Book Review of The Left Hand of God

the-left-hand-of-godI’d heard a lot about The Left Hand of God, and had it marked on my to-read list for some time. But I was disappointed with the plot, which wasn’t really epic in scale.

Thomas Cale was raised a Redeemer, a soldier for fanatic religious zealots. He was abused and mistreated from childhood and eventually turns his back on the order when they murder and rape women.

He and his friends make their way to a safe city where he meets and falls for the princess he eventually is sworn to protect.

Cale’s military prowess and the love story dominate the narrative, although interests develops in the very last portion of the text, when the Lord Redeemer most responsible for his mistreatment reveals he is the centre of a prophecy. By forcing the princess to betray him, he lures Cale back to his cause, ultimately leaving the pathway open for more interesting things (hopefully) in subsequent books.

Book Review of Good Me, Bad Me

The premise of Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me is one that intrigues.good me bad me

Annie, now known as Milly in the foster system is the key witness in her mother’s trial.  She was a serial killer of small children and since Annie was a child, she has been groomed to be complicit in these crimes, taught how to manipulate and gain trust.  Taught to make those who oppose her pay.  Taught to please by following in her mother’s footsteps.

Then the boy taken to the ‘playroom’ was one that was known to her.  And Annie decided to go to the police.  Too late to save the ninth and final boy though.

Now as Milly, she must try to begin again.  Fostered by a counsellor, her home is a mixture of care and therapy.  And Milly must decide which version of herself she is going to nurture as her new life begins to take shape.  She must make new friends.  She must hide her identity even though a woman with the same face as hers is on every TV screen and the cover of every newspaper.  She must deal with the bullying of her stepsister.  But how is she to do this when her every instinct tells her to lie and manipulate and make those who oppose her pay?

But if she wants to stay in her new life, with her new family, she cannot show any of these traits.  So which version of herself will win?

A great holiday read – engaging and fast-paced.  The ending disappointed me a little, but this didn’t take away from an absorbing reading experience.

Review of S-Town Podcast

s-townWhen Brian Reed, a broadcaster working with This American Life and the Serial team is contacted by John B. McLemore, a resident of a small town in Alabama (which he calls Shit-Town) his interest is peaked by the suggestion of an investigation of a young wealthy man who claims to have gotten away with murder.

While the investigation leads nowhere, McLemore and Reed begin an unusual friendship – which I suppose any friendship between McLemore and anyone is going to be.  A horologist, inventor, maze-maker and conspiracy theorist, McLemore isn’t your average resident of rural Alabama.

And – SPOILER ALERT – when McLemore dies, it sparks a bitter feud between the parties of his life, and a search for reasons by Reed.

S-Town is that story – how the friendship came about and what Reed learns about McLemore through interviewing his friends, family and the residents of Shit-Town.

While there is no real mystery to solve like in Serial, there are plenty of unanswered questions and multiple stories that don’t add up.  Plenty here to keep you interested.  And what’s even better – the whole 7-part series was released at once.  Binge!

Check out the incredible website as well.

Book Review of White Apples

carroll applesSome books are a door opening. Others are a door closing. I don’t really know which this is yet – but I don’t suppose it matters.  It’s a door.

White Apples was a book recommended by someone with clearly exquisite taste in literature. It is a beautiful Murakami-Esque journey into and beyond death.

Vincent Ettrich, a charming womaniser, was rescued from beyond the veil by his true love – a woman who has left him many times. Why? Because she is carrying his child. And this is no ordinary child – but one who is destined to save the world. But in order to do this, he needs his father to teach him what he learned in purgatory.

Magnificent, gruesome and glorious, this is a book about destiny and how we can choose it. The characters and – strangely – many of their situations felt so familiar to me. It’s been a long time since I have related to something this much – which sounds just about as odd as it was. Hard to put down.

Book Review of The Easy Way Out

I enjoyed the two novels previously published by Australian author Steven Amsterdam, easy way outand The Easy Way Out further demonstrates his ability to work with different styles and different subject matter.

The focus of The Easy Way Out is euthanasia.  Amsterdam imagines a world in which euthanasia has been legalised – subject to stringent review. Evan – our main character – is a nurse who is undertaking his first session assisting a suicide in a hospital. He also has an ill mother at home who lets him know – without much subtlety – that she will be relying on him and not the process when she feels the time has come. Because, let’s face it – everything that can be done legally can also be done illegally without and rules or regulations at all. There is even an underground organisation that you can contact should you want to take your own life in your own way.

While Evan supports the concept of choosing your own death, as the novel unwinds he is faced with a myriad of situations in which he has to question and test that belief.
There are some interesting things here, although this one failed to keep me as engaged as his second novel. Worth a look for the subject matter though.

Book Review of The Bonsai Child

finalcover7-31-15Clinical psychologist Judith Locke is visiting my school next term, so I figured it would be a good idea to read her book.

After doing so, I’d have to suggest it is very good reading for anyone who has, or who works with children.

The Bonsai Child of the title is a child whose growth is hampered by over-parenting – or in the case of teachers, over-reliance on others instead of themselves.

Locke gives really sensible advice on how much help to give in order to raise – or help foster the talents of – young people, in a way that helps them to be self-sufficient and empowered young adults.

It gives concrete strategies to accomplish this, and clear discussions of the ramifications of what happens if you do not take her advice.

Easy to follow and something parents and teachers can easily look back on.

Book Review of Carol Dweck’s Mindset

You’ve no doubt heard about this book, that promises that sudweckmindsetccess is all about our Mindset.

Dweck’s research looks at parenting, coaching, teaching, the workplace and interpersonal relationships and how a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, can lead to a range of improved outcomes.

This is interesting reading – forcing you to observe and perhaps recognise some of the less helpful patterns of thought in yourself and those around you.

The fixed mindset does a couple of things – it makes excuses for why things are not your fault.  It promises you nothing will ever change.  It laments a lack of perfection and will never encourage you to try harder or at least, try things differently. It’s an easy way to move through life – but not one hat promotes growth.

The growth mindset is all about learning.  It values challenge and looks at errors as an opportunity to do better. Sometimes that ‘better’ is ‘even better’ – even champions need a growth mindset to really reach their potential.

As  teacher, it has made me rethink how I frame learning and feedback to my students.  On a personal level, it promotes a much more positive approach to all areas of my life, which will no doubt be useful with the areas that I feel need a bit of work.

Definitely worth a read, for whatever reason it inspires you.