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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Book Review: Genesis

Author: Bernard Beckett

Release date: 2009
Genre: Science Fiction
Target audience: YA
Publisher: Quercus

Genesis is a sci-fi tale of survival, philosophy and artificial intelligence. In my mind it is also about compassion and what makes us human.

This is a story set in a future where humanity faced extinction. On the island republic founded by Plato, a small society survived and cut itself off from the rest of the world.

The inner form of this novel is really unusual. It is told largely as a record of an examination. The dialogue is between the main character Anaximander and the examiner. Anaximander is being tested on her knowledge and if she passes, she will enter the Academy. The topic she chooses for the exam is the life of Adam Forde. Through the interview, we learn about Adam, Eve and the fate of humanity. In the pauses between the parts of the exam, we also learn about Anaximander and how she comes to be sitting the examination.

This book was such a quick, gripping read. It was intriguing to be given the back story to Anaximander’s exam in little tiny snippets. I was willing her to do well in the exam even though I didn’t know what would face her on the other side. Beckett creates great tension and the feeling of standing on a precipice as if one wrong move will send you into the abyss. The writing is skilfully done.

The ending was a twisty, surprise. I never saw it coming and that was both thrilling and shocking in equal measures. It is weeks since I finished reading this book and I’m still ever so slightly confused by it all but in a good way. It was a revelation! And for a book with the title Genesis, that seems entirely fitting.

Read Genesis if you like your novels concise, thought-provoking and compelling until the very last page.

Source: Own copy

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book review: Counting by 7s

Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Release date: 1st May 2014
Genre: Contemporary / Realism / Family & Friendship Stories
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Counting by 7s is a bitter-sweet tale of tragedy, perseverance, friendship and hope. It will make you laugh. It will bring a tear to your eye.

Willow Chance was adopted as a young child and flourished with her new parents but sadly at the beginning of the novel, her life is yet again struck by tragedy and she becomes an orphan. She’s intellectually gifted and not everyone understands her. She tries to make sense of the world in her own unique way. Willow observes plants, animals and diseases and conducts studies into their properties. When her parents pass away, her life is turned upside down. Yet Willow is a change-maker. Her presence impacts the lives of those around her and she transforms others even as she tries not to put down roots.

This story is really easy to get into. Willow’s voice rings clear and you can’t help but like her and admire the things she does for others. Sometimes she doesn’t mean even mean to effect change but it happens anyway. That is what is really charming about her.

The story is written in the first person with Willow as the narrator. But rather unusually, we divert from Willow to read the events experienced by other characters like her counsellor Dell, the taxi driver Jairo and her friend’s mum Pattie. An interesting approach and for this book it works well. It allows you can see the plot coming together and want to see the best possible outcome for Willow.

I think the title doesn’t do this book justice. It is quirky but it doesn’t (for me) capture the spirit of the book. It’s a book about growing towards the sun, about doing good in the world and seeing the best in people. The fact that Willow has a habit like ‘counting by 7s’ is almost irrelevant to the heart of the story. Although it is significant to her as she changes through the course of the novel. It doesn’t really communicate the joy that her influence on others brings into the world and to the reader as they enjoy this book. But whatever the title, this is a wonderful, emotive read that sweeps you into Willow’s world and the Gardens of Glenwood.

Counting by 7s is a heartfelt, endearing book. I really enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended.

Source: Borrowed from the school library