Premeditated Myrtle by ElizabethC. Bunce

myrtleThis book for middle grade readers has such a lovely old world feel. It is a cozy mystery for kids, something I was drawn to immediately. Our heroine is Myrtle, daughter of a busy prosecutor and mad keen investigator of mysteries and pursuer of science. When the neighbour meets an unexpected end by dying in the bath, Myrtle decides to investigate. Young ladies in Victorian times however are not expected to be running around interviewing gardeners and pursuing clues, but Myrtle is not interested in behaving as other girls do.

This is a lovely cozy mystery, it is way too long. The story stalls a little in the middle and I admit to skimming some chapters where nothing in particular was happening. A tighter editing would have been good. Having said that it is a lovely novel and Myrtle is a great character.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi

stampedA history of racism. A history of slavery. A serious look at why it is that people believe that they are a superior race. Told in an accessible way which is engaging and real. I listened to the audiobook because I wanted it immediately after watching a conference keynote between the author of this book Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi who is the author of the book that this is a spinoff from, Stamped from the Beginning which won the National Book Award. It was moving, one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever seen.

This book is a must if you want to be in touch with the Black Lives Matter movement, if you’ve wondered why people are so angry, why statues are toppling around the world. This book is written so that teenagers will have an insight, will know their history, but it is a book that will work for anyone. There is power in the words in this book. The power to inspire people to make change, to adjust attitudes. This is a book to hand to someone who makes the racist comment, the off colour comment.

Jason Reynolds said something that I’ll always remember. If you have a disease you work to find a vaccine, the vaccine hurts but in the end it does good. Being anti-racist actively and consciously is the vaccine, you have to tackle those who are racist for their own good and the good of the world.

Read this book, learn stuff and make a better world with the knowledge you gain

Burn by Patrick Ness

burn

As I always do with a Patrick Ness, I had pre-ordered this.  I had some worries going into it because the last couple of books haven’t been my faves. I was so hoping he wouldn’t disappoint me with this one. And he hasn’t. This is a return to form. What works best for me with this author is when he doesn’t try to do too much with his stories. This one is a dual storyline but it is way more successful in this novel than in Release. You know that the stories are going to combine and you just can’t wait for that to happen.

It is set in Washington State in the USA in the 1950s there is rampant racism and homophobia and so much judgement of people it makes you quite uncomfortable. Sarah’s dad has just hired a dragon to help with the farm work. The dragon will work to clear paddocks of rocks and trees, he is not to be spoken to and while there is a truce between dragons and humans, you shouldn’t get friendly or close to him. Sarah’s dad is very clear on this. However the dragon knows Sarah’s secret and they begin to talk. At the other end of the country a young man is heading north on a mission to kill Sarah. He has been given a mission from on high and he must fulfil his duty. On the way he will meet another young man who will change his life and also change the future. There is a whole bunch more going on in this book but to reveal too much would be way too spoiler alerty.

I loved Sarah and her dragon. I loved all of the love in the story. There is a lot of love! Love for parents, for other people, for dragons and for humanity. There is also a lot of hate, for those who are different to ourselves, for those we are suspicious of and those we don’t understand. It is the balance of these that makes this story so good.

It is an exciting book to read, there is a heap of tension and a lot of action. Patrick Ness is so good at having his little guys wield enormous power and that is exactly what happens here. Grab a copy for your school, have a read and then share it with all your students. I think they’ll love it!

This is Happiness by Niall Williams

thisWhen the Booker Prize list is announced later this year I fully expect this book to be one of the nominated books. This is one of the books I bought for myself for Christmas, a treat book, with firm hopes that I would love it and I so did. The writing is lush and gorgeous, it transports you to a place and time from the past, a past when electricity is about to enter the lives of ordinary folk in a small Irish village called Faha. Change isn’t something that the population are keen to embrace, these people are used to being damp and cold, having limited hours of light and are made of stoic stuff.

