Monday, June 28, 2010

Paper Towns - John Green

Quentin Jacobson is a normal kid living in a subdivision in Florida. He isn't one of the cool kids (he takes his pulse when he gets too excited to check it isn't dangerously high) but Q has a miracle, he  lives next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman,

"She was the most fantastically gorgeous creature that God had ever created"

Q is in love, gut wrenchingly and achingly in love with Margo who he has known since they were 2 years of age, but while Margo progressed to being a legend at school for her looks and exploits, Q hangs around outside the band hall with his two friends, regarded as geeks and obsessing about getting dates for prom night. Q won't be going to the prom, because if he can't go with Margo, he sees no point in going at all.

When Margo opens Q's bedroom window a month before graduation and invites him along on a long night of revenge Q goes - and has the night of his life, but Margo does not turn up to school the following day, nor the next, nor the one after that. She has done this before, and now technically an adult, no one is seriously looking for her. When Q spots a poster taped to the back of her bedroom blind he realises it's a clue and sets out in search of the real Margo Roth Spiegelman.

John Green's book is a book about that perennial favourite subject amongst teens - identity. Think 'Catcher in the Rye' and 'To kill a Mockingbird'. 'Paper Towns' is easily as good as these classics but has the added advantage of being contemporary. As Q spends his last month of school searching for Margot and following the clues she leaves in a book of Walt Whitman poetry he begins to realise that the popular, beautiful and legendary Margot Roth Spiegelman maybe wasn't waving after all, she was drowning. There is more than a nod to Whitman (the middle part of the book revolves around his poem 'Song of Myself') and Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath are also referenced as is 'Moby Dick'.

Green has created some memorable characters, particularly Radar (remember MASH - no you probably don't you're too young!) who spends all his time editing an online encyclopedia Omnicionary, which has it's own website here (a bit like Wikipedia), and Q's parents, both analysts. Radar's parents have the second largest collection of black Santa's and Ben needs to pee - a lot, which can be problematic on a non stop road trip!

Have I mentioned the road trip? Every good book needs one and this one is to a paper town, which is a town that doesn't exist inserted into maps to spot copyright infringement, and this is of course the metaphor for the whole novel. Margot refers to herself as paper and those around her as paper, the image she has projected is not the real her. In that respect we are all paper, a construct that reflects how we want others to see us. Margot's flight is a search for her real self and, if he finds her, Q realises that he has to accept Margot as she really is and not as he has constructed her in order to love her - even if this means loosing her.

This is a sharply written novel which I enjoyed immensely, it is clever, witty and very serious. It will appeal to older teens who are ready for more than just a plot line in their reading.

John Green is also the author of two other novels only one of which, 'Looking for Alaska'. is available in Europe. All three of his books have won him a huge following in America and 'Paper Towns' has it's own Facebook page here. You can also see John Green answering questions about the book here.

Just go and buy the book, but preferably buy both 'Paper Towns' and 'Looking for Alaska'- you won't be disappointed.


Friday, June 25, 2010

The Other Girl-Sarah Miller

This is Sarah Miller’s second book about Molly McGarry. Molly is now going out with Gideon Rayburn and her ability to see inside his mind means she can give him what he wants in the relationship. However, she soon realises that there are disadvantages to seeing her boyfriend’s inner thoughts. Pilar Benitez-Jones, the hottest girl in the school, always flirts with Gideon and Molly can see the effect of this attention in her boyfriend’s mind. The knowledge Molly receives has disastrous and bizarre consequences in her life and Pilar is not Molly’s only problem. Molly is a scholarship girl at Midvale Academy. The school needs its richer pupils so their disregard for rules will not result in expulsion but if Molly pushes her luck too much it could cost her her place in the school. Her relationship with Gideon causes her to break the rules. When she is caught her house-mistress does not talk about punishment but about wanting her to be on the school’s team for the ATAT, an intellectual competition between schools. The prize for the winning this year is the enough for four years college tuition. Molly needs the prize if she wants to go to a top university but her grades have been slipping since her relationship with Gideon started. She doesn’t want to use time she could be spending with her boyfriend studying for the competition. Her life is slipping out of her control. How can she have everything she wants?
                Available since the 21st June, this is a great book for girls in the 14+ age group. Miller competently deals with teenage relationships showing how difficult it can be to balance love and other aspects of life. The book touches on teenage issues like body image and sex.
I really enjoyed this book. Molly’s unorthodox approach to solving her problems is absorbing and often hilarious. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good book that engages with teenage problems and has a more relaxed side to the storyline as well.
I would like to thank Bloomsbury for providing me with an advance copy of this book for review.
Reviewed by Roisin

