Saturday, 28 August 2010

More Books

Its not been a very exciting week - back at work, lots of rain, same old, same old.

So I decided it was time for another book-blogging post about my recent reading (Because, of course, you are all totally fascinated by my reading habits )

The Wrong Reflection by Gillian Bradshaw

This is a book which I first read about 5 years ago and which I keep coming back to. Sandra Murray is driving home one night and finds a car which has been driven into a ditch. She manages to pull the driver, Paul Anderson, out and give him mouth-to-mouth.

He wakes up in hospital with no idea of who he is, just a certainty that he is not Paul Anderson, and that he is afraid.

The truth about who he is, and how others react to him  is the basis of a thoughtful and intrigueing  science fiction thriller. The characters are well drawn and believable, and the book sets out some all too plausible scenarios.

It is difficult to go into further details without spoilers, but  this is well worth a try. Ms Bradshhaw has also written at leastr two other Science Fiction novels - 'Dangerous Notes' and 'The Somers Treatment', both of which are well worth reading, but she is better known for her hsitorical fiction.
The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees

The Floating Brothel is what you might call easy-reading - it is non-fiction, dealing with the 'Lady Julian', the first ship sent to carry female convicts to the then newly formed penal colony in New South Wales, in 1789.

The book gives some background, based on contemporary records and the memoirs of one of the ships crew of the womens lives, crimes, trials and eventual fates.

For me, my enjoyment of the book was marred by the author's habit of fictionalising those parts of the women's experience which is unrecorded. She is open about this being speculation, and I assume that it is intended to flesh out the bare bones of the story and make it more accessible, but I found it somewhat irritating!

Despite this, an interesting book about  an interesting period in history.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Sticking with the Australian theme but on a much more light-hearted note, The Reformed Vampire Support Group is a YA novel, written in the 1st person by 'Nina' a Sydney teenager who, owing to a chance encounter with a vampire has been 15 for the last 37 years.

Unlike your typical fictional vampire, Nina and her fellow 'reformed vampires' are weak, vulnerbable and comitted to not biting anyone. They survive on a diet of Guinea Pigs and attend weekly meetings presided over by a local catholic priest.

When they find themselves faced with a vampire slayer, they have to try to track him down, in order to protect themselves, falling in with a werewolf as they go. Lightweight, fluffy fun, with an interesting twist on some of the normal vampire tropes. (And not a sparkle in sight, thankfully!)

Pastworld by Ian Beck

This is Mr Beck's first YA novel, and is set in the not-too-distant future, wherea chunk of Victorian London has been recreated as a giant theme park, complete with rookeries, criminals, Victorian laws and punishments for breaking them, and 'The Fantom', a Jack the Ripper figure who leaves residents in fear, and gives  'Gawkers' or tourists a vicarious thrill.
Eve, who had no idea her home was a theme park, runs away after learning hre presence may put her guardian in danger. Caleb Brown, a modern visitor, finds himself on the run and hiding from the law after his father is attacked and he is accused of murder, which, in Pastworld, is a hanging offence.

With characters including an Inspector Lestrade of Old Scotland Yard, there are nods to period fiction, and the author doesn't shy away from the harsher side of Victorian life - characters are cold, hungry,and vulnerable to disease and poverty. There are plenty of clues to allow the alert reader to work out Eve's secret, and to guess how things are going to end, well before she or the other characters get there, but for all that this is a fast paced book, and one which I suspect might well appeal to both boys and girls.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

This is the second book of Ness's 'Chaos Walking' trilogy, and continues the story of Todd and Viola, starting immediately where the first book, 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' ended.

Todd finds he has not escaped the Mayor of Prentisstown, and both he and Viola have to contend with greater challenges, and more choices to make, never so simple as a choice between right and wrong, but between differing kinds of wrong.

The books raise all kinds of issues, about loyalty, courage, fundementalism, sexism and misogyny, exploitation and colonialism and compromised principal; not to mention addressing the areas between resistance and terrorism. Just like real people, most of the characters are neither wholly good, not wholly evil.

This is not an easy book to read; it makes you think. And it has no sense of safety, you cannot feel any confidence that things will work out alright in the end. In the first book, we saw that Todd's fathers were good men, and tried their best for him. But they died, and he is still in danger.

 Todd and Viola are both good people, neither wishing to harm anyone, but good intentions are no protection, and neither of them is able to remain entirely innocent.

As I said, not easy or simple books, but very, very good. At the end of 'The Ask and the Answer' we are again left on a knife-edge with a new danger looming and no doubt further hard choices and complex, nuanced issues to deal with. 'Monsters of Men', the final part of the trilogy, is just out, and I shall be reading that as soon as I can get hold of it, until  then, I shall wait, somewhat apprehensively.

1 comment:

Lihua said...

WELL. I'm up for just about anything, Marjorie ...