Friday, 13 April 2012

And Baby Makes Two- Dyan Sheldon

When 15 year old Lana Spiggs meets Les, the manager of the local Blockbuster, it's love at first sight . . . for her anyway. All she has ever wanted is a husband and lots of children so when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant she's well on her way to seeing her dreams come true. Or is she?

This book caught my attention in the book shop, standing proudly with Dyan's other books in their matching paper themed spines. The book itself was intriguing, but not ideal. Lana is very naive, childish and has her head in the clouds, this is very frustrating for the reader. She smooths things over to try and get perfection, but the reader can very clearly see the cracks. For example her relationship with Les is very shallow, and Lana (not wanting to pester him) leaves Les to lead a single mans life. Les is evidently not bothered at all with Lana once she becomes pregnant, and finds little baby Shinola a nightmare and a pain. But Lana keeps shining it up, imagining their relationship as being neat and ideal.

Lana has a turbulent relationship with her Mother, who seems to be rather neurotic, but then again I was getting frustrated with Lana by just reading the book- let alone being her mother. Dyan Sheldon is an American author but the book is set in London, England. She gets most things correct for this setting apart from that all of the names in the plot just don't sound very English. I'm sure London does have its Lanas' and it's Leses' but they just don't seem to fit the scene well. The book gave a unique point on teenage pregnancy, and is the first book i've read on the topic that doesn't make the reader feel empathy for the character. With it's dynamic end, I would say it is an ideal book to read on journies because the chapters are fairly short and end on cliff hangers.

Two stars

Thursday, 12 April 2012

White Crow - Marcus Sedgwick

White Crow is set in Ferelith's tiny home town of Winterfold which, like so many places in the UK is by the coast and been dragged underwater by the sea. This is a somewhat gothically beautiful process, as the sea drags the graves from the churchyards, skeleton by skeleton. Ferelith is a mystery girl with a chilling presence in the plot, the chapters she narrates entitled after songs such as P!nk's "I'm not dead".

Rebecca (another part of the tri-narrative) arrives into the rotting town without knowing what to expect, she is here with her father, a former policeman with a very public, tainted past. Rebecca  instantly snatches reader's hearts and sympathies whilst tying up all three narrative and perspectives into a tight and fascinating story where the dark secrets of Winterfold's past tumble into the 21st century.

Dr Barrieux from the outside is a Christian; a rector, no less. He is rector of the church in 1798, and is living in Winterfold Hall, and his part of the tale is told through rough diary entries. It is through these that we learn of the doctor's longing to hear first-hand accounts of what the dying see in their last moments: angels or devils? He takes his studies to horrifying feets, but his subjects never come back to tell him what they saw.

White Crow is a gripping and engrossing piece of gothic fiction. Three narratives make the story really something quite spectacular and the variety in narratives is very assorted: a mad man, a mystery girl and a 'normal' onlooker. With shocking discoveries and emploring details 'White Crow' is a must read.

Three stars

The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

In the Capitol there is a dark secret, behind the flashy technology and wonderful fashions everyone knows of the 12 districts that never see the high life. The districts, enclosed to prevent rebellion, are trapped and mostly poverty stricken. Katniss Everdeen lives with her Mother and her younger sister Prim, but after their father’s fatal mining accident the family have no money and very little food. Due to their Mother’s depression Katniss takes on the role of finding food and spends many a happy hour sneaking out into the forest with her best friend Gale to hunt, and gather herbs.

Every year a sick reality TV show takes place which puts everyone between the ages of twelve and eighteen in danger of forced participation. Contestants are picked at the Reaping event, but if you risk putting your name in more than once in return you will receive food to eat. The first year of being eligible for the hunger games, though her name is only in the reaping once, Prim gets picked. Katniss knows what she must do, she volunteers and leaves District twelve behind with the baker’s son Peeta. Together they must fight to the death against twenty four other contestants whilst everyone at home is forced to watch. Who will make it out alive?

I decided to read the Hunger Games when I heard the film was in production, it was on my to-read list anyway. I found the book incredibly engrossing and the characters are so detailed and realistic that you really feel part of the plot. Reviewing this has taken me a long time as the book is filled with fictitious words, terms and phrases that require explanation, but when reading the book it runs smoothly together and you understand naturally. The Hunger Games is not as gory as the blurb and title may lead you to think, I found myself noticing morals such as: friendship, commitment, love and respect for others. I loved this book so much, and will definitely reread it. The film is doing excellently in the box office and I really want to go and see it soon. I’d advice everyone to read the book though!

Five Stars

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mockingbird- Kathryn Erskine

'Caitlin misses her brother Devon. Since his death, she has no one to explain the world to her. And for Caitlin, the world is a confusing place, full of emotions and colours she can't understand. Dad tries to help, but he spend a lot of time crying in the shower. So when Caitlin reads the definition of the word 'closure' in the dictionary, she decides that that's what they need. And as she struggles to find it, she learns how to let a world of colour touch her black-and-white life.'

This book was a fascinating insight into what it must be like to be a child with Aspergers Syndrome, and how differently the condition makes you perceive the world. Erskine get's Caitlin's character just right, she makes the reader sympathetic towards her, but Caitlin isn't maudlin in the slightest. The book is written in a captivating first person with Caitlin as the narrator, this can be hard for authors to pull off, but Erskine hits it just right. The short chapters make easy breaking points (not that you'll want to put the book down that is!) and the discussion notes at the back are a nice little extra. In the back of the book, as well as the discussion notes, is a playlist of songs that Erskine listened to whilst writing the Mockingbird, and you can see how inspirational these pieces were to her when writing the story. A lot of research went into Mockingbird and I believe, with the amount of research that she lists on her website, that the portrayal of Caitlin's condition is very accurate. Mockingbird won the National Book Award in 2010, and I'm surprised it hasn't been more well known since then. 

I am not skilled enough to give this book credit for how truly touching it is, though it has been about a week since I turned the final page I can remember the plot and imagery vividly. The book puts you in a fascinating position, being able to see the world through an Asperger's perspective- whilst also knowing the reality. This is an art in itself as not once in the book did I have to stop and think "What does she mean by that?" It's very flowing, very natural, very touching.

Four stars