Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My favourite page-turners

I haven’t posted a book review on my blog in ages. That’s not to say I haven’t been reading. I am currently sharing my apartment with more books in the process of being read or waiting to be read that it’s starting to look like a library.

So here are several reviews of books I absolutely adored. More to follow, I promise.

Young adult

Banished by Liz de Jager

BanishedFaeries! Trolls! Love! Treachery! Banished has it covered.

Kit discovers that she is a member of the legendary Blackhart family, guardians of the Frontier (aka the human world), responsible for keeping out the creatures from the Otherwhere – banshees, ghosts, goblins. When she inadvertently rescues the fairy prince Thorn from a gang of goblins, Kit discovers a plot to bring back the Elder Gods and destroy the world as we know it. It’s Hellboy meets Anna Dressed in Blood, and it’s brilliant.

(Read my full review of Banished on Women24.)

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I love John Green. I love that his characters are witty and smart and real. The Fault in Our Stars is a devastating account of two doomed lovers. It will break your heart and make you cry and I love that his fiction can do that. It’s my favourite YA title of 2013.

Currently reading: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell



Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland-CoverSet in the seventies, Joyland is a nostalgic read reminiscent of King’s earlier work. A bit slow to start, it soon opens up to the good stuff – a serial killer that was never caught, a ghost of a woman lurking inside a House of Horror and psychics leading the protagonist to his destiny with cryptic clues.

I came to love the Joyland amusement park with all its hidden passageways and carnies talking the Talk. A captivating read.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

{4AE3C897-E04B-4ADE-B4ED-197505C69489}Img400Karen Russell’s exceptional fiction is my go-to when I’m feeling uninspired, or simply relaxing and in the mood to read. Her language is playful, meaningful and incredible. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is her second anthology of short fiction (St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is phenomenal. Read it.) In it, Russell explores contemporary settings with a whimsical twist – Chinese silk factories with human silkworms, a seagull hellbent on ruining a young man’s life, vampires trying to come to terms with themselves in a modern world. I am so thankful that there are writers like this in the world to remind us why we love our craft.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

shadowI loved A Discovery of Witches. LOVED it. The second in the series, Shadow of Night, is just as hefty, which meant my enjoyment was drawn out over months. (I purposely read this one slowly.) This is anything but a girl meets vampire story. Oxford scholar Diana Bishop is an intelligent, strong female lead, and half the enjoyment is watching her go head to head intellectually with her vampire husband, geneticist Matthew Clairmont. In Shadow of Night, the pair travel back in time to the Elizabethan era as they go in search of the legendary alchemical tome, Ashmole 782.

The writing is excellent and the setting is glorious. The book reads like a historical text, documenting the day to day life of famous 1590 denizens like Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe, Edward Kelley and William Shakespeare. Some of the more tenser parts seemed rushed – I would have loved to discover how Diana and Matthew escaped from the guards and witch-fires of Prague, or how Matthew managed to steal Ashmole 782 from the palace. That said, it was an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

(PS: Has anyone else noticed that D Harkness = Darkness? COINCIDENCE?)

Currently reading: House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen

Upcoming local titles

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

71QTSFmYk6L._SL1500_In The Three, four devastating plane crashes grab the world’s attention. Were they terrorist attacks, accidents or something more sinister? There are only three survivors, all children. Do they have something to do with the crashes? Conspiracy theorists and religious leaders seem to think so. They believe the children are the three horsemen of the apocalypse. The question is, where is the fourth?

I have never read anything like The Three. It’s got everything – plane crashes, conspiracy theories, religious fanatics, creepy kids. It’s fast-paced, clever and the characters are superbly written. It’s a masterpiece of authenticity. The novel is set in several locations including Japan, South Africa, England and America and each location is so richly detailed it draws you in like you’re actually there. A must read.

One Shot by Amanda Coetzee

The tattooed Traveller detective is back, and this time he’s not playing around. In One Shot, the charismatic Badger (aka Detective Harry O’ Connor) is on the hunt for a sniper, going as far as following him to Johannesburg and back. Coetzee’s writing is fast-paced and addictive, but most of all its incredibly visual. I can just imagine Badger on screen, running across the rain-drenched London streets as he chases down the killer. ATTENTION PRODUCERS. THIS NEEDS TO BE A TV SERIES.

Devilskein and Dearlove by Alex Smith

In Devilskein and Dearlove, Erin discovers that the mysterious Mr Devilskein in her aunt’s apartment block is the keeper of six mysterious doors, each leading on to six more doors. He entrusts Erin with the keys for the Turquoise door, which leads to among things, an ocean cabinet, the lost works of William Shakespeare, and a beautiful Chinese garden.

Where do I start? It’s a beautiful book. The story is imaginative, lush, lyrical and the writing is superb. I love the storyteller style of narration, and the dialogue is faultless. The descriptions of places are incredibly evocative, and I especially enjoyed the Garden of Sorrow, the Ocean Cabinet and Zhou’s recollections of the past. It’s almost like reading an allegory. I read this novel in one sitting.

What I want to get my hands on: Tokoloshe Song by Andrew Salomon and Dark Windows by Louis Greenberg


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    March 24th, 2014 @14:18 #

    Yum. I can second the recommendations for The Three and Devilskein. The Three is like a large bowl of salted macadamia nuts: you cannot stop consuming it, not even when you start to feel slightly sick (remember, I don't do horror). Addictive. And am also looking forward to Louis and Andrew's books.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    March 24th, 2014 @15:05 #

    Helen, I think you would like Deborah Harkness's novels. Rich in history and juicy as a plum.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    March 24th, 2014 @15:59 #

    Your illustrations make the post.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    May 28th, 2014 @22:11 #

    Wow, thanks Sally. I didn't see this before - can't wait for you to see the book trailer, hopefully soon. Your Lego scenes are brilliant.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat