Saturday, 31 March 2012

Hattori Hachi: The Revenge of the Praying Mantis by Jane Prowse (Children's, 10 years +)

March 2011, Piccadilly
284 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: family secrets, trust no one, ninjas, ninja magic, rigorous training, intruders, kidnapping, arson, disguises, deception, growing up, true friendship, single parent, GCSEs, some fighting, arson, humour

Summary from Piccadilly
An ancient ancestry to uncover, and a destiny to discover

'Run!' Mad Dog shouts. 'Run, Hattie – RUN!'
I turn again and see the impossible – shadowy figures are filling the room! The graffiti on the walls is not graffiti at all – it's real people and they're PEELING OFF THE WALLS!

Hattie Jackson is just an ordinary fifteen-year-old – until her mother disappears and Hattie's life is turned upside down. With the help of her friend Mad Dog, Hattie discovers the truth about her mother's 'other life' and the role she must now take on to defeat a terrifying league of evil ninjutsu warriors, led by Praying Mantis – the most deadly assassin known to man .

Nayuleska's thoughts

Hatti is as funky as the cover. I thought Yazuki was overly harsh on her at one point, but then realised that had to happen for Hattie to grow. Yazuki is as cool as Yoda from Star Wars. Life gets quite grim but Hattie has an inner strength. I loved the role her best friend Neena played in the story - I foresee Neena helping Haatie a lot in future books of this 9/10 read.

You can find out more about Hattie on the dedicated website .

Suggested read

If you like this, try another japanese ninja book The Warrior's Path: Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow

Friday, 30 March 2012

The start of the weekend

(Holo from Spice and Wolf - I'm getting the first season in June!)

I used to treat the end of the working week as a normal week day. I'd come in, relax for an hour and a bit, catch up with a friend online, then read & watch TV depending on what was on.

Not any more!

(Shana from Shakugan No Shana (Japanese title) eating melon bread - she can't get enough of it!)

Now I start my weekends in style, & it's super fun. I get in, grab a quick snack and a drink then head on up to my room and Sort Things Out.

(At least my piles of stuff aren't this big! Poor Aika in the Aria anime has a lot to sort - well, her tutor does too!)

During the week whatever I use & whatever post I get gets put in piles/bags and isn't sorted straight away. I'm usually too tired to contemplate figuring out where it all goes on my shelves and in my cupboards. So Friday is the time I actually put the stuff away. It can take quite a while with rest breaks. I even do the very rare thing of dusting. Like I said, it's rare. Today was mostly sorting out books - it seems I'm missing one Drina book, so might have to see if I ordered it or not this weekend. I had dvds to put away too, and clean laundry which somehow gets smaller as the week progresses. What? It saves me picking out clothes from my wardrobe! Tomorrow I need to sort and put a pile of clean laundry away - it's still finishing off drying.

Usually once I've finished the short tidy up I'm pretty shattered, and today was no exception. So I got myself clean, and now am getting ready for a dvd fest.
Friday night = movie night. Only tonight I'm not up for a whole movie. So I'm having an anime fest!

 The next few Winx episodes in Season 3 are sad ones (the one where Techna gets her Enchantix and vanishes *forever*)

 (Tecna in Enchantix transformation)

So I'm going to watch Pop Pixie - I'm on volume two where both Chatta and Lockette get their Pop Magique (not sure of direct French translation).

(Chatta in her Pop Magique transformation)

 Now, I really wanted to carry on with Negima. Unfortunately I've been missing disc 2 for an age. I knew I'd put it somewhere safe, but as usual that place eluded me.

 (It's common for Atsuna to hassle Negi at the start of the series)

Now, I really wanted to carry on with Negima. Unfortunately I've been missing disc 2 for an age. I knew I'd put it somewhere safe, but as usual that place eluded me.

Well, I was putting a wayward BBC series Robin Hood dvd back in its boxset...and out slilpped Negima disc! So no guesses for what I'm watching tonight! ^o^ heehee.

