Saturday, April 19, 2014

There's a Dinosaur in my Bathtub by Catalina Echeverri

Hello! My name is Amelia and I have something very important to tell you. Shhh!
It's a secret so you mustn't tell anyone in the whole wide world. Promise? OK, so (and I'm whispering so no one else can hear) there's a dinosaur in my bathtub. His name is Pierre and he comes from France. We have lots of fun adventures together. Would you like to travel to the moon with us? Or share our giant ice cream? You would! Then what are you waiting for?

Star Rating

I received this book from Bloomsbury for an open and honest review. 

Here we are with another book review from my Year 2 class! Overall they loved this short story from Catalina Echeverri and after much to-ing and fro-ing decided on a four star rating. I say to-ing and fro-ing because one child was particularly adamant that this story would have been better if the dinosaur was Spanish, not French! When asked why he replied, 'because a French dinosaur is silly.' Amazing! 

This story draws young children in well from the title page with Amelia whispering, 'I have something very important to tell you. SHHH! It's a secret so you mustn't tell anyone in the whole world... OK?' A recipe for success in any children's book is when the character speaks directly to the child, pulling them in and making them feel like they are part of the action. My class were eager to find out Amelia's secret and were amused to find out that the dinosaur was called Pierre from France. 

The story goes on to explain what life is like for Amelia living with a dinosaur. All of the children in my class expressed their wish to have a pet dinosaur particularly when it takes you to 'lands where the trees are made from candyfloss and where you can be taken on a sweetie tasting tour by a jelly bear in a cowboy hat.'

Throughout the book, Amelia and Pierre go on many adventures together that had my children gasping in delight. The final pages end with Amelia tucked up in bed and resulted in a class debate as to whether Pierre was real or it had all been a dream. The general consensus was that it had possibly been a dream but the children hoped, for Amelia's sake, that it had all been true. 

This is a entertaining, sweet story about friendship and adventure. The illustrations are fantastic , particularly the page where Pierre packs his suitcase to return home. Who would have known a dinosaur's favourite food could be super MEGA extra cheesy popcorn? 

Dash & Lily's Book Of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept.
Curious, snarly Dash isn't one to back down from a challenge - and the Book of Dares is the perfect thing to keep him occupied this Christmas. 
As they send each other on a snowbound scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they're falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet.

Star Rating

I bought this book from my local charity bookstore and, although I didn't hate it, I wasn't overwhelmed! This is a short, sweet story about two teenagers who fall for each other on paper, conversing through the pages of a red notebook. The novel starts in a bookshop , a clever setting to draw in all the book lovers out there. The setting then branches out to Christmas time New York and, although I have never been there myself, there were many references to some of the amazing places my friends and family have been, for example the Muppet WhatNot Workshop at FAO Schwarz. I have always wanted to visit New York at Christmas time (mainly due to Macaulay Culkin) and I enjoyed reading about the different places the teens visited. 

The story started out well with some extremely funny first few chapters. Unfortunately this humour seemed to peter out towards the middle of the book as we focused more on the growing relationship between Lily and Dash. The 'dares' mentioned in the blurb were more random trips to a variety of locations and I found myself willing the teenagers to finally meet as my interest dwindled. 

There is no doubt that some people will love the characters in this book and some will hate them. Lily, although seemingly quick witted and funny at the beginning of the story, quickly became irritating and made ridiculously bad decisions along the way. 

With some adaptations, this story would make a cute Christmas film for teens.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. 
But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental,  a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.

Star Rating 

Having recently read (and absolutely loved) 'More Than This' by Patrick Ness I was thrilled to find this beautiful copy of 'A Monster Calls' for a mere £1.99 in an underrated UK shop called 'The Works'.
First of all I should mention this absolutely amazing front cover with some of the best typography I have seen on a book for a long time. Yes I know you shouldn't choose a book by it's cover but just look at it!!! 

Although written by Patrick Ness, the idea for this book came from the late Siobhan Dowd. In his author's note Patrick explains 'I felt - and feel - as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has handed me her story and said, "Go. Run with it. Make trouble." So that's what I tried to do.'

