There's a genre of books that I just can't do - the "Trapped inside the head of an Annoying Protagonist" genre. In goes the Perks of Being a WallfloweThere's a genre of books that I just can't do - the "Trapped inside the head of an Annoying Protagonist" genre. In goes the Perks of Being a Wallflower..... along with The Curious Incident, Extremely Loud, Room, and of course, the original worst The Catcher in the Rye.
Don't you hate those books that get to half way and then say "well, I suppose by now you've figured out that (fill in crucial, glaringly obvious gameDon't you hate those books that get to half way and then say "well, I suppose by now you've figured out that (fill in crucial, glaringly obvious game changer)..." except you're sitting there going, er... whoopsie did I miss something? In my defence, there are no pictures of chimps on the cover. ...more
One of those stealthy books where you know it's all going to go wrong (the clue is in the title) you're just not sure when, or how, or how bad it's goOne of those stealthy books where you know it's all going to go wrong (the clue is in the title) you're just not sure when, or how, or how bad it's going to be, and then when it does, it gets you the shins like a low table in the dark, leaving you to wonder, what the fuck just happened?...more
Kids were a bit lost at times, but in a nice way. It was pleasant to read and listen to, so much so we finished it in one sitting. I think the real puKids were a bit lost at times, but in a nice way. It was pleasant to read and listen to, so much so we finished it in one sitting. I think the real punch comes at the end (with a nod to the final scene in "the Usual Suspects") the kids were like, "wait... what?" and spent a lot of time poring over the pictures and going back to earlier bits to re-digest what we'd read - and laugh and say "aaaha!".
We downloaded the kindle edition which was pretty cool - videos showing how the illustrations were done, plus the whole book read by Neil himself. What a bonus. Wish more books came this way! Why not? So interactive and adds another new dimension to the pleasure of reading. Can't believe i"m saying that... could I actually be converted to the kindle?!! If it's encouraging my kids to read, perhaps I am?...more
Yep, thoroughly enjoyed it - as the title suggests, it's another retelling of the historical Jesus, only this time with a quirky twist - the son of goYep, thoroughly enjoyed it - as the title suggests, it's another retelling of the historical Jesus, only this time with a quirky twist - the son of god has an identical twin brother. Without stretching the gospel too much, Pullman's story is actually surprisingly believable; although that may have more to do with Pullman's mastery of language than anything else. But I don't think there's any suggestion his tale is based on fact anyway - although clearly well researched; more likely, it was a set-up to expose and challenge the most commonly held perceptions about the bible and the birth of the church.
I didn't realise til after I read it that it is one of the Canongate Myths books - a collection of short novels reimagined and rewritten by famous authors; Last year I read and also thoroughly enjoyed The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, which retells Odysseus' story from the perspective of his wife, Penelope. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1....
This is the story of Bugs, a smart talking, street-wise 16 year old girl from small town New Zealand who thinks she's got it all figured out.
And she dThis is the story of Bugs, a smart talking, street-wise 16 year old girl from small town New Zealand who thinks she's got it all figured out.
And she does, in many ways.
Her Mum works double shifts as a cleaner at a fancy hotel servicing the booming tourist trade - a life she'd never had had if she hadn't got pregnant with Bugs when she was a teenager. So Bugs knows about mistakes, because she is one. Bugs has school counsellors telling her that, being Maori, she essentially has to defy statistics in order to achieve in life. So she's knows about opportunities, because she has to make them for herself. Bugs' best friend, Jez, is routinely neglected by his mother and abused by his step-father, so she knows about hardship and disadvantage because her best mate doesn't stand a chance. Then a new girl hits town. She's prissy, melodramatic, spoilt. A loudmouth, with no appreciation for the wealth that falls in her lap - so Bugs knows all about privilege and birthright, because she watches people like Stone Cold take it for granted every single day. Bugs feels as though her life is just another plot from one of the dystopian novels she reads; and she already knows the script inside out.
