Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Month with April-May, by Edyth Bulbring


A terrific little YA book arrived instore yesterday. It is called A Month with April-May, and I first read it as a proof. I believe it will be a series, which is fabulous, because April-May February (real name) is a charming character with just the right amount of attitude and heart.

A Month with April-May would be perfect for readers of Jacqueline Wilson or Louise Rennison. Both the style of the writing and the characters/situations reminded me of their books. April-May is the new kid at Trinity College, admitted on a bursary and seemingly doing her best to mess it all up.

April-May is a bit offbeat, always honest and altogether quite charming. I love the snappy way this book is written and the wry observations. It is probably nothing we haven't all read before, but there was just a bit of extra dazzle about it, and the cast of secondary characters was really  enjoyable.

Recommended for early High School librarys, and teen comedy fans.

First published in Australia in 2013, by Hot Key

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thirteen Treasures, The by Michelle Harrison


The Thirteen Treasures is a charming, fast-paced adventure story concerning one of my favourite fictional subjects: faeries. It won the Waterstone’s Childen’s Book Prize a few years back but has been off my radar until now – I don’t think it really took off in Australia as it did elsewhere. But it is a great read. It is interesting and intriguing, and the faerie lore, although a big part of the plot, never overwhelms the book. There are many adventures to have in the big old mansion with secret passageways, and the quaint village nearby, and the creepy, faerie-infested woods, and the faeryielore is wound into it all seamlessly.

I love the setting and the atmosphere Harris creates, and how little sub-plots or the next few clues are revealed every few chapters or so. This is what keeps the pages turning, and I thought the pacing was quite terrific and the writing very easy to read and escape into. I think it is written with a great knowledge of what holds children’s attention.

Faeries (the Celtic folklore-ish kind) are one of my fictional favourites when it comes to kid’s books. I have my own folders and books all about the  numerous beasties and faeries from British, Irish and Scottish folklore, and so I love it when I recognize the source material authors are working from. I really enjoyed Harris’ collection of household boggarts and the lore associated with them. She also manages to create some genuinely creepy, scary moments, which is offset throughout the book with lovely, subtle humour.

A big part of the book’s intrigue comes from most of the main human characters having hidden secrets, and the way these are teased out.  My only niggle was that I felt a few things came together all too easily near the end.

The Thirteen Treasures series (will read the next two soon) would be a great addition to a school library. They are perfect for a late primary audience.

First published in 2009 by Little, Brown

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raven Launch tomorrow

What the Raven Saw is being launched at my bookstore, Book Bonding in Niddrie, 6pm tomorrow. All welcome. Above is the front window dedicated to ... me. And the raven, of course.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Raven Links

Latest Raven links full of awesome Raveny goodness:

Lovely review at Readings: What the Raven Saw

An article and pic on me that I did with the local Moonee Valley paper: here. The books as a background look superb; can't say it's the most flattering pic of me though. Ah well, what can you do. Wouldn't want to show the raven up, after all.

Some fascinating posts by the designer of Raven's cover, Astrid Hicks, on the full process of designing the book as you see it today: here.

Enjoy XX

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Various (Touchstone Trilogy 01) by Steve Augarde


Steve Augarde’s Touchstone Trilogy was recommended to me by a customer at the bookstore who knew I really enjoyed Colin Meloy’s recent Wildwood series. I looked them up; the cover art was gorgeous and they sounded like just the kind of kid’s fantasy I love. I have just finished the first book in the trilogy, The Various, and although I will most likely read the other two, I think I will have long breaks between readings.

The Various was written in the mid 2000’s, but the style, pacing, and themes feel like they belong to the 50s/60s era of children’s writing. This is not necessarily bad, as pretty much all my fav books come from this era. But The Various is perhaps lacking the charm and whimsy of the writing at this time – it feels a bit plain old-fashioned, but not in a hip modern way. I think kids, attuned to a snappy, action-filled and contemporary narrative, would struggle to get through it. It certainly took me a long time, and I persisted, because I hate to let a book defeat me. And though I feel like my efforts were rewarded, I can see how it would deter others.

I appreciate a lot of description, because I know, as a writer, how much you want the reader to see and understand your world as much as you do. But there is too much in The Various. Many passages get too long-winded and over-thought. It seems like we are not spared one thought from Midge’s head, about everything she encounters. This can get a bit tedious and make Midge seem precocious, while also putting the pacing off. The book is as long and languid as one of Midge’s lazy afternoons on the farm. Also, I felt at times it was maybe just a little indulgent, and came off as a little forced – I felt like, let the idea speak for itself, rather than trying to force feelings on the reader.

That being said, there is still lots to enjoy. The second half (or third?) of the book is where the pacing really steps up and the adventure starts to happen, and it is very enjoyable. I love the idea of a ‘faery’ tribe living in the overgrown woods, and thought learning about their world was interesting. And many of the secondary characters, and even the animals, were great fun. Augarde also does atmosphere well.

I hear the other two books, Celandine and Winter Wood, are the better books in the trilogy. So in a few months I shall pick those up and get reacquainted.

Book first published in 2003