Amongst other bookish things, my plan for this blog is to record and review my reading but, before I get going with all the books lined up for this year, I need to catch up with some of my reading from 2015. So, this post and one or two to follow will briefly record these books with a few words on each. Here goes:
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Stunning art work to go with a stunning book, which tells the story of a murder on board a brilliantly imagined mega-train making its inaugural journey across the Canadian wilderness. It’s packed with heart-racing adventures in, on, between and under the carriages as the train hurtles through the Rockies.
This was my first read of a Canadian author who deserves a big audience this side of the pond. An absolute must-read.
Skellig by David Almond
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this deeply mysterious and moving book?
Skellig is a remarkable work of fiction, one of those special, special books that stays with you and remains in the mind and in the soul. The only consolation having finished it is the prospect that, one day, I will read it again. And again.
The Fire-Eaters by David Almond
After reading Skellig, David Almond has become something of a fascination. He is an extraordinary writer capable of blending the real and the magical in such a way that the real becomes magical and the magical becomes real. That said, I read this with some caution – surely Skellig was a one-off, impossible to match. But The Fire-Eaters comes close. Set amidst the back drop of the Cold War, there is a sense of a tragedy looming throughout the book, not least because of the peculiar fire-eater, McNulty, who fizzes, flashes and burns through this brilliant book.
Millions by Frank Cottrell-Boyce
This is a great story with an immediately engaging plot.
Two boys, Damian and Anthony, find a stash of cash deliberately jettisoned by robbers from a passing train. With the robbers closing in, the boys face an almighty moral dilemma and, should they spend it, only a few days to enjoy their riches before the currency becomes obsolete. That, in itself, makes for a cracking yarn but the story is much more than a thriller.
The characters are many-layered and the plot is carefully thickened by the recent death of the boys’ mother and Damian’s obsessions with patron saints, an obsession which is both poignant and funny. My only regret? I’m late coming to the party and I’ve got to catch up with all his other books!
The Last Wild/The Dark Wild by Piers Torday
These two were read back-to-back in next to no time. Both are great reads for older primary and upwards. The stories rattle along; they are full of dramatic set-pieces and vivid, memorable moments. But there is a serious environmental message underpinning the narrative. The books raise big questions about the nature of man’s (or children’s) relationship with the natural world, as well as the role of corporations in the destruction of the environment. Both books – and The Wild Beyond, the third in the trilogy – should be on every ‘must read’ list.