March 25

Indie Awards 2013 announced…

And the winner is:

The Light Between Oceans*, by M.L.Stedman -a debut novel which is…

…primarily set in the 1920s, far off Western Australia’s south-west coast, as well as in a small mainland port, The Light Between Oceans is an evocative tale with an irresistible ethical and emotional conundrum at its heart.
The book riffs heavily on the theme of duality, starting with the tiny, fictitious island where the story unfolds. Janus Rock, named after ancient Rome’s two-faced god of beginnings and endings, is at the confluence of two oceans. SMH review April 15, 2012

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-light-between-oceans-20120414-1x05y.html#ixzz2OXtSIM3s

And you will find the book trailer below intriguing – especially given the renowned ‘book’ people who comment on this debut novel.

 
What is it about this novel which has intrigued the judges (independent booksellers – probably as varied as you and I) to give it this honour – ahead of well-known authors like Margot Lanagan*, Maureen McCarthy* ,and Drusilla Modjeska; as well as other tales like Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (my favourite), and challenging thought-provoking texts like Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten*?

 

Other award winners include:

Sea Hearts* by Margot Lanagan (Children’s & YA winner)
QF32 by Richard de Crespigny (Non-fiction)

For more details about the awards see:

http://www.readings.com.au/news/the-2013-indie-award-winners

* We have copies of these in the library waiting for you – would you like to review them? Or are others on the list (mentioned in a previous post) more to your liking? 

June 13

Book launch – ‘Jac of Hearts’ by Jenny Mahoney

It was a great pleasure to be at a book launch for a past teacher of our school recently, when Jenny Mahoney launched her first Young Adult book, Jac of Hearts. It is always inspiring to hear how and why a particular author writes, and this time was no exception.

Jac is a strong-minded, feisty young girl who wakes in hospital confused and disoriented after an accident.

Her heart refuses to believe her father is dead, in spite of what she has been told, and she isn’t very happy about living with a long-lost aunt, when she is released from hospital. Add to that, the confusing messages she gets from her step-cousin, Tom, who lives with Aunt Penelope, and the evasive Nat, who taunts her, and there is a lot Jac has to sort out.

Jenny wrote this book in response to weaknesses she saw in Twilight characters. Jac is a girl in control (most of the time); not a whining, like Bella. She doesn’t simper outside the action; in this mystery/ romance story she fully takes part!

Responses from girls who have read Jac of Hearts include: “Jac is real!”, “Being in her head was an enjoyable experience.”, “Jac is not a cookie-cutter kind of girl.”, “I love that Jac has had to deal with changes in her life (like me) and that she wrestles with her faith.”

So if you want realistic characters with romance and a bit of mystery and suspense thrown in, ‘Jac of Hearts’ is for you.

October 31

Still Alice

‘Still Alice’ was a book I stumbled on at the airport, after I quickly returned another book ‘Little Bee’ since I had already read it under another title, ‘On the Other Hand’. (Another review, another time?) So it wasn’t my first choice, but it turned out to be a great choice – though I finished it far too soon, as you often do with a good book. I had wondered about whether I would enjoy the read, dealing with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, but I found it a captivating tale.

It is told from the point of view of Alice, a well-renowned psychology professor, who begins to find increasing memory losses creeping into her well-ordered life. For someone viewed as a world expert in her field of linguistics, the tragedy of losing basic words in conversations and lectures, and even forgetting to be at lectures, is immense.

At first, Alice refuses to consider that the changes she is experiencing are anything but a temporary symptom of her busy lifestyle. So she remains quiet and ignores many telltale signs of deterioration; which also remain invisible to her busy family as they come and go. Finally, her inability to make sense of the series of lists she creates for herself, and an increasing inability to keep track of things in family conversations, force her to consult medical advice.

Lisa Genova has written a thought-provoking account of what it could be like to feel yourself slipping away from reality. While in the beginning there is clarity in Alice’s thoughts and actions, as time goes on, it becomes clear that what she ‘remembers’ is often far from what actually was happening to her.

There is a sensitive portrayal of the confusion and frustrations that can be experienced, as Alzheimer’s takes its toll on both the sufferer and their family members. Because of the way it it told, the story gives the reader true experiences of the confusion that Alice has to deal with. It also demonstrates the way in which some family members may be too close, day-to-day, to notice the subtle deterioration in the sufferer, except in hindsight.

‘Still Alice’ has received a lot of praise from reviewers, some of which have had personal experience with dementia within their families. It is written as though you were inside the mind of Alice, as the disease takes hold and changes everything for Alice and her family. Endorsement by the National Alzheimer’s Association is high praise for Genova’s writing, and a continuing blog on Alzheimer’s by the author further endorses the quality and authenticiity of this tale, and the mastery with which it has been written.

Listen to Lisa Genova discuss the beginnings of her first novel, inspired by her grandmother’s onset of Alzheimer’s, and the importance for her to tell this tale.

