Tag Archives: Young-adult fiction

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender: Guest review by Violet Buttercream

Review of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Reader alert: This review may contain spoilers. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Author: Leslye Walton

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Romance

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Synopsis: Out protagonist (Ava Lavender) looks back at her family history and the past residents of Pinnacle Lane to try and discover why she has wings, beginning with how her grandmother was born. Her family has always had a history of affliction with love and Ava is unprepared for what she discovers. Alongside side this is sixteen-year-old Ava’s life, unsure what to make of her wings, just trying to fit in.

 My thoughts: “Love makes us such fools”

This tale was not just written it was threaded and crafted and I feel like it has burrowed inside of me.

It has an atmosphere to it that just leaves you with goosebumps and an inexplicable understanding of the weight of human love and suffering and an insight into the choices we make and those we don’t and the impossibility and certainty of sorrow.

…Ava Lavender is so breathtakingly real and honest even in the fantastical parts there’s always a groundedness a sense of truth and palpable emotion. It is a story about love without being a love story. It is about motherly love, unwanted love, all-consuming love, endless love and I love this book to the moon and the stars. It is easily the best book I’ve read all year, possibly ever.

“My grandmother fell in love three times before her nineteenth birthday. My mother found love with the neighbour boy when she was six. And I, I was born with wings, a misfit who didn’t dare to expect something as grandiose as love…my story, like everyone’s, begins with the past and a family tree. The following is the story of my young life as I lived it…I have travelled through continents, languages, and time trying to understand all that I am and all that made me such.” 

I think it is suitable for all ages and holds its own with fairytale and mythological qualities while being refreshingly contemporary. This book is definitely not another formulaic YA novel.

As Goodreads describes it (and I think they can do it better than me) “Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.. Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.”

The writing is intoxicating and rich and flowing with darkness. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea (a girl turns into a bird) but even if you hate “magical” books read this because YES THAT IS A PEICE OF MY HEART BETWEEN THE PAGES. There are many characters, but they are all beautifully developed and the book unfolds simply so it is easy it follow (It is also relatively short despite it’s depth.)

 The strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is strange and beautiful and so, so much more and I urge everyone to read this divine book.

Your friend, Violet Buttercream

Check out my blog! http://booksandbakingandfeminism.blogspot.co.uk

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Filed under Guest blog post, Magical Realism, Romance, YA

Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale, by David Andrew Crawford

Dark Solus: An Assassin’s tale is a fantasy tale that is truly filled with adventure, battles and some raw emotion. The start of the n but novel is intriguing and suitably suspenseful, it certainly sets the scene for the kind of world the reader is going to enter; at the same time it’s not overly detailed so the rest of the novel has plenty to offer.

Moving on as you read further you’ll find the novel has a good pace, with interesting characters being introduced all the time, consistently adding depth, intrigue and much appreciated context to the events of the main character’s (Dark Solus) journey. However during my reading I was not totally taken with the choice of names used. Whilst the names are somewhat unusual and therefore fitting with the fantasy genre, it found all but the name ‘Mephisto’ was somewhat lacking. In this I include Dark Solus. His name does fit the role he must take on during the novel and befits his history, but I felt it was somewhat out of line with my perception of the rest of his character.

Dark SolusCrawford has a good use of adjectives, his depiction of a hell-horse is not only unusual as I’m normally greeted by hell-hounds or the knights of hell and even the apocalypse horsemen, but it’s also an incredibly thoughtful quite frankly beautiful and depiction. Another impressive nod to this skill is the paragraph in which Mephisto transforms himself into an imaginatively detailed, well-timed and a plot twist which hints at other striking plot twist possibilities. In keeping with this level of detail is the magic lessons between Dark and Mephisto, which I found very interesting as this is an area of fantasy I find many authors skip over, or rely on the reader to assume the character’s level of skill.

By Chapter six the reader will have proof that Crawford is capable of producing believable, engaging and detailed battle scenes time and time again. Although violent in nature (as most epic battles are) and seemingly cruel, Crawford never lets the reader forget that all the violence and cruelty comes from a boy with a tragic past and a promise to fulfil and perhaps readers will feel more sympathetic towards Dark for this.  By chapter seven a story of love, loss, revenge, and magic has truly blossomed into a decent work of fiction.

