Long Lost Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 5th April 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 323
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★  ★  ★ ★ – 5 Stars

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

As soon as I saw this book was being published I put it on my list because I love things about the Titanic and this story sounded incredible. The small decisions and indecisions and multitude of factors that contributed to the Titanic disaster is amazing and this book shows how a series of events outside of the Titanic’s control also contributed to the rescue effort and the aftermath.

Dyer does an absolutely fantastic job placing us there on the night with the SS Californian. We get the perspectives of multiple people on multiple ships, those in charge and those in board and honestly the fictional story Dyer has woven about these people’s lives and their hopes, dreams, and families is incredible. I became invested with these passengers and their experiences, I was there with Stone as he reports what he sees and the doubt, anger and injustices of the events in the time afterwards. The alternating points of view, even if brief, give another sliver of detail and evidence about what happened that night and seeing it play out as you read, when you know the outcome, is actually quite hard because seeing the failures, even in a piece of fiction, is heartbreaking.

I often find myself getting angry when I learn something new about the failures that led to the sinking of Titanic and how much of it was human error as well as natural circumstances. I get angry at those who put class above survival, I get angry at empty lifeboats, I get angry that no one responded in time to the distress signals. This book ignited my passion again and it was fascinating to see a perspective I’d never seen before.

The research Dyer has done is evident and even the fictionalised passengers felt like they came from a real place. They were alive on the page which honestly made reading their story even more heartbreaking because essentially these were real people. These are their stories and the stories of the hundreds of others who perished on that night.

When things get this much attention and you dive deeper into the causes you realise there is more than one person responsible for such a tragedy, but it also makes you realise that if one person had gone a different path, made a different decision, done their job properly, then you realise how close everything came to being completely different and with one different decision hundreds of lives could have been saved.

The exploration of human nature, the flaws, the failings and the clear evidence that when put in a corner humans can often be their own worst selves if it means survival and self-preservation will captivate and anger you as you read. I was fascinated and ashamed and amazed by every page and every moment and Dyer has gone into such detail that I believed and mourned for their characters and their circumstances whether they were on the ship or not.

There is so much more to the story of Titanic and this is another brilliant tale about those on the outside looking in and how it isn’t just those on the Titanic that are responsible, but those around her as well. This story is a fascinating look at the aftermath as well as the night itself in how the press, public and those involved reacted and coped after the fact and the quest for finding justice for the lives lost that night.

Green Lizards vs. Red Rectangles by Steve Antony

Published: 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder Children’s Books
Illustrator: Steve Anthony
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The Green Lizards wanted to defeat the Red Rectangles.

The Red Rectangles wanted to defeat the Green Lizards.

They were at war!

Who will win, the green lizards or the red rectangles?

I love the absolute absurd nonsense that this book contains. I love that there’s no explanation whatsoever, and I love that there’s chaos and a lack of logic everywhere you turn. The battle rages through the pages as the green lizards make ground but then on the next page the red rectangles surge forward. A few solo voices try to speak up but are silenced and the battle rages on.

Anthony never explains why the green lizards and the red rectangles are fighting, but the reasons why are irrelevant as the story is fantastic. The illustrations are great and add another level to the story because Anthony uses the whole page with bright, solid colours but also keeps it minimalistic, and seeing the various distinctions between the myriad of lizards was quite enjoyable.

You really can’t think about it too much because the sentience of the red rectangles raises a few questions but it is a funny and clever story about nonsense battles and how working together can be a lot more rewarding.

You can purchase Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Pages: 504
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy/Short Stories
★   ★  ★  ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Nix has always been a masterful storyteller and these short stories are evidence of that. In a single story that focuses on one moment in time, Nix has the ability to give you an entire understanding of the world with only a few words and in doing so you gain total comprehension of what this world is like and who these characters are.

I loved the diversity and similarities in the stories, and I loved that they captivate you from the first sentence, drawing you in. It is always fantastic to return to the Old Kingdom and the story of the bridge is wonderful, but the short stories are pretty amazing as well. Set across different genres and eras Nix’s voice is through all of them and it’s amazing to see his twists on genre, well-known stories and mythologies.

