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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

YA Picks (Part 1)

Rainbow Rowel - Fangirl ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Having read 'Carry On', the fanfiction talked about extensively in 'Fangirl' I was very interested to read this book. It was only Rowel book that my local library had in stock so I was quick to pick it up. Fangirl is set around a young college girl, forced to move outside of her comfort zone, make friends and find love. The novel's protagonist, Cather, is so relatable with her social anxiety and the way she worries about seeing people and even leaving her room. Cather's thing is fanfiction. Under the username Magicath, she writes a popular Snowbaz fanfic about her favourite characters in the whole wide world. She's quite comfortable with writing her fan novel and sharing everything with her twin and built-in best friend, Wren. Then one year, Wren doesn't want to share a dorm room with her in college, and Cath is forced to room with a complete stranger in an entirely separate building, which is something she finds really hard to handle. It's a great story and I like that the relationships are slow going. It takes Cath a long time to be able to openly befriend her room-mate Reagan, Reagan's friend Levi and Nick from Cath's fiction writing class. It's much more believable this way as well. It's interesting to watch her develop her confidence and to watch how her sister Wren grows when away from her. Their family situation I found hard to read at times, simply because the difficulty between Cath and her mother came through so well in the story but it was worth it to the very end. A great book and one I really enjoyed that gave me a good back story for 'Carry On'. It's inspired me to read 'Eleanor and Park' when I next get the chance.

The thing that stops this from being five stars overall is that I was expecting more fandom. I was expecting cons and community and joy of falling in love with characters but I think that Cath writes more to escape her own life than to participate actively in the lives of the characters and fans. While it is stated that she has internet friends, I thought it was strange that none of them were ever mentioned by name. 'Carry On' does NOT read like a Harry Potter book, but in 'Fangirl' its easy to see similarities between the two fandoms. I presume that HP was not used for copyright reasons or something, but in the book Levi comments "It's like hearing that Harry Potter is gay." and I'm not sure that actively naming the HP fandom was a good move. 

Otherwise the story was excellent. The writing is very character driven and the relationships between characters are warm and heartfelt.

Paula Weston - Shadows ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

'Shadows' seems a solid start to a series. It's hard writing a character with amnesia as it means there needs to be lots of exposition by other characters but I think Weston pulls it off. Gaby or Gabe (loving the use of angel names all the way through!) is a girl living the quiet life. She fills her days by the sea with her library job, relaxing at the local cafe, running and spending time with her housemate Maggie. Gaby still finds it hard to move on, despite it having been a year, from her brother's gruesome death in a traffic accident. When a strangely knowledgeable stranger comes into town to tell her that everything she thought she knew about her brother was a lie, that's when Gaby begins to doubt, and little by little, uncovers a world on angels and demons that she'd long since forgotten. It's a little clunky in places, like where she goes from not knowing how to fight to being able to kick ass from muscle-memory, but other than that it's a good set up for a series. 

The characters are good. Gaby is well built upon. In other book reviews I've read from other bloggers, they don't seem to understand Gaby's decision to stay in her town and not run or fight, but personally I think it's pretty reasonable, seeing as she finds out that everything before one year ago was a lie. I think that staying in the one town she KNOWS is real is a plus. Maggie seemed like a loyal friend and a very solid character and I find Gaby's need to protect her believable. I didn't Jason in this book, though I didn't actually find a reason to dislike him. I still hope he'll be a good guy in the long run but I've a gut feeling he'll turn. Who knows? I think I'll give the next book a shot and see. 

This book got 3 stars from me for being a solid, original and well built upon book with limited info dumps despite the amnesiac protagonist.

Marcus Sedgwick - My swordhand is singing ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wow this story was chilling! A brilliantly written 17th century horror for teens. Peter and his father Tomas move from village to village, running from something that Peter's never told about. Eventually, it finds them. Their only hope of surviving is the sword that lies in a wooden box Peter's father has kept from him and a strange song about a dead shepherd.

I liked the way this story was built up. I liked the understanding and sharpness in Peter and the way that he knew his own feelings. Peter accepts the village superstitions when his father discourages them, trying to piece together a puzzle that he's not got all the pieces for. I got really involved in the legends surrounding the Nosferatu and I found the scene where they open the grave the best part. The charcoal writing on the lid of the empty coffin was thrilling.

The way the song is connected up is very well thought out as well as the limitations that the vampires share such as having to pick up all the millet seeds and undo every single knot in the nets and write until their charcoal runs out.

Gothic, well-woven and packed with mystery. I'd recommend reading it and am pleasantly surprised to find it's the first in a series.

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