Posted by: culturescouse | March 20, 2016

Book Review – Radio Silence

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What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

A YA coming of age read that tackles issues of identity, the pressure to succeed, diversity and freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and you’re just not feeling it? You can see that it’s well written, and you understand why other people are raving over it, but it’s just not for you? Turns out that’s how I feel about Alice Oseman’s books. I read Solitaire in January and found it really difficult to get through, but because that was her debut, I wanted to give her second book a go and was thrilled when I was approved on Netgalley for Radio Silence. I enjoyed it more than Solitaire, but I still didn’t connect with it, and I think it’s clear that I just don’t get on with Oseman’s writing. I wish I did.

Radio Silence is about Frances, who has always projected an image of perfection – top of her class, head girl of the school, headed to Oxbridge, gets on well with her mum – while hiding her true self in her fanart for a podcast called Radio Silence. Nobody knows who’s responsible for producing the show, until one night she bumps into Aled Last, Frances’ neighbour and brother of her first crush, who drunkenly tells her it’s his work. They quickly become fast friends because she can be herself around him, and she begins collaborating with him, until suddenly his identity is revealed and the proverbial hits the fan.

My main problem is I didn’t particularly like Frances. I mean, I get the wanting to get good grades and go to the best university – I went to a very academic school myself, and I remember the pressure well – but she’s so insular and I just couldn’t empathise with her. And I got very annoyed at how she reacted when Aled’s secret was revealed to everyone (and his own reaction). I also got very annoyed at the seemingly arbitrary decision to not name Aled’s university town (which I’m assuming was Durham thanks to the mention of St John’s College). Cambridge is named multiple times, why not Durham? It just seemed so unnatural for Frances to keep referring to it that way and it bugged me every time. Every. Time. And obviously that threw me out of the book.

Having said that, I was involved enough to want to know what happened, and once they got to ‘Aled’s university town’ I finally got to the point where I didn’t want to stop reading, but it was too little too late for me. I think a large part of the problem is that I am definitely not in the right age group, which seems fine when it’s someone my age writing the book, but not when it’s a 21 year old who is obviously more in touch in what young people are actually like nowadays.

Sounding like an 80 year old (I promise I’m only 36!) is probably a good place to finish. I’d be interested in hearing what other people think about the book, especially if you are in the demographic it’s aimed at. Let me know in the comments!

ARC received for review via Netgalley

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Posted by: culturescouse | February 11, 2016

Book review – Not If I See You First

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Parker Grant doesn’t need perfect vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.

When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there’s only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.

Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.

I’d been seeing a lot of hype about this book on twitter, and I was intrigued enough by the plot summary to want to read it, so I was glad I was given the opportunity via Netgalley. Fortunately it lived up to  the hype and I very much enjoyed it, even if it was a little bit predictable.

Parker Grant is not the nicest person in the world – she prides herself on telling it like it is, and has very little tolerance for people who can’t take that – but it’s an attitude that has been born from her experience, and she uses it as a shield. As the book opens, we learn that her dad died a few months earlier, and she’s learning how to cope without him, at the same time as her high school is merging with another, creating change there too, and it’s clear from the outset that she’s *not* coping. She has nightmares about the day she found her father’s body. She refuses to cry about his death. She talks to him. She hates the fact that her aunt and cousins have moved into her house, even though they only did it to care for her, but what I particularly liked about Parker is that you can see her changing and growing throughout the book, and she comes to realise that she still has people who care about her and that yes, it is ok to ask for help when you need it. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t annoying sometimes, but she’s a grieving teenager, and I can understand why she acted the way that she did.

The book flowed really well (unlike this review – I should never leave it more than a day or two after reading to review!) and I found it difficult to put down. I can’t speak to its accuracy on portraying a visually impaired person, but it seemed realistic and nothing jumped out at me as being awful. I was less enamoured by the love story than I maybe should have been, but I think that was because I found the female friendships, and the grieving aspect, more interesting.

In short, I enjoyed this book enough to read others by the same author, and I would recommend it if you like contemporary YA stories.

Posted by: culturescouse | September 1, 2015

Book Review – Demon Road

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For anyone who ever thought their parents were monsters… Amber Lamont is a normal sixteen-year-old. Smart but insecure, she spends most of her time online, where she can avoid her beautiful, aloof parents and their weird friends.

But when a shocking encounter reveals a horrifying secret, Amber is forced to go on the run. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers and red-skinned, horned demons – Amber hurtles from one threat to the next, revealing the terror woven into the very fabric of her life. As her parents close in behind her, Amber’s only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…

I’ve never read a Derek Landy book before. I wouldn’t say Skulduggery Pleasant passed me by, as such, as it’s certainly a series I plan to read at some point, but I haven’t managed it yet, and so I came to this book without the weight of expectation that I suspect his long term fans have. Having said that, the publicity machine had been working overtime on this one, and I’d been intrigued from the moment I saw the Demon Road stall at YALC. When I saw the book was available on Netgalley, I pounced.

I’m not going to lie; although I enjoyed the book (and gave it 4 stars on goodreads), it’s not a book I’m particularly enthused about. The fact that it’s taken me over 2 weeks to write this review speaks volumes. I liked Amber, but I didn’t love her, and some of the things she does in the course of the book are just downright stupid. She’s supposed to be an intelligent girl, but her behaviour doesn’t illustrate this at all. I’ll cut her some slack in that she has just been through a fairly traumatic experience and isn’t thinking straight, but there’s only so long you can use that excuse for. She’s also a bit whiny. However, Amber is amazing compared to Glen, who I found to be so annoying that he almost stopped me reading. He is *meant* to be annoying, don’t get me wrong, but no character should be so annoying that you can’t cope with the book anymore. It kind of defeats the purpose. The only character I out and out loved was Milo, the stranger with secrets who is helping Amber on her road trip.

Fortunately, the story was good enough to keep me interested, and parts of it were actually creepy enough to make me worry about being able to sleep. There’s no denying that Landy is a great writer. I also think that having got the introductions out of the way, and now that Amber’s starting to come to terms with her situation, book 2 will be a lot better. I’m certainly intrigued enough to read the next one.

ARC provided via Netgalley

Posted by: culturescouse | August 27, 2015

Book Review – All of the Above

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When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are, all in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria . . . but then there’s Polly. Love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

While I was in Edinburgh I happened to notice a tweet from either Hot Key Books or James Dawson, mentioning that the Book Festival bookshop had early copies of All of the Above, James’ latest book (out 3rd September). Obviously I hot-footed it up there just as soon as I possibly could, and then spent the Sunday night and Monday morning obsessively reading it. I think it’s his best fiction book and I loved it.

I am not, as I think has been mentioned before, a teenager, but I used to be, and I’m not sure I’ve read a book that sounded as authentically like a teenage girl as this one does. Dawson has Toria’s voice down perfectly, and even though I am now (eeek!) twice the character’s age, so much of what she goes through in this book, and how she feels about it rang true to me. And it’s not just Toria. She’s surrounded by a group of friends who are so real that I genuinely cared about every one of them, and as events took their course, I was on a rollercoaster of emotions. I desperately wanted everything to work out for them all. The parents are really well written too, and a great example of how to include realistic adult characters in a YA book.

I can’t talk about the bits I really want to talk about, because they’re really spoilery, and I want you all to go and away, read the book and be as affected by it as I was. Suffice to say it’s brilliant. I had a book hangover after finishing it, which was a bit awkward as I had a four hour train journey to entertain myself on. I spent my final morning in Edinburgh sat in the cafe in Waterstones on Princes Street, unable to put the book down without finishing it. I embarrassed myself completely by being very emotional in public, which I try to avoid at all times! I just absolutely loved this book, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Posted by: culturescouse | August 25, 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The Shows Part 2

No idea what's going on here - that's the Fringe for you!

No idea what’s going on here – that’s the Fringe for you!

So Thursday and Friday could both count as successes – I was at a hit to miss ratio of 2:1, which seems pretty good for Edinburgh. Saturday was even better.

I follow My Theatre Mates on twitter, and had seen Terri Paddock’s post mentioning Love Birds, a musical written by Robert J Sherman which she was involved in. As a big fan of Mary Poppins, the writer’s surname was enough to get me interested! I also knew it was appearing at the half price hut most days, so that was my first choice for Saturday and I really enjoyed it. It was light and frothy, but a lot of fun. Set in a revue in the 1920s and populated entirely by birds, there’s a very slight story about the owner’s financial difficulties, which are exacerbated by a diva-ish star. The star walks out, and a *very* familiar group of penguins take the now-empty slot in the revue. There’s a couple of love stories, some dastardly mischief-making, a through-line about change not necessarily being a bad thing and, obviously, a number of songs. As I said, I enjoyed it a lot at the time, but I can’t remember any of the songs, and very little about the story (as you might be able to tell!). I’d like to see a more developed version at some point though, and I do hope it has a life after Edinburgh.

