Wednesday, 27 January 2016

My life in books

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for another, My life in books. 

I have some great and not so great books for you today. From a whole range of genres. So hopefully, you find something that you or your child will enjoy! All of the books in this post were given to me for free by NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

The silk merchants daughter by Dinah Jefferies. 

 Back cover blurb:

War, secrets and an unbearable choice; your sister or your lover?

1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…
Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?
The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial-era Vietnam.

My thoughts

Nicole, the lead character in this story, was an interesting person whose life in 
1952 French Indochina very quickly drew my attention.

I particularly liked how Dinah gently guides you through Nicole's world, with little snippets of everyday life for both the poor of Indonesia and those higher up in society. It was such a gentle process that I often didn't realize it was happening until I suddenly found myself searching google images, for photo's from this period and longing for a little silk purse, just like the one Nicole discovers in the story. 

I became so enthralled by the imagery of this book, that I began doodling little Indonesian girls and pretty flowers in my bullet journal. Desperate to capture a memory of the book that I could look back on in the future and smile about. 

I love books that absorb you in this way, as they really help you to step out of reality and into a whole exciting, new world.

Nicole was a great character to help you with this process also because she was perfectly flawed. Let me explain, though pretty, Nicole believes that she is not, this isn't just a play at modesty, Nicole truly believes it. She's grown up in a world where her sister has always seemed more favoured, a sister who despite also being a Metisse, looks decidedly French in appearance, whereas, Nicole does not. She's inherited her mother's Indonesian features and her lack of confidence in her own beauty is further enhanced by the way she is treated by both the French and Indonesian people, who due to rising tensions and the threat of war between the two races, have both become incredibly distrusting of those who are mixed race. 

These problems combined with some pretty big family secrets and some decidedly shady behavior from those Nicole comes into contact with, throughout the story, helps you to, not only, build a strong affection for Nicole, but also ensure that you are constantly left guessing at just where the story will go. 

Dinah has constructed this story so well, that I often found it as difficult to decide on the best course of actions, as Nicola herself did. 

Which meant when her choices proved to be bad, I would admonish myself just as Nicole did. While also feeling proud when we got it right. An experience that only further succeeded in bonding me with this character and her story. 

My favourite part of this book was its ability to draw me in. Often making it incredibly easy to shut out the real world and its many distractions.

Dinah is brilliant at creating realistic emotions and reactions. Her understanding of the human thought process was amazing.

The only area where this book left me a little disappointed was the speed with which it sometimes dealt with the darker aspects of Nicoles world. In particular, her brief visit to the re-education camp. I really would have liked to know more about what took place in these camps and why? And although Dinah did cover this briefly, I think a little bit more of a tour of the site, would have been good.  

That said, when it comes to the unpleasantries of war, I do prefer it when there is a little less information than I would like, over there being a lot more information than I would like. 

I have read books that deal with a period of time and setting where war was occurring in the past that have left me bored to tears with their long drawn out explanations, that often deviate away from the story itself and can really cause you to lose interest. 

Dinah doesn't do this, everything she writes is relevant and to the point and I did appreciate that as a reader. 

If you're a fan of historical fiction with fabulously believable characters and gripping imagery that has the ability to really make you feel as if you are stepping back in time. Then this is the book for you. 

If you like books that deal with difficult choices, hard realities, and family lies and secrets, then again this is a book for you

In reality, I think there is a vast range of people who would enjoy this book. Even those who like a little bit of romance, because Dinah really is a talented author, who has already made it onto the Sunday times #1 bestseller list with her book "The planter's wife." 

Which I've just purchased along with another book by Dinah called "The superstition."

Yep, I liked this book that much. :) 

The silk Merchants Daughter isn't due for release until 25th of February 2016, but you can  pre-order it from Amazon, as I've just done. (I have to have a hard copy of this one for my shelves, plus I think it's important to show authors your appreciation when you do like their work, especially if they've been kind enough to allow you to read an ARC of their book.)

A big thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Stanley at school by Linda Bailey

Back cover blurb:

Stanley knows school is for kids, not dogs. But every day he grows more and more curious. What did the kids do in that school all day? Stanley rounds up his pals from the dog park to take a closer look. Will they find the answers they're looking for? One thing is for certain: School + Stanley = TROUBLE!

My thoughts 

I love dogs and so any book that has dogs on the cover is going to attract my attention. Beyond that and the fact that it's obviously to do with a school, I really wasn't sure what to expect with this one. 

The dogs were brilliant, especially Nutsy and Gassy Jack. It wasn't so much that they did more than the other characters, they were just so darn cute! Some of the poses and facial expressions nutsy pulls had me giggling like a little school girl. I particularly liked his yoga-esk pose in the school hallway. (Whispers to the powers that be, "Can I please, have a whole book of Nutsy picture.")

Bill Slavin has illustrated this book beautifully. The pictures often fill the whole page and have so much going on you could just sit there and stare for a few minutes, if it weren't for the story enticing you forwards. (Helpful tip: read through the story then nip back through the book a second time to fully appreciate the illustrations.)

And here's what is really great about this book the illustrations and story work so well together. Both are fun and joyful and just when you think "Awww no." Linda hits you with a brilliant ending. 

This is a book your kids will love and which you'll adore sharing with them. 

I know I'll be doodling pictures of these cute dogs all over my bullet journal for weeks to come. 

