When I read a YA that features a heavy dose of pop culture, I sometimes have mixed feelings - not because it's a a terrible subject to explore, not at...moreWhen I read a YA that features a heavy dose of pop culture, I sometimes have mixed feelings - not because it's a a terrible subject to explore, not at all, in fact. More that I worry about the future. Mostly because I am a worrier in general, but also because I get all concerned about how relevant this is going to be in a few years time. But then, just as I started writing this review and waffling on about this, it dawned on me that reality telly isn't exactly a new phenomemon - how many years has The X Factor been with us? - so does that mean it's here to stay and that I am worrying about nothing? (probably). Anyway, my point in relation to Drummer Girl is that I shouldn't really be worrying at all. Because even though this book is full to the brim with pop culture and TV shenanigans, it embraces it and is all the better for that.
Saying the plot is fast-paced does not do it justice - within the space of a few chapters, friendships have been shattered and reformed, a band has been pulled together, we moved from London to LA and we haven't even begun to touch on the tales of romance, addiction, underdogs, and glamour. But what I loved about Drummer Girl the most was the girl that held it all together - friendship. Even though action was most definitely the key factor, this is a book about friends and I don't think there's enough YA books where this is the driving force behind the story. Romances are very much on the periphery and it was all the more refreshing because of that.
The one thing I wasn't too sure about was the inclusion of a certain scene right at the start of the book. I wasn't going to mention it but now I've just realised that it features in the synopsis so I'm not really spoiling anything. I still can't make up my mind whether my knowledge of Harper's fate was necessary - on the one hand, I was desperate to find out how it came about, but on the other, would I have preferred to see more a twist at the end? I'm still undecided. Anyway, the book doesn't necessarily suffer from it and it's an interesting way to structure the story. And another thing worth mentioning is the dialogue. Occasionally, when UK characters feature in US novels, they either talk like they've just stepped off the set of Mary Poppins or they sound like they're trying to channel their inner Jason Statham, but the exchanges between the girls here ring true.
This book is gloriously addictive. I was halfway through it when we were struck by a power cut and I had to turn our flat upside down looking for an industrial-sized torch because I couldn't see any of the pages by candlelight.
And I really wanted to see those pages.
This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Oh my, oh my. I remember reading a lot of glowing reviews about this one when it was first released so I feel rather stupid for only getting around to...moreOh my, oh my. I remember reading a lot of glowing reviews about this one when it was first released so I feel rather stupid for only getting around to picking it up now. I've recently been in one of those mini-reading slumps. My current book was dragging me down. You know when you're ploughing your way through but really not enjoying it and every time you pretend you haven't seen it lying around, waiting to be finished, the guilt eats away at you as you reach over for the remote control and watch some mind numbing sitcom repeat that you could recite in your sleep because you've seen it so many times before?
Yeah that. This state of affairs scares me. It makes me think that I'm going off books. It makes reading feel like a chore. It is a bad business.
Which is why I chose to jump ship and start something completely different. And this one could definitely be filed under different. Or unique. Or unlike anything I've read before.You get the idea.
It's pretty special.
I'm the first to admit that I struggle with fantasy sometimes. I think it's a time thing - with books that paint a particularly strong picture, I need to be completely absorbed fairly early on so they give me absolutely no choice - I HAVE to ignore everything else - until I've turned the last page. Otherwise it's just not happening. I have distractions (kids etc), that will pull me off the sofa and then my relationship with that book will never be the same again and we'll probably revert to the state of affairs detailed above.
Hello book slump.
But you might have already guessed that this didn't happen with Pantomime. As well as reading those great reviews a few months back, I was also reminded about this title when I went to a seminar on LGBT characters and themes in YA. I'm afraid on this particular subject, that's all I'm going to say in relation to this book for fear of the spoiler demon striking me down with a bolt of lightening, but I can tell you that it not only manages to portray this issue in a non 'issuey' way but also does something completely unique with it.
I can't really say much else about the story - the synopsis above does a much better job of it than my garbled attempt would - but as with any book that I adore, it's the writing and the characters that are pretty much perfect here. The stories and journeys of Micah and Gene are moving, intriguing, passionate, teaming with sexual tension and heartbreaking in the best and worst possible ways. The world of the circus and Ellada is rich with gorgeous imagery, detail and intriguing supporting characters and it's one I can't wait to get back to when the sequel comes out next year.
