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April 28
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

the curious incident of the dog in the night time
 

This book is pure genius. Mark Haddon truly got inside the mind of an autistic child and the need for answers many of us face. I loved how this book contained so many little drawings and inserts, as if it truly was written by a 14 year old boy. In a way even the saddest parts of the novel were enjoyable because they have been portrayed in such a delicate yet detailed manner that you can't help but see the happiness coming at the end. I found myself hoping for Christopher to find out all the answers he wanted but when the plot takes a dramatic turn I really felt for him. Of course like many others I am a sucker for happy endings and yes this story didn’t have a complete fairytale ending, but it still made me smile before closing the cover. I reccommend this to all ages.

Submitted by Sophie

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April 21
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird
 

This is a classic novel and should be read by all, as it is truly touching and inspiring. The novel explores the topics of rape and racism with its setting in the Deep South in America, during the 1930’s. 

Despite dealing with serious and dark topics, Lee is able to inject clever humour and touching moments with real warmth.

Lee also gave us one of the most iconic heroes in literature, Atticus Finch. 

Told through the eyes of a child, it is in many ways a coming of age novel, dealing with the loss of innocence. Our narrator, Scout (Louise Finch) takes us through the events from her point of view. Her and her older brother Jeremy and their father Atticus are the main characters throughout.

Atticus is a lawyer and is called on to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who had been accused of raping a white woman. Despite the backlash from other citizens of the town, Atticus agrees. The descriptions throughout the novel can be hard hitting and difficult to read in the treatment towards Tom, Atticus and even his children. The trial of Tom is tense and this part is particularly difficult to pull yourself away from. 

The novel crosses and discusses many themes and issues. Lee questions good and evil, morality, class, racism and gender roles. The reader will come away with a lot think about and may, like Jeremy, lose his faith in humanity, or be like Scout and retain it, despite what transpires. 

The language and narration are beautiful and seamless, the book has many quotable lines which we can take away from it. One of the most famous being from Atticus, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

The crux of the book is going with your gut, and doing what’s right, and this message can be understood and inspiring in any time period or place.

Submitted by Rachel

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April 20
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner

the draughtsman
 

Ernst Beck is a young man, recently married to Etta. He cannot believe that his beautiful new wife, Etta, whose parents are much wealthier than his own, has chosen him. It is 1944 and the couple live in Erfun, a small German town, which almost feels as though it has escaped the war. Ernst missed conscription while at University and the fighting seems somewhere far distant. In fact, Ernst’s only real problem is that he does have not have a job, and has been unemployed for months, despite training to become a skilled draughtsman.

Then, suddenly, it seems as though his life is taking an upward turn. Ernst finds work at a prestigious engineering firm, which means that Etta can give up her waitressing job and they can pay their outstanding rent. Ernst is a somewhat shy and tentative young man, whose father has drummed into him that he should not push himself forward. So, when he meets the assertive, Hans Klein, Director of Operations, of the ‘Special Ovens’ department, he does not question the fact that so many furnaces and incinerators are required by the SS. Before he realises it, Ernst is visiting camps he was only aware of as frightening names – Buchenwald, Auschwitz. Meanwhile, Etta is not as thrilled at his finding work as he had hoped. As the true nature of his work dawns on him, Ernst has a terrible choice to make: turning a blind eye will keep him and Etta safe, but that’s little comfort if staying silent amounts to collusion in the death of thousands.

This bold and uncompromising work of literary fiction shines a light on the complex contradictions of human nature and examines how deeply complicit we can become in the face of fear.

Submitted by Pete

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April 19
Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal

eyes like mine
 

Featuring such an usual character as Nora, this story is both captivating and disturbing at the same time. Her back story, as it gradually emerges, explains why she is the way she is, how her life imploded after a violent attack and rape which resulted in an unwanted baby. The child was adopted and the adoptive parents make contact with Nora as the child, now a teenager, has disappeared.

Despite appearances, Nora is bright and good at her job working with lawyers and ferreting out information...she uses her skills to find out what has happened to her estranged daughter and finds herself in an unsavoury conspiracy, struggling to survive herself. 

I found this a good read though at times it seemed overly complicated, involving alcoholism, a crooked mining business, harvesting of umbilical blood and organs, as well as a mix of government  agencies who seemed to be working against each other. It was confusing, but Nora's voice was strong and the character well defined. She has few meaningful relationships, probably as a result of her past, apart from a touching friendship with a stray dog called Whisper, who she adopts and who plays a big part in keeping her grounded and sane. I anticipate more stories featuring Nora but hope for a bit more clarity and focus next time, with the emphasis on the main plot and less on the other elements. But on the whole an entertaining read.

Submitted by Jillian

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April 19
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

good me bad me
 

Millie tells us her story, how she has come to be fostered by her psychiatrist and his family, how she told the authorities about her abusive, child abducting, murdering mother, who has forced her to participate in torture and abuse that is never described but frequently alluded to. The trial is approaching and she is being counselled in preparation for the trauma of reliving the horror she has witnessed as an innocent bystander.

She comes across to us, the reader, as a sincere victim, who has been exposed to much more than any young teenager should. She seems misunderstood and underestimated by her foster family, and demonstrates a level of manipulation that eventually begins to ring alarm bells though we are not quite sure why........until the end, which I won’t spoil for you, but which warranted a swift second reading to make sure i had read correctly!

Well written, from the girl’s perspective, we need to keep in mind her upbringing and her parental role model to understand who she is and why she is that way. Enthralling and engaging, I defy anyone not to finish it.

This fresh voice, from a prospectively interesting though menacing character could easily be developed through further novels.....I look forward to reading them.

Submitted by Jillian

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April 19
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hagseed
 

Felix is the artistic director of the Makeshiwig Theater Festival and a theatrical visionary whose outlandish re-imaginings of Shakespeare's plays have both baffled and awed critics. On the cusp of staging The Tempest, a play Felix intends to make his greatest work yet, an act of unforeseen treachery relieves him of his position and strips him of professional dignity. Twelve years later, after a need to avenge himself has metastasized in Felix's heart, revenge arrives in the form of a teaching position at a nearby prison, Fletcher County Correctional Institute, where Felix will at last stage The Tempest and ensnare the traitorous men who were the cause of his ruin. 

What Atwood has accomplished here is original, humorous, magical and absolutely delightful.

Submitted by Pete

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April 13
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

child 44
 

This is the first novel in the trilogy featuring Leo Demidov, an MGB agent in the Soviet Union, during the time of Stalin. This excellent first entry introduces us to an exciting and tense trilogy.

Set in the Soviet Union recently after the death of Joseph Stalin, there is the constant air of paranoia from unseen threats all around. We are taken along with Leo and his wife as they try to solve the gruesome murders of children, while on the run from Leo’s former comrades in the MGB. This is in many ways a gripping detective story, with many extra layers which add further flavour to the narrative.

Due to the nature of the Soviet Union in where, ‘there is no crime’, the secret police are not equipped to handle a serial killer, and choose not to, despite the evidence. The story is meant to have been based on the real life serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who killed over 50 people during the 1970’s and 80’s. This gives it a more intense reading, given this information. 

Our protagonist is not a glamorous detective or spy, he is not a James Bond-like hero, and this makes him real and endearing. He comes from the world of this secret police, who, in many way ignore the very real threat of a murderer on the loose. He is drawn into this situation, along with his wife. 

It is hard not to be infuriated by the actions and inaction of the police and government, leaving us to root for the underdogs desperately trying to stop more horrific murders from happening.

There is a huge twist which left me on the edge of my seat. This story and the characters are gripping and relatable, despite some of their actions.

It is no surprise this novel won many awards and was recently made into a Hollywood movie.

