Book Review: The Bird and the Sword.

Book 34 of 2020

The Bird and the Sword. Written by Amy Harmon

The Bird and the SwordWow. This is a book that was recommended to me last year, and that I even bought and downloaded last year to go to Europe, but never got round to reading it. At a loss for books that interested me this week I scrolled through my Kindle Library looking for books that I had not read. Finding this one I decided I may as well read it since I had already purchased it!

I am so pleased that I did! I almost wish I had even read it earlier!!

I really enjoyed this story, I was worried at the beginning that it was going to be a little cliche, what with the forbidden magic, and king that executes people on a whim. However I was pretty stoked to realise there was so much more to the book than that. The twists and turns, the grey area about who was good and who was not was absolutely phenomenal. What I liked the most though, perhaps as I have discovered it is something I look for – was the sense of hope!

I thought the main character – Lark – in this book was really well written, and being able to join her for her journey of self discovery was really fantastic. However I would have liked to have seen a bit more development of the main male character – it was there, as was the development of his brother, but it was not quite as clear cut as the main protagonist story – and that will always be the way when you have a book from just one perspective but I perhaps would have liked it more with a little more understanding of motives.

I also really enjoyed the ending, not everything was wrapped up into tiny little bows which I thought was awesome!

“You don’t need wings to fly.”

Interesting, so as a side note I just got momentarily distracted by reading some of the good reads reviews, and how fascinating that many people did not like Lark. Finding her stupid and without thought for consequence. I can see why they thought that, but as I said above for me it is about her journey of discovery, of realising that words have power and that she can wield them in a way that works for her. That everyone can be of use and can have power.  If you read reviews avidly before reading – don’t be put off! I think this book is well worth the read!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Magic, Paranormal, Fiction, Fantasy Romance, High Fantasy

Book Review: Ballad

Book 32 of 2020

Ballad. Written by Maggie Stiefvater.

BalladSo given that I did not really enjoy or feel any connection to the first book, it is perhaps not surprising that the second book also did not really grab me at all. Where as the first book I sat on the fence, this book I just straight out did not like.

It was told from James’ point of view, which was fine, he was a character I really liked in the first book, however this book did not have any real link to the first book, Dee, when we did meet her came across a little crazy, and in general there was very little to like about the characters.

While the description is really well done, and I really like the way the lore of the Faeries that Stiefvater writes, however the story itself lacks depth, and the characters just are not compelling, I feel little to no connection to them.

Overall – while I did not enjoy, this series would be appropriate for years 9 and 10. Also – could be agood intro to a world of Fae.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Teen, Faeries

Book Review: Lament

Book 31 of 2020

Lament. Written by Maggie Stiefvater

lament red coverSo this is a book that I had had the sequel to for a long time, (without realising it was a sequel) and so got it out of our school library during our lockdown thinking I would use that time wisely. However I never got to it. Fast forward to being sick this week and having more time to read!

I am 100% on the fence about this book. I liked the idea, and thought that there were many aspects of this book which could serve as something of an introduction to the world of Faerie.

However, what really frustrates me in teenage or young adult fiction is the way that girls in particular are portrayed as being realitvely helpless and ultimately being wooed by a hot body. These girls are usually quite academically smart, and have a lot going for them. However then when they are presented with a dangerous situation it is almost like they have instant stockholm syndrome. The male character in this book legit says that he cannot be trusted and is not a good guy yet she defends him against all odds.

I worry about what sort of message this sends to young impresionable young girls about Lamentwhat sort of boy or man they should be with.

The actual book is well written, and has some nice moments, although the pace felt a little bit off – we moved extremely glacially slowly at the start and then all the action happened very quickly at the end.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, young adult, paranormal, teenage, Faeries, Romance

Book Review: On the Come Up

Book 30 of 2020

On the Come Up. Written by Angie Thomas.