How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini - Elen Caldecott

For Ali Ferguson just moving into his new home is an adventure. He and his mother have moved out of his grandparent’s house into a flat in a Tower Block. Ali pretends he is an explorer as he inspects his new neighbourhood but when he meets Caitlin he gets involved in a mystery that is so exciting pretence takes second place. Caitlin’s dad Dave is attacked and Ali, Caitlin’s friend Gez, and Caitlin’s adventures begin when they try to find out who attacked him and why.
The book is not only an adventure story. A second story line follows how the absence of Ali’s dad affects him and his mother. Their move into the Tower block is the start of their plans for a new life without him. Ali becomes aware that his mother has a different idea to him of what this new life will be like. He realises that his view of what his life will be might have to change.
The book also deals with attitudes towards people who are different. For example, Ali’s granddad does not like the area the Tower Block is in and judges it before he has met the people in it. The book explores how preconceptions like this are not always right.
Caldecott has written a book that will be enjoyed by all ages. The exciting plotline and the entertaining characters combine to make a book that is more than a simple adventure story. It is due out on the 12th July and would be a great summer read for the 9+ age group and anyone else who wants to read a good book!

I would like to thank Bloomsbury for providing me with an advance copy of this book for review.
Reviewed by Roisin

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Magical Mischief - Anna Dale

Mr Hardbattle has a problem, his bookshop is inhabited by magic.

Magic can be very inconvenient, particularly when a step on the stairs regularly turns to custard. And magic gives off a mighty whiff, the result of which is that Mr Hardbattle's customers have flooded out the door and have not returned.

When he receives a notice that his rent is to be increased Mr Hardbattle doesn't know what to do but the wind and rain blow Arthur and Miss Quint into his shop and Mr Hardbattle is forced to reveal his secret. The three set out to find a new home for the magic but things take a serious turn when Mr Hardbattle leaves Arthur and Miss Quint in charge whilst he scouts possible locations for magic's relocation. But Miss Quint is lonely and starts making wishes.

Have you ever heard the saying 'Beware what you wish for!'

Wishes are dangerous things, particularly when you are in a magic bookshop.

This wonderful book for 9 - 11 year olds is a real treat to read with some great characters - both real and magic - and one disaster after another. With a silly spinster and a sensible Arthur, children will delight in the role reversal of the principle characters and the madcap ending. Also a great bedtime read for those not yet ready for a independent reading of a book of this length.

As I was reading (and as the book deals with magic) comparisons with that other children's contemporary magic series Harry Potter are inevitable. Personally I couldn't read the Potter books but Magical Mischief I read with a smile on my face and enjoyed every madcap minute of.

And yes working in a bookshop is a lovely job. Is our shop full of magic?

Well, if you look really hard in the corners and open some of the books, you never know what you will find!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wake - Lisa McMann

It would be cool to be able to see other people's dreams, wouldn't it?

Janie Hannagan would not agree, she has been sucked into people's dreams since she was eight. The falling one, the naked one and the ones that terrify. But the dreams are only one of Janie's problems, she's living with her alcholic mother in the wrong part of town, working and saving furiously to go to college but in school the students keep falling asleep and this means Janie knows their intimate thoughts, feelings, desires and wishes.

When one night she experiences one of Cabel's dreams she is terrified. His reputatuion as a drug dealer goes before him, so how come he is so concerned about her? Trying to make sense of his mixed signals Janie is drawn into more than Cabel's dreams as 2005 draws to a close.

Lisa McMann's style is simple and direct which I liked alot. The story moved forward quickly, although the date and time headings could be confusing and I gave up following them as the story drew me in.

The book has been nominated as an American Library Association Quick Pick for reluctant YA readers and is ideal in this catagory because of the books style. Tagged for ages 12yrs + there are themes of alcholism, drugs and lesbianism in the book.

