The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby

ratcatcher The Ratcatcher’s Daughter is a terrifically detailed book about a period in Brisbane’s history that we know very little about. At the turn of the century, Brisbane was innundated by rats infested with the bubonic plague. Many people were infected, and the government of the day did not cope well with managing and controlling the outbreak.

Issy is the main character, a 13 year old girl, forced to leave school and work as a maid to the Lewis family, who run an undertaker’s business. Issy’s family get caught up early on in the plague infection, but they also benefit, as Dad has a pack of terriers trained as ratcatchers. Rushby’s style is easy to read and her ability to combine historical facts through the narrative never makes the story seem expository or preachy.

Highly recommended.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

cinnamon girlI found myself addicted to this book. I had to keep reading and the funny thing is that it was actually uncomfortable to read.

It’s hard to explain my reaction to this book. In effect, it’s no different from many YA stories – Alba, small town girl, finished Yr 12, the future stretches out with many possibilities and yet she is paralysed by uncertainty and fear.

Its the writing that makes it different. Makes it more. I felt uncomfortable reading it because Alba is uncomfortable. She no longer fits her skin, and yet, she’s not sure what’s happened and she’s in denial about everything.

The portrayal of the small rural Australian town is spot on. The feeling that everyone knows each other’s business and the annoyance of that but also the safety and the stability of that. The secondary characters – Alba’s mum, her high school friends and people around the town are described in rounded and realistic ways, and they are all great.

I haven’t mentioned Grady or Daniel. Two boys. Alba’s boys. One who has been with her throughout her entire life, and one who was dragged off when they were aged 10. When Daniel returns (and why he comes back is a whole other issue!) Alba has to confront a lot of stuff including the death of her father and what to do now school is done.

I rushed through this. But I loved it. I smirked and snorted, because seriously, the whole sub-plot involving the end of the world is hilarious and really well written.

Alba is a feisty girl, and even though she needs to make a few decisions, she doesn’t swoon or whine, although admittedly she does wallow… But that’s allowed, right?

Really strong follow-up to Life in Outer Space.

Tigerfish by David Metzenthen

tigerfish

What Mezenthen does with the voice of his main character and narrator Ryan is nothing short of brilliant. This kid knows his reality. He knows what he doesn’t have (privilege and easy success), but he is also very much aware of what he does have (supportive, loving family, a steady best friend, a genuine girl, the best dog in the world & the Western Bulldogs).

Ryan’s sense of self is strong, positive and totally sympathetic. His progression through the novel is tense and endearing. There are dark and scary moments, but there are also heart-felt, poignant ones too.

Readers are very soon conscious they are in the hands of an author in control of his story and a master of language and style.

Loved it.

Read from June 08 to 14, 2014. Review originally posted at Goodreads.

 

The end of (dystopian series) days

All good things must come to an end. And so over 2013, readers have seen a number of very popular dystopian series publish their final books. Some of these concluding novels have been applauded, while others have been described as disappointing. It must be a difficult thing to bring all the plot threads together in a way that satisfies all readers (I was never happy with who Katniss ends up with in Mockingjay).

I am going to run through some of my favourite series of the past three years with links to the concluding books on Goodreads for you to see how well they are doing. I will start with Across the Universe by Beth Revis, who was the first to publish the third book, way back in January 2013.

The three books are :

Across the Universe (my review from 2011) shadesearth

A Million Stars (my quick review posted at Goodreads that didn’t make it to this blog)

Shades of Earth ( a must-read for me these summer holidays – can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Wish this was our cover.)

 

 

Another series I started, but never finished is The Chemical Gardens trilogy by Lauren de Stefano. The three books are:

 

witherWither (my review on Goodreads. This one had my favourite of the three covers)

Fever (my even shorter review that explains why I never finished the series)

Sever (which I never bought. It came out in February 2013)

 

 

On the other hand, I had high expectations for the conclusion to Delirium by Lauren Oliver and am glad to report it didn’t disappoint. The third one came out in March 2013. My reviews at Goodreads are so short, they aren’t worth linking. But there are lots of other people who raved about all three books. One amazing thing about this series is all the short stories that Oliver wrote in between the novels. They serve a corequiemuple of purposes – they keep people interested and  they offer glimpses into secondary characters which enrich the world building and the series. The three books are:

Delirium

Pandemonium

Requiem (third book came out in March 2013)

It was a long wait then from March to October, when the next lot of concluding books were published.

