The Book of Blood and Shadow already has a place as one of my favourite book...moreThis review was originally published January 16th 2011 at www.chooseya.com
The Book of Blood and Shadow already has a place as one of my favourite books of the year so far, and yes it is only January. From its opening sentence "I should probably start with the blood." to its final words I was fully immersed into the world Wasserman created. Part mystery, part thriller, part crime, a tiny bit romance and wonderfully written as well. This is a novel I believe audiences regardless of age and has a wonderfully timeless, exciting quality to it.
Seventeen year old Nora Kane takes part in a research project with her best friend Chris and his roommate, Max, for a college professor, The Hoff, partly as a way to spend more time with Chris and as she has been promised it's an easy senior prokect. Nora is trapped in an almost Cyrano de Bergerac like love triangle where Chris is dating Adriane, Nora's other best friend despite Nora's feelings. While love triangles can be very badly done in YA, this love triangle was secondary enough and well written enough that it felt realistic and not melodramatic.
The group are researching The Book, a mysterious alchemical, philosophical text encoded for hundreds of years and the Hoff's lifelong passion. The Hoff suspects only a man named Edward Kelley came close to solving the mystery. In the course of translating letters by Kelley's daughter Elizabeth Weston, a low-responsibility task she suspects, Nora begins to find clues that will crack the mystery as well as finding herself feeling more and more of a bond to Elizabeth.
As the novel begins with the brutal murder of one central character in the first page, this novel is also about dealing with a crime and solving the murder.
There's an international novel as well; while several parts of the novel take part in America, we also are taken to France and Prague. Prague in particular came alive for me in this novel as much as any character and now I really want to visit there (thanks Robin Wasserman!) and was simply magical. In many ways with thriller like theme and cosmopolitan setting, it almost felt like the Bourne Identity or another movie like that.
Wasserman's prose is literary in quality yet not alienating. Nora's voice is really engaging and I also loved the use of short "chapters" or segments within the novel which varied in length from lines to pages and really helped empathise with the emotions Wasserman wanted to convey to the reader.
I recommend this novel to everyone, adults and teenagers alike, who wants to be taken on a thrilling adventure with their reading. It is a truly fantastic, gripping novel.
I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books via NetGalley. The Book of Blood and Shadow is published on January 19th in the UK and April 12th in the US.(less)
As soon as I read the summary of this and that my Goodreads friend, Wendy Darling, enjoyed this novel I knew I would love it and that I had to read it. Partials is YA sci-fi at its best and I must confess I wouldn’t normally read a lot of sci-fi. In a post-apocalyptic society where live babies die shortly after birth due to a virus from the previous war between humans and Partials (genetically engineered part-humans), sixteen year old Kira knows that when her best friend Meredith falls pregnant, she has to try and save the baby somehow. Kira decides to capture a Partial and study one, after all, they’re supposed to the cause of the virus; what better to cure it? From there, she learns some terrifying truths about Partials, the Virus origins and the society she lives in.
The world Wells creates is incredibly well-written and felt chillingly real too. I also loved the scientific aspect of the novel in the sense of trying to find a cure for the virus. The science details felt realistic but also wasn’t too excessive or overbearing that I felt alienated either.
Kira was a strong heroine and I really admired her for wanting to protect her friend so much; it definitely made her the sort of person I wanted to be friends with in real life. Kira did feel a little older than her age, however considering the society in which she lived, I think that this is to be expected.
Samm, the captured Partial, was a brilliant character and I loved the chemistry between him and Kira. It’s definitely something I hope is developed in Book 2. Wells did a brilliant job of showing both Samm’s differences as a Partial and making him utterly human at the same time. Considering current advances in technology, maybe one day something like Samm will exist – certainly that’s what I love about this genre- and Wells puts forward the mistreatment of Samm by others so well it scared me.
Dystopia fans will also find a lot to love with this novel, as despite it’s sci-fi grounding, the society in which Kira lives felt very dystopian and the final quarter of the book really stepped everything up in this sense.
The book ends on a cliffhanger and left me desperate for the next novel. In the last third of the book, there was an important revelation that I didn’t see coming at all. In hindsight, I feel like I should have, but it says something about Wells’ writing that this took me by complete surprise when normally I find twists quite predictable and can work out the ending ahead of time.
