Worthy Thoughts

Books, reading, life & other worthy thoughts

Love, Simon is a delightful chaotic teen-drama full of emotional angst, crises and just the right amount of romantic tension. Think John Hughes (Pretty in Pink & Breakfast Club) for a 2018 teen.

The movie is an adaption of Becky Albertalli’s YA novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. The screenplay is by This is Us showrunners, Elizabeth Bergen and Isaac Aptaker and directed by Greg Berlanti. Love, Simon is the first major studio film to focus on a gay teenage romance.

At heart, this is a romantic comedy, and it employs some clichés typical to its genre, but it manages to feel fresh because it has a different spin than your usual romantic comedies. It feels new rather than tired and dull.

The movie focuses on some strong issues with lightness and humour. There are some genuinely funny moments in the film and the lead character Simon played by Nick Robinson is flawed, loveable and charming.

Love, Simon has a strong supporting cast, but their stories aren’t fully developed compared to Simon’s story, which is understandable given the length of the film. There are some awkwardly hilarious scenes in the movie which come about because the characters are complicated and imperfect.

Aside from Simon’s parents played admirably by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, the only other adult characters are Mr Worth (Tony Hale) and Ms Albright (Natasha Rothwell). Hale plays the awkward vice-principal and Albright, the long-suffering drama teacher. Both characters are comically over-dramatic and offer little more than comic relief, but for some reason, the over-the-topness works.

Love, Simon is a good-natured movie, and it is a modern take on a classic genre. The film is likeable, warm and idealistic and you know what considering the cynical and sometimes depressing world we live in there is nothing wrong with a little idealism. The movie ends happily, but it feels entirely deserving.

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blue

If you love books and bookshops, you will adore this book because this is a love letter to books, words and bookshops. Cath Crowley writes with love and humour, and you can’t help but be swept up in this book about grief, love and the power of words. Her characters are gorgeous, yet flawed and complicated. This is a book that every lover of books needs in their life.

“‘But I love you, and before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learnt to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

beautiful

Beautiful Mess is a beautifully written novel. I loved it from the moment Ava started screaming at Mr Bryan on the first page. The story is driven by the beautiful, gutsy, grief-stricken Ava. She has lost her best friend Kelly, and she is angry and making not so right choices in life. She meets Gideon, and he helps her through her grief. Shy, anxious Gideon has his own issues, but Ava and Gideon through writing letters and poetry find their way through their pain and issues and come out on the other side. Claire Christian deals with some weighty issues, but she navigates these issues with humour and love. She captures the rawness of grief exquisitely, particularly grief associated with suicide. I loved the letters and the poetry (I love letters!), and I LOVED the ending!

yellow

Yellow is an engaging and well-written book. A lot is going on in the book – Kirra is a fourteen-year-old girl who has a troubled home life, is being bullied at school and she encounters a ghost! But somehow Megan Jacobson makes it work and makes it work brilliantly. The characters are likeable, and the small Australian beach town adds to the book wonderfully. When I first read the blurb for this book and saw that it had a supernatural element, I was immediately sceptical, but once I had read the first page, I was hooked.

               “I know this to be true: there is a special corner of hell that’s called being a fourteen-year-old girl.”

This is a book that you’ll find confronting at times, but then suddenly you will be laughing and then entirely out of the blue it will throw in a twist. It is quite the read!

sidekicks

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis is a beautifully written, genuinely funny book. Ryan, Harley and Miles don’t have much in common except for their mutual best-friend, Isaac. The beautiful, charming Isaac who died too soon. The book is divided up into three parts, and we hear from all three boys and find out why Isaac was so crucial to each and every one of the boys. The boys are all different and yet all viewed Isaac as their best friend. Ryan is the golden-boy jock. Harley is the rebel. Miles is the class nerd. As the stories are told we learn more about Isaac, and we learn more about each of the boys’ through the eyes of the other boys. There are heaps of laughs in this book, and at times you will find yourself laughing out loud, and at other times your heart will break for each and every boy.

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Beatle Meets Destiny. This is one of my favourite books.  John “Beatle” Lennon meets Destiny McCartney on Friday the 13th and Beatle being a highly superstitious boy decides that their meeting is fate. The only trouble is that Beatle has a girlfriend named Cilla, who happens to be pretty amazing. The story continues on in this manner where Beatle and Destiny continued to stumble across each other in bizarre and yet utterly believable ways. Destiny is feisty and gorgeous, and Beatle has quite the dilemma on his hands. The book is all about chance and fate. It is about being young and making mistakes and then making more mistakes! It is hilarious. If you like quirky comedies, you will love this book. The story plays out in Melbourne which becomes another character in the novel. A brilliant novel by a brilliant writer – Gabrielle Williams.

