Thursday, 30 April 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Genre: Children's Fiction/Middle-Grade Fiction

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads Page

Goodreads Summary:

The signs are everywhere, Jory's stepfather, Caleb, says. Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in the aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them Jory's life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don't trust anyone outside the family, have your works at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

**Spoiler Free Review**

Publication Date, UK: 7th April 2015

I was sent a copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This book works so well as a children's story, but at the same time it has so many hidden layers to it that it remains very readable for an adult.

I have to say I'm finding it a little bit difficult to review this book not because I didn't enjoy it (for from it!), but because it's so different to anything I've ever read before. There is so much mystery and suspense throughout the book and the perspective of the child, Jory, adds to this. Jory is an average naive child who believes everything he is told by his family (as we all were) but when he starts going to school he begins to questions everything that his family has ever told him. Hubbard beautifully explores family and friend dynamics from the perspective of Jory.

As a reader, we understand that something is not quite right about Jory's family and it is fascinating to watch him discover the same thing gradually. The story is very surreal and there is so much that you want explaining as you read; it keeps you turning the page and constantly wanting to read more. 

I loved the characters in this book, especially the people Jory meets and school and Kit. Kit is just such a fascinating character and it's amazing how someone so quiet manages to say so much of importance. Hubbard explores so many detailed issues with the characters, not just broken families but also mental health issues and homeschooling. Being able to explore these issues in such a relatable way whilst simultaneously writing a book for children shows her incredible talent.

Her beautifully written passages allowed me to fly through the book. There is so much depth beneath its seemingly simple surface and that is the main thing I loved about it. A child could read it and see a children's story about friendship and a loving family, whilst an adult gets so much out from the deeper and more hidden meanings within the text. It is such a short book but its stayed with me since I read it.

I have heard that many people were disappointed with the ending but, as it's a short children's book, I personally loved the ending and felt very satisfied after closing the book. It suited and fitted well with the rest of the novel. Although there was so much I still wanted to explore within the story it also worked quite well with the way it ended. I would highly recommend this book to any reader at any age!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Top Five Wednesday | Favourite Series Endings

This week's Top Five Wednesday is Top Five Favourite Series Endings. Just in case anyone is new to this. Top Five Wednesday is an idea created by Lainey, or Gingerreadslainey on youtube. She creates weekly topics for bloggers and youtubers to talk more about different aspects of their favourite books. The group, which lists the monthly topics, can be found here!

I've not been very active on my blog in the past month, especially with Top Five Wednesday's, as you may have noticed, because I've been going through a really busy period with my job. But I'm back now!

I actually found this topic more difficult than last month's 'Top Five Worst Series Endings' and I think that's because the bad endings tend to leave a bad taste in your mouth which takes you a long time to forget. However, I've found my top five favourite series endings and this post will be completely spoiler free!

5) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

This is one where I know a lot of people will disagree. There are so many people who despised this ending but I thought it was very fitting. I loved the exploration of the world and how it came to be (which I think isn't often explored enough in dystopian fiction yet it's the thing I'm most interested in). Although I wasn't exactly 'happy' when I finished the book, I was definitely satisfied with the ending and would pick the trilogy up again. To see my full (spoiler-free) review of Allegiant, you can click here!

4) The Master by Louise Cooper
This trilogy by Louise Cooper is one of the most unique fantasy trilogies I've ever read. It's quite an old series and I don't often hear people talking about it. To be honest, I only picked it up at my sister's recommendation, and I'm so glad I did! This book was filled with the most complex characters I've ever read and it made the story line very realistic because of this. If you're a lover of fantasy then definitely check this series out: it follows Tarod from when he was just a small child to him discovering his powers and growing up in the incredible and interesting world Cooper creates. It blurs good and evil and like no story I've ever read before and, in my opinion, the ending is one of the most concrete and satisfying endings I've ever read.

3) Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
The Inheritance Cycle is one of my absolute favourite fantasy series of all time. Dragons, magic, elves, long-lost family members, what more can you ask for in a fantasy series? I started reading this series when I was about 10 and I read the final book when I was 18 so it stayed with me for a long time, and I love to re-read them. Although I haven't read the final book since 2011, I remember absolutely loving it. It had incredibly epic battles and although not everyone lived 'happily ever after' it still felt as though everything right had happened. It is such an epic series that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book (and don't be put off by their size, they're so easy to read!).

