Young person reads

Not sure if it’s because I’m a youth worker, or because there is a 16 year old in the house, or maybe I’m just young at heart, but I have found myself reading a fair bit of ‘Young Adult’ literature these last few years. I’m kind of jealous of the huge selection of books available for teenagers today, compared to the very limited selection I had growing up.

We Wewe were liarsre Liars has featured on a lot of end of year ‘best of’ lists, it has also been on the 16yr old’s wish list since the Summer, so it was an easy choice for a Christmas present this year. The bonus being that I can borrow it soon after.

The plot revolves around ‘The Liars’, a group of cousins and a friend who spend their summer on a private family owned island off Massachusetts. They’re wealthy, everything is done ‘the Sinclair way’ and life is good . However, as the story unravels we find a love story, prejudice, an accident that nobody will talk about and a family less together than first presented.

On most levels I enjoyed this book. Its well written. It only slowly peels away it’s secrets making you want to keep reading (and given that it’s a short enough novel, you could well read it in a day), until the big dramatic reveal, followed by a bigger dramatic reveal. My only negative is that I didn’t like the characters..I don’t think I liked any of them. I found them all pretentious and overly privileged, but perhaps that’s just my own personal prejudices coming to the fore.

I wouldn’t put anybody off reading We Were Liars. Its an intelligent dramatic novel. It has layered themes that you find yourself confronted with, or that you slowly realise were there. It deserves it’s plaudits, I just wish I cared more about the characters.

The Death Cure operates at a much different pace. Set in a dsytopian world into the future, its the third in the popular Maze Runner Series, the first of which was a summer feature film release starring Dylan O’Brien (one of the reasons the 16 yr old devoured this series over the summer and was at the cinema on opening weekend).

I enjoyed the Maze Runner Books. Not as much as The Hunger GaThe Death Curemes though. It moves along quickly, and you’re never quite sure if all of the characters will make it to the end of the book. In the last of the trilogy we find one of the main characters has ‘The Flare’, we get a final confrontation between the Gladers and WICKED and we get an ending. Not the best ending in the world, but not the worst either. If you enjoyed the rest of the series, you’ll enjoy this, Not sure if I’ll bother with book 4, which is a prequel, though.

Young Adult fiction has come a long way since I was plodding my through Enid Blyton book, or The Hardy Boys, or even Just WIlliam for a change. There is a fantastic selection for all tastes, covering some very serious subject matter. These 2 aren’t the best I’ve read, but they are still really good. If you’ve poo-pooed the idea of trying books ostensibly written for teenagers, put your preconceptions to one side for a while and have a browse in that part of the bookshop. You won’t regret it.

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir is basically McGyver stuck on Mars, and it’s great fun.

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I’m probably repeating every review of The Martian by saying this book is Robinson Crusoe, meets McGyver, meets Apollo 13, but it’s very difficult to get away from those comparisons.

The premise – Astronaut Mark Watney gets marooned on Mars due to a freak accident that leaves his crew mates having to abort their mission, assuming him already dead. It’s no spoiler to say that he survived that accident, presumably to die quite soon after he wakes up.  As he says in the opening line, “I’m fucked”.

He’s a botanist and an engineer and what follows is 300+ pages of gung-ho geeky battle against the odds.  Told through his daily log we can’t help rooting for Watney with his mix of gallows humour and ingenuity.

I laughed a lot during this book and let out more than a few mental hooraaahhs as he overcomes each obstacle between him and survival for another day.

I don’t know how accurate the science is. I don’t care. It all sounded feasible. Clearly a lot of research has been done for the different scenarios painted. It’s all very nerdy as he explains (for example) how to grow potatoes on Mars. I was initially a bit wary that there would be so much detail that it would bore me, but far from it. It just added to the realism and helped along the suspense.

It’s apparently being released as a movie starring Matt Damon later this year. I reckon I’ll be going along, if only to moan to my friends about how, “it didn’t happen that way in the book. The book was much better. You should read the book”. Yep, I’m that guy.

Read The Martian – you won’t regret it.

Now that was a pleasure!

Just finished Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. What a wonderful boook. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, I read it in what was basically 2 long sittings.

StationelevenUKHC

Events revolve around a near future pandemic that wipes out 99% of the population. We read about characters, before, during and after the outbreak.  Its a dystopian novel, but no zombies populate this world, nor is there any future civilisation that requires it’s youth to fight to the death, or be separated along factions. We focus instead on a small group of characters that are part of a troupe called the ‘Travelling Symphony’. The author draws a thread from pre-pandemic days through to ‘year 20’ when we find the Travelling Symphony.

The pleasure from reading Station Eleven comes from the writing as much as the premise. Its a essentially a hopeful story,  wIth some gorgeous passages. It reminds us of the beauty found in every day items. The symphony perform Shakespeare because people want to remember the best of what was before. Having said that, there are many passages that remind us of the things we take for granted, the under appreciated beauty of modern life, including a Museum of Civilization. There is an underlying sadness throughout though, perhaps captured by Kirsten’s line that ‘The More you remember, the more you’ve lost’.  One of my own particular favourite passages is the untouched house.

There are no rampaging baddies (although a baddy does emerge and there are passing references to ‘ferals’). We don’t have any detail of the suffering that surviviors went through. Instead we get a sense of lonliness, of distance, of people surviving and learning to live in the world they have inherited, but who are basically doing ok.

I loved this book, and I know it appeared on many end of year ‘best of’ lists for 2014. It is certainly an early candidate for my own read of the year for 2015, and a book I’ll be reccommending and passing on to friends.

First book of the year, but clearly won’t be the best

Keeping Up With The Kalishnikovs – Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (Paul Howard)
Not sure if it’s me or the books, but I found this episode in the trials and tribulations or ROCK a little bit stale.
Keeping up
I know there is meant to be an element of the absurd about ROCK, but the story lines in this one are a bit ridiculous at times. Worse than that, I just didn’t laugh much. I had one laugh out loud moment at a particular line, and a few in my head chuckles at some situations.
The satirical elements, especially Oisin sharing Rob The Builder stories with the Ugandan kidnappers, provided the funniest moments.
I’ve seen some of the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly Books in libraries (and the Oxfam second hand book shop in Shrewsbury) in England, but I’m not sure how well the humour travels. Also, If you haven’t read any Ross O’Carroll Kelly before, I’m not sure if its something you can jump straight into with the latest book.  He first appeared in the now defunct Sunday Tribune newspaper, and the first novel, ‘The Mis-education of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’ appeared in 2000
The author has a wonderful sense of the absurdity of Irish society and captured the CelticTiger years brilliantly. I remain a steadfast fan of ROCK, and have my fingers crossed that this was just a blip. I recommend anyone new to ROCK hunts down some of the early books and read them. They are easily found in charity and second hand book shops.

Hi, hello, howya

This is just by way of introduction and welcome.

I’ve thought about creating a wee blog for myself for a while now. I don’t have any great expectations or aspirations for it, but I wanted a place to just jot thoughts about books I’ve read, music I’ve listened to and post photos I’ve taken that I like.

It might also become a space for various things I find online or to rant about the latest idiotic decison made by the powers that be.

If you decide to read anything I post I thank you, if you read regularly, you have my affection for action beyond the call of duty