Thursday 30 January 2014

Bird - Crystal Chan

Book Review: Bird by Crystal Chan
Review by M

Bird by Crystal Chan
...Bird, with a feather bookmark
Bird is a lovely and gently heartbreaking novel. It’s a fairly quick and easy read with big themes and a surprisingly pageturning plot.
Twelve year old Jewel was born on the day her brother, Bird, died by jump-flying off a cliff. It was all Grandad’s fault and he has never spoken since. Jewel is a good girl but try as she might, she feels unloved and unwanted by her family. And then she meets someone and things go a little topsy-turvy, secrets are revealed, ‘guppies’ are everywhere and tempers flare.

Woven through this solid story about grief are parallel threads about race, identity and spirituality. Jewel is mixed race/ethnicity (Jamaican-Mexican) and lives in a small town in Iowa, USA (whose population is not very Jamaican-Mexican). Her family have different religious beliefs, among themselves and in contrast to the local community. The novel gently explores questions of identity and belonging in both the familial and community contexts.

For anyone who has even fleetingly felt a little bit lonely (or unloved), Bird will resonate. And if you have never felt like this, it may help you empathise with others. Most of the characters get things wrong. Bird may appeal to David Almond fans.

I found it hard to put down and stayed up until the early hours to finish it. Tissues recommended.

I know they're more expensive and can be awkward to hold, but here are a few words in favour of the UK hardback: It’s nice to look at and lovely to touch. The hard cover is soft to touch and nice to stroke. It’s the ‘short’ size hardback which makes it easy to hold, easy to shelve and makes it look thicker than it really is. To my eye, this is charming and it’d probably be a good one for those newly confident readers who want to tackle a BIG THICK book.

Publication details: 30 January 2013, Tamarind, London, hardback
This copy: review copy from the publisher

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Faber book party

A par-tea with Faber and Faber? Oh, yes please.

I've long associated Faber and Faber with strong and culturally diverse literary fiction and poetry. Some of my favourite books and authors are from Faber. But, I was recently hardpressed to think of any children's titles from them, other than the excellent but recent Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. So, an invite for us to their children's book bloggers afternoon tea was appealing - and as it turns out, both  illuminating and inspiring. Plus, full marks to the Faber cupcakes - "very fancy and tasted brill, and also cool sweets", says Little M; and not to mention M's favourite, dark and non-alcoholic fizz which she liked very much!

Leah Thaxton, publisher at Faber, said that a focus on children's books was relatively new for Faber, and has a new growing and clearly enthusiastic editorial and support team behind it.

Their current and defined focus for children's books (like many other publishers) is good stories (and from the looks of it, a whole bag of laughs too). If Rooftoppers is anything to go by, perhaps they'll also manage to combine both the literary and the good story.

From their forthcoming books, five books stood out for us:

Three young adult titles: 
  • Dead Ends by Erin Lange is about a violent school bully who is befriended by the new boy in school who has Down Syndrome. M has read an early copy and it is heartwarming and also believable. Lange will be visiting the UK in April.
  • Winterkill by Kate A Boorman is pitched as similar to Moira Young's Blood Red Road (which we own but have not yet read!). It's a dystopian idea where particular characteristics in a person are not favourably viewed by the society they live in.... Right up Little M's street.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke is a gothic paranormal romance so usually not even close to our reading radars....and yet.....The author is shy but recorded her voice reading an extract. The writing is intense and M is strangely intrigued. Apparently, fans of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca will probably enjoy it.
And then, two junior fiction books that, quite surprisingly, had Little M rapt and the whole room laughing out loud. Coincidence that both authors were present, were charmingly friendly, and excellent readers of their own work? I think it's a bit more than that:
Jeff Norton, mentally adding a comma
Flora in Love by Natasha Farrant follows her debut, After Iris, in The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby. It's about Bluebell's family and in this story, she love. It is properly funny. Even M laughed but Little M dived into reading it there and then.

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie by Jeff Norton is something that would normally be completely off our map. So our expectations were low and then we laughed. Quite a lot. Especially Little M. And Michelle. And most of the adult audience. Even funnier, the author was reading from a manuscript that has not yet been submitted! Even the editors are still watching out for this one due for publication later this year. Little M thinks this book sounds mega funny, like an older, funnier and more sophisticated Wimpy Kid type book. She can't wait til it comes out.

