While You Are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon

Published: 5th September 2006Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Farrar Straus and Giroux
Illustrator: Alexis Deacon
Pages: 26
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Being a plush toy might sound like an easy job, but when a newcomer joins their group, the bedside toys show him everything that goes into taking care of a child while he is sleeping. Every night, they make sure that he isn’t too hot or too cold, and that he stays safely in his bed. They chase away bedbugs and bad dreams. And on Christmas Eve they have the very important task of making sure the child does not awake until morning. The new toy and the reader will find a lot to learn before the night is over. 

I picked this up because when I saw it I was immediately reminded of one of my favourite pictures “Sweet Halloween Dreams” by begemott. The image shows the power of the toy and this story is one in the same vein.

Deacon tells the story through the voices of the bedside toys. The text addresses the reader and tells them what their toys get up to when they are sleeping. They explain that after sitting and waiting all day, and once they are sure you are asleep, they get up and make sure you have a good night. Whether it is checking for things in cupboards and under the bead, or helping if you are too hot or cold, these toys will be there. With an adorable new lion toy added to the ranks he helps them work in a bid to join their crew and they show him their routine. The toy’s job is to keep you safe while you sleep, to keep monsters and bad dreams away.

The words are simple, but extra information is provided in the illustrations. They demonstrate how these toys help without having to explain it in the text. I would have loved the illustrations to be slightly clearer. They were wonderful and there were little sweet and fun moments in the background that made me smile. I understand that was Deacon’s style but I would have loved the same heart but with less haziness. The pencil illustrations are detailed and coloured, and seeing the different sized animals doing different things is quite adorable. The new toy acts like a new toy would, not as confident or as brave, but you also see the current toys helping out and showing him how their job works. These extra details made me enjoy the story a lot more and added another unspoken layer of the story.

I can see this being a great comfort to children who may be worried about going to sleep or being in the dark. Having this story that reassures them that their favourite toys are there to protect them would be a great comfort.

You can purchase While You Are Sleeping via the following

Book DepositoryAmazon | Amazon Aust

Scorch (#4) by Nikki Rae

Published: 29th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 225
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark Romance
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

With failure after failure, Fawn finally thinks she has a way to escape the Order and make them pay for what they’ve done. Betrayal is a poison—and poison spreads. Elliot’s rising paranoia makes him almost unrecognisable, forcing Marius into the position of Owner. Her bond with both begins to grow and change beyond the roots Elliot planted in her.

Between Marius’ kindness and Master Lyon’s cruelty, Fawn is torn in too many directions while the Vultures lie in wait, prepared to strike while evading a new Mainworld organisation intent on taking them down
Fawn has earned her place in House Chimera, and she will fight for her family no matter the cost. 

Even if that means the Wolves devour her in the end.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

The next book is The Order series is here and Rae wastes no time diving straight into drama and intrigue right away. Following on from the events in book three we see Fawn hit the ground running quite literally and she raises the stakes from the very start. I enjoyed this book, it went in a different direction than I was expecting but Rae still brings the passion and tension we’ve seen before.

There is a greater focus on the characters and their relationships this time around. Fawn’s relationship with Elliot and Marius is explored, but also the tension and issues of the previous novel are still simmering underneath. With the darkness of the earlier books, there is more comfort and compassion this time round. The connection between Fawn, Elliot and Marius evolves and you see different sides of their relationship. That is not to say it’s all love and passion, the deceit and danger that this world brings is there and I loved how Rae plays without your mind so you never know who to trust, who is right and who is telling the truth.

There are BDSM situations and the relationship dynamic of the trio we’ve come to know and love remains but there is consent and support and all of it plays into the emotional stakes of the overall situation. That is not to say the darkness Rae excelled at in earlier books is missing, but there is a different approach this time around and not as explicit.

I felt like this was very similar to parts of book three in that is halts the momentum slightly to explore more of the personal side. I don’t want to say it felt like a filler but there were moments that I thought were drawn out. But as the story continued I could see what Rae was trying to do; she lures us in and to her credit gives us a rewarding ending that was quite unexpected and a welcome surprise.

