Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods – Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Series: Warren the 13th #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

This sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye begins soon after the first book’s conclusion.Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles. Once again, you can expect stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page along with plenty of nonstop action and adventure!

Review:

I recently read Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye in one sitting on Halloween. I loved it so much I dived straight into the second book in the series, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods. In this instalment Warren and his friends are back, this time in their moving hotel. All the favourite characters are back, including my new favourite Sketchy the monster. Like the previous book it is absolutely beautifully illustrated, and the overall design is stunning. I loved the red theme than ran through the All-Seeing Eye, and now the green for The Whispering Woods.

Whilst this story has plenty of action and excitement, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the previous book. It is a fun and charming read, but didn’t hook me in the same way. That being said I still think it’s a fabulous story, and a wonderful series for children and adults. This book has a much more witch centred theme than the All-Seeing Eye, and I loved the illustrations of the nasty witches and the evil Witch-Queen.

With Warren wandering around in the woods this book is very reminiscent of old fairy stories, and this was something that I really loved about the book. The book has lots of themes that I think appeal to little ones and not so little ones, like friendship, loyalty and bravery. If you’re looking for a fun read this winter, the Warren the 13th books are the gorgeous books you need to snuggle up with at bedtime.


Feature: Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Want My Future Children to Read


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is books I want my future children to read. This is a really hard one! I had a think about books I loved when I was little (they were pretty much all series right enough) so here they are!

1. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

I have been obsessed with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit since I was little and so this would definitely be the one I’d want my children to read. It’s a beautifully written book and I still read it again and again!

2. The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis

I have this beautiful hardback edition of The Chronicles of Narnia that is stunningly illustrated and combines all the books together. I wanted to be Lucy when I was little so I would definitely pass this gorgeous edition down to my own kids.

3. The Secret Seven – Enid Blyton

When I was little I was pretty much addicted to books by Enid Blyton. Although The Secret Seven were my favourite, I’d pass on The Famous Five, Mallory Towers and pretty much all of her books – I think I might need to buy some new copies though, might are a bit dog-earred!

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

I remember getting the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events for my birthday one year and I was hooked, I don’t think I spoke to anyone for the rest of the day. I love this series (and the new Netflix adaptation!) so this one had to go on the list.

5. The Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling

I think Harry Potter will be on a lot of people’s top 10. This magical series has touched so many people, I’d definitely share it with a new generation of readers.

6. Sweep Series – Cate Tiernan

This series is one of my favourites and I think really underrated. The 15 book series follows a young woman who finds out she’s descended from witches. It deals with all the usual high school and teenage dramas all with a magical setting.

7.  Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

I still love Alice in Wonderland today. This fantastic story is one I read over and over as a child. It has pretty much everything. What’s not to like?

8. The Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials was one of the first series that I felt were quite grown up books even though I was still a child. I loved the complex layers of magic and the fantastic settings, I’m so excited to read The Book of Dust and see what’s been happening in Pullman’s fascinating world.

9. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

These books are so sweet and fun and I’ve kept my battered copies since I was a little girl I even have stuffed Peter Rabbit teddies. These books are perfect for little ones so I’m definitely going to pass them on.

10. Eragon – Christopher Paolini

And last but not least! Eragon was one of the first really really big books that I read,  I felt so impressed with myself by managing to finish all the books in the Inheritance Cycle. They are such fantastic books and full of dragons and magic, I couldn’t put them down!

So that’s my top 10! Which books would you want your future children to read? Let me know in the comments!


Book Review: The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit


Release Date: May 25th 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 176
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Following on from the success of Men Explain Things to Me comes a new collection of essays in which Rebecca Solnit opens up a feminism for all of us: one that doesn’t stigmatize women’s lives, whether they include spouses and children or not; that brings empathy to the silences in men’s lives as well as the silencing of women’s lives; celebrates the ways feminism has shifted in recent years to reclaim rape jokes, revise canons, and rethink our everyday lives.

Review:

This is the first book by Rebecca Solnit that I have read. I’ve heard such fascinating things about Men Explain Things to Me so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up. In this selection of essays Solnit touches on a number of different topics, including silence, rape jokes and the way in which rape victims are often seen as partly to blame.

