The Serial Killer sub-genre is very popular with readers. Maybe it's the fact that we can get close to such inhumanReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
The Serial Killer sub-genre is very popular with readers. Maybe it's the fact that we can get close to such inhuman evil and still be able to walk away when we put the book down. Maybe it's a fascination with what humans are capable of. For me both these ideas play a part, but what I most enjoy is the chase – working with the investigators to solve the puzzle and catch the bad guy. You Are Next is a promising debut from a new voice in this popular sub-genre.
The cover image is quite simple, but striking. The read background immediately caught my eye and its implied reference to blood and violence can't be ignored. But, for me, the simple addition of a broken domino was especially effective in the context of the story. It is a reference to the killer, but also to the destruction his “game” has left in his wake.
Katia Lief's writing is direct, with very little unnecessary description and padding. This style suits the story she has set out to tell and exposes the stark reality of the investigation and the killer's actions. There isn't time for pretty words when lives are at stake. I did, however, think that the pacing of You Are Next was off. The book started strongly, immediately drawing me into the story, but then the pace near the middle of the book before picking up again for the climax. This lag frustrated me. I know that a story needs to ebb and flow, but the downtime in You Are Next was too long. It should have been broken up to keep the reader engaged in the story.
I did like the games and clues that the Domino Killer leaves for the investigators. They let me feel like I could help the case if I could just figure them out. The use of dominoes, which are in themselves such harmless objects, added an extra level of malice to the crimes.
Karin Schaeffer is something different as far as protagonists in this sub-genre go. She is broken. The Domino Killer murdered her husband and child and we meet her as she is trying to hold herself and her life together in the wake of this tragedy. But she's failing. Lief's exploration of Karin's suicidal thoughts and grief are well handled and the play a large part in the plot. It's difficult to write about these topics and keep the character from alienating the reader, but Lief manages it capably.
You Are Next is a thriller about the effects of a serial killer's actions as much as it is about the hunt. It's a different approach to this kind of story and I liked it. I'll be keeping an eye on this author....more
Warning: As this is the second book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for those who have not read the fReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Warning: As this is the second book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for those who have not read the first one, The Left Hand of God.
I had mixed feelings after finishing the first book in this series, The Left Hand of God. I enjoyed the world that Paul Hoffman has created and was intrigued by Thomas Cale, the violent and unpredictable young man at the heart of the story. But I wasn’t entirely sure I liked how The Left Hand of God had ended. So I was very excited when I received The Last Four Things for review to see what had become of Cale and his friends.
But first a note on the book’s cover – I like it. The blue light backlighting the hooded and armed warrior as he advances into the darkness of the foreground fits in well with the Redeemers’ outlook. And especially with their view of Cale as God’s wrath incarnate.
Paul Hoffman has created a fantasy world that draws strongly on the “real” world for its names and culture. But it’s the way he has combined these elements that makes this world different. Medieval culture exists beside ancient Greek and so on. I found that the references to civilizations and places I know made it easier to submerge myself in Hoffman’s world. His writing style is easy and there are some great turns of phrase throughout The Last Four Things.
The religion of The Hanged Redeemer plays a crucial role in this series. It shapes the characters and many of their decisions and actions in one way or another. Again Hoffman has drawn on the history of Christianity and used elements to create something familiar, but dark and unsettling at the same time. The politics and infighting that is an intrinsic part of any such large organisation allows Hoffman to introduce subplots and greater complications.
Thomas Cale is a bit of an enigma as far as main characters go. At times his humanity and something more gentle show through and you begin to like him. But then, often within a page, he has become a hard and violent person who trails catastrophe and blood in his wake. It’s at these moments that you can almost believe that he is the embodiment of God’s wrath. This constant shift in Cale’s behaviour and demeanour can be quite unsettling and as a result I was often not sure what to feel about him. This is a risky way for an author to handle their main character because readers need someone to connect with in the story. But Hoffman manages to pull it off by showing us glimpses if Cale’s humanity and by balancing him with other characters. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Thomas Cale, but I’m leaning towards liking him and I do know that I want to read the next book to see what happens to him. He’s a puzzle I really want to solve.
Paul Hoffman’s The Last Four Things does a good job of advancing the story and characters he introduced us to in The Left Hand of God. And he’s left me wanting to know what he’s got in store for us next. ...more
The research for my Honours degree in Cell Biology relied largely on cell culture. I have a passion for this fieldReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
The research for my Honours degree in Cell Biology relied largely on cell culture. I have a passion for this field and I had heard of HeLa (pronounced hee-lah) cells and some of the work done with them. But I had never heard about their origin and history, so when I saw The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks I knew it was a book I had to read.
I found the cover for this edition evocative of the history covered by the book and the silhouette of a woman’s face reminds the reader that this book isn’t only about science – it’s about one black woman’s extraordinary contribution to science and medicine. I found this an effective and eye-catching image.
What often puts me off about books dealing with science is that they can be quite flat and lifeless. I am happy to report that this was not the case with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The facts are there, but Rebecca Skloot has managed to present the very human face of Henrietta, her family and the scientists who are a part of her story. The book is well structured and reads like a novel. It drew me in to the story.
HeLa cells are extraordinary. They thrive in a tissue culture environment and have allowed researchers to make huge strides in numerous fields – from tissue culture itself, through gene mapping and cancer research to the development of life-saving drugs like the polio vaccine. These cancer cells, taken from a tumour on Henrietta’s cervix, are a marvel. It has been estimated that in the fifty years since they were first cultured that more than fifty million metric tons of HeLa cells have been grown in laboratories around the world. To give you an idea of scale – if these HeLa cells were laid end-to-end they would wrap around the world at least three times. But what about the woman who made all of this possible?
Using records and interviews with family members Skloot has managed to bring Henrietta Lacks to life. Her story and that of her family plays a large part in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. There is a very human side to this book that was interesting to read. Skloot puts the times and actions of the various family members and researchers into a context that gives the reader perspective. But she doesn’t shy away from the ethical questions raised by Henrietta’s story.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a science book about people. Rebecca Skloot has done a great job weaving the strands of fact into a story that will make you think....more
Sister is an astounding accomplishment as a debut novel and is well worth reading. I was absorbed by Rosamund LuptoReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Sister is an astounding accomplishment as a debut novel and is well worth reading. I was absorbed by Rosamund Lupton’s story of the truths we keep from our families and their desperate search for those truths once we leave them behind.
The bleak snowscape of the cover is fitting for the setting of the story, but on a deeper level it is indicative of the things before us that can remain hidden and the coldness of a search for answers. The young woman walking away from us into the wintry scene brings a splash of bright colour to the image with her red jacket. That vibrant red instinctively makes us think of blood and the chilling possibilities of what may have happened to Tess. My compliments to the design team at Piatkus for an effective cover design.
Sister is told simultaneously in the form of a letter from Beatrice to Tess and in Beatrice’s statement of events to a lawyer. Rather than being haphazard and confusing, this technique allows us to see the facts of Beatrice’s search for her sister while at the same time giving us an insight into their relationship and personalities. Lupton has managed to weave these two separate voices together to produce a coherent narrative that is thought-provoking and engaging.
Some reviewers have commented on the slower pace of Sister when compared to many thrillers. If you are looking for an action-packed thrill ride then Sister is probably not the book for you. But if you are interested in a book that will make you think and stay with you for days after you finish it, then don’t hesitate. While Sister is not your typical thriller it still fits quite comfortably into the genre, but the menace and threat is built up slowly – like an ominous shadow creeping into a bright sunny day. What I most loved about this story was that Lupton’s writing is crisp and intelligent and she has created real people in a situation that I could imagine myself into. Even now, a day after I finished the book, I find myself wondering what I would have done in Beatrice’s place. It’s this connection with the reader that I thing is especially amazing to find in a debut novel.
As Beatrice tells her story to the lawyer and her sister she undergoes a metamorphosis. Beatrice learns what is really important in her life and as her layers are stripped away the reader experiences this growth in her character firsthand. The snippets of memory shared with Tess from their childhood make the bond between them more real. And through these memories and Beatrice’s story Tess becomes as real a character as any of the others – despite the fact that we never meet her.
Sister is an accomplished debut that looks at how relationships affect us and it’s a book that will stay with you days after you finish it. I can’t wait to see what Lupton has in store for me next!...more
Having only read one other Meg Cabot book I think that I was in a fortunate position when reading Abandon. I couldnReviewed on my blog: The Word Fiend
Having only read one other Meg Cabot book I think that I was in a fortunate position when reading Abandon. I couldn’t really compare it to any of Cabot’s other series which allowed me to look at the story itself.
