Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Book Review; More Than This by Patrick Ness

Image courtesy of walker.co.uk

Shamefully I only discovered Patrick Ness' books earlier this year when I read - and loved The Crane Wife, which I reviewed here. Since then I've read his superlative YA "Chaos Walking" trilogy and consider him to be one of the most exciting writers working today. It's no understatement then to say I was desperately looking forward to reading More Than This, particularly after the early reviews started to be published. The moment the book arrived - and what a beauty it is, with a cover that demanded to be stroked - I dived straight in.
In More Than This, Ness has returned to writing YA fiction but to believe that this book is just for young adults would be a huge mistake. Ness says he wrote the book because most teenagers will at some point think "there must be more than this" but we were all that teen once and this is a book that I believe has the intelligence, wit and humanity to speak to us all.
The story starts with the main protagonist, Seth, dying ("Here is the boy, drowning" is such a great first line.) and make no mistake Seth definitely dies here. Then he wakes up, but finds himself completely alone, in a desolate world he soon realises is the English town he lived in as a young boy. To try to describe what happens from then would be to do the book, and you, as I hope a soon to be reader of More Than This, a serious disservice, it's a book you need to read, not read about. It will pull you in, keep you reading until the wee small hours then keep you awake as you consider what you've read. It's a story of exquisite beauty and explores family, friends and love, trust, existence and what life is. It's heartbreakingly dark and disturbing yet still an uplifting, life affirming read. As a parent I am glad this book is on the bookshelf for my children to discover, I don't agree with prescribing books for children but it is a book I think all teenagers should know about. We've almost certainly all felt alone despite being in a family, misunderstood and not appreciated, for anybody who has ever felt like they don't fit in, More Than This is a book that understands. I wish I had Patrick Ness writing for me when I was a teen but even at the age of forty I couldn't fail to be touched by this wonderful book.

More Than This is published in the UK by Walker Books.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Book Review: *relentlessly me* - A memoir of an extraordinary friendship by David H with Tim M


Image courtesy of David Hurst


As some of you already know last August my brother killed himself. After such a life shattering event I think it's natural to reach out to those who have been through similar experiences and so once I learned of this book I knew I had to read it.
David's great friend Tim took his life in February 2012, just 6 months before my brother Simon ended his. *relentlessly me* tells the story of their friendship, one that was separated by the miles as David lives in England and Tim was American but nevertheless was as special as friendships can be. David also courageously writes of his grieving process, the shock, guilt and anger. I could identify with so much of what was written, the sense of being lost, the sledgehammer reminders, the whys and if onlys, the desire not to let the person you love fade away.
*relentlessly me* though is not a depressing book, it's heart-breaking and raw but also life-affirming, heart-warming and funny. David also writes about his family life and in particular his two young sons, there were several passages I laughed out loud at, and lots of parenting moments I recognised. The warmth radiates from this book, the love David has for his family and friends and the very special relationship he had with Tim. I have found it very hard to accurately describe all of who my brother was since his death but David manages to capture who Tim was by including many of his social media postings and links to photos.
*relentlessly me* is a book that sums up the mind-blowing confusion of suicide, looks at depression, addiction and ageing, contains passages that made me cry for my pain, for David's pain and the pain Tim and Simon must have felt before they reached that ultimate decision. It also has passages of hope, words that inspired me and were deeply thought-provoking. It's a book about life, about the worst moments a person can face but about the best too. Ultimately it's about how although we have lost someone very dear to us in the most tragic of circumstances, we are still here, surviving, loving, laughing and living. Or as David would put it "being relentlessly me".

*relentlessly me* - A memoir of an extraordinary friendship is available on Kindle.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Book Review: Terra by Mitch Benn

Image courtesy of Orion Books
I was hopeful that I'd enjoy Terra by Mitch Benn. I'm not a true sci-fi nerd but I'd rather read HG Wells than Charles Dickens and prefer Verne to Hardy plus I know Mitch is a fellow Doctor Who fan and that alone suggested Terra would be a book I'd like! I was therefore delighted to be lucky enough to win my copy of the book through a giveaway on Winged Reviews, thanks to the generosity of the publishers, Gollancz.
The book tells the story of the eponymous Terra, an Earth girl brought up on the planet Fnrr by Lbbp, a scientist who believes he'd rescued the baby after she'd been abandoned by her parents. The inhabitants of Fnrr don't use many vowels in their language. Lbbp lives in the country of Mlml, Earth is Rrth and humans are Ymns. Whilst I'm not sure I'd want to read the story aloud to an audience, it wasn't actually as distracting as I thought I'd find it not really knowing how many of the words are pronounced.
In many ways Terra covers familiar ground. Terra herself is the girl who doesn't quite fit in at High School, her friends include a swot and a shy nerd. Lppb is the kind but over-protective father figure. The aliens are technologically advanced, they have studied Rrth and see Ymns as rather primitive, ridiculing and fearing them. There is an alien invasion, bloodshed, unexpected bravery and redemption.
Thankfully despite the familiarity Terra never feels stale.It's tense and dark but also witty, charming and very moving. Yes it's a story about aliens but it's also a very human story about families and love. I was left wanting more of this captivating world and had the feeling a sequel may be in the offing. Thankfully Mitch confirmed this is the case, the next book is planned for release next summer.
I am very much looking forward to catching up with Terra, Lbbp and friends then.

Terra is published in the UK by Gollancz.