Do you have a special way to start the weekend? If not, why not start one! I'd love to hear about what you do.

(Akari in Aria anime with President Aria (yes, he's the cat)) He looks so cute! He may not talk, but he's highly intelligent and makes his wishes known).

The Comic Cafe by Roger Stevens (Children's, 10 years +)

5th April 2012, Frances Lincoln
pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: summer holidays, home alone, 1 brother & 4 sisters, strange strangers, haunted house, a rat, a cat with mountains of attitude, heaps of dirt, new friends, peril - both mild & major, rice, tea, art, lots of humour

Summary from Frances Lincoln 
Wilf and his family have moved to the seaside to start a new life by opening a run-down cafe. But for his parents it's all too much, and quite separately they decide to take a break from the family, not realising that the other has also left. So Wilf and his four younger sisters fend for themselves and decide to renovate the cafe as a surprise for their parents' return. But ghostly sounds in the house, a parade of oddball and inquisitive visitors and the mysterious links between the cafe's previous owner and the local art gallery complicate their efforts. As Wilf's superhero comic characters take shape on the cafe's walls, covering the fat ladies who previously decorated it, the children's attempts to hide their parentless state slowly unravel, leading to a dramatic turn of events on the day they open the cafe to the public

Nayuleska's thoughts
I read this when I was ill, and it really cheered me up. The siblings are hilarious. They each have distinct personalities, which prove useful as time passes without either parent. I like all of them equally, I love how they pull together especially during the scary moments. I'd love a sequel for this not too scary 10/10 read (I scare easily).

Suggested read

For another cafe read which has both humour and sensitivity, check out The Breakfast Museum by Andrew Matthews 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Twitter Avatar Identity, Winx Flora's Enchantix, & general news

For a few weeks I've been wondering who this anime character is. I've adopted her as my Twitter avatar, and I'm starting to use her quite a bit here now. 

I was squeeing with delight by a comment this morning. This girl is called Holo from the anime Spice and Wolf! More info here.... (I'm not an affiliate of wiki or anything, it's the first explanation I came to) It sounds an awesome anime, with Holo being a wolf goddess. You can be sure that when I'm able to treat myself again, I will be buying this anime as it looks just my thing. 

Here's another nice Japanese picture of her. 

Squeee! I'm editing this post to add that the first season of Spice & Wolf is released in UK in June! I'm so preordering this! I have to. It's my duty as an anime fan, you know? Whoohoo!

On other news I have recovered from yesterday's evil bout of bad nausea. With the spring break coming up, I'm hoping to get lots of writing and reading done. Thanks to having Wednesdays off work, I'm ending up with an entire week off (starting next Wednesday). I'm pretty excited about it, as I hope I can finish the latest version of Sky Fairies book 1. 

Speaking of fairies naturally leads to the fairy show which I watch most days, Winx!  (It has to be the French version. I don't have the English one, and I don't want it. Having heard lots of clips online for different languages, French is definitely my favourite.) Because I haven't been able to read as much as I like lately, I've been watching a bit more of it than usual because it's one of the few shows which instantly cheers me up.

 (Flora with Enchantix full view from here

 (Flora with Enchantix close up)

I'm nearing halfway through Winx season 3. I love all the episodes in all the series, but in seasons 3 my favourites are when the girls get their Enchantix. I've just had Flora receive hers - the colours suit her so well. 

(Flora in normal mode with Mielle from here)

Her little sister Mielle is adorable, and I start tearing up every time I watch the scene when Mielle falls in the pool and Flora gives up her life to save her. (Only thanks to Enchantix she doesn't die).

That's pretty much it for today - short and sweet as I have books to go read! Enjoy the rest of your evening.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack (Young Adult)

15th March 2012, Atom
296 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: realities of life as a ballet dancer, constantly seeking best figure, crazy diets, extreme jealousy, finding passion in what you do, msking hsrd decisions, mild teen romance, hanging with the wrong people, smattering of smile moments, tissues needed

Summary from Atom
As a dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is living her childhood dream. She gets to be up on stage in front of adoring crowds every night. And while she might not be a prima ballerina yet, she's moving up the ranks and surely if she works hard enough she can make it happen.

