Wow, what a gripping read. My son is a big fan of Robert Muchamore but I think he's going to rate Allen Zadoff even higher when he gets the chance toWow, what a gripping read. My son is a big fan of Robert Muchamore but I think he's going to rate Allen Zadoff even higher when he gets the chance to read this intelligent, compelling thriller.
"Ben" is an intriguing character, recruited into the "Program" at an early age, he is now 16 and beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of absolute obedience to his handlers, "Mom" and "Dad". He is likeable despite/or maybe because of his obvious flaws. I have a feeling the upcoming movie adaptation will be a blockbuster and deservedly so.
With short snappy chapters, Boy Nobody, will appeal to both male and female fans of the YA thriller genre. There a few sexual references which might make it more suitable for 13+ but nothing overly overt. He's a 16 year old, not a saint!
Although there is a proper conclusion, the stage looks set for a series about Boy Nobody, welcome news for parents of reluctant readers. Highly recommended. ...more
I enjoy historical fiction but have a restricted range, preferring British Tudor and Medieval settings or, as in this case, the antebellum Southern StI enjoy historical fiction but have a restricted range, preferring British Tudor and Medieval settings or, as in this case, the antebellum Southern States.
The Wedding Gift is set in Alabama and the focus is on two women who come from very different social classes but who share a common bond of powerlessness when faced with domineering men. Sarah is a half-white slave, the off-spring of Emmeline, a house slave, and the boorish plantation owner. Theodora is the plantation owner's long suffering wife, the target of his alcohol fuelled mood swings and she is expected to toe the line at all times. Both women are victims of slavery yet they strive to escape their bondage - Sarah with her plans to escape and Theodora with little acts of rebellion such as teaching Sarah to read and write even though it is considered illegal.
Yes, there is a lot of dialogue and it can seem, at times, a little forced but you're carried along by the compelling storyline. This is an impressive debut and one for fans of Kathleen Grissom's The Kitchen House and Gone With the Wind...more
This is my first taste of Choc Lit and I will certainly be back for more. Isabella Connor is the pen name for Liv Thomas and Val Oltenau. I'm not a biThis is my first taste of Choc Lit and I will certainly be back for more. Isabella Connor is the pen name for Liv Thomas and Val Oltenau. I'm not a big fan of collaborations and I don't usually like contemporary romantic fiction but this novel stood out for me with its intelligence and wit along with a certain Irish sparkle.
Young Irish Traveller, Luke Kiernan is thrust into an unknown world following a tragic accident. Plucked from the tranquillity of the Irish countryside he has to forge a new life amongst folk who don't approve of his Traveller background. With the threat of violence from his Irish uncles, the future doesn't look bright for Luke.
This is an extremely readable, touching story which will appeal to fans of romantic fiction with a bit of a kick. The characters are extremely well drawn, from the mysterious and sometimes brutal world of Irish Travellers to the supposedly more sophisticated, urbane setting of Middle England. An ideal holiday read and also a rewarding book group read as it will encourage discussion about society's attitudes towards and misunderstandings about minority groups.
Having enjoyed Judith Kinghorn's debut novel The Last Summer I eagerly anticipated her second novel The Memory of Lost Senses published by Headline onHaving enjoyed Judith Kinghorn's debut novel The Last Summer I eagerly anticipated her second novel The Memory of Lost Senses published by Headline on 23rd May. Whilst it is quite different, structurally, from her first novel, it retains that intensity, that evocative heart which characterised her first novel.
It's a novel about first love, sacrifice, intrigue and in particular the role of memory in shaping and refashioning our lives. The mysterious Countess at the centre of our story seems to have undergone a variety of metamorphises in the course of her eventful life - the exoticism of an expatriate lifestyle in Paris and Rome seems at odds with her final resting place, a sleepy Hampshire village. Does anyone know the real woman? Her closest friend, the novelist Sylvia, feels snubbed when young Cecily Chadwick is drawn into the Countess' confidence but the long hot summer of 1911 takes its toll on the elderly lady's memory or does she just want to forget the murkier scenes of her past?
The narrative takes a while to get going but do persevere and you are in for a treat. The author has a wonderful sense of place - from the small-town feel of Rome in the mid 19th century to the intensity of village life in rural Hampshire in 1911 where everyone knows everyone else's business. Countess Cora is a fascinating creature with so many anecdotes to tell that it is difficult to tell the difference between truth and fiction. Sylvia seems so lacklustre in comparison but you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her! Likewise, Cecily is not quite so demure as she first appears and her ambitions stretch way beyond the village boundaries. Yes, there are some male characters but the female of the species tends to dominate...
