books

RuPaul by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the only things my 3 kids have in common is their love for RuPaul’s Drag Race. It unites them as they discuss the outfits, the relationships between the queens and the unjustness of some of the dismissals on the show. This Little People, Big Dreams book is really cute. I adored the pictures and it is satisfying to read. Just the right amount of information for a little fan of the show and a great way of introducing children to the diversity in society. It’s super cute and is a great format. Just right.



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All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

There is something about Trent Dalton’s writing that I love, his short sentences, slightly disjointed sometimes stuttery ways should irritate me, but they really don’t. I find them engaging, and gripping. I can’t wait to read the next page.

This is Molly Hook’s book, she is gutsy and brave and has the most unusual sidekick you can imagine. A shovel called Bert. Look, it all sounds so silly but it just works. Molly is the gravedigger’s daughter, and the daughter of a mother who was a dreamer, literature lover, and disappointed woman, a woman whose potential was never realised. Molly has grown up in abject poverty, she is a little girl who is used to making do, used to dealing with a drunken father and an abusive uncle, and she takes solace in poetry and the books her mother owned. She is used to being alone. But Molly’s uncle has a girlfriend who is a delight, Greta is a beautiful drunk with a bad reputation but a heart of gold. She is an actress in a town that doesn’t appreciate her talents with an abusive boyfriend who she can’t leave behind. And Greta loves Molly.

When Darwin is bombed by the Japanese, Molly and Greta set off together to set about reversing a curse put on Molly’s family. At the same time, a Japanese pilot, crashes and lands in their path and thus a threesome of travelers become adventurers, questers and friends.

This book takes a bit of work to get stuck into, but once you are in these characters will sweep you away. This is a weird kind of magical realism. Just suspend your disbelief and get stuck in and you’ll find a story that is not like any other. You’ll fall for Molly from page one, you’ll despise her relatives and come to understand the value of unexpected consequences in her life. This is a gem of a book. What the heck is Trent Dalton bringing us next? I can’t wait to see. These first two have been amazing, unusual, and moving. I’m totally there for anything he brings me now.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book, I bought my own copy because I loved it so much.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

hisThis is a deliciously devious thriller. Twisty and turny and a book to keep you guessing all the way along. This is a gritty book. Plenty of violence to be had, bodies abound, people are horrible to each other and to top it off an unreliable narrator or even more than one. I thought I had this one pegged early on, but it turned on me and messed with my mind and had me trying to figure out exactly how all the pieces fitted together all the way.

This book has really cool narration. The actors are sufficiently creepy which fits perfectly with the story. Positively creepy. Richard Armitage has the perfect voice for Jack, who is investigating the case and Stephanie Racine does a brilliant job of the nuanced role of news presenter Anna Andrews whose ambition sees her chasing murder stories, trying to take down her rivals. There is such a lot going on in this story, double crossing, lies, blind ambition and resentment for things long past. Phew!

If you like your thrillers full of mystery and intrigue and told in multiple voices and in this case voiced really really well, get hold of this book.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

switchRight book, right time. I was in a bit of a reading slump, couldn’t find something that really appealed on my shelves and then Netgalley released audiobooks. Yay! This was my first and it certainly won’t be my last.

The narrators switch from Eileen a feisty elderly woman, voiced by Alison Steadman with humour and verve and Leena her granddaughter voiced by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who manages to perfectly convince as the frustrated and tired, overachieving businesswoman. I loved hearing their voices, the two different flavours added so much to the story.

Eileen is angry, having suffered her rather insufferable bore of a husband for years, he has taken off with another woman, left her high and dry and desperate for company, and a bit of sex to go with it. Leena has been treated badly at work, a coworker with very mean tendencies has worn her down and she is tired. Her boyfriend who seems so marvellous, is very absent which also doesn’t help. Both these women are still grieving for Leena’s sister who died a year ago from cancer. Then they come up with the brilliant idea of swapping lives, Leena will go to the country, live in Eileen’s house and Eileen will go to London and try the lifestyle there. And in this way, the action begins. There are challenges for both women of many kinds.

