It’s been a while since I reviewed anything, so I thought I’d get back into practice with some quick reviews.
The Sleeper and the Spindle: Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)
I have been a Neil Gaiman fan for over 20 years now, but I’m only just realising how much I love rewritten fairy tales (surprising it took this long to notice), and also just realising how awesome Chris Riddell is (I know, I am so late to that party!) The Sleeper and the Spindle really is a must own book for any fan of Gaiman, Riddell, fairy tales, or beautiful books. I have no doubt that it will happily be a number one seller and need no reviews to convince anyone to buy. I adored the story (I hadn’t already read it in its previous anthology form) and the book is a beauty. I generally fall into Gaiman’s worlds with his way with words, and this not-quite Snow White, not-quite Sleeping Beauty, is a world I will dream in for a while. For another, very different, Snow White, read Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples.
The Crane Wife: Patrick Ness (Canongate, 2013)
Patrick Ness is a wonderful writer. A Monster Calls left me in tears, and I haven’t yet finished the Chaos Walking trilogy because I wasn’t in the right mood for the ending of the first and it affected me enough to put the trilogy aside! I wanted to like The Crane Wife more than I did. I think I just don’t like literary fiction. I try, and some of it works for me, but the majority doesn’t. Others describe this as beautiful and heartwarming, but I couldn’t forgive the characters for their infidelity, and without liking the characters, it was hard to like the story. It was beautifully written, but just not for me.
We Should All Be Feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate, 2014)
This is the slightly edited text of Adichie’s TEDx Talk. Honestly, I prefer the talk as Adichie is a fabulous speaker, but this text is important and should be shared widely. I bought it as Kindle version to support her. One day I’ll finish one of her books (I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Half of a Yellow Sun), but it’s my literary issue again. Her anecdote of a male friend being thanked for her leaving a tip came to mind only yesterday when I put my card on the tray to pay at a cafe and the server offered the card machine to Mr Chaos first…
Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: Cynthia Kim (Jessica Kingsly Publishing, 2014)
Cynthia Kim’s Musings of An Aspie blog is one of the sources that convinced me to ask for an adult autism assessment referral, I adore the way she puts across information in an understandable way. Describing her personal experiences and how Asperger’s affects her and many women. Within the first few paragraphs I was seeing myself again. That waiting to “grow out of” childhood quirks. Kim explains things well, with a positive bent. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone. For more details, see Jax’s review at Making it Up.
The Humans: Matt Haig (Canongate, 2013)
My reviews are going to fall apart more at this point as even a few weeks after reading my memory is rubbish. This is why I review picture books Matt Haig is excellent on Twitter, and writes thought provoking blog posts. I’ve only read The Radleys by him, which I did enjoy. The Humans was conceived at a time of depression, a story of an alien becoming more human than many humans. It is an uplifting read (despite technically starting with a murder) and one I’m glad to have read. I need to read more of Haig’s work (apart from the literary one!)
Shiverton Hall: Emerald Fennell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2012)
This is a 99p Kindle read I bought at some point and actually got round to reading (I have far too many I haven’t read yet.) It’s quite a fun horror read, set in a boarding school with creepy spirits and a secret to be discovered… As an adult, it’s all fairly predictable but this is probably a good early creepy read.
Goth Girl and the Fete Worse that Death: Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2014)
I think I may have enjoyed this even more than the first Goth Girl. My only problem with these books is that there’s just not enough to them, I want more. Filled with yet more pastiches of well known characters, modern and classic, and Riddell’s humorous illustrations packing every page, these books deserve a place on any bookshelf. The hardbacks are gorgeous with tinted page ends, ribbon, and full colour mini book. I still do wonder how many children will get half the references, but I don’t think it matters, I’m reading as an adult. As a child, I would have had a different experience.
