Monday, April 14, 2014

Book review: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

What would you do if you were told to never, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, cry?

Disclaimer:

This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Oh, and look out for a lovely Q&A with Lauren, which will be up on the blog tomorrow evening!


Teardrop by Lauren Kate (Doubleday)
I've been reading a lot of YA novels for a good couple of years now. In all this time, I've often encountered books that draw on ideas from others; some obvious rip-offs and others beautifully imagined retellings.

When I first heard about Teardrop, the book certainly gave me pause.

Not only have I not heard about a book that deals with a girl who is under strict instruction not to cry, but I was curious to see what kind of mythology this book would incorporate, as well as seeing how it would tie in with the story and title of the book.

Also, having long been a fan of Lauren Kate and her Fallen series, I was keen on finding out just how different a direction Teardrop, which is the first novel in a new series, would be in comparison to the prior series.

It turns out that Teardrop, while somewhat similar in terms of the fact that the atmosphere and settings in this novel also has that southern feel to it, couldn't be more different in terms of plot.

The other aspect it has in common with Fallen is that it's as slow to start as Fallen is.

I know that for many this is often not a good thing, but if you're the kind of reader who prefers a slow build up to events, then you'd probably appreciate this more than those who would rather focus on a plot that is fast-paced and action driven.

Admittedly, I nearly gave up on the novel, but am glad that I persevered, because I did end up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Lauren Kate has a knack for creating a world that's languid and sultry, while simultaneously imbuing it with the sense that underneath that lazy stillness, an epic storm is brewing.

Add to the fact that this novel is set in the Louisiana bayou, and you get the sense that you're being lulled into a false sense of security.

17-year old Eureka has been struggling to move on with her life after losing her mother in a freak accident that should have left both of them dead, but only Eureka alive. With nothing left to live for, she spends most of her days functioning as an automaton, trying to fight her suicidal urges almost every single day.

When her path crosses with that of Ander, a boy who seems to be everywhere she goes, her life takes an unexpected turn; especially when she finds herself discovering more about an ancient tale that tells the story of a girl who cried an entire continent into the ocean; a tale that she herself, may have more of a connection to than she realises.

Soon it becomes clear that there's more to her mother's death than what she was led to believe and that unlocking the mystery of her heritage, while bringing her some much-needed answers, will also put her life and those of hers closest to her, at risk.

The events that soon unfold will test everything she thought she knew about her mother and herself.

First books in trilogies or series are often hard to get right.

On the one hand, as an author, you need to make sure you engage your target audience with enough information, a strong plot and interesting characterisation without giving anything away in the first book.

On the other hand, you need to develop the book in such a way, that it not only makes readers want to invest in this new world they've immersed themselves in, but also have them begging for more at the end of it.

Teardrop is a book that, for me, falls somewhere in between the two.

Lauren's created an interesting cast of characters; they're not necessarily all likeable, but their roles are suitably filled for it, both in terms of the readers' perspective and how the characters perceive other characters.

Eureka, in particular is a rather complex and complicated character. I mostly found myself sympathetic towards her, given that her home life hasn't been easy following the death of her mother.

With a stepmother who spends most of her time trying to control her and a father who seems to be too busy to really find out how she's doing, Eureka feels like she's just drifting through the day.

However, there were a number of times she really frustrated me.  Her interactions with Ander, veered between outright mistrust to a weird closeness, that at times, felt a little too contrived for me.

Having said that, she does grow on me as the novel progresses, especially towards the end when she proves that she'll do anything to keep her loved ones alive.

What I loved most about Teardrop though, is the story behind the story.

While I certainly had some theories behind the story, the mythology explored in this novel was something that was both tragic and enchantingly romantic.

Lauren teases the reader with snippets that are spread out throughout the book and that are translated by another interesting character, Madame Yuki Blavatsky, a fortune-teller who is quite versed in translating ancient texts written in languages that no longer exist.

The mythical element of the novel becomes more pronounced and reveals a story of a time and place that are filled with magical folk that are looking for a way to revive a world that once existed before.

The most surprising thing about this is that, I would never have figured that Louisiana as a setting would be a place of origin for the myth. In fact, the little that I know about Louisiana and its climate, makes it a bit of an anomaly.

And an interesting one at that.

On top of that, Ander's history and how it affects his role in Eureka's life, combined with the undercurrents of a mounting supernatural and malevolent force trying to rise to the surface, adds a dynamic that makes Teardrop the unique offering that it is. One that's definitely worth reading!

I, for one, can't wait to read Waterfall, the next instalment in the Teardrop trilogy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book talk: 10 Bookish rules to live by

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of my columns here, and seeing as I’ve been whinging a lot about readers who don’t return books in the same condition it was lent to them, on Twitter, I thought I’d post this little column on book rules to live by.

Warning: Some (mostly harmless) snark ahead. :-))

The first two points are most important as they involve, and are addressed to the non-readers in our lives.

Here goes:

1) Stop interrupting us when we’ve huddled into the most comfortable spot imaginable and are completely immersed in the world between the pages.

Unless someone needs to be rushed to the hospital or the house is on fire, we will assume that any of your mortal needs can either be taken care of by you, or by the other person in the house who doesn't read.

2. Avoid trying to persuade us to get rid of books because you think there’s no space.

The floor is a space.

If you trip over a book, it’s not the book’s fault. You just need to be more careful and watch where you’re going, for goodness sake! You could damage the book you're tripping over.

The points below are for the fellow bookish folk we can all relate so well to.

