Waiting For Callback: Take Two – February Post For The British book challenge

Waiting For Callback: Take Two – February Post For The British book challenge

For various reasons I only managed to read two books in February which qualified for the challenge. One of them was the script for Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, which I can’t talk about for obvious reasons (#KeepTheSecrets). But that’s ok, because my other read was the brilliant Waiting For Callback: Take Two, by Perdita and Honor Cargill.

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Take Two picks up where the first book ends. Elektra James has just been offered a staring role in a Hollywood film and her (potential) boyfriend, Practically Perfect Archie, has just kissed her. Everything looks set for one amazing and romantic summer…

But of course, things don’t go exactly to plan. It’s hard to have a romantic summer when your potential boyfriend goes to Transylvania to play a vampire hunter (surrounded by ‘maidens of peerless beauty’). Meanwhile, being on set has its own challenges: Elektra has to transform into a dystopian action hero (including learning how to run like a normal person) while fending off the advances of smouldering co-star Carlo AND still keeping up with her French GCSE homework….

I really loved Waiting for Callback, so I was definitely looking forward to getting my hands on Take Two. You’ll be relived to know that it didn’t disappoint AT ALL. Take Two has just as much warmth and humour, and the same fantastic cast of characters. There is more from Moss, Elektra’s super-fashionable friend, more from Eulalie, her fabulously French grandmother (‘Is it being too late to rescue the situation? Le shopping?’), and more from her poor, stressed-out mum: “‘It’s bad enough that they’re expecting Elektra to miss some term time,’ (it really wasn’t) ‘without her having to drop everything and gallivant off to Mali!'”  There are also some brilliant new characters introduced. In particular Amber Leigh, the queen-bee A-list actress, and Eddie, the Abba-loving stage-manager, both absolutely leapt off the page. Of course, Elektra herself is as funny, vibrant and relatable as ever, whether she’s having tea at Claridges in her horribly purple school uniform, or suggesting replacing her actual birthday party with YouTube videos…

Seeing the inside of a film set for the first time through Elektra’s eyes was fascinating. But there is also drama in her personal life. At one point I literally had tears running down my face. And they weren’t happy tears either – it was just SO SAD. But then, by the end of the book, I was crying happy tears, because – no.  I won’t spoil it. You’re just going to have to read it yourself.

Gilded Cage, Deep Water, The Otherlife – January books for the British Books Challenge

Gilded Cage, Deep Water, The Otherlife – January books for the British Books Challenge

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‘A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty.

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn…’

The setting was the real hook for me. This is no invented dystopian world. The brutal servitude enforced by ‘the Equals’ (the magic-possessing aristocrats) is taking place in modern day Britain, and that’s what makes Gilded Cage so shocking. The Equals have used their magic (‘Skill’) to create a slave state run entirely for their own benefit, in which everybody else has to spen ten years of his or her life as a chattel. I loved the realism provided by the little bits of re-imagined history dropped into the story. For example, the references to the Confederate slave-owning states of America, and the way Oliver Cromwell’s revolt against Charles I is replaced with that of Cadmus the Pure-in-Heart, (the ancestor of the Jardines, the most powerful modern family).

The story moves along rapidly, told from various different viewpoints, and the characterisation is great. Two teenage boys are at the heart of the story: the youngest and most powerful Jardine brother, Silyen, and Luke Hadley, an ordinary 16 year old who is sent to the horrific slave town of Millmoor. While Luke becomes involved in the resistance movement, Silyen is working on his own bid for power. Luke is noble and heroic, contrasting strongly with Silyen’s creepiness (which reminded me a lot of Sebastian from The Mortal Instruments). Supporting characters are also really well drawn. I really felt for Gavar, the Jardine heir who loves his illegitimate daughter and feels trapped by his destiny – he is most definitely in a gilded cage. And his nasty, plotting fiancée, Bouda, is one of those wonderful characters that you just love to hate. Gilded Cage is the first part of a trilogy, so I’m really hoping she gets her come-uppance in one of the next two books…

 

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What if you discovered you weren’t who – or even what – you thought you were?

