A Girl Called Malice, Rowl

18884761 Bloody. Brilliant.

Malice is a gem of a character, and her story is heartbreaking, captivating, and beautiful all at once.

Popping the Cherry was one of my all-time favourite YA reads, and A Girl Called Malice is my first real introduction to NA. I couldn’t have loved it more. It’s absolutely fearless, and so raw in places it hurts. I would, quite literally, kill to be able to write like this.

If you think YA is all sickly sweet characters following well-trodden paths within safe boundaries, you should definitely give Popping The Cherry a read, and then once you’ve met Malice, you’re going to want to dive straight into this one. Promise.

 

 

 

The Turn of the Screw, James

10882679 Hmm. A tough one. I have vague memories of reading The Turn of the Screw at uni, but I seem to remember the whole Freud element our tutors loved to peddle winding me up and essentially causing me to disengage.

Anyway, I thought a reread was long overdue, and now my feeling is…that I’m essentially…underwhelmed.

I fully expect to be lynched for admitting this, and hold my hands up in surrender. I’m not suggesting it’s not an incredible piece of writing; it’s just not an incredible piece of writing that I connected overly well with.

There are three things I took from this one.

1. James’ sentences are some of the most convoluted and tangled I’ve ever seen. They’re like entire beings, birthed onto the page in a tangle of ink, crawling away from your eyes as fast as you try to read them.

2. The Governess is completely bonkers.

3. Possibly purely precocious little kids are almost as terrifying as potentially possessed little kids.

Great concept. I’m just not a big fan of the execution. After the exhaustion of cutting through some of those sentences, I was looking, I think, for less ambiguity, and more concrete reward.

 

Cover Reveal! Beneath the Moon and the Stars

MoonAndStarsBeneath the Moon and the Stars is the brand new debut from Amelia Thorne and will be published by Carina on October 17th.

 And it looks delicious! Click the pic for a full-sized gander at the cover art. As ever with Carina, it’s to die for.

Here’s the blurb

Home, sweet home…

Joy Cartier has been to some of the most beautiful places in the world – but none of them have ever felt like home. So moving into a tiny cottage in the idyllic village of Bramble Hill, walking distance from her childhood home, seems like the perfect plan.

That is, until she gets there. The surly inhabitants of Britain’s Friendliest Village are anything but welcoming. Even her neighbour, reclusive Hollywood star Finn Mackenzie, takes one look at her and walks in the other direction.

But when the village animosity steps up a gear, it is the infuriatingly brooding Finn who keeps coming to her rescue. Slowly Joy begins to realise that maybe a happy home isn’t about where you live, but who you’re with…

It will be available on Amazon for Pre-order very soon.

Miles Behind Us, Kirkman

138396Miles Behind Us is, I’ve got to say, a total work of art. This series is really opening my eyes to the power of the graphic novel format. The artwork is stunning,and the pace of storyline is breakneck; but it still manages to be dripping with emotion, and tension.  I love it.

If you think the TV series is good, trust me, it has nothing on the original. The pacing in the comics is the real win for me, nothing’s dragged on or drawn out like on TV, and there are lots more encounters and fresh characters along the way. It’s just infinitely more exciting and, driven, somehow.

These are quick reads, but they’re so fully immersive that each one is like taking a fascinating, terrifying break from reality; which is always a good thing!

 

 

 

Days Gone Bye, Kirkman

138398Cards on the table time. I’m not a graphic novel person. So little text, and such tiny text, usually sends me into a complete book nerd rage. Sometimes shiny bright pictures almost make up for it, for a minute or two, but never for very long.

What was I doing reading a black & white graphic novel then? Well, to be honest, last night I found myself unable to sleep, or to concentrate on much of anything. Mr Me has all the available Walking Dead titles, and I somehow gravitated towards immersing myself in violence and hopelessness.

I’ve seen the first few episodes of the TV series. It didn’t really grab me. I’m cool with zombies, but I’m getting tired of watching British actors force on an American accent, and I didn’t like the whole initial ‘separation’ story line that I knew would take ages to resolve.

Seeing that that particular story line wasn’t in the original comic hooked me in pretty fast. And with the “Lincoln is ours” rage removed, reading the start of this series was a lot more fun that watching AMC’s take on it. I shouldn’t be surprised, right? The book is always better than the film.

Days Gone Bye was a good read. A really good read. For the first time I can see the advantage, and even the appeal of the graphic novel format. The artwork here is incredible, and ‘tells’ the story, complete with tension and emotion, in a way I don’t recall ever having seen or experienced before.

My eyes have been opened. And there are 19 more of these waiting for me.

Beautiful Revenge, Morris

23251211 The first thing I need to admit is that I didn’t realise this was Book 2.  Beautiful Revenge does work OK as a standalone, as there’s plenty of explanation of what’s been going on, but I think I would have enjoyed a richer read if I’d read Selfish Beings first. Totally my own fault for not paying attention!

I really like Morris’ concept, and the world he’s created; it’s detailed, vibrant, and intelligent. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, and the plot belts along. There’s a little bit of everything here – intrigue, dogma, humour, and essentially a thriller ride through a killer plot.

I should have enjoyed this a whole lot more than I actually did. It’s well-written and beautifully plotted. The problem for me was that I didn’t get on too well with the style. I found it to be quite heavy on info-dump in places, and whilst the humour was nicely done it felt slightly out of place with the novel as a whole. I think it offers such a wide mix of characteristics that I didn’t feel I could settle too well to any one of them. This is purely a personal viewpoint, and no criticism of the style itself. Plenty of readers are going to love the way Morris mixes it up, it just wasn’t for me.