The sombre browns of the cover tie in nicely with this story of death survived and death returning. What I especially liked about this cover were the glossy patterns of leaves and flowers that jump out as the light catches them. It’s a technique I’ve seen before and I love the effect it can create when used well. The cover for Abandon isn’t mind-blowing, but it does capture the feel of the book.
Abandon is a modern take on the Greek legend of Persephone. I’ve always enjoyed the legends that deal with the realm of the dead because there is something bittersweet about them. They are stories with shades of grey where not everyone lives happily ever after, but sometimes love does win the day. So I was keen to see what Meg Cabot had done with this particular legend of the Underworld.
Cabot’s writing is self-assured and she guides the reader expertly into the story through Pierce’s narration. The problem I had with Abandon was that the pacing and story were quite jumbled for a lot of the book. I enjoyed this style at first as the not-quite-linear narration mirrors both Pierce’s emotions and her personal life – uprooted from her home, not to mention that she keeps seeing a guy she last saw when she died. But I felt that Cabot used this style for longer than she should have and it eventually started to wear on my nerves. The sudden shift in gear of the book’s climax felt very abrupt as a result and while I enjoyed this new pace it felt rushed when compared to the rest of the book. I would have liked to see a shift to a smoother narrating style about two-thirds of the way through the story which would have flowed more naturally into the drama and action of the climax.
Cabot has built a complete life for Pierce which is always great to read. It means that the secondary characters have meaning in the story and add to the plot. It also means that the character is usually better grounded and believable. I liked Pierce. She is caring of others and there is a feisty streak in her that I want to see explored in the rest of the series. Because we only ever see John through the filter of Pierce’s perception I battled to get a solid handle on his character at first, but he does come into his own as the story progresses. The romance between Pierce and John is a bit stormy and progresses quite slowly, but it suits where the story and the characters are going.
Abandon is a slow, but promising start to a new YA series that I will be keeping my eye on. ...more
Chime is a story of in-betweens. It is set in an in-between time – where folklore and modern technology still coexiReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Chime is a story of in-betweens. It is set in an in-between time – where folklore and modern technology still coexist. And it has in-between characters – who discuss Freud’s theories of the mind and modern engineering while still keeping a wary eye out for the Old Ones who walk the land. I loved this blend of ideas and it gives Chime a unique feel in the YA genre.
There have been some beautiful book covers released so far this year and for me Chime’s must be near the top of the list. The shades of brown used bring to mind the swamp that plays such a large part in the story and reminded me of old sepia-toned photographs. The roots and grasses are further reminders of the swamp and I love how some appear like gnarled hands – a visual reference to the folklore of Chime. The model was well chosen and her serious gaze holds your attention. My compliments to the design team at Bloomsbury for a striking cover.
Franny Billingsley is an immensely talented author. Chime is set in the early nineteen-hundreds and Billingsley has successfully incorporated phrasings and rhythms of speech that are appropriate to the era without making the book difficult to read. It feels as though you have been transported back in time to enjoy a contemporary story. Billingsley’s descriptions are delicious – she places you firmly in the story and once inside there is no way you want to leave.
Chime’s plot is, on the surface, not particularly complicated. But it’s the subtle layers of story that slowly shift and realign to form new ideas that make this a book worth reading.
Briony is a complex character. She has an older person’s world-weary view of life that is in direct and sharp contrast with her twin, Rose’s, more innocent outlook. Billingsley has given us identical twins who are almost polar opposites in temperament and beliefs. But she uses this inner difference between Rose and Briony to great effect – they emphasise and highlight particular elements of each other’s personality. Briony’s relationship with the swamp and the Old Ones who live there is an important part of the book and at times the swamp seems to be a character itself. Eldric is an excellent match for Briony in both looks and temperament and the relationship and growing romance between them felt right.
Chime is filled with old-world charm and will win Franny Billingsley hordes of devoted fans. Count me in....more
Even if I could only remember the future I would remember Forgotten. It’s the kind of book that makes an impressionReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Even if I could only remember the future I would remember Forgotten. It’s the kind of book that makes an impression and I’m sure I will be reading it again.
I adore the cover for this edition of Forgotten. The windy, storm cloud filled background is a great metaphor for the turmoil going on in London’s life. The mirror image of the girl in black and white on one side and in colour on the other is such an effective symbol for London’s life – with the future in vibrant colour, but with her past fading to nothing.
