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The one who might be the One

Have you ever wondered why your life is such a mess and going nowhere, while your friends seem to have got it all together, living in beautiful houses with their wonderful children and hot and sexy and caring husbands?

Meet Cat. A former stand-up comedian, she is funny, intelligent, efficient at work, reliable, and an amazingly loyal friend. And yet, at the age of thirty, she is still living in a shared flat with nightmare roomies, her love life is non-existent, and the highlight of her week is taking her best friend’s son to see Santa’s grotto in a shopping centre. One day, she is reading a newspaper over a stranger’s shoulder on the Tube and sees that her ex, who left for Australia five years ago) is going to have a gig in London. Cat suspects parts of his routine might be about her, so how can she not go? During the gig she sees Harvey, her ex’s brother. Are relationships with your exes’ siblings always off-bounds? What if he is the One? Cat needs to sort her life and understand why the most important people in her life seem to leave her and go away.

What I liked about the book is how realistic it felt at times. The setting and practicalities of life (the nightmares of looking for a room in shared accommodation somewhere you can barely afford, packing your life in a few boxes and discarding the rest), the relationships, the Tube (yes, snow is magical). I loved the way the description of a stand-up venue was so vivid and full of sounds, smells and visual details, while Cat’s office remained uncharted territory (her heart and mind were not there, despite Cat being good at her job). Kelly, Cat’s BFF, is given such a prominent place in this book, that we almost fall in love with this no-nonsense-voice-of-reason-love-and-eternal-support girl.

It was a fast and enjoyable read. Highly recommended for somebody who likes comedy, banter, family relationships and thinks London is a fantastic setting for a light-hearted romantic book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: February 26th 2019

Publisher: Bookouture

# Teen Tonic #Book Review #I am Elephant, I am Butterfly… Lives of others, our own lives

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandchild about life:

‘A fight is going on inside of me..It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolvees. One wolf is evil- he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, guilt, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, deception, false pride, ego, and superiority. The other wolf is good- he is peace, love, hope, joy, serenity, humility, benevolence, empathy, empathy, generosity, truth and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.’

‘Which wolf will win?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘ The one you feed’.

I approached this book with a bit of apprehension due to my own food-related issues as a teenager. It is not easy, however important, to write about this sensitive topic.
I needn’t have worried. The book is kind and patient, and lyrical at times.

 At the beginning Simone Wheeler’s voice is sad and resigned. She is about to be sent to Kamama camp for girls with morbid obesity. Her brother Bucky informs her that Kamama is the Cherokee for ‘an elephant’. She is about to embark on a life full of meagre food, obstacle courses and most dreaded powwow/group sharing sessions. But it is not all that simple and straightforward.

“A butterfly looks like it has elephant ears when it stretches out its wings, and an elephant has ears like a butterfly, so the Cherokee use Kamama for both elephant and butterfly’. Both are beautiful and special creatures. Just as Simone and her new friends.

I loved the slow reflective pace of this book. Whenever there is a lot of hard work to do (and personal development is always hard), things do not happen overnight. I also loved the emphasis on communication and friendship to combat loneliness and self-isolation and, above all, active acceptance.
Beautiful setting, vivid, memorable characters. I keep thinking about the book  and I’ve realized that I know quite a lot of people who have had similar life experiences and struggled to find their way of dealing with the issues.

Thank you to NetGalley and Leslie Tall Manning for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

In blossom – the beauty of a spring day

‘In blossom’ is a gentle and dreamy book with gorgeous minimalist pictures. It has this uncanny ability to take you from whatever emotions you have been experiencing and transport you into a spring garden on a ’breeze-blowing’, ‘sun-twinkling day’.

There are two characters in the book. Cat has just found a perfect spot for her picnic. She moves her lunch on the bench to make space for Dog who is there to read his book. A falling petal lands on, first, Cat’s nose, then, Dog’s one. Cat offers her lunch, which is gratefully accepted by Dog. This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship or it might be just one of those lovely shared experiences that stay in our memory even if we do not see the person again.

You need to read books like these to your child if you want to develop their range of emotions. Sometimes you need something pacey with bright vibrant colours. Other times you need something sweet, soft, and tender if you want them to learn to appreciate the beauty of a spring day.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lincoln Children’s Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Title: In Blossom
Authors: Cheon Yooju
Published by: Quarto Publishing Group, Lincoln Children’s books
Published: January 15th 2019
ISBN 1786037289 (ISBN13: 9781786037282)

PI Lightfoot is back

Madeleine Engle said:
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

Pi Lightfoot might be the case. It takes you on a whirlwind adventure in a world of alien supercomputers. There are perils to avoid, friends to save and mysteries to solve. Now that I have read the second instalment, I have grown to love the characters: fearless Pi, loyal Gaia, word-mixing klutzy Leo, kind and fatherly HB, and my favourite super smart and super cool Andomime. Inverse is full of fantastic objects such as pinwheels (would make my morning routine so much easier) and spherooms (yes, ceilings are a total waste of space) as well as powerful elements.
Some parts of the book were more abstract and difficult to follow (I am a grown-up, after all). Others were written in such a wonderfully tangible way that I almost felt the cold drops and acrid tang of the Leviathan wave.
Looking forward to reading the third part of Pi’s adventures.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

a dreamy and surreal world of whales and child imagination

With its stunning watercolour illustrations, Ida and the Whale will take you on a journey into a dreamy world of a child’s imagination.