'Fade' the second book in the expected trilogy of books will be published on 1st August.

The Boys Are Back In Town

A few suggestions for the girls as they try to get under the skin of the boys for challenge #10 in our Summer Reading Challenge. I will start by recommending the three books that have influenced girls and their idea of a romantic hero for generations:

Mr Darcy, Mr Rochester and Heathcliffe in some of the greatest love stories ever told - and not a Cullen in sight!

Who could resist a fallen angel? Angels are all the rage at the moment and picking up where the vampires left off, in 'Hush Hush' we meet Patch and Nora who become involved in a century's old battle between the immortal and the fallen - and what a cover.

The second part of the story 'Crescendo' is out on 14th October.

And so that we are fair to all magical species, why not curl up with Sam in Maggie Stiefvater's 'Shiver'. Sam is a werewolf who must fight not to change into his wolf form if he is to stay with Grace. The next instalment of Sam and Grace's story, 'Linger', is due out on 5th July so you won't have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

John Green's novel 'Looking for Alaska' deals with all the big milestones - first drink, first prank, first friend, first girl, last words. In a wonderful coming of age story Miles Halter must make his way in the new boarding school he has been sent to, negotiate all those firsts and deal with the clever funny and sexy Alaska Young.

What would happen if you were sitting in class and you teacher disappeared, and not just your teacher but everyone over the age of 14 years. How would you manage, how would you survive and how would you deal with the kids who want to take over your world? Add some superpowers to the mix and Sam and Astrid have some big problems.

'Hunger' the second book in the series is available and with 'Lies', book number three, published in the US you could spend the whole summer with Sam and the kids from Perdido Beach.

Finally, Tim Bowler's fusion of real life and the supernatural 'Bloodchild' will have you on the edge of your seat as Will tries to piece together who he is and what has happened in the town, which has a secret - a secret that some will do all in their power to preserve. Even kill.

It's over to you now girls as the boys out there are waiting to provide you with an action packed summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Boys Are Back in Town!

A musical link for the girls, start guessing what challenge #10 - A Different Gender - books we'll be posting about next week! In the meanitime sit back relax and enjoy your musical link

The Boys Are Back in Town

Friday, June 18, 2010

iBoy - Kevin Brooks

'I had no major problems, no secrets,no terrors, no vices, no nightmares, no special talents...I had no story to tell. I was just a kid, that's all.'

Tom Harvey lives in Crow Town, a sink estate of  eight tower blocks which are plagued by twin problems of drugs and gangs. When walking home from school to a friends house an iPhone is thrown from the 30th floor of one of those tower blocks at Tom, it cracks his skull and pieces of the iconic technology lodge and fuse in his brain. Tom wakes up to find himself in hospital with some pretty cool abilities.

How would you like to make calls, send texts and log on to the Internet using your brain? Tom can do this and more - but what he discovers using his abilities is a world of pain and grief, his lifetime friend has been gang raped and her brother beaten up.

What would you do?

Kevin Brooks' new novel for YA readers is a fast paced thriller which manages to combine the big questions -  What is right? Who determines what is right? Why do gangs exist and How far does personal responsibility extend? - with an action packed story that kept me hooked right 'til the last page. Brooks does not talk down to his readers, hence the big questions, and does not shy away from dealing with the grim reality of many children's lives. All of this is however achieved with a light touch and an instinct for when to draw back and when to pile on the reality/morality/storytelling.

Being a technophobe I was entirely convinced by the explanation of how Tom's superpowers worked and was captivated by the burgeoning relationship between Tom and Lucy. Infact, Brooks doesn't put a foot wrong in this grim but uplifting tale of a superhero who realises that knowledge is power but with knowledge must come responsibility.

I will be waiting and hoping that this is only the first instalment of Tom's story.

This book would be good for 14+ readers bearing in mind the themes of gang violence, drugs, gang rape and vigilantism that are explored in the book. It would be a great book for older reluctant readers who want something with a more adult content and who are not necessarily intimidated by slightly longer length.

'iBoy' is published on the 1st July.

