Friday, 23 May 2014

Geek Girl - Holly Smale Review

Hey guys! Like I said, I bought Geek Girl by Holly Smale over the weekend (along with Breathe by Sarah Crossan and Fractured by Teri Terry), so here's my review, as promised.

Geek Girl features Harriet Manners, a self-diagnosed geek (who happens to be named Manners. Manners.) She makes no secret of this fact, by the way - the book literally starts with something like. 'My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.' Subtle. She then goes on to use the dictionary definition of the word geek, and into a scene where she's essentially being the biggest drama queen of all time.

And man, it was so much fun.

I've probably said this so many times on the blog by now that it's meaningless, but I consider my normal genres YA science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, fantasy - things like that. This is a YA contemporary, plain and simple, but I saw it on display in my local Waterstones and just had to pick it up because of three things.

(1) Derek Landy had mentioned Holly before on Twitter (and as you all know, I am in love with his Skulduggery books - take my reviews of some of them here and here  for example). So that was a pretty great recommendation.

(2) The cover. What a gorgeous cover.

(3) The first page. Starts straight in with Harriet's distinctive voice and keeps you turning pages.

Look, I just made a list! I'm a lot like Harriet in some ways. Some. Not all. I don't have a habit of hiding under tables when the going gets tough, although I have been known to lie on the floor ... or sit on the table ... or plonk myself down on a desk whenever the fancy strikes me. I'm not sure whether Harriet cares if people like her or not. She's very self-deprecating (to a fairly irritating fault) but then again she does geek out all the time. Can she just not help it?

Anyway, this is less of a review and more of a ramble at the moment, so I think some kind of plot summary is in order.

It's really very simple. Compared to a lot of dystopians, SF, fantasy, etc., there's actually very little plot. But it's okay.

Beginning: Harriet is going along as normal with her dad and stepmother Annabel, best friend Nat, stalker Toby (more on that in a minute) and bully Alexa. She's a total geek, and she seems happy enough like that - or at least, she doesn't know any other way.

Inciting Incident: Nat cajoles Harriet into coming to The Clothes Show, a fashion show a few hours away. There, she manages to knock down several racks of goods (amassing damages of £3,000) - oh, and she also gets scouted by a model agent for a famous agency.

Middle: Harriet accepts the invitation and goes off  to modelling land to do photoshoots and catwalk s for famous designers (approximately a day after she's scouted. Approximately.) She also lies to pretty much everyone (silly Harriet). By the way, none of this is really spoilers because, as I said, this book is most definitely not plot-based.

Ending: ... Okay, I won't tell you that. I do have limits.

The reason the lack of plot didn't matter to me was that the writing is bloody gorgeous. Seriously. Okay, maybe gorgeous isn't the right word - it's not fancy-pants literary fiction or anything. But it's exceedingly witty and observant and fun. 

You know what? I'm in a listy mood tonight.

What I liked: 
(1) The writing - see above.
(2) Annabel, Harriet's stepmother's characterisation. At first she comes across as standard evil stepmother, but as it turns out she's just human (and sharper than they took her for). Also, my favourite, very heartwarming scene is between her and Harriet.
(3) It doesn't take itself too seriously. Some reviewers have complained about Wilbur's abundance of names for Harriet (Petal, Sponge-finger, Chocolate-drops, Baby-baby Unicorn... but I thought they were impressively inventive, and must have been fun to write.
(4). Nick. Just Nick, in general.
(5) Nat's sassiness. For example:
Nat rolls her eyes, "I was never going to hate you FOREVER, Harriet. Just a couple of days.""But you said...""We were FIGHTING. What did you want me to say? I'll hate you for about thirty six hours until I've calmed down a bit?" 
(6) The author herself. Damn, she's hella cool and nice.
(7) The fact that Harriet doesn't consider herself conventionally pretty, but was chosen for her quirkiness. Also, Wilbur's endearing idea that everything she does is intentional.

What I didn't like:
(1) It requires that you suspend disbelief to an absurd degree. In the space of about three days Harriet goes from reluctantly attending a clothes show to headlining a major fashion show. Huh. It's alright though, because the story is so fluffy and enjoyable you can just let it pass as long as you don't think about it too hard.
(2) Toby, the stalker. Don't get me wrong - Toby's scenes were pretty funny. But there was something niggling at the back of my mind: stalking is Not Okay, and it was being used as comic relief. Seriously, Toby literally followed her everywhere and memorized her schedule. He's also an uber-nerd - supposed to reflect her, I guess? Which means one of two things:
(a) Harriet is about to start stalking someone.
(b) Toby is going to become a supermodel.

