I just want to say a quick thank you to Emma for taking time out to answer these questions and for Hannah at Faber for inviting me to take part in this "tour".

So, let's get started with our 5, shall we?

1. Can you give us a quick introduction to Strange Star and to the main characters?
'Strange Star' is a gothic tale inspired by 'Frankenstein' and the myths surrounding its conception. I've borrowed 'Frankenstein's' story-within-a-story structure: my outer narrative is from the POV of Felix, a black servant boy who has ambitions to become Lord Byron's valet. The inner voice is Lizzie's, whose tragic past has brought her all the way from Somerset to Switzerland in search of her sister.
2. Without spoiling too much, could you give us more about the "Strange Star" of the title?
Absolutely! It comes from a line of poetry written by Mary Shelley in 1821 in reference to her birth. As the daughter of two great intellectuals William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, there's a sense she was marked out for greatest from the start. In August 1797, a comet was visible in the sky over London. Despite advances in astronomy, many at the time still saw this as an omen of ill fortune. Sadly, Wollstonecraft died 11 days after giving birth so Mary never knew her mother personally, a grief that plagued her for much of her life. The circumstances of her birth and her incredible parentage had a huge impact on her.

3. As this is a historical fiction, how bound to the truth of what happened are you when you were writing? Did you make any changes to history that readers might notice and investigate?
I admit I've been quite creative with certain aspects of it! The comet, for instance, came from 1797, not 1816, but I loved the idea of it representing that tension between progress and superstition that pervaded much of the early C19th. As an author, I often tend to settle on a title early on - I was determined to call this book Strange Star... so the comet had to stay! There are lots of rumours surrounding that famous night at the Villa Diodati. Shelley herself wrote varied accounts of it throughout her life; Dr Polidori's offer another perspective. What I love about using history are the gaps left for your imagination to fill. That said, there are suggestions that the Shelleys attempted to adopt a child on their travels through Europe but that it somehow fell through. The details surrounding the publication of Frankenstein at the end of 'Strange Star' are also based on fact.

4. Speaking of historical, you replaced Dr Frankenstein with Francesca Stein. Was this an easy decision to make and did you have any ideas about writing this character before you started writing or did she take control of her own story?
A bit of both really. I always intended the scientist to be female because this ties in with Shelley's own frustrations at being a highly intelligent woman in a male-dominated world. It also, I hope, coveys the message that a story's genius/villain can be either gender - hence the assumption by most of Sweepfield that the scientist at Eden Court is male. Once I'd decided on Francesca Stein, she pretty much took off - she has all the grace and charm of someone of her class, yet uses this to manipulate others. Yes, she has motivations and ambitions of her own but she also has a rather shady past, which may or may not link to Felix's. 

5. Last question: can you talk to us about what you're working on next, or maybe a clue to wet our appetites?
A little taster? Oh go on then... the first draft isn't finished yet so I don't want to jinx things because it's bound to change but... *drum roll* it's called 'Letters From the Lighthouse'- another early title choice!- and is an evacuee story set in a strange Devon village during WW2.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I'll Give You The Sun - Some Discussion Points

As you guys were aware, I chaired/moderate a YA Book Club on the Saturday just gone, as part of the South Bank Centre's Festival of Love. The book was I'll Give The Sun by Jandy Nelson. Now, to get myself ready for hosting this event, I read the book and made notes on everything that caught my eye and thought would create a good discussion.

I thought that made you should see a few of them. Not all - I might be using them again for next month's YA Book Club read for the South Bank (How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff). But I am curious on what you guys think on these (if you've read the book). Basically, this post is that annoying section at the back of that book, aimed for book clubs.

So... here we go!



  • Before we go into book, let’s talk cover & blurb (read blurb if needs be). Do these reflect the book actually?
  • How do you guys feel about this book covers the South Bank’s description of “cover themes such as Modern Love, Digital Love, Love as Social Action and Art & Love.”?
  • Touching on from this, the pages within this are covered with paint splatters, brush strokes (mainly within Noah’s timeline - more on that later). Did this make you feel connected with Noah & Jude’s art? 
  • I mentioned timelines. This book has dual narrators - Noah at 13/14 and Jude at 16. Did this work for the story? Did you enjoy reading these voices? And does the age between the narrators help us with the story and understand the characters. 
  • Noah is gay and tackles a same sex relationship, which means some people would call this a LGBT novel? Is this solely an LGBT book or is there more to it? 
  • Do we feel that this book is about first love and family? Or is it grief?
  • Speaking of grief, Jude’s knowledge of diseases and her stating facts she knows about diseases, is this a sign of her’s (or the author’s) belief that guilt is a disease? 
  • Earlier, I mentioned art (a theme we’re going to jump back and forth on), but Jude is more spiritual. She reads Grandma Sweetwine’s bible and she talks to her and her mother’s ghosts. Why are they important to Jude’s story?
  • Why do we think all the characters within this book are damaged? 
  • This book tackles underage sex. How do we feel about this? How do you feel this subject was handled?
  • How do we feel about the ending? Do we like that it was all wrapped up in a “Happily Ever After” or was it too neat? 
  • Tuesday, 12 July 2016

    Book Review - I'll Give You The Sun

    As you guys are probably aware, I'll Give You The Sun was the South Bank Centre's YA Book Club read for July 2016 as part of their Festival of Love (a book club I'm moderating for this month and August, if all goes to plan). Now, I am writing this review BEFORE the Book Club and am posting this AFTER the event so this is my unbiased opinion. I wanted to do this as I wanted to be sure that these are my thoughts and not anyone else's and I go "Huh... maybe they had a point..."

