Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Today Will be Different by Maria Semple, narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite (Contemporary, Audiobook, 8/10E, unfinished)

Eleanor really wants life to be different!
September 2016, Orion, 6 hours 28 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy

Content: strong language, adult relations,
Book summary from Hachette Audio
Eleanor Flood knows she's a mess. But today will be different. Today she will shower and put on real clothes. She will attend her yoga class after dropping her son, Timby, off at school. She'll see an old friend for lunch. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action - life happens.

For today is the day Timby has decided to pretend to be ill to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day surgeon Joe has chosen to tell his receptionist - but not Eleanor - that he's on vacation. And just when it seems that things can't go more awry, a former colleague produces a relic from the past - a graphic memoir with pages telling of family secrets long buried and a sister to whom Eleanor never speaks.

Nayu's thoughts 
Initially I wasn't keen on Eleanor, but I was intrigued by the summary so I kept going. It bothered me how she treated her son. He was fed, had clothes, and the essentials taken care of, but the connection between them didn't feel amazing. So I thought over the book her feelings would improve as the story progressed. They did to a certain extent, and I'm sure they would have carried on but the story veered  off for what seemed like age to the memoir (I think). I couldn't understand what they had to do with  Eleanor (I hadn't remembered the blurb...) I kept waiting for the viewpoint to switch back to her, but it didn't and I had no interest in the characters so I stopped listening.

Audiobooks are harder to fast forward, whereas with a physical or ebook version I could have sen where to skip ahead to get past the part that didn't catch my interest. I really did want to keep going but I couldn't face it. The story itself is well written, I loved Timby and felt sorry for him as he didn't get his mother's attention as much as he liked. The narration was spot on, seamlessly changing character voices. I do recommend checking this out, I will read the ebook version at some point just to know what happened at the end!

Find out more on Maria's website.

 Suggested read

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson (Thriller, Audiobook, 9/10E)

 January 2017, Brilliance Audio, 6 hours 48 minutes, Audiobook, Review copy from Audible
Content strong exotic adult relationships, strong swearing, domestic violence, 

Summary from Audible
An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden's mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake...only later to discover that the two haven't returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They've disappeared without a trace. 

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why? As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she's finally lost her grip on reality...
Nayu's thoughts 
First I must state I really loved this book, even if my initial comments may seem to hint the opposite. It was the most confusing read I've ever listened to/read. As someone who can struggle with concentrating because I read when I'm tired (any time of day), following a story with both multiple viewpoints and flashbacks made me thoroughly confused most of the time. I didn't know until the end whether Greta was hallucinating, having a mental breakdown, having cruel tricks played on her. I won't avoid similar reads in the future because I absolutely loved the way tidbits of necessary info was spread throughout the book. It was information that either confirmed my theories or simply confused me some more. 

Greta had a horrific childhood, which she didn't necessarily remember accurately. Her recent present life had it's own horrors which had me almost stop listening for good as they got really unpleasant (that's the exotic relationships part in the content warning). It's not exactly easy to skim past sections I don't like on audiobook as I do with a physical/ebook. But because I was desperate to know if there was a happy ending I kept going until the end, which managed to confuse me because I may have misunderstood what a character said to another (it could mean certain death which Greta miraculously avoided up to the end)

The narration was first class, I was completely immersed into the insanity of the characters and the plot. I think I will relisten to it eventually, after many fluffy listens-I was a bit disturbed emotionally by the end and had to placate the horrors with super cute gaming, as the topics are very hard hitting and made me sad for those whose live through similar goings on. 

Suggested read 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Running on Empty by R. M. Clark (Young adult, 10E/10E)

 December 2016, Indigo Sea Press, 120 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Book summary
After getting a video camera for her fourteenth birthday, Kasey Madrid enters film contest and chooses her town's 300th anniversary celebration as a subject. All is well until the town's time capsule is unearthed empty, prompting Kasey to investigate. Things get even stranger when she begins to see someone in her camera no one else can see.

That “someone” turns out to be Marion Gibson, the town's former historian, who went into a coma-like state when the time capsule was buried and whose memories are now trapped in time. Kasey researches the town historians and reveals their 300 year-old secret: a wooden chest that gives them the ability to see other people's memories and visit the past. She also finds that Marion's successor, the real town historian, is missing.

Using her film footage, Kasey discovers the chest is passed on to each new historian every generation through time capsules. When the chest is stolen, Kasey and her camera go back to save Marion, find the identity of the next historian and solve the mystery of the empty time capsule

Nayu's thoughts 
This is possibly my favourite book by Clark to date! I loved the whole missing capsule because it instantly gave me a theory about what would happen in the story. I was kind of right too! Kasey is highly likable, with her inquisitive mind and her trusty friend Paula. I've read the first book of their adventures so it felt like I was coming home to friend. They take all the extraordinary occurrences in their strife, not freaking out too much and are determined to find out the truth. 

