Sunday, 25 September 2016

Review + Guest Blog Post: Fir for Luck by Barbara Henderson (Children's, 11 years +, 10/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

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 21st September 2016, Pokey Hat, 142 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book summary
When 12-year-old Janet’s village is under threat– she decides to take action. It’s a split-second decision that could cost her everything: her home, her family – even her life.

Can Janet save her village from being wiped out? Or will her family and friends be forced from their homes to face an uncertain future?

Based on real life events, Fir for Luck is a tale of the brutal Highland Clearances, when land owners cared more about sheep than people. 
Nayu's Thoughts
This is a story based on history in Scotland, a hard read full of trials and the occasional bit of humour. If you love animals, especially cats, I advise not reading the cat incident. I was too curious, even though I felt it would be horrid, and it was. I was too shocked to cry, and felt a bit sick (I had just eaten some yummy cake too since the book isn't a fluffy bunny read). I don't have words for that part of the story.

As for the rest, it's gloomy, but Jenny does all she can to save her village. She is plucky, and as she discovers she isn't alone in her courage. I felt desperately sad for her grandmother who was having to relive her past, something that's told in flashback chapters. The end is happy and had me excited for Jenny's future, a future that she wouldn't have had if she wasn't stubborn and rebellious. Her own mother and grandmother have their own inner strengths which she gets to see and is proud of, even if they do berate her behaviour frequently.

Janet stands firm against negative attitudes to what she's doing from a few snobby villagers, who she ends up helping a little because it's the right thing to do, She struggles with being an obedient girl, as society would like her to be, but her sometimes rash actions make an enormous different to her village. Her life is in danger several times, not all from what I expected either, but shows how dangerous life was without hospitals in rural areas in the 19th century.

It's not a book I personally can reread, as it's so hard hitting, but it's one I'll remember for a long time to come. Including the cat part-giving my cat a huge hug when I next see her!

Find out more on Barbara's website, and find out a bit more in Barbara's guest blog post below!

Historical Fiction and Modern Kids by Barbara Henderson 

Fir tree leaves

My story Fir for Luck is set almost 200 years ago. How on earth, I wondered, could I make modern young people care about something that happened so long ago, in a society so very different from ours? 
I tried different approaches at the beginning, playing about with different points of view, tenses, structures, but in the end it boiled down to this: I wanted the true story of Ceannabeinne village, its resistance to the Highland Clearances and its defiance of authority, to be told from a child’s point of view. 

One of the things which had first fascinated me about these events was the fact that the eviction document was sent at a time when the Master knew all the men would be away. He must have assumed it would be easy to subdue a bunch of women and children, but he didn’t reckon on the strength and resolve of these characters who overwhelmed the servant of the law and forced him to burn the eviction document - the writ. My main character, I decided, had to be a girl. More than that, she had to be a spirited girl who riled against the constraints placed on her. A rebel.

The character of Janet began to form in my mind. How could I make it easier for modern readers to identify with someone so unlike them externally? By creating a lot of common ground internally, I thought. I could not change the historical setting, but as I have said before, I could change the lens through which we view it. First person story-telling would remove some of that distance. By choosing present tense, I removed one more barrier – the reader would now experience everything Janet experienced, as it was happening. 

I am well aware that the writing community is split on this issue – there are some who favour present-tense storytelling while others abhor it. In the end, I decided to write in a way which would feel most natural to me and tried not to worry about what publishing officials would think. 

Once the flashback strand was completed, I decided to set it apart, not only in italics but through a past tense narration, It creates a little bit of distance between readers and Anna, and probably protects young people from identifying with the cruellest, grittiest parts of this tale, allowing them to focus on Janet instead.

In Fir for Luck, I tried to aim for a faster pace than I had seen in classics like The Desperate Journey, to appeal to a modern audience, and short, punchy chapters should hopefully keep a modern young audience more engaged. 
But the most effective way of making Fir for Luck appeal to modern readers was nothing to do with me.

Kids hear that they should never judge a book by its cover, but we all do it. Now, some sort of old-fashioned image of a child in period costume would immediately communicate distance to modern readers. That character is nothing like me, they might think.
Nayu: There's more to the cover than I realised!
By focusing on the character of Janet, and zooming in so closely on her face in the cover, Cranachan’s in-house designer has created a common bond. Janet does not look remote. The cover, in some sense holds up the mirror image to a modern reader, challenging them: Look at me! I may have lived two hundred years ago, but look. I’m not so very different from you. The fire in my eye hints at the threat, it flags up the stakes. It could happen to you, as it it did to us.
Combining that simple design with modern narrative style and pace I hope that it will enable a modern reader to care about Janet, about her world and her plight. The history may be old, but the story should feel fresh, edgy and relevant. 