But devoting her whole life to ballet leaves very little time for anything else: friends, family, school have all fallen by the wayside. Hannah doesn't mind, until a chance encounter in a restaurant brings Jacob into her life. He's cute, he plays guitar and he's offering a whole future that Hannah never considered. And now she must choose between her lifelong dream or what could be the love of her life. . .

Nayuleska's thoughts

I love reading ballet books, which pushed this high up on my reading pile. I love how Hannah loves some of her ballet life. She loves the dancing itself, but not the constant behind the scenes personality battles. It takes an unpleasant event, several people with kind hearts who are in Hannah's life, and a lot of courage for Hannah to make the best decision in her life. You won't be disappointed with this 10/10 read. Except I really wanted Hannah in her red dress on the cover once I'd read. The cover used is cool.

For more about the book and Sophie, head over to her website.

Suggested read
For competitve nature and life as a girl growing up and living her dream, try Kay Woodward's skating series which starts with Skate School: Ice Princess

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Drive-By Valentine by Kimber An (romance, short story)

March 2012, Noble Romance
Review copy

Themes: learning self-happiness, finding yourself, stop putting others before yourself, cars, wisdom, happiness

Summary from Noble Romance
Pushing thirty on Valentine’s Day, Eve realizes her desperate search for love has led to nothing but misery. Then, she takes a chance on a little old lady who’s famous for finding the perfect guy for every girl just by looking at his truck.
Nayuleska's thoughts
A sweet way of finding Mr Right. I enjoyed Sofia's sharp & accurate assessment of people's characters in this 10/10 read.

You can find out more about Kimber An on her website.

Suggested read
Try one of Kimber An's Young Adult paranormal romance books, Sugar Rush

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

To Be A Cat by Matt Haig (Children's, 9 years +)

February 2012, Bodley Head
342 pages (review copy), Hardback
Review copy

Themes: cats, cat breeds, cat gangs, cat foibles, bullies, losing family, friends helping no matter what, realising what's important in life, gratitude, justice, misunderstandings, a trapped mouse, mildish peril

Summary from Random House Children's Books 
Barney Willow thinks life couldn't get any worse. He's weedy, with sticky-out ears. Horrible Gavin Needle loves tormenting him - Barney has no idea why. And headteacher-from-hell Miss Whipmire seems determined to make every second of Barney's existence a complete misery! Worst of all, Dad has been missing for almost a year, and there's no sign of him ever coming home.

Barney just wants to escape. To find another life... Being a cat, for example. A quiet, lazy cat. Things would be so much easier - right?

Barney's about to discover just how wrong he is. Because he's about to wake up as a cat - and not just any cat. Gavin Needle's cat...

Nayuleska's thoughts 
It took being changed into a cat for Barney to realise not everything which seems unpleasant is hard to live with, that he had way more blessings than he realised, and he liked being himself most of the time. His realisations at several points in the story made me cry, thus making it a 10/10 read.

You can find out more about Matt on his website. 

Suggested read
For a young girl who has cat powers without turning into a cat read the Pocket Cats books by Kitty Wells. One of my favourites is the ballet themed one: Pocket Cats Dancing Dreams (Isn't the cover adorable!)

Monday, 26 March 2012

What are you reading? #108

What are you reading on Monday? is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Home Girl's Book Blog where you post books completed last week and plans for upcoming books. Jump over to her blog and see who else is participating.

Books I've read this week


To Be a Cat by Matt Haig
Children's, 9 years +
(Be very careful what you wish for - and you will never look at a cat the same way again!)

Drive-by Valentine by Kimber Ann
(Definitely a short but sweet read...)

Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Young Adult
(An insightful ballet book, which has renewed my love of such stories!)

Hattori Hachi: The Revenge of the Praying Mantis by Jane Prowse
(I love this because Hattie's best friend plays a significant role, which adds to the appeal...)

Hattori Hachi: Stalking the Enemy by Jane Prowse
(I loved this 2nd book even more than the first, and yes Hattie's best friend really comes into her own!)

My Scorching Summer Diary by Kelly Ann by Liz Rettig
Young Adult
(Life gets pretty incredible for Kelly - she's a little crazy!)

Star Fighters: Alien Attack by Max Chase
(You can't beat space invasion stories, especially ones where the hero has unusual abilities...)

Star Fighters: Deadly Mission by Max Chase
(Rating lowered as the female character was hardly in it - so it's very much a personal choice...)

The Comic Cafe by Roger Stevens
Release Date:  April 2012
(A truly hilarious and sweet read!)


Books I've re-read

Eight Keys by Suzanne Lafleur
(I cried more this second time round than the first, and enjoyed it even more.)

I'm currently re-reading

Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley
Children's, 10 years +
(I'm re-reading it as the 2nd book is now out. Reading for bed makes it less surprising that I dreamt I was a fairy last night, flying around and being seen by non-fairies. Unlike Zaria I didn't get in trouble!)

So, what have you been reading?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Young Samurai: The Ring of Wind by Chris Bradford (Children's, 9 years +)

March 2012, Puffin
356 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: pirates, samurai code & customs, ninja fighting, female pirates, a monkey with attitude, foes who defy death, mystical events, real & fake dragons, solid friendships, betrayal, keeping promises, lots of violence, some blood,

Summary from Puffin
Ambushed by the Shogun's samurai, Jack and his friends have only one hope of escape - the Seto Sea. But with ferocious storms, man-eating sharks and ninja pirates at every turn, their chosen route is fraught with danger.

A treacherous crew only adds to their problems as they flee south from a ruthless samurai sea lord. Unless Jack can harness the Ring of Wind, he and his friends are destined for a watery grave . . .
Nayuleska's thoughts

Somehow I'd managed to think this was the last book in the series right up until the end. No wonder it was open ended! I've read books 1 & 2, and didn't feel as though I'd missed out on too much with the well placed summaries. There were times when I was a bit disinterested in Jack because I prefer girl protagonists, some parts of the book felt repetitive - although there were big differences in the fights, the finer points of fighting were similar. I have to stress I think it's just my personal preferences for books. The plot twists were well executed and leave me wondering how it all will end. This is a 7/10 read, with lovely short chapters that help keep the pace fast.

Check out more on the dedicated website.  You can also find out more on Chris's website 
Suggested read

Start at the beginning of the series, which includes book 2 Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Go with the flow

This is Stella from Winx Club, Season 4 when the girls have their magical pet shop. Stella shops like no-one else. There's nothing stopping her (unless it's some enemies) between her and new clothes, as her friend, who include Musa (left) and Layla (right). Even her friends know to go along with her suggestions, unless they are totally outrageous, because it'll be easier in the long run. I was actually thinking of the time where she enters a Miss Magix competition (beauty contest - yes she is a little shallow). The girls agree reluctantly - and only because they love her. 

What I'm getting to is that in life, you need to go with the flow. Often we have an idea of how a day/week/month should be. Naturally things change because other people are involved, and nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Over the past year or so I've learnt just to go with the flow. So I'm doing exactly that. 

Yesterday was a really good day editing - I got through 2 chapters. Today I haven't even managed one. I did manage an hour, and it was really good fun. Today my body doesn't want to meet up with my grand aspirations (3 hours editing, 1 hour blogging, a few dvds and a good 6 hours of reading). I needed a few groceries, so made sure I'd blogged before I left home. I know from experience it is really Not A Good Idea to keep editing when my body is holding up 'rest now' signs. When I feel like I could do this at 11am

(Akari from Aria anime falling asleep as she works on her design for the palaquin (post that stands in water outside the gondola store front)) 

I know better than to argue. I rested up with 2 episodes of Bones - including the one where Angela and Hodgins get married in prison (it makes sense if you watch it). 

