Monday, 17 December 2012

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

I was very lucky to receive a proof copy of this book. From the title this may not have been a book I would immediately go for, but it just goes to show that you can find great stories in unexpected places.

Amaranth has run away from her family with her two daughters Amity and Sorrow. After four days of non-stop driving she crashes her car at a gas station. Despite an agitated introduction, the farmer of the surrounding property takes pity on the strange little family and lets them stay on his land.

We learn that they have come from a cult and Amaranth is constantly fearful that her husband – the only adult male and leader of the cult – will come after them. The youngest daughter Amity blossoms outside of the cult and is eager to learn about the unexplored world around her. Her older sister Sorrow is the extreme opposite, clinging fiercely to the rules and religion she knows and opposing all the changes before her. The story slowly unravels the past the girls have run from and weaves together the new relationships and experiences they forge on the farm. But eventually they must face up to what they left behind.

I absolutely adored the character of Amity; her innocence and curiosity about everything which is unfamiliar to her make her exploits truly charming to read about. It seems as though she is constantly torn between her mother and her sister, torn between the old ways and her new world. I remember learning about cults in Sociology and I always found the topic both intriguing and disturbing at the same time. The well-known religious sect from Waco, Texas are briefly mentioned in the book; that case becoming famous after more than 50 people died when it was stormed by police in 1993. The wives from the cult in this tale were interesting to read about as they all had their own reasons for joining the group; reasons of which probably reflect possible real life motivations for wanting to leave an old life behind and join an isolated community.

I thought this book explored the theme gracefully, woven together with notions of religion and farming, and is overall a deeply fascinating and hopeful story.

Out March 2013

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Fuse by Julianna Baggott

I was extremely lucky to get my hands on an advance copy of Fuse. I devoured Pure and my reaction to Fuse was no different.

In the follow up to the amazing Pure, Fuse sees Pressia Belze, a wretch, and Partridge, a Pure, uncover their entwined history in a mission to save the wretches and overthrow the Dome.

 As well as physical dangers outside of the Dome, Pressia contends with feelings for Bradwell, the boy with birds in his back: she’s lost everyone she loves before and it seems dangerous to love someone when the world is a hazard.

Partridge must also face his own demons as he fights for his love Lyda and uncovers nasty truths about his father. Amidst their own personal problems, wretch children start disappearing into the Dome, and when they are released they are cured of all afflictions but are mute, bar one message: that Partridge must come home. Having escaped the Dome once, now he must return and face his father, only now he is armed with facts and support from his new friends, and he hopes to lead a revolt from within the Dome.

I’m trying not to give too much away, but Fuse is even more explosive than Pure. We meet even more unique groups of characters, with their own fusings, skills and habitats, and they all have a role to play in the grand scheme of things. Secret after secret that have been coded and hidden are revealed. Obstacles and dangers are met head on.

Just like Pure, Fuse is full of highly imaginative plotlines, cleverly interlinking sociological themes, science, technology and even mythology. With twists and turns throughout, this is a book you won’t want to put down.

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Many of the books I’ve come to review on this site are the result of social media hype (I follow a lot of bookworms and literary types and sometimes things sink in). Pure and it’s follow up Fuse (Books 1 and 2 of a trilogy) were one of the hypes I had noticed. As in most cases, it wasn’t unfounded. Pure is astoundingly good!

Pure is the post-apocalyptic tale of a world that has been devastated by Detonations and divided the population into two main groups: Pures and Wretches. Pures are a select elite community, unharmed by the Detonations as they reside in a protective Dome. Wretches are everybody else who survived outside the dome, fused to whatever they were closest too at the time; objects, animals, other people. Life outside the Dome is perilous. Threats include Groupies (groups of people fused together), Dusts (people and animals fused to the earth) and Beasts (strange hybrids and animals with fusings).

Pressia Belze, a girl with a doll’s head for a fist, has lived a hard and dangerous life on the outside and dreams of a life inside the Dome, safe and cared for. Whilst inside the Dome, Partridge plans his escape from the strict regime of the Dome, a place that isn’t a perfect as people think. Unknowingly bound together, fate will see to it that Pressia and Partridge are destined to change the world.

As the story unfolds, we start to see the divides that characterise the Wretches and the Pures. All the characters are so well devised and individual, with their unique burns and fusings. I particularly like El Capitan and Helmud, brothers who are fused together; their relationship is comical at times but can also be quite heartbreaking.

Julianna Baggott has created a hauntingly striking world in which she explores themes of identity and society. Unsurprisingly, the film rights for the trilogy have already been sold, and what epic movies these tales will make! This is a truly original story that keeps you gagging for more.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

My Twitter feed was recently going crazy for this novel, especially as Tanya Byrne has been nominated and shortlisted for a number of literary awards, so I just had to see what the fuss was about.

The story is the writings of young offender Emily Koll recording her troubling thoughts, feelings and memories into a notebook, which is later found at Archway Young Offenders Institution where she was held before it was closed down. She talks about her life there and also the events leading up to her incarceration.

Emily’s father was a notorious criminal (unbeknownst to her) and is sent to prison after he kills a police officer. Emily’s world falls apart when she discovers her father’s true nature, and with the help of her Uncle she plans to exact revenge on the policeman’s daughter, who was responsible for her father’s capture. She infiltrates the girl’s life and poses as her friend under the guise of Rose. But soon the lines between Rose and Emily become blurred and it’s only a matter of time before Emily finishes what she started.

Emily’s narration is believable and honest as she writes exactly what’s in her head, even though she keeps the most important part of her story hidden until the end. We are privy to what she grudgingly discloses to the psychiatric doctor she regularly speaks to at the facility and also the secrets she shares only in the diary. I enjoyed the style of writing, very easy to read and the recollection of memories not in chronological order helps keep the pages turning so you can find out what happened to Emily Koll. There is a fairly small cast of characters so it makes it easy for you to keep up with the plotline. I particularly liked the other girls from the institution; the interaction between teenage females with differing degrees of mental health issues under one roof makes for interesting reading.

I must admit, this wasn’t as dark as I thought it was going to be but it was still a very clever depiction of love, betrayal and revenge, and an overall compulsive read. I’ve heard Tanya Byrne is working on her second novel and that will most definitely be at the top of my reading list.