This novel is highly recommended by me to all YA fans, particularly those who enjoy dystopia but are getting a little tired of it as the sci-fi element is utterly rejuvenating. I received an advance copy for free through Harper Collin’s Children’s Books UK and would like to really thank them for sending me this. I adored this book and as ever, my review is not affected by the means of receiving Partials! Partials is available to buy now! (less)
I know you’ve been waiting three months for this apology, but I have to start by saying that this isn’t an apology. I’m not sorry. I’m not. (1,...moreJuliet,
I know you’ve been waiting three months for this apology, but I have to start by saying that this isn’t an apology. I’m not sorry. I’m not. (1, Heart Shaped-Bruise, Byrne)
I approached this book with a little bit of concern; for a start I talked to Tanya on twitter and she is a wonderful person and I was dreading reading her debut and not liking it and having to tell her that, but it did sound amazing. The press release also compared it to one my favourite all-time novels, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, which set my expectations exceptionally high. As you know, high expectations can easily lead to disappointment though.
I was not disappointed in the slightest however. In fact, in the end I had to try and hold in my inner-fangirl and a long post about why this book and author is amazing. Whether I succeeded or not, I’ll leave up to you!
Heart-Shaped Bruise (HSB) tells Emily Koll’s story; she begins the novel in a psychiatric ward of a young offenders’ institution awaiting trial for an as yet unknown crime. Having listened to Tanya Byrne at the fabulous Creative Voices events at Foyles last week, she explained that Emily in fact has Borderline personality disorder, but has not been told this yet and that is why she behaves how she does.
The reason, we are told, for whatever leads Emily to await trial is to do with when Emily’s dad kills Juliet’s parents and she stabs him, everything is thrown into turmoil for both characters. Emily is shocked to learn her dad is a gangster, a murderer, and Juliet is placed in witness protection. When we’re young, we believe our parents are like superheroes and like Emily, I can remember the first times I realised my parents were human or they disappointed me. Granted it wasn’t quite so extreme, or illegal, for me, but that sense of betrayal and loss of innocence is one of those horrific things that happens before your grow up generally. Therefore, I could see why she blamed Juliet, as a catalyst, for everything. Naturally, I don’t condone stalking someone in witness protection and befriending them though which is what Emily does.
Both characters take on new identities within the novel which I found really interesting. As a teenager, I constantly attempted to reinvent myself, but the many incarnations of Lucy were still Lucy. Having to utterly change myself, my name, my look, everything? I don’t know if I could have done it or how I would have felt.
There is wonderful skill in Byrne’s characterisation; Emily pulls you right in and even though you know she’s done something wrong, you feel a great deal of emotion, even sympathy towards her. When you feel sympathy and like the villain of the novel, you know the author is doing their job really well and to be honest, this is a genuinely gorgeous book which has left me desperate to see what Tanya Byrne will do next. If this is her debut, what about her second or third novel?
The prose is beautiful and very quotable in places, a quality which I adored. I absolutely devoured my copy and read it in a matter of hours as I couldn’t put t down. This is definitely able to crossover into the adult market, in fact the hardback is the adult cover and the paperback will be the YA, but I don’t think it matters. This is a novel teenagers will get swept away by, this is also a novel I think adults will be swept away by. The main point here is obviously the sweeping.
There is a sort of romance and very slight love triangle, but it is written in such a way it doesn’t really feel like a triangle. I would say that this is because
I can’t spoil the end for you, but I hated it. I understood it, but I hated the decisions made by certain characters, but I was not a happy bunny.
If you loved The Perks of Being A Wallflower, are a contemporary YA fan, I cannot recommend this book highly enough to you. It already is in my top books of the year, and in one of my all time favourites perhaps already too.
Heart Shaped Bruise is Tanya Byrne’s debut novel and out now. I received a free proof of this novel in exchange for the above honest review.
Hollow Pike is James Dawson's debut novel and is a welcome addition to the British young adult movement. It tells the story of Lis, who has moved in w...moreHollow Pike is James Dawson's debut novel and is a welcome addition to the British young adult movement. It tells the story of Lis, who has moved in with her sister and her husband in Yorkshire after being hounded out of her school by bullies.
When she is bullied again by the class tormentor, Laura, Lis bonds with the school outcasts; Kitty, Delilah and jack and they scheme to teach her a lesson. After a practical joke however, Laura is killed.
Now, Lis and her friends need to solve the murder because they were also in the woods that night and may be in danger themselves.
