Sunday, 17 March 2019

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. Beautiful and troubled Summer whose horrific death shocked the small town where she lived. Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. There are all sorts of rumors about what happened that day; that the girls were witches, that they were being controlled by their weird friend Owen, that they were obsessed with a fantasy book and that they killed her as a sacrifice because of it.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

They all go their separate ways, trying to cope with the hatred and rumors that plague them and their families, until, on the 5th anniversary of Summer’s death they are brought back together to try and find out what really happened. Mia and Brynn haven't spoken since they were accused of Summer's murder, and Owen had left town, studying overseas to avoid the wrath of those who believed them all murderers. Together they uncover dark secrets, and face the things that they too had been hiding.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a tad predictable at times, but Lauren Oliver’s writing is captivating. An amazing beginning and ending to this book, even if it did sometimes drag in the middle. Plus it has an amazing first line that really made me want to keep reading - “Five years ago, when I had just turned thirteen, I killed my best friend.” I knew from the first page that I would be hooked – and I was.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Broken Things

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Puddin' by Julie Murphy

Puddin’ is a companion novel to Dumplin’, set not long after the first book ends. This story revolves around the bubbly and fun Millie Michalchuk. Millie is now working at her Uncles gym part-time, studying hard to pursue her dream of becoming a television journalist, and trying to figure out how to kiss her crush. Then there is Callie, the beautiful, popular, (and usually unfriendly) dancer who (at first) unwillingly gets thrown into an unlikely friendship with Millie. She starts the book as a horrible, self-absorbed stereotype, but by the end is a, fully fleshed out (flawed) but redeemable character.

This book contains many exciting adventures – including some poorly thought out destruction of property, sleep-overs, romance, and a sleep deprived road trip - but the thing I loved most about this book was the importance it placed on female friendships. Yes the girls talked about boys, and gossiped, but they also had each other's backs and trusted each other. They helped each other in the pursuit of their dreams, they fully supported each other no matter what their sexuality, and even when they argued, they still had each other's backs. I truly enjoyed this book (maybe even more than ‘Dumplin’) and I definitely recommend it to any Young Adult fans who have ever felt different, insecure, or looked over.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Puddin'

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

This novel had been recommended to me by several people as a fabulous read, and it did not disappoint. An interesting hybrid of historical fiction, contemporary fiction and family thriller; The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is compulsive reading.

Edvard Hirifjell grows up in rural Norway knowing that his parents died in mysterious circumstances in France when he was three years old, and that he himself disappeared for a few days at the same time. His great uncle Einar may know more details, but he is estranged from the family and never spoken of.

Edvard lives a contented and comfortable life with his grandfather Sverre on their isolated farm. Because his grandfather fought on the German side of the war in Russia; and his great uncle worked for the Resistance, a family feud as well suspicion from the locals who suffered under the Nazi’s haunts the Hirifjells. A beautifully crafted coffin made by Einar arrives for Sverre years before his death; leading Edvard to suspect Einar may still be alive somewhere and have the answers to his questions about the death of his parents.

A burning need to find answers to his family history and an unusual missing inheritance takes him to the Shetland Islands (once Norwegian territory) and his great uncle’s last known residence. In the Shetlands Edvard meets the mysterious Gwen, and together they piece together the past; each not trusting the other with the whole truths of their respective family histories. Their journey takes them to the WW1 battle grounds of the Western Front, and they begin to understand the significance and story of a small woodland in Somme. The tension builds and the whole story is beautifully interwoven.

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is translated from the Norwegian. Lars Mytting has written the unlikely yet internationally successful non-fiction book Norwegian Wood, about the Norwegian art of wood stacking, (wood also plays a major part in the Sixteen Trees of the Somme as you may gather from the title).

This cleverly plotted and beautifully crafted novel is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Willowdean "Dumplin'" Dickson is fat - and no, that is NOT an insult to her. Dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen Mom, Willowdean is happy enough in her skin as long as she has her best friend Ellen by her side.

Until she meets the gorgeous, private school jock, Bo. She likes him, but is surprised when he seems to like her back. However there is also Mitch, who likes Willowdean (yes, there is a love triangle – what YA novel would be complete without one!)

So she decides to enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant (run by her well meaning, but sometimes naive mother) to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any of the skinny, pretty girls do. But things (inevitably) don’t go according to plan, giving the book plenty of drama, kissing, best friends fighting, a drag show, lots of insecurities and plenty of Dolly Parton.

Overall, a really great book with an amazing message - it doesn't matter what you look like, but who you are.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Dumplin'

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Siege of Troy, so famously described in Homer’s epic poem The Ilyad, has intrigued people for thousands of years. Homer’s story brings together the ambitions of kings and princes whose best efforts tend to be undone by the mischief of the gods. As you may recall, Aphrodite promises Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, to Paris, a prince of Troy. Only Helen is already married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta, who takes exception when Paris abducts Helen and carts her off to Troy.

The ten years of war that ensue feature some big names: Agamemnon, the king who bargains with the gods for a wind so the Greek armies can set sail, only to discover he must sacrifice his daughter; Odysseus who dreams up the Trojan horse idea which allows the Greeks to enter the citadel; Achilles, the famous warrior, whose sea-goddess mother makes him almost invincible – apart from his famous heel.

