Snapshot Review: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words in the DustWords in the Dust is one of those quiet, no fuss books that tend to get lost amongst the pop­u­lar, well-marketed titles. If I saw this book on the shelf I would, in all hon­estly, be put off by the old fashioned cover and prob­a­bly carry on by. But this is a heart­felt, intel­li­gent book and I sim­ply can­not praise it highly enough.

Words in the Dust, writ­ten by for­mer sol­dier Trent Reedy, tells the story of Zulaikha, a young girl liv­ing in worn-torn Afghanistan. The Tal­iban may be defeated, but Zulaikha is bul­lied daily and shunned because of her cleft lip. Until the day the American’s arrive and offer her a surgery that will trans­form her life.

Words in the Dust is a rich novel that flows so beau­ti­fully, giv­ing an insight­ful glimpse into a very dif­fer­ent cul­ture and way of life. It was heart­en­ing to see Zulaikha grow in con­fi­dence throughout the book and ultimately choose her own future. One of the aspects I loved most (and found particularly powerful), was how pro-women’s rights the book was, all the while maintaining a respectful understanding of a culture where girls and women do face a lot of limitations. To that end, the authors note at the end is also well worth a read. An excel­lent book for younger and older readers.

*Many thanks to Frances Lincoln Books for sending this for review*

Book Review: A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton

I was given A Witch in Love for review a long time ago, so I have to apologise to both the author and Hachette for taking so long to get around to reading this.

Anna still finds it hard to believe that Seth loves her and has vowed to suppress her powers, no matter what.

But magic – like love – is uncontrollable. It spills out with terrible consequences, and soon, Anna is being hunted.

*Some spoilers for A Witch in Winter

As the title suggests, there is a bigger focus on romance in this book, and that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy A Witch in Love quite as much as its predecessor. I had hoped the books (and the characters) would move on from Anna’s love spell but we’re left rehashing much of the same stuff and it all gets too melodramatic and angsty for me. Readers rooting for these two will love this book but I was never a fan of Seth and Anna. Seth is far too perfect and consequently dull, while Anna turns rather needy and pathetic whenever it comes to Seth. These two are just way too wrapped up in each other and I don’t feel the chemistry.

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Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

The cover is probably my favourite thing about this book.

Not that this a bad book – I think it deserves all the rave reviews. Its definitely one of the better cancer books I’ve read about a child dying (though why I keep picking these up I don’t know), as it avoids the horrible, saccharine, cliches you normally come across in these types of books *coughJohnGreencough*. It also has some very funny moments.

The truth is, I found being in Greg’s head a weird mixture of amusing, annoying, dull and tedious… which I think was kind of the point.

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

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Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Publisher: Puffin

First Published: 5th May 2009

Format: Paperback

Pages: 276

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 4.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first book in a YA series that by all accounts, seems to be well-loved and incredibly popular.

It’s your typical teenage love-triangle set against a pretty backdrop of sea, sun and sand, and not a whole lot else. With these types of books, when we all know what’s going to happen, it’s the characters and dialogue that really make the story.

It’s a pity then, that I so intensely disliked Isabel.

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Book Review: Creepover Truth or Dare by P.J Night

Publisher: Atom

Published: 5th April 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 160

Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Junior Fiction

Recommended Reading Age: 7+

Rating: 6.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

During a round of Truth or Dare, Abby Miller confesses her crush on Jake Chilson. The only people who know her secret are her friends at the sleepover – and whoever sent her a text message in the middle of the night warning her to stay away from Jake…or else!

But Abby isn’t going to stay away from Jake, especially not after he asks her to the school dance.

As the night of the dance comes closer, some very creepy things start happening to Abby. Someone definitely wants to keep her away from Jake. Is it a jealous classmate or, as Abby begins to suspect, could it be a ghost?

Creepover: Truth or Dare, while not something that can really hold my interest now, is a book I know I would have enjoyed in my pre-teen years.

