Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2013

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Geek Girl is such a lovely book. It's fun and funny, lighthearted yet with an excellent serious message running right through its heart: Be who you are.

Harriet Manners is a geek, no doubt about it. She's looked the word up in the dictionary, thereby ensuring her status as a geek. The obsessive nature and social ineptness are also big clues. She feels that she doesn't fit in at all at school, but at least she has her best friend Nat and her lovely parents. Unfortunately for Harriet a trip to The Clothes Show, which she's coerced into by Nat, threatens to wreck these relationships. In a bewildering few minutes Harriet manages to send a whole row of stalls flying and get spotted by a model agency. The second of these events is as unlikely as the first was inevitable. Falling over and dying a social death - yes, getting signed up for a modelling contract - no. Still, it might not be that bad; except it's Nat who's supposed to be the model, and her step-mum has a f…

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell. An Event and a Review

Confession Number 1: I am a little bit in love in Maggie O'Farrell.

Last night I rocked up at my old stomping ground of Waterstones Piccadilly to hear Maggie O'Farrell talk about her new novel, Instructions for a Heatwave. The event was unsurprisingly sold out; there's been so much positive pre-publication buzz.

Instructions for a Heatwave is set in the scorching summer of 1976. The action takes place over 4 days, but the story spans the lifetime of the Riordan family. Robert Riordan, now in seemingly contented retirement, pops to the shop one Thursday in July and fails to return home. This entirely out-of-character behaviour forces together a family that has long been separate. Three grown-up children return to their childhood home to help figure out where he has gone and why. They have uneasy, fractured relationships with each other, and with their mother Gretta. Finding Robert might be easier than spending time together.

The event began with a reading from the book. The …

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

Duncan Meade is more apprehensive than excited about starting his senior year at Irving School. As a senior he gets his own room at the elite boarding school at last, but which room will it be? No one wants the poky, dark room wedged into the corner. Also, each room comes with a 'treasure' left by the previous occupant; it could be almost anything and who's to say how appreciated it will be. Duncan is carrying some serious baggage from the previous year, but he seems to the only one troubled by it. His friends are acting normally, but Duncan is definitely having trouble keeping it together. It's no surprise that he gets the worst room, and a very strange treasure left behind by the previous boy to live in that room.

One year previously, Tim Macbeth was just about to start a new life at Irving. So far his life had pretty much sucked, but a new school held out the opportunity for a new start for him. Despite being understandably nervous he was feeling pretty good about …

YA Fiction: Coming Out of the Closet

Last night I attended an excellent discussion at Free Word, organised by Booktrust, on the paucity of LGBT characters in YA fiction in the UK. It's an interesting question, but not one I'd seriously thought about before - it's only when I stopped and tried to come up with, say, half a dozen I'd recommend that the lack became incredibly and sadly obvious. So, this was a very timely and necessary talk. The panel had two fabulous authors on it, Hayley Long and James Dawson, Emily Thomas from Hot Key Books, and Catherine Hennigan, a student at University of York, and was chaired by Alex Strick.

The central issue of the discussion was why it is that children's and YA books tend not to reflect children and young people in all their many differences. Are authors worried about including characters that are not considered the norm, either through lack of knowledge, fear of getting it wrong or alienating readers? Other questions follow on from this. Is it a problem that when…

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood

No one should die the way he did: that's what the faces here say. I think about him, in there, with all that space, and I want to stop them. I want to open the coffin and climb in with him. To wrap him up in a duvet. I can't bear the thought of him being cold. And all the time the same question flails around my head, like a hawk moth round a light bulb: Is it possible to keep loving somebody when they kill someone you love?
I wanted to include the quote from the back of the book so no one could be in any doubt that Infinite Sky is an emotionally challenging book. This is real-life stuff, about now and here, not wrapped up in a dystopian future or with a supernatural twist. I love both those types of books, but they do allow me a little emotional distance - there are no such barriers here.
Iris is intrigued by the gypsies that set up camp in her father's paddock. To her, their arrival promises to add some interest to the summer. She needs something to distract her from miss…

An Evening With Lynn Shepherd

Last night I was lucky enough to be at the Guildhall Library to hear Lynn Shepherd's talk her new book A Treacherous Likeness. The talk was called 'The Last Secret of the Shelleys' - intriguing.
I read Lynn's previous book Tom-All-Alone's last year, and loved the dark atmosphere and sinister going-ons. I also became very attached to the hero Charles Maddox, ex-detective and indefatigable investigator. I'm thrilled that Maddox is back in A Treacherous Likeness, this time looking into some dodgy dealing in Shelley papers the family would rather didn't come to light.

The talk Lynn gave filled in all the background on the Shelleys, especially highlighting the 'strange silences' surrounding key episodes in the lives of Mary and Percy. These gaps in the historical record are where Lynn draws inspiration from for her novel. There are some very large holes in our knowledge, largely due to some very deliberate document destruction. Percy's volatile perso…

Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson

How delicious, the Supernatural boys in a book. Fresh Meat takes place during Season 7 of the show, but is a completely new story. Somehow, despite it being one of my favourite shows, this is the first of the tie-in novels I've read. I really enjoyed it, and I'm now considering going back and filling in from the beginning. I found something very satisfying about spending time in the crazy mixed-up world of weird and spooky happenings in book form. For one, it lasts longer than a TV episode, and you get to use your own imagination. Win win, I'd say.

The brothers are in Nevada dealing with a very aggressive ghost, a real mean spirit called George Drechler. Turns out he's the least of the Winchester's problems. A report about the death of five hikers over the last three years in Tahoe National Forest grabs their attention. An unidentified bear is getting the blame, but Sam and Dean suspect a wendigo. If anyone remembers the wendigo episode (Season 1, Episode 2), then…

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Micah Grey can climb. Like a squirrel. This talent, along with a daring spirit, is just enough to get him a chance at Ragona's Circus of Magic.
Micah is on the run, from his parents, and from the Policiers. The circus offers a place of refuge, a place to hide amongst the fire eaters, clowns, acrobats and aerialists. It's also a place for outcasts and misfits, the human oddities cruelly labelled freaks. This is where Micah hopes to find a place to belong. But the circus is a hostile place for outsiders until they have proved their worth. Micah is shunned and tormented by the company, as alien here as he felt at home. But a few people see his potential and treat him with enough kindness that his determination to stay is bolstered.
Arik the aerialist takes Micah under his wing, training him on the trapeze. Arik hopes to retire after a long life travelling with the circus flying through the air. Micah has the poise and attitude needed to master the art of the aerialist. Added to the…

At Drake's Command by David Wesley Hill

This is a salty sea-dog of a novel! I do enjoy a good adventure at sea from time to time; At Drake's Command fits the bill nicely.
It's set in the 1570s, during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Francis Drake was already a famed and feared captain. Our hero is a slightly less well-reknowned chap, Peregrine James, little more than a boy really, but in some big trouble. We meet him on his way to a flogging; he's in a bit of bother all told. Still, it might just be his lucky day. Drake is also out and about in Plymouth, and Perry is not one to miss an opportunity. His boldness earns him a chance to sail with Drake, aboard the Pelican.
So Perry takes his chances upon the sea. His inexperience shows, he knows nothing about ships and is afflicted with horrendous seasickness. His boss is a talentless cook who takes a dislike to Perry, but Perry does find friends amongst the crew. He impresses Drake with his honesty, but it's apparent early on that Perry's integrity could be…