Category Archives: Middle Grade

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods

Finished on 8th November, 2014

Author: Rick Riordan

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5 Stars

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If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on…

Who could tell the origin stories of the gods of Olympus better than a modern-day demigod? In this whirlwind tour of Greek mythology, Percy Jackson gives his personal take on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece – and reveals the truth about how they came to rule the world.

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Pre-reading, I was expecting this book to be interesting, but sorely dry – like  a textbook. Thankfully, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” surpassed my expectations by miles – the Greek myths and legends were totally Percyfied. (Which is totally epic!)

Reading this was like sinking into the embrace of an old friend. The writing was familiar, the backgrounds for so many characters were finally explained (there were a lot of “OH” moments when reading this) and, since this is Percy narrating, there was quite a lot of laughter in inappropriate moments.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would recommend reading this before or after you’ve read the Percy Jackson books (or maybe in-between?) but either way, it is a great look into the history and make-up of the Percy Jackson universe. A well deserved five stars, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” is a great, easy read that you can pick up at any time.

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Before I go, I have to make a quick note on the cover – is it just me or is this the worst Pj/HOO cover yet? Because as much as I love Logan Lerman, the cover is absolutely hideous! The other version is slightly better, but unfortunately that only comes in hardcover… *sigh*.

What are your thoughts? Am I the only one who dislikes the cover? Be sure to let me know, I’d love to discuss it with you!

The Giver (The Giver #1)

Read from 20-21st September, 2014

Author: Lois Lowry

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4.5 Stars

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Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

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A hauntingly enchanting read that makes you think about the deeper issues in life. The Giver – “the book that made dystopia” – is a classic read for all ages.

This novel is beautifully written. The language is eloquent and intelligent, delivering an intriguing story based in a fascinating world so unlike our own, yet believable all the same.

I found this utopian society fascinating. At first, I actually felt like I wanted to be part of The Community – it sounded pretty cool. Everyone seemed intelligent, you pretty much got your idea job, and marriages seemed to work out pretty well. But then we started to see the flaws. There was no books to read for fun, there was no love, I’m not even going to go near the releasing process (how can anyone be okay with that? And if they truly feel that it is the right thing to do, why do they lie about it?) – oh, and there’s no colour. Literally. Everything’s in black and white – the “Sameness” is what the Giver called it.

The concepts and importance of identity, memory, emotions and choice were addressed. Lois writes, “It was a community without danger or pain. But it was also a community without music, colour or art. And it was a community without books.”

The ending, however, let me down. While there are three other books in the quartet, they are seemingly unrelated to The Giver – so we don’t find out what happens to the characters we have grown to love. I understand the idea of “open-ended” book, but I felt that the ending was rushed and that the novel didn’t really have a conclusion.

Despite this, I did love the story. The Giver is a book that can be read on a philosophical level or just for fun. Either way, I believe that this well-rounded book can be read by all ages (starting with children around eleven).

I look forward to seeing the movie – the characters have been ages about four years and a romance has been added in, but I’m interested in how true the movie is to the book.

The Thirteenth Princess

Read in January, 2013

Author: Diane Zahler

The Thirteenth Princess

3.75 Stars

An interesting twist on the fairytale “the Twelve Dancing Princesses”. Recommended for but is not limited to people aged 8-12.

This book was not one of my favorites, but was written quite well.

Personally, I read this one to see what “a normal 12/13 year old” would read. – People always tend to say that I read things that are a few years “too old” for me. I call it “expanding my horizons”. – Go figure.