Netgalley

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.

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 Disasters by M.K. England

The Disasters

The Disasters by M.K. England

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I was so looking forward to reading this, the cover for a start is fantastic, the blurb sounded great and I started it immediately it arrived. And off we went on what I thought for the first few chapters was going to be a really exciting, action filled space action thriller. Then everything slowed down, a lot.

This book got bogged down in detail. Looking at the cover you really think that the crash helmet is going to be key, that it will be needed for all the action and that Nax our main character is going to end up with it being very dented. Not so much. Yes there is some action but it is just too spread out.

I did like the way that the characters interacted, great snappy conversations, good tensions between the siblings, but too much talking and not enough doing for my tastes in YA. I would have loved the whole novel to be just a bit tighter.

I also am probably a little bit ruined for space drama having just read Leviathan Wakes which does all this stuff so well. I will probably buy this novel for school because I think there are students who are desperate for space books with action, and to be fair there is action in this, but just not enough to keep me engrossed.

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



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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Any book which is recommended to people who like Ruth Ware is probably going to be right up my alley, I think this is better than the Ruth Ware novels I’ve read but it does have a similar feel. I loved the concept and I think it was pulled off incredibly well. 

A bunch of people who have been friends since university have a New Year holiday every year, they take turns at organising it and this time it is Emma who has done the job. She has chosen an extremely remote hunting lodge for them to spend New Year in the Scottish highlands. They are a volatile group of people, some get along better than others but a tradition is a tradition and they all turn up for these holidays. It is a classic scenario, remoteness in a lovely wild place, all kinds of disparate people trapped there in a snowstorm, no way in or out, no way to contact the outside world or get help when one of them turns up dead in the middle of the night. It could have been written by a modern day Agatha Christie. Along with the guests you have a young woman, running away from her previous life and a dour man who is riddled with his own secrets. These two run the lodge and the only other person on the scene is a handyman who doesn’t live on site. So, who was killed and why and who did it! 

This book is clever, chapters from various points of view leave you unsettled as secrets are revealed but which look different from other people’s perspectives. Of course, there are secrets between the couples, stories which have never been told and things which are buried deep in the past, the tension is so well played. It is really hard to pick who is going to die and even harder to figure out who committed the crime. Information is metered out cleverly and gradually. 

This book has a great deal to recommend it, the vocabulary is fantastic. I love the short chapters which keep you pushing forward to find out what will come next. This is a fantastic book. Highly recommended to those who like their thrillers full to the brim with tension.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to this excellent read. I’ve gone out and bought a copy for our library, I know lots of people will love it.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

WhatYou can see the Netflix series playing out in your mind as you read this rather lovely book.

Arthur is working for his mum in her law office in New York, the family have moved there for the summer and Arthur has an internship doing the filing. He has cool gossipy workmates who are incredibly entertaining, they look out for him and make the job interesting and fun.

Ben is stuck in summer school, not his ideal way to spend the summer. He has broken up with his boyfriend, it is hard, he is a bit broken. Worse the ex is also attending summer school so he has to see him all the time and that is sad and hard.

Arthur meets Ben at the Post Office in the midst of a flash mob, it is the cutest thing. Love at first sight but then they spend the next while trying to find each other. They don’t have many clues, but this is love, they need to find each other. So investigations take place, they get everyone involved in the search and of course, when all seems lost they find each other. Ohhhh my poor wee heart just went all gooey! Now we have them working through all the stuff of the past, thinking about the future and dealing with life as it plays out for them. This is the summer of dreams but sometimes it is the summer of angst. There are heaps of lovely references to gay culture, musicals, coffee shops that are amazing – though I’ve had plenty of coffee in New York and I’m skeptical about these – this is a New York story with a thoroughly New York state of mind.

I feel a bit bad for the 3 stars, it is really a firm 3.5. I felt that it was just a bit wordy. It took a tiny bit too long for things to happen and while the chat in the book is so brilliant and witty and on point, there is just too much of it. The cuteness is just so lovely, the banter excellent, the families of the boys are so nice, so accepting of their interesting and complicated gay kids. I loved it when the two families had dinner together. Seriously, this is so nice! Like a romantic froth of powder blue tulle! Like puppies and kittens. Like my dog on Insta! It just needed a bit of substance.

I think this will be a huge hit. And I’m so pleased that books like this are becoming mainstream. Here are the authors talking about it.

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.

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.