Book Hoot #28 Beautiful Malice

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James was subject to a huge bidding war apparently. I can see why the editors were crazy for it: pacy narrative, likable characters, sad ending. All the elements for a successful YA book, except this one crosses that mythical genre line. It is perfect for an adult read, especially adults who like psychologial thrillers.

I was reading this while waiting for an operation, waiting most of the day as it happens, but the narrative kept me entertained and my mind off my knee. I got it pretty much done before the op, and finished it that night. Such is the captivating power of a good story.

Katherine is trying to escape her horrible past. She meets a charismatic and attractive girl who seems to have not a trouble in the world. Just what Katherine needs. Of course, as anyone who has read or watched one of these kinds of stories before knows, Alice has hidden troubles of her own, and secrets that aren't revealed until the last chapter.

This is a tightly written and interestingly structured story which flips from a more mature and reflective Katherine's point of view, back to chronological time during Katherine's HSC year, and also to the year before when something horrible happens that destroys her family. To say anything more would ruin the carefully built tension and probably the most interesting part of the book.

While I don't like to read stories that represent girls as victims, and yes it goes against my whole kick-ass theme here, along the way in this book are messages for teens about toxic friendships and irresponsible drinking. If some readers are scared out of their wits here, it wouldn't be such a bad thing!

3 and a half H00Ts /Five

Until next time,
Happy tales

Barking Owl

B00k H00t #27 Loving Richard Feynman

Fifteen year old Catherine is a science loving, geekish girl who is finding her place in Kyneton and highschool. When her dad gives her a poster of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who assisted in the development of the atomic bomb, she develops an unusual crush and begins to write her diary in letters to him. Over the course of the book, she reads his biography as well and reflects on his involvement in the bomb. She learns about love, maths and friendships.

Penny Tangey's novel has been short listed for the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year for older readers, along with previously reviewed Liar and Stolen. It is a much gentler read than those two, but equally well written and the plotting wasn't too predictable.

Also, Tangey does write an authentic teenage voice. Catherine is quirky and funny, her quick temper and mood swings are well captured. Because Catherine is a maths wizz, this brings her together with other like minded students, is the start of some friendships, and teaches her humility as well as confidence.

She also learns that people are flawed, her parents and her beloved Feyman included. Getting through high school is a common theme in teen reads, the portrayal of adults as complex and flawed probably not so much. So, this is certainly refreshing.

But, I don't know how many teenagers would identify with her obsession for Feynman. The kissing of the poster was a bit cringey for me. (It made me recollect my obsession for Davy Jones, from the Monkees that is not at the bottom of the ocean! That's showing my age...)

So, I'd recommend this one for thirteen or fourteen year readers. The letter style diary narration is easy to read, so reluctant readers might also enjoy this one too.

Any embarrassing teen crushes you'd like to share?

Happy Tales,
Barking Owl

Book H00t #26 The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Flavia de Luce, eleven year old precocious sleuth of the village Bishop's Lacey is back! And she's caught up in another murder in the delightful The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley.

No spoilers here, I'll just tell you how much I love Flavia and her hateful sisters Feely and Daffy. The chapters where Flavia puts her poisoner's skills to work against horrible Feely are genuinely laugh out loud. There is much more fun to be had between those two characters.

The murder and events surrounding it are a tad darker than in The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, however there are also many funny scenes. I liked Flavia's attempt to get Dogger (the family's gardener/ butler/ handyman) to explain the "mechanical details" of what exactly happens during an affair. Her only point of reference is Madam Bovary:
'What did Flaubert mean,' I asked at last, 'when he said that Madame Bovary gave herself to Rodolphe?'
'He meant,' Dogger said, 'that they became the best of friends. The very best of friends.'

There were also some excellent lines about the BBC as a famous television puppeteer of the (fabulously named) show 'Snoddy The Squirrel' plays an important role, but I'll let you discover those yourself.

Yarooh! for the latest installment of Flavia de Luce! Don't you love it when a much anticipated novel meets all expectations?

Happy tales,
Barking Owl