Submitted by Rachel

Available as a book, spoken word CD and mp3 playway

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April 13
The Humans by Matt Haig

the humans
 

In 'The Humans', our story begins where another ends. Professor Andrew Martin's story, to be exact. Or at least the real Professor Andrew Martin. After solving a complex mathematical problem that could change the world, the professor is quickly disposed of by an intelligent race of aliens who believed he knew too much. In his place, they send one of their own, whose mission it is to destroy all evidence of this quantum leap of a breakthrough for the human race before it comes to light. The alien takes the form of the late professor and must attempt to blend in with the locals and try to understand strange concepts such as having a protruding nose and wearing clothes, which results in many comical, absurd situations.

Humans are the enemies. That much is clear. The alien race keep in contact with their agent on Earth, stressing this point and warning the undercover alien not to let anything sway them or sabotage the mission. Unfortunately for them, over time, the Andrew Martin impostor unintentionally finds himself drawn to the real Andrew Martin’s wife, teenage son, and family dog and begins to experience something so powerful it could throw off the mission completely. The human condition.

Bizarrely enough, through the eyes of the alien protagonist in this book, I have learned more about what it means to be human than I have from any other book I have read. It delves into psychology and philosophy, love and death, and everything else in between. It's very relatable,  with quite a few moments that will leave you teary-eyed. Similar to Matt Haig's autobiographical book, “Reasons to Stay Alive”, this novel is heavily inspired by mental illness and what it's like to view the world around you as bewildering and alien, as much as you try to just be “normal”. A brilliant book for any mature reader who has ever felt a bit lost or alone. Pay particular attention to the list towards the end of the book entitled “Advice for a Human”. The list, along with the rest of this marvellous story will stay with you for a long time.

Submitted by Natasha

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April 13
One Man's Flag by David Downing

one man's flag
 

One Man’s Flag is set at the start of World War 1 and follows the early development of the British Secret Service with Secret Agent Jack McColl. This is the second of Downing’s Jack McColl novels. 

Jack had previously been a part time spy whilst travelling the world as a British luxury car salesman. Due to his linguistic skills and patriotism he had been offered, and accepted, the chance of becoming a fulltime spy, at the inception of the Secret Service just as the First World War breaks out.

This book can best be described as historical spy fiction. The book sends McColl to India and Ireland during their fight for independence, and behind enemy lines in the Great War. He encounters many of the prominent figures in India and Ireland’s fight for independence. In addition, through his estranged lover Caitlin Hanley, whose life he seems far from, a feminist and socialist who supports Irish independence, the novel tackles the changing social order in the British empire. 

This is, however, foremost, a spy novel following Jack McColl, an old fashioned hero, into many a dangerous situation where he escapes with his life by the skin of his teeth, more often by luck rather than design. The encounters with nationalism and socialism adds context to the action he is involved in.

Submitted by Margaret

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April 13
Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers

mary poppins
 

Like many people, as a kid I watched Mary Poppins on TV starring Julie Andrews which is a lovely movie, but I did not realise it was also a book until Christmas two years ago when I was bought the complete collection of Mary Poppins – there are in fact eight books in total, I didn’t realise there were that many. I am in the process of reading them all.

The first book is called Mary Poppins and was published in 1934 and is the basis of the movie. The book introduced the Banks family – (Mr & Mrs Banks and their children Jane, Michael and the twins Barbara and John) and of course we are introduced to Mary Poppins – the magical Nanny.

Mary Poppins is a strict but fair Nanny but can be fun as well especially when she takes Michael and Jane on adventures like going to Uncle Bert’s for Tea and ending up on the ceiling, or talking to the animals, or putting stars back into the sky.

Michael and Jane find Mary Poppins mysterious and are at times unsure how she makes things happen – like going to the Zoo in the middle of the night, when they were meant to be in bed, and being led around the Zoo by talking animals, but they have learned not to ask too many questions because they will get no answers. 

The basis of the movie is taken from this book but there are many differences and other stories in the book which are not in the movie. It is a lovely book, a great story and P.L.Travers characters are all different yet engaging.  

Mary Poppins is written for children but I think it is a book for all ages.

Submitted by Jo Anne

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