Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A catch up post and great young adult reading with no vampires or werewolves!

Marrying Ameera
by Rosanne Hawke

This was a great read, a compelling plot from start to finish and a main character who was not only plausible but who the reader could identify with and care about.  Ameera takes the reader into a world that for many Australian teenagers would seem totally alien and yet the experience the novel recounts is for some a frightening reality.

Ameera is a 17 year old Australian high school senior, her mother is Anglo Australian and her dad is Pakistani Australian, raised as a Muslim, Ameera is at an age when western culture begins to conflict with her father's aspirations for her and circumstances see him send her to Pakistan on a flimsy pretext, while in reality he has organised a forced marriage, much of the novel deals with Ameera's entrapment in a land in which she is controlled by family and draconian gender politics.  She is cut off from her mother and also from the Australian Pakistani boy with whom she was beginning to form a friendship in Australia.  This is a compelling story and Hawke beautifully evokes Ameera's environment both in Australia and in Pakistan, dealing with a sensitive cultural issue in the subject of forced arranged marriage and family honour, crafting a novel that is adventure, thriller and to an extent romance.  This really is a great young adult read.

Climbing the Stairs
by Padma Venkatraman

After Marrying Ameera this title in the library caught my eye, another story about a young woman struggling to build an independent identity in an environment that presents extra challenges for women, where the cultural expectation is that marriage will come before education and independence.
Set in British occupied India during the second world war, the novel tells the story of Vidya a fifteen year old girl living in a liberal Hindu household. Tragedy strikes and the family are forced to return to living in a shared, extended, traditional household, where men and women live in separate areas of the house and the expectations are that women will follow traditional paths of marriage and family.  Vidya finds those expectations impossible to accept and life is complicated further when her brother seeks to enlist in the army despite the family's strict Hindu beliefs.  The position of women is one theme, but violence and non violence are also themes explored in the novel.

The stairs in the title refer to the stairs to the higher levels of the house where the men live and where Vidya's grandfather keeps his library.  The library becomes Vidya's precious sanctuary in what is a hostile environment, it is also here in the library that Vidya meets a boy, who has the potential to offer her an escape at least from the cruel family circumstances in which she is living.  I loved the library and the way Vidya explored it's contents and celebrated the power of books and words, this was another great YA read, again a compelling book that I read very quickly.

 White Crow
by Marcus Sedwick

An amazing book, I could not put this down once I started it, a masterfully crafted thriller, this book is unsettling and haunting.  Again a YA novel this time dealing with the friendship between two teenage girls but the novel is more than just a tale about intense friendship in the here and now, it also presents a terrifying story from the past and the lengths a person will go to find an answer to the unanswerable.  This was a frightening and compelling story, one that can't easily be put down or forgotten. Good and evil, friendship and loneliness, and fear are all explored. When you die who will come for you, will it be angels or devils?  Not a book for the feint hearted, this is a dark and disturbing book, not for every reader but the craftsmanship must be admired.

 Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy

Now this was a book on a much lighter note!  A tale of magic and drama, action and adventure and perhaps most importantly humour, for all its sinister appearance Skulduggery Pleasant is essentially a humorous book, where  a plot about good and evil is driven forward by high octane adventure. This was not the first time I have read Skulduggery but the first time I got to finish it, in the past no sooner would I start to read it than someone would want to borrow it, so I found my reading of this title was endlessly interrupted, which in itself says much for the books popularity.  This is a fun book, well crafted and entertaining, great characters and I loved the names like, Ghastly Bespoke.  I also enjoyed the portrayal of Stephanie's extended family and her ghastly relatives. 

 The book of Unicorns
by Jackie French

Short stories about unicorns, bringing magic into the everyday and mundane.  A great young read, that illustrates why Jackie French has proven such a successful author.   A student suggested I read this one and I enjoyed the journey into what are gentle and well crafted stories with a real sense of magic.  This one reminds me of the now classic novel by Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn, a book I am also intending to re-read at some point soon. 
These have been very brief summations of some of my recent reading and I do feel a bit guilty for not giving more detail and doing more justice to what have proved to be highly diverting reads.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A bad blogger post

Oh dear, I have been so slack, failing to update, but all that will change.  I have been reading, just failing to update the blog, bad me.  Brief distraction which interrupted my reading flow, still have books to post on and to return to, but in the meantime this is just a brief catchup.
In the last couple of weeks I have read a few books from work, (work being a library that services young adult readers),  one title because it was new and simply grabbed my attention, a few others because I asked the kids to pull out a few books they thought I should read instead of me always telling them to read, so in brief my recent reading: