This posting is a varied collection of grown-up and children literature books that I read throughout July. The eleven titles are a mixed bag of poetry, essays, memoir. fantasy adventure, graphic text, folktale and fiction – and an iconic classic.
THE RED COURT: Shattered Skies, Volume I, by Matthew Hastie (YA)
This novel was given to me in manuscript edition. It is not yet published but, crossing fingers, it will be released someday so that lovers of fantasy adventures can enjoy this thrilling book. The author is a great storyteller and expertly creates other world characters and plots of good and evil. He cleverly alternates the narratives between chapters featuring 1. Grayson 2. Violet and keeps readers guessing, ‘What happens next?’
Kudos to Matthew Hastie for presenting a wild ride of a book. His ease with language, his invention of contemporary and other worldly characters and his use of sharp dialogue, (and his wit) contribute to mighty fine read. Rick Riordan must be sitting on Hastie’s shoulders (Matthew read all is books) and there is no doubt that the twists and turns of Marvel comics (Matthew is addicted to these) have helped shape the action of The Red Court. Matthew Hastie pours his imagination onto the page and offers readers exciting cinematic events (particularly the many battle scenes), sure to engage readers who love entering a world of doors that transport to other universes, magical deeds, bloody combats, powerful swords, premonitions, dreamscapes, tyrants, elves, dwarves, dragons, minotaurs, evil parents, friendships – and yes, romantic relationships!!!
The Red Court is a remarkable accomplishment!
Here is the back cover synopsis:
When a group of estranged friends reunite five years after the disappearance of one of thei own, they each find themselves on separate paths.
Burdened with guilt, Grayson will stop at nothing to find their lost friend. While Gray finds himself in an otherworldly conflict, Violet and the others uncover a conspiracy that dates back to their towns foundling
As connections form between these two disparate conflicts, it becomes clear that they’re fighting on two sides of the same war. But with their enemies consolidating power, time is running out, and the fate of two worlds hangs in balance.
DISCLAIMER #1: Fantasy Adventure is not my genre of choice. Also, I’m not usually fond of books that are more than 600 pages. But I really enjoyed this one and I was given honoured to be given the chance read it
DISCLAIMER #2: The author of this book is 23 years old. He is my nephew. How proud I am for the mammoth effort Matthew put into writing this debut title. Amazing!
Here is the dedication to the book, (which made me weep!)…
“Dedicated to my Uncle Larry, who never let me stop reading!”
BANNED BOOKS: The World’s Most Controversial Books, Past and Present / DK Penguin Random House
Page by page, this book provides a document of controversial, provocative, and revolutionary literature whose publication has been been curtailed at some point in history. An overview and description of titles that have been is provided in 1-3 pages, with illustration. Some titles include The Canterbury tales, Frankenstein, Ulysses, 1984, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, I Know Why the Caged Bird sings, The Handmaid’s Tale, and more recently The Kite Runner, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism. Fascinating (and frustrating) that so many are banned (the majority of banning occurs in school boards) for obscenities, religion, sexuality, race, politics etc. etc.
“Restricting access to a book serves only to create. best seller, because everyone wants to read a book that is forbidden.” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that write it was a terrific friend of your and you cold call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” (page 18)
Catcher In the Rye is one of my all-time favourite reads and if stuck on a desert island this would certainly be on of my novels of choice to keep me company. I try to read this book every ten years or so and I admire it as much in my 70’s, as I did when I first read it in my 20’s. I think I love it more now. J.D. Salinger’s iconic title is not without harsh critics, but for me Holden Caulfield is a hero who examines his inner world and the world around him with acute scrutiny. Judgemental, vulgar at times, alienated, adventurous, Caulfield is filled with angst, rejecting the superficiality of the ‘phony’ adult world. The book was first published as a novel in 1951 and has been on many lists for best books of the century. Though written for an adult audience, Catcher in the Rye was one of the most popular titles used in schools across North America and ironically one of the most banned/challenged books in school districts (swearing, sexual adventures, drinking, disrespect of adults etc.). Even though it was written 70 years ago, I would say every generation of adolescents can identify and learn from Holden Caulfield’s funny, observant, critical, anxious, uniqueness as he embarks on a two day episodic adventure in New York city. Holden’s dream is to protect youth from the fall of innocence (to catch them in the rye). It is a book that inspires ‘getting into groups and discuss’. There are a multitude of YA novel characters that stand on the shoulders of Holden Caufield and though rich, privileged and white, there is no doubt he is an iconic literary character. I will read this book again. And again.
