Release – Patrick Ness

I have read and reviewed a few Patrick Ness books now, and there is no doubt that he is an incredibly talented and engaging author. I really loved More Than This, enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go (which is being made in to a film with an amazing cast) and was intrigued by The Rest of Us Just Live Here (amazing concept and an alternative view on superheroes!) This book is no different, but I am feeling a little uncomfortable about recommending it to you and I will explain the reasons why as we go along.

The main story centres around a day in the life of Adam Thorn. He is 17 and lives in a small town in middle America. His father Bob Thorn, is a local pastor for a church called The House Upon the Rock. For English readers I imagine him as one of those evangelical priests who walks up and down at the pulpit and shouts a lot about Jesus loving you, I think that these are a more regular occurrence in America then they are here. His mother is in denial that they are poor and his brother Marty is the prodigal son who has gone off to Christian college to learn how to be a preacher like his dad. Adam is the black sheep in the family because he is gay. Not that this is ever discussed in the Thorn household, ever. Marty has all the commitment but none of the personality and Adam has all the personality but, according to Big Bob Thorn, is morally corrupt.

Adam’s best friend is called Angela Darlington and she is the adopted daughter of a Dutch lady and her American husband. She is originally from Korea I think and has a sharp wit and an open heart. She loves Adam and worries for him and has decided that she is bi or gay or not, it doesn’t matter. She supports Adam and is more family to him then his own crazy lot. He also has a boyfriend called Linus but is still in love with his ex, Enzo who is moving out of town. Today is his leaving party (or get-together as they keep calling it) and the book is leading up to this event. Adam also likes cross country running but isn’t very fast, which is incidental to the book but shows a little of his  personality.

The other  section of the book centres around the drug fuelled murder of another local girl, Katherine van Leuwen. She is murdered by her boyfriend while they are both high and her body is dumped in the local lake – where the get together is taking place later on. Her spirit inhabits some kind of Queen of the Lake who is now wandering the town looking for her murderer to exact revenge. Or rather the queen has reanimated Katherine’s body and when people see her, they are shocked to see the dead Katherine wandering about. She is followed by her faithful servant who is a fawn. She visits Katherine’s mother and friend and the murder scene trying to figure out why she is there. If the Queen cannot reconnect with her body by the end of the day then the world (hers and ours) will be destroyed. No pressure there then – the poor fawn is working overtime to erase everyone’s memories of his Queen in Katherine’s body. You all still with me?

There are several things that I really loved about this book. The writing style for one always makes me marvel at how people  can be so clever. I almost doubt my own cleverness because there is no way I could come up with a concept so clever. Ness writes with passion and depth. His descriptions, the scene where Adam is sexually assaulted by his boss, is so good you feel like you are sitting in that cramped office with them. I felt the shame of both of them, and the anger. The story is engaging, I liked Adam and Angela and Linus, wasn’t too keen on Enzo and Marty but I can understand them. Adam’s parents are struggling with their faith versus the love for their son and I can see, as a parent, how this would be difficult. I wanted it all to work out in the end but I guess life isn’t as neat as all that. I also love the concept of all the action taking place on one day, so many changes occur in Adam’s life that the supernatural element could be the only explanation.

Here is my problem. According my goodreads profile I have read nearly 1000 books. I have been reading for 40 years (give or take my childhood years!) and I have travelled all over the world, time travelled and gone in to the future in fiction. I have experienced things  through many fictional characters and have loved and laughed,  hated and felt angry, violent and heart broken. All of these emotions are brought on by the written word. I love reading and it is my job and my passion to make as many people as possible feel the same way that I do about it. I have never told a student not to read a book when they have asked me. I have recommended books that are controversial, touch subjects they may not understand or agree with but, they all make you think about what it might be like to live in another person’s skin.