 I finished off volume 1 of Pop Pixie

 And even watched the first episode of Rozen Maiden. I confess I'm  having to watch it with the subtitles on - I try not to, but there's a lot of language I don't understand (which is more language specific to the series and not necessarily every day life). But after this once, I'll keep them off on the next round. 

I then read half of this, which is rather funny. I'm putting it down now because my reading speed has been decreasing the more chapters I read. 

So what am I going to watch tonight, you ask? Well...I think it's time I have a Winx fest! I'm on season 3, and hopefully I might get as far as the girls starting to get their Enchantix *fan girl squeal*. This is my favourite series of all time, it truly is. 

(this is from season 4 - left to right is Techna, Flora, Musa and Stella)

Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan (Fiction)

1st March 2012, Michael Joseph
442 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: complexities of family life, trials and triumphs of step-families, hidden and open grief, infidelity & the consequences, miscommunication, sisterhood, blood isn't always the tightest bond, taking the plunge, stunning bridal outfit, mild romance, tissues needed

Summary from Penguin
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled.
But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, realizing this ambition has not been easy.

With an ex-husband embarking on a new marriage, and the surprising and late blooming developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about, especially with Eve's upcoming wedding.

And when she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces the ultimate dilemma. Does she step in and risk the wrath of her daughters? Or does she stand by and watch them both make what she fears will be the biggest mistakes of their lives?

Nayuleska's thoughts 
I was drawn to this book firstly by the Russian dolls and then by the fact that I'm a daughter and a sister. The characters are made real by the mistakes they make, mistakes which often don't have a happy ending. Yet by the end each of the sisters and Lara find their way in life as a result of the ups and downs they faced, both together and apart. For the record, Maudie is my favourite character because she is quite like me in this 9/10 read.

Suggested read For more family drama try Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Swift by R J Anderson (Children's, 9 years +)

 (as ever, such an awesome cover!)
March 2012, Orchard
368 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Themes: magic, monsters, fairies, shape changers, bardship, betrayal, kidnapping, flight, escape, family ties, blood ties, humans, breaking free, a little fighting, lots of tissues needed

Summary from Orchard
Ivy sensed the stone hurtling towards her and rolled - too late. Heat scored across her back in a blaze of dazzling pain. The ground spiralled to meet her, and she knew it would only be seconds before she hit...

Ivy is a determined young faery, living in an abandoned tin mine with her clan. In a cruel twist of fate she was born without wings, and she longs to fly like the others. When she meets an enigmatic stranger, he seems to offer an answer. But there is more to him than meets the eye - and more secrets in Ivy's world than she ever realised...

Nayuleska's thoughts

I love the world created in Knife's story and was eager to see what Ivy's world was like. It has the feel of the Knife books, yet has it's own character, with piskies hiding dark secrets, a sweet, innocent human girl and the piskie who Makes Things Happen, Ivy. I'm eager for more books about Ivy's 10/10 story.

You can find out more about R J Anderson on her website.

Suggested readDo read the Knife series, which helps explain some of the background to Swift (although it can be read on its own).

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Awesome books, hot chocolate and oreos.

I've bought everything mentioned in this post for myself. 

Childhood Ballet Book series Classic

Drina. I can't remember who mentioned it on Twitter, but it set off my memory. I loved the Drina series by Jean Estoril when I was little. I never had my own copy, but I borrowed my friend's copy all the time. I adore school series, even more so if the girls involved are learning a skill like dancing or ice skating. So off I set about looking for the books. 

I promise I'm not going off on a tanget now - not too much, anyway. Recently I've noticed how some anime boxsets which I've bought are now super hard to find, and being sold for what I call stupid money (very expensive). Mostly I read books which are newly published, and/or going to be published soon. So I was feeling a little panicked with the lack of Drina books. I had to pay a little more on 3-5 of them. I then had to hunt down the final book in the series. 

