You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do. That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
This will probably be one of the vaguer reviews I have written for Turn the Page. It would be unforgivable to spoil anything, and frankly, I doubt I can really do the novel justice. I saved this post to go up on the 8th of March, in honor of International Women’s Day, because it seemed fitting to feature a book that not only celebrates female solidarity, love and friendship but also stars two independent heroines in unconventional, dangerous roles for their time.
My copy of this book has been re-read so many times it is falling apart. For those of you who are familiar with ‘I Capture the Castle’, another favourite of mine, this book has a very similar feel and atmosphere.
Set in the 1950’s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the second rock ‘n’ roll era.
Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother, Inigo, currently capable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry…
Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her ‘witch-blade’, a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.
So I’ll admit, I bought this book purely because of the cover (isn’t it just lovely) and because its been a while since I read a really good children’s fantasy book that adults could equally enjoy.
Simply put: I adored Plain Kate and can say without a doubt it has become one of my favourite reads this year.
The main reason for this was, of course, Taggle. Why is it that talking animals tend to make the best characters (Manchee and Mog I’m looking at you!)? I loved Taggle. Utterly and completely (anyone who knows me won’t be at all surprised by this). Bow captures him perfectly; arrogant, regal, sarcastic and totally adorable. Loyal and protective of Kate, Taggle comes across as very human at times, and hilariously cat-like at others,
Their friendship is very special and my absolute favourite part of the book. Kate is alone in the world, her father has died and the local villagers are wary of her because of her quiet nature and expressive carvings. She experiences prejudice and fear from both strangers and those she considers family and throughout it all, it is Taggle who is her one true friend and constant companion.
Kate was a character I really came to admire and like — she is a quiet, determined girl with an inner strength and has had to learn how to survive on her own, relying on the kindness of strangers and her own carving skills. But she also comes across as incredibly vulnerable and yearns to be accepted, to be part of a family. It was wonderful to read a story that focused on an independent, solitary heroine in search of her own place in the world.
Bow’s characters are well drawn and have a complexity you don’t always find in younger children’s literature. Linay, the ‘villain’ of this story isn’t just a corrupt, evil character, his motives are very human and I enjoyed seeing the progression of his character. He does some terrible things, but he also shows Kate kindness, perhaps more than most. His relationship with Kate is compelling right through to the end.
Plain Kate is reminiscent of one of Grimm’s fairy tales. It is has melancholy feel to it, is very dark and quite violent in places. Bow explores different cultures, traditions and beliefs and how suspicion and prejudice can all too easily turn to fear and hatred. But it is also very much a tale of redemption, love, friendship and perseverance. The narrative flows beautifully and is quite lyrical in its simplicity.
This is a lovely story. Some readers may be put off by the quiet tone and pacing of Plain Kate as most of the action does take place in the last third of the book. I found it difficult, at first, to engage with Kate. She is a distant character due to her experiences, but I fell in love with her all the same. The ending is just perfect. Bittersweet, heartbreaking and exactly what it ought to be. The only thing I have to complain about is that I didn’t want it to finish.
Ciri came toddling up to them. He was the young prince of the Roamers, a boy of two, the favorite of the dozen naked and cheerful children who chased chicken and snuck rides on horses in Roamer’s camps. Just now he had Taggle in a headlock.
“Help,” croaked the cat.
Drina shed her anger and pulled boy and cat into her lap.
“Ciri, Ciri,” she said, and dropped into the Roamer language, a liquid coaxing in which Plain Kate caught only the word ‘cat.’ Ciri unfolded his elbows, and Taggle spilled out, buy-eyed.
Plain Kate picked him up and scratched his ruff. “Thank you for not killing him.” By this time she knew how to flatter a cat: praise of ferocity and civility both.
Taggle preened. “He’s a kitten.” He arranged his dignity around him with a few carefully placed licks. “Else I would have laid such a crosshatch of scratches on him he’d have scales like a fish.”
A recently published YA book that deserves an award for both the story and the illustrations is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is all-round storytelling at it’s very best. Once read, it’s almost impossible to imagine experiencing this book without the illustrations.
I’ve always been drawn to darker, edgier illustration and I’ve always particularly loved the texture and markings that come from traditional printmaking. The composition, energy and use of space in these drawings is stunning, but I personally find it is the use of shadows and lighting that really makes these. Continue reading
Frankie Parsons is twelve going on eighty — an apparently sensible boy growing up in New Zealand, he has a drumbeat of worrying questions steadily gaining volume in his head:
Are the smoke alarm batteries flat?
Does the cat, and therefore the rest of the family, have worms?
