Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Review + Author Interview Talking is Not my Thing by Rose Robbins (Children's, Picture book,10E/10E)

 February 2020, Scallywag Press, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Summary from Scallywag Press
 The autistic sister of this delightful sibling duo knows what she wants to say, but can’t say it out loud. However, there is plenty of fun she and her brother can have together without verbal communication, and she is often one step ahead of him!

Nayu's thoughts
I am not sure if it is Rose's other book that I've read, but I have read books with non-verbal siblings, but never from the view of the sibling in question. Having an insight into what the non-verbal sister is thinking was extremely interesting. It must be so hard not to be able to communicate easily with others, especially when something is wrong, which happens for the sister when a beloved toy goes missing. All that is on her mind is finding the toy, but because she is so focused on that she doesn't even use her flashcards when her family try and work out what is going on. It doesn't matter as the toy is found safe and well, and love transcends words 

I loved how cute the illustrations are, the bright colours work with the story and I definitely will reread this book in the future (it is being donated to a local school a friend works at, so will hopefully help many children understand non-verbal friends easier.) 

Find out more on Rose's website and in the interview below! 

Question and Answer with Rose Robbins

Meet Rose!
Nayu: Here are a few questions which Rose kindly answered about Talking Is Not My Thing

What made you decide to tell the story from the girl’s point of view, and to have her brother echo her thoughts by his words?

I already had a book from the brothers perspective, and I was curious about what his sister thought about everything, and how she managed being non-verbal. I suppose I exercised my curiosity by writing a book about it! The sister communicates with the reader through her thought bubbles, but I wanted to make it clear that the brother and other characters were not able to read those thoughts.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book to make it accurate?

I read a lot about speech and language therapy, as well as running a few drafts by people with lived experience of being non-verbal. Research for me is vitally important, as I want to be accurate and relatable wherever possible. 

What would you like readers to take away from the book?

That all forms of communication are equal.

Will there be more books about the siblings exploring other areas of life?

I hope so! There is a lot more to explore, maybe a wordless picture book next?

What is your favourite snack and drink when writing?

I love crackers with dips and cheese, and I will usually drink tea… But if I could have anything, then I love a banana milkshake!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Blog Tour: No Smoke Without Fire by Claire S Lewis (Thriller, 9/10E)

7th May 2020, Aria, 306 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Book summary
Celeste has been running from her past for seven years. But now her past has found her. 

For seven years, Celeste has battled her guilt and shame over the tragic events that led to her little brother's death. But when her high-school boyfriend comes back into her life just as she gains a stalker, she wonders if there's more to the story than she realized.

Celeste is determined to discover the truth – but she's about to find out that when you play with fire, you get burned...

Nayu's thoughts 
My initial thoughts were that she was mostly innocent about her brother's death, she was no angel but she wasn't evil either. By the end I didn't know what to think. I liked the way that her stalker's viewpoint was put at the beginning of the chapter, with her story straight after, and it made me feel sorry for her. But bit by bit Celeste did things which were most definitely not good deeds. Yes I understand that she was angry to her ex teenage boyfriend, but what she did was criminal damage. Some of things that the stalker recorded were so awful that I wondered how she got away with it, and why she did them knowing that her actions could affect young lives. 

For a while I thought her ex-boyfriend was the stalker - it made total sense to me until the point I realised it was someone else. Even when the truth came out near the end, in moments that make me doubt Celeste's sanity and be unsure of who was speaking the truth, I was confused about what really happened. I understand what happened with her brother, but the reason for her stalker simply didn't seem to be explained, unless I was too tired when I read it and misunderstood the revelation. In most cases I would reread the book in time, but what happens with her stalker happened to a friend at university, and I just can't relive that. 

Overall the story is brilliant: I couldn't stop reading it, Celeste seems both vulnerable and an instigator of trouble. I usually feel sorry for a protagonist like her, and want her to be safe, but I couldn't because of the decisions she takes which walk her towards being a crazy person herself, like her stalker.. Perhaps her brother's death meant that she would be forever tainted, that she was predisposed to reckless behaviour and revenge. Knowing she was being stalked was terrifying, as I wanted to warn her to be careful, in case events turned sour and she got in trouble with the stalker. She is a character I won't forget for a long time, even if I am unsure of what was real and what was in her head. 