I liked how adults are woven into the storyline -by this I mean some have a positive influence on Kasey, they help her out in situations which in other books would lead to the main characters breaking the law a little to succeed. This is ok in fiction but isn't the best role model for readers, so Kasey having help continues the positive mentality towards adults in the tale. Not all hand out cookies, a couple are distinctly troublesome, but Kasey and her friends find a way to deal with those individuals. 

I loved the supernatural element of the tale, it's a clever concept, works well and I hope will feature in another book in the series! It would be so cool to have extra help like that, although it does come with great responsibility. As with al of Clark's other books there's a happy ending! 

 Suggested read

The Stone of Kuromori by Jason Rohan (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

I don't like the new stye covers - they don't show Kiyomi clearly!!!! (Old style are in the suggested reads part of the review)
 January 2017, Egmont, 320 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: major peril, violence, monsters 

Summary from Egmont
Three treasures. Two friends. One destiny.

Ever since Kenny learned that he’d been chosen as bearer of a magical sword, he and best friend Kiyomi have been protecting the human world from ancient Japanese monsters. But Kiyomi’s human soul has been taken from her and only the restoration of the three sacred treasures – the sword, the mirror and the jewel – can save her from transforming into a monster herself.

Yet as they complete their mission, they discover that all their actions have been manipulated and an undead army is about to be unleashed upon humankind. The forces of life, with Kenny as their champion, gather their allies for a final showdown.

Nayu's thoughts
The final book in this trilogy has come and it's the best yet. Ken uses the abilities he has gained to fight for world peace. What makes him special is his continuing strength to create new skills during battle which enables him to get out of tricky situations. He really screws up in this book, more than he ever has before, but only by doing this can he have a hope of saving the day. 

The real heroine of the story is Kiyomi. I adore her love of making things go boom. The fact that she is Japanese adds to her appeal. Even with the constant threat of turning into a demon she is able to compliment Ken's skills with her own. I cried when she cried in the story during an unexpected encounter that hurt more than semi-significant characters dying. Kiyomi sort of has Poyo, and she ends up with a cool dangerous killer as a companion, one who I for some reason like in real life. I love how Kiyomi has the right knowledge to help Ken's weird intelligence figure out what to do. I loved it when she revealed who Otohime is to Jason, and delighted in a brief encounter that she will treasure forever. 

I also really like Stacie who reappeared at the end just when I was thinking of her. She had her own secret which ultimately helps Ken in his mission. I'm so glad that Jason persuaded me to give this series a go, promising me I'd like Kiyomi. I truly do! And I can dream she gets her own series, although she and Ken seem more like partners rather than hero and sidekick in this instalment. I doubt it's the end of their adventures though, and hope for a revival of their lives someday! 

Suggested read
Be sure to check out the rest of the trilogy which starts with The Sword of Kuromori by Jason Rohan (Young Adult, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (Young Adult, 9/10E)

 16th February 2017, Gollancx, 432 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Content frequent strong language, alcohol and drug abuse, teen romance, immoral relations, 

Summary from Orion
Natasha was dead for 13 minutes. And it changed her world completely . . .

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don't remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this - it wasn't an accident and I wasn't suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you're a teenage girl, it's hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I'm sure of it. But that doesn't mean they didn't try to kill me. Does it?
Nayu's thoughts
I had an idea of how the story was going to be and I was rather wrong, but in a good way. While it's an awesome read with heaps of twisty bits it is a strong content novel, with an age warning for a good reason. It lost a mark due to the type of characters used (who like to swear, drink and abuse drugs) so some may not enjoy it if thy dislike those aspects. I wanted to know what happened and was hooked on the story so I kept reading. I can't say more than immoral relations without ruining part of the plot, so use your imagination. 

There was plenty of creativity with how Tasha died for a little while. My own theories grew wilder as the story progressed, and I was correct on a few aspects which was fun. I enjoyed the various point of views, especially the text conversations which increased my intrigue, just like how the pov hanged exactly as 'something' happened in the story! I don't particularly like any of e main characters, they are wilder than I am in many ways, but I did like aspects of Becca (not Tash) and felt sorry for the isolation she felt at several points in the tale. She certainly got in a lot of trouble, some of which she deserved, and I never knew exactly what bombshell would strike next. 

I strongly dislike comparing books to any media, but the style of this tale totally reminded me of the TV series Pretty Little Liars (I'm a fangirl). Definitely one for my reread shelf-I probably will reread it to see if I spot hints for key events. 