I’ll soon see what modern readers make of it. And that makes me just a tiny, little bit nervous…

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Passports to Peril by Terry Ray Hall (Children's, 7 years +, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

February 2016, Girl and Cat Publishing, 28 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

When Gwendoline suggests her five friends join her on a trip across Europe, their adventure begins. Getting across the Channel to France is just the start. Once there, they'll meet all kinds of people...and try all kinds of strange food! Will Marlon get over his fear of heights atop the Eiffel Tower? And will Suzy fall in love in the most romantic city in the world? Join our six friends as they enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris.

Nayu's thoughts
Intrigued by the series being all about travel I was eager to review this for you. Unfortunately it took a long time to get to me because 1, if not 2 copies of it were posted but never arrived. However I eventually got a copy and I loved the story! There is so much humour in the book, made more apparent by the entire tale being spoken in rhyme. The friends do travel, yet how they manage to travel without adults has to be read to be believed. Gwendoline and her friends are creative in gettig past all the obstacles thrown at them, even if their plans rarely go well. 

Key places and items of France are woven in the tale which some readers may already know but there's a glossary at the back for words that may be new to readers. While the style of illustration isn't quite my favourite style, it's full of expression, and I love the crayon look the colours give since readers are encouraged to colour the rest in. How many books do that?  Other books sometimes use vibrant colours in a style that the reader couldn't match with crayons, but this style makes it easy gor the reader to blend their colouring into the artwork. This is a series that has got off to a flying start! 

Find out more on the dedicated website.

Friday, 23 September 2016

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (Thriller, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

 July 2016, HQ, 384 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Content: rape, marital affair, betrayal, 

Book summary
In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut, everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory.  Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town–or perhaps lives among them–drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

Nayu's thoughts
There are heaps of twists in this thrilling tale! It used a narration style that took a bit of time getting used to, but had me totally engrossed in this crazy tale. It is quite graphic in places when referring to the rape and other occasions, but don't let that put you off. I was a bit disappointed not to have it all from Jenny's view, but I got over that rapidly because there are so many secrets that as they unravel they affect every part of the case. It was totally necessary to learn about her parents secrets, who have a so many issues it's not surprising that Jenny struggles with the aftermath of the attack which she has no memory of. It's scary what medicine can do to the human body, and this tale definitely raises the issue of ethics, whether drugs should be used to change memories. I can't say much on this subject as it will spoil the story.

I felt sorry for Jenny because despite being of sound mind as a young adult, her parents took away her choice and in part their decision to use the memory forgetting drugs caused Jenny more suffering than necessary. She and her family learn to rebuild their lives while the search for the killer goes on, having a huge impact on the narrator who also makes unethical choices for their own child and Jenny. It is a heavy read, dealing with rape, infidelity, self-harm and other hard issues, but by being graphic in the descriptions gets the message home how messy, both literally and figuratively these issues are. I'm putting it on the reread pile, although it will be a long time before that happens to get over the content. Recommend this highly if you love thrillers!

Find out more on Wendy's website

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra (Thriller, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

 22nd September 2016, MIRA Ink, 320 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book summary
In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.

She’d been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen―blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched―though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.

Eleven years later she is replaced.

A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.

Soon the imposter is living Bec’s life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends' names. Playing with her twin brothers.

But Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the imposter dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter―and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.

Nayu's thoughts 
A good thriller is full of twists and makes me go huh? a lot, all of what this story did. I think it helped that this year I'd watched a drama where an abducted/kidnapped (I never know which is the right term) daughter returns. It gave me background info so I knew how the investigation into Bec's return should go, and how certain characters thwarted standard procedure. What the returned daughter does is outrageous, and her reasons are slowly dripped to the reader as the plot thickens. I wanted to know the full truth..,and when I did I wished I didn't. *shudder* 

There are some psycho ndividuals who had me on edge while home alone after I'd finished reading it. And what is the obsession with authors using cats who come to an unfortunate end? This is the second such book I've read this month using cats in that way. It made me feel sick, and I'm glad I decided to skim read that part as I sensed it would be horrific. 

