books

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

sapiensI’ve been obsessing about this book, telling everyone I spoke to about how fantastically interesting it is. I felt like I was reading a more objective Bill Bryson, and I think that if you like Bryson’s books you will love this.

This is a history of the human race from it’s origins to 2014, on the way we will discover foraging, the formation of settlement, transport, agriculture, economics, industrialisation and a bunch of other stuff along the way. You begin to realise that the links between all these are more complicated than you think, that throughout history people have benefited at the expense of other people and the machinations of how that works, who ultimately wins and who loses. Every time I thought I was reading my favourite chapter I found another one which was my new favourite. I love the tone of the book, slightly snarky and not taking itself too seriously, but not playing for laughs in an obvious way. Complicated ideas explained in a way that anybody can understand and linked together in ways that make you go oooohhhh!

I’m going to add his next book to my tbr pile, it might take me a while to get to it though.

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

unearthedI completely loved this book. Nicely played Kaufman and Spooner! Science Fiction and archaeology combined in an action packed thriller set on a far away planet where aliens have left clues for the human race. Earth has huge problems with it’s environment and is gradually becoming destroyed to the point where people will have to find either a way of fixing it fast or will have to move to another planet. The race is on to be the person who will find the technology on another planet to bring back to Earth to save us all.

Deciphering the clues in massive temples though, provides vast challenges, they are puzzles with death as the outcome if you get them wrong. Amelia is a scavenger, raiding ancient sites on far off planets to sell for cash which she is using to pay her sister’s captors back on earth. She runs into Jules, who is the son of a disgraced historian, someone who said too much and who is now in jail. Jules has travelled to this planet to try and solve the biggest mystery ever and to prove that his father was right, but also for the personal satisfaction of being the guy who solved a massive mystery. Jules has studied the messages sent back to earth by the inhabitants deciphered the codes and is on a mission to find out what the clues in the messages mean for humanity.

This is going to be hugely popular, I hope it has an awesome cover with an androgynous cover on it. the fraught relationship between the two protagonists is great. The way that total mistrust leads to complete trust is so nicely done. I love the protagonists alternating chapters.

Secondary school libraries are going to want to buy lots of copies of this. And it is just the beginning of a series, one I will be following avidly.

All The Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

dirtyWell, this is going to be controversial! Public libraries rush out and get this as soon as it is available, school libraries, I bet this one gets you some interesting comments! I can see the lights flashing and the censors racing to ban this from every library in the land.

Someone here on Goodreads has placed a comment that it should be reviewed by males, and I can see that, after all, we are firmly placed inside the head of a teenage boy who is thinking about sex, having sex, exploring all manner of sex and being generally a sex crazed teenage boy. This isn’t a relationship book and yet it is, this isn’t a helpful guide and yet it is.

I liked almost all of this novel.

I liked that it was short. There was no need to draw this out. Nice job Daniel Handler.

I liked that this teen guy seemed real, no stupid conversations, no helpful parents, just him and his penis and his constant thinking about using it.

I liked the honesty, the judgments that he was putting it about too much, the attitudinal change of his friends and classmates as he embarked on a relationship which excluded all of them.

I loved the way his relationship with his best friend changed as they tried out sex and then tried to figure out where they fitted in the hetro/homo state of the world.

What I didn’t like:
I didn’t love the girl in here, she seemed so one dimensional compared to him. But I get it, it is really all about her – ahem … attributes.

Many people will cringe at this book, but I’m going to buy a copy and hand it to our school counselor because I really liked it and I see it as having a voice that young people might really like, but there will be a bunch of haters and they are gonna hate real strong.

Yep, this is a novel about sex. All of the everythings about sex, from the point of view of a teenage boy and so it is really aptly named.

Thanks Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this. It was very enlightening and I won’t be looking a teenage boy in the eye for a couple of days now that I know what is going on behind those eyes.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

essexAn interesting and marvellous book. Marvellous because it has much to make you think, to mull over and ideas to carry around and consider while you are reading it. It is a big story, with characters who started to take over my life. Often the minor characters became people I wanted to grow bigger in the story and then low and behold they would get a bigger role. Cora Seabourne is a young widow, she and her young son head from London to a village in Essex where the locals are spooked by rumours and strange goings on which are blamed on The Essex Serpent, a creature which has become the stuff of legend even though nobody has actually seen it. She is introduced to the local reverend and his wife via mutual friends and their relationships form a large part of the story.

