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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: A Line Straight to My Heart

Author: Bill Condon

Release date: 1st May 2012
Genre: Contemporary / coming-of-age
Target audience: YA
UK Publisher: Allen & Unwin


A Line Straight to My Heart is a contemporary coming of age story set in a small Aussie town. It’s a story of friendship, first love and loss.

Tiff is just so ordinary. She doesn’t stand out and she’s never been kissed. She’s a bookworm. Her head full of Heathcliff and other literary wonders. As she reads Wuthering Heights, tucked up in the super hot Gungee Creek Library, she is approached by a bigfoot of a boy. Suddenly, there’s hope in her heart that maybe she could find love. But of course, this is a story which is about the heartache of growing into yourself. The journey’s not an easy one.

I think this is a real rites of passage novel. It’s about the life, death, birth, marriage. But more importantly, it’s about growing up, searching for your identity, finding love and experiencing your first kiss. This is not your page-turner thriller type of book. It’s a gentle read and I loved that about it. It’s subtle and in some ways it has a feeling of innocence in its writing.

Tiff’s story is about her following her dreams. She starts her job at the Eagle paper and it doesn’t quite meet her expectations. I loved how this is a true reflection of real life. Dreams are rarely what we dream them to be. Reality is so much more struggle and perseverance. But the book isn’t depressing. It really is about working to make things work - friendships, families, work, love.

A Line Straight to My Heart is an easy, sweet read. The voice of Tiff captured me from the very first page. It pulled me into her life and her hideout in the Gungee Creek Library. The characters’ emotions felt real in this book which made it effortless to read and wonderfully rewarding. I’m really glad I picked it up. 

Recommended for fans of:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Source: Borrowed from the school library

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review: Taste of Darkness

Author: Maria V Snyder

Release date: 31st Dec 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA/ Adult Crossover
UK Publisher: Mira Books

Taste of Darkness is the final book in the Avry of Kazan series.

This book was utterly satisfying – from the first page to the last. I didn’t want to put it but I also didn’t want to finish it.

Naturally, the story picks up where we left the characters in Scent of Magic but all is not well. Kerrick, gravely ill from the Death Lily toxin, disappears into the night. Avry refuses to believe that he is dead. But after weeks pass, she is forced to stop searching for him and return her focus to problem of the plague. It seems a new strain has been developed and it is a race against time to protect her friends and allies. But Avry herself is facing a plague; her dreams are being violated by Tohon. Is it her psyche trying to search for the answers, or could Tohon have escaped the magical paralysis? The days ahead will test Avry to the limit and see her stare death in the face.

I’ll say no more about the plot because let’s face it, no one likes a spoiler!

What I love about Maria V Snyder’s writing is that her characters are consistent in their actions. They act only as they would act. Avry is consistently selfless. She’s a healer by magic and a healer by heart. Kerrick is warrior prince. He doesn’t hesitate to make hard decisions. When he kills, you’re not surprised because he has always been committed to the cause since the beginning of the first book in the series. Ryne is the military strategist he’s always been. But we don’t have to like it.

Life and death, war and peace are serious heavy issues. Snyder does a wonderful job of lightening the dark places of the novel with humour – driven again by solid characterisation - Flea and the monkeys offer amusement, loyalty and courage in the face of the enemy.

This conclusion will surely please all fans of the series. It was romantic. It had a thrilling, unpredictable plot. It was full of tension but of course, it ends just how you want it to. I can’t wait to see what Maria V Snyder writes next. She’s definitely one of my favourite fantasy authors. If you haven’t read her books, you should: Start with Poison Study.

Source: Bought from Amazon

Monday, 6 January 2014

Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

Genre: Contemporary Family
Release date:  Paperback 17th December 2013
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Orion Books

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a quirky novel. It’s a mystery. It’s a story of family, identity and there’s a little bit of social commentary thrown in there too.

This is Bee’s story. This is Bernadette’s story. A daughter and a mother. Bee goes to school at Galer Street but she’s just been awarded a place at the prestigious Choate boarding school. At the end of the year, she’ll be leaving home. But she’s not the only one. From the outset of the novel, it is clear that her mum, Bernadette, goes missing. The story goes any which way but the one you expect. It’s kooky. It’s melodramatic and it’s comical. I really enjoyed this book.

