Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - Costa Book of the Year Review

Publisher: Macmillan (2015)

'Faith's father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father's murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter...' (Publisher's blurb)

I started reading this book a couple of days before it won the Costa Book of the Year 2015. It's so exciting that a children's book has won this award and I can't think of a more deserving recipient!

It's a long time since I've read a book with such an original premise. Although this has the feel of a deliciously dark fairy tale, there was no point when I felt like the plot borrowed from anywhere else. The tension accumulates as Faith unearths more clues about her father's disappearance and makes for a thrilling read.

Faith is a really interesting main character. As a girl in a past when women were deemed inferior, she's often ignored. This enables her to listen in on conversations and subtly spread her lies. I love it when a character feels so real and at the same time her every attribute is entangled in the plot.

Another part of this that I loved was the writing style. The settings in particular were described with language that was somehow both clear and poetic. Take this as just one example: 'The mist flattened everything and sucked out all colour. Trees became intricate smoke-hued doilies. Buildings were featureless outlines, eiderdown grey.' So beautiful and evocative!

This book was also incredibly well-researched. The references to the theory of evolution adding a fascinating element and the many historical details created an impression of realism. My favourite (and most morbid) aspect of this was when Faith encountered a local boy whose photographer father was often hired to take pictures of the dead.

Everything about this book was so wonderfully creepy and well-executed that I can't think of a bad thing to say about it. I'm really looking forward to reading more by Frances Hardinge!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (for something dark and terrifying)
-The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (for an intriguing and unpredictable mystery)


Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan - ARC review


Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: 25th February 2016

Harriet Jenner is just twenty-one when she walks through the gates of Fenix House. Reeling from a personal tragedy, she doesn't expect her new life as a governess to be easy. But she certainly does not foresee the spell Fenix House will cast.

Almost fifty years later, Harriet's granddaughter Grace follows in her footsteps. For Grace, raised on Harriet's spellbinding stories, Fenix House is a fairy tale; a magical place suspended in time.
But the now-faded grandeur of the mansion soon begins to reveal the holes in Harriet's story and Grace finds herself in a place of secrets and shadows. For Fenix House hides truths about her family, and everything that she once knew is about to change. (Publisher's Blurb)

Mostly I read Young Adult these days, though I was intrigued by the premise of this when I discovered it on Twitter. I was optimistic about the historical, mysterious feel to the blurb and this book absolutely lived up to it!

Often when a novel has alternating viewpoints, I find myself rushing to my favourite character. Both Grace and Harriet had compelling story lines and I loved trying to work out the connections between their stories. All of the characters were interesting in their own ways and it was great to spot some of them in both narratives.

The writing style of 'The Shadow Hour' felt enviably effortless. The alternating first and third person narratives were both executed brilliantly. Kate Riordan's descriptions of Fenix House between the two time periods were suitably creepy and reminiscent of various Bronte novels. The historical aspects seemed well-researched and the modern sensibility behind this made it feel dark and gritty.   

I'm guilty of having quite a short attention span when it comes to books, generally preferring YA because I can finish them in a few days. This book was addictive, with really suspenseful chapter endings that insisted I read on. There was no point in this that my attention wandered and I raced through the 500 pages!

At this point I usually try to think of something I didn't like but I have absolutely no complaints about this book! It comes out tomorrow and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an intriguing mystery that will keep them reading all night!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan (which I haven't read but also sounds brilliant!)

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - review

Publisher: Quirk Books (7th June 2011)

'A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.' (Publishers' Blurb)

This book came out to incredible critical acclaim and spent more than a year on the NY Times Bestsellers list. All of that attention is very much deserved, because 'Miss Peregrine's Home' is exceptionally well written and beautiful to look at. I often read E-books but this is definitely one where I needed the paper copy.

Basing a book around a series of found photographs is such a unique idea! They add a sense of this being someone's secret scrapbook or journal. The photographs themselves are fascinating and very well-selected, enhancing the story and creating a unique reading experience.

The premise of this is as unique as the format. I loved the idea of Jacob visiting Miss Peregrine's Home to find out more about his recently deceased grandfather. This felt like a mystery, historical fiction and a fantasy mashed together and yet somehow this worked really well. These different elements created a tense, well-paced plot. 

My other favourite part of this was the characters. Without giving too much away, there were a lot of characters in this and yet they all felt well-developed and believable. I especially liked Jacob and loved reading a book solely from a male point of view. Issues surrounding his mental health were also dealt with in a very sensitive but real way.

The only downside of this for me was that I would've like to know more about the villains of this world. They were introduced and their motivations were made clear, but I was intrigued to know more. This will possibly happen later in the series, which I will definitely be continuing with. It isn't often that I read a book so entirely fresh and unpredictable and I would highly recommend it.

Image result for four silver stars

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George (which I reviewed here:
-The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (which I reviewed here:
-The Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Selection by Kiera Cass - Review

Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books

Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals…

It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon’s love.
Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.
Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret – one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever. (Publisher's Blurb)

I don't know why it took me so long to read this book, because I absolutely adored it! It only took me a couple of days to read and I've since read this second and third book in the series. This is a testament to how addictive and compelling these books are!

I really liked how this created a fresh take on the dystopian by tapping into the obsession with celebrities and the media. It's been a while since the premise of a dystopian has hooked me in like this one!

That is enhanced by Kiera Cass' amazing writing style. The pacing was perfectly balanced between action, romance and introspection, which kept me interested long after I should have gone to sleep...

The romance deserves a paragraph of its own. Sometimes love triangles grate on me but this one was meaningful and contributed to the conflict throughout. Maxon was a great love interest, with his own challenges and issues rather than being just more two-dimensional eye candy. I liked America as an MC and overall felt that she was a strong and sassy lead. 

My only quibble with is that sometimes it felt like there was too great an emphasis on wealth and appearance. I get that this is escapism (and it really does this job terrifically well!) Sometimes there were moments when America was thinking about how pretty she felt etc. when she had more important things to worry about.

Another great part of this book is that America's competitors felt like relatable girls in a stressful situation, when they could easily have been portrayed as just bitchy obstacles to America's relationship with Maxon. By the end of this there was a real feeling of sisterhood and camaraderie between the girls and I loved that!

This was a super enjoyable read and I'll definitely check out the fourth and fifth book in the series.

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If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Matched by Ally Condie
-The Chemical Garden Triology by Lauren Destefano