Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

  • Age Range: 10 and up 
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • ISBN-10: 0385389582 - Hardcover $16.99
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (March 10, 2015), 206 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

Nightbird starts off as the story of Teresa, nicknamed Twig,
who believes herself to be as inconsequential and forgettable 
as a twig. She's got a lively imagination, a big heart, and pluck. 
But she's been told to keep her light hidden, not to make friends, 
to stay apart from the other children. Her mother doesn't let her 
socialise and doesn't allow any of the neighbours to visit. It's 
largely because of a curse that was put on their family hundreds 
of years ago by the Sidwell witch. This curse and avoiding further 
damage has ruled the lives of Twig and her family members.

When a young family moves in next door, Twig finally finds a
friend of her own. It changes everything for her but she's
terrified of disappointing her mother and impact of the curse.
She tries to avoid her new friend and it's heartbreaking to
read her loneliness - the new friendship brings so much
to the story.

There's strange graffiti, a possible curse and witch, a
possible monster all mixed in with the young folks in a
small town in the Berkshires. Friendship, finding one's
way, and growing into one's self are all key themes in 
this delightful book.

About the Author:
Alice Hoffman, an American novelist and screenwriter, 
was born in New York City on March 16, 1952. She 
earned a B.A. from Adelphi University in 1973 and an M.A.
in creative writing from Stanford University in 1975 before 
publishing her first novel, Property Of, in 1977. Known for 
blending realism and fantasy in her fiction, she often 
creates richly detailed characters who live on society's 
margins and places them in extraordinary situations as she 
did with At Risk, her 1988 novel about the AIDS crisis. Her 
other works include The Drowning Season, Seventh Heaven, 
The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, The Ice 
Queen, and The Dovekeepers. Her book, The Third Angel, 
won the 2008 New England Booksellers' Award for fiction. 
Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, were m
ade into films. She has also written numerous screenplays, 
including adaptations of her own novels and the original 
screenplay, Independence Day. In 2014 her title, The 
Museum of Exteaordinary Things made The New York 
Times Best Seller List.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Will Starling by Ian Weir

  • ISBN-10: 1586422308 - Paperback $17.00
  • Publisher: Steerforth (February 3, 2015), 480 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
The Reckoning of WM. Starling, Esq. a Foundling, concerning Monstrous Crimes and Infernal Aspirations, with Perpetrators Named and Shrouded Infamies disclosed to Light of Day, as set down by his Own Hand in this year 1816.

London, 1816. The Napoleonic War is over, Romanticism is at its high tide, and the great city is charged with the thrill of scientific discovery and Regency abandon. The nineteen-year-old foundling Will Starling returns from teh Continent, having spent five years assisting military surgeon Alec Comrie, and now is helping Comrie build a civilian practice in London's rough Cripplegate area. This means entering into an uneasy alliance with the Doomsday Men: graverobbers who supply surgeons with cadavers for dissection.  There are wild rumors about Dionysus Atherton, an old university friend of Comrie's and the brightest of London's emerging surbical stars, whispers of experiments on corpses not quite dead, in a bid to unlock the mystery of death itself.  Will owrks obsessively to ferret out the truth; the investigation twists and turns through brothels and charnel houses and the mansions of Mayfair.

Will Starling is set in the years after the Napoleonic War during a time when Doomsday men rob graves to help the surgeons and medical schools find cadavers with which to further their learning. Our lead character and narrator comes across clearly, with a strong character and powerful voice and the disadvantages of poverty, ugliness, and having been raised an orphan. He's both street smart and quite sharp, he's learned to live by his wits and is quite fond of large words and pretty turns of phrase. He's not shy about pushing himself forward and keeps his eye out for an opportunity. He apprentices to a surgeon and travels in the underworld, this leads him to discover the possible shady tactics of other surgeons and an illicit attempt to raise the dead.

The writing and language is sharp and distinct. Will Starling is an unusual lead character and for those who enter his world, someone hard to forget.