Our narrator is Noel, he is looking back on the time in his life when he lived with his grandparents Doudy and Ganga. He is 17 and has rejected his vocation to the church. His mum has been very unwell and the formidable Sister Ambrose has taken him to Faha to live and he continues to receive visits from her. She is terrifying, opinionated and not to be crossed. Noel, called Noe, is a gentle soul, reflective and thoughtful. The characters of Doudy and Ganga are like none you’ve read before, their quiet lives, making do, Doudy cooking awful meals and Ganga complimenting her on them, Ganga standing in a field for hours watching …. just watching. Then the electric company comes calling and are after places for lodgers, Ganga and Doudy decide to take one and soon Noe is sharing his room with the enigma that is Christy. Christy tells stories of his life and they are compelling, his life has been one which Noe cannot even begin to comprehend the adventures he has had in his life, travelling the world, loves and losses and a world of difference from quiet rain sodden Faha.

Then, it all begins to change, Noe finds out the true reason for the arrival of Christie in this tiny backwater. Noe has a terrible accident, finds love and begins to understand Christie and his longings. And, most startling of all, the rain stops falling. Sodden Faha is covered in sunshine! A situation that hasn’t occurred before.

I adored this book, it took me ages to read. I kept putting it down to enjoy the sentences playing over in my mind. It is a book that makes you feel so deeply for its characters. A book to treasure and a book to reread in the future.

The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver

spaceI’ve been talking about this book since I started it. Lionel Shriver certainly gives you plenty to mull over while you read her books. Is it selfish to spend your time away from those who love you doing competitive exercise? To obsessively devote every moment to self improvement? To put your life at risk in order to achieve a goal? The Motion of the Body Through Space is posing some big questions and I was obsessed with this book. Is it ok to put your weekend aside to read Lionel Shrivers words and ignore all else until you are done? I have zero interest in exercise of any kind other than going for walks with my beloved dog. I think people are weird wanting to take part in extreme sports (climbing is the exception).

Serenata and Remmington Alabaster have retired to the quiet town that Remmington grew up in, they live a slightly dull, placid life there. They have a wayward son and a daughter who is married to an unsuitable man and who is constantly having children and talking about God. Serenata reads audiobooks for a living. Remmington has far too much time on his hands. Serenata has been a consistent exerciser all her life. Running miles and now that her knees are letting her down, spending time doing calisthenic exercises with a great deal of rigour. It turns out that her family have resented this, now Remmington has decided to take up running which leads him to triathlons known at Mettleman, a competition which is extreme and requires months of training. We follow his journey, the obnoxious characters he meets as part of his squad of fellow tri competitors.

It is obvious that the author is making a point with this book. She definitely has an opinion on extreme exercise, the self that is so vital to the pursuit of extreme exercise. I didn’t care. I loved spending time with these slightly weird people. It won’t be for everyone but polarising fiction is awesome. In a world where opinions seem to be getting dangerous in some ways, Lionel Shriver isn’t afraid to share hers.

Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to this book.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

displacementI loved this graphic novel. In a time where racist behaviour is being shamed, here is a new take on an old story. During the second World War, Japanese Americans were rounded up and moved to internment camps. These were citizens of the USA. Many of them born and raised there, yet the advent of war meant that they were treated with suspicion.

We meet Kiku, who with her mum is on a trip to a museum, sitting outside she is overcome with a strange feeling, mist and clouds swirl around her and she is transported or displaced, back to the time when her grandmother, a quiet introverted girl, was sent to internment camps with her family in the 1940s. Kiku is caught up in the crowd, next minute she is on a train with the rest of the people and becomes part of the camp population. She tries to fit in, tries to make contact with her grandmother and comes to realise how difficult the camps were. She is stuck there for a long time, unable to get back to her real time. She starts to fit in, makes friends and and becomes part of life in the camp.

This is a treasure of a graphic novel, one that will take you on a journey to a time in history which isn’t spoken of often. A side of the second world war not fought on the front lines but in rural USA.

The art in this graphic novel is stellar, it complements the story so well, the colours are evocative and moody. This is a thing of beauty. A treasure.  Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to this lovely book.

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

The-Good-Turn-High-Res-151119A new book by Dervla McTiernan is to be celebrated. Our hero Cormac Riley has been ostracised and criticised by his fellow police officers. He is always on the outer and things seem to have just gotten worse for him over time. He is lonely and isolated and at the same time his girlfriend seems to have become more distant, spending time away from him for work.

Cormac’s only friend in the force Peter Fisher goes to investigate a crime scene and is set upon and indeed set up. Someone dies and Peter and Cormac are in the spotlight for being the cause of the death, both of them are suspended from work, Cormac heads to Europe to be with his girlfriend and Peter is banished to the village he grew up in and forced to work with his belligerent father as a punishment for messing up. He begins tidying up the final threads of a death in the village which becomes so much more than it is at first thought and he risks alienating the entire village. Meanwhile Cormac is struggling from afar to prove corruption in the force and enlists the help of an old friend.

What I like about these Cormac Riley books is the way they deal with moral dilemma, always giving you much to think about as well as a good juicy crime, in this case several of them. The threads seem so unconnected in this story that I couldn’t see links right up until the end. This author is my new crush, she hooks me in and pulls me along for the ride with skill. I’m now looking forward to the next one with anticipation.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for access to this awesome book.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

lost futureThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street #3

I read and loved The Watchmaker of Filigree Street last year, loved it. Thought about it a lot after I was finished and recommended it to lots of readers at school both staff and students. I was so excited to get hold of a galley of this one which is the third book in the series. I haven’t read the second one but it didn’t matter as I was immediately back in the world Thaniel and Mori and it felt like pulling on a lovely comfortable cardigan on a wintery day. This is exactly the kind of book that you want to curl up with in the sun and while away a few hours with.

Thaniel and Mori have ended up in Japan, Mori’s ancestral fort to be exact. Thaniel has been sent to the British Legation office and he is to try to gain information on the build up of Russian warships off the coast. He also needs out of London where his lungs are being punished by the fog and his health is becoming worse and worse. He has his and Mori’s beloved adopted daughter Six with him, she is one of my favourite characters and I love how she is written. There is an unusual feeling in the building, there are secret meetings and suspicious characters hanging around. Thaniel starts to have a very odd feeling. Mori disappears, Thaniel goes to the British Legation where he is trying to find out why there are suddenly ghosts in the kitchen, the staff are leaving in droves and the Counsel is behaving like an incompetent. Thaniel comes to believe that Mori is in terrible danger and is deeply suspicious of the woman who proclaims herself to be Mori’s wife. Mori has a wife! Shock horror!

There is a lot going on in this book. The action is full on and lovely Thaniel is in terrible danger throughout. I had a terrible feeling of impending doom for both of our heroes and found it uncomfortable reading as I am so attached to them.

The magic, the time travel and the weirdness are all so beautifully handled by this author, I think this is one of the most glorious series and I’m looking forward to the next one. It was the perfect escape from reality in this time of lockdown when I’ve had such trouble reading.

Thanks so Netgalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy.

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

deeplightWant a beautifully complex and interesting fantasy adventure, then just get hold of this and get stuck in.

Hark is a plucky young man who eeks out a living, not always honestly, as part of a group of young street rogues on his island Lady’s Crave which is part of the Myriad group of islands. It is a rugged and dangerous place, apart from the dangers of cliffs and dangerous foes there is also the danger that lurks in the sea. A sea which has levels, once you dive down under the water you eventually reach a level where you can breathe freely. However, monsters dwell here, monsters that the locals call gods, they have become pieces of gods now, these pieces are valuable, people want them, they give power and are downright scary. If you melded bits of gods together you might create a huge monster which would make you so powerful that you could wield that power in a very unpleasant and dangerous way, even become monstrous in your power.

Hark has been caught trying to rob the wrong person, he ends up in court and is sold to the highest bidder into slavery. His purchaser is a very unusual woman, he is put to work in a sanctuary but he knows that she is doing weird things elsewhere.

