February 2016 – Real Book Month

Published February 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Every other month I set myself a little challenge to complete which alternates depending on the month from Chrissi Cupboard Month and Real Book Month to Kindle/NetGalley/Review Copy Month. This February it is the turn for real books, which is one of my favourite months. I have a HUGE backlog of books just itching to be read and its a way of trying to get that pesky TBR and my own book collection down to er…more manageable levels, if at all possible! This February I shall mostly be reading : –

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) – Ransom Riggs

The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

The King’s Curse (The Cousins’ War #6) – Philippa Gregory

I think this must be one of my most exciting real books months to date. I literally cannot wait to read ALL of these books. Some have been languishing on the TBR pile for far too long, like Heart-Shaped Box, the debut novel from Stephen King’s son Joe Hill. Others are relatively newer additions, like The Sparrow which was recommended to me from one of my favourite podcasts, Books On The Nightstand. I have heard so many great things (also from BOTN) about the Man Booker short-listed novel A Little Life and having loved her debut novel The People In The Trees, I’m so so excited to get to this one, hence why it’s nearer the top of the list.

Other novels I’ve been meaning to get to is Hollow City, the second in the fabulous Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series – please see my review for the first book HERE. Lauren Beukes novel, The Shining Girls was one of my top reads for 2013 and I cannot wait to read her most recent novel, Broken Monsters which has been staring at me from my bookshelves for quite a while now! The Paying Guests will be my first novel by Sarah Waters and I’ve heard amazing things. I know my blogger friend Cleo over at Cleopatra Loves Books loved it and it will be quite exciting to compare thoughts with her once I’m done. Finally, I’m looking forward to a bit of historical fiction and one of my favourite authors, Philippa Gregory with the final book in her Cousins’ War series.

This is going to be a great month, I just know it!

Between The Assassinations – Aravind Adiga

Published February 4, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Welcome to Kittur, India. Of its 193,432 residents, only 89 declare themselves to be without religion or caste. And if the characters in Between the Assassinations are any indication, Kittur is an extraordinary crossroads between the brightest minds and the poorest morals, the up-and-coming and the downtrodden, and the poets and the prophets of an India that modern literature has rarely addressed.

A series of sketches that together form a blinding, brilliant, and brave mosaic of Indian life as it is lived in a place called Kittur, Between the Assassinations, with all the humor, sympathy, and unflinching candor of The White Tiger, enlarges our understanding of the world we live in today.

What did I think?:

I had high hopes for Between The Assassinations after really enjoying the authors previous novels, Last Man In Tower and the Man Booker Prize winner The White Tiger. I have to admit to unfortunately being slightly disappointed with this offering and it was only after reading a few other reviews that I discovered that this book was allegedly rejected by publishers and it was only released after Adiga’s Booker win. That’s not to say this novel is a bad read because it certainly isn’t, perhaps it was my own high expectations that ruined it for me! It does have decent and some very favourable reviews on GoodReads but on average it comes in at 3.30 which is about where I would put it myself on the rating chart.

Regular readers of my blog may wonder why I haven’t included this book in my regular feature, Short Stories Challenge as this book consists of fourteen short stories that are very loosely linked together but all have the common theme of being situated in one town in India, Kittur. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t aware that the book was a series of short stories but it was quite nice to read all of them in one sitting rather than how I usually structure short stories from the same collection. The aim of this book was to paint a portrait of Kittur over a seven day period using fourteen separate stories with very different characters in each. In this way, I believe the book completely hit the target – we hear from a wide variety of personalities, all with an exclusive moral code, belief or dream to follow.

In Between The Assassinations the author gives us the good, the bad and the downright ugly in a country that is slowly rising up from an economic mess to become a real power in the world but still houses a vast amount of poverty, corruption and violence. I found it fascinating to learn about both sides of the coin, for example the bicycle wallah who burns off more calories working than he is ever able to replace and is at risk of dying from exhaustion before he is forty or the children who beg on the streets to fund their father’s drug addiction. When you compare this to the wealthy (and often corrupt in this novel) it does touch something within you and I was often reeling with the unfairness of it all.