After a slightly shaky start, I was soon engrossed in the lives of these Edwardian ladies, swept along by the ebb and flow of Cora's memories. A very thoughtful, evocative story which would make a marvellous film as would its predecessor. ...more
I haven't read any of Matthew Plampin's other novels but I was immediately seduced by the beautiful cover of Illumination and the fact it deals with aI haven't read any of Matthew Plampin's other novels but I was immediately seduced by the beautiful cover of Illumination and the fact it deals with a period of history which fascinates me, the 1870 Siege of Paris. Unfortunately I was less fascinated by the narrative which was rather plodding at times and the characters failed to engage me. Like a good soldier, I persevered...but perhaps Plampin is just not for me. ...more
I got this for my 9 year old daughter as the blurb mentions similarities with Clarice Bean and Tom Gates, two of her favourite book series. She reallyI got this for my 9 year old daughter as the blurb mentions similarities with Clarice Bean and Tom Gates, two of her favourite book series. She really enjoyed it, especially the wonderful illustrations by Mina May, the author's eleven year old daughter - plenty of inspiration for budding illustrators!
It's a quick, fun read which will appeal to both children and adults so it's ideal for bedtime reading. We're both looking forward to reading more about Wendy in her next escapade ...more
This edition is published by Orion here in the UK on 9th May 2013.
I am a big fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing, both his adult and children’s novels,This edition is published by Orion here in the UK on 9th May 2013.
I am a big fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing, both his adult and children’s novels, since I first read The Shadow of the Wind when it was published in 2004. Since then I have enjoyed his two other books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. There has been quite a gap between each adult novel being published but Zafon aficianados have been sustained in the interim by his Niebla (Mist) series for Young Adults which were originally written in the 90s but have recently been translated by Lucia Graves who did such a splendid job of translating Zafon’s adult novels.
Like Zafon, I fervently believe that storytelling transcends age and that his YA novels appeal to any reader who loves magic and mystery so I was delighted to dive into The Watcher in the Shadows, the third of the Niebla series, a cycle of books which can be read as stand-alone novels as their linking theme is mystery and adventure rather than a series of characters.
In The Watcher in the Shadows you can see the first germinating seeds of Zafon’s masterful storytelling skills, that elegant Gothic style steeped in mystery and magic with an aura of malevolence haunting the narrative. Our setting is Normandy, France in the summer of 1937. Recently widowed Simone Sauvelle and her young children Irene and Dorian hope to make a fresh start in the small coastal village of Blue Bay where Simone has secured a post as housekeeper to Lazarus Jann, an inventor and toy manufacturer, who resides in a secluded mansion with his invalid wife. Lazarus is the only person allowed to attend to his wife and they lead a rather unconventional life surrounded by the automatons and other fantastic pieces created by the toymaker.
At first, the omens look favourable for the Sauvelles. Young teen, Irene, falls in love with a local boy. Dorian is taken under Lazarus’ wing. Simone feels settled and happy in her work. Perhaps it is all a bit too perfect? Indeed, fortunes change when a dark, malevolent force is unleashed and the reader is led on a breathtaking adventure with plenty of scary moments en route! Its a fabulous, rollicking tale filled with suspense and mystery – a story which harks back to ripping yarns of years gone by but don’t expect a fairytale ending… Highly recommended for both young and old(er) adventurers....more
Poppet is Mo Hayder’s tenth novel and the sixth to feature D I Jack Caffrey but fear not, it works as a stand-alone novel as there is enough back storPoppet is Mo Hayder’s tenth novel and the sixth to feature D I Jack Caffrey but fear not, it works as a stand-alone novel as there is enough back story to inform the new reader without boring existing fans. I hadn’t read any of Mo Hayder’s crime thrillers until this one. Why? I guess I had read a lot of Karin Slaughter and Patricia Cornwell in my twenties and then experienced burn-out of this genre and perhaps motherhood made me shrink from the darker side of human nature. In any case, I was so intrigued by the cover of Poppet and glowing reviews via Twitter and Good Reads, that I decided to take the plunge.
