Reading challenge part 4 (16-20).

(Wow…. this lot of 5 took a LONG time. Been crazy busy, with work and fieldwork and uni deadlines and moving).

Dogsbody

Diana Wynne Jones

Category: A book you loved as a child

I can’t quite remember how old I was when I first read Dogsbody. I just know it stuck with me and even though for a time I couldn’t remember the title I could always remember the story of the Dogstar, Sirius, accused of a crime and sentenced to become a dog on Earth. I was at the Lifeline Bookfest a couple of years ago and picked up Dogsbody and instantly recognised it. I bought it for my school library, but didn’t re-read it until this challenge. Re-reading books you loved as a child can be risky… not all books stand up to the test of time. Adult brains work differently to child brains, and sometimes things you loved as a child are better left to memory.

However, Diana Wynne Jones is something of a legend. A fabulous storyteller, with a way of writing compelling narratives for any age. I finished the book and felt that familiar ache from my childhood, so I reckon it withstood the test! 4.5 stars.

Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein

Category: An espionage/spy novel

I wasn’t very excited about this category. It was set as the challenge category for the next meet up (it was this or a book set around a holiday other than Christmas). I don’t, as a rule, love spy novels. I think of James Bond and my feminist brain groans. So I sought out a YA spy novel with a female protagonist. And Code Name Verity looked like the best choice. Well… it’s kind of epistolary, as the spy has already been captured and is, in essence, writing her confession, and also a book with an unreliable narrator, because can you trust what she says? We know she’s been tortured and maybe there is more going on than what is filtered through her words. I don’t want to be spoilery so I won’t write much more, other than to say I loved it. It made me very teary and after I finished I was in a bit of a fugue state for around an hour or so, just processing. It wasn’t perfect, for reasons I can’t go into as it strays into spoiler territory, but it was emotional and compelling and personable. 4.5 stars.

Swarm

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

Category: A book with multiple authors

This one seems to divide people as much as Liar does! I thought Swarm was stronger than Zeroes, maybe because I was already invested in the characters, maybe because the stakes were raised so much higher? It’s a pretty grim YA, and I loved the character development in Scam and Anonymous especially, but I did love the way Mob’s character changed along the way. The ending… sheesh. Cliffhanger much? I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book, though, so I guess you got me :P. 4.5 stars

Proust and the Squid: the story and science of the reading brain

Maryanne Wolf

Category: A book recommended by a librarian

This has taken me a long time to read, but not because it’s bad, it’s actually fascinating! I just keep needing to retreat to fiction because life and my brain ;). The subtitle really encapsulates what the book’s about. Wolf is a scientist and it really shows, the book is tremendously well researched and written. Much more rigorous than a lot of pop science books published these days. The book is divided into three sections: “How the brain learned to read”, “How the brain learns to read over time”, and “When the brain can’t learn to read”. My understanding of reading acquisition has expanded enormously. I used to think reading was something quite naturally acquired… but the amount of effort the brain goes to to create pathways that didn’t exist before is quite phenomenal. It was also a fascinating read as it’s yet more evidence of the quirkiness of my son’s brain. Far from being a natural at speech (Wolf states that humans are hardwired for speech and visual processing but not reading), he seems to use his visual processing (and reading) abilities to learn to speak. The reading (no he’s not reading much but he *is* reading) he does reinforces his language acquisition. I also now have a far better understanding of reading diabilities including dyslexia. While it’s a bit old (2008) it’s well worth a read as the science is sound and I’ve seen recent articles that support statements she makes in this book. 5 stars.

Breaking the Jump: The Secret Story of Parkour’s High-Flying Rebellion

Julie Angel

Category: A book with a subtitle

My interest in this book was piqued by 1) a personal interest in the subject matter 2) being introduced to the author’s photographic and film work and 3) a review. I requested the BCC library purchase a copy of the book and so when I was notified to say it was in it jumped (haha) to the top of my reading pile. I was pretty fascinated by the origins and originators of modern parkour, especially having been to a few classes and heard the safety spiels! Suffice to say the first lot of traceurs trained in ways that are really not recommended these days… I understand there are some diehard parkour fans who hated the book due to the negative light David Belle is portrayed in. I don’t have much to comment on there as I’m pretty new and not obsessive about the history. I don’t tend to elevate people to guru status and I’m super wary of celebrity as it’s clear that humans are involved and humans make things messy. I find the story of the schism sad and I’m really glad parkour has evolved into a community of effort rather than competition. I would have liked a little more discussion of parkour and women, as Katty is mentioned very very briefly but her story as a traceur is sidelined. I am really keen to track down some of those films too! Enjoyed, 4 stars.

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