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Book Review: Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott

Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by impassable forest and haunted by a terrible beast. Once a month, the beast claims another victim, from children to the elderly, including Hana’s brother. Since then, Hana has done whatever it takes to keep her parents alive as food dwindles and despite her father’s neglect.

Then the beast chooses her father. He wanders into the forest just like all the others, but this time Hana goes after him and manages to bring him back. Alive, but unconscious, and he won’t wake up. Hana begs for anyone in her village to accompany her into the forest and fight the beast to break the spell on him. No one volunteers, so she goes alone.

There, she fights the beast and while she survives, she is badly wounded. A strange, cloaked man finds her and takes her to his home in the middle of an enchanted garden, tending to her wounds for several days. Hana is intrigued by his kindness and mysteriousness, down to the fact he doesn’t remember his own name.

But he does know about the curse on her village, its origins, and the true monster of the forest. Only by working together and finding the truth of the curse can he and Hana free her father, the village, and themselves.

This is an AMAZING retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Japan. I love Zoe Marriott’s books and this one is one of my favorites. Hana is a tough, determined heroine and the story itself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Zoe Marriott doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the curse’s backstory. Great book!

Recommended Tea: Jasmine Green Tea

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Camp Nanowrimo

IT’S ALMOST HERE!! Camp Nanowrimo starts in 6.5 hours (for those of us on eastern standard time at least). I have my story mostly planned out, though there are quite a few holes. Check out my two posts about my story to be here and here. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about teens with super powers. But not in a big, us against the world type of story. I’m focusing much smaller, on an incredibly powerful teenage girl and her battle with PTSD, as told through the eyes of the guy who falls in love with her.

Wish me luck. I’ve never written a story told entirely from the guy’s perspective. Should be interesting!

I’m also using Scrivener to write this manuscript and so far I am really liking it, as far as outlining and research goes. I’ll write up a review for it once the month is over.

If you’re also participating in Camp Nanowrimo, comment below and let me know what your goal is and what your story is about. And good luck to all!

Book Review: The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

Four years ago, Nico’s older sister, Sarah, disappeared without a trace. She was supposed to be meeting her boyfriend in the park but never made it, making Nico the last person to see her sister. After a long investigation and countless false leads, Nico thinks her sister is dead and has given up hope she is every coming back. And a part of Nico is glad to be free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then they get a call. A girl in a children’s shelter claims her name is Sarah Morris. Nico and her parents fly to see her and make a visual identification. Sarah has finally been found. But amnesia coupled with malnutrition and abuse has changed her from the bright, good at everything, casually cruel girl Nico remembers to a kind, gentle girl.

Is this really Sarah? And if she is, what happened to her to change her so much?

This book was very good, a quick fast read. The relationships between all the characters was realistic and intriguing, especially between Nico and Sarah. The author keeps you guessing until the end, but the end was very satisfying!

Genre: Young Adult

Recommended Tea: Chocolate Chai

 

NaNoWriMo is OVER!!!

And I did it!!! And it’s not even midnight yet. I’m so proud of myself (you know, for not writing the 50,000th word at 11:55). I completed 50,264 of The Funeral Ghoul and…well…21,590 of Believing in Magic. So not quite what I wanted to accomplish, but hey, I’ll take it! I’m hoping to complete them both before the end of the year.

I think one big difference this year from last year is that The Funeral Ghoul is actually moving along very well. There aren’t any huge plot changes needed (yet) and I know mostly where it’s headed (and as I warned Mez, it’s going to be heartbreaking) though the details are a little fuzzy. Can’t wait until I get there!

As for Believing in Magic, it’s harder for me simply because it’s not really moving. It will, I think, in a scene or two. The main problem is that I’m trying to convey how hard it would be for someone with social anxiety to be whisked of to a completely new world with new rules and new ways of doing things. Which means that I find myself describing how hard it is for her to find her new classroom by herself and how she hides in her room instead of having to face the horror of the mess hall…and so the story itself creeps by.

So there’s how my NaNoWriMo went! Let me know if you participated and how you did and what your plans are now! Happy December, everyone.

Book Review: The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

In Nadia’s world, there is the Forgetting every twelve years. Everyone’s memory in the entire city is wiped out. The only way anyone knows who they are, who they love, and what’s going on is from reading the books tied to their wrists and waists. Everyone has one and it is their lifeline.

