Thursday, 14 November 2013

Thursday Thoughts: YA Yeah Yeah Mini-Recommendations

Still struggling for time to write full reviews, so here's some more recommendations to keep you going.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross - I only got this out of the library because something about the cover drew me to it. Yes, Hot Key can even make the 'girl in a posh dress' cover stand out, partly due to the addition of the Eiffel Tower. However, it's a read that's even better than that cover suggests. Taking a concept from an Emile Zola short story, this follows runaway Maude Pinchon as she struggles to find work in Paris and ends up employed by an agency who hire out plain girls to rich women to make the women look beautiful in comparison. Hired by a rich Countess to perform this function for her daughter Isabelle, who doesn't know anything about it, Maude starts to mix in Paris society. Isabelle is nowhere near the spoilt brat Maude first takes her for, though, and Maude is torn between her own interests in holding onto the job, and her loyalty to her new friend. The setting of late 19th century Paris, with the Eiffel Tower under construction - and not particularly popular - is magnificent, but the best thing about this one is the friendship Maude finds here. Her relationships, particularly with Isabelle but also with several other characters, are great to read about and there's a strong message on the theme of beauty and art in the book. In a strong year for historical fiction, this is up there with Jillian Larkin's Diva, Cora Harrison's Debutantes in Love, and Suzanne Rindell's adult book The Other Typist at the top of the tree.

The Dark Behind The Curtain by Gillian Cross - I picked this up a few weeks ago (might even have been on Hallowe'en) from my library back home, having somehow missed it in my childhood despite it originally being published the year after I was born. I think I'm quite glad I missed it when I was younger, as it scared the living daylights out of me even now! Colin Jackus is press-ganged into taking part in the school play, alongside his friend Marshall. The play is Sweeney Todd, and Marshall is a compelling title character - maybe too compelling. Jackus starts to realise that something is horribly wrong here, and there's only him and Ann - who plays Mrs Lovett - who can recognise how badly things are going. I'm sure books for teens in the Eighties were significantly shorter than today's YA on average, and there's something to be said for that conciseness. This is about 160 pages long and I think I was uneasy by page 32, very worried by page 60, and scared senseless by page 100 or so. An eerily brilliant read.

Rainbow Man by P.B. Kane - Talking about books that scared me senseless, new release by award-winning horror writer Paul Kane - his first foray into YA - is a short but satisfyingly terrifying read. There's nothing massively original in the story of a John Doe who washes up on the beach at the island of Shorepoint after a storm, and appears to bring prosperity only for things to go horribly wrong on the island. However, Kane's prose drips with menace, his lead characters - Daniel, who originally finds the man, his younger brother Mikey, and friends Jill and Greg - are well-written, and the final reveal and climax is very exciting. Well worth checking out, and I hope that Kane writes more for this age range.

The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer - My new favourite NA novel of them all. Two childhood friends, one a rising star in Hollywood, find that there's more to their feelings than friendship - but will the outside world and Kendall's adoring fans allow them to declare their love? This is packed full of likeable characters and has superb chemistry between the two dual narrators. It's also not as explicit as people generally seem to expect NA to be - I don't think the 17+ warning is particularly reading. It's sizzling hot, though, thanks to that wonderful chemistry. A fuller review I did can be found over at The Bookbag.

Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley - Natalie's family are hugely Talented, with her mother having a super-high IQ, her elder sister being a human lie-detector, and her younger sister being a supergenius and chameleon. Meanwhile, she can talk to cats. Her Talent, so weak that she has hidden it from everyone except her closest friends, finally becomes useful when she sees a cat on TV belonging to Hollywood blogger Easton West screaming "This is not my person! Save us!" With West on her way to Chicago, where Natalie lives, to catch up on the gossip on a film inspired by Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Natalie and her friends decide to try and save the day.

The first half of this is pretty good fun; the second half is fabulous. The entire book is completely bonkers, in case the plot summary hadn't given that away, but you can't help but smile at any book with an army of cats racing to the rescue, can you? I really liked Natalie as a narrator, although didn't think Oscar and Melly were quite as good characters. The cats steal the show, though. I'm not an animal person at all but would have happily adopted Rufus, Purr Daddy, or several of the others, as they're dripping with attitude and have really well-rounded personalities and great dialogue. There's also a little bit of romance which never dominates the story. Overall, a wildly inventive plot and the fabulous cats make this well worth reading.

All I Want For Christmas by Esme Taylor - I don't normally review adult books here, but I'll make an exception for this Esme Taylor novella as I'm a huge fans of hers under her real name. (For any of you who've somehow missed this, ET is actually Keris Stainton.) The name change for this one is probably a good plan, as it's rather more explicit than her teen stuff - nothing approaching 50 Shades levels or anything like that, but worth noting that there's a few hot scenes in it. However just as in her three YA contemporary books so far, this has lovely warm characters, a real attraction between the two leads, and a breezy writing style. It's the story of Ella, who's dreading Christmas until she meets her boss's nephew Joe. Joe needs something to take his mind off the prospect of having to settle down with his family after some time travelling, and he and Ella think that a quick fling will be enjoyable. Could there be more to their feelings than just a mutual desire for sex, though? This is one for adults and mature teens, but it's definitely one I'd recommend to them.

1 comment:

  1. I havent read any of these either! I seriously fail at this whole reading thing.