Netgalley

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

feathersOh this is such a charged book. So many things to think about and process. Bobby Seed is a 17 year old boy dealing with far too much. There is his mum, dying of MS, his handful of a younger brother Dan who doesn’t really understand what is happening to their mum and Bel, friendzoned when she doesn’t want to be and helping Bobby shoulder responsibility out of the goodness of her heart. All this responsibility is wearing for Bobby, a mum who can’t look after either him or his brother and all the drama of daily teenage life, it is boring, it is relentless, it sucks and it is only going to get worse as his mum gets worse.

Then Bobby is encouraged to go to a group for those caring for an ill parent and whammo, there he meets Lou, exotic, sexy as all get out and equipped with a vintage Vespa. And Lou likes Bobby, starts hanging with him and because they have shared experience and plenty in common it seems they might have something more than friendship looming. But, Lou is tricky, he tells stories, is he to be trusted? As things move along, mum getting worse, Dan being Dan, Bel always there and Bobby’s guilt getting larger and larger, it all gets so incredibly complicated. Lou is possibly more than he seems. A crisis point is reached when mum asks Bobby to help her die.

This is a slow, thoughtful novel. It is full of Bobby’s angst at the terrible situation he finds himself in. This huge responsibility, weighted with love for Dan and his mum, his grief and his heartache. Interwoven are his thoughts on his emerging sexuality and confusion at the way Lou treats him and all the weirdness surrounding the way Lou acts. I loved the character of Bel, so kind, tolerant and so willing to help so that she doesn’t have to deal with her own terrible homelife.

This would be a wonderful novel for students to study, so full of moral complexity and full of heart. You root for Bobby, you want him and Dan to be ok. This novel is one which will make you think and feel. I’ll definitely be buying it for our library.

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Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

herding catsIf you were a young person who was interested in making your way in the illustration or comic world, I think this book would be a great asset.  There is a section at the end of the book which will give you handy heads-ups and ideas to make your quest become easier.

Sarah Anderson’s cartoons are gentle, sweet and self-depreciating. The cutsie style belies the depth of the cartoons, they are utterly sweet and at the same time often utterly disarming and poignant. I’ve been following her work on Facebook for some time and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her work.  To have this lovely book full of them is great.

I love the way she ties the love of animals with loneliness and often, wouldn’t we just want the uncomplicated company of a furry being for all the things we need, this is what she does, she harnesses this feeling and draws it perfectly in simple but sharp squares.  Sarah describes the feelings of growing older in a world with expectations perfectly, she could be one of my kids! It is tough out there in the world, having all those grown up expectations, of yourself but also other people expecting certain behaviours from you. I love that Sarah’s musings are in comic form, so accessible and so perfect for how we all feel some of the time.  A lovely treasure of a book.

 

 

Artemis by Andy Weir

artemisI was really excited when I was approved by Netgalley for this book, The Martian was one of my favourite books last year and I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this. This one is a very different story, still with all the science and clever techie stuff that Andy Weir is making his signature style, but this time with a female protagonist and set on the Moon. Jazz is a fabulous character, a bit of a rebel and with a renegade spirit. She needs cash, fast. She lives in Artemis, the first and only city on the moon. Her Dad is the master welder (which is going to come in very handy) and because Jazz has been a bit of a rogue in her past she doesn’t work in the family business but works as a courier delivering packages. This allows her the opportunity to import forbidden items into Artemis. She is basically running an importation business. This means she meets some dodgy people.

The structure of Artemis is fantastically described and I loved reading about all the features of it’s bubbles and how the society is managed there. Life is pretty grim for many of the inhabitants but looks great to the tourists who visit for the opportunity to go out onto the moon surface with the qualified EVA people who take tours, Jazz has just failed her exam to become an EVA specialist when we meet her.

When Jazz is offered the opportunity to earn a huge pile of money she jumps at the chance. She is going to sabotage large machinery and enable her friend to pick up the contract from which he will make a fortune. This sabotage plan will mean danger and risk to Jazz and the story is about her planning and organising this and then putting it into action. It is really detailed. At times I was left a little underwhelmed by all the detail of the sabotage but while there is a bit of a lag in the middle of the book, it picks up markedly towards the end and I found myself completely absorbed as the book raced to it’s conclusion.

There is a heap to like in this book, The Martian was always going to be a hard act to follow and I think Andy Weir has done a good job on this one and I’m looking forward to the next.

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.

 

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.

My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul

cover77953-mediumIt is hard to find books which appeal to reluctant high school age boy readers at the moment which are stand alone and which are not fantasy. I was excited to get my hands on this one via Netgalley and will certainly buy a copy when it is released.

This is Hank’s story. Hank’s mum and brother have died and left him with a broken heart and a broken dad.  His dad has taken up with a string of inappropriate, not teenage son friendly girlfriends. Dad drinks way too much and it seems his only interests are baseball and beer.  Hank is not into either of those things. As he tries to get on with his life Hank is making his way through high school and is very keen on the popular girl in his year. He decides to make a grand gesture and invite her to the prom.  But not just in any ordinary way, he decides that he will write his invitation in sparklers on her lawn.  Obviously, she will gaze upon this and be desperate to go with the person who made this awesome thing happen.  Unfortunately, Hank underestimates the flammability of the tree he ends up putting his sparklers under, and almost sets her house on fire.  He thinks he has got away with his stupid idea, but Peyton an odd girl who lives nearby has seen him and is using the information against him.  Thus, Peyton and Hank end up becoming friends, but it is a long road to this friendship.

This novel starts off as a fun romp and ends up dealing with lots of big issues.  Abuse, neglect and a serious case of pyromania, but friendship is at it’s heart. These kids really talk to each other. Through misunderstandings and miscommunications and a lot of racing around on bikes, Hank does a huge amount of growing and he is a lovely person and as we come to understand Peyton we feel for her pain. This is a great book with lots of good messages and I loved the humour. Great for year 9 – 11 boys and girls as well.