Religion also causes many problems in this book, as it does unfortunately through the entire world, and Adiga explores not just the three main religions in India (Muslim, Hindu and Christian) but the ever ominous caste system which includes a class of people so low in status that they are referred to as “the untouchables.” India has moved slightly forward in adopting modern values regarding this system but it is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done. For me, the best thing about this book was that I felt I was getting a real, no holds-barred insight into India during an interesting period of her history (between the assassinations of Indira Ghandi and her son Rajiv). Adiga pulls no punches with his descriptive and very raw writing at times and I really appreciated his honesty. The only reason I’ve given this book an “average,” rating is that although the stories kept me interested I didn’t find the writing as amazing as his previous two novels.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

1024px-Cycle_rickshaw_wallah_in_DhakaImage from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACycle_rickshaw_wallah_in_Dhaka.jpg

By Steve Evans from India and USA (Dhaka, Bangladesh) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Short Stories Challenge – Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published February 2, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Under The Pylon all about?:

A group of young children spend their last summer before secondary school playing under a gigantic electricity pylon which appears to have strange and unnerving properties.

What did I think?:

Graham Joyce has a real talent for finding the creepiness and darkness in everyday objects which usually results in stories that stay with you long after you have finished them. In Under The Pylon, as you may suspect from the name, the narrative revolves around a large electricity pylon which provides a source of shelter and amusement for one particular group of friends as they negotiate the difficult years of adolescence. Our male narrator is never named but this isn’t really necessary for the story and we do hear about his friends in some detail from his point of view.

We have Joy, a precocious young girl who despite her tender age of eleven years old, sports a full face of make-up at all times and delights in flirting with the male members of their group even if they don’t seem particularly bothered by her behaviour having grown bored of her constant need for attention. The second girl in the group, Tania, is in our narrator’s class and we sense he has a bit of a soft spot for her. She ends up becoming an integral part of the story when strange things start happening beneath the pylon. Lastly, we have two boys – Kev who tends to have favourite words for the month, this particular month’s being “Crap,” which he tends to over-use slightly. We don’t really hear much from him apart from, you guessed it, the occasional “Crap!” at various times. Then there is Clive, who our narrator describes purely as “a bit strange,” and who “stared at things,” but who also plays a pivotal role in events. Clive claims that he can hear whole conversations from just standing the pylon. For instance, he swears blindly that Mrs Astley is cheating on her husband and sleeping with the local pub landlord and this may be verified by our narrator seeing the aforesaid woman sneaking into the pub by the back entrance which he finds slightly odd.

The kids have been warned not to play under the pylon, in wet or dry weather but as with many parental rules at this age, they are disobeyed. Nothing really awful goes on when the group meets however, simply your typical teenage rebellions like passing round cider and sharing cigarettes. It is only when our narrator attempts to hypnotise his friends for a laugh that the really strange things start occurring. The pylon appears to have a quiet but eerie power that surges through and leads to members of the group doing things that they would never dream of in normal circumstances. It is one such incident involving our narrator and Tania that leads to a fracture within the group and paves the way for a dramatic climax that changes the lives of certain members irrevocably.

This was a good, solid read from Graham Joyce with just the right mixture of thrilling moments and subtle darkness. The addition of characters like the Nantwich family with their strange, mute daughter Olive was a great way to add those extra chills and sense of dread to the proceedings. The reader never finds out what exactly is going on under the pylon and why it is happening but I feel this added a bit more mystery to the story and I used my own imagination to fill those gaps. If I compared it to the other stories in the collection I’d probably say it was one that I liked more than others but not as much as some, my personal award for the best has already gone to the amazing Leningrad Nights which I doubt will be topped as I only have one more story to read. Under The Pylon is still classic Joyce however so if you’re a fan, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – JANUARY READ – The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross

Published January 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dinah moves in with the Hunter family and starts going to the same school as her foster-brothers Lloyd and Harvey. It’s not easy, as they seem to hate her, and school is really strange. Pupils suddenly talk like robots and do weird things – even Dinah finds herself acting oddly.

She’s sure the headmaster has some kind of power over them, and is determined to find out more. But the Demon Headmaster is equally determined to stop her.