The novel is set in a small town filled withlore and legends of witchcraft and Dawson brilliantly sets up the suspense here. For me, I never doubted Hollow Pike and its superstitious residents and minor characters like Mrs Gilespie create this atmosphere.
James Dawson has been a teacher and worked within diversity and bullying and this shows in his writing. His depiction of bullying in schools is brutally honest, as are the teachers' reactions - I am pretty sure in middle school I p had the exact same conversation as Lis with Mr Grey when he learns of her bullying - and this makes the novel more authentic and creates a plot and characters that feel so real and honest, I think teenagers will find something to relate to within this novel and love it.
Dawson's use of sexuality and the relationship between Kitty and Delilah is another testament to his writing. While some depictions of anything other than heterosexuality seem to ignore the concept or existence of bisexuality - yes, Glee, I'm looking at you, Kurt - Dawson's characters are cautious and working out who they are, whether they like boys, girls or both and it is written very well.
I loved the romantic development between Lis and Danny and thought it was a great portrayal of a teenage romance and that all encompassing first love and the doubts you're good enough.
This is not a particularly supernatural book, it is more a novel about the fear of an act than the act itself - the Crucible by Arthur Miller is offered as comparison frequently throughout the novel. For me, Dawson's strengths were his depictions of bullying, family, friendship and romance. I really look forward to more of his writing in the future.
I received my copy for free through Orion/ Indigo and am grateful for this. I was even more excited when I realised it was a signed copy and would like to thank Orion for sending me this. The tone of my review or content has not been influenced by any of the above.(less)
Beautiful novel that totally reinvigorated my love of YA. It actually made me cry, something that a book hasn't done to me since I was about 6. Full r...moreBeautiful novel that totally reinvigorated my love of YA. It actually made me cry, something that a book hasn't done to me since I was about 6. Full review of adoration and envy of Morgan Matson to come. (less)
This is a hard review to write. This book has a really important and surprising twist that I cannot tell you about as it would ruin the novel, absolut...moreThis is a hard review to write. This book has a really important and surprising twist that I cannot tell you about as it would ruin the novel, absolutely ruin it. This therefore means that there is a lot I cannot talk about in this review, but I’m going to do my best to give you a spoiler-free review for this awesome book, which means this is probably shorter than a lot of my reviews, but trust me you don’t want spoilers!
I heard about What’s Up With Jody Barton? on twitter, where the lovely Lacey (who works for Macmillan in publicity) told a lot of us bloggers about it and I cheekily asked if I could have a copy to review as it sounded great. When it arrived in the post, I instantly started it and in fact had finished it within one sitting.
What’s Up With Jody Barton? tells the story of Jody, twin to Jolene, who is put in that awkward position of liking your sister’s boyfriend. I adored Jody as the character was really well developed, from Jody’s love of RIver Phoenix and Jim Morrison to Jody’s math geek status. As a teenager, I was a little in love with River Phoenix and obsessively watched Stand By Me, Running On Empty and My Private Idaho a zillion times, no exaggeration. I even remember being terrified of injections and my best friend sitting with me for a jab and talking to me about River Phoenix. Then the horrid person with the needle said, isn’t he dead? and then stuck a needle in my arm. Not cool, not cool at all. Diversions aside, I’m sure you can see I really liked Jody and enjoyed reading about the character – because, let’s face it if you listen to The Doors and like River Phoenix then there is no denying your awesomeness.
What’s Up With Jody Barton? deals with identity and being a teenager really well, along with some other very timely and important themes for teens. I think this book is a definite must read as the plot twist is so skilfully written and hinted at throughout the novel, the characters feel very real and the Barton family is brilliantly written, especially the twins’ dad.
What’s Up With Jody Barton is published by Macmillan and available to buy now. I received my copy for free in exchange for my honest review from the publicist.
Katie Dale's debut novel, Someone Else's Life, is an absolute roller-coaster of a read, filled with more twists and drama than I ever expected. Katie...moreKatie Dale's debut novel, Someone Else's Life, is an absolute roller-coaster of a read, filled with more twists and drama than I ever expected. Katie Dale is a 'winner' of the 2008 Undiscovered Voices Anthology which publishes some of the best un-agented/published work by authors of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (British Isles).
When Rosie's mum, Trudie, was diagnosed with Huntington's disease, Rosie's entire life changed. She took care of her mum to her death and even worse than this, spent the entire time knowing she could have inherited this same disease.