If you fancy some urban fantasy with a difference, and are in the market for a fresh look at the concepts of heaven and hell, you should definitely give this one a go. I may not have overly enjoyed it, but I can still appreciate the work that’s gone into it, and the originality it brings to the table.

Hide and Seek Part 1, Bird

23201612 I’m about the only person in the world who didn’t enjoy Gone Girl. I may well have just been a victim of the hype, because by the time I got around to reading it I was expecting something utterly amazing.

Hide and Seek is everything I wanted Gone Girl to be, and more. Proof positive, I feel, that Brits Do It Better ;)

I’m not always a fan of serialisations, but this worked an absolute treat for me. The pacing was spot on, and the setup is absolutely beautiful; engaging characters, liberally sprinkled intrigue, and an exploration of the origins of our identity that will have your mind working overtime.

A genuinely exciting and enjoyable read, and I’m off to get myself Part 2.

 

 

 

 

Wimpy Kid, Kinney

389627 The first thing I need to point out here is that I’m not a ten-year-old boy, which perhaps on one level explains why I didn’t enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That said, I frequently exhibit the mentality of a ten-year-old, and more often than not I love reading books for kids. Given the hype around the Wimpy series, I’m really surprised I didn’t enjoy this.

Back when I was a bookseller, this was our go-to title for parents coming in asking what they could get for ‘the boy who won’t read’. If I had my bookselling time again, I’d actually be far more likely to direct parents away from this series rather than towards it. And no, for the record, I’m not one of those psycho mums who would ever consider forbidding a child to read something they want to read, but I’d definitely be doing my best to divert them in this case.

The content here is extremely flimsy, the protagonist is what we would term ’round our way “a little sh*t”, the vocabulary is painfully basic and the grammar is, in places, atrocious. The pictures are cool though.

If the cartoon element here really is the big draw (heh), then vocabulary-wise children would probably be a lot better off going with some carefully chosen graphic novels rather than these flyaway reads . IMHO, of course. I wanted to make sure I was being fair, because I really, really hated the first one and maybe I’d just been having an off day when I read it. So I had a read of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw which, if anything, was even flimsier. And Greg is truly the most unlikable little soul, usually I’m all for naughty kids, but he’s completely lacking in redeeming features of any sort. There’s no clever naughtiness, or cheeky playfulness, or…anything. I’m not sure why he’s referred to as a ‘wimpy kid’ and not just a ‘bloody annoying, whiny kid’, because there’s a huge difference.

If you3293821‘re looking for novels in a similar format, Tim Collins’ ‘Diary of a Wimpy Vampire‘ books have a lot more to offer, language-wise, and Nigel is a massively less unpleasant lead who can, I think, teach kids a fair bit more that’s of actual use, even though he’s undead!

Books that will get reluctant readers reading are great. I’m 100% behind them. The problem I have with Wimpy Kid, is that I just don’t see where there’ll go from here, or what they’ll get from the experience. It’s not something I’d recommend personally, although it’s better to see kids reading this than reading nothing!

 

 

 

 

 

The Maze Runner, Dashner

22560044I’m late to the party again. The Maze Runner has been on my shelf for eons, mostly because I’ve been feeling a bit dystopia’d out lately.

It’s a fun read, but I think when you make the inevitable comparisons with series like The Hunger Games and Divergent, it falls short if I’m honest. Maybe I’m the one at fault for making those comparisons in the first place, but in fairness, if there’s any doubt at all that it’ll stand up I really don’t think the publishers should blast it all over the cover. (I’m still waiting to see a copy of The Hunger Games that has “A must for fans of Battle Royale” emblazoned across it – given that Collins seem to have massively ripped off the entire plot. But I digress!)

For me, although this was an enjoyable read, it didn’t become an exciting, or overly interesting read until the last few pages. I would’ve liked to have seen either more expansion and development of the status quo at the start, or to have had it fast-forwarded a lot more to get us to the good stuff a lot quicker. For me, there wasn’t enough there to hold my interest and reading it felt like the literary equivalent of treading water at times. There were plenty of interesting little nuggets along the way that could have been developed to give a lot more depth, and maybe the second and third books will do exactly that, but in this instance, it just felt frustrating.

That’s just me though, I like to dig and delve and devour in detail. If you’re a fan of pure fast-paced action and fun, you’ll love it.

Frustrations aside, there was enough of a hook at the end to make me want to read the next one. I just hope there’s going to be a little bit more for me to get my teeth into.

Writing that last sentence has got me wondering: are my YA expectations too high?

 

The Shining Girls, Beukes

It’s not you, Lauren, it’s me.

My friends and family rave about this book like you would not believe. Three times I’ve desperately tried to love it, and three times I’ve completely failed. Clearly it’s a problem at my end, and not with the book  itself, because the rest of the known Universe reveres it. The Shining Girls and I were just not meant to be. I didn’t connect with the characters, and I didn’t engage with the plot. It felt…bland. I think three  attempts is more than enough, and there’s a hint of desperation in the air now, so I’m just going to give up, resolved to the fact that I’m in the minority.

It’s like one of those magic eye pictures…I just can’t see it…

I’m exactly the same with Gone Girl, for what it’s worth. While others fawn, I look on, bemused…and a little dejected.

To each their own. Maybe I’m just not very mass-market. Or perhaps I’m just odd. Either way, diversity of opinion is a beautiful thing.

Next!