Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

My thanks go to Random House for providing me with this review copy.

Synopsis (from official press release + Goodreads)

Pages: 280
Publisher: Vintage (Random House)  
Released: 6th of November 2014

Mummy never yells. Mostly not ever. Except sometimes.

Anna is five. Her little brother, Stick, is almost three. They are camping with their parents in Algonquin Park, in three thousand square miles of wilderness. It's the perfect family trip. But then Anna awakes in the night to the sound of something moving in the shadows. Her father is terrified. Her mother is screaming. Then, silence.

Alone in the woods, it is Anna who has to look after Stick, battling hunger and the elements to stay alive. Narrated by Anna, this is white-knuckle storytelling that captures the fear, wonder and bewilderment of our worst nightmares – and the power of one girl’s enduring love for her family.

What I Have to Say 

This book read like it was trying far to hard to be My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. What the author was trying to do was fair enough, but I don't think it worked. I'm not convinced that a five-year-old wouldn't know what pins and needles felt like. I'm sure she would have experienced that before and her mother would have told her what it was. But no. Apparently not. 

Also, it was really, really annoying when she went off on a tangent, more accurate for a five year old, but not so much fun for the reader who is having to read through a story that's already been told a few times. Maybe five is too young to be a 1st person narrator. It would at least have to be better written than this to work. 

The only good thing I can really say about this book was the way it portrayed Anna's trauma. It's only in the final bit of the book, but it really shows how trauma, especially in one so young can be hidden beyond the knowledge of the person and only show in outside signs. 

I don't really recommend this book, but if you are interested in trauma in children then it might be interesting in that respect. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

My thanks go to Hodder and Stoughton as well as BookBridgr for providing me with this copy. 

Pages: 266
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Released: (first published) 1st of October 2009

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

What I Have to Say

It's no secret how much I love Laini Taylor. Her words are so beautiful. I think I could be in love with everything she write. This though, was overshone a little by the illustrations. I don't know who the illustrator was, or if it was Laini Taylor herself, but if someone knows please comment to say, because they were so beautiful and such a great way to start and end each of the stories. 

The stories themselves were beautiful in plot and writing. They were the sort of fairytales I like, full of darkness, but with the romantic touch that made them more special. Taylor writes romance really well. 

I can honestly say that I adored every one of the stories in this book. It's sad that it's taken me so long to read this to be honest. But I'm really glad I did. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Orion 
Release: 2nd of October 2014

For Madeline, the House of Usher is a nightmare to live in - but impossible to leave - in this brand new Gothic novel from Bethany Griffin, author of the Masque of the Red Death sequence.
Madeline and her twin brother Roderick have the Usher name, the Usher house - and the Usher disease. Something is wrong with the family's blood - and it seems to have spread to the house itself. Sometimes Madeline even thinks that the house is alive... When Roderick is sent away to school, the house seems to want revenge on the one member of the Usher family left behind: Madeline herself.

What I Have To Say 

I didn't really find this that scary. It was creepy, but not too bad. As with The Masque of the Red Death the story and the writing was really good. Though I think I would have preferred more creepiness. More despair and desperation. I guess I was just expected more madness than there was.

I liked the concept of the house wanting and feeling things. I liked how Madeline was almost refering to it as another character. It really did make the house feel more alive, like a living creature.

This book really made me want to read the original story. I don't read much Poe, but I think I might start.

Looking forward to the next book from Bethany Griffin.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 337
Publisher: Headline
Released: 10th of April 2014 (first published 1st January 2014) 

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

What I Have To Say 

I've said before that I'm not that into romance. It takes a special romance book to get me to really invest in the characters. As good as this book was, it's a perfect example about how I just don't care enough about whether the characters get together. 

Lucy and Owen were sweet together and I liked them both a lot. But I just assumed they'd get together again after the night of the blackout, so I just sort of trawled through the book waiting for it to happen. That's not the way to properly read a romance novel, is it? I was interested in their individual journey's, Owen's travels through states trying to find a place to make home, Lucy's explorations of London and Edinburgh. I think I was more interested in that then the romance. 

I'm coming across a bit harsh here. I enjoyed reading the book. I love Jennifer E. Smith's writing style. Owen and his father's struggles over losing Owen's Mother was suitably heartbreaking. Because those parts I was really interested in. Would Owen and his dad get over losing his mom? Would Lucy manage to find a way to connect with her parents again and find a home wherever they ended up? Would she ever get to Paris? To me these were way better stories than the romance. 

