Monday, 29 September 2014

A Greek tragedy for the 21st century

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

This title updates the Greek myth of Orpheus & Eurydice to 21st Century Northumberland.

Ella & Claire have been best friends for a long as they can both remember. Now both studying for A levels they cannot imagine a life apart. Ella, who was adopted,  is under pressure from her parents to do well in her A levels, so when their gang suggests a  break away on the coast Ella decides she cannot go. Claire and the group set up camp on the beach and enjoy the freedom from school, family and work for a few days. The group is joined by a strange young man, Orpheus, who seems to have an unsettling effect on the group and Claire feels that Ella should be included in the experience, she is only a phone call away. So a chain of events is set in place which will end in tragedy for the trio.

David Almond has captured the wild beauty of the area and his lyrical recounting of this Greek tragedy for the a 21st century audience is wonderful.

I've just seen the hardback and reading it as a galley on a Kindle the story lost some of its impact. The hardback edition has wonderful illustrations and makes good use of light and dark to capture the highs and lows of a love that echoes down the centuries. This is not in the same vein as the YA novels doing the rounds at the moment involving reincarnation  and lost loves. It is more realistic than that and rooted in the landscape of the north.

A beautiful, lyrical story and will be worth promoting to those readers in schools who like their books with a bit of depth.

I was given this book for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

New York and Shoes

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

Valentine is back! In the 3rd book in the series following our favourite shoemaker, we pick up the story immediately after the events in Encore Valentine.
Valentine has finally found her Prince Charming and everything looks set for a lifetime of happiness but Valentine's stubborn nature, perfectionism and drive to be the best designer there is lead to many bumps in the road on the way to marriage and that happy ever after. Both Valentine & Gianluca have to overcome a lot to build up a strong and happy marriage.

The Roncalli family is still as bumptious and lively as ever and there are plenty of laughs but there are some sad moments in this book.  The author has captured the highs and lows of  family life and the shop that is the heart of the family and becomes even more so in this story, as Valentine's empire starts to expand.

The title refers to the factory Valentine starts to produce her own shoes but also to the twists and turns that life brings - we never know what is going to happen next in life, or in this book.

Trigiani's characters are wonderful from my favourites Aunt Feen and Gabriel, to the wider family, and she seems to really capture the atmosphere of New York in all its busy-ness. There are laugh out loud moments but also moments of great sadness.

I don't know if there will be a 4th book in this series but it will be interesting to see what happens next in Valentine's and her extended families lives.

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French

This book was received as a pre-publication release from the Reading Agency.

The book group I belong to read it and this is their review on it:

With high expectations from the blurb, reviews on Amazon and the author recommendations, the group felt badly let down!

The group liked the alternating chapters of past and present but that was felt to be the only positive.

The book was poorly written and the language overly flowery, the school setting was unrealistic (all the book group members work in schools). The creation of the ‘secret place’ in a school to post concerns and worries was a scenario ripe for bullying and was felt to be unbelievable to them and merely a device to kick start the plot. 

There was a complete lack of suspense and the group did no not care ‘whodunnit’ – the majority had already identified the perpetrators of both the crime and the card early in the book! The depiction of both the police and the teenage girls was felt to be stereotypical and one dimensional and the two groups of girls were felt to be indistinguishable from one another. This lack of characterisation made feeling empathy for any of the characters difficult.

The supernatural element was ridiculous and pointless.

There was some poor editing – if the history of Holly’s mum’s relationship with the school and her friends, had been introduced earlier it would have made more sense about the theme of friendship which the author was trying to explore and to use to as a plot device.

Very disappointed!