Wednesday 5 May 2021

Book Review - Echo Mountain

 Title: Echo Mountain

Author: Lauren Wolk 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 7 May 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-0241424155


1933. When Ellie and her family lose everything, they flee to Echo Mountain to build a new life. Ellie runs wild, exploring the mountain's mysteries. But the one she can't solve is who's leaving the gifts for her: tiny, beautiful wooden carvings of animals and flowers, dotted around the mountain for her to find.

Then Ellie's father has a terrible accident. Now he lies in a coma, while Ellie shoulders the blame for what happened. When she sets out to find a cure for him, she discovers Cate, the outcast witch, and Larkin, a wild mountain boy. From them she learns about being a healer, being brave - and about how there can be much more to a person than first meets the eye.

 My Review

This is another book on the Carnegie shortlist, and I have to admit that this is the one that I was looking forward to the most, I know you should never judge a book by its cover - but I thought this one was really attractive, I loved the mix of blues that created a magical, wintery atmosphere, and all the details added in - you could literally look at this cover for a good half hour and still spot different details. 

The blurb sounded interesting to me and I wasn't sure if it would be fantasy style or not, but I was certainly intrigued. After the Great Depression, Ellie's family has lost everything - forced to leave their home and possessions behind, they make thier way up the mountain to start a new life. At first they must adapt to tents and tinned food, but they soon learn how to build shelters, hunt food and establish a way of life. There are 5 families on the mountain and they trade goods to aid survival - milk from one's family cows in exchange for honey from another's bees etc. Life seems to be going well, and Ellie is settling into her new life well, her sister may not be all that impressed and her mum may miss certain aspects of normal life but they've created a good strong foundation and life is moving on. But then one day Ellie's dad has a serious accident, hit on the head by a fallen tree and now in a coma. Ellie is desperate to get her dad back - life is not the same without him and they don't know if they can survive. But then Ellie starts to find little wood carvings, and when she ventures up the mountain, she finds Cate - the old hag. No one is sure if she is a witch or just a crazy old woman, but Ellie sees beyond that and soon the pair are working together to heal more than just her dad. 

Although there isn't any actual magic or witchcraft in the book, there is a very magical almost ethereal feel to the story and I felt hooked in by it and swept away by the story and it's characters. 

I found myself really liking Ellie, she is plucky, stubborn and a bit unsure of herself, but she is determined and refuses to give up. Her family is quite dysfunctional yet works perfectly. My favourite character is actually Cate, I loved her no nonsense attitude and old-world feel.

I wanted to know more about their mountain life and all the characters - the book swept me up and immersed me into the world and I was desperate to have time to keep reading, and I really enjoyed reading too. I was never bored or put off, every sentence, every word swept me through the story, and so far this book definitely has my vote as the winner. It was truly gripping. 

 My Rating


Book Review - The Girl Who Became a Tree

 Title: The Girl Who Became a Tree

Author: Joseph Coelho 

Publisher: Otter-Barry Books Ltd 

Release Date: 27 Aug. 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-1913074784



Daphne is unbearably sad and adrift. She feels the painful loss of her father acutely and seeks solace both in the security of her local library and the escape her phone screen provides by blocking out the world around her. As Daphne tries to make sense of what has happened she recalls memories of shared times and stories past, and in facing the darkness she finds a way back from the tangle of fear and confusion, to feel connected once more with her friends and family.   


My Review

This is yet another of the Carnegie shortlist, given to me to read as part of our school group. This is ANOTHER verse book- it seems to me that this is some sort of trend that authors are jumping on and I'm not quite sure why. I really enjoyed 'Run, Rebel' and thought the verse actually helped progress and deal with the story, but unless done in a particular way that allows the story to flow through the poems, it's very hard to get right. 

I read the blurb of this one and felt encouraged, it sounded fantasy style, set in a library - 2 of my favourite things, add onto that the fact that it's based on a Greek legend which i always like,  so I expected to enjoy it. My overall feeling of the book however was mainly confusion - I found it very hard to keep up with what was going on and why. I got that she went to the library after school to wait for her mum, she liked the place and the way she could escape, either in a good book or through using her phone. The whole 'journey into the hole in the shelves' confused me though - I wasn't sure at first if it was an actual journey or a metaphorical one, I had no idea what the creature was meant to be or why it wanted her there. The poems, for me, just didn't flow, I did not connect to the characters and didn't really care what happened to her. I still want verse books to hook me in and make me care, but this one just didn't. It was just weird!

I actually feel that this was a story that would benefit from more information, proper prose and description to fully immerse you in Daphne's world. This did nothing to entice me, and the only plus was that it is so short, I had finished it within half an hour. It's only 172 pages, and a number of those have 'illustrations' - strange pictures that also made no sense to me. And most of the poems are quite short so you will be done in no time. 

I would not pick this up again or recommend it to anyone, very disappointing and confusing. Maybe I've just missed something - but who knows?

 My Rating

Saturday 1 May 2021

Book Review - Run, Rebel

 Title: Run, Rebel

Author: Manjeet Mann 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 5 Mar. 2020 

ISBN-13 : 978-0241411421 


When Amber runs, it's the only time she feels completely free - far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.
Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more - and she's ready to fight for it.
It's time for a revolution.

 My Review

This is another one of the Carnegie shortlist books I have been given to read. I wasn't sure what to expect before picking it up, although it's nearly 400 pages, it is written in verse so I knew it would be quite a quick read. I'm a bit hesitant about verse novels as it seems to be a trend that everyone is jumping on at the moment and some are brilliant but others are shocking. So I tried to approach this with as open a mind as possible. 

Amber lives with her very strict father, who expects her to be the perfect daughter, follwoing the rules and preparing for an arranged marriage when the time comes, but Amber wants to live her own life and follow her own destiny, she loves nothing more that to run and when she gets the chance to join the school team and train towards a future as an athlete she has to decide whether it is worth upsetting her family in order to follow her dreams.

Along the way we meet Ambers 2 friends whi try to keep her grounded, but even they have their moments where Amber wonders why they hang out with her, will the two of them fall in love and leave her behind and will they ever find out about her harsh home life, having to witness her fathers violent outbursts towards her mother, and sometimes herself.

The book does deal with domestic violence and abuse, along with the strains put on children of foreign parents who can't speak English, meaning the children have to be responsible for everything. Although these are heavy issues, the books verse style and the way the author has presented them, make them easier to read and deal with. They are still as serious as ever, but it isn't too graphic which allows you to emphasise with Amber and wish for a change along with her. 

I liked how Amber grew and developed across the novel, in so few words you see her go from a scared, submissive girl into a girl capable of rebellion, but it's not a quick change - you see it build across a time scale that would be totally believable and it's heart warming to see. I found myself growing to like her more and more and rooting for her to succeed. However my favourite character is her mother - she emerges even more than Amber does and I desperately wanted her to get free and live her own life.

This is certainly not the sort of book I would usually pick up, which is why I love this Carnegie award as it is exposing me to different types of novel and allowing me to get immersed in a mixture of different worlds. This is a powerful and moving novel that is easily accessible and gripping. 

My Rating