The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge
The family arrive off the boat on a stormy night to an isolated island community. Father is a noted scientist trying to outrun something that happened before they left home. Her mother is trying to keep up appearances and her little brother needs attention.
She suspects that her father is up to something so does some spying. He seems unbalanced and she is worried. She is smart in a world that doesn’t admire smart girls.
Tragic events unfold but Faith is smart and she stays strong. The social commentary is telling as the women of the family try to salvage a life for themselves.
Waiting for Doggo by Mark Mills
Dan’s live in girlfriend Clara abruptly leaves him without a trace after four years. She leaves her dog, named Doggo, that she rescued from the shelter. Dan is pretty distressed. Doggo is an extremely ugly dog. Dan tries to return the dog the shelter but changes his mind and takes him back home.
Dan is between jobs but his reputation is good and he gets a great offer. He will only accept if he is allowed to bring Doggo to work with him. The boss makes the unpopular decision to allow this as long as Doggo behaves.
Dan is happy in his new job. Doggo seems happy too.
This is a light, funny read with dastardly co-workers, a dog that seems smarter than he looks and enough of a story to satisfy.
This House Is Haunted by John Boyne
Set in 1860’s England. After her fathers death Eliza is left alone in London. She sees and advertisement for a governess position in a large estate in the country and applies. She receives a prompt offer of the position without knowing how many children or what ages. Despite some misgivings she decides she needs a change and accepts.
She arrives at the gothic mansion in the evening and is met by two unusual children Isabella (12) and Eustace (7) but no adults. Over time she discovers why the children’s parents aren’t around.
The locals she meets become circumspect when they find out where she is living. She comes to believe the house is haunted and her life may be in danger. With little help from the locals she is isolated in the home.
This well developed mystery kept me guessing. John Boyne, author of favorites of mine The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas and The House of Special Purpose, has weaved a story of suspense with interesting historical and social commentary of the time.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Absolutely great kid literature. Funny, adventurous and a bit farcical. For independent boys or girls age 8+ or a terrific read aloud.
I listened to the audio version, would be fun for a family car trip.
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
I loved this dark comedy. I don’t know how I missed it for so long.
Tilly returns to her small Australian home town 20 years after she was banished. A town full of characters, many with dark ulterior motives, full of jealousy, secrets and lies.
The town isn’t ready to accept Tilly back and her mother has become a recluse in a run down, unkept house. While Tilly was away she became a seamstress and although the residents resent Tilly’s return they can’t resist her custom made dresses.
Tilly is romanced by the town’s football hero. Circumstances change and once again she is shunned, but Tilly has plans of her own.
Great character development gives life to the unusual residents, not many who you will sympathise with. Superior ending will leave you satisfied.
I just watched the movie. If I hadn’t read the book I would have liked it more. Too many people, bits and scenes got left out to fit it on the big screen.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Ha! There is no such thing as a little life. Every life is lived by the minute clocking up experiences, relationships, memories, regret. Your life is defined by your hopes, dreams and your past. Your decisions are based on how your memories and experiences shape your view of life and your feelings about yourself.
Guilt, regret and shame are yours to deal with or not, but they guide you whether you like it or not.
Four friends start their life long relationships as University flatmates. Much water flows under the bridges as they navigate their further study, careers, partners and family lives or lack of. The story centres around Jude. Jude does not have a past he is willing to share but from what his flatmates can gather his childhood was brutal and scarring. Malcolm has had a charmed life of wealth and privilege, J.B.’s solo mum and grandmother have worked hard to be successful and dote on the only son. Willem comes from the midwest, he had a disabled brother and parents who worked from dawn to dusk to provide for the family and had nothing left at the end of the day for him.
They need each other as they go their separate ways in the world, Jude as a lawyer, Malcolm an architect, J.B. a artist and Willem an actor. Coming together often over the years in combinations of the four.
This is a powerful book. Full of life that is real. Full of success that isn’t taken for granted. Full of self loathing and full of love.
Absolutely FIVE stars. This is a harrowing read that will invade your thinking when you aren’t thinking about it. It is dark, challenging and brutally graphic. The ending is understandable in context with the ‘little life’.
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings
This is a special book in every way. The format is beautiful with different colour heart cut outs going deeper and getting smaller on each page. The illustrations are cute and clever and compliment the text in every way.
Recently a friend suffered a bereavement which hit the entire family hard. We decided to give her a copy of this book with our sympathy card. She took it home and opened it with her 10 year old daughter. Her daughter then read the book aloud to her. As they read it they talked about their feelings over the last week. She asked her daughter which of those feelings she had had in the past week, her daughter replied ‘all of them’, this lead to good conversations about dealing with the range of emotions they were both feeling.
Normally wouldn’t use the publishers blurb in my blog posts but in this case I don’t think I could give a better explanation as to why this book is so good. The only change I would make is to recognise that this book has much power to heal and isn’t just for toddlers :
Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. With whimsical illustrations and an irresistible die-cut heart that extends through each spread, this unique feelings book is gorgeously packaged.