The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
 
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The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault

Mesmerised by every loop and every curve; every word, of the letters stacked up high on his desk every night. Letters that didn't really belong to him, but words that felt so close to home he could hardly tell what reality was anymore. Stolen during his morning routine of sorting through the post, saved for his bedtime story, only to be steamed shut and delivered as though nothing had happened, during the next round of morning post.

Trapped in the thoughts of people he would never meet, Bilodo becomes entangled and dangerously fascinated with the conversation between one long distance couple, spoken through the beautiful art of haiku. He lives through their lyrics, feasts on their words. Curiosity churns to chaos, boredom bordering on obsession.

This unsettling yet charming story about love and loneliness, is quite unlike anything I have read before, and whose unusual characters and brilliantly addictive plot still continue to reside in the rooms of my mind.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

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Hannah Gough
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney
 
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney

This book is the 13th book in the magnificent Wimpy Kid series about Greg Heffley and his family. It is about when it snows so much that there is no school and there is a war with snowball fights and big battles between the lower part of Surrey Street and the top of the hill where Greg lives.  

It is super strange that at the beginning of the book it is scorching hot and it is in winter. Later during the war there is a lot of snow. I couldn't believe that Gary the weather forecast guy still kept his job because every single time he got the forecast wrong. Crazily once he said it was going to be sunny weather and it actually snowed three inches.

What was quite cool is they described the goat man who lived in the woods. He was scary but we never saw him. 

I liked the bit when Greg and his two brothers got a blanket for Christmas. They all wanted it at once, so they had to make a blanket schedule to say when everyone could have the blanket. At first I thought it meant Manny, Greg's younger brother would get the blanket the whole time.

At the start of the book it was so hot they were told at school not to wear shoes inside and then they started playing with their socks. It was funny that every one was playing around with their socks so the socks got put in a box.

It is a really good book and I have already read it two times.

Reviewed by Isaac (Aged 8)

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Hannah Gough
From the Corner of the Oval Office by Beck Dorey-Stein
 
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From the Corner of the Oval Office by Beck Dorey-Stein

You know when you tell yourself you're only going to read one last chapter, yeah... let's just say that didn't quite end up happening. One turned to two turned to four turned to the end turned to what on earth do I do know? From the Corner of the Oval Office, is an incredibly compulsive and fascinating story about one women's accidental career in the Obama White House. Time zones, heartbreak, friendships, glamour and gossip, stuffed into suitcases and unpacked across the world in countless hotel rooms, world leader summits, and bars.

Beck Dorey-Stein offers an intriguing and sometimes painfully embarrassing account of what it was like to work as a stenographer for the Obama administration, all thanks to one suspiciously vague craigslist ad that she randomly stumbled upon in her slumber of unemployment. The West Wing, Oval Office and Air Force One become more than just a fancy name she's heard and turn into a jetlagged, luxurious, crazy chaotic reality, where running alongside president Obama on a treadmill, in various hotel gyms around the world is apparently a thing.

This captivating, hilarious and dangerously addictive memoir, will have you screaming yes we can at the top of your lungs, and will be one you simply cannot put down.  

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

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Hannah Gough
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
 
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Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Maya Aziz is a teen you wish you had met sooner. A voice and a story that desperately deserves to be heard and deeply matters.

Love, Hate & Other Filters, follows the life of a 17 year old Muslim American girl, lost and trapped in the many intersections of her life. On one hand she is expected to be a “good Indian daughter”, a life comprising of college close to home and a suitable Muslim boy, given the golden stamp of approval by her mother of course. But then there's the life she's always wanted, a life of living in New York and pursuing her dreams of film school. Oh and perhaps also, just maybe having a chance with a boy she's always known and liked from afar. But then again these are all nothing but dreams, and dream all she like, for her life is about to turn into just the opposite.

Maya's world is shattered and upturned when a terrorist attack strikes a nearby city, the main suspect sharing not only her religion but her last name too. Her community and the people around her become distorted and blurred, her family living in an unwakeable nightmare of hate, discrimination and islamophobia.

This heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to grow up Muslim in modern America, is much needed and incredibly raw yet beautiful.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

Happy reading! 

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Hannah Gough
Escape From Aleppo by N. H. Senzai
 
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The book Escape From Aleppo by N.H Senzai is about a girl named Nadia who is escaping from the war in Aleppo. On the way she looses her family and has to find them. During this time she meets new people that help her on her journey.        

I give the book Escape From Aleppo, a 10 out of 10. I think this is because whenever I was reading the story I was always engaged. The reasons why I felt engaged was because the writing in the book was so colourful. For example the vocabulary that the author used, like the clatter of running feet, or, she held a sputtering candle. This word choice was very descriptive and really made the story come alive for me.

Another thing I liked about the story is the characters. I liked the characters because they were all different in their own way but at the same time they were all similar.

For instance Nadia is a tough cookie, what I mean by that is that no matter how hard things get for her she always has a positive attitude. Another character is Basel. The thing I liked about Basel was that he would always face the facts. For example he faced the fact that he knew that it was not going to get better Aleppo and moved on from that.

I hope that reading my review will make you want to read the adventurous book called Escape from Aleppo.

Reviewed by Nina (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

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Hannah Gough
The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury
 
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The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury

The Epic City is a winding twisting rickshaw ride through the heart and soul of Calcutta. A city of 15 million dreamers and filmmakers and poets and musicians and of course by far the most important; chaiwallas, for how would the city ever fully function without their steaming hot cups of cardamom and ginger spiced milky chai? A city fuelled on endless cups of tea, street food stalls, roadside sweet shops, and neverending adda: the Bengali word for chats.

In this confusing, chaotic and cheerful love letter, Kushanava Choudhury reconnects with his roots and moves back to the city his immigrant parents long since left behind, uncovering the drowned out voices and stories that never quite make the paper. You will find yourself squeezing through hidden allies, to breathing in bustling bazaars. Each as full of life and laughter. Tram rides and lazy afternoon strides, powered on contempt bellies of fish curry and rice, will lead you to the concealed corners and crooks that make everyday Calcutta life.

The Epic City is a book that will leave you with an electric urge to travel and explore. Whether that means getting lost in a brand new city, or simply absorbing the nuances of your neighbourhood.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury 

Hannah Gough
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
 
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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Stunning, lyrical, haunting. Characters that will tangle into your thoughts and mingle with your mind for days. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a searingly honest and devastating road novel, that centres around an African American family living in rural Mississippi. This story is guaranteed to make your heart speed way over the limit, and run a few redlights too while you're at it, because honestly I could not bring myself to pull the brakes and put this book down.

In this powerful tale of family, love, poverty, grief, and race, Wards chilling writing trembles with pain for the characters we wish to save and pull right off the pages straight into our arms. Jojo, a thirteen year old, learning what it means to be a man from his grandfather, and parenting his three year old sister Kayla, because if not him then who? Surely not his mother Leonie, absent and selfish and unable to put her children above her own needs. Not his father Michael, locked up in prison, and whose family are disgusted by his black girlfriend and biracial kids. The only two people Jojo can fully rely on his being his loving grandparents, Mam and Pop, everyone else, ghosts to him, sometimes there, sometimes not, always haunting.

When Leonie packs the two kids and a friend into the car, and sets off on a journey to retrieve the one thing that hasn't entirely slipped out from her hands; Michael, Jojo begins to understand the racism and hatred of the south, and comes to terms with everything his mother is, isn't and never  will be.

Profound, poetic, and an important reminder that the shadows and skeletons of slavery are still very much alive and present in twenty-first-century America.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward  

Hannah Gough
Disoriental by Négar Djavadi
 
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Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

Stories of lives in exile - voluntary or not - are many and varied and Negar Djavadi’s Disoriental is a worthy, interesting and enjoyable addition to those written primarily by Iranian women many of whom fled their home country as young children in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution and who have now reached an age and maturity that allows for reflective consideration.