There is so much in this book, unrequited love, suspicion, repression, suffering, religion, love, friendship and dying. It is set in an age where women were considered capable of learning but not able to have a career or study at any level higher than school. I think it would be a wonderful book to study, to pull apart and savour all its little moments which build to make a whole which feels complete and satisfying.

And would you just gaze upon this utterly glorious cover!

 

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

QuickOh Matthew, you give me the feels so bad every single time! I love that about you, and even though I know it is coming you can still surprise me with a great big feely moment. I love your troubled teens and the way they never quite fit in the world. Nanette is in her last year of high school, she is great at soccer and in line for scholarships to college. Then she falls out with her favourite teacher, she encounters a book which she connects to in all kinds of ways and sets about finding out the answers to the mysteries the book throws up. She encounters first love, obsession, encounters with the law and a hell of a lot more.

At the beginning of this book I was reminded of the novels of E.L Konigsberg but that feeling passes as you read on. Nanette is a great character, she is interesting, she goes through a lot of change during the course of the novel and while it gets very dark there is a message of hope. Nannette discovers sex, drugs and rap music and there is, as you expect in a Matthew Quick novel some swearing and dodgy choices, but this is very real and always appropriate and although there is a terrible preventable death (suicide) it is very much a book with hope.This is another really good novel by Matthew Quick and just confirms my love for his writing.  A great book for secondary school libraries and one your sensitive types will love.

 

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

lee childAt about the 3/4 point I nearly gave this away. In the end I quite enjoyed it, but along the way I got mighty worried about Mr Reachers penchant for knocking people off right and left, his stealing and pillaging of people’s belongings and cash and his blatant disregard for the law. His rap sheet must be considerably longer than my arm! I know that these are the kind of books where you have to suspend your disbelief, but sometimes it gets a bit much for me. And the attitude to women is considerably less than satisfactory, Mr Reacher you are a dick! And yet I keep reading the bloody things.

In this one the Special Investigator team the Reacher was in charge of in a previous life, are being knocked off. The remainder of the team get together to figure out who is doing it and why. With money being no object and a little bit of romance for Reacher on the side they set about their mission. Taking cars, phones, cash and leaving a heap of bodies in their wake.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

HopeCrikey, where to start with this book.  Hope Arden is forgettable. She begins to become forgettable at 16, you can only remember her when you are in front of her. Walk away, stop paying attention and you will not know who she is. There is no explanation for why this has happened to Hope. Being forgettable is lonely, how do you go to school, keep a job, get medical treatment, have friends?  The only ones who remember her are her sister Gracie and animals. But being forgettable means you can be a thief, operate in the underground and behave badly at any time and nobody will remember.  She becomes a jewel thief and a master at winning by counting cards at casinos. This is the beginning of the story.

Then there is Perfection.  Perfection is an app, one which drives it’s users to want to be better.  They want to be richer, more beautiful, have more things, make it up the ladder higher and higher in order to reach the highest level of Perfection.  It provides incentives, products, parties, all kinds of bonuses to those who become more of the ideal of perfection.  This includes access to brain stimulations which will take away your clouded thoughts, make you more and more fulfilled and perfect.  During a party, Hope steals a jewelled bracelet and becomes embroiled in the world of Perfection.  After witnessing the death of someone she has connected with, she decides she is going to take Perfection down. We enter the world of the Deep Web as Hope endeavours to get the code to take Perfection down. She encounters two people there who will change everything.

This is a book with big ideas. The idea of a big brother app using mind control and people’s vanity to manipulate, the way technology and social media have permeated our lives, celebrity culture and a bunch of other big ideas are all explored.  We travel the world in Hope’s shoes on her quest. You learn a whole heap of things about Japanese culture and the world of spies. A book to make you think and above all a gripping story.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and I thank them and the publisher for the opportunity.