Month: July 2020

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.