Or does she?
You could probably draw quite a few parallels between Hereaka's novel and Ted Dawes' "Into the River" which won the supreme NZ Post Book Award last year. Both are YA adult novels featuring Maori protagonists during their final years of education. Both are set predominantly at school, with teachers as key characters. Both involve vulnerable youth at a point of crisis or crossroads, and both speak to the persistence of racist attitudes that prevail within the NZ education system. But where Into the River really fell down for me was in the authenticity of the voice. I just never believed that I was inside the main character's head - hearing his thoughts, feeling his feelings.
I didn't have that problem with Bugs.
From the very first line, she grabbed me and drew me in. Normally, precocious young narrators drive me insane, but Bugs' voice is utterly convincing, her experiences and perception of the world in every way believable. The connection between Bugs and Jez, a connection never fully realised or understood by either of them, is so powerful it left a clanging in my ears.
The depictions of the farm and the dialogue between Bugs, her Uncle and her Grandparents made me feel as though I had a place right there at the table with them. Likewise, the weight of expectation Bugs carries on her shoulders is so heavy I could have sworn I was carrying it too.
For the three days this book kept me engrossed I felt like I'd returned to high school; could almost feel the dread as I walked through the school gates, smell the lockers, hear the scrape of the chairs on the lino and the droning of disinterested teachers. It's gritty and unflinching and combative and sarcastic and deep. It builds to a climax that kept me up late, turning pages into the wee hours.
It's even scary. It rustled up the latent fear in me that I never realised I lived with during those high school years; the fear of getting caught, being found out, not knowing, being left behind, making the wrong choice.
As Bugs introduces us to her town, her school, her teachers, her mother and Grandparents, Jez and Stone Cold, we see the world as she sees it, but not necessarily as it is. The journey to discover what lies beneath, and to reconcile the choices her mother made with the choices she will have to make in the future, is what Bugs' own dystopian novel must traverse.
Hereaka's writing is beyond moving. It's powerful, confident, fresh. It reminded me of the first time I ever read Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme - it's like a veil is lifted, and I am finally reading the world as I see it, as I actually experience it.
I will be sorely disappointed if this book is not on the Awards list next year - it is every bit as important as any book I have read from New Zealand in years, and hope to see it receive the accolades and recognition that its talented writer surely deserves....more
Not his best work... the story felt a bit forced, it didn't flow as well, the jokes fell a bit flat. The characters just didn't jump from the pages liNot his best work... the story felt a bit forced, it didn't flow as well, the jokes fell a bit flat. The characters just didn't jump from the pages like they normally do.
I gave it 1 star, the kid gave it 3. So we've met half way and given it 2....more
I really enjoyed this, as much as anything because I'd just visited the Tower of London and was staying in a Castle in Scotland at the time. But don'tI really enjoyed this, as much as anything because I'd just visited the Tower of London and was staying in a Castle in Scotland at the time. But don't ask me to tell you what actually happened. There were wars, shifting alliances, a hell of a lot of conjecture and supposition, and several stints in sanctuary by different characters at different times. But for the life of me I couldn't grasp who were the goodies and who were the baddies. Although the story is told from the first person perspective of the main character Queen Elizabeth, there were times when I wondered if she was being completely honest with us. Sometimes I felt as though my sympathy towards her might be compromised if I heard "the other side of the story".
But perhaps that's the point - history is always filtered through the lens of one particular view or another and getting to the "truth" is murky business and controversial at the best of times. The mystery of what really happened to the missing Princes in the Tower has to be one of the greatest examples of this fact. I love the way Phillippa Gregory brings this particular period of history alive, making it compelling and relatable. Standing in the Tower of London, it's difficult to put faces to the names written there, to flesh them out and to understand them - until you read something like The White Queen. Suddenly you find yourself not merely curious, but invested.
Having said that, I did have the sense that this book is merely the prequel to much more compelling reading down the line. But have I got the necessary focus for it? That's the question......more