You would think that a book written from the perspective of a character who remembers nothing about her past would be frustrating to read. But it isn’t. Forgotten is written in such a way that you can follow exactly what is going on, but you don’t know much more than London does at any point. It’s a delicate balance that debut author Cat Patrick maintains with apparent ease, which for me is testament to her writing ability.
When I first heard about Forgotten I was immediately hooked by the premise behind the story. Just take a moment and imagine that you couldn’t remember what happened to you yesterday or five years ago. How would that affect the way you interact with the world and your sense of identity? Cat Patrick touches on these sorts of questions in Forgotten and gets you thinking about how you would respond if you were in the story. To draw the reader in so that they can start imagining themselves in a book is, in my mind, the sign of a great story.
Forgotten’s main character is London Lane. At first she comes across as a bit flighty, but as the story progresses you realise exactly how much she has to handle every day; on top of the things the average teenager worries about. I like London and enjoyed watching her develop through the book. London’s love interest is Luke Henry – their romance is well developed and believable. Luke is a good match for London, and I may have been a tiny bit jealous at times.
Forgotten is an excellent debut novel that marks the beginning of what I’m sure will be an exciting career for Cat Patrick....more
Angelfire introduces us to a world of reapers, epic sword fights and high school. C.A. Moulton’s debut novel is actReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Angelfire introduces us to a world of reapers, epic sword fights and high school. C.A. Moulton’s debut novel is action-packed and entertaining. Plus there are angels, so you know I’m happy.
Angelfire’s cover is arresting. It may not be very colourful, but it is a detailed and striking image. I love the model’s pose – she is relaxed, but alert and as Ellie explores who she is, or was, some of this poise and readiness starts to rise to the surface. The swirling fog that obscures most of the background is a great visual metaphor for Ellie’s memories and how they often seem just out of her reach. If you get your hands on a copy of Angelfire just take a moment to explore the cover – it deserves it.
The world that C.A. Moulton has created is one I enjoyed exploring and I’d happily return to it. In the shadows lurk the reapers. Banish all images of figures armed with scythes – it’s not quite that simple. Reapers come in a number of forms and can be either angelic or demonic. The opposing sides have been at war for centuries. Angelfire has a rich and interesting world that makes for a fun read.
While I loved the idea behind Angelfire I would have liked to see better pacing in the story. The book seemed to swing between two extremes: intense action or calmness. I believe that a story should have pacing that ebbs and flows, but in Angelfire it is all or nothing. I think that this could have been balanced with the inclusion of some less climactic, but still exciting scenes.
Ellie and Will are the main characters in Angelfire and I liked them both. I really appreciated the fact that Ellie has a whole life that doesn’t stop happening just because she discovers the paranormal. She still has to deal with her parents, school and try to see her friends. It is a battle, but these aspects of her life don’t just stop happening. Ellie handles the new revelations about herself and her life in a believable way and that endeared her to me. Plus she is pretty hardcore in a fight! Will is quickly going to become a popular book-crush and with good reason. He can be too serious at times, but as the book progresses Ellie manages to chip away some of his reserve. They have a great romance that doesn’t feel rushed, although the relationship isn’t going to be simple.
C.A. Moulton has created an exciting debut novel that will have readers hooked and wanting more....more
Die For Me is a deceptively gentle story that still packs quite a punch. The world and mythology that Amy Plum hasReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Die For Me is a deceptively gentle story that still packs quite a punch. The world and mythology that Amy Plum has created is reason enough for me to recommend this book.
Die For Me's cover is a bit like the book itself – simultaneously soft and arresting. The sepia-toned backdrop of Paris's rooftops and the instantly recognisable Eiffel Tower evoke a sense of history. The model stands out against this scene with her pale skin and beautiful red dress. But it's the raised vine decorations that I find the most interesting. They are flowery and delicate, but they are also wrapped around the model, holding and binding her to the scene. For me this is a stunning visual metaphor for love – it brings lightness to our lives, but binds us tightly to those we care for.
