Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich - review

Publisher: Orion Children's Books

Through excerpts from diary entries, police reports and transcripts of videos, the book describes the run-up to 'the Johnson Incident', when three high school pupils died and twenty were injured. The diary entries belong to Kaitlyn Johnson, who is conscious only during the night, while her counterpart Carly lives in the day. 

This is a terrifically original premise and writing style. At first I thought the book's piecemeal nature might feel jarring or pretentious, but it was incredibly well-suited to the plot and characters. The writing is electrifying and felt throughout like you were given an insight into the lives of real people.

The question that hung over this gave me a lot to think about: whether Kaitlyn was real or a personality disorder resulting from trauma. From the start, Kaitlyn was portrayed as an unreliable narrator, who had suffered trauma and struggled with mental health. I enjoyed picking through the evidence to work out the truth about her.

This book was really dark and overall I liked how unflinching it was about tackling difficult issues. Despite that, I would've liked more moments of lightness in contrast. Using Kaitlyn as the main narrator worked well in a lot of ways, but sometimes felt consistently bleak.

It's a long time since I've read a book that kept me guessing and truly messed with me like this. It reminded me of my early experiences of reading Stephen King in the best possible way, and I'm looking forward to reading more by Dawn Kurtagich.

If you like the sound of this, now try:

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys - a book of short stories which I reviewed at 
Carrie by Stephen King
Horns by Joe Hill

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nameless (Tales of Beauty and Madness) by Lili St. Crow - Review

When Camille was six years old, she was discovered alone in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, godfather of the Seven-the powerful Families that rule magic-ridden New Haven. Papa Vultusino adopted the mute, scarred child, naming her after his dead wife and raising her in luxury on Haven Hill alongside his own son, Nico. Now Cami is turning sixteen. She's no longer mute, and keeps her faded scars hidden under her school uniform only opening up to her two best friends, Ruby and Ellie and to Nico, who has become more than a brother to her. But her past is now coming back to haunt her. (Publisher's Blurb)

I've been on a bit of a fairy tale bender recently, rereading the Brothers' Grimm and any retellings that I can lay my hands on. Fairy tales are such great source material, because they are truly disturbing and contain flat characters with a lot of potential for development.

This was a modern take on Snow White (usually not my favourite fairy tale because of the lackluster heroine). In this I loved the world that Lili St. Crow created, with compelling magical realism and other fairy tale characters making fun cameos. 

There was a mounting sense of unease throughout, as Cami gradually unearths her back story and finds out who she is. The traditional fairy tale aspects were also melded effectively with modern and magical elements.

My one quibble was the romance. I like my romances slow-burning and building to something really explosive. For me, the relationships in 'Nameless' had tonnes of potential (and some great love interests) but didn't really go anywhere.

This was an enjoyable, well-paced read, and I'll definitely be checking out the other books in the series (so much for keeping out of my overdraft!)

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (the first in the amazing Lunar Chronicles)
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore - Review

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows. The Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. Lace Paloma may be new to her family's show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it's a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace's life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. (Publishers' Blurb)

This book is right up there with the best YAs I have EVER read. The plot and lyrical writing style utterly engrossed me, yet I tormented myself by reading it in short stints so it would last longer. 

The premise of this is just brilliant, very Romeo and Juliet with the two warring families who descend on the same town once a year where the rift between their families began. Star-crossed love stories done well are the best kind as far as I'm concerned! This one was gut punchingly, heart wrenchingly riveting all the way through, with no pointless falling out/ will they or won't they needed.

A particularly amazing aspect of this was that the descriptive writing style managed to provide a gorgeously evocative reading experience, at the same time as making the teen speak feel authentic and not at all annoying. I can't remember reading another book that does this so well since 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' (one of my all time favourites).

The beautiful writing set against the subtle supernatural elements made the whole thing feel magical. There was a Shakespearean, fairy tale thread through it, and I loved that I had no idea how it would end.

The alternating third person viewpoints also worked really well for the book, allowing the families to be set apart at times and overlap at others. This allowed the layers of the family history and mythology to peel away as the story progressed.

In case you couldn't tell, I really adored this book! If you read one more YA novel before the end of this year, make it this one.

I swear I'm not getting soft, but here comes another five stars...



If you liked this, now try:

-The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

-The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett - Review

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Hardcover: 352 pages

"Romeo and Juliet" meets "Children of the Corn" in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror. "When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in blood and salt. " These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time. Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town's history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own. As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself and discover the truth about Quivira before it's too late. Before she's all in blood and salt." (Publishers' blurb)

I really liked the premise of this! There's something about cults that repulses and fascinates me, the idea that your mindset can be twisted into thinking it's right. This book definitely wasn't afraid to delve into dark subject matters, from the brutally described deaths to the unsettling cult traditions.

There was also an interesting supernatural element to this, especially in the flashbacks of Ash's ancestor Katia. This plot unravelled alongside the present day story, and the two wove together in an interesting way.

My favourite part of this book was the building tension, in the romantic side story and the quest to save Ash's mother. By the end, I was reading this at crazy speed because I really wanted to know what happened!

The only downside of this was that it took me a while to get into. For some reason I didn't engage with the voice and the writing style immediately, though I did get into the flow as the tension started to increase.

Overall, I found this a really unique concept and a very tense, creepy reading experience. If you're feeling the post Halloween slump, this is a perfect read to keep the scares going!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

The Accident Season by
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore