These be the novels I read in February! I also read some real nice graphic novels, which I reckon I'll talk about in a separate post! Yippee! Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School was lent to me and then I bought my own copy because I liked it so much! How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne was so much fun, definitely lived up to her previous work which I have loved. She just really does teenage voices well. The Marvels by Brian Selznick is a beautiful big heavy shiny book full of illustrations and I really enjoyed the format. And Melinda Salisbury's The Sleeping Prince, a much anticipated sequel, did not disappoint!
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School
Ooh I right enjoyed this! Set in a boarding school for students with special gifts, the daughters of criminal masterminds and outlaws, and famous bug scientists. Amy Thomsett is sent by her mother after her gift for floating has become too strange for her to deal with. With her new friends Amy sets up The Moth Club after the mysterious Hooded Conspiracy abducts a girl from their dormitory. The mystery deepens as a serious case of mass-hysteria, mass-hypnoses completely overtakes the school. I was hooked pretty quickly and loved the way this novel unfolded. I found there to be some weird pace-slowing exposition of characters in a few key places. Also there were SO MANY NAMES to remember, with each student at any time being referred to by their first, second, or nickname, or by their house. This problem probably could've been solved if I had found the big list of students listed by year and house in the back... None of this dampened my enjoyment though. If you enjoy dreary coastal boarding schools, beating up bullies, moth species, female friendships, and superheroes in wartime, then this book is for you.
How Hard Can Love Be?
The much anticipated second book in the Normal Series. I loved Am I Normal Yet? and Holly Bourne's previous book The Manifesto on How to be Interesting. This one follows Amber, as she leaves the Spinster Club for the summer to spend a few months in California with her mum and her mum's husband, at their summer camp. There's the usual strong feminist discussion throughout, with Amber skyping back home to Evie and Lottie, and with her new camp friends. Amber navigates the summer with said fellow camp councillor friends, trying to figure out her relationship with her emotionally distant and recovering alcoholic mother. There's also a very handsome prom king boy called Kyle who is showing a lot of interest in Amber, much to her befuddlement. So a whole load of issues to tackle all with Holly Bourne's signature humour and wit. Loved it! Not sure what ground the third in the Normal Series will cover, I mean surely that's everything now? Maybe pubes? Not enough Spinster Club pube chat yet for sure.
On a very different note, I got this beautiful shiny gold book for Christmas and was super intrigued to see how the balance between illustration and text would read. A story of shipwrecked theatrical sailors in 1766 leads in pictures to a story of several generations of sons working and performing in a London theatre. The illustrated story stops with a fire at the theatre and we pick up in 1990s London, with a schoolboy named Joseph who runs away from boarding school to his uncle's bizarre historical townhouse, where he slowly begins to unravel the mysteries of Billy Marvel and his theatrical descendants. The unfolding of the mystery was very enjoyable and seeing the relationship between uncle and nephew grow was rather lovely. It got me right in the heart. And the real stories it's based on were very interesting too. This beautiful book is definitely not style over substance.
The Sleeping Prince
The Sleeping Prince is the sequel to The Sin Eater's Daughter, which I read in March last year actually. I've been very organised and gone back to have a look at that review, in which I say it felt very much like the first act in a bigger story. The Sleeping Prince certainly proves this, really widening out understanding of the kingdom. I also was hoping for more movement in the form of travel, and um, TICK, so much of this story takes place on the road, exploring different towns, and it definitely fulfils my wish of more depth of understanding of the rest of the kingdom, after seeing it through Twylla's very insular world. The sequel in fact takes place from the perspective of an entirely different female protagonist. Errin, an apothecary, who is the sister of the guard Lief from book one, is living in poverty with her ailing mother in a rundown town. Mysteries and mythologies are all getting untangled from real history in this book, as a war is beginning following the waking of the titular sleeping prince. Errin seeks help from the mysterious Silas to find a cure for her mother and after a lengthy period of suffering in the horrible run down town, takes to the road to take matters in to her own hands. A strong sequel I think! And I am verrrrry much looking forward to the next book where I'm hoping we'll see more of Errin and Twylla's worlds colliding.
Look out for a post on the graphic novels In Real Life, Skim, and Embroideries!