With much of the country in various lockdowns, in particular in NSW and Victoria, I was again interested in seeing what our trends were – did readers lean more to books for younger readers or young adult, did they lean towards a certain genre or is there less reading happening due to lockdown fatigue, and the precarious balancing of working from home, learning from home and living in each other’s pockets?
In terms of numbers, we had twelve reviews returned for children and younger readers, with one book reviewed twice, and a lean towards gentle stories that are devoid of COVID or set in fantasy worlds far from the reality so many of us are still living and trying to cope with. We had eight young adult books reviewed, so the numbers are similar there. There was a balance between classics like Looking for Alibrandi, fantasy or time slip, and contemporary fiction this time, and overall, across the two it feels like there is a large focus on new releases, whereas some months we get more older books, and others are a mix.
This month, I’d like to highlight the Maven and Reeve mysteries by A.L. Tait. There are two books out so far, and we have one review for each one. Denise Newton reviewed the first book. The Firestar, who says that Maven and Reeve shine in the novel, with characteristics that complement each other, and her favourite part was the Beech Circle: ‘My favourite revelation in the story is the ‘Beech Circle’ , about which (in the interests of avoiding a spoiler), I won’t say more, other than to agree that every girl and woman needs their own Beech Circle.’
I read and reviewed the second, The Wolf’s Howl, for publication day, and had my review shared by the fabulous A.L. Tait herself! Well, as I said in my review, Maven and Reeve returned with a bang, zest, and gusto as we were thrust into the next mystery. I love that they buck the trends of the world they live in, yet very carefully toe the lines so they still fit in, and can float between everything they do without standing out too much, or without anyone finding out exactly what they are up to. The continuation of the Beech Circle was carried off so well as well. I loved this one from A.L. Tait!
The third book I’m highlighting is another I reviewed – I again read a lot for this audience, as I do it as part of my job as well, so I get through a lot. Deciding on this one was hard, as I know I can’t fit every review into these round-ups, given some months we have up to twenty just for kids and younger readers! I finally decided on The Song of Lewis Carmichael by Sofie Laguna, with its text and illustrations printed in a vibrant blue to reflect the arctic setting, and the chill that oozed from the words, taking us on a grand adventure on a balloon with a bird, where we meet many arctic animals. For me, it was one of those timeless stories, where the setting is one that isn’t cemented by technology, and could take place anywhere.
In the young adult area, we had nine books read and reviewed, with two reviews for Malla Nunn’s Sugar Town Queens. Brenda Telford said Sugar Town Queens was poignant and heartbreaking as it explored a family living in a post-apartheid South Africa, where there were many who simply didn’t adjust to the changes – the inequality is still rife, and on my last visits there, I saw the shanty towns and people looking for work on the side of the streets, which made this book so much more powerful for me – when you’ve seen what that looks like, it stays with you, and almost haunts you. Brenda says that this book brought her to tears on more than one occasion, and it certainly broke my heart as well.
Finally, I’d like to highlight It’s Not You, It’s Me by Gabrielle Williams, which I reviewed. It’s a clever crime/time slip book about fate and what it means to be connected with someone forty years apart – in 1980 and 2020, by a typewriter and a birthday. Trinity and Holly’s story is well-crafted, and one that captured my attention – I wanted to find out what happened to them and how their lives might be altered by what was happening in the book. What I loved was the feeling of freedom in 1980 – no pandemic, no social media – nothing that feels intrusive like it does in 2021, or if there was, it was very different and still had a sense of disconnection, the ability to switch off and take stock of what was going on – though that world is not without its dangers, the way the novel played out was very well done. It is one that I hope to be able to read again.
And now we head off to keep reading for September!