I finished this book last week and have really struggled with how to review it. This book is written for the teen market or YA audience. This is classified as 11 to 18 years old. This market has blown up over the last few years and is amazing. The wealth of subjects that it writes about make it easier for young people to experience and accept things that they have not experienced yet, and I think this is a great thing.  There may be things that they cannot talk about with anyone else but they can read about and not feel so alone in the world. Which is why I think that YA authors have an obligation to educate as well as produce great fiction – no mean feat. The sex scenes in this book are some of the most graphic I have ever read. The description of Linus and Adam in bed together are both unnecessary and so descriptive that it made me uncomfortable, and I am no prude. I have never read another YA book where any sexual descriptions, straight, gay or bi are so intimate. I’m not sure why Ness decided to make them so, or why his publisher then decided to go ahead with them. There is a fine line between educating and shocking and I think this one crosses it.

That’s just a personal opinion and you may go on and love it and think I’m a silly old lady but, I want you to know what to expect and, as an educator (!) I need to do that. I loved this book but I struggled with it. You decide what you think.

 

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The Hawkweed Prophecy – Irena Brignull

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull is the first in a series about two girls who have a strange connection. One lives in a coven in the woods with other witches, and no men. The other lives with her Dad and moves around a lot. It soon becomes clear that they move around so much because the girl, Poppy has problems settling in at school. Things seem to happen around her.

Poppy and Ember have been switched at birth. Poppy is living with her dad and moves a lot. Ember lives with her mother Charlock Hawkweed and the rest of the coven. The coven is led by her aunt Raven. There is a prophecy that one of the Hawkweed daughters will become Queen of the Witches and that means that it will either be Ember or her  cousin Sorrel.  Raven is determined that it will be her daughter, hence the reason that Poppy and Ember were swapped. Ember has little or no magical powers and there is no real possibility that she will ever be queen.

Poppy is on her 11th school and is struggling with the fact that her mum is in a mental hospital. Her mum is there because she has rejected Poppy and claims that she is not her daughter. Poppy is understandably struggling with this and doesn’t get on too well with her dad either; he is getting fed up with all the moving. Strange things happen when Poppy gets annoyed and most of the schools she has been in have asked her to leave.

One day the two girls meet in the woods by chance. They have no idea that they are connected but form an instant bond with each other. Poppy starts to talk about the outside world and Ember longs to be a part of it. Although she is not allowed the talk to ‘chaffs’ (non magical people) about the coven, she finds herself telling Poppy bits and pieces and lends her some of her books about spells. Poppy soon realises that there is more to their connection then either of them thought.

The other main character in the book is Leo, a boy who lives on the streets. Poppy meets and forms a connection with him and he helps her through some stuff with her cats. Leo has had a hard time and is living in fear of his stepdad and stepbrothers. Leo plays an important part in the lives of both the girls and, without giving too much away, will definitely make an appearance in the next book.

The book has some great elements in it; magic, jealousy, love and revenge. The strong female characters are refreshing to read about, and the idea of a load of ladies living in the woods making potions is kind of cool! As Poppy’s magic grows and she becomes more sure of her abilities she becomes a likeable person that we can identify with. Ember is a little too soft for my liking, but I think this might change later.

All in all a good book that you will enjoy and will keep you guessing. There are some violent elements to it but this is in context and the whole waiting to be queen thing will hopefully be fleshed out a bit more in the next  book, along with the East witches who turn in to big cats. Did I mention that there was people changing in to animals as well?

Further reading: The Thirteen Treasures series by Michelle Harrison, Harry Potter (obviously!) The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – basically anything with magic in!

Dreaming The Bear – Mimi Thebo

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This is a quick, enjoyable read. Darcy is the main narrator but there are some sections in italics, not sure who is narrating these, maybe the bear! Anyway, Darcy lives with her mum and dad and her brother Jem in Yellowstone National Park where her dad is working on a research project. They used to live in a proper town but her dad has  been offered a position working in the park and has moved them all there, Darcy is not very happy with this. Her mum is also working on some research thing and her brother Jem is older than her and goes to the local high school. She is supposed to be going there too but has been really ill with pneumonia and is off sick. She is recovering and must do a certain amount of exercise every day to build up the strength in her lungs. She goes out one day and starts walking through the snow. She is taken ill and has an encounter with a bear who looks after her. The bear also has something wrong with it and she has a kind of out of body experience.

Darcy is also a little bit in love with a boy in her brothers class called Tony Infante. As Darcy struggles with her illness she builds a connection with the bear and she starts to feed her. The bear has an injury in her shoulder and is stuck in a cave up an incline that she can’t get down  from. She is also really annoyed with her dad and her mum has gone away to a conference  and left them to it. Then a storm hits.

