Saturday, 14 February 2015

UKYA Extravaganza: Dawn Kurtagich

Welcome to our stop on the UKYA Extravaganza blog tour where Dawn Kurtagich, author of the forthcoming YA novel, The Dead House, is our guest.  UKYA Extravanagaza is one of the first big author organised events outside of London and the home counties. Well done to author Kerry Drewery for spearheading it. And now to Dawn who you can meet alongside 34 other YA authors in Birmingham on 28th February. 

And look, there’s a heart on the UK cover: just as well it’s Valentines Day (though Dawn is really a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction!). 

Left: UK cover; Right: US cover

Because The Dead House isn’t out in the UK ’til August (& we haven’t read it), here’s what Dawn says about it (nothing quite like whetting an appetite on Valentine’s, is there?): 

THE DEAD HOUSE is a twisty little book full of half untruths and a broken girl who doesn't exist.

Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”

Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter-ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.”

Dawn Kurtagich sporting 'Watson'
And now here’re a few things you probably never knew about Dawn:

WSD: "I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it." To whom would you write and where would you drop it? 

Dawn Kurtagich: Hm… I'd want a very clever homing pigeon to find it and fly it to my love (so he'd think I had all kinds of mad Cinderella skills). Either that, or I would hope it could find its way to someone who really needed it.  

WSD: What book would you recommend someone else read on Valentine's Day and why? 

DK: I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of Juliet Marillier's work. Her Daughter of the Forest is definitely the most romantic book I have ever read (I've linked to the Goodreads page if you want more info). A little magic makes it even better. I love this book because of Sorcha, the main character. She is so strong, but so alone. Everything is taken away from her, yet she has strength enough to try and get it back, and it nearly costs her even more. Then, after all she's been through, she has to give up the person she loves most. It's beautiful. It's romantic in every way, with a capital "R"—and a fictional medieval Ireland? Yes, please. A second really good choice is Spirit Fox by Mickey Zucker Reichert and Michelle Wingert. Very readable. For YA: Anna and the French Kiss. CUTE!

WSD: Apparently your accent is a bit of a hodge-podge (welcome to my world!). What places might we detect in it?

DK: It is! You might detect an English accent, a little South African, a little American and possibly a little Australian. Though, when my Canadian friend comes to see me, I take on her lilt, apparently! Growing up in so many places means that I can't really answer the question "where are you from?" very easily. It's a problem. A very interesting problem! 

WSD: Why is orange your favourite colour?

DK: I’d say that orange is definitely one of my favourite colours—it's a colour for passion and warmth. But my favourite is a very specific type of green. Green is the best colour, anyway. The end. ;)

WSD: How and why did your hat get named Watson?

DK: Watson named himself. You'll need to ask him why... (though he's a cheeky bugger and may evade questions with more questions). He even makes an appearance in The Dead House!

The Dead House is forthcoming from Orion/Indigo (UK) and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) in 2015. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Children Act - Ian McEwan

Review by M

On the whole, I consider myself an Ian McEwan fan and am readily willing to give his novels a go with the expectation that I will become ensconced in them. The Children Act was no exception to this.

A short novel, The Children Act is about a high court judge working in family law. Ironically, we meet her just as her husband has an affair. While she struggles with this internally she must, or chooses, to simply carry on with her legal workload as if nothing has happened. The reader is given some lengthy insight into her cases, many of which revolve around child custody and dilemmas over interpreting what is best for the child in line with the actual, legal Children Act. The bulk of the story really focuses on an interesting case of a seventeen year old Jehovah's Witness who is resisting a blood transfusion.  This element of the novel held my interest and attention for hours and is the element that I remember most (I read it a few months back), and I would recommend the novel to other readers simply for this aspect. The final section of the novel was a disappointment. It felt rushed, and much of it seemed improbable to me.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. McEwan's writing is smooth and makes for a quick and compelling read. I may have read it in close to one go.

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

Monday, 19 January 2015

This Should Be Written In the Present Tense - Helle Helle

Review by M

Hands up - of course I was going to read a novel by an author called Helle Helle. And I was also predisposed to expecting it to be a little different from everything else I was currently reading, and not least because it's been translated from Danish.

The story is about Dorte who has just moved in to a little house near a railway station not too far from Copenhagen where she is at university. From the first few pages, the tone is cosily friendly but boom, it throws a few jaggedy bits in and the reader is left questioning exactly what has or has not happened, or even is happening, and lots of whats and whys steer the novel. This is not sci-fi or fantasy, but much more about inner psychologies.

This short novel follows the everyday details of Dorte's unexciting life and I found it strangely compelling - perhaps because her life seemed so at odds with everything I expected she would do. Personally, I'm not sure if this is because of the writing or because of differences between continental Europe and Britain. My engagement with this novel was similar to my responses to some quietly gritty/raw French cinema.

This Should Be Written In the Present Tense definitely lived up to my expectations; it's a quiet and strangely surprising novel that mostly made me smile.

Publication details: Harvill Secker, 2014, London
This copy: digital review copy from the publisher

Catalyst - S.J.Kincaid

Review by Little M

Catalyst is the third and final novel in S.J.Kincaid’s Insignia trilogy. Starring Tom Raines as the main character, in his last year training for the Intrasolar Forces, Tom is on a mission to stay out of trouble and save the world at the same time. However, staying out of trouble seems to be proving difficult. With his friends Vik, Wyatt, Yuri and his plebs he discovers horrific schemes involving the Spire (training centre) and the globe.
Many third novels in trilogies seem to be a disappointment for many, some leave questions unanswered and others, theories unexplained. Contradicting this is Catalyst. Kincaid ties up the story with no loose ends and unanswered questions. For some it could be disappointing but personally I thought it was ended beautifully. It left the reader able to imagine how the society will continue with a little guidance.
Over all three novels Tom Raines has progressed as a character. Firstly he has grown up, although he still possesses the troublemaker traits; he has grown from being a boy, not fully understanding his potential, to a young man who is capable of most unimaginable things such as “break through the impossible”.
This has been one of my favourite series I have read and I fully recommend it to most teens and some adults too. However, it does contain many “teenage” events or thoughts so may not suit adults. It is most definitely suitable for both boys and girls so neither should be put off by any aspect.

Publication Details: Hot Key Books, London, published in the UK in 2014 (US 2014).

This copy: Paperback copy received for review from Hot Key Books.