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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Review of Venus Rocks by Fiona Dunbar

This sassy ghost-focused story for tweens and young teens was great fun!

Author: Fiona Dunbar
Title: Venus Rocks
Genre: Paranormal (kids/teen)
Series: Kitty Slade (this is book 3)
Publisher: Orchard
Published: Jan 2012
Source: Kindly sent by the publisher

Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK

The blurb says:
Hey, Kitty Slade here. Just hanging out, doing ordinary things. You know, like seeing ghosts. It's been happening for a while now, but this time - this time is different...

When Kitty sees a ghost ship, she knows her spooky powers are growing stronger. Plunged into a dark mystery from long a go, she soon encounters Beth, a lost soul who drowned on board. Kitty must uncover the secrets buried at the bottom of the sea - before it's too late...

My verdict: a great central character and fabulous voice make this a great read. Recommended for older children and younger teens (and adults too...).
NB: Since this is the third in the series, this review may contain spoilers for books one and two.
This is the first Kitty Slade book I've read. It will not be the last. Do you need to know more? :) Just in case you do...

By this, the third book in the series, Kitty is fairly comfortable with her ability to see ghosts (known as phantorama in the story), but she is quite surprised to see a whole ghost ship. This story takes place in Cornwall and is steeped in the lore of shipwrecks and pirates associated with the area. I like that the family live in a camper van (known as The Hippo), which gives Dunbar more flexibility with settings and additional characters. They are certainly a quirky family, and Kitty's abilities (and the issue of who knows and who doesn't - it's inherited from her late Mum so can't be a complete secret) make for some interesting family relationships.

The story is narrated by Kitty, so we get to enjoy her individual point of view and entertaining voice. She appears confident and sassy, but her narration allows us to see some less confident feelings and to sympathise with her. Some sections are presented as Kitty's blog, which she maintains privately like a diary to set out and explore her feelings. I also enjoyed her interaction with other characters, including her quirky-bordering-on-weird Grandmother Maro and her cousin Ashley, who lives a much more normal teen life including a cute crush.

Although there are scary moments, this is not a creepy ghost story - more like junior urban fantasy than horror. The lively voice and the confidence of the children in their investigations ensures that it is on the lighter side and would be unlikely to terrify any delicate souls. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this and would definitely recommend it (and the series).

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