On the Come UpI really wanted to like this book. I really enjoyed The Hate You Give – and infact recently have defended it against people who struggled to read it – I was surprised they felt like this.

This book, deals with many of the same issues, and in the current climate is just as important as ever. However for me the characters, particularly the main character just was not compelling, likeable or anything really. That was the let down.

I did really like the character of the mother, I liked that she seemed to again and again overcome set backs and judgements. She also offered some amazing advice on how to deal with situations, and how to survive.

I also loved the initial ring battle – and the discussion about rap battles, or slam poetry – the English teacher in me would love a way to implement this!

I wanted to like this books so much more than I did.

Mrs K

Genre: Young Adult, contemorary, fiction

Book Review: Girl. Boy. Sea

Book 29 of 2020

Girl. Boy. Sea. Written by Chris Vick

Girl. Boy. SeaI have been putting this book off for awhile. It felt quite cliche – we have all read it before and based on that alone I did not want to read it! It was on the shortlist for the 2020 Carnegie Medal – which is how it came to be sitting on my bedside table.

Fast forward to this morning when a library reminder email told me that it was due back this week and so I picked it up and read it in one sitting.

The pace really worked in the books favour – with it being easy to follow and a kind of needing to know kept you going. The story is beautifully written alongside stories. Where the two plots in so many ways weave beautifully together so much so that at the end you find yourself as the reader questioning what was real and what was not.

This was a gorgeous story of survival and belief, but while I did read it in one sitting, it was not one of my favourites.

Mrs K

Genre: Survival, adventure, young adult, teenage fiction, young teenage fiction, Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2020, contemporary fiction

Book Review: The Black Flamingo

Book 28 of 2020

The Black Flamingo. By Dean Atta.

WOW. This book I read during the day (while teaching) in 3 periods. It was amazing.

The Black Flamingo

The book is a story about a boy who is coming to grips with his own sexuality and what that means. It is the story of identity, about not being half anything, but one hundred percent yourself. It is the story about acceptance, both of yourself as well as others. It is really powerful, and really grips you from the very beginning with the discussion about the flamingo and their eggs. I read the first five or six pages to my year 13 class and they would have been happy if all we had done was read the book.

It is written in prose, which makes it so easy to read, and is interspersed with poems written by the character.

Overall for a book about Identity I cannot recommend this enough!

Mrs K

Genre: Poetry, LGBT, Identity, contemporary, young adult.

Book Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

Book 27 of 2020

Patron Saints of Nothing. Written by Randy Ribay

Carnegie shortlist

This is just the second book that I have read this year from the Carnegie Medal Short

list.  Although I do have a couple of others sitting in my to be read pile. There is a tiny bit of irony as well that I finished this book late last night and today I see the winner was announced.

Anyway – I digress. This book offers a unique perspective of a filipino boy living in America, and as I imagine many immigrants do – struggling with his identity. This is then heightened by the death of his cousin.

I took a little bit to get into the book – but once I did it was absolutely fantastic!! There were two quotes that really really spoke to me. These were

“It’s a sad thing when you map the borders of a friendship and find it’s a narrower country than expected.”

41941681._SY475_This quote about friendship really rang true, but was also so overwhelmingly sad. How do you come back from that? How do you put effort into a new friendship, but also, from my observations in the clasroom I think that it is quite an accurate statement. I think that there are a lot teenage friendships who often do just that, they realise that the narrow aspects of the friendship leave quite a bit to be desired.

The second quote that really resonated with me was

“Loneliness and noise. The American Way”

This was quoted about dinner, the difference in the phillipines where they eat dinner as a family, versus in America where they eat dinner in front of the tv. I found this really was quite powerful, especially in terms of often the American way is the american dream which is a really positive aspect. However that is not the case with this statement. ANd those two words Loneliness and Noise – are so accurate, even of this teenage generation and the way they live with headphones while at the same time using their phones to isolate themselves from failure and fear and connections.