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Like many classic children’s books, Peter Rabbit is dark, menacing and you never know what is entirely going to happen, and in all likelihood, it is going to be bad, not good. Beatrix Potter’s beautiful watercolours give the reader a sense that Peter Rabbit is quite charming but he isn’t, he is naughty. I have read a lot of negative press on Peter Rabbit, and if you believed everything you read, you would think that Will Gluck (director) took an innocent and sweet rabbit and made him rebellious and cruel, which isn’t quite the case, at all. If you were to ask a child what they know of Peter Rabbit they would say he was naughty and his father was cooked up in a pie because Mr MacGregor caught him in his garden. I’m not quite sure what is whimsical and sweet about any of that.

Aside from any of that, the movie is set a few years later in Peter’s life. I am assuming he is a teenager. Peter was a naughty and mischievous child, so one can only begin to imagine what Peter would have been like as a teenager with no parents to supervise him.

So why did I like the movie?

  1. James Corden perfectly captured Peter’s rebellious, naughty spirit.
  2. The brilliant soundtrack. All songs integrate into the movie surprisingly well and actually bring a lot of humour to the film and add to the story. The soundtrack is like another character and brings a lot to the movie.
  3. The live-action actors, Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson who both brought a lot of charisma and love to their characters. It was refreshing to see Rose Byrne in a role where she smiled and was happy.
  4. It was surprisingly hilarious. The dialogue was cheeky and funny.
  5. It was beautiful. I want to live in Bea’s house. I want to sit in Bea’s garden and read and write.

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Photo: Lan Patrick

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For the past week, I have been on school holidays, and it has been blissful. I find my work environment draining, and that may be because I work with extroverts. Nothing against my work colleagues, most of them are lovely people. But working with extroverts and dealing with students on a daily basis can be exhausting for an introvert like myself. For the past week, the only contact I have had with people is with my coffee barista.

To be perfectly honest, I am the dictionary definition of an introvert. I can socialise easily with people, and people tend to like me (for some bizarre reason), but by the end of the day I am drained and need time to charge my batteries for the next day.

Today, there seems to be more understanding of an introvert, but I am not sure people understand how difficult it is to be an introvert in this extrovert world and I think the majority of extroverts don’t care enough to understand. They’d like to believe you were anti-social or shy rather than taking the time to appreciate an introvert. Or worst some people think because we choose to observe we are dull and have nothing to say. I work with a lot of extroverts who think I am rude because I choose not to socialise with them. Another thing I don’t understand. Why do I have to be friends with my work colleagues? I go to work to work not make friends.

 

How do I stay happy in the extrovert work environment?

 

  1. I arrive at work early (even though I am not a morning person) and I enjoy the hour of working in solitude before everyone else arrives. If I were to arrive when all my colleagues were there, I wouldn’t be able to prepare for the day. The quiet and lack of chatter and movement allows me to adjust for the day ahead. It goes against my nature to get up early, but in the end, it is worth it to have that time to prepare for the day of work without the intrusion of others.

 

  1. I have my coffee breaks in my office. I make a cup of coffee and sit at my desk, and I enjoy my coffee in quiet and solitude. In past times I would check my emails and do different things, but now I find that I sit and enjoy my coffee. Sometimes I read. I am tempted to take my coffee outside and sit on a bench (because I work in a beautiful environment), but I am afraid that an extrovert will see me and believe that I want company! This quiet time is good for my well-being and makes me better equipped to deal with the students who demand my attention.

 

  1. I tend not to go to staff social events. By the time Friday rolls around I find that the last thing I want to do is go out for drinks with my colleagues. All I want is to go home and sit on the couch, and you know what I don’t make excuses or lie, I tell the truth. I don’t want to go out for drinks. It is that simple. I will never understand why we need to make excuses for not wanting to do something. I am still not sure why it is okay for people to judge my choices in life. If they choose to go out and socialise, well they can, all power to them, so why am I judged for not wanting to go to a social event?

 

  1. As I have grown older and more content with who I am, I realise that I don’t have to make excuses for who I am. I am an introvert. I am not shy. I am not anti-social. I am not a snob. I do not like people, which takes me that one step further than most introverts. But the people I do like and love, I do whole-heartedly. Extroverts surround themselves with people because it makes them happy. I choose to spend a lot of time alone because this makes me happy. I say do what makes you happy and don’t apologise for it.

 

  1. I choose to communicate mainly by email or text. I hate talking on the phone. I hate meetings. My boss is someone who prefers to have meetings. He hates me communicating with him by email. I have learnt to navigate this, and we seem to have come to a happy compromise over the years.

