Blog Tour · Book Review

Blog Tour: Review of A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.

I’m very pleased to be sharing my review of Susan Fletcher’s new book A Little in Love as one of two stops today on the blog tour. Please see the banner in the side bar for the list of other stops the book will making over the next couple of weeks.

ALILParis, 1832.
A street girl lies alone in the darkness, clutching a letter to her heart.

Eponine remembers being a child: her swing and the peach tree, and the baby brother she loved. Bt mostly she remembers being miserable. Taught to lie and cheat, and to hate the one girl, Cosette, who might have been her friend.

Now, at sixteen, the two girls meet again and Eponine has one more chance. But what is the price of friendship – the love of a boy?

I’m a huge fan of the musical version of Les Miserables, it’s right up there towards the top of my favourite musicals list. I’ve seen it a couple of times and have more than one cast recording on my iPod. The one thing I’ve never got to grips with though is Victor Hugo’s novel that first told the story. I started reading it years ago, put it down to read something else, picked it up and read a bit more and then repeated this sequence time and again until one time I just didn’t pick it up again. The dense, long sections of history were off-putting and so it remains my oldest unfinished read. When I received the information about A Little in Love I knew this was going to be different – a book focusing on the story of Eponine, one of my favourite characters, sounded right up my street.

It is no spoiler to say that Eponine’s story is a tragic one, the blurb from the back of the book does this for me and the prologue of the book confirms it. After the prologue the book jumps back to a much earlier time in Eponine’s life, back to her earliest memories of the hardship she was born into and the parents she had the misfortune of belonging to. Narrated by Eponine the book tracks through her memories bringing the reader right up to the point at which the prologue started. This is a really effective style for this story, the first person narrative makes everything feel so much more personal and significant.

I had found that I’d understood Eponine more from my unfinished reading of the original Les Miserables, reading this was an even better experience – it functions as such a close character study. I found that by the end of the book I loved Eponine even more, seeing how she struggles with the villainous nature of her family and how big her heart is made her even more endearing. Her sister, Azelma, acts as the other side of the coin – whilst Eponine fights to rebel against her upbringing Azelma is completely fine with joining the family’s criminal activities. I found the differences between them fascinating to read, though they made me so sad too.

I found that I flew through this book, even though I knew the bare bones of the story and knew exactly what was coming at the end I was so completely drawn into this version of events – it felt like a completely new tale. Being able to focus primarily on one of the many key characters in the Les Miserables story meant there was time and space to include so much detail, making this a beautifully rich reading experience.

One thing I cannot confidently comment on is how this book will work for readers entirely unfamiliar with Les Miserables in any of its forms. I feel like I’ve known the story for too long to be able to completely remove any knowledge of it from my mind. I do think though that this book will stand on its own really well, it’s such a well written, complete story.

This has been my first Susan Fletcher book. I really loved it and will definitely be looking out for other books by her in the future.

A Little in Love is published by Chicken House in the UK from 2nd October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Black Spring by Alison Croggon.

BlackSpringInspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, BLACK SPRING reimagines the passionate story in a fantasy 19th century society sustained by wizardry and the vengeance code of vendetta.

Anna spent her childhood with Damek and her volatile foster sister Lina, daughter of the Lord of the village. Lina has magical powers, and in this brutal patriarchal society women with magical powers are put to death as babies. Lina’s father, however, refuses to kill her but when vendetta explodes in their village and Lina’s father dies, their lives are changed forever. Their new guardian Masko sends Anna away and reduces Lina to the status of a servant. Damek—mad with love for Lina—attempts to murder Masko, then vanishes for several years. Anna comes home five years later to find Lina about to marry a pleasant young farmer, and witnesses Damek’s vengeful return and its catastrophic consequences.

I need to begin this review with a little bit of a confession. I have read Wuthering Heights, it was a wonderful experience in my first year of uni – a group of us used to get together on a Sunday afternoon and drink tea and eat toast and take it in turns to read aloud whichever book had been set that week on my friend’s English Lit module. That was 12 years ago though and the very few bits of the book I can remember are as a result of watching the tv adaptation with Tom Hardy in it rather than from the book. I’m therefore not going to be able to talk properly about this book in regards to Wuthering Heights, if you want to read about this I suggest you look at Sarah’s review at My Favourite Books or Erin’s review at Oxford Erin.

The book begins with Hammel narrating, he’s escaping the city for a while and visits the Northern Plateau to do this. He only narrates for the first 40 or so pages and then the story is taken over by Anna who along with Lina takes responsibility for narrating the majority of the book. I found the book pretty difficult to get into until the narrative duties passed to Anna, I found Hammel a difficult character to take to and there were plot points I found I wasn’t really sure I was understanding.

Once the narrative switched to Anna telling Hammel the story of the people he’d already encountered and the ways of the Northern Plateau I found the book a far more gripping and interesting read. The book is still not an easy read, the vendetta that plagues the Northern Plateau makes for pretty miserable reading and the descriptions of the powers held and punishments exacted by the wizards weren’t always for the faint-hearted.

Black Spring is not a book filled with likeable characters who appeal to the reader. With the exception of Anna, and her mother, most of the characters are downright awful yet I found myself completely drawn into their world and wanting to know more about them and try to understand them. I think this is testament to Croggon’s writing style, a lesser writer wouldn’t have encouraged me to read on and I’d have just dismissed them all as dreadful and put the book down.

