Never Ending by Martyn Bedford, healing after a tragic death

Redd Becker Book Reviews

Martyn Bedford wrote with insight about the difficult recovery of survivors of a loved one’s traumatic death. Although its focus is teens the situations depicted were not limited or constricted to age.

Never Ending by Martyn BedfordNever Ending is a thought provoking depiction of the guilt of survivors of tragedy. There is no redemption, but there may be hope for a future. The characters are well developed. They are people you could know: a relative, a sibling, yourself.

Death touches us all. The human spirit can be vulnerable when we loose our most loved ones. Bedford tackles these issues with honesty, insight and compassion.

The death of Shiv’s brother, Declan, put Shiv in a  mental clinic with other youth going through similar traumas. A third person narrative alternates between incidents in the clinic and picturesque scenes on a vacation in Greece where Shiv’s brother died.

Bedford takes us on a journey of pain and healing, friendships, guilt and loss. It delves into the psychosis of guilt and blame from a number of angles.

My Rating four-stars

Never Ending by Martyn Bedford, healing after a tragic deathNever Ending by Martyn Bedford
Published by Walker Books on January 1st 1970
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 320
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Shiv's best friend, her brother, Declan, is dead. It's been all over the news. Consumed by grief and guilt, she agrees to become an inpatient at the Korsakoff Clinic. There she meets Mikey. Caron. The others. They share a similar torment. And there, subjected to the clinic's unconventional therapy, they must face what they can't bear to see.
Shiv is flooded with flashbacks, nightmares, haunting visions of Declan on their last, fateful family vacation in Greece. And with memories of Nikos, the beautiful young man on the tour boat. It started there, with him, beside the glittering sea... the beginning of the end.

Kindred by Octavia Butler, time-travel to the antebellum south

Redd Becker Book Review

Octavia Butler transports readers on a time-traveling journey full of suspense, while pulling at your emotions with psychological conflict. She bridges science fiction Kindred by Octavia Butlerwith historical fiction in a gripping tale.
Scenes skillfully manipulated my emotions. I didn’t need to be told how to feel, I was there, all the way, cringing along with Dana as she jumped between time periods.

The personal account of a young married women who is transported from our time to the antebellum south during slavery. She experiences the horrors of her ancestors first hand. Scenes evoke emotions rooted at the core of our primal disgust, mistrust and compassion for others.

Octavia Butler’s classic as a Graphic Novel

A graphic novel of Kindred came out 35 years after the book. The updated format opens the door for a new generation of readers to experience the story visually, while dwelling on its social commentary. A review of the graphic novel, written by Charles Pulliam Moore, is on iO9.Gizmodo.

My Rating five-stars

Kindred by Octavia Butler, time-travel to the antebellum southKindred by Octavia E. Butler
Published by Beacon Press on July 20th 1997
Genres: Time Travel, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 264
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Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel of family

Redd Becker Book Review

Raina Telgemeier took to heart the advice that writers should ‘write what you know’. Although listed as fiction, it feels like memoir. 

 It’s a Sisters by Raina Telgemeierportrayal of the archetype of many middle class sisters’ lives in the U.S.. The simplicity of Sisters allows many to relate, but there was nothing new to engage me.  The characters don’t grow much from the beginning to the end, although they resign themselves to their situation at times. 

Telgemeier writes about a family on vacation. The environment is little more than a wire frame to hang the story. The family goes by car from California to visit cousins in Colorado. There’s lots of fighting between siblings and flashbacks of family developmental issues. For me, there isn’t much tension in situations that are so common.

Raina Telgemeier writes what middle graders may feel

Sisters is an easy read that could be enjoyed by a middle grade reader. Especially if they have an older sister. Raina Telgemeier writes many comic/graphic novels for kids, so if you enjoy Sisters a plethora of other similar titles follow. For a fun book trailer of Raina click on this youtube clip. 

My Rating three-stars

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel of familySisters by Raina Telgemeier
Published by GRAPHIX on August 26th 2014
Genres: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
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Three weeks. Two sisters. One car. A True Story
Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years. But when a baby brother enters the picture, and later, when something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

Wanderers (Wasteland #2) by Susan Kim & Laurence Kalavan

Redd Becker Book Review

Susan Kim and Laurence Kalavan created a dystopian adventure in Wanderers, Wasteland #2 that explores the human drive for survival in many forms. Each of us react differently. 

Wanderers, Wasteland #2Although written in third person omniscient, Esther acts as the thread tying the story together. Her ability to be strong and find love leaves you with hope for the future.

Wanderers explores the effects of different types of leadership under adverse circumstances as well as the value various personalities and skills bring to a group. When the teens finally arrive, the big city gives them more than they imagined, but nothing comes without a price.

A virus mutant infected Earth’s water supply and killed most humans. A few children remain scattered across the land. When scavenging at stores dries up, a group of teens leaves their hometown in search of Mundreel, a city where life must be better, although no one’s returned to tell the tale.  

Adventures on the journey test each teen’s resolve. Alliances are created, love won and lost, mistakes made and atrocities played out. Both the innocent and those who act brashly take the consequences.