Street events on the Royal Mile

Street events on the Royal Mile

When I first thought of attending the Fringe many years ago, I really thought I’d focus on the comedy aspect. That did not turn out to be the case when I finally made it. I only saw one relatively big name comedian (and that’s probably only within a certain subset of people), and that was Mitch Benn on the Saturday afternoon. I’d never seen Benn before, but I’d seen his wonderful I’m Proud of the BBC video and heard a lot about him. He was amazing. Every song was hilarious and some of them rang a lot of bells personally. If I was only going to see one decent comedian, Mitch Benn was a good choice, and if you ever have the opportunity to see him live, I would recommend you take it.

Another recommendation I’d picked up from various publications was We Can Make You Happy, and it had appeared at the hut on Saturday so I bought a ticket. I had made a massive miscalculation in how long it would take me to get from The Stand 3 to George Square however, and only just made it. Make it I did though, and it was well worth the rush. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting quite the level of audience participation that there was, but I’d say it was one of my favourite things I saw at the Fringe. I can’t really explain what made it so good – it really is something you need to experience for yourself. I’d just make sure you’re surrounded by people you know!

George Square

George Square

My final Saturday show was Griffin and Jones on the free fringe. A comedy-magician duo, they are absolutely brilliant and well worth the fiver I threw into their hat at the end of the show. The act is hilarious, slightly disturbing and technically superb. Again, I can’t really say more without spoiling it, but I loved it.

Sunday was my last full day at the fringe, and I must admit I didn’t really make the most of it. I didn’t start until after midday, when I went to see Afternoon Delight at Just the Tonic, which was one of those compilation/best of shows. I kind of hope it wasn’t a best of though, because it was pretty awful. Stephen Bailey was good – if it hadn’t been my last day and I’d had a gap I’d have tried to make his full show – and I liked Norris & Parker, a sketch duo, but the others really didn’t do anything for me. I’d tell you who they were as an anti-recommendation, but I’ve blocked them from my brain!

Fortunately I moved from there to I Am Not Myself These Days at the Pleasance Courtyard, and it completely blew me away. A one-man play based on a autobiographical account, it tells us the story of Aqua, an alcoholic drag queen in 1990s New York, trying to cope with life and her crack-addict boyfriend. Tom Stuart, who wrote as well as starred in it, was amazing, and I particularly loved the way it was obvious which character was talking from the changes in his voice and body language. I loved it.

The Pleasance Courtyard

The Pleasance Courtyard

My absolute favourite show at the fringe though, was my last one – Christina Bianco: Party of One. Bianco has a massive youtube following due to her amazing voice and skill at impressions, and her show was just fantastic. She’s funny and sincere, and clearly having an absolute ball doing what she loves. Well worth seeing if you ever get the chance, and I was really glad that that was the note I ended my Fringe on. So. Much. Fun.

So that was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for me. I do kind of wish i’d taken more risks, but I didn’t really have the money, and doing that necessitates more planning than I had done. I am more than happy with the choices I did make though. If I make it back next year, I’m going to be much more pro-active about planning it, and I’m going to make sure I’ve saved properly. As a first attempt though, it was a good one.

Posted by: culturescouse | August 24, 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The Shows Part 1

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Edinburgh Castle in the sunshine

So I went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Boy, was that a busy few days! I don’t think I particularly went overboard on shows – I saw 13 in 4 days – but there was a *lot* of walking, and I now officially shattered. I loved being there though. The atmosphere in the whole city, but particularly on the Royal Mile and in the bigger venues, was amazing, and I spent a fair amount of time just wandering and taking it all in.

