The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

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Helllllo readers, not the greatest start to my reading year but I’m in a bookish slump. This isn’t where I wanted to be, but the last month or so I’ve been in a bit of a rut. A couple of badly written books, a lack of time to reply to comments, a slight obsession with Prison Break and a really nasty lung infection I just haven’t had the time to read. I’ve therefore done what I do best, go back and read something easy, light, and comfortable – this time it’s a book for a younger reader and one I really enjoy. Eva Ibbotson was one of my favourite authors as a child and I thought there really wouldn’t be a better book to get me back on track with reading – apologies it’s a little old but this book is a lovely read.

Under Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station is hidden a quite remarkable secret. Every nine years a doorway opens to an amazing, fantastical island. Nine years ago, the island’s baby prince was stolen on the streets of London. Now a rescue party, led by a wizard and an ogre, must find him and bring him back. But the kind prince has become a spoilt rich boy, who doesn’t believe in magic and doesn’t want to go home. Can they rescue him before time runs out – and the doorway disappears for ever?

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As the blurb suggests the book follows The Secret of Platform 13, this secret being that, on a mystical Island, (we’re never quite given the details where) where humans and magical creatures live harmoniously there is a portal that only opens every nine years, that leads to the London Underground. One day, two nurses are taking the infant Prince out for a walk and are tempted into the portal; letting the Prince out of their sight for a minute the terrible Mrs Trottle snatches the baby for her own. A rescue mission is arranged for nine years later to try to find the lost Prince and bring him back to his home; but is it too late?

So what’s good about this book? I loved the fantastical feel of the writing – this book was actual written before the Harry Potter series and I really feel that this was the book that set me up for my utter adoration for Rowling and her magical books. I loved the inclusion of the feys, witches, trolls, hags, mermaids and wizards; there really is a mismatch of different mystical beings each with their own personalities, special characteristics and additions to the plot-line.

The plot follows the rescue mission lead by a hag named Odge, a giant, a fey and a wizard. For the nine days where the portal is open they try their best to find and bring home the prince but to no avail as there seems to be a confusion as to who is the real prince? Odge here begins to take center stage and she really comes into her own as she struggles to find out who the real prince is. Is it  the spoiled son Trottles or the sweet kind-hearted Grandson. Here we see the group of misfits struggle to decide and with time racing they must make a decision.

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In terms of the writing style it’s got enough description to be interesting and exciting but not so much to bog the reading speed down too much. The book is marketed at children between the ages of 9-12 and that allows for the book to take a slightly darker tone but it’s an enjoyable and funny tale – think a little like Lemony Snicket but a little lighter. Yes the plot is a bit predictable and looking at the reviews many have panned this book for that, but for a younger reader it doesn’t need to be constantly held a secret, as this could cause the reader to become confused and disengaged, so for me it’s right on the mark.

Overall this is a fun book with an intriguing tale – with strong characters, lots of magic and mystery it is the perfect fantasy book for younger readers to get their teeth into. A little predictable but funny, light and exciting with the use of time – a lovely little fantasy read.

Linnnnks

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Comrades We by A. Louise Olsen

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Hellllllo readers – today I have a bit of an apology before I throw us into the review. A few of you will have seen that I have closed my review requests box until I can catch up with the books I already have waiting to be read/written/posted. Unfortunately because I’ve been so swamped a few have been lost in the depths of my email inbox but I’m getting to them all one at a time. Today’s is one that ended up being a reviewed a little later than promise so big apologies and a slapped wrist, but I hope the review more than makes up for it (maybe.)

Comrades We is the story of the adventures of six friends as they grow up together, learn magic, encounter bad stuff, and try to fight their way out of trouble.

This is a fantasy novel. There is magic. There are swords. There are mysterious and cryptic gods. There are some really bad guys and there are good guys who are mostly ordinary and trying to do their best with what they’ve got. And if needed, there is always tea

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First thing to mention is I really like the blurb for this book it doesn’t really give anything away and I like that – I think it’s because  I recently went into a bookshop for the first time in a long time and I looked at the blurb and thought what do I really want to read about. I just couldn’t decide, but here it was kind of made for me.

