Adult Fiction Read-it-if Review: The Supernatural Enhancements…

0

image

Before we begin today’s review, I would like you to ask yourself the following questions: Do I like to be challenged by twisty, turny bizarre happenings in my reading?  Do I love a good old family mystery involving an apparent curse passed through the male line that results in certain death?  Would I ever name my dog “Help”?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then this book might just be for you.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero is part mystery, part sinister game and part historical essay.  When A. inherits Axton House as part of an estate from a distant American cousin that he didn’t know he had, he discovers it is just the first of a range of surprises in store for him and his young friend Niamh.  The circumstances preceding A’s inheritance  involved the sudden death of his cousin, Ambrose Wells, through self-defenestration (incidentally at the same age and in the same circumstances as his father before him), and on arriving in Point Bless to take possession of the property, A. and Niamh discover a well-known ghost, The Ngara Girl, is somehow connected with the house.  When A. begins having terrible nightmares and thinks he sees the ghost in one of the house’s bathrooms, things become far more serious.  Niamh and A. begin recording their actions using surveillance cameras to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.  But when someone breaks into Axton House for reasons A. and Niamh can’t quite work out, it marks the beginning of their involvement in a dangerous game of codes and ciphers, left behind by Ambrose Wells and due to be continued with a secret group of his acquaintances.  What started as a simple examination of his rightful inheritance appears to be turning into a dangerous mystery that could see the curse of the Wells family exerting itself once again.

supernatural enhancementsRead it if:

* as a kid (or an adult!), you always liked to write notes in invisible ink and sneakily record people’s conversations, a la Macauley Culkin in Home Alone

* as a kid (or an adult), you always fancied yourself to be a bit of an Indiana Jones type – an exotic blend of intellectual pariah and treasure-hunting extrovert

* you believe that secret societies should at least have the decency to put up signs to notify outsiders of secret activities, lest said outsiders accidentally stumble upon said secret activities and do themselves a mischief

First off, this was not the book I thought it was going to be when I first read the blurb.  Happily, it turned out to be a lot better in that it was far more complex than I expected, was written in a way that embraced a whole range of narrative styles and managed to strike a perfect balance between light humour and dense mystery.

The best part for me about this book was the fact that it is written as a collection of diary entries, notebook exchanges, excerpts from textbooks, letters (to a mysterious Aunt Liza), and transcripts of video and audio recordings.  Now I know this kind of format is not for everyone, but it seems to suit my gnat-sized attention span perfectly.  I love books that jump around in POV or in different styles because I find it keeps me, as a reader, on my toes and for this particular story, which ended up quite complicated towards the end, it broke up the plot twists nicely, as well as giving me time to digest different bits of information.

As well as the initial mysteries that are presented here – namely, who is the mysterious Ambrose Wells, why did he leave his estate to a distant relative he’d never met and what’s with all the throwing one’s self out windows? – the innocent investigations by A. and Niamh into their new home quickly throw up more and more questions – such as why did the butler bugger off after his master’s suicide, is there really the ghost of a slave girl who haunts the house and what are these weird coded notes left about the place addressed to dead Ancient Greeks?  It seems that the further you read into the story, the more layers are uncovered, culminating in a fantastically imaginative reveal followed by a violent and unexpected climax.

The two main characters are well-drawn, although we never quite get to find out their entire backstories.  Why are we never told A.’s full name? What happened to cause Niamh to be mute? And what is the exact nature of the relationship between the two?  To whom is Aunt Liza related?  While this lack of information did irritate me a little in the beginning as I tried to piece together who these people were, it eventually became something that didn’t really matter and sort of added a bit more intrigue to the goings-on.

I found this book to be both incredibly engaging – I was sucked in right from the first few pages, due to A.’s likeable and matter-of-fact voice – and possessed of a storyline that was designed to fire the imagination and get the puzzle-centres of the mind working.  The ending was a little bit enigmatic, but at the same time I found it weirdly satisfying and appropriate.  Having said that though, I could imagine some readers being annoyed with the lack of any definitive answers regarding some of the characters and their associated mysteries.  I also found this book to be one that deserves your full attention.  It didn’t strike me as a book that you’d pick up for a light break or even one that you could put down for any significant length of time, due to the complex nature of the plot.

