A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Published by Macmillan, 12 Jan 2017, 320 pages, £4.00

4 stars

This was a very sweet story which I will remember for a while. A few months ago I read The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which was about a girl who had trouble speaking caused by trauma during an abusive childhood. That was when I realised the explosive power that rested in a story covering the topic of speech and the deep hold it had for me as a reader. As a naturally quiet person, as I am sure many readers are, I engaged with some of the mania and the injustice that shakes a character who is unable to express themselves through speech. Sara Barnard’s heroine, Steffi, is diagnosed as a selective mute with social anxiety. She begins the novel in silent but courageous agony against the mean girls, which was when I knew I was going immerse myself in her world.

The author’s writing flows very easily, her characters blossoming effortlessly that I had trouble switching off the kindle. You know you have a winner when you’re reaching for the book with just 5 empty minutes to fill. In fact, this book stole my attention from another, one that I was anticipating for a few months.

The MCs clicked well. Steffi is introduced to Rhys, a new student who is also deaf. She has been asked to look after him as she had some basic knowledge of sign language. They are immediately drawn to each other. Their romance isn’t as powerful as many of the current YAs out there, and especially if I am comparing it to The Problem with Forever. It was sweet and sensitive.

He thinks you’re sunshine.

Rhys is certainly an appealing, mature and witty love interest. The story focuses on happens after they share their first kiss and how they navigate themselves through a world that is clearly against their condition. When things get tough Steffi finds herself being pulled back into a internal wormhole that she suffers during the darker days of her uncontrollable silence. This book is about her being able to find light to pull herself out and the power of love certainly contributed.

Steffi and Rhys’ relationship wasn’t about finding a cure for Steffi, but more about two young hearts against the world as it would be for any pair strong willed teenagers whether they are deaf, mute or not.

Many thanks to Macmillan for a review copy xxx

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The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

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4 stars

This book is fantastic! Its illuminating, delicate and quite haunting. I was impressed by this story about an alienated teenager who hates her small town life with its mean and mediocre inhabitants. Hawthorn Creely, a cleverly memorable name, sees the world differently believing in the extraordinary and the unbelievable. She has such a strong voice with a mix of angst, sorrow and dry humour, it immediately hooked me from the first few sentences. The extreme loneliness she feels, as she tries to reconnect with her former football star brother and battle the high school beauty queens who bully her relentlessly, effectively consumes the reader.

When a former popular girl disappears in the woods, Hawthorn feels contempt for how much it affects the town. Everybody comes to a stop, becomes obsessed and begins to mourn for this beautiful girl who once made Hawthorn feel like dirt. She sees Lizzie Lovett as her complete opposite. Even their names are different, Lizzie’s spells light, carefree, happy and most importantly adored. When the police struggle to find a trace, Hawthorn becomes curious, just as everybody starts to ‘move on’. Through some uncontrollable urge, she takes Lizzie’s old job as a waitress and becomes drawn to Enzo, Lizzie’s boyfriend. Despite everybody believing him a murderer, they form a connection as outcasts. Hawthorn tries to learn as much as she can about the former queen bee, and becomes fascinated and confused about how unspectacular Lizzie’s life had been before her disappearance.

Out of a jokey whim, Hawthorn wonders if Lizzie had turned into a werewolf. But the idea starts to become less impossible the more she thought about it. She manages to enlist Enzo’s help and they both start looking in the woods for any traces. This idea is so messed up, but slightly wondrous, because Hawthorn truly believes in magic. Even I started to believe. Not so much the actual werewolf, but the possibility of there being more answers in the world.

Enzo, artistic, grief-stricken and broken, was not the usual love interest. He remained elusive and didn’t convince me of his innocence. The dangerous path Hawthorn takes with Enzo and the mystery of Lizzie, which became stronger at each turn, truly enticed me. When we finally find out what happened, Hawthorn’s world turns upside down. Everything she believes in immediately unravels. She may believe in fantasy but she was too focused on her own unhappiness and social isolation that she was blind to the experiences of those around her. The ending is uplifting as she comes to terms with this realisation.

I can see this being a movie.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks for my review copy xx

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Published by Macmillan Children’s, 9th February 2017, 464 pages, £5.59

3 Stars

I was so excited when I got my ARC of this, but unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as hoped. I read the entire Lunar Chronicles this summer and it blew me away, bumping Marissa Meyer up as one of my favourite authors. The premise of Heartless seemed interesting enough- an origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. I’m not a huge Lewis Caroll fan. I love the Jabberwock poem, but I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland in years and I vaguely remember the Disney movie. So I haven’t been interested in reading Caroll adaptations in the past. I was only reading this because of the author. I thought it was going to be like Fairest, the origin story of the evil Queen Levana in the Lunar Chronicles, tragic and fascinating.