As the blurb states that’s kind of what the book entails; a number of characters learning, living, and casually battling magic with swords – you know just the day job. The author manages to weave a lot of energy into the different characters despite there being six of them which you may worry lacks a little detail but it works here. I did feel like each of them was give specific characteristics which helped you to keep an eye on them and keep up with their story. I did feel that each of the characters could have been delved into more but that’s just me, I think the author could have built the profiles more strongly and created a more intensive character profiling. Saying this Gilli and Tomas were my favourites; I liked seeing their relationship grow and develop. I would profile in all our characters but there is just too much to write – go and discover for yourselves.

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There is a good mix of the fantasy writing, landscape descriptions and the warfare that is described as we follow the characters as they battle their way through the different dangers they are placed in. As I mentioned earlier I liked learning about the characters as they improved their magic skills and the descriptions and adventures of them at school and then moving that into the real world and the danger that added. The plot definitely moves with pace and at times I did wish the plot would slow a little and allow us to look at the characters a little more for me although the plot is important it needs strong characters to hang from and become a complete storyline. For me I thought that could have been more description of the landscapes, it has more of a YA feel which I like but I thought with the fantasy genre a little more description of the landscape would have helped draw the reader in more.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think if your favourite genre is fantasy with a YA feel this is definitely one to get a hold of. For me I think I could have done with a couple less characters as I worked more into the story I did feel a little lost and had to flick back. Reading on a computer does make that more difficult but I think with strong character profiling this could have drawn me in more and made each more memorable. I thought the amount of ‘magic’ was perfect for me and I enjoyed watching the different relationships. The ending was also strong and definitely had me wanting to find out more too.  A really lovely self-published book from a lovely author and one I definitely want to read more from in the future.

Linkkkkks

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught life 101

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*Sighs* this might be my favourite Top Ten Tuesday post so far. The actually topic is Ten books that would be on your syllabus X 101. Examples include YA, fantasy, classic literature, feminist literature, you get the idea. I’ve picked ‘life 101’ and I mean it, not in a literal way, but more of the way in which books teach you something. These books include teaching you how to pick yourself up, get over heart-break, family strains. These are the books that have given me something back.

1)       The Last Lecture by Randy Pauch

This book, honest to the word, has helped in ways that I could have never expected it to. It talks of life in such an honest, wonderfully light and subtle way, but it talks of death, love and family too. The fact that author is dying as we read along makes it feel all the more destructive but it has a calming presence. It talks of never wasting time, living every day the way we want to and to take control. I haven’t really looked back since finishing this book.

2)       Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

I’ve never reviewed this book for mylittlebookblog, but I think I might soon. The book follows the main character as he comes to terms with his sister’s death from anorexia. It highlights the struggle of family life, the tough decisions we have to make, and the loss of people close to us. It’s a tale that I always dip into now and again and it’s written in a wonderfully lyrical style. My and sister and I rarely got on a couple of years back but now we’re a solid pair of besties. She’s one in a million.

3)       ‘Giovanni’s Lover by James Baldwin

When I first started this book I didn’t think I would finish it let alone make its way onto this list, but this book taught me that there are some things, we cannot take back. I went through a lot of time not caring how I made other people feel because I barely cared about myself, at all. This book taught me that our decisions, our words, our actions towards others can be detrimental to people that we love. I know it seems trivial but I needed this to speak to me and tell me I needed to stop being an ass.

4)       Eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Maybe a controversial choice, but this book helped to change the perception that I needed to plan out, almost exactly, how my life was going to pan out. I panicked about too many different elements in my life; relationships, career, where I was going to live etc. The mother bought this and told me to read it, get some perspective and calm the hell down. This was the starting blocks to letting go a little more and trusting me more.

