Book reviews

Review: May wrap up

I’ve been a bit slack this month and only posted one book review so I thought I’d combine together all the other books I read in May into one post. Five reviews for the price of one – don’t say I don’t treat you well…

dw impossible worlds

Starting us off is Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds by Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker. I first came across this book when I attended the Doctor Who Festival in London last November and went to a talk hosted by the authors. It wasn’t until my birthday this March however that I received a copy from my brother and as with most DW books it took me a little while to get round to reading it.

The book looks at the art production from the show over the course of its 50+ years history. The chapters each deal with a certain aspect of the show such as the TARDIS, individual monsters and weaponry, and each chapter starts off with a couple of pages of text summarising how the design requirements have changed over the years. They then move on to high quality images of the design process from the NewWho era.

Due to its size and predominantly image based content this makes an excellent coffee table style book. It’s an interesting look into all the hard work that goes into bringing the show to life from an art production perspective, particularly in terms of the designs for refreshing the look of classic monsters for the new era that got rejected along the way (there’s a particularly creepy double spread of designs for the Cybermen). I especially liked the inclusion of an envelope attached to the inside back cover that contains prints of various images – they would look great framed and on display but sadly I don’t have the space to do so.

Goodreads rating = 3 out of 5 stars.

A_Monster_Calls

Next up is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and this only just makes the cut as I finished reading it on May 1st. I bought the illustrated version of the bookย on my most recent trip to London in April.

It tells the story of thirteen year old Conor who through no fault of his own has become a bit of an outcast since his mother was diagnosed with cancer. His teachers overlook his academic performance in light of his family matters and the only children who speak to him are the trio of bullies who are set out to make his life even more miserable. He suffers from the same terrifying nightmare every evening when one night he has a different nightmare involving the tree in the nearby churchyard coming to life. However everything is not quite what it seems as the next morning he finds evidence of the tree’s visit in his bedroom. The story looks at dealing with the likely imminent death of a parent and the toll that takes on the rest of a child’s life.

I’m glad I opted to buy the more expensive illustrated version of the book as it really added to the story. The drawings made everything that much darker and helped to set the tone of the book. As for the story itself it wasn’t something that I’d usually read (I bought it only because it’s written by Patrick Ness) and I found it a little bit predictable. Whilst I did find myself a little emotional at the end of the story, I didn’t come away feeling that it was a great book.

Goodreads rating = 3 out of 5 stars.

NIGHT_OWLS_UKcover800px

Anyone reading this in the USA may know this book as ‘The Anatomical Shape of a Heart’. I’m not sure why the UK version has a different title but there you go. I bought this in my last book haul mostly because it was cheap and had a nice cover, and when I saw the Don’t Stop Believin’ reference on the back cover I knew I’d made the right decision (Gleeks represent).

So who are these two strangers on a midnight train? Bex is an artist looking to win a museum’s scholarship contest in the summer before her senior year at high school in order to support her application to college. Her particular style of art is rather unusual as she loves medical drawings, and so in order to up her chances in the contest she contacts the local hospital requesting to draw cadavers (that’s dead bodies donated to science in case you were wondering). In doing this she happens to meet Jack who also turns out to be an artist, but in this instance he’s the graffiti artist currently running riot over San Francisco. The plot unwinds to cover not only Bex and Jack’s developing romantic relationship but also the pair’s individual family woes, in particular their relationship with their fathers.

I wasn’t expecting too much from this book but I ended up really enjoying it. The characters are well developed and I love Bex’s dry wit. There wasn’t too much instalove and instead time was given to discussing their feelings, including a great section regarding their thoughts and experiences of sex which I haven’t read in a YA book for quite some time. I would have liked to read more about Jillian but I can appreciate why she doesn’t get much focus until the latter stages of the story. Night Owls is Jenn Bennett’s first YA book and having just read that her next YA novel is based on the film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ I’ll be sure to check that out as well.

Goodreads rating = 4 out of 5 stars.

faceless

Ok, so it’s another book bought for its cover but look at it. So simplistic but so gorgeous.

Seventeen year old Maisie is out for an early morning run when she gets caught up in a storm. A nearby tree is struck by lightning and power cables are let loose, causing an electrical fire to take hold exactly where she is standing. Cut to black. The next moment Maisie is waking up in hospital where she finds out the blaze not only badly burned her left arm and torso but also completely destroyed her chin, cheek and nose. We’re talking empty space here where her features used to be. As luck would have it (and you’ll be reading a lot about the concept of luck) she’s offered an incredibly rare opportunity of a partial face transplant. The story follows Maisie over the first year following the accident and centers around her family, social and romantic life as she learns to live with a new face.

I thought this was an interesting topic for a novel and it had lots of potential. As it was however I found myself frustrated at Maisie’s continual negativity and hopelessness. I can appreciate that going through something so traumatic would of course have devastating effects, but for her to go over six months before getting psychological support was crazy. I’m sure in real life there would be a lot more involvement from mental health experts, and perhaps had we had the same in this book then maybe I would have liked it more. I also found her relationship with her mum to be rather irritating but at least there was some resolution at the end.

Goodreads rating = 3 out of 5 stars.

the lie tree

Finally we have The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge which I finished reading last night. I wanted to read this book because of the attention it got when it won the 2015 Costa Book of the Year. Well, that and Patrick Ness’ love for it on Twitter.

It begins with the Sunderly family travelling to the small island of Vane where Reverend Erasmus Sunderly has been invited to help with an excavation. It soon becomes apparent however that the move is also an attempt to run away from rumours of the Reverend falsifying his fossil finds. News soon catches up with them though and the day after the Reverend enlists the help of his fourteen year old daughter Faith to hide a plant under the cover of darkness, he is found dead not far from the house the family is staying in. Faith takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of her father’s death (or murder as she believes it to have been), and in turn discovers the lie tree and its power of revealing secret truths having fed it lies. As Faith starts off her own chain of lies and rumours in order to try to find out the truth, she learns just how wild they can be when let loose and questions whether it is all really worth it.

I found the first third of the book quite difficult to get into and it didn’t really hold my interest, however that may have been because I was trying to read it at night after exhausting days at work. Once the story got going though I quite enjoyed the mystery of both the tree and the murder of Reverend Sunderly. Being set in the Victorian era means that there is also a subplot regarding what is deemed appropriate behaviour for women, which is equal parts frustrating but fitting for the time period. I wasn’t amazed however and so it only received a rating of three out of five stars on Goodreads.

***

And so that’s this jumbo review blog entry completed. Phew. You wouldn’t believe how many hours it’s taken me to write all of this.

Whilst I’m here I’d like to announce that I finally bought a ticket to YALC 2016 this afternoon, meaning that I’ll be spending three busy days in August cramming in as much book fun as I can (whilst also trying to see as much of Comic Con as I can at the same time). Let me know if any of you are also attending.

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