waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday – The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

36697848Synopsis (from Simon and Schuster)

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.bird

Why I can’t wait to read The Wicked Deep:

  • This has everything I am interested in – fantasy, feminsim, folklore and the relationship between place and story. This sounds a little like some of Penelope Lively’s work, where outsiders try to establish the truth in old traditions and end the damage they cause. 

 

  • Sirens. *Whispers* – I have sirens in my recent writing. There is so much in siren stories which lends itself to feminist narratives, and there are fewer sirens already in YA fiction than merpeople. The idea of the annual curse blew my mind away. What a fantastic way to make sirens believable in a modern-day setting. 

 

  • ‘Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town’ … this sounds like a narrative challenge, and I am interested to know how Penny’s relationship with Bo changes her feelings about the town. Sometimes it takes a new person or experience to open our eyes.

 

  • ‘Mistrust and lies’ – the nature of truth is an important theme in the current climate, where nobody is certain to whether they are reading truth or misinformation. A small town with its own traditions is a brilliant setting to explore this theme. I can imagine lots of characters unwilling to give up beliefs they have learned from a young age. 

 

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

Simon and Schuster Children’s UK

March 2018

 

Note – I am lucky enough to have an advanced copy of The Wicked Deep, so I won’t be waiting long! I wrote this prior to reading my copy.

 

 

 

 

 

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Young Adult Reviews

Review: Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

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Extract:

She speaks with an evenness that signifies either determination or shock. ‘You can’t pretend to be amnesiac among the Amparans. I can make it real for you. I can take away your memory.’

(Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne. P85.)birdSynopsis:

The Rose Plague kills most of the people it strikes. Others become rosemarked. They survive the initial bout of rose plague but carry the illness, and die within a few years. A small number become umbertouched. These people are immune to the plague.

The Amparan empire is growing.

When healer Zivah becomes rosemarked, her plans to study medicine are cut short. When her village allies with the Shidadi tribe, Zivah becomes part of a plan to infiltrate the Amparan ranks alongside soldier Dineas. Dineas is umbertouched. His people have been broken by the empire and he longs for revenge. He is immune to plague, and with the help of Zivah’s potions he can be passed off as a surviour with no memory of his past life.

Dineas is forced to live two lives – one where he knows his past, and one where he doesn’t. These two selves hold conflicting viewpoints. What would any of us do if we couldn’t remember who we were?

birdReview:

 A high-stakes fantasy with a fascinating concept. A strong empire crushing smaller tribes and villages is a familiar story, but Rosemarked is about the collaboration between Dineas and Zivah, and the conflict which comes from Dineas’s double-identity. He alternates between understanding his mission and being unaware that the Amparan Empire crushed his home tribe. At those times he is a proud Amparan solider willing to serve the Empire, even if it means turning on the people and places he loves.

The plague divides people as equally as the Empire. In Ampara, the rosetouched are kept in a compound. Umbertouched are frequently resented for their luck. The virus can also be used as a weapon, which raises interesting questions about what corrupt governments could do with viral weapons.

Zivah is a great character. She is more rounded than a lot of tough female characters, but she is intelligent and willing to use her knowledge in defense of herself. Her dreams are torn apart by the illness, and by the laws around it, and it was interesting to see how this contributed to her decisions. Her relationship with Arxa’s daughter Mehtap is one of the most complex YA friendships I have read. They could be BFFs, or turn against one another in an instant for the sake of their politics. At a time when people identify with each other over their stance on Europe or Trump as equally as their personality, it is lovely to see this conflict represented in fiction.

There is a hint of romance between Zivah and Dineas. I wasn’t certain what I wanted in terms of the romance, but it was interesting to see Zivah in a position where she knew more about reality than Dineas. Was she manipulative? I think she was a pawn in a larger war, but the idea of her guiding Dineas through to the brutal end while he was unaware of what he was doing sent shivers down my spine. It was a great conflict.

The novel sets up a sequel, and I would read this in an instant. Livia Blackburne is a hugely talented voice in YA fantasy, and a writer who understands the complexity of human interaction. 

 

Huge thanks Turnaround UK and Sarah Mather for sending a copy in exchange for review. All opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton

 

 

 

 

Reflection

Book Swap – Amy at GoldenBooksGirl

When making our New Year’s Resolutions, Amy and I decided to swap book recommendations. The main purpose was to clear out TBR piles, and we gave each other lists of books which were sitting unread on our shelves. I started my blog last year, and it has been an adventure, but with proof copies to review I find I am less likely to chose a book published in previous years. This is not intentional, but a result of prioritising books I have committed to review. 

Thank you Amy for your recommendations! I look forward to reading. birdPrisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren- this is such a fun, wintry adventure and I thought it was nail biting in places. Valor is a great heroine and I hugely enjoyed the ensemble cast and unusual prison setting too. the  I think you might enjoy it from a writing standpoint as well as from what I’ve learnt from you about structuring stories this ticks quite a few boxes. 