What did I think?:

For the first book in our Kid-Lit challenge for 2016, we wanted to pick quite a special book to both of us and in the end, we decided to go for The Demon Headmaster. This was one of my personal favourite books from childhood and I also used to read it to Chrissi when we were kids (one of the many I read to her!). Again, I was slightly worried about reading this book as an adult and although I didn’t love it as much the second time around I still believe it’s a wonderful piece of children’s fiction that can be enjoyed today. I really wanted to find the cover that I originally had in the 90’s but it unfortunately wasn’t on GoodReads – I wonder if anyone knows the one I’m talking about, it’s quite eerie with a picture of the headmaster on the cover leaning over a desk with (quite literally) hypnotic green eyes? Perhaps that’s the reason it’s not about any more, it was VERY creepy. Ah, look – I just found it!

The Demons Headmaster

Our main character and heroine is Dinah Glass, an orphan who is adopted by the Hunter family after she has been in a children’s home for ten years. The Hunters already have two boys, Lloyd and Harvey, who are not exactly thrilled that Dinah is joining their family and going to their school. You see their school is a very strange place where the the children are silent at all times and “play-time,” consists of groups of children in a huddle reciting times-tables, Kings and Queens of England and capital cities. The boys are worried that Dinah will be just like THEM and then they will never find out what exactly goes on in the special assemblies every afternoon that they and just a few other of their friends are never invited to.

Dinah herself soon realises that there is something odd about the children’s behaviour at this school and when she meets the Headmaster, things start to slot into place. The last thing she remembers is the Headmaster taking off his glasses and then, next thing she knows, she is being woken up by him and told that she has slept away the entire morning. Stranger still is the little needle-prick she appears to have on one of her fingers. At the assembly that afternoon, Dinah decides she is going to rebel and when the Headmaster takes off his glasses, she closes her eyes. What happens next shocks her to her core and although Lloyd and Harvey are still suspicious of her, they let her join their special group, nicknamed SPLAT to try and protect themselves against the Headmaster and all of THEM who are influenced by him. As they attempt to investigate the goings-on at the school they have to tread carefully – the Headmaster’s punishments know no bounds and he has an evil plan afoot which they must try to stop, not only for the good of the school..but for the world.

The Demon Headmaster has everything a classic work of children’s literature should offer. There’s adventure, mystery, thrills galore where we wonder if the baddie is ever going to get his come-uppance, and there’s even a bit of terror, which I often loved as a younger teenager! I remembered why I loved this book as soon as I started reading, especially with the gems Lloyd came out with: “Purple pancakes! Scarlet sausages!” which really made me smile. Gillian Cross has a real talent for telling a story that will capture your attention while writing characters that will instantly steal your heart. The follow-up to this book, The Prime Minister’s Brain is also brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting this series again.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Next up in Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden.

 

 

Banned Books 2016 – JANUARY READ – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Published January 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi’s best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our first banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

FEBRUARY – It’s Perfectly Normal- Robie Harris

MARCH – Saga Volume 1- Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

APRIL – A Stolen Life- Jaycee Dugard

MAY – Drama- Raina Telgemeier

JUNE -Captain Underpants- Dav Pilkey

JULY – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl- Tanya Lee Stone

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl-  Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

First published: 2007

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: For our first banned book of the year, Chrissi and I have chosen a graphic novel, partly because we have always wanted to try one and perhaps broaden our reading horizons and partly because the subject of this memoir fascinated us. It’s one of the more recent books that has been challenged/banned in schools and I don’t believe viewpoints (both political and religious) have changed that much since its publication in 2007 but I have to admit to being slightly taken aback at some points through the novel. I wasn’t necessarily shocked or disgusted however… it made me more intrigued to read on.