3. Return books that were lent to you. No one likes a book thief.

4. Oh, and if you do bring the book back, the only coffee stains we want to see on them, are no coffee stains.

5. Don’t mock people for their choice of reading material. Every book has its place and there’s room for every kind of reader.  If you want to read that naughty bodice ripper, I say go for it.

And if you want to wax lyrical about the most obscure piece of literature out there, then by all means do it. Just as long as it makes you happy.

6. Have an opinion about a book you’ve never read? Well, aren’t you precious? By all means, love or hate a book, but if you choose to feel something about a book, shouldn’t you at least have given it a fair chance before forming an opinion about it?

Sure, some books warrant that “I couldn’t get past the first chapter feeling,” but you’d need to have opened the book for you to have that feeling, wouldn’t you?

My issue isn't with those who think a book is rubbish, but with the people who make up their mind about a book before they've sat down to actually read it. Instead what they do, is read dissertations and online columns and opinions about it, and automatically absorb those as their opinions.  

7. Try not to spoil book endings. Spoil it for yourself if you must (I know lots of people who are fond of sneaking a peek at the back), but for many people, it's not just about the journey that takes you there, but about how it all ends. No one should be robbed of that, don't you think?

8. Ditch the e-book vs paperback debate. Personally, I believe there is room for both and if e-books and e-readers are getting more, then who am I to say “be gone with you e-menace?”

While I certainly and mostly read paperbacks (and will probably always have a preference for them), I wouldn’t get rid of my Kindle or my reading apps on my phone at all. It’s the stairs and escalator analogy over again. I like knowing that both are at my disposal.

9. Try not to think too badly of those who mess up the book-to-film adaptations.

Wait. Forget I said this immediately. Judge as mercilessly as you want.

10. Always make time to visit the library. There’s a treasure trove to be found that’s worth more than a Valentino design. Even if the physical price says otherwise.

Those are just a few of the rules in my list. Why don't you tell me about the rules you'd add to your own book manifesto?
I’d love to read what you have to say.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

History is relived through the eyes of an angry, sad girl who, in the midst of her downward spiral, finds that sometimes the biggest revolutions that happen are the ones that occur within.

Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (Boomsbury Publishing)
Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution is a book that I bought on a whim, about three years ago. 

I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t read it back then – given that the book blogosphere were pretty much raving about it since it was first released – but, having gorged myself on Dystopian fiction for the last couple of months , I finally decided to pick this one up.

And am I glad I did, because Revolution not only proved to be one of the best YA historical fiction reads I’ve read, but it’s also reminded me how much I’ve neglected a genre that I’ve always adored.

If you've ever read Sepulchre or Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (another author whose work I adore), you'll know that she's fond of employing a dual-narrative structure, alternating between the past and present; telling the stories through the eyes of two different women.

Revolution is a novel that employs a similar tactic; one that I'm becoming even more fond of than I was before.

The juxtaposition between cities and landscapes of today, against the backdrop of a yesteryear-come-to-life is something that makes me want to relive that in all of its contemporary and historical glory.

Modern day Brooklyn, New York, introduces us to Andi Alpers.

Broken, sad, rage-fuelled Andi. 

A girl who once had it all together, but lost it when her younger brother died.  A girl who, because of those circumstances, hates her father for leaving, is forced to look after a mother who’s not coping, and who herself, is walking on the edge of suicide.

The only thing keeping her going?

Her love and passion for her musical gift. Andi is an extraordinarily talented guitarist and takes comfort in playing until her fingers bleed.

It’s only when she’s on the verge of failing her grades , that Andi’s estranged father intervenes and takes her with him to Paris in order to complete her thesis on Amadé Malherbeau, a French Composer who lived during the period of The French Revolution.

Expecting to hate every minute of her time there, Andi is surprised when she stumbles upon an old guitar case (guitar included, much to her delight) and a hidden compartment which contains the diary of a young girl who lived during Revolutionary France.

From the diary entries, we’re taken back to Paris, 1795, where the story of Alexandrine Paradis, a young street performer, comes to life.

Doing her best to survive in a tumultuous world where France was not just experiencing a revolution, but where  a reign of terror would follow and civil war whispered around every single corner, Alexandrine does all that she can to provide for herself and immediate relatives by performing in the streets.

When she inadvertently gains the attention of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s youngest son with a puppeteering act, her life takes an unexpected turn that will soon see her at the heart of the Revolution; changed from being a girl with a self-serving purpose, to one who’ll defy everything and everyone in her quest to try and save the life of that same 10-year old boy.

Revolution is truly, truly an incredible read.

Not least because of the beauty of the writing (although, the book is already a winner based on that alone), but because the story is so intricately layered and has such a tremendous amount of depth to it, that you're not just merely getting an account of a historic event, but also a poignant story which interweaves itself between the real version of events.

If you're a fan of music and history, combined with heroines that push beyond the limits of their fear for the sake of loved ones, then Revolution will be right up your alley. 

Andi and Alex are characters, whom at first glance, only have their love of their charges in common, but it soon becomes apparent that each of them have physical and internal battles that overlap. 

These girls' lives are intertwined in a way that's riveting and poignant and will have you rooting for both of them, in spite of the fact that they both, initially, aren't characters you'd necessarily want to have as your best friend.

Andi , especially, is not particularly likeable during the first few chapters. Grief-stricken by her loss and angry at the world, she makes no bones about how much she hates everyone and everything around her.  Her words are cutting and cruel and she says what she says with the intent to hurt.

Alex, on the other hand, is initially unlikeable for a completely different reason.  Her reasons for wanting to get close to the young boy she's put in charge of, is one that starts of as being nothing short of mercenary. 

