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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer #33 Raging Star, Moira Young.

The epic conclusion to the Blood Red Road trilogy, and it was worth waiting the weeks I had to wait to read it. We left Saba and co fleeing from Ressurection, New Eden’s HQ-cum-prison. A lot of the gang are dead. They have no idea what to do now except resist in any way they can. The book opens with them daring to blow up a bridge, though it’s seriously bad timing and a lot of people die. Saba loses her nerve. The others begin to think they can’t trust her. Then, Saba has a revelation. They can’t fight DeMalo and his visions with violence. They have to use what he ignores as weakeness – love. In New Eden, families are torn apart. DeMalo is building his world on a weak foundation of broken bonds and fear. Saba decides to use this to bring him down.

Yet, she struggles. She struggles with her passion for DeMalo. She knows him to be evil but can’t resist his attraction and his grand vision for the world. It’s her love for Jack, her family, and the rest of the population – the population not lucky enough to be DeMalo’s ‘Chosen Ones’ – that keeps her in check. She’s determined to fight for freedom and a share of New Eden for everyone, whatever it takes.

I was worried that this book was going to suffer from end-of-trilogy syndrome, like Mockingjay and Allegiant. It’s not my favourite of the trilogy, but it doesn’t feel rushed and the conclusion is a satisfying one. As a YA series, it’s one of the best I’ve read. I highly recommend.

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #32 The Fault In Our Stars, John Green.

I could talk for England about this book. I feel like I have done already. I’ve bought copies for people, lent my copy out to friends, and it is now currently working its way around some of the teenage girls at school. There is a bit in TFIOS about reading a book that fills you with evangelical zeal and you have to get everybody to read it before the world can be put right. That’s how I feel about it.
The basic plotline does not do justice to the epicness of the story. Girl meets boy. Girl has cancer. Boy in remission from cancer. They fall in love. Go. You know it’s going to end badly. You wonder what you’re doing to yourself. But it’s worth it.

Hazel and Augustus are my favourite ever literary characters. The first time I read this book I was in Pret A Manger in Canterbury, having just borrowed it from Canterbury city centre library, and I had to leave the cafĂ© because I was laughing so much. Yes, the cancer hangs over Hazel and Augustus’ heads as an ever-present threat, but they really get how to be young and alive while still remaining genuine and real. Their courage lets up. They have bad days and they’re not afraid to show it. They are just ordinary kids living with a horrible disease. They don’t let it define them.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Oh, and with regards to the film? In my opinion it’s the best book-to-film adaptation I’ve ever seen. The bits they cut out don’t make the film lose out in quality or detract from the story. Read it, watch it. It probably will break your heart, but it’s worthy for that to be okay.

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #31 Sabriel, Garth Nix

Yet another great find, lent to me by the friend who has really good taste in books. Sabriel is the daughter of a necromancer called the Abhorsen, but what is different about this necromancer is that he does not raise the dead. He keeps them beyond the gates of death and stops them from reappearing in the natural world.
Sabriel, whilst at boarding school in Ancelstierre, realises that her father is missing. She knows it can only be something particularly disastrous that has happened to him so she leaves school to cross into the Old Kingdom to try and find him. With the help of a strange, snarky cat called Mogget, and Touchstone, who was trapped as the figurehead of a ship for a few hundred years, they find out what happened to her father. 

This is a great, easy read. I must confess I was put off at first when I discovered that the context of this book was necromancy, having never gone in for anything that dark in terms of themes before, but my misgivings soon gave way to being swept up in the story. I really enjoy the characters, particularly Mogget – his sarcasm and condescension are very entertaining – and it’s a really good, well-paced plot. A really good tale for lovers of fantasy. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

About the Strike

It's 07:32 and I'm sitting in a classroom at my place of work. About ten minutes ago I approached the front gate, in front of which were standing a few teachers. Behind them were placards resting against the bars. I got handed a piece of paper which explained why they were striking.

Reading the piece of paper saddened me. As someone who is married to a teacher and, in my job, supports teachers in a variety of lessons, I can see the strain they are under, and even that word is an understatement.

I am getting really sick of people who say that teaching must be such an easy job - you only have to be in school between 9-3:30, and you have all the holidays on top of that. What right have teachers to complain?

They have a right because the average teacher is now working 60 hours per week, yet their paid hours are perhaps fewer than two thirds of that. As a teacher, you never switch off. There is always more lesson planning to be done, more books to mark, more emails to be answered, more data to track, more more more. And that's besides the teaching - getting a class of nearly thirty students to be engaged and quiet for nearly an hour? I'd like to see the critics try to do that, especially when a lot of students are switched off before they even enter the classroom because they don't like the subject. I'd like to see the critics experience the holidays of a teacher, because they're never just holidays. They are desperate respite times during which teachers try to catch up on every part of their job that is not the actual teaching. I spoke to a teacher who spent six hours of his bank holiday marking non-stop.

Good luck to all the teachers - and every other public sector worker - who are striking today. Let's hope Gove will finally listen, even if that hope is a small one.