Book Review of The Prince Boofhead Syndrome

This iboofheads a work read – and a pretty straight-forward one.  Definitely aimed at parents of boys this is Dr Michael Carr-Gregg’s follow up to his book on raising girls, The Princess Bitchface Syndrome.

This is likely to be a supportive read for parents, reinforcing a lot of good common sense ideas, whilst also addressing the sense of entitlement that is unfortunately plaguing our young men.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but a solid straight-forward read with some good advice.

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Book Review of Turtles All the Way Down

turtles.jpgDespite seeming hell-bent on ticking all the major boxes of YA Fiction, John Green still produces moving and heartfelt stories.

In each novel he tackles a topical issue facing young people – in the magnificent The Fault in Our Stars it was cancer.  In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, it was sexuality.  In Turtles All The Way Down, it is mental health and anxiety that he targets.

Aza is far from your typical teenager – obsessing about C Diff and germs that make it almost impossible for her to do normal things like eat lunch in the cafeteria, let alone kiss a boy.  But when Russell Pickett,  the millionaire father of an old camp friend goes missing, the quest for the reward will take her far from her comfort zone.

Together with her generally understanding best friend Daisy, Aza will begin to put the pieces together about Pickett’s disappearance.  However, putting together the pieces of her own story will be more difficult as her anxiety and compulsive behaviour become increasingly difficult to manage.

This started slow but i ended up binging the last hundred pages or so way too late into the night.  And that’s the sign of a pretty good read.  Fans won’t be disappointed.

Book Review of Men Without Women

men without womenAfter a hectic week, it was beautiful to spend a few quiet moment each night with the prose of Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite authors.  Short stories is such a fitting way to experience his odd stories of longing and love.

All of these stories explore – oddly enough – Men Without Women.  Some have loved and lost, others have chosen solitude. Some wonder about what the future brings and one or two are even hopeful.  But all have the emotional depth and clear, crisp lyricism readers have come to expect.  A standout for me was ‘Gregor Samsa in Love’ which imagines the famous character from Kafka reawakening in his old human body which feels soft, alien and vulnerable.  ‘Kino’ touches on the supernatural world that often runs through Murakami’s writing. ‘Scheherezade’ explores the power of storytelling and the capacity of words to create something like love.

Another refined and masterful collection by someone who feels full of quiet but real passion.  This is how I would write if I could.

Book Review of Exit West

UnknownThis is another Man Booker nominee, a slim kind of a volume with plenty to say within its pages.  Mohsin Hamid comments of love, refugees and out culture of fearing the outsider in Exit West.

Nadia and Saeed meet in a country on the brink of disaster.  Although the name of this place is never revealed, it appears to be somewhere in the Middle East.  He is traditionally and she – despite her traditional outerwear – a progressive.  They seem an unlikely couple, but are drawn together during the crumbling of their worlds.

They flee their homeland and cling to each other in various refugee camps – the way to many of which are opened though magical doors that lead you to another part of the world – an odd but fascinating little aspect of this story that Hamid tells in such a commonplace way that you would expect the door to your spare bedroom to lead you to London too.  It leads to an interesting sense of dislocation for the characters – and allows for fascinating depictions of the inhabitants of those lands who are suddenly overrun by refugees.  Hamid has a sharp eye and while it’s clear he condemns those who would reject those who need it a place in their country, in his magical world even these strange intrusions are eventually forgiven and ways forward are found.  And surely if they can, we an ourselves?

A fascinating and thought-provoking read – definitely one for our times.

Book Review of The Ninth Hour

title-9th-hourAlice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is one of those soft, rewarding and well-written novels that doesn’t inspire great excitement, but is worthwhile and fulfilling. It’s real and well, good.

The Ninth Hour starts with a death – the suicide of a young husband who leaves behind a pregnant wife. In Catholic Brooklyn, the wife is left with a stigma of shame and with few supports or resources. Taken in by the nuns, the lives of Annie and her soon-to-be-born daughter are entwined with the nuns of the convent from that point on. Annie works in the laundry and Sally grows up amidst the clothes and the wise words and kind deeds of these remarkable women. She comes to see their calling as a noble one.

But not all lives are as they seem. Annie has a secret – one that will make Sally fear for her immortal soul and question what she will and won’t do when it comes to those she loves. It’s a questioning that challenges her very decision to join the good sisters.

Worth a look if you like this kind of thing. McDermott is obviously a beautiful writer.

Book Review of Release

Unknown-1Patrick Ness can write.  There is a real sensitivity to his stories both in their content and in the way they are written.

That beauty is evident in Release, his latest novel.  However, there is probably more here than needs to be.  There are two parallel storylines – one of Adam Thorne, a young man coming to terms with his sexuality and his romantic feelings for two men.  This is complicated by his religious upbringing; his father is a local pastor focussed on ensuring the family sets some kind of example in the local community.  They have been ignoring the signs of Adam’s sexuality for years.  Fortunately, Adam is surrounded by other friends whose love and support allow him to navigate some of these waters.

The other storyline involves a local girl who dies in tragic circumstances – a girl with a substance abuse problem and a violent boyfriend.  Her body is dumped in the lake where it joins with an ancient spirit to seek out the details of her death.  I’m not really sure of the purpose of this – it’s barely comprehensible and the Adam Thorne storyline is strong enough to stand alone without this.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who has read this, to hear their take on the second storyline.

Book Review of Positive Education: The Geelong Grammar Journey

Oxford_PosEd_coverThis was wonderful work read charting Geelong Grammar’s journey to embed positive education into their curriculum and school ethos. It’s wonderfully done – laid out in a way in which those of us who are interested, could follow their steps and hope for the same kinds of wonderful outcomes.

I’m really inspired by what I read here. It covers details on the PERMA model, character strengths and all the things I would love to embed in my current workplace.

A worthy investment.