    Twins Jude and Noah were close once. Not any more. Something terrible happened to them and now, the twins barely speak. Then Jude meets one captivating sculptor who will mentor her and a beautiful, yet cocky boy - both of whom are equally damaged - just like Jude and Noah.

    But Jude and Noah only know half the story. If they want to know the whole story, they need to come together...

    I must admit, this has been sitting on my TBR shelves for quite a while. I believe the UK publisher, Walker Books, gave it to me at an event and I was so very excited over it. And then, never got round to it till this book won the vote for July's vote.

    This is one of those books I enjoyed reading, but I have problems. There's one or two things that don't sit that well with me, but I get why it had to go that way.

    Let's start with the positives. I love that this book was told from dual narratives over two timelines - Noah when he was 13/14, accepting his sexuality and discovering love for the first time & Jude who is sixteen, in art school and is watching her family fall apart after this mystery tragedy. It just flowed and it was really cool how they overlapped and interlinked.

    It also was good that these voices were so different - this is a pet peeve of mine. When an author tries to write in two very different voices and they both sound so similar. To me, Noah and Jude's voices were so far removed that it was easy to tell them apart. This worked for me.

    Art is important to both characters and I enjoyed how both Noah and Jude showed it. It was more Noah as some of his pages had paint splatter and [Self Portrait] moments thrown at us. And Noah was more over descriptive with colours, whereas Jude told the story with hints of art. It was interesting to see how similar and completely different they are. I like that art had a focus - something I don't normally see in books.

    The plot intrigued me and kept me going. Jandy puts several mysteries in place and she unravels them beautiful. It shows character development and give us insight of what cause them and the aftermath these choices made. I kept reading because I wanted to know why. Why did Jude get into Art School but Noah didn't? Why did Noah just stop with art? Why do they both blame themselves? This is what pushed me forward to the end. Because I wanted to know.

    However... however, however, however... there are problems. There are things I feel some of you guys will dislike or hate with passion.

    The first thing I want to say (and this might surprise you) is how this book is described. There are some lists out there that class this book as an LGBT read. And yes, I get why - Noah is gay - but this book is SO MUCH MORE than Noah's sexuality. If you are going into this expecting a character's voyager of their sexuality, you are going to be disappointed. This book tackles art, family, grief and other things that I don't really want to touch on due to spoilers.

    The second thing - and this is one of the things that bothered me - is that both Noah and Jude are kinda... well... self-absorbed. Yes, they are teenagers so I get this, I do. But there were times I get so angry at this "mememe" attitude they both had. Some of you might find them hard to relate to because of this attitude - and while it annoyed me, it didn't take away me reading and enjoy what they were saying. I mean, we were/are teenagers. We have moments of being self-absorbed.

    But, the biggest thing I had issue with was the ending. The ending bugged me so much because it was SO NEAT. It was all wrapped up and tied up in a bow and this doesn't seat well with me. Once I had read 3/4 of the book, I was going "This is going to all come out and there is no way there isn't going to be a fallout. It's all going to hit the fan and... wait. Wait, what?". I expected a big reaction and it didn't play out. For some readers, this is the perfect ending, but I felt a little cheated. It was all neat and tidy and this didn't set well with me...

    YA contemporary readers will devour this, and while I didn't like the ending, I know I will be hunting down Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere, as I know EVERYONE who has read this ADORES it...

    PS - while I was reading this, I discovered this Vine (which I love) and it just fits this novel PERFECTLY!!!

    Tuesday, 5 July 2016

    Book Review - The Art of Finding Dory

    As you guys know if you have followed this blog for a while, I like those arty books. I especially like reading those "The Art of [Insert Movie Name Here]". This is something I have been curious over for years, but it seems to be the past few years that I treat myself and devour the art, design and little notes. I have the Art of Finding Nemo, Up, Frozen, The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble) and, of course, Harry Potter: Page to Screen and Harry Potter: The Creature Vault. Not a lot, but I enjoy staring at the art.

    So, when I was emailing the lovely people at Abram and Chronicle Books (who's imprint, Chronicle Books who publish most of the Disney The Art of books), I chatted about The Art of Finding Dory. They said "We'll try and chat to Disney about you getting a copy", but I didn't think much of it. Sorry, but I couldn't imagine the powers at Disney allowing a tiny blog such as my tiny Pewter Wolf baby to read and review it?

    So imagine my shocked delight when this came through my door. So, thank you Chronicle Books and Disney/Pixar!

    Highly anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo (one of my fave movies, FYI), Finding Dory is finally about to come out in the UK! And here, in The Art of Finding Dory, we see snippets of ideas and artwork that went into making the movie. From new characters and locations, from photographs and concept art to sculptures and sketches, this is an insight to how the movie was made.

    This is one side of how the movie was made, and it's the one I really enjoy. I always enjoy how people designed themes and who the get ideas/emotions over within a scene, and how they created new characters (I found the new characters Hank the octopus, Destiny the whale shark and Bailey the beluga whale so interesting and, without even seeing the movie yet, I know I will love these characters oh so much!) and locations.

    My advice to you guys is that if you are going to get this, get it after you watched the movie. There is a few hints towards how the movie ends. It doesn't go really into depth but if you dislike spoilers, I would say buy/read after watching the movie.

    But I really enjoyed reading this! And I shall be skimming this and The Art of Finding Nemo after I watch Finding Dory... 

    I'm feeling in a good mood, so let me show you some (non-spoiler) pictures within the book...





    This is my favourite illustration within this book, so I have to give it credit. The below is a "Digital Painting" (no idea what that means) is done by Rona Liu and Sharon Calahan, and isn't it cool? ISN'T IT?!