Archive for August, 2012

I Want My Hat Back

Jon Klassen

A bear has lost his hat.
What if he never sees it again?
He has seen his hat…

Contains spoilers

The bear has lost his beloved hat. Despairing that he will never see it again, proactive bear decides to ask his woodland neighbours, if they have seen his missing millinery.

One by one the woodland creatures disappoint the bear with their lack of hat knowledge. But not all of Bears informants are being completely honest and it takes a friendly deer to nudge the bear in the right direction.

I was immediately drawn to the earthy tones of the illustrations. While I have nothing against the usual abundance of primary colours and particularly in my house at the moment, overwhelming presence of pink, I found the muted tones and the understated illustrations refreshing.

The illustrations complement the story perfectly, mirroring the stilted, socially polite, awkwardness of the dialog between the characters. This is particularly evident when, by contrast, the bear comes into contact with a genuinely interested deer. Not only is the deer concerned about the bear and wants to help him but it is the first time any of the characters make eye contact.

My two year old, still in the phase of life where everything is either black or white and having not yet developed the ability to lie or bend the truth, doesn’t understand the book at all. The illustrations that delight me with their cleverness, fail to hold his attention.

My daughter (4.5) loved being in on the joke, identifying the location of the hat and the guilty party, long before the bear twigs on. Like her mother she has a dark sense of humour and we laughed together as the bear misses some big clues to the guilty parties identity and when the lying culprit finally gets his just desserts. However, even she missed the finale entirely and believes, despite the bears rather suspicious, unprovoked pronouncement “I would not eat a rabbit”, that the bear extracts his revenge by sitting on the rabbit.

Verdict: A fabulously naughty picture book, more suited to the canny early reader than the black and white pre-schooler.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Publication Date: October 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Early Readers
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
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To The Moon And Back

Jill Mansel

When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start-at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company… Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill…

Reading this book was like curling up with a cuppa and a custard cream; easy and comfortable. It is full of warmth, it has the feel good factor and has a dash of humour and a bit of depth.

Ellie is a young woman in a fantastic marriage with a bright future when her husband, Jamie, is killed in a car accident and she has to start life all over again. Jill Mansel writes about this with so much realism. Ellie clings to the memory of Jamie, she stays in a horrible flat because it was their home, she talks to him and imagines him talking back,(or maybe he really does…), she blames his best friend for the accident that killed him and she feels guilty herself and she hates getting the sympathy card all the time. The story is not a complex dissection of grief, but it is accurate in showing how it affects people. It also helps to make Ellie an extremely likable, believable character for her faults and strengths.

When Ellie finally moves to a lovely flat in Primrose Hill, thanks to her film star father-in-law Tony, she meets a new friend in Roo and gets a new job as a PA for the delicious looking Zack. The very reason Ellie gets the job is because she is not available for romance. Of course at this point I instantly saw fireworks happening between them, but the story is clever and nothing is straight forward here.

The cast of minor characters are a great mix and I enjoyed the way they were pivotal to the plot in respects that only became obvious later on. The manner in which the characters crossed paths with each other and inter-linked was great too. I particularly liked the way that Roo’s relationship with Yasmin (Roo’s lover’s wife) became a bigger and bigger part of the story.

Verdict: As I mentioned before the journeys in this book are not predicable. There are ups and downs, dating disasters, disappointments, pleasures in the simple things of life and huge successes. It all revolves around normal life, sharing coffee, dinner, a glass of wine and living life together with people you care about. The dog share was genius! Ellie getting back on her feet surprises even her and that makes this a fresh and intelligent bit of chick lit.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: February 2011
Format: ebook
Pages: 418/542KB
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Brodi Ashton

Now she’s returned to her old life for another six months before the Everneath comes to claim her…. this time for ever. Nikki longs to spend this precious time reconnecting with the people she left behind – her family, her friends and, most importantly, her boyfriend Jack, the one person she loves more than anything.
But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smouldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki home, convinced that she is the key to claiming the throne of the Underworld. Cole wants to bring Nikki back to the Everneath, but this time as his queen.
Now Nikki only has six months for goodbyes she can’t find the words for, six months to make the hardest decision of her life, six months to find redemption, if it exists…

This was a beautifully written story based around the myths of Hades/Persephone and Orpheus/Eurydice. I really enjoyed reading this and found it hard to put down. This is a unique story and I loved the whole idea, where Nikki our protagonist has chosen to go with Cole to the Everneath in order to escape the pain she feels from a bust up with her boyfriend Jack, and the death of her mother.