This book is fun, full of action, and lots of hilarious moments. Your heartstrings will be plucked, you’ll cheer at the village fair, squirm at the uncomfortable scenes which bring in some big issues such as family violence and infidelity, but overall you’ll have a really fine time. It is a great big dollop of feel-good drama.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher for access, I had a really good time. Must just up that rating to 5 stars

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 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 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.

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 Lying Game by Ruth Ware

There is something about the Ruth Ware style that really appeals to me. I like the atmosphere she creates, the way her characters interact and I think she nails the quiet mystery perfectly. As a boarding school girl myself, I was intrigued from the beginning of this one. The different personalities of the old friends, the way that they met, the ongoing relationship they have, tied by a terrible trauma which happened during their time at school. 

When they are summoned back to the scene of the traumatic event, the friends drop everything in their lives to be there, terrifically worried that their secret might have been discovered. The villagers are suspicious of them, sinister things start to happen and an atmosphere of tension and pent up grievances is palpable. 

This is what Ruth Ware does so well, takes simple scenarios and makes them full of tension and has you on the edge of your reading chair, gripped! I stayed up late at night to finish this book and it was satisfying and as there is a new book from this author out in the world now, I’m excited to read that one too!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

An immersive novel, once you are in you’ll struggle to think of anything else but the river and the mysteries it throws up. It seems like a historical novel but throws some magic and some mystery into the mix. Our base is The Swan, a tavern on the banks of the river. One stormy night a man arrives, he is near death and with him is a child who appears to be already dead. She is an unusual looking child of about 4 years old. The local nurse is summoned and she feels, along with everyone else that the child is beyond her help. But the next day the child is alive, everyone who has anything to do with the child feels compelled to take her, to provide a home for her and to make her their own. Then there is the man, he recovers, and leaves.

Through these events we come to know the locals in the hamlets around Oxford. The childless couple, the Parson and his maid, a photographer, the family missing their eldest son who may be a terrible rogue. Then there is my favourite the nurse who treated the child at the beginning, I loved her. 

If you are a Sarah Perry fan, if you like a bit of mystical with your historical and if you love a good mystery, this book is going to be right up your alley. The tone is so perfectly pitched and the pace is perfect, it meanders just like the river, it throws up all manner of mysterious items, just like the river and it takes you on a wonderful journey, just like the river. 

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was delighted to win a hardback copy of this book from the publishers. It is a lovely looking book and with a cover which feels expensively smooth and waxy, it has been a pleasure to hold in my hands as I’ve worked my way through it. I do feel it was work at times! Ian McEwan is an author I almost always enjoy reading, I like his cleverness and the way he places his characters in conflicts of the heart and the mind. This is exactly what he does in this book, lots of moral complexity and a real commentary on the purpose of AI and our decision making in our conscious human way versus the logic of machine learning. Having read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari I got the distinct impression that that book had made quite the impression on Ian McEwan, there is a quote from the book in this novel and a feel that the conclusions that eventually the machines will overtake us humans is clear in this novel.

Charlie purchases an Adam, a robot who looks and feels and acts human, it is a vast expense, he could have bought a house! Charlie shares a house with Miranda. She is young and gorgeous and Charlie fancies her enormously. He asks her to help form Adam’s personality, they will each be responsible for half of the different facets of his personality, she agrees and this the beginning of their relationship. Adam falls for Miranda but not before warning Charlie that Miranda harbours dark secrets and is not to be entirely trusted. This is the beginning of the story which will twist and turn throughout the early 1980s where the author has altered political history, bought Alan Turing back to life and generally messed around with the past to make it fit his story.

I found sections of the story totally engaging, Charlie and Miranda’s relationship, the arrival of Mark a young boy they decide to adopt, the relationship between Miranda and her unfortunate best friend. The novel tackles so many big issues and yet somehow seems to do so in a slightly distant and removed fashion. Of course there are amazingly clever passages, there are eminently quotable sentences, some of the comments that the characters make to each other are brilliant, but it was missing a heart, a little like Adam.

It is enjoyable but not amazing and that is a bit disappointing.

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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

This book is fabulous. Fabulous! 

