Like twisty, turning plots that will keep you on your toes? Well then Someone Else’s Life is for you! I honestly can’t imagine what was going on in Ka...moreLike twisty, turning plots that will keep you on your toes? Well then Someone Else’s Life is for you! I honestly can’t imagine what was going on in Katie Dale’s head as she planned this story or how on earth she kept up with it all but it’s very, very clever. Every few chapters she hits you like a bolt out of the blue with another great twist, leaving me open mouthed.
Someone Else’s Life follows Rosie as she comes to term with the death of her mother from the hereditary condition Huntington’s disease and discovers that she isn’t actually her mum after all. Katie Dale doesn’t take a gently, gently approach. I was surprised at just how brutally honest Someone Else’s Life is from the very beginning. Her characters are complex and flawed, and react in human ways, which aren’t always pleasant but are believable. This kind of book could easily get wrapped up in over sentimentality but Dale doesn’t give into it.
I knew absolutely nothing about Huntington’s disease before reading this book. Without overwhelming the reader with medical jargon we get an insight into the terminal disease and genetics, which was very interesting. But this isn’t just a book about a family ripped apart by illness or a quest to find biological parents. It throws up many other questions along the way. Is knowing your fate being forewarned or is it better to enjoy your life while you can? How much does biology make a family or is is it down to more than DNA? Can changing the fate of others ever pay off even if you truly believe you are doing the right thing? as well as many others. Yet it manages to never be preachy and the questions are drawn from the readers themselves rather than thrust upon them from the author.
For such a complex book, Katie Dale manages to keep the story easy to follow and uncomplicated, even when the lives of the characters most definitely are. I’ve seen this book described as Picoult for a younger generation, and I’d agree it has some elements of Jodi Picoult’s novels. While I think it is more accessible though, Someone Else’s Life doesn’t simplify things and would appeal to both teens and adults alike. This is a gripping, emotional roller coaster with a very real and human cast. It does border on the over dramatic at times, and things fall into place a little too easily now and then, but over all I thought this was a very clever plot well done. I certainly couldn’t put it down and thought long and hard about some of the issues it raised, most particularly would I want to know if I was going to develop a horrendous illness sometime in my future? If you enjoy emotional, contemporary fiction, twists and turns and thought provoking subjects you’ll enjoy this book.(less)
This book was just so cute! It’s probably aimed at a market a little younger than I usually read, I’d buy this as a gift for girl aged 10-13 years and...moreThis book was just so cute! It’s probably aimed at a market a little younger than I usually read, I’d buy this as a gift for girl aged 10-13 years and know they’d love it! However I still thoroughly enjoyed my journey back in time, which this book provided and the memories it evoked.
Told from the perspectives of three 13 year old friends, Olivia, Georgia and Kate, Lisa Greenwald captures perfectly the confusion and uncertainty of being on the cusp of Young adulthood, when your not quite there but no longer a child. The girls have grown up on the same floor of a Brooklyn apartment block and been best friends most of their life. However subtle changes are creeping into the dynamics of their relationship and in their own way, each of the girls are struggling to understand why. Kate seems keen on making new and exciting friends, Olivia is boring them all with her constant obsessing about a certain boy and Georgia is finding it increasingly difficult to confide in her friends, especially when the role of peacemaker most often falls on her. I really liked how in alternating chapters we heard from all three of the girls and I could remember vividly feeling a lot of the same feelings myself when my childhood gang started to drift apart. It’s a scary age when everything is changing at once and Greenwald completely pins that feeling down.
I also loved the underlying theme at the heart of this book. Through the day the girls meet many of the people who’ve lived alongside them in the building and yet until now never known. There are a lot of individual stories from their neighbours and it’s pretty sad but also very true how people live so close without knowing or looking out for each other. Giving out the cookies and seeing snapshots of their neighbours lives, not always pretty, shows the girls about listening and understanding others, and each other. The biggest lesson they learn though is about themselves, feeling confident as they grow individually and their friendship evolves.
Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes is a heart-warming tale that will leave you with a smile on your face. Switching narrative between the three girls keeps it fresh and interesting and made it a super quick read which I didn’t put down. It’s sweet and touching and just the right amount of romantic with it’s Valentine’s day setting for it’s age group. I’d thoroughly recommend it for young girls 10+ or anyone who fancies a nostalgic reminder of their own. (less)
I love a psychological thriller. Last year I read and was thoroughly blown away by Rebecca James’ Beautiful Malice and the synopsis for Choker reminde...moreI love a psychological thriller. Last year I read and was thoroughly blown away by Rebecca James’ Beautiful Malice and the synopsis for Choker reminded me of that a little. So with a creepy and intriguing synopsis and the prettiest cover, I couldn’t resist. Well one things for certain, that pretty cover is a complete contrast to what’s actually inside this book. I love that! Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a fluffy tale at all and at times was quite disturbing.
Choker follows Cara, a girl who isn’t just a loner at school but is pretty much abandoned by her workaholic parents too. It’s clear right away she’s not happy at all. Disliked by the popular girls at her new school, who are no doubt suspicious of her shy and nervous disposition and sense her vulnerability (making her an ideal target for their bullying) she does her best to go unnoticed. But when she chokes in the school canteen and is subsequently saved by school hottie and her secret crush, Ethan, she becomes centre of attention and earns the nickname Choker. Not only was it excruciatingly embarrassing though, but Ethan is the boyfriend of biggest bitch of all, ringleader Alexis, who makes it her mission to see Cara’s life is as miserable as possible. I really, really felt for Cara in this section, Woods recreated the pain and humiliation Cara feels perfectly. In her home the loneliness she felt as she wandered about on her own was palpable.
When Zoe turns up the book takes a decidedly sinister turn. I really don’t want to say too much about this, as it would completely spoil the book for those who hadn’t read it, but I definitely felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as she arrived and I looked forward to being completely freaked out. Sadly, I felt the book lost a little of it’s tension as I became increasingly annoyed with Cara, who appeared to be just plain stupid. I kind of lost my belief in it for a while, her situation at home didn’t ring true, the developing relationship with Ethan wasn’t genuine in my eyes and Zoe became a bit of a cliché. If I’m I honest, I wasn’t that enthralled and the middle of this short book dragged for me. At just over 200 pages I’d expected to rush through it but I kept loosing concentration and putting it down. However, the writing was beautiful and there remained enough mystery to keep me going.
So I was all ready for not liking this book at all and wham! Elizabeth Woods delivers one hell of an ending that completely took me by surprise. Suddenly all the faults I’d picked with it made sense, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. It was a real ‘OH MY GOD!’ moment and everything I’d wondered about suddenly made sense. I’m not sure if that means I’m not very good at spotting the clues or Woods was clever enough to completely disguise them, then slap me in the face with. Either way, I ended up finishing the book in shock and awe.
Choker is Elizabeth Woods debut novel, and despite the niggles I picked I would definitely read more from this author. I’d have liked a bit more to this book I think, a few more pages could have easily been afforded and used to build more atmosphere as well as create a more convincing relationship with Ethan. However I did very much like her writing style and ability to recreate feelings so vividly, at times I almost felt them myself. And that ending completely redeemed the book for me and left me speechless. I’d recommend Choker to anyone who likes a thriller and a possible quick read, although I will warn you that some scenes are disturbing at times (particularly if you really like animals) and wouldn’t advise this book for under 14’s. Overall a promising debut with a winning ending.(less)
The Long Weekend looks, and sounds, like a dark gripping thriller…and that is exactly what I got. Right from the start Savita Kalhan had me glued to t...moreThe Long Weekend looks, and sounds, like a dark gripping thriller…and that is exactly what I got. Right from the start Savita Kalhan had me glued to the pages and didn’t let me go until I’d finished the last page.
