Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Jiddy Vardy by Ruth Estevez

 click on image to see on Amazon

I’ve read three books by Ruth Estevez recently and enjoyed them all but this, her latest, is fabulous.
Jiddy Vardy is an extraordinary young woman, living in a world that is dangerous and exciting. She is later introduced to another world, a world that is her birth right, and she finds herself conflicted. 

Is it a young adult book or one written for adults? Certainly Jiddy is a young person who encounters many of the dilemmas facing young people even today. She experiences her first kiss. She is kissed by another man but this second lover doesn’t come up to expectations. The ending is upbeat but open, so typical of a young adult text. Yet the novel would also be very appealing to adults.   

This is arguably also an historical novel. Estevez creates a convincing setting and makes good use of the senses to pull us right into the story. 

Estevez’s prose style is very evocative, making the novel an excellent read.  

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Today’s Specials – A Selection of Literary Delights by Oldham Writing Café

This anthology is produced by the writing group that call themselves the Oldham Writing Café. They meet twice a month in Oldham.  See their Facebook page here .

As a publisher who produces anthologies I know how difficult it can be putting together a cohesive book where every piece pleases the reader. This can be even more difficult when it is a collection by diverse connected writers rather than something where all pieces revolve around a central theme.
However, this one succeeds in keeping the reader engaged throughout. Whilst I liked some pieces more than others there was nothing I disliked and I enjoyed reading some fine writing.

The stories and poems are grouped in to Starters, Main Courses and Deserts. The final section of the book is called Speciality Coffees and gives information about the writers and the group. This section also includes acknowledgements.    

Worth a look.       

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li

How very unexpected; a novel about a rape is totally engaging.

Winnie M Li was herself assaulted it took her nine years of recovery and hard work for the novel to become a reality.  This is not the story of the assault upon Li but at least we know that she writes with authority.

Protagonist Vivian likes to take herself off on lone hikes and it is whilst on one of these on the outskirts of Belfast that she is raped by fifteen-year-old Johnny. Perhaps it is risky for a young woman to set off alone like that and in an early scene she is propositioned by middle-aged man. Indeed Johnny’s defence argues about that risk. Yet we probably all think that a woman ought to be safe on her own.    

Li gives us both Vivian’s and Johnny’s points of view up to and including the trial and beyond. The trial scene is particularly gripping.

Li does not spare us the horrors of the rape itself, nor of the discomfort of the police examinations and of the trial. 

The writing throughout is tight. Both characters are exquisitely drawn.      

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll

Emma Carroll is a graduate from the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. I personally champion the MA in Writing for Children at Winchester. But then I would do. That's where I got my MA. I have to admit though in Carroll's case they're on to a winner.

She has a diverse portfolio of novels and I'll now try to read some more of them. 

Letters from the Lighthouse is set in World War II. It touches also on the Holocaust. One of the main characters, Esther Jenkins, has come to England on the Kindertransport.

A little unusually for this age group – I would describe this as a fluent reader book, though it may cross over from late Key Stage 2 to early Key Stage 3 – it uses a first person narrative. However this gives Olive an authentic voice and shows us what it was like for a child in that era. 

There is also a very good story, woven together via a carefully crafted plot. Not only is this story exciting and our attention is held but it explores the themes of prejudice and friendship in a sensitive way.  

A lovely read. 

No wonder it was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.            

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Leaving Poppy by Kate Cann

I read a lot of young adult books and I write a few. Back at the turn of the century I pretty well knew every young adult book that was published and labelled as such as well as many that were clearly young adult but that didn't have the label. The new works then were fresh and experimental. The older, unlabelled ones, appealed to the young adult reader and those who like reading young adult books.  Now, it has all become somewhat formulaic even though "high concepts" are continuously brought in.  There are also now so many that it's impossible to know them all.

I've studied quite a few of Kate Cann's books. They border on what I call chicklet-lit but have a darker side and are fundamentally about relationships. I was expecting he same of this one. I found it refreshingly novel.  

Yes there is still quite a lot about relationships and as you might expect the main characters are a bunch of students sharing a flat. Protagonist Amber is on a gap year. In true Bildungsroman fashion she grows over the course of the story. She has two main challenges: disturbed younger sister Poppy and something creepy about the house. I'll say no more about the story and in fact I'm giving no more away here than in the book's own blurb. 

I will say that this book is well written, the chapters are delightfully short, the characters are believable and that we are kept guessing right until the very end. It has an upbeat but open ending. The voice is pleasing.