To be fair though, while she certainly wants to make a name for herself, she does have somewhat of a Robin Hood complex going on, and does her best to provide for her family.

The dynamics and how these characters grow throughout the novel will soon have you singing a different tune altogether. 

You'll weep for their plights and you'll root for them as they navigate through times fraught with angst, a quest for musical knowledge and healing (in Andi's case), to mutiny, war and a desperate need to survive long enough for the sake of a young boy.   

In Alex's words:

“I will go out again this very night with my rockets and fuses. I will blow them straight out of their comfortable beds. Blow the rooftops off their houses. Blow the black, wretched night to bits. I will not stop. For mad I may be, but I will never be convenient.”

Feisty and courageous isn't she?

There's even some romance in the book (who can resist a boy who composes his own music and sings a girl to sleep when she's at her lowest point), although that certainly isn't the main focus here. 

Rather, I think the book focuses on the very aspect of different kinds of war; be it a physical one, or the battle within ourselves. 

Not only that, but it's a beautiful, brutal and bloody tale of music and ghosts of the past. It’s a tale of guillotines and massacres, and a tale of romance and catacombs.

It’s a story where the dead come alive and history is relived through the eyes of an angry, sad girl who, in the midst of her downward spiral, finds that sometimes the biggest revolutions that happen are the ones that occur within.

It's one of the best historical YA novels I’ve ever read.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blog tour: Writing into the Void – dyslexia in Young Adult fiction by Katie Scott

Today I have the privilege of welcoming Kate Scott, author of the contemporary YA novel, Counting to D.

Now for those of you who haven’t heard about this book yet, Counting to D is a novel that tackles a topic that’s very much underrepresented in YA fiction: dyslexia.

When I first heard about it, my curiosity was immediately piqued.

For one, I’ve never read a book that deals with dyslexia, and secondly, it strikes me that this book must have had an additional and challenging aspect to it – not only in terms of writing, but also in terms of the fact that, because it’s a topic that’s generally swept under the radar, not as many people would generally consider reading it.

Especially when they have nothing to compare it to.

In today’s guest post, and as part of the Counting to D blog tour, Kate chats to us about why she’s chosen to write about a protagonist who has a learning disability, the marketing value of book comparisons and what she hopes readers will take from it once they've read it.


As always, here’s some information about the book, followed by the post.
 
About Counting to D:
The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate.

Sam is sick of it.

So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem.

Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust.

When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect.

But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret.

The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to readers will take away from this book once they’ve read it.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Over to Kate.

Writing into the Void – dyslexia in Young Adult fiction

Comparable titles (a.k.a. “comp titles”) are a must-have in the publishing world. Readers who enjoy books by Meg Cabot might also like books by Marni Bates, and people who love Sarah Dessen should read Huntley Fitzpatrick.

This strategy works great for book marketing professionals and readers alike, assuming they only want to read within a narrow genre.

Fiction in general—but contemporary young adult fiction in particular—is startlingly lacking in diversity.

Have you ever noticed how many YA books are set at posh boarding schools? VERY FEW American teens actually attend boarding schools, but you would never know that from reading YA fiction.

There is a need for more characters of color in kid lit. There is a need for more LGBTQ books. And there is also a need for more books featuring characters with learning disabilities and other alternative thinking styles.

Counting to D is my young adult novel about a dyslexic teenager. My largest motivating factor in writing this book was that I knew it was a story people weren’t telling.

There aren’t any comp titles to it, but there should be. Because people like Sam exist, and they deserve to have their stories told.

Right now, the closest comp titles for Counting to D are probably OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. They are both fabulous books that should be on everyone’s to-read list.

Neither of these books have a dyslexic main character, but they do feature main characters with OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome, respectively. In today’s remarkably non-diverse market, that is considered close enough.

I hope a few years from now, things will be different. I hope Counting to D won’t stay the YA book about dyslexia. I hope it is only the first of many.

But for now, I’m a little short on comp titles. I can’t easily market to readers who loved book XYZ, promising they’ll love mine, too. Book XYZ doesn’t exist.

I am writing into a void and hoping, somehow, that my words can carve out a place for themselves. I’ve read some very fun stories about pretentious teens at New England boarding schools, but as a reader, I’m ready for something new.

As a writer, I hope Counting to D can be that something new for at least a few readers. The world is filled with seven billion individuals, and our diversity is what makes life here on earth so interesting. It should be what makes our fiction interesting, too.

Thanks so much for joining me on the blog today, Kate.  

More about Kate:
Kate Scott lives in the suburbs outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband Warren. Kate was diagnosed with dyslexia as a young child but somehow managed to fall in love with stories anyway.

Counting to D is her first novel.

When Kate isn't writing, she enjoys listening to audiobooks, camping, and spending time with her friends and family.

Kate also spends a lot of time doing math and sciencey things and is a licensed professional engineer.

Where you can find her:
Twitter 
Facebook 
Website
Goodreads

Friday, February 14, 2014

Author guest post (plus excerpt): Of Princes and Princesses in romantic fantasy fiction by AJ Nuest

Today’s guest post is a rather fitting one, given that it’s (to some) the most romantic day of the year.

While I certainly am a huge fan of romance, especially romance in fantasy fiction, I must confess that I’m not too big on Valentine’s Day myself. However, I’m not THAT against it that I’m not willing to feature a guest post from a lovely author about princes and princesses in romantic fantasy fiction.

And lovely author, AJ Nuest, author of a series of romantic fantasy reads - one of her recent releases being Rowena’s Key – was more than happy to oblige.

