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Kulsuma at sunshine and stardust (England)

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by Laurie Halse Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 11 May 2012
This review is from: Chains (Paperback)
Before I read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, I was unsure of whether it would catch my interest as I thought it would be a grim, depressing book filled with nothing but battles. However, I was soon proved wrong. Once I started to read the book, I found it extremely captivating and I immediately began to feel Isabel's every emotion and understand everything about her.

After their owner dies, Isabel believes she and her sister Ruth will be free, as promised in her owner's will. However, Isabel is horrified to learn that she and Ruth will be sold. Her and Ruth's cruel new owners, the Locktons, live in New York and it is there that Isabel is brought to the forefront of the American War of Independence.

The story is told well from Isabel's perspective. Isabel is in a world where she has very little power over her own destiny. She tries to exert some control over her life by making deals with people, but she is consistently let down. She has no power to protect herself but she must also try and protect her `simple-minded', epileptic sister, Ruth, who she loves very much. Even though Isabel faced immense pressure and suffered things that would have made many other people give up, she managed to persevere and dared to hope. Her need to protect Ruth spurred her on throughout the book and made her rebel.

Isabel's life was fraught with bad luck. She had several chances of having a better life than she had with the odious Locktons; however, she was stopped at every turn. Chains was gruelling at times as Isabel was a slave; a non-person. I was with her as she had to go through unendurable physical and emotional torment. It was agony to watch Isabel fighting with herself to remain passive when both she and I as a reader wanted her to do something definite and aggressive towards her oppressors.

Chains was well-paced and in proportion, however, I thought that the ending could have been improved as I was expecting another chapter to round off this part of her story. As Chains was from Isabel's point of view, the book contained colloquialisms. This was great as it was more realistic and it felt like I was hearing her thoughts as they occurred to her. Sad as it is to say, I felt that it would have been more likely that Isabel would have met a greater number of cruel individuals and fewer kind-hearted people such as Lady Seymour.

Isabel's story was made more real for me by the presence of the other storylines such as the American War of Independence that was historically accurate. It was very worthwhile reading Chains as it gave some insight into the life of a slave during a momentous time.

I recommend Chains to people who are interested in historical fiction, slavery and the American War of Independence. If you like Chains, you may also be interested in reading a non-fiction book, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written By Himself which was also very interesting. This was the first in a trilogy and I am eager to read the next book, Forged.

CRYPT: The Gallows Curse (Crypt: Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team)
CRYPT: The Gallows Curse (Crypt: Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team)
by Andrew Hammond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Could've Been Better, 11 May 2012
CRYPT: The Gallow's Curse by Andrew Hammond was an exciting paranormal novel. It was full of action, horror and mystery. The main character, Jud Lester, is the star member of the organisation the Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team. CRYPT investigates incidents where the police cannot find answers because the paranormal is at work.

When a series of shocking attacks across London leaves victims dead or injured, the CRYPT must find out who the ghosts are, why they have returned and how to stop them before it's too late, all whilst avoiding the media spotlight. This is because CRYPT is a secret organisation and if the general public were to know that it investigated instances of the paranormal, they would be both terrified and in uproar.

The idea behind CRYPT: The Gallow's Curse was very interesting as I loved the idea of teenage ghost- busters solving crime that adults couldn't due to their lack of Extra-Sensory Perception. I was happy with the scientific explanation given for how ghosts can appear as it wasn't farfetched.

The chapters were short and fast paced and the constant shift between various characters allowed me to visualise the story in stark detail as well as understand the vast multitude of people affected by the ghosts. The filmic quality of CRYPT is one of the highlights of the book. The vivid and grotesque descriptions interspersed throughout have stayed with me as they had me flinching in terror and disgust.

Jud was an interesting character with a lot of potential that was not fully realised. He was a conflicted character with a sad history; his mother had been killed by a ghost and he'd been convicted of the crime and now must live with a new, secret identity. This secret weighs him down throughout the book. I was not as emotionally invested in Jud as I had hoped to be. I did not feel a strong connection to him.

Bex De Verre, his partner, was feisty, smart and sarcastic. Together they try to find out who the ghosts are and why they are wreaking death and destruction across London. This was simple for me as I only had to read the title to know who the culprits were.