Unbeknownst to her, Cole is an immortal being who needs to ‘feed’ on humans, known as ‘forfeit’s’ in order to gain his strength. As far as her family and friends are aware she has gone missing, probably due to drugs and is gone for 6 months. However Nikki has in fact spent 100 years in the Everneath as a forfeit allowing Cole to feed off of her emotions. At the end of the 100 years she has a choice and hers is to return for six months to say her goodbyes before the Everneath claims her forever. She comes back to her home town disorientated, sapped of all her strength and emotions and finding it hard to remember anything of her time both in the
Everneath, and from before she left.

Nikki is a strong independent character. Throughout the book as she deals with Cole who she is very strongly tied to as a result of their time wrapped around each other in the Everneath, and also as she tentatively rebuilds her relationship with Jack, she takes responsibility for her actions and knows that this whole situation is of her own doing. I also liked Jack whom she misjudged and who shows his love and commitment to her, right to the very end. I even found myself feeling a bit sorry for Cole (I’m clearly a sucker for a bad boy!) as he fights for Nikki believing that ultimately she will return to him and will be the answer to eternal life, ruling the Underworld forever.

The characters were well developed and believable. The author takes us back and forth, through both the build-up to the feed and the events before Nikki disappears and also through the six months after Nikki returns and I enjoyed piecing the story together this way as more information was revealed. This story is all about redemption as Nikki seeks to put things right before her six months is up, but also about what true love is and certainly what it isn’t.

Verdict: A really great read from this debut author.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 370
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Mythology
Age: YA
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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Ballet Shoes

Noel Streatfeild

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he’ll be back in five years’ time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia’s money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders – an engaging and eclectic mix of characters – but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too – she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her.

I’ve read and re-read this book so much I pretty much know it off by heart. Wouldn’t every girl want to be a ballerina? This story reveals how hard it is to have a life of stardom…They cope with hardly any money and not enough food until Sylvia needs to take in borders, soon that’s not enough. Finally Great Uncle Matthew comes back and they have the chance to follow their dreams of being a pilot, a professional ballet dancer and a film star.

This book is beautifully illustrated and magnificently told. I’ve got it on DVD and the film certainly lived up to the book. I would recommend it to teen/tweenage girls who like classics.

Verdict:Every time I’ve read this book it takes a lot of persuading to put it down.
Reviewed by Daisy (11)

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: September 2004
Format: Hardback
Pages: 192
Genre: Classic, Dance
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Daisy
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Self Published Sunday: Ben Galley

We are delighted to welcome Ben Galley to Big Book Little Book. Not only is Ben the author of the Emaneska series, he is also the creator of Shelf Help, a site offering advice on the entire self publication process.

At 24, Ben Galley is a young author from sunny England, and a writer of fantasy and tall tales. Author of the epic and dark Emaneska Series, he has two books to his name, and there is soon to be a third. He’s passionate about sharing his knowledge and know-how with other hopeful authors, and is keen to help them turn their passion into their profession. Ben regularly tours the country signing books, pestering bookshops, and searching for dragons. He is a regular speaker, and blogger on everything fantasy and Self-Publishing, and has just launched a Self-Publishing, Writing, and Marketing site called SHELF HELP. You can also find him lurking on several social media sites including Twitter and Facebook

What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually asking myself the question: Why am I not writing? But aside from that, I’m an avid reader, amateur cook, I enjoy running, and like to pretend I can surf.

What inspired you to become a writer?
Originally, it was the influence of my parents, and the great books they let me read as a child. Books like Lord of The Rings, Iliad and the Odyssey, the Redwall series, and a huge number of others. It instilled a strong sense of imagination in me, and it was hard to ignore it, so it wasn’t long before I was attempting to write instead of read. I wrote my first book at age 12, and haven’t looked back since.