The essays were intelligently written and I found them very enlightening. My one issue with this book is that there is quite a bit of repetition. Some of the essays reference previous essays in the book and provide a summary of what I have just previously written. I’m aware that this is because the essays featured in different places before they were collated, but I found it a tad grating to have so much repetition.

The writing is easy to follow, it isn’t too overly complex and really breaks down our society and drills at the heart of many of the problems we face. I particularly enjoyed “Men Explain Lolita to Me” and the discussions around books that women should not bother reading. I definitely think this book is essential reading for any feminist, and I’m definitely planning on picking up some of Solnit’s previous writings. This book is passionate, thought-provoking and definitely the best non-fiction book I have read in 2017.


Book Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye – Tania del Rio & Will Staehle


Series: Warren the 13th #1
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Review:

This beautiful hardback book has been on my TBR shelf for a little while now, so when I ended up with a day off on Halloween, I knew it was the perfect time to start on this terrific series. I must say that the illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning, and the layout and design is just terrific. It makes for pure enjoyment reading Warren the 13th, and I am hooked on his story. ~

The book is the perfect children’s/Middle Grade story. There’s plenty of adventure as Warren looks after his hotel, and the story is chalk full of magic and mystery. There’s witches, strange creatures and fascinating contraptions. The story moves along at a good pace, and it’s exciting to see Warren complete all the tasks in order to save his home. I loved the setting of this strange Victorian hotel, it was beautifully described and illustrated, and it certainly put me in a spooky Halloween mood!

I also adored the characters. Aunt Anaconda is a perfectly evil villain that both adults and children will love. I particularly liked Warren’s tutor, the old Mr Friggs who hides himself in the library. Our main protagonist Warren is a magnificent main character, a young man trying to look after his family legacy, and protect those he cares about. If you’re looking for a fun and charming read this autumn, I guarantee you’ll love Warren the 13th from start to finish. The book comes to a satisfying ending, but this is only the beginning on Warren’s tale. I for one can’t wait to find out what’s next in store for Warren and his friends in Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods!


Book Review: Seeing Red – Lina Meruane


Release Date: August 3rd 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 170
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I obtained a copy of this book from ReadersFirst

Synopsis:

Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman – one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.

Review:

This was a bit of an unusual read for me. This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but they eye catching cover definitely stood out, and after reading the first impression on ReadersFirst, I dived right in. The book is very beautifully written and explores some really interesting things – when your life is altered so completely, how do you cope? It was fascinating to what Lucina as she attempted to adjust to life as almost blind.

The book is an intense read, and packs a lot into the small 170 pages. The one thing that really stuck out for me is the effects that Lucina’s blindness has on her relationships – friends, family and her partner all become altered in the face of her disease.

The book is at times harrowing and sad, Lucina is a really fascinating character and the stream of consciousness style of the book really lets you inside her thoughts and feelings. She’s angry and funny and determined, all things that make for a wonderful protagonist.

The book is broken up into very short chapters – only a few pages at a time and I did find these short chapters that then often jump to different locations and times a little jarring, but overall this semi-autobiographical novel is a beautiful and intense read that I enjoyed immensely.


Book Review: Bloodprint – Ausma Zehanat Khan


Series: The Khorasan Archives #1
Release Date: October 19th 2017
Publisher: Harper  Voyager UK
Pages: 400
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Harper Voyager kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

In the lands of Candour, the Talisman threaten the authority of the Council with their growing indoctrination of the masses based on their rigid, oppressive interpretation of the Claim; a text orally transmitted from generation to generation, which they have appropriated in order to gain power. Tasked by the Council to fight this is Arian, aided by companion Sinnia and young boy Wafa, who must find the Bloodprint, legendary manuscript the Claim is based on, in order to stop the Talisman and re-establish the truth.

Review:

Bloodprint is the first in a new series by crime author Ausma Zehanat Khan. I confess I’ve always wanted to read The Unquiet Dead and haven’t quiet gotten around to buying a copy (that has since been rectified). Going into The Bloodprint I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but from the get go I was absolutely hooked, and I loved this book from beginning to end.

This book is steeped in blood and action – there is plenty of fast-paced plot to keep the fantasy fan happy, but The Bloodprint is so much more than that. With women living in a male dominated world – they are treated like slaves and not allowed to speak unless permitted by their husbands – is in many ways relevant to today’s media.

