This book made me feel weepy. Worth a read but don’t stray far from the Kleenex. A bit like when you watch the film Marley and Me with the really cute dog? You never really let yourself bond with the dog because you know it’s going to have a sad ending even though there’s really funny bits. That’s how I felt about this book but it’s about really awesome humans so it’s a million times more sad.
The last few months I have been leap-frogging from one novel to the next hardly leaving time between each to jot down thoughts on any of them. Bit greedy I know but I’ve been metaphorically munching my way through them and only now have I paused long enough to sum up each one, so here we go:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”
I have seen this book around for a while and its been causing quite a stir so I thought I would give it a try and guess what? It deserves to be causing a ruckus because it is bloody brilliant.
Last year I wrote an article for InPrint on the lack of disabled characters in children’s publishing. Whether it be minor health issues such as asthma or physical abnormalities that people live with everyday you can’t help but notice the usual children’s character is an all round healthy, normal child. There was a report by Booktrust that recorded workshops with disabled children who felt that they weren’t represented in the stories they read and they wished that other children knew they existed.
I am so glad Wonder has come along to give these children a true hero. Auggie is not the mainstream character but someone who has real issues to deal with and such a charismatic personality that you find yourself forgetting that he has a severe facial deformity.
This is an inspiring book about looking beyond the exterior and searching out the true spirit of the people you meet. It also has a fantastic “choose kind” campaign behind it which schools across the US are getting on board with and I really hope it picks up over here too. If you haven’t read it or I haven’t talked your ear off about it enough yet then let this be the book that you pick up this May.
I adored reading Mist back in September and Kathryn James’s sequel to the novel, Frost, does not disappoint. Frost sees Kathryn step up her game and throws her two heroes, Evan and Nell fearlessly into a battle between two worlds that have up until now, lived literally poles apart. This novel is full of vibrancy, life and fun and keeps up the fast paced narrative that kick-started the saga in Mist.
I am a huge fan of Kathryn’s work as I have said before, she has a knack of stitching mythological stories of old to present day life and breathes life into folklore, making it both accessible and entertaining for a younger audience. The Elven folk who inhabit the worlds beyond Earth’s folds are both intriguing, mystical and surprisingly human in their behaviour - protecting their young and finding comfort in empathy in times of hardship.
Kathryn really plays on the power of open-mindedness in this second novel which is a great theme to introduce to the 12+ reading age group. She also tints her narrative with a good point or two to make about social blending, diversity and patience, hinting at tolerance and fairness which is always a good talking point.
Mist and Frost are both excellent titles and I’d love to know if there will be more and if Nell and Evan’s story is going to continue?
I love visiting new places in books.
I think I first read The Hobbit when one of my brothers gave it to me for my eleventh birthday. Admittedly I first found it quite hard, slow and rather tedious, I was initially confused by the sudden bursts of songs and poems and I struggled with the intricacies of the Elven dialogue compared to the simple babble of the hobbits. Written for children it does demand a certain amount of attention and although I was an avid reader from a young age I was easily distracted by my guinea pigs and local newts (both were equally cheerful).
Alas I gave The Hobbit another go, fourteen years later. Inspired by the new film I now view The Hobbit as a calming balm to the pacy reads that now dominate the charts in Waterstones. It was a pleasure to reread it and with the added visuals from the movie encouraging my imagination was much easier and I was able to coax out the details that Tolkien so passionately likes to describe in minute detail. So taken was I with The Hobbit and so astounded was I also that I had read it in three days (compared to the three months I had doggedly tried to finish it as an eleven year old) that I jumped straight into The Fellowship of the Ring. Here there was definitely a slight change of tone and pitch and the readership for The Lord of the Rings series is certainly assumed to be older.
I came to realise very quickly that Tolkien savours having his readers’ time and assumes their commitment to the saga and that they want to dedicate their hours to pouring over his tales. Much like the songs and tales that are told around a fire in Rivendell, The Lord of the Rings has come to take on its own legendary persona and rightfully earns its place alongside their stories of old. I think that’s what I enjoyed about Tolkien so much the second time around and I was slightly shame-faced to admit that his technique had whizzed over my head at a younger stage. He asks that you pause to read his novels and that you put aside any other tasks you may be doing or thinking of in order to get the best out of his creations. It really is quite clever when I think of the crime novels I have whistled through, holding my breath and not remembering a word of it once the final page ends. Tolkien wants you to remember every detail of your experience and that for one is something I applaud.
Saw this today and it really made me think – the eras before the naughties really had some epic lyrics that went on for 8 or 9 verses at a time. You know the ones like Bohemian Rhapsody that are pure elation to your ears when you hear them and you have the urge to do all the different voices in one breath and never quite hit the high note? Then in dawned on me how mundane most of the lyrics today are – bar Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine (really exposing my music taste here). What will future generations think of our musical legacies? I’m just comforted by the thought that at least this decade has produced some astonishing literary works and hopefully that will distract the future drone-flying generations from our repetitive songs that mind-boggling make it to number one.
I was a huge fan of the first instalment of this trilogy by Justin Cronin The Passage. It was a breath of fresh air to read a true horror story that had me wanting more whilst scaring me witless.
What I love so much about Cronin’s work is his creation a new super- breed of post-apocalyptic monsters – Virals. Twelve death-row inmates were used to test a rare strain of virus found on a tropical expedition, the virus makes them strong, agile and thirsty for blood. After a disastrous explosion, the now transformed inmates “virals” break lose and soon the epidemic develops into apocalyptic proportions. The once controlled medical research goes horrifically wrong and lands America in a new age of barren landscapes and high mortality rates.
Whiz forward a hundred years after the disaster and America is still struggling to raise itself up out of the ashes. Colonies have formed and cities have started to experience life again, but with any human tragedy the best and worst of humanity is highlighted in The Twelve as power-struggles appear and egos are played out in a battle for survival.
This story was just as powerful as The Passage – my only regret was that I didn’t reread The Passage before moving onto The Twelve as Justin Cronin has built such a superb nation that keeping track of all the characters, their stories and their histories is at times hard. The tension in the novel is expertly dispersed and peaks and troughs appear at pitch perfect times to maximise the impact on your already shredded nerves.
I really recommend this book to anyone who was sucked into The Passage and I can’t wait for the next addition. I just need to make a mental note to update myself again before reading on.
Living in a flat, it can be hard to find a small enough tree to look festive and less like a jazzed up basil plant. I saw this idea online this evening and will definitely be giving it a go – it makes sense to use our books to make a tree, I just might do it on a slightly bigger scale and use the heavy ones as a base – there’s a thought! Here’s a couple of pics for inspiration and I’ll report back with a verdict!
It’s been exactly a month since I last blogged, deary me where has the time gone? We took a lovely stroll along the South Bank Christmas Market last weekend and I can honestly say that my gast was flabbered when I saw the shear number of second hand books that were laid out ready for new owners to swoop in and peruse the titles. The Christmas Market was really fab and got me in the festive mood a whole fortnight earlier than usual – I am a purist when it comes to the festive season and tend to only really get my snowflake bobble hat on in the midst of the twelfth month. Those of you who I will see soon will now notice a spring in my step as I have taken on the personality of a Who of Whoville as I eagerly anticipate the run-up to Christmas. Anyhow folks, here is a snapshot of the extensive range of books down at the South Bank, do head down there if not just to stretch your legs and sip on a medicinal (ahem) mulled wine.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find words in your tea so you could start the day as you mean to go on?