Monday, 24 February 2020

Review: The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

The Light After the War is a gently written story of two best friends, Vera and Edith who find themselves displaced after the tragic events of the Second World War. In 1946 and in their late teens, these two Hungarian women find themselves as refugees in Naples. They have lost everything they loved after a daring escape from a train headed to Auschwitz. What follows is a story that spans from Italy, to Venezuela, to New York to Australia as Vera carves out her career--and finds true love along the way.

Just as the title hints, this one is very light reading. Vera has clearly had a difficult time of it, but her extraordinary childhood (during which she became proficient in several different languages,) helps her to make the most of every situation while she pulls her dear but slightly less responsible best friend Edith along with her. Though they suffer some setbacks, many things came a little too conveniently, or easily, to Vera, which became annoying in places. Ultimately, though, this would be an excellent book to place in the hands of a reluctant reader, particularly one who might otherwise be put off by stories of refugees and survival due to graphic or confronting content. For seasoned readers, it makes for a bit of light escapism.

Random Trivia: This novel was inspired by the author's grandmother, a Holocaust survivor.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The Light After the War.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Sweet Number Puzzle (Clip From the Curiosity Show)

My third and final (for now) clip from the Curiosity Show is this awesome number puzzle. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

The first instalment of American author Katharine McGee's futuristic Thousandth Floor trilogy opens with a young woman falling from an apartment block one thousand floors high. We know nothing of her, apart from the fact that she is young, female, at a party and she deeply regrets speaking with someone only referred to as 'him.' From there, the plot takes a step back in time to two months earlier (but don't worry, this book is set in 2118 so we're still well into the future,) and begins to depict the lives of several teens. There is Avery, a genetically designed beauty, whose combination of wealth, looks and sweet personality mean that she could have anything--except for the boy she truly loves. Her best friend is Leda, a slightly bitter young woman who has been cruelly let down by the boy she loves, and whose anger soon becomes an obsession. The third member of their group is Eris, equally as kind as Avery, but whose life takes a dramatic twist when her parents separate and she finds herself living in greatly reduced circumstances. Then there is Rylin, an impoverished teen whose romance with a rich kid may be her salvation, or her downfall. And finally, there is Watt, whose invention is not only illegal, but is something that could do irreparable harm to a number of people.

A little depressing in places, though thoroughly entertaining, the author kept me guessing right until the end which one of these teens would fall--and who would be responsible. In many ways, this feels like a futuristic, speculative fiction version of something akin to Sweet Valley High with plenty of rich kids, frenemies and gossip--and I love it. Who says that speculative fiction cannot have some light and bubbly moments?

On the whole, this one is an entertaining read, packed with entertaining characters and an absorbing mystery.


Friday, 14 February 2020

Puzzle - Ship Sailing Around Earth (From The Curiousity Show)

Following on from last Friday, I thought that I would share another fun clip from The Curiosity Show. This clip concerns the QE2, and has a problem to be solved for viewers. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone was there. Everyone remembers it differently. That's the premise of Daisy Jones and the Six, a fictional biography of a band who hit the big time in the 1970s and then broke up for reasons that have remained a secret. Until now. 

Written as a series of time-ordered interviews, intended to sound a little like something out of Rolling Stone magazine this one is a light read. 

While it Daisy Jones and the Six certainly had a lot of readers offering up positive reviews since it was released last year, I am sorry to report that I cannot share their enthusiasm. For me, this one was mildly entertaining, but perhaps not as clever or as insightful as I had been led to believe, or, perhaps, I as I had led myself to believe.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Review: Emma by Jane Austen

Emma, Jane's Austen's third novel, shows a slight change of direction for the author. After penning two similar but different tales of young women whose futures depended on them marrying well (and in spite of some surprising odds,) Austen turned her hand to Emma, a story featuring a spoiled and imperfect heroine. 

Emma is beautiful, part of England's upper middle classes and basically born into a life of privilege. She has no need to marry and is determined that she will not--however that does not stop her from trying to matchmake her friend Harriet, who is not quite so well off. Or to be more honest, for Emma to meddle and break up the blossoming romance between Harriet and a local farmer and set her up with the local clergyman, which has disastrous results--something which her good friend Mr Knightly cautioned her against. After this, several months pass in which Emma learns a number of useful life lessons, mostly in not interfering, being a bit nicer to people and getting a comeuppance of sorts when it turns out that two major characters have been secretly engaged the whole time. Fortunately, Mr Knightly is there to balance Emma out and well ... I don't think I'm really giving away terribly many spoilers there.

Although this one contains a bit less romance than Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and a little less humour, Emma is an enjoyable read, though a little slow in places. Most of the drama (and comedy) comes from the author's believable commentary on human nature and what life was like for women in the early nineteenth century. (For example, the character of Jane Fairfax contrasts Emma nicely, a young woman who is born into poverty just as Emma has been born into privilege and whose accomplishments mean that Emma envies her. However, Austen has the good sense to keep the character slightly in the background, meaning that the readers sympathies lie with Emma, who dislikes her for fairly trivial reasons.)

Overall, Emma has become a classic for a good reason and will no doubt continue to be enjoyed by readers for many generations to come.