Worthy Thoughts

Books, reading, life & other worthy thoughts

We are almost at the end of 2018. Before I started this blog, I would write down short reviews on each book I read (I would do this by hand in a notebook), this became a difficult task to keep up with and so I thought that writing reviews in a blog format would keep me more on track. Though I have read a lot of books this year and I haven’t reviewed them. I have decided that maybe at the end of each month I could write short reviews on all the books that I have read so that I can keep track of my reading and have a record of books that I have read that year.

The following books were read in 2018; I either didn’t review them because I felt that I didn’t have much to offer that hadn’t already been said or I just was too lazy.

throne

I had read a lot about this book and it was recommended to me by the boys at my school. Yes, boys will read books with a strong female protagonist – you just need to make the sure the cover isn’t too girlie.

I enjoyed this book, but I am not itching to read the other books in the series. Most likely I will read the books – eventually. The fact that I am not clambering to read the other books in the series probably speaks volumes about my feelings for the book.

The book has a lot going on – a teenage assassin, a rebel princess, supernatural elements, a glass castle and a brutal and violent competition between criminals and murderers.

I did enjoy the character of Celaena; she is strong, talented, funny and intelligent and I will most likely read the other books to learn more about her. I am particularly curious about her backstory and I would like to read more about her life as an assassin. She intrigues me.

rescue

I bought this book in a secondhand bookshop. I have read a few of Anita Shreve’s novels and have enjoyed her work. Though, this book doesn’t quite hit the mark that Shreve’s other books have. Set in New England, the book doesn’t quite capture the small town uniqueness of New England living that Shreve’s books usually do. I didn’t find that I connected with any of the characters and for a novel like this to work you need to feel for the characters. Shreve writes well, but this book feels forced and cliché.

visitor

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins is a disconcerting page-turner that will have readers trying to connect all the pieces from the beginning. Right from the first page, Atkins manages to create a sinister feel to this story. It is this ominous feeling that Atkins creates that will capture readers. The book centres around Olivia Sweetman and Vivian Tester. Olivia is a renowned historian whose career has taken off – adored by the academic world and the world of popular culture. Olivia has made history edgy and popular with her charismatic personality and her TV good looks. Vivian Tester is a middle-aged housekeeper who is intelligent though socially awkward. Usually, these two women would have never crossed paths, but Vivian has presented Olivia with a Victorian diary containing a scandalous confession written by one of the first women doctors. Olivia knows that this is the perfect story for her new book and is desperate to have the rights to the diary. The only catch is that Vivian also comes with the diary. Together they forge a tense working relationship and write a book that is guaranteed to be a bestseller. As the book is being researched and written the reader is given clues that all is not right with either of these women and that both have secrets. The text at times becomes too much and it feels like Atkins relies too much on foreshadowing that isn’t entirely necessary because there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved and the ending is spine-chilling enough to have you questioning the story for the days after you read the final page.

thunder

Shusterman’s sequel to the provocative Scythe. Thunderhead is an excellent book and I held off from writing a review because I didn’t quite know how to do this book justice or to write anything new or original in a review. Shusterman’s first novel was a challenging premise concerning human mortality. What happens when we are no longer mortal?

The Thunderhead is a supercomputer made of the sum-total of humanity’s knowledge. It is a kindly and compassionate ruler, but it is still bound by rules. In the first novel, we grow to understand the world of scythes and the Thunderhead sits in the background like an overlord. In this novel, the Thunderhead becomes a character in its own right.

Shusterman takes this book up a notch by introducing us to the Thunderhead – the artificial intelligence that manages virtually all aspects of life on Earth.

All I can do is watch unblinkingly as my beloved humankind slowly weaves the rope it will use to hang itself.

The Thunderhead is troubled. The Thunderhead wants to intervene because it can see that this utopia is under threat, but the Thunderhead isn’t allowed to interfere. So what does the Thunderhead do when it can see that its beloved humankind and paradise is under threat? This is a world that defies death, ageing, sickness, poverty and wars but has put its faith in a group of humans who decide who lives and who dies.

The sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s multifaceted world and complicated characters. No society is perfect, not even a world which appears complete. When humans are involved there will always be political manoeuvrings and conspiracies. There will still be a thirst for power.

Shusterman delivers a book that action-packed but also thought-provoking. An intelligent, entertaining and humorous read with death at its core.

Still, so many books to catch up on, but this will do for today’s post. I will make sure that I write another post before 2019 with all the books that I have read for 2018, so the 2019 blog can begin fresh for the new year!

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Author: Nikki McWatters

Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Liberty is a magnificent book about three women who lived in three different centuries but who were all fighting for the same reason – their freedom.

