Milly Reynolds the Crime and General Fiction Author

Creator of crime sleuths Mike Malone and Jack Sallt and writer of other general fiction

Another Carnegie read – more than Dystopia

More Than This

by Patrick Ness

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For someone who doesn’t read Dystopian novels, this is my second one this year – ‘Station Eleven’ being the first. This, however, is beyond Dystopia and I was hooked. The story follows Seth as he tries to come to terms with his ‘death'; he drowns and wakes up in an abandoned land but in a familiar house. Is he in the afterlife or is he somewhere completely different?  There are many twists and I don’t want to give away any plot details, but basically, Seth tries to find out where he is and why he is there and we see flashbacks of his life before he drowned.

As a YA novel, it not only introduces some philosophical ideas, it also covers topics such as loss, guilt and sexuality.

The book is well written and even though it leaves you with lots of unanswered questions, that is not a failing. It leaves you wanting more than this!

More from the Carnegie – a picture book!!

Tinder

by

Sally Gardner

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The thing about growing up is that books lose their pictures. Not this one. This is a beautiful Young Adult book complete with illustrations in different shades of black, grey and white by David Roberts which capturethe atmosphere wonderfully. The story is based upon Hans Christian Anderson’s tale ‘The Tinderbox’ and Sally Gardner sets it at the time of The Thirty Years war when soldier Otto Hundebiss is given a pair of shoes and a set of dice as he embarks on a strange and mysterious new journey where he will have to face love and death. The people that Otto meets on his quest are brought to life with Roberts’ angular illustrations which sometimes cover an entire page as well as drawings that only cover up part of the page they are on.

The story deals with themes of rape, murder, betrayal and trauma. It is dark and much more gruesome than the original tale. Otto narrates the story and through his dreams, we slowly learn more about the events that haunt him and made him into the man he has become.

A spellbinding book which has to be bought – this is NOT a book for a Kindle, it is a book to treasure.

Another Carnegie review – you’re never too old for a fairy tale

Cuckoo Song

by  Frances Hardinge

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A fairy story set in the aftermath of WW1, full of dark, gothic elements. This is not a fairy story with kind and beautiful figures. The creatures that inhabit this tale are frightening, cunning and definitely not friendly.

Triss is the middle child in a family that is coming to terms with the loss of an elder son in the war and a difficult younger daughter, Pen; Triss herself suffers with her nerves. The story begins when Triss wakes after an accident to find that things are not quite the same; she cannot satisfy her hunger and her dolls scream at her.

Frances Hardinge has written a complex story of the effects of the loss of a beloved son and how the family trying to cure their grief stricken lives by making “deals with the devil”. Nevertheless, for all the horrifying creatures and the frightening scenarios, this is a tale about trust and strength of character as Triss battles to save her family.

It’s a difficult book to review because I don’t want to give away spoilers, all I can say is that, at times, it is heartbreaking. The writing is beautiful and atmospheric. I loved it.

Latest Carnegie review. Sorry, didn’t enjoy this one

When Mr Dog Bites

by Brian Conaghan

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Sorry, didn’t enjoy this one. I felt it was trying to be the new ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’.

Dylan Mint – aged 16 – suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome and attends a special school. Like any teenage boy, he can’t wait to get a girlfriend and have sex for the first time. However, unlike most teenage boys, he struggles with anxiety and his nerves tend to show in the form of tics, cursing or even growling noises.

The author does give you a small glimpse of what it is like to be a sufferer, where the effort of trying to suppress the symptoms actually makes them worse. You learn about the prejudice that those suffering with a disability have to endure. However, this book was not for me.

I can see that many teenagers will love it with a capital ‘L’, but I don’t think that they will ‘get’ it. They will read it for the sheer pleasure of being able to read a book where the ‘f’ word and the ‘c’ word get used. And for me, that is a shame.  Far more teenagers will put this book down having enjoyed the ‘naughty’ words than will put it down with a deeper understanding of the life of a Tourette’s sufferer. For anyone reading this book without any knowledge of the syndrome, they will believe that it is just a matter of swearing; it isn’t but the author has not explored all other aspects of the syndrome. He has missed an opportunity to educate young people, to raise awareness of a syndrome that can, in some cases, cause distress to the sufferer.

Canada Bound

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Son’s holiday with us is now over and it has been fun; slightly surreal having him under our feet after so long away, but fun. The cats certainly enjoyed having extra fuss, his two-year old god-daughter got to know him and his grand-father loved every moment that he was able to spend with him.

The down-side? Baking. I wanted to fill my cupboards with cakes and biscuits, I wanted to feed my son while he was here. He wouldn’t let me. He didn’t want to return to Canada with a pot belly. Luckily, since son has been away, husband and I have changed our eating habits and now eat ultra-healthy – hence our weight-loss – so son just joined in. He’s actually going back to Canada lighter than he was when he arrived, which must be a first.

As I write this, son will have been in the air for just over two and a half hours, not even half way back to Toronto yet. We have been home for two and a half hours and the house seems empty and quiet. I’ll have to get used to the silence all over again.

He has made his decision and he is going to try to stay in Canada – if they will have him. I might not like it, but I understand his decision. Part of me can even see that maybe it is the right thing for him. I look around my own town which has changed so much in the past ten years; it is unrecognisable to the town that I grew up in. It is now a town where I don’t feel safe to go out in the evening, a town where street drinkers crowd around the street corners, a town where graffiti artists think it is right to destroy children’s art.

So yes, I might not like that fact that son is going to start a life in a different country, but when I look at what my town has become, I can see why he might not want to stay.

Latest Carnegie Review

Apple and Rain

by Sarah Crossan

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I actually enjoyed this one. Apple – aged 13 – is likeable as a character. She lives with her grandmother, having been abandoned by her mother. She is full of all of the usual teenage anxieties over boys and friendship groups, and living with an over-protective guardian has knocked her confidence; she is not allowed the freedom that her friends enjoy. Her talent is poetry, it allows her to express her feelings, but she hides it, afraid that her teacher will make her read it aloud.

Then her mother re-enters her life bringing surprises and problems.

The character of the mother is the one that I felt was the least convincing – maybe because as a mother myself, I have no comprehension of that sort of behaviour. The grandmother is beautifully written, a woman trying to do the best for her grand-daughter, trying to make sure that Apple does not make the mistakes her mother did.

It’s an easy read, try it.

This can’t possibly be bread!!

Another day, another baking experiment. I’ve decided that I should start my own restaurant chain – ‘It Might Not Look OK, But It Tastes Great!’ My bakes never look as I want them to, but the taste is there. Today’s offering is a perfect example. Let me present – Raspberry and White Chocolate Bread. This is another recipe adapted from the Paul Hollywood collection. He used a sourdough, I have just used a basic bread dough. After letting the dough prove, I added fresh raspberries and white chocolate chips.

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A bit of kneading and the raspberries were broken down nicely, lovely pink swirls rippled the dough, while the white chocolate chips resembled little jewels. This mixture was put into a tin and left to prove again.

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I baked the loaf for about 40 minutes and when I opened the oven door … well, this is the reason why my restaurant chain would be so named. The loaf didn’t rise as it cooked, it spread. It was a loaf with a hat on!!! But the taste. WOW!!! Naughty but very, very, very nice.

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I will try and do better next time, and tasting the way this bread does, the next time is just around the corner.

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