Kimia Sadr has fled Iran with her mother and sisters to join their father, an intellectual who opposed the western backed regime of the Shah, welcomed (cautiously) the promise of the new regime of Ayatollah Khomeini only to find his dreams of freedom, equality and prosperity crushed by the heavy handed despotic rule of the mullahs.

Disoriental moves back and forth between Kimia’s life as a young gay woman in France and her family’s history in Iran. The main (and most compelling part) of the book takes place in the northern Iran of her grandparents and the Tehran of her politically active parents. The book not only describes the unravelling of a country with a strong heritage, an ancient culture and a proud people. It also describes the pain of leaving a country you fought for and the challenges of fitting into a new life.

“That’s the tragedy of exile. Things, as well as people, still exist, but you have to pretend to think of them as dead.”

Highly readable, by turns heartbreaking and humorous, the book weaves and layers the history of a country with the struggles of a young woman trying to find her own identity without the aid of the scaffolding afforded by her own culture, heritage and childhood. It’s the story of a young Iranian in Europe with a loving, acute, precise and at times funny sense of the cultural differences.

“Here’s what I learned about the Dutch: each person is free to be who they are, to want what they want, to live how they choose, on the condition that it doesn’t harm the well-being of anyone else, or the general equilibrium. It’s a philosophy of life that’s the exact opposite of Persian culture, where erecting barriers, getting involved in other people’s lives, and breaking the law is as natural as breathing. But it’s also unlike the Judeo-Christian rigidity of French culture, where actions are endlessly hindered by words.”

Disoriental is perceptive and personal, a book about freedom to live, to choose and to love.

Happy reading!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Disoriental by Negar Djavadi  

Hannah Gough
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
 
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The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums is a widly immaginative tale greatly packed with adventourous quests, polar bears, stuffed animals (and glass eyes). Archer Helmsleys life was somewhat of a straight line wich rarely vibrated. Everything went as planned at least according  to his Archers mother who rarely let him out of the the Helmsleys enourmous mansion full of peculiar objects retrieved from his grandparents travels around the world. Archers grandparents are world renowned explorers who travel around world 24\7, Archer never laid his eyes on them in his whole life, due to his mother's unnecessary overprotectiveness. But his straight-line life was completely turned around when his grandparents float away in an iceberg in the north pole. Two years pass from the incident and his grandparents still haven't returned from the iceberg and now are presumed surely dead. But Archer still has hope and with the necessary help of his intrepid and courageous friends, Oliver and Adelaide Archer is determined to finally prove all the rumors of his grandparents death wrong, and  once and for all rescue his beloved grandparents. So with that Archer, Oliver and Adelaide set off on an intrepid, courageous and deadly quest to rescue Archers grandparents…

My favourite character in this gripping novel is and will always be Archer Helmsley, I can compare many attributes and skills to him, for example love for reading, animals and most of all family. My opinion on this novel is that it is a very gripping novel, full of highly imagined content, greatly caring characters, and most of all a wonderfully thought out storyline. I recommend this book to fans of adventure, fiction and kid power novels. Mostly to fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart. The adventure continues with The Doldrums And The Helmsley Curse, the second book in The Doldrums trilogy, so stay tuned for The Doldrums And The Helmsley Curse book review, COMING SOON!  

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon 

 

Hannah Gough
City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
 
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City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City Of Saints & Thieves is a fast paced roller coaster ride where young adult twists and turns into a thriller. This harrowing murder mystery will keep you breathless on the edge of your seat, tearing through the pages and wolfing down every word, a ravenous appetite of curiosity and suspense grumbling and aching deep within your stomach.

I was hooked and intrigued right from the very first sentence, “If you're going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don't exist.” These are the words of teenage refugee Tina, who together with her mother escaped Congo and fled to Kenya. Her mother is fortunate enough to become a maid, serving one of the wealthiest families in the city; the Greyhills. A family built of power and money and blood. A family fortune glistening with corruption and fraud and who knows what else? So when Tina discovers her mother shot dead in Mr Greyhill’s private study, she knows without a doubt that he did it.