 

It took me many years, but I now seem to have navigated the world of extroversion as an introvert. For many years I apologised for who I was, and I tried hard to be someone I wasn’t. I am now more accepting of who I am and what my limitations in life are. I always dreaded Monday mornings and that inevitable question, ‘what did you do on the weekend?’. Now, I smile and say didn’t leave the house and it was great.

The best way to be happy in a social world is to do what makes you happy and stop apologising and feeling bad. Enjoy your time, you deserve it, and most importantly, you need it.

floral front

Recently I bought two books, and I bought these books purely on their covers. I did not read the blurbs or the reviews. I am a book cover junkie, I love a great book cover, and I personally think there are a lot of book cover junkies out there.

Working as a teacher-librarian, I hate it when a great book comes into the library but it has the worst cover, or it has a cover that I know will be off-putting to my students.  We live in a world where most of what we do is visual. Children and teenagers, in particular, are constantly bombarded with visual information. Books need to reflect this changing world. Yes, what is inside the book is ultimately the most important, but a cover can make or break a book. I know for a fact that some fantastic books have been overlooked by my students purely because they can’t relate to the cover or they don’t want to be seen reading a book because of its cover. We live in a judgmental world, and we may wish we didn’t, but we do.

The book cover is the first page of your book. It needs to grab the reader. In a sea of books, the cover is what a reader is drawn to first and then they will turn it over and read the blurb. If you walk into a bookstore, unless you are looking for a specific book, it is the cover that will make you pick up the book.

In my first year as a judge, I read a book that was great, but look at that cover! What is going on there? When it came in the mail with the other books that I had to read, I immediately picked it up and rolled my eyes and thought I am going to hate this book, but I didn’t, and the cover makes the book look like a light-weight read, and it isn’t. Tara Eglington has written a book about friendship that most of us can relate to and she wrote about friendship in all its messy and intricate glory but does the cover show that?? Teenage boys and girls would appreciate this book, but I am not sure it reached the audience it should have with this cover. We did make it a notable, but all the judges agreed that the cover didn’t reflect the book.

goddess

Whether we like it or not, boys are more likely to be turned off by a girly cover. Books have arrived in the library that I know the boys will love, but the cover is pink or has a girl on the front, and I know it is going to take a hard sell from me to get the boys to borrow it. Sometimes I win the battle, but often I don’t, and it is frustrating because I know it is the boys who have lost the most by not reading the book.

Every boy I give this book to has loved it, but not one boy I know has picked this book up themselves and taken it home to read. The cover is just too girly. I wish we didn’t live in a world where boys felt intimidated to read a book with a girly cover, but we do. This is a great book, and it is a great cover, but it isn’t a cover that boys can relate to, and so they don’t read this excellent book which I know most boys would love. And by putting this cover on the front of a book, you have entirely alienated one half of your reading audience.

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Boys will read a book with a female protagonist, but boys are reluctant to pick up a book that looks too girly. Boys like their protagonists to be sharp, witty and kick-ass, and so they will enjoy a book with great female characters. Even though this book has a girl on the cover, she looks tough and straight-forward, and the colours used on the cover reflect her no-nonsense attitude. This is a book that isn’t alienating boys!

frankie

Earlier in the year, we received The Shop at Hoopers Bend to be judged in the Older Reader category. We decided it needed to be moved to Younger Readers. The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a beautiful book, and I am pleased to see that it was short-listed in the Younger Reader category, but back to the cover! Yes, if you look closely, it reflects the magical quality of the book, not magic as in wizards and unicorns but magic as in everyday magic of coincidence, serendipity, love and friendship. To me, the cover is old-fashioned and boring. The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a beautiful and enthralling book that I am sure boys and girls would both love, but this cover isn’t doing it any favours. The cover isn’t terrible; it just needs a few tweaks to make it look more modern.

hoopers

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. I am looking forward to reading the two books I bought recently, and I hope that they are as great as their covers. Yes, I have read books that have great covers but are terrible reads, but that’s another blog post! If you are curious, the two books that I bought are The Belles and Amelia Westlake.

ameliabelles

 

 

I am not a huge fan of fantasy. It isn’t my go-to genre. Many years ago I wouldn’t read fantasy, but I have progressed from that point, and I now am able to appreciate a well-written fantasy book. I decided to read The Cruel Prince because it was one of the books that arrived in my YA Chronicles subscription. My expectations weren’t high, and I am pleased to say that The Cruel Prince was a wickedly good read.

The Cruel Prince is the first book in a new series from YA author, Holly Black and it is beautifully written. Black writes with high intensity and vibrancy that you almost feel like you are a part of this treacherous, unscrupulous world.