My favourite character has to be the long suffering Meghan, who was super kind to Celested, all things considered. Without her Celeste wouldn't have survived well. I did want to hit Celeste's friends on the head for being insensitive, even if they didn't know all the facts the should have been more considerate of how she was feeling. I did like how the themes of domestic violence were explored, that everything can seem fine on the outside of a home but the inside is a different matter.

Be sure to check out other stops on the tour! Which has a part 2 shown below

Monday, 27 April 2020

Hey, Water by Antoinette Portis (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)

2nd April 2020, Scallywag Press, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Summary from Scallywag Press
Join a young girl as she celebrates that water is everywhere. It doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes and sizes. As she discovers water in nature, in weather, in her home, and even inside her own body, water comes vividly to life in this gorgeously illustrated non-fiction picture book.

Nayu's thoughts
Water is vital to all life, especially for us humans, so I was intrigued what water facts I would learn from Hey, Water. The style that the knowledge is conveyed is super easy to pick up. I loved relearning water facts that I remember learning as a child, the different states it can be in (solid, liquid, gas), water's role in weather systems, how it can be both hot and cold, smooth (fluid at least) and hard. Water is immensely versatile, the simple sentences say what the water is on the page, with more detailed writing at the back which will continue the reader's curiosity. 

I loved how the water literally flowed from one page to the next, showing great thought in the layout which older readers will appreciate when they help younger readers explore the book. I can easily see discussions being held about the types of water explained in book, both during and after reading. It is perfect to team up with scientific learning about water, as well as being enjoyed on it's own as a thought provoking read. 

Find out more on Antoinette's website, which opens in a way that made me laugh.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Clever Cakes by Michael Rosen and Ashley King (Children's, 5 years +, 9/10E, Dyslexia Friendly)

 March 2020, Barrington Stoke, 72 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Barrington Stoke
Are you smart enough to escape from a hungry grizzly bear? Could you trick a grumpy king out of a giant golden belly-button?

It pays to be able to think on your feet, especially if you’re about to be eaten alive or cheated out of a valuable prize! So it’s just as well that Masha and Peggy are two clever kids, each with a cunning plan …

Nayu's thoughts 
 I haven't read a Michael Rosen book for ages, and since the title story appeared to be a version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, which I am rather fond of, I decided to check it out. Michael's distinctive writing style shines through the clever stories. The second tale about a belly button was good in creativity, but not one I would personally reread, unlike the first story which had me hanging on to every single word, forever fearful that poor Masha would come to harm with the bear. Her quick wit combined with the bear's lack of common sense means she does survive her ordeal. 

The bear's hunger and selfishness in kidnapping her prove to be his downfall. He could have just asked Masha to help him out, or at the least pay her. But then there wouldn't be a story to tell. It may be short, but it is very sweet, and will probably make readers want to eat some tasty cake. I'm

 looking forward to when Michael write's another book for Barrington Stoke! 

Find out more on Michael's website.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Fergus the Furball by Emily Snape (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)

February 2020, Ransom Publishing, 240 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Ransom Publishing
When Daniel's parents scoot off to Scotland instead of celebrating his tenth birthday, leave his dipsy aunt in charge and give him a plant as his present (not the PET he'd pleaded for), can you really blame him for wishing he had a guinea pig instead of a brother? Now Daniel must somehow undo the magic before his parents find out, whilst also managing to defeat bullies, escape nutty chefs, make new friends and ultimately learn how much he truly does love his younger brother (even if he now eats his own poo).

Nayu's thoughts
I jumped at the chance to review Fergus's tale (or should it be tail?) because anything involve a human changing into an animal is amusing - I wasn't disappointed! The way Fergus transforms was amusing, although not for Daniel. I think most readers will recall a time when they had a disappointing birthday present, and while I understand why Daniel didn't get a pet, Daniel didn't. Thanks to birthday magic his wish about his annoying younger brother comes true: and that causes many problems! 