One of things I did love most about this book was the immense detail that Ausma put in. The book is very finely crafted, with the history and mythology really bringing the book to life. I’d love to spend an hour picking Ausma’s brain to find out where all these fascinating ideas came from. Her research must have taken a really long time to complete, and it really adds to this excellent story. The Claim is similarly a really fascinating aspect of this book. A magic that celebrates the written word is not something that I’ve come across before, and I really loved this unique concept.

Characters can make or break a book, and The Bloodprint is no exception. Our two main characters Arian and Sinnia are fabulous. Warrior women fighting to break slave trains and save the land from Talisman rule, their sense of companionship and friendship is a wonderful aspect of this book. I also similarly loved Wafa, the young child that Arian and Sinnia rescue. There is also a romantic element of the book (which I won’t say too much about so as not to ruin anything) but it is not in your face, and adds to the story without taking over.

There;s also plenty of mystery, and the reader is left with more than a few questions (I needed book two yesterday). There’s also a few shock twists a long the way, and not everything is as it seems. It really strikes home that in a world fraught with danger, who can you really trust? Each person is often out to further their own gains. I must also say that the cover design is gorgeous, my proof copy is beautiful but I cannot wait to go and buy a finished one for my favourites shelf. This is a truly superb read, and definitely sits in the top of my favourite books of 2017.


Book Review: The Book of Fire – Michelle Kenney

 

Release Date: 27th August 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 384
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was kindly given a copy of this book at YALC.

Synopsis:

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told.

Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders.

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret.

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred Book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever.

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

Review:

This is a vivid and wonderfully written dystopian fantasy. The one thing that I really adored about Book of Fire is the imaginative setting and exciting plot. After a nuclear war, only those who live inside the dome are supposed to exist, but Talia and her family exist on the outside, and they thrive in the natural environment. When part of her family are captured, Thalia has to venture into the dome to save the ones she love. But all is not as it seems inside the domes, and she has some tough choices to make in order to survive and find her way out. I really loved the idea for this book. On one side the outsiders, those living in harmony with nature, living in treehouses and working with the land. On the other those that used technology to live an advanced and clinical life.

Book of Fire is a really interesting read, and it puts forth some really interesting questions about the way we live and the advancements of technology – just because we can doesn’t mean we should. The plot was well paced, with plenty of mystery and action to keep the reader intrigued. There were a few times when I just couldn’t put the book down, so desperate was I to know what was coming next. The world building is also superb, laying down the foundations and ideas well, without dumping all the information on the reader.

The characters in Book of Fire were also fantastically written. Thalia who will stop at nothing to get her family back, her wise caring grandfather and my personal favourite is definitely the mysterious August, he’s part of the elite inside the dome but he isn’t all that he seems. I thought the characters felt very human, the make mistakes and stupid decisions, they aren’t perfect all rounded people. These excellent characters are really what made the book for me and I was rooting for them almost from the get go. Book of Fire is a fantastic read and I really can’t wait to find out what’s next in store.


Blog Tour: Wunderkids – Jacqueline Silvester

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15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and… two very different boys. 

However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal. 

Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run. 

Today is my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous Wunderkids by Jacqueline Silvester! With Wunderkids being set at a boarding school, Jacqueline has kindly written a post about her top boarding school settings in books and film. Take a look!

 

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1. Catcher in the Rye

Though Holden Caulfield’s boarding school only plays a small(ish) part in his story, it’s still and important one. This classic was my first experience with a coming-of-age narrative and a boarding school setting. Thus, it deserves a spot at the top of the list.

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2. Fallen by Lauren Kate

The Fallen series by Lauren Kate centers around two boarding schools, Sword and Cross Reform School in Savannah Georgia and Shoreline School in Northern California, both schools have one fabulous thing in common- they are both populated by angels.

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3. Wild child

A rich and spoilt Malibu teen is sent to a strict boarding school in England as punishment for her latest prank. Hilarity ensues. Featuring Juno Temple, great uniforms, and Alex Pettyfer behind the wheel of a 1958 Austin Healey Sprite.