Despite all that I know I will read it again! I loved the drama, the waiting for the daughter's identity to be unveiled. I really want to know what happens after the end, but I suspect there won't be a sequel. It is awesome and I highly reccomend it, minus the cat scene. The family has issues and then some!  

Find out more on Anna's website.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Deviants by C.J. Skuse (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

  22nd September, MIRA Ink, 336 pages, Ebook, Review copy from NetGalley

Content: teen romance, rape, child abuse, tissues needed

Book summary

Nayu's thoughts
This will make you cry a lot!) Plus there are no zombies in it-I couldn't read CJ's previous novel due to brain loving fiends. Brains are important for Ella, who on occasion annoyed me for not finding inner strength sooner, but she gets there eventually. As horrors are slowly unravelled from her past which made this such a tough read, all I wanted to do was hug her. Personally I didn't like Max from the start as he didn't seem listen to or truly respect Ella's wishes. He was most of her world, but I enjoyed the unexpected friendship rekindling which Ella does with older friends, even more so when another bombshell is dropped that had me needing tissues. 

The structure of the story, with an unseen other person at the start of chapters while Ella tells them what happened is clever and had me come up with an incorrect assumption about the end. Due to the nature of rape and child molestion it is a dark read, so make sure you have fluffy things to do after to take the edge off to these sadly real life crimes. I wish every girl could have a Fallon and Corey in their lives, as both help Ella out as well as eah other. I will reread this at sometime in the distant future! 

Suggested read
Be sure to check out CJ's other books including the equally chilling  Monster (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Gold by Krista Wagner (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

 June 2016, Clean Reads, 98 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Summary from Clean Reads
Ten-year-old Amanda is constantly teased and tormented in school. Her home life is less than satisfactory where her widower father, who is often away on business trips, leaves her in the care of her indifferent teenaged sister. Worse, not a day goes by when Amanda doesn't miss her mom. TO escape reality, Amanda creates fantasy stories, but when she discovers a talking golden pebble, her imagined world turns into a new-fangled reality.

Nayu's thoughts 
This was a bit weirder than I like to read, hence the rating. It was a bit creepy the way in which the Gold appeared, and grew. However, the realisim of the tale, Amanda's older sister's reaction to taking care of Amanda after their mother's death is what captivated me. It was clear Amanda needed love, as their dad was away and her sister was a bully within their own home, without anyone telling her off for mistreating Amanda. 

The magic and intrigue of The Gold helped Amanda get through being unpopular at school, and as the Gold grew so too did her confidence. Stuff happens, which temporarily changes how Amanda feels towards The Gold, but then an event reunites them with a bond that doesn't break. Her sister manages to mellow out by the end, with a scene that had me reaching for a tissue. 

There is a small amout of religious talk, which surprised me by not being a bigger part of what happens to The Gold, but it helped Amanda a little in figuring out life. Full of human emotions and relationships, I recommend it as a read that will make you think about life.  

Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest by A. J. York (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10E)

May 2016, CreateSpace, 128 pages, Ebook, Review copy
Book summary
In this exciting instalment, Delilah Dusticle and the Dustbusters travel to the vibrant and mystical land of India. On arrival, they are tasked with a quest to overcome a powerful curse and save a life. It soon becomes clear that it is Delilah, who must find the strength and the power to defeat the curse.

Nayu's thoughts
I'm desperate for my own Grumpy Sponge! He is such a funny character slash pet for Delilah, I kept hoping he would appear and do stuff to make me smile, which he does. I mean sunbathing? That was fun! I love how his magical self helps get Delilah valuable advice about her powers, which are unusual and strong. 

I have read the other books in the series so I know the back stories, but if this is your first read you won't have trouble understanding continuous plots. My memory is dire so I appreciated the brief summaries about what happens in earlier books as the characters get introduced, which doesn't slow the pace of the tale. As for the grade, the end felt a tiny bit rushed. I know its part of a series, but I'd have liked a little bit more closure on the main plot regarding the tempest. Also, I really would have liked Delilah's cool dust abilities to be explored more thoroughly before the final showdown. Yes she practices her skills, providing entertainment for her friends and me as a reader, but it would have been nice if she had had a bit more struggling in overcoming techniques before facing the tempest. (I'm probably being picky, but I love this series!) 

After Grumpy Sponge my favourite character is Ab who forever made me laugh, and of course Delilah whose unique talents bring her joy and trouble in equal measure. I loved learning about India, especially with the sari scenes! I could almost see the fabrics on the page-illustrations would have been awesome! I'm eager for the tale continue ^o^

Find out more on AJ's website

Suggested read