CHRISSI: Yes. I can totally understand why a book like this is banned in schools. I think I’m looking at that from a teacher viewpoint though. I don’t see how this book could be comfortably taught in a school. I mean, I’m all for challenging children’s thoughts and mindset and exposing them to a range of material and subject matter, but I’m not so sure I would feel confident to use this book if I taught teenagers.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book is still on the banned/challenged list as recently as 2014 is a dead give-away that the subject matter could be slightly sensitive depending on your own moral viewpoints or religious affiliation. As an agnostic myself, I did not find anything in it that alarmed me too much. I went into it knowing ashamedly very little about Iran’s tumultuous history and I did feel like I got a lot out of it educationally speaking. I think nowadays after everything that is going on in the world some people might find a book like this offensive, depending on your religious beliefs. Marjane is an independent, intelligent and forward-thinking woman who after seeing her country at war and having family members in jail/executed is stridently against fundamentalist regimes and not afraid of saying what she thinks. I found her a very brave and intriguing woman and enjoyed seeing how her life developed from childhood. Some of the graphic depictions did make my eyes pop out a little but this made me want to read on, if anything.

CHRISSI: Again, yes. I can see why it is challenged, even up to fairly recently. There is so much in this book that could easily offend. It of course, as Beth says, is very educational, but at the same time I think it would offend SO many people. Is it worth takng that risk in school? Perhaps put it in the library, where students and parents can make their own decisions, but to teach it as part of a lesson? No, I wouldn’t agree with it. I do agree with Beth that Marjane is a fantastically brave, intelligent women, so there is a lot to be learnt from it. I learnt a lot as an adult reading this book.

What did you think of this book?

BETH: It took me a little while to get into I have to be honest. At times, it’s quite political and the subject matter is heavy going. I found myself slightly confused at times with the politics of it all, but that’s a personal thing – politics has never been one of my strong points! As I got about halfway through I started to really get into it a lot more and found her life both in Iran and Vienna absolutely fascinating.

CHRISSI:  I found it incredibly heavy going. I know a lot of my friends turn up their nose over graphic novels, thinking that they’re light and fun or babyish, when in fact the subject matter of Perespolis is incredibly deep.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Beth’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Join us again on the last Monday of February when we will be discussing It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris.

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Author Interview – Helen Grant on her Forbidden Spaces YA trilogy

Published January 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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HELEN GRANT – A BIOGRAPHY

Helen Grant was born in London. She read Classics at St.Hugh’s College, Oxford, and then worked in Marketing for ten years in order to fund her love of travelling. In 2001 she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany, and it was exploring the legends of this beautiful town that inspired her to write her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. She then moved to Brussels for three years, and now lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and two cats. Her most recent published novel is Urban Legends, an urbex-themed thriller set in Flanders.

Click on the books to get to the link to GoodReads!

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For my review of Silent Saturday, please click HERE.

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For my review of Demons Of Ghent, please click HERE.

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For my review of Urban Legends, please click HERE.

Why not check out some of Helen’s back catalogue too? Here are the next two on my must read list:

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Helen’s debut novel The Vanishing of Katharina Linden was published in April 2009 and was short-listed for both the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

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Helen’s second novel, The Glass Demon was published in May 2010 and short-listed for the ITW Awards Best Paperback Original category.

INTERVIEW WITH HELEN GRANT

I’d like to welcome Helen to bibliobeth today and thank her for her time in giving this interview.

1.) Your Forbidden Spaces novels are set in the beautiful country of Belgium. What inspired you so much about this country to use it as a setting for your trilogy?

We actually lived in Flanders in Belgium for three years, and much of the trilogy is inspired by things I experienced there (not the serial killing bit though, I’m glad to say!). When we moved to Belgium I was still working on my third book set in Germany (where we lived before that) but I was looking around for ideas for whatever I would write next. The area we had moved to was Dutch speaking so I started Dutch evening classes, and the teacher used to tell us snippets of local culture and traditions. Apparently in Flanders the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is called “Silent Saturday” because none of the church bells ring that day. Children are told that this is because the bells have flown away to Rome to collect Easter eggs from the Pope! When I heard this story, the first thing I thought was that if I had been a little Flemish kid I would have been dying to get into the church bell tower on Silent Saturday and see if the bells really had flown away! And that was what inspired the very first scene of the first book in the trilogy. The heroine, Veerle, who is only seven years old at the time, climbs the tower of the village church with her friend Kris. They are a bit disgusted to discover that the bells are still there, i.e. the grown ups have lied to them. Then they look out of the window and see something terrible happening in the village below. That crime reverberates through the entire trilogy.