There was some repetition in the first half of the book which slowed the pace of the novel; however this was resolved as the book continued. I liked the surprising twists and turns and the build up of tension that lead to the dramatic climax.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading CRYPT: The Gallow's Curse and would recommend it to fans of the paranormal, horror and action genres.

The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse
by Marcus Sedgwick
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious, 11 May 2012
This review is from: The Dark Horse (Hardcover)
This is the first book that I have read by Marcus Sedgwick and I was impressed with the world he created. The story focuses on Sigurd who finds a small girl living in the caves with wolves not too far from his village, Storn. Due to her continuous silence, he decides to name her Mouse and treats her like a sister after she is adopted by his family. The bond of affection grows between them throughout the passing years and while Mouse is glad to have a brother, Sigurd grows to love her.

When Sigurd and Mouse find a mysterious box on the beach, they take it back to their village, unaware that the owner of the box is lying unconscious nearby and oblivious of the evil that is about to befall them. Storn is running out of food and as the crops are failing, tensions are running high. But then things turn from bad to worse as rumours spread that The Dark Horse are approaching.

The most striking aspect of The Dark Horse was the magical atmosphere that Sedgwick was able to create in such a small amount of space. It was full of mystery, action and suspense, yet narrated in an enchanting way. I felt like I was hearing this story around a campfire which made it even better. The narrative is split between two points of view; Sigurd and the narrator. At first this was jarring; however, as the narrative threads converged it seemed natural.

Sigurd was a great character. This was his coming-of-age story and I hoped he would prove himself to be worthy of the position he finds himself in as the story reaches its climax. However, events happened too quickly at the end of the novel and though Sigurd tried to stay in control of the situation, I did not agree with some of the decisions he made.

Mouse remains a mysterious character. I thought she was a highly interesting girl with untapped potential. She had a brilliant power; she could communicate with animals. It would have been fantastic if Sedgwick had explored Mouse's power in greater detail. As well as this, the box's power needed to be explained in greater detail. Throughout the novel, I wondered what the title could possibly mean and when I did find out, I felt slightly let down. I was expecting something more awe-inspiring.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Dark Horse and I will be reading more of Marcus Sedgwick's books in future such as My Swordhand Is Singing and Revolver. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy, history and adventure. Also, if you liked Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, you are sure to like this.

Words in the Dust
Words in the Dust
by Trent Reedy
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Emotional Read, 11 May 2012
This review is from: Words in the Dust (Paperback)
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy was a memorable, vivid and bittersweet book. It tells the story of a young Afghan girl called Zulaikha who has a cleft lip. Due to this deformity, she is cruelly bullied by the local boys who call her `Donkeyface' and she is even verbally abused at one point by her brother which is heart-breaking in itself. All Zulaikha wants is to be normal like her sister, Zeynab and to one day get married. With her cleft lip, however, she knows this is impossible.

One day, Zulaikha meets her deceased mother's old teacher, Meena, who introduces her to poetry and teaches her how to read and write. Though Zulaikha knows she will be in great trouble if her lessons with Meena were ever to be found out, Zulaikha perseveres.

At the same time, American soldiers enter the Afghan town, aiming to build the infrastructure of the area; however Zulaikha is warned to stay away from them. Even so, one of the soldiers sees her cleft lip and all that Zulaikha thought was impossible suddenly becomes possible.

With Zeynab's marriage on the horizon, Zulaikha believes her life will improve infinitely after the surgery. But then things take a turn for the worse- surgery is out of her grasp and her sister's fiancé isn't at all what they'd expected. Zulaikha's hopes for the future were gone as quickly as they had come.

Could things get any worse?

I really enjoyed reading Words in the Dust as Zulaikha was a likeable character. There were so many obstacles in her way; her cleft lip, the people around her such as her stepmother and to an extent, her culture. I wanted to reach inside the book and say to her `Keep going, don't give up!'

Zeynab's engagement and marriage is a focal point of Words in the Dust and it was fascinating to read about Afghan customs, such as looking at your intended partner in a mirror on the wedding day. The relationship between Zulaikha and Zeynab was integral to the book and I liked their bond of sisterly affection.