Firstly, we are introduced to Jeanne, a teenage girl living in 1472, France. Jeanne is from a poor, disgraced family – her father is known as Matthew, the Coward. Due to her family’s lack of circumstances, Jeanne is forced into an arranged marriage. At the same time that Jeanne is dealing with the fact that she can’t marry the man she loves, war is coming to her beloved town of Beauvais. The townspeople have elected to fight their enemy, even though their numbers are low and they are not suitably equipped to fight.

In 1797 Ireland, Betsy is living in her much-loved Ireland and has joined the rebel army along with her brother and best friend to free Ireland from English rule. Betsy and the rebel army want Ireland to be liberated and they want to live lives free from oppression.

Our final story is told from Fiona’s perspective. The year is 1968 and Fiona is heading off to university for her first year as a law student. During this time, Fiona’s brother receives his draft notice and suddenly Fiona begins to take more notice of the anti-Vietnam protests that are occurring around her.

What I particularly loved about this book was that though each story is fiction, they are based on real events that happened in history. Jeanne and Betsy are both real women from our past and I’ve no doubt that there was a real-life Fiona who was grappling with what was happening in 1968 and wondering how she could make a difference.

It is evident that McWatters has done extensive research for this book. Each story is distinct. The sense of the period in each story is unmistakable. Each story unfolds in alternate chapters and there is never any confusion of which story is being told – each young woman is distinct and each story is captivating.

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Betsy. At the beginning of Betsy’s story, she is spirited, young and a little naive. Being so young Betsy is idealistic and sees that England occupying her treasured Ireland is wrong. By the end of Betsy’s story, she is still young, but she considers life with more matured eyes. Betsy has fought a battle and that battle has made her wiser and stronger. Betsy has been through a war and she now knows the exact price of war, but still, her spirit and resolve remains strong. McWatters is a master writer because since finishing this book, Betsy has never been far from my thoughts.

Being a student of history, I know that rarely is history told through the eyes of females and so this book by McWatters is quite remarkable.  I love that McWatters sheds light on two brilliant young women from history who fought for what they believed. I loved that McWatters showed that women were making a difference. I also loved that McWatters showed men and women working together to make a difference. Jeanne, Betsy and Fiona all had strong and supportive men in their lives. These men knew what these women were capable of and they wanted to help these women reach their potential. The men in these women’s lives were in awe of these strong, independent and spirited women. I loved that these were stories of women empowering women but also of strong, decent men empowering women.

Liberty is a brilliant book for women and men. I hope that young men read this book and are just as inspired as the young women readers.  If you love politics, this is the book for you. If you love history, this is the book for you. If you love great storytelling, this is the book for you.

Thank you, Nikki Mc Watters, for giving us a book that resonates long after you have finished reading.

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  • Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Illustrator: Kelly Canby
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin

I was taken by Whisperers at 2pm, so I never pulled the lever for the laundry chute.
That’s what bothered me most. 
This is way ahead in the story, though. A lot happened before that.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli. Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost. Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war.
And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust onto the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.
Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a spellbinding tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and competitive athletics.

Though this book shares the same world as Jaclyn Moriarty’s book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, this book is a stand-alone tale with an entirely new story and characters. Both books form part of Moriarty’s new series – A Kingdoms and Empires Book. This book is best read after finishing The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone to appreciate the subtle nod to characters and events that featured in the first book.

Once again, Moriarty has given readers a delightful book full of playful, madcap and unexpected twists, but the greatest enjoyment that comes from this quirky novel is the two narrators – Finlay & Honey Bee. 

Finlay & Honey Bee talk directly to the reader and you feel like you know both these characters because they treat the reader like a friend. They don’t just tell a story, they allow the reader to become a part of the story and their lives. The reader is allowed into their inside jokes, their merciless teasing of each other and their secrets and fears. Both characters are endearing and likeable and make excellent narrators because they make the reader feel invested in their story. Finlay, from the orphanage school, is spirited and cheeky. Honey Bee, from the posh and pretentious boarding school, is quiet and thoughtful. What both narrators share is a wonderful sense of humour that shines through their storytelling.

I enjoyed this book more than The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and I didn’t think that was possible. Possibly I enjoyed the narration of Finlay and Honey Bee more than Bronte Mettlestone and that’s a big call because Bronte was an exceptional narrator, or maybe it is because Moriarty was only starting to hit her stride with Bronte and she picked up the pace with Finlay and Honey Bee. 

Moriarty unique style of writing shines through in The Slightly Alarming Tale of The Whispering Wars. Like her previous books, it is expressive, eccentric and engaging. Gloriously illustrated, once again, by Kelly Canby, this is a novel chockfull of great adventures and readers will demolish it quickly. Don’t be put off by the size of the book, Moriarty’s writing is addictive and once you start reading, you will find yourself devouring this book. 