This is a wonderful story of courage, determination, loyalty and adventure. Layer upon layer of story all linking and tying together in a fantastic way. There is a lot going on, Hark is pulled betwixt and between, divided in his loyalties and desperate for approval. There is a most wonderful young woman character who is deaf, Hark’s bond with her was one of the joys in this book.

This is one of those books which will work for lots of readers. I think that is what Frances Hardinge does, she writes a book for kids, but the story is so complex and layered that it will keep even the most cynical adult hooked. I would be recommending it to readers who loved Percy Jackson’s world, but this is more complex and nuanced. Readers from intermediate and senior primary school all the way up will be caught up in this world.

A Trio of Sophies by Eileen Merriman

SophieI think Eileen Merriman is one of the cream of the crop of writers for young people right now. She writes stories that are immediately engaging, that are the perfect pitch for the audience of young adult readers. Her books have depth and breadth and tackle issues which are current and curly. I think this book is one of her best.

There have always been three Sophies, each different but all good friends. They are in the same class, they have known each other since they were little and their lives are intricately linked. Now in their final year at school, one of the Sophies has gone missing. Despite the efforts of the police, she cannot be found anywhere. This leaves two Sophies and the novel is told by one of them. The swot, the quiet one, the one determined to rise out of her humble life. The story is told in journal form beginning on the 64th day that Sophie has been missing and counting backwards to the day of her disappearance. It is an interesting structure and it works really well. You feel the tension rise, leading up to the day it all went horribly wrong.

Tied up to the disappearance of Sophie A is the story of Sophie M and the English Teacher. A guy who should have known better, a man who shouldn’t be in a room alone with teenage girls. I really liked the way that this aspect of the story was written, the way James Bacon, the English Teacher, draws Sophie in and entangles her in a web of deceit.

This is great writing for teenagers, gritty and real, using language which feels right. A brilliant book for all schools to have in their library collection.

Thanks so much to Penguin NZ for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please can we have heaps more NZ books like this.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Doesn’t this blurb just sound awesome, a little bit of geeky sciency stuff, a dollop of social mgravityedia savvy, a great big romantic sky, two young men, completely different, NASA, astronauts and themes of loneliness and isolation, first love and space. Come on, this book appears that it has it all. But, and it’s a big one, it is really hard to connect with these characters. I really wanted to but it just didn’t happen. Now that I’ve been finished it for a week or so I find it hard to remember the characters names or to rekindle feelings for them. I wanted more. I wanted it to be a little bit more gritty, for people to get a bit more messed up by the bad things that happened in the story. People die in here, I’m not telling you who, but that is big, but the reactions of those affected just didn’t seem to hit the mark.
I loved all the social media stuff, loved the villian of the piece, it is all totally unrealistic but I was in there hoping that this would carry me off and give me a great big case of the feels.

It is ok, I know of students who will love it, I’ll buy it and promote it and encourage people to read it, but it could have had a heap more depth.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access.

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith

If I was to sum this up in one word, that word would have to be the word stunning. A gloriously atmospheric, melancholic dive into a world we never see portrayed, the world of the women who cared for and loved the Japanese pilots as they set off to sacrifice themselves in war. This is the story of a pilot and a young high school student, their lives disrupted by a war not of their making, and their gradual realisation that small kindnesses have a lasting effect. That their short lives are to be sacrificed for a cause is one thing, but the depravations of war are another, food is short, suspicions run rife in the towns and even though there are small pleasures to be found in simple things, it is difficult.

Hana our heroine is a lovely sensitive young woman, dutiful and dedicated. Juro our hero is a gifted musician and his violin plays a pivotal role in this story. These two characters come from very different lives but they meet due to the war and through tragedy blooms something beautiful.

