The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

secretyrThe Secret Year is another book that has the potential to turn off male readers with its misleading cover. This really isn’t a romantic book, or a book about finding love. It’s a book about secrets (well, I guess at least the title conveys that), and most of all, grief.

Colt, a boy from the poor side of the river, has a very secret, very physical relationship with older rich girl, Julia. When she dies horribly in a car crash, Colt can’t share his loss with anyone.

This novel is quite short. It is taut and emotional. Colt is confused, but determined  to maintain Julia’s reputation. But of course, his grief is tangible and overwhelming him. So, when he is approached by Julia’s younger brother, bearing a gift, Colt is both suspicious and eager.

The novel very clearly depicts the huge divide between the privileged and the poorer members of this community. There are other girls interested in Colt and he has to navigate his way through the friendships, the possible relationships, as well as dealing with his family and other friends. There is also Julia’s actual boyfriend to deal with. Colt is sympathetic to readers: loyal, yet torn, strong yet vulnerable.

I very much enjoyed reading Colt’s journey from despair to acceptance as it is very well written, and offers a very different narrative from anything else I have read.

Ignore the cover, and give it a go.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Bleeding_VioletI am not usually interested in finding out back stories of many of the authors who write the books I read and then pass onto you. I am happy they are writing and even more happy to go on a journey through their imagination, with a thanks and cheery wave.

Then I read this book. And I am utterly fascinated with what is going on in Dia Reeves’ mind, because seriously, this book is beyond imagination, beyond originality and creativity, and all those other words; this one is breaking boundaries.

Dare I admit that it does more than push the barriers? That in fact, in some cases, it crosses them over into the field of ick! and woah! I don’t know how else to put it. But I guess I could try… a little harder.

I think Reeves is trying to say something about the way society treats mental illness. I think there’s a lot that needs to be said about it too. There are some who would say what these types of concerns need is a mature and dignified approach, but I think what Reeves does is just as effective, if not very political correct.

The main character, Hanna is portrayed very clearly as having some sort of bi-polar syndrome. In the first page or two, we hear her talking to her father, then find out before the end of chapter one, he died over a year ago. She has come searching for her mother, deciding that she no longer wants to live with her stuffy, oppressive Aunt Ulla. To get away from her, Hanna has hit her over the head with a rolling pin and left, without checking to see if she was still alive.

If that has startled you, or made you smile, then you may just like the rest. That is the tip of a very scary, very bizarre iceberg, represented here by the town of her mother’s birth, Protero, East Texas. I do not want to supply many more details, because the more you discover Protero as Reeves sets it out, the better the pay-off, but I guess I should put out some warnings.

There is much death, described in gruesome details, and not only to the evil monsters. There is body possession by spirits of dead characters, and a multiple of doorways that can both hide and trap. There is blood on everyone’s hands, and Hanna is not a character to dismiss or ignore. I guess what is different about the deaths in this book, is the glee with which they are despatched. And the way we cheer our heroes on.

Anyway, I will be passing this one around. Let me know if it’s your sort of thing. I suspect the boys who have discovered the Dan Wells’ books, might enjoy this trip into that freaky creepy crazy place that is Dia Reeves’ mind. And did I mention, she’s a librarian? So! Most definitely freaky!

Hold me closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Happy New Year!

holdme

Right onto reviewing. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer might win an award for 2010 cheesiest title, but it could also win one for being a very good paranormal book.

Samhain (pronounced ‘Sowin’ as conveniently provided in the narrative) has dropped out of college (uni), and is working at the local burger joint, when he is suddenly accosted, then threatened by a very sinister man, Douglas Montgomery. For the first third of the book, Sam is oblivious to why he has provoked Douglas’ interest and ire.

We are with Sam for most of the way. Sometimes, McBride changes point of view, and we given access to Douglas’ thoughts, and this swapping narrative voice can be distracting for some readers. When we are ‘with’ Sam, it is first person narrative, but with anyone else, it is third. Because we don’t only get Douglas’ viewpoint, we are also granted access to Sam’s mum, Tia’s story (since she has quite a bit of explaining to do…) and Sam’s potential love interest, Brid, the were-hound. These types of structural choices do not concern me. I love to see what other characters are thinking and reacting, however, I am aware that this can annoy others.

Sam is a terrific main character. He is very sympathetic and thoughtful. He discovers that his (much younger) half-sisters are also destined to be unusual, and he tries to make sure they will be looked after. His anger with his mother about hiding his real self quickly subsides and he keeps trying to avoid conflict and protect his friends.

This is also a very funny book. These young people are typical of their generation. Snarky, teasing and self-depreciating. It makes for a entertaining read. I orginally thought it was a stand alone, but having read this interview with the author, it seems there will be more. And actually, that does not upset me. Be interesting to see how she can top this title… (literally, I mean, can you think of other song titles that can be twisted in this way?)

I really enjoyed this book. A great start to 2011. Bring it on… (all the reading I mean).