The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas G. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There appear to be many people happy to call Nicholas Carr a Luddite – I am happy to say I am not one of them. The Shallows, while it does take a position against the Internet and technology, it is not urging us not to use it. Carr is, instead, telling us we need to use our minds in both world. This book is a reminder that technology is a tool, a way of getting somewhere, NOT the destination. He illustrates, through careful use of research and observation, that using the Web on a daily basis IS changing the way our brains process and retain information. It is a scary thought – the Web might be driving the next stage of human evolution. It’s scary because while we may control a great deal of the content of the Web, the mechanism is run by others- often large companies with their own agendas. This is a very interesting book that certainly made me re-evaluate my role as a librarian in society. As a provider of information and the means to find it (books AND the Web), I can honestly say this made me sit up and take notice.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think I should state up front that this was my second attempt at reading this book. The first time (about 2 years ago) I grew impatient with the voice of Todd and gave up. I am so glad I tried again.
Todd Hewitt lives in a world of Noise. Even when the men (and there are only men) in Prentisstown aren’t speaking, you can hear what they are saying. Not just the men either- the animals too. About a month before Todd turns 13 (and becomes a Man), his life is thrown into chaos when the two men who have cared for him all his life tell him he must leave his home and never return. Confused, but trusting their judgement, Todd and his dog, Manchee, flee Prentisstown as an armed conflict erupts. Men from the settlement come after Todd and Manchee and they realise they are on their own and fighting to survive. As they run, they discover, Viola, a girl of unknown origin who does not emit Noise. At first Todd is wary of her, but it soon becomes apparent that Viola is in as much danger as Todd, if not more.
The pursuit is relentless, with gory encounters along the way that are not for the faint-hearted. Both Todd and Viola are tested to the limits of their mental and physical endurance as they try to escape the encroaching army from Prentisstown. There is heartache, tragedy and immense sadness in this book. I became so invested in the characters that I found myself crying in anguish on more than one occasion. But, this is by far one of the best science fiction/dystopian novels I have read, in fact it may be THE best. Patrick Ness has written an accomplished cautionary tale about technology, fear of difference and self-acceptance that left me begging for more. I will not reveal more plot he, but it is safe to say that the end left me hanging and now I must read The Ask and the Answer to find out what happens next. I commend this book to you in the strongest terms. A modern YA classic.
I would recommend this for ages 14 and up but a mature 12 year old will probably get a lot out of it too.
The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of my top reads for 2013. I just loved this book. Gabrielle Willams has created the ultimate road trip novel here. I am not sure this can be topped!
Dodie Farnshaw and her younger sister Coco live an average life, in an average Melbourne suburb, with their average parents. Things change quickly when Mr and Mrs Farnshaw disappear without a trace. When Dodie is approached by Enron, a boy at school she barely knows, and he says her mum and dad were watching over something for the Church and that is why they are missing, Dodie thinks he has a screw loose. However, Enron convinces her to look to for the key he says is in her house and find the basement he claims is there. Dodie does these things not expecting to find anything, but is shocked to actually locate the key and the entrance to the basement. What they find there is, quite simply, life-changing. (No spoilers). Now Dodie, Coco, Enron and two guys she has only just met are setting off for Sydney on a road trip of mind-blowing importance. Driving unlicenced, Dodie and her entourage are chased by the police, nameless bad guys and even manages some romance on the way. One big secret, one big adventure.
This entertaining novel is a delight full of humour, gravity, excitement and heart-break. I heartily recommend this to everyone from 13 to 93. I might just read it a second time because it was THAT MUCH FUN!
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blake, Kenny and Sim have just lost their best mate, Ross, to a car accident. Having attended the funeral and coming out dissatisfied with the way Ross’s life was celebrated, the three teenagers decide to make a pilgrimage to the town of Ross, in Scotland, a place Ross once tried to runaway to. Only one problem, they have to steal his ashes first.
With that mission accomplished – messily – they embark on a 2 day train journey to Ross and thus begins an adventure and a journey of self-discovery for them all. After Kenny leaves his backpack (containing most of their money for the trip and Kenny’s ticket) on a train during a frantic interchange things take a wild turn.
Relying on each other, the boys talk about Ross and share recent memories of him that start to paint a picture they don’t recognise as their friend who would “stand up to anyone”. It is clear that Ross is still having a marked effect on their lives – even from his urn in Blake’s backpack.
Keith Gray writes young men very well – he speaks their language and I found these boys believable, sad, hilarious and likeable. I look forward to reading more books by Keith Gray very soon.
Did they get Ross to Ross? That would be telling…..
The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this book. The fact that AFL is a major character in the book really helped. The fact that I read it around the 1 year anniversary of losing my Dad in a car accident really helped too. It was a case of the right book at the right time for me.
Shelley and her Dad are living the lives of ghosts following the death of her mother and brother in a car accident two years ago. Still caught in their grief, they are in limbo – feeling guilty if they are happy about anything. Josh, Shelley’s childhood friend and her brother’s best mate, is always in the background offering support to Shelley which makes her uncomfortable, but she can’t pinpoint why and neither can we – yet.
Shelley starts at a local Catholic school on a scholarship halfway through Year 10 and hopes it is a new beginning, a chance to “draw a line between one day and the next”. There she meets Tara, a football tragic like herself, and Shelley is drawn into the world of the fanatic Glenthorn supporters who attend training, and everything else they can wangle their way into. Mick (Eddie) the new recruit from WA befriends Shelley and she is thrilled. Slowly Shelley’s life feels like it is taking a turn for the better. However, as the football soaked part of her life takes off, Shelley finds her family, and her new friend Tara, don’t understand it. Tara withrdraws from her, her father bans her from going to training and Josh can’t understand why Shelley is happy to go to the Glenthorn games, but not his own Raiders games (where she and her brother also played).
This is a gentle book, which encourages you to stick with Shelley, even though she sometimes is VERY naive and more than a bit frustrating. I will not post spoilers, but there are revelations in the last third of the book that helped to make sense of it all and I was very satisfied with the ending – feeling quite happy and uplifted. Definitely recommended for anyone over the age of 12.
Engn by Simon Kewin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received this as an Early Reviewers book for LibraryThing and was pleasantly surprised.
Engn is a fantasy novel set in a world that has 36 hour days. It felt like a steampunk novel, but I think to qualify it would have to be set on Earth, so let’s just call it fantasy/sci fi to make it simple. Written for a YA audience, this is a story of Finn and Connor, who live a mostly idyllic life playing and fighting in the woods near their homes. We learn that Finn’s sister, Shireen, was taken to the leviathan-like Engn by the Ironclads (this novel’s version of Dementors)and has never returned. Periodically teenage villagers are spirited away by the forces of Engn without explantaion.
We learn about Connor and Finn’s friendship, and their relationship with the fugitive Diane, through a series of flashbacks as Finn is himself transported to Engn by the Ironclads. Before they were taken the three vowed to destroy Engn from within or die trying.
The big mystery of the book of course is “what is Engn’s purpose?” Finn works his way through various parts of Engn trying to find the answer and the books biggest flaw is that we don’t really find out.
However, the story flies along at a good pace and the characters are likeable. Finn struck me as a bit of a dolt at times, but I put that down to the fact that he had lived such a charmed life until the day he was taken by the Ironclads. The world Simon Kewin creates is vividly realised, but I got pretty sick of reading the word “fizz” or “fizzed” as descriptors. No less than 11 times through the text – I am sure there were other words that could have been used.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this novel and I will look at Kewin’s other work as a result.