Author: welloflostplots

Book Review of The Fates Divide

fates divideI was a fan of the first book in this series – the one that followed Veronica Roth’s immensely popular Divergent series.

The Fates Divide continues the love story of Cyra and Akos, although this narrative tears them apart – for a while at least.  Now that Cyra has overthrown her brother, there is nothing that forces Akos to stay with her.  Confused and hurt by their responses to this freedom, the pair separate, only to be told that their fates are even more intertwined than they thought.  In fact, a twisted secret at their births ensures the two were destined to meet.

In the background, war is stirring.  While Cyra does not condone the actions and traditions of her people, she cannot see them conquered.  Not can she see them come under the power of Lazmet Noavek – the father she thought long dead.

There is tremendous character development for Cyra in this novel.  Now she is no longer ruled by fear of her family, her true character comes to the forefront.  She finds that she has a lot more to love for that she once thought.  There is also some interesting sub-plotting around Eijeh – the next Oracle who was servant to the Noavek family and questionably loyal to the family that has tried to re-embrace him after his captivity.

I’m not sure why this hasn’t been more popular – I think it’s a well-realised science fiction world with intriguing characters and the promise of more mysteries to unfold. Worth a try.

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Book Review of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

too soon oldThis book was a gift from a friend and a wonderful choice for me.  In it, Gordon Livingstone M.D. writes a series of essays pondering everything from love to thinking and expectations.

Livingstone has an interesting perspective and much of this book was originally published in different formats on an online forum for bereaved parents.  Although Livingstone was there to find solace after the death of his two children – one through illness and another through suicide – his fellow participants found much hope and reason in his writings.  I did too.

The only thing I found myself battering against was his pragmatic statements about the nature of love.  He believes that the idea of true and everlasting love leads us astray.  While I agree that dangerously romanticising the idea of the perfect relationship may in fact be getting in the way of many people’s happiness, I’d like to think there are people out there who can grow and change together in warmth and happiness.  But perhaps I’m just over-romanticising that too.

Well worth a read – and lovely short essays that can be picked up and re-read whenever you need.

Book Review of Everything I Never Told You

Everything+I+Never+Told+You+-+Celeste+NgRecently I read – and loved- Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Burning.  What a wonderful book, full of intriguing characters and situations that keep you interested for the entirety of the narrative.  If you too loved this book, and are looking for a repeat in Everything I Never Told You, you wont find it. It’s a very different book – difficult, challenging and painful to read sometimes.

It starts with a family is crisis. Middle child Lydia has gone missing.  When her body is found in the lake, the police conclude that it is suicide.  Her parents are astonished – isn’t Lydia their smart, pretty girl?  With plenty of friends?  A whole, bright future ahead of her? But her brother is less surprised.. and when he begins to share his memories of Lydia with the reader, we see a family that has been deluding itself for some time.

This is an incredibly sad story – of parents whose expectations became too much for their daughter to bear.  Nit because they didn’t love her – but because they loved her so much they wanted her to have every opportunity that they didn’t.  In this way, they began to play out their own missed opportunities through her.  And her love was so great she did everything she could to be that person they wanted – even hiding her own solitude and growing desperation for freedom. It’s hard to read stories of love gone so wrong, reminding us that even the best of intentions don’t always produce the best of outcomes. But it is a story worth telling – and probably one worth reading.  But outside of the focus on family and family secrets, very different to her other book.

Book Review of Future Directions in Wellbeing

future directions in wellbeingThis is probably the best set of essays I have read in a long time, and a really great contribution to my professional reading this year.

All of these essays are Positive Education focussed, but varied in their approach to this.  Some suggest extensions to existing practices, some look at measurement techniques, character strengths, social media, staff wellbeing, international projects, policy, mindfulness and more.

I get the impression I will be dipping in and out of this a lot, referencing the different studies and using them to inform my own.  The chapters are short and very readable, you could read an essay a day for a month and consider it tremendous PD.

A pricey item, but definitely worth the investment.

Book Review of Transcription

KA transcriptionKate Atkinson is a great writer – and Transcription is a compelling read, even if it doesn’t have the same pull and originality as Life After Life.

Set in World War II, Juliet Armstrong is a young woman recruited into a fairly dull government job – and then recruited into a fairly dull position in MI6, transcribing conversations between British spies and Nazi sympathisers.  Then suddenly she finds herself drawn into that Spies world, acting out her own role and undertaking her own investigations.

After her particular investigation is closed, Juliet notes with some sadness that this part of her life is over… but it appears the spy world is never truly finished with us.  Even 10 years later she is still drawn in… if not by people, then by her own mind.

The shifting time frames make this a particularly interesting read, focussing the reader clearly upon the impact of past on present.  Nothing earth-shattering here, but a good read nonetheless.  I have A God in Ruins on my bedside table as well (this is a review copy), and have shifted it higher up the to-read pile.

Book Review of The Strength Switch

strength switch.jpgWhile this is a parenting book, Lea Waters presents us with some brilliant strategies for working with young people by helping them to get to know and utilise their character strengths.

To me, introducing people to character strengths – something that is entirely positive and empowering – is an exciting opportunity.  I’m doing a lot of work to try to expose the young people I work with to this whole concept.

Waters hypothesizes that not only do character strengths assist young people to know and appreciate what is special about themselves, but they also provide us with a terrific platform for reframing behaviours we would rather not encourage. It also provides us with a different way of having conversations.  Turning on the ‘strength switch’ allows us to be specific about what we admire and want to strengthen in you people and provides us with a vocabulary so that we correct behaviours positively and constructively.

The book is full of specific examples on how the be the kind of parent/ mentor/ teacher/ friend we all want to be.  It’s the book you want to buy everyone you know who spends time with young people.

Book Review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanorThis book wasn’t quite what I expected – although good nonetheless.

Eleanor Oliphant is conservative – both in her appearance and thinking.  She doesn’t engage well with others, and lives on her own with a plant she is reasonably fond of.  She’s also fond of vodka and Tesco’s.  She doesn’t enjoy her job.  She doesn’t have any hobbies or any family with the exception of an absent mother she speaks to weekly on the phone.  Somehow though, the new IT technician at her work – Raymond – manages to make himself a part of her life when they witness an elderly man collapse on the street one day and rush to his assistance.

From here, I was expecting a heart-warming story of a quiet, shy individual finding herself and transforming her life, learning that she can form relationships and have a pathway to  happiness.  And there is plenty of that – and plenty of moments where you marvel at how life can change dramatically in such a short period of time.

But this was actually much more serious that than, delving into the reasons for reclusive Eleanor’s quiet lifestyle and rigid thought patterns.  Eleanor has a tragic backstory that gradually unravels as the narration continues.  This is unusual in a book that has a generally light feel.

The real genius of this fairly engaging novel is not just in the careful portrayal of Eleanor’s journey, but also in the colourful characters she encounters along the way.  The minor characters are beautifully detailed and quirky.  There’s something real in the beauty of this, and in the transcendence of everyday lives.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is getting a lot of attention right now.  It’s definitely not one of the stand-outs of the year for me, but worth a look nonetheless.