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The Royal Mile

I stuck to my plan, and used the Half Price Hut a lot, although not exclusively. Fortunately, my friends had bought me membership for the festival and I was also able to take advantage of the Friends 2 for 1 offers for a couple of shows (as well as use the exclusive Friends’ Box Office, which I was very grateful for when I saw the queues at the main box office. I highly recommend the Friends scheme if you’re thinking of going to the Fringe – it starts at £30 and was well worth it, if only for the time saved!). I had a few things in mind that I wanted to see, but actually I only made it to three of them, and I’m ok with that.

I started with a Free Fringe comedy show, Fox Sake by Stella Graham. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t really my thing, although she did improve as it went on. It wasn’t an awful way to spend an hour though, and it didn’t cost me much, so I reckon it was a win in the end.

Fortunately, my second choice for the day was much better, although relatively expensive. Having missed it in London, we went to see An Oak Tree at the Traverse Theatre on Thursday evening. Now that was £20 well spent. The play was written by and stars Tim Crouch, and he’s joined every night by a different actor, who has never seen the script before they step on stage. They’re guided by Tim throughout the play, either verbally or with script pages, but they have as little idea as the audience as to what’s going to happen. It’s an extraordinary play, but I found the concept particularly fascinating. The play stands or falls on the skill of that second actor, and I imagine it must be terrifying for everyone involved. Our second actor was Gary McNair, who was starring in another play at the theatre, and he was brilliant. I’d have loved to go and see his own play, but sadly it was pretty much sold out for the time I was there, and really outside of my price range anyway. Based on his skill in An Oak Tree though, I’m happy to recommend A Gambler’s Guide to Dying if you happen to be in Edinburgh. Obviously I would also recommend An Oak Tree if you ever get the chance to see it.

Perusing the flyers

Perusing the flyers

Friday was a miserable day, with that horrible pervasive drizzle that soaks you horribly quickly. I started with As Is, and I wasn’t sure about it at first. It starts with a couple, Rich and Saul, trying to divide their belongings after they’ve split up, spitting recriminations at each other, until Rich admits he’s been diagnosed with AIDS. Thus begins a series of scenes of the following months, interspersed with accounts from a nurse who works in the hospice Rich eventually ends up in. I didn’t find either of the main characters particularly endearing, even though they were going through a horrible time, but I still ended up with tears streaming down my face, so make of that what you will. It’s set in the 1980s, and the way Rich is treated by friends and family is horrendous. I’m very glad that things have changed, to some extent at least.

I moved on from that to The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part III: The Deliverance. This was something I’d only come across by trawling all the sites reviewing Edinburgh, but it was getting 4 star reviews across the board, and it appeared at the half price hut so I decided to give it a go. Although it is the final part of a trilogy of plays, each one stands alone, so it didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen the other two (although I wish I had been able to). Maureen Beattie was phenomenal as The Woman, but I did have a slight disconnect at listening to words which clearly showed the play was not set in the UK being spoken in a strong Scottish accent. That’s a minor quibble though, and it really is a very good play, which is worth seeing.

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St Andrew’s Square at sunset

My third show of the Friday was Rent at Paradise in Augustines. Oh, Rent. I should probably point out that Rent is my second favourite musical, and it makes me very emotional. This may not be an objective account. *g* I couldn’t resist once I realised there were productions at Edinburgh, because it’s been years since I last saw it and I miss it a ridiculous amount. I was really wary of maybe seeing a not-very-good production, but somehow I managed to choose the company that had worked with Anthony Rapp, which explained so much when I found out, because it was brilliant. Not perfect – there were issues with the band drowning out the vocalists, and some of the voices were maybe a little harsher than I would have liked – but it was so good. The entire cast were brilliant, although particular credit should go to Michael Quadrino as Mark and Jonathan Christopher as Collins, both of whom I loved. It felt almost like it had the very first time I saw Rent, way back in 2000 on Broadway, it was *that* good. Highly recommended.

Sadly, I followed that with something I very much regretted seeing – Closer than Ever. It’s not that the cast were bad, it just seemed a woefully poor choice for a theatre group consisting of 17-20 year olds (I’m guessing there, but they were high schoolers and college students) to produce a show that was entirely about sex and life experience. (Some of the cast were bad though, and had very weak voices that I could barely hear a couple of rows back.) It was a shame to end what had been a brilliant day with a less than stellar show, but that’s Edinburgh for you!

This seems a good place to split my recap actually, so part 2 will follow shortly. Let me know if you’ve been to the Fringe, and what you saw!

