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Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK)

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Rotten Luck! (Knightmare)
Rotten Luck! (Knightmare)
by Peter Bently
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rotten Luck!, 25 Jan. 2015
Rotten Luck is the fourth book in Peter Bently's brilliant Knightmare series which follows the life of Cedric Thatchbottom as he works for Sir Percy the Proud. In Rotten Luck, Percy and his troupe head into Grimwood forest to track down an outlaw known only as The Ghost and, in true Castle Bombast style, nothing goes to plan...

I love this series and continue to get very over-excited every time a new instalment ends up in my hands. Peter Bently is so funny and clever that there's practically a laugh on every single page, not to mention some great Artful Doodlers illustrations to accompany them. I feel like these characters are my my friends now, and yes I'm including silly old Percy the Proud in that too!

These books are perfect for reluctant readers, keen readers or full-blown bookworms. There's something here that everyone will enjoy no matter their age, and I for one can't wait for book five, Foul Play, to hit shelves. Cedric is a fantastic character who anchors the whole series, while Percy the Proud, Patchcoat and Roland the Rotten all add to what is a fantastic cast of knights and squires. Long live Knightmare!

Seal Island
Seal Island
by Julia Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Seal Island, 20 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Seal Island (Paperback)
Seal Island is another brilliantly written book by Julia Green that's aimed at a younger audience than I'm used to. I love all her YA books and had to give this one a go, and I wasn't in the least bit disappointed. There's beautiful writing, an understated family orientated story and a sense of peace that comes from reading this story, which is actually what I take away from every Julia Green book I ever have the pleasure of reading.

In Seal Island, ten-year-old Grace is staying with her granny at her seaside house. Her grandad recently passed away so Grace is not only exploring a summer away but missing her grandad too, which is a difficult thing to balance. She makes friends with an island boy called Col and, after finding a baby seal pup, the two embark on a friendship that makes the summer all worthwhile.

Grace is a quiet character, not one for making an entrance or causing any trouble. She reminded me of myself when I was younger, and I instantly took a liking to her. She's caring and thoughtful, and she'd do anything for her family and friends. Her granny and Col also deserve a mention, as they too are well-rounded, realistic characters who leave their mark on the page.

Seal Island is as much about seals and islands as it is about relationships and loss. There's a lot going on within its pages, and it isn't all immediately clear. As with all Julia Green books, the further you get the more the layers start to peel away and life lessons are learned as you stumble across them. Seal Island might be for younger readers but it's a book that you won't forget in a hurry, much like Green's YA novels that remain indelibly stuck in my head. I truly can't wait to get my hands on her next book.

The Rosie Effect
The Rosie Effect
by Graeme Simsion
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.45

4.0 out of 5 stars The Rosie Effect, 18 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Rosie Effect (Hardcover)
The Rosie Project was a book I unexpectedly fell in love with when I read it last year, and I was so looking forward to getting back to Don and Rosie's story. I'm very pleased to say that The Rosie Effect lived up to all my expectations and, even though it took me a good few chapters to get into, it turned out to be a book I just couldn't put down!

Don and Rosie are now married, situated in New York and living their happily ever after. Don's slightly more relaxed thanks to Rosie's spontaneity, but he's still very much stuck in his ways and not good at adapting to new situations. Rosie drops a surprising bombshell that turns everything upside down, and Don has to adapt, and quickly. What follows is an often hilarious look at how he copes, how he makes changes and how his relationship with Rosie goes from strength to strength, through numerous ups and downs that all real life couples experience.

I love Don Tillman so much, with all his unusual quirks and idiosyncrasies. He's one of the best fictional characters of recent years and I often find myself thinking about him and what might happen next in his life. He's infuriating at times but so loveable that it's hard to ever think of him in any other way but fondly, and Rosie's the same. They're both so realistic - neither one is perfect, they both have their faults, but they work. Their relationship is one of the most realistic I've ever read, and I think that's what I most like about these books. They seem like real people with real issues and real problems, which isn't always the case when it comes to fiction.

If you haven't yet read The Rosie Project, please do. It's one of those books that seems universally loved by everyone that reads it, and The Rosie Effect is no different. Everyone should meet Don Tillman and his unusual life, and I guarantee you'll fall head over heels in love with him. I hope The Rosie Effect isn't the end of his story - there's so much left to tell!