For the right reader at the right time though, this is going to be an absolute hidden gem and one that will keep you thinking about it long after the story is finished.  For sheer originality and Cantero’s ability to keep hold of a whole bunch of twisting plot threads, I have to give this book a high recommendation.

Until next time,

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

A Little Ripper Read-it-if Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl from the Well…

4

image

It is not often that I get to bring you a book that is a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read.  Don’t get me wrong, I do bring you lots of wonderful, interesting, original and exciting books on this here shelf, but today I’ve got one of those special ones.  It’s a keeper. The kind you buy in hardback and keep on the “special” shelf (wherein lie the oldest knick knacks with the most sentimental value).  Basically, this one is a guaranteed re-re-re-re-read.  (NB: that last bit wasn’t a hitherto unencountered stutter that I’m developing, just a fancy way of saying “book that you will read multiple times”).

I give you….The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco.  This book has loose ties to the Japanese film The Ring, that was later remade in English and if you know anything about that film, you will immediately gain the understanding that this book is not all flowers and sunshine.  If you don’t know anything about that film, it is apparently spectacularly terrifying and psychologically scarring.  I haven’t seen it, because I am far too sensitive to expose myself to horror films of this ilk.  Having said that, I am SO GLAD I requested this book to review because it is fan-fugu-tastic (as they say in the Simpsons).  Allow me to synopsise synopsisise tell you about the plot.  And if you live in the US or Canada, stay tuned for a chance to win a copy at the end of this post.

Tarquin is a teen who has trouble fitting in.  His mother has recently been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital for (among other things) attempting to kill her son, he and his father have just moved interstate to try to start a new life and, oddest of all, Tarquin has to try and fit in to this new life while attempting to hide his tattoos.  The tattoos that his mother put on him when he was a little boy.  Callie is Tarquin’s older cousin, who works as a teaching assistant at the junior section of Tarquin’s new school.  When she’s not dealing with kids who have decidedly odd abilities, she attempts to watch over Tark and try to help him fit in.  Okiku is dead.  But she’s still here.  After a long, long, long time, she’s still here.  And she knows that there’s something weird going on with Tarquin and his tattoos.  As the story unfolds, the reader is treated to a tale filled with kidnap and murder, ancient evil, creepy dolls, ghosts hell-bent on revenge and happenings that lead Tark back to his native Japan.  But unless he and Cassie can find the right people to help them overcome a lurking, malevolent presence that is desperate to escape into the world, they may find that their lives will suddenly become a lot shorter than they expected.

the girl from the well

Read it if:

*you like a scary story that has the potential to be terrifying and psychologically scarring, but also has a few elements thrown in to ensure you won’t be dragged screaming and ranting to the loony bin after reading it

*you’ve always been creeped out by Granny’s collection of hideous porcelain dolls staring with their blank, dead eyes from behind their glass cases

*you’ve ever had (or seen, or been told about) a tattoo that you later thought was a spectacularly poor idea…and that’s before it starts bubbling and moving under your skin

*you’re looking for a lesson on Japanese culture, history and legend that is not the kind you’ll find in history classes at school

The first and best thing I can tell you about this book is that it is compelling.  Compelling is the word that I use to describe books that I either (a) can’t put down or (b) keep thinking about and being drawn back to whenever I’m not reading it.  This was definitely the latter.  The Girl from the Well is a chunky read that took me a number of reasonably long sittings to get through, but whenever I took a break I was thinking about the story, the characters and how the book was going to end.  That, in my opinion, is the mark of great writing.

There is so much going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn into the narrative.  We start off meeting Okiku, a spirit who is on a mission to hunt down and murder those who have threatened or killed children.  Now, while this might seem immediately off-putting (or fantastic, depending on where you sit on the love-of-horror-o-meter), there’s a real vulnerability about Okiku that had me sympathising with her and her situation right from the start.  Then we meet Tarquin and his weird tattoos, Cassie and her kids that appear to have ESP, and a sinister man who one can only conclude is up to some serious mischief involving helpless children.  We meet Tarquin’s mother, and discover that Okiku is not the only murderous spirit getting around.  And when that part of the story gets resolved, the narrative shifts everyone to Japan where the action kicks off again with ancient evil aplenty and the aforementioned creepy dolls and slashing and hacking and terrifying action.  I can’t say much more because it would be a definite spoiler, but there is plenty to keep you awake at night in this book – and not just from abject terror, either.

