Friday 19 February 2021

Where the World Ends
Where the World Ends

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Quill lives on a Scottish island in the St. Kilda archipelago in 1727.  Each summer, he and a group of men and boys is rowed out to one of the sea stacs (rocky outcrops surrounded by water) to harvest birds for food.  It’s difficult, exhausting work.  The boys must sleep inside a cave on the bare rock and endure the cold.  But it’s only for a couple of weeks, so they always manage.

But this time is different – this time, no one returns to collect them.  For some of the boys, the only explanation is that the end of the world has come. Others are aware that there must be a good reason that their families have left them in the middle of the ocean, and they wait patiently to be rescued.

But summer turns into fall and then winter.  Most of the birds leave their little island, and the cold becomes unbearable.  Bird feathers are made into warm blankets, rocks are piled in front of the cave to keep out the wind, and a fishing rod is fashioned to keep them all fed.

The conflicts on the island are many, but Quill, to keep people happy, gives each boy an official title.  Niall becomes Keeper of Faces because he’s able to describe the faces of everyone from home.  Calum becomes Keeper of Music because of his beautiful singing voice.  And Quill, admired by all the little boys, becomes Keeper of Stories because he always has a story that makes everyone feel better.  Despite the many hardships, the boys manage to (mostly) keep the peace.  But how long can they really last out there?  Will they ever get rescued?

This is a great survival story filled with raw emotion.  Scottish terminology used throughout really gives the book a sense of place, and there is even a glossary in case you get confused.  Overall, Where the World Ends is highly recommended!

Thursday 12 December 2019

And Then There Were None

By: Agatha Christie

A mysterious letter arrives in the post inviting eight complete strangers to an island getaway off the Devon coast.  When they arrive, they are greeted by two house staff, but no sign of their mysterious benefactor. That night, when the unlikely party sit for dinner at a table decorated with ten toy soldiers, a record plays a list of indictments for various murders committed by each person in the room.  Shortly thereafter, one party member dies of cyanide poisoning.  When the guests look at the table setting, they notice that one of the ten toy soldiers is missing. 

This was to be but the first of death of many during their stay. A pattern soon emerges as each murder begins to resemble the lyrics of a children’s nursery rhyme posted in each guest’s bedroom: ten little soldiers.  As the guests are picked off one by one, the list of suspects shrinks. With no way on or off the island, it must be one of the members of the party, but who? Alliances are formed, accusations fly, and then there were none. 

This book gives me chills! Having read it several times, including aloud with my family on several occasions, I still get a thrill uncovering the murderer and discovering new little clues and tidbits I had missed in previous readings.  As a long-time lover of Agatha Christie, this book will forever remain my favourite murder mystery. It’s perfectly crafted, there are twists and turns at every stage, the characters are all well developed with full backstories, and all the pieces fit so intricately you can’t help but marvel at the story. It really sets a new standard from the genre and you can see the influences of this book in books written eighty years later.  

If you enjoy murder mysteries of this ilk, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty or Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie are two great examples of books with a large cast of unique characters whose backstories are slowly revealed to give context to the story at hand. 

Monday 7 October 2019

Everything Everything

Everything, Everything
Everything Everything
By Nicola Yoon

Madeleine (Maddy) Wittier has spent all eighteen years of her life in a bubble. She suffers from a rare immune deficiency called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) which prevents her from leaving her house and limits her mother, Pauline, and her nurse, Carla, for company. Madeleine has no complaints about her life, not having known any other form of existence. She attends school online and has Skype classes and tutors, and has read just about every book ever written. 

Her life as she knows changes when a moving truck arrives at the house next door. Madeleine is captivated by Olly, the teen age boy of the family and wants to know all about him. As she watches the family from her bedroom window, she and Olly strike up a friendship over IM and support each other in many ways.When Carla allows Olly to visit Maddy, without her mother's knowledge, things become more intense and Maddy begins to yearn for more than her life in the bubble. 

So, you can guess what happens next, the development of a more intense relationship, the running away, the discovery. But I can't tell you any more about that....*spoilers, but I can tell you it is not what you expect and both Olly and Maddy learn some things about themselves that will change them both. Whether this change is for the best or not, you will have to decide for yourself, once you've read, Everything, Everything there is to read in between these covers.

Monday 15 July 2019

The Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves
The Marrow Thieves
By Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves is a dystopian tale of the not-too-distant future.  Climate change is now wreaking havoc on the coasts, the cities have crumbled, and survivors are struggling to maintain small communities.  The most pronounced effect of these changes is the loss of an important part of our humanity: our dreams.  Indigenous people are the exception; they can still dream, and this ability becomes a sought-after commodity.

At first it seems that Frenchie and his family can make their way in this new world together, but they soon realize they are being hunted.  As Frenchie’s family members disappear one by one, he discovers that the powers that be want to harvest his bone marrow, and that of all Indigenous people, to regain their dreams.  But this “harvest” comes at the price of Indigenous people’s lives.  

Frenchie finds a new family of sorts – a group of people who band together for companionship and survival.  Will they be able to defeat the marrow thieves?  Or will they be on the run forever?

An award-winning must read!

Friday 31 May 2019


By Andy Mulligan

Raphael is fourteen years old and lives in a dump called Behala in an unnamed third-world country. He is certainly not alone.  Many families, including children and teens living on their own, live in abject poverty in many countries, and make their living by finding reusable garbage and selling it.

But when Raphael finds a bag with a wallet inside, his life is completely changed.  He takes the items, hoping they will make some money for him.  Almost immediately the police descend on the dump, questioning residents about this lost bag and offering a big reward.

Raphael does not trust the police to live up to their word.  He and his friend Gardo quickly find a place to hide their stash – with a friend called Rat.  Rat has earned his name because of his bad teeth and because he lives at the bottom of the dump site with all the rats.  No one bothers him there.  

Rat takes the wallet and discovers that there is a note inside, which leads the boys to a locker.  The locker gives them another clue, and the three boys follow it.  Each clue leads to another, but as the mystery drags on, life gets more and more dangerous for these poor boys.  As they begin to realize that the trail they are following will lead to big trouble for some very high-powered officials, they also understand that if the police catch them, they will kill them. 

Trash is a riveting mystery but also a commentary on life in third world countries.  Raphael, Gardo and Rat are living a lifestyle that is unimaginable to most of us in the West.  Andy Mulligan paints a vivid picture of poverty and corruption, which is all-too-familiar in many countries.  If you’re interested in social justice, try reading Trash.