Book Recommendations: April 2021

As always, it’s that time of the month again where I share my top four books for the month ahead.

I’ve chosen another four in the Fiction, Non-fiction, Fantasy, and Young Adult genres, and tried to mix it up with some older books this time. Older in the fact of their publication dates.

There’s a lot of books coming out every month, each one more exciting than the last, but this month I have a few books that were my favourites when I was a kid/teenager, which was pretty much 15-20 years ago. 

So without further ado, here are my favourite books for April.

Fiction – ‘Watership Down by Richard Adams’

Synopsis

Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

Why I Recommend

This is a great story, and not least because I have seen the TV adaptations of the book. If you’ve ever seen the TV programme and wanted to read the book, I thoroughly recommend it. There are darker passages than perhaps the latest TV adaptation has shown (unless you’ve seen the original one from 1978), but perhaps that’s understandable because nature itself can be quite violent. I think Richard Adams did a wonderful job of creating a world where the rabbits’ lives are believable.

The characters shine out, my favourites being Hazel and Bigwig. They are all individual and work well together to take on the obstacles throughout their journey to their new home, and even when they find that home.

I must say, the synopsis does it well to describe their journey as harrowing, as it is indeed that. The scenarios they go through are sometimes quite shocking considering this is classed as a children’s novel. I would say you could read it easily if you were an adult too.

Overall, I thoroughly recommend just based on the characters and the plot. It’s an easy enough book to get into.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Non-Fiction – ‘Wreck This Journal’ by Keri Smith

Synopsis/About

For anyone who’s ever wished to, but had trouble starting, keeping, or finishing a journal or sketchbook comes Wreck This Journal, an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake- and mess-making abilities to fill the pages of the book (and destroy them). Acclaimed illustrator Keri Smith encourages journallers to engage in “destructive” acts-poking holes through pages, adding photos and defacing them, painting with coffee, and more-in order to experience the true creative process. Readers discover a new way of art and journal making-and new ways to escape the fear of the blank page and fully engage in the creative process.

Why I Recommend

I love journaling, whether that’s through bullet journalling or writing a journal, but I also love art and crafts so Keri Smith goes down a treat.

This is an interactive book, and one that you can dip in and out of or follow it page-by-page. It’s really your choice. It has loads of great creative prompts, and if you’re looking for something to kickstart your creativity, I definitely recommend.

There’s funky prompts like pick up the journal without using your hands (I used my teeth), to writing and drawing with your left hand (or should it be right hand for those who are lefthanded?), from journaling golf to finding a way to wear the journal (surely on your head is a most obvious one…). There really are some great ways for you to think outside the box with this.

So if you’re wondering about starting a journal but not sure where to start, I recommend this book.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Fantasy – ‘Cuckoo Song’ by Frances Hardinge

Synopsis

The first things to shift were the doll’s eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss’s face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

‘What are you doing here?’ It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. ‘Who do you think you are? This is my family.’

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth, she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…

Why I Recommend

As always, Frances Hardinge both delights and entrances you in her stories. This is just one of her standalone books, but I love all her novels and series. 

Cuckoo song in particular is a triumph of fantasy and revenge. It begins with Triss waking up and feeling something is wrong. She is always hungry, and ends up eating more than food, desperate for anything to fill her up. She has no idea what’s happened as her memories of the past few days are blurry and almost non-existent. And so begins her journey to find out what has happened to her.

I loved the character of Triss. You get the impression of a strong, individual character from her, and she is definitely brave throughout despite what she uncovers. There’s fantastical creatures aplenty, and a great sense of the time period – which is around the early 20th century.

The plot is well developed, and the worldbuilding is great. The villain is truly villainny (if that’s a word!) but I just loved all of it.

If you’re after a new fantasy novel to read, I recommend much of what Frances Hardinge writes, and the great news is a lot of them are standalone.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Young Adult – ‘Alanna: The First Adventure’ by Tamora Pierce

Synopsis

From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

Why I Recommend

This is one of my favourite books and definitely one of my favourite series. I first read it about 18 years ago now (wow I feel old), and I loved it from the beginning. Those days there wasn’t quite the choice of Young Adult books as there are now. It was Philip Pullman, Tamora Pierce, and Jacqueline Wilson that took the hotspot rather than the likes of Leigh Bardugo, Cassandra Clare, and Suzanne Collins. Harry Potter only came out when I was about 10 or 11, and when I was thirteen or fourteen the third book had only just come out. Yes, I’m showing my age, but I feel incredibly grateful for how many books are out there now.

But onto why I recommend ‘Alanna’. It’s a fantasy young adult book, and it starts with Alanna swapping places with her brother Thom to learn to become a knight for the realm. There’s lots of magic in this series, though Alanna at first would rather not have magic and tends to ignore it. The first book is all about her first year as a page in the ‘knight school’ where she disguises herself as a boy, and about all the adventures she has throughout that year, all the while learning the skills to be a knight. 

I loved the characters throughout – George in particular. They’re well developed and believable, despite this being a fantasy novel. The plot keeps you engrossed throughout, and there are a few cliffhangers. There’s magic and magical creatures, worldbuilding that feels believable, though I feel it’s a homage to your standard fantasy being set in medieval times. 

Overall, I recommend thoroughly if you’re after a quick engrossing read. I promise you’ll get hooked on the world of Tortall.

5 out of 5 stars.

Kate @ Kandid Chronicles


3 thoughts on “Book Recommendations: April 2021

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