Because really, the story isn’t that terrifying.  Sure, there’s horror-type stuff going down and a number of scenes of violence and murder, but I never felt like it was over the top or too scary that I had to put the book down – and that’s saying something, coming from Mr Scaredy Pants extraordinaire.  I think that because most of the book is narrated by Okiku, and even though she’s a vengeful, murderous spirit, there’s something comforting about her ethical. justice -driven approach, and the posthumous journey of personal growth that unfolds for her over the course of the book.

And finally, I loved the Japanese elements of the story.  It was thoroughly refreshing to experience a contemporary YA novel with such an integrated focus on an Eastern culture and their legends and history.

In short, get this book. Get it now! If you live outside the US or Canada,  preorder it now, because it’s not released until August 5th.  If you happen to live in the US or Canada, enter this giveaway and possibly WIN a copy now!  Simply click on the rafflecopter link below and cross your fingers:

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to SourcebooksFire for providing a copy of the book for this giveaway.

I, as an outside-the-US-and-Canada-dweller will just have to acquire it myself in print, as I received it as a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Until next time horror-lovers,

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Adult Fiction ARC Read-it-if Review: Lost and Found…

7

Morning all! I am so, so pleased to be bringing this book to you today.  I have adopted this state of heightened excitement because in this book I have found an Australian equivalent to one of my all time favourites, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  That book had all the things I love in a novel – old people, an obscure quest and dry humour.  The book I present to you today has all that and more – not just old people, but shouty, rude old people.  Not a simple obscure quest but an obscure quest involving a one-legged shop mannequin.  And not just dry humour, but…well, lots of dry humour.  I give you Lost and Found by Brooke Davis.  Double points for Australian authorage.

I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of this title from Hachette Australia for review, but I have to go and buy it in hardback anyway now, and put it on the “special” shelf to be watched over by my book-guarding minions.

Lost and Found follows the (slightly tragicomical) story of Millie Bird, a seven-year-old with a preoccupation for dead things, a father who has recently become a dead thing, and a mother who has abandoned her in the underwear section of a department store.  We first meet Millie in said underwear department as she waits for her mother’s return under the watchful eye of Manny the hawaiian-shirt-wearing mannequin across the aisle. Partway into Millie’s eventful waiting, she meets Karl the touch typist, an octogenarian widower who spends his days sitting in the department store cafe, silently grieving his dear departed Evie.  Shortly after Millie escapes from the department store (and, simultaneously, from the social services) with the help of Karl, we are introduced to Agatha Pantha, a widow who has not left her house since her husband died seven years ago, and who fills her time with such productive measures as the keeping of a daily record of her physical signs of ageing, and the shouting of remarkably personal insults at passers-by from her lounge-room window.  As the social services close in, Agatha and Millie make an attempt to follow Millie’s mum, using an itinerary left behind in the house.  Along the way they join forces with Karl and together the three (well, technically four – Manny ends up along for the ride too) evade the law and try to find Millie a home. 

lost and found

Read it if:

* you’ve ever felt a real and personal connection to a shop mannequin (in any sort of attire)

* you hope to grow old disgracefully and take up a life of geriatric delinquency

* you like to ponder the big questions, such as “Where do parking inspectors go when they die?” and “Has my arm flab increased by more than a millimetre since yesterday?”

* you believe (as I do) that if we were all allowed to shout insulting things at other people when we are having a bad day (month/year/life) then navigating a path through everyday social situations would suddenly become a lot more interesting

Aaaaaahhhhhh.  That is the sound of contented sighing when, after reading only 2% of the Kindle version of this book, I knew that it and I were resonating on the same frequency.  This book is by turns delightful, sad, poignant, hilarious and a bit off-putting.  The off-putting bit relates to a reasonably graphic description of old-people sex, in case you’re wondering.  It is the book that I was hoping The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was going to be, but whereas the characters and situations in that book annoyed me and seemed trite and contrived, the characters in Lost and Found just jumped off the page in a comfortable mix of idiosyncracies.

