Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Title: Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 2015)

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
Magonia is one of those strange little books that you find yourself enjoying in spite of it being a little bit out there in terms of plot and setting.

However, in a market saturated with books trying to be the next Hunger Games / Harry Potter / Twilight, this is a really refreshing read. As i was reading it, it reminded me of... nothing. Which is amazing as a lot of books there borrow heavily from their predecessors.

I kind of wish that there was no romance though and that more attention had been given to the world building. Just because it is YA does not mean it needs to be saturated with romance! I really wish authors would understand this. Had this element been underplayed, Magonia would have felt more like a fairy tale. I would have been more invested in the world and the story.

That does not mean that this is a bad book. If you are looking for a quick read that is written well, this is your best bet. It's 320 pages long and the story flows. This is a good choice for a day at the beach or a holiday so perhaps one to add to your summer reading lists.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blog Tour: The Thing About Jellyfish

Hi everyone!

Thanks for popping by and joining me on this leg of The Thing About Jellyfish South African blog tour.

The Thing About Jellyfish bi Ali Benjamin is a MG novel that is beautifully written and articulates emotions we all have felt at some point in our lives.

Suzy Swanson hears about the death of her friend Franny. Rather than simply accepting that things just happen, Suzy starts the process of finding out the reason her friend, a strong swimmer, died.

There is also the fact Suzy won't speak to anyone about anything that she is going through and chooses to immerse herself in researching jellyfish as she feels this provides the best explanation for her friend's death.

In doing this, Suzy starts discovering things about herself and people around her.

So while this book has been likened to John Green, I actually feel that Ali Benjamin is a far superior writer. She is so, so good at capturing grief and loss.

I hope that this book gets placed on reading lists on schools across the globe. I am a firm believer that books can provide comfort and solace and help us deal with difficult periods in our lives. Children can't came across these reads as easily as adults can and often the option needs to be blatantly given to them.

While this is an emotional read, I enjoyed experiencing Suzy's journey and loved some of the insights that came through in her narration.

I also loved all the interesting jellyfish facts and will definitely be reading up more information on them!

Check out the other blogs participating!
26th October – Monique Snyman from Charming Incantations
27th October- Monique Bernic from Paranormalsphere
28th October – Kelly Ansara from It’s a Book Thing
29th October – Lu from Sugar and Snark
30th October – Belinda Glenn from Girl From Mars
31st October – Tammy from Book Fairy’s Haven
1st November – TAJ Playlist and Wrap-up

It's a Book Thing: Review: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Check out Kelly's review here:

It's a Book Thing: Review: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Thanks for taking part in the blog tour, Kelly!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Blog Tour: Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Join local SA bloggers as we read and appreciate new release The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin!

Kicking off on the 26th October and running all week,  we will be stopping off at a different blog every day celebrating the release of this touching middle grade novel focusing on grief, loss, family and friendship.

26th October - Monique Snyman from Charming Incantations
27th October- Monique Bernic from Paranormalsphere
28th October - Kelly Ansara from It's a Book Thing
29th October - Lu from Sugar and Snark
30th October - Belinda  Glenn from Girl From Mars
31st October - Tammy from Book Fairy's Haven
1st November - TAJ Playlist and Wrap-up

About the Novel
Suzy Swanson is pretty sure she knows the real reason Franny Jackson died. Everyone says that there’s no way to be certain…that sometimes things just happen. But Suzy knows there must be a better explanation—a scientific one. Haunted by the loss of her former best friend — and by a final, terrible moment that passed between them — she retreats into a silent world of her own imagination. 

Convinced that Franny’s death was the result of a freak jellyfish sting, she crafts a plan to prove the truth, even if it means traveling around the globe… alone. As she prepares, she learns astonishing things about the universe around her… and discovers the potential for love and hope in her own backyard.

About the Author
Ali Benjamin is the co-writer for HIV-positive teen Paige Rawl's coming-of-age memoir, Positive, as well as Tim Howard's New York Times bestseller The Keeper. She is a member of New England Science Writers and has written for The Boston Globe Magazine, Martha Stewart's Whole Living, and Sesame Street. She lives in Massachusetts.

What the Critics Are Saying

A 2015 National Book Award for Young People's Literature Long List Book
An Amazon Editor's Fall Favorite Children's Book
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 2015

*"A painful story smartly told, Benjamin's first solo novel has appeal well beyond a middle school audience."
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*"Reminiscent of works by Jennifer L. Holm and Sharon Creech, Benjamin's novel is a shining example of the highs and lows of early adolescence."―Publishers Weekly, starred review

*"Benjamin's sense of timing and delivery is extraordinary, as she blends the visceral experiences of Suzy's journey with an internal dialogue that is authentic and poignant....readers...will fully immerse themselves in this superbly written, heartfelt novel."―School Library Journal, starred review

*"Benjamin's involving novel features clean, fluid writing that is highly accessible, yet rich with possibilities for discussion.... Her highly individual, first-person narrative makes compelling reading.... An uncommonly fine first novel."―Booklist, starred review

*"This novel has it all: just-right pacing, authentic voices and characters, beautifully crafted plot, and superb writing. Readers will find that this story lingers with them after the book is closed."―VOYA, starred review

"There are...a lot of children who might not only benefit from this book but also find themselves deeply moved by it."―New York Times Book Review

"Seventh-grade narrator Suzy Swanson will win readers' hearts as she silently struggles to come to terms with her complex emotions over the death of her former best friend."―Shelf Awareness

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (novel)

Title: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publisher: Random House

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

I watched the film adaption of this before I even know the book existed. Seriously,  what kind of book fan am I? I feel ashamed of myself on principle.

I loved the film and picked up a copy of the novel last week on special not really knowing what to expect.

For starters,  it was similar enough to the film to make my pedantic side happy, but it was also quite different in a lot of ways too. Which is tough because I love both versions!

I am not going to compare here, as I think you need to enjoy both for what they are.

The book is less than 200 pages and will be a perfect pick for your summer reading by the pool. The writing and characterisation is witty and intelligent and this will certainly appeal to John Green fans.

It is mature YA, though, so I do caution younger readers and parents. There is crude language and references. Sexual scenes are quite steamy and other events may make the more prudish raise an eyebrow. But this is exactly why I recommend this book.

It is an honest look at teens and what they get exposed to.

It also has the added benefit of reading like a fun travel guide to NYC. Part of me also want to pull an all - nighter in the city that never sleeps.

So get it. Read it with an open mind. Enjoy it for what it is. And then check out the film too!

Review: Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

Title: Sanctuary
Author: Jennifer McKissack
Publisher: Scholastic (October 2015)

A haunting and luminous Gothic YA novel about reckoning with the ghosts of one's dark past.

After the untimely death of her aunt Laura, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old French-Gothic mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she's also haunted by the ghosts of her past -- of her father who died at Sanctuary five years ago, and of her mother who was committed soon after. The memories leave Cecilia feeling shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.

But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary's library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her -- even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace with her haunted, tragic past?

I was fortunate to discover this wonderful novel through recieving a review copy  from Scholastic. And I send them a huge thank you for that because this is not normally a book I would pick up.

Sanctuary is one if the most unique books I have read this year. It is also, thankfully, a standalone. It is a quick yet atmospheric read with a spunky narrator and twisted, well - executed plot.

It is set in post - depression America which also adds to the enjoyment as it is not flooded with cultural references and actually relies on the story and not trends to draw the reader in. It also means that Sanctuary has the feel of being a classic, a book that could be read 50 years from now and still feel relevant.

I really recommend this as a good option for the holidays. It's one of the best books I have read this year. Good for fans of Jane Eyre.