Friday, 5 August 2011

Book Review: Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Goodreads description

Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Elise has always lived in the big house with her loving Uncle and Aunt, because Elise's parents died when she was too young to remember them. There's always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor. 

When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn...


Although I've heard great things about  Suzanne LaFleur's debut novel Love Aubrey Eight Keys is the first book of hers that I've read and I was eager to try what sounded like a wonderful story aimed at a young audience of pre and early teens.

The main character, eleven year old Elise, has lived with her aunt and uncle ever since her parents died at a young age and they love her as their own but Elise still has questions about her family. She has also had her best friend Franklin by her side for as long as she can remember and at the beginning of the book she is looking forward to starting at the same middle school as him. However, Elise suddenly finds him babyish but as her twelfth birthday approaches, she has many life lessons and family secrets to discover.

What I love about this book is that  because it's told through the eyes of an eleven year old there is a simple quality of beauty to it, and the story is just allowed to unfold naturally without complications or description that would distract from the cast of characters or the issues of friendship, identity, fitting in and growing up that are sensitively explored.

The relationships that Elsie has built up are the most important element of the book and my favourite was the lifelong friendship between her and Franklin. They share the special bond of sharing their childhood together- playing, exploring, laughing, crying- that not many people are lucky enough to have experienced. The change in the way Elsie feels about their friendship is something that I think many teenagers will be able to understand to but I felt very sorry for Franklin about the way he was treated because he showed an unselfish loyalty that rose above the thoughts of others. It was a lovely reminder of the value of true friendship and how we should appreciate it!

All of the rest of the characters from the bully Amanda and Franklin's overprotective mum to Aunt Bessie and Uncle Hugh were portrayed realistically with differing personalities and authentic scenes and dialogue.  For a reasonably short book with just over 200 pages, the core characters were also surprisingly well developed. It was clear that despite losing her parents, Elsie was surrounded by people who loved and cared for her and the story's events showed that family is life's gift to us and so must be treasured.

Moving to middle school is something that every teenager has to go through and everyone can relate to wanting to change yourself to fit in with other people. Elsie's experience of bullying is horrible but it carries with it the message of learning to be yourself and demonstrates the painful situations that can arise from growing up.

Using the idea of the eight keys to unlock the mysteries behind Elsie's family was a very creative and inventive way of dealing with the theme of growing up and finding yourself. It also bought an element of mystery into the book and try as I might, I was just as clueless as to what was in the eight rooms that her dad has left behind for her as Elsie was. . This part of the book was done really well and I really liked the originality and unpredictability of it.

Verdict: Eight Keys is a brilliantly moving and emotional story that shines in its simplicity and shows the importance of discovering your identity in growing up and loving your friends and family. I would recommend this thought provoking book to other people- particularly pre-teens- and look forward to enjoying more of Suzanne LaFleur's books in the future.

Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Coverlicious: Entwined by Heather Dixon (Beautiful Cover Dresses)

Coverlicious is a semi-regular feature on my blog featuring anything to do with covers from covers I love to covers to lookalike covers! This post is part of a series called Beautiful Cover Dresses.

This post's feature:

Entwined by Heather Dixon

I ADORE this cover! I know I say I love a lot of covers but this ones up there with the very best and it was the cover that first attracted my attention when I saw it last September. Seriously, I would have bought it for the cover alone but thankfully, the story is great too because it's a retelling of the fairytale the Twelve Dancing Princesses. How could anyone resist such a pretty cover?

The ball gown

First off, the ball gown the girl (Azalea) screams 'Princess' with it's flowing white netting layers and the cute oversized bow. Though gorgeous, it looks really hard to walk in let alone dance and it has a slight greyish and tattered look, which could represent the financial struggles of the royal family of the story.

Lost and trapped

To me, the girl looks lost as she explores the palace gardens and the twelve sisters did get lost because the gardens were so big but I think it also represents how lost Azalea is emotionally.  The cover has a sort of eerie element too because it's quite dark and the silver leaves look like they are trapping the girl as they entwine around her. This is really clever because I think it's supposed to represent the silver forest the girls disappear in to dance.


Castles and palaces always remind people of fairy tales so I'm glad that there's one on here in the background. It looks grand with the tall spire but also magical, which it is in the book.

Original photo

I was browsing on the photo website We Heart It and I came across the photo below, which is clearly the image that has been used for the Entwined cover.


I love the way the elements in the photo are laid out and I wish more of the simplicity had been kept because despite it being beautiful, I do think the cover for Entwined is a touch busy with the swirly cover across the middle and all the silver leaves (which are embossed on the actual cover.)

Better in real life

I got this book as a birthday present and it was the last one I opened as it arrived on the day and it's even better in person. The back cover is also lovely because it features the palace image and even inside, each chapter page is decorated with the silver leaf patter.

What do you think of this cover? Does it make you want to read it? Do you think it's too busy?