Book Review: Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall

Steve Backshall is undoubtedly one of television’s best known wildlife presenters. Working for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, he’s fronted numerous television programmes including Deadly 60, a hugely successful children’s series that sees the adventurer coming face to face with some of the world’s most dangerous creatures.

Whilst Tiger Wars isn’t Backshall’s first book (he’s released a string of factual titles and television tie-ins) it does represent his first foray into young-adult fiction. The novel follows Sinter as she flees from an arranged marriage to a much older man, and Saker, as he is hunted by The Clan, a shadowy sect which provides young renegades for hire. Most recently, to a Chinese overlord who specialises in tiger poaching.

Backshall’s writing is fast-paced and crisp. There are no overly verbose descriptions of the exotic Indian and Chinese settings (something you could be forgiven for expecting from a naturalist), and, when the time comes for an injection of science or the green message, facts are woven into the narrative with an impressive subtlety. The story arc is well crafted, too, with Saker and Sinter’s plots intertwining seamlessly before heading towards the book’s satisfying conclusion.

Tiger Wars isn’t perfect, however. Whilst structurally effective, Saker’s amnesia storyline is somewhat clichéd and may prevent readers from losing themselves in the otherwise immersive prose. The villains are also a tad generic, but Saker and (particularly) Sinter are wonderful characters; they more than make up for any shortcomings.

It’s also important to note that the book doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes, treating its target audience with enough respect to expose them to the grim realities of illegal tiger slaughter from the off. It’s a good move, with popular authors such as Patrick Ness voicing concerns over censorship, younger readers have perhaps never been more wary of books that steer them away from sensitive issues.

Tiger Wars is available through Amazon UK now.

September 25, 2014Leave a comment

The Ten Books Tag

I was tagged by lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to reveal ten books that have stayed with me long after finishing them. So, narrowing them down to ten was tricky, but (in no particular order) here they are!

1.) Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

For me, Warm Bodies is the best zombie book around. It’s gripping, intelligent and making the Z outbreak one of ideological origin was a stroke of genius. The central characters are also beautifully developed, and I still mull over R’s innermost thoughts on an almost daily basis. The prequel, The New Hunger, as well as the 2013 movie adaptation, are pretty darn good too.

2.) Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

A mesmerising book, I was constantly rabbiting on about it last year. If you can handle heartbreak (and especially if you can’t) give Into That Forest a go.

3) An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestly

I originally read this play (as a book) with my peers in secondary school and it was the first core text that I genuinely adored. It’s so deep-rooted in me now that I find it difficult to say specifically what I love about the story, but the intertwining secrets the characters hide and that twist probably have a lot to do with it.

4.) His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I’m somewhat renowned for talking about His Dark Materials around the book blogosphere, so I’ll refrain from writing yet another essay now! If you want one of my many takes on Pullman’s sublime trilogy, click here.

5.) The Memory Game by Sharon Sant

When I finished this book I was pacing up and down my hallway for what felt like an age. How could the ending have happened? Was I sad or happy, or a strange combination of both? Why wasn’t the rest of the world in crisis like I was? A clear sign of a good book!

6.) Watership Down by Richard Adams

Those bunnies sure get into a lot of trouble, I will never forget all that Fiver and the gang went through.

7.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Easily the best Potter.

8.) The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

To see how this book helped me through school, click here.

9.) The Twits by Roald Dahl

Comedy genius! The sinister plots each Twit comes up with to off the other are laugh out loud funny no matter how many times I re-read them.

10.) Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My full thoughts here.

Fancy having a stab at the Ten Books Tag? Then go for it! Let me know how you get on :)

September 18, 20143 Comments

Driftwood from the Specific by A.P. Gilbert

In 2013 Gilbert released the excellent The Cloud Diary and soon followed it up with other books including the delightful Super Fred and Doodeedoo. Driftwood from the Specific is the author’s latest release, a collection of ten short stories.

Driftwood is certainly an apt title because the book contains a plethora of different genres all come together. From contemporary horror, to twee sci-fi and noir-ish mobster tales, there really is a lot going on here. Some of the stories are comprised of just a few lines, others are significantly longer and there are even a few fun poems thrown in; How to write a poem’s clever use of formatting and convention defiance a particular highlight.

The longer stories are all entertaining, gripping in places, and Dick, the gritty story of a private investigator’s dealings with femme fatales, Red and Lois Love, is wonderful. Gilbert captures the essence and style of noir perfectly, and, if this book is the author’s attempt to suss out which kind of genre to write in next, mobster noir is definitely the way he should go.

Driftwood from the Specific is available through Amazon UK now.

September 14, 20141 Comment

A little thought on first chapters

question markI’ve been working on the opening to my upcoming novel this week, and I think I’ve realised that the key to grabbing a reader’s attention might just be to – well, how would you feel if I didn’t tell you just yet?

I think it’s that familiar mixture of intrigue and anticipation experienced in other areas of life which convinces a reader to stay between the pages. This feeling comes before a reader has got to know a book’s characters, and before they’ve decided if they enjoy the author’s style.

This is (I think!) what first chapters should do: ask a question, the more mysterious and captivating the better. It’s only natural for humans to want to resolve a situation, and, if a reader is invested in the question from the off, they’re much more likely to read the rest of a given novel too.

So, what do you think gang? Do you agree?

September 12, 20142 Comments