As always, I’ve included some more info of the book, followed by the guest post and excerpt below.  


About Rowena’s Key:
 
The key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart.

Antiques restorer, Rowena Lindstrom, finds herself the owner of an ancestral armoire containing a hidden key and a magic mirror leading to another realm.

But the handsome warrior prince waiting on the other side is truly the final straw. This must be an elaborate joke, right?

As she struggles to discover the truth, Rowena learns Prince Caedmon Austiere needs the key to save his kingdom.

In the end, she cannot deny him anything. Including her heart.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

And now, over to AJ

For the love of princes and princesses in fantasy romance

Greetings fellow readers and bloggers! I was invited by the lovely Tammy to stop in today with a post about Prince and Princesses, Kings and Queens in Romantic Fantasy Fiction! Whoo Hoo! I totally love writing that line.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enamored with the concept of a prince and princess falling in love.

I blame Disney—and their ever-present worldwide inundation of Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, etc. I was obsessed with the movies as a kid and this fascination followed me into adulthood.

(No matter how old I get, deep down I’m still that little girl who experiences a flutter of excitement in her belly the moment she hears another Disney Princess is about to hit the big screen.)

It was no surprise to me that as I started my career as an author, I chose romance as my genre of choice. Nor was I surprised by my recent foray into the world of fantasy romance. Simply put, I’m in love with falling in love—even more so when a swashbuckling, handsome young prince is involved. 


It wasn’t until recently, when Tammy asked why I thought the concept of Prince and Princesses had such a wide appeal, that I had to step back and really think about it. What is it, exactly, that draws so many folks to the genre of fantasy romance?

Some could argue the attraction lies in image of a tall, strapping young hero charging in to save the day.

And I’d have to agree.

There is definitely something to be said for an aptly timed rescue. However, I’m not really one for the shrinking princess who hides out in her tower for fear she might break a nail.

I like my heroines feisty. And a woman who isn’t afraid to save herself despite some dire circumstance appeals to the modern side of my personality.

Maybe the appeal holds somewhat more of a “royal” nature.

I gotta admit, falling for a man who may one day rule a country does have a nice ring to it. For starters, I’d never have to wash another load of laundry or cook another meal. I could sit near the fire and get room service with the snap of my fingers.

However, I also like an element of adventure and danger with my romance, and the idea of a heroine who refuses to get her hands dirty makes me cringe. No snobs here, thank you very much.

We all put our pants on one leg at a time.

Admittedly, I have a “thing” for tortured heroes. Perhaps therein lies my attraction.

A lot of princes are conveyed as reluctant heroes—you know, the guy who doesn’t really want to be a prince because he finds the rules too confining or his role in the kingdom too burdensome?

But there, again, I prefer a strong hero who isn’t about to take orders from anyone…especially as far as his future is concerned. Give ʼem to me virile, determined and steadfast in their pursuits. No namby-pamby heroes here.

So what is it that I love? I deliberated the issue for quite a few hours before it finally hit me.


As a purveyor of fantasy romance, I expend vast amounts of time staring at words on the page…or rather the computer screen…so, for me, my love for this genre is all about the prose.

And, more specifically, the dialogue. Ahhh…

There is just something about the way a prince speaks, the dialect, the romantic pentameter of his voice. It makes me swoon like that first upside-down, feet aimed the sky, swing on a swing set.

Give a man the ability to whisper sweet nothings in my ear and I am putty in your hands.

Case in point, an excerpt from Rowena’s Key, Book I, The Golden Key Chronicles:

He studied the pensive shifting of her eyes. She was, in some ways, less… and, in others, far beyond what he’d expected.

A sorceress, yes, and yet she was more an innocent than the conniving witch Fandorn had cautioned him against. An unwitting victim of these torturous circumstances, much like him.

He lifted a finger to the mirror and traced the edge of her jaw, so refined, like a piece of the finest china. Her lips curved in a gentle smile before she touched the glass, meeting his finger with the tip of hers.

The veil shimmered and hummed at the contact and, when he lifted his brows in surprise, an alluring blush of amazement crossed her face as well.

She opened her hand and placed her palm flush against the mirror. He followed suit and a shallow vibration pulsed up the length of his arm. Warmth flooded his skin.

“Do you feel that?” she whispered.

“Like Helios’ golden rays, full on my face.”

“The buzzing is almost metallic, and yet I can sense the pressure of your hand.”

Caedmon glanced away. He was one step nearer his goal. One breath closer to losing his heart. “The barrier between our worlds weakens.”

She quickly withdrew her hand and understanding flitted across her face, but her eyes remained shrouded in sadness and her shoulders lowered as if weighted by a heavy burden.

“Seems you were the right choice, after all.”

She shook her head, yawned and lay down along the span of a lace coverlet. When she tucked her hands under her pillows, the gentle waves of her hair spilled a pool of gold beneath the delicate frame of her face. “Caedmon, can I ask you a favor?”

He would obey her every command, and when she slept, he would stand guard over her to ensure she remained safe.

“You have but to ask, Sorceress.”

She smiled. “Please, call me Rowena. And now I want you to tell me everything you remember about your mother.”  

 
So what about you? What is your favorite thing about Prince and Princesses in fantasy romance?

 
More about AJ:

Multi-published, award winning author, AJ Nuest resides in a small farming community in NW Indiana.

A wife, mother and freelance editor, she shares her home with a variety of spoiled-rotten pets. She and the cat are currently vying for dictatorship.