Then we stuffed cakes and sweets, snaffled a cupcake for dad, and chatted. Natasha Farrant and Little M chatted about learning languages (Natasha seems to have a flair for this) and Sherlock, the merits of the television series and its relationship to Arthur Conan Doyle's writings. Jeff Norton joined the conversation and, with Darren (Bookzone for Boys) we got speaking about hard drives, and the merits of challenging and inspiring middle grade fiction in comparison to some recent young adult fiction.

M was also very excited to finally meet Jim (YA Yeah Yeah) and Beth (Thoughts from the Hearthfire). And we also had an interesting chat with Caroline who, like M, tends to be more of a critical reader than out-and-out fangirl. Unlike We Sat Down, Caroline has been blogging about books since 2006! Great to see Andrew too, who as always, was in fine and exhilarated form!

And as we paged through the catalogue, lo and behold, here's the illuminating irony of the day: our bookshelves currently sport a fair few of Faber's children's titles: Betty G Birney's Humphrey the hamster series, horse stories by Jane Smiley and of course, Ted Hughes! How's that for variety?

Thank you Faber and Aitch Love for the invitation. We have had our eyes opened.

Faber: these are M's books that first came to mind.

How did we miss the ff on our children's bookshelves?

Monday 27 January 2014

RHCP goes to the movies!

Popcorn, sweets, viruses, chat, books, a 6am wake up call and a bit of thieving. Sounds like a perfect Saturday!

Oh look! A gorgeous poster. And it tells you a lot about the most recent Random House Children's bloggers' brunch. Here are some of our memorable bits:

Yes, M snaffled this poster from the event - but she asked Jasmine first!

Like any big cinema, there was popcorn in little boxes, pick 'n' mix sweets, an audience and a big screen with adverts. No actual movie stars were present but author Matt Haig did a good job of standing in (see below for M's narrated and interpreted account!). Advertisement-wise, we'll mention the things that struck us most.

We'll start with the movies (note: RHCP has not become a movie production company; some of their books are being turned into movies). We want to see The Book Thief (but Little M wants to read it first); same goes for Andy Mulligan's Trash which is coming out in film. Little M liked the film trailer for Joseph Delaney's Seventh Son but M hasn't a clue who Jeremy Irvine is.

Forthcoming books-wise, top of Little M's list is Theresa Breslin's Ghost Soldier (publishing 31 July 2014). One of many books that'll be published around the World War I Centenary, this one's about the search for a father missing-in-action and uncovering a building full of soldiers suffering from shellshock and nervous disorders.

Bird by Crystal Chan is being pitched by RHCP as being in the same guise as John Boyne's younger fiction or David Almond's Skellig. They're crossing fingers that it'll be their Wonder for 2014. We both already knew about this book and the appeal for both of us is strong and the first few chapters are good. I'll say no more.

The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister (8 April 2014). Set in 1939 rural France, it's about a thirteen year old boy who goes about inventing a car that'll be designed for and affordable to everyday people. RHCP is describing it as quirky and comparable to Sandi Toksvig's Hitler's Canary.

Crime/Thriller-wise, there's Web of Darkness by Bali Rai (June 2014) and Running Girl by Simon Mason (just out). Hilariously, one features a character called Benedict and the other features a character with an exceptionally high IQ. Everything Baker Street is the way to the thinking teen's heart, it would seem......

The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen (July 2014) was described as Day of the Triffids meets Wonder. A bit sci-fiey but with a focus that's more on love, loneliness and inner strength. M's intrigued.

Then, of course, there's Matt Haig's Echo Boy. Basically, echoes are machines that are made to serve humans. Little M thinks it sounds good and it reminds her of Spielberg's film, Artificial Intelligence. M's a fan of Haig's The Humans and she has a hunch that she will enjoy this (and remember, Somni-451 is one of her all-time favourite book characters).

To be or not to be? Was that the question?
And is this the answer?
Matt Haig chatted with us all, Q&A style. He was very funny, in his typical self-deprecating way, and I'll follow his blog-writing suit and summarise in list style:

- Little M asked him a question in front of loads of people (good reason to sit in the front row - you don't realise what's behind you!). She asked him if he wrote a book about an event that happened in his life, what would it be? He said he thinks it would be about his life in his twenties because this was an exciting yet dark place in his internal space (a time when he was depressed). Or perhaps he would write a story about an author's book tour, a type of picaresque.

- Before being published, he worked in Oddbins and delivered crates of champagne for other authors (who were published!).

- The Outsiders by SE Hinton is probably his favourite book.

- He doesn't plan when he writes novels (except for The Radleys).