When I saw the price I nearly cried. £17 for a book? Ridiculous! That's way too expensive considering the others were an awful lot less. I didn't despair - I checked a few of the international versions of the website I use, and thankfully I found it in the French version for a much more sensible price. I bought it pretty quickly, because I didn't want anyone else to nab it. 

I'm now very happy that I've decided to splash out on the whole series while they are still in my price range. Some of the books are in good condition. A few are 'acceptable'. I don't care about that - so long as I can read them (which is mostly what acceptable is) I don't care that the covers are all different, or with creases on. I just want to read the books. 

White Hot chocolate review

The other day, in my panic of nearly running out of hot chocolate (it shouldn't happen. Ever.) I hopped over to Thornton's to check their range out. They had a lot, just like Whittards (whose hot chocolate is delicious), but both sites charge a fair bit for postage - enough to cover over 1/2 a tub of chocolate powder. So I said no. 
I then went to the hot chocolate shelf in a local supermarket, determined to pick some up. Imagine my complete surprise when I saw Thornton's hot chocolate! I nabbed the white hot chocolate, and was intrigued by it. 

This afternoon I chose the Thornton's white hot chocolate to be my chocolate milk after work. I opened it up, and ended up dueling with the foil. I lifted the tab to pull it up, and the tab broke. There is a bit left, so I tried pulling on that, but that broke of too. With a few careful stabs of the spoon on the foil, I was able to peel it off. 

I then was a bit miffed. The chocolate powder was in lumps. I grumbled to myself about how it possibly had been on the shelf for a bit. I dutifully put in the chocolate 'powder', and then, like I always do, I picked up one of the lumps and ate it (Doing that is often a way to see if hot chocolate is any good). I had an explosion of white chocolate melt in my mouth. I was so shocked I picked up the tin and scanned the description. The hot chocolate hadn't been on the shelf too long. It is hot chocolate powder and white chocolate drops!!! 

Divine is an understatement. This is seriously yummy white hot chocolate milk (I prefer mine cold to hot). I'm definitely getting it again! 

Oreo review

As well as books and hot chocolate, I also love oreos. At the same supermarket which I bought the hot chocolate, I got the original and the chocolate cream version for a good price. Then there was the double cream filled ones for 30p more. I thought I'd try them, although wasn't convinced of the price difference. I do enjoy the cream, but I don't see why it's worth 30p more. I will just buy the normal ones in the future. 

Tonight I'm reading some of a children's horse based book, and fairy book, as well as watching fairy anime (Winx!) and some Negima. No writing for me as I'm working tomorrow and am pretty tired after my first day back after being off sick.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Taking a short break

Reviews will be back from Saturday 24th March (2 and a bit days time). This weekend I was starting to come down with a virus that's had me off work this week. Back to work tomorrow and looking forward to it as I miss seeing everyone and feel fortunate that I enjoy my job. 

I've only really felt a bit better today. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know my elbows hurt on Monday - they are much better now. I've done a few errands today, so feeling a bit more tired than normal, so I'm taking it easy and watching TV shows I've missed. 

Normally I'd schedule up reviews at the weekend from Saturday to Saturday, but that didn't happen because I was ill. I might have considered catching up today, but errands took pretty much all morning. I'm certainly not doing it now it's after lunch because my brain isn't working all that fast. 

Be sure to enter the competition to win 500g of either Dairy Milk or Galaxy chocolate - even though I've now merged the blogs,the competition is going ahead. 

I managed to read 5-6 books on Monday, which was great fun. Yesterday I didn't have the energy for it, and so far I don't at the moment either, but that's cool. I haven't got anything on this weekend, so I'm going to take things easy the next few days, and make sure I'm as rested as I can be for work. 

Hope you all have a good week, and I'll be back at the weekend.