A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

I love time travel. It’s one of those things that just fascinates me. This novel is not about time travel. It’s about a different kind of travel – dimensional travel. It’s a new concept to me but one that has my brain cogs clicking away happily! You can only travel to another dimension if the same genetic version of you exists there, and if you travel you wake up in that version’s body. Which one of you controls the body is another matter entirely!

The cover art is beautiful and full of colour, appropriately representing the protagonist. It was what drew me to the book to start with. Meg is an artist. The only one in a family of genius scientists. Yet she has somehow become the one using her parents technology – the firebird – to seek her father’s killer in any dimension she has to.

The things that annoyed me in the novel are as follows:
– There are characters who can figure out technology in any dimensions within minutes. I’m pretty savvy with computers and such but I don’t think I’d figure out stuff nearly as fast. They are meant to be crazy science people though so maybe I’m being overly fussy.
– Meg being a ‘chosen one’ character was getting on my nerves for the first part of the novel – lots of hints that she has some special skill unlike others. I kind of liked what that ended up being about though – without spoiling anything I can just say it wasn’t as completely cliché as I’d expected!

I listened to the audiobook – narrated by Tavia Gilbert – and loved it. She does a huge array of voices to show the different ‘bodies’ that are in each dimension and while some of her accents come off a bit staged, it’s still great work from her.

Has anyone else read this series? I am on a waiting list for book two from my library and can’t wait!

 

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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I read this ghostly tale in one sitting and have really been impressed with it. It’s a good story, and despite being a little dragged out, it does make you want to read more and get to the bottom of things!

Hill wanted to write a ghost story but not in its conventional form as a short story, but as a novella.
She does this successfully and clearly it has become something of a classic, but when it really boils down to it you could tell the actual bare bones of the story in about 5 minutes.

Arthur Kipps is a solicitor who is reflecting on the past horrors of an experience in his youth which still haunts him. As a way of laying the ghosts to rest he decides to write his story down.
In this story, Kipps is just starting his career and is sent to the funeral of Mrs Drablow, a strange woman who lived in an isolated house.

It has all the trappings of a piece of Gothic literature – the isolated house, the moody weather, the fainting hero or heroine, the terrifying monster…

I won’t tell you more because that might spoil the story. I personally haven’t seen the film but I gather it’s very scary and the play is meant to be fantastic.

Over here in the UK this is a text that is on the curriculum list for GCSE and I was impressed with it as one that was more engaging for young readers. You can do really fun stuff with looking at the genre of horror and gothic literature and I have been really enjoying it with my year nine class!

Have you taught this as a novel before? Do you think it was worth Hill writing it as a novel or should she have kept it as a short story?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

DSC_0206It is a huge omission on my part that I have not yet mentioned this fabulous book or series on my blog. I’ve searched and searched through my posts for any mention and there is nothing about Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander at all! Outlander isn’t a new novel and I’m certain that many of you have heard of it and read it already. If you haven’t, here’s my review of one of the best books I have read this year.

Diana Gabaldon I believe has mentioned somewhere that her books are very hard to categorise into a genre. My best label would be historical-romance-epic with minor elements of fantasy and sci fi; specifically time travel.

A quick synopsis:

Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank in Scotland after years of being apart during the Second World War. She worked as a nurse, he as a soldier. They are getting to know each other all over again, and Frank, who works as a historian, is also researching one of his ancestors who lived in Inverness, the area they are visiting.

Frank and Claire are intrigued by the local superstitions and customs in the area and decide to get up early to watch a druid ritual at the circle of standing stones on the nearby Craigh na Dun. Not long after this, Claire returns to the spot to gather an example of a flower she was interested in. Upon touching one of the stones, Claire blacks out and wakes up to find the world around her has changed. Her mind searches for explanations for the sounds of gunshots and for the fact the soldiers she is seeing are in full historic costumes. On top of this, the first redcoat she meets is the spitting image of her husband Frank!

Eventually she comes to accept that she has fallen through time and that she is separated from her husband by a gap of 2000 years. Not only must she find a way to get home, she must find a way to survive as an Englishwoman in the rough Scottish highlands. This is where the title of the novel comes from – the Scots call Claire ‘Sassenach’ which means Outlander, or foreigner. I believe that it was also published in the UK as Cross Stitch.

I won’t tell you any more because I’ve already given too much away, but I will say that this is a romance novel and with a complicated situation of a husband who doesn’t exist yet it gets very interesting.

Audiobooks are something I really got into while I was travelling this year. I downloaded Outlander  from audible and was chuffed to be getting good value for my subscription with the length of the audio being over 30 hours of listening time! I was also a bit daunted by this, but once I began I was entranced. Davina Porter is a fabulous narrator and her wonderful accents and voices are contagiously good. I think I must have a wee bit of the Scots blood left in me because I keep finding myself using little gems from the book. I wonder what the Scottish highlanders would have made of a New Zealander’s accent if it popped up during this time!

If you are like some of the many in my acquaintance who are disinterested in steamy romance novels, then this series isn’t for you. Simply because it definitely has a lot of sex in amongst the pages of this incredible epic tale. However, if you love a good romance, whether you’re privy to intimate details of it or not, this is a winner. I probably should also mention that there are some disturbing scenes in the book and that it deals with some very heavy content, including rape and abuse. It’s a book for adults and doesn’t gloss over anything.