The Art of Being Normal
The Art of Being Normal
by Lisa Williamson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.69

5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Being Normal, 18 Jan. 2015
The Art of Being Normal is one of the best YA books you will read this year, I guarantee it. Not only is it Lisa Williamson's debut novel but it's also one of the most powerful books I've ever read, and I don't say that very often. It's a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish, but one that is so, so important to today's teenagers - this book really could change someone's life.

David has grown up knowing he wants to be a girl and only his best friends, Essie and Felix, know the truth. His parents think he's gay, his classmates think he's weird and life is something of a struggle. It's only when he meets Leo Denton, the new boy with a bad reputation, that life starts to fall into place and make sense again. Because Leo has secrets too, but they're not at all what you imagine them to be.

David and Leo's relationship is something to behold; it unfolds like a great mystery, tough at first but with a sudden burst of clarity. They understand each other, they help each other, and ultimately they make each other's lives that little bit better. Of course nothing is smooth sailing for them and their newfound friendship, but they muddle through and discover new reasons to get up in the morning.

The transgender aspect of The Art of Being Normal is written with the utmost respect and realism and, though it will be the main talking point when this book is mentioned, it's not all it encompasses. Not even by half. I've never read a book that deals with transgender teenagers in this way, and for that reason I think it could easily become the literary anthem for today's teens struggling with the same issues as David and Leo.

The Art of Being Normal is a beautifully written, engaging story about two teenagers navigating their lives as best they can. It's about understanding, acceptance, family, courage and learning to love yourself for who, and what, you are. The LGBTQ community will love this book and all it stands for, as will every single person who is lucky enough to pick up a copy. Don't let this one pass you by because you really will be missing out on a book that's set to be talked about for years to come.

The Deadly 7
The Deadly 7
by Garth Jennings
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deadly 7, 15 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Deadly 7 (Paperback)
The Deadly 7 is quite possibly the best children's book you will read this year. I know it's only January, but honestly, this book is THAT good. Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny, it's also clever and stars the best monster characters I've ever had the pleasure of spending three hundred pages with.

This is author Garth Jennings's debut novel, and I'll admit I was a bit skeptical at first. He's a well-known film and music video director, and I wondered how he'd handle a children's book. My apprehensions were totally unwarranted, of course, and I really do think this is the start of a fantastic writing career. I haven't been this captivated in a long while!

I don't want to give too much of the book away, because it's best to meet the monsters as you get to them. I will say it's about a boy called Nelson, whose sister goes missing. He ends up living with his Uncle Pogo, and inadvertently extracts the seven deadly sins from his soul, who manifest themselves as seven monsters called Miser, Stan, Honk, Puff, Crush, Spike and Nosh. Nelson and his monsters set off on a journey across the world in the hopes of saving his sister, and what follows is an unexpected adventure.

This book is so unusual that it automatically becomes good. More than good, actually, but you'll see that when you read it for yourself. The monsters are without a doubt the best part of the whole story, and I love all of them and their strange appearances and helpful (but weird) powers. Puff and Nosh are my favourites, though I really did like them all. Some of the ideas they come up with are just so funny, and there were a few occasions when I was laughing my head off at some of their antics. The Heathrow airport scene brings back particularly hilarious memories, so look out for that one.

I don't have a single negative thing to say about The Deadly 7; it's long but I could have read more, and it's busy but it never once detracts from the overall story. The imagination and humour on every page is an absolute treat to read, and if this is the standard we can expect from 2015 then the bar has been set very, very high. Good look to anyone hoping to better it!

Everyone who likes good stories and unforgettable characters needs to read The Deadly 7. I guarantee you will fall in love with the monsters, wish Nelson was your little brother and be amazed that a false leg can double as a telephone. I really hope there's a sequel in the works and that this first book sells ridiculously well - it deserves to above all else, and I'll be doing everything I can to ensure people hear about it. Now, please, go and meet the monsters!

The Killing-Uncommon Denominator
The Killing-Uncommon Denominator
by Karen Dionne
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Denominator, 28 Dec. 2014
I've always, always been a big fan of TV and film tie-in novels, so I was really excited when I found out there was a novel based on the US adaptation of The Killing. I love the show and it's dark, atmospheric settings, and I'm pleased to say that Uncommon Denominator captures that essence perfectly. Reading it is just like watching an episode of the show, which I think is the measure of a good tie-in novel.

