Tag Archives: tragedy

Book Review: The Madness by Alison Rattle

Published March 2014 by Hot Key Books.

18482292Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and become a ‘dipper’, escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie’s infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy. Set in the early Victorian era when propriety, modesty and repression were the rule, this is a taut psychological drama in which the breakdown of a young woman’s emotional state will have a devastating impact on all those around her.

My Review: The Madness was a really haunting, fascinating read. From page one, I was transported to Marnie’s world, and I really loved it. I enjoyed Alison Rattle’s The Quietness last year, so I was really looking forward to her next YA book. I’m really happy it didn’t disappoint!

At first, The Madness seemed just like a historical romance novel (which it is, but, well, it’s much darker as well!). The love story develops well throughout the book, and it all seems quite sweet, until you get to certain points from Noah’s perspective that make you rethink everything you assumed about his feelings for Marnie. The last part of the book was pretty terrifying! Marnie begins to go mad, her thoughts entirely about Noah, and the ending was completely gripping.

Marnie is loveable. She lives by the sea with her Ma and Smoaker, and her Ma runs the famed Sea Cure- which consists of dipping ill women into the water to cure them. She’s disliked by all of the town, because of a certain (scary!) incident that happened and because of her leg, meaning she has to limp. I found it really easy to understand her. Alison Rattle is talented at crafting characters that are really easy to love and that stay in your head long after you finish the book- as also shown in her YA debut.

Told from different perspectives- through third person and Noah’s diary entries, I got a really good insight into both of their personalities. The story seemed very tense all of the way through, and I was completely absorbed! One thing that did confuse me quite a lot, though, is that in the first part of the book, the story is in one person, then that switches to another for the second and final part. I think I understand why that was done, because it really gets inside Marnie’s head as her obsession takes over, but it did take me quite a while to get used to as the language is very different compared to the more formal third person that part one of the book is told in.

Overall, The Madness is a really memorable, haunting but also powerful read. I thought that Alison Rattle’s debut YA novel was pretty dark… but this one is darker in quite a few ways! I think it’ll be big for adult readers as well as YA ones. The characters were so well developed, and so was the setting- I could visualise everything really well and I was left thinking about that ending long after the last page. The only reason that I disliked the book a little is because of the writing style change. It was a good idea, but at the same time, it does take a lot of getting used to and confused me a bit. Really recommended, though, to fans of historical fiction and romance!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of The Madness from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: After Iris

By Natasha Farrant, published by Faber.

Goodreads synopsis: Bluebell Gadsby is 13 but that’s the least of her problems. Both her parents seem more interested in their careers than the family, leaving Blue and her three siblings as well as their three pet rats (who may or may not be pregnant), in the care of Zoran the au pair. The enigmatic Joss moves in next door and Blue thinks she might be falling in love, until he takes out her older sister Flora instead (who, incidentally, is trying to make a statement by dying her hair bright pink but no one takes the blindest bit of notice). Blue thinks and feels very deeply about life but can’t really talk to anyone about it, because no one in the Gadsby family wants to address the real problem – that Blue’s twin sister, Iris, died a year ago, and they are all just trying to hide their grief in busyness…
So Blue turns to her diary and her unique way of seeing the world through her camcorder to express herself.

My review: After Iris was such a brilliant read! When I read the blurb after it arrived, I got kind of confused. It said Bluebell’s story was told through words and film. Film? In a book? Then I opened the book up and saw that all of Bluebell’s films were written up in transcripts, and were between every few diary-entry chapters- such a clever format! I really loved how it was written. Not only the unique format I’ve never seen before- but also the writing itself, crammed with emotion. Much of the story was quite sad, with the constant reminders of Iris that haunted Bluebell, and the writing was so full of raw emotion about that, and the rather shocking love story. Speaking of which- the plot was so unpredictable! Especially the love story that was woven into the plot. I expected a very basic romantic tale, where Bluebell would fall in love with Joss, the love interest, and then there would be a fight and then they’d get back together for a happy ending. I didn’t get that. what I got? A brilliant, complex romantic tale, where Bluebell fell in love with Joss, the love interest, but not all goes to plan and Blue’s sister has a large involvement and there wasn’t exactly the happiest of endings for that. But I loved that plot twist with Joss! It was so unpredictable.

The other aspects of the book were really great, too- I loved reading about Bluebell’s ‘invisible’ school life, and how she managed to get back at a bully, and I also really enjoyed reading about her frantic, very unique family and how they all dealt with Iris’s death in different ways. Everything was resolved really well- I loved the outcome. I think that the event at the ending, involving Blue’s little siblings, was really quite terrifying. When the story ended with them okay, I was so pleased- but that was solved a little crazily.