What was your inspiration for the Emaneska series?
Fantasy has always been a big part of my life and of my bookshelf, so it was a genre I’ve always wanted to delve into, with a bold and epic series. I had recently got back into fantasy and weird fiction, so it was partly that, and the desire to write something gritty and dark too, thanks to getting irritated by the watershed subject matter of a certain BBC series about a certain Arthurian wizard…Aside from that, the idea of Farden, my main character, literally came crashing into my head.

Why did you choose to write fantasy?
From my deep love of everything fantastical and out of this world. It’s a genre with no bounds.

How did you get interested in the fantasy genre?
Thanks to being introduced to Lord of The Rings by my parents and at a very young age. It’s an obvious choice for fantasy lovers, but for me it is the birth of the genre as I know it, and the birth of a love.

Tell us more about your books?
My books – The Written and Pale Kings are books 1 and 2 of the Emaneska Series, an epic fantasy trilogy that follows the cold and pseudo-nordic world of Emaneska and its troubled inhabitants. It’s a land caught in the middle of a vicious winter and an uneasy peace. They’re primarily about Farden, a dark character who is a powerful mage and soldier for his people the Arka, but a man with a great many problems. The books follow him as he is dragged into a malicious plot to not only destroy him, but Emaneska as a whole.

What research did you do for this series
Only a little. The beauty of fantasy is that the author is the world-builder, and therefore is responsible for its history, its people, and its aspects. However, as I wanted to include a lot of Nordic tones, I went back to a lot of the Scandinavian myths I had read as a child.

Are any elements of your books based on real life experiences/people?
Again, very little. Once again, with fantasy, it’s hard to transfer real life experiences directly, but they do percolate through and transmute into the concepts that I use, and also to power certain scenes. Love, loss, anger, greed, and all the others I may have experienced. In regards to real life people, I use that a lot for describing appearances, but I can’t name any names 😉

What are you currently working on?
The third and final book in the Series – Dead Stars.

What is your writing process ?
I write every day, without fail. It’s a habit I think you have to get into to keep your book moving along, to keep your writing sharp, and to make sure you stay on track with plots. I write on my laptop or on my phone, and if I’m not writing at home, I like to go find a river or a beach or a hill for inspiration.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
It used to be coffee, but now it’s just water and a little music every now and again. And plenty of exercise.

What prompted you to self publish?
The fact that I knew I could publish my book once I finished it. No questions asked. On my terms. Without having to face rejection or a lengthy wait.

Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
The first challenge was writing it whilst working full time at bars, clubs, and restaurants. I had to write most of the first novel on my mobile phone. Once I finished it, the second challenge was getting it edited, and that took even longer! In publishing, I researched extensively before going ahead, so I avoided a few pitfalls but not all. The main challenge for me there was sourcing a great cover and formatting for eBooks.

Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
I don’t really believe in writer’s block, just writer’s uphill struggle. I think you have to go for a jog, make some lunch, or just work on something else, like another chapter, or leave a note and move on.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It takes hard work and time to write and publish novels. Whatever happens, just keep going 🙂

What books have inspired you?
Lord of The Rings, once again. All of Neil Gaiman’s books. Mythology as a whole. Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, and also John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Charles Dickens’s entire collection.

What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
Any of the Redwall series.

What are you currently reading?
A rather non-fiction book called UXB. It’s a WW2 book.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
Way of Kings Part 1 and 2, by Brandon Sanderson.

What/Who inspired you as a reader?
Neil Gaiman.

Just for Fun

If your book had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
Many a raucous one, due to its fast-paced nature and action. But I have quite a varied music taste, so I think the Series would reflect that too. Audioslave, Incubus, Killswitch Engage, but also Helios, Thomas Newman, Sigur Ros.

Paper, Audio or eBook?

Tea or Coffee?
Neither. Doctor’s orders 😉

Slippers or barefoot?

Shower or Bath?

Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Despise it.

Email or postcard?
Can’t put an email on your fridge. Save the fridge magnet.

His name is Farden.
They whisper that he’s dangerous.
Dangerous is only the half of it.

Something has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell. Something very old, and something very powerful. Five scholars are now dead, a country is once again on the brink of war, and the magick council is running out of time and options. Entangled in a web of lies and politics and dragged halfway across icy Emaneska and back, Farden must unearth a secret even he doesn t want to know, a secret that will shake the foundations of his world. Dragons, drugs, magick, death, and the deepest of betrayals await. Breathtakingly vast, chillingly dark, brooding and dangerous, The Written will leave you impatiently waiting for the next adventure Welcome to Emaneska.