 Ida is a quiet and curious child. She often sits outside her birch tree house and wonders if there is anything beyond the sun, the moon and the stars. One night she dreams of a giant flying whale that invites her to go on a special adventure. Ida and the whale talk about many things, some ordinary, some special, and quickly become very good friends who are so comfortable with each other that they are not afraid ‘to share a silence’. After a violent storm, they get separated for a brief moment and Ida is engulfed in her loneliness (the illustrations render her emotions so beautifully, to the point of making the reader feel her despair). The whale comes back with a reassuring message of always being there for her.

Some readers might find the story a bit on the short side and not entirely logical, but, if you bear in mind that this is a dream, Ida’s journey becomes easier to understand.’ Sometimes you can only understand others if you stand on your head yourself’.

I think this is not a read aloud but more of a read-along-with-me book, as the child needs to see the pictures which make the book so special.

Thank you NetGalley and North South Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Title: Ida and the Whale
Authors: Rebecca Gugger(story), Simon Roethlisberger (illustrations)
Published by: North South Books
Published on: 2nd of April 2019
ISBN: 0735843414 (ISBN13: 9780735843417)

Beauty is in the eye of a beholder…

 Little White fish is a cute and super-friendly creature who would love to know what the most beautiful thing in the ocean is. Little Octopus, Little Turtle, Little Goldfish, Little Seahorse, Little Starfish and Little Snail have different opinions, all of which are valid and true.
I loved the layout, pictures and the font of this sweet and tender book. There is a lot of repetition, which is very important for toddlers who can ‘read along’ with their parent or teacher.
Simply enchanting.
Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis Publishing for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Little White Fish and the sea
Author: Guido Van Genechten
Published by: Clavis Publishing
Publishing Date: 11 Oct 2018

Cyberpunk meets surfing

I grew up on science fiction- Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Clifford Simak, John Windham… But among the very first ones was Roger Zelazny and his Coils. Oh, how I wanted to be able to travel inside its computer-generated reality.
If you are 12-13, love computers and are about to venture into the world of sci-fi, try this one. Pi (she actually has quite an interesting first name which I won’t give away) is very likeable and easy to relate to. She has an older sister Lani and Mum. Her Dad died when she was 4 weeks old but there is a mystery lurking behind…
One day an amazing thing happens. Pi (Pi’s avatar) gets transported to an alien AI virtual reality where her adventures begin. She makes new friends Gaia, Leo, Andomime and explores the new mysterious world of the Inverse.
At times I felt a bit overloaded with the slang/computer-related lingo and trying to stay behind the technicalities of the Inverse was not easy. However, if you like cyberpunk, Wrinkle in time and Alice in Wonderland, this fast-paced book will keep you gripped. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador publishing Limited for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Old favourites -Left hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin


Truth is a matter of the imagination…

It is not easy to limit this hauntingly beautiful novel to one central idea. It is about difficulty of communication, about dualism and wholeness, war and civilization, friendship, trust and human relationships. All of this is set in a cold cold world where the mark of civilization is not comfort but survival. The planet of Gethen (Winter) is still in the Ice Age and the two countries described in the book are situated on a relatively small strip of land between ice sheets and glaciers. The most remarkable thing about the Gethenians (from our point of view) is that they are ambisexual: neuter most of the time (or better-said potential) becoming either female or male for a few days.
The narrator of the book Genly Ai is an envoy entrusted with making contact and bringing this far away world into the Ekumen union of trade, knowledge and culture exchange. ‘The first Envoy to a world always comes alone. One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.’ Genly is open-minded and willing to learn about local ways. He has to navigate around ‘shifgrethor’ – prestige, face, place, the pride-relationship, the untranslatable and all-important principle of social authority in…all civilizations of Gethen’. He tries to understand the Gethenian sexual mores- in Gethen anybody ‘can be tied down to childbearing…and nobody is as free as a free male anywhere else’ (the book was written in 1969, things have changed a lot, although not everywhere). He visits a local monastery and takes part in a foretelling ritual that gives him a much better idea of their religious beliefs and practices e.g. the importance of keeping one’s mind clear of abstractions, becoming ‘ignorant’. Yet, he finds it extremely difficult to leave aside his preconceptions and patterns of interaction.

Without giving away too much of the story, its main message is the importance of love, trust and, above all, acceptance.