- Writing young adult fiction can combine the best of two worlds: the world of imagination (from children's fiction) and the world of ideas (from adult fiction).

- Young adult fiction can have an edge, or danger, without being all sex-and-drugs controversial.On writing about the human condition, "I'm basically a philosopher..(...)..but you need a good story to hang an idea on". His dad was an architect.

- There needs to be a strong, real reason to write in the first person. He thinks it helps to humanise speculative worlds, like the one in Echo Boy. Otherwise, these can be "a refrigerator world that you can't access".

- He gets bored easily.

- He thinks people may only be wise and stoic by age 40. He is 38. M thinks he's right.

- He is a Margaret Atwood fan.

- His new book, Echo Boy, is proper science-fiction even though he is not a big reader of the genre.

- He is not sure if Echo Boy is a love story or not.

- Echo Boy is his ninth book.

- The question he never gets asked but wants to answer (deep, deep down) is: "What makes you so brilliant?"

Matt Haig is funny. And now back to us.

We also caught up with a few of our book blogging friends like Georgia (Books and Writers Jnr), Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies), Jesse (Books 4 Teens), and Viv (Serendipity Reviews). And M was very excited to meet some of her twitter friends in real life: Anna (A Case For Books) and Sarah Jane (And Then I Read a Book). Also great to put a face to Clare Hall-Craggs and talk war stories and family reading!

Thank you Random House for inviting us and for serving popcorn. And thank goodness it didn't snow!

Next stop of the day: Bloomsbury for Faber and Faber!

Sunday 26 January 2014

We sat down for a chat...with Emily Murdoch

Today's guest post is a multifarious delight! Emily Murdoch, author of the poetic If You Find Me, spills the beans  on rescuing equine friends, Winnie the Pooh, and being lefthanded. Plus, there's a chance to win a paperback copy of her novel. And there are cute photos galore -especially at the end!


Emily Murdoch: It's a genuine pleasure to be here with both of you. Thank you for inviting me to your lovely blog!

WSD: You're welcome! We’d love to hear more about the sanctuary that you offer to horses on your Arizona ranch.

Emily Murdoch: I've always loved horses. I didn't grow up with horses, but I always hoped I'd own a few of my own one day. When I was writing one of my earlier manuscripts, I decided to make my protagonist a horse rescuer, having no idea what that entailed. As I did my research, I uncovered a history of such inhumanity, brutality, and injustice toward these animals, I couldn’t NOT help.

Once you know, you know. And once you know, you can do something.

That's when I first learned how America’s wild mustangs and burros (burros being the western word for donkeys) were being rounded up by our government from their federally protected lands and, all too often, sold to “kill buyers” who truck them to slaughterhouses.

Every day, amazing people fight to keep these equines wild and free in their herd management areas (hma’s) on the land preserved for them under United States law – of which 22.2 million acres have already been “lost” in favor of cattlemen grazing their beef cattle at “welfare” prices. Right now, cattle outnumber wild horses 50:1.

Seeing how many horses were being slaughtered, I decided to put our land to good use and adopt, instead of buy. And in my own small way, I provide sanctuary for a lucky few -- we have three slaughter-saved horses (one a once-wild Nevada estray mustang) and a donkey – and I do what I can to raise awareness.
As they say in the animal world, saving an animal may not change the world, but it'll change that animal's world ... and maybe your own.

The following link contains up-to-date information for anyone interested in the plight of America’s wild horses and burros and how you can help, regardless of country of origin. I remain constantly surprised at the power of petitions and signatures. These equines are not only national treasures, but treasured by the thousands of tourists worldwide who visit the U.S. each year with hopes of catching their own glimpse of these magnificent beings.

(ps. see end of post for more equine pics....)

WSD: From horses to bears.....
Winnie the Pooh features prominently in your novel, If You Find Me. What were some of your favourite childhood reads - or favourite literary characters?

Emily Murdoch: Oooooo, I love this question.My husband teases that I must've been British in a past life because many of my favorite authors are British.

Like Frances Hodgson Burnett. Both A Little Princess and The Secret Garden remain all-time favorites I read to tatters. Anne of Green Gables. Anne Shirley is one of my favorite heroines, alongside Jo March from Little WomenA.A. Milne, of course, and Winnie the Pooh. Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. Madeleine L'Engle andA Wrinkle In Time's Meg.

I love strong heroes/heroines, especially those who've fought the good fight. Who doesn’t want to feel braver, stronger, and wiser by the turn of the last page?