A huge thank you to Ben for taking part in our Self Published Sunday feature. Check out Ben’s Guest post So Now Everyones Is An Author? where Ben provides us with the benefit of his self publishing experience.

The Written and Pale Kings, the first two instalments of the Emaneska trilogy, are available to buy from Amazon.

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Brown Owl’s Guide To Life

Kate Harrisson

Shy, sweet-natured Lucy Collins is used to being pushed around. For the first eighteen years of her life, her widowed mother Judith ruled the roost. Now Lucy’s husband, her seven-year-old daughter and even Buster the cat boss her about. But her mother’s premature death leaves Lucy an orphan at the age of thirty-five. She’s devastated…but she’s also free. After a lifetime of being a disappointment to everyone, is it finally time Lucy grew up? As she clears out her mother’s rambling house, Lucy discovers a trunk full of memories…her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all Brown Owls: capable, no-nonsense matriarchs who were the leading lights of the Girl Guide movement. They spent their spare time preparing the next generation for their roles as wives and mothers with a mixture of campfire songs, sew-on badges and reef knots. But could the old values and frontier spirit now hold the key to help Lucy make the changes she needs in her life?

This was lent to me by a friend and I was rather intrigued by the title. I was once a Brownie and thinking of a guide to life by a Brown Owl struck me as being amusing. Although perhaps I do Brown Owl’s a disservice in this, all those badges and promises probably make for a pretty decent self-help manual!

The story is based around six Brownies from the 1st Troughton Pack. The story tracks between the present day, where they are all grown up and their past together as Pixies. It transpires that there was an incident during a Pack Holiday that deeply affected them all, and in some cases ruined their friendships.

Now they are all grown up women and Brown Owl has just died leaving them all letters. The lives of these girls have gone off at different tangents and they have not all turned out as might have been predicted. The story uses flashbacks to the past and on-going present developments to reveal what happened to them all and resolve some of the issues they live with.

The central character, Lucy, was Brown Owl’s daughter and she feels strongly that she has not lived up to her mother’s hopes and expectations of her. Lucy’s marriage is falling apart and she is still longing to find out about the Father she idolises, but never actually really knew. All this comes tumbling to the surface in the wake of her mother’s death and leaves Lucy trying to recover and decide what she wants from her life.

Lucy’s best friend Terri was also a Brownie and is now (she feels) the oldest virgin in Troughton. She has been the strong sensible one all her life and is training to be a Vicar, but losing Brown Owl, who was the Mother she always wanted sends her on a new journey of self-discovery. The other four women from the Pixie Six are more minor characters, but none-the-less interesting. The story uses them all to look at how women are affected by aging, getting married having children and losing those they love. Even getting fatter has its part in this tale! So much of the novel reflects how women relate to each other and in particular how we are affected by our mother/daughter relationships in both their good and bad points.

Verdict: I so enjoyed this book. It is well written and food for thought. It has humour and sadness, a bit of romance and best of all characters that held your attention. A great read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: December 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Love Books Will Travel: Upcoming Book Events

If you have spent any time visiting us here at Big Book Little Book it couldn’t have escaped your notice that we love attending book events. If you are lucky enough to live in the south, or don’t mind traveling, there are some absolutely fantastic opportunities coming up over the next few months.

Who: Michelle Harrison, Zoe Marriott, L.A.Weatherly, Karen Mahoney, Laura Powell, Ruth Warburton and Thomas Taylor
What: YA Panel Event
What the hosts say: “Roll up! Roll up! Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, for one day only Foyles will once again be hosting a circus of literary delights to spook even the bravest amongst you.”
Where: The Gallery at Foyles,Charing Cross Road, London
When: Saturday the 4th of August 2-6pm
Tickets: Free, but need to be reserved by emailing [email protected]

I am so excited to be attending Foyles Summer Scream event this Saturday. Where else can you find this much YA talent, not to mention dozens of salivating book bloggers, all in one room?
I’ve just checked Foyles events page and there are still tickets available!!

