Thursday 8 May 2014

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - Blog Tour!

Summary from Goodreads

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: May 8th 2014 by Pan MacMillan
My Review
Cuckoo Song is an exquisitely written tale that is dark and devilishly moreish! A compelling page turner that I just couldn't manage to put down.
Main character Triss, comes round after a terrible accident, but she wakes up wrong....different. She becomes seriously frightened when she can't stop eating....eating strange things. She also awakens with bits of twigs and leaves in her hair. To top it all off - she cries cobwebs!
Triss needs to unravel this twisted web and quickly, because it looks like someone dark and very dangerous means her family harm....
For the most part this is a racy and very pacy read, the middle dragged a little if I'm honest though. I loved each big revelation Triss unearthed and I was genuinely on the edge of my seat at times. The bond that Triss forms with her sister throughout this tale was a beautiful thing.
Hardinge writes so imaginatively, I was truly in awe at the brilliant world unfolding in front of my eyes. The characters were ever so intriguing and there is never a dull moment with their antics. I especially loved the deadly architect, who seemed to have dark magic at his fingertips.
The end section was so furiously fast and gripping - I really loved everything about it!
Cuckoo Song is a riveting read that deals in devilishly delicious detailing. It's creepy, thrilling, dangerous and very frightening in places. Admittedly, sometimes it was so imaginative that some of the details were lost on me. I really can't wait for my next Hardinge fix...
4 / 5 Stars!
*Special thanks to Macmillan for the review copy*

Guest Post

Childhood Reads

I was lucky enough to be born into a world full of books. My parents met working in a bookshop, and a lot of my other relations seem to work with books as well selling, publishing and writing them. I would say that there was paper in the blood, if that sounded less painful and unhygienic.

Apparently I was chewing cloth books before I had teeth. My mother always read to us when we were little. Later, I remember my father reading us books, a chapter per evening, serial-style. Remembering the books he read us, I'm not surprised we were riveted. They included The Hobbit, the entire Dark is Rising series, The Thirteen Clocks, The Sword in the Stone, The Just So Stories, The Jungle Book, Puck of Pook's Hill, The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights.

I came across Roald Dahl early. I still remember reading the start of James and the Giant Peach, with its description of James' idyllic life in a house by the sea... and being flabbergasted when his loving parents were suddenly eaten alive by a runaway rhinoceros. The shock was liberating. Suddenly everything was possible, and all the rules were breakable. My sister and I gleefully pounced on all the Dahl we could find.

I always had a soft spot for tricksters, and characters who seemed to live outside the usual rules. Snufkin, the green-clad, pipe-smoking, harmonica-playing wanderer from Tove Jansson's Moominland books. The enigmatic Golux from The Thirteen Clocks, with his 'indescribable hat'. The Cheshire Cat, grinning without fear as the Queen of Hearts rages. The Scarlet Pimpernel, master of cheek and finesse, hiding in plain sight and staking his life on his enemies' blind spots.

Catherine Storr's Marianne Dreams introduced me to psychological horror. The premise of the book is simple images drawn by a girl in her sketchbook then appear in her dreams. There aren't many books which can make badly-drawn stones with eyes into chilling figures of relentless malice. We don't know how they move, but we know that they do. We don't know what they will do if they catch Marianne, but we know that they can break bikes like breadsticks...

I gobbled the historical fiction of Leon Garfield, and particularly loved Smith, with its child-thief hero. I also fell in love with Alan Garner after reading Elidor. My first encounter with science fiction was the brilliantly unnerving Nicholas Fisk. He never patronised us. His adults weren't infallible, nor were his child characters invulnerable. At the core of his books were dark, disturbing concepts that left me feeling for days as if the world were slightly askew on its axis. They were great.

And then there was Watership Down. Behind its bunny cover lurked a gritty epic saga, including the massacre of a whole community, two dystopias, bloodshed, mutilation and a war. When I was ten I adored it. I identified with Blackberry, the nearest thing the heroes have to a Q Division, but I also had a big soft spot for Bigwig, the bully-turned-hero who learns to respect the wisdom and strength of his quiet leader.

By the time I was ten, I was also happily attacking books written for adults. At the top of the stairs there was a long landing with a huge bookcase that must have been about twenty feet high. There was a ladder against it, so that you could reach the upper shelves, and I loved scaling it in a quest for undiscovered books. It felt like mountaineering combined with treasure-hunting. I remember reading most of Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles whilst perched halfway up that ladder.

Yes, I stumbled upon some books that contained 'adult content'. No, they didn't traumatise me or end my childhood. Some I never finished because they bored or baffled me, but others I read right through out of curiosity.

The Sherlock Holmes stories got me hooked on murder mysteries. During my teens I tore through Raymond Chandler, PD James, Ngaio Marsh, the Father Brown stories, Ruth Rendell and about fifty Agatha Christie novels.

One other type of book deserves a mention the interactive gamebooks. Between us, my sister and I collected a hefty number of Fighting Fantasy books, the whole Sorcery! series, several Time Machine novels and some Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Murder, mystery, totalitarian rabbit states, death by rhinoceros, malevolent dream-beings and time travel... everything a growing child needs.

About the Author

Frances Hardinge spent a large part of her childhood in a huge old house that inspired her to write strange stories from an early age. She read English at Oxford University, then got a job at a software company. However, a few years later a persistent friend finally managed to bully Frances into sending a few chapters of FLY BY NIGHT, her first children's novel, to a publisher. Macmillan made her an immediate offer. The book went on to publish to huge critical acclaim and win the Branford Boase First Novel Award. CUCKOO SONG is Frances' sixth novel.

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