Lazy Saturday Review: The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes #BookReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot and writing and more on my general feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

amberfury

Title: The Amber Fury
Author: Natalie Haynes
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publication Details:  November 6th 2014 by Corvus
Genre(s): General Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, borrowed from Dora!

Goodreads // Waterstones

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When you open up, who will you let in?

Alex Morris has lost everything: her relationship, her career and her faith in the future. Moving to Edinburgh to escape her demons, Alex takes a job teaching at a Pupil Referral Unit. It’s a place for kids whose behaviour is so extreme that they cannot be taught in a normal classroom. Alex is fragile with grief and way out of her depth.

Her fourth-year students are troubled and violent. In desperation to reach them, Alex turns to the stories she knows best. Greek tragedy isn’t the most obvious way to win over such damaged children, yet these tales of fate, family and vengeance speak directly to them.

Enthralled by the bloodthirsty justice of the ancient world, the teenagers begin to weave the threads of their own tragedy – one that Alex watches, helpless to prevent.

Review

I really enjoyed this story of a theatre director who ends up teaching troubled teens in Edinburgh following a personal tragedy.

It’s one of those books that spoon feeds you most of the story but omits the most important piece of the puzzle to keep you guessing.

We know that Alex’s vulnerable state has weakened her judgement and as a result the children in her care have suffered. We discover that one of the teens in particular has done something terrible, and that Alex perhaps had the opportunity to stop that from happening but failed.

I enjoyed the writing and the setting; I could tell that the author had spent time in Edinburgh where it was set. The characters were well developed and interesting, and Alex was a great protagonist. Her vulnerability had the potential to get a bit woe-is-me, but her passion for the Greek Tragedies she taught and for helping the children stopped that from happening. 

Overall, I thought The Amber Fury was a good, solid read, if not a teeny bit anti-climatic! 

unicorn rating 3

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

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Title: Back to Blackbrick
Author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 272 pages
Publication Details: February 7th 2013 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope! I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora.

Goodreads
Purchase


Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in…

Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

 Review

I really enjoyed Sarah’s second YA novel, The Apple Tart of Hope which I got through Netgalley, so I was eager to go back to her first offering, Back to Blackbrick.

Like The Apple Tart of Hope, Back to Blackbrick is a quirky read told in a unique voice. It seems to me that both of Sarah’s stories are full of juxtapositions; they are set in the real world yet have fantasy elements; they are humorous and light-hearted, yet also deal with serious subject matter.

I love that about Sarah’s writing. It feels real but magical at the same time.

Back to Blackbrick is narrated by Cosmo. He hates his name, the fact that his brother died in such a stupid manner (he fell out of a window), his mother for getting on a plane and never coming back, the school kids who call him Loser Boy, and that his granddad’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse by the day.

But Cosmo is a spirited boy. He doesn’t despair too much over these things and he definitely doesn’t dwell on them. Instead, he throws himself into helping his granddad to remember things.

When his granddad gives him a mysterious key, along with the name Blackbrick, and asks him to promise to go there, Cosmo sets off on his own adventure. Beyond his imagination, Cosmo opens the gates to Blackbrick and finds himself face-to-face with his granddad, only he’s 50 years younger….

Can Cosmo use this time lapse to his advantage? He wants to teach his granddad good mind practices, and stop his brother from falling out of the window, but that might not be so simple as it’s easy to get swept away with life at Blackbrick.

I thought this book was beautifully told, funny, and well, just cute. I can’t think of any better way to describe it than that. It was exciting in parts, sad in others, but Cosmo’s frank way of looking at the world really shone through and made the story what it is: Unique.

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick and The Apple Tart of Hope are available in paperback from Waterstones.