We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

24836625We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Once again I was fooled by the cover.  It looked like a fun, dysfunctional family romp. This also happened to me with The Fields by Kevin Maher.  This time it is animal testing, in The Fields it was cleric sexual abuse.

There was definitely dysfunction in the family, an older brother and sister were unaccounted for at the start of the story.  I didn’t read the back cover properly or I would have realised something about the sister.  Maybe I did read it and it just sounded more fun.  It wasn’t fun.

Rosemary is telling her family’s story.  She starts in the middle and skips around a bit. It is a gripping read, you can’t predict what is on the next page. Rosemary says she used to talk a lot, now she is pretty silent.  She attends Uni but doesn’t have a group of friends or any idea what she should get a degree in, she has been attending for some time.

Her Uni is far from home but she visits her parents on holidays.  She can’t talk to her parents about what happened to her siblings, but she might  like to know more.  She feels that she is to blame and is carrying lots of guilt.

She makes a friend, gets thrown in jail and drinks too much on a night out.  Her Mum gives her the journals that she wrote when Rosemary was small. She isn’t sure she wants to read them.  She puts them in her luggage which gets lost by the airline.

Rosemary’s Dad is a scientist.  He does experiments on animals.  There is a bit of graphic detail around how animals were used for testing, it is shocking and sad.

Near the end of the book I got concerned, how would the author tie up all the bits of the story without rushing or glossing over things.  I needn’t have worried, this book has an ending that fits the story.  A satisfying read.

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Wake by Elizabeth Knox

Wake by Elizabeth Knox

New Zealand author alert!

Like Elizabeth’s other books this is complex and unusual. Set in an isolated South Island town, something sinister has taken over the minds of the inhabitants and there is confusion everywhere. A few, who entered the town after the “wake” took hold, survey the carnage.

They are isolated from the rest of the world. They must clear the bodies and organise the food. Who is the man in black who helped put out the fires? Why won’t he join them in their struggle?

A very worthy read, but not pretty at times. A stunning bookcover, which I would love a print of- minus the funeral. I expect this will do well in the NZ 2014 book awards and I hope internationally as well.

Dust by Hugh Howie

Dust by Hugh Howie

The final installment of the series which started with “Wool” and was followed with “Shift”, the prequel that helped make sense of the world created in the first story, but left plenty to discover in “Dust”.

The people live in a silo, they have lives, jobs and a very limited understanding of the world around them. Everything about their existence is controlled and while there doesn’t seem much joy; there are families, community and a shared sense of purpose. I encourage you to take “Wool” to the beach this summer, buy copies as gifts for all your reader friends and share in this unique sifi journey.

I loved this book and this series. I loved the imagination, creativity and the hope it shares about life and the living of it. I was lucky to meet Hugh Howie, the author, and he seemed a genuinely nice, regular guy. How easy it is to sum people up and underestimate them, I can’t imagine this story was just sitting in his imagination waiting to be written down. I’m very glad he did.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This is a special book. This is a book about the end of the world as we know it, it is sad, it is depressing, it is violent, angry, sad, questioning, full of guilt, being left behind and the bravery of carrying on in the face of an unlikely future. The difference between this post apocalyptic story and all the others is the gentle nature of the story telling, the humanity in the telling and the hope.

Hig is lucky to be alive, but he doesn’t always feel that way. He has carved out a new life for himself at an airfield along with a survivalist and they are in it for the long haul. Hig goes hunting, fishing and flies his plane with his dog Jasper as co-pilot, he is something of a dreamer. He hears a voice on the plane radio and after much consideration decides to fly beyond the point of return, not enough fuel to get him home, in search of something more.

What he finds isn’t what he expected but it does open up the opportunity of a future of some kind.

I give this book 5 stars, I also felt highly about The Road by Cormac McCarthy and as it says on the cover of my copy “like The Road – with hope”. That sums it up for me, compelling reading that isn’t bleak yet set in a bleak time, a special combination.

Undead by Kirsty McKay

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Undead

by Kirsty McKay

Funny, scary, contemporary, believable… words from the readers of Ruawai Library.

Bobby (short for Roberta) has moved back to the UK after living for 8 years in the USA and is trying to fit in at school.  The class is off for a ski trip and the bus is a minefield of teenage dilemmas.  They stop for a meal break and Bobby stays in the bus along with the driver and Smitty who is not allowed to go.  It starts to snow and time passes, finally people start making their way back from the cafe, but something isn’t right.

Actually something is very wrong, they are all coming back as zombies!

Now Bobby and Smitty must find a way to stay alive and get out of there.  The phones aren’t working and there is no one around, except for the prima-donna popular girl.

There are lots of humor and a few frights, pitched perfectly for a Year 7+ reader (11+).  I highly recommend this book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wool and Shift by Hugh Howey

Wool

Shift

by Hugh Howey

4 1/2 stars

Sci-fi, dystopia in a new setting with a new concept and quite the thriller.  I think Wool will be THE book at the beach this summer.

In Wool the people are living in a community below ground.  The earth is currently uninhabitable.  The people live on levels of the silo, the worker bees getting deeper and deeper into the ground.  They are self-sufficient as a community, but communication is limited between levels.  Life is strictly controlled and it is dangerous to ask questions.

Shift is the prequel to Wool.  You find out how the people got where they are in Wool.  This book raises as many questions as it answers.  Very creative and easy to read.

I went along to meet Hugh Howey at Takapuna Library in April, brought to New Zealand for one event in April by his publisher.  He is a genuine guy.  He seems as amazed at the popularity of his books as I was at his imagination and attention to detail in his imaginary world.  He is a champion of making books available online and has plenty of ideas as to how ebooks and paper books can co-exist.  His popularity soared as he produced these stories as chapters online and later the publishers then paid attention and made offers.  He is also a supporter of ‘fan fiction’ where fans write about characters or settings in the original work, and there are many written around Wool & Shift.

I look forward to Dust the sequel to Wool appearing in August.  It give me time to imagine what I think might happen.

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Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green is on her own, the world is ash around her and her family is gone.

This apocalyptic story engrosses my readers (12+).  The girls especially like it.  While it is a slim book it gives the reader a lot to think about.  Because it is a slim book more are willing to try it.

I once I read this review on Goodreads I realized that I could never do a better job of explaining the nuance of this book.