Friday, 29 April 2016

Girls Can Vlog by Emma Moss

Title: Girls Can Vlog: Lucy Locket Online Disaster
Author: Emma Moss
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 21st April 2016
Pages: 252
Genres: Middle grade/Friendship/Vlogging
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Newsflash... vlogging is go!

It's bad enough having to move house, school and country all at the same time, without making a fool of yourself on the first day of term. But that's just what Lucy's done - and one of her classmates has videoed the whole thing and put it online!

Lucy's so stressed, her stammer's become worse than ever. So when a friend encourages her to create her own videos, she thinks it's a terrible idea - surely she's embarrassed herself enough for one lifetime!

But when Lucy finally gives vlogging a try, she's amazed to find that people actually want to watch...

Following the rising popularity of YouTube culture, vlogging is slowly but surely filtering down into children's books. In Lucy Locket: Online Disaster, the first book in the Girls Can Vlog series, Lucy has moved from America to England and, as a result of her stammer and the fact that she's already annoyed the 'Queen bee' at school, her confidence is suffering. But then her friend back in the US, Morgan, suggests that Lucy starts vlogging, and it opens the doors to a whole new world.

And guess what? The whole aspect of vlogging was done properly, which was a pleasant surprise. Usually when I read a book that mentions vlogging - or any form of social media in general - there's always a slight error that suggests the writer doesn't quite get it fully. But this worked really well and even the word 'vlogmas' was used in the right context. Hashtag impressed.

Something else I found interesting was Lucy's stammer. An old friend of mine has a stammer, but I always just accepted it as part of them and never thought about what it must be like to have one, especially when you're in a judgemental environment like a school. I've never seen it covered in literature before, either, so this was great. Girls Can Vlog boasts a strong message to its young readers that you can deal with these things and they don't have to control you. Maybe this book will inspire a new wave of YouTubers, who perhaps thought that they couldn't have a go because they have a stammer like Lucy, look a certain way, or generally lack the confidence.

Plus, Girls Can Vlog captured the essence of being a younger teenager perfectly. It was such a feel-good read, with Lucy and her friends unapologetically having fun, messing around and trying out new hobbies. I loved seeing their confidence grow, and it encapsulated how good vlogging can be. It's not just people stuffing marshmallows into their mouths for a 'challenge', filming as they load up the washing machine, or reacting to a movie trailer; it's a connection and the opportunity to grow as a person, whether you're in front of the camera, behind it, or watching the resulting footage miles away on a screen. Not only that, but it subtly introduced ideas of online safety, which is always important to think about.

Warm, funny, and perfect for the Zoella generation, this series is bang on trend and sure to be a hit.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Meeting Cassandra Clare + Win a Signed Copy of Lady Midnight!

Do I really need three signed copies of the same book? Duh, yes. But I'm giving one of them to a lucky reader in this very post because, as much as I wish it was, my bookshelf is not a mile long. Before we get to that, though, I met Cassandra Clare again in Milton Keynes on the 17th! She was lovely, of course.

I'll never be able to put into words how much I love these books, and anything I say will end up being an understatement, although I tried my best in this review of Clare's latest instalment, pictured above. If you haven't read any of Clare's books, I highly suggest that you do; there are a lot of them, but perseverance is key! Today, I'm giving one of you lucky people the chance to win a signed copy of Lady Midnight, which is the first book in The Dark Artifices series and my personal favourite. Even better, this giveaway is international!

So, how do you win? Pick your own way of entering using the Rafflecopter below - simple! The more you do, the more entries you get. Good luck, shadowhunters. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 25 April 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Title: Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 28th January 2016
Pages: 230
Genres: Young Adult/Historical
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she's alone.

Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna's missing father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous...

Seven-year-old Anna loves her father. A professor, he taught her all kinds of languages, from French and German to Russian and Yiddish. But one day he goes to work and never comes home. With no mother, no father, and the war raging above her head and in the streets, Anna is alone - and at the worst time possible. So when Anna meets the Swallow Man and discovers that, like her father, he is also fluent in many languages, it seems only natural to follow him. Over several years, Anna and the Swallow Man follows them as they travel through Poland, doing everything they can to stay safe along the way.

I think I said this on Twitter when I was reading Anna and the Swallow Man, and I'll say it again: this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. I loved the contrast of the poetic style of writing against a bleak landscape. I loved seeing the world from the unique perspective of a seven year old and, as she grew up, a nine and then eleven year old. I think I'd have to read this book a few more times to see it from all angles and fully appreciate it because there's so much going on and Anna and the Swallow Man have their own language in addition to all the others that they're fluent in. Below is one of my favourite pages from the book. It might not make a lot of sense to those who haven't read it, but I loved what I found between the lines.
Anna and the Swallow Man is confusing in the best of ways, lost and wandering with only vague direction - not dissimilar to the Swallow Man. But wasn't everything a little lost at the time? I never knew what was hiding around the corner, and a lot was left open to interpretation. It prompted so many questions in me. Made me appreciate what I have. Made me angry at what's happened in the world before and is looking scarily close to happening again.

Until the last couple of chapters, it was certain in my mind that I would be giving 5 stars to Anna and the Swallow Man, but then the ending happened. Seriously, what was that? The Swallow Man put Anna on a boat with some random guy and told her, in his own way, that she could kill him if she needed to. Done. That was it. The end. I feel like I must have missed or misinterpreted something because I genuinely don't understand what happened (if anyone has read it and feels like explaining it to me, please message me!) and it was so anti-climatic.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a raw, beautiful work of art and is well worth reading. The ending was a bit of a let down, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since turning the final page, and I still have so many questions. It's a wonderful book that is truly one of a kind.