Thursday, 29 October 2009

Book Review - Wake by Lisa McMann

Janie often races out of a classroom in a panic and avoids sleepovers like the plague. The other kids just think she’s a little strange, but the truth is that Janie gets sucked into peoples’ dreams. If anyone falls asleep near her, she’s dragged along to watch the dream. She’s seen all of the mundane ones, the bizarre ones. She’s even gleaned surprising information about her classmates from them. But when she’s dragged into a nightmare with a sinister monster, she’s amazed to see herself in the dream as well. And there seems to be more than her strange ability than she’s ever realised, for in one strange dream, someone sees her watching.

The levels of coincidence in Fade were perhaps on the outskirts of believability. Several chance coincidences went by unexplained, possibly for use in further books, but it stretched my credulity at times. On the whole, I found Wake entertaining, clever, and interesting. The premise was fairly well explored, focusing more on Janie’s character and struggles with her powers than the origins of the powers themselves.

The dream culture was intriguing, though I’d say a little skewed. A lot of the dreams Janie finds herself in are ‘falling’ dreams or ‘being naked in a public place’ dreams, which I’m not convinced that all that many people have. Also, she learns many useful things from her dream walking. I would guess that for every person who dreams of true events, there must be dozens more who dream utter nonsense.

I found the set-up of Janie’s past helped me to understand her as a character. Her past and relationship with Cabel was especially touchingly written. I do wish though that there had been a bit more interaction and closure with her mum. I’d also say that the ending was quite rushed, and a certain revelation was more convenient than credible. Fade was far shorter than I expected, but despite this managed to tell an engrossing and original story. It was fleeting yet lasting, beautifully written, the writing evoking the feeling of a dream itself. The characters were especially well drawn and I look forward to reading more about Janie.

Thankyou to Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Winter Song by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (translated by Anthea Bell)

'In the next row little Catharina sat up, unable to believe it. Buta glance at Milena's empty bed, impeccably made and empty, immediately told her what was in store for her. She tried to catch Helen's eye, but Helen turned her head away.'

- page 42 UK edition

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

'I might as well have gone crazy, judging by my new status as social pariah. And it's not as if the Myersons wanted to hire me again. After all, I was the girl who hung out with rabid goats.'

- page 22 US edition

Monday, 19 October 2009

Book review - Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Astrid’s mother has always told stories of killer unicorns. These stories have gone from fun to embarrassing as Astrid grew up with her eccentric mother. But these stories turn out to be less myth than history. Astrid is a Llewelyn, one of the few families that produced unicorn hunters hundreds of years ago. The unicorns were supposedly hunted into extinction three hundred years ago, but an increasing number of sightings suggest a re-emergence. Astrid’s mother is thrilled, and packs her off to a cloister in Italy to train to continue the family tradition.

Rampant was enthralling and entertaining, a cleverly constructed fantasy. The writing and the characters deserve a special commendation. Astrid’s cousin Phil is bubbly and engaging, though perhaps a little naive. Her new friend Cory is determined and wilful, yet also too bloodthirsty. Each character has depth, not only multiple facets, but also reasons for these facets, events that have shaped the personalities. Astrid herself is interesting, though I would say too weak-willed. I can’t really understand how her mother could force her to go to Italy to kill unicorns if Astrid didn’t want to – surely most teenagers would be able to say no to that?

Of course, the aspect of virginity is interesting, especially when some interesting guys come on the scene. The use of mythology to illustrate the plight of the hunters is clever – some are eager to do war on the unicorns and some are very reluctant warriors. The unicorns themselves are of course more complicated than they first seem. All-in-all, an excellent adventure with romance, action, fantasy and a cast of memorable characters. I can’t wait for the next book.

My copy is a US edition, I don't think it's being printed here in the UK at the moment, but it's available from Amazon.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Book review - Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Ice will be published in the UK on the 29th October
Cassie has been brought up in the Arctic with her father, a polar bear researcher. When she was younger, her grandmother would tell her stories of how her mother had been taken to the kingdom of the trolls when Cassie was only a baby. Now almost eighteen, she knows this is just a fairy story but this doesn’t stop her from imagining life with a mother. The day before her birthday she tracks the largest polar bear she’s ever seen. He’s fast and she loses him at a wall of ice she could have sworn he just walked into. As Cassie begins to learn the truth about this unusual bear she’s plunged into an adventure full of magic. Her past is entwined with this huge polar bear and Cassie has to decide how far she would go to bring back the mother she doesn’t remember.

This modern day fairy-tale is a good read. Sarah Beth Durst has created a modern world full of hidden magic, yet remarkably has also managed to achieve a fairy-tale quality to her writing. Bear’s history is far more complex than the usual ‘I did something wrong so the fairy turned me into a bear,’ consequently making the character himself more interesting, though I’d have liked to have learned more about his past. Cassie is a strong main character struggling with the impossibility of this new world she’s found herself in.

The new mythology Sarah Beth Durst has created fits seamlessly into descriptions of the modern world, perhaps because Cassie’s existence is so isolated and different from most other peoples’. Apart from filling the modern world with unseen magic, I have to say I didn’t find the book too special. The 'circle-of-life' theme was rather sketchy and the plot was predictable - there was nothing too surprising in there. But then, aren’t all fairytales like this? And don’t we just enjoy them for what they are no matter how many times they are retold? I know I keep reading them.