Book Binge – The List!

book bingeI had this all planned at the start of May, but looking back I haven’t read any of the books I originally intended to read! Ah well, there’s always next month…

Anyway, these are the ones that I did read:

Firstly I read five out of the six books that have been shortlisted for the 2008 Sheffield Children’s Book Award:

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
A mother and daughter communicate via notes on their refrigerator door. An unusual way to tell a story, but very effective.

Teacher’s Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah
A witness to a brutal murder sets out to discover what drove the killers to behave as they did

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine
The chance discovery of an urn containing Violet Park’s ashes in a mini cab office starts teenager Lucas on a series of discoveries.

Life as we knew it by Susan Pfeffer
An apocalyptic vision of life after an asteroid collision with the moon. The story focuses on one family’s struggle for everyday survival.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham
A teenager with terminal leukemia tries to enjoy a list of things that she wants to do in her final months.

(I’m waiting for the final book, Alis, by Naomi Rich, to be returned to the library.)

I’ve enjoyed both reading these books and talking to my students about them. Some of them seem a little surprised that a maths teacher reads for fun! Obviously I am expected to fill my spare time with algebra and arithmetic.

Then it was time for something different:

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s blog for some time, so I though reading one of his books was well overdue. Old Man’s War is the story of John Perry, who enlists in the Colonial Defence Force, an army defending humankind against hostile aliens on colonised planets. I really enjoyed this, the next book is on order already.

Us by Richard Mason (not that Richard Mason, this Richard Mason)
A few years ago I read a novel called The Drowning People. I fell in love with it (despite one slightly melodramatic moment in the plot) and went in search of more novels by the same author. There weren’t any – I was amazed to discover that this was Richard Mason’s debut and that he was only 20 years old. (At which point I immediately forgave him for the moment of unnecessary melodrama.)
An article in a weekend supplement alerted me to the fact that he had a new book out – and that this one had slipped under my radar.
Us tells the story of Julian, Jake and Adrienne. The story moves effortlessly between the three characters in the present day and back to the time when they met as students at Oxford. Like The Drowning People, this novel tells us what happened very early on, but the how and why are only revealed very gradually. Having read the article about Richard Mason just before I read this book, I found myself wondering how much of this was autobiographical.
I enjoyed this, as I expected to, although I found a few scenes broke the spell somewhat – Richard Mason is not that good at writing sex scenes!

The Lighted Rooms by Richard Mason
The title comes from a Philip Larkin quotation; “being old is having lighted rooms inside your head, and people in them, acting.” The book tells us the story of a mother and daughter who take a holiday in South Africa, where their family came from, before the mother goes to live in an old people’s home.
This had its moments, but I have to say I was disappointed. Some parts of the book were vivid and powerful – the descriptions of the concentration camps in the Boer War were particularly moving – but overall I wasn’t that impressed. I ploughed on through the first few chapters, reminding myself how much I like this author… I got to the end, but I’m not sure it was worth it.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
I’m still reading this one, but so far it’s excellent.

1 comment to Book Binge – The List!

  • Hello! I’m dropping in to all the bingers, seeking titles for my to-read list. I think I will try “Us”, simply because the author is so YOUNG to have written a book with any merit at all. (I have children that age! I’m very curious.)

    One of my stepkids was reading “Before I Die” only last week. She loved it.