Eleven-year-old Sam is the new boy at school. He’s been the new boy quite a few times before and finds it difficult to fit in with the cliques and gangs already formed. This time though he’s made friends with popular Lloyd through their joint love of football. Lloyd is very different to Sam, with his wealthy parents and apparent luxurious lifestyle. So when the pair make arrangements to get together after school, he’s not surprised when Lloyds Dad turns up to collect them in a flash car, kitted out with all the latest gadgets. However, Lloyd thinks its Sam’s parents’ picking them up, and in the excitement neither one thinks to check before jumping in the back. Things soon take a sinister turn however when they find themselves locked in an old mansion and realisation dawns. And so starts a long and very scary weekend, and someone is keen to make sure they never escape…
What was so absolutely perfect about this book was Sam and his voice through which the story is told. Although it’s in third person, it’s completely from Sam’s point of view and Savita Kalhan captures in him a voice so remarkably strong, unique and believable it blew me away. Using a lot of short sentences and jumpy thought processes, the tension throughout the book builds from Sam’s narration and is consistent from beginning to end, there’s not one dull passage in this book. I particularly liked how Sam grew throughout the book, changing into almost a different person by the end, which given his traumatic experiences, is an incredibly clever tact. To begin with he’s naïve, nervous, anxious, a little bitter and slightly envious of enigmatic Lloyd. By the end he’s a hero, Lloyds support system, a problem solver and the naivety has all gone.
The Long Weekend is incredibly creepy and tense, and being a short read I raced though in just one sitting. There was no chance I’d be able to put it down, the pacing and atmosphere made sure I had to know how it ended. I’m not easily scared, but was left with shivers down my spine at times in the book. Some disturbing and terrifying issues are brought up, but Kalhan never forgets her audience and doesn’t go in for graphic details. I actually think this would be a good book to either read with a class of pupils 11+ or parents to read alongside their kids as there are lots of important discussion points. If anything, this book will serve as a lesson never to go off with strangers and will surely hook even reluctant readers.
The Long Weekend is everything it appears to be, a dark, creepy story that is so gripping it’s impossible to put down. If you like being scared and enjoy sinister psychological thrillers then this is a book for you! Even if you’re not sure it’s your thing, I dare you to stop reading once you start. (less)
I’d read a lot about The Iron King from fellow US bloggers last year, loved the sound of it and added it to my wishlist. Sadly though I never actually...moreI’d read a lot about The Iron King from fellow US bloggers last year, loved the sound of it and added it to my wishlist. Sadly though I never actually got round to it then, a big mistake I now realise, having just finished in preparation for it’s UK release this February.
Sixteen-year-old Meghan is the outsider at school and her only friend is happy go lucky Robbie. But even he isn’t as he appears, as Meghan finds her beloved baby brother changed beyond recognition, he reveals himself as Puck, the mischievous elf of A Midsummer Night’s Dream fame. Leading her into the dark and dangerous world of the Fey to find her stolen brother and exchange him for the violent changeling left in his place, Meghan is to discover more shocking truths about herself and her heritage, a world she didn’t even know existed. But Megan finds herself caught up in a dangerous battle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and soon comes to realise no-one in the Never Never can be trusted. Not only that but a new, stronger fey are threatening to wipe out Faeryland and are determined that Megan will help them.
Ok, so take every Fairytale you ever read or saw on TV, mash them all together and you have The Iron King. I absolutely loved this book, whose magic and mythology wrapped itself around me and held me captive throughout. While I’ve never actually read A Midsummer Night’s Dream (although I now absolutely want to now, and see the play) which the story centres around, I was reminded throughout of many others including Alice in Wonderland and \Peter Pan, while the imagery had me constantly thinking of the film Labyrinth.
I really, really liked Meghan. She’s very naïve to begin with, a loner who doesn’t fit in at school and nervous about pretty much everything. One of the main lessons she has to learn during her adventures with the fey is not to take individuals at face value and to never put herself in any of their debt. I loved how she developed throughout the book, growing stronger and surer of herself. Puck is a charming and fun character and provides lighter moments, and I adored Grimalkin, one seriously snarky and sly wise old cat (yet I still get the feeling he’s really a good guy) But oh Ash…dark, dangerous and devastatingly handsome, the Winter Prince had my heart racing. There’s a lot of romance in this book, without being the main focus and taking over the story…it’s like an undercurrent, an atmosphere and I loved it.