This is a really great book about travel and snail mail while trying to find a place to call home, just for me, it wasn't a love story. 

3.5 stars

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The 100 by Kass Morgan

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 336
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: 1st of January 2013

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.
Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents -- considered expendable by society -- are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission.
CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves -- but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.
Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.

What I Have To Say

Let's be honest, I probably wouldn't have continued with the TV series of this if I'd had anything better to on a Monday night. It was there, it was watchable, I watched it. I got a little into it and when the book was available on Netgalley I decided that I would see if it was good.  It was so much better

Other than decent dialogue, it was actually hard to tell what the TV series lacked until I read the book, but now I can say without a doubt, it was lacking most in background and world building. In the book, the Arc is so much more constructed. There's society. There's castes. There's so much more culture than there was in the TV series and it made it so much more believable. 

The characters were better built too. They all had backstories and issues. Though I found some of the early flashbacks to be a bit unnecessary (did we really need to see how Clarke and Wells met? It was cute but completely unneeded) the later ones really helped to build up the characters in a way that we just didn't see in the series. 

Whether you watched the series or not, this book is definitely worth reading. It's so much better. 

3.5 stars

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 438
Publisher: Headline Review
Released: 1st of February 2012 (first published 1st of January 2011)

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding -- is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

What I Have To Say 

This book started quite slowly. I found I didn't really get into it until Faina appeared for the first time and the book really started off. I honestly don't feel that much of the book up until that point was needed. I think the only thing that kept me reading was the fact that I knew something was going to happen eventually. But after that initial start, I really enjoyed it. 

Faina was a wonderful character, I loved the fairy tale feel of her, created both through the character herself and the lack of speech marks in the scenes she was in (which normally I don't like, but in this case it actually really worked). The fairy tale it was based on was actually one I'd never heard of before as well, so it was really interesting to learn about the story as it was explained in the book. Though I really want that lovely blue book that Mabel has now! It sounds beautiful even if it's in Russian. 

As I said, I didn't like the start of the book, and because of that, I didn't warm to Jack and Mabel very quickly. But as the book went on I fell in love with them almost as much as I did Faina. Mabel was very sweet and she was wonderful around Faina as well as on her own. Jack was so lost at first, especially with the doll. I also really like stories about the whole making a new life in some rural country and living off the land thing, frontier stories? Anyway, I think I just like the idea of living off the land and building your own home. I think it fit pretty well with the fairy tale side of the story. 

This book was real and hard-hitting in some places and magical in others. I think that Ivey managed to combine these two ideas really well. This is definitely a must read for fairy tale fans. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 266
Publisher: Children's Simon and Schuster UK
Released: 1st of October 2014

"I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me."

A group of emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers are mysteriously picked for Special Topics English, tasked with studying Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and keeping a journal. 

Each time the teens write in it they are transported to a miraculous other world called Belzhar - a world where they are no longer haunted by their trauma and grief - and each begins to tell their own story. 

What I Have To Say 

This didn't blow me away as much as I think it did other people. I'd heard good things about it, so I was prepared for something amazing.... but it fell a bit flat for me. It's a great story and Reeve aside I liked the characters and the idea behind it all. There was tension in all the right places and I did really enjoy it. 

The only thing that I can really pinpoint that put me off the whole thing was Reeve. He just felt like a stereotype British boy rather than a proper character. He liked Monty Python and Manchester United and wanted to go to Oxford. And the author was pointing out ever little place where the accent was different. Admittedly a real girl falling in love with a guy from a foreign country would possibly notice these things, but it just felt like she was constantly trying to remind the reader that he was British. It was unneeded. 

I will say this about the book though. I showed mental health well. Especially the main character, who I won't say too much about because of later reveals, but I felt that those reveals were needed in the genre of mental health genre (can we call it a genre yet? It's definitely starting). There's a lot of things about mental health that people see as being "attention seeking" or "overreacting" and I do think that showing these things in fiction for what they are, devastating illnesses that affect a lot of people, is the best way to start. 

If you don't mind overly stereotypical Britishness, read this book. 

3.5 Stars