Uncommon Denominator is a prequel story, set before the first season of the show, and of course features Linden and Holder. They're not partners, they don't know each other, but their paths are destined to cross. It's interesting to see how they came to work together, and what transpired before - Holder's work as an undercover cop and Linden's relationship with her young son, in particular. These are aspects of the show that have been touched upon but not explored in detail, so it's great to be able to get more of an insight into their lives prior to Season 1 and Rosie Larsen's murder.

This novel is a murder mystery based around two killings of very different men. Linden realises the cases may be connected, and what was initially thought to be two separate homicides turns into a deep web of lies, addiction and mystery. I didn't expect the story to end up as it did, though I did my best to guess my way through it - I was surprised at the closing of the case, which is the usual fare for me. Karen Dionne does a good job of creating tension, spinning a web of lies and deceit, and I really liked her ability to accurately portray the characters and their quirks.

Uncommon Denominator is the first book based on The Killing, and I hope it won't be the last. Anyone who loves this show and is still mourning its Netflix end will enjoy this novel, and will relish spending time with Linden and Holder before they knew each other. Their paths have never been easy, but when they cross it's the best thing that could happen to either of them - Linden finds a friend and Holder finally gets the trust and recognition he deserves. A brilliant read.

Lego Ninjago Vol.1 - The Challenge of Samukai
Lego Ninjago Vol.1 - The Challenge of Samukai
by Greg Farshtey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.64

4.0 out of 5 stars The Challenge of Samukai, 28 Dec. 2014
Lego is huge right now thanks to all the toy licensing and tie-in products, the latest of which to hit the UK is Ninjago graphic novels. These sixty-four page comics are a selection of stories in one volume, each chronicling the Masters of Spinjitzu and their quest to defend the world of Ninjago from the dark powers that haunt the underworld. Basically, it's thrilling fun on every page!

The Challenge of Samukai tells the origin story of the Masters of Spinjitzu - Cole, Zane, Jay and Kai - and how they came to be trained by Sensei Wu. In this book they're being hunted by Samukai and his skeleton army, as well as Garmadon who thinks he can beat Samukai. It's a battle of evils with the ninjas caught in the middle!

This graphic novel is well written by Greg Farshtey, focusing on being fast and fierce while delivering a good story. There's no superfluous information here; everything is important to the characters and their origins, and every single bit of panel space is utilised. Paulo Henrique has done a great job of drawing the little Lego ninjas, though my favourite has to be creepy Samukai and all his skeletons.

I really enjoyed this little slice of Lego and I'm looking forward to reading more volumes in the series. These books are great fun for any little readers who like Ninjago, comics and art, and I'm sure they'll go down a treat. You can't go wrong with kick-ass ninjas!


Harry Potter - The Creature Vault
Harry Potter - The Creature Vault
by Jody Revenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Creature Vault, 28 Dec. 2014
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The Creature Vault is yet another amazing addition to the Harry Potter movie library. It might actually be my favourite of all the books detailing this ten-year movie-making process, because it focuses solely on the creatures and beasts featured in all eight films. It includes many film stills, production art and images of maquettes, as well as pages of text explaining how the creatures were designed for the big screen. It's a fascinating read and one that I'll be going back to again and again.

My personal favourite part of the Harry Potter movies has always been the array of fantastical creatures created by J.K. Rowling. In fact, the Creature Shop is the best part of the London Studio Tour, and I love looking around it every time I go - I not-so-secretly wish all these creatures were real! Obviously this insight into the creatures of the films has been touched on in other books, namely Harry Potter: Page to Screen, but so far there hasn't been anything as in-depth as this. The cover alone is worth a purchase; it's a lovely deep purple with devised creature silhouettes all around it, an intricate design that I'd only expect from a volume of this calibre.

The book itself is split into mine sections such as Lake Dwellers, Shape-shifters, The Working World and Trespassers. These sections cover every Harry Potter beast and creature you can think of, including dragons, dementors, thestrals, owls, boggarts, gnomes and grindylows. Each section is full of images and artwork, so much in fact that several hours will easily pass before you've properly seen everything. Every image, whether it be a photo or a page of concept art, is presented in glorious high-resolution and doesn't lose a single pixel. It's also really easy to navigate, divided into sections and sub-sections that make this coffee table book very easy to dip in and out of.