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4. Little Princess

A young girl is left at a prestigious school in England when her father has to go off to fight in the war. When he is presumed dead, the young girl is forced into servitude. Based on the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this film is beautiful and it will make you cry. I was absolutely in love with this film when I was little.

 

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5. A Great a Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A mysterious, gothic, and beautiful YA series that takes place in 1895 and tells the story of Gemma Doyle, a young girl whose I uprooted from her life in India and send to a boarding school in England. If you’ve read my novel Wunderkids you know that I have a weak spot for creepy, sinister academies.

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6. The Chorus

The Chorus is a gorgeous French film. It’s about a music teacher who starts a job at a boarding school for troubled boys. Once there, he founds a choir to help the boys channel their energy into something positive. It has been years since I’ve first saw the film but I still have the entire soundtrack on my phone and listen to it all the time.

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7. She’s The Man

Cheesy? Yes. But this film is also hilarious, and takes place at a boarding school, and it never once failed to cheer me up. Also, who wouldn’t want to be dorm mates with Channing Tatum?

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8. Never Let Me Go (film)

Based on the book by the Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, this film has everything I love- dystopia, romance, and boarding school.

 

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9. Gallagher Girls by Aly Carter

Boarding school for spies? Yes, please! Paired with Ally Carter’s dynamic writing, great storytelling, and a cast of kickass schoolgirls who can hack into CIA databases and disable bombs. Perfection.

 

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10. Vampire Academy

The setting for this series is St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for Vampire royalty and their protectors. Enough said. Just do yourself a favor and skip the film.

 

Thank you so much to Jacqueline for her wonderful guest post! What are your favourite books/films that feature boarding schools? (Mine has definitely got to be Harry Potter!) Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out the other blog stops!

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Blog Tour: Herself Alone in Orange Rain – Tracy Iceton

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For those that haven’t heard about Herself Alone in Orange Rain yet, can you tell us a bit about it?

Herself Alone in Orange Rain is part two of my Celtic Colours trilogy which explores 100 years of conflict in Ireland. Part one, Green Dawn at St Enda’s, focuses on the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and came out last year to coincide with the Rising’s centenary. Green Dawn’s main protagonist is a schoolboy, Finn, who becomes embroiled in the Easter week rebellion.

But this is not a typical trilogy where part two picks up shortly after wherever part one left off and Herself Alone in Orange Rain is mainly set in the 1980s. The novel is about a young woman who joins the IRA, becoming an active service volunteer for them and taking part in many of the high profile attacks of that period. Before the late 1970s women were not commonly ‘on the front line’ for the IRA but that’s what I wanted to explore so that meant setting the book about 70 years later than Green Dawn.

The main character in Orange Rain is a 19 year old art student called Caoilainn. A family connection runs through the whole trilogy so she’s related to Finn from part one (I’m not saying how– you’ll have to read to find out!). This way I can show how the Irish conflict impacts on one family down the generations. Caoilainn (and Finn) is entirely fictional but her experiences, attitudes, decisions and actions are based on the real life accounts of IRA women from this period. I think people who’ve read Green Dawn may be surprised because part two is very different, telling a more emotive and divisive story. But the one thing that both books have in common, and part three will develop this too, is the cost of conflict.

Where did the inspiration come from for the book?

Once I had the idea for Green Dawn and started doing the research I quickly realized I would be writing a trilogy; there was too much for one novel. I always felt part two would be set during the 1970/80s because, historically, that was a pivotal period in terms of IRA activity but originally I thought I’d be writing about a man because, probably like most people, I assumed the IRA was all male. Then a friend and fellow writer, Natalie Scott, said it would be interesting to tell the story from a female perspective. This was an intriguing proposition that raised lots of questions about the role of women in the IRA and about how that is portrayed in fiction so I started researching, discovered that women had indeed operated in combatant roles for the Provisional IRA and from the extensive research came the novel. In fact there was such a wealth of research to do that the novel actually became my creative writing PhD project.

What was the writing process like for the book, did it take you long to complete?

The whole process of researching, writing and editing took me three years because that’s how long I had to do the PhD. But of that the research and the editing took far more time than the initial drafting because doing a novel in an academic context for a PhD meant I

had to go much deeper with the research. Handily it has resulted in a much strong, more maturely written novel, I feel.

Now that the book is about to be released, what are you working on next?

