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School’s Out

Hello to my regular subscribers and a very warm welcome to any newbies.

Here in the UK it’s the start of the summer holidays and usually I’m looking forward to it as much as the students I teach. This year however I find myself feeling restless, wanting another project to take on. I’ve been trawling through college courses but am still to settle on the right one. I guess the last 11 weeks spent on my stained and fused glass course has awoken the dormant artist. But top of my list of things to do still remains read read read. Both the balcony and garden are up for the task so it’s down to me to do the rest. That’s if I can get my local library authority to keep all my reservations headed my way in a timely fashion.

Some of you may well be heading into your summer break too and I thought I’d offer up some suggestions for excellent summer reads. My top 3 so far this year are:

Fledgling – Octavia Butler
Sister Mine – Nalo Hopkinson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

My favourite reread of the year has been The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett.

And here’s why I’m recommending these books most heartily.

If you think you’ve read all there is to read about all things vampire then you haven’t read Butler’s version. Written in the first person from the point of view of the central character, the reader is as uncertain of events as she is. As reader and character gain awareness and knowledge the disjointed writing style of the opening chapters slips away and a marvellous fluidity of language takes its place. Butler weaves her magic and forces me to invest in her character’s future. I confess that when I learnt there was no series, that this was it, I was heartily disappointed. In this book Butler takes ideas of communal living and extended families to a whole other level. It gives a new twist on the vampire myth and puts feminism and discrimination at the very centre of the discussion.

Sister Mine
Wow! Hopkinson’s imagination is off the charts impressive. Not since Pratchett have I been so blown away. This book takes Urban Fantasy to a whole other level. Characters sizzle, descriptions are vibrant and jump off the page and the language is poetic yet current. It doesn’t stop there. Family dynamics are authentic with a bit of the fantastic thrown in to remind us this is a work of fantasy. But what a fantasy.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
As central characters go, this one is brittle yet brilliant. Honeyman’s use of 1st person narration is the perfect foil for Eleanor. The understated anguish on the page is outstandingly explored through the character's wit and observational skill. If I have one criticism it is that while the action occurs in Glasgow, I got very little sense of that. This is however a very tiny flaw in an otherwise excellent book.

Finally, no surprise really that Pratchett once more makes it into one of my lists of finest reading material. And why you may be wondering am I yet again rereading this particular Pratchett. Well, here goes…

The Wee Free Men
Fantasy is my go to read when I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps and I can guarantee that a Pratchett will usually cure that ail. But nothing is more curative than the little blue men conjured from Pratchett’s imagination. They are 100% incorrigible and yet ridiculously adorable. From their outrageous outfits to their mannerisms and over the top stereotyped speech – it’s all exactly what any doctor would prescribe.

Add to this Pratchett’s penchant for writing strong female characters at the heart of his narratives. What’s not to love? Tiffany Aching’s journey to her true calling is one every young woman needs to know about. And, to make it even more enticing – there are 3 more books in the series with characters like Mistress Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg just waiting to make their dynamic presence felt even further. And of course, more Wee Free Men. I’m so going there. I hope you do too.


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