Witchworld: Emma Fischel (Nosy Crow, 2014)
The first in a new series, Witchworld is set in a modern world where no one uses wands or broomsticks any more, not when you have modern technology instead. This makes for lots of fun inventions that are not-quite like our world, and still brings in all the traditional witchery with a grandmother and some supposedly-extinct monsters. I think this is a series that will be well enjoyed, and it’s got the fab Chris Riddell cover to draw you in too.
We Were Liars: E Lockhart (Hot Key Books, 2014)
Warning: SPOILERS. This is a much raved about YA book that I got in a 99p Kindle sale and started reading after someone raved about the amazing book and ending. I should never read a book when I know there’s a supposedly twist ending. I’m married to someone who makes films for fun, who understands story in film & TV so well that it’s best to tell him to stay quiet if you watch anything with him, because within 5 minutes he’s usually guessed the entire plot. Some of this rubs off. Perhaps the ‘amazing twist’ would have made this seem a better story. When you’ve seen it a mile off, it’s not particularly compelling. A story needs to be more than just a twist.
Cakes in Space: Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (Oxford University Press, 2014)
A sort-of not-at-all sequel to Reeve’s & McIntyre’s Oliver and the Seawigs, I loved Cakes in Space far more. I love the number of highly illustrated books that are appearing at the moment, whether it’s in response to eBooks (making paper books more appealing with an added extra), or the costs of printing, or something else entirely; whatever it is, long may it continue. Cakes in Space starts with a family going on a long space trip – 199 years long to be exact. No warp speed get-outs here, there is the weight of being settlers on a new planet long after everyone else you knew has died, wrapped up in the fabulous silliness of killer cakes. I’m recommending this to everyone I know – children and adults.
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse: Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2013)
I’m not quite sure why I waited so long to read this, and it was MG(7) who insisted I buy it as she fell in love with the book. On the plus side, this meant there was only a few weeks until I could read the second. It’s been a hard one for MG, she didn’t get any of the references so when I was giggling over the descriptions of Ada Goth’s governesses, she had no idea why. I think she will enjoy it more read alone, but she was reading it aloud to me. She’s not finished it, but it is aimed at 9+ so she’ll go back to it. The world of Goth Girl is brilliantly mad, it’s hard to explain but easy to fall in love with.
Children of the Folded Valley: Simon Dillon (Gajmo Publishing, 2014)
This was a Kindle freebie, and also written by someone I know. The concept is quite original: a religious cult hidden from the world in another dimension, a pocket of land on the edge of Dartmoor. It’s an intriguing dystopia, a seemingly idyllic world with secrets and lies behind the scenes. It reminds me of M Night Shyamalan’s The Village in some ways, except everyone knows that the Valley is hidden.
After I Left You: Alison Mercer (Black Swan, 2014)
After I Left You is set in Oxford, so I can picture much of it in my head. Anna is at Oxford University in the early 1990’s, almost exactly when I was at university (not at Oxford, although I visited friends there) so the world and the characters felt familiar. I thoroughly enjoy Mercer’s writing, and with After I Left You skipping between past and present with secrets and betrayal, its a compelling read. I found myself deeply caring for the characters, and as such I did not like the ending because it wasn’t what I wanted! But that’s why I gave it five stars, because it made me care enough.
Where We Belong: Catherine Ryan Hyde (Black Swan, 2014)
The blurb for Where We Belong interested me and I was fortunate to get approved on NetGalley to review. When I started it the descriptions of Sophie, the little sister with autism, seemed so negative that I thought I was going to hate the book. But my initial thoughts were completely wrong, Sophie is described how she is, but she is loved completely and utterly for that. The story isn’t really about Sophie and Rigby (the dog) but about Angie, her mother, and the neighbour Paul, with Sophie and Rigby being a catalyst for an unlikely friendship. I couldn’t visualise Paul at the age he was supposed to be. He’s in his late 60’s, but I pictured him 20-30 years younger, plus some of the conversations between Angie and Paul seem very unlikely. Despite that, this is a heart-warming story that I enjoyed, and I would read more by the same author.