Tag Archives: Top Rated

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have two weeks.

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.

Con­tinue read­ing

Rewind and Review: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

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…

Con­tinue read­ing

Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

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,

 

Tag­gle climbed into her lap. “Hello,” he said, then rolled over and peered up at her appeal­ingly, “I am fond of you and present my throat for scratching.”

 

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.”


Illustration Corner: Jim Kay

A Monster Calls

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

Book Review: The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi

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

Book Review: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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…

Con­tinue read­ing

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

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

Book Review: Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman

‘So what am I sup­posed to do?’

‘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.

Your 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.

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Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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.

Con­tinue read­ing

Book Review: Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot

The tall, flaxen-haired lord brought colour to Victoria’s cheeks — not to men­tion a flut­ter to her pulse. He was so hand­some. What girl would not blush? And he was flirt­ing with her!

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?

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