Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

Owner of The Book Club Forum.

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman


I first came across this this tale within one of my favourite books, Stories, which Neil Gaiman helped compile and edit. It’s quite a dark story, and wasn’t one I got on that well with. However, placing it into it’s own book, most importantly with the accompanying artbook, made the story more alive for me.

The main character is a small man, who is taking a journey. This is not purely a physical journey, as we’re aware there’s a simmering anger and obsession within him.

This book is designed to be an immersive experience – the combination of words, artwork and comic strips all blend into each other, enhancing the story to much higher levels. The art itself isn’t really to my taste, and I have to admit that if I was in a shop, I may not have bought this. As it was sent to me to review, I took the time read it, and as I’ve already said, I’m glad I did. I also love the dark image on the front cover.

Fans of Neil Gaiman should love the writing, and it’s a book to be explored. The art may not be to everyone’s taste, but it conveys the darkness of the story.

 

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The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale


The Bone Dragon introduces us to Evie, who’s recovering from an operation to remove a part of her rib. With the help of her uncle, she decides to keep this piece of rib, and carve a dragon from it. As she recovers, this little bone dragon comes to life, and takes her out on night time trips.

Over the course of the book, Evie’s past and life is gradually revealed to the reader, although it’s never totally clear; and it’s important to realise that Evie is the narrator of her story, so part of the experience is never knowing exactly sure what to expect, and what is truth.

For me, The Bone Dragon is a well layered book – I have seen some reviews saying it’s no more than a story of a depressed girl making a dragon. I guess that is the basis of the story, but they seem to have missed so much more. It can be read as a fantasy, as a tale of a dragon coming to life and trying to help Evie to heal, in many ways. Alternatively, it can be read as a personal story, dealing with healing, friendship, family, and revenge.

There is a darker side to the story too, Evie does learn to heal, and to develop her relationships, but there’s also a darker side to how she deals with her past. As for her past, it is a difficult one, but never is it presented in a graphic way – the author hints at what happened to Evie, and how it makes her feel. This to me is important, as this can be read by teenagers and adults alike.

This is a story about a teenager, and it is a YA book, but as an adult I found so much within it’s pages. It stirred memories of teenage feelings, whilst bringing out the nurturing adult in me. Evie is a troubled but lovable character, who I wanted to know and help.

I heard about this book a while ago, but have put off reading it. After meeting Alexia at YALC, suddenly it appealed, and I’m so glad I read it. Alexia has just signed a contract for her second book, and I will be first in the queue to read it.

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Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary


After reading a lot of crime novels a few years ago, it became something I tended to avoid. Occasionally though, a review copy arrives which captures my attention, and I discover a book which offers something more. Someone Else’s Skin was one of those books.

The main character is Marnie Rome, a detective whose own parents were murdered. There’s something compelling about Marnie, a character you can’t quite make out – she is of course struggling with her parent’s death, and she can be quite harsh to her colleagues, and yet there’s something very likeable about her as well. I’m really hoping that Sarah is given the chance to write more in this series, as I feel there’s a lot more to come.

The initial crime happens whilst Marnie is investigating another – as she and her partner arrive to interview the resident of a woman’s shelter, they discover another woman’s husband lying stabbed on the floor. The setting of a woman’s shelter is an interesting one, and allows Sarah to explore to feelings and actions of all involved, and it’s this which adds depth to this story.

This is a well written, polished debut, combining good story telling with characters which grab hold.  Published in Feb 2014, this is one to look out for!

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Early Review: The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

almost

Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. Coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

I was captivated by this one when I saw the cover reveal, and was lucky enough to receive an early copy to review.  At the heart of the story is Riven, who’s been brought up on a parallel world to be a soldier. She’s highly trained, and hardened to any emotion which may get in the way.

When the Prince becomes ill, he sends her Earth to track down his brother, and this is where the majority of the story takes place. It’s an action packed, fast paced SF tale, with lots of amazing technology and enemies. I love the idea of The Vectors, who are dead bodies controlled by nanorobots – almost indestructible, and working on orders alone, with no emotion.

Towards the end, the story switches to Neospes, a world parallel to ours, and very different. It’s well thought out and described, and it left me wanting to find out more.

There’s also romance, something I tend to avoid – it’s done fairly well in this book, and is an important aspect for Riven, but there were times when the writing seemed a little overdone – but then I’m approaching this book as a 40-something, not a teen.  :)

Overall, this for me is one of the best offerings from Strange Chemistry – SF seems to be a building trend in YA, and this is a brilliant example of how it can work. Put this one on your wishlist!