Making excuses for why his brother doesn't appear to aunt only works because of how ditzy she is. I guess Daniel and Fergus's parents thought at least the aunt would keep them alive and relatively safer than if they were left on their own (which they couldn't be due to their ages). If they ever found out the truth they would rethink that notion. I think Fergus got to grips with being a guinea pig pretty quickly. The way he manages to communicate with Daniel is cute. I love that the magic brings the brothers closer together in the end, although Fergus will never stop being a bit annoying, as that is what siblings are like. 

The story is chock full of humour, with some moments of peril that had me worried for Fergus's safety, but in the back of my head I knew this kind of tale is one that ends well. It is on my reread pile for sure, especially when I need a pick-me-up read not only for the story but the plentiful illustrations which add even more humour to the situations Daniel and Fergus wind up in.  
Find out more on Emily's website.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Magicat by Jennifer Gray, Amanda Swift and Richard Watson (Children's,

February 2020, Barrington Stoke, 92 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Barrington Stoke
What’s that falling from the sky? It’s Magicat!

When Magicat is knocked off his witch’s broom by a stray firework, he has no way of getting home to Magic Land. Luckily, he’s found by friends Jessie and Ali, who look after him while he waits for Wenna Witch to come and rescue him.

 But while they wait, what could be the harm in doing just a little bit of magic?
Nayu's thoughts 
I adore cats. I love magic. I personally wouldn't want Magicat because of the utter chaos that unfolded because of his arrival. He doesn't quite realise the difference between life among witches and among non-magical humans. Both the size and impact of the magical messes Magicat creates have to be read to be believed. But you know what? I love how cute Magicat is. How big his heart is. How helpful he tries to be for Jessie and Ali, who do want to see as much magic as Magicat can manage. 

Magicat isn't a fully fledged magical cat. He has to study so he doesn't get behind the other cats, usually I just think of magical cats being simply magical, rather than needing to learn magic themselves, since they are usually with a magical witch. He manages to have an impact on the local bully which I hope might be permanent, just so Jessie and Ali can get some peace. Magicat has to pretend to be a normal cat among the adults, which to be fair he does a good job of. There are so many laughs that counter the tiny bit of sadness when Magicat has to leave, which he does in a unique way. 

Find out more on Jennifer's website, and Amanda's website.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Enchanting Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland by Sharon Jacksties and Bea Baranowska (Fiction, Folktales, 9/10E)

February 2020, The History Press, 192 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Book summary
 Stories and animals have long travelled the same routes. Through our heritage of charming, quirky and profound tales, you will find yourself re-acquainted with Britain’s wondrous fauna. Find out how hedgehog ended up with spines and what makes him scuttle so fast, discover how pigs saved a prince from leprosy and why the wealthy lord was so intent on capturing the black fox. Sharon Jacksties’ wonderful book combines traditional stories, little-known zoological facts and true anecdotes to create a treasure trove of stories for animal lovers of every kind.

Nayu's thoughts 
This took a bit of time to read because for some peculiar reason it takes me longer to read folk tales, memoires, and other stories which may be fictional, they may not. Even though it is written in English I seem to need to concentrate more on the words than what I call regular fiction. Regardless, what you can't easily see from the cover photo is how beautiful it is to look at. The colours and texture of the hardback is ever so inviting. 

Folk tales are not known for having happily ever after endings, or being wholesome tales. There are some rather dark ones that I confess to skipping once I realised where the tale was heading - some folk tales, as is known from the Brothers Grimm versions, may as well be called horror fiction, so scary is the tale within despite animals being involved. Not all animals are cute and cuddly! 

Sometimes justice is served - I loved those tales a lot, as well as what classes as an ok ending. It was fascinating learning so many tales about deer, seals and foxes. The prince saving pigs reminded me of the Aesop's Fables book I had when I was a child, these tales are meant to be read more than once to understand the full meaning of them. It makes a fascinating read, and one that will be on my reread shelf, with a long time period between each read because of the horror factor. I learnt so much which yes I have promptly forgotten due to a rubbish memory, but while I read the tales it made me more appreciated of nature, and this wonderful world which God created (the book is not religious in any form, that is me)

Find out more about Sharon's website and Bea's website.