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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!