Aside from the magic, mythology, action and adventure, what I really loved was Julie Kagawa’s creativity with The Iron Fey. The idea is that Fey are born from our imaginations and dreams, and as that fades, so does Faeryland. But our obsession with industry and technology has created another breed of Fey, the Iron Fey, and their very existence threatens to wipe out Faeryland. I thought this was extremely clever, with characters such as Virus, Machina and armies of Gremlins and Bugs. It was also quite sad, as it drives home what our need for technology does to nature. It’s a very current issue told in a fascinating way and certainly had me thinking about what we really do stand to loose in the future.
The Iron King is a breathtaking journey from start to finish and I enjoyed every single page. It’s an action packed adventure with a racing pace, which will have you turning pages frantically. It’s packed with magic, myth and romance and is so captivatingly vivid, I was daydreaming about this book at work and desperate to get back to it. I laughed, cried and held my breath in awe while reading and was sad to reach the end and leave the story. The ending sets us up nicely for the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, which I can’t wait to get my hands on. The Iron King is without doubt one of, if not the best book set amongst the fey I’ve read and I highly recommend it. (less)
Wow. This book was intense indeed. Right from the very start Phil Earle creates in Billy a character so full of depth and complexities and so perfectl...moreWow. This book was intense indeed. Right from the very start Phil Earle creates in Billy a character so full of depth and complexities and so perfectly crafted it’s impossible to not think of him as a real person and become completely involved with his story.
Everything about this story rings true. Phil Earle worked in the care sector before he moved into book related jobs and this more than shows. He gets how a child in care really does feel; something I don’t believe just comes from the job itself but from a person who sees beyond it. Having experience of local authority care myself many years ago I recognised Billy: the anger, fear, distrust, vulnerability and feelings of hatred at others and himself.
What was especially fascinating with this book was seeing Billy’s relationships, which in turn allow the reader to see him from very different angles. With his mother he is resentful, distant and angry, with the twins he is caring, gentle and protective while the other kids at the home provoke a nasty and violent reaction. Then there’s the relationship with Daisy, new girl at school and fellow child of the care system. Here we see him unsure but hopeful and for the first time opening up to another person.
My favourite relationship however was with Ron, Billy’s long-term care worker at the home and pretty much the only consistent adult in his life. Seeing this relationship develop was just stunning. Billy detests Ron as he represents everything about the system he so hates being a part of. As we read from Billy’s perspective throughout the book I felt pretty much the same way about him to begin with, until little things are dropped in which slowly gives the reader a bigger picture and had me urging Billy to see what was right there in front of him. This relationship had me brimming with tears more than once.
Being Billy isn’t an easy read, far from it. However it is a book that should be read. This is an emotional book, one that will really make you stop and think and get right under your skin. It’s gripping from the first page and by the end you will be sure these characters actually do exist and care deeply for them. I felt every injustice Billy endures and was thinking about him long after the last page. Possibly one of the most realistic books I’ve read for a long time, I highly recommend it. (less)
My blogging partner Lyndsey told me that I MUST read Paranormalcy. She loved it, like really loved it…in fact to make sure I did read it she sent me h...moreMy blogging partner Lyndsey told me that I MUST read Paranormalcy. She loved it, like really loved it…in fact to make sure I did read it she sent me her very own copy. Still it sat on my shelves for a few weeks, until one day while standing in front of said shelves trying to decide what to read next I picked it up and scanned the first few pages. And that was it…pow. I was completely addicted to this book and read it in two awestruck sittings.
Paranormalcy has, without question, the best first paragraph ever written and I was instantly hooked by the sharp, witty and laugh out loud writing style. I loved the main character, Evie-she’s definitely my kinda girl. Brought up after being found abandoned by the International Paranormal Containment Agency (a kind of government agency responsible for identifying, tagging and making safe paranormal creatures then putting them to work) she’s kick ass strong and feisty but with a real girly streak. With her trademark pink taser she totally rocks! Yet she also has a vulnerable side, the one that is desperate to be normal and go to high school (and have her very own locker…bless!) and wonders why she doesn’t seem to belong. She also really compassionate under the attitude and I really warmed to her. I also really liked her relationship with best friend Lish, a mermaid. Every girl should have a mermaid best pal like Lish. She’s loyal, trustworthy and in a formal and regulated life, the one person Evie can go to. Raquel, Evie’s boss and guardian, on the other hand is pretty annoying, although I presume she’s meant to be. She sighs a lot in despair at Evie. I know people in real life who sigh a lot-they annoy me. It meant I could picture her and practically hear her sighs.
