Molly Bell and the Wishing Well [Bridget Geraghty]

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.

Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.

But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

My thoughts on the book: When I read the summary of this children’s book on NetGalley, I was very keen on delving into it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although the book is very short (about 100 pages), it is filled with emotions and conveys a beautiful, profound message.

Through young Molly’s perspective, the author deals with the following themes — losing a parent at a young age, struggling with grief and anger, finding it hard to accept new family members (especially a new mother and a new young sibling).

The writing style is easily accessible for a young audience. I thought it was fast-paced and well written. It is both very descriptive and dynamic. You can easily follow Molly’s stream of thought, her frustration and her pain. I thought her difficult relationship with fidgety Henry was very interesting and evolving in a credible way.

The wishing well is a relevant symbol about hope. Can Molly finally find some closure and come to terms with her pain? Will she let people find their way to her grieving heart? I was afraid that given how short the book is, it would leave me wanting for more. But, the author managed to include all the necessary ingredients. It never feels rushed and there are no overlong passages. So, sometimes, shorter is better!

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well is a touching, moving tale about loss, family love and support, as well as new beginnings.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (= A must-read)

Disney Beauty and the Beast Volume 2 [Mallory Reaves]

In Disney’s live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside.

This manga explores the Beast’s struggle as he tries to move on from his past and learn what it is to love.

My thoughts on the book: Contrary to the first volume which was very difficult to read due to the odd disposition of the pages in the PDF version, I must admit that this volume 2 was far easier and more pleasant to read because it was displayed one page at a time. It made the reading experience less frustrating.

Overall, the illustrations are as good as the first book — very elaborate and neat. However, I didn’t find the Beast very convincing. I think the face looks too human. Anyway, that’s quite minor flaw in the bigger picture of this manga. Speaking of which, I’m not really a manga reader (not at all actually), but given the theme, I was really looking forward to discovering this version of the classic tale.

Based on the Beast’s perspective, this second volume offers a different, interesting angle. The drawings and sketches are expressive and vibrant. I do prefer the first volume because it’s more girly, but this one is worth having a look as well even though it’s more masculine and rough around the edges since you have direct access to the tortured soul and stream of thought of the Beast.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ (= I liked it a lot)

 

The Little Mermaid [Metaphrog]

The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen’s most celebrated tale and is beautifully adapted here as a graphic novel by the Eisner award nominated duo Metaphrog (Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers), winners of the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards Best Visual Artist 2016, and authors of the acclaimed The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

The Little Mermaid lives deep under the ocean and longs to see the world above. When at last she is allowed to rise to the surface at age fifteen, she falls in love with a young prince. In order to become a human and to be with him, she makes a dangerous pact with the Sea Witch.

My thoughts on the book: The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite tale from growing up. And I must admit that when I first read the “real” story written by Andersen, I was sad that the mermaid didn’t get a happy ending like she does in the Disney version. But, if you really think about it, the fact that most of the original versions of fairy tales are actually very dark is far more interesting. It gives more food for thought on some level, even though you keep thinking that they deserve to be happy, and it’s quite unfair and frustrating.

That’s why I really liked this new edition of the famous story. It is based on the original storyline. It’s a gripping story boasting beautiful illustrations.

I really enjoyed it, except for one little fact — I was really disappointed with the way the Prince looked. He has very feminine, almost androgynous facial traits. He didn’t strike me as attractive at all. But that’s very biased one might argue.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

See You in the Cosmos [Jack Cheng]

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

My thoughts on the novel: What a lovely surprise! See You in the Cosmos is an entertaining, touching tale about a young boy passionate about space and alien lifeforms and who embarks on a riveting journey through America.

I thought the author really managed to capture and recreate this very particular stream of thought youngsters have. You get a narration made up of long sentences reflecting the incredible amount of ideas that go through the mind of Alex.

I was not only moved by his perspective of the world, but also very amused by his candor and funny interpretations of things he hears and sees, especially when faced with young adult problems. He tries to make sense of everything and everyone surrounding him.

He’s a very smart, mature eleven-year-old who has to deal with a broken family — a strong character who helps make this story a beautiful tale with a strong message about love, family, friendship and chasing after your dreams.

I highly recommend this novel to the young public who can easily identify with Alex, but also to teenagers and adults who will definitely get something out it too.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

Petticoat Spy [Carol Warbuton]

Colonial Massachusetts, 1775
Abigail Stowell is a rarity for her time. The comely young woman is educated, outspoken, and attuned to the charged political climate around her. She is a staunch Patriot. In short, she is a rebel. So when Gideon Whitlock, an avowed Tory, rides into her village, Abby is not only put off by his politics and arrogance but is also annoyed by her undeniable attraction to him.

When she observes a clandestine meeting between her Patriot father and Gideon, Abby soon realizes that in a world divided by loyalties, not everything is as it seems. Soon she is drawn deeper into political intrigue than she ever dreamed possible. And just as feelings begin to heat up between Abby and Gideon, the shot heard round the world ignites the beginning of war between the colonists and the British redcoats. There is no time for hesitation, and Abby finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, treachery, and terror. Lives hang in the balance, and Abby will stop at nothing to support the Patriot movement—but will her allegiance to the cause mean losing the man she loves?

My thoughts on the novel: Petticoat Spy had all the enticing ingredients to become a book I would utterly love — strong female character, historical tale, some spying, much family drama and a promising love interest… Even the sleek cover instantly caught my eye! I was supposed to adore it! So understand my frustration when I started to realise that I couldn’t relate to the story. Why on earth couldn’t I fully enjoy it and “get into” the book?