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The author, Helen Grant in Tervuren, the town where Veerle goes to school in the first novel, Silent Saturday.

Photo courtesy of author

The locations in the books – Tervuren park, the Gravensteen castle and Saint Baaf’s cathedral in Ghent, the abandoned factory, the Brussels sewers – are all real ones and I visited most of them for my book research. I really enjoyed visiting the sewers! Sewer systems are one of the most dangerous urban exploration environments of all – there are flash floods, posionous gases, the risk of getting lost and never getting out, not to mention rats and creepy crawlies. It’s all there. A very inspiring setting if you are writing a gritty thriller!

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The Brussels sewer system – the perfect place for a show-down!

Photo courtesy of author

2.) In Silent Saturday, we are introduced to one of the most frightening villains that I think I’ve ever read about. Did you find it difficult to get inside the head of someone so innately wicked?

Does it sound weird if I say no? I actually enjoyed writing the scenes with De Jager (the villain) in them. That’s not because I like the things he does. He’s a monster. It’s more that I wanted to take the gloves off and create a really horrific villain. Someone extreme. In my earlier books, it tends to be all about the nasty discoveries after the crime has taken place; this time I wanted to create a real feeling of direct threat. My other villains also tended to have their reasons for killing, even if they were very twisted ones, but De Jager just enjoys hunting down other people. He doesn’t want to relate to his victims as human beings with feelings and motives at all, and one of the things I relished was his dismay when he is forced to start thinking about Veerle and Kris and what they may do.

3.) Our heroine Veerle loves taking risks and in the second novel, Demons of Ghent we see her exploring the rooftops of the city. How much of yourself do you see in our main character?

Ha! Quite a lot. I’m more law-abiding than she is, and I definitely don’t have her head for heights(!), but I totally “get” her interest in urban exploration. I enjoyed writing the Forbidden Spaces trilogy more than anything else I’ve ever worked on. It was partly because I loved doing the research trips but also because I think Veerle’s life is incredibly cool, even with the problems she has.
The other thing is Veerle’s relationship with her mother. I based Claudine on my own grandmother, who also suffered very badly from anxiety. It’s very tough supporting someone who has those kind of issues. You can love them to death but still be exhausted with trying to support them. I really empathise with Veerle’s struggle to do the right thing for everyone including herself.

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The beautiful St Baaf’s Cathedral in Ghent seen from the Belfort Tower, both of which feature in the opening scene of the second novel, Demons Of Ghent.

Photo courtesy of author

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Gravensteen Castle, Ghent where Veerle and Bram spend a night, also in the second novel, Demons Of Ghent.

Photo courtesy of author

4.) In the final book of the trilogy, Urban Legends, old ghosts return to haunt Veerle and her family is put under the spotlight like never before. Was it important for you to write about family dynamics in a real and honest way? Do you see a happy future for Veerle?

Yes, it was very important to me. I think a huge part of writing a successful thriller is to make the characters come alive. You have to care about them and believe in them for the story to be exciting and convincing. Plus the plot of the book wouldn’t happen in a vacuum – everyone has family or relationship stuff going on in their lives.
I do see a happy future for Veerle. She has had to be self sufficient at a very early stage in her life and she can be quite spiky and also impulsive. But she is brave too and she is actually a very caring person in spite of her impetuous side. There’s a moment in Demons of Ghent where she is asked to do a favour for someone she doesn’t like, who is in desperate straits, and Veerle does it even though she knows it is going to get her in a lot of trouble. I think she deserves some happiness, and I think she is going to get it in the future – I think bravery and empathy are a great combination.

5.) Are you working on anything at the moment and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes, I’m working on a new book unrelated to the Forbidden Spaces books. It’s set in Scotland, where I live now. I’m actually doing a lot of planning and thinking at the moment about where I want the story to go. I think it’s safe to say that it is a mystery and it has some Gothic elements to it. The part of Scotland where I live, Perthshire, is just crying out to have stories written about it. The countryside is full of history – ancient castles, ruined churches, mysterious standing stones. I want to try to make the most of that!

