Are some memories best forgotten??

the memory cageTITLE = the memory cage

AUTHOR  = RUTH EASTHAM

GENRE = WAR, MENTAL HEALTH, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

A powerful and emotional journey awaits the reader in this book. As the cover suggests, young Alex is close to his grandfather and when the novel opens, Alex is worried. His grandfather is becoming increasingly forgetful and putting his own life and that of his family in danger. Alex is worried that his parents will put Grandad in a home. So Alex sets out to create a scrapbook of photos to help Grandad remember his past. But what if there are some things that Grandad doesn’t want to remember? Why does he refuse to talk about the war and his beloved brother who died then? What part could Grandad have played in his death? Whilst he tries to stimulate his Grandad’s memories of war, it seems that Alex is trying to bury his own past. Alex is a Bosnian refugee, a survivor of terrible conflict, who has been adopted into this large, boisterous family. And not all his step-siblings are happy about his adoption.

So Alex has his work cut out for him: trying to avoid his step-brother’s dislike, trying to keep Grandad safe whilst also digging up his mysterious past and all the time, trying to ignore flashbacks from his own war-torn past. Gradually these stories merge together and Grandad, Alex and their entire family, will learn that it is better to face some truths, however, painful rather than live a lie. Memories may bring pain but they need not be a cage. This is an engaging story with many layers for the reader to unravel. There is plenty of action, mystery and high drama as the story unfolds. Readers will learn about the horrors of war (on those involved and those left at home) and the pain of Alzheimer’s disease. However, readers should be warned to have the tissue box handy in the final chapters : although a satisfying ending is provided it is quite a moving one as well, and many readers may find a tissue or two will be needed.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gripping story … unputdownable!!

THE DEAD I KNOWTITLE = THE DEAD I KNOW

AUTHOR = SCOT GARDNER

GENRE = MYSTERY, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

Aaron is an unusual boy – he seldom speaks, he sometimes needs to be reminded about basic social niceties (like saying “please” and “thank you”) and he has just started working at a local funeral parlour. Home life for Aaron is equally odd: he lives in a caravan with Mam, who appears to be his mum but whose dementia means she is the one who needs mothering. To make matters worse, Aaron is a sleepwalker – often waking from his dreadful nightmares to find he has wandered far from home. So the reader is soon fascinated by Aaron and his daily struggles. We watch with sympathy as he tries to navigate the often painful task of dealing with the dead in his new job. But we also begin to wander about those snippets of nightmares that are gradually revealed: clearly Aaron has either seen something truly horrible or he has done something truly horrible… and the novel becomes a real page turner as we race to solve this mystery. A brilliant and moving book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****