A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Published: 05 May 2011
Format: Paperback 216 pages
General ISBN 13: 9781406334906 ISBN 10: 1406334901

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite YA authors, and with this illustrated edition of A Monster Calls he’s become the first author of young adult fiction to be read by my reading group. For the last year the group’s been hesitant to read young adult fiction, but I had faith this book would sway some of them, but I never suspected it would be a hit with everyone! It’s the first book of 2014 we’ve all considered brilliant. The group finally agree the young adult genre can have a lot to offer – in terms of subject matter, writing style and compelling characters.

A Monster Calls is based on a premise left by author Siobhan Dowd before her untimely death. The main character, Conor, is remarkably calm when he faces down a monster – in the form of an ancient yew tree – that crashes through his bedroom walls a little after midnight and returns time and time again.  Conor tells the monster he’s seen worse, and each time the monster calls the stories it tells – and the emotions Conor feels -become darker . The monster’s visits parallel Conor’s real life as it begins to spiral out of control, blending nightmare and reality so close together it’s difficult to separate one from the other.

Jim Kay’s illustrations enhance the story; the layered pen-and-ink artwork wraps around the text, cradling the words in the quieter moments and in more dramatic moments nearly leaping off the page in nightmarish intensity. A Monster Calls delves into the human condition and is ultimately an exploration of fear and loss (and love and acceptance).

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Title: Ruin and Rising -The Grisha #3

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 17th 2014

Publisher: Henry Holt

More Reviews at: GoodreadsAmazon – Book Depository

Leigh Bardugo created one of my all time favourite YA epics with The Grisha Trilogy, and this final instalment offers up a very satisfying conclusion.

Shadow and Bone (2012) began the tale with two childhood friends growing to know more about their strengths and weaknesses, whilst discovering love. Sequel, Siege and Storm (2013) offered a grittier tale filled with political intrigue and the seduction of power, and in this conclusion Bardugo offers the reader all that went before and so much more. 

Mal has proved his loyalty and stands by Alina’s side, together with the handful of faithful rebel Grisha who aided her in the failed overthrow of Darkling. However, when they decide they must get out from under the Apparat’s thumb to seek out tsarevich Nikolai and the fabled firebird (the third amplifier that will make Alina invincible), we begin to wonder whether Mal will ever see go back to seeing Alina as anything other than Ravka’s saint and saviour. 

The obstacles Alina and her friends must overcome go beyond the physical, they test the characters minds and emotions to the very brink. Will Alina make a practical match with Nikolai, for the good of a nation? Or will she choose Mal when every day he seems further away from her? Is Alina’s search for the third amplifier truly just to defeat the Darkling, or is that connection she feels for him as bone deep as to make her understand his desire for power above all else.  All these questions create a tension that makes this a page turner from start to finish.

If you’ve read any of the books in this trilogy I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Bookish Bucket List #1

A few years ago, The Guardian newspaper put together an article about The World’s 10 Best Bookshops, and one of those shops –  Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht  – stuck in my mind. 
The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time  (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jan/11/bestukbookshops)
It was the first time I questioned why a bookworm who loves to travel hadn’t – intentionally -visited any places featured in books, or focused on books. The article inspired me to say I could, and would! I made a bookish bucket list, populated with things to do and places to visit.
Six years passed by, and aside from a local book festival, my inspired list stayed nothing more than a list. Without my passion and immersion, the words on my list were impotent. So earlier this month, when I visited my family in The Netherlands, I logged on to my sister’s computer, searched Google Maps and… nearly had heart failure! The bookshop in Maastricht was listed as ‘permenantly closed’. Whaaaaaaaaat!!! Sure I’d procrastinated, but now I was ready!
A call clarified everything, sadly Selexyz bookshops ceased trading, but thankfully booklovers everywhere rallied and raised 200% of the funds sought to keep this particular shop trading. With no time to waste, we (moi and a bemused friend – “An urgent trip to a must-see bookshop?” Really?)  hotfooted it to the bus-stop and dashed across Tilburg train station for the next train to Maastricht. 
I can give you all the thumbs up on the fab state of public transportation in The Netherlands – I thought my sister’s car would be a great test subject for my theory that driving on the right side of the road might come naturally to me, but she disagreed. So I discovered superfast wifi at the stations and on the trains too – apparently I’m easily pleased, but it really is fabulous, and I know I’m not the only social media buff to find this congenial. 
Once in Maastricht we power-walked ignoring anything and everything unrelated to our finding the bookshop – some sort of monument in the middle of the road, who cares what it’s about? Several interesting church spires, just how many ancient churches are in Maastricht? Who cares? Independent chocolatiers, patisseries, traditional restaurants, and all sorts passed until we finally walked into the most fabulous bookshop :).
This trip was so worth it! Beautiful architecture, the fabulous new book smell so many book lovers will appreciate, and a cafe that makes some of the best coffee and cakes I’ve ever had. Bookshops always put me in a good mood, and this shop enthused my non-bookish friend too. Most of the books on sale are in Dutch, but there’s a great selection of books in English *I picked up Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance).
My photos haven’t done the Dominicanen Boekhandel justice; for fabulous images of the bookshop visit this Flickr list
What do you think? Will you be putting this bookshop on your list of places to visit? Or have you been to a fabulous bookstore you think should be on my bucket list? Let me know 🙂 

The Book Thief – Film vs Book

Goodreads Blurb: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

My thoughts: The book was well written, cleverly narrated, and populated by compelling characters. It was easy for me to rate the book a strong 4 out of 5 stars. The film, however, has left me with mixed feelings.