Amy Plum has done a great job building an interesting world full of its own mythology and intrigue. Die For Me is her debut novel, but it is the start of a trilogy that will suck readers right in. Some people have commented that Die For Me starts quite slowly and that they were impatient for things to happen. I enjoyed the slower pacing of the story as a change from more high-action YA reads. When we meet her Kate is still reeling from the loss of her parents and it would have seemed false to me for her to have just leapt straight into a new life and a new romance. I enjoyed the fact that Amy Plum gave Kate time to start healing before the action and adventure kicked-off. Paris is the city of love and is a gorgeous backdrop to the romance and intrigue of Die For Me. Plum introduces the reader to a different side of the city, away from the tourist hot-spots and I loved it.
Kate is the heroine of Die For Me and I really like her. Not only does she often have her head stuck in a book, but her love of art and museums is contagious. Kate is not a character who kicks butt and takes names, but she has her own strengths and these have a real impact on the story. Watching her blossom from a devastated young girl to a self-assured women through the book was a treat. Her romance with Vincent is well handled. It starts out softly and builds in intensity in a way that I'm sure has many readers falling in love along with Kate. Vincent has an old world charm about him that I immediately liked.
Die For Me is a fun, engaging YA read that will win Amy Plum legions of fans. I'm looking forward to the next instalment!...more
Dark Poppy's Demise is S.A. Partridge's third novel for young adults and firmly cements her place as an author to w Review from my blog: The Word Fiend
Dark Poppy's Demise is S.A. Partridge's third novel for young adults and firmly cements her place as an author to watch.
The cover for Dark Poppy's Demise is quite simple, but it's the fear on the model's face that draws the eye and immediately makes you want to know what caused it. It's an invitation to open the book and see for yourself.
This is the first of S.A. Partridge's books that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. She builds atmosphere and tension especially well and this adds to the drama of the story to produce a thrilling read. I found the premise behind Dark Poppy's Demise especially relevant to today's young adults who conduct a lot of their social lives online via Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. It's the fact that I could easily imagine this situation happening that makes this story especially chilling.
Jenna is a selfish drama queen. There really is no other way to describe her. But it is a testament to the story and the quality of S.A. Partridge's writing that I could easily empathise with her and, despite her irritating tendencies, I came to like her and was rooting for her by the end of the book. Jenna has real flaws and a difficult home life – these made her more real in my eyes and also served to increase the tension because I became invested in her well-being. I must mention Jenna's brother Ian because he was a very vividly drawn character and I liked the interaction between the siblings.
Dark Poppy's Demise is a well written thriller from a talented South African author and is well worth a read. ...more
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Divergent in the publishing and book blogging world. From the moment I fir Review from my blog: The Word Fiend
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Divergent in the publishing and book blogging world. From the moment I first heard about it I developed a huge book crush. But like all crushes, there is the fear that when we finally meet the object of our affection that the reality may not live up to our expectations. Veronica Roth has not disappointed me with her debut. Divergent is an exciting, addictive read that will pull you into its pages and release you breathless and begging for more.
The cover for Divergent is like the book: bold and eye-catching. The reflective sheen makes the colours glint and gives the circle of flame, the symbol for the Dauntless, a life of its own. It's this symbol that catches the eye and pulls you into the image. The heavy clouds hovering over the city are an effective metaphor for the changes and danger threatening the perfect society below.
Divergent is Veronica Roth's debut novel – and if this is how she writes starting out I can only see great things in her future. Roth writes with confidence and skill and this lifts her already great idea and moulds it into a brilliant read. The pacing was spot-on – with natural dips and peaks to engage the reader and allow them to catch their breath before the next action-packed scene. At no point did I get the urge to rush through the quieter sections to get to the next exciting moment. This is because every scene helps to tell the story and I was more than happy to sit back and let Roth guide me through her world and the book.
The dystopian world that Roth has created in Divergent is engaging and well thought out. Society is split into five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (friendship/harmony), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (fearless/undaunted) and Erudite (scholarly) that work in their specialised areas to keep the world as a whole running smoothly. When they turn sixteen, people choose which faction they will spend the rest of their lives in – not always the faction they were born into. I loved the factions and the thought that Roth has put into what each faction values and cultivates in its members. The differences in the factions are very obvious in the initiates who have joined a faction they were not born into. Roth uses this to great advantage to highlight these differences.
Tris is the heroine in Divergent. She is tough, kick-ass and smart – all things I love in a protagonist. Being a part of Tris's journey was exciting and there is a definite character growth that takes place through the book. I was rooting for her from page one. Four is also a complex, three-dimensional character and I must confess to having a mild character crush on him. The building relationship brings out their strengths and showed them both to be interesting and fully formed characters.