My thanks to Penguin for supplying me with an advance copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

White Crow - Marcus Sedgwick

I suspect that in other hands this hot, intense, strange tale would be an overblown behemoth, part historical novel and part modern parable. In Sedgwick's hands however we have a pared down glittering gem for older YA readers who are interested in things that are obscure and obscured.
Rebecca and her father have run away to the remote village of Winterfold for the summer to escape media attention. The village is living but dead, it is slowly falling into the sea, house by house, church by church, all that remains are three streets. Winterfold is full of abandoned houses and churches where you open the main doors to find yourself looking out to sea because the end of the church has been reclaimed by nature. Rebecca is lonely and isolated having been removed from her busy London life and is beginning to realise that her friends might not be friends after all and her boyfriend is prepared to dump her. She is estranged from her father who is coping with his own difficulties, her mother having died several years ago. She does not realise that having arrived in Winterfold she is being watched.

'She couldn't have been anyone, because the moment I saw her beautiful face I knew I loved her, and I knew she would love me too.

I knew.'

Rebecca is being watched by Ferelith, a girl who left school at 14 when she had to explain Game Theory to her maths teacher and who has educated herself, particularly in human behaviour

'because nothing is more important to learn in life than the interaction of a human being with another human being'

Sedgwick has allowed us access to the thoughts of both girls, as they both narrate the story of their friendship over that hot summer. But are they truly friends and what are Ferelith's real intentions? As the summer progresses and Rebecca is pulled further and further from the conventional life she once inhabited we are left asking what or who is Ferelith.

Interweaved with the story of the two girls is the personal journal of the Rector of Winterfold in 1798, a glutton and a fornicator who has fallen short of the standards of his office. He is filled with doubt, struggling to keep his faith, obsessed with hell and unable to visualise heaven. When the abandoned Hall is rented by Dr Barrieux, the two strike up a friendship and find that they are consumed by the same questions - What happens to us after we die? Is there a heaven and is there a hell? Their experiments into these questions are the subject of local legend over 200 years later.

As the hot summer continues, the tensions between Rebecca and Ferelith mount and we begin to doubt Ferelith's sanity. When the weather eventually breaks and the games are over the girls discover the secret of The Hall and the truth of those experiments 200 years ago.

Sedgwick has provided a note at the end of my proof copy of the book (I don't know whether they it will be included in the final book) in which he states that the title refers to a quote by William James (brother to Henry)

"If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black you mustn't seek to show that no crows are: it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white"

On the evidence of this book Sedgwick would seem to believe that there is life after death but that the Devil is in us all. In getting us to this point we are shown characters that inhabit lives of loss, loss of faith, loss of certainty and who are searching for answers that give meaning to their lives. These characters are easily manipulated by those around them, the small decisions they make slowly leading them to a place they might not wish to be. And at the end of the book we are left questioning what exactly is Ferelith, is she truly the White Crow of the title or is she the fevered and frightened imagining of a teenage girl.

I am not completely sure I understand everything that Sedgwick is aiming for in this novel - and this can be a good thing. I will be pondering the story of these three characters long after I close the book, turning and turning their fates until I reach an accommodation between my understanding, the things I don't understand and the things that there will never be an answer to - until finally I can put the book away.

'White Crow' will be released on 1st July 2010.

My thanks to Orion for providing a copy of the book.

Marcus Sedgwick has provided a list of music that Ferelith listens to on her ipod here. Unfortunately those of us in Ireland can not access Spotify so I have provided a link to five of the songs on YouTube - enjoy.

Blue Roses - Rebecca

Julie London - Cry Me A River

My Chemical Romance - This Is How I Disappear

Sonic Youth - 'Cross the Breeze

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here Come the Girls!

Challenge #10 is to read a book in which the main character is a different gender to you. So for all those boys out there - here come the girls! Tough, feisty and with attitude these girls would give any boy a run for their money in the 'Who's a Hero' stakes.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. "The Hunger Games" is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...

And with book 2 in the series 'Cathing Fire' out already and 'Mockingjay' the third book in the series out in August, this will be a satifyingly long read over the summer.

Since her mother's death, fifteen-year-old Jem has kept a secret. When her eyes meet someone else's, a number pops into her head the date on which they will die. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, Jem avoids relationships, but when she meets a boy called Spider, and they plan a day out together, her life takes a new twist and turn. Waiting for the London Eye, she sees everyone in the queue has the same number - something terrible is going to happen.