Also, Holly Smale and I had a lovely conversation on Twitter (AKA she replied to my tweets. Several times. Hell to the yeah!). She's awesome. (She's @HolSmale, if you want to follow her).

Currently reading Fractured, sequel to Slated by Teri Terry (my review here).

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Last Stand of Dead Men - Derek Landy Review

Blurb: War has finally come. Not between good and evil, but between Sanctuaries, and if Skulduggery and Valkyrie are to stop it they must team up with the rest of the dead men.

At the same time, war rages within Valkyrie herself, as Darquesse is on the verge of rising.

Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #8. See my review of   #7, Kingdom of the Wicked, here. 

I waited SO long to buy this one (no, seriously - months after its release date) and while that meant I had to hide from spoilers for way too long, I'm glad. This way I only have four months to wait until Skulduggery Pleasant #9, The Dying of the Light, comes out! (There had better be a signing near me. The joys of living in the same country as the author). 

And before we get started, what a snarky little author he is. 

 Would you guess from that picture how much he likes to torture both his characters and his readers? 

(If not, you're about to find out). Probable spoilers for the early books, but none for Death Bringer or Kingdom of the Wicked (unless you're telepathic). 

The plotlines covered in LSODM are (1) Darquesse (2) War between the Sanctuaries (3) Fletcher (4) Scapegrace and Thrasher (5) the Warlocks (6) the Reflection (7) the Dead Men. That is a hell of a lot of plotlines, Derek. 

(1) As you may know, I love reading about Darquesse. She's just so much fun (especially against Lord Vile). It's like ... wish-fulfilment, in a twisted way. Vicariously being a nigh-indestructible, insanely powerful, teenage girl. (I am one of these things. Guess which one). Her plotline gets pretty dark here - we're constantly aware of Darquesse's presence in Val's mind - and it loses a lot of the Skulduggery-Valkyrie banter. But such is war.

(2) Basically, the Supreme Council (all the other sanctuaries) is at war with the Irish, African and Australian Sanctuaries (the Cradles of Magic stick together). In all the other books we tended to have Skul and Val fighting a single enemy/small group of people who want to, like, take over the world or something. It's manageable, you know? This time they're fighting against their own sorcerers ... and it's really harsh. Difficult to read, I mean. There are no holds barred, lots of casualties. AND TREACHERY GODDAMNIT. 

(3) Fletcher gets more screen time in this book (man, am I happy about that). He's put in plenty of danger and I'll say no more about that. But at least (minor spoiler) a certain Myra is out of the picture. God, I hated her. Val may be a horrible person, but FALKYRIE. 

(4) Scapegrace and Thrasher ... how I love these guys. I'm pretty sure they're immortal by now. They've been humans, an incompetent Killer Supreme, zombies, disembodied heads, gender-swapped and now the Dark and Stormy Knight and the Village Idiot. Derek just seems to keep riffing on the abundant comic relief they provide. Strangely enough, we also feel for them (when we're not laughing at Scapegrace). Well played, Mr. Landy.

(5) I can't say too much about the Warlocks without spoiling but they're really powerful, very angry and present a huge damn threat. (Which is awful for the good guys because come on, don't they have enough on their plates already?).

(6) The Reflection was involved  in the HUGE MASSIVE SHOCK ending of Kingdom of the Wicked, and now she's back with an even larger role. (Note I said 'she', not 'it'). She calls herself Stephanie and sees herself as a distinct person. While Valkyrie ... does some stuff... during the last part of the book, the story is told from her point of view. I didn't really like that, actually. It felt kind of discordant to be bonding with her. 

(7) The Dead Men thing completely broke my heart. I cried. Seriously. At one point, I genuinely cried. There's something that happens halfway through (hint: it involves treachery) and, while I was left in a state of shock by the actual event, what really got me was the other Dead Men's reactions to it. Also, what a twist. I can't decide whether I love or hate Derek right now. 

I think what struck me most in this was how much foreshadowing Derek has done. I re-read #3, the Faceless Ones, recently, and the Reflection stuff was hinted at there. (Also the golden eyes thing. You got us good there, Derek. How dare you.)

Off to cry. 

Just finished Geek Girl #1 by Holly Smale (not in my usual genre but I really enjoyed it), so that'll be reviewed soon enough. Also, I'm finishing my book's second draft today, woo! And I have an exciting Angry Robot book to start reading on Netgalley, so I'm looking forward to that.