Wednesday, 5 February 2014

YA Recommendations: Find Me, The Poison Boy and Prince of Shadows

Title: FIND ME
Author: Romily Bernard
Obtained: Bought from Tales on Moon Lane as part of my Bookshop Buy feature.
Why I Read It: Picked it up because I hadn't actually heard of it - rare for me when it comes to recent YA contemporary releases! - read the first chapter, and was completely hooked.
Genre: YA contemporary thriller
Highly recommended

Wick Tate is given Tessa Waye's diary, with a simple note - "FIND ME". Tessa and Wick haven't been friendly for years, though, so Wick is tempted to just ignore it - even when Tessa turns up dead. But when Wick finds out that whoever was responsible for Tessa's death has now set their sights on Wick's kid sister, she's forced to take matters into her own hands.

I was hooked on this right away because Wick is a brilliant narrator with a fantastic voice. She's a computer hacker who uses her talents to earn extra money by checking out men who women think might be bad news. Her background is a really difficult one - her father is a criminal and she's worried that he may track her and her sister down, while there's a cop who seems to know that Wick's doing something illegal and keeps hanging around the house. Due to her background, Wick is also struggling to believe that things are now going to go right for her - can her fourth set of foster parents really want her? It's a compelling portrayal of a really damaged girl who's got lots of problems but works hard to overcome them.

Other characters are similarly strong; I particularly liked Wick's relationship with kid sister Lily while there are several suspects as to who the villain is. I called it right at one point but then kept changing my mind! I also thought the motivations for various characters acting in the way they did were very believable.

Overall this is a tense read with a stunning climax; I will be hugely excited to read Bernard's next book! And speaking of hugely excited, she's been kind enough to offer a few signed copies as a giveaway - RT the tweet embedded below before midnight tonight to enter, and check Snuggling on the Sofa soon if you want another chance. 

Author: Fletcher Moss
Obtained: I won a signed copy ages ago and just hadn't got around to reading it.
Why I Read It: It's been on my TBR pile forever; a mix of the Branford Boase nomination, a great post about it on And Then I Read A Book, and Fletcher writing me an awesome guest post over on finally got me to read it.
Genre: YA historical adventure
Highly recommended

Young Dalton Fly is a poison boy, tasting the food for people in the city of Highlions to stop them falling victim to people who want to ghost them. While he's built up something of an immunity to dangerous substances, it's certainly not foolproof - and we see this right at the start as his friend Bennie dies horribly, with Dalton waking up covered in his blood. Out for revenge, Dalton is determined to track down the killer, but there are people equally determined to find him - with a ragtag band of friends he hastily assembles, can he avenge Bennie, or will staying alive be too much of a problem?

Part of me is kicking myself for taking so long to read this one, but part of me is thinking that at least it's meant I have less time to wait for a new one from Fletcher Moss! We don't have confirmation for book 2 but his Twitter bio describes it as 'in the pipeline' - and that's a very good thing, because I'd love to read more! Having said that, a pet hate of mine is series books finishing on cliffhangers, so you'll be pleased to know there's a really satisfying resolution to this one but with enough left open to raise a really compelling question about the next book.

This is great for a number of reasons - it stands out as a real adventure (I kept being reminded of Susan Cooper's classic The Dark Is Rising sequence despite there being not many surface similarities. However they've both got a large number of superb characters and clever plots which brilliantly build up the tension.) Dalton himself is an excellent main character, tough but realistically so, while the girl he meets, Scarlet Dropmore, is wonderful - it's great to see a female character who can handle herself rather than needing rescuing. Similarly their friends Sal, the youngest son of the mapmaker, and Luke, a girl who rails against the 'pig-dog' men who dominate the city state, accompanied by blind cuddly rabbit Hoppy, are really well-rounded.

In addition, I loved thelanguage Moss uses. I didn't discover until the end there's a glossary listing the meanings of words such as 'dreckwit', 'wet yourself', and 'Gannet', but it's easy enough - and more fun - to work them out for yourself because of the context Moss uses them in.

Overall a definite recommendation to all fans of adventure!

Author: Rachel Caine
Obtained: I bought it last week (even though it wasn't technically out until a couple of days ago; I got very lucky there!)
Why I Read It: It's a Romeo and Juliet retelling, how was I meant to resist?
Genre: YA historical
Highly recommended
Think you know the story of Shakespeare's tragic lovers? Think again. Master thief Benvolio brings you the real tale of how it happened, along with Mercutio's downfall and Benvolio's own feelings for Rosaline.

I absolutely love Shakespeare retellings and Romeo and Juliet is perhaps my favourite of his plays - Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream pushing it close - so when I saw this, from an author I like, I was thrilled. Caine has created a superb narrator in Benvolio, some excellent supporting characters - particularly Rosaline and Mercutio - and really brings Verona sharply to life in this book.

I think it's one which is actually stronger the further away from the original play it gets - the first 100 pages or so are set before we get to the famous ''Do you bite your thumb at us, Sir'' scene which opens the Shakespeare tale. Because we don't know what's coming next, they're a great way to confound our expectations and introduce new aspects of the characters. When we get to the events of the play themselves, I found the scenes which were actually in the original to be fairly interesting but those which took place 'off-stage', as it were, far more so.

My only real complaint is that the blurb made this sound like a romance between Benvolio and Rosaline would be centre-stage here, and they meet early on and there's great chemistry between them, she doesn't actually appear that much -a shame, as she's a fabulous character.

A minor criticism, though - there are so many other compelling characters to read about, with Tybalt, Benvolio's domineering grandmother, and his young and manipulative sister all well-drawn villains - that this is one which all Shakespeare fans should definitely consider.

I know Caine is already prolific, with the massive Morganville Vampires series to her name (and a screen version in progress!) and her adult Weather Warden books, but I'd love to read more historicals from her!

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