Darcy, Jem, Tony and their dad are stuck in their house and all confined to one room. This is a little intimate for Darcy but it means that she can get closer to Tony. After the storm Darcy and her dad go down to town and after a few more  trips they realize that when she is down in town she is much better. Eventually one of the research assistants works out the connection.

This  book is a nice easy read and, although it doesn’t look like much, it is quite enjoyable. It is also on the Carnegie longlist for this year and I can see why. It won’t take you long and that’s quite satisfying!

The Morphant: Gabriel Grant and the Ringmaster – Cornelius Fuel

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This book is an ebook only and you can get it on Amazon or Ibooks. The author came to do an author talk at the school so I thought I would read it for background!

I started off by thinking that, if you have an ebook what does that mean? Does it mean it hasn’t been picked up by a publisher? Do you decide to publish it yourself and see what happens? How does it work? Well, I still have no idea but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless!

Gabriel Grant is a bit of a school loner. He is bullied by a pretty nasty group of boys and one day, in a bid to escape them, he runs into a factory place and is electrocuted by a power service station and ends up in hospital. When he wakes up he is confronted by a hells angel type bloke called the Searcher who tells him that he is a Morphant. A Morphant is a person that change shape at will; not like a shapeshifter though. The Searcher is also a Morphant and his favourite shape is an owl, which teaches Gabriel (in the shape of an angel) to fly.

Gabriel has special powers that enables  him to change into any number of characters that he has thought of. Like a stretchy man or a giant bubble man. He basically has a bit of fun with this until his parents are kidnapped by evil clowns and he needs to go and rescue them. He takes his feisty sister Ariel with him and they investigate. Ariel is a fun character that you will identify with and she is always giving Gabriel a hard time! Especially when he borrows money from her.

The book is a good romp; it has all the key elements that you want; adventure, excitement, baddies and killer clowns! The book is nicely set up for a sequel as well and the author was great at passing over his enthusiasm about the book to his audience. A quick and easy read that you will enjoy.

Bad Apple – Matt Whyman

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I haven’t read anything by Matt Whyman before but you may have done. He wrote The Savages and The American Savages and they have been on the my ‘to read’ list for ages. This one I had to read for the Hounslow Teen Read and the other librarians were raving about it.

So, the basics. Trolls. Yes, Trolls. They live under ground and haven’t really had any contact with humans, except that they swap their babies  for human babies so that they can have a better opportunity in life. Their troll-ness, doesn’t manifest itself until the child turns into a teenager and starts to show troll like tendencies. These will be things like excessive violence, a complete disregard for rules and authority, they litter, swear and vandalise stuff. In fact, it’s fairly difficult to tell them apart from normal teenager which is why they have lived amongst humans for so long undetected.  But one day, someone’s house collapses down a troll hole and all hell breaks lose. DNA is taken from suspected trolls and all the ones that test positive are taken to holding facilities, like ghettos and left. There is a person in charge of the facility who is basically like a prison warder and the trolls are living in segregated communities and left to rot.

So far, so horrible. The book begins with a sixth form trip. The kids are all on a coach driving through one of the trolls ghettos staring out at the inmates and making fun of them.  The only one who isn’t is a boy called Maurice. He isn’t really sure how to feel about them but doesn’t think that they should be made fun of. Next thing you know, the trolls land on the roof of the coach make a hole in the ceiling and grab the teacher. Maurice jumps up to intervene and gets taken himself. Thus begins a roller coaster ride where essentially Maurice and his kidnapper, the lovable Wretch and a social worker with a conscience (Candy) race against capture to try and return Wretch to the underground home he was born in and make a bid to change society in the process. they are pursued by the hapless Governor and his horrible daughter Bonnie who always seem to be one step behind (nice twist there but you can guess what it is about half way though!)

Interestingly, I can think of a few kids that I have met over the years who could be trolls!  It’s kind of a tongue in cheek comment about teenage society and how horrible teenagers can be (you know you can so don’t be all offended!) and the humour in it is really well written. It’s not a book I would ordinarily have picked up but I’m glad I did. If you want to read something that will make you laugh then have a go at this.