Suggested read

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Giant by Kate Scott (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

 9th February 2017, Piccadilly Press, 192 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book Summary
Anzo is 11 years old and very, very short. Mum, Dad and his two uncles are extremely tall but they're also high achievers, obsessed with fulfilling their lifelong ambition of opening a restaurant together. Everyone has a role - chef, DIY, marketing, accounts - but where does Anzo fit in? If only he could grow a few inches in height, then no one would be able to overlook him. Josh would stop teasing Anzo in school, he wouldn't have to play all seven dwarfs in the school play, and at home he could tell his parents about his drawing and the comic convention he's been invited to.

Then, overnight, Anzo starts to grow. Is life as a giant going to solve all his problems, or should he stop worrying and learn to just be himself?

Nayu's thoughts 
Brilliant doesn't go far enough in explainimg how epic this latest book by Kate is. I loved the hilarity of her previous spy series which touched on serious subjects, but what Anzo goes through is on another level entirely. Through Anzo's height issues Kate introduces to readers to positive thinking and various techniques to help instill confidence in yourself. It didn't exactly matter that Anzo had zero confidence because he had Elise. 

Everyone shoukd have an Elise to get them through life. She knows a lot thanks to her career interests, pushes Anzo to his limits, helps him by pushing him off metaphorical cliffs, and yet is human because occasionally she makes a mistake in her grand plan which makes Anzo feel dreadful. 

I'm fairly sure every reader will be able to relate to at least 1 of Anzo's many issues. I loved how he felt after he conquered his fears. I loved how Elise was there with encouraging comments, or the opposite which were also inspiring in their own way. She is one stubborn girl! Anzo suffers thanks to the class bully, but it's Elise who help him see how to endure the name calling, that one day he will be acknowledged for being himself, and when he is you may need tissues. 

I felt sorry for him because it's hard having a passion which no one else you know (or at least in your family) understands why it's so amazing to you. When I was growing up few liked the video games I liked (RPGs & I'm talking about girls). When I made it to 6th form I found a friend because she had Final Fantasy 7 pictures covering her folder, a game I currently loved then and still love now. We started chatting and that was the start of our friendship, which stand strong today. I still have my folders that I decorated from then. 

My point is that the joy Anzo felt from being among so many passionate cartoon creators and fans is relatable. When you like somethig that's a bit of niche area you can feel alone. I don't anymore thanks to 'meeting' people on Twjtter who adore the same anime I do. The feeling is hard to describe but Kate does a great job of it. Personally every adult should read this uplifting read becauses it's inspirational, amd no matter how old you are or aren't, just like with Anzo's height everyone benefits from a confidence boost. I hope Anzo and Elise get another adventure together! 
Suggested read
You must check out Kate's spy series - the final book is Spies in Disguise #3 Boy in Heels by Kate Scott (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)


Big Beard The Pirate by Harald Davidson (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

August 2016, Magic Editions, 120 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Book summary
A story from the Magic Meadow where anything can happen...

Big Beard the Pirate is a force to be reckoned with. Pursued by the navies of four countries he is not a man to be thwarted easily - to say the least he is a bit of a bully. In this debut children' adventure story, Francesca Spaghetti and Poppy Noodle use all their courage, ingenuity and Magic Powers to try to stop him getting his greedy hands on a treasure chest that rightfully belongs to their friend Patti's family with exciting and unexpected results.

Even against the background of The Magic Meadow - a place where​ anything is possible - the outcome is still a surprise.

Nayu's thoughts
This was a book which I was excited about because I love stories with sisters in! Francesca and Poppy are full of energy, inventive, and find a magical world that takes them on board a wild adventure. It reminded me a little of Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree series with different worlds and all kinds of creatures. The sisters come across flowers who move and like to smell the girls rather than being smelled themselves. The Magic Meadow is full of wondrous things including a unicorn who helps transport the sisters. 

I liked how there's a bit of mystery at the ice cream shop which gets referred to later in the story. The girls discover they each have a magical talent to help them get out of trouble and help others, and those talents were a joy to see used. Francesca isn't fond of walking but her grumpiness when she had to trek a little way made me smile. The characters they meet are fun to read about, mostly helping the sisters who have fun experimenting with their powers. I especially liked how their cat comes along for the adventure too! 

Animal companions are a hit with me, and made it an even more enjoyable tale. There is a fair amount of major peril, but nothing insurmoutable. Big Beard and his crew provide hilarity as they try to beat the sisters on their quest, with a lot of in about pirates conveyed. The end was a little bit of a surprise, and I'm already looking forward to rereading this tale. The colour illustrations throughout the book while not 100% my style fitted the story and was nice to look at to add that extra dimension to Francesca, Poppy, and all those they meet, appearing at key moments in the tale.

Find out more on Harald's website