Posted by: culturescouse | August 12, 2015

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

So tomorrow morning I’m off to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time ever. I’m feeling really disorganised about to be honest – most of my planning energy went on Nine Worlds, and I’ve been suffering from con crash the last couple of days so my motivation hasn’t been at a high level. I have a ticket for Mitch Benn on Saturday, bought by the friends I’m staying with, and I’d really like to see An Oak Tree at some point, but that’s about as far as I’ve got. So I have a new plan: I arrive at 10.22 am, and I’m going to spend the rest of the morning just wandering Edinburgh, soaking in the atmosphere and picking up fliers to inspire me. I sort of accidentally spent festival preview day in Edinburgh last year (I’d travelled up to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games and headed over to Edinburgh without really realising the festival was starting!), and while I didn’t get a chance to see anything, I loved just being there. I also have the app on my phone, so I can check if there’s anything interesting at the half price hut, and use the what’s nearby feature for impulse visit. I’m hoping that this will result in seeing things I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen from the brochure. I’ll let you know how it goes, but if anyone does have any recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Posted by: culturescouse | August 10, 2015

Nine Worlds 2015

So Nine Worlds is over for another year. As it did last year, the convention has re-inspired me to actually do something with this blog, but we’ll see how long that resolution lasts this year! Once again though, I loved it. It’s so brilliant to have a weekend with like-minded people, covering such a wide range of topics, and run by a group of people so committed to making it an inclusive, safe space for everyone. It’s true that it doesn’t always work – there was some inappropriate tweeting on Saturday – but I honestly believe that the team are willing to learn from their mistakes, and I’m sure that next year will be even better. I also think they deserve recognition for the things they have put into place – I know people who very much appreciated the quiet rooms, and the communication preference and pronoun badges are wonderful. At one point, I left the convention for food and found myself checking people for the badges – wouldn’t it be amazing if these existed in everyday life?!

So, what did I do with my four days? I mostly spent them in the All of the Books and Young Adult tracks. I had plans to challenge myself with the panels I chose, but to be honest, the books were just too tempting. I did manage one History panel (and how awesome is it that there *was* a History track?!), on Historical Heroines, which I very much enjoyed, and I kind of wish I’d spent more time in that track. Only, y’know, not enough to actually do it. Instead, I listened to a variety of authors talk about building characters and worlds, using myths and legends, writing gender and sexuality in YA and why death is such a popular concept in genre. I watched both ‘big debates’ (sci-fi vs fantasy and TV vs books vs comics vs games), which were both hilarious, participated in a gin tasting, attended a number of publishing parties/book launches (the Jo Fletcher Books party wins the title for the best though), met a ridiculous number of authors and got an equally ridiculous number of books signed (I’m a fangirl. I cant help myself.). There are some authors whose books I’m now planning to buy, simply because they were so awesome on their panels and/or when I met them (Snorri Kristjansson wins this year’s prize for favourite author whose books I have not yet read, but there was some stiff competition). There are other authors, some of whose books I *have* read, who made me determined to read everything else they’ve ever written (Joe Abercrombie, Sebastien de Castell and Frances Hardinge, although to be fair, I was already pretty determined on that count with all three of them). I fangirled ridiculously at Frances Hardinge and Rebecca Levene and probably embarrassed myself horribly by chatting to Tom Pollock while drunk. I finally met Emma Newman, who was just adorable. I also got to meet people I only knew online, as well as catching up with friends I haven’t seen in ages. I basically just had the best time and I’m already looking forward to next year! Tickets for 2016 are already available at the Nine Worlds site and I highly recommend attending.

(And yes, further to my post last year, I stayed in the con hotel, and it was sooooo much better. It makes everything much easier, and I was very glad I didn’t have to carry Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy with me for the entire day! Or the ridiculous number of free books I ended up with for that matter. (Thanks Gollancz and Hodderscape!) It was also lovely to be able to escape to peace and quiet whenever I wanted to, so that was definitely a good decision.)

I didn’t take any pictures while I was at the convention – there was some amazing cosplay around, and I’m sure other blogs will be posting their photos, but I was too busy running from panel to panel. However, I have taken these two since I came home:

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(That is my lovely, lovely pile of signed books – and yes, I lugged all but one of them all the way down to Heathrow and back up to Liverpool (The City’s Son, which I already owned on kindle, was one of my free books this year and I honestly couldn’t be happier that I now have a complete physical set) – and my badge and lanyard, which has now joined last year’s Nine Worlds and Loncon 3 badges.)