I could imagine that some readers might find Karl and Agatha (and especially Millie, in her precocious innocence) a bit contrived and annoying, but for me they were perfectly constructed and I just fell in love.  I loved Karl’s rebellious spirit and commitment to tagging public (and private!) property in popular 1980’s parlance.  I laughed my guts out at Agatha’s compulsion to shout the awkwardly anti-social obvious (“Assymetrical face!” “Stupid shoes!”) and I cheered inwardly at Millie’s determination to play the Angel of Existentialism by adopting the persona of Captain Funeral for her captive fellow train passengers.

While the characters embark on what feels like an epic journey, I knocked the book over in a couple of decent sittings because it was one of those stories that had me continually thinking, “I’ll just read one more chapter/to the next page break/until Agatha shouts something next”.  Inevitably, I was drawn ever-deeper into the increasingly complex (and somewhat ridiculous) web of deception and evasion of public officials that Karl, Agatha and Millie spin.  Like the book itself, the ending is at once poignant and light, inevitable and satisfying and one designed to keep the three main characters in the reader’s mind, while accepting that this too shall pass.

All in all, Lost and Found is a five star read has earned a place on my list of favourites.  As soon as someone takes the hint and buys me a hardback copy of Harold Fry, I will place these two side by side on my shelf as a tribute to humour in the midst of a finite existence.

Until next time (Reads too slow! Dried out eyeballs! Yawning at inappropriate moments!),

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Mondays with Marple: The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side…

6

image

Afternoon mystery lovers!  It’s time for another Monday with Marple, a time to sit back, relax and find out what’s going on in the world of Jane Marple – knitter, spinster, murder-solver.  Today’s pick is The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side.  I selected this one to be second in the MwM review series for the simple reason that it happened to be on the shelf at a second-hand bookstore I happened to wander into.   And I quite liked the title.  So join me as I delve into the world of …

mirror coverPlot Summary:

Marina Gregg, famous actress and possessor of a nervous temperament, buys the big house at St Mary Mead hoping that it will be her “forever” home.  At a fete for the St John Ambulance hosted at the house, Heather Badcock – local chatterbox and ardent fan of Marina Gregg – dies suddenly after drinking a cocktail offered at an exclusive soiree in the house.  After initial inquiries from the police, it appears unlikely that anyone would intentionally wish to do away with Mrs Badcock and the hottest tip is that the poisoned cocktail was actually meant for Marina.  Miss Marple, although largely housebound and under the ever-watchful eye of housekeeper Mrs Knight, nevertheless has some suspicions of her own.  But will she be able to unravel the mystery before others meet an untimely end??  Well, no she won’t.  But that’s part of the fun really, isn’t it?

The Usual Suspects:

The charming and unstable actress, her ugly but nice-personality-ed fourth husband, the gossipy fan, the henpecked husband of the gossipy fan, the dark, brooding American and famous actress number two, the foreign butler, the previous owner of the big house, the servants, the producer, the fussy and efficient social secretary….there’s thousands and thousands….Well, not quite that many.  But there’s no elderly, blustering military man retired from service in India, which I thought was a bit of a shame.

Level of Carnage:

There are multiple murders. Satisfying.

Level of Wiley-Tricksy-ness of the Plot:

This was a landmark book for me.  I actually picked the important elements of the ending very early on in the book.  This is the first time that has ever happened, which indicates to me that either I have suddenly become significantly more intelligent, or that Agatha didn’t really try her hardest in this one.  Nevertheless, the plot twist and reveal is pretty tricky. *smug expression*

Overall Rating:

imageimageimage

Three out of five knitting needles. It was a fun read, but I really felt the lack of a Colonel. Or a Major.  Or a Captain.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human: An R-I-I Review, Author Interview and Giveaway!

11

Cheerio my flesh and non-flesh friends and compatriots! I have a delightful little cross-species tale for you today, and for extra delightedness, it has a delightfully long title.  I speak, of course, of middle grade sci-fi adventure story, Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human by Lynn Messina.  The book was published in 2012 and it has been a grave disservice indeed that I have not been exposed to it earlier than this, for it is a fun, funny and very clever read.  So it was incredibly lucky that I received a digital copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

