November 23

Don’t Call me Ishmael

This is the funniest book that I have read in a very long time! Kids are always asking me for a funny book, and this is it. Open any page between 1 – 150 and I defy you not to laugh right out loud within a page or two of reading!

There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it straight out. It’s time I faced up to the truth. I’m fourteen years old and I have Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome.
There is no cure.
And so begins the story of Ishmael Leseur’s year 9 survival.

With a name like Ishmael Leseur, you just know that the narrator was bullied since forever. And he has learned to live with it and survive, not confortably, but survive. And then in year 9 a new student James Scobie is introduced to the class, and Ishmael is made his mentor. James is a very different young man, and Ishmael becomes his best friend.

As funny as this book is, there is a very warm, even emotional story hidden between the laughs. Through the year Ishmael learns a lot about life, priorities, and friendship. He comes through year 9 a much stronger person.

Every young adult will find something to enjoy in this book. I highly recommend it to everyone.

November 23

The Line Formation by Pat Flynn

The Line Formation is a sports book, through and through. Young Rugby League talent Ozzie Eaton decides to spend a year overseas after year 12, but instead of backpacking through Europe like many young Australians, Ozzie decides to spend a few months as an exchange student in a Texas High School. In Texas football, American style, is a religion. When young Ozzie gets caught up in the team tryouts, and then selected, the trouble begins. To begin with, he starts using Rugby plays, followed by chatting up the quarterback’s girl. When he gets offered a football scholarship at an American university, he has to die!

I found the book interesting. I’m not a great sports fan, and there is enough explanation in the text to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the games. But it is certainly not great literature. While surfing, I found a set of ‘teacher’s notes’ on the book. I really don’t think that it would stand up to much analysis and deconstruction. The symbolism is pretty superficial, and the characters are very two dimensional.

However, it is a good read for ages 12-16. And the sports fantatic boys might consider it, even if it is ‘thick’.

November 12

Emperor by Steven Baxter.

Yes, it’s true. Lowly Bookworm is now public. And before I get dismissed as a review of children’s books only, I had better put in one of my previously published efforts. This is from Buzz.

I must remember not to read the publisher’s publicity before reading the book for myself. From the promotional material, I imagined a fantasy tale about supernatural powers manipulating humans throughout history for their own devious ends. Recently I finished Sara Douglass’s excellent Troy Game series with just exactly that theme, and I was ready for more.

And what I got was a historical novel. Not that there is anything wrong with historical fiction. It’s just that I was led astray by a publicist and to that I object.

Emperor is set in the mid to late Roman Empire. It begins in 4 BC during the time of Tiberius, and ends with the Saxon invasion of
England. In 4 BC a Celtic woman in the pains of childbirth, starts uttering a prophecy in Latin, a language she has never even heard before. Fortunately, one member of the family in attendance at the birth speaks Latin and records her words. They appear to be a prophecy, but to the farming family, it means nothing.

Like all good prophecies, this one is in obscure verse full of doublespeak and symbolism. There is even an acrostic word puzzle included for a little extra challenge. But eventually, as the events foretold begin to unfold, the descendent of the original recorder begins to make sense of three lines.

It turns out that the prophecy is about three events in early English history, the invasion of England by the Romans under Claudius, the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and the Christianisation of the Empire under
Constantine. Descendents of the Celtic woman and the prophecy recorder play a small but important part in each of these events.

Supernatural powers? I could find nothing but the occasional reference to ‘The Weavers’ almost as though they were a metaphorical reference to whatever powers control human destiny.

But is it a good read? Definitely. I love Roman history. And this book sweeps the reader up in the grand saga of the Roman Empire, even if it is set in
England. The characters are strong, believable and right for their time.

But I was annoyed in the last page when the new prophecy (again during childbirth) was spoken, this time in Saxon. Baxter just identified what was happening and stopped. I for one would love to puzzle on the meaning of the second prophecy before the next book is released.

November 9

Love Cuts by Ian Bone

Another great read from one of my favourite authors. It is wonderful when an author can continually surprise you with the variety of ideas and themes in his many books.Love Cuts is about love, the good, the bad, the awkward, the embarrassment and everything else about this most powerful of human emotions. The story focuses on two sisters and all the relationships around them. Separated parents, step-family, friendship like sisters, babies are included as well as each girls love interest.What I really liked about the books was that fact that none of the ‘loves’ was perfect. One male character was frightened of this new feeling that allowed someone else so much power over him. The parents love for children is sometimes impatient, sometimes smothering. One of the sisters has been hurt by love, and as a result she is angrily lashing out at everyone. Love makes everyone do silly things, which are often regretted later. Love cuts, love hurts, but yet love can also heal.The title and cover of this book may label it as girlie, but don’t be put off. This is a book for every young adult, male and female.