I didn’t love this book but I know a lot of people will. I’ve looked at the other books that Croggon has written and love the sound of them so I shall definitely be reading more from her.

Black Spring is published by Walker in the UK from 3rd January 2013. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

This book really appealed to me, a cyborg version of Cinderella? Well maybe this could be a version of the fairy story that I could love, I’m afraid the Disney version would come really low on my list of their film adaptations. The book is divided into four sections which are each divided into chapters, I sat down to read just the first chapter and ended up getting to the end of the first section without even thinking about what else I should be doing, and soon carried on to finish the whole book.

The danger with a retelling of a story as familiar as Cinderella is that the reader is not surprised by the book, and that the plot just plays out as expected. I was really pleased that this wasn’t the case, whilst the story is essentially the one we’re all familiar with there were plenty of twists and turns and tweaks to keep the interest right the way through. I absolutely loved the way the Cinderella story was transported into a future version of Earth complete with cyborgs, AI lifeforms and hover transport. The world that Meyer created was vivid, I found it really easy to imagine. The opening chapters are set in a market place, I really got the sense of this noisy, bustling place.

Cinder is a pretty great character, I liked the fact she was practical and smart, and as in control of her own life as she could be. Her relationship with her younger step-sister Pearl was lovely, and I adored the friendship between Cinder and her very wonderful robot Iko. I also loved Prince Kai, whilst he was most definitely a Prince Charming he was also an interesting, engaging character with depth. Both Cinder’s stepmother and the ruler of the Lunar empire make for excellent villainous characters, I do love good bad guys!

By the time I got to the end of the book I was desperate to carry on with the story. Alas it is a whole year before the next book in this series, and based on what I’ve read about the Lunar Chronicles series it seems that each book is going to feature a different fairy tale heroine so I’m not sure how much more of Cinder we’re going to get to see. I’m quite prepared to wait and see how the series plays out though, I have a feeling it’s going to be good.

Cinder is published in hardback, paperback and eBook by Puffin in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via UK Book Tours all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott.

Darkness has fallen across a kingdom far, far away. The queen is dead – killed in the forest by a terrifying beast – and her daughter, Alexandra, suspects that the new woman in her father’s life is more than she seems. Exiled and betrayed, Alexandra must face magic, murder and the loss of all she holds dear in a desperate struggle against evil.

Whilst I’m aware of a number of fairytale retellings within the YA market I hadn’t got round to reading one until I read The Swan Kingdom. It is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Wild Swans, a story I only vaguely remembered from my childhood.

The story is narrated by Alexandra, a princess who has always felt unloved by her father, but who has thrived on the love and attention of her mother and her brothers. Straight away we start to realise that there is something special about Alexandra’s mother, and that Alexandra too shares this. When her mother is killed Alexandra has to cope first with her loss, and then with her father’s speedy new marriage. Everything rapidly comes to a head (because yes, things can get worse than your mother dying and your father remarrying quickly) and Alexandra finds herself banished and alone, and trying to find a way to right all of the wrongs that have happened.

I loved Alexandra, I thought she was a wonderful character and I felt completely invested in her story. One of the things that initially grabbed me about the book was the relationship she had with her brothers, the dynamic between them reminded me quite a bit of how me and my brother got on when we were younger. I could completely understand the lengths she was prepared to go to for them, I’d like to think I’d be strong enough to do the same in her situation.

The other characters were great too, I liked Gabriel instantly and then the more I got to know him the more I liked him. Whilst Zella is the villain of the piece I thought she was a great character, she was so believably evil and dislikeable.

I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough when I was reading this, I got completely and utterly wrapped up in the wonderful world contained within the book. It’s written in such a beautifully descriptive manner, at times I almost felt like I had fallen inside the pages.

I really loved this book and will be recommending it to people for a long time to come.

The Swan Kingdom is published in paperback by Walker in the UK priced £5.99.

Book Review

Book Review : “Troy High” by Shana Norris.

Homer’s classic tale of love and revenge is retold for the teen audience in TROY HIGH. Narrated by Cassie (Cassandra), this story follows the Trojans and Spartans as they declare war on the football field to end their high school rivalry once and for all. After Elena (Helen of Troy) transfers to Troy High and falls madly in love with Cassie’s brother Perry (Paris), her ex Lucas (Meneleas) and his brother Greg Mennon (Agamemnon) want to settle the score.

I must start this review by saying that my knowledge of the classics is poor. I have never studied them, I haven’t read about them (apart from reading the Percy Jackson books) and I haven’t watched films about them. I imagine that I approached this book therefore in a similar way to many of its target audience will.

I got sucked into this book really quickly. It’s a wonderful story of high school loves and rivalries, both on and off the football field. I found that I wanted to shout at various characters, if I hadn’t been reading this book on a train I may well have done so. The characters were well drawn, there were some I fell instantly in love with and others I wanted to shake! I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Cassie and Greg and got hugely frustrated when their attempts to develop their friendship further got thwarted by the fact that they were on opposite sides of the rivalry.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can’t comment on how closely linked to the Troy myth it is, but I definitely intend to find out. Maybe this will be the catalyst I needed to start catching up on the classics I missed out on.

“Troy High” is published in hardback by Amulet books in the UK priced £3.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.