Divergent is a thrilling read and I would gladly recommend it to anyone who enjoys an intelligent and entertaining story. ...more
Fans of YA Paranormal Romance who are looking for something different from the usual vampires, demons and werewolveReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Fans of YA Paranormal Romance who are looking for something different from the usual vampires, demons and werewolves would be doing themselves a huge favour by reading Alyson Noël’s The Immortals series. Not only is the story fresh and exciting, but Noël’s writing will have you spellbound.
The most striking feature of Evermore’s cover is the beautiful red tulips the model is holding. They play a very important role in the book, symbolising Damen and Ever’s attraction. I also love the fact that the stems of the two tulips on the cover are slightly curved around one another – as if they were embracing.
Evermore is the first of Alyson Noël book that I have read and I can assure you that it won’t be the last! I was immediately taken with her writing – particularly her world building and characters. The magical elements of the story are woven seamlessly into the “real” world, resulting in an exciting setting full of possibilities. Noël has done her research and I was interested to see how she combined different metaphysical theories to give the magic used in the story a solid grounding.
But above everything else, I fell in love with the characters in Evermore. It’s the small quirks that each character has – from Haven’s daily cupcake to Ever’s iPod – that bring each character to life on the page. When we first meet Ever she has been through a huge trauma and is struggling with her new psychic abilities. Noël doesn’t shy away from letting Ever’s grief and loss run its course. This makes her a more substantial character because we can see her at her strongest and her weakest. Ever’s relationship with Damen is intense and electrifying. Damen himself is an intriguing character and I enjoyed finding out more about him with Ever. I did find myself getting slightly irritated by Ever’s friend Haven and her behaviour. But it is a sign of Noël’s skill at writing characters that I could see where she was coming from and so was able to restrain my irritation.
Evermore is the start of what looks set to be an addictive and entertaining series and Alyson Noël’s writing will capture your imagination. ...more
Set in Victorian England, Haunting Violet is alive with atmosphere and intrigue. I was sucked into the story from tReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Set in Victorian England, Haunting Violet is alive with atmosphere and intrigue. I was sucked into the story from the first page and loved the time I spent there!
The cover for Haunting Violet strikes the right tone for the book – it is mysterious and slightly unsettling, helping to engage the reader before they have even turned a page. The out-of-focus, misty background in shades of purple frames the lonely figure of the girl dressed all in black, setting her apart from the scene in the same way that Violet begins to feel.
This is the first of Alyxandra Harvey’s books that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. She evokes settings and characters beautifully – two things I especially enjoy reading. Haunting Violet is set in 1872 when Spiritualism was enjoying great popularity in England, especially amongst the upper classes. I have always been fascinated with the Spiritualist movement in the Victorian era with the grainy black and white images of mediums and the sprits they communicated with firing my imagination. It’s an unusual setting for a YA novel, but Harvey uses it to great effect in Haunting Violet. I especially appreciated the irony of a girl involved in her mother’s fake séances being able to communicate with the dead! Harvey transports the reader into the past effortlessly and her use of the speech patterns and social protocols of the time immersed me in the story. Her writing appears effortless and that speaks to her skill as an author.
As I have already mentioned, Alyxandra Harvey has created wonderfully engaging characters to populate her story. Violet Willoughby is the main character in Haunting Violet and while she is not as sassy as some of the heroines we see in YA novels, she has a great inner strength that shines through in the story. Violet is more quietly rebellious – trying to carve out her own path despite the iron-grip her mother maintains on her life. There is a definite growth in Violet’s character through the book and I loved watching it.
Alyxandra Harvey has created a vibrant, engaging paranormal tale in Haunting Violet and I want more! ...more
The bouquet I would make to describe my reaction to The Language of Flowers would include Apple Blossom (preferenceReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The bouquet I would make to describe my reaction to The Language of Flowers would include Apple Blossom (preference), Everlasting Pea (lasting pleasure), Bouvardia (enthusiasm) and Lisianthus (appreciation). Vanessa Diffenbaugh has created an extraordinary book that captivated me and still lingers in my thoughts almost two weeks after I finished it.