The start of the book is confronting, but it indeed introduces you to the world of Faerie where bloodlust, revenge and cruelty are commonplace.

Jude is a human; she has been living in the world of Faeries since she was seven years old along with her twin sister Taryn and her half-faerie sister Vivi. Jude and her sisters live with Vivi’s father, Madoc. Jude has grown up in the world of Faerie Gentry, but even though she has had the protection of Madoc, she has never felt safe or as though she belongs. Though, after a decade of living in the world, she feels that it is her home and genuinely wants to find her place amongst the Faeries and to feel like she belongs and is accepted.

Faerie world is filled with magic and beauty but Jude, being the human outcast knows the ugly side of Faerie. She has been tormented by those who live in this world since she arrived. Most particularly she has been cruelly bullied by the other children of Faerie. Jude’s bullying by the Faeries is challenging to read, but it allows the reader to understand Jude’s motivations and why she makes the decisions that she does. Jude wants to become a member of the High Court, mainly for the power that it will bestow upon her.

Black has given us a world that is deliciously dark, wicked and violent. This is not a light read. Think Game of Thrones for Faeries!  Like Game of Thrones, there are some jaw-dropping moments when you wonder how far Black will take the violence and bloodlust; she definitely does not hold back. Black is a master at layering. Nothing is written without a purpose. She does not waste words, and she layers the plot with beautifully intricate twists and turns, she leads the reader deeper and deeper into the fascinating and dangerous world of Faerie.

Not only does Black layer the plot but she layers the characters. Black develops her characters so that as a reader we struggle to see them as black and white characters. All the characters are grey. Black gives us enough for us to realise that some characters are cruel and vicious but are they all bad? All the characters, even the most minor, have their stories to tell. Black has neither completely good or bad characters. Even Jude, our captivating, tough, intelligent heroine has motivations that are not entirely pure, but understandable considering all she has been through.

Black is a master of story, and she has a gift for developing characters. The Cruel Prince isn’t just a book about Faeries, but a book about relationships, intrigue and bloodshed. This isn’t a book for the faint-hearted! You will find yourself wondering what is going to happen right up until the last page.

And in the words of Victoria Aveyard, bestselling author of the Red Queen series, “I require book two immediately. Holly Black is the Faerie Queen.’

Cruel Prince4

Imagine a world with no hunger, no disease, no terrorism, no crime, no war, no mortality. The digital cloud has transformed into the Thunderhead, whose good and generous totalitarian rule has turned the planet into a utopia. There is no such thing as old age, once you reach a certain age you can ‘turn a corner’ and choose to go back to any age you wish; which means that there can be people who are 140 years old in a body of a 30-year-old. The world’s population lives in harmony, all knowledge has been acquired, and there is nothing left to learn. Depending on how you feel about it, it could either be wonderful or exhausting. I think it would be exhausting, but that’s my opinion. In a perfect world where there isn’t much to achieve, what do we live for? What are our goals in life? What’s our purpose? I would imagine that after a period of time life would become quite monotonous and weary. The book left me with many questions, and I always say that is the sign of a good book – one that makes you question. The book isn’t perfect, and at times I don’t think the author thought through all the elements of such a utopia, but that’s okay because it really is quite cleverly thought out in most ways.

Of course, if we live in a world where people no longer die from accidents, natural causes or diseases, how do we keep the population under control and this is where the title of the book comes into play. In this world, we have Scythes, society-sanctioned killers. The Scythes operate independently from the governing AI (Thunderhead) and rely on their own moral code to control the population. The appointed Scythes must carry out ‘gleanings’ – true deaths which one cannot be rejuvenated back from, death at the hands of a Scythe is permanent.

We are introduced to two sixteen-year-olds, Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova who have both impressed the Honourable Scythe Faraday with their empathy and humanity. He offers them both an apprenticeship, and they reluctantly accept. They leave their families and go and live with Faraday who teaches them all there is to know about the world of Scythedom. Being a Scythe is an honourable position in society and Scythes are meant to be noble characters. Though, even in a perfect world, there is always going to be those who are not moral or decent. We are after all dealing with people, and even though the world may be perfect, humans are not, and Scythes are not machines, they are people. One would hope that people are drawn to the profession of Scythe because they have a strong sense of justice and right and wrong, but of course, some people are drawn to the job because they like killing. In the days of mortality, we would call these people, ‘murderers’.

This is a book that is meant to be thought-provoking. It is a fascinating read, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys being challenged. It will have you questioning life, death and the meaning of both. Shusterman manages to inject humour into the book which allows the book to not get too dark or depressing.

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