Thursday 29 April 2021

Book Review - Look Both Ways

 Title: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Author: Jason Reynolds 

Publisher: Knights Of 

Release Date: 7 Nov. 2019 

ISBN-13: 978-1999642594



Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, nosy neighbours, babysitters - there's not much of your day that isn't dictated by someone else. Unless you walk home from school - walkers have independence - those fifteen-minutes from school to home, completely unsupervised. What waits for them is the mischief of curiosity, allies and enemies, a taste of freedom, and plenty of humour.  

My Review

This is the third title I have been given from the Carnegie shortlist, this one is very short and from first appearances I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading it, but at just over 130 pages, I knew it would be a fairly quick experience.

The book is divided into 10 chapters and each one follows a child, or a friendship group of children and gives you an insight into their world for that short walk home from school. The concept itself was quite good but I had three main problems with it.

Firstly, I would just start to connect with the character, feel like I was getting to know them and wanting to know more about their story when the chapter would end and it would move to a different child on a different street with a completely different life. Some people may enjoy these brief interludes and be content but I found it very frustrating, I wanted to know more about some of the stories but that was it. 

Secondly, Some of the stories were just boring, especially if you had just read a really gripping one such as the group of pickpockets with a deeper meaning behind thier actions. Some of them I just found rather irritating and I just wanted them to get home so i could stop reading about them.   

Lastly, I was expecting there to be some big reveal or connection between all the stories, I thought there was going to be a massive moment where all of these children came together and found a common ground, to give some reason to their stories and ventures, but apart from the odd cross over where a new character would see one of the others in the hallway, there was no link at all and as I finished the book I turned to my husband and said 'well what was the point of that then?!!?' It all just fell rather flat and I'm still not sure exactly what the point of this book is.

Some may enjoy these brief stories and peeks into the lives of our walkers, but I just found it frustrating and it didn't ever go anywhere. So a big disappointment from me, but it did only take me an hour to read so not much wasted time!

My Rating


Book Review - On Midnight Beach


Title: On Midnight Beach

Author: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick 

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Release Date: 2 April 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-0571355594



I kept clear of Dog Cullen. Till the summer we turned seventeen, the summer the dolphin came to Carrig Cove . . .
Donegal, 1976
When a dolphin takes up residence in Carrig Cove, Emer and her best friend, Fee, feel like they have an instant connection with it. Then Dog Cullen and his sidekick, Kit, turn up, and the four friends begin to sneak out at midnight to go down to the beach, daring each other to swim closer and closer to the creature . . .

But the fame and fortune the dolphin brings to their small village builds resentment amongst their neighbours across the bay, and the summer days get longer and hotter . . . There is something wild and intense in the air. Love feels fierce, old hatreds fester, and suddenly everything feels worth fighting for.

My Review

This is the second book I was given as part of the Carnegie award, from the blurb I was quite looking forward to this one - I like Dolphins and books set by the sea so thought I would absorb it and love it.

In a lazy seaside town called Carrig Cove, Emer is forced to work in her dads shop, he's quite strict and doesn't like her going out, but one summer a dolphin arrives in the bay and causes quite a stir with the locals, and soon tourists are arriving too, but Emer seems to have a connection with the dolphin and the four of them sneak out at midnight to swim with the dolphin, and maybe get to know each other better too. Emer and Dog start to get closer and soon a relationship is blooming, but there is rivalry with the other nearest town, soon there are fights and disputes that could endanger the town, the dolphin and the kids.

There are a host of other characters that we meet and follow too, including Gus who used to live in one of the towns but moved to the other and never really fit into either, then theres Maeve who wants to be the center of attention. This was the main part of the book I didn't like, this is a teen book and most of the book reads like it would be aimed at a younger or mid teen, on the Carnegie website it says it is suitable for Year 9 at school and up, but that means students as young as 13 are reading this book, and there is a lot of sex scenes in it. I don't mind the odd sexual reference if it is absolutely necessary and furthers the story and plot line, but this one just seemed to have moments for no reason other than the author felt like it. At one point Maeve comments on the size of his c**k and then they precede to strip each other and go at it. This continues throughout the book, but I couldn't really see a point to any of it. IT just made me feel uncomfortable, especially knowing some of the students who had this book and would be cringing at reading it. I don't think it is necessary or appropriate.

 The thing I did find most interesting about the book though was that it is actually based on an old legend, which made me interested in looking up the legend and discovering more about it. 

Overall I found the book to be a bit of a washout, i didn't care much about any of the main characters, the dolphin is not really the main focus of the book - it's just a catalyst for events and there was far too much sexual references. Just didn't spark anything in me. 

My Rating


Book Review - The Fountains of Silence

Title: The Fountains of Silence

Author: Ruta Sepetys 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 18 Mar. 2021 

ISBN-13: 978-0241421857



 Madrid, 1957.

Daniel, young, wealthy and unsure of his place in the world, views the city through the lens of his camera.

Ana, a hotel maid whose family is suffering under the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

Lives and hearts collide as they unite to uncover the hidden darkness within the city.

A darkness that could engulf them all . . .

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love and the hidden violence of silence.

My Review

I have signed up to read all of this years books that have been nominated for the Carnegie Award, this is being done in the school that I work and I thought it would be a good way of discovering some new, different types of books and see what is coming out at the moment. There are 8 books on the nominated list and this was the first one that I was given. 

This is definitely not the sort of book that I would have picked up from the cover or blurb, I am starting to get into Historical novels a bit more, but I have never thought about History this recent or set in Spain. So immediately the purpose of the award is working as I am discovering something new.

Daniel is visiting Spain with his family, his mother grew up in Spain before moving to America with her husband, they have now returned to experience some of the culture, explore his roots and generally get involved in the city. Spain is being run by general Franco, it is a dictatorship, people have very little freedom, there is fear in the air, parents, siblings and friends have been taken away for being traitors to the state and no one can trust anyone else. Daniel finds it all fascinating and enjoys seeing the different angles of life through his camera. Then he meets Ana - a maid at the hotel who needs to learn to keep her mouth shut, she has to help support her sister and her nieces and nephews, and can't risk endangering any of them. Together they start to see a different side of the city, and maybe of each other. 

The story was a bit slow to start, you are introduced to a place and quite a number of characters that may be a little confusing, the story doesn't grab you straight away as there is a fair amount of description - but I actually liked this, it helped to set up the story for me and gave me time to settle to it. By the time I was about 50-100 pages in, I was hooked and I had to know what Daniel would discover next, how Ana was involved, and if the secrets I had learnt would be answered. 

Overall I found the story highly captivating and the words wove this world around me, that pulled me in and made me want to know more. I couldn't put it down and was desperate for more. The ending was satisfying enough but I am one of those people that like everything to be wrapped up and there are a few unanswered questions and some open ends that left me swearing and wishing the book was another 100 pages long. 

I'm not sure this book is particularly suited for the target audience it has been given of the upper teen age, I personally think this would be suited better to the adult market due to the content, language and style - it's the sort of book that I could see on the Booker prize list or something like that. I am not sure how well teens will engage as it is quite slow and wordy. But regardless of that, I thought it was an excellent book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Definitely worth a read and even more captivating knowing that a lot of it is based on real life, and not that long ago either - which may shock you!

My Rating