In this gripping tale of revenge and justice, Tina will stop at nothing to execute her three part plan: Dirt.Money.Blood. Spiralling down a dangerous path of secrets and tracking down her congolese past, uncovering more than she ever wanted to. Everything she thought she knew about her mother, everything she thought she knew about herself, everything built on lies.

City Of Saints & Thieves is the type of book that will force you to put it down for just a moment, so that you can collect your thoughts and catch your breath.

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson  

Hannah Gough
My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan
 
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My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan

Published in celebration of the author’s 70th Birthday in June, My Purple Scented Novel is a tightly woven little story, a classic Ian McEwan. The story of two university friends turned writers whose lives follow very different trajectories with varying success only to cross paths in an unexpected and diabolic way. The pocket size 34 page book pulls you in from the very beginning with its smooth surface and uneasy undercurrent.

Recognizably McEwan and reminiscent of the Roald Dahl’s sinister Tales of the Unexpected which some readers may remember from the 1980’s television productions.

“I heard that two friends entertained themselves by dreaming up all the ways one writer might ruin the life of another. But this was different. It may sound improbable, given what followed, but on that morning I had no thoughts of causing Jocelyn any harm. I was thinking only of myself. I had ambitions.”

A mind bender of a little book to put in your pocket, read on the bus, the train or on a sun soaked beach.

Happy Reading!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan  

Hannah Gough
Inferior by Angela Saini
 
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Inferior by Angela Saini

Inferior is the type of book you didn't know you needed. A book that tears back and bites through the stitches of “science” that are woven together to form our basic understanding of men and women. It diligently combs through the countless studies and experiments in the name of biology, psychology and anthropology, uncovering the tangles and knots of sexism and bias embedded within science.

Inferior defies everything you thought you knew about gender differences, rewriting the story about women's evolutionary history and debunking the popular myths regarding women's minds and bodies. Charles Darwin once said, “I certainly think that women though generally superior to men in moral qualities are inferior intellectually.” These are the statements and theories that Angela Saini challenges and interrogates throughout her book, just for a moment taking the “man” out of mankind,  and instead offering a “kind” and unbiased perspective on the truth about the female sex.

A deeply empowering, thought provoking and informative fresh breath of air. I cannot stress enough how necessary and important of a read this book is. It will leave you with a new sense of knowledge and a questioning and curious taste, gifting you with your own personal microscope that you didn't know you needed.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Inferior by Angela Saini  

Hannah Gough
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
 
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The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees is a beautiful symphony of short stories, composed with a sweet yet bitter melody of the dreams and hardships of immigration. The stories revolve around the common theme of vietnamese refugees who have settled in the United States, but each offer their own unique twist and journey.

Songs of aspirations, desires and expectations, silenced by the harsh reality of discrimination and the chilling eerie feeling of not belonging and losing one's identity.

An identity lost somewhere along the busy winding streets crammed with new people, speaking new languages, housing new beliefs and opinions. A rich assortment of complex characters, dropped into a complex world bearing new realities and rules of living. Each story highlights the raging battlefield between the adopted homeland and the country of birth, scars and wounds telling the stories of the desperate struggle to “fit in” while still staying true to one's tradition and roots. Each page trembles with the terrible heartache of losing one's country to war, and instead being forced to fall in love with another.

This cleverly crafted collection of short stories, gives voice to the incredibly real and raw emotions and complications faced by refugees. A deeply moving and powerful love letter addressed to all the travelling hearts and souls of refugees around the world.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

Hannah Gough
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon
 
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Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon

In his new book, Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, (out just in time for Father’s Day) Michael Chabon delivers a heartfelt, funny and beautifully written tribute to fatherhood - and I am thrilled to report that you do not even need to be a Dad to enjoy it!