What I love most about Moriarty is that she never underestimates her audience. Yes, she is writing for younger readers, but she never talks down to the reader. She gives the reader the respect they deserve and I believe that younger readers will appreciate this about Moriarty’s writing. 

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The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Illustrator: Kelly Canby

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.
But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.
Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.

I fell in love with Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing while reading the Colours of Madeleine series. Oh, how I loved that series. I was in absolute awe of Jaclyn Moriarty and her quirky, unique and imaginative writing, so I was thrilled to see that she had written a series for middle-grade readers.

Jaclyn Moriarty is an inventive, quirky and delightful writer. I am always amazed by her imagination and creativity when reading her books and The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is no exception. Once you start reading you are captured by Moriarty and she does not let you go and once she has let you go, you want more.

What I love about Moriarty is that she isn’t like any other writer. She is incomparable. While reading this book, I was asked to describe what the book was about – I did my best to explain this book, but I think I failed miserably. You have to read Moriarty’s work to understand her refreshing and original imagination.

Moriarty’s world-building is like no other and it isn’t just her world-building, the way she uses words to immerse you in her story is original and delightful.

‘The Upturned…Ha! You mean the Dishevelled Sofa!’

The Dishevelled Sofa is a cafe in Moriarty’s book. If the name hasn’t captured your attention and made you want to visit, then Moriarty’s description will.

Her attention to detail and vocabulary is incredible. Every word counts. Every chapter counts. All one hundred and nine chapters! This world that Moriarty has created is all hers and her work is complemented by Kelly Canby’s delightful, lively and animated illustrations. The illustrations add to the book.  Moriarty’s writing can easily stand alone but with Canby’s illustrations an extra depth is attached to the book.

Yes, this is a hefty book, but it isn’t an arduous read instead you will find yourself whipping through the pages and loving Moriarty & Canby’s brave, quirky and humorous work. I am delighted that I can introduce Moriarty’s work to middle-grade readers and I know they will love her as much as I do.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like a book to tell a story. These books did not. They told about things. It’s true that this is what I needed them to do, and yet honestly. Did they have to? ‘Oh, just stop, you insufferable bore!’ I murmured to the authors.

Moriarty is no insufferable bore and when reading her work, I wonder what it must be like to live inside her head. I am sure that Moriarty could make a to-do list funny and creative. You only have to look at the title! It is enormous, like the book, but Moriarty makes it work. She’s a wonder!

Author: Karen Foxlee

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

The story takes place in Ohio, a state in the USA. It’s set in the 1970s. A time before technology overtook our lives. The main character, Lenny, lives in an apartment with her mum, Cynthia Spink, the proud, hard-working, sharp-witted, anxious mother of two and her younger brother, Davey – her happy-go-lucky brother who has gigantism. Her father, Peter Lenard Spink, has left them. He hopped on a Greyhound bus and never returned.

Lenny’s Book of Everything is captivating, charming and magical. Lenny, her mother and brother, live an ordinary life except for the fact that Davey grows at an alarming rate. At age six, he is four foot and ten inches or the equivalent of about 147 centimetres.

So what makes this book so charming? Is it because it set in the 1970s when life was simpler? The highlight of the children’s week is the arrival of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia which their mother won for the children through her talented writing. Cynthia Spink’s communication with Burrell’s (through letters) is a memorable part of the book.

The encyclopaedias allow the children a glimpse of the world that exists outside their apartment and their small town. They experience the wonders of the world through the books. Lenny discovers a fascination of beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist. Davey becomes enthralled with birds of prey and travelling to Great Bear Lake. I often wonder if Lenny fulfilled her dream and became a coleopterist.

A lot of the charm and magic of the book lies with the characters. Every character adds an element to the story from Lenny’s best friends CJ Bartholomew and Matthew Milford to the school principal Mrs Dalrymple – keep an eye out for Mrs Dalrymple and Mrs Oliver towards the end of the book!

My favourite character was Mrs Gaspar. The odd old Hungarian woman who lives in their apartment block and who looks after the children when Cynthia works. Every child should experience a Mrs Gaspar when growing up – she’s so beautifully disagreeable.

“The abominable snowman,” said Davey.

“Pah,” said Mrs. Gaspar, and she waved her hand as though we bored her. “I saw him once when I was walking home from school in Hungary.”

This bittersweet tale is full of so many perfect moments that remind you that our best life is experienced through kindness, hope and love. Lenny’s Book of Everything is gorgeous and borders on perfection. Thank you, Karen Foxlee, for giving me the reading collywobbles ♥

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Author: Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Walker Books

I loved this book! I fell in love with the characters. I devoured it and I wanted more. I was utterly enthralled by Kate DiCamillo’ beautiful writing. I wanted Louisana’s story to go on and on and I was disappointed when the book finished.