On the one hand Ben Schnetzer seemed like the perfect Max – the Jewish man hidden in Liesel’s basement –

although be warned if you attend the cinema with your boyfriend, then you may be accused of mistaking good looks for acting ability. Trust me, Ben Schnetzer can act, that he’s hunky is simply a bonus :). On the other hand, Franz Deutscher doesn’t seem to have the presence he did in the book – if you’ve not read teh book he’s the close-minded, bully in the book, and represents the intolerance of the times. When I say he hasn’t got the presence in the film, it’s not a criticism of actor  Liam Levin, and more a comment on the lack of screen time. Still, at about two hours long it would have been difficult to know where to shoehorn in more screen time for any of the actors.

One of my arguments about the sanitized presentation of the war in the book, is that the readers see things through the eyes of a young girl. There are glimpses of the darker undercurrents, but nothing explicit, and that’s sometimes what we experience as we grew up…an edited, censored experience, which when looking back we’re able to piece together and understand more fully. In the film, however, this doesn’t quite come across – and not for the lack of trying. Indeed, a couple of key scenes I thought worked in the book come across as contrived in the film. The last ten minutes of the film were done very well, and I found myself suddenly saddened that I’d been sitting there critiquing it so severely for most of the time.

No contest, the book wins hands down for me, although in the end I think there’s enough to commend it for a 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you watched the film or read the book? What were your thoughts?

Top Ten Tuesday – Favo(u)rite Fantasy Novels

Top Ten Tuesday by The Broke and The Bookish

Fantasy is one of my favourite genres! In no particular order, here are my top ten fantasy books:

  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore –  Third in series, this book simply reminded me why I love the world of the Gracelings.
  • Crown of Embers by Rae Carson What can I say, this book has strong characterization, vivid world building, action, adventure, romance and humour. Kapow! What more could one want?
  • Reckless by Cornelia Funke. There’s a lovely switch of pace throughout this book, one moment we’re carefully treading Continue reading

Going back to the beginning…

Hi Everyone

As much as I’ve loved my wordpress site, I’ve decided to return to a fee free site. This is because my nearly daily posts aren’t something I can keep up with at the moment.

As far as the fee free sites go…I’ve also decided to return to blogger. It’s simply that I know how to tweak blogger, and enjoy that the experience is really intuitive, which lets me be creative in adapting the templates. There are several wordpress features I’ll miss, and these include the Reader, and the handy notification of comments, and the fab wordpress app which alerts me to comments.

Moving back to blogger was not an easy decision, and I can only hope that my WordPress readers will be happy to visit me over at: http://krweinert.blogspot.co.uk

Katja x

Secret by Brigid Kemmerer

Secret Brigid Kemmerer
EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER.Blurb on Goodreads
Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides.SECRETS IN THE WIND. DANGER IN THE AIR
My thoughts
The writing in this series has always been compelling – the drama and character development do a great job of sucking the reader into the world of the Merrik brothers. In my opinion, Secret is the most well written book in the series. I felt the flow of events in the other books was fine, but not refined, and now I can’t pick a single fault with this latest instalment.
Nick has always been my favourite Merrick brother, and he played a great supporting actor to all his brothers up until he began to take a leading role in his own story, with the novella Breathless. As I mentioned before, the other stories have all been entertaining, but with Secret we get a lot more depth in Nick’s story – and in Quinn’s too. We have complicated relationships to explore as questions of sexuality, self-esteem, domestic violence and long standing family feuds are examined.
In the zodiac, it’s often said that air signs are thinkers and with Nick being an air elemental there’s far more introspection, and a subtler more relaxed slant to the action. Don’t get me wrong, Brigid Kemmerer still delivers high octane actions scenes, but her pacing in this book is much more to my taste – with a healthy dose of reflection.
The story flits back and forth between Nick and Quinn, but we never lose sight of this truly being Nick’s story. Quinn does bring to light an unexpected aspect in what readers might always have considered a given in the Merrick’s lives – the situation that is one Tyler Morgan. Tyler is a bad guy and that’s all I’ve ever had to know. Tyler is a stubborn idiot who refuses to have a decent cathartic conversation with Michael, and that is all I’ve ever believed, but be prepared to learn a little more about Tyler.
Now playing back up cast to Nick and Quinn are the host of other characters, the Merrick Brothers, Hunter and Becca. These characters all act as sounding boards for Nick and Quinn – or emotional punch-bags in some cases! The reactions of Michael, Gabriel, Nick and Chris are all in keeping with their characters, but that doesn’t mean that I saw anything coming. Like I said, the story simply unfolds beautifully.
I’ll be sorry to see this series end, even if it never had the amount of ‘paranormal activity’ I expected there to be. The end is coming up shortly with Sacrifice, and I’m a little worried about the title…it sounds so ominous!
Rating: 4.5