Will bird flu strike and ruin life as we know it?
Most of the people in Frankie’s life seem gloriously untroubled by worry. Only Ma takes his catalogue of persistent anxieties seriously, listening patiently to the questions he brings her at 10pm each night. But when a new girl arrives at school with relentless, unavoidable questions of her own, Frankie’s carefully controlled world begins to unravel. Will he be able to face up to the unpalatable, ultimate 10pm question?
I should warn you now — I’m not sure I’ll be able to express my love, adoration, and pure joy for this book.
Quite simply, it is stunning. Heartbreaking, poignant, hilarious, beautiful, wonderful. It’s something very special. Continue reading
I loved Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour (and no, not just cause the main character had the same name as me!)
Everyone seemed to be excited about this book — and for good reason — as its one of the best books I’ve read this year, certainly one of the best contemporary YA I’ve ever read.
Amy Curry’s year sucks. And it’s not getting any better. Her mother has decided to move, so somehow Amy has to get their car from California to the East Coast. There’s just one problem: since her father’s death Amy hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of a family friend, who turns out to be funny, nice… and unexpectedly cute.
But Roger’s plans involve a more ‘scenic’ route than just driving from A to B, so suddenly Amy finds herself on the road trip of a lifetime. And, as she grows closer to Roger, Amy starts to realize that sometimes you have to get lost to find your way home…
‘When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.
Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.’
I can’t remember now which blogger (or multiple bloggers), first convinced me to read these books, but I’m sending a big fat thank you out there to whoever you were! I would never have discovered these on my own, (for some reason I’ve never been drawn to contemporary YA — though thats changing quickly) and Simone Elkeles has quickly become one of my favourite authors. She certainly knows how to bring the swoon! Continue reading
‘You take a deep breath, you grow up and you man up. You have a daughter now…’
You’ve got it all planned out. A summer of freedom, university, a career as a journalist — your future looks bright. But then the doorbell rings. It’s you ex-girlfriend, and she’s carrying a baby.
You agree to look after it, just for an hour or two. Then she doesn’t come back — and your life changes for ever.
A gripping and original story about love, relationships and growing up the hard way.’
I am a huge fan of Malorie Blackman and advocator of her work ever since I first read Noughts and Crosses many years ago. Not only does Blackman create extremely well written books with relatable characters, but she also tackles difficult, sometimes controversial, subjects for YA literature, in an honest and thought provoking way. Boy’s Don’t Cry is a powerful and unexpected novel. I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading through until 5 in the morning, and then I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it.
Wow. I have just put this book down and found I simply had to write a review straight away to try and collect my thoughts. This is one hell of a book. I think Patrick Ness has just become my top author. Ever. I don’t even remember the last time a book affected me so much. My heart is still racing.
I’m not sure I can do it justice in my review.
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.
Or are there?
Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.
Which is impossible.
Prentisstown has been lying to him.
And now he’s going to have to run…
This book is…stunning. Exhilarating. Exciting. Brutal. Poignant. Heartbreaking.
Lady Victoria Arbuthnot has always done exactly what she wants. So she’s delighted when she bags drop-dead gorgeous Lord Malfrey before she’s even got off the boat from India. But then a dashing young sea-captain starts spreading stories about her man. Could it be that Vicky’s happy-ever-after with Lord M. might not be so happy after all?
Have I mentioned how much I love Meg Cabot?
Love. As in, I-have-read-almost-every-single-book-of-hers-many-many-times and I always want more.
Victoria and the Rogue is one of my top favourites among hers because, unusually for Meg Cabot, it’s a period setting — fun and flirting in the 19th Century? Yes please.
Victoria is a sassy, independent heroine with an endearing bossy streak. Practical to the core, she has no time for female swooning fits, or day-dreaming about handsome men. Victoria’s mission in life is to help people with her sound (if often unwanted) advice. I just had to laugh at how Victoria went around re-organising everyone’s life (for the better of course) so subtly that no one even notices. Victoria cannot help helping people and I was amused that her bossiness had caused her rather alarmed bachelor Uncles to ship her of to another country for some peace.
There are lots of delightful moments in this book — I especially enjoyed the sisterly relationship that developed between Victoria and her cousin Rebecca, and Jacob Carstairs!
I’ll let you discover Jacob Carstairs for yourselves, but I will say I don’t blame the poor girl finding herself all hot and bothered and tongue-tied around him once he turns on the charm.
You don’t really need me to sell a Meg Cabot book to you do you? There’s romance, balls, gowns, scandal, a handsome rogue and even a spot of kidnapping. What more could a girl want?