Purchase Rowena’s Key:

Amazon Buy Link
Amazon UK Buy Link


Where you can find her:
Website 
Goodreads
Blog 
Facebook Page 
Author FB Page 
Twitter
Pinterest


 
Thanks for stopping by AJ!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

I absolutely can't wait. I'm so, so very thrilled with this trailer. I'm incredibly impressed with the acting - more than I ever thought I would be, given that there's been so many of the books I love that were adapted to film, never quite matched up to my expectations. Both in terms of casting, acting and presentation.

I have high hopes for this. Very high hope
s.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book review: Trafficked by Kim Purcell

Behind the facade of the white picket fence, lies a house filled with the ugliest of secrets and the dirtiest of lies.
 
Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Trafficked by Kim Purcell (Speak)
When I first finished reading this book, I had no intention of giving it a very high rating.

In fact, my initial thought was that this book was maybe worth a fair-weathered 3 out of 5. Good, but not all that mesmerising.

Since I was so indecisive about it, I decided to step back from focusing on the technical aspects of rating, and just reflect on the contents of the book over the days that would follow (something I usually do with most books I read anyway).

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that, actually, this is the kind of book I really, really love.

Sure, it left me with more questions than answers, but don't some of the best books do that?

The good characters made my heart ache, the antagonists made me rage against the injustices they inflicted on others and the story itself was filled with so much heart, that when I think back on it now, I can't for the life of me remember why I wanted to dismiss this as an average book.

Actually, wait. Bear with me for a bit, because I think I do know why.

A lovely writer friend and I were having a discussion about how many of the commercial reads out there seem to be following and doing what most blockbuster movies are doing these days: going with a storyline, but focusing on the ‘bang, bang, pow!’ aspects of the story, instead of the heart and soul of the actual story itself.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, and goodness knows, I do enjoy my fair share of action-packed, plot-driven stories, I think that we often forget about just how wonderful stories that have more subtle nuances and focus more on subtext and what lies beneath the surface, are.

Because sometimes, it’s those what’s-not-being-said moments that speak the loudest, and to me, Trafficked is one such book.

I don’t deny that this book is for everyone. In fact, if you’re a fan of books where everything knits itself together and all loose ends are tied up, then you may just want to give this one a skip.

However, if you want to see a realistic portrayal of a topic that is a tragic reality, and one that will leave you thinking about it for days on end, then this is just the book for you.

Hannah is a beautiful 16-year old girl from Moldova (near to Ukraine and Romania).

Having lost her parents in a bomb blast, things haven’t been going well for her and her ailing babushka.

When she’s offered the chance to work as a nanny in Los Angeles, she grabs it with both hands, with the reasoning that she’d not only be able to learn English, but that she’d eventually earn enough money to send back home.

Upon arriving, it’s not long before Hannah discovers that the dream she’s been offered, is a far cry from the reality she finds herself in.

At first everything appears to be going well. Hannah’s placed with Sergey, Lillian, Maggie and Michael, a Russian family who live in a beautiful suburban area - one that is a carbon cut-out of the American dream ideal.

Expected to work and clean, Hannah’s only too happy to help, excited by the prospect of earning and raising enough money for her ailing grandmother’s operation.  It also helps that she gets along with the children almost right from the start.

But soon Hannah begins to notice some things.

Things such as: why she’s working 16 hours a day; things such as her never being allowed to leave the house, and things such as the fact that after the first few weeks of being there, she still hasn’t been paid.

What she also can’t miss is Sergey’s wife, Lillian’s increasingly hostile behaviour towards her.

And the thinly-veiled insinuations from Lillian’s sharp-tongued friend, Rena? It only serves to increase Lillian’s suspicions and raging paranoia.

To make matters worse, there are times that Hannah is convinced that Sergey wants something more from her than just a friendly smile, something that she’s not prepared to give.

As the weeks mount and the tension builds, she not only begins to suspect that something’s wrong in the household she’s staying in, but also that the reason she was chosen may be closely linked to the reason why her parents were killed.

Trafficked is a novel that everyone should read. Not only because it deals with an issue that’s unfortunately so prevalent, but because this book delves into aspects of Trafficking that so many people overlook.

When one thinks of Trafficking, one often thinks of girls being forced into prostitution.

Now while that certainly is a massive and horrendous part of it(and one that still doesn’t get enough coverage, much less have anything done about it), this novel focuses more on events that often precede it - girls being tricked into forced labour, and subjected to long, hard and thankless working hours.

The worst part of this?

Because most of them are illegals (and underage to boot), they have no way of getting any help;  running the risk of being jailed because they’re in a foreign country.

Kim Purcell’s character, Hannah is pretty remarkable. She’s wonderfully drawn out – curious, hopeful, courageous and strong in a quiet and reverberating way.

Although she’s generally cautious, her innate sense of goodness (and naivety) often lead her to ignoring those uncomfortable twinges she gets about certain people, resulting in her finding herself in daunting and perilous situations.

As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel the sense of hopelessness and helplessness that she felt when things were at their worst. I found myself wanting to comfort her, wishing I could help her and hoping against hope that she’d use that inner strength to find some way out.

But that’s not all.

One of the most important and most gut-wrenching aspects of this novel is the interactions between Lillian and Hannah.

As a woman, I believe that we should support one another, not break each other down, and experiencing Hannah’s agony at Lillian’s increasingly cold, callous and vicious hand, filled me with a huge amount of despair and desolation.

Not only that, but I was left with a feeling of helpless rage.

Rage towards a woman that was cruel to a lost, lonely teen who only wanted the best for her family. 

Rage because this woman is a mother whose instinct should be to nurture and protect, not to pass on the role of mother to a young girl who’s just lost her parents.