Published Jan 2014 by Strange Chemistry

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep – the long-awaited and highly anticipated sequel to The Shining. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!

The Shining has to be my favourite King book, a book that scared silly as a teenager, and then lived up to a second reading when older.  King himself says he’d often wondered two thing: what became of Danny, and what have happened if his father had found Alcoholics Anonymous and lived a different life?

Doctor Sleep looks at both these issues, as the grown-up Dan faces his own alcohol demons, and then learns to tame them with the AA. We get a glimpse of life for the younger Danny, as he and his mother recover from the events of The Overlook, his struggle with alcohol, and then story focuses on a sober Dan. He settles into a job in a nursing home, where he provides help and support to the dying in their last moments.

He then meets Abra, who has the shining far stronger than he ever did, and also comes to know The True Knot, a group of people who travel around searching for people with the shining for sustenance – they kill them, and gain power from the ‘steam’ they give off as they die.

If you’ve not read The Shining, I would highly recommend it before picking up Doctor Sleep – it is possible to read this one on it’s own, but you’d get far more from it after The Shining. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to re-read The Shining if it’s been a while.. as long as you remember the main points (and who wouldn’t with a story so powerful?) you’re good to go!

From my own point of view, I didn’t find Doctor Sleep as scary – the beginning part is the closest to The Shining, and rather unsettling, but King then takes it in a different direction. To me this is a good thing, as this needed to be a sequel which can stand up on it’s own merits, rather than a rehash of The Shining. Dan is a great character, despite his faults and struggles, and Abra is a strong, likeable character.

I stopped reading King for a while, as I couldn’t get into his books, but that has recently changed. Full Dark, No Stars in 2010 showed a King who was back on form (for me, anyway) and this continued with 11.22.63. Doctor Sleep continues this trend and I’m back to waiting impatiently for the next book!

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Linked by Imogen Howson

I’ve come across Imogen’s writing before, and was therefore very pleased when I discovered she was about to publish a YA novel. I pre-ordered, and so hadn’t come across any reviews – all I had to go by was the back of the book..

LINKED
BY BLOOD

LINKED
BY FEAR

LINKED
BY A SECRET WORTH KILLING FOR

I actually missed the bit below which said ‘LINKED will take you beyond our world’ and therefore didn’t expect the setting of the story. I expected twins, some sort of government conspiracy, and being on the run. What I found added up to so much more.

The setting is a far off planet, which has been terraformed. It still seems very much what we’re used to, although there is much more automation and technology – some of which is cleverly done, such as a mother being pleased by her ‘cooking’ although everything is done automatically by various gadgets.

In this world is Elissa, who is being affected by nightmares and visions, which are now causing actual pain and bruises. Taken to various doctors, she is finally booked in for surgery which will apparently fix the problem. Before this can happen, she discovers that they are being caused by her twin, whom she has a connection with, but knows nothing about.

Yes, they do go on the run, but here the space theme continues, as they are helped to escape on a space craft. I shall stop there, and not reveal any more.

Linked falls into the YA category, but it doesn’t talk down to it’s readers, and this 40 year old found plenty to like. The pace is good, the futuristic setting well thought out, and the love interest not too over the top. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

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UK Competition – The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

diaries

Earlier in the year I was sent an early copy of The String Diaries. As it’s a big book, and the publication date was some time off, I took a peek at the beginning, thinking I could read it over a few weeks. Instead, I found myself absolutely gripped, and it took just a few days. It became one of my favourite books so far this year, and I will be recommending it to lots of people!

Thanks to the lovely people at Headline, I’m running a competition to give away three copies of this brilliant book. You don’t have to worry about whether you follow my blog, retweet on twitter, or promise me your first-born – simply visit Headline’s page, and then return and answer one simple question.

Remember, it’s UK only, and the closing date is Sunday 23rd June.

Good Luck!

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

This is s difficult book to review – I need to express how much I loved it, but I don’t want to give too much of the story away.

When the aliens arrived, nothing was as they expected, no little green men, no flying saucers, in fact there was no contact at all. Instead, the attacks came in waves – the first was simply to cut the power, the 2nd was a tsunami along every single coastline, killing three billion. The 3rd wave was a deadly virus, killing a further four billion. During the 4th wave, the remaining survivors began to kill each other, trusting no-one. The final few are now alone, anticipating the 5th and final wave.