I’ll admit though, I’m impatient for the final showdown, I love seeing Fawn find herself and act with her bigger purpose in mind but there is certainly merit to Rae’s approach as we see more of Fawn’s state of mind, her growth, and the connections with those around her. Which is great for character development, but hard when you’re itching for the world to burn.

In true Rae style she brings surprises, lust, passion and pain in this fourth instalment. I can only imagine how this is all going to end because if it is anything like the previous four books, it’s going to be a fascinating tale of love, torture, and revenge.

You can purchase Scorch via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Published: 5th March 2019 (print)/5th March 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin/Penguin
Pages: 288/5 hrs and 21 mins
Narrator: Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Layla’s mind goes a million miles a minute, so does her mouth – unfortunately her better judgement can take a while to catch up! Although she believes she was justified for doing what she did, a suspension certainly isn’t the way she would have wished to begin her time at her fancy new high school. Despite the setback, Layla’s determined to show everyone that she does deserve her scholarship and sets her sights on winning a big invention competition. But where to begin?

Looking outside and in, Layla will need to come to terms with who she is and who she wants to be if she has any chance of succeeding.

I have mixed thoughts about this book. I enjoyed parts of it, and how it didn’t become an Issue book, but at the same time I think it didn’t do enough to flesh out the issues it does raise. In essence it is a good story, there is a balance between Layla being the Minority Spokesperson but there is also a universal story about finding your place in the new school and being the awkward age of being a teenager.

Layla has dreams and she makes sacrifices to achieve those dreams. I like that there is a protagonist who isn’t shy and meek, or a full on fighter, she is loud and cheerful, which she is completely ok with, and she has goals.  She screams self-confidence and her Sudanese and Muslim traditions are part of her day and not huge plot points in the narrative, it’s a background part.

There are themes of ethnicity, belonging, family, and bullying which are all dealt with reasonably well. One thing doesn’t stand out as the main point of the book, they are all woven together like they are in life, coming and going and being ever present in the background. I did love that Layla doesn’t have to stop being a teenager to become a fighter against the bullying or an advocate for her heritage, she could just enjoy her life.

It pays to remember this is the narration of a thirteen year old girl and those around her are year eight students which is a great eye opener to the next generation because while some parts were reminding me of my own year eight experience, the language and the technology is a new experience. There are also great male/female friendships. I was worried at the start based on how Abdel-Magied introduced them, but it was great to see that girls and boys could be friends without it being an issue.

Unfortunately Abdel-Magied’s writing is not entirely seamless, there is some repetition and the language can be clunky. I didn’t mind the teen slang, it may date but that was fine. It was more that I think it needed another edit, needed to be refined a bit more. This is evident listening to the audiobook. Even though Abdel-Magied reads it herself, and she does a decent job, it makes you even more aware of the writing as it can be jarring at times and highlights the flaws.

It skirts along big issues but doesn’t focus on them any further. Initially a good idea, and while I am glad Layla and the book doesn’t become focused on those issues, by the end I think it needed a bit more depth and maybe more length. In a strange way it felt like the start of a series, that all the issues half introduced in this story would be addressed in the next book. There were a lot of issues half raised and I kept expecting certain things to have more of an impact.

One thing that irked me is I honestly can’t see how this can be classed as an LGBT book like I’ve seen when it happens in the last few pages of the book and has no effect on the plot whatsoever. It could be edited out and it would mean nothing. For all the parts that work, there are just as much that doesn’t. It’s a book that borders on two sets of audiences, kids and teenagers. Layla is 13 and I think anybody over that age won’t get as much out of it as those who are younger. There’s some great messages in there that suit the younger age bracket that can escape being brushed over with minimal depth.

You can purchase You Must Be Layla via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

 

It’s Not Scribble to Me by Kate Ritchie

Published: 29th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Australia
Illustrator: Jedda Robaard
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Have you ever had so many wonderful, wild and beautiful ideas that paper isn’t enough to hold them all?