I’ve been talking about it to anybody who will listen since I started it. Then I was eking it out so that it lasted longer. And now I don’t even know where to start to write about it. It is being marketed as being YA, but I’d argue that it is for anybody. 

The girls of the County are sent away for a year, into a fenced area in the wilderness. On their return, bedraggled, broken, injured and unable to talk of their experiences, they never speak of their time away on The Grace Year. Before they even head away they are chosen as brides by the eligible men of the village. This includes those who have found an excuse to get rid of their loyal wives on feeble excuses to get at one of the new crop of eligible new brides. It is the beginning of the horror of this story. It is going to get way more uncomfortable! 

Tierney our heroine is plucky and sharp. The other girls don’t like her, they are suspicious of her for many reasons but partly because she is friends with Michael, who chooses her in the betrothal ceremony and also because her father has set her up by teaching her practical skills, these are skills none of the other girls have. They have been trained to serve and kowtow to the men, not Tierney, she’s a fighter. As they head into the awfulness of the Grace Year she is going to need every tiny scrap of her feistiness. 

There is so much in this book. It requires a certain amount of grit to cope with its horror. Tierney is so awesome. There are so many favourite moments in this book, she finds seeds sewn lovingly into her cloak, the love scene, the fearsome way she deals with the psychological persecution of the awful mean girls and their terrible leader. 

If you like a dystopian fiction this is going to make you very very happy. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this great novel.

The Gifted, the Talented and Me by William Sutcliffe

Oh thank goodness, a YA book that isn’t full of angst and misery! 

This is a kind, good hearted, bouncy treat, our leading man is a little bit troubled by the fact that he has been moved from his old life and friends to a new life in the big city. Sam misses his old life and even his old school, he has been enrolled in a school which is specifically designed to bring out the creative side of it’s students, to cater to the artistic and dramatic side of them. Sam’s siblings are delighted, they are able to fit right in, Sam is alone and isolated, hopelessly in lust with a gorgeous girl who is not remotely interested in him, nobody plays football and he is isolated and lonely. Not to mention his mum who has also decided to unleash her latent creativity. Goodnatured Sam deals with all this, but it isn’t easy. He has to negotiate a lot on the way to his happy ending but the way he gets there is awesome. And along the way of course, Sam is going to find out that he too is as creative as the rest of the family.

I really like William Sutcliffe’s books, they are just the right size, they are engaging, his characters speak to each other like people in the real world would, he is a great writer for teens. Highly recommended for teenagers, just the right amount of bad behaviour and risk taking to be safe for even the most conservative. I really liked this book.

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

DamianI 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.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

CRAA fluffy cloud of funny romantic froth! This is not my usual sort of book but having seen the shorts of the movie and thought it cute, I wanted to find out more. At the same time one of the Yr 10s at my all boys school asked me to buy it for the library and I was all YES!!! So, I gave it a spin and I loved it. So much fun, so many designer labels, so many witty one liners and a really good fun read.

It is the story of Nick and Rachel who meet and fall in love. Nick decides they should go on holiday in his home of Singapore. What he neglects to tell Rachel, an eminently sensible, intelligent and practical young woman, is that he comes from one of the richest families in Singapore and that the wedding they are attending while there, of Nick’s best friend, is the wedding of the decade! Rachel finds herself swept into a world she has no idea about, she is aghast at the wealth she sees and simply cannot believe that this extreme wealth is normal for her lovely boyfriend. She discovers the terrible rich bitch girls and finds unexpected kindness in the form of Nick’s cousins Astrid and Sophie.

There is also the story of Rachel’s background, her Mum’s sad experiences as a young woman and the struggle she had to keep Rachel from finding out the truth about these.

This is just perfect as a book to read as an escape from some of the sad books that are around at the moment, it is a perfect escape book. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a change from the usual.   Click this link to see the movie trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ-YX-5bAs0

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

lessArthur Less is one of those endearingly frustrating men, he cruises along, not being anything in particular and stuff happens to him. Usually really good stuff. He is ageing and starting to feel his mortality, he has gone from being the slightly shy and aloof person that people notice to being largely ignored. His latest novel has been rejected and he is hurt and lonely. He makes the impulsive decision to head off to a bunch of events in different countries in order to avoid attending his ex partner’s wedding. So we follow Arthur to these locations as he missteps and bumbles his way about. It sounds vacuous, but the writing is so sparkling and it is so wryly funny that I was drawn in immediately and loved this book.

The story is not the thing in this book, it is the atmosphere the author creates, the way that Arthur looks back on what has happened to him, the role he played in the lives of others, his perspective on his life, what the relationships he had have meant to him and where he is now. He is getting old, his life seems to have no substance and he is floundering. He is a kind of bumbling fool, someone who never makes a decision, someone who drifts and this is the charm of the book. Gentle and sweet and sad and lovely, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I loved the feeling of it, a flight of fancy and something lovely to spend time with.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold

noahReasons to read this book:
The writing: David Arnold completely nails current teen speak. It feels authentic and on point. It feels like he is inside Noah’s mind, with all the fixations and drama of being a teenager, using the internet to answer the big questions, being obsessed with books and music of particular artists especially Bowie, but comic book culture and movies. Remembering phrases from these and quoting from them all the time. There are so many quotable passages in this book, some that make you stop and ponder and want to write them down.
The Relationships: Noah, Alan and Val are such individuals, those of us who work in high schools know these kids. They stand out and are unafraid to be who they are. Noah’s sister Penny is wonderful, a great anchor for the family life with the crazy uncle, the unusual parents and the whole back story of their lives.
The angst: I love how Noah’s sporting life is handled, his injury and the guilt it induces even though the lie is perpetuated despite the bad feelings.
The goodness: This book has so much to offer in the way it deals with kindness and concern, not just for the people Noah knows but with the relationship he forms with an elderly man and his eventual understanding of the way his weird uncle behaves. Noah is eventually wise to how others feel and perceive him and I really liked that growth.

Yes this is thoroughly weird in some ways, but it is a novel which is so relatable and genuinely goodhearted, it made me smile often and it made me think. In YA fiction that is what I’m after. I want to offer my kids books which are different and not cookie cutter and this book is certainly that. All the kids I’ve talked to about this book are keen to get their hands on it and that is a great sign. Give it to your John Green and Rainbow Rowell fans. Give it to those who want to read something real and unfettered. They’ll thank you for it.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

transcriptionIt is such a worry when one of your favourite authors has a new book out, will it live up to what you’ve loved before. Will it satisfy you in the same way that her other books have? The answer to this question, in this case, is a firm and hearty yes. I finished the book almost overnight in a fever of reading and then was, of course, gutted that it was done and I now have to wait years for another Atkinson.

We are in the middle of the 2nd World War in London. The bombings are rampant and a young Juliet has a job working for MI5. She types transcripts of conversations being recorded in the room next door where Nazi sympathisers are being strung along thinking that they are chatting with a high level Nazi informant but who is actually MI5 operator. Juliet is alone in the world and her job is her focus. She pines for more than just to type these conversations and eventually she is recruited to infiltrate The 5th column. A group of Nazi sympathisers which comprises some high level and influential people in British society circles. Thus she begins to lead a double life.

Juliet is complex and just how complex is revealed at the end of the book, I loved that she was more complicated than she appeared. I loved learning her story, about her early life and about what happens to her after the war. How life can play games with you, revealing more after something happens than you are aware of while things are playing out. Kate Atkinson draws you in and holds fast to you while you get caught up in the happenings of her characters lives. I could see this story playing out in my mind and would be completely unsurprised if it becomes a movie, I’ll be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.

I learnt a lot about the 5th Column and headed off to find out more. There are lots of interesting things to read about in the authors notes at the end of the book and I’ll go back and read these again.

One of the things that I loved was that Juliet’s life at work is so interesting despite the fact that the job she is doing is so incredibly boring, typing the tedious transcripts of the horrible people in the room next door, yet she is drawn into the conversations which the sympathisers have. I loved the minor characters in the book, her friend Clarissa, Godfrey and co. Even the story of the dog was great. I just loved it.