Monday, 17 September 2018

If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Publisher: Picador
Released:  20th of September 2018 

Our narrator’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .

Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink. Genki Kawamura's If Cats Disappeared from the World is a story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters in modern life.

What I Have to Say 

This book was very weird, but not in a bad way. The concept alone is very quirky and the way that Kawamura describe death was also strange, but very interesting. There was definitely a lot of symbolism to find there. In general, the book is extremely philosophical, looking at various things that seem like they don't matter that much but make the world very different when they are missing from it. 

The cat, Cabbage. Was definitely the best part. I don't want to give anything away, but we had a real glimpse at his personality and the way he saw the world. And having a cat called Cabbage was always going to be a way into my heart. Cabbage and Lettuce are beautiful creatures and the world would definitely not be as good without them! 

As someone who reads a fair amount of Japanese literature, I was able to put up with some of the style differences, but if this is the first book that you're reading that was originally written in Japanese, you may find it off-putting. The flashbacks flow on from the text, instead of being separated into a separate scene and the narrator tends to go off on tangents a lot before casually rejoining the scene. Also, some of the translators choices felt a bit off to me, especially in case of thinking something rather than speaking it. In Japanese thoughts are written very much like speech, with "I thought" coming after the thing that is being thought. If felt to me like much of these sentences were fairly directly translated, meaning that you think that the character is saying something aloud when it's actually only thought. This was very off-putting when it happened. 

Overall though, it was an interesting concept and a fun story. 

So if you could have an extra day of life but something had to disappear from the world in exchange, what would you get rid of? Would you be able to live without cats? 

Let me know in the comments! 


My thanks go to Netgalley and Picador for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 18th of September 2018 

Eleven year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents' bookshop ever since her mother disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories.

One day Tilly realises that classic children's characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of `book wandering' - crossing over from the page into real life.

With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland. Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.

What I Have to Say 

There are some books that you just want to curl up and live in. Not only is Tilly and the Book Wanderers one of these books, but it also shows you a world where you can do just that! Throughout the book, Tilly explores some of her favourite books, much beloved children's classics such as Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland. Seeing the characters from the books interacting with Tilly and her family was a wonderful part of this book. Alice was perfect and I loved the glimpses of Lizzy Bennett and Sherlock Holmes even if they weren't named. 

The best part of this book was definitely the bookshop though. It was definitely my dream bookshop. Tilly gets to live in this amazing independent bookshop with winding shelves full of books and loads of comfy chairs and sofas. Add in a cafe where you can get delicious often book inspired cake and hot chocolate whenever you want and book characters occasionally popping up for a chat? Tilly is truly living any bookworm's dream. 

The plot was  excellent as well. All the mystery around Tilly's mother and the little details that were scattered throughout the book that led to the thrilling conclusion were fantastic and though it was maybe a little predicatble, it had enough surprises to throw at me and a really satisfying conclusion. 

I can't wait for the next book in the Pages & Co. Series. 


My thanks go to Netgalley and Harper Collins for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A Tangle of Magic by Valija Zinck

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 256
Publisher: Chicken House 
Released: 2nd of August 2018 

Penelope has always been different from other children: for example, her hair has been grey since she was born. When she wakes up one day with sparkling red hair, her mother confesses that her father is a wizard. Penelope embarks on a journey to find him...

What I Have to Say 

 This was such a lovely story. It was full of magic and wonder and an absent father. It goes deep into the issue of abandonment both from Penelope and her mother and the whole that exists in Penelope's life, especially after she wakes up and discovers that she has vibrant red hair and magical powers and her dad is the only person who might be able to help her manage them.

Penelope was a really great character. I loved the way she thought. Though it was a little unrealistic, it was unrealistic in a good way. It gave a lot of humour to the book. Because what kind of person spends ages looking for shoelaces of a certain colour to replace the one she lost of her friends? Or deciding that gluing all the postboxes shut is the best way to find her father? 

