Archive for the ‘Book review’ Category
Posted on May 6, 2014 - by katy
MacMillan/Tor, January 2014
So this is my first review in six whole months, and in order to break my cycle of not being able to do stuff, I’m going to keep it pithy. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for ages. I’ve been salivating over the cover, which is perfect. Having now finished BANISHED, I can say that the cover perfectly encapsulates the book – badass gorgeous sexy fae creatures and mysterious beauty are in serious abundance here. Liz’s heroine, Kit Blackhart, has just joined the ranks of my all-time favourites. She’s up there with Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s awesome Lionness series. I love how strong Kit is, and how Liz clearly is a folklore expert but has subverted the classic fairytale stereotype of the female in distress. Kit is the one in control. She is in charge, and she’s a fighter. Kit’s skill in battle is totally realistic, though, because you know that her nan prepared her for the position she would one day take up as a warrior of the Blackhart clan – never for a moment do you think, Yeah, right so an ordinary schoolgirl is suddenly an expert swordswoman. I also appreciated how Liz attended to other realistic details – at one point, Kit knows she is heading into danger and may not return home for some time, so she grabs her credit card first! I love this kind of thing – it’s like how you see Jason Bourne frantically reading a map at the wheel as he drives a getaway car. In so many books and films these kinds of essential details are glossed over. It’s all the more important in an urban fantasy like this one, though – with these grounding everyday points attended to, the fantasy elements are even more believable. I also particularly liked the little chapter headings giving more detail about folklore – it was all relevant to the chapter ahead, but neatly packaged so the information didn’t distract me from the plot. Clever.
All in all, this is a seriously neck-breaking ride and the action stacks up harder and harder with every page. I loved it. If you’re a fan of Zoe Marriott’s The Night Itself trilogy, you’ll definitely love this, too. It’s also a great introduction to the genre. Go for it.
Posted on October 13, 2013 - by katy
Random House, October 2013
Never, ever cry . . .
Seventeen-year-old Eureka won’t let anyone close enough to feel her pain. After her mother was killed in a freak accident, the things she used to love hold no meaning. She wants to escape, but one thing holds her back: Ander, the boy who is everywhere she goes, whose turquoise eyes are like the ocean.
And then Eureka uncovers an ancient tale of romance and heartbreak, about a girl who cried an entire continent into the sea. Suddenly her mother’s death and Ander’s appearance seem connected, and her life takes on dark undercurrents that don’t make sense.
Can everything you love be washed away? (Synopsis from Random House UK)
You know that when a book opens with a bridge collapsing, tumbling the main character and her mother into the estuary below, that you are going to be in for quite a ride, and so it is with Teardrop. Not only must Eureka struggle with the reality of her beloved mother’s drowning and fitting in with her father’s second family, but the mysterious boy she has started seeing in unexpected places is far more than just a newcomer to the town – he is a link to the ancient legend of Atlantis which lives on, the tragedy at its heart endlessly repeating itself throughout history. I love this kind of mythic element to a YA novel – it’s in a similar vein to the endlessly-repeating horror within the legend of Blodeuwedd in Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. And yet, to be completely honest, I would have been just as happy with Teardrop had it not contained a single mention of the legend of Atlantis at all. That might sound odd, considering that the plot revolves around a re-enactment of the tragedy that destroyed the lost island, but for me, what really sang out in this book were the gorgeously invoked small-town bayou setting – you could practically smell the spicy crawfish simmering – and Eureka’s coming face to face with the dreadful finality of her mother’s drowning. I thought the treatment of her stepmother and father’s behaviour was utterly gripping – both superficially meaning well, but actually behaving with such horrifying insensitivity. The moment when Eureka’s stepmother decreed that she should pay for her own therapy to see the “value” in it left me breathless. In the past, I have loved the way Lauren Kate deals with huge metaphysical themes and makes them real for her readers, like the Fall, and the nature of true love, but although I hugely enjoyed Teardrop, it left me craving for a novel by Lauren in which ancient myths and legends don’t take so much of a part in the story, and her considerable talents in writing about family relationships, first love, and her wonderful ability to bring a backwoods setting to life are all left to shine on their own.
Posted on September 22, 2013 - by katy
Corgi, Random House, 2012
Diana Hendry captures the essence of this sleepy postwar seaside village with accomplished brilliance. Lizzie finds life in Norton stifling and dull, and her comfortable “on the up” family life embarrassing in its opulence. Her sister Lal is soon to be married, and Lizzie feels left behind. Then one day a new girl arrives at school – Natalie, with her wild hair, who wears plimsolls without socks, and goes everywhere with her strange little brother, Philip. Lizzie craves excitement, but it turns out that what Natalie offers is a great deal more than than that, because Natalie is convinced that there are Left-Over Nazis hiding everywhere – Nazis just like those who left her father to die in a prisoner of war camp – and so begins a sinister and very dangerous game.
But Natalie isn’t Lizzie’s only new friend this summer – Hugo the artist has returned to his yellow beach caravan as he does every year, befriending both Lizzie and Philip. To a twenty-first century reader, alarm bells immediately ring – is Hugo going to take advantage of them in some sort of terrible way? Nothing is simple in this novel, however, and you are left questioning your own assumptions and trying to piece together the entire picture without being guided to a definitive conclusion by the author.