WSD: And to the physical act of writing....
You're left handed and say that you smear ink. Does that mean you write by hand a lot? Or draw? And are there other things that you think would be easier (or more challenging!) if you were right-handed?

Emily Murdoch: In my idea notebook, I do write out in longhand items such as notes, story ideas, ideas for titles, even dialogue that comes to me out of the blue. It was a Christmas gift from a dear girlfriend, and rather like Pooh and his honey, I’m quite attached to it.

As for smearing ink ... Ah, the bane of a lefty's existence. Many of us old-school lefties write in such a way that the heel of our hand pushes across the page, smudging the lines beneath.
*in the photo of me signing my book contract for If You Find Me, my leftyness is evident!

Back when I was learning to write, no one knew what to do with lefties; today, more lefty children are taught to position their hand in such a way that it doesn’t drag across the page; in essence, mirroring how a right-handed person writes.

I've always felt a sort of despair writing out thank-you cards, Christmas cards and letters, since I've very nearly smudged every one in existence. So, fast forward to publishing If You Find Me; I was very concerned about smudges when signing books for readers. After some research, I was ecstatic to find special pens for lefties which help with hand and finger placement, but most importantly, that come with smudge-proof ink!
I'm ultra-proud to say that I haven’t smudged one signed book.

For any lefties out there, here’s a great site for everything lefty. Their newsletter is a delight, packed with interesting left-hander information, and they hail from the UK!

I love being a lefty. I can’t snap my fingers, curl my tongue or whistle. But I’m one of 4 to 10% of the population to go against evolution and write with my left hand. (Right-handedness is believed to have developed from human beings’ need for cooperation in groups, a.k.a. commonality for preservation’s sake.)

Thank you so much for highlighting myself and If You Find Me, today. I love that you’re a mother-daughter reading duo, and I wish you many more wonderful books together!

Thank you Emily for sharing your thoughts and pictures with us!

Win a copy of If You Find Me

Leave a comment, e-mail or tweet us (@wesatdown) about the comp by Sunday, 2 Feb 2014, 6pm. 
One winner selected at random by our yellow-furred random-eater. Open to UK postal addresses. Under 13s should get parental permission to enter.

Prize is a UK paperback edition of If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, published by Indigo, 30 January 2014.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

As promised, more horsey pics from Emily!

Go sign some signatures....

And tweet, comment or e-mail us to win.

Friday 24 January 2014

Branford Boase Award 2014 Longlist

29 UK debut novels for children have made it onto this year’s Branford Boase Award longlist.  The Branford Boase Award is one of my favourite book awards because it is unique in honouring both author and editor, and it creates an exciting and inspiring nurturing space for children’s literature. We’re delighted that some of our favourite reads from last year are on here. Fingers crossed.

Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian children’s books editor, chairs the judging panel and said: “It has been another exceptional year for debut writers and it was exciting to receive so many submissions for the award: no less than 17 different publishers feature on the longlist, which once again is very varied, with fantasy stories, romances, adventure stories, comedies, family stories and more.”

The shortlist for the Award will be announced on 1st May 2014. The winner will be announced on Thursday 10th July in London alongside winners of the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition for writers under 19.

Longlist - Branford Boase Award 2014

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce, edited by Emma Matthewson (Bloomsbury)

Sorrowline by Niel Bushnell, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)

The Child’s Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston edited by Bella Pearson and Natalie Doherty (David Fickling Books)

Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll, edited by Rebecca Lee (Faber)

Winter Damage by Natasha Carthew, edited by Rebecca McNally (Bloomsbury)

The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale, edited by Rebecca Lee (Faber)

Tiger Thief by Michaela Clarke, edited by Kirsty Stansfield (Nosy Crow)

Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill, edited by Lauren Buckland (Random House)

After Eden by Helen Douglas, edited by Ele Fountain (Bloomsbury)

Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve, edited by Emily Thomas (Hot Key)

Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood, edited by Venetia Gosling (Simon and Schuster)

The Disappeared by C.J. Harper, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon and Schuster)

Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones edited by Mara Bergman (Walker)

The Mysterious Adventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee, edited by Liz Cross and Helen Bray (OUP)

Red Ink by Julie Mayhew, edited by Emily Thomas (Hot Key)

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch, edited by Lauren Buckland (Random House)

Ferryman by Claire McFall, edited by Helen Boyle (Templar)

Alex the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Montgomery Ross, edited by Rebecca Lee & Susila Baybars (Faber)