Book 2 in the series 'The Chaos' is also available, this time the main character is a boy.

It's January 1st, 2015, and the UK is the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing, in a drastic bid to combat climate change. As her family spirals out of control, Laura Brown chronicles the first year of rationing with scathing abandon. Will her mother become one with her inner wolf? Will her sister give up her weekends in Ibiza? Does her father love the pig more than her? Can her band the dirty angels make it big? In these dark days, Laura deals with the issues that really matter: love, floods and pigs. The Carbon Diaries 2015 is one girl's drastic bid to stay sane in a world unravelling at the seams.

lovereadingforkids said 'It's edgy, it's appealing and it's contemporary and it makes for utterly compelling and frightening reading' and with Carbon Diaries 2017 also available it could be a fun filled apocolyptic summer for the teens in your household.
Two boys, two girls each as capable as the other.

Fourteen years ago, scientist William Fox implanted four babies with the Medusa gene - a gene for psychic abilities. But Fox died and the babies were hidden away for years. Now the children are teenagers - and unaware that their psychic powers are about to kick in. Prepare for psychic action as the four teens discover their powers and each other in this fast paced opener.

Book 2 'The Hostage' is out already and book 3 'The Rescue' will be in shops from the 8th July. Suitable for 9+
When two young women meet under extraordinary circumstances in the eighteenth- century West Indies, they are unified in their desire to escape their oppressive lives. Fate ensures that one night the two young women have to save each other and run away to a life no less dangerous but certainly a lot more free. As pirates, they roam the seas, fight pitched battles against their foes and become embroiled in many a heart-quickening adventure.

'This is as swashbuckling a yarn as anyone could wish for.' Adele Geras, Guardian. If you like this try Celia Rees' other strong female characters 'Sovay', 'Sorceress' and Witch Child.

Meet Clary Fray, an ordinary 16 year old teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world. As tough as it gets! Ages 14+
Ok boys, the girls are putting it up to you - are you up for the challenge of these tough women?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Clue to this weeks posts

Follow the link for a clue to which Summer Reading Challenge prompt we will be posting about this week

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Quiet Quest

A quiet revolution is taking place in this part of East Cork. A reading revolution!
That notoriously difficult group to interest in books, boys between 7 - 9 yrs, are reading and talking about a set of books that, if you do not have a boy of that age, will have passed you by. The boys are all on a Quest to read and finish the ever expanding series of Beast Quest books that currently run to a series of 36 books - with a further 6 to be published in the autumn.
My own son is in this age group and I would not call him a natural reader but Beast Quest and that other favourite 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' are firm favourites in the playground. Whilst the books are not great literature they are chock full of good stories and characters, which is what every child needs at this age to feed their imagination. I don't know what the sales figures are for these books (if anyone who knows is reading this then please post in the comments or email me) but as parents of these boys know they are feeding the habit to the tune of 2 - 4 books a week and with the summer holidays approaching Beast Quest is likely to be the hit of the summer.

Time Riders - Alex Scarrow

Are you wondering what to do with your boys this summer? You could do alot worse that invest in a copy of Alex Scarrow's first outing in the teen/YA catagory Time Riders.
Liam, Maddy and Sal are all snatched from certain death by a mysterious man called 'Fowler' who offers them the choice: either die as you were supposed to or take my hand and become a Time Rider. I for one would would take the offered hand, and when they do each of the teens is transported from their own time to New York on 10th September 2001. Their job is to watch for any shifts in the timeline and correct them. They live in a time bubble at a pivotal point in history, endlessly repeating 10th & 11th September, endlessly watching the horror of the twin towers, which Sal must get to know intimately so that she can spot any changes that occur which point to an interruption in the timeline.
Scarrow is clearly having loads of fun with this book, to a timeline in which the Terminator is President to an AI support unit called Bob, he masterfully grabs the readers attention and holds it throughout the length of the book.
History has changed, Hitler won (with a little help from a man from the future) and New York and the world are utterly different but when Derr Fuhrer determines on a final solution for everyone there is a further more severe time shift. Fowler, Maddy and Sal have to deal with a world of devastation whilst Liam and Bob, stuck in an alternate 1957, have to get a message across time to their collegues in the hope that they can save the day.
There is no swearing or sex in the book but there is violence both of the shoot 'em up variety and of the more insidious kind, with the creepy creatures that inhabit the end of the world. With the various timelines and length of the book I would put it at a 12+ level, a good book for older teens who may be reluctant readers.
This is a ripping yarn that will keep your teens, particularly boys, enthralled for the length of the book and with Time Riders: Day of the Predator due out on 5th August there is no reason why your boys (and girls) shouldn't be riding time for the entire summer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Challenge Reading #6: Body Modification- Some Suggestions for teens