Overall this was an amazing book! Definitely worth a read. What I like about reading the shortlist is the introduction to texts that I would not normally pick up off the shelf.

Mrs K

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic fiction.

Book Review: Rated

Book 26 of 2020

Rated. Written by Melissa Grey.

So I have a massive pile of books to read. Like a massive pile. Yet here I am… the last four books I read were not from any of those piles! And… I regret nothing!! This book I read in one day – and it was really good. I think I want to teach it to my year 10 students. I think there is so much depth and things to use. It is not a totally new or unique idea, but I really like that it is set in a highschool, so there are a lot of aspects that my students would be able to relate to.

I also really liked that there were a couple of LGBT relationships, but they were not a big deal – they were just there. It was a really nice way to normalise all types of relationships.

This book was paced quite well, and I really enjoyed each of the takes on the traditional stereotypical characters and the depth that was actually applied beyond the stereotypes. I do wonder if they tried to kind of hit too much. With the glimpse into all the different back stories there was definitely a lot happening there.

I really liked the ending, and the little bit of the twist there, also the importance of if you want to stand up against a system you need to know the difference between right and wrong.

The book was left in a way where there could be a sequel – but to be honest I hope that it is just a stand alone.

Definitely head out and read this book! I can’t wait to see how the kids respond to this book.

Mrs K

Genre: Dystopia, science fiction, speculative fiction, mystery, young adult

Book Review: The Gender Secret

Book 24 of 2020

The Gender Secret. WThe Gender Secretritten by Bella Forrest.

So this is the second book, which I read only a day or two after the first one. (Definitely trying to get back into the habit of reading before sleep!)  I did not like this book as much as the first one. The pace was quote diffferent, with the whole book taking place over a very short time frame. There were some things I did like about this book, for example I always appreciate a squeal that picks up right where the first book leaves off. I also really appreciated the twists and shocks that kept on coming. I wanted to move onto book three, but got distracted by a couple of other books that came my way!

I find it harder to review sequeals – as I never want to give spoilers. So if you are interested – you would be better to read my review of the first book in the series.

Mrs K

Genre: Science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, young adult, teenage fiction.

Book Review: The Gender Game

Book 23 of 2020 

The Gender Game. Written by Bella Forrest.

The Gender Game

So I stumbled upon this book while looking for something to read while I waited for my daughter to finish cheerleading. I have SOOOOO many books – but it was dark, and I had a while to kill, so did not want to risk my car battery going flat. It was advertised as For fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent
comes a story like no other…  
I figured I liked those two books so what did I have to lose!

So I would like to start by saying that I did enjoy this book, it kept me guessing and there was at least one twist which totally took me by surprise.

However – the concept is super cliche! Down to even the name of the civilizations. Matrus and Patrus – there was not even an attempt to do something a little bit different with them. You can also, from those names along probably pick the dominating gender in each civilization. The second predictable aspect is that there is going to be a battle of the sexes… woah! Finally there are other cliche characters within the book, such as the person with sympathetic tendancies, and the person who was born in the middle of teh river dividing the civilizations and so as such does not call either one home.

I think though – that we read for two reasons. Sometimes we read for pleasure, and in that case we can overlook a lot of different things, things like cliche characters, and cliche concepts. Othertimes we read more analytically, then these aspects tend to get in the way of reading.

For me – Gender Games was reading for pleasure. Yes it was cliche and to a point predictable, but that is ok as well. Sometimes reading is an escape from everything that is happening in the world, and as such we don’t need the text to be a mirror to society.

If I was reading with a more critical point of view there is a lot more that I would like from this text, I would like more discussion about those who did not fall into a traditional gender option, I would like to see more interesting characters who differed from the expectation and I would like to see a lot more teamwork.

However, taking this book at surface level I enjoyed it. It was a good book that kept me engaged. I have downloaded the second book, it makes for a great time killer for the next week that I find myself sitting waiting for my daughter to finish her activities!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult, Fiction