Book Reviews by Raj

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

AlexAsWellI’ve just finished reading Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2015, originally published in Australia by Text Publishing Company) for a YA Writing Course I’m on at the moment, run by Keris Stainton. Alex As Well is a novel about the difficulties faced by an intersex child, the immediate family and others who interact with child, family or both. For a book that is said to be the first to tackle this subject, there seems to be a lot of over-simplification and a perpetuation of stereotypes, both of which have raised a lot of questions.  Continue reading

The Island by Olivia Levez: Book Review

The Island by Olivia Levez (London: Rock the Boat, 2016).

The Island by Olivia Levez (London: Rock the Boat, 2016).

The Island is a Young Adult début novel by Olivia Levez, due for publication in March 2016. The story is about a troubled teenaged girl, Frances Stanton, or Fran, as she sometimes allows herself to be called. Fran is a complicated person, one who is often not seen beyond the trouble she creates around her. Nobody seems to see that creating trouble might be a cry for help. Nobody seems to see that her home life is a daily struggle for survival. Teachers, social workers, the adults around her all appear to fail her. Continue reading

Melissa by Jonathan Taylor: Book Review

Melissa by Jonathan TaylorJonathan Taylor’s novel Melissa (Cromer: Salt, 2105) is a multi-faceted novel on the impact of decay and loss, of the complexity of events leading up to these, as well as looking at what happens in the aftermath of such events. Anyone who has experienced loss, through death or through personal or societal change, or who is facing the inevitability of a loss, will be able to relate to at least some of the characters and events portrayed in this novel.

It is a study of what happens to one family as they face, experience and then struggle to cope with their loss. It shows that it is not just the immediate family that is affected but how events affect those around them. Continue reading

Glass Scissors by Bobby Nayyar (Limehouse Books)

Photo courtesy of Bobby Nayyar, Limehouse Books.

Photo courtesy of Bobby Nayyar, Limehouse Books.

In Glass Scissors, Bobby Nayyar, of Limehouse Books, has shared personal and intimate memories, lots of pain and honesty – like telling everything to a total stranger you think you’ll never see again, but who sits and listens intently as you speak. There’s a lot of pain and power held within that little packet of words. He has opened a treasure chest of secrets and rendered himself vulnerable by putting this autobiographical work out there. But he should not be afraid. Now that box has been opened, he has become so much more human and real to me, somewhat less of a stranger and more of a friend. Continue reading

My Guest Blog for Leila Rasheed, Writer Children’s Books

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

I wrote a guest blog about finding a character I could relate to for Leila Rasheed, who writes books for children. It’s about finding a character we can relate to, and one which stays in our memory long after reading the book.

I first met her when I was on the MA in Writing course at the University of Warwick, and met her recently at a Writer’s Networking event run by Writing West Midlands. We were discussing the lack of diversity of characters in books for children even today, as discussed in the Walter Dean Myers article. I told her about a character I had connected with when I was young because she was ‘someone like me’. But as an adult, I was afraid to re-read the book in case I was disappointed.

Leila invited me to write a guest blog for her about my experience of revisiting the book. If you would like to read it the whole of my blog, and the Q&A with Leila, you can find it in Leila’s blog.

Mother’s Helper by Maureen Freely

Maureen Freely captures issues and themes which are still relevant today.

Maureen Freely captures issues and themes which are still relevant today.

It is surprising that Mother’s Helper by Maureen Freely was first published in 1979. It could have been published this year. The subject matter is still relevant today; perhaps even more so. A would-be patriarch, Bob Pyle, struggles to maintain control over his family. His wife, Kay is a rather pretentious woman who claims to be a feminist. She makes outrageous demands on her husband, and seems to think that she can succeed at anything she tries. Although she does not seem to try very hard, Kay thinks she is super successful and hard working.
Continue reading

After The Fear by Rosanne Rivers. Young Adult Dystopian.

Dystopian novel for young adults.

Dystopian novel for young adults.

In very few words, Rosanne Rivers conjures up a new dystopian world which is peopled by vivid characters. It is a dystopian world where debts have to be repaid; a world where city states are isolated and enclosed. It is a world governed by a few powerful Shepherds who control the lives of the powerless masses. Here, every move a person makes is traced, and some people strive for the power to achieve some level of control over their own lives and exert a hold over the lives of others, sometimes without considering the consequences. Continue reading

West of No East by Bobby Nayyar

Image courtesy of Bobby Nayyar at Limehouse Books

Image courtesy of Bobby Nayyar at Limehouse Books

West of No East by Bobby Nayyar packs into a small book many of the issues facing people in multicultural, contemporary Britain today. It tells of difficult relationships, be they marital, friendships, work or parental. Difficult economic times increase pressures on already fragile relationships. Clashing cultures add extra heat into the mix.

Continue reading

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff: 100 Word Book Review

This review is the result of a writing exercise: write a book review in one hundred words or less.

Boston-born Meg Rosoff‘s multi-award winning debut novel has wide appeal. Wise-cracking fifteen year old Manhattan girl, Daisy comes to visit her English country cousins.

Through Daisy’s eyes, Rosoff explores many voyages of discovery: of self, sexual love, new ways of life, and of learning to cope with the unknown. We see a magical, idyllic age, suddenly become tarnished by harsh and brutal times when war breaks out. Rosoff keeps us page-turning with minimal effort. Her descriptions like ‘I made jam sandwiches for breakfast and they tasted hoepful’ are delicious!

If you liked Mark Haddon‘s Curious Incident… you’ll like this!

Salt and Honey by Candi Miller: Book Review

Image courtesy of Tindal Street Press, and permission from Candi Miller.

Salt and Honey by Candi Miller is an epic saga posing as a small book which deals with issues of major importance not only in Africa but on a global level too: persecution of ethnic minorities; apartheid; inequality; and mixed race relationships.  These are slipped seamlessly into the narrative. Reflections on the class divide and social commentary are effortless and non-judgmental. Candi Miller does not preach to her readers, she just presents things as they are.  This treatment of issues that matter to all of us worldwide makes Salt and Honey very easy to read. We do not feel as if we’re being directed to feel a certain way about the issues that are presented or about the fascinating characters; we are left to make our own minds up.

The book is full of beautiful words and imagery which take us into an unfamiliar landscape. The world of Koba is one that will be unknown to many, but the author weaves it in a way which feels like a blanket: it becomes familiar rather than foreign in her expert hands.

Changes made to the text for the Tindal Street Press edition of Salt and Honey have helped to make an already great book even better. The glossary of words is helpful, but not complete.

Despite Candi Miller’s attempts to explain the sounds of the different clicks in the Ju’hoansi language, these are not easy to grasp unless you are a linguist, or hear someone vocalise them. With this in mind, I can’t wait to listen to an audio version of this book.

Candi Miller, Salt and Honey  (Birmingham: Tindal Street Press, 2011)

Candi Miller, Salt and Honey (London: Legend Press, 2006)