5)       Remember to breathe by Simon Pont

I have written about this book many, many a time but reading this really helped to break through my wailing and make me think that the collapse of my relationship was merely a blip in the road. I’ve met someone who is miles better for me, and just gets me and this book helped to smooth over all the feelings that were raging at the time.

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6)       Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Another maybe, odd choice? I’ve always worried a lot about where I’m going to be, in terms of career and this book made me think. I know that what I’m doing right isn’t right for me, it’s not challenging me but the main character in this book is all over the place. He’s changing jobs every second, turning up late, drunk, forgetting things falling asleep. Although quite obviously isn’t the way to do it, the way that you can change your life and do something else, even something polar opposite,  made me positive that I’m never stuck. I can always go a different way.

7)       The Fault in our stars by John Green

This also wasn’t going to make the list but I thought, fuck it. It’s a book about adoration, love, belief and pain. But it’s a tale that teaches us that pain and hurt exist, but to live in the present, in the moment you might say if you’re feeling all gushy. This book is worth a bloody read.

8)       The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

I know this appears in all my lists but I couldn’t help myself once again. As I’ve come to terms with my anxiety many things I thought were ‘control-freak,’ tendencies were in fact my anxiety. I’ve struggled with losing friends in the past, holding on despite deceit, awkward silences and their brush-off manner. This book taught me it is okay to lose people, not because you want to but because it’s better, often for both of you.

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9) Pearshaped by Stella Newman 

Another tale about relationships but taken from the other side this book looks at the problems of unhealthy, manipulating and downright awful relationships. We are allowed to say when something is not up and stand up for ourselves. This books says that, loud and clear.

10)       Finally, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

I picked this because, some of the quotes features are so profound and special. I often like to ask people if they would like to be friends with Alice or be Alice, because her sudden change in perception is mind-blowingly beautiful. There are so many twisted bits of knowledge woven in and we see Alice grow as a person. It’s a classic book that means a lot to me and many readers and I’m glad it’s made the list.

I wrote a lot more here than I thought I would surprisingly but I thought this was a list where you really needed to explain why they made the list. This isn’t an extensive list (obviously) and when I read Wild, which I will do, I might have to include that as a bonus book because I think it might just change my outlook on everything but we’ll see. Another day another book.

I do love it when people comment and ask me and the choices, the reasons, and just hearing what you would add so if you have anything pop in down in the comments below. Lots of love and hugs, lizzy. X

Gifted (The Hayven Series Book 1) by J.A. George

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It’s Julllllllllllllly and the month of my birth. I’m already having a little think about how to celebrate turning twenty-two but I think currently burritos with friends would be the perfect way to do that. Moving on from burritos today’s review is another fantasy despite my reprieve of the genre a number of reviews back. I just can’t seem to help myself I always seem to be falling back to this genre and the Amazon reviews were glowing so I settled back, gave this a read and found it rather wonderful. If a new fantasy story is what you’re searching for this may be the ticket.

“Why do birds fly? Why do lions hunt deer? Why does the sun shine and the moon glow? Because it must. I wish I could tell you why, I truly do. It mustn’t be easy, such pressure weighted on such young shoulders, but we do not always choose the lives we must lead.”

Avery Gray had no choice but to be different. She was not born that way; she was chosen.

After having met a special, silver-haired woman, and the handsome and enigmatic Theodore-James Connors, Ava finds herself in Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. With Theo, his friends, Hayven, her gift, and the ability to ‘travel’ in different colours, Ava must now accept that she can no longer classify herself as normal. As friendships develop, and Theo and Ava become closer than she anticipated, it turns out her new gifted life comes with a catch. With no choice or say on the matter, Ava must save a city she is starting to fall in love with; a city that has almost begun to feel like home.