The London Eye Mystery by Siobbhan Dowd- Before I read this,  I’ll admit I was very unsure of it. But I adore Ted Spark’s voice, it’s so amazing and unique and special,  and I think the mystery is pretty clever as well. If you enjoy it, you can then go onto the Guggenheim Mystery, which is coincidentally by the next author on this list too…

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens- I’m pretty sure you’ve already read MMU, which is perfect as the 2nd book is my favourite in the whole series so far! I definitely didn’t predict the murderer (though I know you probably will. You’re amazing at it!), I adore Daisy and Hazel’s friendship and the addition of Kitty and Beanie in this book, and the country house setting is so classic and fun. 

Beetle Boy by M.G Leonard- I read this in a single setting back in 2016 (I was in a car, and didn’t have anything else to do, but I’m pretty sure I would still have got through it quite speedily eve if I wasn’t!). It feels like an instant classic, and it tells the story of Darkus as his father goes missing and he discovers an extraordinary group of beetles and he must protect them. I can guarantee you’ll fall in love with the beetles, even if you think the concept sounds peculiar on paper. I did, and now I adore these books. 

Fly Me Home by Polly Ho-Yen- even though Boy in the Tower would be my first pick (if you know me at all, you’ll be gasping in shock here I’m sure ) I know you can’t get hold of it, so instead I’m choosing this. It’s a beautiful magical realism tale about Leelu as she moves to England and her family implodes, and the magical objects and people she discovers who help her through the hard time. It made me cry more than once and it may be as dear to me as Boy in the Tower one day, I think. 

 

Have you read any of the books on Amy’s list? Which books would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

Stationery

Stationery – Why I have a Pencil Case

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Last week I said my love of stationery began with a writing course. This is true … but I loved stationery once before. September. What does the word September mean to you? Once upon a time, it meant the start of the new school term, but more importantly it meant a new pencil case. Do you remember the choices? Themed stationery or plain? Pencils or felt-tips? Should the pencil sharpener match the pencil-case or contrast?

By the time I was twelve I had a room full of pencil-cases. My friends once counted around the bedroom. It added up to more than one a year. There were pencil tins – the best ones had special trays, which turned them into multi-layer tins. These looked really smart until they burst open in the school corridor. There were those fantastic zippered sets which came ready-packed with their own notebooks and pens. Do those still exist? Disney used to make them for every major film release. My favourite childhood pencil case had three sections, which meant grotty pencils could be kept separate from writing pens.

It is fair to say that until I was a teenager, my pencil case was like my second home. It was also a statement. One year I had a bright red pencil case with a cartoon spider. A couple of years later, I wouldn’t have been seen with such a thing. It was matching pink equipment or nothing.

I have grown back into stationery, and am pleased the digital age has not seen away pencil cases. I have draws full of pens, but my pencil case is reliably there when I am working. My current pencil case is dark purple, and nature-themed. I bought it the day after that writing course. The one which made me take my writing seriously. It reminds me that writing is a pleasure, and that the implements which allow me to record my thoughts are precious. Children have it right. Our pencil cases reflect who we are.

Louise Nettleton

What was your favourite childhood pencil case like? Do you think pencil cases are important, or just a necessity?

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

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Extract:

‘I don’t understand. You’re not real; you’re imaginary. You’re in my head but I can’t make you go away. Why won’t you go away?’ 

Sam leaned towards me. The yellow of his t-shirt made a warm, buttercup glow under his chin.

‘I’m here because you want me to be, Nate. Isn’t that fantastic?’ 

(The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson. P61.) birdSynopsis:

Nate and his Mum leave their home in the middle of the night, to escape Gary. They head to a cottage they visited when Nate was small. It belonged to a gardner called William and it sits on the edge of a big estate. Now William is dead, it is the perfect place for Nate and his Mum to hide.

Except Mum goes missing, leaving Nate on his own. Well … not quite on his own. Old imaginary friend Sam returns to cheer Nate on as he works out what to do. There is also Kitty, the strange girl from the estate. Kitty is obsessed with solving a treasure hunt set by William decades ago. A treasure hunt which ended in tragedy, and was never solved.

Can Nate help to work out the clues? Will he find Mum, or has she gone back to Gary? A fantastic Middle Grade novel about fear, friends and emotional abuse.

birdReview:

I sat up until 1am reading The Light Jar. Once I’d started it was impossible to stop. It is an addictive mystery and a lyrical story rolled into one, and is expecptionally well written.

