Divergent by Veronica Roth

amy-divergentI borrowed the movie first to watch with my teenaged daughter, a bonding thing, and enjoyed it enough to give the books a go. Divergent is a Young Adult, dystopian series with a kind of silly premise. Everyone belongs to a faction where they emphasise one quality over all the others, and our heroine doesn’t fit just one mold.  The story and language aren’t sophisticated, in fact I think the film did a better job of explaining some aspects, but it is certainly engaging. It was nice to read of a teenaged girl’s struggles being more about right and wrong, who she is and should be, than about which boy to love. I couldn’t have a steady diet of this sort of thing, but I really enjoyed it and will finish the series.

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The summer before the war by Helen Simonson

amy-the-summer-before-the-warA gentle, sweet and moving piece of historical fiction, The Summer Before the War is set in the East Sussex town of Rye. The countryside is beautiful after a peaceful summer when a young woman arrives to teach Latin, just before the world goes to war. It says much about being a woman in the early 1900s, as well as prevailing attitudes about race, class and sexuality, but it is neither moralistic nor pushing a modern agenda. It did drag a little in the first half, and was tied up very quickly in the end, but I did shed a tear for the characters I had come to care for.

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Daughter of Australia by Harmony Verna

cynthia-daughter-of-australiaAustralia can be a harsh land and this story reflects this harshness. Beginning in 1890’s Western Australia we meet the child Leonora who has been left in the desert. Ghan rescues her and she ends up in an orphanage where she meets fellow orphan James. We follow these three people as their lives intersect over the years – each suffering their own hardships. The story is great, if overly descriptive, and evokes early Australia and its landscape well.

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

amy-homegoingHomegoing begins as the story of two sisters from Africa’s Gold Coast. One marries a white slave trader and the other is sold into slavery. It becomes the story of each generation that follows, in America and in Africa; the impact of the past and hope for the future. We experience much of the history of each place through the stories of each generation, which is fascinating, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful.

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Letters and papers from prison by Deitrich Bonhoeffer

amy-bonhoefferThese are letters and papers written while Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison, until he was executed just before the end of the war. There is little about why he was imprisoned, and nothing about his thoughts regarding Hitler or what was happening in Germany. What there is, though, is evidence of his deep thinking; theology, the state of the world, the power of love and friendship and the sure hope found in God. In light of what happened, it is sad to read, but also full of wonderful, hope-filled, theological thinking and strong friendship.

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Colours of gold by Kaye Dobbie

cynthia-colours-of-goldI read this over the weekend, with its great story lines, I just had to finish it. Set in Victoria when paddle steamers were king and also modern day Melbourne, the two stories slowly connect. I love reading books with dual stories and this story had an extra component that made it a little bit different – the man in the black coat who was terrorising through both stories – that kept me reading. Who was he and what did he want?

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The nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

amy-the-nestThe Nest is about four siblings, the youngest about to turn forty, who have spent their adulthood anticipating an inheritance from their father. They each find themselves in terrible financial trouble and just when they are to inherit, one of them does something terrible. I was worried that a book about grown siblings with financial problems would be wearying, that I wouldn’t be able to keep going if a deep hole just kept getting deeper. There were times when the pressure was significant, but the New York setting was great, and the many characters’ lives and secrets were very real and totally compelling.

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Home fires

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This was an enjoyable series about a rural village at the beginning of World War II. It focuses on the women and how war impacted on their lives. The writers must of brainstormed all possible issues for the time period and then decided to write them all into the series. This gives you a diverse bunch of characters facing different problems. I found at the beginning of the series the quick jumping from one character’s story to another annoying, but as the characters grew on me mid-way through the series this did not matter anymore.

The English country village was recreated beautifully for the series and will not disappoint people who love a British historical drama.

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The ivy tree by Mary Stewart

amy-the-ivy-treeThe Ivy Tree is romantic suspense, very light on romance but full of forbidding settings and characters. Next to the ruined great house, the manor farm thrives and three people are set to inherit from the elderly owner, except one has been missing for eight years. Mistaken and assumed identity weaves a very tangled web; who can we trust? Sometimes the web was a little bit too tangled and I got a bit lost, but all in all it was a clever and enjoyable story.

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One minute’s silence by David Metzenthen

one-minutes-silenceThis book is for older kids and adults. The illustrations are amazing and add so much more meaning to the words of the story. One minute’s silence allows you to reflect on war and the ordinary young men who were sent to fight. This is a unique story as it also invites you to think about the Turkish soldiers as well (their faces are drawn just like the Australians – they were no different to us – they were fighting for their homeland). Next time I observe the minute of silence I will be thinking of this book and what it meant for these men who went to war.

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