Tag Archives: hope

Book Review: My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith

Published May 2014 by Chicken House books.

20554182Goodreads Synopsis: Germany, 1941. 12-year-old Karl Engel is looking forward to joining the Hitler Youth, like all boys his age.

But when his father is killed, his rebellious older brother Stefan shows him things that leave his faith in the Führer shaken. Who is the real enemy? What is the meaning of the flower sewn inside his brother’s jacket? Karl soon finds out, as he becomes involved in a dangerous rebellion.

My Review: I really got into Historical YA Fiction last year, but this year I haven’t really gotten the chance to read that much! That’s a big reason why I was really excited to read My Brother’s Secret. I really wasn’t let down; it was a really enjoyable book, with lots of twists, and packed with emotion.

My Brother’s Secret reminded me a lot of The Book Thief: if you’re a fan of Markus Zuzak I definitely recommend this. It’s got similar themes of friendship, and rebellion, and is set in World War Two Germany. The story follows Karl Friedmann, a boy who is passionate about the Hitler Youth and serving his country. But after his father is killed in action, his thoughts about and pride in his country start to change, and he begins to discover that Germany has its rebels, and that he might be becoming one of them.

Right from the beginning I was really stuck into the story. I loved how the setting was described. Dan Smith’s writing is really likeable. I could almost feel like I was there, in Karl’s underground bomb shelter, riding across the fields with Karl’s best friend. The writing is really captivating and brought a lot of imagery.

The characters were all well developed. Karl’s personality changes a lot over the course of the story and I found it really interesting, to see him transition from being so passionate about Germany and the Fuhrer to committing rebellious acts. One character I would have liked to hear more about, though, definitely would be Karl’s brother. The story is centered around Karl’s discovery of his sibling’s rebel Edelweiss Pirates group, but for some reason I don’t think I saw… enough of him? The plot is mainly centered around Karl discovering the ‘other side’ of his village. I think I would’ve liked to hear how his brother joined the Edelweiss Pirates (The really interesting, real life group of rebels).

Overall, My Brother’s Secret was a really well written novel! I really loved Dan Smith’s writing. The plot was pretty unpredictable, and the last few chapters were so action-packed and shocking, I couldn’t put the book down. Karl was a really great main protagonist. I really loved how much he developed over the course of the plot. My Brother’s Secret really captures the impacts on German people in WW2. I’ll definitely be looking out for Dan Smith”s other title, My Friend the Enemy, now!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of My Brother’s Secret from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review: Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill

Published by Bodley Head, 31st January 2014.

18041951Goodreads Synopsis: Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together.

When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong . . . The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .

Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on – of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

My Review: I’ve never read a book by Jo Cotterill before, but I’ll definitely be reading more from her! Looking at the Stars was beautifully written, uplifting and hopeful and influenced by recent wars and disasters. Looking at the Stars is set in an un-named country and revolves around a controlling, violent group, making it really relevant to recent events. It’s eye-opening, memorable, and a beautiful read.

The story begins with Amina, a girl living in her tense home country as foreign soldiers ride in, to hopefully help everybody out of the situation. Right away, I clicked with Amina; I really felt for her and her family as she went through devastating events, and some hopeful ones.

She’s a really relatable character, held back from letting her imagination out because she’s not allowed to go to school because she’s a girl. The things she went through completely broke my heart! However, Amina’s the brave, memorable, inspiring character I was hoping for and more. She develops so much throughout the story, and I found myself wanting to read more books about her after I closed the book.

The story is so easy to get lost in. From the first page, with that first line that hooked me in, I couldn’t tear myself away! I  It’s gritty, sad and violent, not as I’d thought it would be, but it’s also a beautiful story of how hope can turn things around. Amina’s adventure is full of ups and downs as she loses people and finds friends. The story, especially in the last half, focuses largely around storytelling, and I really, really loved that. The imagery was so vivid and beautiful, especially in Amina’s fantastical stories! Jo’s writing is gorgeous.