So buy it, share it and enjoy it with all the kids you know. You won't regret it. 

Doodle adventures: The search for the Slimy Space Slugs! By Mike lowery. 

Back cover blurb:

Pick up a pencil or pen. Sharpen your imagination! Here's an adventure story where you, the reader, directly participate. DOODLE ADVENTURES: THE SEARCH FOR SLIMY SPACE SLUGS! marries the pleasures of doodling and drawing with the fun of a ripping good story. Like a visual Mad Libs chapter book, or a graphic novel where the reader gets to help with the graphics, it celebrates engaging, gamelike, fill-in fun for middle-grade readers.

Mike Lowery brings the fresh lively look of his Kid's Awesome Activity Calendar, with more than 65,000 copies in print, to the first in a series of DOODLE ADVENTURES—lighthearted fantasy stories where the reader first draws him- or herself into the story, and then continues by following prompts and adding more illustrations and doodles. The full-color book is sturdy paper over board with beautiful cream paper—perfect for defacing! Page after page mixes Lowery's hand-lettered text with illustrations and then lots of room for the reader's contributions.

Set in space, the book invites the reader to join Carl, a duck and member of a super-secret international group of explorers, on a journey in search of a very important grail-like object—a jar with an artifact that's gone missing. By the end of the adventure, you'll have co-written a tale you can read again and again and show off to family and friends.

My thoughts 

This is a brilliant idea for a kids book and a great way for kids, to not only get involved with the story but to unleash their creativity. 

The book has a great plot, that is funny and engaging while also providing plenty of opportunities for kids to make choices which they're then encouraged to sketch into the book. 

My eight-year-old son would absolutely love this book and it is definitely one I will be purchasing for him in the future. 

Your child gets to play the part of a secret agent, coming up with solutions and drawing them into the book in order to complete their mission. 

Not only can kids have fun reading and interacting with this book, but they can show it off to their friends and compare. (Assuming, of course, their friend has the book, which I think if they didn't they soon would.) 

The illustrations already done in the book are great, not overly detailed, so as to give your kid a complex, but nice, simple, yet brilliant illustrations that will amuse and entice your child along with the story. 

I don't think there are many kids that wouldn't enjoy this book unless I guess they absolutely loathe drawing, but I have yet to meet a child like that. 

I really can't recommend this book enough it's such a clever idea and a great way to get reluctant readers, to put down their computer controller and dive into a great book. 

A must buy, for every parent. 

Risuko by David Kudler

Back cover blurb: 

Can One Girl Win A War? My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls meRisuko. Squirrel. I am from Serenity Province though I was not born there. My nation has been at war for a hundred years, Serenity is under attack and my family is in disgrace, but some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be a very special kind of woman. All I want to do is climb. My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls me Squirrel. Risuko. ~*~ Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan - or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems. Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is. Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl, more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Yet she finds herself enmeshed in a game where the board is the whole nation of Japan, where the pieces are armies, moved by scheming lords, and a single girl couldn't possible have the power to change the outcome. Or could she? YOUNG ADULT HISTORICAL ADVENTURE COMING JUNE, 2016!

My thoughts

First of all, I need to talk about the cover. It's such a simple design and yet so beautiful. If you're anything like me, you'll be snapping this one up, based on the cover alone and if you do you won't be disappointed.

Risuko is the tale of a young girl who is suddenly sold by her mother to a somewhat strange old woman and marched off to become part of a school, that you very quickly begin to discover is not all that it seems.

The book starts at a fast pace, giving you very little time to actually bond with Risuko and this is actually a very clever move by David because her plight itself is what really draws the reader to her.

Thrust into a strange band of people and told very little, you travel with Risuko steadily learning along with her just what her future holds. Only to discover that every time you think you've got it sussed you're wrong. 

 The first part of the book centers around Riskuo's journey to her new school, David crafts this story in such a way that even before Risuko makes it to her new home your aware that this school is not as simple as it first appeared to be. 

The story is set in a period when Japan is at war. As they travel you learn not only about Japanese culture, but the war itself. 

The journey also allows for you to be introduced to a part of the large group of characters in this book, at a slow and steady pace, making the process of getting to know them all much easier. 

On reaching the school, the pace begins to slow down, while still managing to keep you engaged, as you watch the children slowly begin to learn in, at times, very baffling ways, that often leave you smiling, or scratching your head in confusion. 

David is a master not only of words but of plotting. His book is so well crafted and laid out, that you'd be hard pressed to find anything that doesn't work. From the second I picked this book up, I was entranced by Risuko's world and its heady mixture of fun and unusual characters. So much so, that I read the book through in one go, then admonished myself for it, because it was done and I couldn't make it go on, not right then and there at any rate. 

But go on it will because Risuko is the first in what is to be a series of books. ( beaming over here.)

Now for the sad part, Risuko isn't due for release until 15th of June. Which means we're really going to have to wait a little while for the next book in the series. That said, you can pre-order Risuko now, and read and re-read to your hearts content once it arrives. 

I know I'll be reading this one again and again, in fact, I'm even tempted to pick it up and start reading again right now, and I'm not joking. 

This is an amazing book, that along with its author, deserves to go far. 

Well, that's it for me again this week, apologies this one is coming so late in the day, powercuts dictated the schedule :) 

Love and hugs
Joss xx

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