Across the 18 stories there are vampires, unicorns, spies and legendary kings to name a few, as well as further stories about Nix’s own work. The way Nix mixes together multiple elements and builds them into the new story is incredible and seeing the familiar references or inspiration throughout shows off how clever he can be.

I love everything Nix does and with a collection like this it goes to show that my admiration isn’t unsubstantiated.

You can purchase To Hold the Bridge via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Published: 9th July 2020 (print)/9th July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Children’s Books /HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Pages: 435/12 hrs and 27 mins
Narrator: Elisabeth Hopper
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

I ADORE this book. I love so many of Oseman’s works but this one I fell into and didn’t want to climb out of again.

Georgia is a great character, she has friends, lives her life, has great plans for after high school, but she also has a weird feeling she isn’t like other people. I loved how this is explored naturally and how it comes about organically and not in a way where the character is aware of what they’re feeling or experiencing. Georgia’s cluelessness until put in certain situations or asked by people makes this story wonderful because we go on Georgia’s journey with her instead of coming to it after the fact and have her explain it to us.

Oseman does a wonderful job at explaining what asexuality is and what it feels like in a way that feels natural in the narrative and never becomes overbearing for the reader. It is used as a way of explaining things to readers who may not know about it through the characters but there never felt like there was a moment where the story stopped so we could get The Explanation.

The story got better and better as it went along, there’s Shakespeare and love, a houseplant that is so metaphorical it would make every English teacher ecstatic, and there are teenagers at uni feeling feelings and working out who they are and it’s messy and beautiful and full of the power of friendship and it is also full of love.

Elisabeth Hopper does a superb job as narrator, her voice is fantastic for these characters and I love how there’s an instant connection, I was into this story immediately. Another bonus is Hopper is a genius and can pronounce all the wonderful “asdkfjugfk” moments in text speak and the random noises that are made when you excitedly text. I have typed them, I have read them, but I don’t think I’d heard them being pronounced until now and it was great.

I am only new to reading books that are clearly about asexuality and not just briefly implied but this might be my favourite because it’s a solid story on its own but it is also a wonderful narrative that explores discovering who you are, realising there’s nothing wrong with being different, and finding acceptance and a place in the world.

You can purchase Loveless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Things in the Sea are Touching Me! by Linda Jane Keegan

Published: 1st February 2019
Publisher:
Scholastic
Illustrator: Minky Stapleton
Pages: 30
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Look in the water, Ma!
Golly, oh gee!
Some THING in the sea
is TOUCHING ME!’

You’ll squawk, screech, yelp… and laugh out loud at the surprises for all on this funny-sunny family day at the beach.

When a small child goes to the seaside with her Mum and Ma, she is unprepared for ‘things’ floating in the water. Ma explains what each one is and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

As someone who is not a fan of going in the ocean this book is perfect for me. I will admire the ocean, I will be on top of it, watch things under it, but physically being in it is highly stressful. Enter Keegan and their wonderful book.

Of course this isn’t a story about the stress of the ocean, it’s a fun family day out and the little girl is so keen to jump right in…until something touches her. Her reaction is my reaction. Her fantastic dramatic cries of horror are mine and I adored how Keegan uses this as a hilarious story but also a reassuring, loving, and educational one as well. Stapleton’s illustrations are delightful and the mixture of the beautiful ocean scenes and creatures coincides with the drama from the young girl and her cries of terror.

What was wonderful it took me a long time to realise this had a same sex couple in it. I was so caught up in the story and the drama of the things in the sea that it didn’t register. An honestly that’s how it should be, a non-issue in a book because Mum and Ma are in the story but the story isn’t about them.

The rhyming is fantastic, the repetition is brilliant and I loved the different explanations for all the things in the sea, especially because it’s a lot different than the seas I’m used to going in (when I am forced to go in them at all).

You can purchase Things in the Sea are Touching Me! via the following

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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