Overall, Looking at the Stars was a moving read, full of heartbreak and friendship. It’s unpredictable; dark at some parts but really beautifully written. It focuses on current world topics that I don’t think I’ve ever read books about before- so I really recommend it! Amina and her sisters were so loveable, as were the rest of her family and the friends that they make along their journey. I can’t recommend Looking at the Stars enough; it’s definitely one of the most emotional, but the most eye-opening books I’ve read this year.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Looking at the Stars from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

If you’re interested about Looking at the Stars and want to read more about the book, the blog tour is continuing today over at Readaraptor! Make sure to check out the blog tour post, and the finale tomorrow. If you’d like to catch up on the blog tour, here’s the schedule! Clicking on the image will bring you to my post from the blog tour.

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She Is Not Invisible

By Marcus Sedgwick, published by Orion.

She Is Not InvisibleGoodreads Synopsis: Laureth Peak’s father is a writer. For years he’s been trying, and failing, to write a novel about coincidence. His wife thinks he’s obsessed, Laureth thinks he’s on the verge of a breakdown.He’s supposed to be doing research in Austria, so when his notebook shows up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong.

On impulse she steals her mother’s credit card and heads for the States, taking her strange little brother Benjamin with her. Reunited with the notebook, they begin to follow clues inside, trying to find their wayward father. Ahead lie challenges and threats, all of which are that much tougher for Laureth than they would be for any other 16-year old.

Because Laureth Peak is blind.

My Review: She Is Not Invisible is one of those books that was stuck in my head for ages after reading the last page. It was such a beautiful, gripping story, and I just wanted to read it over an dover again! Marcus Sedgwick creates such magical, mesmerising stories, and She Is Not Invisible is definitely one of his best yet.

The idea for this story is so original! It’s one of those rare ideas that you come across, that’s never been done before. It doesn’t seem to have taken any inspiration from anything, making it so unique in a world where a lot of books are following genre trends at the moment. Laureth’s dad has disappeared, and Laureth has run away to New York, taking her little brother with her for guidance, as her mum is away and doesn’t believe he’s in danger… and Laureth is blind. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story where a blind character has taken the lead role before, aside from in the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. One of the reasons that I loved this story is because of the main character, as I admired her bravery to set out into an unknown world!

The main theme of the book was Coincidence, which was a very individual theme. I’ve never read a book based around something like Coincidence before, and wasn’t sure how it would go. It was so clever! One of the things this book had me wondering about after I’d finished was whether coincidences were real… and whether the stuff in Laureth’s dad’s notebook could come true… *shiver*

One word to describe the plot? Misleading. There were loads of twists and turns to this book that I was not expecting! The story was complex, but not confusing, and a really enjoyable read. I was on the edge of my seat, totally hooked on the story as Laureth and Benjamin were searching their way around New York, with a notebook full of terrifying notes on a cult with ties to mysterious coincidences. I was so scared for the characters, and very interested about the places they were led to- Edgar Allan Poe’s house, for one! I could also visualise them really well in New York, as I’ve been there before, and so it was really easy for me to slip into their shoes. Even if you haven’t been there, Sedgwick’s writing will transport you into their world, and make you feel like you don’t want to come out.

Laureth, as I’ve already said, was a really brave character. I know that Marcus spent a lot of time with blind peoplee, so he could get experiences correct. I’m pretty sure he got it spot on. It was so interesting to be in Laureth’s shoes, to imagine what it was like to travel halfway across the world to find a father when you’re only relying on four senses. Not only was she brave, but she was also very realistic. Benjamin was, too; her little brother who she took with her! He was so sweet and obeying, and I just loved him to bits. Both of them were so great! (Also, there’s a pretty funny background to Laureth’s name- Marcus, is that how you came up with it??).