As a neuroscientist-turned-novelist, Lisa Genova has opened a door for us to view these changes, and perhaps, to help us to understand some of those around us – parents, grandparents, friends or neighbours, who may be affected. Thus, even though it would be considered an adult novel, I wouldn’t hestitate about recommending to younger readers who might need some understanding about people known to them fighting the disease.

October 19

the Help – change that begins with a whisper

Kathryn Stockett, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, has written a book about an author living in Jackson, Mississippi, writing a book about Jackson. The difference is that Miss Skeeter lives in times of prejudice and intolerance – and to write about these things at this time is both risky and challenging.

Eugenie Skeeter, however, takes up the challenge and invites others to find the courage to tell the tales of life during the civil rights movement – importantly, from the points of view of ‘coloured’ house maids. As a dissatisfied writer, she yearns to do something meaningful with her life – which is devoid of any real friends in Jackson. Returning home from college, she provides her mother with angst (with no husband-propects on the horizon), but as a keen observer, she now sees relationships at home with new eyes – ‘where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver’.

When she finally convinces maids Aibileen and Minny to begin telling the tales of their lives as second class citizens, a momentum builds. At the same time, tension and conflict rear their ugly racist heads, as social climbers in the community work to maintain the status quo – and to keep the downtrodden in their place.

Eugenie’s friendship with two black maids is dangerous; writing a book about their experiences even more so. The outcome and whether the whole exercise is worthwhile, considering the potential harm for all those involved, creates a constant tension throughout the story, and the risks are great for all those involved.

The voices Stockett has created are immensely believable, and full of humanity. As each character (Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter) tells her story, the frustrations and pressures for each of them is real and considered. Little by little, their lives are painted before us, and the impact of the prejudices of small town gossip and traditions make our hearts ache for those involved.

We feel for little Mae Mobley whose (white) mother neglects her, leaving her in the care of her maid, Aibileen. We fear that Minny will be again moved out of a much-needed job, if past employer Miss Hilly finds out where she is – that is, if Minny’s husband, Leroy, doesn’t beat her senseless before then. And then, there is the constant worry that Miss Skeeter’s writing activities will be uncovered and demonised by Miss Hilly, the young socialite, who wants to keep the blacks in their rightful positions for her view of society.

Stockett has created a strong believable story, with courageous women in a time of trouble and strife – a modern day ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ scenario – blacks guilty before being tried, dealing with trashy white attitudes – people demanding respect from family staus rather than any true accomplishemnts in life. Though ‘The Help’ has now been made into a movie, I resisted seeing the movie before reading the book, which absorbed me fully into the lives of 3 brave women at a historic period in America. having ‘heard’ their voices, I can now look forward to what has been a well received adaptation of the book:

“The Help” is a delicious peppery stew of home-cooked, 1960s Southern-style racism that serves up a soulful dish of what ails us and what heals us. Laughter, which is ladled on thick as gravy, proves to be the secret ingredient — turning what should be a feel-bad movie about those troubled times into a heart-warming surprise. – Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2011.

Check out one of the many film trailers here –

June 8

Past – Forgotten

Forgotten

Imagine waking up every day and having no memory of what happened the day before!  What about the idea of having to write yourself notes at the end of the night to make sure you know what to wear, what to take to school, what you are expected to be doing the following day? How would you feel if time passed by, and if you didn’t even remember the daily routines that helped you get through the things that others take for granted?

Does this sound a bit like the movie ’50 First Dates’? Well, you need to expand on this idea a bit, and add into it a character, London Lane, who is also able to ‘remember’ the future – a gift she is unsure of, and a gift her friend, Jamie, is keen she keeps to herself. Jamie does not want to be told about the outcome of her flirtation with a school teacher; nor will she heed the warnings of London, who naturally doesn’t want her friend to get hurt.

However, London is happy to know that, according to her future memory, Jamie will remain her friend in the years to come. She is not happy that she is not be able to ‘see’ and therefore, ‘remember’ the flat-out gorgeous guy who keeps turning up in her study periods at school. Since she doesn’t ‘remember’ Luke from the future, she thinks something must happen to him to wipe him from her life.

The lack of a memory is an interesting concept, and how it might impact on your life would be something for all to consider as you read through the troubles London faces – many of which teens might identify with, even without a memory problem! And many would love to have to have a supportive parent like London’s mum (in spite of her own struggles) and a very understanding, new boyfriend, like Luke. The seeming lack of awareness shown by her teachers is perhaps shown from London’s point of view, as there are no major consequences of her memory loss, and coping with daily class tasks doesn’t seem to be a problem; matters which don’t really surface too much.

This aside, ‘Forgotten’ is a compelling read, and author Cat Patrick has you guessing what may lie ahead. What could be the possible consequences for the things London forgets, her attempts to change the future, and her pursuit of her family history? With many twists and turns, you may never guess… And it will have you thinking long after the final chapter.

For more about American author, Cat Patrick and what inspired the writing of this,  her debut novel see: http://www.catpatrick.com/about/ 

People are already asking for a sequel! What do you think?