For me the most consistently enjoyable trilogy is the Legend series by Marie Lu. Admittedly, I haven’t yet read the final books of the next three I plan to include, but so far, based on what I have seen, I think this will stay true. Lu got it all right – the characters remain noble and committed to their cause; the narrative stays within the bounds of authenticity, and the climax and subsequent conclusion are better than just legend satisfactory. The three books are:

Legend (my review from 2011 on this blog)

Prodigy (one of the few books where I gave more stars to book 2 than book 1)

Champion (lots of reviews on Goodreads where it’s averaging 4 and a half stars out of 5, and it only came out on November 5 2013)

Divergent was the surprise hit when it was first published in 2011. The film version reaches our screens next year. Veronica Roth followallieganted up with Insurgent and finally we have Alliegant. Apparently, there is a lot of disappointment about the final book. The word ‘boring’ is being bandied about, and I don’t think there’s anything worse for a book to be called. The three books are:

Divergent (lots of reviews on Goodreads)

Insurgent (my own explanation of why I wasn’t totally won over)

Alliegant (am yet to read it. Soon hopefully)

 

The last three I want to mention don’t really fit into my original group. Their final books won’t be out till 2014, but they are really early 2014, so I am just going to ignore my own rules and list them as well.

stillblue

 

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi was followed by up Through the Ever Night and Into the Still Blue will come out in   January 2014 (blue looks like the preferred colour of covers at the moment).

 

 

ignite me

I first read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in November 2011, and maybe by that time I had my fill of dystopia, but actually I got sucked into this one too. I do hate the cover we have in the library, and thankfully there is a better option for newer readers. The second one, Unravel Me has got a great average score, but when I read my own review, I wonder if I will make an effort with number three, Ignite Me, which will be published in February 2014.

 

 

gods&monsters

While I absolutely loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I found the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight both gruelling and depressing.   But the writing is so luminescent, that I am sure I will have to read the third book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Plus those covers! So beautiful.

 

 

I think this is my longest blog post ever. Never again! It took three days. Back to just one book, one review.

 

Every breath by Ellie Marney

Every Breath is being touted as a new sexy thriller. Maybe that’s meant to draw young adults in, but I found it every-breathmuch more intelligent and witty than that. It uses references to Sherlock Holmes lore as a fun, irreverent way to establish the narrative as detective. I found the prologue also to be distracting and misleading, but once the story gets going, it’s exciting and fast-paced.

Rachel Watts and James Mycroft have lived two doors down from each other ever since Rachel’s family left their bankrupt farm. We are thrown in to this friendship four months in, and not slowed down by the details of how they became be friends. They just are, and we accept that. Mycroft is a genius with a damaged psyche and Rachel’s practical nature is the best thing for him.

When one of Mycroft’s friends is murdered, the pair stumble into solving the crime (although not so much with the stumble, but more because of the determination of a boy who has already seen too much death, and who needs to make order from chaos). Rachel is not sure what is the best way to go, and she oscillates between wanting to stay out of the mess, and wanting to learn more. The climax at the zoo has all the elements mystery lovers want:  danger, an evil psychopath and sacrifice.

This is tense, exciting and quite humorous. The romance doesn’t overwhelm the mystery, but it’s there, for which I am grateful. These two truly care for each other. It’s grand. And on the last page, there is a blurb for the next instalment. Double grand!

A version of this review originally posted on Goodreads. Read Sept 13 2013.

Highly recommended to those of you who love a murder mystery.

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

battlemagic

I think it is interesting what Tamora Pierce has done here. She has taken us back two years before ‘Melting Stones’, and glimpsed Evvy when she was only 12 and first meets up with Luvo. I had forgotten about the book when I read this, so it might send some readers back to ‘Melting Stones’ to see Evvy’s development (and that is never a bad thing).

The evil Emperor in ‘Battle Magic’ is truly wicked. I sometimes felt in previous Pierce books that the main characters had a pretty easy time of getting out of trouble. But here, our little band of heroes really have to struggle to defeat him.

There are lots of deaths, mostly of characters that are quite minor, but readers are certainly shown how horrible war is, and how greedy people can be. Briar and Rosethorn are wonderful, and we meet a warrior called Prahan who is excellent, as is the God-King and of course, Luvo.

This is action-packed story, filled with insight and compassion. Many of us have been reading Pierce books for many years, and it’s good to see that she continues to write quality fantasy that depicts strong female characters, as well as a couple of my own personal soapboxes: LGTB characters treated as if they are just the same as other people. And ethnically diverse characters trying to overcome prejudice and stereotypes.

