The Hungry Ghost

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Hungry Ghost by H S Norup, cover art by Anna Morrison

I read HS Norup’s first book, The Missing Barbegazi, back in December 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was thrilled so see something new from her.

Set in Singapore during ‘The Hungry Ghost’ month, this couldn’t have sounded more different to the snowy ski slopes of The Missing Barbegazi!

But contained within both books are intriguing mysteries, with each showing the importance of friendship, family and history, and with each having a fantastic sense of place and culture.

This, is unsurprising as Helle puts a great deal of her own personal experience and research into the books; she knows the places she writes and is therefore able to transport us there along with her.

Here, we are taken to Singapore as Freja is suddenly taken to live there with her Dad, stepmum and half brothers. It’s apparent immediately what a culture shock this is with everything very different to her life in Denmark.

Homesick, worried about her mum, upset at her dad’s absence as he spends so much time at work and finding it hard to reconcile her loyalty to her mum with the fact that her stepmum, Clementine, is actually quite nice, Freja seeks comfort in exploring her new surroundings.

She’s an outdoor girl through and through, balking at the pretty dresses Clementine has bought her and taking her trusty Swiss army knife and compass everywhere, so when she follows a mysterious girl out of the garden and into an overgrown and disused graveyard in the lush rainforest nearby she’s thrilled at the adventure and relieved at the escape.

But who is this girl, where has she come from and how is she connected to Hungry Ghost month being celebrated by locals?

I love the way we found out about The Hungry Ghost celebrations throughout the course of the book. Rather than an awkward and obtrusive information dump, we see more and more about it as Freja sees local offerings, takes a trip to Chinatown, ends up at one of the ‘getai’ celebrations and speaks to new friends and locals. I felt, like Freja, that I was gradually becoming part of the celebrations and really enjoyed finding out about them in this way, especially as it wasn’t something I knew about previously.

Likewise, I really liked the way the ideas of honouring and remembering the dead linked into Freja’s own family and story later on in the book.

And I liked how, as Freja began to solve the mystery of Ling’s past, we began to see a mystery of her own coming to the surface alongside it. I thought the way the two stories interwove, and the way the pieces to Freja’s story fell into place and subtly came to the forefront was so clever and made it all the more moving.

The use of mythology to unravel both stories added a touch of fantasy which complemented the ghostly celebrations and was another dip into Chinese culture in itself.

There was a really careful balance struck here which was so well done – firmly rooted in real life and dealing with issues of family, friendship and loss, the book manages to use ghosts, mythology and folklore without tipping over completely into fantasy.

Family is dealt with so well in the book – we see a range of situations, both past and present, which help Freja to make sense of the changes to her own family life.

And death and loss are addressed sensitively too, as we consider them as opportunities to celebrate rather than mourn; lives to remember rather than deaths to grieve, whilst still acknowledging the sadness they bring and the necessity of the grieving process.

This is a wonderful book, rich in its setting – my senses came alive in that graveyard and when passing through the Banyan tree and the descriptions of the natural world were so vivid – and full of Chinese culture and Singaporian ways of life.

A gradually unravelling, slightly supernatural mystery, with family, friendship and positivity at its heart, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and compelling adventure and a cleverly, sensitively told tale of dealing with loss too. Perfect for fans of Emma Carroll or A M Howell and highly recommended!

Mini Monday: 7/1/19

Kicking off 2019 with three snowy books (maybe it will bring the actual snow!)*

*The last of these reviews is a tweaked and slightly expanded version of one from WWW Wednesday last week – you can always skip it if you saw it first time round!

First up…

There’s a Yeti in the Playground by Pamela Butchart

Illustrated by Thomas Flintham

It’s snowing and Izzy and friends are hoping they’ll all be sent home early. But then they hear weird noises in the playground, and find a big footprint in the snow… And that’s when they know! There’s a YETI in the playground and it’s HUNGRY!

The young readers in work LOVE these books and it’s easy to see why with plots, plans and action aplenty – not to mention huge dollops of humour that adults will love too.

As a former infant teacher, so much of this made me properly laugh out loud – both supremely silly and totally believable at the same time! Anyone who’s ever been in a school will find plenty of familiar faces, recognisable rules and everyday events here, but bigger, bolder and funnier!

Snow, survival skills and being stuck in school – not to mention a seriously stinky scent! This is observational humour at its best – larger than life and laugh out loud!

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy.

The Missing Barbegazi by H. S. Norup

Cover design by Anna Morrison

Tessa knows that the Barbegazi exist because her beloved grandfather told her about them. So she sets out to prove to her family and friends that her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man. But Tessa realises that uncovering the truth carries great responsibilities.

This was set on the ski slopes of Austria and is a great example of an author really knowing and loving their setting. It’s clearly well-loved territory, fondly described with little touches of the familiar that help to paint the picture for those of us who have never touched a ski!

Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that it was written from both Tessa and Gawion’s perspectives and the addition of the pages from the guide to Alpine elves was a really interesting and unusual way to add background information and detail.

With themes of friendship, loss and trust as well as protecting the environment and knowing when to keep a secret, this is a story of unlikely allegiances, cunning plots to foil the bad guy, wintry landscapes and daring late night escapades this is a great adventure, perfect for fans of Lauren St John’s Kat Wolfe Investigates or Jess Butterworth’s When The Mountains Roared.

Thanks to Pushkin for my copy.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Cover illustration by Rachel Vale

Clementine discovers a mysterious house full of snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician. One of these is Dylan, a boy who teases her in the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clem embarks on a mission to release Dylan and the other magicians, unknowingly unleashing a struggle for power that will put not only her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

I finished reading this on Christmas Day. I think this is the first Christmas Day I’ve managed to read since I was little! It was lovely (even if I did have to read stood up!) and the magical feel of this book was perfectly suited to it!

I really enjoyed the characters of Ganymede, Io and Clem especially and the way strong emotions are portrayed and played out through the magic of the book worked really well.

But what I really loved were the magical elements of the book and the world building – so imaginative and exciting.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m still marvelling at the Snowglobes and the setting – at the worlds within a world within a world. The whole concept was such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore!

Thanks to Macmillan for my copy.

Have you read any of these – what did you think?

What are your favourite wintry or snowy books?

WWW Wednesday 2/1/19

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday is ‘WWW Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

The Missing Barbegazi by H. A. Norup (cover design by Anna Morrison)

I started this on the day the story itself starts,though I didn’t quite have the same snowy mountain setting as the book! But it is a great read for winter and one I’m really enjoying!

What have you just finished reading?

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson (cover illustration by Rachel Vale)

I finished reading this on Christmas Day (I think this is the first Christmas Day I’ve managed to read since I was little! It was lovely, even if I did have to read stood up!)

Imaginative, magical and exciting – I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m still marvelling at the Snowglobes and the setting – at the worlds within a world within a world. Such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore them!

What are you planning on reading next?

As ever – I don’t know! I posted here about my reading goals for this year, so part of me wants to get off to a flying start on that with a classic or some non fiction. But I have both Angie Thomas and Jess Butterworth’s new ones calling too. Not to mention the huge TBR pile…

What do you think – what should I choose? Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?