Everyone seems to be suffering from the winter blues. Of course, for those sitting or about to sit Prelims that’s understandable. If you are studying for exams, it’s important to set aside some time to rest and relax. For me, the best tonic is to escape into a book.
Here are a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this month.
Book of the month for me (and my daughter) has got to be Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It is a mixture of sci-fi and fairytale – a bit like chocolate with a chocolate filling! Cinder is kind, gifted and beautiful and totally unappreciated and exploited by her guardian, but she’s also part human, part cyborg and she keeps the family financially afloat with the money she earns as a mechanic. The wicked queen is determined to marry the prince at any cost – including waging war on the whole planet. The prince knows that she will enslave his people just as she has her own but his options are limited, especially as she may hold the only key to curing the deadly illness that has already claimed the lives of thousands of his people.
Be warned – the story is set to span four books with the next in the series, Scarlet, not due out until 2013.
The Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andrew Lane continues with Fire Storm. Much of the action takes place in Edinburgh. The secret behind Mrs Eglantine’s hold on Sherlock’s aunt and uncle is revealed at last. Sherlock has to find a murderer and come to the rescue of both Rufus Stone and Amyus Crowe. The ending sets us up nicely for the next book in the series.
I also enjoyed Steve Feasey’s Changeling: Blood Wolf. It is quite some time since I read the first book in the series but I quickly picked up the story. This book switches between what happens to Phillipa who, guided and supported by Alexa, is trying to help destroy the demon that possessed her and killed her father, and Troy who goes to Canada in the hope that his uncle can give him the answers he needs. Unfortunately, Troy does not like what his uncle has to tell him. Full of grief and anger, he throws away the amulet that not only has the power to help him through the pain of his transformation on the night of the full moon but is the key to his destiny. This series is well worth a look. The books are full of interesting characters and all kinds of supernatural creatures.
Todd Strasser is an author I came across a few years ago when I read Boot Camp ( a fascinating and disturbing story of what happens to young teens who are sent to boot camp by their parents to be straightened out) when I was looking for books to recommend for the Personal Study, which is no longer a compulsory part of the Higher and Intermediate English courses. In Blood on My Hands the story is told by Callie Carson, but this is a bit different from the usual trying to fit in with the popular girls at high school story. It begins with Callie being photographed kneeling over Katherine’s dead body and going on the run. In a series of flashbacks we learn about the sequence of events leading up to the murder and the lives of the various young people involved.
I read two books by Franny Billingsley, an author new to me. Both have a very appealing and unusual main character. In The Folk Keeper, Corinna Stonewall has been living disguised as a boy for four years. In her role as Folk Keeper, she has spent much of that time in the darkness of the cellar appeasing the malicious and spiteful ‘Folk’ who would otherwise spoil the milk and cause untold mischief. It is only when she moves to Cliffsend that she gradually learns the truth about her parents and her true nature.
In Chime Briony is convinced that she is wicked; after all, she is responsible for her twin sister’s disability and the fire and flood that almost destroyed their home. Told by her stepmother that she is a witch, Briony is determined to give herself up to the authorities even though she knows that she will be put to death. As her feelings for Eldric grow and develop, Briony begins to understand more clearly her affinity for the marshes and the supernatural creatures who live in and around it.
Both these stories are told in first person. Neither Corinne nor Briony knows the truth behind her strange powers and anyone who has read lots of fantasy books will probably begin picking up clues to their true nature before these naive narrators do. That is part of the charm of the books.
Finally, Fracture by Megan Miranda. Delaney Maxwell should have died when she fell through the ice into the frozen waters below. Her heart stopped for eleven minutes. Against all the odds, she wakes from her coma and despite the brain scans which show brain damage, she seems to be perfectly okay – apart from the fact that she can sense when someone is close to death. She is terrified that rather than predicting these deaths, she might be causing them in some way. Troy who shares her strange new power seems to have at least some of the answers to her questions but can she trust him?
This is a very interesting novel that explores serious issues of life, death, guilt, love , friendship and survival – and it’s free of ghosts, vampires and werewolves.