Review: Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt)

26484720_unknownTitle: Unconventional

Author: Maggie Harcourt

Publisher: Usborne

Release: 1st February 2017

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book is a cheetah, partly because of the pace at which the story moved (in case you didn’t figure that out, it moves at a fast pace). I love books which move quickly through the story (I can get bored quite quickly otherwise…) and because of the way the chapters were arranged, there was nothing unnecessary in the story, the plot was pushed forwards at a speed which kept me well and truly engaged. Also though, cheetahs are fantastic mothers (usually) and will protect their young to the death, will teach them to hunt, will teach them to run, help them climb trees when they’re too young to use their own strength to do so. All in all, they won’t leave young behind and there has been some evidence that they mourn their family too when they die. They’re emotive, caring animals who will nurture young until they’re fully ready for the world; in the same way, Unconventional is fast and it keeps you interested, but you won’t get confused or left behind, and the story is a lot more nurturing and gentle than your typical fast-paced books (fantasy, action etc). There isn’t a whole lot of action (apart from a dog-search early on!) and the story is softer and kinder and there’s a lot of emotion and you will feel things. Unconventional = gorgeous cheetah mother.

The blurb says:  Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing…until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray. In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…

The story follows Lexi and her Dad as they host a few conventions each season – six conventions overall, I believe – (each chapter is a different convention/month spent at home planning conventions) so it really does focus on the convention aspect of the story. That’s not to say you won’t like it if you’ve never been to one (I’ve only ever been to YALC but none of it was confusing or hard to understand) and I really like how each chapter is so different to the last just because it’s set in a completely different part of Lexi’s life.

Firstly, the characters are so defined and well-built that I feel like I genuinely know Aidan and Sam especially. Nadiya is up there too of course, but Lexi is so easy to relate to that it slightly scared me… But the way that all the characters have their own distinctive voices really works, probably because there are quite a few characters, so they needed to each be strongly separate. It’s likely that if you read this book (which you definitely should!), then you will become connected at least one of the characters; for me, it has to be Sam because she’s so honest, outgoing and everything I wish I was.

I also love that this book not only follows Lexi and Aidan through their romantic ups and downs, but it also touches on friendships within the convention staff and Lexi’s family. I love her mum because she’s just such a lovely character, always saying the logical thing and helping Lexi through everything, but I also love her dad and the way he’s so good at planning things and is yet so scatter-brained.

I think one of the best parts of this story is that it focuses on a teen girl working (and doing it well!), not having to be helped/saved by a handsome male hero. I thought that in that way, it was empowering but without being obviously feminist or having that as the main plot which can sometimes put people off books.

I couldn’t even compare the plot to any other book I’ve read, but I will say that Lexi reminded me of Harriet Manners (Holly Smale’s Geek Girl series) with her organisational skills, lists, love for clipboards and sense of authority, but minus the clumsiness and inability to properly speak to people…I would recommend it to anyone who feels even vaguely interested in the story I’ve attempted to describe, because I guarantee you will love it! 10 out of 10 paw prints from me and my furry friends!

How To Make Enrichment for Rodents

file_006-1So it’s February and obviously I’m only just clearing out leftover boxes etc from Christmas and I received a lovely little gift set from Zoella’s Beauty Range which contained four little cardboard crackers which each held a small bottle of something gingerbread-y. I had planned to create little parcels for my pets so that they could enjoy their fun as well, so of course, two months later (woops)file_000-24, that’s what I did.

Important note: if you don’t already know, enrichment is a way of making an animal in captivity’s life more interesting and it can be via food choices/presentation, toys or a change in environment. If you want to give an animal the best welfare and happiness, enrichment is key in achieving this.

Firstly, I stuffed around half of the crackers full of hay (I packed it in tightly) which was quite easy, except I would advise on cramming it in with a pen or pencil so that you know it’s tightly packed and there’s enough in there.

Next, I dropped arofile_002-5und a handful of food into each cracker, along with two small rodent biscuits from Pets At Home. I have guinea pigs and gerbils so I made two crackers for each of them, meaning I put gerbil food in two and guinea pig food in the other two.

Finally, I stuffed the remaining part of the cracker with hay and closed it again. They went down really well with all the animals, however I would definitely recommend that if you plan to give these to guinea pigs, you either cut along the entire cracker so that there’s some give in the shape of file_000-25it, or fully supervise them whilst they’re playing with them. The guinea pig I tested them with is quite podgy (and so couldn’t get her head in very far) but the smaller one got her head trapped in the cracker (they have cardboard on the inside which acts as barbs and traps their heads) and if you don’t keep an eye on them, they could be trapped for hours and it could impact on their hydration levels, food intake and could stress them to the point of fatality. So just be careful! The gerbfile_004-3ils had no problems with them and just chewed them up, ate the food out of them and made them into bedding, so they were happy.file_005-3

Thanks to Zoella for making Christmas gift sets which are so perfect for rodent enrichment! How thoughtful of her to think of small critters at Christmas…

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Review: Letters to the Lost (Brigid Kemmerer)

file_002-2Title: Letters to the Lost

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release: 6th April 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? Has an animal ever made you cry? Or made you come close to crying? Or made you feel so much emotion you just didn’t know what to do with it all? Well have you ever been to a rescue centre and read the descriptions about each dog? Rescue dogs can have horrible backstories; one was abused, one was neglected, one grew up in a puppy farm and forced to breed puppies for years, one was a stray…the list goes on, each story as tragic and sad as the last. Then, a family comes along; each dog finds the perfect home. The dogs’ stories are emotional and unless you’re pretty heartless, you’re likely to cry or at least smile a lot…This book is so emotional (heartbreaking and heartwarming) that I would genuinely compare it to a rescue dog. If it makes you both laugh and cry, then it’s got to be a dog, but this is just a bit more sad than your standard dog’s story, so it’s a rescue dog.

The blurb says: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

As I said, this book was emotional af. I wanted to cry (I did a little, shhh…), I laughed, I felt sorry for the characters and towards the end, I was a little heartbroken. It was just so heartbreaking and powerful; I wish I could re-read it over and over with the same shock and emotions. Juliet and Declan couldn’t be more different on the exterior, so it makes it hard for them to have that connection in person, but online everything can be anonymous. I loved how their personalities were so completely different, yet had small things in common online where they could be themselves.

To me, this book is a powerful statement of how different people are anonymously where they can be themselves. It’s also powerful in that it shows how much people feel they have to hide despite there being logical reasons behind their reactions and behaviours. I love that the chapters alternate between the two characters; I feel like I know them both well now and honestly I definitely want to be friends with both of them.

Revelations, drama, secrets, mystery, friendship, difficulties, cars and photography; what more could you possibly want from a book? I sped through this in two sittings and I was actually sad when it was over, although the ending was good and summed everything up (something I definitely prefer in a book); I just simply wanted more stories of Juliet and Declan’s lives.

It is sad, but cleverly and only necessarily. I love that there’s so much backstory to both the main characters (and even some of the minor) because it means there’s th20160804_163103at added mystery in the story. I honestly don’t think I can say enough good things about this because I really don’t read books like this often, yet it was so amazing and so beautifully written that I feel I should be singing its praise to anyone who’ll listen. I think I felt every emotion possible whilst reading this and I feel like I would connect to both Juliet and Declan if I knew them in real life.

Brigid Kemmerer writes beautifully, making anyone fall head over heels for her characters. You’ll want to read it over and over again and it will make you feel. Definitely 10 out of 10 paw prints from me, and I can’t wait to read more from the author!