But most of these characters are men. Enter Pat Barker who tells the story of the siege largely from the point of view of Briseis, who has seen her family slaughtered by the Greek armies, before being taken, along with the remaining Trojan women and girls, into slavery. They spend their days weaving; their nights in forced prostitution.

Briseis is an intelligent commentator on what she sees. In service to Achilles, she watches the politics and in-fighting among the leadership. It’s interesting to read her eye-witness view of extraordinary events, including plagues and sacrifices to placate the gods, while the story builds towards Achilles’ final battle. There is epic tragedy here, for Greeks and Trojans alike, as there is in any war. The question is, what kind of future is there for the women caught up in it all. Can Briseis build a new life of her own making?

Pat Barker, who has written some stunning fiction about war previously, has made the events of a thousand or more years BC seem very real. She conjures up the brutality of what Briseis witnesses, the sounds of battle in the background, the filth and squalor, the fear and the loneliness, the ongoing grief. This doesn’t always make for pleasant reading, but The Silence of the Girls is a novel that will draw you in and keep you enthralled, breathing new life into an old story. Recommended.

Reviewed by  Judith McKinnon

Catalogue link:  The Silence of the Girls

Monday, 25 February 2019

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez

Locke & Key is an amazing graphic novel series that takes the reader on a spellbinding trip from start to finish. Locke & Key centres on the Locke family, still reeling from the callous and brutal murder of Rendell Locke – husband to Nina, father to Tyler, Kinsey and Bode. The grief-stricken family relocate to Rendell’s childhood home: The Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Unbeknown to them there is a creature of great evil lurking in the Keyhouse - the truly maniacal Dodge.

Sociopath Sam Lesser (the man who killed Rendell Locke) is fed messages from Dodge via pictures and communication through telepathy. Dodge convinces Sam to free him from the well where he is trapped at the Keyhouse to take revenge upon the Lockes. Sam escapes prison and leaves a trail of death and carnage in his wake on his fateful collision course with the Lockes.

Unusual and magical keys are discovered at the Keyhouse manor. With powers such as being able to travel out of your body, replace or insert memories and thoughts from someone’s mind, being able to travel to anywhere you want to go – make no mistake these are very powerful keys!! When Dodge is released from his watery prison in the well the fight for the possession of the keys begins!

Locke & Keye is a fast-paced series, taking the reader on a roller-coaster journey of emotions. You feel what the Lockes are going through - Nina drowning herself in alcohol to kill the pain of losing her husband. Tyler, the reluctant older brother figure - blaming himself for his father’s death. Kinsey, the brave and courageous sister dealing with adolescence while trying to hold the family together. Bode, the youngest of the lot, wise beyond his years and with his close connection to the keys.

Dodge is pure evil and will stop at nothing to get the keys, in particular the Omega Key - which holds the key (pardon the pun) to everything. The origins of the keys are explored as are the back stories to Rendell ,Locke and Dodge. Beautifully illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, the artwork flows effortlessly with the amazing story Joe Hill is telling – fully engrossing the reader in this magical world.

Make no mistake there is no smooth sailing throughout this series, no character is safe - I’ve shed a few tears along this journey of reading and re-reading it! I’ve recommended this series to a few people and they’ve all enjoyed it.

There have been talks of a TV Series on Netflix for Locke & Key. If one is made, fingers crossed justice is given to this great body of work. I dug this series so much I got two of the keys as tattoos.

Jump in, take a chance on this series, it’s a fast-paced, violent, emotional and magical spellbinding journey you’ll never forget.

Posted by NN

Catalogue link: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (book 1)

Thursday, 21 February 2019

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

“If you came across AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING at 3 a.m. in New York City… Would you keep walking? Or do the one thing that would change your life forever?”

April May is 23 years old and working at a small internet start-up in New York but her true passion is art and design. Leaving work in the early hours of the morning she comes across the most beautiful sculpture she has ever seen, towering at over 10 feet tall like a transformer wrapped in samurai armour. In the spur of the moment she makes a decision to call her friend Andy who films a video of April and the sculpture, nicknamed Carl, and uploads it to YouTube. When they wake up the next day, the video has gone viral.

Weirdly, Carl is not unique to New York. Carls have popped up in many of most populated cities worldwide, all at the same moment while no one was looking. All CCTV footage was stopped worldwide and any audio recordings contain a faint trace of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. It quickly becomes obvious that the Carl’s physical properties defy all known science and the origins of Carl becomes a worldwide mystery and obsession. As the world’s first documenter of the Carls, April May is in high demand and her life is turned upside down.

I really enjoyed reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. I have found that there are not many books which have a main character who is not a teen or an adult that turns 20 and magically has their whole life together. The book explores how the internet and social media has changed the way we think and consume information along with the highs and lows of fame along with friendship and finding yourself.

Hank Green is not a new name in the entertainment industry. Hank, along with his brother John, run the successful YouTube channel vlogbrothers with over 3 million subscribers. Hank’s brother, John Green, has written many bestselling young adult books including The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, which does not have a release date quite yet!

Reviewed by Kristen Clothier