Some books that teen readers may find of interest, particularly for challenge #6 in our Summer Reading Challenge - body modification.

Scott Westerfeld's Trilogy of books dealing with body image, the idealisation of perfection and environmental issues are ready made for those interested in the way society is fixated on how people look rather than the substance of who they are. 12+

Neal Shusterman's Unwind is a gripping tale of survival which also deals with body modification, in this case transplantation. The story is set in a world where teenagers can be unwound ie all their body parts harvested and stored for use by those more deserving. Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life - not just where it begins and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive. 12+

Kazu Ishiguro's book was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, the 2006 Arthur C Clark Award and was Time magazine's 2005 best novel of the year. Set in a dystopian Britain in which human beings are cloned to provide donor organs for transplant. This book is about love, friendship and memory.
Dean Kootz's Watchers also deals with body modification, in this case that of a dog to give it near human intelligence by government research. The same lab also created a hybrid monster known as "The Outsider", which is loose and hunting the dog... and capable of following it by a psychological link that binds them even over hundreds of miles. Dean Kootz's books are classed as horror and strictly for those 14+ but are immensely readable and compelling.

The Uninvited - Tim Wynne-Jones

What do you do if you are being stalked? For 19 old year Mimi Shapiro, who has made a disastrous mistake in her love life, the answer is to flee to a small cottage owned by her father set on a snye (look it up!). But the cottage is already occupied by Jay. Mimi and Jay negotiate a living arrangement but Mimi's problems are not over as Jay is also being stalked - someone is leaving tokens and strange sounds on his computer. As the incursions into their home increase and objects are removed Mimi and Jay begin to investigate who their intruder might be.
Mimi and Jay's perspective in this novel is interspersed with that of Cramer, a school contemporary of Jay's who is coming under pressure from working two jobs and caring for his increasingly strange mother. Cramer and Mimi finally meet but just as things look like coming good for Cramer the novel reaches it's explosive climax.
All the characters that live around the house on the snye illustrate the difficulties faced by those who live outside big conurbations - lack of jobs, lack of prospects and the attractions of crime. Mimi and Jay, both from affluent citified backgrounds with good teeth, wealthy liberal parents (Jay's mother is a lesbian) and college educations, contrast sharply with Cramer's lack of prospects. Tim Wynne-Jones brings these characters to life through good use of dialogue but fails to use the highlighted issues, around social inequality and inequality of opportunity, for anything other than contrast.
And this is where my problem with the book lies, this is a page turning thriller with an ending that Wynne-Jones manages to conceal right until a few pages before the final showdown, but I can't help thinking that it is a missed opportunity in which he could have explored so much more with the characters and their situations.
Whilst there is no sex in the book it is alluded to in the reason Mimi escapes New York, there is little swearing but there are several unpleasant and threatening characters which give the book an air of menace. All in all a book for the 14+ age group.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden - Helen Grant

