Friday, 7 July 2017

Tender Earth - Sita Brahmachari - Review

Book: Tender Earth
Author: Sita Brahmachari
Publisher: Macmillan Childrens
ISBN: 9781509812509
Rating: A

Laila Levenson has always been the baby of the family, but now with her older siblings, Mira and Krish, leaving home just as she starts secondary school, everything feels like it's changing... can the reappearance of Nana Josie's Protest Book and the spirit it releases in Laila, her friends and her local community, help her find her own voice and discover what she truly believes in?A powerful chime rings through Laila's mind, guiding her to walk the footsteps of the past on her way to discover her own future.

Sita Brahmachari, for me, is one of those authors where I've been meaning to pick up one her books forever, and it's just never happened. So when Tender Earth popped into my inbox, I decided that this was it. I was finally going to read a Brahmachari book - and I can honestly say I'm so glad I did. I went into this book having just finished a fairly heavy-going high-ish fantasy and this was the perfect antidote to that. Strong, powerful, emotional and moving, this book was grounded in the real world and is the ideal contemporary to move onto. It managed to be an impactful and emotional novel, whilst still staying light and not becoming too heavy.

First, before we even talk about the premise and plot, can we just talk about how freaking gorgeous the writing was in this. It was an absolute pleasure to read, and exactly what a novel like this one needs. Brahmachari is so masterful in the way she uses words, the perfect amount of whimsy and tenderness to build the world and story beautifully, whilst both conveying and evoking emotions in the most stunning way. The lucidness and smoothness of the writing just allows the story flow gently, passing through you,  investing you in the novel. I think what really struck me about the writing, though, was the way it managed to make me feel - with a novel like Tender Earth, I think a massive part of the story working well, is the writing being able to evoke the correct emotion from the reader, and do that well. Brahmachari does this beautifully, in such a way that you just have to keep reading, and in a way that really allows you to empathise with the characters.

As for the story, it left me speechless. Very few books give me a book hangover, but this one did - for a full 24 hours after finishing Tender Earth, I could not pick up another book, nor could I stop thinking about this one. It follows Laila, as her world seemingly falls apart, the journey leading her to this whole new self-discovery and world-discovery. We follow her as she learns about and experiences the real world, and watch as how these experiences begin to define her and a make a 'new' Laila. It's almost kind of a coming of age story, and it was a journey that I loved following. I think there were two things that really stood out for me. The first was that these books explore an age in everyone's life that generally isn't spoken about much, and explores it in a very unique and real way. Like I just said, it's kind of a coming of age story, in the sense that we actually have two. Yes we have that point when we enter adulthood and experience the world of work and bills, but as children we also have this coming of age when we move from primary to secondary school, when our friends and worlds are changing, when we begin to grow up and experience new emotions, both our minds and bodies changing. Brahmachari manages to explore this so beautifully, in a way that I think a lot of people will connect with.
The second thing that stood out about this story is its relevance. It touches upon some really important issues that surround us today, such as refugees, animal cruelty, having a voice and exercising this voice. Again, Brahmachari does this artfully, not shoving in your face, but instead gently weaving into the story as a part of Laila's life, as is the case with so many children nowadays. With the internet and an information / connected society, the step from childhood to teenagehood has changed massively, and Brahmachari does a stunning job of exploring this, and the effects it can have on those children.

The characters in this were perfection, also. Laila is an instantly loveable character who you couldn't help but care for in the most parental way.  You felt everything she felt and just wanted her to be happy, and for everything to work out. Again, this falls back onto Brahmachari's writing, which allowed me to connect with Laila so well, and really feel as if I knew her. The way Laila was crafted, from the ground up, and with so much depth, meant that we really got to know her and in turn made her an incredibly evocative character. What was brilliant, though, was that we got to see Laila grow and become this new person. Brahmachari did this expertly, allowing us to really understand Laila and her emotions, as she transitioned through this point in her life, the whole book moving from an almost melancholic tone to a much happier and spirited one. I think with a book like this, so much depends on the character, and Brahmachari absolutely nailed it with Laila, and all the people Brahmachari chose to have surround her. The characterisation was expertly done here.