In seven short essays, Chabon successfully shines a bright and warm light on the myriad af emotions and experiences that define parenthood in general, and fatherhood in particular. A father of four himself, Chabon dedicates his essays to his children and shares experiences that have defined his relationship with them - and, in the final essay, with his own “Pops”.

In Little Man (my personal favorite) Chabon describes a trip he took with his then 13-year old, fashion obsessed son, Abraham, to Paris Fashion Week (while writing an article for GQ) and how he slowly over the course of just a few days realises how the world we create for our children, as important as it is, can and will only ever be just a corner of their lives.

“You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you, and if you are lucky, they even on occasion manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough.”

In Against Dickitude (another favorite, if only for the title:) Chabon describes with great insight and self deprecating wit the challenges of raising boys and girls in a male dominated world and the valuable lessons he has learned from his mother, his ex-wife, his current wife and his daughter.

 “In order to be a man - a real man - I must try to imagine what it was like to be a woman[…] I have been working most of my life to imagine myself into the minds and circumstances of the women in my life. But it was not until I had daughters that I fully became aware of  - and duly horrified by - the damage that I myself, in my latent dickitude, was capable of inflicting.”

There are so many recognizable moments in Pops. One that will surely make most parents of teenagers smile is in “Be Cool or be Cast out” where Chabon while trying to support his eldest son’s attempts to fit in, remembers his own awkward teenage years and quickly realizes that “….there are few sentences more utterly devoid of meaning that those in which your parents assert your coolness.“

Pops is a “one sitting” read that will make you smile, even laugh, at times gasp in recognition and realization and it will most certainly make you reflect on the vast minefield of parenting and the immense power we have in shaping the person our child will become.

The world is full of great dads and Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces is the perfect book for the often (if not always) perfect Dad in your life. 

Happy Reading!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon  

Hannah Gough
 I Swapped My Brother On The Internet by Jo Simmons
 
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 I Swapped My Brother On The Internet by Jo Simmons

'I Swapped My Brother On The Internet' is a Hilarious and gripping book based on brotherly love, and the fact that you should always hang on to your family, they are the people who will always love you and support you, even if you don't notice it. Jonny is an ordinary boy in his ordinary town, part of an ordinary family, however he has an annoying brother, Ted who constantly teases Jonny and makes him feel out of ease all the time. Spectacularly enough, a peculiar ad popped up on his screen saying sibling swap, swap siblings today with siblings wap.  Soon after that occured  Jonny came to his final straw and he set fouriously to the siblings wap website to swap his brother, he filed the form and sent it right away . The sibling swap team said the swap would be coming at 5 pm. He went down to his brothers room and called out “TED!” and again “TED” but no answer came. Ted was gone. After the first swap arrived it was followed by a dozen of catastrophic swaps, for example a mere boy the ghost of Henry the Eight, and a boy raised by meerkats. Jonny sooner or later realized that he may be prefered Ted out of all these other ‘Brothers’. But how was Jonny ever to get Ted back?...

My favourite character in the book is one of the swaps who faked being a Xbox addicted kid called Pete to know more about the origins of the siblingswap website, but whose real name was pip and she was really a girl. I prefer  her due to her brave, sneaky and brilliant attributes which I greatly admire. My opinion and perspective on this novel is that it is extremely readable and greatly entertaining, although contemporaneously gives an important lesson to the reader. I recommend this book to readers and fans of 'The Parent Agency' by David Baddiel and all other family based hilarious novels.  

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF I Swapped My Brother On The Internet by Jo Simmons  

 

Hannah Gough
Lullaby by Leila Slimani
 
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Lullaby by Leila Slimani

The baby is dead.” It is this genius opening line of the book that first grips you (by the throat) and doesn’t let go until you turn the final page. 

