Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Habit by Stephen McGeagh

I expected not to like this and intended to read it in a sort of detached intellectual way. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is dark.  And no, it isn’t a comfortable read. There is plenty of foul language. We encounter some quite nasty scenarios. Yet it is engaging and gripping.
This is set in present day Manchester with a huge fantasy / horror theme. Yet it is not gratuitous horror. This city certainly has its creepy moments and we could easily imagine that what lurks behind the doors of its many night clubs is actually what Stephen McGeagh suggests.
This might be described as a new adult novel. Protagonist Michael is young and disaffected. He makes several mistakes yet somehow we like him. McGeagh captures his voice well. He has created a character that is rounded and plausible.
The book is published by Salt, a publisher we can always rely on to offer us something a little bit different, something that will make us think.  

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler

I was privileged to go to a reading of this at the beautiful Portico Library in Manchester. This was hosted by Carol Ann Duffy and was part of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
For Liz Kessler this is a very interesting novel. She actually wrote it some time ago, and now its time has come. It is very different from a lot of her other material. Previously she wrote more fantasy and for younger children. This is a real life story and features an issue that is very important to her.   
Jodi Picoult describes this work as “a coming-of-age story with a twist.”  English teacher, Miss Murray, becomes the object of Ashleigh Walker’s love. Ashleigh gradually becomes aware of her own sexuality. Many people around her are supportive. A few are not.
Kessler uses a first person present tense narrative. This is not unusual in young adult books and gives an immediacy to the text.  We can really hear Ashleigh’s voice.
The author also manages to achieve a good balance between pace and emotional closeness. The story progresses at a pleasing speed yet we are allowed enough time to get into Ashleigh’s mind and feelings and to get to know her really well.