THE COVID DIARIES: Spoken word poems & visuals by Robert Pomerhn
Released in 2023 (Highest Hurdle Press), this publication, in magazine-sized format provides, a “study to postmodern poetry and contemporary art” according to in a letter written by the author. The majority of this collection features collages in which the juxtaposition of visual images can be considered humourous, strange, mysterious, dark, or filled with pain. These illustrations, after all, represent a diary of a time when the world was confused, fearful, strange, mysterious, dark or filled with pain. Viewers can make of these images what they will just as they might when they read Pomerhn’s spoken word poems about a time when the “silent killer” forced the world to wear masks. The poet conjurs up feelings, confusions and realities of a time when we were “spinning out of control on a carousel”(p.71). Yes, Spoken word poems need to be heard through the ear but reading these poems independently, invites a reader to lift the words off the page and hear the voice of this gifted poet. (“And like the devil / Tempting Jesus / This upper respiratory disease is Free to come and go as it pleases” p. 46). Pomerhn deserves his personal claim that he is an ‘artistic innovator’.
Note: I was also given a copy of LETTERHEAD, Volume #1 (2007) a collection of works by poets from across the United States. One section of this volume of selections from deceased poet Harvey Goldner and visual collage images and rap poems byRobert Pomerhn and a third section includes work by Buffalo Poets. The 131 page volume is an engaging read for poetry lovers of diverse poetry styles with diverse themes with such poem titles as ‘The Revenge of Poets’ by Arnold Skemer; ‘Screamo’ byErin Thomas; ‘Suddenly Death Won’t Kill’ and Saran Wrap’ by Robert Pomerhn.
for further information contact the author: email@example.com
SPARE by Prince Harry
When you tell people that you are reading Spare, they (many) tend to roll their eyes. But Daniel Pennac, author of the Readers Bill of Rights claims that we have ‘the right to not defend our tastes’. Why do feel I need to defend my reading of this autobiography? Why do folks make such strong judgements about Harry’s book without having read it? Why argue with 3 million+ purchases of this book which the Guinness World Book of Records claims was the fastest nonfiction title ever? All that being said, I liked the book. I was intrigued. I respected that the Prince now had the chance to tell his story. Granted, kudos must go to the ghostwriter J. R. Moehringer who listened carefully and then shaped and presented the anecdotes and ‘in-the-head’ thoughts of Prince Harry with clarity. We are definitely given an inside glimpse of the royal family. We absolutely come to recognize that Prince Harry was /is haunted by the death of his mother. We absolutely believe that he is strongly devoted to his wife, Meghan and his children. And there was no doubt (for me) that media and the paps (Paparazzi) haunted the members of the Royal Family and especially interfered with Harry’s happiness. There’s trouble in the Harry’s relationship with father, brother, sister-in-law and many of the Royal staff but this is Harry’s story to tell and I believe his truths and understand why he needed to rebel and remove himself from what was expected of him. Spoiled? Rebellious? Contentious? Brave? Loyal? Get into groups and discuss.
OLD GOD’S TIME by Sebastian Barry
Tom Kettle, a recently retired policeman, has settled into a lean-t0 attached to a castle overlooking the Irish sea. Living alone, seems satisfied to only catch glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a young mother who lives next door. Fond memories of his wife and two children help to pass the days and lift Tom’s soul, until the day two former colleagues tun up hoping that he wil help them solve a decades-old unsolved case. Tom makes the decision to revisit his life as a detective and help solve the mysterious killing of a priest. Old God’s Time is more than a detective story. The ghosts of Tom Kettle’s past haunt him and the dark narratives of child abuse, suicide, and murder unfold in dreamlike memory. Sebastian Barry’s writing is exquisite with crafted sentences, poetic images and disturbing events that stagger the reader*. I found myself reading this novel rather slowly, often pausing to reflect on the protagonist’s mental health and stream of consciousness where things may or not be quite what they seem.. This is the first novel I’ve read by the Irish novelist I’m sure I’ll check out some other of his honoured titles including Days Without End, The Secret Scripture and A Long Long Way.
