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Showing posts from May, 2013

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace

I was drawn to the three lines on the cover of The Painted Bridge:
A devious husbandA Victorian asylumA wronged wife There's the ingredients for a story that I am going to love very much. Anna's husband Vincent tricks Anna into entering Lake House, a private asylum. Thinking she is accompanying him to visit friends she quickly finds herself the newest inmate. Her natural incomprehension and reluctance to cooperate is instantly labelled hysteria. Not content to accept her situation, Anna tries to find a way out of the loathsome establishment and understand why it is she has been hidden away.

At times during the book I did wonder whether Anna was paranoid or at least a little delusional. I love an unreliable narrator so was very receptive to this idea. Vincent’s story is not completely unreasonable when considered from the perspective of 1859. Anna feels called to help those lost at sea, sailors and the drowning. When she hears about a terrible wreck and a young boy thought lost…

The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic

I admit I was attracted by the cover of this book, without knowing too much about it. It's just such a beautiful image, but also just a bit suggestive of Millais' Death of Ophelia.
So, seeing as how that is one of my favourite paintings, in all it's tragic glory, I had to find out more about the book. The story is, at it's heart, about two sisters. Growing up on a tiny and remote Croatian island with their grandparents has made Magdalena and Jadranka very close. They are totally different characters however. Magdalena is serious, reserved, cautious. Jadranka is creative, a little wild even. Inseparable as children, as adults they live very different lives. Their bond is unbreakable despite this, or so it seems, until Jadranka travels to America to stay with their cousin Katarina. She seems happy but something causes her to disappear, even from Magdalena. The search for Jadranka allows us to explore the family's difficult past, to understand each individual member …

Carnegie Award 2013 Shortlist: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton

This book looks beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous and the whole thing is very appealing in hardback and paperback. It is a whimsical tale about a boy, and a bear, in a boat - like the title says!

I loved the beginning; the boy's tentative boarding of the boat made me smile. His caution and apprehension about his journey are captured superbly, and I adored how the rolling of the boat made his voice tremble. Early on I was convinced I was going to fall hard for this book, especially as the drawings truly enhance the reading experience.

As the boy starts to suspect they may be lost, and a tedious game of I-Spy ensues, I started to wonder where the story was going too. However, I was bowled over by the bear's lovely manners and the dainty way he ate his sandwiches and drank his tea. When the boy and the bear fall out, and the boy resorts to personal insult, well I was indignant on the bear's behalf.

As the storm crept up on one very fed-up boy and a still sanguine bea…

Whitstable by Stephen Volk

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this novella, but I was very intrigued by the sound of it. The author is a life-long Peter Cushing fan, and in this book he has created a tribute to his hero. It is a very moving story set immediately after the death of Cushing's beloved wife Helen. His grief is all-consuming and seems set to destroy what's left of the man, until a chance encounter with a young lad forces Cushing back into the world.

The opening part of the story is a heartbreaking portrayal of desperate grief. Life means nothing, is nothing, without Helen to share it with. Cushing is broken, hunched and frail, hiding from well-meaning neighbours and friends. Even the postman's daily delivery causes him anguish; he might be forced to connect in some way with someone. But the fear of being intruded upon within his own home sends him out, down to the sea. Here, alone, he can indulge in memories of better times. It is here that the boy finds him.

Like everyone in…

Brothers' Fury by Giles Kristian

Hooray, the second book in Kristian's civil wars saga is here!
Brothers' Fury is the sequel to The Bleeding Land, published last summer. The story revolves around the Rivers family and their part in the civil wars that wracked Britain during the 1640s. Although I think it is possible to read Brothers' Fury without having read The Bleeding Land first, I personally wouldn't recommend doing it. The first part of the saga is fantastic; I reviewed it here. It's a gripping read and the background to why the two Rivers' brothers end up on opposing sides is such a fundamental part of the story that to miss out is to do the series a disservice. I'll stop trying to persuade you to read two books instead of just one now, and focus on Brothers' Fury!

It opens at the beginning of 1643 with both Mun and Tom battling their own demons. Mun, Sir Edmund Rivers, is a die-hard Royalist but his experiences on the battlefield and on his own estate have hardened and embittere…

A Wolf in Hindelheim by Jenny Mayhew

Carnegie Award 2013 Shortlist: A Greyhound of a Girl

I'm sad to say I didn't much enjoy A Greyhound of a Girl. I liked the idea but was not so keen on the book as a whole. The story is about four generations of the same family and how they connect and find peace with their circumstances. On the back of the edition I read it tells us that one of the four is dead, and that for me was the first problem. What could have been a topic of uncertainty and suspense in the early stages of the novel is given away before you even start.

There were some things I thought were good, for example I enjoyed Tansey's story about her life. It was interesting to glimpse her time on the farm, and I wish there had been more of that. I also enjoyed the way the story changed perspective between the four characters. The opening chapter, consisting of just a few lines, is very effective I think; powerful in its brevity. But, I did not get on with several aspects of the book. I didn't especially like Mary, the youngest of the group. I don't th…

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Be prepared to get scared!
This is a brilliant creepy story. I loved it so much that I read it all in one go, from start to finish without stopping once!

Zach, Poppy and Alice are best friends. They love playing together, inventing stories with their toys as the main characters. They adore using their imaginations to come up with different worlds full of pirates and mermaids, outlaws and queens. Well, one queen actually, played by the china-faced doll kept locked in Poppy's mum's glass cabinet. She's old and scary looking, perfect for reigning over their games. Unfortunately, Zach's dad thinks playing with dolls and stuff is a bit babyish; his decision to get rid of all Zach's figures has some very unintended consequences. Obviously, Zach is devastated at losing his toys and he feels that he may lose his friends as well. But, when the queen visits Poppy in a dream the three friends have to work together to solve the mystery. Poppy believes the doll was a real girl…

Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2013: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy