Friday, April 24, 2015

Reading off the rails - updated

You might remember at the start of the year I set myself a reading challenge. I only had to get through 24 books in a year, which isn't too much of a problem for me, except I was derailed by the sad death of Terry Pratchett. He was, of course, no stranger to Death. The skeleton everyone loves to read about is a regular character in (almost) every Pratchett book ever published. HE TALKS IN CAPITALS. You can't miss him. And I've been spending time with him since I heard the news of Pratchett's passing. Not as much as Pratchett has, of course, but enough. I read Mort first, the story of how Death takes on an apprentice. I followed that with Johnny and the Dead, the tale of Johnny Maxwell, an ordinary boy who has extraordinary experiences. In this case he finds he can see dead people who 'live' in a cemetery that's about to be demolished to make way for a new development.

I'll get back on track with the challenge soon, but I'm not promising I'll fulfill all the requirements. But then, who cares if I don't? 

Update:   There is a section in the reading challenge that says: "A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realise that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) "
So I'm claiming Terry Pratchett as my guilty pleasure. I've loved his books since I first found him and I tend to go back to him when I can't think what else to read.  So I've done another one!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A YA novel

Hate List
Jennifer Brown

Back onto the Reading Challenge..............

I wasn't exactly looking forward to the YA novel because, well, I'm not a YA! However, I managed to get hold of a copy of Hate List by Jennifer Brown and I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised. I'm not really sure why it's classed as YA, other than the fact that it's set in an American high school and the narrator is a teenager who attends it.

Valerie Leftman is not exactly at the centre of school life. In fact she's a bit of an outsider. She and her boyfriend Nick draw up a hate list of all the people who annoy them and Valerie keeps a notebook of what they did and why they deserve to be on the list. She thinks it's a bit of a joke. He brings a shotgun to school one day and starts killing everyone whose name is in the book, before turning the gun on himself. In the chaos Valerie throws herself in front of one of the intended victims and is badly wounded in the leg. Hate List covers the aftermath of the event and how Valerie comes to terms with her part in the massacre, after she wakes up in hospital recovering from her injuries.

For a YA novel it deals with some pretty adult questions: guilt, blame, social isolation, mental health, family relationships, broken marriage, recovery and even forgiveness. At no point does the novel talk down to the reader. In fact, if it hadn't told me it was a YA novel I really wouldn't have realised.

I expected the language to be simplistic, possibly even steeped in slang and repetitive, like, yeah? But this was no Fifty Shades of Grey. It was well written, a damn good story, and full of sympathetic characters even an old bird like me could relate to.

This has been a very pleasant effect of taking part in a book challenge. I read something I otherwise wouldn't have dreamed of picking up, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A book that takes place in Asia

 It's been a while since I updated you on the Reading Challenge

The Way of the Traitor
Laura Joh Rowland

It's the tale of Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, who is sent to Nagasaki, in theory as an ambassador. But he has been undermined by one of his enemies in the shogun's court and treachery is everywhere. When a Dutch trader's body washes ashore Sano is given the task of investigating the death. The Netherlands and Japan have a valuable trading association but the relationship is strained, and the wrong finding could destroy the fragile peace. Not only could a mistake plunge his country into war, but Sano's own safety is threatened by the very people he is working with.

It's a cracking tale that gives interesting insights into 17th century Japanese politics while offering a tense whodunnit alongside. I worried that the history would drown out the thriller, but I was wrong. There was a delicate balance between education and entertainment and I'd be happy to read more of the series.