So – business at work has been fairly relentless just recently so reading has been the escape! Highlights from the last month to 6 weeks show a good mix.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is set during the Second World War and takes the story of two heroic but relatively ordinary young women who work for and with SOE (the special ops of WWII). It grips, you identify with the characters and yet I can not envisage being that physically brave – ever. I laughed and cried with this book. It’s on the Carnegie Award short list – fingers crossed!
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is the story of a young woman who feels she is a bit of a misfit in the world where dragons walk about in their shape-changed format, to keep the people and the dragons from going to war again. As a major celebration of the long term peace approaches Seraphina finds out some strange truths about herself and her family, ad has to decide where her loyalties lay. a major US best seller this is a fascinating take on the usual people versus dragons tale. Loved it, can’t wait for the next volume.
Jeremy de Quidt’s Feathered Man is a dark, thrilling quest set in a Victorian Germany and full of scary and rather odd characters, some from Mayan mythology, some just downright wicked. Will definitely appeal to the slightly ghoulish.
I have also been reading a bit on my iPad. Two books recently – Fragments by Dan Wells – which failed to grab me, but that may have been the delivery media rather than the book. Plus Anne Cassidy – Killing Rachel – a good thriller, with a surprising series of twists. I do find it harder to engage with on screen reading, and I must admit I only supplement my reading of hard copy books with iPad materials. Wonder if taht will change over time?
Having had a couple of days off work with a very annoying reappearance of an old health problem there was only one thing I could do – read!
I have long admired Catherine Fisher – Incarceron and Sapphique are amazing fantasy novels. Her latest The Obsidian Mirror is another triumph. It promises a whole series to follow - and I can’t wait. Oberon Venn is Jake’s godfather since his own father mysteriously disappeared some time before. But Venn is very obsessive and secretive and Jake is convinced Venn murdered his father. This is the page turning totally gripping First Book of the Chronoptika – an adventure in time and space, with all the elements of a country house mystery and a thriller set in the worst parts of Victorian London. A literary style novel that fully engages the excitement as well as giving food for thought.
Interestingly – as I finished The Obsidian Mirror there arrived a publishers proof of one of my other favourite authors – Eoin Colfer. Warp: Book 1 – The Reluctant Assassin has many similar elements – time travel, Victorian London slums, engaging characters and a ‘thrill a minute’ approach. I imagine the style will appeal to established Colfer fans when it is published later this year – and it is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun, thrilling read.
To make a change from both of those I followed up with the latest Tim Bowler Sea of Whispers. This is an exploration of growing up in a remote community, and of the hostility certain small communities exhibit to change or difference. Hetty has always felt different, and has a sense of otherness that marks her out from her peers and community. The arrival of an old woman washed up on the shore of the remote island in a storm unleashes a series of events and actions that appear to doom all involved. Tim always writes with a style and elegance that makes his novels very readable - well worth trying.
This is an interesting ‘film noir’ type tale. Set in the 1940′s (in the main) Arnold Rubens builds a memory machine to save his daughter Amaryllis - from what we are not quite sure to start – her own destructive will, from some threat in her childhood that is dimly lurking on the edges of her memory, or from the ever nearer threat of war? Many of the characters appear to be much less straightforward than we think as we first meet them, and the hero Ezra is all too human, and totally engaging. The book is peopled with believable characters who deal with an improbable but authentic sci-fi plot, the science is never heavy and the plot moves at a pace, but yet with a sense of mystery so you are completely hooked. A real sit down and read book – I hope there are more to come from Sally!
A complete contrast was the contemporary novel set in America – Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur. This is the story of orphan Elise brought up by her uncle and aunt who has some growing up to do as she starts her middle school, and try to find out who and what she is as she matures. Eight keys help her find out her history and help her think about her future. A very engaging read.
It has taken me a long time to get round to reading this book. It won the Red House Children’s Book Award in 2010 and has sat on my reading pile for a long time – even though many people recommended it to me. So – this week I read it, and happily I had the time to just sit and read as it is a compelling read and you just don’t want to put it down! Katniss takes her sisters place in the Hunger games – a sort of gladiatorial televised entertainment for the rich and powerful in a dystopian future USA – this is how she battles and tries to survive in the literally dog eat dog world. I liked Katniss’s honesty, her gradual realization of the manipulation of the media to make good entertainment and her sheer grit and determination in an awful world. I shall now have to get the next 2 novels in the series as I must know what happens…
A very mystical story, totally captivating, very scary and beautifully written (translated). The ghost train and the horror that is Jawahal will live with me for a long time.
This reminds me of Wilkie Collins and that superb sense of Gothic horror created by the style of writing and what remains unsaid… Daniel, our main protagonist, has been raised as an invalid by his quietly efficient Mother but when the Doctor calls and takes both Daniel and his Mother into his care a whole new world opens up – for Daniel it seems as if he discovers life anew, for his Mother her own personal hell takes over.
Feels authentically Victorian, has a wonderful sense of menace and threat throughout and a superb growing sense of doom. Read it, but keep the lights on!
As a teenager – in the years before teen literature – I was an avid historical fiction reader. This is s fascinating look at spiritualism, well researched, feels authentically Victorian and a good read.