… And rage because this woman chose the vanity of her ego and paranoia over the word of vulnerable teen who was cast into the role of outsider from the moment she arrived.

I know.  It certainly doesn’t make for easy reading, does it?

It’s on that note that I have to add that I think it’s a great testimony to an author when a reader can feel so much fury towards a despicable character – for me, it speaks of a character that’s been created by an author finely attuned to the physical and emotional nuances and external forces that can affect the protagonists – in this case Hannah – in a novel.   

And in this novel, there are plenty of these moments. 

Trafficked is a beautifully written, slow, but insidious burn that will keep you edge - pushing and pulling you towards a devastating climax and an ending that will haunt you for days afterwards.

It’s a novel that gives no easy answers, has no easy resolutions and one that everyone interested and invested in the fight for human rights, should read.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 YA Books I’m looking forward to reading this year

What I love most about January (besides the first-month-of-the-year hopeful vibes it brings) is that it gives me the opportunity to compile books-to-look-forward-to lists. 

I’ve been stalking a slew of lists and publisher websites and I’ve stumbled across some forthcoming reads that have me salivating. 

Some you may have already seen, some not; but for me, that’s the beauty of making and stumbling across these posts. There’s always a book that’s waiting for you to: discover it, add it and then, count down the days until you can buy it.

So, in the spirit of sharing and squeeing over up and coming books of 2014, here’s my list of YA books I’m really excited about (There are obviously more, but I’m practising my newly acquired habit of restraint).

Thinking of doing an Adult fiction reads one too, but for now, these are the books that are making me go:
  



1. Banished by Liz de Jager

Date of publication: February 27th 2014
Publisher: Tor UK


Reason why I’m going gaga over this book: FAERIES.

Um, See my blog name? See mentions of Fae in this blurb? Need I say more? :)

I didn’t think so.  Check out the blurb below.  Also, it’s the first book in a trilogy, so definitely one to look forward to enjoying more of!

 
Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives.

And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in.

With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world.

Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Add to Goodreads

2. Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Date of publication: 8 July 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 

Reason for bookflailing all over the place: Knights, warrior, a gorgeous title and a feisty and street-smart heroine who scales walls and joins forces with an Assassin’s Guild?

Consider me sold!

I’ll be reading and reviewing a prequel to Midnight Thief - Poison Dance - shortly.


Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. 

But when the leader of the Assassin’s Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. 


She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down.

But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces.

And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

Add to Goodreads

3. Glimpse by Kendra Leighton

Publication date: June 19th 2014
Publisher: Much-in-Little


Reason why: Two words: The Highwayman. 

I’ve been waiting for ages for someone to write a book inspired by and based on this and it seems I’m finally getting my wish.

I'm obsessed with legends, poems, myths and folklore, so this definitely sounds up my alley.

Liz only wants to be normal.

Seven years ago Liz was in a car accident which killed her mother and left her with no memory of the first ten years of her life.

Since then nothing has felt quite right: on top of the perpetual nightmares, she keeps catching glimpses of things, things that can't really be there, that no-one else can see.

When she inherits the famous Highwayman Inn from her grandfather, and moves to live there with her dad, she is convinced it will be a fresh start: but if anything, life at the Inn is stranger than ever.

The sinister caretaker and his creepy son seem to be watching her constantly . . . A boy called Zachary keeps haunting her . . . And out of the pitch-black night, the Highwayman comes riding.

Inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem 'The Highwayman', Glimpse is a ghost story, a love story, and a story of overcoming trauma

Add to Goodreads

4. Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Publication date: 11 March 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin 

All the book squees because:  The beautiful title, the infusion of music, forest settings and all things magical has me dancing all the happy dances, because these are a few of my favourite things.

Also, myths and legends surrounding this music school? It makes me want to open and explore the world and its secrets. 


A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems. Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix.

But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real.

This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique.

Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate.

But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Add to Goodreads

5. The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy
Publication date: September 2nd 2014
Publisher: Entangled: Teen 

All the whys: This book had me at its lovely title. I adore books with wintery and snowy settings and this one sounds like it has all that and so much more.

Also, it’s hard not to get sucked into a description of a book where there are strange beings, lurking darkness and creatures in the woods.

Can’t believe this book is only being released in September though. Sigh.


An engrossing, complex, romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore or Maggie Stiefvater, set in a wholly unique world.

Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child.

Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away."

For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.
 


Salome discovers she’s a key player in a world she’s tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family’s property.

Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, his interactions with Salome take her life in a new direction.

A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop. An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.

Add to Goodreads

6. Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Publication date: August 5th 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
 
All the book excite because:  Phantom of the Opera retelling set in a slaughterhouse? YES PLEASE!

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most.

When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik.

At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined.

She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it

Add to Goodreads

7. The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Publication date: April 10th 2014
Publisher: Razorbill 

Reason: All of the words below. Oh, and the gorgeous, gorgeous title and everything that it implies.

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom.

Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).


Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other.

So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.

Add to Goodreads

8. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Publication date:
April 22nd 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 

The why: I think the blurb of the book sums it up perfectly (highlighted below).  Also, this book kind of makes me want to reread Across the Barricades again. 

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city.

But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade.

She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


Add to Goodreads


9. Nil by Lynne Matson
Publication date:
March 4th 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.


Why I can’t wait for it:  An island shrouded in mystery, unknown rules and the question of what happens after the 365 days (more specifically, how you die) is up, has me waiting not-so-patiently for this book.

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules.

She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love.

With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.