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

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Peter Grant #1

I read this book ages ago but was debating about whether to review it on here because I’m not sure exactly what genre it sits in. I read books 3 & 4 over half term and concluded that, although there is some sex and violence, it’s no worse than some other YA novels and the writer Ben Aaronovitch also writes Doctor Who episodes. Can you get much cooler than that?!

The book begins with PC Peter Grant. His mum is from Sierra Leone and his dad is a white jazz musician who probably takes a bit too much coke; which Peter has to ignore in his professional capacity. He is securing a crime scene in Convent Garden when he bumps into a ghost. He was previously unaware that he could talk to ghosts so it was a bit of a surprise. His partner is the switched on (and gorgeous) Lesley May and when he isn’t trying to get her in to bed she is giving him her sage advice about how to get on in policing. Peter is a born and bred Londoner and I suspect that the author is too because the wealth of information about London is amazing. Peter is absorbed into a section of the Met run by the enigmatic (look it up people!) Nightingale who seems to have been alive for a very long time. He drives a lovely jag and lives in a place off Russell Square called the Folly with his dog Toby and a very strange servant type lady called Molly.

As Peter starts investigating a murder and other magical goings on in London, Nightingale explains to him that all the previous magicians were killed in an offensive during WW2 and he is the only one left. Peter is the first apprentice magician for 50 years and magic takes an awfully long time to learn.

This book is witty, entertaining, funny, a little bit rude – and brilliant. If you love Doctor Who you will love this. The series is currently five books and The Hanging Tree is being published in the next couple of days. Aaronovitch is so knowledgeable about London, police procedure and rivers (this will become clear when you read the  books!) that you become absorbed in his world. The Faceless Man is a little like ‘he who shall not be named…’ and there is a lot of tongue in cheek references to HP but, if you enjoyed them and are looking for a new series to become obsessed with, look no further.

Battle Lines (Dept. 19 #3) – Will Hill

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Spoiler Alert – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE READ THE FIRST TWO BEFORE YOU READ THIS REVIEW

 

 

 

 

Read them?

Ok, so Larissa is in America with SP9, Kate has joined a special unit that is investigating all the operators to try and find out who the leak is, Jamie is still angry and Matt is still working on the Lazarus Project and fancying a Russian girl. They are all still friends though. Jamie’s Dad is still locked up in the base in America and Larissa starts to get curious about who the mystery man is that’s in the cell, she starts to do some investigating of her own, while fending off the advances of a chap called Tim who wants to go out with her (never mind the fact that already has a boyfriend). She is, however enjoying being in America where people are a little more accepting of the fact that she is a vampire. She has also made some great friends as well and is in two minds about whether she wants to return to the UK, despite the Jamie situation.

In the meantime, Kate and Matt’s dads have made friends and have started to investigate the possibility that Dept. 19 actually exists. Several high security facilities have been attacked and all the patients have been turned into vampires. The problem is that they are much more powerful then normal newborns and Matt has some ideas as to why that is.

Lots of things happen in this book, despite the fact that they are all only about 17 the four main characters have all been promoted to Lieutenant and take on loads of responsibility. The interesting thing about this one is that one of them is starting to question the need to just goes out and kill vampires because they’re vampires. It’s likened to ethnic cleansing, which I suppose in a way it is. The team are starting to struggle a little bit with the concept of what they are doing. This is setting the last book up to be really explosive.

This is also a big book. At 701 pages it took me a week to read. I love the way they are written and really like the characters but, time doesn’t seem to move on very much and you kind of get the feeling that a lot is happening in a really short space of time, which in turn becomes a little unbelievable. It’s also a bit unrealistic to accept that grown up people with years of battle hardened experience listen to a bunch of kids. There is also the relationship between Jamie and Larissa, which is all a bit intense but at the same time, not.

That said, this is a great series and I really like it. I think it appeals to both boys and girls and has the right amount of horror to not make it too gory and the right amount of romance to make it not too gushy.

Another great book by Will Hill and I cannot wait to read the last one. The conclusion should be fantastic and I really hope that Dracula gets his comeuppance. He really, really deserves it.