The story mainly centres on Cassie and Ben, two survivors who paths take very different turns. Cassie is 14, and her story does brings in the YA aspects such as first kiss, and falling in love, but it’s all part of the story, and is done well. Her position as a teenager does give us an interesting view of how people react when the spaceship first arrives, and then when the power goes out, and her character grows as her world changes around her.

Ben is rescued by the military, and then taught how to fight, and from here the story begins to darken. We are shown an army of small children and teenagers, and the influence of Ender’s Game (which I also loved) is apparent.

Both of these young people have to learn that no-one can be trusted, whilst also learning it’s impossible to do be alone. Despite their new lives, and the on-going mistrust, they both find people to love and fight for.

What I can’t describe fully is the full impact of this book – it grab holds of you and won’t let go. It’ll tear you apart at times, but it won’t let go. It’s impossible to put down, and leaves a big gap when you’re done. It comes to a conclusion, but it’s not the end, and I’m going to be very impatiently waiting for the next instalment.

This book really doesn’t fit neatly in a genre – yes, there is YA, dystopia and sci-fi, but they are all parts of the total. It has some very dark moments, but also some moments which make you smile. I felt as if I was taking the journey with the characters, and you can feel and understand their mistrust and fear.

My advice would be to ignore the genres, ignore the detailed reviews which spell out the story, and ignore the hype. If it interests you just a little bit, read it – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

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Blink of an Eye by Cath Staincliffe

Following a family barbecue on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Naomi and Alex are driving home when they are involved in a fatal car crash – Alex suffers from broken bones, Naomi almost dies, and is left with no memory, and a young nine-year-old girl is knocked off her bike and killed. To make matters worse, Naomi’s sister Suzanne insists her younger sibling had been drinking too much, and shouldn’t have been driving.

The story starts at the barbecue, and is told from alternative points of view – Carmel, Naomi’s mother, and Naomi herself. Carmel is convinced her daughter would not have driven when drunk, which puts her at odds with her oldest daughter, who can’t forgive Naomi for what she’s done. During her parts of the story, we also learn about her own background, as well as insights into the sister’s relationships.

Naomi’s part is told from when she first wakes after the accident, dealing first with physical issues, and then the emotional ones. This for me was one of the strengths of the stories, being with Naomi as the full weight of the accident bears down on her.

I have to admit that for me, the first half of the story was the weakest – the accident didn’t have the impact I expected it to, and I couldn’t connect that well with Carmel as she reflected on her early life. I was glad I stayed with it though, because the second half had me enthralled. I had an idea at this half way stage as to where the story may go, and I stayed up far to late to finish the book and find out if I was right.

Cath Staincliffe takes instances which could happen to any of us, and takes us into it’s depths – you can’t help but wonder how you would feel and respond in the same situation, and characters are real and believable. Her experience as a script-writer also shines through – this would work brilliantly as a TV drama, and I would love to see it brought to life.

Blink of an Eye is published by CRCrime

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Deadlands by Lily Herne

Deadlands is a YA book set in South Africa, somewhere in the near future. Most of Cape Town is now infested with zombies, and those unaffected live in enclaves, protected by the mysterious Guardians.

It starts with Lele attending the funeral of her grandmother, which takes a unusual turn when the Guardians arrive to take the body out to the Deadlands, where she will turned into a zombie by the existing ones. In addition, a lottery is held yearly, when teenagers are chosen to be taken by the Guardians, although no one knows why.

Lele now has to go and live with her father and step-mother, and start attending a new school, all of which provides some of the usual YA storylines. As the story develops she also has to deal with her attraction to two different boys. It’s interesting to see these usual YA themes wrapped up in a dystopian zombie story, but it works well.

When Lele is chosen by the lottery, she decides to escape, and find her way through the Deadlands – during this time she makes some new friends who teach her how to fight the zombies, and show her that there is a different way. Meanwhile things are changing within the enclaves, and she has to decide which path is the right one.

The level of threat is just right from the zombies – whilst it’s always there, it’s not too scary or gory for teen readers. As an older reader, I found it a pleasant change from other zombie books I’ve recently been reading, and I found myself captured by the story. The relationship aspect is well done, and isn’t too overpowering, and there are some interesting characters to explore. Lele’s story continues in Death of a Saint later this year, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Deadlands is published by Much-In-Little, April 2013

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