To be fair, I did find some scenes captivating, especially those where Abigail finds herself in danger. She has to be extra cautious, witty and inconspicuous. Given the context and the social climate, it was quite fascinating to watch her navigate her mission — an extraordinary destiny of hers. But I never really connected with the characters. I thought the intrigue began to gain intensity in the last half of the book with the whole drama surrounding her aunt Caroline and uncle Joseph. I thought it was quite well narrated.

I think it might have been a better idea to have Abigail begin her full-on infiltration mission in Boston much earlier in the plot. Maybe it lacked intensity in the first half. That could explain why I never really delved into the intrigue. Maybe it’s just the style that didn’t speak to me!?

Overall, I thought the book had great potential and I actually quite liked the ending which was satisfying and well-paced. I just wished I had connected with the overall intrigue on a much deeper, emotional level. I remain slightly disappointed but I believe it deserves 2 hearts which means “I liked the book” (which I did) according to my scoring sheet. If only I liked it more…

Finally, the author added some historical facts at the end of the book. A very good idea!

My Score: ♥ ♥

When we Danced at the End of the Pier [Sandy Taylor]

Brighton 1930: Maureen O’Connell is a carefree girl, but her family is on the brink of tragedy, war is looming and life will never be the same again.

Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin.

As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving.

When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of?

An utterly gripping and heart-wrenching story about the enduring power of love, hope and friendship during the darkest of days.

My thoughts on the novel: It was an absolute delight to read the novel When we danced at the end of the pier by Sandy Taylor. The story was deeply emotional and moving. As the reader, you see Maureen grow up at a time of great tragedy: the looming threat of a possible war and the actual horrors of the Second World War (deaths, bombing, evacuees), all in a poor section of Brighton called See Saw Lane.

Throughout their childhood, Maureen and her sister Brenda have had to deal with a “broken daddy” who seems to be wrestling with his own demons. It made them grow up faster, a matter that is obvious in Maureen’s narrative voice and strong personality. Apart from that, Maureen’s friends also have to deal with their share of family and personal drama, from poverty to abuse. She shares a very strong bond with her best friends, including Nelson, Monica and Jack! She will live an incredible love story, as well as an incredible loss that will move you to the core (courtesy of a great narrative and writing style from the author’s part).

All the characters are endearing and touching. The dramatic scenes are heart-wrenching, especially those dealing with bombings. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, which makes for a very realistic novel. You can almost feel and sense everything at the same time as Maureen. The author really managed to write a beautiful tale about family, true love and friendship. If you are a bit of a softie, expect a few tears rolling down your cheeks!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage [Suzanne Venker]

The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage shows women who have a dominating personality how to love a man.

America is in love with the alpha female. She’s the quintessential modern woman—assertive, razor sharp, and fully in control. Her success in the marketplace is undeniable, a downright boon to society. But what happens when the alpha female gets married?

She becomes an alpha wife, of course.

An alpha wife is in charge of everything and everyone. She is, quite simply, the Boss. The problem is, no man wants a boss for a wife. That type of relationship may work for a spell, but it will eventually come crashing down. Since 1970, just as women became more and more powerful outside the home—more alpha—the divorce rate has quadrupled. And it is women who lead the charge. Today, 70% of divorce is initiated by wives.

Do men just make lousy husbands? Not at that rate, says Suzanne Venker, bestselling author of The War on Men. The truth is that women don’t know how to be wives. Why would they? That’s not what they were raised to become.

But women can learn. There’s an art to loving a man, says Venker, and any woman can master it. An alpha female herself, Venker learned how to be a wife the hard way—through trial and error. Lots of error. And here’s what she knows today—the set of skills a woman needs to pursue a career, or even to raise children, is the exact set of skills that will mess up her marriage but good. No man likes to be told what to do. And no woman respects the man who does.

The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage gives women who are used to being in charge the tools they need to make their marriages less competitive and more complementary. Part memoir, part advice, this brave manifesto argues that while marriage is more challenging for the alpha female, it is possible to find peace in your marriage. In fact, it may be easier than you think.

My thoughts on the book: I don’t usually read many self-help books, but at times it’s quite interesting. You can always get some things out of them. I believe the important thing is to always exercise your critical thinking and not take every single thing at face value. Take what you feel applies to you and leave the rest. They offer one truth, not a universal truth, just “a” viewpoint.

When I discovered this book in the NetGalley catalogue, I felt intrigued and as I’ve always considered myself relatively “alpha” (because of my entrepreneurial spirit and need for independence), I thought I might learn a thing or two about improving relationships dynamics. However, granted that the book is filled with valid points and interesting tips, there were some things that didn’t quite sit well with me. I believed it lacked a bit of perspective when it comes to “temperaments” (I’m referring to extrovert people vs. introvert ones). The Alpha women described in the book often come across as loud, somewhat bossy personalities, which is what led me to try the Alpha/beta test the author mentioned was available online. And apparently I’m a “purple” (low Alpha/mid-beta), basically an emotional person (a spot-on result). It made sense that I didn’t necessarily recognize myself in this self-help book. So, now that this matter was clearly established, I can say that I might not have been the main target audience.

But, again, it is always enlightening to learn about others’ experiences and this guide fulfills its mission. I recommend it because it’s important to form your own opinions based on a wide range of facts. Read it, pick what you deem necessary and leave what felt at odds with your own life. I think that, in the end, it is the purpose of a “self-help” book.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