Review originally posted on Goodreads. Read September 19 2013

A shoutout to me

Over the last couple of years, I have begun a friendship with a local author, Christine Bongers. She spends some time in our library and borrows some books to read, and in the course of this, she asked me to read her yet-to-be-published manuscript, a story tentatively entitled ‘Intruder’.

I read it, and loved it (of course) and then talked to her about it. Just last Friday, she announced that the book will be published and on her blog, she gave me a little shoutout.

It’s gratifying, a little bit humbling and lots exciting that I may have had a tiny part to play in the publication of this book. The blog entry is here.

The self promotion ends now.

And if you want to have a look at her writing up till now, I have both of her previously published YA novels in the library. Dust and Henry Hoey Hobson.

dust-coverhenryhoey

The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

unspoken So there was this book. And you guys didn’t love it. Or really even give it a chance. Which is strange truly, because it’s full of all the things you like: Murder, mayhem, and mystery. It’s got the lot!

The main character of Unspoken is a girl. Kami is half- English, half-Japanese. She’s the nosiest, most pushy, most direct and most funny protaganist I have seen in a while. And she’s also nuts. Because she talks to this voice in her head. His name is Jared and he has always lived in her head, and she’s never alone.

So of course, what happens in this book, is that Kami discovers that Jared is actually a person whose family have now moved to the small English town (more like a hamlet), where Kami’s family lives (it’s go the best name ever btw – Sorry-in-the-Vale), and they cannot believe the other is real.

While trying to cope with that huge shift in their world view, Kami & Jared also have to deal with the discovery of sorcerers trying to enslave the town, the murder of one of the girls at school, and the role each has to play to defeat this cruel, all consuming magic power.

Sarah Rees Brennan does not care about her readers’ feeling AT. ALL. I say this with conviction, because she tears my heart out every books she writes (all listed here) and then lets people call her evil for hurting us so much. I tell you, there is not a better author out there for putting her characters through hell and back, and even then, don’t assume everything will be happy every after either…

Anyway, this is meant to be about Untold, the second book in the series. it has just been released. The angst untoldcontinues. The plotting against the evil sorcerer continues, and the action is filled with humour and insight and a pretty terrific storytelling ability. I like that Rees Brennan’s characters are flawed and not all that good at communicating. There are occasions of miscommunication, and noble sacrifices to be made and one very scared 10 yr old boy.

Look, it’s beautifully written, it moves along at a great pace, and the up-in-the-air resolution will have you pulling your hair out for the next one (not due till 2014). In the meantime, you could check out her some of her other books, which I have in the library.

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

 

 Friday Brown, the book, is hard to read. This author doesn’t muck around. There’s no toffee apples or candy canes at this show. At one point, Friday has her hair cut off – actually, it is hacked off, then her head is shaved. badly. Why does Friday let someone do that to her? Ah, the mystery that is the character called Auden.

And Friday Brown, the girl, is hard to pin down. She’s drowning in grief and steeped in curses and looking for her place in the world. Looking in a lot of wrong places, I might add. As she settles into life (of sorts) with a group of homeless youths, Friday’s beliefs about her life are challenged and she has to decide if these are worth sacrificing.

Both the city and the country landscapes are luminous and real. A sense of place, crucial to all the characters, ensures the narrative is grounded and real. Wakefield moves effortlessly between the two contrasting settings: One that suffocates Friday, the otherthat sets her free.

This is an astonishing tour de force. I cannot speak highly enough of it. Watch for it to be on every literary list in 2013.

Read from August 26 to 29. Review originally published at Goodreads.

 

 

Ward Against Death by Melanie Card

Ward Against Death is a paranormal thriller. It is set in a fantasy, medieval type place inhabited by organised crime groups, assassins and necromancers. In this world, surgery is banned and yet that’s all Ward wants to do with his life. His desire to save people reflects his strong moral code, and so when he ‘wakes’ Celia from death, and she pleads with him to help her find out who murdered her, it is clear he won’t be able to refuse.

From the moment they start running from the people knocking on the door to Celia’s room, the action does not let up. Ward & Celia jump from one precarious encounter to the next, with barely time to breathe. They don’t know anything about each other, and consequently their mistrust and doubt of each other impacts on their communication and chances of survival.

I enjoyed this humourous action-packed ride. Ward is loyal, clever and resourceful. Celia is beautiful, deadly and cynical. Their developing friendship occurs carefully, and with the sub title,  Adventures of a Reluctant Necomancer, promising more books about them, their future looks promising.

I recommend this to boys who enjoyed Fated by Sarah Alderson, Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynne Barnes or Eat, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst. Read March 26.