Only Nadia is the exception. She remembers her life before the last forgetting and she remembers the horror of the weeks leading up to it. The next Forgetting is approaching and already the city is breaking down. Because if everyone is going to forget, there are no consequences. And if you don’t like who you are, you just have to write a new book.

Nadia is also the only one who slips over the city walls and explore the forest surrounding it.  The city has secrets, and no one notices quiet Nadia. Or do they? One day, as she climbs back over the wall, she is seen by Gray, the glassblower’s son. Now she reluctantly has a partner in crime, just as she begins to discover the secret to the Forgetting and the true evil of the city.

This book was AMAZING! I loved Nadia. She was curious, rebellious without being obvious about it, smart, and had to be reminded to talk. And Gray was a great counterpart and romantic partner for her. He was charismatic, charming, and head over heels for her. Which utterly confused her. So great romance without it being the main point of the book. The rest of the characters were also very realistic and interesting, from her family to Gray’s family to the leaders of the city.

The plot was also engaging and had plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. I think the author, Sharon Cameron, really thought through all the ramifications of a whole city that forgets. About what happens to people with no books, about how the truth can be manipulated, and about what a terrible power remembering when everyone else forgets can be. It’s fascinating how people have adapted to what is to them a natural part of life. And everything gets explained with very good explanations.

Basically, read this book if you like awesome characters, a fascinating story, and a good romance. Seriously, read it.

Recommended Tea: Chocolate Pu-erh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance

 

 

Dear Brewhaha Book Cafe Subscribers,

Mez here, after a long, silent summer. I do hope the summer months have been filled with all manner of Story reading & writing delights… not to mention tea (because it’s never too hot for a cuppa, I say!).

A little summer update from us: I made the voyage from England to sunny Georgia for a five week visit, which meant that Bri & I actually had the chance to catch up face to face, drink lots of tea together, review each others’ latest manuscripts (in HARD COPY!), and talk about the future of this blog.

And while we’re on that subject, we do apologise for leaving you in a lurch for so many weeks without hide nor hair of us. BUT, cross our hearts, we didn’t forget you. In fact, we have some exciting news to share about some changes on the horizon…

As lots you know, Bri & I are both working independently on our professional writing careers, & things have been coming along to the point that we feel it’s time we both host our own author pages (as Bri’s audience is mostly YA enthusiasts while mine is more Middle Grade).

What does that mean for Brewhaha? The good news: the cafe is not going anywhere! We will still be bringing you the best of our YA & Middle Grade book adventures, + news updates on our own work, + links to my new writing course (coming soon!) & our new author pages!

So thanks for sticking it out with us over the summer months. We’ve missed you, & we’re excited about getting back to sharing the wonderful world of Story with YOU!

We’d love to hear about your summer — any  book recommendations for us? Bring them on!

Yours truly,

Mez

Book Review: The Wolf Wilder (Katherine Rundell)

Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl …”

From that captivating first line, Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder (published by Bloomsbury) blends the fabric of old-favourite fairytales with the unexpected.

The “dark and stormy girl” – Feo – lives with her wolf-wilding mother Marina and three wolf “siblings” in a remote, snowy cabin not too far from St Petersburg, Russia. Though their lives are quiet, private and essentially wild, Feo’s happy family fall under the watch of the Tsar’s Imperial Army, and in particular one General Rakov who’s reputation for ruthlessness has left the nation trembling and helpless to fight back.

But not all the Imperial Army are bad. Feo accidentally befriends Ilya, a young soldier who would rather dance for the Imperial Ballet than fight for Rakov. He is won over by the wolves, and, eventually, Feo is won over by him.

When Rakov attacks Feo’s world, arresting her mother and burning her home, Feo and Ilya along with her wolf pack set out for St Petersburg to set Marina free. Extreme snow, cold and ice are the least of Feo’s struggles as she battles to save her mother. Loss, heart-ache and the relentless evil of Rakov threaten to discourage her from her course.

