The Book of You by Claire Kendal
“The Book of You” by Claire Kendal tells the story of Clarissa, a young woman being stalked by an unstable colleague. This is a psychological thriller, made all the more terrifying by the incredible realism of the events portrayed and the author’s storytelling style. The heroine is realistically drawn; Clarissa is smart and practical, but not perfect or naive. She takes the reader through her story as she keeps detailed notes about the stalking as evidence to be used in seeking police help and protection. The fear and creepiness are very real, and not everyone is what they seem. There area few graphic elements (after all, we are dealing with a psychopath), but nothing is thrown in gratuitously. “The Book of You” is the author’s very impressive debut novel, and she is definitely someone from whom we can expect great things in the future. 5 out of 5 slices of Swiss!
The Crispin Trilogy by Avi
This three-book series is geared to middle grade readers (I’d say 4th-7th graders, depending on maturity and reading level). I read the first book with my 5th grader, who was required to read historical fiction for a school assignment. As he went into the book with an “I-hate-historical-fiction” mentality inherited from an older sibling, I’d say his critique of “It was okay” was actually fairly high praise. I, on the other hand, loved the story, and eagerly finished off the remaining two books on my own. The series follows the adventures of Crispin, a boy who finds himself orphaned and wanted by the authorities through no fault of his own. Set (primarily) in England in the 1370s, the story provides a lot of information about the daily life of average people. Some historical references and events are included, but the books focus mainly on the everyday citizens who are largely left out of histories of the time period. The educational aspects never come across as heavy-handed, and you’ll be so caught up in the characters that you’ll likely not even realize that you’re learning something in the process. 5 out of 5 delicious bites of brie!
P.S. You absolutely MUST read in order:
Book 1: Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Book 2: Crispin: At the Edge of the World
Book 3: Crispin: The End of Time
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
If you’re looking for something new and different to get you out of a reading rut, then “Mr. Fox” by Helen Oyeyemi is the book for you! I can promise that this story is unlike anything you’ve read recently. Upfront, this is the story of author Mr. Fox, his wife Daphne, and his muse Mary. Interspersed throughout the novel are a series of short stories in which our characters immerse themselves in a most literal sense. While I do not claim to have fully understood the entire book, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend “Mr. Fox” to anyone looking for something unique, and to anyone who would like to become acquainted with an incredibly talented up-and-coming fiction author. 4.5 of of 5 wedges of sharp cheddar.
Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke
I read “Boy Heaven” by Laura Kasischke because it was on a “recommended” list, and sounded intriguing. It turned out to be a perfectly good story, but did not live up to the hype. The book is billed as intriguing and suspenseful, with a surprise ending. The initial set-up was good, but there was not nearly enough content about the allegedly suspenseful events to build up to what was a not-particularly-surprising conclusion. There was no real psychological tension, and the core event around which the story revolves turned out to be more of a tragedy (and a crime) than anything else. It’s a perfectly acceptable story about some girls at cheerleading camp, but don’t head into this book expecting a mystery, thriller, or major life lesson. On the plus side, the main character is well-developed (we learn more about her as she shares anecdotes from her past with the reader), but her actions at the end of the book don’t track with what we’ve learned about her. What’s most disappointing is that this could have been a truly engaging psychological mystery/thriller. Everything was there, and ready for the plot to advance and become something fascinating. Instead, the story ended with a non-shocking revelation and a note of tragedy that was never fully embraced by the story’s participants. 2.5 out of 5 slices of American.