Bee is a gifted student. She has an inquiring mind. When she gets her perfect school report, she asks for what her parents always promised. “Anything she wants”. Bee is not your usual eighth grade student. Her wish is to go on a cruise to Antarctica. Of course, her parents have to say yes. But her mum isn’t exactly thrilled about the voyage ahead.

There is much humour in this book. Bernadette gets in many scrapes with the other Galer Street parents. The school is almost a setting for a sitcom with all these different characters making assumptions about each other. The story is told through letters, emails, blogs, and newspaper articles. This is interspersed with Bee sharing her part in the tale.

The best part of the novel is the unexpected truth about where Bernadette went, how and why. I loved that I didn’t see it coming. It’s not a predictable turn of events – there’s no secret affair. The truth is a little crazy and makes enjoyable reading.

I’m really looking forward to hearing what the other members of our staff book group thought of this book. It was a light, entertaining and endearing read. I certainly recommend Where’d You Go Bernadette if you like your books charming and out of the ordinary.

Source: Bought from Daunt Books, London.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Genre: Fantasy
Release date: UK Paperback 3rd Jan 2013 (the edition I read was the hardback with the cover shown)
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: Doubleday

Seraphina is a rich fantasy novel. It has a vastly detailed dragon mythology and a musical twist.

Seraphina has always tried to do as her father instructed and not draw attention to herself. Her secret threatens to disgrace her family. When she is appointed as the music assistant at court, suddenly she is thrust into the spotlight with her musical talent. But at a time when the great treaty is under threat, she must ensure no one ever discovers her secret. A world where the treaty ensures dragons and humans co-exist peacefully should be a sacred, worshipped one but not everyone is in favour of a harmonious future. Some believe that the truce should never have been accepted.

I really enjoyed this book. The characterisation of Seraphina with her intimate secret made me instantly sympathetic to her cause. Her belief that she is an abomination makes her easy to like. Her teacher Orma is also hugely endearing. Though he lacks emotional warmth, his dragoness is rather entertaining.

However, I did find it hard to follow the vast cast of characters which inhabit the realm of Goredd. At the back of the book there is a guide to who’s who and I wished it had been put at the front. I also found it hard to visualise in my mind’s eye what the dragons looked like in their human guise.  And just where did their human bodies come from? I was having trouble getting my head around that. The other difficulty I had reading this book was understanding the many musical references. I have absolutely no understanding of music and very little of instruments so the “spinet” device completely baffled me.

The part of the novel I found most interesting was Seraphina’s mind garden. The mystery of the inhabitants of her garden was intriguing and gave her even more challenges to overcome. The plot is complex, dynamic and certainly kept me turning the pages. I did read this book in just two days. So even though I couldn’t understand certain aspects of the “fantasy”, the events of the story gripped me.

Overall, this was a beguiling story. Seraphina’s predicament of belonging to both the human and dragon world was compelling. The romance of the story and the philosophical references also gave it a gentle charm. If you enjoyed Pegasus by Robin McKinley, you’ll enjoy this richly detailed read.

Source: Gift

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy 2014!

Out with the old in with the new. 

This blog has awoken from a deep slumber.

2013 drifted into the abyss of not reading. For November and December I didn't read much at all. I read Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout poetry and really enjoyed it. But that was pretty much it. In November I moved house and anyone who has sold a house and bought a new one will know it is so stressful and time consuming. It seemed to eat up my life and I just didn't pick up many books.

In October I read the whole of Maria V Snyder's Study series. I love her books so much. I'm waiting for Touch of Darkness to arrive so I can start 2014 with a great read.

In 2013 I set myself the challenge of reading 52 books but I didn't complete it. So I set it for myself again this year. 

Happy New Year everyone. Tell me: what was your best book of 2013? 

The book I couldn't put down was The 5th Wave. What a page-turner!

The book I thought was the most beautifully written was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Books I can't wait to read in 2014:
Trudi Canavan's  Thief's Magic: Book 1 of Millennium's Rule 
Kristen Britain's Mirror Sight: Book 5 of the Green Rider series