Tag Archives: new fiction review

New Fiction Review: ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

17 Aug

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Rating: ★★★★★

For ‘The Day the Crayons Quit‘, debut author Drew Daywalt and international bestseller Oliver Jeffers have teamed up to create a colourful solution to a crayon-based crisis.

It’s a creative book that will delight adult and children alike. One day, young Duncan finds a stack of letters where his crayons should be. They’ve gone on strike. It turns out that his Red crayon feels overworked, what with the amount of firetrucks and red apples Duncan has been colouring in. Yellow and Orange aren’t talking at all. Grey laments that elephants are an awfully big expanse to cover all by himself, and White has an existential crisis over the meaning of it all. “Could you please use me sometime to colour the occasional pink dinosaur or monster or cowboy?” asks Pink, while Beige reclaims its name with pride. Meanwhile, all Black wants is to maybe work on a rainbow or two. Who could blame him?

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I’m just going to say it: this is a fantastic book! The end, no moral. If this is not the outright winner of whatever ‘2013 Children’s Book of the Year Award’ currently exists, I will be very surprised. The concept is genius, and Oliver Jeffers’ childlike illustrations truly bring the text to life. It’s certainly made me feel incredible guilt over all the melted crayon art I made a couple of years ago.

‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ may actually be more suitable for older readers — some of the letters are a little too long and the jokes just a little bit too clever for the teeny tiny target audience — but if money was no object, I would still buy it for every child I know. The only questionable element I could find was Peach being the ‘naked’ crayon, while Brown was mentioned in passing as being used to colour bears. (I mean really? ‘Peach’ ≠ ‘Flesh’, you guys.) I don’t know if this is just me reading too much into it, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit of diversity in such a colourful book.

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New Fiction Review: ‘Acorn’ by Yoko Ono

12 Aug

Frankie just finished reading ‘Acorn’, a book of instructional pieces by conceptual art extraordinaire Yoko Ono. S/he thought this:

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Yoko’s great. Really, she knows what she’s doing. Her ideas are interesting, she’s clearly quite well read and well informed, she’s an intense and acute observationist, and she’s as much a presence on paper as she is in person. She’s an extraordinary artist, and no one needs reminding. But she’s not my artist. She doesn’t speak to me, she doesn’t resonate, she barely inspires a ripple in my imagination.

And that’s not to say that I don’t have imagination; I make songs, I make collages, I have an investment in art-making and conceptual thinking. But I’m also a pretty standard young person: barely any money, still unsure what I’m willing to do as a real job, concerned about the way I look and how others perceive me, inspired by various Westernisms and very much an urbanite. I’ve been toughened by the city, toughened by a fairly working-class upbringing, toughened by having to deal with assholes on a near-daily basis, toughened by being an unsigned, unloved musician, toughened by club and drug culture, toughened toughened toughened, made bitter, twisted, cynical, unbearable, and pissed off to the max (and yes, that’s everyone else’s fault, actually). Continue reading

New Fiction Review: ‘The Herbalist’ by Niamh Boyce

11 Jul

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

I won my copy of ‘The Herbalist’ through a Goodreads First Reads competition and was immediately struck by how much the cover looked like that of ‘Call the Midwife’. I don’t believe this choice was accidental. The texts share a common thread; both novels are historical fictions that pertain to women’s bodies, and both have a heavy religious presence.

‘The Herbalist’ is the story of a small group of women in 1930s Ireland. It details how the seemingly trivial appearance of a charming foreigner, who enters their market square one day to pedal his miraculous wares, changes their lives forever. It’s a novel about social convention, secrecy and seduction. Each woman is faces with her own choice to make and burden to bear, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Continue reading

New Fiction Review: ‘The Academy: Game On’ by Monica Seles

12 Jun

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Author Monica Seles is a retired tennis champion. She won the French open at sixteen and went on to become the number one ranked woman in tennis, winning a total of nine Grand Slam titles before retiring from the game in 2004. I know this only because I read her biography in the back of ‘The Academy: Game On’, which I won through a Goodreads First Read competition. ‘Game On’ also has another author in very small print on the title page, so I’m guessing it was ghost written – not that it really matters.

It turns out that ‘Game On’ is your typical rags to riches plot, set against the backdrop of a very exclusive sports academy. You know, “17-year-old tennis superstar in the making gets the scholarship of her dreams… and more than she bargained for”. It’s sort of like Mean Girls meets Bend it Like Beckham, with a touch of The OC (‘cause they’re all so super rich).

The girls were fairly interesting, and this novel definitely passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There’s the protagonist, Maya, who is fairly likeable, punk Cleo, rising star of the ultra conservative golf scene, Renee, a girl rich enough to buy her way in to the Academy, and Glamazon Nicole, Maya’s heroine – and competition.

‘Game On’ is filled with all the hot guys and frenemies you’d expect. I haven’t read a lot of teen romance, but I imagine the romantic interests are fairly typical of that genre as well (bad boy vs. shallow stud). There are so many twists and changes of heart that my eyes were flicking back and forth across the page like I was witnessing a tennis match. Some of them were predictable, some of them I didn’t see coming and they struck me with the force of a tennis ball hurtled from a malfunctioning ball machine. (Are these tennis metaphors going a bit too far?)

This novel had a slow start but picked up the pace very quickly. It was genuinely funny at times, and although I never found myself laughing aloud I did find myself smiling a lot. The author does have a tendency to spoonfeed the reader a bit with her descriptions and there are a lot of instances of wishing she’d show instead of tell. This sentence on page two we probably could have gleaned for ourselves: “Finally, she had done it. This sixteen-year-old have-not from central New York with absolutely no connections whatsoever had somehow made it into the most exclusive club.”

Some of the description made me wince a little bit, like calling Cleo “an Asian girl with a towel wrapped around her head” the first time we see her, and

“You will be able to pick a Russian from a Belarusian from a Czech at a hundred yards in three seconds flat. Facial features, skin color, clothing, hairstyles […]”

feels borderline racist and wasn’t really necessary to the story or plot at all. ‘Game On’ also has a very “feel sorry for the poor beautiful rich kids” feel. For example, this quote:

“The only things Maya had ever heard about the way she looked were how freakishly tall she was, how creepily blue her eyes were, how plain blonde her hair was.”

Like, you can’t really just add an unflattering adjective to a word and make it so it seems like she doesn’t fit society’s idea of the perfect woman. Come on, Seles!

Also, after a dad says something offhand to his son:

“Jak and Maya found each other’s eyes. The pain was almost physical. Certainly worse than anything the kid he injured was feeling.”

I kind of disagree, considering that the character in question had just broken a fellow football player’s arm so hard that he’d let out a scream which sounded “primal, like a wounded animal”!

The whole novel offers an interesting commentary on class divides. I know it’s never going to happen in a million years, but a spinoff series about Cleo and her life as a Chinese immigrant who is also a lesbian would be A-MA-ZING. I really liked Cleo and it was super inclusive of them to put a lesbian in BFF role, but they really skimmed over her romance with Svetlana. Like we didn’t even meet the girl. I’m hoping to see more of baby dyke Cleo and her radical undercut in the sequel – although, speaking as a queer girl with an undercut, Cleo is pretty misogynistic for a queer girl with an undercut.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. And what I mean by that is that when the sequel comes out, I’m prepared to spent actual, real money on it. Nice serve, Seles.