Bluebell was a really great main character, and I loved her throughout. She was so relatable- through the bullying incidents and the many issues at home- so made for a very realistic character. She had a very strong narration and I got to know her really well through her detailed diary entries and the things that she filmed on her camcorder. Bluebell had a really interesting, in-depth background, and her past was revealed little bit by little bit throughout the story, which was quite clever because it kept me reading because I wanted the full back story.  I grew to love Bluebell so much, and I was so happy to read that this is the first book in a series- I will DEFINITELY be looking out for the sequel!

Overall, After Iris, was an emotional read, with its witty parts too. It was so well written, in a totally unique format that I really loved because it captured the essence of Blue’s family so effectively. Bluebell’s story was harsh at points, humorous and uplifting at others, and it’s really hard not to just fall in love with it. I honestly could not stop reading- this book is like a mixture of Cathy Cassidy’s contemporary masterpieces mixed in with the raw emotion from Annabel Pitcher’s equally amazing titles. Definitely recommended to young teenage girls, because they’ll definitely be able to relate to at least a small part of the story. I really can’t wait to read more of this series!

My rating:

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I received a copy of After Iris from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Half Lives

By Sara Grant, published by Indigo (Orion).

Half LivesGoodreads synopsis: Present day: Icie is a typical high school teenager – until disaster strikes and her parents send her to find shelter inside a mountain near Las Vegas.
The future: Beckett lives on The Mountain – a sacred place devoted to the Great I AM. He must soon become the leader of his people. But Beckett is forced to break one of the sacred laws, and when the Great I AM does not strike him down, Beckett finds himself starting to question his beliefs.
As Beckett investigates The Mountain’s history, Icie’s story is revealed – along with the terrifying truth of what lies at the heart of The Mountain.
Sara Grant’s HALF LIVES is a dystopian chronicle of the journeys of two unlikely heroes in their race against time to save future generations.

My review: Half Lives is, possibly, the most emotional and brilliant book I have read all year! I was really looking forward to reading it, seeing as I’d seriously enjoyed Sara’s Dark Parties. It started off really well- I was immediately absorbed into the life of Icie, and everyday teenager, and was curious to see how Icie’s world was going to change forever and why. Then, the narrative switched to that of Beckett, who worships ‘The Great I AM’ on the same mountain Icie is travelling to take refuge on. I was really confused at how that related to Icie’s tale, but after a few chapters in the different perspectives, both hundreds of years apart, I got the hang of it and it really was quite clever.

Icie’s story was a brilliant mix of dystopia and hope and survival. After this disease (Which I would’ve liked a bit more explanation of) was released and the general chaos in America began, this heart-stopping adventure ensued for Icie, and she picked up three very different people on the way. I liked the constant conflicts between the four unlikely survival group as they tried to start over a new life in a cave with limited food supplies. Just past the middle, things in Icie’s apocalyptic world began to fall apart and spiral out of control as the disease began to claim the mountain. I can’t really say anything more about it, because I’ll end up revealing the plot twists towards the end! What I will say, though, is that it gets heart-breaking and terrifying, with some real knuckle-biting moments, but then the ending for Icie’s tale is actually really sweet and brought a happy tear to my eye.

Icie was such a brilliant protagonist. She went through so much throughout the book and there was a lot of visible development in her character. Her relationship with Chaske was a little predictable- of course she’d win him!- and I really liked her friendships with Marissa and Tate, the other survivors. She adapted to her whole new, changed and broken world like any human would- which is what I loved about her. Her emotions and actions were really realistic and believable. I really felt like she was a real person, and that I was with her during her terrifying tale. I was so happy for her at her happy ending to a sad story!

Beckett’s world was so much different from Icie’s. He lives on the mountain Icie did hundreds of years before him, and is a heavy worshipper of ‘The Great I AM’ who generations before him- you’ve probably guessed who that really is. I actually found a lot of the worships and prayers quite funny, because Beckett and his ‘cheerleaders’ (You’ll get why they’re called that a while into the book) kept referencing to ‘The Great Facebook’ and things like that, from The Old World. The now sacred mountain made a really great setting for his story, and so was the surrounding town of Vega. Well, it’s based on Vegas, but I’m guessing it’s named Vega in the future because the S fell off the sign or something. Sara Grant has created such a horrifying, dystopic vision of the future, and it really was quite scary.

