Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mount Toberead 10: The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks

The Reformed Vampire Support Group also by Catherine Jinks is one of the best recent vampire novels I've read over the last 10 or so years. I call it the Anti-Twilight, as it basically explains exactly why being an immortal vampire (especially a teenage one) sucks (pun not intended).

Despite that, for some reason, the sequel; The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, wound up on Mount Toberead for quite some time. I really don't know why. It could be that werewolves tend to interest me less than vampires, and I'm really not that into vampires, either.

One of the unusual things about both books is that they're set in and around Sydney. The reason for this is that Catherine Jinks is an Australian, and she lives in Australia (although not all of her books are set in the country). It's hard to write Australians, although being an Aussie, I probably give that a higher bar than most. Jinks gets it right and her descriptions of her setting prove that she does actually know the city that she's talking about. One of the vernacular things that she did get wrong, though, was referring to tomato sauce as ketchup. We rarely call it that.

The existence of werewolves along with the vampires in Sydney was mentioned in the first book, and the rescue of some of them being used to illegal dog fights in the outback was also part of the plot.

This one concerns a fairly clueless young man called Toby, who becomes a werewolf. Jinks changed a few things about the accepted methods and backgrounds of werewolves. It's not passed on by being bitten by an infected one, it's a hereditary thing (rather like in the original Teen Wolf film) and it also seems to affect people with Portuguese or Spanish heritage (not sure why Jinks targeted that particular background, but it was a point of difference).

Toby came across as quite real, as did his friends Fergus and Amin. In fact I did find it rather odd that Toby, who was a bit whiny and dopey at times, hung out with an idiot like Fergus, I also thought it strange that Amin also hung out with Fergus,. Not only was he an idiot, he was one with dangerous and stupid ideas.

The story mostly concerns Toby coming to terms with being a werewolf (it sucks about as much as being a teenage vampire does, although at least Toby won't live forever and won't permanently remain at 14 years old, he's also not dead) and trying to get his mother to deal with the reality as well.

He is eventually taken by members of the same illegal fight ring that appeared in the first book and has to be rescued by members of the Vampire Support Group. It's quite funny, sometimes violent  and confronting, it also moves fast and is fairly likeable due to a diverse and interesting, well drawn cast.

I wish I'd read it a bit earlier. although I still enjoyed it. I did find The Reformed Vampire Support Group a better book, however.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mount Toberead 9: Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

There aren't a lot of authors whose surnames start with I (there may be, but they aren't on the shelves of our library), so I was in a bit of a quandary until I saw my wife's collection of Eva Ibbitson books. I'd never read anything by her, but my wife had urged me to on a couple of occasions. Here was the opportunity. Journey to the River Sea appealed to me most.

It's not fantasy, although it does have adventure and it's set in a very different world than that familiar to many of us. It's basically the story of a sunny dispositioned English girl Maia and her life after her parents pass away and she's sent to live with a family of distant relatives in Brazil.

The Carters, specifically Mrs Carter and her horrible twins Beatrice and Gwendolyn, could have come straight out of Cinderella. Mrs Carter made a splendid Lady Tremaine, and her daughters were excellent stepsisters.

Maia isn't alone, though, she has her governess Miss Minton and later meets Finn and has the young actor Clovis King. While I found most of the characters a bit too clearly either all bad (Beatrice and Gwendolyn) or all good (Maia, she's actually too pleasant to be believable), I loved Miss Minton, she definitely had layers to her. She also reminded me of Terry Pratchett's Perspicacia Tick.

The story, while not revolutionary, moves fast and is involving. Ibbotson used her setting well and described it vividly, even if it was just a little too pleasant at times. I did find myself comparing Ibbotson's writing with that of other teen and children's authors and she came off favourably. The others should read some of Ibbotson to work out how to really write.

After the frustration of A. G. Howard, Eva Ibbotson and Maia were a welcome remedy.