The book follows the story of young robot Henry Jacobson, who has a tough time in Bot school due to a problem in his processor that causes him to shut down at inopportune moments when he is under stress.  As well as teasing at school, Henry has to put up with working with the drooling, stupid and frustrating human units that do the drudge work at his mother’s Beauty Salon.  After one of the human units goes beserko, smashing up the store with a mop and repeating nonsense at regular intervals, Henry finds himself teased even more at school when his mother gets the credit for sorting out the beserko unit and saving the lives of all the bots in the salon.  Things get even stranger for Henry when, after a mysterious visit from his father’s boss, an experimental human unit (the HueManTech ETC-420- GX-2) comes to live in his home.  After an initial period of distrust, Henry begins to discover that this particular unit seems to be able to do far more than just drool and threaten bots with household cleaning products.  Soon, Henry and E (as he comes to be known) are playing video games, making up new words and generally doing plenty of things that Henry would have thought were impossible for a lowly human.  When a threat is made to send E to be compacted, Henry knows that he must find out the truth behind this seeming superhuman who has become his friend.  Cue misadventure! Cue sneaking around! Cue the uncovering of secrets that will change the Bot universe….forever!!

Henry coverRead it if:

* you ever have days when you suspect that your reality affirmulator might be on the blink

* you have ever had fond feelings…the basis of friendship really, …for a household appliance

* you are acquainted with some human units who are capable of little more than drooling and mopping…on their good days

* you know a bot or two in their tweens or teens who can’t go past a good adventure based sci fi

I am so pleased that I was introduced to this story.  For a middle grade sort of a story, it is very, very clever.  There’s a lot to appreciate here for older readers, with lots of little wry observations of human nature, reflected back through robot society.  Henry is a very believable bot, with all the flaws and worries of any thirteen year old being and human unit E is laid back, quietly confident and a joy to read about.  The book is great fun with heaps of funny situations and some fantastic one-liners.

To top all of that though, there’s also plenty of action and suspense.  At one point, Henry and E break into a government agency and get chased by the authorities, get captured, uncover some shocking secrets and use their wits and wiles to save themselves from danger.  I was really worried for the lads during this part as there were some real challenges for them both to surmount.

If you’ve got young male readers around your dwelling, this is definitely a book you should add to your collection.  It will be thoroughly enjoyed by confident independent readers, but if you have to read it aloud to less confident readers, there is plenty here for grown ups to enjoy along with their mini-fleshling.

So who exactly came up with this highly read-worthy tome? Well I’m glad you asked because you’re about to meet her!

Lynn Messina grew up on Long Island and studied English at Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked at the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media), TV Guide, In Style, Rolling Stone, Fitness, ForbesLife, Self, Bloomberg Markets and a host of wonderful magazines that have long since disappeared. She mourns the death of print journalism in New York City, where she lives with her husband and sons. She is author of seven novels, including Fashionistas, which is in development as a feature film and has been translated into 15 languages.

You can find out more about Lynn’s work here, but for your convenience, I asked her some questions about Henry, E and her writing so you can be well prepared if you bump into her at a dinner party/sock hop/other impromptu social occasion.

Why Henry and E? What was it about their story that won out over other stories that may have been jostling for space in your CPU?

To be honest, my CPU isn’t as busy as you think it is. I find good ideas are really hard to come by, and when I get one, I run with it. I might not sit down and start writing immediately, but the idea takes up all my mental energy. So when I came up with the idea of robots inventing humans it was all I thought about for months. I jotted down notes about it everywhere. In fact, I was just cleaning out a drawer yesterday and found a scrap of an envelope from, like, six years ago on which I’d written some early ideas while at my day job.

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of Henry?

The ideal reader for Henry is the same ideal reader I have for all my books, and it’s the sort of reader I am: someone who will love the story enough to reread it at least once to discover all the little things she missed the first time around.

The title is absolutely astoundingly all-round alliterative…Are you a fan of wordplay? And how did you choose the title?

The title has been a problem for me from the start. The working title was Henry, ETC, and that’s the title under which I submitted it to publishers. When I decided to put it out on my own, I realized I needed a much more descriptive title, one that really said what it was about, so I threw in all the adjectives and made them alliterative because I think that’s so much fun. I wasn’t daunted by the long title because one of my favorite books when I was little wasAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Recently, however, a librarian suggested that the title was off-putting to young readers, and now I’m conflicted. But, yes, I love wordplay, and that was one of the things that made me really excited about the story. There were so many opportunities to turn words on their heads.

What are the best parts about writing for young readers?

