Archive for the ‘Chicken House’ Category

Review: Billy Elliot – Melvin Burgess

Cover of Billy Elliot by Melvin Burgess

Title: Billy Elliot
Author: Melvin Burgess
Publication date: 2 April, 2001
Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-90343-433-8
Length: 155 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Set in northern England during the 1984 miners’ strike, Billy Elliot tells the story of a young working class boy who chooses not to follow his widowed father’s instructions to train to be a boxer. Instead, fascinated by the ballet class sharing the same building as his gym, Billy hangs up his gloves to pursue dreams of being a dancer. But even as he discovers his virtuoso gift for ballet he must hide his triumph from his father and brother – both miners on strike struggling to keep food on the table.

Based on the original screenplay by Lee Hall, this novel by award-winning teen author Melvin Burgess has captured the spirit of the original film and the now sell-out musical.

My thoughts

The reason why I picked up this book is that Billy Elliot is one of my all time favourite films and I was really intrigued by the fact that it’s been released as a novel. Since it’s related to my thesis work I’ll have to start working on in the next few weeks and it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, I decided to combine work with pleasure and read Melvin Burgess’s novel. To be honest, I found Billy’s narration quite strange at first and I thought it wouldn’t live up to my expectations after all – but I couldn’t be further from the truth. Burgess’s novel is just as good, if not better, than the film and I was in tears all the way to the end.

What I loved about it the most is the fact that it’s narrated by several different people. Most of the time it’s Billy who’s speaking but there are chapters that are told by either Billy’s father, brother, or his friend Michael. I loved the contrast between these chapters, especially those of the father’s and his two children. The way we see things from a twelve-year-old’s point of view at first and then from an adult’s is just brilliant. Billy’s father was definitely my favourite character and I really enjoyed reading the story from his perspective as well. It was actually one of the reasons why I eventually found the book even more touching than the film. The way he describes what he feels about his wife, how poverty-stricken they are and how he can’t do anything to build a better future for his sons, how he’s ready to sacrifice himself and give up everything just to make at least one of their dreams come true is very touching.

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Torn Blog Tour: Researching Afghanistan…

Hello and welcome to the last stop on the Torn blog tour! Today author David Massey is joining us here at Books, Biscuits and Tea to talk about his research methods for his debut novel, Torn. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I can’t recommend it enough! If you like young adult fiction (or if you’re looking for a gripping adventure) you might want to give it a try. If you missed my review on Monday, you can read it by clicking here. And without further ado, please welcome David Massey!

Researching Afghanistan…

I did think of going but… there’s a war on. Fortunately though I’ve been privileged enough to have travelled to Africa, Europe and America and to Romania just as the revolution was ending. I think that gave me a feel for how young people are caught up in wars and conflicts too. In Timisoara, the two teenage sons of our contact had just got back from digging up some of their family who had been killed in the uprising and they showed us the very graphic video they were making so that the rest of the world would hear about what they were going through. Guns were still being fired at night although nobody seemed to know who was shooting, or why, now that the revolution was over. As we were leaving the town we met a young boy who took us to see the doorway where his friends and family were gunned down when they were demonstrating in the town square.

In Bucharest, we met a man who told us that the storming of the palace only started when the children rushed up the steps of Ceausescu’s palace. The adults, he told us, were too frightened. It took the kids to start the surge forward to storm the line of soldiers.

Torn by David MasseyRunning an emergency supplies business gave me an insight into some of the medical kit Elinor might need as an army medic. Things like Israeli bandages for serious trauma and gels that expand to fill entry and exit wounds like the one Ellie uses in the mountains… And for everything else I needed to research? All I can say is thank God for YouTube. I spent hours watching videos shot by soldiers, medics and documentary makers in Afghanistan.