I wish it had been longer though. It felt like the plot wasn't complicated enough. It was mostly just Penelope plotting and talking to roads and working out how to use her powers. I'd have liked it if there had been more of her with her new friends who also have powers. It felt a bit like she was wandering around for most of the book and then it got tied up neatly in the last few chapters. I'd have liked a bit more.

This would be such a good book for little girls who dream of waking up to discover they have magic powers. Especially if they have red hair.


My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Warrior Boy by Viriginia Clay

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 274
Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 6th of September 2018

London schoolboy Ben is heading for Kenya to meet his Maasai family. But how is an outsider like him going to fit in?

When he meets his cousin Kip, he discovers they share more than he thought – if only Ben can keep up . . .

Together, the boys must survive the African savannah: hunt for food, defend elephants from poachers – and even face the king of the beasts. Does Ben have what it takes to be a twenty-first-century warrior?

Trigger Warning: Poaching, animal death (for food and ivory)

What I Have to Say 

This was a lovely story, but also very, very moving. There's action, adventure, Maasai culture, coming-of-age and family. It has everything that a kid can want in a book really. Ben is an excellent character who is so easy to connect and empathise with and Kip is funny, brave and the best friend/ cousin a boy could have. Together they form a true brotherhood in the African wilds. 

The elephant poaching is a very big part of the book. Ben's mum is on a team of documentary makers who are working to make a video revealing the horrors of the ivory industry and so they are right in the heart of the issue. There's a part with a baby elephant and it's mother that could make the hardest hearts weep! It's moving, important and eye-opening and will make anyone reading want to go to Africa and fight for the elephants tooth, nail and spear (though maybe we should send donations to those more capable of fighting for them rather than hop straight on a plane. Especially if the person reading is ten). 

The Maasai culture was shown beautifully, with Ben working hard to become a warrior and live up to his father's memory. The fact that he has a crippling phobia of blood is just one of the obstacle in his way as he faces challenge after challenge. And there are useful tips in there for anyone who also finds they faint at the sight of blood. 

I loved reading about Ben's journey and I really hope that you do too. 



 My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me with this copy for review. 

Warrior Boy Blog Tour: How Much Do You Care?

I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the blog tour for Warrior Boy, an beautiful, emotional new Middle Grade (9+) from Virginia Clay about race, heritage and the horrors of elephant poaching. So today I'm delighted to share with you a lovely think piece written by the author herself. 


Everybody loves elephants, don’t they? Phenomenally intelligent, deeply loving, intuitive, emotional and violently threatened.

But what if you are an off-the-grid Kenyan subsistence farmer, with only two small fields of crops with which to feed your family, and these formidable beasts come silently in the night and destroy everything? They flatten your crops and thrust their marauding trunks into your water tank, draining it of all you collected last rainy season. You now have nothing to feed your family and no water for four whole months. Would you love elephants then?

Human beings are built to feel empathy but knowing too much can leave us confused as to how to respond. Every day the news brings atrocities into our living rooms on a scale as yet unprecedented in human history. Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon no longer reserved for those in caring professions.

In my children’s book, Warrior Boy, which is set in Kenya, my hero Ben comes face to face with the horrors of poaching. He suddenly understands his mother’s desire to protect elephants and vows to do what he can to help her.

But it may interest you to know, whilst I am aware that a child reading this story somewhere in the Shetland Islands will undoubtedly empathise with Ben’s response, I don’t think they have to start saving up their pocket money to do the same.

In Kenya, young people are changing the face of conservation through the movement #mabingwa (‘The Champions’). They are discovering the complexities of human and wildlife interaction, and making informed, caring decisions to preserve the future of both. They are no longer being told what to think by Westerners, but neither are they focusing their attention on poverty in Sri Lanka.

There may be no turning back from our global connectedness now, but as Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins puts it, “we can only care about a few things.” So, is it not wise to make your few things those which you know and understand? Of course, elephants are important, but so is the endangered house sparrow. And what about the old folk in your local community, crippled by loneliness? You may not feel like you have a sphere of influence, but you do – we all do. Choosing to eat less meat and not buy single-use plastic items are decisions that don’t feel particularly thrusting but have a powerful knock-on effect in time.

Richard Powers, the author of The Overstory, values the quiet power of ‘looking at the world differently’ as the first step on the road to a common consciousness. I like this too and it’s certainly the change that Ben experiences in Warrior Boy. I do hope that my book inspires young people to make changes for the better, but I would be overjoyed just to know it helped them look at the world a little differently too.

WARRIOR BOY by Virginia Clay out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Connect with Virginia on twitter @VClayAuthor and find out more at 
www.chickenhousebooks.com

Thanks so much to Chicken House for inviting me onto their blog tour. For more information about the book, check out my review and for more stops on the tour, check out the image below! 


Saturday, 8 September 2018

Into the Jungle by Katherine Rundell

Synopsis (from Goodreads and Netgalley

Pages: 240
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books 
Released: 20th  of September 2018 

This wise and witty companion to Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 classic is likewise a series of connected stories about the man-cub Mowgli and his adventures among the animals in the Indian jungle. It includes all the original favorites like Baloo and Bagheera and gives female characters, like Mother Wolf, a more prominent role in Mowgli’s upbringing. The timely theme of the possibility of understanding and empathy across species, cultures, and genders will resonate with contemporary readers.

What I Have to Say 

This book was the best, not only were there several amazing short stories about the characters in the Jungle and their childhoods, there was also a main overarching plot that tied them all together and brought all the characters into play for the dramatic finale. It was wonderful exploring the world of the Jungle Book through new perspectives and seeing more of the characters that don't get so much attention. 

As always with short story collections, some of the stories stood out more than others. I loved the one about Kaa and the story of Mother Wolf's encounter with Shere Khan, but I also like the bits in between that showed Mowgli's character so beautifully. I loved the restlessness of him and the way he went around asking for stories from the animals around him. 

This wouldn't be a complete review without mentioning the beautiful illustrations by Kristjana S. Williams. The first picture took my breath away as I wasn't expecting such an amazing, detailed, full colour illustration. It became clear very quickly that I'm going to need to buy a finished copy of this absolutely beautiful book, which looks like it's going to be stunning. 

I'm not a massive fan of the Jungle Book. It was there in my childhood but it was never one of my favourites, but Into the Jungle really made me want to watch it again and read the book. I think it would be a great book for fans, but also for any reader who just wants to see Rundell's take on it. 

 

My thanks got to Netgalley and Macmillan for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 432
Publisher: Harper Voyager 
Released: 20th of September 2018
Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. 

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair SalmalĂ­n came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

What I Have to Say 

I've loved Tamora Pierce for years even while it was so so hard to find her books in the UK, so being approved for a proof of her latest book was such a dream come true for me and a massive privilege. It's so great to see her being brought back to this side of the pond again. This was amazing for readers of the other Tortall books and also would be a pretty good book for new readers. 

It was both intriguing and so, so sad to see the characters while knowing what happens in the future books. The word slaughter in the title didn't help either. I was constantly looking for signs of what was to come and the foreshadowing was there to be found. The fact is, I absolutely love these characters. The friendship between Ozorne, Varice and Arram is a beautiful thing and I can't bear to see something coming between them. And at the same time I'm excited to see the changes and how everything comes to pass. 

Pierce's characters and the relationships between them are always amazing and seeing the young mages interact with their tutors was great. The style of Pierce writes in, the formula of her books gives you a predictability that you can settle into, while also leaving enough room for surprises and twists to stop it from getting boring. And her animal companions are the best. Preet was without a doubt my favourite character in this book and I am unashamed to admit it. The way that she was so expressive and with such character without being able to talk was beautiful and if anything bad happens to her I will burn everything to the ground. 

If you haven't picked up any of Pierce books yet, then what are you waiting for? 


My thanks go to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for providing me with this copy for review.