In a compelling first-person voice, twelve-year-old Louisana relates the story of her journey to Richford, Georgia. The year is 1977, and this adds to the charm of the story. Louisana tells her story with great detail and always includes her thoughts and opinions – which are heartfelt and at times hilarious.

Louisana’s impulsive, erratic grandmother awakens her one night because the day of reckoning has arrived, insisting that they must leave town immediately. Louisana and her grandmother travel through Florida and stop in Richford, Georgia, at the Good Night Sleep Tight motel. The trip from Florida to Georgia is far from uneventful, and ending up at the Good Night Sleep Tight motel is due to circumstances from their action-packed journey.

Lousiana finds out many truths while in Richford, Georgia that throw her into great turmoil. All that she has believed to be true isn’t and Louisana feels alone, shattered and unanchored.

The characters in this book are delightful and funny. I was captured by this small town and the characters that live within the town. In particular, DiCamillo builds a resilient and compassionate character in Louisana, and her observations of the people around her are hilariously both down-to-earth and whimsical.  Louisana’s comments give us so much more than if DiCamillo had described the so-called character trait.

I was starting to see what kind of person he was. He was the kind of person who, if you asked him for one of something, gave you two instead.

I did not understand how someone could play the organ so poorly, just as I did not understand how someone could have a seemingly lifetime supply of chocolate caramels and not share them.

“OK,’ I said. “And maybe as an extra-special surprise for me, you will actually remove the curlers from your hair.”

Much of what happens to Louisana is heartbreaking, but Louisana always makes you smile and her sharp observations of the world make you laugh through the tears.

Louisana’s Way Home is a beautifully written book. It also a beautifully presented book and would sit proudly on many bookshelves. The characters are charming and the language so exquisitely crafted. A special book that deserves to sit on many gorgeous bookshelves.

sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

I have read a lot of young adult books over the years and you always have your troubled teenager, but Sadie was the first young adult book where I felt that there was no hope for the main character. You can feel the insurmountable battle she is up against and your heart breaks for her. Every step of her journey is disheartening. You do wonder if by some miracle Sadie will get her happy ending, but then again Sadie isn’t looking for a happy ending, she just wants justice and justice isn’t always happy or satisfying.

Sadie will haunt you long after you have finished reading. Yes, the story is intense and uncompromising, but this a story that should be heard. We see and hear so much from celebrities on the #MeToo movement that we forget that there are victims out there who will never be heard and who will never be able to free themselves from the legacy of abuse and poverty.

Courtney Summers is a writer who doesn’t hold back. Her honesty is unflinching.

Nineteen-year-old Sadie is determined to find who she believes to be her younger sister Maddie’s killer. Sadie knows who killed Maddie; she just needs to find him and make him pay for what he did.

Interwoven with Sadie’s first-person account is the transcript of West McCray’s podcast series, The Girls, tracking his efforts to learn what’s happened to Sadie. Summers use of the podcast transcript becomes an effective way to build a backstory to Sadie and to let a multitude of characters have their say. Summers writing is taut and she keeps you captivated and you find yourself wanting to skip forward to Sadie’s narrative but also wanting to know what McCray has discovered. Sadie’s chapters are fast-paced and compelling. Sadie is determined to find Maddie’s killer and along the way she discovers many dirty secrets. McCray’s investigation follows Sadie and he talks to people who Sadie has shaken down to get information from to find her sister’s killer. The two perspectives work well together and you will become engaged entirely with both stories.

Sadie isn’t a likeable character and she’s probably not even sympathetic. Sadie has never had a lucky break and most likely never will. She left school, struggled to find a job because of her stutter. People think she’s stupid because of her stutter. She’s sarcastic but not in a light-hearted way. Her mother was a drug addict. She lives in a trailer park. She has suffered from both emotional and physical abuse. Her sister has been murdered.

Summers doesn’t write her as the beautiful, broken, misunderstood but sassy character. What found compelling about Sadie is that she’s tough, smart, perceptive and vulnerable. It is her vulnerability that will have you fighting for her and her story. You want Sadie to have the justice that she so deserves. Sadie’s relentless search isn’t about revenge, but justice.

This is a book that should be read. It is a frightening revelation of what many children have to deal with every day. Children who live with neglectful parents, abuse and poverty.

Sadie is an edgy, suspenseful book about abuse and power. It is a harrowing, intense and challenging read. A powerful book and one that I hope makes its way into many hands. Sadie isn’t an easy read, but that’s what I liked about it. I liked that it made me uncomfortable. Sadie will leave you gutted.

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