The other characters were believable and I think this is why I enjoyed Words in the Dust as much as I did. Some of the characters surprised me when I least expected them to. Though Zulaikha's story and the issues along with it are complex, it is definitely worth reading.

The shocking and graphic turn in the story left me reeling, engraving the story into my mind. I won't spoil it, but I will say it is tragic. Overall, the ending was bittersweet and I had mixed feelings; I don't know whether I can be truly happy for the way Zulaikha's life turns out due to the events leading up to the end of Words in the Dust. Words in the Dust tells us to make the most of our opportunities and to make every second count.

Words in the Dust is a fantastic debut from Trent Reedy, an American soldier who went to Afghanistan. I would recommend Words in the Dust to all those interested in Afghanistan, family dynamics and a struggle for happiness.

The Brides of Rollrock Island
The Brides of Rollrock Island
by Margo Lanagan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and Memorable, 11 May 2012
What interested me most about The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan was that it was about selkies. I haven't read any books about selkies, so I was prepared to learn and be amazed. It took me a short while to get into the story because of little things like unusual names and time jumps, but when I did get used to it, I found it atmospheric, moving and rich in detail.

The Brides of Rollrock Island spans three generations and follows five characters. I really enjoyed Lanagan's descriptions of Rollrock Island as it sounds so wild, untamed and mythical. The wonderful descriptions of setting reminded me of Guy de Maupassant's A Vendetta. The transformation scenes from seal to woman are highly memorable too.

The story centres on a witch called Misskaella for the first third of the book. Her life isn't a happy one as she is the black sheep of her family and treated as an outsider by the community. She's constantly teased about her looks and her affinity to the seals that come to Rollrock Island.

One day Misskaella discovers that she is able to draw women out of seals. These selkie women are so fantastically beautiful that soon the men start to reject earthly women in favour of selkie women and here, much to Misskaella's happiness, is where the tragedy begins.

I felt really sorry for Misskaella as she was mistreated and ignored. I supported her when she wanted to get her own back of the inhabitants of Rollrock Island. Of course, when I read the story from other people's points of view, my support wavered.

I really wanted to read a part of the story from the point of view of a selkie wife, however, the closest I got to one was reading the point of view of her son and her husband. This definitely helped to keep up the mystery of the selkie.

The Brides of Rollrock Island has some great twists that I didn't see coming. While I did think some parts weren't necessary to the story, overall, I was highly satisfied with it. Margo Lanagan writes with flair and I am looking forward to reading more from her. I loved learning about selkies and would recommend this to those wishing to do the same.

To Be A Cat
To Be A Cat
by Matt Haig
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of Fun, 11 May 2012
This review is from: To Be A Cat (Hardcover)
I was so excited to read To Be A Cat by Matt Haig and fortunately, it lived up to all my expectations. To Be A Cat ticks all the boxes if you're looking for a book that's funny, action-packed and full of furry animals. The story takes place over a couple of days and features rapid chase scenes, amazing transformations and life-changing epiphanies. What more can one ask for? To Be A Cat was a really fantastic story; I finished it in one sitting.

Barney's life is not going well. He's being bullied by a horrible boy called Gavin Needle. Mrs Whipmire, the mean head teacher is constantly picking on him for things he didn't even do and there's been no sign of his dad for months. On top of all that, his mum's always rushed off her feet. All this leads Barney to wish for an easier life- like a cat's. Soon, Barney gets his wish, but will he live to regret it?

Though this story takes place over a couple of days, Barney learns a lot about himself in that short time. He learns so many important life lessons such as to be careful for what you wish for. Barney quickly realises that to be a cat isn't as great as he'd thought it would be- certainly not with Mrs Whipmire and Gavin Needle on his tail!

This book was really suspenseful. People aren't who you think they are.

To Be A Cat by Matt Haig had loads of great twists and turns. Children will love this book because it is full of humour, action and interesting interludes from the author. I was laughing throughout the story and I believe everyone will enjoy it immensely. I wholly recommend To Be A Cat. You must read it to find out if cats really do have nine lives.