There’s a whole host of Paranormals making an appearance in this book. Some are old favourites- werewolves, vampires and fairies, while some were completely new to me. Love interest Lend was fascinating, especially as we haven’t got a clue for most of the book about what he actually is, although he does have an extremely creepy (but useful) talent. What I liked about Lend was how he helped Evie see the truth about the system she was working in and the building trust and respect that builds between the two. Then there’s Reth, bad boy fairy (or is he?…I still don’t know!), deliciously sinister and creepy I certainly look forward to more of him in follow up books.
Paranormalcy is certainly an action packed read with a fierce pace and not one boring section to slow you down. But along with the action White throws in some pretty interesting and thought provoking themes, particularly regarding the IPCA. Through her paranormals and the way they were dealt with by the authorities she reminded me of issues such as animal welfare, human rights and slavery making the situation seem completely believable. I did have one minor issue with the book in that occasionally the chapters seemed to jump way ahead in the story and I had to go back a couple of times to see if I missed something meaning once or twice the end of one didn’t flow perfectly into the other. But this is a very minor quibble and only distracted me for a few short seconds and the rest of the time I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Kiersten White’s debut is a definite success and fans of paranormal YA will love the fresh and exciting new ideas she brings and enjoy being spoiled with so many creatures woven into one book. It was exciting from the very first page and left me wanting more. I can’t wait until September to get my hands on the sequel, Supernaturally. (less)
Tyme’s End offered something I adore…a gothic setting, an old mansion and a spine chilling mystery. I love settling down to a book such as this. If it...moreTyme’s End offered something I adore…a gothic setting, an old mansion and a spine chilling mystery. I love settling down to a book such as this. If it’s cold and dark outside and the fire’s blazing indoors then all the better. And so I was expecting a bit of a treat with this one.
In actual fact though, the book proved to be a little on the disappointing side. I wasn’t gripped with the beginning at all, yet throughout the book there were definite high points. When I turned the last page it was with a feeling of having enjoyed the book enough, but not being completely overwhelmed and slightly dissatisfied.
Tyme’s End tells a story spanning over eighty years and in three parts. Beginning in the present from Bibi’s point of view then switching to 1996 where Oliver Jnr takes over and finally ending with 1936 and Oliver Snr’s story. Bibi certainly isn’t the most favourite character I’ve come across, and for most of her section I found myself irritated by her. Adopted and feeling like she doesn’t fit in with her small village life, she’s prickly, childish and rude. She escapes to the abandoned mansion, Tyme’s End where she eventually runs into its reluctant owner, Oliver Jnr. Over the period of 24 hours an intense and sinister relationship developes between the pair which at times I found a little uncomfortable, forced and not completely believable. I was pretty sure after fifty pages I wasn’t going to enjoy this book at all, then all of a sudden things changed and I found myself intrigued by the mysteries of Tyme’s End, if not particularly enamoured by the characters themselves.
Moving onto the second part of the book, I finally got what I was hoping for. Oliver and his Grandfather’s relationship had me hooked with its dark secrets. In this section BR Collins really shines as a storyteller, dripping in just the right amount of tension and atmosphere to have the hairs on the back of your neck prickling. I was completely involved in this section, reading with held breath and speeding through the pages desperate to know what was happening. I really liked young Oliver too in this section, feeling desperately sorry for this lonely and sad young man and thought that Tyme’s End itself became as much a character here as any of the humans.