The Language of Flowers is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel and I was blown away by the maturity of her writing, by the bravery of choosing an imperfect and damaged heroine and by the smooth flow of the story. I believe that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has a long and interesting writing career ahead if her and I look forward to following her progress.
I first heard about the Victorian language of flowers when I was in primary school and I remember thinking that it sounded very mysterious and that it was a bit like sending coded messages to the one you loved. I wasn’t too far off.
Victoria Jones is a damaged young girl who can’t, or won’t, let herself connect to the world around her except through the medium of flowers and their meanings. Through Victoria’s eyes you will come to appreciate the subtlety and nuances of the language of flowers. It’s this window into Victoria’s mind that really allows the reader to connect with her and understand what she feels, despite her trying to hide it.
The Language of Flowers is split into four parts; each named for a flower or a particular flower’s meaning. These flowers and their meanings serve as the underlying theme for that part of the story and I loved how Diffenbaugh brings Victoria’s precious language of flowers into every aspect of her story.
Victoria’s life has not been an easy one; abandoned as a baby, shuttled around the foster care system and forced to look out for herself. But Vanessa Diffenbaugh doesn’t place the blame solely on circumstances. Victoria’s life is the product of neglect, bad luck and her own bad choices. Through the story Victoria is forced to take some of the responsibility for herself and her own decisions. The Language of Flowers alternates between the present and eight years ago, when Victoria feels she last had a real chance at happiness. These two separate tales combine to tell Victoria’s story and paint a complex and detailed picture of her character and her life.
But it’s through her connection to other people that Victoria slowly begins to heal and learn to take part in the world around her. Grant and Elizabeth are two lovely characters who play such an important role in Victoria’s life. Diffenbaugh has given them their own complex stories and pasts to add flavour and depth to the story. Though they help Victoria, they are also helped by knowing her. It’s this interconnectedness of the characters that makes The Language of Flowers such a fulfilling read.
The Language of Flowers is a beautiful piece of storytelling. ...more
Wither enthralled me, chilled me and made me want to read more – it is an accomplished debut from a very promisingReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Wither enthralled me, chilled me and made me want to read more – it is an accomplished debut from a very promising author.
The cover design for Wither is beautiful and loaded with meaning. The connected circles highlight specific aspects of the cover and lead you through Rhine's story. First there is an hourglass, with the sand nearly run out – an effective symbol for the short time Rhine has left. This image connects to Rhine herself, despondent and sad in all of her finery. The wedding ring glinting on her left hand is connected to the small bird in its cage – a metaphor for the gilded cage Rhine finds herself trapped in. And scattered in the background are vials, beakers and bottles symbolising the science that has created this genetic disaster, but also holding the only hope of reversing it. I love covers that represent the story and Wither's is particularly well executed.
Wither is Lauren DeStefano's debut novel and she has created an intelligent and captivating world for the reader to explore. Her writing flows gracefully across the pages as the story unfolds its layers and reveals its secrets. The atmosphere and pacing of the story are well handled and compliment the plot so that I was drawn into the pages to experience Rhine's story. I'm looking forward to following Lauren DeStefano's career – which I have a feeling will be a long and successful one.
The world in which Wither is set is unsettling. Seventy years ago scientists set out to eradicate illness and disease and a generation of engineered embryos was the result. These first generation individuals are all healthy and successful and many are still alive and thriving. But something is happening to their children and grandchildren. They are born healthy, but their life span is limited. Just take a moment and imagine what it would be like to know that you only have twenty-five or twenty years to live. I would already be dead and there is so much more that I want to experience in the world – it's a chilling thought.
Rhine is a strong-willed character and I admired this in her. She refuses to lie down and accept her fate and while I felt sorry for Lindon, her new husband who genuinely cares for her, I would have been disappointed if she had. Rhine seems so much older than her sixteen years, but it never felt wrong – especially considering that she is well into the prime of her life. Her devotion to her twin brother, Rowan, is intense and single-minded, giving her the strength she need to keep from giving up. Lauren DeStefano has created great characters in Wither and while Rhine is the main protagonist, the other characters are just as well thought out. I enjoyed the blush of romance that is developing between Rhine and Gabriel, but I was glad that it wasn't the focus of the story. I think it would have detracted from the story, but it works well as a supporting layer to the main plot. I felt especially bad for Lindon as the story progressed. He has the illusion of freedom, but is just as trapped as his three wives. Only he doesn't know it.