Now for some quick fire questions!

E book or real book?

Real book. I read in the bath! An eReader would be wrecked the first time I dropped it.

Series or stand alone?

Hmmm. Both. The one thing I don’t like though, is a series which is one story hacked into chunks. I like each book to have a satisfying conclusion.

Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction.

Online shopping or bookshop trawling?

Both, but mainly online – not because I don’t want to support bookshops but because the nearest one is about 17 miles away!

Bookmarking or dog-earing?

Mostly dog-earing, except for old or rare books.

Once again, a HUGE thank you to the lovely Helen Grant for giving up her time to do this interview (and for the fab photographs!). I’m very excited now to explore some of her back catalogue and will probably start with her debut novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Look out for a review of this and her second novel, The Glass Demon on bibliobeth soon.

Urban Legends completes The Forbidden Spaces trilogy and was published by Corgi on 26th March 2015. This series and of course Helen’s other novels, are available to buy from all good book retailers now!

Urban Legends (Forbidden Spaces Trilogy #3) – Helen Grant

Published January 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A group of story-tellers are disappearing one by one.

A young woman is haunted by her past.

A serial killer has one target he is desperate to hunt down.

Veerle is trying to lie low, to live as ‘normal’ a life as she possibly can. But when you’ve thwarted a serial killer, it’s hard to do this. Especially when he wants revenge . . .

What did I think?:

Urban Legends is the third and final volume in Helen Grant’s Forbidden Spaces trilogy and after the brilliance of the previous two novels, I had high expectations for this one. Well, it did not disappoint! Our heroine Veerle De Keyser is back in her home town after staying with her father and his girlfriend didn’t exactly work out, to put it mildly. Veerle is now eighteen and has matured considerably after her past traumatic experiences. Her only goal is to get her head down, repeat her last year of school and perhaps work out some more normal issues that teenage girls have. Like figuring out how she really feels about her current boyfriend Bram (whom she met while staying in Ghent) while the spectre of her first real relationship with Kris looms over her.

Each book in the series has explored a different and rather murky mystery, typically involving innocent people being killed. In this novel the author develops another compelling narrative which kicks off right from the opening chapter. It involves a group of young people who enjoy meeting up in abandoned buildings, much like the Koekoeken group Veerle joins in the first book. The purpose of their meetings is to swap gruesome urban legends with each other, in competition to become the master storyteller at the end of the night. I absolutely loved the chapters that featured the storytellers as I used to do a similar thing with friends at school and with some of the legends, it was an interesting trip down memory lane where I remembered stories I had previously forgotten (and those that still had the potential to send shivers down my spine, thanks Helen!) :-)

So as you might have guessed, story-time isn’t exactly fun-time in this novel. Someone is picking off the storytellers one by one and brutally murdering them so when they meet again, there are less of them there to tell the stories. Strangely enough, this is connected back to an old adversary of Veerle’s we first meet in Silent Saturday and he returns darker and definitely more disturbed than before. We are also treated to chapters told from his perspective and believe me, they might make you want to check you locked the doors before you go to bed at night! Even though Veerle is not meant to see her old flame Kris they team up to try and investigate what is going on. They don’t have much time however, as the killer is determined not to be thwarted by anyone – let alone these two and will remove any that dare to stand in his path.

Helen Grant has an undeniable talent for writing thrilling novels and Urban Legends is no exception, providing an action-packed, tense and suspense-filled plot that does not shy away from the darker side of society. By the third book, I felt as if I knew these characters personally and, as a reader, it seemed like I had gone through everything with them. By the dramatic finale, I was literally on the edge of my seat, unable to put down the book for a second until everything had been resolved one way or another. This is such a fantastic series that I believe everyone, no matter what your age who loves a good thriller should read as soon as possible. I’m certainly glad I read it and am very excited to read more by Helen Grant, in fact – I pronounce her the Queen of YA thrillers!

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be featuring an interview with the author of The Forbidden Spaces trilogy, Helen Grant!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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