Most of the action takes place at a mental health unit where a spooky mythical creature, known as The Maude, seems to be the cause of a number of recent deaths and incidents. The lead nurse, AJ, tries his best to calm down the inmates and staff but the hysteria is rampant so he calls in D I Jack Caffrey to try and get to the root of the problem. Meanwhile, Jack has his own issues, trying to locate a missing person without implicating a fellow officer.
This is a cleverly plotted, sharply written, compelling thriller and one which, whilst spooking me, fell short of scaring me witless…a good thing in my book as I like to be able to sleep at night! Ideal holiday reading and I now have the delight of tracking down Mo Hayder’s back catalogue....more
The only predictable thing about Caroline Smailes’ writing is that it’s unpredictable. She has such a wonderful wealth of imagination and this is evidThe only predictable thing about Caroline Smailes’ writing is that it’s unpredictable. She has such a wonderful wealth of imagination and this is evidenced by the diversity of her novels. I have already read and enjoyed Black Boxes and Like Bees to Honey (reviewed here ) but I think Arthur Braxton might be the one which brings her to a much wider audience . Why? Well, the story of Arthur B can be read on so many different levels. On the surface it’s an urban fairytale – young teenager, alienated by his peers, falls for a mythical creature only he doesn’t see any problem in their living happily after after. Dive a little deeper…and you’ll see all the complexities of human relationships, the tragedy of everyday life alongside the joy of feeling loved and wanted. A little deeper and you appreciate the splashes of Greek mythology which infuse this boy meets girl story – the stories of Daphne, Medea, Castor and Pollux amongst others. Even though the characters seem very out of the ordinary and not of this world, they come across as real-life, flesh and blood people and the reader is invested in their fate. Young Laurel was the character who captivated me the most – forever child-like, spelling out words with her Smartie lids, deserving of a much brighter future. Then there are the ageless twins, Kester and Pollock, heckling from the viewing gallery of the pool, reminding me a lot of those curmudgeonly old hecklers from the Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf….I told you it was different from your usual comfort read!
Whereas some of Caroline Smailes’ other novels have “challenged” readers with their unconventional formats, here she retains the variety of text without overwhelming the reader and it all seems more controlled and lets you settle into the novel with less distractions. It’s one of those books you will want to stay up into the wee small hours reading and yet it will seem time as passed as quickly as an episode of Waterloo Road….read the book and you’ll understand.
I have a strong feeling this novel will bring Caroline Smailes much success and mark her out as one of our most promising writers…ahem, Granta…...more
Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse as well as a performance poet and his real-life experience is evident in this, his debut novel. The sNathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse as well as a performance poet and his real-life experience is evident in this, his debut novel. The story is narrated by Matthew, a nineteen year old schizophrenic who recalls the sudden, tragic death of his older brother, Simon – a death which he believes he caused.
The use of mixed formats, different fonts interspersed with occasional line drawings cleverly mirrors the ebb and flow of Matthew’s mental illness. Likewise, the narrative flits between different stages in his life, before Simon’s death, after Simon’s death, during hospital stays, independent living. This is an extremely honest account of one man’s journey through mental illness but there is also humour and great insight from Matthew as he sees how his brother’s death tore his family apart and left them adrift.
The characters are living, breathing creations, with their own foibles and imperfections. You see the heartache of Matthew’s parents who, having lost one son, feel they are losing their only remaining child. His Mum, is at her wits end, making lots of noise whilst Dad retreats into silence. His grandmother, the wonderful Nanny Noo, accepts Matthew as he is, visiting him at his flat every other Thursday, never passing judgement.
"If it wasn’t for Nanny Noo I wouldn’t give a shit, but when somebody cares for you as much as she does, I know it’s not nice to make them worry."
This is a beautifully written, moving story – the beauty is in the everyday detail of Matthew’s life – from the fleeting memories of a holiday in France to the stultifying routine of an acute psychiatric ward – eat, sleep, smoke… It’s a novel which will stay with me when others have disappeared into the ether – you won’t forget Matthew in a hurry and you cannot fail to wish him well….or just to keep his head above water…...more
It's been six years since the publication of Khaled Hosseini's bestselling second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns and his fans have been eagerly awaitiIt's been six years since the publication of Khaled Hosseini's bestselling second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns and his fans have been eagerly awaiting his latest novel. Hosseini has said that it focuses more on the relationship between siblings rather than tales of fatherhood and motherhood. This is true but it also differs from his previous novels in other ways.