Before she became a blood thirsty loon, Catherine Pinkerton was once a young vivacious woman who dreamed of opening her own bakery. But being the daughter of nobility, she was forced into a marriage with the tiny air-headed King of Hearts who was unfortunately besotted with her. She meets Jest, the King’s new mysterious court entertainer, who introduces her to new ideas, worlds, and most importantly, freedom. They enter a secret romance despite the inevitable danger. Meanwhile the Kingdom is being terrorised by vicious monsters with no hope of being vanquished.

I was quickly enchanted by Meyer’s world building which was beautifully and cleverly written. Magic, wonder and intrigue filled each description, from lemon trees that grow from dreams to dancing lobsters. There are so many allusions to Caroll’s creation, which was a nice unearthing of my childhood memories. Familiar and new characters slip in together naturally. Catherine is a very passionate and warm character. Her struggle for independence, which evokes Victorian female oppression, is very endearing.

However, I’m afraid this is where my interest ends. My reading of this book took two months, way longer than I anticipated. Instead of racing through to the end as I did the Lunar Chronicles, I kept getting distracted by other books. I had to ask myself why it almost went into a slump pile, despite having so much promise? I think at the end of the day, when you take away all the beautiful (and sometimes heavy) descriptions, which is primarily adapted from other works, you are left with a singular story line: a young girl with a dream who is forced to abandon it. I’m not saying this story is too simple, but in this case it doesn’t survive. The romance between Catherine and Jest developed too slowly and just wasn’t strong enough. This resulted in the shift in Catherine’s character at the dreaded ending being quite displaced.

Perhaps it belongs to more devoted Caroll fans. The only reason I am not giving it 2.5 stars is because of the beautiful writing which is undeniably impressive. I will, of course, still look forward to more of Marissa Meyer’s work.

 

 

 

Devils Cub (1932) by Georgette Heyer

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2.5 Stars

I’ve been sampling a few vintage romances lately because I have been astounded with how they are so violent against women despite being a popular genre for women, see The Sheik (1919) and The Flame and the Flower (1972) as horrific examples.

I’ve read Georgette Heyer before; soft, sentimental regency dramas that have an uncanny knack to charm the reader and remain very much cherished to this day (you only have to walk into any library and see recent reprints taking over the whole book case). I chose Devil’s Cub (1932) because its been heralded as the more violent of the corpus. Apparently its part of a trilogy, but I didn’t notice this at all as the characters were re-introduced.

The story involves an abominably wild rake, Marquis of Vidal, who has earned the nickname ‘Devil’s Cub’ for his speedy chariot driving and ruthless killing of dueling opponents. In the first chapter, he shoots a highwayman and leaves him on the road without a thought. So this murderer plans on abducting the prettiest debutante of the ton to Paris to be his mistress. Unfortunately for him, this pretty, but brainless girl, has a smart older sister, Mary, who impersonates her sibling and goes to meet Vidal. Mary pretends that the trick was her sister’s idea, hopefully putting an end to their relationship and saving her sister from ruin.

Vidal, ever the beast, abducts Mary instead and threatens violence against her if she objects. Once they arrive in France the damage was done and Mary has no choice but to marry Vidal if she wants to return to England with her reputation intact. The alternative is to find employment at a genteel household, which she of course prefers. For some reason, Vidal becomes very possessive of her and refuses to let her leave him. The relationship is far from ideal. At this point, I wasn’t exactly drawn to their ‘romance’. I did warm to Mary, who is your typical plucky ‘plain Jane’ seeing right through Vidal’s hysterics, as well as being dignified and kind.

In the mean time there is added drama with Mary’s mother, who is delighted and persuading Vidal’s mother, a hot headed French woman, that a marriage must happen. Vidal’s mother rushes to France to put an end to the affair, followed by Vidal’s father, a once legendary rake in his day. Vidal and Mary get stickily entangled with another couple, Vidal’s cousin Juliana and her betrothed, who she plans on marrying secretly in France.

Despite the fairly entertaining mess described above, which heightens towards the end in a sword fight, the book is filled with very lengthy dialogues on topics like the rules of card games and social positions. Vidal and Mary have very few interactions, and most of them abusive on the side of Vidal except for the one occasion Mary draws a pistol, so I am not entirely sure how they fall in love. However, for some reason Heyer pulls off a satisfying ending which might have resulted from a balance between still dialogue and dangerous scenes.

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