Winter reading

Home these last few days and weather is bitter outside. Decided to sit inside and read some books I have had on my bookshelves for a while now.

The first is by an Australian YA author, Tristan Bancks. I often read his blog posts and pass on many of his tips and advice to my students.
The FallThe Fall by Tristan Bancks

This is a nicely plotted crime thriller for middle-years readers, with shades of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Sam Garner, staying at his Dad’s 5th floor apartment whilst recovering from leg surgery, is hampered in his movements because he is on crutches. He has not left the flat since arriving almost a week before. In the middle of the night he is awoken by an argument in the apartment above. Hobbling to the window to hear better, he is further shaken when a body falls past the window onto the ground below. He goes to find his crime-reported dad only to find he is alone. Going back to the window he sees another man below bending over the body. Was it the killer and did he spot Sam? Although very frightened he goes to investigate a little further only to find the body has disappeared.
Sam begins to wonder if what he saw was real until someone breaks in to his Dad’s apartment.
The reader is drawn into the story and is pulled along with Sam as he tries to make sense of what he has seen and what he suspects might be happening. Sam is a realistic character. He has anger issues he has been dealing with and idolises his father, who until now has been absent from his life, and wants to follow in his fathers crime-reporting footstep. He’s no superhero on the surface, instead is scared most of the time but what he endures proves that he has strengths he didn’t know he had. All the characters, including his mum and dad, are believable and you can sympathise with all of them.
Tristan Bancks has created strong characters, recognisable settings and a suspenseful plot that should keep the readers totally engaged to the end.

The second is a biography written as a graphic novel about a long-time favourite Agatha Christie.
Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha ChristieAgatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti

This was fun read. A long-time fan, I read all her books when I was a teenager and occasionally go back to them for some light entertainment and relaxation. It is written as graphic novel which offers a very insightful glimpse into Agatha Christie’s life, ranging from her childhood to her death and covers her mysterious disappearance to Harrogate. It was also an interesting device – using imaginary conversations she had with her most famous characters, Poirot, Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.
Last year I read The Mystery of the Blue Train, and visited her home Greenway in Devon as well. This slim biography is another nice acknowledgement of the amazing writer and woman known as Agatha Christie.

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Book Review: Alan Turing By Jim Eldridge

I have always had a fascination with code breaking and cyphers. I have also been fascinated by the history of Bletchley Park and knew about the life of Alan Turing , well before the movie The Imitation Game. I recently took the opportunity to visit The Bletchley Park Museum, which is still being developed. I  spent a full day enjoying the opportunities that this museum offers and is well worth a visit.

It was with this interest I read the book,  from the Real Lives series, by Jim Eldridge entitled simply Alan Turing. This series looks to offer a great reading option for a number of the boys I work with. They are very accessible stories about interesting real-life figures and written by a range of authors.

My GoodReads review:

Alan Turing (Real Lives)Alan Turing by Jim Eldridge    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jim Eldridge has written a short but interesting biography about Alan Turing, who has become more widely known since the movie “The Imitation Game”. I have enjoyed many books written by Jim Eldridge as he writes about historical people and events in a narrative form that makes history accessible to a broad audience.

Alan Turing was a remarkable man and nowadays is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century and is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Jim Eldridge has written about Turing starting from his schooldays, through his time as a solitary undergraduate at Cambridge, his important and secret wartime work through to the moment of his untimely death from eating an apple laced with cyanide. (There is still debate about the circumstances of his death and quite a few theories about what actually happened.)

Alan Turing had a startling talent as a mathematician and was credited with shortening World War II by years, thanks to his work on the Enigma code. He was an awkward man who did not make friends easily and was gay in a time that made him a criminal and received punishment for it. Jim Eldridge includes it all in this book. He encourages the reader to consider all the factors to better understand the amazing life of Alan Turing, a true British hero.

This is part of a series (Real lives http://bloomsbury.com/uk/series/real-… ) of biographies written for younger readers and there is a broad range of people covered. All the books are short but offer enough information to satisfy young readers with accessible (but not simple) language. They are good books for boys who enjoy “real” stories and reluctant readers.

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