The intriguing and atmospheric feeling continues into the final section, set in 1936 and Collins evokes the period wonderfully. At one point I looked up from the book and was almost surprised to find myself in a modern coffee shop and not in the grounds of an eerie mansion in the English countryside back in the thirties. With Oliver’s grandfather, we slowly discover the truth about the house and it’s evil owner, and just how it ended up belonging to the naïve and orphaned student. I was all set for a fantastic finale having enjoyed this part of the book the best. Sadly things became a little confused for me. Collins introduced some spooky and disturbing ideas, but in my opinion didn’t expand enough on them, leaving them very vague, and a lot of the terror was lost for me. I was also disappointed that the house, Tyme’s End didn’t seem as alive and evil as it had previously and that many questions seemed left unanswered.
Overall I did enjoy reading this book, and after a slow start I did find myself gripped and speeding through this book very quickly. At times the atmosphere and tension are absolutely electric and deliciously creepy. The descriptions transported me back in time with such vividness I felt I’d become part of the story. I liked how by the end of the book the connection between Bibi, Oliver Jnr and Oliver Snr became clear and I could understand why all three had been drawn to the house and how similar they were despite being very different people from different times. However I felt that I’d like to have seen more of a connection between the three while reading the novel, perhaps by alternating past and present rather than moving backwards which resulted in the three stories being individual rather than entwined. I was also left feeling disappointed at the drop in tension at the end and frustrated with the questions which were left unanswered. There was a fantastic story there, somewhere in this book…I just couldn’t help feel it could have been much more. I’d recommend as a quick read if this type of story is your thing, but be prepared for not being completely blown away by it. (less)
Ally Condie’s debut novel, Matched, has had a massive amount of hype in recent months and like many others I really got caught up in all the excitemen...moreAlly Condie’s debut novel, Matched, has had a massive amount of hype in recent months and like many others I really got caught up in all the excitement. When it became available on Uk Book Tours I eagerly signed up. And this was one of those times when I wasn’t disappointed; I loved every word of this book and devoured it in a single sitting.
The book starts on the evening of Cassia’s 17th birthday and the night she will be Matched with the person deemed by officials to be her perfect life partner. Immediately Condie creates a vivid and sinister world where on the surface everything seems perfect. Most diseases and conditions have been eradicated due to genetic matching and Cassia’s own loving parents are testament to how successful it can be. She has no reason to question the system and fully believes in it. From my point of view it sent shivers down my spine, the naivety with which people go along like sheep and being dictated to who they should spend their lives with really creeped me out.
When the other face flashes up on her Matching card, Cassia is shocked. This shouldn’t happen, especially when it turns out that the other boy is one deemed by The Society as less than perfect. Cassia starts to wonder if the Matching system really is as perfect as it seems…and this opens a whole can of worms as the other flaws in The Society become clear to her. I really liked Cassia. She isn’t willing anymore to just accept things. She wants more. She wants a choice.
Matched takes the concept of choice away from it’s characters. Everything is controlled from the food you eat, the exercise you take, what you learn, the job you do, who you marry and when you die. Of course this takes away what it actually is to be human, to learn and make mistakes, choosing our own destiny. My life span may end up being shorter than those living in The Society, but I know which I’d prefer. Yet I did get a little uneasy feeling at times. Last year there was a big furore at my daughters school when lists of banned lunchbox items where sent out to parents, with healthy lunchbox stickers now being stuck on the ones that pass the test. Part of me is outraged that I can’t decide what I put in my child’s lunch box and if I want to put a small chocolate bar in now and then, I should be able to. But then the other part doesn’t want to be judged as a bad parent in any way, so I conform. Ok, so compared to the themes brought up in this book that’s a really small scale example but it got me thinking about how many steps we could be away from complete control in the future. There are other little things that rang alarm bells in my mind too and made the world Ally Condie created chillingly believable. I got why people went along with the officials and didn’t step out of line.
I loved Cassia, the way she developes throughout the book from naïve and accepting to a strong, fighter against a system that reduces humans to little more than robots. I thought the way the flaws within The Society dawn on her ever so slowly and subtly was fantastic and built a steady tension that kept me hooked throughout. Ky absolutely stole my heart, vulnerable and strong in equal measures these two characters give each other the strength and courage to dare to want more from life and had a gentle chemistry. The relationship between Cassia and her grandfather is particularly touching. In The Society anything deemed unnecessary has been destroyed, and only 100 each of paintings, historical stories and poetry etc have been preserved. Yet it’s with the poetic words of Dylan Thomas that Cassia’s grandfather makes his greatest gift to her. This was beautiful and I adored how words still had the power to affect and inspire Cassia. Her Grandfathers story is particularly horrifying, as I realised just what was happening I felt sick. And very angry.