I just finished reading the sequel: Dragonfly in Amber and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since. Some books you can finish and just leave behind, but others linger and haunt you. This is definitely a haunter. Pete, my hubby, has been so sick of me going on about getting the next one that he told me that he’d already ordered me the box set for my birthday! I’ve been in anticipation all week! In the meanwhile I’ve been getting my fix watching the first season of the adaptation which isn’t quite as good but it’s been getting me through my withdrawals.

Here is the beautiful box set in all its glory! It arrived today and I am just itching to get into Voyager! They’re deceptively small for such long and epic novels!DSC_0208

It’s a mammoth series with eight novels so far (yes, they’re still going!) and a few novellas and short stories. Gabaldon takes about three years to research and write each novel so I have a few years to catch up before the ninth one comes out!

My rating is definitely a 5/5 because I am just obsessed.

Here are a few Outlander related links:

  1. Buy the book (or all of them)
  2. Buy the audiobook (you can do a free trial of audible and get it free)
  3. Outlander Film Locations
  4. Diana Gabaldon’s Website (and the books listed in recommended reading order)
  5. Watch Season 1 on Amazon (you can do a free trial of prime to watch for free)

 

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

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These Shallow Graves is a historical mystery novel set in New York. It follows the story of Jo Montfort as she investigates her father’s untimely death and finds herself in over her head and experiencing the dark side of the city she thought she knew. Jo finds herself some unlikely companions to assist in her amateur detective work: a handsome but poor journalist, and a Sherlock-esque mortician. Risking her life and her reputation (rather naively) Jo won’t let anything stop her from solving the mystery of her father’s death.

As a fan of her previous writing in The Tea Rose series, I had high hopes for Donnelly’s latest book These Shallow Graves. This latest novel is aimed at Young Adults as opposed to being a historical romance and I think that accounts for a lot of the differences. It is a simpler story, with the mystery element taking the focus and the love story working alongside it. I wasn’t convinced by the protagonist Jo in this story and not so drawn in to the setting of New York as I was to the setting of London in The Tea Rose. However, it is an intriguing story and entertaining as a whodunnit. I guessed fairly early on who it would be, but it’s well plotted and not too too obvious. I always find that’s part of the fun!

Continue reading

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

IMG_20150912_132113Steelheart is yet another fantastic novel from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. He is a master of worldbuilding, and in this series our world is a more modern environment where in amongst the ordinary humans, beings with supernatural powers have started to emerge. They call them Epics and at first they are a marvel, heroes and all that. But it soon becomes clear that the Epics are not friends to the human race. And no-one challenges them, because they are that powerful.

No-one except the Reckoners. Continue reading

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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All the Bright Places is a devastating and heart-wrenching novel that gripped me from beginning to end. It’s a popular read and soon to be made into a film starring Dakota Fanning. I was on the waiting list at the library for this one for almost a month!

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey couldn’t be more different, but their paths cross when they both find themselves up on the bell tower ledge. Somehow their concern for each other ends up with first Violet, then Theodore being coaxed back to safety, and an unlikely friendship between them forms.

This is a novel for teenagers and adults alike. Niven gives us a valuable insight into the perspectives of teenagers and their experiences at school and at home. It’s easy to forget what it’s like being in high school, and even as a teenager you don’t always know what’s going on with the people around you. This month is Suicide awareness month and given that our protagonists meet on a ledge, I think their story is particularly relevant.

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This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

DSC07469 (2)This is Shyness is an unusual and quirky read. But for a book to be different isn’t necessarily  a bad thing in the world of young adult fiction.Usually I have a lot to say about the novels I read but this one I am struggling with what to tell you. It wasn’t at all what I expected and kind of threw me because the story world is quite hard to figure out. But the characters are interesting and relevant and the growing relationship between Wolfboy and Wildgirl was something I was interested in hearing more about!

Basically, the first thing you need to know is that ‘Shyness’ is a place. In Shyness, the sun has stopped shining and it is always night. I still haven’t figured out exactly what country or city Shyness is in and there is very little to indicate anything beyond a modern urban environment. There are all sorts of weird things that happen there, including people who are obsessed with dreaming, gangs of kids who are addicted to sugar, crazy creatures, and of course there is Wolfboy, or Jethro, who lives there. He’s…wolfy? Like, howling and hairy.

Unlike Wolfboy, Wildgirl is not an inhabitant of Shyness. She ends up there one night at the local bar ‘The Diabetic’ and there she meets our Wolfboy. She’s a cool character and very down to earth, if a little annoying. I think she’d appeal to a lot of young readers. She’s into fashion and she’s courageous and stubborn and overall pretty normal.

The story world is interesting and intriguing but there isn’t enough information given about it to make it relevant to the plot. I assume that as the series continues that the cause of the eternal darkness of Shyness will become clear – but so far it’s only purpose seems to be as a kind of urban gothic backdrop for a really long night of activities and adventure for our protagonists.

I felt that the ending was too open and didn’t give the closure I expected. It could have done it in more of a cliffhanger way to lead into the next book, but instead it just lost impact and was vague.

Overall though, I’m still willing to read the next book and see what happens next. It’s a 2/3 from me! Which is a shame because This is Shyness has won a bunch of literary awards. Still, looking at reviews on goodreads it’s clear that either people were confused by it or thought it was awesome. I think I fall closer to the confusion category! But I can still see how it would really resonate with some readers too.