Wanderers, Wasteland #2 series

I enjoyed Susan Kim and Kalavan’s exploration of human reactions to extreme adversity and can see how it works well in a series, where many character’s stories come to life. GoodReads lists three Wasteland series books: Wasteland, Wanderers and Guardians. One wonders about the authorship when only Susan Kim makes the billing.

My Rating four-stars

Wanderers (Wasteland #2) by Susan Kim & Laurence KalavanWanderers (Wasteland, #2) by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan
Series: Wasteland #2
Published by HarperTeen on March 25th 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Goodreads
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The Emmy Award-nominee and Edgar Award-winning duo bring readers back to the Wasteland in this thrilling sequel.
Karin Slaughter, bestselling author of Criminal, called Wasteland, "A Lord of the Flies for future generations. An irresistible page-turner."
The former citizens of Prin are running out of time. The Source has been destroyed, so food is scarcer than ever. Tensions are rising…and then an earthquake hits.
So Esther and Caleb hit the road, leading a ragtag caravan. Their destination? A mythical city where they hope to find food and shelter - not to mention a way to make it past age nineteen.
On the way, alliances and romances blossom and fracture. Esther must rally to take charge with the help of a blind guide, Aras. He seems unbelievably cruel, but not everything is as it seems in the Wasteland.…
In this sequel to Wasteland, the stakes are even higher for Esther, Caleb, and the rest of their clan. They're pinning all their hopes on the road...but what if it's the most dangerous place of all?


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Redd Becker Book Reviews

The Road by Cormac McCarthy quietly walks in the shoes of a father and son on the death. This story smolders on embers that ignite human’s passion for survival.

The Road by Cormac McCarthyLife couldn’t be bleaker for a father and son on The Road, but Cormac McCarthy (a National Book Award winning author) shows us that love and hope hide with the most dire circumstances. Textured scenes with rich detail put you in the moment. I saw and felt I walked with them.

Earth lays wasted in McCarthy’s dystopian world. The land, stripped of life leave those who survive little to sustain them. Survival is hard, but a father’s drive keeps him going, while he walks south with his son in hope of salvation.

Cormac McCarthy Writes of Familial Love

The Road portrays the depth of familial love. A father and his son head south on a journey to warmer climate in hopes of finding others and a better chance of survival. There is little dialogue, but the book is rich in experience and relationship. The father is conflicted with memories of life before the devastation and his drive to find a safe place for his son to grow up. The son is too young to remember how things were. He’s young enough to want to play, but old enough to understand. The story has a slow quiet movement. Its introspective, but definitely worthy of your time.

My Rating five-stars

The Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
Published by Vintage Books/Random House Inc. (NY) on April 7th 2009
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 287
Source: Goodreads
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A searing, post apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, an when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. they have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food--and each other.
The Road is the profoundly moving story fo a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.


Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Redd Becker Book Review

While you may walk away from the book, Remarkable Creatures is the kind of historical fiction that lives with you. Chevalier makes history accessible. Depictions of life in Lyme, England, in the 1800s set the story. The stark rugged beauty of the beaches carried me back in time.

Remarkable Creatures byMary Anning was a real person. She discovered fossil dinosaur specimens in the 1800s, when Europe believed God created the world six thousand years earlier. Mary’s discoveries impacted that world. The taboos of the times haunted every aspect of Mary’s life, but her older friend, Elizabeth, helped her navigate the rough waters of finance, the upper class and educated men who come to learn, buy and steal from Mary and those Mary loves. Remarkable Creatures is no less about the fossils than friendships, wrought with struggles, endurance and compassion.

Remarkable Creatures, told from Two Points-of-View

Chevalier presents the story from two perspectives, Mary’s and her friend and mentor, Elizabeth Philpot’s. Elizabeth was one of three spinster sisters sent from London to Lyme year round to save family money. Elizabeth scours the beaches for fossils where she befriends Mary Anning, a poor girl with an extraordinary eye for fossil hunting.

My Rating five-stars

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy ChevalierRemarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on August 24th 2009
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Goodreads
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In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.
Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.
Working in an arena dominated by middle-class men, however, Mary finds herself out of step with her working-class background. In danger of being an outcast in her community, she takes solace in an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils.
The strong bond between Mary and Elizabeth sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry and ostracism, as well as the physical dangers of their chosen obsession. It reminds us that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and jealousy.


The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Redd Becker Book Review

In Archived, Victoria Schwab examines some of the ways we deal with our dead, our memories, guilt and trust. It is both dark and fun.

The Archived (The Archived, #1) byVictoria SchwabThe first person perspective pulled me in from the beginning with Mackenzie’s reaction to her grandfather and brother’s death. As an adventurous mystery the story tackles parent issues, moving, new friendships and a budding love interest.

Mackenzie inherits the Keeper duties of her grandfather in the Archive (a special library where each person’s life history is stored when they die). She is tasked with ensuring Histories  don’t wake up and cause havoc. When Histories begin to wake up, causing dangerous situations,  she realizes someone is altering things in the library. If she doesn’t find who and stop them the entire archival library will crumble and release all the Histories. 

Victoria Schwab Taps into our Fascination with Death

Archived is a warped vision answering the question of where we go after we die, but I enjoyed the ride.

My Rating four-stars

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived (The Archived, #1) by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Hyperion on January 22nd 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 321
Source: Goodreads
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Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.