Add to Goodreads

10. Followers by Anna Davies
Publication date:
24th June 2014
Publisher: Point

All the chills:  Live-tweeting murders on campus? This is one book I can’t see myself putting down.

Also, I’ll probably read this with the light on. And, how creepy is the cover? The model looks like she could be the Bride of Chucky.

Seriously though, this sounds incredibly intriguing – I already want to know who’s responsible and why.


To tweet or not to tweet . . . what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school's production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department's "social media director" and starts tweeting half-hearted updates.

She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can't muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark . . . and a body's rotting in the theater" are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana's rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone's horror, the grisly tweets continue . . . and the body count starts to rise.

There's no other explanation; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it's up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions . . . or she becomes the next victim.

Add to Goodreads

And that’s it from me.

Have you made a list? What books are you most looking forward to? Feel free to leave a comment and share a link if you’ve done a similar post. I’d love to check yours out.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shadowplay Blog Tour: Laura Lam’s Top 5 Favourite Ya Fantasy Novels

As part of the Shadowplay blog tour, I’m excited to, once again welcome Laura Lam to my blog today. For those who don’t know, or haven’t heard about Laura Lam’s books before, Shadowplay is the sequel to her debut YA fantasy novel, Pantomime.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of her blog tour for the first book (you can check out my review here), and am super thrilled to be part of the tour for Shadowplay.

During the Pantomime blog tour, Laura stopped by an introduced us to the world within her book, complete with complete picture tour. If you’ve checked out her books on Goodreads, you’ll see that not only has she’s posted a visual representation of what the world within Pantomime is like (a similar post was featured on my blog), but she’s also done one for Shadowplay.

I’d suggest you visit Goodreads and check out them out and add it to your TBR pile:
Pantomime
Shadowplay


In the meantime, before I hand over to Laura, here’s some info on Shadowplay:

(Note: If you haven’t read Pantomime yet, you may want to skip the summery) 


About Shadowplay:

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske.

When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus—the runaway daughter of a noble family.

And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey

Over to Laura – welcome and thanks again for visiting my blog!

Top 5 YA fantasy novels

I’ve tried to come up with a spread of both recent reads I loved and ones I fell in love with as a teen. I’ve listed them from most recently read. 


1. Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott.

I read this last year and absolutely loved it. It’s a retelling of Cinderella in a pseudo-Medieval Japan-type world. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and evocative, I definitely recommend it.

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


2. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman.

This is another book I read last year and absolutely adored. It started out a bit slow for me, and I almost even put it down about 50 pages in.

I’m so glad I stuck with it, though, because I ended up staying up until 3.30 in the morning to read it, and I NEVER do that. I love my sleep.

I can’t wait for the sequel!

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.

Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers.

As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion.

Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs.

While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 

3. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.

I’m counting all three as one book. I remember reading this series when

I was just thinking about writing YA and thinking “Yes! I want to write something clever and beautiful, with a fully-realised world.” Also, I want a daemon. And that ending :’(

In "The Golden Compass," readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world.

In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal daemon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.


"The Subtle Knife" is the second part of the trilogy that began with "The Golden Compass." That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world.

In "The Subtle Knife," readers are introduced to Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England. Will is only twelve years old, but he bears the responsibilities of an adult.


Following the disappearance of his explorer-father, John Parry, during an expedition in the North, Will became parent, provider and protector to his frail, confused mother.

And it's in protecting her that he becomes a murderer, too: he accidentally kills a man who breaks into their home to steal valuable letters written by John Parry. After placing his mother in the care of a kind friend, Will takes those letters and sets off to discover the truth about his father.

"The Amber Spyglass" brings the intrigue of "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife "to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 


4. Immortals Quartet – Tamora Pierce.
 

I went through a period where I basically only read Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, and Mercedes Lackey.

I remember spending Christmas gift vouchers on them, or huddling in the corner of the store to read them, or getting them from the library.

I liked that many of them had strong female characters, and I remember in particular loving this story which featured a girl with a kinship with animals.

Cover copy of Wild Magic, the first book in the series:

Young Daine's knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall.

Soon it becomes clear that Daine's talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical.

Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


5. The Lost Years of Merlin – T.A. Barron.

This was another series I loved. I got the first one as a Christmas present and read all of them.

I loved the idea of learning about young Merlin.

I haven’t read these in about 12 years, so wondering how it’d hold up on a re-read (sometimes I’m afraid to do that and discover I don’t like them as much as an adult, nostalgia non-withstanding)

This American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults is a brilliant epic adventure dealing with the literary wizard.

A young boy who has no identity nor memory of his past washes ashore on the coast of Wales and finds his true name after a series of fantastic adventures.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Thanks for sharing your top 5 with us Laura!


About Laura:Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies.

Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home.

This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Pantomime was released February 2013 through Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. The sequel, Shadowplay, will follow in January 2014.

Where you can find Laura online:

Goodreads
Website

Pantomime page (including ordering links)
Shadowplay page (including ordering links)
Twitter: @LR_Lam

Facebook
Pinterest
Tumblr

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

A genre-defying novel that combines elements of science fiction and gas lamp fantasy to create a world filled with auras, dreamscapes, humans with supernatural abilities and a whole realm of otherworldly creatures. 

Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon  (Bloomsbury)

I’ve been reading and reviewing books for a good number of years now.

In this time, I’ve come across books that have had me a) shaking my fists (for wasting my time), b) being stricken with grief (at the sheer beauty and tragedy of it all) and c), marvelling in wonder (while losing myself in a world filled with sheer phantasmagorical splendour).