There are certain parts of The Creature Vault that I particularly enjoyed, especially the part about Dobby the House Elf. It's interesting to see how he came to look like the Dobby we all know and love, as facially he could have turned out very differently. The book says he went through many different designs before reaching the final version, and he was also the first fully computer-generated major character seen in the franchise. It's little facts like this that I love to read and keep in my head forever, and this book is full of them!

I honestly don't think any written review will do this book justice; it needs to be seen to be believed, much like the creatures littered throughout its pages. To a Harry Potter fan it's a veritable treasure trove of information and visual delights, made even better by the behind the scenes insight that accompanies every image. For the casual film fan it's a journey through ten years of design and production on one of history's greatest cinema achievements, and is deserving of a place in any movie library. For me The Creature Vault is a great reminder of J.K. Rowling's unparalleled imagination, the excitement of watching eight incredible films and my annual visits to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I think it's the best non-fiction title of 2014 and it is, without a doubt, the most perfect book for Harry Potter fans.

The Squickerwonkers
The Squickerwonkers
by Evangeline Lilly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.05

4.0 out of 5 stars The Squickerwonkers, 28 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Squickerwonkers (Hardcover)
I'm always a bit dubious when it comes to reading books written by celebrities, but I'm learning that I really needn't worry. This book has further cemented that realisation, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read it. I was especially excited about The Squickerwonkers when I first heard about it months ago; not just because I'm a Middle-earth nut, but because I thought it sounded dark and different. And how right I was!

I think most people will primarily know author Evangeline Lilly for her involvement in the TV show Lost and the Hobbit movie trilogy. This book is her first published work so far, and is the culmination of a lifelong passion for writing. I'm really surprised by how good it is, and I hope there are more volumes on the way - if they're anything like this, I'm in for a treat!

The Squickerwonkers is all about Selma of the Rin-Run Royals, a little girl who finds herself with a motley crue of creepy, unusual marionette puppets called the Squickerwonkers. The Squickerwonkers aren't the nicest people you've ever seen, which made them that bit more appealing to me. I like anything weird, odd, unusual to the eye, and this lot definitely fit into that category!

Evangeline Lilly's prose is so enjoyable, rhyming and literally tripping off the tongue. It's fun and easy to read, but ridiculously clever too. It actually has echoes of Neil Gaiman who as we all know, when it comes to dark, twisted stories, is the best you can get. Lilly's imagination runs wild with this story; her character names are funny, her vision of the Squickerwonkers is a sight to behold and, most importantly, she's made me want to read many more adventures featuring Selma and the Squickerwonkers.

Weta's Johnny Fraser-Allen has illustrated this book in a suitably dark manner, making every page stand out to adults and children alike. His illustrations are stylised and a little bit creepy - just like the Squickerwonkers themselves - and are the perfect companion to Lilly's writing. I enjoyed looking at every single one.

I can see The Squickerwonkers becoming a bit of a children's classic, in a similar vein to Neil Gaiman's Coraline. The unusual story is there, as are the weird creatures with strange faces and coins for eyes. I'll certainly be reading this book again and again, revelling in its delightful oddities and bizarre illustrations. I have another celebrity author to add to my 'must keep' shelves!

by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rogues, 28 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Rogues (Hardcover)
Rogues is a truly fantastic read for any fantasy fans out there. It's a compilation of twenty-one original short stories from some of the genre's best writers, and includes such greats as George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman and Joe Abercrombie.

There are some very exciting hidden gems included in this anthology, the best - and my initial reason for wanting to read the book - being The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss. This particular story is all about Bast from The Kingkiller Chronicles and is, I think, worth the cover price alone. Other stand out stories for me are by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Garth Nix and Cherie Priest. I'm not always a fan of Neil Gaiman's work, but I also really enjoyed his story!

As with any anthology, there are always going to be a handful of stories that don't particularly stand out or fit in. There aren't many of those in Rogues, and I really did enjoy every one of the stories on offer. Obviously I have my favourites, but I'm sure that's the same for every reader.

Whether you want to read this book for one lone story, or for the collective work, it's worth owning either way. Game of Thrones fans will need this for their collections, and any Rothfuss fanatics out there will love getting to know Bast a little better. There are stories in this book I'll read again and again, and that's the best compliment I can give this anthology.

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