Overall, Brahmachari has crafted a wonderful and whimsy coming of age tale, that will make you feel so many things, but ultimately leave with a warm fuzzy feeling. If you need a light, yet evocative novel, Tender Earth is definitely one to check out. I am so glad I finally managed to pick up one of Brahmachari's novels, and will most deftineily be going back to read her previous ones. This really is a book to treasure.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nemesis - Brendan Reichs - Review

Book: Nemesis
Author: Brendan Reichs
Publisher: Macmillan Childrens
ISBN: 9781509860302
Rating: A+

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders. 

Well damn. This book blew me away. It was so incredibly good, and even now I can't stop thinking about it. Before we even get started, let me tell you, this book doesn't just take you for a fun ride. It takes you on a freaking rollercoaster.

Let's start with the premise and story. There's been a lot of buzz about this novel and trust me when I say it's for good reason. This book draws you in before you even begin reading. Just the blurb had me hooked, and the story itself completely lived up to my expectations, satisfying me and giving me everything I wanted. The novel is a mystery thriller and follows Min, who keeps getting murdered - over and over again. I don't want to give away too much because it really is one of those novels where the less you know = the better, but it follows Min and Noah trying to figure out why this happens to her and getting to the bottom of Project Nemesis. I'll say no more - go and read it to find out what happens.
As a thriller, this book really is thrilling. The story is very cleverly crafted, secrets, mystery and questions all woven together expertly. It really creates the perfect combination to keep you both hooked and on the edge of your seat, or in my case the edge of my bed. I rarely find a book that wills me to forgo my sleep to finish it, yet Nemesis did just that. Reichs has spun a story that kept me utterly thrilled and turning pages, through the night, unable to set this book down. That's when you know a story is well done.

The writing also made this story perfect. A massive part of thrillers is showing and not telling, but also knowing how much (or little) to show. Reich's nailed this. The writing was exectued so masterfully. The prose created solid and rich descriptions that really pulled me into the world and made me feel like a part of the story. This, for me, is a must in experiencing a novel and staying hooked, and Reich's managed to capture me entirely. I also felt the balance of dialogue with description was on point. The right balance meant I never felt bored and the book never became too slow, the writing allowing for a really good pace. For Nemesis this translated into a fast pace, but that's exactly what I needed and wanted, with this being a thriller.  Having plenty of questions and secrets being thrown at you, the book needs to be able to keep up with your desire for answers, and Nemsis does that very well.

I think something that really worked for me in this novel is that the thrill factor was held as paramount. Yes, there were emotional scenes and yes there was a touch of romance, but Reichs made the correct decsion to keep this mininmal and focus on the mystery aspect, which I felt really propelled the story forwards and kept me engaged. The romance was kept minor and the suspense kept a max, making the focus and purpose of the story clear and effective. The book was able to thrill fully, and thrill it defitniely did.

Charcaters I kind of have mixed feeling on, but ultimately I think it works. Noah was where it kind of started to go a little astray for me. It's kind of weird in the sense that I can see a lot of similarities between both Noah and Min's personalities and voices, yet at the same time I can also define key differences, and I found myself prefering Min. For me I found Noah just a little too angsty - a little too willing to contribute an endless string of complaining, sometimes coming out with stuff that doesn't really add much to the story. However, Min managed to save this, in her logic and practicality. She's the character you're looking for a in a thriller; practical and quick thinking, she helps to move the story along quickly, and efficiently raise the questions needed to develop the mystery and genereate the thrill. I also felt I was able to really connect with Min, which helped to me have a genuine interest in following her and trying to figure out what was going on with her deaths and project Nemesis. All of the characters were well buillt and given enough depth for me to care about them, but Min, being the main character, had the most to her and I really did feel invested in her journey.

The atmosphere, overall, really worked for me also, having the right amount of edge and darkness, whilst still maintaing itself as something that is not 'adult'. Writing a thriller is something that requires all aspects to be on point; investable characters, a quick story, expert writing, showing not telling etc. Reichs absoultely nails it, prodcuing an enaging and fast paced rollercaster that will have you on the edge of your seat. The layers of the story peel away one by one and will keep yout turning the pages well into the night.
As for the ending, it struck just the right balance. It satisifed me in asnwering what I wanted to know - I didn't feel like I had wasted anything in reading the book. I'd got what I wanted from the ending, but also more. It's set up perfectly for the next installment and has left just enough of a cliffhanger to make me hungry to read it.