I’m furiously tapping away at part three of the trilogy which currently has the working title White Leaves of Peace. This concluding part is focused on life in Ireland since the signing of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and will go up to 2016, looking at whether or not there truly is peace in the north of Ireland. Again there is a family tie the main protagonist, a young man called Cian, is related to Caoilainn from Orange Rain (but again, I’m not telling you how).

You’ve written in a whole range of areas, from non-fiction to flash fiction, do you find it difficult switching between them?

I don’t really find switching between types of writing difficult. After I’ve finished doing this feature I’ll be back later today to working on part three of the novel. I just take a short brain break in between, I’ll probably go to the gym. What also helps is thinking about what I’m writing before I sit down to do it. I write in my head constantly and if I know tomorrow I’m doing a short story I’ll be thinking about it when I get up, while I’m in the shower, eating breakfast, cleaning up etc. so that when I sit down I’m already in the ‘short story’ zone.

You’ve also been a writer in residence on several occasions, what was that experience like?

Being a writer in residence is, aside from writing, my favourite writer’s job because it gives you an extended opportunity to work with others on a particular project that really focuses creative energy and sees amazing results produced. When I was working on the Silent Voices project in Helmsley for an exhibit at nearby Rievaulx Abbey I got to work with an entire primary school of enthusiastic young writers who were all thrilled to be able to exercise their creativity.

More recently I’ve been writer in residence for the Crossing the Tees book festival, working with them on a brand new aspect to the festival: a short story competition. And I’ve been privileged to help emerging writers really develop their craft through a series of short story writing workshops and some one-to-one mentoring sessions, hopefully inspiring them to keep writing and one day seeing their work in print too.

Finally, can you recommend us a good book you’ve read recently?

I recently read what I think is one of the most brilliantly creative, experimental pieces of storytelling published in a long time. It’s called This is the End of the Story by Jan Fortune. She happens to be my editor so, admittedly, I read it because I was curious about her own writing, especially when I’ve had to read some harsh, but justified, criticisms of my writing from her. But, having read her novel, I hold my hands up and say my God, she can write and I consider myself lucky to have her as an editor, guiding my creative practice.

Big thanks to Tracy for answering my questions, and be sure to check out the other stops listed below!

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Blog Tour: The Red Beach Hut – Lynn Michell

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Release Date: 4th October 2017
Publisher: Inspired Quill
Pages: 260
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads. Inspired Quill Bookshop
Source: I was kindly sent a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

“Their eyes met and locked. Pulling his hand from his pocket, Neville waved. Once.”
Eight year old Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again.
Abbott, panicked by what he believes is a homophobic cyber attack, is on the run. The hut is his refuge and shelter.

Inevitably man and boy collide. Their fleeting friendship is poignant, honest and healing. But Abbot’s past threatens to tear him away, as others watch and self-interpret what they see.

An evocative portrayal of two outsiders who find companionship on a lonely beach, Lynn Michell’s novel is about the labels we give people who are different, and the harm that ensues.

Review:

 

I took this book on holiday with me because I thought it sounded like such a fascinating read. I unfortunately didn’t get to it until the very last day, and the dreaded wait in the airport. I settled in to start The Red Beach Hut and before I knew it the two hour wait had gone by. I was completely sucked in by this beautifully written book, so much so that I wish I could get the chance to read it for the first time again.

I loved everything about The Red Beach Hut. I could picture the quiet slightly run down seaside town, the kind of place I probably visited with my parents as a child. The images Michell conjours up are so vivid, and so typical of British life. I also thought the characters were fantastic. Child protagonist Neville is perfect, equal parts trusting and questioning. There’s also a host of secondary characters that I thought were really fascinating: Neville’s mum doing whatever she can to make ends meet, as well as the nosy neighbours Bill and Ida who make it their business to get involved with everything that is happening around the little seaside town. These characters felt very realistic, perfectly capturing the essence of real people.

The writing in The Red Beach Hut is enthralling, and I found myself completely absorbed in Michell’s words. The plot is a really fascinating one to think about: a lonely boy makes friends with a man living in a red beach hut, and how that looks from the outside perspective. It gives the reader a lot to think about, and is incredibly relevant with today’s media. I enjoyed The Red Beach Hut immensely, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

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