Monthly Archives: April 2013

Book 13 – Not Dead Yet: Labor’s Post-Left Future

“Not Dead Yet: Labor’s Post-Left Future” by Mark Latham (2013)

This was a holiday of variation, after all, so what else to follow up with from a Sci Fi, a weird kind-of-kids’ book and a soppy chic lit novel, than a bit of juicy politics!

This was a really fascinating read. I’ve never really taken to Latham. Too much of the bully-boy in him for me, but this essay had me reacting so strongly that poor old hubby kept asking me what was going on. Just as Latham would draw me in with a logical, no-holds-barred comment about the reality of Australia and its politics in 2013, he would slap me back down with a stupid comment that made me cross.

There are three outstanding elements to this text that make it worth the read:

  • astute observations regarding the party’s loss of connection with its constituents;
  • a clearly articulated explanation of the ‘underclass’ and its struggles; and
  • breathtakingly accurate opinion regarding the state of the education system (but not his view on the solutions).

Of course, no one in the party who should be listening will give it the time of day. This essay probably spells out a way for Labor to stay in power in September. But who’s going to listen to Latham?

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Book 12 – Lola’s Secret

“Lola’s Secret” by Monica McInerney (2011)

I bought this book in 2011. I had read some of McInerney’s other books, and picked it up as one of a collection of different books I got with a Christmas gift voucher. When I settled down to read it a few weeks later, it quickly became apparent that it was a part two of sorts. McInerney’s book, “The Alphabet Sisters” was clearly the precursor to this one.

As it happened, I had, by circumstance, ended up with someone else’s copy of “The Alphabet Sisters”, and so I read it instead.

And then suddenly two years had passed.

So, when packing for my long, luxurious, lazy, reading holiday, it was any easy choice for the bag. This is exactly the sort of book you want to read when you are on holidays. A harmless, formulaic, happy-ending-guaranteed novel that requires no extra thinking or commitment other than to turn up, read the words, and enjoy the journey.

Heavy-handed on the philosophising and light-handed on the plot, this was, nevertheless, a lovely read with all the expected friendly characters and little complications to keep you reading just-one-more-chapter before moving from your spot of sloth in the deck chair.

A perfectly lovely read. But you need to have read “The Alphabet Sisters” first.

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Book 11 – The Invention of Hugo Cabret

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick (2007)

I was first introduced to this book in 2007, the year it was published, by Helen Sykes, at the ETA Conference. She had received an advance copy and thought it was one of the most interesting books she had come across in a long time. Part picture book, part novel, not quite a graphic novel, definitely not just a children’s book – it is impossible to place this book in just one style or genre.

At the time, I looked at about 20 of its pages, I wrote down the title, I vowed to find it and buy it.

And then, it was 2013 and time to buy some new books for school for a program I had been tinkering with – a mash up of some ideas of my own and the work of Leigh, a colleague from my Picton days. I asked everyone I knew, including my book rep, to recommend graphic novels. I scoured the Board of Studies recommended texts list. The same name kept on coming up – “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. So it was an easy choice, really, to buy the book at last that I had meant to buy so many years ago. But in buying it I broke one of my own cardinal rules – I bought 30 copies of a book I hadn’t read! That’s right, there are 30 beautiful brand new copies sitting in the book room at school, waiting patiently for the holidays to end and for the beginning of the delivery of the graphic novels unit to year 8. Well, actually, I lie. There are 28 copies at school, then there is the copy beside me, and a copy that my colleague, Emma took home to read in the holidays, like me.

Let me start by telling you that there is something undeniably satisfying about reading a 534 page book in one sitting! And what a beautiful book it is. It tells the story of a boy who lives in a railway station and tends to all the clocks there. It also tells the story of a man who owns a toy shop and a girl who loves movies. It is a beautiful, whimsical, fairytale kind of a book. The illustrations are captivating, the use of the page in so many different ways is an adventure. It is a book of magic, a book of movies, a book of adventure and hope.

The night after reading it, we watched the film, ‘Hugo’. Like my favourite t-shirt says, “the book was better”.

Yes… you really must read this book.

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Book 10 – Shift

“Shift” by Hugh Howey (2012)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that I was downloading the 3 books that make up “Shift” to my Kindle while I was writing the entry for Book 8 – Wool. Let me say straight up that this is the best middle book of a trilogy I’ve ever read. “Wool”, of course, was 5 novellas in an Omnibus. I downloaded “Shift” as three separate books, Shift One, Shift Two and Shift Three. You can buy it as an actual book (published last month), and if you do it is all three books in one. So, there’s a part of me that wishes I could count all this reading as eight books instead of two. That way I’d definitely be beating my brother this year! However, in terms of publication – this is the second book in the trilogy.

“Wool” established the story of a post-apocalyptic society existing in an inverse Silo. One that had been built within the earth, down 120 levels. In “Shift” we are taken back to the beginning – to understand why the silos (yes, there’s more than one, sorry for the tiny spoiler) were built in the first place, and what happened to the barren wasteland that used to be Earth. We meet the masterminds, and their accomplices, both willing and unwitting, in the beginning of the end, or the end that led to the silo’s beginning.

In a post last year about a second book in a trilogy, I quoted a friend, Kate, when she described a second book in a trilogy as ‘the holding pattern book’. “Shift” is definitely no holding pattern. It has answered all the questions I was left with at the end of “Wool” and also stands alone successfully as a parallel narrative of the experiences of two very different men.

I thoroughly recommend both “Wool” and “Shift” and I await eagerly the publication of the final collection, “Dust”, due out later this year.

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Book 9 – The Fault in Our Stars

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green (2012)

I haven’t been able to put my Kindle down much, these last couple of days. I have been out and about and I’ve ticked off quite a few things on my work and home ‘to do’ lists, but the Kindle kept calling me back, and Hazel and Augustus were firmly in my head, cajoling me back.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is a beautifully written book, but its tale is a desperately sad one. I couldn’t put it down, but I sobbed through most of it, and I honestly don’t think I can recommend it to you. It is a book about teenagers with cancer. It is insightful, clever, funny, literary and engaging. Nevertheless, it is heartbreaking and horrible in its inevitable tragedy. Hazel is pressured into attending a support group and it is here that she meets Augustus, a fellow cancer patient. It is impossible not to love them and cry for them.

I love that this book offers intelligent, well-read teenagers and that it makes consistent references to wonderful texts and authors. I love that, although this book is set in Indiana in the USA, a big chunk of the story is set in Amsterdam, a place I have been, a place I could properly picture. Hazel and Augustus even go to Anne Frank House and I have been there and been deeply moved by the same things that moved Hazel.

I cried a lot reading this book. I know that many of my students will love this book. It is already the talk of the school. But I don’t think any of my friends would love this book. I want to recommend it … but I don’t think I can. Make of that what you will.

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