The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse, edited by Liz Cross and Claire Westwood (OUP)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris, edited by Janetta Otter-Barry (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss, edited by Imogen Cooper and Barry Cunningham (Chicken House)

The Hanged Man Rises by Sarah Naughton, edited by Venetia Gosling (Simon and Schuster)

Gabriel’s Clock by Hilton Pashley, edited by Charlie Sheppard/Eloise Wilson (Andersen Press)

Acid by EmmaPass, edited by Ruth Knowles and Jessica Clarke (Random House)

Sun Catcher by Sheila Rance, edited by Fiona Kennedy (Orion)

The Quietness by Alison Rattle, edited by Sarah Odedina (Hot Key)

Geek Girl by Holly Smale, edited by Lizzie Clifford (HarperCollins)

My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)

The Last Wild by Piers Torday, edited by Sarah Lambert (Quercus)

The Branford Boase Award 2013 was won by Dave Shelton (author) and David Fickling (editor) for A Boy and A Bear in a Boat. Lydia Syson (author) and Sarah Odedina (editor) were highly commended for AWorld Between Us.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Rooftoppers - Katherine Rundell

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Review by M

Rooftoppers has been nominated for the Carnegie 2014 medal.

Rooftoppers is unusual and it is wonderful; the kind of novel that lights you up inside.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
There’s been a lot of high praise for Rooftoppers but the initial story premise didn’t grab me. I pushed the novel towards the front of my review books mostly because of Katherine Rundell’s tweets. I’m glad I did because the book’s as good and interesting as her twitter account.

A baby girl, Sophie, is orphaned in a shipwreck, and found floating on a cello case at sea. Charles Maxim, an eccentric intellectual takes her in, home educates her and battles with social services who think it inappropriate for a single man to raise a girl.  The thing he teaches her the loudest is never to ignore a possible....and so the story opens up.

In Rooftoppers, Rundell combines social observations and criticisms with the beautifully fantastical in a tone that bears charming wit. The imagery she uses is both funny and enchanting and her characters are wholly endearing and I think Charles Maxim, Sophie’s guardian, will sit alongside Atticus Finch as one of my favourite ‘fathers’ in literature. I found delight in nearly every page (though I did raise an eyebrow at the need to include a fight scene – but hey).

Rooftoppers is perfect for slightly older fans of Pippi Longstocking or Frances Hardinge’s character, Neverfell (A Face Like Glass). It’s full of the elements I love to find in children’s fiction and it’s a book I suspect might get passed along the generations.

Publication details: 2013, Faber, London, paperback
This copy: review copy from the publisher

Friday 10 January 2014

Rosie Rowell has unfinished business

Our first We Sat Down For a Chat post of 2014 is a guest post from Leopold Blue author, Rosie Rowell. Leopold Blue is a charming and vivid coming of age tale set in early 1990s rural South Africa. Rosie Rowell tells us a bit about writing the novel and some unfinished business she has with it....

by Rosie Rowell

What Leopold's Main Street might have looked like
Leopold Blue took a long time to write. As a story it took ages to settle, and once it had I was slow to write it. It started as an escape from my very real world of three children under the age of three and a soother of my homesickness.Then the place and the characters became so real to me that I felt it my duty to tell their stories, to allow them a life outside my head. Seeing the book in print makes me very proud, both for myself and the characters.

One reaches a point at the end of writing and editing a book when you have to let your characters go, if for no other reason than to make room for the others that are waiting to move in. Now that I am fully engaged with the troublesome characters in my next book, Leopold’s characters are like treasured but distant friends. All except for one – Simon. 
He pulls at me. I can best describe it as a nagging sensation, similar to an outstanding bill that one keeps remembering about in the middle of the night. On a number of occasions I’ve caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye. 

My friend reminded me recently about an occasion about two years ago. We were doing a charity walk along the Thames, starting at Hampton Court and ending up at Battersea Park. It was a lovely opportunity to chatter uninterrupted by phones and kids and husbands. Apparently half way through, I stopped dead and turned around. Our conversation went along the lines of –

Me: ‘Oh my god I’ve just seen Simon!’
Her: ‘Who is Simon?’
Me: ‘You know, Simon. The character in my book.’

I’ve seen him in a shopping mall; I’ve caught sight of him in the arrivals hall at Cape Town airport. The recognition can so fierce that I have to stop myself from approaching these unsuspecting strangers. I generally dismiss it as a side-effect of being a writer, of being permanently caught between the ‘real’ world and my internal (and often preferred) canvas. It is also common to fall in love a little bit with your characters and that crush is difficult to give up.