Ah, I’ve ranted on too much about this! So I’ll wrap up now, but I could go on forever about this book… Overall, it was an amazing read, and very unique, too. A thrilling search for a lost father, who’s obsessed with an idea for a story? It was just so great! Laureth was a brilliant leading character who anyone will connect to. She Is Not Invisible is written so well, and I definitely think this book’s going to be big. Sedgwick fans, grab a copy now! Or if you’re someone looking for a read that’ll blow you away, you go grab a copy now, too! (: (Bonus: the cover is really pretty) It’s hard to compare this to anything… I can’t recommend this enough.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of She Is Not Invisible from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: After Iris

By Natasha Farrant, published by Faber.

Goodreads synopsis: Bluebell Gadsby is 13 but that’s the least of her problems. Both her parents seem more interested in their careers than the family, leaving Blue and her three siblings as well as their three pet rats (who may or may not be pregnant), in the care of Zoran the au pair. The enigmatic Joss moves in next door and Blue thinks she might be falling in love, until he takes out her older sister Flora instead (who, incidentally, is trying to make a statement by dying her hair bright pink but no one takes the blindest bit of notice). Blue thinks and feels very deeply about life but can’t really talk to anyone about it, because no one in the Gadsby family wants to address the real problem – that Blue’s twin sister, Iris, died a year ago, and they are all just trying to hide their grief in busyness…
So Blue turns to her diary and her unique way of seeing the world through her camcorder to express herself.

My review: After Iris was such a brilliant read! When I read the blurb after it arrived, I got kind of confused. It said Bluebell’s story was told through words and film. Film? In a book? Then I opened the book up and saw that all of Bluebell’s films were written up in transcripts, and were between every few diary-entry chapters- such a clever format! I really loved how it was written. Not only the unique format I’ve never seen before- but also the writing itself, crammed with emotion. Much of the story was quite sad, with the constant reminders of Iris that haunted Bluebell, and the writing was so full of raw emotion about that, and the rather shocking love story. Speaking of which- the plot was so unpredictable! Especially the love story that was woven into the plot. I expected a very basic romantic tale, where Bluebell would fall in love with Joss, the love interest, and then there would be a fight and then they’d get back together for a happy ending. I didn’t get that. what I got? A brilliant, complex romantic tale, where Bluebell fell in love with Joss, the love interest, but not all goes to plan and Blue’s sister has a large involvement and there wasn’t exactly the happiest of endings for that. But I loved that plot twist with Joss! It was so unpredictable.

The other aspects of the book were really great, too- I loved reading about Bluebell’s ‘invisible’ school life, and how she managed to get back at a bully, and I also really enjoyed reading about her frantic, very unique family and how they all dealt with Iris’s death in different ways. Everything was resolved really well- I loved the outcome. I think that the event at the ending, involving Blue’s little siblings, was really quite terrifying. When the story ended with them okay, I was so pleased- but that was solved a little crazily.

Bluebell was a really great main character, and I loved her throughout. She was so relatable- through the bullying incidents and the many issues at home- so made for a very realistic character. She had a very strong narration and I got to know her really well through her detailed diary entries and the things that she filmed on her camcorder. Bluebell had a really interesting, in-depth background, and her past was revealed little bit by little bit throughout the story, which was quite clever because it kept me reading because I wanted the full back story.  I grew to love Bluebell so much, and I was so happy to read that this is the first book in a series- I will DEFINITELY be looking out for the sequel!

Overall, After Iris, was an emotional read, with its witty parts too. It was so well written, in a totally unique format that I really loved because it captured the essence of Blue’s family so effectively. Bluebell’s story was harsh at points, humorous and uplifting at others, and it’s really hard not to just fall in love with it. I honestly could not stop reading- this book is like a mixture of Cathy Cassidy’s contemporary masterpieces mixed in with the raw emotion from Annabel Pitcher’s equally amazing titles. Definitely recommended to young teenage girls, because they’ll definitely be able to relate to at least a small part of the story. I really can’t wait to read more of this series!

My rating:

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I received a copy of After Iris from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.