The child’s voice is spot-on. Nate grasps some parts of his situation, but overlooks others. For example, he doesn’t understand why Grandma was mean to Mum last time they met, or why they aren’t going to Grandma’s anyway. He is as bewildered by the dirty cottage as he is by Gary’s behaviour. On top of this, Nate has his own landscape of books and gadgets and interests. The result is that we can guess his age within a couple of years without knowing anything about the book.

The story of Mum and Gary’s relationship is sandwiched between other story lines. This means only so much is shown, and none of the detail is overwhelming for a young audience. My favourite part of the emotional abuse theme is how every single character is shown having an angry moment, or a moment where the say something hurtful. In every situation, the characters act because of their feelings or because of the way someone behaves. Every single person has moments they regret, and that is shown as normal. I loved the comparison to Gary, who often speaks in an apparently reasonable and kind voice, but controls other people’s reactions. This is an important message which needs to be heard.

The mystery is fantastic. Enough information is given ahead of the clue that young readers might work it out themselves. This gives the reader satisfaction whether they are right or wrong. I don’t know a single reader who doesn’t love the feeling it-was-there-all-along. I love the setting, and the way Nate learns the old house like a puzzle.

Imaginary friend Sam is a joy. Anybody who liked The Imaginaries will love this world where imaginary friends linger on after they are needed. It was a clever way of showing how Nate processed his situation, and how children revert to younger behaviours when they are stressed or frightened. The theme of fear runs through the book, with Nate’s light-jar symbolising hope and comfort.

Some reviewers have described this as an ‘easy’ read, but to me this only describes the length of the story. It is a short read with a huge depth, and it is an achievement in contemporary children’s fiction.

 

Louise Nettleton

Thank you Scholastic UK for my lovely prize. Opinions my own.

 

 

waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday – Nobody Real by Steven Camden

51lzr5slielSynopsis (from HarperCollins):

Marcie is at a crossroads.

Finished with school, but unsure what she wants to do next. Abandoned by her mother when she was tiny – but drifting further and further from her dad.

Marcie is real. With real problems.

Thor is at a crossroads too.

Soon, if he doesn’t make a decision, he’s gong to face the fade. Years ago, he was Marcie’s imaginary friend – then she cast him out, back to his own world.

Thor is not real. And that’s a real problem…

But Marcie and Thor need each other. And to fix their lives, they’re going to have to destroy everything… and then build a new world.birdWhy I can’t wait to read Nobody Real:

  • Imaginary Friends are so interesting – from Imaginaries by AF Harold, and The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson, imaginary friends have appeared in some fantastic scenarios in Middle Grade fiction. They rarely appear in YA, and I am pleased to see this challenged. Teens might have outgrown their imaginary friends, but that doesn’t make their reappearance dull. If anything, it makes me wonder why the character needs their old friend. It grabs my interest. 

 

  • The agent website references ‘the imaginary word’. I love stories where a fictional or imaginary world turns out to be real. They are often about the role of imagination within our lives, or the relationship between stories and life. 

 

  • Contemporary YA is not my comfort-zone, but add a hint of fantasy and it becomes intriguing. I love worlds which are almost ordinary, but have a hint of magic around the edges. David Almond and Amy Wilson do this well, and Out Of The Blue by Sophie Cameron is another great example. 

 

  • Why did Marcie ‘cast Thor Out’? It doesn’t sound like she outgrew him, it sounds like there is some interesting backstory. I want to know the relationship between what happened at that moment and the pair’s present situation. 

Nobody Real by Steven Camden

HarperCollins

May 2018

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann

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A strange, white creature is swept ashore and makes its home in the abandoned cave. Is he a ghost? A monster? Every day the bear gathers leaves from the forest. The other animals name him Leaf, and they want him to leave. Nobody dares approach the bear, until one day the crows save him from drowning and listen to his story. 

A beautiful story about tolerance and environmental damage

img_4793Leaf washes up on foreign shores, and the resident animals are slow to accept him and offer him help. It is difficult not to see parallels to the refugee crisis, especially with the pictures of Leaf washed up on the beach. It would be a lovely book to discuss these issues as it focuses on the reaction of the other animals as equally as it does upon Leaf’s arrival. 

It is also a book about environmental damage. Leaf’s home is melting and the damage caused him to drift across the sea. If children empathise with Leaf and care about his home, it would be a great opening to talk about environmental issues. The first step to making a change is empathy, and this book is about empathising with other people and the plight of our world

The art is stunning. It is intricately detailed and full of texture, from the leaves img_4792which build up the forest floor to the feathered birds. Colour is used to convey the mood. This is particularly striking in the picture where the dark blue sea churns behind Leaf, and the helpful birds rest on the golden sand. 

If you read closely, you will see a new bird appears on every double page spread. This makes a fun counting game, and conveys a sense of the animals coming together one-by-one to help Leaf. It only takes one person to listen for others to change their minds. 

 

Louise Nettleton