Little Thieves by Margaret Owen – Book Review

In this retelling of the fairy tale “the goose girl”, Vanja has been adopted by Death and Fortune and, as she reaches age, she has to choose which she will serve. However, this is not the life she wants, and she is thieving as much as she can to try to pay her way out of servitude. However, getting caught in taking her place as Princess Gisele in the upper reaches of society, Vanja finds herself fighting for her life and her freedom.

I found this recommended online and thought I’d give it a go, and I struggled. I found the writing difficult to get into and there were a lot of italicised words that broke the flow of the reading in my brain. I didn’t mind the characters or the story, but it didn’t really work for me. I think YA readers who like fantasy and adventure might like it, but it wasn’t really my thing.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds – Book Review

A school in a city in the US, a series of kids (sometimes on their own, sometimes with others) having adventures on their way home. That’s the basic take on it.

In my various books and librarian groups on Facebook (which both tend to have a large US membership), I’ve heard Jason Reynolds lauded repeatedly as an amazing author and human being. I totally get it. This is a book for kids, I’m thinking probably upper primary/lower high school, it’s funny, it’s adorable and (yes, I know I’m a massive softy) it made me tear up multiple times. What a wonderful book.

 No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrous Boochani – Book Review

This book is a beautiful telling of a recent horrific story of a refugee fleeing to Australia, the horrors of trying to escape to a safe place and the day-to-day reality of detention on Manus Island. The story of how the book was written is almost as compelling as the book itself, with Boochani sending it on an illicit phone through short messages to a Omid Tofighian in Australia. Tofighian then worked with a team to translate it as faithfully as possible, attempting to keep the poetry of the original.

This book is one of the reasons that I’m glad to be in a book club. I wanted to read this book for some time, but avoided it because I knew it would be challenging. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and I wish everyone in Australian politics could read it and become more humane.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len – Book Review

Joan is 16 and spending summer with her late mother’s family in London. However things turn when she discovers that she is a monster… a monster being someone who is able to steal time from people to travel through time. This horrifies her, but she barely has time to understand this as she watches an attack by her work crush, Nick. Sent back in time with Aaron, another monster from a different family, she learns about this alternative world, and hopes to find a way to save her family and their whole way of life.

Len has taken a relatively familiar trope (that of a teenage girl who discovers powers and needs to save those she loves) and dropped in this mysterious element of time travel and the morality of stealing time (essentially, life) from innocents to do so. It’s quite graphically violent at times, but those of us who love YA fantasy will take this in our stride as we enter this mysterious world.

Pony by R. J. Palacio – Book Review

It’s the Wild West (I’m not quite sure when) and Silas is 12. His father is taken by a group of horsemen who need him to do something nefarious for them. Despite being told to stay, he follows, accompanied by his ghost friend and a horse that has appeared.

Having read Wonder and mostly very much enjoyed it (I had a few issues with the end), I was pleased to see a new book by Palacio. Unfortunately, I really didn’t enjoy this. It was strange and I struggled to engage with the characters or story. I wanted to like this, but I just didn’t.

Raised by Wolves by Jess Ho – Book Review

Jess Ho worked in hospitality in Melbourne for years, knowing the ins and outs of the city and the various restaurants and bars. She tells some of her abusive childhood, enough to get an understanding of what it would have been like without dwelling on the horrors. What I found fascinating was her interactions within the world of food, both in Melbourne and on her overseas travels. I hadn’t heard of Ho before; she has a following through her food writing and brief foray into reality television. I picked up this book after hearing an interview on the radio and it just sounded intriguing – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St. John Mandel – Book Review

It starts with a man in the early 1900s, banished from England by his father for expressing his anti-colonial views in polite company, who moves to Canada to farm despite having no experience in agriculture. Then, it is a different time, with different people… then later, different people again. It’s most confusing because there is a sense that these things are connected, and even the knowledge of a particular things which connects them, but this is not revealed until much later.

I was laughing aloud in the first few pages and, when I found myself lost in the story, I just trusted that the author would sort me out before too long. Sure enough, everything comes together in that way that only an excellent sci-fi book can pull off. I loved reading this and enjoyed the whole journey.

Silver by Chris Hammer – Book Review

Journalist Martin Scarsden has returned to his hometown of Port Silver with his new partner, Mandy Blonde, who has inherited a property in the area.  However his fears of returning to a place he’d vowed to avoid are quickly overtaken by others as his school mate is found murdered, and Mandy is a key suspect.

I found the premise that Martin could meet a woman in one small town when then inherits a property that just happens to be in his hometown kind of… convenient, I guess, but I quickly got beyond that because this is such a compelling read that I didn’t want to put down. I like a crime novel where the plot is not so obvious that I guess it, but stays in the back of my mind as I go about my life. I look forward to reading the third book in the series, Trust.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones – Book Review

Dana is living with her single mother, her father visiting regularly as he spends most of his time with his first family, the family who don’t know she exists. She has a sister the same age, but both girls live very different yet parallel lives. It’s a complicated web of lies, half-truths, and ways that people live in the world that may compromise their values, but sometimes you do what you need to survive.

I love the way Jones writes, the way she sets up difficult scenarios and challenges the readers’ expectations. The characters are real and deeply flawed, and live on in my mind. Oh, such a good read.

Silver Wedding by Maeve Binchy – Book Review

When Deirdre and Desmond Doyle are reaching their twenty-fifth wedding celebration, their oldest daughter feels the pressure to put on the perfect event. But with appearances being extremely important to her parents, with a brother who has returned to Ireland and a sister who tends to ruin everything with her enthusiasm and haste, Anna isn’t sure she can pull it off.

This is definitely not one of my favourite Binchy books. The characters are all pretty annoying on the most part, and reading people being so untrue to themselves for appearances sake is really unpleasant. What I did find interesting was the way that the very traits of the annoying sister who is painted as just being quite hopeless would now probably be read as some form of neurodiversity, and there would now potentially be the possibility of treatment.