Matched absolutely lived up to my expectations. It’s a quietly powerful book that will have you thinking endlessly afterwards. Condie’s writing grips you and moves you along effortlessly at an alarming pace. I started reading this book on a train journey and almost missed my stop not once but twice, so engrossed I was in this sinister and completely believable world. With characters that will capture your heart and soul and a stunning romance to completely sweep you away, Matched is an amazing, thought provoking book and one that I won’t forget in a hurry. My one complaint is that I can’t wait to read more. With the scene fully set for a sequel at the end I’m left anxious to follow Cassia’s story. I thought I’d read my book of the year already, now I have a tie on my hands!(less)
I LOVE a gothic Victorian ghost story, so when The Poisoned House by Michael Ford dropped through my mailbox for review I was very excite...more* 3.5 stars *
I LOVE a gothic Victorian ghost story, so when The Poisoned House by Michael Ford dropped through my mailbox for review I was very excited and sure it would be right up my street. And mostly it was.
Set in Victorian London, The Poisoned House tells the story of fifteen-year-old Abi Tamper. Since her mother’s death a year ago, Abi has found herself in the lowly position of scullery maid in the Greave household. Previously the well treat daughter of the much loved nursemaid, without her Mother’s protection and the Lord of the house quickly descending into insanity, she is now cruelly abused and forced to work long hours by the master’s sister in law and housekeeper, Mrs Cotton.
But there’s another presence in the house, one of the ghostly kind, and it seems to want to tell Abi something. Unravelling the sinister secrets of the house puts Abi in even more danger, and someone very human is determined to stop her.
From the very first page I knew I was going to really enjoy this book. It starts with Abi running away from Greave Hall, only to be brought quickly back again. The descriptions of London late at night are extremely atmospheric, Abi’s terror drew me in straight away and the tension as she returns is palpable. As we find out more about Abi’s tragic background I started to really sympathise with her. This is a girl who has not only lost her Mother, but has been cast down into a position of slavery. Quite rightly, she’s meek, vulnerable and frightened, but she also has a curious and questioning streak and a quiet courage that ensures she seeks the truth.
Mrs. Cotton is the archetypal gothic villain, a woman in a position of power she doesn’t deserve or is entitled to, cruel, bitter and heartless. The ghostly presence is subtle and sinister, you’re not really sure if it’s friend or foe and there were some real jump out of your skin moments throughout the book. The Greave family are deliciously disturbed, just what you want in this kind of book. The Master is mostly just in the background wrapped up in secrecy and insanity. The dashing Samuel, son of the master, provides some lighter and tender moments when he arrives home injured from the Crimean war, as do the other servants who stick together in their fear and misery. The characters may have been a little clichéd at times, but let’s’ face it, they are exactly what we want from a book like this and Ford gets them pretty much spot on.
The Poisoned House has many secrets to reveal and while I predicted some of them, I was also proved wrong at times too. Right up until the big reveal at the end I would have said this book is fantastic. Unfortunately the ending was a bit of a let down. It felt very rushed; I was left with unanswered questions and wanted much more. This is a very short book at just 230 pages and I do feel at least another 50 could have been afforded to make it truly satisfying. Everything seemed to just fall in too neatly and there was very little explanation for the character’s actions. After the fantastic character development, tense build up and red herrings the half hearted ending seemed contrived, which is truly a great shame.
I really did enjoy this book. It has a sympathetic main character, a thoroughly evil villain, dark family secrets and atmospheric setting…hell, there’s even a crazy old medium and some ouija boards going on! I tore through the pages at an alarming pace, holding my breath for many of them. It’s a good book, the easy style and compelling story would tempt even reluctant readers and without being too graphic I think this is one that would be suitable for anyone aged 11 up. Unfortunately the ending left me less than completely satisfied and stopped it being a great book, but I’d definitely check out Michael Ford’s work again.(less)