Lullaby is the story of Myriam and Paul, a young couple with two small children and their nanny Louise. When Myriam decides to return to work, a choice accepted only reluctantly by Paul, the couple hire Louise, prim and proper, with her Peter Pan collar and her hair tied back in a clean knot, to look after their children. “My Nanny is a miracle-worker," Myriam proclaims to her friends, as they file in for Louise’s perfect meals in the small but, thanks to Louise, perfectly tidy apartment. Louise adores the children who adore her right back and Myriam and Paul can’t believe their luck and return to the lives they had dreamt of for themselves.

Things are, of course, never quite as they seem and as Louise slowly weaves herself into the fabric of the family, author Leila Slimani takes the reader back into the dark story and history of this woman who while she is in control of everything in Myriam and Paul’s life has lost control of everything in her own life. Her enhanced position in the household juxtaposed with the life she lead in the shadows of French society and the dark streets of Paris.

Lullaby is a beautifully written, atmospheric thriller, but it is also a strong and deftly crafted critique of society; of those who rise up and those who spend their lives in an unstoppable freefall towards the bottom.

The ending is on the first page, but the journey back to that beginning is at turns exciting, sad, thought provoking and frightening.

Lullaby is a book that requires a few breaks, but can so easily be read in just one sitting, breathlessly, anxiously on the edge of your seat.

Do it. You won’t regret it!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Lullaby by Leila Slimani  

Hannah Gough
Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be by Kevin John Scott
 
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Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be by Kevin John Scott

'Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be' is a fantastic tale based in the near environment of the scandinavian countries. Frederik Sandwich was born in Frederik’s Hill where almost every male in the town was called Frederik. However he is not completely from the place, Frederick was born on Frederiks hill  because his family moved there before he was born, hoping to start a new and peaceful life. Although the fact that Frederik Sandwich was born on Frederik’s Hill he wasn’t treated the same way as the rest of the inhabitants of the hill. Frederik was constantly bullied at school and throughout his day. But when a peculiar ‘earthquake’ occurs at Frederik’s Hill Frederiks life changes forever. With Pernille tha strange and so called ‘freak’ or ‘weirdo’ of the school drags Frederik Sandwich into an investigation on the peculiar events that are occuring throughout Frederik’s Hill. The two soon discover intriguing facts on the towns history and on her ‘ladyship the mayor’ Muriel Kristensen. Frederik and Pernille discover the whereabouts of a crazy tramp and a train conductor and will do the impossible to save the mayor from being harmed.  Will Frederik and Pernille save Frederik’s Hill…

My favourite character in this fantastic book is Pernille, I love her smartness and quick-thinking, her agility and caringness. I can compare many skills and attributes to her including her love for reading and thirst for adventure. My opinion on this novel is that it is very gripping and is full to the brim with intriguing characters, marvelous plots, mysterious cases, and most of all friendship and trust. I love the way this novel makes you turn the pages non stop always looking forward for a new chapter and twist and turns to the already quirky storyline. I, Lahiri Paolella greatly recommend to all the Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart fans and all other magnificent and quirky books, and trust me this book will amaze you!     

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn't possibly be by Kevin John Scott

 

Hannah Gough
Educated by Tara Westover
 
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Educated by Tara Westover

Educated reads like a novel but is a true story of the kind that is almost impossible to believe.

Tara Westover grew up on a mountainside in Idaho in a mormon survivalist family. The winters were harsh and isolating, the summers spent canning fruit, collecting weapons, learning morse code and planning for the end of the world. Tara and her five siblings, several of which were not even registered at birth, are not allowed to attend school, but spend instead their days working with their father in his scrapyard or making herbal mixtures with their midwife mother.

It is a life dominated by fear, isolation, injuries and pain inflicted by parents and siblings suffering from emotional and psychological challenges that go untreated and undetected.

The family’s conviction that the government is out to get them, that they will not be allowed to live according to their norms and beliefs and that they must therefore always be prepared to defend themselves against the outside world leads to life threatening decisions and a paranoia that colors their every move.