So that was my Nine Worlds. How was yours?

Posted by: culturescouse | March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett

This is not the post I intended to make tonight. It’s certainly not the post I wanted to make tonight, but I’ve spent most of the evening trying not to cry. There have been lots of posts all over the web tonight, about what Terry Pratchett meant to his fans, and this is mine.

I was a teenager when I first picked up one of his books. I can’t remember who prompted me to try it, but I have a vivid memory of sitting in the stands of my school’s athletics field, reading Reaper Man and giggling insanely at the trees who evolved to show their age on their trunks in the hope it would stop humans cutting them down to read it from their circles. It was the footnotes that really did for me, because Terry was a master of them – he always knew what would work best out of the main text, and the footnotes are still some of my favourite parts.

His books improved as they went on. The earliest Discworld novels were essentially a list of jokes, tied together by the loosest of plots, and then he suddenly seemed to hit his stride, with the perfect combination of funny and story. He wasn’t afraid to use his books to lampoon our world, and his satire could be biting and breathtaking, but it was never not humourous. He was a master storyteller, and I am bereft that there will never be another new book from him for me to read.

Everyone has their favourite set of books. I’ll always have a soft spot for Rincewind, the Luggage and the Unseen University, I adore Granny Weatherwax and Gytha Ogg and I cheer for Vimes and the Watch (and in fact, Night Watch is probably the book I’ve read most often). But DEATH will always be my favourite, perhaps because of that time in athletics when I should have been watching my classmates and found I couldn’t stop reading.

I was lucky enough to meet the man himself at the second Discworld convention, and he was exactly as you would expect – a proper gentleman, who always took the time to speak to his fans, even if they just accosted him in the bar. I’m overwhelmingly sad that I’ll never get the chance to meet him again. I knew, abstractly, that it would be coming, and at some point soon, but I never imagined what it would actually feel like when it did. I can’t describe what it feels like we’ve lost today. I’m utterly heartbroken. Terry Pratchett improved my life immeasurably with his books and the world seems a slightly duller place without him in it.

RIP Pterry. I’ll miss you.

Posted by: culturescouse | January 8, 2015

Book review – The Darkest Part of the Forest

I had so many intentions with this blog at the end of last year, but life got a bit crazy and I failed to follow through on any of them. I hereby promise to do better this year. I still plan to do a mini review of last year, as well as a reading challenges 2015 post, but right now I’m here to review The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.

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Near the little town of Fairfold, in the darkest part of the forest, lies a glass casket. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie prince that none can rouse. He’s the most fascinating thing Hazel and her brother Ben have ever seen. They dream of waking him – but what happens when dreams come true? In the darkest part of the forest, you must be careful what you wish for…

First of all, let’s look at that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous? Brilliant job by the design guys and gals. Even if I hadn’t been on the edge of my seat waiting for this book, I’d want to read it after seeing that. It sums up all the darkest parts of the fairytales I grew up with and loved, and really suits the book itself.

Second of all, is it any good? Well, yes. An unequivocal yes actually. I loved it. The Darkest Part of the Forest is a twisty adventure with a dash of romance and intriguing backstories for all the characters. We meet Hazel and Ben, who used to fight faeries together as children, their friend Jack, a changeling whose human mother defied the fae to keep him, and Severin, the horned faerie prince, cursed to sleep in a glass coffin until he was freed. Over the course of the book, we see them all grow up, making potentially life changing decisions, and every single one of those decisions seemed organic and realistic for the character. I cared about these people almost immediately, and desperately wanted to find out more about them. I particularly liked that you could see their development over the course of the flashes of backstory we got, as well as the present. The story itself moves along quickly but doesn’t shy away from some nightmareish images (reading the scene in the school right before bed was not the best idea!), and I found the book almost impossible to put down.

So would I recommend the book? Obviously that’s a yes. I think this might actually be my favourite book by Holly, and I’ve read almost all her YA books (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is on my TBR pile, and I plan to get to that within a couple of months). It takes all those things we loved about faerie when we were little and twists them to remind us that those fairytales we grew up on were the sanitised versions. The old faerie? It’s a whole lot darker.

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