The Kissing Game
The Kissing Game
by Aidan Chambers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.03

3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Read, 11 May 2012
This review is from: The Kissing Game (Hardcover)
The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers was entertaining. I read this because I wanted to read a collection of short stories and see whether I liked them. Made up of sixteen short stories which also included flash fiction, letters and script writing, The Kissing Game had a lot of potential. I enjoyed many of the stories; however, others weren't to my taste.

The first story in the collection entitled, Cindy's Day Out, was a modern take on Cinderella and whilst I did enjoy it overall, I never felt that I got to know Cindy/Ursula as much as I wanted to and the ending felt very abrupt.

Other stories, such as Kangaroo and the titular story The Kissing Game had shocking endings. The Kissing Game left me feeling cold. In it, two socially-awkward teens exchange a series of letters and eventually meet, resulting in an unexpected twist. The story is written beautifully and the ending jars the reader. I thought about this story a long time after I finished it. The Tower was really interesting. I liked the way reality and fantasy became obscured. It was very mysterious and action-packed.

I wasn't very interested in reading the short pieces of dialogue; Up For It, The God Debate and Like Life as I do like description, however, I did enjoy Like Life as it has a funny and insightful ending. The character Eve feels as if she hasn't experienced anything serious in her life but her boyfriend Brad soon changes this. Weather Forecast was a great metaphor for life and Something To Tell You was both sad and funny.

I liked the letter entitled Thrown Out as it was very realistic. The character that lives in a hut, at one with nature, writes a letter to the Environmental Services Manager detailing their simple existence and asks to live their life the way they want to. Of course, their request is denied.

I didn't enjoy the story entitled Sanctuary. Jack suffers from agoraphobia and has travelled to London from Wiltshire for an interview. He then becomes entangled in the dangerous life of a stranger, a Ukrainian lady named Nadia, who has been forced into prostitution. Jack feels as though he has to save her. I found it quite unbelievable. Chambers tried to fit in too much in a short space and over a short period of time. I wasn't able to get to know the characters at all.

The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers was very good overall and as it had wide-ranging themes, there is a story for all tastes. I look forward to reading more from Aidan Chambers in future.

Long Lankin
Long Lankin
by Lindsey Barraclough
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, 11 May 2012
This review is from: Long Lankin (Hardcover)
Creepy, atmospheric and rich in detail, Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough is the perfect book to read if you want to be scared. It centres around two sisters, Cora and Mimi who are sent away from London to live with their Great Aunt Ida in Bryers Guerdon in the 1950s. Their mother has left for a reason not known until later in the book and their father can't look after them as he has to work. Though their Aunt Ida is less than thrilled to have them living with her, the girls soon make friends with two village boys, Roger and Pete. Together, they uncover the long history of Aunt Ida's house, the village's deep, dark secrets and a truth that was thought to be legend.

I really enjoyed Long Lankin as it was scary, suspenseful and memorable. I don't read a lot of horror so this was a welcome change. I cared about Cora, Roger and Aunt Ida; the three characters who narrate the story. I felt engaged throughout the entirety of the story. Though Aunt Ida seemed harsh from Cora's point of view, reading from Aunt Ida's point of view cleared up a lot of questions and misconceptions about her and made sure I was mostly curious about the titular character, Long Lankin himself.

Long Lankin was very suspenseful as information about him was given slowly but surely throughout the book, making me read on. I found the mystery and history surrounding Long Lankin exciting. I really liked the fact that many characters had something to share about Long Lankin; it was like a puzzle that Cora had to solve to save not only Mimi but the dead too.

What I loved the most about Long Lankin were the fantastic descriptions. I had no trouble visualising the village, the house and Long Lankin. This could easily be made into a movie. I would have loved to see even more of Long Lankin throughout the book and wanted him to speak, if he could. The ending was full of action, horror and suspense which made for a very satisfying finish to the book. I would love to read more from Lindsey Barraclough as Long Lankin was everything it promised to be and more. Long Lankin is one not to be missed.

The Emerald Atlas:The Books of Beginning 1
The Emerald Atlas:The Books of Beginning 1
by John Stephens
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It, 11 May 2012
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens seemed like it would be great from the blurb and the cover, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. There was no need to worry however, as I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe it to be an extraordinary fantasy adventure that middle-grade children will especially love.

