Posted in 2018, Reads of ..., Usborne

Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour: Matt Killeen’s female hero ‪@by_Matt_Killeen ‬ ‪@Usborne ‬

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

 

Contains Spoilers

Katniss Everdeen is a hero. It seems too obvious to mention. So successful has this character been in book and film form, so universal and ubiquitous has her effect been, that this blog might seem redundant. But leaving aside her personal influence on me – I’m a big fan, the kind of fan who collects dolls and first editions – she’s really a much more complex character than many “strong female” archetypes. Yes, she is strong and smart and gutsy but it is the root nature of that heroism that is worthy of note.

For a trilogy about a revolution, Katniss begins with no interest in starting one. That was never her intention. She was angry about lots of things, but the focus of that rage lay elsewhere. She was angry with her mother’s mental collapse, rather than explicitly angry at the system that allowed her father’s death. She has no love for the Hunger Games, but her only wish is to run away from it.

All Katniss wants to do is protect her sister, her de facto child. She doesn’t volunteer as Tribute with a view to winning or surviving. She believes that she is ending her life to save Prim’s. She isn’t aware of the power of her single-mindedness, or that her skill with the bow is a potential game-changer. The Tributes from District 12 die every single year – with one exception in 74 years, long before Katniss was born. Not for nothing is Haymitch an alcoholic mess. He’s helped send forty-six children to their deaths.

It isn’t that she doesn’t have a rebellious streak. The arrow aimed at the judges during training is a huge overreaction to being ignored. It isn’t a piece of calculation to up her score, although that is its effect. She snaps, as she does outside the hospital in District 8 before delivering a plot defining speech. But this anger is swiftly channelled into a will to survive. To get back to Prim.

She doesn’t begin to hate the Capitol, I mean really loathe its raison d’etre, until Rue is killed. Again, it’s her instinct to nurture – a traditionally “feminine” trait – that leads her to risk a loss. Rue is a surrogate for Prim and the Tribute’s murder is her sister’s death writ large. The funeral flowers are a direct act of rebellion, a funeral rite that interrupts the process of the games – her body cannot be collected while Katniss is there. This isn’t to bring down the Capitol, it’s to reassert some humanity. That, of course, is what makes it so dangerous. It’s interesting that the film chooses that moment to show a riot in District 11, the moment that she herself has crossed the Rubicon and become a threat.

The very second that she believes that both she and Peter can be saved she seeks him out, even though that makes her more vulnerable. She risks death again to get his medicine. Even the final moment with the nightlock, the moment that is the beginning of the end of Snow and the Capitol, does not come from a place of rebellion. She is not willing to kill, or have Peter die for her and he will not do the killing. The trick with the berries is just a way of saving both of them. The act of defiance that it represents is incidental.

When she meets the revolution – District 13 and its conspirators – she is suspicious from the off. For a start, it failed to protect all those she cared for. She suspects that, like every rebellion since the dawn of man, it will end in bloodshed and she’s right.

She only agrees to become the Mockingjay in return for promises of safety and rescue for those same people…and her sister’s cat.

The horrible irony by the end is that despite beginning the journey to save her sister, Prim dies as a result of rebel action. It isn’t that the Capitol – the Nazis or the Empire or whoever – shouldn’t be resisted, it’s just that warfare without compassion is temptingly effective and its cost cannot be calculated. Prioritising the ends, no matter the means, just proves President Snow right. This is a reality about conflict that is as true of World War Two as it is of the rebellion against the Capitol.

Katniss is a hero that changes her world because she cares, because she has an instinct to nurture. The skill with the bow, the determination, the righteous anger – attributes that could be described as male or masculine – are secondary. It is compassion that is the root of everything she does. It is why she is powerful.

Her final act – killing Coin – comes from that same place. She gives everything up at that moment, she can expect nothing but death. But there will be no more Hunger Games. The children of Panem, all of them, will be safe. It is the same deal that she made at the very start.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Reads of ..., Usborne

Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killen

Plot: 

Sarah has played many roles. Dutiful daughter. Talented gymnast. Persecuted Jew. Lost orphan. But now she faces her most challenging role of all. Now she must become the very thing she hates. For the only way she can survive as a spy at a boarding school for the cream of Nazi society is to become a monster like them. A monster who can destroy them.

Discover the girl who can beat Bond and Bourne at their own game, in this utterly addictive thriller from a jaw-dropping new talent.