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I adored this book because it had just the right healthy mix of both fantasy and magic. The problem I have with fantasy is that often it becomes too fantastical or fraudulent for me to truly revel in the writing. Some may find this a little odd knowing my adoration of Harry Potter as a series but there are so many clever quips that thousands of fans on their birthdays still joke, although tinged with a little sadness, about their missing letter to Hogwarts. Here I felt that the amount of fantasy interwoven into the story was measured and calculated as not to throw too much at the reader. We meet Avery who discovers that she has an extraordinary gift; the ability to read and hear minds . As we continue through the story we explore and meet more gifted characters and here we begin an emotional journey as Avery discovers who she is as her and her friends attempt to outrun the Cliders.

I thought that Jessica George’s writing style was so warm and candid. It enveloped me as a reader and pulled me deeper into the story. I found myself reading chapter after chapter barely noticing as my six o’ clock reading start quickly became seven and then eight o’clock. To have a book of this genre put me into a kind of reading stupor is so evocative of how much I enjoyed this book as a narrative. I thought what was really wonderful was the description of the powers; I don’t want to give too much away but this description was just, well, sublime.

‘He showed me his gift by simply holding out his hands, palms facing upwards, and I watched in deep fascination as he hands begun to glow a soft, sunset pink before turning into a crimson red, then a canary yellow, finally turning a molten orange, before his entire hand spontaneously ignited and went aflame. “It doesn’t hurt,” he assured me once he’d caught sight of my panicked expression.’

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I think for me it is the utter attention to detail that is relayed to the reader to help place them into this new exciting setting.  I thought the little details were lovely, the fact that no two ‘gifters’ can have the quite the same gift, I thought the Cliders were a little terrifying and helped to add suspense and danger whilst I really loved seeing Ava grow and the beckoning romance between her and Theo. I thought that every single one of the characters was really well fleshed out, Ava starts a little whimsical but she grows to really throw herself at things and she’s an exciting character throughout. I had a real soft spot for Theo, he’s at times terribly infuriating and then wonderfully sweet. Each of the powers is described with gusto and creativity. It’s really wonderfully done and I loved the intertwining love/friendship stories that carried on in the background. Additionally a little odd comment but I loved the length of this book, it was slightly longer and allowed for so much more description which made the book so much more enjoyable.

Overall I adored this book and I hope I’ve left enough for you to really get your teeth into and explore as a reader. This is a fantasy book with a fantastic set of characters, powers, skills and relationships and one I am very happy to recommend to you wonderful readers

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I Lie for Money by Steve Spill

Good morning and welcome to another review from mylittlebookblog. It’s an interesting book today and one that I wouldn’t normally read but it’s brilliant to bring you something a little different. A bit of variety is always nice. In other news I will be in Copenhagen over the weekend and I am too excited for words. I haven’t really mentioned it but around a month back one our friends mentioned they had to take a couple of days holiday otherwise the allowance would be lost so did anyone fancy a trip away over the bank holiday? A couple of days messaging each other, googling flights and desperately pulling funds together we are going to Denmark. It’s just a little city break but *squeals* I honestly cannot wait. However, now, a magical review for you.

In this funny, irreverent, unique, eccentric memoir, magician Steve Spill reveals how he managed to survive decades inside a rarely profitable, sometimes maddening, but often deliciously rewarding offbeat showbiz profession—magic!Spill tells of how his tailor grandfather sewed secret pockets in a magician’s tuxedo back in 1910, which started his childhood dream to become a magician. This dream took Spill on a journey that started with him performing, as a young boy, at a “Beauty on a Budget” neighborhood house party to engagements in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, to today in Santa Monica, California, where he’s been starring in his own shows since 1998 at Magicopolis, the theater he designed and built himself. I Lie for Money . . . is a literary magic show that captures the highs and lows of an extraordinary life that will delight and amaze you with wit and wickedness. This book should be an obligatory read for anyone considering a creative career, and it serves as an inspiration to those who desire to craft an independent life.