So put aside your life for a bit and get taken over.(less)
I had a lot to say about this one, but it's been a while since I finished it and as time goes by, it becomes a bit more difficult to articulate all th...moreI had a lot to say about this one, but it's been a while since I finished it and as time goes by, it becomes a bit more difficult to articulate all those feelings in blog form. But in short, I loved it. It's so refreshing when a book manages to explore 'issues' without making it obvious that it's exploring the 'issues' - when the story and the characters take precedence over the 'issues' but never belittling their importance in the process. This deals with the after-effects of 9/11 in a bittersweet way - an interesting take on grief and present-day attitudes to race and religion with a authentic and utterly convincing voice. My only criticism is that it was a bit too long, but other than that, highly recommended for slightly younger readers. (less)
I've been thinking a little too much about how I approach this feature - am I going to focus more on their historical context or just how good the sto...moreI've been thinking a little too much about how I approach this feature - am I going to focus more on their historical context or just how good the story is? Unless I have easy access to a time machine, I'm not really in a position to judge their historical accuracy. Is this even important when reviewing book? Surely whether or not it's a gripping read should matter the most. You might have already gathered that I'm still a bit undecided about all of this. Maybe I should just get on and review the book...
Well, I'm a bit late to the party on this one. Ten years late to be accurate. Jo told me to read it ages ago, but I'd been putting it of for some reason. This is always the way when I'm faced with an 'acclaimed' book - am I just setting myself up for inevitable disappointed? If I don't enjoy it as much as I feel I'm supposed to, does this mean I'm not getting it I'm being a bit thick? Or maybe I was just putting this one off because it has a bit of a boring cover. Probably a mixture of all of the above. God, I really need to stop asking all these questions and just get on with it.
I was definitely mulling over this a little too much, because it turns out there was no reason to worry whatsoever...
A Gathering LightSo here we are in the 1910s, in the US, in a place and period I know nothing about. The fact that whether I did or not is completely irrelevant is testament to just how fantastic this book is. With a historical novel, I think it can maybe go in one of two directions - building a story around a famous incident and having that dramatically impact on the characters and plot, or having the story just 'sitting' on its setting, absorbing attitudes and conventions of the time, but never being completely dictated by them. This book definitely falls into the latter camp - when we were introduced to Mattie and her surroundings, I was initially a bit wary that this was going to be overshadowed by ISSUES - attitudes towards women and race, for example - but it manages to explore these (which it should) without the brilliant central story getting lost at all. This is about Mattie and how she comes to make an important decision whilst being pulled in many different directions - a familiar YA set up and skillfully told with the perfect balance of plot, place, and prose. I was initially more intrigued by the real-life murder mystery element, but that's not what this book is about at all, rather it's used as a device to push Matt's story along and very beautifully it does it too.
The time shift method to a little while to get used to, but once all the pieces fall into place, this is an unusual, mind-blowing bit of story-telling. I highly recommend it whether you're after some cracking historical fiction or not.(less)
This is the problem with reading books that get a lot of great reviews - am I just setting myself up for disappointment? It's not that I didn't enjoy...moreThis is the problem with reading books that get a lot of great reviews - am I just setting myself up for disappointment? It's not that I didn't enjoy this one - it was an engrossing read, but I was expecting so much more. I don't read a lot of sci-fi, so in some ways, I don't think I'm the right person to judge, but some of the dialogue here was woeful. Think Starship Troopers, but with extra cheese. I liked the main character, Cassie and her story. That was, until a romantic element was introduced and just undermined the whole thing. He smelt of woodsmoke and chocolate. That says it all. But my main problem was with the whole premise - as far as I could see, there was a far easier way to solve the whole 5th Wave thing than with the actual 5th Wave. I might continue with this series, I might not. (less)
Really enjoyed this one. In theory, I love mysteries. I grew up reading them. But for some reason, I've always been a bit weary about YA mysteries or...moreReally enjoyed this one. In theory, I love mysteries. I grew up reading them. But for some reason, I've always been a bit weary about YA mysteries or ghost stories. Perhaps because there's nothing worse than a disappointing ending. But this one was more than satisfactory. Much more, in fact. Great characters, although I would have loved a bit more of Kitty, Delilah and Jack and I didn't have a clue what was going to happen next. Had a real Scream feel to proceedings, which in no bad thing in my opinion.(less)
It's feels very strange to be writing a review of this book, because, honestly the best advice I can give you before you read this book is not to read...moreIt's feels very strange to be writing a review of this book, because, honestly the best advice I can give you before you read this book is not to read anything about this book before you start this book. Seriously, stop reading this review. NOW.
