Hong Kong – Able Seacat Simon – Lynne Barrett-Lee

seacat simonWhy a booktrail?

1948 – True story of a cat found and smuggled on board HMS Amethyst, all through the eyes of the very cat himself.

Story

Sea cat Simon knows that cats have nine lives and it’s the first thing he remembers his mother telling him. With this heartwarming start, Blackie or Kitty as he is sometimes called remembers his mothers kind words and the kind heart of the humans who take him under their wing and feed him on Stonecutter Island, who takes him on  his ship – George the human who becomes his saviour and experiences life on board a very long journey at sea. With his new human friends and more experiences than anyone could ever hope for, even for a cat wit nine lives, this is a story trough the eyes of a small but very adventurous little kitten.

Place and Setting

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From the shores of Stonecutter island(on the map above) in Hong Kong, a small kitten is found and rescued by a British sailor who smuggles him aboard HMS Amethyst.

Imagine the noise and the chaos from the eyes of a small cat:

“The Quayside is an assault on all my senses”

His world is changed in an instant – from a lonely existence where he doesn’t know what happened to his brothers and sisters, and where fear is his only companion. Now George a sailor offers him a sardine (fish can come in tins don’t you know), and a chance of a new life.

But a cat has to explore and on the ship, this brings new challenges such as judging distances close to so much water, avoiding slippery surfaces, the resident dog and finding the resident mice. But he thinks its rude to wake up his human friend and so cuddles up on the edge of the bed and dreams of moths instead.

“And then the pre-dawn Cacophany, also human in origin that started up long before the sun peeked over the horizon.”

When disaster strikes, Seacat Simon learn about survival in many other ways and about war and chaos. The human world he sees as not being too different to the troubles of cats but the way they deal and struggle is very much the same. His only wish is to abide by the sailing code and the code that sailors see cats as lucky. When the ship arrives in the Yangtse river, history unfolds and we learn of what it means to be in enemy territory on every level.

A very poignant tale of a emotional event in history told in a very clever way.

Booktrail thoughts

If you’ve ever thought what a cat might think and do then this is the book for you. How can you be sure that it likes the name you’ve chosen for it? I’d be careful if I were you as they have a strong opinion on the subject if Simon is anything to go by. Cats keep sailors safe he is told and so as he starts to live life more comfortably on the ship, his confidence grows and he speaks of joining the crew which I found hilarious!

This cat has some attitude and then some! It’s a lovely true story and very inventive to tell I thought the eyes of the cat! Life is all about order and routines he says. The day he describes as his first kill, and the day she meets Peggy the dog…..

This is such a charming read with a serious back story that it really has to be read to be believed and appreciated. The story of the Yangtse river incident is heartbreaking and even more poignant from the eyes of a cat. Oh and the ending! No spoilers here but it’s emotional.

Lynne Barrett Lee evokes the war and the fate of the Amethyst in a way I’ve not seen before and it was a joy yet a heartbreaking one at that to read.

Author info:

Twitter: @LynneBarrettLee

Facebook: /Lynne-Barrett-Lee

Web: lynnebarrett-lee.com

Nagasaki -Susan Southard

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1945 – The story of five teenage survivors from the atomic  bombing of Nagasaki told through each injury, thought, fear and emotion you can imagine

Story

On August 9th, 1945

Barely three days after Hiroshima, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. More than 74000 people died and a further 75000 were injured. The aftermath was just as painful for those who lived through it however since it changed their lives forever. For five teenagers, at the stage of their lives where their entire futures lie unstained and free in front of them, the changes must have been especially hard to bear least of all to try and understand.

How do you move on from something so devastating and evil? How do you learn to live in such a world when you have faced such horrific murder and barely escaped with your life?

When your life has barely begun…

Place and Setting

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What you have read in history books or in history lessons, this book takes you to the heart of one of the most devastating events in human history. Did these people survive in every sense of the word or are they just living with evil?

Nuclear war may have ended global wars but has devastated so many lives in the process and unlike the initial explosion, the effects linger on for many many years and down through many generations.

This books allows you to experience a part of history by talking to those who were there, who felt every shudder, every blast, every consequence of that horrific day.  Susan sits with you and each of these five survivors in turn and gives a full and heartbreaking account of the impact of war.  They even have a name for these people – those who survived are known as hibakusha (“bomb-affected people”) and seem to live through a sense of shame and the stigma of having survived when so many people did not.