I’ve always loved books set in Japan. This is due to the fact that I’ve lived there twice in my life when I was young and loved it. I was totally engrossed in this novel and shed a tear in the end. I love the fact that it is different to anything else out there for young adults at the moment. I’ve ordered copies for our library because I’m sure there is an audience for those who want to read something different, something based on real historical events.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to this glorious book.

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

I was so thrilled to be approved for this book by Netgalley, I completely loved Days Without End and was very excited to read the follow up, especially as it was Winona’s story. Winona was saved from certain death by the wonderful Thomas McNulty and John Cole. They have raised her as their own at a time when two men raising a child, especially a native American child, is totally extraordinary. John and Thomas love each other but their love for Winona and their dedication to her is beautiful. Together with several other wonderful characters, they live on Lige Magan’s very poor farm, scratching out a living and working so hard to make ends meet and feed themselves. Eventually Winona acquires a job, working for the lawyer in town, her preference is to wear men’s clothing and not everyone realises she is a young woman. There are dangers everywhere including rampaging drunks, night riders who terrorise people and men who cannot be trusted anywhere near a young girl. She is courted by a local young man who swears his love for her and who wants to marry her. Her innocence and lack of world experience give her mean that she is naive but suspicious and frightened.

Winona is attacked, brutally. Raped and beaten, but has no idea who did it. Her confidence is shattered, her protectors are trapped by doing something about this terrible thing, they can’t put themselves in danger, her in more danger and put the livelihood of Lige Mangan and the others in jeopardy. Circumstances continue to be dire, with lightness being the love that ties this unusual family together with their workmates and the unlikely support of the lawyer. The unrelenting sadness and misery of their situation is dire.

The hard thing in this book is they way that Winona thinks and speaks, I didn’t love the unusual way she speaks and couldn’t really see the point of that.

While I didn’t love this book as much as I loved Years Without End, it moved me deeply, it made me cry and reminded me again why I love Sebastian Barry’s work so much.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

This book is a happy little bundle of froth. A story of an unlikely romance with a nice play on the social media obsession and a bunch of lovely little twists. Pepper and Jack come from different backgrounds and have different family lives. Pepper lives in an uptown apartment with her mum, her sister is away at college and does not get on with her mother. Pepper runs the social media account for the family business a national burger chain. She is a high achieving control freak. Jack works in the family business, a deli on the other side of town. He is a twin and has a close and loving extended family living with him. Jack has invented an app for the kids at school to chat on and this is how these two connect, but they don’t know who they are on the app as it anonymises them. These two are good at water sports and are at the pool all the time. Opposites attract and you can see what is going to happen. Young love will bloom but it will take time and be fraught with difficulties.

I really enjoyed this book, it is full of quick one liners and witty banter. A winning book for the school library and one that will have lots of appeal. There is a lot going on and the pace is really good to keep you turning the pages. A great choice for romance fans.

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

Weird, atmospheric and unlike anything you’ve read before, this is a strange novel. It is from the point of view of a ghost, someone you know nothing about at the beginning, but revealed over the course of the novel. We discover first how she died, then we gradually are told the reasons why she is confined to Peterborough station, until she isn’t anymore. While she waits at the station she observes the comings and goings of the staff and the commuters as they go about their business. There is something odd about platform number severn though, something isn’t quite right, something there seems to draw the lonely and the sad.

Our ghost is kind of in love with one of the workers at the station, she follows him and suddenly is able to leave the station, after so much time of being trapped within station confines it is weird that she is able to waft out. This is the beginning of our ghost, who turns out to be Lisa Evans, discovering who she is and why she is there.

It is all so strange, the story is wafty just like our ghost, everything is opaque and vague. I found it was a little bit slow in the middle but it is certainly clever and something completely different to a standard crime novel. It’s melancholic feel is disturbing.  Thanks Netgalley and the Publishers for giving me access to this interesting novel.

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

I’m reposting this, not only because it comes out in paperback today, but also because I want lots and lots of people to read it. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it. I’ve recommended it to heaps of people and I have just lent my copy to someone on pain of death that they return it to me. Go and buy a copy. You will be glad you did. And just look at this beautiful cover!