'A Monster Calls' is the heartbreaking tale of Conor, a thirteen-year-old schoolboy whose father left for America with his new family and whose mother is dying of cancer. Because of this, Conor has had to grow up fast and be the man of the house, 'I'm here because thirteen-year-old boys shouldn't be wiping down counters without being asked to first.' One night, Conor is woken from his usual nightmare by a monster at his window. The monster visits Conor at the same time every night and comes with a mission - to tell Conor three stories and when those stories are told to listen to a final fourth tale that will be told by Conor himself. 

'You will tell me the fourth tale. You will tell me the truth. (If you don't) then I will eat you alive!'

It becomes clear to the reader that the monster has come to help Conor through a particularly difficult time in his life. Through the three tales the monster shares with Conor he slowly enables him to come to terms with what is happening to his mother and bring forth the truth. Patrick Ness' skill as a writer is to make the reader empathise, wholeheartedly, with Conor as we gain an insight into the aggression, fear and confusion he has bottled up inside him. Conor was to me exactly what I would expect any young boy losing his mother to be. The characterisation was completely believable and it is this that makes the book so heartbreakingly powerful! 

'A Monster Calls' has one of the most heart wrenching endings I have read and will stay with me a long time after reading. The ending was neither shocking or unexpected but it was real. Patrick Ness has succeeded in combining painful truths with hope and the courage it takes to survive the difficulties we face in life.

'This is why I came walking, to tell you this so that you may heal. You must listen. You do not write your life with words, you write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.'

Monday, April 7, 2014

In The Blood by Lisa Unger

Lana Granger is a liar. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is, that even she can't remember the truth. 
Eleven-year-old Luke likes to play games. He is used to controlling the people in his life. But now that Lana has taken a a part-time job looking after him, he may have met his match.
Then Lana's closest friend Beck goes missing and Lana finds herself lying again - to friends, to the police, to herself. 
But someone knows all about Lana's lies. And they are dying to tell.


I received this copy from the publisher for an open and honest review.

Being an avid fan of horror and crime novels, I was thrilled to receive this copy of 'In The Blood' from Simon & Schuster. Like all book worms, I love discovering new authors to add to my reading list and Lisa Unger has become the latest author I will be seeking out and recommending to all my friends and family. 

'In The Blood' is an extremely clever crime thriller full of twists and turns that will have you gasping for breath! As with many other books I love, this novel throws you thick and fast into action from the very start. The reader is immediately informed that something terrible has happened but the whos, whats, whens and wheres are unanswered until the end of the novel. 

'My palms feel hot and sticky. I lift them up and look to see they are covered in blood. The lines on my hands in stark white relief against the red black. I am overcome by panicked confusion. What happened?'

The protagonist, Lana Granger, is a girl full of guarded secrets who would rather die than let the world uncover her true self. Taking a part-time job alongside her college course, Lana meets eleven-year-old Luke, an extremely troubled young boy who likes to play controlling games. Believing she can help him, Lana takes a job as Luke's babysitter and this is ultimately where the trouble begins. 

'What was there between us in that very first moment that would have told, if observed, everything that would follow? Nothing. I am sure of it. He was that good.'

Running alongside the plot, Lisa Unger exposes the reader to a series of diary entries written by a depressed mother whose young son won't stop crying. Throughout these entries we see the child grow up into a disturbed and dangerous young man. Lisa Unger intelligently weaves subtle clues into these diary entries that will eventually leave the reader reeling in shock. I loved that the twists and turns slowly dawned on me rather than being thrown slap bang in my face!

This novel has such a clever plot that I don't want to say too much in fear of giving anything away. Along with it's subtle twists and turns this novel is all about human behaviour - the good and the bad. Do we have the ability to make our own choices? Or are we wired to behave in a certain way from the moment we are born?

This is an exceptional psychological thriller that will captivate you from beginning to end.  A five star read that I highly recommend! 

'I am a person with secrets. And I guard them carefully, keep them locked in a box inside myself. I rarely open the lid of my psyche to look inside. Shame was a thick cloak that I wrapped around myself and hid beneath. It was dark and lonely, but at least it was safe.'