Friday, 19 December 2014

Dear Committee Members - Julie Schumacher

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Review by M

For me, this was more self-indulgent than a chocolate box (or whatever else is your guilty pleasure). A series of increasingly disgruntled – and often hilariously cringeworthy – letters, are written by Jason Fitger, a well-established professor of English Creativeve Writing and Literature.  His lengthy letters show he is overwhelmed by the increasing academic protocol of writing recommendations for colleagues, funding and students. All of this is set within the context of university cuts (which seem to affect English creative writing university courses more so than the Economics department) as well as his personal relationship and publishing debacles.

This is a short book and each page is almost tediously ‘more of the same as the last page’ – but I found it immensely addictive. Recommended as a light but spot-on read.

Publication details:  The Friday Project, 9 October 2014, London, hardback

This copy: digital review copy from the publisher

The Midnight Dress - Karen Foxlee

The Midnight Dress by  Karen Foxlee

Guest Review by Alice (15)

Rose Lovell and her dad arrive in yet another town, she knows it will be the same as always, they will stay a while, her dad will get drunk and they will move on, it's happened before and it will happen again, won't it? But this time it's different, Rose makes friends with Pearl Kelly, the 'town sweetheart' who convinces the closed-book Rose to take part in the town's harvest parade. Rose goes to Eddie the town dressmaker whose life is riddled with secrets, tales, and according to the townspeople, witchcraft. Together they create a dress woven and stitched from memories, stories and magic. On the night of the parade the girl with the midnight dress goes missing, and nothing will be the same, ever again.

On top of having a beautiful plot line this book is one of the most spectacularly written books I have read in a long time. Rose is a bit of a goth, loves all things black and most of all the rainforest she discovers after hearing  Eddie's stories. When she meets Pearl she starts to come out of her shell. The way the character Rose is written made me fall in love with her and also feel a little bit of empathy for her, she had never really had any friends before Pearl and her dad doesn't really care about her. The book is written in a way that at the beginning of each chapter you find out a little bit more of the end and that helped me to understand the story more as the plot twisted on.

Anyone over the age of 11 could easily get as absorbed by this book as I did!

This book is brilliant for anyone who loves a good bit of friendship and mystery in a book. If you do then this book is most definitely for you!

Publication details: 2013, Hot Key Books, London, paperback
This copy: review copy from the publisher

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Heir of Fire - Sarah J Maas

Heir of Fire by Sara J Maas
Review by Little M
(originally published on Manchee & Bones)

Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas
Heir of Fire is the third instalment in Sarah J.Maas's series with Celaena Sarodthien as the main character in a magical kingdom. I highly recommend this series. As this is the third novel in the series I haven't included much of a synopsis because it could be a huge SPOILER!

Celaena Sarodthien is an unbeatable assassin and the King of  Adarlin's Champion. She is continuing her quest to fulfil her dying friend's wish and to find the dark secrets her king is hiding from everyone. Celaena is put to the test. She is pushed to her limits both physically and mentally. She gains a couple of friends along the way and one of them will stay with her forever.

I love this series by Sarah J.Maas; it is high on my favourite books list (the whole series). I loved Chaol in the first two novels but Rowan is now my favourite character with his dry sense of humour and witty comebacks. This third novel really turns the whole story around. This is positive as some books put a plot twister in, which doesn't quite fit. However, this book just made me want to keep reading and reading!

I would definitely recommend Heir of Fire to those who have read Sarah J.Maas and possibly fans of Harry Potter. It is a magical, thrilling novel, which most fantasising teens may like. Well, I did and so do many of my friends. The writing style is pretty straight forward, like many teen novels. Although, there is the odd phrase, which is used far too often. This could be slightly annoying for some but it didn't put me off. Altogether, this is a highly recommended magical series, which teens like me may like.

Publication Details: 11 September 2014, Bloomsbury, London (originally New York)
This copy: digital review copy from the publisher

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

J - Howard Jacobson

J by Howard Jacobson
Review by M
J has been shortlisted for the Man Booker 2014.

(Please note: The title of this novel is not J. It is a struck out J but I don’t know how to type that!)

I’ve never finished The Finkler Question, the only Jacobson I’ve ever started to read, and the curious thing about this was that there ‘was’ something that I liked about his writing just as there ‘was’ something I did not like. Precise, aren’t I?

When J came up for review (prior to its Booker listing), both this niggle about Jacobson’s writing and the premise for J grabbed my current attention. Going by the blurb, J is both a dystopian novel and a love story, so pretty much right up my street.

Set in the future, a not-spoken -about past frames the novel, and the narrator hovers it over the characters like a thick mist: What Happened, If It Happened. Most of the novel is spent providing clues and red herrings as to What happened, if It happened (my early hunch was that something almost apocalyptic had happened due to social media – but I was wrong and anyone who understands the significance of the struck out J will have a good idea from the offing What has happened).

The narrator expounds philosophically about the pre- and post- treatment of It (for me, this went on a bit too much and was not sufficiently convincing). Post-It, public mood is presided over by an agency known as Ofnow (hmm, Atwoodian handmaids anyone?). Unfortunately, this ‘new’ world that J creates, is not fully explored and just doesn’t feel quite right.

J turns, however (and ultimately,thankfully), around two central characters, Ailinn and Kevern, and their new love affair, the future of which hangs in the balance due to a pair of ugly feet and a murder mystery. Jacobson crafts a believably poignant relationship, and these two characters, for me, are what carry the novel.

As the novel unfolds, the significance of the struck out J and What Happened, If It Happened is deadly serious. It is unnerving and unsettling, and on one count is not something unfamiliar from real life and on another count is not unfamiliar from the worlds of big brother.  

Jacobson puts much detail but also not enough into the plotlines so that some elements seemed superfluous while others were lacking. I found the ending very unsatisfying, partly because some things felt as if they were left hanging, but also because some things just didn’t feel like they fit well. I struggled to identify the ‘tone’ of the novel – there was always a lighthearted humour mingling with something much, much darker. It just didn’t feel plausible enough (though perhaps this is ‘the point’). I think I'd recommend this as a library read to some people.


Publication details: 14 August 2014, Jonathan Cape, London, hardback
This copy: digital review copy from the publisher