Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Young, Gifted and Dead (St. Judes Academy #1)

Title: Young, Gifted and Dead
Author: Lucy Carver
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (Oct 2013)

You can’t get into St Jude’s Academy unless you’re gifted, talented and supremely rich. New girl Alyssa is on a scholarship and feels like an outsider - she's not even that smart, apart from her photographic memory (and that's cheating, right?).  
Then one day her room-mate Lily is found floating face down in the lake. It looks like suicide, but, torn apart with guilt and grief, Alyssa is convinced that things aren't as they seem. Soon a jolted memory puts her on the trail of a sinister secret that might hold the clues to Lily's suspicious death. But Alyssa is in too deep, and she's being watched...
I received review copies of both this title and the sequel Killing You Softly. This in no way influences the opinions expressed on this blog. A big thank you to Pan Macmillan for being so supportive of us local bloggers!

This is not my usual fare, but I really enjoyed the mystery and the quirky narrative style of Alyssa. Set in a hoity-toity British boarding school, I enjoyed the change from the usual US high school settings of most contemporary YAs and found it easy to relate to. Of course, I have been to England and worked at a similar boarding school. It was not hard to picture everything!

Firstly, Alyssa must play the role of sleuth in uncovering the mysterious death of her friend. It helps that she can remember everything that happens around her! She must deal with other kids who have their own agendas and figure out what was going on in Lily's life as the girl has secrets of her own!

This brings the reader into contact with an interesting cast of characters!

One thing that was lacking was a meaningful romance. I find that romance is forced in YA these days and, while this book is not the exception to that, it has more than enough going on besides that to keep readers interested and playing sleuth themselves.

I am glad these is another in the series and I hope that Alyssa grows as a character.

This is great for fans of Pretty Little Liars and the Lying Game!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Bone Season
Author: Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2013)

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds.Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army. 
Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives. (Off  
I have been caught up in the hype surrounding this book, the first of a series. I waited ever so patiently to purchase a mass-market paperback copy as I don't enjoy the heavy trade paperbacks and find they take up waaaaay to much precious shelf space.

I didn't tuck into Bone Season right away, rather letting it mellow on my shelf for a few weeks. I felt that, if this book met the hype, I wanted to really savour the experience of reading it for the first time.

Well, Bone Season certainly was worth setting aside the time for.

Firstly, the author is a master at building a concrete world for her characters to have their adventures in. It is fresh and I loved the clairvoyance concept.

Paige is a strong-willed main character who follows in the wake of Katniss and Tris. She is capable and does not rely on anyone else to save her. I love this and we need more heroines like her in YA.

And, yes, this is YA. I have to go off track here on a bit of a tangent. Most of you know I live in South Africa, where we are somewhat less exposed to global hype surrounding books. As far as I am aware, this is a Young Adult novel that could be crossed over into the Adult section of bookstores. However, your average adult reader is NOT going to pick this one up unless they already love Hunger Games et al.

So why, for the love of all that is good, is this shelved as Adult Fiction? Is it any surprise that most bookstores only stock one or two copies if that? Of course the book is not going to sell unless it is correctly merchandised! I do not know why, but it seems to be across all bookstores. Perhaps it has been incorrectly merchandised on the system or incorrectly marketed. Either way, shelve this in YA and I am sure the sales of this title will rise dramatically!

I love The Bone Season so much that I feel as if it is being done an injustice. Merchandising is everything.

So, please do get a copy of this if you love the other titles I have mentioned here. It is something new that does not rely on romantic tropes to carry the plot through. It has a brave heroine and a great, well-conceived world. Just do it. Read it. And thank me later. :)