So, yes, today’s review is a memoir, not something I usually get sent but one I have enjoyed nonetheless. The first thing to say however is I almost didn’t read this book. Please, please, please do not print a book in Comic Sans unless your target audience is under the age of eleven. Once I got over the initial shock of such a terrible type decision I settled down to read and it is a fun and light-hearted piece of literature. The book is honestly like having a private backstage pass into the performing life of the author and it’s wonderfully entertaining. The stories are told in detail with gusto and flair. We get to experience the highs and lows, the new ideas, the working of tricks and the interesting personalities that were met during his lifetime as a magician. We get to learn more about the Magicopolis the authors one hundred and fifty seat theatre in Santa Monica and the performances that were staged there.

The book is stippled with stories that help paint the picture of performing for a living and the intriguing acts that were witnessed. Brilliant snippets include The Lemon Trick which is a particularly clever chapter and one later in the book named Trials and Error which is rather funny. Stories vary wildly, and include a range of animals including a tiger cub, chickens and memorably a macaw as well as a star-studded cast that are interweaved including Cary Grant, Joan Rivers and Stephen King would you believe. The book really does give you a glimpse into the workings of what it takes to build a persona in the creative and ‘magic’ business and I appreciated the chance to experience it. I do adore magic and I’m never really looking to know what’s happening I’m always too absorbed by what I think I am seeing right in front of my eyes and this book brought another point of view to my experience with magic.

In terms of the writing it is written with some skill and dexterity. I liked the variety in chapter length some were longer, some only a page or so, if it was a particular event helping to add contrast and bring some pace to the book. At times the writing was a little immature and could have been tightened up for me using ‘yeah’ or ‘pffft’ can come across a little juvenile especially when what is being spoken about is quite exciting to read. At times some of the stories were a little drawn out and given too much detail that didn’t add to the story but on the whole most were a good length. I think my main problem was the style of the book. The cover, the comic sans and some of the writing make it seem a little unprofessional and yet what’s actually written is a good read. A different cover, maybe something more graphic, a change in text style and a strengthening of some of the slang used this would come across better as a book as a whole because we do judge books based on their appearance and there are ways of doing this. Overall a book I found amusing and a light read and one that I think would make a brilliant birthday or Christmas present for a reader.

A thank you from mylittlebookblog

So, it’s Sunday and the end of this celebration of mylittlebookbookblog. I’m going to keep it short because I’ve waffled enough this week.

I’ve learnt a lot blogging and I’ve learn a lot about myself in doing so and to be honest with you, I think that this blog has ultimately saved me from a number of cripplingly scary moments. My life right now is a little in limbo and it’s terrifying. I’m not sure what I want to do let alone where I want to be and in the last ten months I’ve seen the worst of myself and the panic that comes from graduating and feeling a little lost. But this blog has brought out the best of me. 

I have felt so wonderfully supported and this blog has been a life saver and I just wanted to really say thank you. From my mushy emotional and slightly whimsical heart. Because you are the best people that I could have ever wished for. All the authors, the bloggers, the tweeters, the likers the commenters and the emailers (these are not words) but all of you. Thank you. Thank you so much and here’s to another year of this pretty goddamn wonderful tiny space of the internet that I have found I’m able to call home.

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Two Year Anniversary of mylittlebookblog!

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Afternoon readers, a little news from my little book blog. On the 29th of April 2015 I will be celebrating the two year official anniversary of mylittlebookblog.com. I can not believe how much this blog has given me in terms of confidence in my writing and reviewing, the sheer number of authors, readers, publishers and book bloggers I have met who have been such a joy to get to know and the number of books I’ve read and been introduced to. I will be celebrating the two years blogging between the dates of the 29th of April and the 3rd of May and would love as many of you to get involved as possible. Whether that’s a guest post, helping me with a give-away in terms of prizes or just sharing my blog posts on the day. If you would like to get in touch please comment or email me at mylittlebookblog2014@gmail.com

Thank you

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