Published in 2009, Helen Grant's debut novel is an interesting and welcome addition to the bookshelves. At a time when teenagers seem to be offered endless vampire/werewolf/school stories it is refreshing to find a novel that provides excellent writing and taut plotting whilst looking to our European neighbours rather than America for its setting.
10 year old Pia Kolvenbach lives in the picturesque and small town of Bad Munstereifel in Germany. When her Grandmother explodes on advent Sunday Pia is ostracized by her school friends. Being part of a small town, where everyone knows everyone, the death of her Grandmother is on the way to becoming a local legend and Pia rapidly becomes aware of the harm that spite and gossip can do in a community as closely knit and as stifling as the one in which she lives.
Katharina Linden, a school friend of Pia's, disappears during the festival of Karnaval. Pia is the last person to see her alive and she realises that whilst everyone might think that they know everyone else's business, clearly this is not the case. With 'Stinkstefan' as Batman to her Robin, the pair decide to take matters into their own hands and investigate Herr Dusterr, another victim of small town gossip and brother to Pia's friend Herr Schiller.
As more girls disappear and Pia and Stefan become more daring in their investigations, Pia discovers more about the town in which she lives, it's poisonous gossip and long held grudges, than any 10 year old has the right to know. The resolution of this thriller of a tale will have you on the edge of your seat and younger readers might want to look away towards the end of the book.
Whilst Pia in the book is 10 and her story takes place in 1999, it is an older Pia who is narrating the events of her childhood which allows Grant to use a wider vocabulary and bring a greater level of analysis to the actions of the adults around Pia - thus appealing to a wider audience. Indeed this is a book that could equally be read by adults as teens.Interspersed with Herr Schiller's grim folk tales and the break up of Pia's parents marriage, Grant has produced a multi-layered and modern novel dealing with the loss of innocence.
Longlisted for the 2009 Teenage Booktrust Award this book is a timely reminder of the richness of our European storytelling tradition with folk tales and Gothic horror mixed with modern crime.
There is no sex or swearing in the book but the creepiness of Herr Schiller's tales together with the slightly gruesome nature of the ending put this book firmly in the category of 14+ reading. The text is also interspersed with German words and a glossary is provided at the back of the book making this a slightly more challenging read.
Helen Grant's second book The Glass Demon has just been published.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CRY - Community Radio Youghal

After chatting with Ryan Tubridy last year about The Secret Scripture' and 'The Private Lives of Pippa Lee', I was delighted to be asked to talk books on Youghal's local radio station. For those who missed it or were not quick enough to catch the titles and authors here are the books I spoke about:

Personally I Blame My Fairy Godmother - Claudia Carroll
House Rules - Jodie Picouolt
Mother of the Bride - Marita Conlon McKenna
The Best of Times - Penny Vincenzi
The Man Who Disappeared - Clare Morrell
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
Ghost Light - Joseph O'Connor
Let the Great World Spin/Dancer - Column McCann
The Soldiers Song - Alan Monaghan
The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
The Help - Katherine Stockett
Twilight Series - Stephanie Meyer
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephanie Meyer
Mortal Instruments Trilogy - Cassandra Clare
Hush Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Fallen - Lauren Kate
The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
Shiver - Maggie Stiever
Chaos Walking Trilogy - Patrick Ness
Gone/ Hunger - Michael Grant
Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Adam's Pirate Adventure - Benji Bennett
What the Ladybird Heard/Troll - Julia Donaldson
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus - Mo Willems
The Heart in the Bottle/The Great Paper Caper/The Incredible Book Eating Boy - Oliver Jeffers
Aliens Love Underpants - Clare Freedman
The Great Dog Bottom Swap - Peter Bentley
There - Marie Louise Fitzpatrick
Beast Quest Series - Adam Blade
Dragon Blood Pirates Series - Dan Jerris
As you can tell I bored everyone silly with the great books that are available this summer, particularly on the children and young adult front. My thanks to CRY for having me and they have promised to let me have a recording of the interview for the blog - what would it be worth not to subject you to this podcast, answers in the comments section below!

American Devil - Oliver Stark

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this debut novel by Oliver Stark which will be a find for those who love crime fiction. At over 400 pages of densely packed type the book delivers a taut and complex storyline that will have you turning pages long after you should have turned the light out and gone to sleep.

Whilst the premise may seem tired - lone wolf cop with anger management issues and beautiful female sidekick chase serial killer - what Stark delivers is a riveting read full of dead ends and false leads that takes us into the heart of the investigation and into the mind of a killer. That Stark is able to control this length of novel at his first published outing with hardly a slip bodes well for future books from this new novelist.
There are a few moments where dialogue and prose become wooden (particularly the first chapter) but these are very few and far between and do not spoil an otherwise enjoyable read. I will definitely be looking forward to the follow up from Mr Stark.
American Devil is currently out in Hardback and tradepaperback with a paperback edition to be published on 2nd September. My thanks to Bertrams and Headline Publishing for providing an advance copy of this book.