Overall Reichs has created an asbsolute rollercoaster of a novel that is both suspenseful and riveting. In all seriousness, you won't be able to put this down. Already, this is one of my favoruite novels of the year and I encourage to pick this up and give it a go. I promse you won't regret it.

City of Saints and Thieves - Natalie Anderson - Review

Book: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie Anderson
Publisher: Oneworld
ISBN: 9781786072290
Rating: A

Street-thief Tina breaks in to the luxurious house where her mother was killed to steal from Mr. Greyhill and nail him for her mother’s murder. She is caught red-handed.Saved by Mr. Greyhill’s gorgeous son, Michael, the pair set in motion a cascade of dangerous events that lead them deeper into the mystery, and reveal dark and shocking secrets from Tina’s past.Tina and her mother fled the Congo years ago as refugees, trading the uncertain danger of their besieged village for a new, safer life in the bustling Kenyan metropolis. The corruption and politics of the Congo, and the gangster world of Sangui City, are behind Tina’s mother’s downfall. Is Tina tough enough to find the truth and bring the killer to justice?

This was one of the reads that I was most anticipating this year, for a number of reasons, and let me start by telling you that it did not disappoint.

Let's begin with the premise; it's definitely not something usually read, and yet it was what made it so different that made me so interested in it. It's a mystery, filled with gang fare and secrets, but minus any of the typical paranormalcy that usually accompanies those things in YA. Instead, it manages to translate these themes into a riveting and fast-paced novel that grounds itself in the real world. Another part of what intrigued me with this novel was the fact that it was set in modern day Africa. It's both a setting and culture that we rarely see in YA books, and that, for me, was enough to make we want to read it - and again, it didn't disappoint. Anderson gives us this beautiful and descriptive insight into modern Africa, what it is like, and helps us to understand just how different the lives of those living there are to ours. The way she crafted the African setting was both rich and vivid, so much so that I really felt like I was there.

I think part of what made this world so real, and really made me appreciate the life I have and how different it is in England, is how brutally honest this book is. It touched upon dark themes, which are ones that need to be spoken about. It highlights the prevalence of rape and torture in African society, but tackles them artfully, weaving them into the story in a way that isn't too aggressive or 'too much.' I think part of this was what made me love the story even more - because there really was no sugar coating to make it 'teen-friendly' or PC. It was brutal and real, which for me is a winner. This book makes you feel something, and if a book makes you feel something you know it's doing something right.

This, in turn, meant that the story flowed beautifully. Supported by Anderson's masterful writing, the story managed to give me just enough information to keep me interested, but at the same, keep enough secrets to keep me reading. Honestly, I found it hard to put this one down. Anderson's prose was absolutely stunning, and the dedication that has gone into crafting this plot is apparent. She's crafted this absolutely wonderful mystery, with so many different layers; each answer gives you more questions and makes you totally unable to put this novel down.

Following Tina was something I also really enjoyed, as I felt she was a strong and likeable protagonist. She's been crafted in such a way that you really connect with her and understand her emotions, as well as fully understanding, and supporting, the decisions she takes. I also felt like Anderson succeeded in manifesting a really fleshed out and grounded character; there was no vapidity and I definitely felt like I knew Tina enough to be fully invested in her story. This, in turn, makes the novel so much more lifelike, in the sense that I really was pulled in. The others characters, such as Kiki, Boyboy and Michael, all added so well to the novel, making it absolutely perfect. Most characters complemented each other in all the right ways, leading to a world of characters that I felt I both knew and wanted to follow.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed this book and the journey it took me on. Yes, the journey was hard sometimes, in that it was a lot to handle emotionally and in terms of the acts that were happening, but at the same, the story was absolutely riveting. Filled with strong characters and deep secrets, City of Saints and Thieves will have you captured from the first page.