What makes this especially interesting is that of course in the Japan of 1946, the freedom of press or even thought was very different to what it is today and what you might imagine. Such a horrific turn of events and no freedom with which to try and get through it and make sense of it as best a teenager can.

Review

There are some books that you read and remember and others that sear each and every word on your heart. This is definitely both but certainly the second.

Now although I love reading history and about real life war situations, I did come to this thinking that I knew about Nagasaki and wondering what I could really learn afresh. We studied this at University and I’ve read and studied many accounts and interviews. Not like this though. The research is impeccable and I just can’t imagine the effort on behalf of the author and the raw emotions which the survivors had to dig deep to recover.

There are pictures dotted throughout this book but to be honest the real horror is between each and every word. It is an honour to spend time with each of these people and to peer inside their minds and hearts.

An intimate and heartbreaking portrayal of one of the most horrific war times acts and a new insight into what the consequences of this single event had on the teenagers of the day.

Can bombs ever be the answer? They end one war but start quite another.

Author info:

http://www.susansouthard.com/

The Day of the Wave – Thailand – Becky Wicks

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Why a booktrail?

A fictional tale of two sixteen year olds who were caught up in the Tsunami of 2004

Story in a nutshell 

Isla and Ben were just sixteen when the Boxing Day tsunami tore through their beach resort in Thailand. They had formed a life changing bond only a few days earlier and were missing presumed dead for a time.

Ten years later and both Isla and Ben, saved yet haunted by that one day of disaster and everything which followed. What would they say to each other if they found each other and again and what would happen to bring both of their lives at a crossroads once more?

Place and setting

Thailand - Bangkok - Khao San Road where the tourist stands are and where Ben and Sonthi see someone from their past Thailand - Khao Lak Where Ben sees translucent tourists every day and where the disaster struck them. Thailand - Khao Lak  - BAng Niang Ben and Sonthi work here at Dream Dive on the beach Thailand  - Phuket They both return here after meeting after so long Thailand  - Phi Phi One of the badly affected areas described in the story
Thailand – Bangkok – Khao San Road
where the tourist stands are and where Ben and Sonthi see someone from their past
Thailand – Khao Lak
Where Ben sees translucent tourists every day and where the disaster struck them.
Thailand – Khao Lak – BAng Niang
Ben and Sonthi work here at Dream Dive on the beach
Thailand – Phuket
They both return here after meeting after so long
Thailand – Phi Phi
One of the badly affected areas described in the story

The setting of the Boxing Day Tsunami must be one of the most vivid yet heartbreaking scenes that is still so firmly etched on everyone’s minds . The magnitude of the earthquake which triggered the tsunami measured some 9.2 on the Richter scale and hit off the western coast of Northern Sumatra. The author mentions that around 14 countries and 5 million people were affected in some way.

Building up a fictional story from such shocking real life events is to bring that event back to life and some scenes are upsetting yet told though the eyes of two sixteen year olds, this is one first and foremost of adventure and first love. But this adventure has soured quickly and bad memories linger. For Isla –

My friends can sympathise and I love them for it, but their idea of Thailand in general is different to mine. they can’t ever imagine the smell of rotting corpses in 35 degree heat….bodies piled upon bodies, the mangled concrete, the twisted tuk tuks.

How do you get over something like that? Do you ever and what happens when you meet the one person who brings all of those memories back and more?

Each one of them has moved on after the tsunami but the effects of that time are both heartbreaking and hopeful –  how its shaped them and how it shaped their young lives in to the people they are today.  Thinking of the water, he remembers. He has built this life back up for himself, this life of diving and sea and sand. But he remembers

She doesn’t know the details, of course: what happened once we were out there

Their stories merge and slowly they learn what the tsunami really destroyed that day.

Bookish musings

This is a poignant story of two young people and how they deal with such a huge tragedy. I remember seeing this on the news and wondering how people coped afterwards and this book really made me think. How one day, can change your life beyond belief and how you cope with it afterwards.How one tiny detail can make you have flashbacks..

This story really hits a nerve as it could be true – people who lost each other that day and years later find each other again – a remarkable story and the way Becky tells it through the eyes of two young people makes it all the more poignant. This is a journey of pain and suffering but also of healing and living life when you have a second chance.