I had no idea that concentration camps existed during the Boer Wars in South Africa, I had no idea that so many people had been mistreated and ruined at that time, people who were just living their lives and struggling in a harsh environment. In the first section of the book we meet Sarah, struggling to cope as she is interred with her young son into a concentration camp run by the British, her husband is off fighting and their farm has been razed to the ground as part of the scorched earth policy. Sarah is the first link in the chain of this story which travels through time in South Africa from then to 2015. The characters are all linked by family lines and their stories all show something of how the history of a country forms attitudes and social norms all the way through to now. Sarah’s diary of her time in Bloemfontein Camp is horrific, so much so that I wandered off to search for confirmation of the conditions and discovered the most ghastly photographs.

Many years later we meet Rayna and Irma and Willem, Sarah’s descendants in a new South Africa, where the laws have changed, where violence is increasing and where social order has been disrupted. Not everyone is comfortable with the new ways, the abolition of Apartheid and the changing expectations of how the black people are to be treated. The uncomfortable transition to equality is hard to read. The author has done a wonderful job of making you feel every side of the situation. He drew me into the characters world and made me understand their points of view, although it is uncomfortable reading at times, it is hard to deal with such views from this corner of the world. The creeping menace of the ever growing walls to keep the bad guys out, at the same time as keeping the world and your connection to it out.

Willem is so beautifully written, his fragility and sensitivity juxtaposed against his mother’s partner the awful Jans. Willem’s mother Irma, torn between the new bloke in her life and her son who she doesn’t really understand and whom to her mind seems to be lacking something. Thank goodness for Rayna, the grandmother who loves this sensitive boy sincerely, and who ultimately is his saviour. “Know, she didn’t know. No, she didn’t know. Know, if only she’d known.”

This book is a lot! There is so much depth, it has the most beautiful moments amongst the heartbreak and terror. Along the reading journey with this book, not only the terrible history of torture and struggle, I’ve thought about Willem and the others like him, struggling in a harsh society, the terror of their lives, the fear and the trying not to be noticed. The pain of knowing you don’t quite fit with everyone else and trying to disappear. All of this is written so beautifully. I’ll be thinking about this novel for a long time, my poor heart will need to recover.

Bravo Damian, you’ve written a gem of a book and I am so delighted about that as a reader and as a cheerleader.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

About quarter of the way into this I wondered if I could continue. The grimness was relentless, then I decided that the women were absolutely going to have to fight back. The way that they do it is extreme and gritty and downright nasty, but when you have been taken over, reduced to little more than a puppet, you’ve got to take action. Extreme action.

The very idea of silencing women, encircling their wrists with a bracelet which gives them a shock when they reach their limit of 100 words in a day is diabolical. To do it to baby girls is even worse, it means they can never learn to speak properly or express their feelings or wishes. Exactly what the President of the United States depicted in the novel, is after. There are a few moments of ‘what the?’ in this book. The power of the president to institute this much change over a tiny timeframe is not particularly realistic, however those of us who have watched and read The Handmaid’s Tale and felt the fear it induced will not be surprised that this could happen. It is terrifying and makes you understand how difficult it would be to stand up to the kind of indoctrination that ensues.

This would be an awesome book for a study alongside The Handmaid’s Tale. The science is interesting and the terror you feel at how easy it could be to use the cure for disease in reverse is very real.

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden, Jennifer Beals and Tom Jacobson

Crowd sourced social justice, I can see why the idea could occur but as this book shows vividly some things are just built with way too much scope for manipulation.

This is a brilliant contemporary story, already we have a world where you can be taken to task on social media for saying the wrong thing, for backing the wrong idea but The Hive, a government initiative of social justice takes it to a whole new level. The concept is great, lets let the people decide what is right and wrong, lets unleash their opinion and use social media to praise or punish them.