...Only kidding. You know I would never partake in any of the spoiling of the clever story without huge amounts of prior warning. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this is going to be a tricky one. Hmmm...
Let's just start with the things I loved about this one then, shall we? Well, for starters, Jody. Such a loveable character in desperate need of a hug. I can't imagine any teenager who wouldn't identify with Jody on some level or another. Even though their particular dilemma could appear very specific on the surface, we all been there - falling in love with completely the wrong person and developing a slight obsession with River Phoenix....haven't we?
And this is properly funny stuff, we both Jody making a very amusing and informative narrator as well as some cracking and vivid supporting characters. One particular gag, courtesy of Jody and Jolene's mum, was a right corker that made me guffaw into my brew. But I won't spoil it for you here, adding to the list of yet another thing I won't mention about this book. In fact, I loved all the supporting characters and it's not too often that a contemporary YA gets the whole dialogue thing spot on, even old lady speak...
"If they took Tony Blair and Barack Obama and the ayatollah and that tiny little Frenchman with the big heels and that hunky Russian prime minister, Vladimir Rasputin and put them altogether in my front room with a great big pot of tea and a jar of ginger hard-bakes, you'd have every one of the world's problems sorted out by the end of the day. You mark my words!"
Have any truer words even been said? No, they haven't. Tea Rocks. End of discussion.
Right, there's no getting around it. You may or may not have guessed that there is a bit of a twisty twist lurking amongst the pages. Ok, a lot of a twisty twist. And I'm not usually a fan of twisty-twists because most of the time they're not that twisty. But this one of proper...corkscrew perm twisty. Yes, THAT twisty. It's ace.
But now I shall distract you from the twistyness with one of the many brilliant facts that are littered throughout this book. It's no secret that I love contemporary YA, especially contemporary YA set in my lovely home city of London. And this is a proper London book, complete with references to buses that pass through my neighbourhood. So lets leave it to Jody to give us a fact about London...
"I read on the internet that 7,172,091 people live in London. That's more than seven million people. They all wonder down Willesden High Road at some point."
It's true you know. I'm one of that seven million and I have wondered down Willesden High Road. We were going to a gerbil breeder's flat to collect our new gerbils. True story.
Move along now. No twist to see here....
(Just remember to read the book though because it's rather brilliant) (less)
When I was devouring This is Shyness a few weeks back (ok, maybe months), this song was being played on the radio quite a lot. I don't think there has...moreWhen I was devouring This is Shyness a few weeks back (ok, maybe months), this song was being played on the radio quite a lot. I don't think there has ever been a better book/song coupling. Unfortunately, when I was reading Queen of the Night, I was either on a train or staying at my mum's and her taste in radio station differs slightly from mine. Ranty DJs with suspect opinions wasn't quite the soundtrack I had in mind when I started this one. But it mattered not a jot. Well, maybe a tiny little jot. I never say no to a bit of atmospheric music to accompany my getting lost in a rather brilliant book.
So, Queen of the Night. Like the first book, it's still a bit of an enigma and one that's difficult to catagorize (which we all know are the very best sort of books), but because of of my familiarity with the world, this felt just that little bit more like a conventional love story, but still very much with a Shyness slant to proceedings. So still completely unconventional in most respects.
There was a different feel to the first book - the time frame, other characters being given a bit more to do and the juggling of a few more plot strands, although the driving force of the story is given a great resolution and the build up to that resolution is excellent. Yes, I'm talking about Wildgirl and Wolfboy. I shall say no more...
But some of the other changes were less satisfactory - I would have loved to find out more about Amelia, for example, seeing as she was so pivotal to the story. When I finish any fantastic book such as this I'm always left wanting more, but this time it was because I was certain we hadn't seen the end of these characters - this one felt a bit unfinished and I still had a whole heap of questions. However, *bit spoilery* when I took a sneaky peek on Leanne Hall's website, (which is gorgeous, by the way) I discovered that she has no immediate plans to write another Wolfboy and Wildgirl tale. NOOOOOOOOO! One particular story felt so quickly, and slightly unconvincingly, tied up that I was certain that it was just a rouse. But no, it was just very quickly tied up.
The thing I love most about both the Shyness books - if you're in a bit of a creative rut, like I've been for a few weeks, then reading these will get your brain buzzing in the best possible way. They're so brilliant and unusual - dipping into them is like drinking a tonic of words and colours and delicious darkness.
Now I'm just going to sit here with my arms crossed waiting for that elusive third book... (less)