I’ve found the words to express how deeply I loved the book, and I’ve been able to give constructive views on why certain books just didn’t work for me.

What I’ve never found, until now, is a book that is so good, it practically renders my vocabulary null and void.

The Bone Season is a highly impressive debut novel that features a feisty, strong and take-no-crap-from-anyone kind of heroine that will have you cheering her on all the way, not least because of her ability to jump between dreamscapes, but because of her fighting spirit and her will to survive even in the most inhospitable conditions possible.

And to think that the author’s only 22 years old.

Now, generally speaking, the age of the author is of very little consequence, but when you read and consider the concept and elaborately crafted world within this book, you’ll be left feeling as if you’ve achieved nothing in comparison to what Samantha Shannon’s managed to put down on paper.

Her novel is that incredible.

The publishers no doubt feel the same way, as The Bone Season is touted as the first book in a seven book series.

When it comes to this novel, let me start off by giving you some advice: if you’re the kind of reader who likes to read more than one book at a time (which I am by the way), I would highly suggest that you make an exception for this book.

It's not just because I think the book is worth getting special attention, but also because the concept makes for a pretty convoluted read.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

The multidimensional world-building, the heterogeneous characters, the caste systems, the various types of clairvoyants described and how the hierarchy of how the political structure within this dystopian society works, require a good portion of your attention. 

Not to mention the lingo that takes some time getting use to.

Oh, and speaking of jargon, If you do find yourself getting confused by some of the terminology being used, check out the glossary of terms at the back. While I could certainly follow the story and loved it for what I experienced from it, the explanations at the back is something that I definitely think will only enhance your reading experience.

So, just what exactly is The Bone Season about?

Combining paranormal and science fiction components, the book is a miasma of wondrous and unsettling imagery, beautiful prose and atmospheric settings. In fact, this book has somewhat of a gas lamp fantasy feel to it, reminding me of a world that’s both futuristic and gothic.

The year is 2059 and the place is Scion London.

19-year old Paige Mahoney is one of the talented unnaturals working in the criminal underworld of SciLo. Employed by a man named Jaxon Hall, Paige earns her keep by scouting the ether, and breaking into other people’s minds to gather any form of information.

Basically what she’s able to do is walk jump from one dreamscape (her own) into another’s.

Scion London’s underground is filled with people like her – unnaturals all gifted with various types and levels of clairvoyancy - with Paige being a dreamwalker, one of the rarest types of voyants and amongst those considered in the highest orders.

Because the Scion government controls all of London, they consider people like Paige dangerous to society. Her existence alone means that a warrant is out for her capture.

What Paige doesn't realise yet is that the repressive society she and her fellow team mates try to survive in, may be part of something far bigger than she could have imagined.

When she's abducted and taken to a city shrouded in secrecy, Paige encounters the Rephaite, an otherworldly race that force and employ clairvoyants into servitude for their own purposes.

Assigned to Warden, one of the highest ranking Rephaites, Paige is forced under his tutelage, and subjected to rigorous training in order to serve the Rephaite's blood-sovereign, Nashira.

What she doesn't know, is that the man whom she considers to be her enemy, has his own motives and that things on the surface, are once again, not all that they seem.

The Bone Season is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year. 

With its intricate and ornate setup, the book is a unique foray into a world that's filled with wondering (and not always benevolent) ghosts and diverse forms of extrasensory perception skills.

What is particularly impressive is how strongly developed the cast of characters are.

Paige is the kind of heroine that could give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money. Bold, fierce and strong, her will of iron and stubbornness has ensured that she has both the wits and the street smarts to survive in whatever circumstances she finds herself in.

Her ability to access and walk through various dreamscapes, also ensures that she has an additional advantage in her fight for her freedom. It's interesting to note that even though she's part of a rat pack, so to speak, she's as bound to a system in SciLo's underground as she is to the Rephaite she's forced to serve.

Ironically enough, it's the latter that brings about the epiphany. What I also loved about her is that despite being imprisoned by another race, her compassionate nature still shines through for her fellow people - be they clairvoyants or amaurotic (non-clairvoyants).

Her interactions with the supporting cast of characters gives this novel an additional packing punch and will serve to heighten your curiosity about the different types of clairvoyants in the novel.

I was certainly intrigued by the different types found and have to confess that up until now, I had no idea that there were so many levels and kinds of voyants found. 

I'd go into some detail, but that would ruin the discovery for you. Suffice to say that the way Paige uses her dreamwalking ability, is definitely one of the best parts of this novel.

You'll be pretty amazed by some of the detail that Samantha goes into;  the beautiful descriptions of the dreamscapes, ether and ghostly activity being an absolute favourite of mine. 

On top of this, I was also kept on my toes by the interaction between Warden and Paige.

Understandably Paige feels an enormous amount of antipathy and enmity towards Warden (a secretive and not always easy to decipher character) , but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that although Warden's actions still remain a mystery for the most part, she starts seeing that there's something there, in terms of his motives, that might be worth looking at a second time.

Believe it or not, despite the hostility (mainly from Paige's side), there's an underlying chemistry between them that I couldn't help but pick up on. The end of the book certainly hints at something more, but where it will all lead, is something only the forthcoming books will be able to reveal.

Vastly imaginative, The Bone Season is a book filled with a strong cast of characters, a supernatural world that defies convention and a race of intelligent beings that make formidable allies or enemies - depending on which side you choose. The female villain in this story will especially send chills down your spine.

All in all, it's an impressive debut novel by a brilliant new voice that will leave you wanting even more. I can't wait for the next book to come out.