More than anything Tara experiences a world where there is absolutely no room for dissent, no allowance for different choices or outside voices. Even as she starts to slowly move away, to separate herself emotionally and physically from her parents and even years later when she finds herself in an entirely different life, she struggles to trust her own voice and her own strength:

“Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

Tara Westover’s story is one of resilience, courage and grit. She succeeds in catapulting herself from no schooling to university, first in Utah and later at Cambridge and Harvard. Every decision comes with its own price tag and it is fascinating to watch Tara realize that education is so much more than math, reading and writing. It is about community, about friendships and about understanding social and cultural norms.

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to grow up thinking that yours is the only world, only to realize at the age of 17 that everyone has lived in a different world. One where you don't have to sleep with a packed backpack under your bed ready for the world to go under; a world where historical and scientific facts matter and a world where the government, schools and doctors are your friends not your enemies.

Educated reminded me in many ways of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It too was the hard to believe story of a young girl growing up under circumstances that were at once, strange, terrible and fascinating. But what the two books mainly have in common is a lack of sentimentality which becomes both authors and both books. Neither woman sees herself as a victim and neither woman hates her family; both women genuinely try to understand the choices their parents made and both women rise above and go way beyond what could reasonably have been expected of them. And for that they deserve our admiration.

Educated is a fascinating and riveting read. You won’t be able to put it down - Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Educated by Tara Westover  

Hannah Gough
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
 
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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer is a book filled to the brim with intrepid characters, deadly animals of the Amazon rainforest and a lost city in the neverending wild. Fred is on an airplane directed to Manaus, with him are two brazilian looking kids a boy and a girl,  whose names are Max and Lila, and a anxious looking british girl whose name is Con. Everything is quite normal until the airplane crashes in the Amazon rainforest. The only survivors of the crash are the kids, Fred, Max, Lila and Con. They soon realize that they have to work together to survive in the harsh jungle. During their daring  journey through the amazon they discover a cigar box with a mysterious map inside - that's when the journey really starts. So now the intrepid children follow the map in the cigar box to a lost city during their voyage they encounter a baby sloth who is taken care by the animal loving Lila. The kids soon arrive to the lost city marked by the map after weeks of surviving and hard work. There they cross paths with a intruiging man whom they nickname The Explorer. But the kids are not sure he is entirely willing to help…

I loved this book because of the complexity of the characters and the gripping storyline full of courage and nature. My favourite character in the novel is Fred the intelligent and daring young man, who is very fascinated by the explorers of lost cities and archeologists of old civilaizations. I reccomend this book to fans of M.G. Leonard and all books filled with Kid - Power!

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Explorer by Katherine Rundell 

 

Hannah Gough
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
 
 

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Death and the Penguin is a cool and quirky book by Ukranian writer Andrey Kurkov. It tells the story of an unsuccessful writer called Viktor who is living in Kiev during the post Soviet turmoil in the early 1990s.

His only companion in the quiet and isolated life that he leads is a penguin called Misha who he adopted when the zoo in Kiev could no longer feed and look after all the animals. Misha is clearly living in the wrong environment for a penguin and is seemingly depressed, but potters quietly around the apartment and provides company for lonely Viktor.

Viktor's life changes however when he is hired by a newspaper to write obituaries. He is given files of famous people who are still alive and his job is to create a bank of work that will be readily available should these people die. He is initially pleased to have regular work and a regular income but things quickly become more sinister when the subjects of his obituaries start dying. Misha the penguin is also dragged into this murky situation when it is requested that he attends (for a fee) the funerals and wakes of those that have died.

The book isn't laugh out loud funny and is better described as black comedy; a slightly exaggerated and comic take on the difficulties of navigating the post Soviet world where all the rules and social cohesion that had previously existed have been swept away. Mafia gangs have infiltrated society and life is cheap but the serious subject matter is dealt with in a charming way through the eyes of Viktor, Misha the penguin and the various people he forms friendships and relationships with during the story.

I really enjoyed reading 'Death and the Penguin' and will definitely be seeking out 'Penguin Lost', which is the sequel to Viktor and Misha's story.

Reviewed by Alison Walker

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov  

Hannah Gough