At one point in chapter seven I found an amusing homage to what I could only recognise as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and ‘The Stigg’. Though amusing it was unnecessary and I felt it actually spoilt the atmosphere of the novel, by removing me as the reader from the world of magic I’d settled into, making it feel all the more out of place.

It’s clear there are a variety of literary and cultural influences within Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale from the Greek fates, harpies, Hades and Kraken like creature; to Viking Thor and Loki (Lore) right through to Tolkien’s dwarves with a lost home. Not forgetting the trials of Heracles (Hercules) which are clearly reflected in the quest Dark undertakes throughout his journey.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash but Crawford pulls apart each influence,  using only what’s necessary and doesn’t let his inspirations digress from telling Dark’s story. As a reader picking out each influence as you read further is interesting and I found myself all the more engaged with the novel by being able to do so.

There are plenty of back stories Crawford could utilise and expand upon into short stories, which I would certainly be interested in reading. It has such a rich mythology and detailed sub-plots that there are plenty to choose from and fan fiction fantasy writers would also do well to give this novel a try.

Overall Dark Solus: An Assassin’s Tale is well worth the read for fantasy lovers, but also it’s got a bit of everything so it’s a good choice for introducing young or reluctant readers to not only the genre but reading in general which is always a plus.

© Gemma Feltham 2nd June 2014

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Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural

The Black Elf of Seaward Isle- Joni Parker

The Black Elf of Seaward Isle by Joni Parker is an eclectic piece of fantasy fiction. The first chapter of any novel is important for scene setting, back-story and first impressions to carry you through the rest of the book. The Black Elf of Seaward Isle immediately launches the characters of the novel but is limited in its time and location settings. We arrive on Seaward Isle during an unknown time, later discovered in the novel, but there was some lacking detail in the depiction of the main character’s (Alexin) first journey. The next few chapters offer slow progress regarding character development,  but Parker is still able to retain the reader’s interest and keep them engaged enough to continue reading.

The Blaack Elf of Seward Isle

The odd time structure and lack of fixed location is interesting but I often felt as though I was reading Alex’s diary- it was a little ‘and then this happened, and then that happened’, largely due to its relatively simple sentence structure. The essentials are always substantially detailed without complexity or wayward tangents. It would definitely be suitable for a young adult reader but many of the other topics including death make it suitable for a wider audience. However “Ham” is a terrible nickname for anyone, even if your name is Hamlin. By the end of the battle in Chapter 2, you’ve started to get a much clearer insight into Alex’s nature. Here the character development really begins. Many of the place names and character names are perfectly fitting and well chosen for the setting of the novel, which appears to lie within the realm of medieval magic. However other names occasionally resonate as too modern and therefore are a little out of place for this kind of setting. But that is more a matter of the individual’s opinion.

The most interesting part about this novel for me, is the big mix of influences. The reader is treated to a truly eclectic mix of magic, elves, dwarves, Amazonians, titans, pirates and humans. This mix is unusual for me to obtain from one book, and I enjoyed it to the point where I often wished Parker had offered more detailed and longer descriptions. Alex’s history and heritage is slowly but consistently revealed through the novel. By chapter 4 the reader is all the more intrigued and wants to know more about her descendants and their story. There are also many good sub-plots which really keep the main narrative alive and full of intrigue- in particular the mystery of the Elvin Lord Odin.

One outstanding thing about Parker’s novel is that she always keeps you guessing. The story is so unpredictable and the style widely unknown to me that is it all the more engaging to read. My favourite scene, the Presenting Ceremony is in chapter 5. This scene really highlights Parker’s ability to convey emotion as well as action. Her talent shines as her depiction of Alex’s emotion in this scene brought a lump to my throat. At this point the reader is invested in what happens to Alex, a connection has been forged between reader, character and author.

By the time you reach the end of novel, the reader will be confident in the links between the varying characters and the roles they play in the telling of The Black Elf of Seaward Isle. The novel reads consistently if a little simple and would benefit with some added depth and refinement for future installments.

Overall the novel reads well, it is an engaging , interesting, light and enjoyable read. Although it may seem a little bare in places, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you realise you’ve got a concrete story, with some real gems as sub-plots. There isn’t room for the reader to get lost, wander off topic or get bored- the action just keeps on coming!

© Gemma Feltham April 27 2013

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