This is an epic multi-generational family saga starting in the 1950s with a variety of settings - from Afghanistan to France, from Greece to the United States. Siblings Pari and Abdullah are devoted to each other but their paths take very different directions early on in their lives. Hosseini uses his skill as a master storyteller to weave a complicated pattern of family stories which take off in different directions. The narrative is quite complex, flitting between eras, characters and locations but Hosseini is always firmly in control, pulling the strings and easing the reader's journey.
I found the descriptions of siblings Abdullah and Pari's childhood the most evocative and moving. Also, the story of their Uncle Nabi in Kabul and his dedication to his employer left a big impression on me. Less effective for me were the Greek interlude and the story of the Afghan Warlord Baba Jan - yes, they were linked to the main story but I found them less engrossing and found myself mistaking Baba Jan for a reincarnation of an earlier character - mea culpa!
The final section of the novel, set in the US, was the piece de resistance for me. I won't give away any spoilers but, suffice to say, Hosseini expertly captures the effects of age with quiet, understated but supremely powerful writing - a quiet domestic scene between siblings can be as, if not more, effective than all the battle scenes one can conjure.
And The Mountains Echoed lacks the gut-wrenching impact of Hosseini's previous novels but it remains a compelling read. I have no doubt it will be a bestseller. Now, how long do we have to wait for the next volume?? Not that we're impatient......more
Considering my 12 year old son and I (late 40s..) both loved the first in this series we were keenly anticipating the follow up, Itch Rocks. We are deConsidering my 12 year old son and I (late 40s..) both loved the first in this series we were keenly anticipating the follow up, Itch Rocks. We are delighted to report that it is a worthy successor and having devoured it over a few days we can't wait for the next in the series.
Itchingham Lofte's life has changed dramatically since his disposal of the "rocks" and he and his family are now under constant surveillance and even have security personnel living with them as well as next door! Any hopes of Itch making new friends are dashed by his living in the spotlight and he lives under the constant threat of being kidnapped as he has refused to tell anyone (even the good guys) about the location of element 126.
Itch Rocks is a really gripping, adventure story with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. As well as introducing some more elements and their more interesting properties, there are more characters to meet all adding to the fun! Never have caesium and bismuth been more appealing... ...more
Big Change for Stuart is the sequel to Small Change for Stuart and they both revolve around the adventures of 10 year old, short for his age, Stuart HBig Change for Stuart is the sequel to Small Change for Stuart and they both revolve around the adventures of 10 year old, short for his age, Stuart Horten (S.Horten..). Suitable for confident male and female readers from about 7 years and over, this makes a pleasant change from the sparkly, pony/unicorn/fairy/wizard, adventures which are usually targeted at this age group. The result is an intelligently written adventure story which has an old-fashioned ring to it but still translates well into the modern, technological era.
The characters are likeable and interesting. Stuart is a curious young boy, keen to investigate the legacy of his Great Uncle who was a stage magician. He is accompanied on his adventures by his intrepid companion April as they solve the mysteries surrounding each piece of magical apparatus used during his Great Uncle's stage act. Another engaging character is Stuart's father who has tendency to use multisyllabic words - his job as a crossword compiler tends to hinder rather than aid his communication skills!
The book is split into short, snappy chapters and set out like a series of puzzles which will appeal to many young children. Even though this is a sequel, it can be read as a stand-alone but of course you will immediately want to read the first book anyway!
Highly recommended for children with inquiring minds who enjoy a touch of magic. ...more
Queenie is a heartwarming tale about Elsie Kettle, a girl in 1953, who desperately wants to see the Queen's Coronation.Review courtesy of Eva aged 9.
Queenie is a heartwarming tale about Elsie Kettle, a girl in 1953, who desperately wants to see the Queen's Coronation. She lives with her Nan in a little but cosy basement flat. When her Nan gets very poorly, Elsie's life is turned upside down. Her Mum comes to look after her but when Elsie gets ill, she is taken away from everything she ever knew. Now she will have to make new friends and this leads to a friendship with a majestic white cat called Queenie but will Ever ever be reunited with her Nan?
This is one of Jacqueline Wilson's historical novels which I especially enjoy. It has a twist in the tale and will keep you gripped until the last page. ...more