Bookish Things

Fuzzy Mud – Sachar

When I first started at Mount Alvernia College in 2016, I was asked to take over the Readers Cup team. One of the books that year was Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. Since reading it, I have recommended it to countless students and it is rarely on our shelves. I thought it was about time I wrote a review of it.

Synopsis:

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Tamaya and Marshall are family friends. They’ve grown up together because of the close friendship between their mothers. They walk to and from school together every day; in fact, Tamaya is not allowed to walk to school if Marshall is not with her. One day, Marshall tells Tamaya that they are going to walk through the woods out the back of their school – which is out of bounds. Tamaya tags along because she has no other choice, but during the trek through the woods they get separated, and Tamaya is tracked down by the school bully. To escape the bully, she throws a handful of mud into his face and runs away. After a few days, the bully is still missing, and Tamaya has noticed a weird rash that is spreading up her arm. She becomes really worried for the bully takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of where the bully has gotten to, and what’s up with the “fuzzy mud.”

Thoughts:

I loved this book for how easy it is to read, but also for the mystery that is woven throughout it. The story is told from a couple of different perspectives. There’s Tamaya’s, which is the main narrative voice, but occasionally we get flash backs and alternate storylines that tell the story of the fuzzy mud. The scientists that create it and then unknowingly set it free upon the world try to defend their actions, which have essentially released a self-replicating virus upon the world. I also love the exploration into friendship, bullying, and doing the right thing even when it’s not easy.

A super quick read, I’d recommend this to middle years readers after a good mystery with a little bit of science thrown in.

 

Bookish Things

Murder Most Unladylike – Stevens

I read Murder Most Unladylike because we’ve had an increasing number of students in years 7 and 8 asking for “murder mysteries.” I have no real idea as to why these types of stories are becoming popular again, but as an avid reader of Agatha Christie in my early teens, I cannot complain! And so, it was with great pleasure that I realised there is a new range of Middle Reader friendly murder mysteries available, one of which is the A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series by Robin Stevens.28953339

Synopsis:

When Hazel Wong moves from Hong Kong to Deepdean School for Girls in England, she finds it difficult to make friends at first. After a rocky start she soon becomes fast friends with Daisy Wells, a typical English young lady. Due to Daisy’s murder mystery obsession, the two friends start their own Detective Agency. After solving a couple of small crimes, such as lost ties or collecting gossip, Hazel eventually stumbles on their first real crime: their Science Mistress has been murdered and Hazel discovers the body.

The body goes missing shortly after Hazel discovers it and so Hazel and Daisy must race against the clock to collect clues to find out who the murderer is. They know it’s someone on staff, but who?

Thoughts:

I did like this story, but I didn’t love it and I think it’s because I’m not it’s targeted audience. The murder mystery was well thought out though. I didn’t see the “who done it” coming and the way that certain off-hand events tied in was very clever – in this sense it is very Agatha Christie.

Hazel and Daisy of the Detective Society are likeable enough. The mentions of Hazel’s “oriental” background and the way the girls in her form refer to her are very apt for the time the story is set in. However at the same time, Stevens has shown sensitivity towards migrants by using Hazel’s voice as a voice of displeasure over the apparently “harmless” comments made by her peers. Daisy is initially portrayed as the perfect English rose, but her depth of character is explored further when Hazel slowly discovers that Daisy is the smartest girl in school but hides it, she loves to play rough when it comes to sport, and has a fascination with murder.

The setting of an all girls school back in the day (I don’t think the year is ever specified), and the description of the teaching staff set the scene for trouble quite nicely. The explanation of the Masters and Mistresses is slightly one dimensional; we never really get to know the staff that well, but I believe this is largely due to the fact that Hazel, the voice of the story, doesn’t know them well enough to make their personalities clearer. We see them as she sees them: untouchable and infallible.

The narrative of the story is a combination of present and past events. We see the murder unfold as the present, but Hazel adds in tidbits of information about the school and characters are reflective chapters. It’s really very clever. The other notable thing about the way in which this book is written is how Stevens has divided the story into parts. I am a huge fan of this as it gives me tangible goals for reading and I think this will only increase it’s popularity among Middle Readers.

Overall, I think this is a very clever murder mystery that is perfect for Middle Years readers looking for an Agatha Christie style novel. It’s easy to read, the main characters are likeable, and the plot twists are certainly shocking.

Bookish Things

Nyxia – Reintgen

I recently read a book that made me realise just how much I appreciate a really good SciFi, and very real male protagonist: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen. A colleague who doesn’t usually read SciFi recommended this to me and it did not disappoint – so much so that I even went and bought my own copy.

Synopsis:

34946083Ten teenagers from low socio-economic backgrounds are offered a chance of a lifetime from global corporation, Babel; embark on a journey to a new planet called Eden, learn valuable skills along the way, earn more money than most of the richest on Earth… but only if they can beat the other recruits and secure themselves a spot in the top eight.

Emmett is one of those recruits, and he is determined to make it to Eden to save his mother from cancer. He is regularly forced to decide between what is right, and what is easy, often forgetting that a life without his humanity is not worth living no matter how wealthy it is. Emmett has no idea about the challenges he is going to face, but he knows that he is going to do everything he can to be in the top eight and land on Eden.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore this book for quite a few reasons. Firstly, Emmett is so very real. Its not often that I identify with an 18 year old male character, for obvious reasons, but the way that Emmett is written is very clever. You feel his pain, his need, and his drive. You understand what makes him tick and the motivation behind his choices. His ability to be acknowledge the darkness within him and yet fight to be the better man because that’s how his parents raised him, makes you appreciate the pressure that his is under and the manipulative nature of Babel. I just love Emmett.

Secondly, this is such a thrilling read. It was one of those can’t-possibly-put-down-until-finished, read-it-in-one-go reads. The twists, turns and shock values were great. I was worried for Emmett’s sanity, but at no point was I unsure of his fate (clever devices that teen readers wouldn’t normally recognise gave away certain clues for certain events, but I still enjoyed it). Just when you think all is finally well, Reintgen rips the rug out from underneath you with another twist and you can’t help hating Babel.

Lastly, I haven’t read a good SciFi thriller like this in ages. Yes, I love These Broken Stars by Kauffman and Spooner, and yes, I am very much looking forward to Obsidio by Kauffman and Kristoff, BUT, this is a different type of SciFi and it’s been a while. It’s made me realise just how much I love a good SciFi thriller, and how the genre seems to be making a come back with new authors, new ideas, and new stories to love.

Overall, I would recommend Nyxia to anyone from 13 years and up. Yeah, there are a couple of violent scenes but on the whole they are not the most violent I have come across, and they are written in a way that adds to the story rather than just being violence for violences sake (similar to the cleverness of the violence in Hunger Games). If you’re looking for your next great SciFi read, or are interested in trying the genre, I would highly recommend giving this one a go.