“The eternal fight of the solar system between night and day was being waged above him, he supposed, and it was dark as dark could be now, night was winning, but still, it was ridiculously early to be abed.” (p. 142)
“Who will read the liturgy of the dead? God posts you your fate, the envelope is opened and the page blank but everything is written there. He supposed that was true.” (p. 191)
“Never entered her mind to tell the truth. That her brain was boiled cabbage with grief.” (p. 234)
THE SKULL by Jon Klassen (folktale)
Award-winning author Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat, The Rock from The Sky) presents his own version of a traditional folktale. Otilla is a runaway girl (we never really know this background story) and when she comes upon a house in the woods she meets up with a Skull and the two become friends. The Skull warns Otilla about a headless skeleton who is desperate to obtain the Skull. This adventurous tale is blends humour, creepiness and friendship to provide an entertaining retelling (told in five parts), accompanied by Klassen’s masterful, rather monochromatic visual interpretations of text. A terrific read aloud and as I read it, I thought of The Skull as a terrific resource for igniting lessons for a range of comprehension strategies.
WELCOME TO ST. HELL: My Trans Teen Adventure by Lewis Hancox (graphic autobiography) YA
In this frank graphic autobiographic, Lewis Hancock tells the story of heartbreaking and often funny, journey as a trans male. We are given a first-hand account of what it means to hate your body and be be confused about what to wear, who to snog and how to convince family and friends about what it means to fight for the truth of your gender identity. This is an honest story, a hopeful one that will bring comfort to many who question who they are and who they need to become. In this book, Lewis has a conversation with his younger self (as Lois) surviving hellish years in high school and college trying to figure out what it means to be ‘normal’. Comic art work is presented in black and white graphic panels. Thank you for sharing your story Lewis.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT WAR IS by Yeva Skalietska (Ages 12+)
This diary by a twelve year old Ukranian girldocuments the horrors that she and her grandmother encountered when the city of Kharkiv was suddenly under attacked. The journal begins on February 24, 2022 and records the journey she and her grandmother from sheltering underground, escaping the Ukraine, passing through Hungary and finally settling in Ireland. Her entries are straightforward tellings of what Skalietska, her neighbours and friends encountered as bombs destroyed her city. Readers learn about the realities of the conflict of the war raging around innocent people. The journal describes long train rides, the experience of in an overcrowded refugee centre as well as the kindness of strangers and the media who helped Yeva and her family forge a new life and dream of returning HOME.
Every knows the word war. But very few people understand what it truly means. You might say that it’s horrible and frightening, but you don’t know the scale of fearit brings. And so, when you suddenly find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. All of your plans are suddenly interrupted by destruction. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is.
UNCLE OF THE YEAR & Other Debatable Triumphs by Andrew Rannells
Andrew Rannells, is a musical theatre star, a television actor and a writer (Too Much is Not Enough). The 20 personal essays in this collection are drawn from his life as a struggling and successful actor, as a sometimes shaky and sometimes successful boyfriend, as a friend, son, and uncle. He is a great storyteller letting readers partake in his experiences attending award-shows, going to many auditions, working with therapists, dating, and going through the process of ‘adulting’. Now at 44 years of age, Rannells tries to make sense of his personal and professional life and reflect on milestones and expectations of what it means to be an adult. Readers are likely to be charmed and entertained by the humour and honesty of this celebrity. He seems to be a guy you’d want for a best friend – and fun uncle!
WHY FATHERS CRY AT NIGHT by Kwame Alexander
This is a memoir presented as a series of love [oems, letters, recipes and remembrances. I am a Kwame Alexander fan and am always eager to buy a new publication by this celebrated Black author of children’s literature. He has received the Caldecott (The Undefeated) and the Newbery awards (The Crossover). (I have a hunch that his new title An American Story is destined for 2023 awards.).He is a poet extraordinaire and with this new book, Alexander presents a non-traditional memoir, sharing the journey of his parents as newlyweds, the ups and downs of his own two marriages, and his relationship with his daughters. He also provides insights into his writing journey. His connection to the poet (and professor) Nikki Giovanni, is a powerful story. This is a multi-genre presentation of the author’s life and it is one filled with an honest, open heart. The book jacket blurb announces that the book defines ‘the whirlwind woes and wonders of love.” In the epilogue to this book, Kwame Alexander informs readers that writing Why Fathers Cry at Night provided him with an artifact that forced hime to have ALL of those hard talks (with father, wife, children). It is obvious that the memoir sparked “difficult and necessary conversations that ultimately make us much better. With our loved ones and with ourselves”. A stellar publication that will be at the top of my list for 2023.
Excerpt: How to Read This Book (p. 10)
Let these humble meditations and musings
carry you close, permanent, abreast – a wave.
Go, raise a toast.
all the words
that hold you
a sea of new ones.
Now trust your heart
and the ocean of sweet possibility