Monday, September 30, 2013

September Reading


The Obernewtyn Chroniclesby Isobelle Carmody 
  1. Obernewtyn 
  2. The Farseekers 
  3. Ashling
  4. The Keeping Place
  5. The Stone Key
This is a series that my son, Jeffrey, and I have enjoyed since he was a young teenager, and both of us are re-reading it before reading the last book published, The Sending (2011, which we somehow missed before. The last book in the series, The Red Queen is due out next year. Although the books are designated 'young adult' by the library, Jeff (23) and I (62) both still enjoy them. As you can see, I've been on an Obernewtyn binge - helped along by the fact that I've been sick with a nasty cold virus thingie for a month, and unable to do much else but read for a lot of that time.

The series is a post apocalyptic story set generations after a global nuclear holocaust. The main character is a young woman who has paranormal powers, as do her Misfit friends. On one hand the story centres around the freeing of the people and animals from the secular Council and the Religious Herder Faction, which involves most of the people in the books. However, there is also Elsbeth's personal journey, as The Seeker, to fulfil a greater task to free the world of the possibility of the Destroyer gaining access to the deadly 'Beforetime' weapons.

The series examines all kinds of issues around duty, responsibility, discrimination, slavery, racism, species-ism, religion, love and more.

One of my other sons finds the books annoying because he feels that Carmody keeps inventing more paranormal skills, but on re-reading I think that in the main she merely develops the skills, as would happen once the Misfits start using and exploring their abilities. In addition, the books become longer and more complex as they go on, which is understandable given she was only 14 when she first started the first book.

I enjoy the books and would recommend them to anyone from around 12 years old  who likes fantasy books.

Room by Emma Donoghue

An entirely different kind of book than the Obernewtyn series! This book was recommended - with warnings - first by a woman in my Raglan book club (women in their 60s - 70s) and then again by a 42yo woman in my on-line unschoolers book group (people in their late teens - 60s.)

To quote Laura (the one who recommended it to the on-line book club):
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world....
It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack's imagination - the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma's clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience-and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.
 It is a story of kidnap, abuse and escape, yet there are no graphic descriptions: the book is about coping mechanisms, about survival, about love.

It was shocking and thought provoking, especially reading it so soon after the hideous revelations of the Ariel Castro case in the US. However, it is also a story of courage, hope and the power of love between mother and child.

I highly recommend this book to anyone at all.

The Zookeeper's War by Steven Conte

Again, a completely different sort of book. This one is about an Australian woman, Vera, who married a German zookeeper before WW2, and became a zookeeper to, at the Berlin Zoo. The book covers the time from 1943 - 45. They struggle to look after the animals as staff are recruited to the army, and then foreign forced labourers are sent to help them. The book is about fear, horror, friendship, relationships, love, suspicion, trust and, most of all, survival. It has an horrific ending, which somehow seems more appropriate than a happy ever after scenario.  It is a fascinating book as it shows us war from perspectives far from those we usually encounter. Again, I highly recommend this novel.

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