Suddenly people start to fear you. They think you’re evil. Cursed. And then they want to destroy you.’

Deep Water reminded me a lot of another series that I really love: The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. It has that same sense of mysticism and place, of magic being rooted in a particular landscape. In the case of Deep Water that place is the Cornish coast: its villages, cliffs and caves. When Danni’s mother goes missing, Danni has to go and stay with her Dad in Cornwall, and Danni’s life rapidly becomes stranger and stranger. Her mum is found on a Cornish beach miles from home, and she has amnesia. Strangers cross themselves when Danni is nearby. Her hands start leaking water. And what is the truth behind the activities of the cult which dominated a nearby village not so many years ago? As Danni starts to uncover secrets about her family and its origins, her mum’s life hangs in the balance. Will Danni be able to accept what she is before it’s too late?

I really loved reading this story. Danni is a believable heroine, and Levi (her friend) and Elliot (her potential boyfriend) are both great characters.  Mamwyn, Danni’s previously unknown Cornish grandmother, is just brilliant: strong and unusual. And the insance, vengeful Crawford  and Aunty Bea are a perfect villainous couple. I’d love to read more about Danni and her special gift, so fingers crossed for a Deep Water follow up one day soon!

 

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I always get away with it when I try stuff like this. Partly it comes down to sort of assuming that I’m going to. I’ve got loads of confidence. And Loki got away with everything. Well, almost everything.

I love anything Viking or Dark Ages, so The Otherlife, with its blend of modern London and Norse mythology, is as perfect read for me. The story focuses on two teenage boys: the clever but struggling Ben, and the rich, dangerous Hobie. They become unlikely friends when Hobie realises Ben can see The Otherlife – the Norse gods – and becomes obessessed with finding a way into The Otherlife himself. There are two stories interwoven: the Norse story of the murder of Baldr by Loki, and the unexplained death of Ben’s friend and tutor, Jason. And it’s all set against the background of school exams – scholarships and GCSEs – and the huge amount of stress that they can bring. The story switches from Ben’s POV to Hobie’s diary entries – something I found really effective – and the pace ramps up as Ben discovers Jason’s death and then starts to try to find out what really happened that night at Hobie’s house….

Ben and Hobie are wonderfully contrasting characters. Ben is into metal, suffers from terrible headaches, and (at least at the beginning) seems rather put upon by his divorced parents. Hobie is so spoilt that he has his mother’s au pair boil him a second egg because the yoke of the first is too runny. But as their friendship grows, the risks that Hobie is prepared to take to keep Ben in his life get darker. The ending is a real twist that I didn’t see coming.

A who-dunnit set in London with Norse Gods and an antagonist who is as fascinating as he is destructive – what’s not to like?

British Books Challenge 2017

British Books Challenge 2017

When we found out that the wonderful Chelle Toy from Tales of Yesterday was hosting the challenge this year, we decided we had to sign up. You can read all about the challenge (including how to sign up and a list of useful FAQs) on her blog here. Basically, the idea is to celebrate British writing by committing to reading and reviewing at least 12 books by UK authors (check out Chelle’s post to see who counts as a UK author) over the course of 2017. That’s only 1 book a month!

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How hard can it be?

We haven’t completely decided what books we are going to read yet – there are an awful lot of brilliant books to choose from – but here are some that are definitely on our list:

Waiting for Callback: Take Two – Perdita & Honor Cargill

Freshers – Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

The Shadow Keeper – Abi Elphinstone

Counting Stars – Keris Stainton

Day 7 – Kerry Drewery

How to Catch a Witch – Abie Longstaff

We’ve going for a mixture of new releases and books which are already on our (over-grown) TBR piles. We will be adding to the list above as we go through the year.

Roll on 2017!