Who: Philippa Gregory
What: Book Talk and Signing
What the hosts say: “Join us on the day that The Kingmaker’s Daughter is published as historian and internationally bestselling author Philippa Gregory discusses her books, the history that has inspired them and her prestigious career as a novelist. Philippa will also be reading from her new book and signing copies of it afterwards. We are thrilled that such a well-known and popular author is choosing to spend her publication evening with us and anticipate that this will be a popular and fascinating evening.”
Where: Hosted at Holy Trinity Church, High Street, Guildford, GU1 3RR
When: Thursday 16th August at 7pm
Tickets: £5 / £3 for Waterstones loyalty cardholder, available by calling or visiting the bookshop: Waterstones 171-73 High Street, Guildford, Surrey.
Email [email protected]

I shall be taking my copy of Changeling along when I meet the queen of historical fiction (do you see what I did there!)

Who: Derek Landy
What: Book talk and Signing
What the hosts say: “This is a brilliant chance for Skullduggery fans to meet this fabulous author. Derek will be talking about his novels, answering questions and signing copies of all of his books”
Where: Hosted at Holy Trinity Church, High Street, Guildford, GU1 3RR
When: Thursday 13th of September 7pm
Tickets: £3 available by calling or visiting the bookshop: Waterstones 171-73 High Street, Guildford, Surrey.
Email [email protected]

I haven’t read any of Derek’s Skullduggery series yet, but it certainly looks like it would be a fantastic addition to my middle grade collection.

Who: John Boyne
What: Book talk and Signing
What the hosts say: “Acclaimed author John Boyne will be talking about his internationally best selling novel, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas…”
Where: Hosted at the Guildford store, 171-173 High Street, Guildford, GU1 3RR
When: Tuesday 30th October 7pm
Tickets: £3 available by calling or visiting the bookshop: Waterstones 171-73 High Street, Guildford, Surrey.
Email [email protected]

I can’t believe that I still haven’t read The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas. A situation I plan to rectify soon.

Hopefully we will meet some of you at one or more of these amazing events.
Post by Caroline

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Julie Cross

The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.
That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps.Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.
Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.
But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler. Recruit… or kill him.
Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

I liked the premise of this book which introduces Jackson Meyer, who is nineteen years old, has a girlfriend and a fairly regular life – other than the fact that he can travel through time. It’s set in the year 2009 and Jackson has only recently discovered his ‘gift’ and with the help of his friend Adam is beginning to test his abilities and its limitations. His ‘jumps’ into the past only last a few minutes in real ie present time and nothing he does in the past when jumping affects the future. When mysterious and unknown thugs burst into his girlfriend Holly’s dorm room there is a struggle and Holly is killed. Jackson then jumps to escape and decides to keep going back in time to try to work out who the men are and what they were after.

After this, for me it all got a bit confusing. There are lots of jumps so we are going back and forward a lot to different times and picking up new bits of information along the way as Jackson tries to piece everything together. At one point he gets stuck in 2007 for a long time and has to re-meet Holly and Adam in order to be close to Holly to protect her and because he just can’t stay away and to enlist Adam’s help for all his techie needs! There is also a lot of suspicion surrounding his father, his father’s job and how he relates to the men that shot Holly in 2009.

We eventually find out that Jackson has the Tempest gene which gives him these abilities and there are those out there who want to use these gifts and those gifted for good and of course those who have plans that are not so good. These people are also jumping between time zones and popping up all over the place and time! As Jackson finds out more information and his relationship with his father changes and begins to provide some answers he then trains (very quickly!) to become a top CIA secret agent super spy type person to get stuck in and beat the baddies – once he’s worked out who is definitely a baddie and who’s a goodie!

A lot of the story focuses on the relationship between Jackson and Holly – both the 2007 and the 2009 versions. Their romance didn’t particularly move me plus the two Holly’s from the different years are quite different from each other and it just all felt a bit odd to me.

The next one in the trilogy is out in 2013 and while I’m sure I will pick it up at some point as I do tend to like to follow a story through to its conclusion, I won’t be rushing to buy it as soon as it’s published.

Verdict: I really liked the premise, but I’m not sure that for me the book lived up to my expectations.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: ebook
Pages: 350
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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