Saturday, 28 May 2016

Book review: The Crocodile Under the Bed by Judith Kerr

This is not the usual sort of book I review as it's not YA! It's a kids' book designed for toddlers/early readers, and I was asked to review it because I have a small person of my own now. She's a bit young for this book at the moment, but it will go onto her bookshelf ready for when she's ready to start enjoying books.

On to the review...

Every child knows the space under the bed is where monsters live, but in this charming story it’s not scary creatures but a party-loving crocodile that’s lurking beneath Matty’s bed. The story is simple – Matty is sick and can’t go to a big party with his sister, so the crocodile takes him to his own party in the jungle.

The book is sized perfectly for small hands, with easy to hold, chew-proof board pages. Inside it i s filled with beautiful illustrations of Matty and the crocodile enjoying a celebration with the animals. There are even a couple of cameo appearances by the author’s most well-known and loved character, Mog the forgetful cat, for readers to try to spot.

The Crocodile Under the Bed would make a lovely bedtime story or something for older siblings to read to younger brothers or sisters.

  • Published by Harper Collins
  • RRP £6.99
  • ISBN 978-0-00-816668-7

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Book review: The Siren by Kiera Cass

Kahlen has a deadly secret – she is a siren, and if she speaks even one word it could doom anyone who hears it. The only people she can be herself around are her siren sisters, Aisling, Miaka and Elizabeth, and Her – the Ocean which looks after them in return for their services. Kahlen is feeling unsettled with her life, masquerading as a student among humans, when she meets Akinli, a boy who handily understands sign language. Think of it as a teenager’s version of The Little Mermaid.

Sadly this is where the book starts to go downhill. Cass’s penchant for odd names made it difficult to really get into the story to start with, and the relationship between Kahlen and Akinli is too instant to be believable.

There are some redeeming features - the best character in the book was Her, and her relationship with the sirens as part mother, part warden and part employer was fascinating. It was also an easy read which would be good for a beach holiday.

I did enjoy it as a novel idea and something a bit different. It isn’t a terrible book, but it had potential to be so much better.
  • RRP £7.99
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • ISBN 978-0-00-815793-7

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Book review: The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

It's no secret I love Rick Riordan's books, and I pre-ordered this as soon as I knew it was coming out. It didn't disappoint!

The story is the first in a new series in the Percy Jackson world. It follows on from the Heroes of Olympus series conclusion, but you don't have to have read that series to enjoy this book (there are a couple of references to previous books that will only make sense if you've read them, but they don't have any impact on following this story).

In a nutshell, this is a fish-out-of-water story. The Greek god Apollo has been punished by his father and king of the gods Zeus for his part in causing a war by being made human and thrown down to Earth. He believes the only way to get back to Olympus and be reinstated is to complete a series of trials, with the help of the demigods of Camp Half-Blood.

The book includes some characters from previous stories but the main focus is on Apollo and a feisty young demigod called Meg, who he meets when he first arrives in acne-covered-human form in New York. The story is told from Apollo's point of view, which is a brilliant ploy by Riordan as it not only gives an insight into the mind of a god but it shows the character development Apollo goes through during the story.

As with Riordan's other books, there are quests, prophecies, monsters, teenagers with supernatural abilities, mythical creatures and a generous dollop of fighting sprinkled with humour, great characters and excellent storytelling. I read the book in 24 hours - it grabbed my attention so well that while there were plenty of places I could finish a reading session, as soon as I put it down I wanted to know what happened next.

If you've already read the other Percy Jackson books then you should absolutely get this, and if you're new to Riordan's world then you should still get it, and pick up the other books in the Greek gods story arcs as well!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Book review: The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Bookshelves are full of dystopian young adult fiction at the moment, but the Divergent series is in my opinion possibly the best offering. If you've read my previous reviews you'll know I really wasn't impressed with the Hunger Games trilogy, mainly because I didn't like the way the main character developed. In contrast, Divergent manages to create a heroine who has plenty of character development while staying believable and, most importantly, likeable.

I got the whole series in a box set, which contains the trilogy of Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant, as well as Four, a collection of short stories exploring the back story of the character Four. I suspect it was released to coincide with the film release of Allegiant. All the books are, of course, available individually as well, and the short stories that comprise Four are also available separately. The books are interlinked through a larger story arc, but each could also be read as a standalone story (with the caveat that if you started with Allegiant then you may get confused with the number of characters, who are introduced in the previous books more slowly).

The stories follow Tris as she breaks away from her own faction, where selflessness is highly valued, to join the brave and foolhardy Dauntless faction, before getting involved in a battle between the factions and the factionless, which leads to the revelation of a secret which changes their world completely. Tris is flawed, occasionally idiotic, but eminently likeable, while the world she lives in is imaginative and unique.

There is plenty of action, with fights, guns, explosions and conflict, and there is a lot of violence, but the stories aren’t gory at all, with the possible exception of one scene in the first book, depending on how squeamish you are. There is a sex scene, but it's written in such a way that it doesn't really show anything but still conveys the emotions of the scene. In an interview with The Independent newspaper, Roth said that was entirely intentional so as to not alienate younger readers. She said: "I was concerned about not alienating my very young readers. I remember reading books at that age and stopping because I wasn't comfortable. I'm not trying to talk down to them. It's definitely a scene of great intimacy. That's what was important. I didn't want to have smut on the page. I don't want to titillate."

I really enjoyed the books, the stories, the characters, the world, the quality of writing, the descriptions, dialogue and the way the series resolved, which is not how you might expect! I definitely recommend the series.

  • RRP £12 for the box set
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • ISBN 0007591374