I appear to have ended up in a state of (fear?) over writing reviews, which makes each one take too long and I worry that I’m not doing the ones I care about justice. I’ve managed a couple of posts of Chaos Castle this year, but I’m generally being avoidant. So I’m trying to write some quick reviews here of past NetGalley books I’ve read (some over a year ago) in order to get into practice!
A Song for Ella Grey – David Almond (Hachette Children’s Books, 2014)
I think I am not a David Almond fan. So far, of the three or four of his books I’ve read, I’ve loved Skellig and have felt meh at best for the others. I very much disliked A Song for Ella Grey, I think all the more so because of the rave reviews from everywhere else. I did not see what other people saw in this book. I have no frame of reference to relate to the teens, and thought that perhaps this was the problem. I also never studied English Literature past GCSE level so perhaps I was missing out there too. But I believe a novel should be enjoyable regardless of what level you read it on. Maybe it has more for the literati, but it still needs to be readable. I realised that A Song for Ella Grey was lacking not just in my experiences on reading Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan. Again, I have no frame of reference to relate to the characters, but because of the way they were written, I could relate. Again I could not relate to studying English, but Apple’s writing was beautiful and enjoyable. Crossan’s writing is beautiful, lyrical, and enjoyable (I also love The Weight of Water.) Almond’s writing was a slog, with generally unlikeable characters, and no relation to the Orpheus myth that I know. It’s been over a year since I’ve read this, so I don’t have a clear memory, but I have no desire to try again and try to work out what it was that I was missing.
Heart of Dread: Frozen – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnson (Hachette Children’s Books, 2014)
This is the first in a dystopian fantasy series. It’s been over a year since I read this, so I can’t write a very clear review, but it was a quick read with a believable world and I would read the sequels if I didn’t have such a big TBR list. One to read if you’re into YA fantasies, albeit fairly standard fare.
The Astounding Broccoli Boy – Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2015)
I’ve not actually read any other Cottrell-Boyce, but I know I really should. I read The Astounding Broccoli boy about a week after the Doctor Who episode Forest of the Night (written by Cotterell-Boyce) first aired, which slightly detracted from my enjoyment as the TV script and the novel recycled some scenes. In different contexts, but because I’d read/seen within a week it did seem a bit lazy. I don’t know if this was changed in the final print version, as the NetGalley was out five months before publication. However, silly distractions aside, Broccoli Boy is a funny novel about three very different children who suddenly turn green, and what happens after this. Illustrated by Steven Lenton, I grabbed this in paperback when it came out and would happily re-read. At some point, I might get around to reading Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s other novels.
What Milo Saw – Virginia McGregor (Little, Brown, 2015)
This book tries too hard. If it was just about Milo and his unique view of the world, then that is a story in itself. But it then adds in immigration and nursing homes in a mess of trying-to-win-some-diversity-award that mostly just left me feeling that the story was trying too hard to be too many things, and managed to sideline Milo’s disability and its effect as a result despite claiming to be about this. Read several months ago and not memorable enough to have much to say about it.
NEED – Joelle Charbonneau (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
From the author of The Testing trilogy, comes a contemporary but no less disturbing story set in an all-American high school. NEED is the new social network – tell it what you want, and do what it asks, and you get what you’ve asked for. It warns that it should only be for things you need, but of course the students ask for stuff they want (phones, laptops, etc), or even revenge. Soon they realise that none of this is for free, and NEED knows too much about you… There’s a main plot on one teen, searching for her father, and a twist relating to this, but the social media concept in itself makes this a compelling YA thriller.
The Wolf Wilder – Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2015)
Katherine Rundell’s writing is beautiful, and I found my only bug with The Wolf Wilder (which I also had with Rooftoppers) is that it seems to end too soon. I’m sure there should be more! I didn’t know what to expect from this story, and I read the title as “The Wolf, Wilder” thinking it was maybe fantasy from a wolf viewpoint, but finding out that a wolf wilder is someone who returns ex-pet wolves to their nature. Which was fascinating, especially in a backdrop of Russia just before the Revolution. This is another book I will buy in paperback when it is out, because it has gorgeous illustrations (the downside of NetGalley are the “illustration here” comments in the middle of the text, because they are unfinished proofs!) I already want to read this again.
Counting Stars – Keris Stainton (Hot Key Books, 2015)
This is my first Keris Stainton book and although out of my usual genre (contemporary romance isn’t really my forte) it was a fun read and I much enjoyed it. I’m afraid for me it comes under popcorn as a quick read that doesn’t stick in the memory, but that’s due to my personal tastes. However, I would happily pick up any other Stainton novel based on Counting Stars, knowing that I would have an enjoyable and well written read ahead of me.
Into The Dim – Janet B Taylor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)
This is a time travel novel, set in contemporary Scotland and 12th Century London, written by someone who I’m fairly sure probably has made nothing more than a fleeting visit at best to a very touristy part of Scotland, if visited at all. It might work better in America, but as a Brit reading, it is so inaccurate as to be painful. Which I expect is also how Americans feel about some British writers writing about contemporary America. The historical aspect didn’t feel well researched, and although the concept was interesting, it really didn’t work for me. It’s described as Outlander for teens, but I’ve not read or watched Outlander to compare. However I think for a time travel tale, 18th century is more believable than 12th century. Seriously, how much has language changed in over 900 years? Is it really possible for 21st century people to pass (the language they were using as written certainly wouldn’t have), or to not catch some long-dead illness that would kill them quickly? Am I completely over-thinking this? You may have guessed that this didn’t entirely work for me.
Demon Road – Derek Landy (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2015)
I expect “not as good as Skulduggery Pleasant” isn’t much of a review, but I think I need more time to get into this new world of a teen that turns into a demon, her incredibly f-ed up family, and a new host of not-as-human-as-you-thought characters. Actually, having written that, I feel more inclined to revisit it. If you’re a fan of Skulduggery, then you need no tempting to read this, but Demon Road is definitely aimed at older YA than early Skulduggery was. I expect I will be buying this series as it comes out in paperback, but I’m glad I got to read the preview so I didn’t pay for a hardback.
Of these nine books, I recommend The Astounding Broccoli Boy, The Wolf Wilder, and NEED first, plus Heart of Dread: Frozen, Counting Stars, and Demon Road.
All books received free to read via NetGalley, with thanks to the respective publishers.
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