Characters
Sarah and the Captain are two strong figures within this novel. Sarah has a flawed balance between bravery and naivety that could only be brought about from the time in which the book is set. There’s an empathy readers will have with the orphaned teen in a war-torn Berlin.
Sarah is given a new name and a new role to play, which allows her to come into contact with enemies of her own age. There are a number of characters readers will meet during Sarah’s mission, but it will be Mouse that you will take to your heart.
The Captain does take a back seat for most of the story, but he is an interesting character that I wish I’d gotten to know more. He has a mystery surrounding his character that will leave any reader begging for a sequel.
Plot
I cannot do the plot justice without spoiling it. So, all I will say is that it is a well written historical war story that will not let you catch your breath for a second. The second act takes place in a boarding school setting, that will forever change your ideologies of an education away from home.
The ending is haunting is the current climate. It doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of life outside of the war and the pressures of family. It seeps through slowly, but the reveal still hits you like a brick.
Writing
I have so much respect for Matt Killen. He has written such a strong female protagonist that is flawed and impassioned; layered within a story that it firmly placed within a researched history. Matt proves, with this one novel, that you don’t always have to stay within your comfort zone and write what you know.
It a compelling and emotion-fuelled read, that works well as a standalone. However, I’m hoping Matt has at least another story waiting for fans who will be undoubtedly begging once they read that final chapter.

Posted in 2017, Book clubs, Ramblings, Reads of ..., The British Book Challenge, Usborne

THE EXTINCTION TRIALS, Q&A with S M Wilson

ET-Blogger-tour

HG: Which character, if any, did you relate to?

SMW: It has to be heroine, Storm.  She’s angry and feels abandoned, and I felt that as I wrote her.  But Storm has a big heart and a strong sense of ethics and I hope that comes through.

HG: If you were to enter the trials, what would your motivation be?

SMW: Food!  I will admit to being a complete food lover.  I’m not particularly sporty.  The chances of me completing any of the trials is less than slim, but, if you were waving chocolate at me I would probably have a go.

HG: Comparisons to books like Hunger Games and Jurassic park are inevitable despite your book’s unique storytelling and plot. Are comparisons something you embrace as a writer?

SMW: I am so flattered by those comparisons.  Nowadays people only think of the Jurassic Park film, but the book by Michael Crichton is fabulous, so atmospheric and I hope I’ve captured a little of that in mine.  As for the Hunger Games, I read all those books, I loved the fight-to-the-death element.  So, yes, I’m happy with comparisons!

HG: You are able to write with two distinct voices for both of your main characters; was there a process behind this? 

SMW: No.  I’m very methodical.  I just wrote it in alternate chapters. I found it easy as both characters have very different motivations.

HG: Who would survive longer in the Trials; Katniss Everdeen or Alan Grant?

SMW: Nope!  That’s completely unfair.  You can’t make me choose between them.  Can I go for Chris Pratt’s character in Jurassic World instead please? Owen Grady looks like he could survive just about anything with that twinkling smile.  Can I be controversial though and say I might send a raptor after the heroine…

HG: Going to go all Sherlock on you now. If you were to give your fans three, individual and unrelated, words as clues for the next book, what would they be?

SMW: The title of the next book would have to be one of them: (TO BE REVEALED this weekend on #SundayYA!) It speaks volumes!

The other two I would choose are mystery and surprise.  They’re going to venture into some unexplored territory and get a few shocks along the way!

HG: Normally, this sort of book would have readers clambering for your back catalogue of books. Being your debut novel, everyone will be a little disappointed and be itching for that sequel. What 3 books would you recommend while they wait?

SMW: One I’ve already mentioned Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.  Love, love, love it.

The other two are YA.  Warcross by Marie Lu and Invictus by Ryan Graudin.  Read both of these books this year and just loved them.


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Posted in 2017, Book reviews, Bookshelf, Han, Holly Bourne, Ramblings, Reads of ..., Usborne

Soulmates by Holly Bourne #Bookreview #Han

Soulmates by Holly Bourne

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The first book of Holly’s I read was Am I Normal Yet? It talked to me; I related with the anxiety portrayed in the book. She’s my go to writer and I’m off to her next book’s launch on the 20th September.
I devoured the Spinster Saga and I’ve handed them to anyone who was looking for something to read.

Soulmates is Bourne’s debut novel. It only pales because of her writing going from strength to strength. You can see Bourne’s Spinster characters being developed here in this novel and a lot of her style and tone is here too.
There’s what feels like a supernatural element to this romantic story. I had it in my head that Rain and his manager were angels and there was something larger at play. So I was surprised when it fell firmly into reality with a little artistic sudo-science. It was a nice touch. I just wished that I’d read it before the others as it didn’t gel with my expectations.
I liked Poppy; she was a good and well-rounded character. It was just a shame I didn’t really like anyone else, especially Noah who was too Edward Twihard for my liking.