Bear has. Upstairs and downstairs, outside and in, the whole house is covered in Bear’s colourful art – even Bear’s little sister. Can Bear convince her parents that she’s creating more than just ‘scribbles’?

All families will relate to this funny story of toddler cheekiness and charm, written by Kate Ritchie, author of I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You and illustrated by Jedda Robaard.

This is a very sweet book and I quite enjoyed this. I like seeing Ritchie come out with more picture books as they are filled with love and emotional connections. I picked this up because of Jess’ review over at Never Ending Book Shelf and I agree it is a lovely book and certainly filled with heart.

This story is a wonderful reminded that what looks like a blotch or a random scribble on a page is a picture perfect image to a child. They can see exactly what it is and it’s always a little heartbreaking not to understand what they have drawn.

The story is told through the voice and perspective of a child and the innocent voice is strong because it brings out the purity in their actions and the heart behind their intent. You feel their pride when the little bear talks about what they have drawn, and the disappointment when they are chastised for their art. It is a story that explores both sides of the situation but gets deep into your emotions about crushing the soul of this tiny artist.

The narrative is lyrical with rhymes as each page flows seamlessly to the next, accompanied by pictures that suit the words. There are only a sentence or two on each page but they explain the story remarkably well and you get easily caught up in the flow and rhythm of the tsory.

Robaard’s illustrations are adorable and I think her style choice is ideal. The cartoon depictions make the story cute without making it silly, but doesn’t make it too serious either. There is humour in the drawings, something for both the adult and the child to enjoy. Plus having a family of bears separates it from being a child and a fault on a child, but there are common themes and scenarios which can be drawn upon when reading.

I think this is great book for kids and parents because it helps to understand one another in a small way and this is a great stepping stone to help drive creativity but in welcomed places. Ritchie is writing about an area that you don’t often see and I think it is wonderful how she keeps putting these stories out that help to appreciate and understand children.

You can purchase It’s Not Scribble to Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Jack Jones: The Haunted Lighthouse (#2) by Zander Bingham

Published: 18th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Green Rhino Media
Pages: 102
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Could the old lighthouse that Jack’s aunt bought to turn into a guesthouse actually be haunted? Mysterious figures in the windows…strange noises…flickering lights. Is this really the work of ghosts? 

Join Jack Jones and crew as they investigate the ghostly events taking place during their stay at The Point Danger Lighthouse in this modern-classic adventure. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

With a small holiday at a lighthouse offering a chance for excitement, the ghost stories have the kids intrigued but also a little wary. With more mystery than adventure this second Jack Jones book offers the kids a chance to be ghost hunters and detectives.

The trio are back with their enthusiasm to explore and have fun this time with an old lighthouse the locals believe is haunted. While I still enjoyed the story, and enjoyed seeing how the kids logically worked through problems, I think I enjoyed the adventure style of the previous book more than the mystery, it felt like there was something missing this time around. There didn’t feel like as much going on in this story. Whether this is because this was more mystery than adventure I’m not sure. Certainly there is less wonder and discovery, replaced with more modern and common issues like power failures.

Bingham adds in a few more characters this time, we see some of the local residents and their stories and experiences add to the narrative and makes them more rounded characters and pads out the story some more making it flow better.

There was still intrigue to find out the culprit to all the strange happening around the place, and with logical explanations or a Scooby Doo villain the only choices I was keen to find out more, either being welcomed. Bingham shows the kids bravery and determination to solve the mystery and while there is less danger present than before, it is also more relatable. The relatable fears and situations make the characters experience understandable, especially for younger readers, but Bingham makes sure to show that being scared doesn’t stop the trio from choosing to go on regardless.

The writing felt more natural but still in the same Bingham style; short sentences, explanations and simple language for easy reading and comprehension. This is one you can read alone but there is certainly a lot more backstory provided in the previous book; this story works well as the continuing adventures of Jack Jones and company.

You can purchase The Haunted Lighthouse via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

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