2) The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

I absolutely love this trilogy. Philip Pullman is an incredible author. (As a side note, I also wanted to add the final book of his Sally Lockhart series to this list but I decided to limit it to one book/series per author). This final installment explores so much more of the world Pullman creates and it has such powerful messages in it. Although part of the ending was incredibly sad, I really enjoyed it and I felt like it took the trilogy so much further than the previous two books. I don't feel like enough people have read this trilogy and I would highly recommend it to fantasy/steam-punk fiction lovers, although I do think it has something which can appeal to any reader.

1) The Wizard's Promise by Cliff McNish

As a young child, this was my favourite trilogy to get out of the library to read and no-one ever seems to have heard of it. The Doomspell Trilogy is a Teenage Fantasy trilogy which follows two children from earth who end up stranded in a world of witches and magic and the war which ensues between the worlds. It is incredibly well written and fast-paced and I love re-reading the series. The final book explores so many more characters and creatures and the epic battle which erupts between the sides. It is moving and interesting and I cannot recommend this trilogy enough to people. The final book leaves the reader satisfied and ties up all the loose ends from the books. This will always be a favourite of mine.

So those are my Top Five Favourite Series Endings! Give me a comment and let me know what yours are or if you've done Top Five Wednesday then leave me a link and I'll check it out!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice by Taran Matharu

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads Page

Goodreads Summary:

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

**Spoiler Free Review**

Publication Date, UK: 5th May 2015

I was sent a copy of this book from Hachette Children's Group, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book has a lot of hype in the Blogging and Booktube communities and I was a bit wary when I went into reading it. However, I ended up really really enjoying it. It's one of those books I wish I'd read as a young teenager or a child because it was everything I'd ever wanted in a fantasy book: magic, familiars, elves, dwarves and a magical school.

Fletcher was a very interesting and complex character for such a young book, as were his friends (and enemies) at the school. I particularly loved Fletcher's interaction with the elves and dwarves throughout the book and I'm looking forward to seeing how these characters develop further in the next books. I loved Othello and his twin, and also Slyva, and the changes they underwent in this book. The social prejudices within the world Matharu built, with the division both of species and classes, only elicited more suspense and tension within the book, and it also created extremely believable reasons for such young characters to have 'enemies'. Matharu succeeds in creating a complex and believable world yet at the same time paints the picture of it in such a way that doesn't confuse the reader or overload them with information at any one time. Each character, even those who only appeared on a few pages, were three-dimensional and I was interested in all of their back stories. I constantly wanted more!

As many people do, I loved the idea of the school where training takes place so the young characters can develop their powers, especially when it leads towards a tournament/trial. The exploration of the lessons, characters, powers and the world was so fascinating and it kept me hooked. My only complaint was that I felt there wasn't enough of the school. I would've loved that to go on longer and explore their lessons further, but it was still fantastically well done.

The demons in this book were definitely one of my absolute favourite things and they helped to make this very unique from other fantasy books. Fletcher's demon, Ignatius, was both adorable and feisty and I loved the idea that every character had their own demon to fight and protect them, and that you could catch more! It reminded me of pokemon, in a way, but it was still very different to that. The fact that the demon's ancient memories could leak through was also very interesting and it allowed the reader to see so much more into the amazing world Matharu created. I loved seeing the different demons and it was great having the index of demons at the back of the book to refer to. I definitely want to see more of them in the next book. 

And that ending! In a way I could see it coming and I just didn't want it to happen. Matharu had me completely hooked and I ended up reading the last 150 pages in one sitting as I just couldn't book the book down. I am desperate to know what happens next!

As I said in the beginning of this review, I wish I had read this book at an earlier age. It didn't stop me from enjoying it now but I did see how familiar it was to other fantasies. That's not to say that it wasn't unique, just that it followed a lot of the same tropes (orphan boy coming into some sort of power and going to learn how to use it etc.). This was literally the only thing that brought the book down from a five star rating though, as I absolutely loved the premise and I'm definitely looking forward to the next book!