Monday, December 24, 2012

Books I've read and enjoyed but not had a chance to review

There are a few of them: 

Shift by Kim E Curran is one of my faves of 2012 although I've not reviewed it - mostly because it's hard for me to review friends' books with clarity and without seeming biased.  It was super-hard doing Tanya Byrne's book but I decided that Shift by Kim needed a shout out from MFB for being a really fun, Fringe-lite, YA.  

When 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He s a Shifter. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands...

Kim's writing is easy on the eye and by this I mean it keeps you paging, which is crucial.  Scott is a nice kid, occasionally a bit dumb, mostly a boy just interested in getting along until one night when he does something a bit weird and his life changes irrevocably.  There is no going back.  I liked the science, it made sense to me.  You got the bigger implications behind Scott's abilities and what could potentially be done with it, even if it takes him a bit to catch up. The pacing is pretty damn decent too - there are enough pauses to let you catch your breath before we're off again.  

I'd recommend Shift to readers who want something with more padding around the edges - it's an intelligent, fast paced, contemporary YA that deals with identity, realities and choices.  There's a decent science fiction slant so for readers who like that kind of thing or who wonder about it, this is the perfect book.  It really is Fringe-lite, as Mark said when we spoke about it.  And it's satisfying - I cannot wait to see the sequels.  A big recommend from me - especially for reluctant readers too.  It's not a big book, but it's not tiny either and it reads in a very cinematic way - something I thoroughly enjoy. 

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards 

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.

One thing - there are several - that Ms. Edwards excels in here is her world-building and scene setting.  It felt, initially, quite exposition heavy, but it needed it in order for us to grasp Jarra's life and how things have both advanced, changed and yet, become worse in some instances, rather than better.  Earth Girl is big writing, covering bigger themes than you may anticipate - things like prejudice, for sure, and definitely handling preconceived ideas about people from the other planets and how they have evolved.  I did however lose interest occasionally due to the minutiae of Jarra's student-life as an archaeologist on planet Earth - which is awful, I know, because I love all things  archaeology and questy, but it felt heavy in some places and I would have appreciated more time with Jarra and her new friends and getting to figure out what was going on in their heads.  But ultimately, the reason why we're so focussed on Earth as it was before is to hold it up to the reader to show us how badly things can go wrong and have gone wrong in the past.  

Although I enjoyed Earth Girl and would recommend it as a entry-level science fiction novel, I would caution wary readers to perhaps dip into it first, if you have the chance, to see if it will work for you.  Ms. Edwards writes really well, really well, but it's not yet consistent and I found myself not warming to Jarra as much as I would have liked, but that could be because I'm not fond of characters who are very Hermione and a bit know-it-all.  If you're prepared to overlook this, you are in for a solid strong bit of storytelling - it's layered and thoughtful and I for one am looking forward to seeing what else Ms. Edwards will be coming up with in the future.  (Insert eyes here to show that Liz Is Always Watching).

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart 

Frankie Landau-Banks has gone from geeky to gorgeous over the course of the summer, and she can hardly believe it when Matthew Livingston, the senior she worshipped from afar the year before, seems interested. But being Matthew's girlfriend comes with a lot of things Frankie didn't expect. She feels uncertain navigating the complicated politics of his social circle, and uneasy with the antics of his friends, which often seem to exclude her. Worst of all, she senses that he's not letting her all the way into his life--that, because she is a girl, he will never see her as an equal.

Then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of the school's exclusive--and male-only--secret society. At first she only spies on them out of curiosity. But as her desire to prove herself every bit as capable as Matthew's male conspirators grows, she finds herself getting wrapped up in the society's business of sneaking and pranking, without any of the boys suspecting a thing.

With Frankie pulling the strings, anything is possible.

I grabbed the above write up from the Teens Read Too site. 

This is one of the most difficult books I've read, hence no review / thoughts until now.  It's written in an oddly distant way and seems both timeless and old worldy and a bit affected and yet, I don't think it could have worked being written in any other way.  Frankie's character is not the most likeable protag I've ever met.  In fact, for some part of the book she comes across as a complete nutjob as she becomes utterly obsessed on getting one over on the male orientated society of the private school she belongs to.  I approved of the getting one over, but not so much of her ways, and yet, again - it makes complete sense when you consider who Frankie really is - a deeply complex, interesting, flawed character who makes the right decisions, for the right way, and yet it all goes badly wrong yet right.  I'm sorry - months after reading this book I'm still not sure what I thought of it.  I think that if you have the chance to read it - it will drag out those grey brain cells we aren't really used to exercising when reading complacent books about teen romances - and it will make you think and hate it and love it.  The majority of reviews I've seen for TDHOFLB is one of conflict with stuff the reader both loved and loathed.  Some books are just like that.  It's not at all my fave title of the year, yet it's the one that made me most uncomfortable and thinky.  And that is not at all a bad thing. 

Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese 

Shan Westfall—half-Chinese, half-American, one hundred percent kung fu badass—is on a mission to recover five mystical jade animals before they fall into the wrong hands.
Over 15 years ago, Shan’s mother led a secret society of female martial artists sworn to protect the statues. When the Jade Circle lost four of the five statues during a murderous attack on their sanctuary, 12-year-old Shan’s destiny was sealed. It was she who carried the remaining tiger statue all the way to America; she who felt it clawing at her with the need to recover the crane, snake, leopard and dragon. The Circle was destroyed that night, and Shan hasn’t seen her mother since.
Shan has grown up under the tiger’s unforgiving influence and the shadow of her mother’s legacy. Her quest to recover the statues takes her to upstate New York and Ian Dashall, a geeky but brave archaeology professor, and then on to France and England with Ian at her side. Finally, on a secret island off the coast of Hong Kong, Shan overcomes torture, betrayal and deadly tigers in order to battle the man who destroyed the Jade Circle.
But even as she faces off with him, she loses hope. How can she possibly succeed where her mother had failed?
Bah, I loved this book so much.  It took me far too long to get to it and once I did get to it, I tore through it mega-quick.  The writing is pacey, the action sequences and the martial arts are well done.  There is witty repartee and our heroine is rather splendid and wry and sweet and I was rooting for her from the start. It contains all the stuff I like - and Jenn didn't even know I existed when she wrote it! - martial arts, a geeky archaeologist, a kick ass heroine, mystical items of value...all the things that makes my heart happy.  But more than that, it's brought together in some pretty tight writing.  I don't think it's readily available in the UK (I ordered mine in from Book Depository) but it's definitely something I'd recommend buying in to read when you're in the mood for some fun reading.  Earlier this week I saw the girls over at the Booksmugglers review Jenn's Above World (book 1) and it made me super happy to see that they loved it. Jenn's definitely a writer to keep an eye out for, in my opinion! 

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore 

Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal.  She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business.  Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister.  Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less norman than it normally is.  Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbour cowboy is in her face. 

Rosemary Clement-Moore is one of my fave writers.  I will buy her books, without even know what they're about.  Her writing works for me that much.  Texas Gothic is sweet and charming and sexy and just swoony.  The title really does say it all - TEXAS GOTHIC - hot cowboys, dances, ghosts, shenanigans.  The girls over at The Booksmugglers did such a good write-up about this one.  What I also like about RCM's writing is how her sense of humour comes out in her writing and her characters feel vivid and alive.  I really do not ask for more, well, tied in with good storytelling, which she does.  She debuted in the UK with The Splendour Falls but it's not her first set of books she's done.  Check out her website here

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 

A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska, The Snow Child was a bestseller on hardback publication, and went on to establish itself as one of the key literary debuts of 2012, and was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick.

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

I'm not good with hype.  I walk away from books with too much hype because 9 / 10 cases they disappoint.  However, I would urge you not to walk away from The Snow Child because the hype isn't just hype - it's truth.  

One of the most beautiful books I've ever read, when Sam at Headline sent me a proof I was blown away.  I read the opening chapter at work and was immediately worried.  The main character goes to a very dark place, basically trying to kill herself, but she stops just short of doing it.  I thought to myself: am I doing right reading this? It's not what I really am expecting.  But I continued reading it.  Then I lent it to Kate who loved it with all her heart.  And I've personally not been able to review it because by the time I wanted to, everyone was shouting about it.  And I was worried my voice would be drowned.  So instead I made sure that everyone I came across, booksellers and unsuspecting people lurking in bookshops, had to buy a copy.  But now, I want to just say, that if there is one book you buy this year, for yourself or for others, let it be The Snow Child.  It's not just beautifully written, it's also a story of true love, courage and succeeding in the face of incredible odds.  It's a fable, a fairy tale, and it will break your heart, quietly get under your skin, and ultimately make your heart soar.  Because that's what good storytelling does. 


These are a handful of the titles I've not fully reviewed but really wanted to share with you guys because they made me think and wonder and possibly cry and question things.  

1 comment:

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I really want to read The Disreputable History... as I love the Ruby Oliver series.