After her mother's death she learns an even more shocking truth: she is not Trudie's biological daughter. Trudi's 'real' daughter was incredibly ill at birth and going to die so a family friend, Sarah, swapped the baby for Rosie, who had been abandoned by a teenage mother.
Devastated and curious about her 'real' parents, she joins her boyfriend Andy on a gap year to America to find them. Obviously, Rosie is dealing with the grief of Trudie, but I felt like she wanted to find her 'real' parents so quickly after finding out. That said, if I was the same position I am pretty sure that would be one of my instant reactions.
The relationship between Rosie and Andy was great. When the novel opens, we are introduced to them as estranged after Rosie distances herself following Trudi's illness and as the novel progresses their spark well and truly rekindles. I just loved the two of them together as they felt so natural together and you really end up rooting for them.
Without wanting to spoil the many unexpected twists I encountered in Someone Else's Life, I will say this: it's a book where you are just swept along on an incredibly powerful and emotional journey where what you expect to happen often doesn't.
When a novel deals with a plot like this, it can be really easy for it descend into a soap opera with flat 2-dimensional characters, but Someone Else's Life doesn't fall into this trap at all. The characters are complicated, relatable and well fleshed out. The fact that in a debut novel, this topic has been so well-handled makes me exceptionally excited to see Katie Dale's future work.
Most importantly this is a novel about family. What I loved was that Dale made the excellent point in the book that family is about more than blood, it's about who raises you - this is something I personally feel very strongly about, so I loved seeing this in a book.
I was able to read this novel through NetGalley as an e-galley ARC and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity Random House Children's Books presented me with. This was truly an excellent and highly recommended read.
Someone Else's Life is released February 2nd in the UK and on the 14th in the US.(less)
This review was first published at www.chooseya.com 15/2/2012 Slide is the debut novel of Jill Hathaway and a book I was eager to read it from the mome...moreThis review was first published at www.chooseya.com 15/2/2012 Slide is the debut novel of Jill Hathaway and a book I was eager to read it from the moment I read the summary. It combines two of my favourite types of writing: crime and young adult, plus it adds a really compelling paranormal twist to this.
Vee is narcoleptic, but while she has these episodes she 'slides' into someone else's mind unintentionally. This has been a blight on her life since it started as she hates touching or keeping things people may have imprinted on or touched, particularly those she loves, in case she slides into them.
When she slides one night however she witnesses the aftermath of the murder of a classmate that is later written off as suicide. With a killer around who may know about her sliding ability as they left a note on the night of the murder with the date that enabled her to slide into the murderer, Vee is on a dangerous mission to find the murderer and use what she otherwise counts as a hindrance for good all while everyone else tries to move on from a 'suicide.' I adored Vee, she's a really fun protagonist and has a very easy to read, vibrant and realistic voice despite being in a situation that is out of the ordinary. I think the simplicity of sliding as well makes the ability feel more natural and very easy to imagine. Her friendship with Archie and the complications that ensue are sympathetically and beautifully written, how do you feel when you begin to suspect your friend may have something to do with a murder? How is a friendship anyway when you cannot tell them a deep secret out of fear? Her ability as well terrified me, I cannot imagine how it would feel to that unwelcome power and the danger she is placed in. Narcolepsy is such a dangerous and scary illness to me as I hate to be out of control of my body and the situations Vee finds herself in really evoked this and impressed Vee's strength on me even more. This is not just a mystery novel, or a paranormal novel, it is also a novel about first love, about friendship, betrayal, family and letting yourself go. As a character, Vee goes through so much change and you are with her every step of the way as she opens up more about her sliding and tries to solve the crime. My only criticism is that I guessed the murderer, and who was with them from early on, however this was slightly turned on it's head a little by the end and I don't want to spoil it for the reader so won't go too much into it - this is also maybe just because I read a lot of crime and mystery novels and am used to guessing plot lines! There is a huge twist within the book that took me by surprise towards the end as well and I definitely had not guessed but made complete sense. This is a remarkable debut I loved and have no hesitation recommending. The concept is individual, exciting and compelling as is it's execution. I received an advanced copy of Slide for free from HarperCollins Children's Books and am very thankful for the chance to read this book. Slide is released on March 1st in the UK and March 27th in the US.(less)
This review was originally posted at http://wp.me/p1WDt5-4d (chooseya.com) for ChooseYA's Love Week Feb 7-14th 2012 on February 7th 2012.