Thank you David! If you’re interested in David’s work, make sure to stop by his author page, or purchase a copy of Torn. :)

Review: Torn – David Massey

Cover of Torn by David Massey

Title: Torn
Author: David Massey
Publication date: 2 August, 2012
Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-908435-1-70
Length: 259 pages
Genre: Action / Adventure
Age group: Young Adult
Source: For review
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Afghanistan. In the heat and dust, young British Army medic Elinor Nielson watches an Afghan girl walk into a hail of bullets. But when she runs to help, Ellie finds her gone. Who is she? And what’s happened to her? What Ellie discovers leads her to question everything she believes in – even her feelings for the American lieutenant who takes her side…

My thoughts

When I first saw David Massey’s Torn and what the story’s about, I knew I had to read it. Even though the synopsis doesn’t give too much away, I had a feeling I’d be in for an emotional ride. My only concern was that (and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way) I don’t normally read war books so I was hoping it wouldn’t be too… you know, war-like and all about politics. However, I shouldn’t have worried – for David Massey makes this difficult subject accessible for the young adult generation with such ease that you just won’t be able to put the book down.

Torn is narrated by a 19-year-old British medic called Ellie, who’s recently joined the troops in Afghanistan. Ellie is likeable and funny but very down-to-earth and ordinary as well – just like any of us. Massey’s aim by writing the story from a young girl’s perspective was to raise awareness to the fact that many young adults have died in the Afghan war, as well as adults. In fact, most of the characters in Torn are around Ellie’s age, and even younger. There are kids as young as 12 and soldiers around the age of 20-23.  Reading what these people have been through was definitely an eye-opener for me. Even though it’s not just about people dying but friendship, love, and forgiveness as well, you still can’t help thinking about troops who are fighting in these circumstances day by day.

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Review: The Look – Sophia Bennett

Cover of The Look by Sophia Bennett

Title: The Look
Author: Sophia Bennett
Publication date: March, 2012
Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback
ISBN:978-1-906427-91-7
Length: 327 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Ted is fifteen, and…oh yes…tall. When she’s spotted by a model agency, she can’t believe it. At the same time, Ted’s fashionista sister, Ava, is diagnosed with cancer. With her world turned upside down, Ted has a lot of growing up to do, some of it in five-inch platforms. Should she be the model sister for Ava? Life in front of the camera is harder than it looks. And will they still be smiling when it’s over?

The Look is without a doubt one of those books that will make you roar with laughter one minute, shed a few tears the next but most importantly, it will make you think and re-evaluate your life. I loved everything about it, from the characters and the plot to Bennett’s writing style – just brilliant.

Writing from a 15-year old girl’s point of view is quite risky and and it can go horribly wrong since many times these teenagers sound a bit too mature, too adult-ish and I can’t seem get over the fact that I didn’t talk or think like that when I was their age, but Sophia Bennett pulls it off perfectly. Her ironic/sarcastic sense of humour definitely fits Ted’s personality and it’s one of the things that make this book as good as it is.

What I loved about this story, however, is the message that it’s trying to convey to its readers. I liked how different Ava becomes after she learns about her illness. She transforms from this stunning and popular older sister into someone brave and more mature. It’s interesting how different people think when they know they might lose the battle against the illness. I loved how she was behind Ted the whole time and encouraged her to go for it and give modelling a shot. It’s as if she said we only live once and we shouldn’t be afraid of taking chances…because what’s the worst that can happen? In the end we only regret the chances that we didn’t take and the decisions that we waited too long to take. The Look is an incredibly motivating and optimistic novel which will no doubt give hope to teenagers all around the world.

At the same time, it’s not a depressing and heart-wrenching novel which tells the story of a girl who’s trying to survive cancer, quite the opposite. Don’t be afraid to pick it up if you don’t like highly emotional stories because it’s not like that. If you like contemporary / chick lit novels then I can guarantee that you’ll love this one. The characters will really grow on you along the way and you’ll be amazed how much they change by the end of the story and how much the two sisters’ relationship itself changes.

The modelling world itself was very well researched and written – I’ve always had a soft spot for fashion so I was really excited about reading this book and it didn’t disappoint me one bit. If I had to make comparisons, I’d say it’s like America’s Next Top Model and The Devil Wears Prada rolled into one, sprinkled with a pinch of humour and topped off with a great sisterly bond, witty and amiable characters, and gripping storyline. What’s not to love?

Rating:
*Thank you to Chicken House for sending me a review copy of this book*