Beckett’s half of the book, told between Icie’s chapters, was differently written. Icie’s stuff was told in first person perspective, but Beckett’s was portrayed from the third person, and focused on the people around him too. That difference was a good thing, though, because I got to see was the other members of his religious tribe thought about him. I really liked the protagonist Beckett because he was so passionate and willing to do and sacrifice anything for his religion. Her was a very strong character. The plot for his story was so different to Icie’s plot, but it was still really brilliant and teaches lessons about love, hope, and betrayal. His ending, too, was really great. I loved the discovery he made and how that affected his whole personality and beliefs. His last chapter was the last one in the book, and it finished off the story ever so brilliantly.

Overall, Half Lives is possibly the best book I have read this year. Honestly. It was so riveting and I really couldn’t stop reading. The backdrop was scary and dystopic, with a unique and original twist. The characters of Icie and Beckett were totally unforgettable, and I’m still thinking about them now- a day after I put the book down. I can’t recommend this enough to YA’s, fans of dystopia, and fans of stories with unique formats. It’s just so great, go get a copy now!

My Goodreads rating: 5/5!

I received Half Lives from the publisher, in exchange for a review.

A Greyhound of a Girl

By Roddy Doyle, published by Marion Lloyd

Goodreads Synopsis: Mary O’Hara is a sharp and cheeky 12-year-old Dublin schoolgirl who is bravely facing the fact that her beloved Granny is dying. But Granny can’t let go of life, and when a mysterious young woman turns up in Mary’s street with a message for her Granny, Mary gets pulled into an unlikely adventure. The woman is the ghost of Granny’s own mother, who has come to help her daughter say good-bye to her loved ones and guide her safely out of this world. She needs the help of Mary and her mother, Scarlett, who embark on a road trip to the past. Four generations of women travel on a midnight car journey. One of them is dead, one of them is dying, one of them is driving, and one of them is just starting out.

My review: I picked this up as one of my book club reads, and devoured it in a couple of sittings. It was just so unputdownable! I wasn’t sure what this book was about when I started it, but I got really stuck into the story and didn’t want to finish it. Right from the start A Greyhound of a Girl pulled me in. The story began with a really upset girl, Mary, who has just watched her best friend drive away to her new house miles away. That was really saddening. Then Mary went with her mother to visit her Granny in the hospital, and I felt tears in my eyes at Mary’s situation. It was just so sad! Then, Mary met the ghost of her great-grandmother, who died without watching her children grow up. Because she had such a strong want to see her kids grow up, Mary’s great-granny lived on as a ghost to witness her children grow. As soon as Mary had met hr, the next chapter was from Tansey’s, Mary’s granny’s mother, perspective- from the late 1920’s before she died. I was not expecting flashbacks in time in this read! I really loved that, though. I think that the most well written part of the story was the scene of Tansey being overcome with fever. It was told twice, both in third person but both focusing on a different character’s emotions at that moment. Those chapters gave a really three dimensional view of a crucial moment in the story, and I really enjoyed that! The rest of the story, just like that scene, was totally tear-jerking. The whole plot was really emotional, and towards the end I found myself not wanting to read the last page of the book. The ending was predictable, but still made tears well up in my eyes. It was really effectively written, with a hint of happiness and relief too.

I quite liked Mary, the protagonist. She wasn’t exactly leading the story, but I still enjoyed her character. It was great to follow her as she learned more and more about the female generations on her mother’s side. I could feel her emotions really well, even through the third-person narrative. I understood what she was going through and loved reading about her, in general. Each character had a different story to tell, and I loved reading about all of them, really!

Overall, A Greyhound of a Girl was a pretty emotional roller-coaster  It was written fluently and beautifully, and the characters were so realistic, especially Tansey. Even the supernatural, ghost side to the plot was believable through the author’s flawless writing. My only wish is that the book could have been a little longer, because the last sixty-something pages of the book were crucial yet seemed a little too fast-paced. I think they could’ve been lengthened a bit. Apart from that, though, I enjoyed this little read so much!

I received A Greyhound of a Girl from my school, for a book-club read because we’re shadowing the Carnegie shortlist.

The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green, published by Penguin.

The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel was diagnosed at thirteen with the incurable Stage IV thyroid cancer, and was ready to die at fourteen. However, a medical miracle that only works in 30 percent of people shrunk the tumors in her lungs, leaving her with more years to live, and an oxygen tank to help her breathe. When she takes part for the first time in a cancer support group at her local church, she meets the handsome boy Augustus Waters, who had his leg amputated to get rid of his sickness. Hazel reminds Augustus of his sadly passed away girlfriend, and the two soon develop a relationship which will change both of their lives forever…

I’ve seen this book everywhere. Literally, everywhere. I wanted to see what The Fault In Our Stars was about, and why it had won so many awards, so I bought a copy, and it literally blew me away. It’s one of the most emotional, and one of the most witty books that I have ever read; many points made me laugh or cry. The story is heartbreaking… and heartwarming at the same time.

Hazel made a great protagonist. She was haunted by the chance of death, yet her spirits were high and she cracked lots of jokes. Her story was a really sad one which really makes you think about how hard it must be for other people suffering with terminal illnesses. So was Augustus’s story, that pulled at my heartstrings too. They both came together in the most coincidental way, and their love story was a roller coaster ride, and extremely well written. It was a real test of true love.

The ending was one of the saddest endings I have ever read in a book – it was powerful, brought tears to my eyes, and all too realistic. It was thought-provoking and unexpected for me, although I knew something horrible would happen to either lover.

All in all, this was a great introduction for me to john Green’s award winning writing. The Fault In our Stars is definitely now in my top-five-best-books-EVER. It is a thrilling read full of humor and tragedy, for YA’s and adults alike. I can’t wait to read another book by this author!

Red Ink

By Julie Mayhew, published by Hot Key Books

Red ink

“Sometimes lies are safer than the truth…”

Fifteen year old Melon Fouraki is the daughter of a beautiful Greek woman, and an unknown father. When her mother is hit by a bus and killed, and the memories of Maria Fouraki are slipping away, the only thing Melon has to remember her Mother by it The Story, a tale her mum wrote about her childhood.

Melons’ Aunt Aphrodite is unlikely to be jumping on a plane soon to look after her great niece, so Melon is stuck living with the much-disliked Paul, who was her mothers fiance until she died. The story follows Melon as she discovers that some things her mother had told her were not real, and that her mum, Maria, was not the person she seemed…

This story really was amazing! I didn’t know what I would make of it when I began reading; but I was hooked after a few pages! It was beautifully written, and packed with emotion and heartbreak. The story dealt with love, loss, superstition, and family secrets- and it made for a really sad (but at parts, witty) tale. Melon made a really great narrator with a huge personality.I love the style of writing: One chapter would be at the present, then the next would flash back to before her mothers death.

The ending was very, very, unexpected. And shocking. But I liked it all the same- Now I want to read on about Melon’s future!  I can’t wait to read more from Julie Mayhew, this debut novel was excellent- I think I just might have to go and hunt down some of Julie Mayhew’s short stories now.

Back to BlackBrick

By Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, published by Orion

Back to Blackbrick

“Just because you can’t see someone anymore doesn’t mean that they’re not a part of you…”

Cosmo is a boy in a complicated family- his brother, Brian, died at the age of ten, his mother has moved to Sydney for ‘business’, and now Cosmo lives with his Granny Deedee and Granddad Kevin. But Granddad seems to be losing his memory, and although Cosmo denies it, he knows he has Alzheimer’s Disease and there isn’t much time left before his Grandfather is moved to a special home.

When Cosmo says his goodbyes to his Granddad before moving to his Uncle’s home, his Grandfather gives him a key- a key to a strange place called BlackBrick Abbey. Out of curiosity,  brave young Cosmo takes the key and heads to the Abbey- but as he steps through the gates, he finds himself transported to his Granddad’s teenage past. He’ll discover hidden, dark secrets and lies, and some very special- and also evil– people…

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would! The book pulled me in straight from the beginning, and kept me reading; I ended up ploughing through this in about a day. The main plot of the Grandfather’s Alzheimer’s made this book a really emotional roller-coaster; and I got a real insight to a family torn apart by its effects. The authors’ father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as it says in the Authors Note, and that made the story all too real, and devastating.

As well as the emotional side, there is also an imaginative, fantastical twist which I really wasn’t expecting. Cosmo stepped through some kind of portal to about seventy years ago, and played a huge part in the teenage lives of his grandmother, grandfather, and his grandfathers’ first love. The story was really well told, with a serious time-paradox-twist but it wasn’t too confusing thanks to the fantastic, consistent narration! The ending… well… lets just say it brought a tear to my eye. Or two.

My only problem with the book is that it was, even at 230 pages, too short for me (although that was probably because I became really emotionally attached to these characters, and didn’t want to let them go)!  Overall, I think this is one of the most stunning debuts I have read so far, from an author to keep an eye on. I’m sure we’ll hear some more great titles coming from Fitzgerald!