Jennifer E Sm...moreThis review was originally posted at http://wp.me/p1WDt5-4d (chooseya.com) for ChooseYA's Love Week Feb 7-14th 2012 on February 7th 2012.
Jennifer E Smith's debut novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, has garnered a lot of hype and I would argue, it matches it. Smith tells the story of Hadley who is on her way to her dad's wedding across the pond in London when she misses her flight. Enter Oliver, an adorable British student at Yale who is on his way home on the next flight. the two of connect and the novel chronicles before, during and after the flight. I loved that both characters had their own problems that couldn't be solved by romance. In YA there can be a sense that romance is depicted as a solution to problems and not complicate them, when in life it is not that easy. This book however narrowly avoids this trope and I was really grateful for that.
The dialogue is exceptionally well-written and the relationship between the characters never feels rushed, which could so easily happen in a book like this. There is a wonderful humour and lightness to the book, as well as having some darker and more issue driven moments scattered throughout the novel but overall the lightness prevails as this is essentially a love story.
The real-time framing to the novel was really effective as well. As this is a technique I am more familiar with in fast paced shows such as 24, I was a little dubious when I first found about the set-up, however as I love 'real-time' as a concept in writing I was excited to see how Smith executed it and was very pleasantly surprised.
I really felt like I was taken on the journey with Hadley to reconnect with her father and I could understand how she felt. She grew a lot in a very short space of time but in a realistic way that I have to hand Smith a lot of credit for.
As for Oliver, he already has a spot on my favourite YA romantic interests. He was funny, sensitive and engaging, but under the surface there was a world of complication that was carefully depicted and hinted at. I loved his sense of humour as well and lighthearted way, which later I found a testament to his character when you discover what is happening in his life at that moment.
I highly recommend this novel for those who want a good quality, well written and engaging YA romance or contemporary fiction read. This book carries appeal to adults and teens alike.(less)
How To Save A Life is Sara Zarr’s first UK release and was a highly anticipated read for me from the moment an author whose writing I really love, Tan...moreHow To Save A Life is Sara Zarr’s first UK release and was a highly anticipated read for me from the moment an author whose writing I really love, Tanya Byrne, mentioned how much she enjoyed Zarr’s writing. When the lovely Amy and Usborne offered me a proof copy, I was desperate to read it and started it as soon as it arrived.
How To Save A Life is told through two narrators. Jill, whose dad recently died and now her mum suddenly wants to adopt a baby, and Mandy, a pregnant teenager who is desperate for her baby to have a better life. When Mandy comes to stay with Jill’s family before they adopt her baby, both characters’ lives collide with one another.
Multiple perspectives can be very difficult to read and write, as someone playing with that device in their writing now, I can definitely attest to this. You have to balance both characters’ stories and sustain the same tension and atmosphere when you switch perspectives. Zarr uses this device wonderfully and being able to read both Jill and Mandy’s story really enhances your understanding of the novel as the reader and doesn’t feel unnecessary.
For me, Jill was a very easy character to read and seemed very true to life and real. Grieving for the tragic and untimely death of her father, you can understand her reticence in wanting her mum to replace her dad with a new, shiny baby. I really liked how the friendship between her and Ravi, a new security guard at the bookstore she worked in and former school peer, developed in the book and the scenes with both of them were among the highlights of the novel, particularly when investigating Mandy. Jill’s conflict with her mother and her unusual decision was beautifully juxtaposed with her desire to protect her mum from being potentially hurt by Mandy.
Mandy herself was a character that could have become very stereotyped and clichéd, but Zarr made her personality and original characteristics shine through. Her backstory was really powerfully written and very emotional to read and her naiveté shone through, as I felt she was very naïve around guys.
The ending was somewhat unexpected but fabulous. If I’m honest, the very last chapter with Mandy was one I was a little dubious of but I did really like how Zarr left her characters at the ending. It is a truly heart-warming read I highly recommend.
Overall, this is a wonderful addition to the genre and I hope the first of many more of Zarr’s novels coming to the UK! Fans of YA contemporary will find a lot to adore in How To Save A Life. I received a free proof copy from Usborne for reviewing purposes. The above review is my honest opinion. How To Save A Life is out now! (less)