Reading roundup 31/07/19

So, we have arrived at the last reading post of July already! I am not well today, so this will be a rather basic version of the usual roundup. I finished two books last week, as I was rather distracted with other things, but now have a huge pile of library books, that I chose on Monday, to enjoy.

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

The first book of the week was The Heavens by Sandra Newman. Here is the blurb:

New York, late summer, 2000. A party in a spacious Manhattan apartment, hosted by a wealthy young activist. Dozens of idealistic twenty-somethings have impassioned conversations over takeout dumplings and champagne. The evening shines with the heady optimism of a progressive new millennium. A young man, Ben, meets a young woman, Kate—and they begin to fall in love.

From their first meeting, Ben knows Kate is unworldly and fanciful, so at first he isn’t that concerned when she tells him about the recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In the dream, she’s transported to the past, where she lives a second life as Emilia, the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England.

But for Kate, the dream becomes increasingly real and compelling until it threatens to overwhelm her life. And soon she’s waking from it to find the world changed—pictures on her wall she doesn’t recognize, new buildings in the neighborhood that have sprung up overnight. As she tries to make sense of what’s happening, Ben worries the woman he’s fallen in love with is losing her grip on reality.

I gave the book three stars on the Goodreads site and wrote the following review:

I don’t really know how to categorise this odd book or how to review it adequately. It reminds me of a short story by Ray Bradbury in which a man time travels back to the age of the dinosaurs, accidentally kills a butterfly and, when he returns to his own time, everything has subtly changed. This book has a similar theme, or does it? Is the main character mentally ill instead? The book gripped me in some parts and annoyed me in others. I almost put it down, but decided to finish it in the end. If you like Doctor Who, you may enjoy this book!

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

My second book of the week was another departure from my usual menu of fantasy, science fiction and thrillers. This time the book was set in Australia in the final years of the 19th and early years of the 20th century: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth. This is the blurb:

It is 1885 and the McBride family are trying to survive a crippling drought that is slowly eroding their lives and hopes: their cattle are starved, and the family can no longer purchase the supplies they need on their depleted credit. When the rain finally comes, it’s a miracle. For a moment, the scrubland flourishes and the remote swimming hole fills. Returning home from an afternoon swim, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy McBride discover a scene of heartbreaking carnage: their dogs dead in the yard, their hardworking father and mother shot to death, and their precocious younger sister unconscious and severely bleeding from a wound to her gut. The boys believe the killer is their former Aboriginal stockman, and, desperate to save Mary, they rush her to John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer, who promises to take care of them.

Eager for retribution, the distraught brothers fall sway to Sullivan, who persuades them to join his posse led by the Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power whose sole purpose is the “dispersal” of indigenous Australians to “protect” settler rights. The group is led by the intimidating inspector Edmund Noone, a dangerous and pragmatic officer whose intellect and ruthlessness both fascinates and unnerves the watchful Tommy. Riding for days across the barren outback, the group is determined to find the perpetrators they insist are guilty, for reasons neither of the brothers truly understands. It is a harsh and horrifying journey that will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

This was an excellent and hard-hitting book well-deserving four stars. This is my review:

This book is supremely well written, but I cannot say that I enjoyed reading it as the story is so brutal. It is like American Westerns in that a main part of the plot concerns the horrible treatment of indigenous people and the vile prejudice and racism of white settlers. It is also a coming of age story for the two teenage boys, Billy and Tommy, at the centre of the tale. The landscape of the Australian outback is brilliantly depicted and acts like another character. The reality of what happened to the boys’ family was not a surprise for me as I had already worked it out as was the author’s intention, I am sure. Unlike some other reviewers, I did like the ending despite the slight sense of foreboding.

This is a book well worth reading and an amazing debut.

I haven’t quite decided which book to tackle next, so will leave that discovery until next week!

Until then, Happy Reading to you all and best wishes,


About The Librain

Retired School Librarian
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