Three strong, original books

I’ve been reading quite a few wonderful books lately so I thought I’d bundle a few together in a review. I have so many library books teetering in a pile on my bedside table that I’m worried I’ll be decapitated during the night!

I’ve reviewed an adult novel by a well-known Australian writer, a young adult novel by a US novelist and a debut children’s novel. All three books had strong female characters, with so much determination and courage.

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  • Beauty in thorns by Kate Forsyth (adult historical fiction) – I am such a fan of Kate’s. She teaches a wonderful writing course in Sydney through the Australian Writers Centre on plotting, and her latest book is testament to her ability to weave together threads from a few stories and timelines. It’s set in the Pre-Raphaelite era and focuses on the lives of a few artists  – Ned Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris, and the women who loved them. The story focuses mainly on the women – and they were a talented, creative force as well. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Kate’s previous books, perhaps because it felt that she was following the stories in a chronological manner, rather than crafting a story. But the characters are compelling, the settings evocative and Kate’s writing is as rich and descriptive as usual.

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  • The girl from everywhere by Heidi Heilig (young adult fiction) – a friend recommended this book to me, and I’m glad she did. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl called Nix Song, who is a Navigator on a pirate ship with the ability to follow maps into the margins, into different countries and different timelines. Led by her father the Captain, and supported by a crew of time refugees, she discovers her own abilities. She needs to, lest her father steer them into a time and place where Nix doesn’t exist. Because of the complex and sophisticated plot of time travelling, I know I’ll read this book again to figure out the connections between the different timeframes. (That’s a sign of a wonderful book, when the reader is planning to read it again after finishing the last page!) It’s a really unique book, that shows a different sort of protagonist to the usual YA ones concerned with school and parties and friendships. There’s also a sequel available now – The ship beyond time – I can’t wait to read it. Best for 14-16 year-olds, but absolutely fabulous for all adults.

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  • How to Bee by Bren MacDribble (children’s novel) – this is set in a dystopian world, where nine-year-old Peony is desperate to become a  ‘Bee’, someone who climbs the trees, waving a wand to collect the honey. She lives and works on a farm with her sister and grandfather. But trouble arrives in the form of Peony’s mother, who wants to take Peony away to a different life. Peony’s voice is strong and compelling and whisks readers away into her world where you just want everything to work out for her because she is such a hard worker and so determined to support her family. I loved this book – definitely one of the best children’s books I’ve read this year. And the cover is gorgeously striking! A fabulous read for 9-12 year-olds.

I’ve also spent a bit of time in the last fortnight reading some unpublished books. I’m part of a writer’s group and last weekend we met up as usual to discuss each other’s work. I absolutely believe in the writing from the other members – I’m sure I’ll be reviewing their published work one day – a crime novel, a middle-grade novel and a young adult book.

Any recommendations for me? I’m compiling a wishlist for National Bookshop Day on Saturday 12th August – I’ll definitely be visiting my local. Tell me what’s on your book wishlist!

6 comments

  1. I have just finished “Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman. Your readers may know another of his books “A Man Called Ove”. I enjoyed both books, feel-good stories with quirky characters.

    A new book “The Scandal” also by the same author is awaiting, it comes highly recommended.

    Terri.

  2. Great series of recommendations, Karen. ‘How to Bee’ caught my eye this week for my biggest little guy, but I succumbed to non-fiction books – ‘Federegraphica’ about his favoured tennis player, Roger Federer; and the other, a record of cricket statistics! As an avid historical fiction reader, I have a couple of recommendations for that genre: ‘The German Girl’ – whilst it was confronting at times, enjoyed the story that shifts between Berlin in WWII to present day New York and Cuba; and ‘House of Special Purpose’ by local author, John Boyne. Wonderful story set during the times of the Russian revolution. Looking forward to visiting my favourite local bookstore next week.

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