Subtle, strange, and sinister – The Seeing offers no simple answers, and Diana Hendry treats her readers with great respect. This is a wonderful novel that comes highly recommended from me, and it’s not just the Fifties setting that makes this book read like a classic.
Posted on September 1, 2013 - by katy
Scholastic, June 2013
Abby Barnes has a Plan. The Plan. She’s going to a great college to study journalism, then get her first job on a paper by the time she’s twenty-two. She has been crafting the perfect college admissions profile for years. But a chance occurrence leads to Abby being forced to take a drama class, and her life plan skews wildly out of control. In September, instead of starting her first semester at college, Abby is on set in LA after a casting director spotted her in the high school production. Life is not going to plan at all – and one morning, she wakes up to find herself not only in an unfamiliar bedroom, but in a new reality, a parallel universe in which she chose to study astrophysics instead of drama, a single choice that led to a completely different chain of events in her senior year of high school and after graduation. Every time Abby’s parallel makes a choice, her world changes all over again as the ripple effects of that choice have knock-on consequences.
Confused yet? You will be, but don’t let that worry you. Parallel is a wildly confusing book, and it’s next to impossible to keep track of all the events and choices that lead to Abby being bumped around in space-time, landing in different realities. However. You have to just let go of your confusion and enjoy the ride, because the crazy plot is held together admirably well by a cast of extremely well crafted characters and Abby’s strong and entertaining leading narrative voice. It’s not only Abby’s parallel’s choices about the big life issues that have such a huge effect on her, but her decisions about whether to intervene in the love life of friends, whether to talk to the cute guy in physics, whether to go to her boyfriend’s house for dessert at Thanksgiving or stay at home with her grandparents.
I lost track of what was going on at times, it’s true, but that genuinely didn’t have a detrimental effect on my enjoyment of the novel – I think it’s all part of the book’s charm. Parallel will definitely strike a chord with its YA audience – so many of the decisions they have to make at that age are held up as being incredibly important and life-changing, and this book explores the whole idea and that period of your life really well.
Posted on August 28, 2013 - by katy
Macmillan, June 2013
“New York, 1963. Fashion, music and attitudes are changing, and there’s nowhere in in the world more exciting.
Sherry, Donna, Allison and Pamela have each landed a dream internship at Gloss; America’s number-one fashion magazine. Each girl is trying to make her mark on 1960s New York and each finds herself thrown head-first into the buzzing world of celebrity, high-end fashion and gossip. But everything isn’t as glamorous as it seems – secrets from the past threaten to shatter their dreams.” (Blurb provided by Pan Macmillan)
I have to admit that when I read the first few pages of Gloss, I was tempted to abandon it. We begin with a perspective from all-American girl Sherry, but I found it quite hard to digest because the introductory pages were all reportage of Sherry’s recent memories. I’m not going to shout about “writing rules”, but I do think that showing rather than telling is always more gripping in a narrative, and I wondered why the novel couldn’t have started with a flashback instead. I’ve noticed a lot more of this showing-not-telling in YA I’ve read recently, often the result of a necessary information dump in a sequel, but it makes me wonder if it’s becoming more acceptable to simply relate past events rather than bring them to life a little bit more. I’ve even heard of other authors being encouraged to do this by editors as a way of relaying essential information, but I think this info-dumping is not good thing, and it nearly put me off this book completely. The exciting New York setting with a 1960s backdrop compelled me to continue with Gloss, though, and I’m glad I did.
Once I’d got over that first hiccup, I really got into the novel – the social commentary is so fascinating. The past really is a foreign country, as the saying goes. It was extraordinary to see how each of the four girls aspired to finding a man first and foremost, and how magazines for teenage girls at that time ran adverts about the table linen sets one could order as wedding gifts, and how the giving of a sorority ring by your boyfriend meant that eventually you were going to get married. I even discovered that teenage girls weren’t even supposed to wear black! It was so interesting discovering that interns in the 1960s would have been provided with “respectable” living accommodation in a hostel for young working women, with men not allowed past the doorstep. There were so many brilliant nuggets of information in this book, but I never felt knocked over the head by the level of research.
Overall, I found Donna’s backstory the most fascinating, partly because of the subject matter, but partly because her sections were brought to life so brilliantly with the use of flashbacks. I couldn’t understand why this device wasn’t used more to give us more insight into the other girls’ lives, but admittedly Donna’s story is definitely the most mysterious and the slow reveal of information worked very well in her case, and perhaps wouldn’t have been necessary for Allison, Sherry and Pamela. I really liked how Marilyn Kaye uses four girls with different personalities to explore different sides of the social scene in New York, from the Mad Men style cocktail bars that Pamela dreams of to the smoky bars filled with poets and vagrant folk musicians. I think I would have been right with Allison heading down to the East Village and getting hoodwinked by a caddish folk-singer. I so wish I could have experienced the excitement of being eighteen in the 1960s, but equally it must have been a hugely frustrating time for many girls.
So, on balance, despite my niggles at the start of the novel, I would recommend Gloss – it’s entertaining and a fascinating insight into a hugely exciting time and place.
And, of course, huge thanks to the lovely and yet mysterious person at Macmillan who has been sending me proofs lately – I don’t know who you are, but I am very grateful for them!