But then help comes from unexpected places. When Feo’s path crosses that of a young revolutionary a village full of fierce children ready to follow her lead, Feo’s lone quest grows into the most extraordinary revolution, and one Rakov never saw coming: a revolution of of children turned wild. The pack is coming…

I thoroughly enjoyed Katherine Rundell’s characterisations in The Wolf Wilder. Feo is a strong and admirable character, but with believable weaknesses and by no means able to succeed without the help of friends. And I especially loved her profound relationship with the wolves. This book will appeal to lovers of adventures with a dark and dangerous side, the kind that heroes are born out of, as well as lovers of snow and far-off lands. Rundell’s stories always have a classic feel about them, yet her voice is unique, keeping her them fresh and exciting.

And as you’ll see from the photo, this book is Hugo approved. *He thinks he’s a wolf… shhhh!

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Adventure

Recommended Tea: Russian tea (of course) with plenty of sugar

 

Book Review: Winter Magic (curated by Abi Elphinstone)

There’s no time like Winter for story-telling. Winter Magic capitalises on the season of snow, magic and wonder in binding together this collection of wintery short stories by eleven Middle Grade & YA front-running authors. Contributors range from new stars of kids’ lit like Michelle Harrison (Thirteen Treasures) to long-lauded authors such as Michelle Magorian (Goodnight Mister Tom). And the whole collection is capped off beautifully  with a short-story from the curator herself, Abi Elphinstone.

It’s safe to say that with eleven stories representing eleven styles, Winter Magic offers something for every reader’s taste, be it elves, witches, avalanches or dragons. Each short story takes the reader on a tingling winter’s adventure of one kind or another in relatively few pages, and each one brings her back again to the warmth and safety of a happy ending.

From a Middle Grade or YA writer’s perspective, this collection is absolute gold dust. Rarely do we have the chance to read well-known writers’ responses to a prompt (such as “Winter Magic”), and even more rarely do we come across their work side-by-side. I found it hugely instructive to quickly read across the breadth of styles, voices and approaches that are leading kids’ fiction today. It was an excellent reminder of the huge variety on the market, and an encouragement that there is always room for new voices and new imagination in the Realm of Story!

Of course my principal purpose for reading Winter Magic this December was not literary or market analysis, but pure hot-chocolate-drinking-curled-up-under-blankets-winter-reading pleasure. And it certainly delivered the goods!

I daren’t tell which story was my favourite, but here’s a little clue: it starts with “Snow” and ends in “Dragon”, and was written by the curator. That story, in my opinion, captures the stuff classics are made of – adventure, whimsy and heart. *(And what’s pretty cool – she signed my copy of Winter Magic!)img_3545

But don’t take my word for it! Go and read them all whilst Winter lingers! 

Genre: Middle Grade & YA

Recommended Tea: hot chocolate

Book Review: Eliza Rose (by Lucy Worsley)

Eliza Rose is the up-close and personal account of young Elizabeth Camperdowne, a girl growing up among the nobility in Tudor England. From her youngest days, Eliza is taught to put her duty to her household name and family above all else. As her story opens on her twelfth birthday, she is already prepared to become betrothed to a stranger for the sake of making a good family alliance.

But when her father’s marriage plans for Eliza go sour, she is sent instead to a finishing school for girls destined to go to King Henry VIII’s Royal Court. When Eliza is finally selected to become a maid of honour at Court along with her confident, worldly-wise cousin Katherine Howard, she is ecstatic! But life at Court proves more of a battlefield than a ball for the two cousins, and Eliza must determine who her true friends are and where her real duties lie.

I found myself spell-bound by this story from page one.  Thanks to the first-person narrative and to Lucy Worsley’s in-depth knowledge of the time period and Hampton Court (where a large part of the story takes place), the book reads more like a genuine memoir than a fictional story. And for the history enthusiast, there is so much to glean from this book about Tudor day England and life at Court. But even for readers with less inclination towards history, Eliza Rose is the sort of honest, believable character that modern girls can easily relate to and it is impossible not to become fully tangled up in her plight.

A word of warning: I had expected this book to be aimed at Middle Grade readers, probably due to the picture of a young girl on the cover. In fact, the material is better suited to teen readers. The dark and even violent nature of life at Court in those days and the duties young girls were expected to perform may be disturbing to younger readers. But for those slightly more mature bookworms, I highly recommend Eliza Rose and hope Lucy Worsley intends to write many more historically-inspired books like it!

Genre: Young Adult historical fiction

Tea: Earl Grey Latte

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