I feel like the answer should be that writing for young readers allowed me be as silly as I wanted, but the truth is I love writing silly scenes and all my books descend into silliness at one point or another. The unique thing about writing Henry—and this was all the best part—was that it was science fiction. Henry was the first book I ever wrote that left the real world behind. I got to invent everything and make up all the rules (and change them when they no longer suited my purpose) and use my imagination freely. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

This is tough because I feel like the authors I mention should be relevant to the genre and I can’t think of many middle-grade writers I’ve read. Recently, I’ve been reading the Ivy & Bean series to my six-year-old and have been really enjoying it. I will say that J.K. Rowling (of course!) was a big influence because she’s so good with language and wordplay. I had Diagon Alley in my mind almost the whole time I was writing as a sort of talisman of the wit I was going for.

What do you imagine Henry will be doing when he reaches his 21st upgrade? And E?

This is an impossible question for me to answer. I have notes somewhere with ideas for two sequels and I’m fairly certain the trilogy ends with the entire transformation of robot society. But I can’t see beyond that. To be honest, I can’t even see that far because the ideas are so vague. I hope to write at least one of the sequels one day, but it’s been six years since I wrote the book and now there are definitely other things taking up space in my CPU.

And now, the giveaway!  We are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a print copy of the book and better yet, the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!

Here’s the deets:

– The giveaway is open internationally, so provided you live on planet Earth and have a postal address, you should be right to enter

– One winner will be chosen at random via rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a redraw will occur.

– No responsibility will be taken for packages lost in the mail. Sorry.

– The giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, Rafflecopter, Facebook or any other individual or company that is not me.

– I will be checking entries, so be honest.

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I should probably also point out that the book would fit nicely into a couple of categories in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge…category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) and category eight (a book with wordplay in the title).  Click on this attractive button to find out more and jump on the safari bus!

small fry

In short? Get it, it’s clever. And we all know that there’s nothing better than a clever book that’s meant for kids but sneakily discovered by a grown up.

Until next time,

Bruce

Follow on Bloglovin

my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

 

//

Haiku Review (and a giveaway heads-up): The Purple Girl…

8

Good morning my bookish brethren and shelfish sisterhood, it’s Mad Martha with you today with a Haiku Review of another not-to-be-missed title.  Today’s fresh off the press offering is The Purple Girl by Audrey Kane.  I received a copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley – we thank thee!

The Purple Girl is a middle grade fantasy adventure that centres around Violet, a girl who was born …well…violet.  Violet’s skin is purple and everything she touches takes on a purplish hue for a few moments after she moves on.  Her parents keep her away from most ordinary folk for her own protection, but occasionally venture out amidst taunting and frightened looks to participate in usual village business.  On meeting a gypsy girl who promises to remove Violet’s purple for the small price of her voicebox, Violet is presented with a choice – should she blend in with those around her and live the life she imagines or is her voice too precious to lose?  Once Violet makes her decision, it seems that new opportunities pop up from everywhere to challenge her resolve and push her to be independent. After all, she’s growing up – surely it’s time for her parents to let her go?

Buy the book here

the purple girl

Little lilac lass

ventures over garden wall

seeks key to freedom

This book was completely out-of-the-box for me.  I read the blurb, expected a bit of a fairy-tale-ish, atmospheric sort of choreographed adventure and was blown away by the sensitivity with which Kane has created the characters and the story that unfolds for them in these pages.  This was an unexpected joy to read.

Violet, the protagonist, is neither a shy, retiring petal nor a swashbuckling, all action GI Jane – she’s simply an ordinary person with a less than ordinary …skin condition, I suppose you could say.  This was refreshing, I must say, as many books these days, especially those aimed at middle grade or tween girls, seem to rely on one or the other of those stereotypes (or one that turns into the other).  To have a rounded female with believable flaws really added to the book as a whole, and moved it away from that run-of-the-mill, all-been-done-before vibe that can happen so easily with books for this age group.

The story was at once complicated but simple.  There were a number of plot twists that pushed the action forward, but they occured gently and almost naturally based on Violet’s actions.  There are a lot of different elements to the plot – Violet’s encounter with the gypsy girl, her discovery of a mysterious jewelled book belonging to her father, the relationship between Violet and her first real friend, Frankie, and Violet’s ability to sing.  All of these elements contribute to the story, but none takes precedence over another.  It was a strange experience reading, because every time one of these plot twists arose, I immediately thought, “Oh, I know where this is going!” but not once was I right!  It’s a wonderful thing to be surprised more than once in a story that you think you probably already know, or could figure out from the blurb or the picture on the cover.