Cassie’s dad was a brilliant IT guy, he was cutting edge brilliant and the government used his knowledge to make the beginnings of The Hive. But the very thing he helped to build is now turning on his beloved daughter after his death. Cassie knows her way around a computer, she knows how to hack but even this cannot protect her from the rage of people voting against her in The Hive. Her ratings skyrocket and she is being hunted to the death. Cassie can’t believe that this is what her Dad would have wanted, he was a good man, it must be something else and she is determined to find out the truth behind The Hive and the people who run it. She is in this danger because she tweeted a comment about The President’s daughter which has raised the ire of him as well as, it seems, everyone in America. She is going to be held to account for her comment and that might even mean that she is killed.

Cassie is rescued by an unlikely source, but can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? She is on the run and if it weren’t for extreme resourcefulness and clear thinking she’d be already dead. Something is going on, something very sinister and Cassie is going to have to sort it out but also keep herself safe.

This is a great book. The action is relentless and the pace doesn’t let up throughout. Cassie is a great character, resourceful as anything but even with that you find yourself yelling at her to take more care. She is reckless and sometimes that gets her deeper in trouble than ever. This is a great addition to any school library, your geeky kids are going to totally relate to a heroine who has the power to change the world.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to this fantastic read.

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

The Bright Sessions #1

If you like books about unlikely friendships which lead on to unlikely relationships then this book is for you. It is an interesting look at what happens when someone deeply feels the emotions of the people around him, he’s an empath, which in many ways makes him vulnerable to the ever changing moods of people he encounters. It also gives him a clear understanding of the struggles of those who have difficulty expressing their feelings. I like it when there is a character like Caleb who seems to be the popular guy, the football hero, the guy with all the friends and seeming to have it all together, who turns out to be deep in the depths of inner turmoil. I like the journey a character like this goes on. Yes, you can pick where Caleb and the lovely Adam are going to end up, but it is the way that they get there which is lovely. This is sensitively written, funny in parts and will make you have all of the feels, from outrage through to heart meltyness.

I have never listened to the Bright Sessions Podcast but this book is enough to send me on a mission to listen. 

This is a must have for secondary school libraries, it doesn’t matter that the setting is the USA, this book is universal and will have lots of appeal, especially in a diverse collection. It doesn’t move fast, it is a slow thoughtful read but beautifully done. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this great book.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is one of my absolute favourite authors. I love her gentle but pointed prose and I look forward with eager anticipation for every new book. This book did not disappoint, the tone is so perfect and she drew me in from the first sentences. It is always such a relief when an author you love delivers you another book that you love.

This is the story of a brother and sister, their mother has ‘run away to India’ as they are told when they are children. Danny and Maeve are left with their father, Cyril, in a magnificent house, a house which has remained largely untouched after the previous owners died, the house has personality, it is glass and from the street you can see all the way through it, nobody else in their town has a house anything like this mansion, but a lovely house doesn’t necessarily mean a happy home. The children live there with their largely absent father and the housekeepers and cook who look after them as if they were their own. Maeve is considerably older than Danny and assumes the role of his protector and this continues all their lives. It is this relationship which makes the book so special. When Cyril brings home Andrea his wife to be, she immediately takes against the children, her jealousy and rage permeate the house, poison the atmosphere and when she comes to move in she arrives with two daughters that Maeve and Danny had no idea to expect. Why didn’t Andrea mention at any point that she had two small daughters? Why has Cyril chosen such an unsuitable person to marry? Why is Andrea so incredibly spiteful to these perfectly pleasant children? The story unravels these mysteries and the stories of all of the characters.

I loved these people, I became incredibly caught up in their lives, this is the gift Ann Patchett passes to her readers, an involvement in their stories and a deep feeling of attachment for these people, some of whom are difficult and prickly, but as you unravel the complex web you come to understand their struggles and trials. 

This is sitting right up there with my top books of the year. I’m off to buy myself a paper copy because this is a book to keep and to go back to. And I’m sure on the next reading I’ll have a little sob in the same place that I did this first reading. Sigh. Lovely. Sigh.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this treasure.