Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monster, Be Good! by Natalie Marshall

I definitely picked up Monster, Be Good! because of the illustrations by Natalie Marshall, and they did not disappoint. This is a book with bright, clear, large illustrations of adorable monsters. I think it would definitely keep the attention of a young child. It also has very little text on each page which means there aren't tiny, distracting words that are difficult to read.

The point of Monsters, Be Good! is to remind children that they are in charge of the monsters, and "if a monster is selfish, say, "TAKE TURNS!" ". It's a message that makes sense, reminding them they have nothing to be scared of, but I wasn't a huge fan of the way it was portrayed. I get that the monsters are doing something wrong and should be corrected, but I thought it came across too bossy and that lost some of the fun of the book. With such colourful drawings, I really expected expected the book to come across a little less angry.

Overall, I really liked the message not to be scared of monsters, and I thought the colourful drawings helped with that but for me, Monsters, Be Good! is definitely a book where the illustrations far outshine the text.

Release Date: February 26th, 2013  Pages: 28 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert (illustrated by Jenni Desmond)

It's been years (maybe decades?) since I read picture books, but there's so gorgeous and sweet and maybe it's a bit of nostalgia but I've been picking up a few lately. I also love sharing them with my friends who have or are having babies! One such book is Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert (illustrated by Jenni Desmond).

Admittedly, the cat aspect of Backstage Cat is what caught my attention because I thought it might be cute to pick up for a friend who has several cats and a baby on the way! I was right. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the text is sweet, straightforward and entertaining: what a perfect combination!

Backstage Cat is the story of a cat in a theatre who gets into all kinds of trouble. It's really cute and gives a nice idea of some of the things that go into making a play and some of the jobs that people have. I love the watercolour illustrations as well, it really brings a movement to the pages and I think the text is well-placed.

The one part of Backstage Cat that threw me off was the part where the main performer (and owner of the cat) sings a long song. Personally, I thought it was too long and sorta lost my attention and lost some of the charm of the rest of the book. I would have preferred something snappier and maybe more obvious as a song. 

However, overall, I really enjoyed Backstage Cat and I think Ziefert did a cute job with the story as I always love ones that involve animals, especially animals that get into trouble. The illustrations by Desmond that go with it are also exceptionally lovely.

Release Date: March 12th, 2013  Pages: 40 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

I was honestly never very into vampires in the first place although I don't mind the occasional paranormal, vampires had just already been so overdone by the time I started reading YA that I was tired of them before I even read any vampire books. Sorry. But I still pick up the occasional vampire novel that catches my eye, and one of those was The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. 

I have wanted to read a Holly Black novel for ages, and that just never happened but with the release of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown I decided it was finally time––plus it was a standalone novel and those just generally appeal to me, especially in YA where they are far less common. Oh, and that gorgeous cover, I know we're not supposed to admit it, but just look at its beauty! 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is the story Tana, a teenage girl living in a world where vampires are locked behind walled cities, or Coldtowns, and sometimes humans get stuck there as well. After a party gone horribly wrong, and unsure if she's infected or not, Tana heads behind the wall hoping to save herself and return home to her family. 

The premise of Coldtown really caught my attention, and it was immediately fulfilled when I began reading the novel. Unfortunately, as the story continued it just didn't have the same spark and tension as the first 100 pages or so (and at over 400 pages long, that's a pretty big problem). I did enjoy Black's writing, and there's a lot of nice twists in the book, but it is definitely heavy on the story and lighter on the character depth. 

Tana goes through a lot, and I really wanted to connect with her struggle, but it– as well as the romance– just didn't have the impact on me that I expected. Part of that might be due to the third person narrative, but even then, I expected more of an emotional investment in the story, rather than just one to the plotline.

Even though I never really connected with Tana, I still enjoyed following her journey, so I don't regret reading (or finishing) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It's a fun twist on vampires and it's got a complicated storyline that I didn't expect. I would definitely be willing to pick up more books by Holly Black in future and if you enjoy thrill-filled vampire stories, I do recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013  Pages: 419  Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  Buy It: Book Depository

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fire With Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

I really enjoyed the first collaborative novel between Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, Burn for Burn, so I was definitely excited to pick up the second book in their trilogy, Fire With Fire and see what my favourite revenge-seekers Lillia, Kat and Mary were up to.

Originally when I was reading about this trilogy it was described as having a paranormal edge to it, but that didn't appear at all until the very end of Burn for Burn. Likewise, while it is definitely more apparent in Fire With Fire it's not until the very end that we really find out where all the clues have been leading, with a cliffhanger that has me already begging for book 3, Ashes to Ashes, which sadly must wait until 2014.

As a general rule, I prefer contemporary to paranormal, so I don't really mind that these books come across more contemporary, especially because they are so well-written and I enjoy the characters so much. That's really what makes the Burn for Burn trilogy, the character voices– all three of which are very distinct– and the writing. The revenge storyline is entertaining but not terribly original (although I do love the twist at the end of Fire With Fire and can't wait to see where it goes) but the writing is so strong it carries these books into "really really enjoy" territory for me.

Fire With Fire begins almost immediately after Burn for Burn as the girls learn whether or not they got away with their homecoming hijinks and if their revenge changed anything at all. I was especially drawn to Kat's voice and story in this book, although a lot of the mystery revolves around what's going on with Mary. The book itself is really long at over 500 pages, which is maybe too long, but with good enough, easy to read writing, I don't mind.

In Fire With Fire it's once again, it's impossible to tell where Han's writing begins and Vivian's writing ends, as the collaboration is smooth and easy flow and realistic details make me want to pick up both of their books. After reading Burn for Burn I did grab Han's Summer Trilogy but I still need to read a solo book by Vivian. I guess that's something to keep me occupied until Ashes to Ashes, the final book in this awesome trilogy, is released.

Release Date: August 13th, 2013  Pages: 528  Format: Egalley
Source: Edelweiss  Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Buy It: Book Depository