And yet, I do feel that Simon’s story is yet to be told. He is subtle; he is a watcher. It is difficult to make him talk. I’ve been surprised by glimpses of his anger, both at the situation he was born into but also towards Meg and her family. The final chapter of Leopold Blue is in my mind Meg handing on the baton to Simon. At the very end Meg recognises that Simon’s story is an extraordinary and brave one, one that I hope one day he will trust me to tell.


M highly recommends Leopold Blue - it makes a refreshing change. Read the review.

Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell

Friday 3 January 2014

Leopold Blue - Rosie Rowell

Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell
Review by M

Leopold Blue by Rosie RowellLeopold is a small (fictional) town set in the Cederberg valley in South Africa, near Cape Town. There, the sky is blue and playing chicken in the main street on a Sunday is not as daring as it sounds. Fifteen year old Meg lives here with her sister and her parents. Life seems simple and monotonous although Meg’s mother, the return of Simon, and the arrival of Xanthe threaten to upset all sorts of applecarts.

Set in the early 1990s in the lead up to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Leopold Blue presents a charming and thoughtful slice of life from a rural, white, English-speaking, teenage girl’s point-of-view. The novel shows how every one of those little adjectives made a difference to Meg’s life.

 A tumultuous time in South Africa’s history when it wasn't sure whether is was still in or out of apartheid, Leopold Blue captures the pregnant mood of a nation and of individual people very well: the hopes and the fears, the celebrations and the dangers, the deceits, and the getting on with life. The novel is a very level-headed representation with a tone that is as warm as the bright sun you’d find in a Leopold blue sky but with a hint of grit just below the surface dust.

Early on, and more than once in the novel, characters present perspectives that overlook glaring issues about foreign interventions which I expected the author to highlight for a UK audience. Further on, Rowell does this, and she does it well and believably. Of all the characters, Simon was a jarring one and whether that is Rowel’s intention or not is curious. The novel definitely focuses most on the character of Meg and the small interiority of her world and how it starts to open up. I enjoyed it for doing that.

Footnotes are provided for the South African words and local slang so there’s a flow of understanding that’s not interrupted by turning to a glossary at the back.

For UK teenagers, Leopold Blue is a refreshingly alternative coming-of-age read with glimpses into a culture that is at once familiar yet also very different. Anyone else curious about that period of history will probably enjoy it. It will probably appeal to fans of Friday Brown (Vikki Wakefield) or Raspberries on the Yangtze (Karen Wallace).

Leopold Blue is a story that is very close to my own childhood so I was either going to love it or hate it. I read it quickly and let my thoughts rest for a few days before I wrote this review. I loved Leopold Blue and I’ll be highly recommending it.


Publication details: January 2013, Hot Key Books, London, paperback
This copy: uncorrected proof for review from the publisher

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Blindsided - Natalie Whipple

Blindsided by Natalie Whipple
Review by Little M

Blindsided by Natalie WhippleThis is the sequel to Natalie Whipple's Transparent. Fiona McClean is a daughter of one of the most famous syndicate gang leaders. However, she is not normal like most girls. She is invisible. No one can see her and she can't even see what she looks like. A drug was made which gives humans mutant powers. In Fiona's case, she is invisible. This drug can also be given to enhance their abilities, this is where the syndicates comes into play. This time Fiona and her pack (gang) need to stop her father, the army and another syndicate from recreating this drug because the missing element has now been found.

I really liked both novels so much. Fiona really is a headstrong character.  However, my favourite characters must be Miles and Spud. Miles is Fiona's brother who has the ability to let off scents. Some are fruity others could be eggy. He can be quite funny but he is also mega protective over his sister and girlfriend, Spud.Spud is the infamous hacker who is on most of the syndicates kill or wanted lists. She is hilarious once she has hacked into something and her presence just really grew on me.

The Hot Key ring on this book says Blindsided is:

  • Superpowers, I definitely agree with this;
  • Romance is another, and yes this one fits too;
  • Kick-Ass, this one I'm a bit confused about because I'm not sure if it means it's really actiony or adventurey though I think it should say action or mutant because this would say a bit more about the book.
Blindsided, Hot Key Books Ring

Overall I really enjoyed it and I read on the 24 hour readathon.

Publication details: Hot Key Books, January 2014, London, paperback
This copy: review copy from the publisher