Fans of R.L Stine will most likely enjoy this one – I devoured the Goosebumps series when I was a kid, several of which I found incredibly creepy (I seem to recall a dolls house one that I loved and hated in equal measures). I’d say Truth or Dare is a little tamer, it doesn’t quite manage to hit that level of creepiness that would make this a real memorable story but it’s quite enjoyable nonetheless. Continue reading

Book Review: Lilah May’s Manic Days by Vanessa Curtis

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Book

Published: 5th January 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

Genre: Contemporary, Junior Fiction

Recommended Reading Age: 11+

Rating: 8/10

Amazon/Goodreads

Lilah May used to be angry. VERY angry. But not any more. She’s got her temper – and her life – back under control. Or has she? Things with her best friend, Bindi, are going from bad to worse. The whereabouts of her brother Jay is still a mystery. And gorgeous Adam Carter is still out of reach. Groo! Can Lilah sort out her family, her friendship and her love life? Or is her anger about to reach all new levels? 

Two years ago, Lilah’s older brother, Jay, ran away after she caught him taking drugs. Since then, no one’s heard from him or knows where he is. Eaten up with guilt and worry, with her parents not coping well and her now ex-best friend dating the boy she likes, Lilah’s struggling to keep her anger until control again. Suddenly Jay comes home after sleeping rough on the streets, but it’s not quite a happy reunion she always imagined it would be. Continue reading

Book Review: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Published: 26th Arpil 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 5.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything. Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy…and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.     Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….

When I first heard about this book I was quite intrigued with the idea of telling the story of Romeo and Juliet from Rosaline’s point of view. The girl before the girl. So I was a little disappointed when I started reading and realised that this was actually a contemporary novel, based on the famous play.

For one thing, the little we know of the original Rosaline was that she rejected Romeo (I’ve always doubted she was the first girl Romeo had proclaimed his undying love to) and Romeo laments her rejection. He isn’t too happy about the fact that she’s taken a vow of chastity either.

Poor boy. Continue reading

Book Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Publisher: Hodder

Published: 5th January 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 346

Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

Anna Winterson doesn’t know she’s a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

I have always, always loved stories about witches and witchcraft, especially historical novels about witchcraft. When I realised A Witch in Winter was a contemporary, I was momentarily a little disappointed, but Warburton creates quite a rich, historical atmosphere with her setting that there was no chance of this becoming too Sabrina-like. I like my modern-day witches to have a strong connection to the past and A Witch in Winter definitely achieved that. Continue reading

Author Interview: Ruth Warburton

Ruth Warburton, author of A Witch in Winter, joins us on the blog today to chat about her debut novel. Click here to see my review.

A Witch in Winter has quite a historic feel – the idea of witchcraft being passed down through the centuries, the history surrounding the town Anna moves to – all of which I loved. Did you ever think about making A Witch in Winter a historical novel, or did you always know that you wanted to write a contemporary book?

It was always a contemporary book in my head – I don’t know why – that was just how it started! I could definitely see myself doing something set in the past in another book though. I loved doing the research and weaving it into the plot.

What kind of research did you do for the book? 

Mainly it was research in order to write the spells the girls use. They had to sound really convincing and authentically “old”, but the real spell books I found didn’t quite work in the plot. There are lots of real grimoires which survive from the middle ages and even earlier, but they aren’t what we would really think of as spell books – they’re often in Latin and full of complicated instructions about astrology and spirits and demons – they were designed to be read by learned men and are more like a whole study guide.

I wanted something a bit more rustic and domestic, with spells and charms the girls could pick out and use individually, a bit like recipes. So I researched the language and style of real spell books, as well as the language of early recipe books, and I also researched folk charms and superstitions, and tried to kind of combine all three into something close to what I wanted, but convincingly 16th century. Continue reading

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Publisher: Atom

Published: 19th January 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 434

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. 

When the night began, Nora had two best friends and a boyfriend she adored. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands. Chris was dead. Adriane couldn’t speak. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also-according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone – a murderer. 

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora’s determined to follow the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. But Chris’s murder is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is not an easy read. It’s complicated and intricately woven, perhaps even a little convoluted in places. It’s not all action and takes its time. There are a lot of scenes where Nora is simply translating and decoding Latin manuscripts and a few parts I raised my eyebrows at. The old lady in me was quite distressed for the poor teachers who have three of their students run away during a school trip abroad. Several times I wondered why no one just went to the police. Then there’s the ending, which is little insane.

But I still enjoyed this book. Continue reading