It starts off as Kate, a four year old girl, is shaken awake in the middle of the night by her mother who tells her to look after her two younger siblings, Michael and Emma. She also tells her she loves them and that they will all be together again one day.

Fast forward ten years and Kate, Michael and Emma are on their way to the latest in a string of orphanages. The orphanage is in the puzzling town of Cambridge Falls and is run by the strange Dr Pym. When the children find a mysterious and magical book, they set off a chain of dangerous events into motion as their time-travelling rewrites the pages of history.

The Emerald Atlas was action-packed, suspenseful and humorous. I loved following Kate, Michael and Emma as they went from one danger to another; from finding friends and allies to standoffs with their deadly enemy; The Countess. I felt like I was really there with them because Stephens' descriptions were so fantastically vivid. I especially loved his descriptions of the creatures in the book as they were eloquent and thus I was able to imagine it clearly.

Kate was the one with the most responsibility on her shoulders. She was constantly watching out for her siblings, out of love and in remembrance of the promise she made to her mother. Michael loved reading, learning facts and had an obsession over dwarves. Emma always tried to act the bravest, but she was also the youngest and thus, at times, only had a brave face on. Kate was the main character, but Stephens also showed Michael and Emma's points of view as they were separated in the story at times.

While time-travelling is always a difficult concept to grasp, Stephens did a great job in explaining some of the rules. I would have loved to have learnt more about some of the characters such as Dr Pym, the Dire Magnus and the children's parents but I will just have to wait until the next book in the trilogy. There is more to these characters than could have been explained in this book alone. I also look forward to developing a deeper emotional bond to Kate, Michael and Emma.

Overall, The Emerald Atlas was a wonderful and magical adventure and I can't wait to read the next book. John Stephens had a lot of fresh ideas that will appeal to fans of fantasy, adventure and action. Those who loved Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events will also love this.

The Demon Trappers: Forsaken
The Demon Trappers: Forsaken
by Jana Oliver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, 11 May 2012
Forsaken by Jana Oliver was an interesting and enjoyable book. It centres on seventeen year old Riley Blackthorne who desperately wants to follow in her father's footsteps by becoming a demon trapper. But how can she prove herself in what is essentially a man's world? When one of her assignment goes grievously wrong and a Grade Five demon (the worst kind) attacks her, Riley is summoned before the Trappers' Guild. Things go from bad to worse when her father is killed.

The future world Oliver created felt authentic. It was urban, desolate and grim. The variety of creatures she introduced from demons to witches to angels was great as it enriched the story. There were detailed descriptions of the categories of demons.

However, I wished more time had been spent on developing other aspects of demon-trapping, for example the weapons they used, how they made them and what happened to them after they were caught. Furthermore, the witches and angels weren't developed to a great depth.

What I was looking forward to the most was the action. There were some great action scenes in Forsaken which I really enjoyed, but the intervals between them felt too long. There were some great twists and turns in the story which were great. The climax was fantastic as it was action packed but unfortunately, it was rushed.

Riley was a great character. She was well-developed and I was emotionally connected to her. I felt her frustration at not being taken seriously by the Trappers' Guild. I believed in the slight jealousy she had of her father's demon trapping partner; Beck. I liked the tension between her and Beck, who she had a crush on a few years prior to the start of the story. At times, Riley got into bad situations which would have been avoidable if not for her own stubbornness.

I found Forsaken lacking at times. Oliver introduced so many potential love interests for Riley, that I was sure there was going to be a love-quadrangle. Furthermore, Riley's eventual romantic relationship was rushed and thus I didn't believe in it. Also, Oliver introduced too many characters and did not develop them.

Beck's colloquial language takes time to get used to as well as his and Riley's internal thoughts written in italics in contrast to the narrator's voice. There were various other plotlines apart from the main one, which meant Forsaken went into tangents at times. I was left with some questions by the end. Hopefully, they will be answered in the next book.

Overall, while I did enjoy Forsaken by Jana Oliver, I am expecting more from the sequel, Forbidden.

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