Oh, did I mention it’s illustrated?  Yep, it was a (lovely) surprise to me, but there are a few illustrated pages throughout and they have the same dream-like quality as the front cover.

This would be a fantastic read-aloud for tweens, particularly girls, as the action in the book is tempered with a certain gentleness in the telling.  It’s also a reasonably fast read, so could be completed over a few sessions easily.

The Purple Girl was released on the 8th of January, so it’s available to purchase right now – good news, hey! – and you can buy it for yourself at Amazon, by clicking here.

But even better than that – the author, Audrey Kane, who will be visiting the Shelf on Monday for a spotlight post, has also been generous enough to put up a SIGNED paperback copy of The Purple Girl for one lucky reader to win…and better than that, it’s an INTERNATIONAL competition! Hooooooorayyyy!  So be sure to pop back on Monday for your chance to win.

Adieu until we meet again, my many-hued friends,

Mad Martha

TumblrButton

Follow on Bloglovin

my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Haiku Review: The Feral Child…

6

Morning all! Before Mad Martha takes you on a haiku holiday,  I feel obligated to let you know that as of right now, my current giveaway, in which you can score yourself any book of your choice from the Book Depository up to the value of $12 AUD, will be closing in just over 14 hours.  Go here to find the rafflecopter link – and entries are fairly low at the moment, so your odds will be good!  Now on to today’s business – Brucey out!

Good morning poppets, it’s Mad Martha with you this fine weekend morning – one day later than expected due to the extreme lack of motivation that springs from returning from a beachside holiday.  But more on that later in the week.  I received today’s offering, The Feral Child by Che Golden from the publisher via Edelweiss, in return for an honest review – thanks!

The Feral Child is a celtic middle-grade fantasy adventure featuring Maddy, who, after her parents pass away, finds herself moving from London to Blarney in Ireland, to live with her elderly grandparents and be tormented by her annoying cousins.  One rainy afternoon, Maddy is confronted and nearly kidnapped by a strange red-haired boy, who later turns up at her bedroom window in a strange and terrifying form.  After the boy kidnaps Maddy’s young neighbour Stephen and leaves a changeling in his place, nobody seems to take Maddy’s story seriously and she takes matters into her own hands. With her cousins Danny and Roisin, Maddy sets off to steal Stephen back from the Fey.  Cue adventure!

feral child

Scary faeries, wolves,

carnivore horses, oh my !

Must I save the child?

In some ways, The Feral Child is a fairly formulaic example of its kind.  Moody, damaged adolescent scorned by family and friends finds a secret power and goes on a heroic quest to right a wrong when no one else will step forward, finding redemption and friendship along the way.  I can think of a number of books for this age-group straight away that follow this plot line almost to the letter.  Where this one stands apart is in the characterisation – Maddy, Danny and Roisin are really believable kids.  There’s no cliched or stereotypical dialogue here, and the characters stay true to their personalities, taking on changes slowly throughout the story.  This is refreshing because often in middle grade fiction the reader will be treated to, for example, an annoying, bullying character for most of the story, who miraculously changes into a caring, heroic sort of a kid after one significant event.  In Golden’s story, the children’s perosnalities evolve in a much more natural way – at the end of the story, they’re still recognisable as the same people they were at the beginning, albeit with a slightly more mature outlook on their situation.

Another strong point of the story is the tense atmosphere that emerges when the sinister faeries come into the plot.  The villains in this book are genuinely creepy – particularly the elven mounts *shudder* – and really add to the sense of danger the characters are facing.

This is a solid pick for middle graders who enjoy fantasy and mythology in their reading. This new edition is due for publication in June this year, but is already available for purchase around the place if you want to get your paws on it now.   Oh, and it’s a perfect choice Bruce’s Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge in category one (a book with something related to safari in the title) or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title). Just sayin’!

Adios until we meet again, cherubs, and don’t forget the giveaway – time is ticking!

Mad Martha

Follow on Bloglovin
my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)