What I’ve been reading – Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E. Kerr

Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M.E. Kerr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book. I adore Dinky, for declining to be brainwashed and cooperative like a good little robot. And also for her name. And Natalia, for… well, it’s hard to say. She’s certainly a sweetie, but a bit too willing to collude in her own oppression. It’s difficult not to have a certain affection for her, though. Tucker OTOH is just annoying, and John too.

I can’t believe Kerr is the same author who wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, though. Wow.
Well, she isn’t, that’s all. On checking, that was all just in my head, which explains a lot! It did seem an odd conjunction of styles and subjects.

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What I’ve been reading – Dance On My Grave by Aidan Chambers

Dance on My GraveDance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m unable to write about this book without vague spoilers being involved. Because the romance between the MCs is so fully, perfectly realised and completely credible, such anticipation built up… That I was COMPLETELY FLIPPIN’ CRUSHED by further developments and the ending!

CRUSHED! I’m still grinding my teeth about it. I have a bit of a grudge against this book and against Chambers, now.

Still really good, though. Especially how delicately the issue of the different assumptions two people can come to a relationship with is dealt with, how what seems obvious and inevitable to one might be overstepping and alarming to another. And regarding bereavement, the treatment is a lot more subtle than the ‘life goes on’ platitudes of a lot of YA, and for that matter adult, fiction.

First love is wonderful and painful and awful, and this book really makes that truth live.

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What I’ve been reading – Black Virus by Bobby Adair

Black Virus (Black Rust #0.5)Black Virus by Bobby Adair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, but if I hadn’t pressed on past the first couple of pages then I might never have known it. The opening scenes were quite slow and flat, almost awkwardly written! But I persisted a bit, and the story quickly picked up speed, incident and excitement. It’s quite odd how different the initial impression was, almost as if the manuscript got into the hands of an editor who decided they were going to ‘improve’ the initial introduction to the book – it actually reads like a different writer.

But most of the book is great. I like the lack of sentimentality, the hard edge and realism of Christian, the adolescent MC. He sees the world as it truly is, both before and after the apocalyptic events that wreck human existence, and he sees human motivations without rose-coloured glasses too. It makes him unnerving to most people, since ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’. But I like him for it.

There is a fight scene early on that is brilliantly written, concise but with every necessary detail supplied and the choreography of the scene implied without laborious plotting out and the written equivalent of anatomical dolls to diagram the action. (The polar opposite of a fight in a paranormal romance I read recently, which went on for pages and went to ludicrous lengths to describe the movement of every pinkie finger and the emotional responses of the participants.)

And the climax, when it comes, had me putting my hands over my eyes as if I were watching a really good and bloody horror film. Shocking, but brilliant and clever and almost funny, rather like the violence in Fight Club. I don’t normally care for violence in books or films – it has to be this well-done for me to appreciate it.

Recommended, really well done and worth your time.

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What I’ve been reading – A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Le Guin, but this isn’t a cosy anodyne fantasy with feel-good endings and a hero to root for. Hi, Harry! It’s bleak as life itself, and morally stern and sometimes frightening, even for an adult perhaps. The stuff of nightmares for a sensitive kid, if you’re not careful about choosing the right recipient in your gift-giving. Ged is a little bastard who grows into an old git, with not much interim period. Power is misused, love is broken, gifts are unfairly distributed. Some mistakes are irrevocable, others pay the price for your sins.

Welcome to the world, magical or otherwise. It sucks.

Beautiful, perfect, a monochrome wash. Unforgiving. I really love this book, did I forget to say?

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What I’ve been reading – Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down (Watership Down, #1)Watership Down by Richard Adams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve loved this book for years. My favourite parts are mostly about the Black Rabbit of Inle and El-Ahrairah, and Fiver’s visions. Also adore Bigwig’s fight with Woundwort. This book is so emotionally involving, I found it almost draining and too much to process as a kid. Probably easier for an adult to handle.

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What I’ve been reading – The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the RyeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Hands up, I’m a biased reader, I abhor Salinger. This is where I started and it was all downhill from then on. I detest judgemental adolescents, casual homophobia and the whole damn precious affected consciously-erudite cutie-hipster Glass clan. Well, clan isn’t near pejorative enough. Infestation?

Blee yuk no.

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What I’ve been reading – No Place Like by Gene Kemp

No Place LikeNo Place Like by Gene Kemp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pete is no more than flotsam bobbing aimlessly on the waves, when he fails his ‘O’ levels/GCSEs and heads off to the local community college. Because that’s what kids in his situation do, and he doesn’t have any better ideas. He’s letting life happen to him. But gradually he begins to get his bearings, identify positive influences and helpful people, make a few friends, get a few ideas about things he might actually like and want to do.

It takes longer for him to spot the malign influences, the folks to avoid. Still longer to understand that not all wrong ‘uns can be harmlessly evaded, and confrontation isn’t always optional.

It’s a pivotal point in adolescent life, but Pete takes those first steps, gets a grip on who he might be or become. All without lasting hurt or mortal wound. But for a light, sweet YA novel, it’s amazing how clear it is that that’s partially his own efforts, and partially the merest luck and chance.

This is really beautifully written, simple and clear, economical, precise and extremely funny. The character of Pete’s dad is especially immortal and hilarious, and there are moments of his character’s contributions to the tale that are as funny as anything in Wodehouse.

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Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E. Kerr – book review

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Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M.E. Kerr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book. I adore Dinky, for declining to be brainwashed and cooperative like a good little robot. And also for her name. And Natalia, for… well, it’s hard to say. She’s certainly a sweetie, but a bit too willing to collude in her own oppression. It’s difficult not to have a certain affection for her, though. Tucker OTOH is just annoying, and John too.

I can’t believe Kerr is the same author who wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, though. Wow.*
*Well, she isn’t, that’s all. On checking, that was all just in my head, which explains a lot! It did seem an odd conjunction of styles and subjects.

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‘Crazy Vanilla’ by Barbara Wersba – Book Review

Crazy VanillaCrazy Vanilla by Barbara Wersba

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I expected a little more from this than I actually got – it felt as if at any moment a profound epiphany might appear, but that promise was never quite made good. Still, I did enjoy it. The best thing was reading about Tyler’s love of nature and animals, which felt deeply real. His opinions and reading about the anthropomorphization of animals in human culture was especially interesting – more so than his personal relationships, really. I found his issues with his older brother’s sexuality a bit tacked-on and not really credible. Still a worthwhile read though.

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