To the End of the Land by David Grossman

•November 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a while, and it’s taken me almost 2 months to read it because I wanted to spend time with it only when I had the energy to take in every word.

The story revolves around Ora, a Jewish woman who has lived her life in Israel. The course of her life has been marred by the many violences that Israel has experienced. When her son Ofer volunteers to fight after he has just finished his compulsory army service, Ora decides she can’t bear to hear the news that her son is dead, and leaves for the most remote walking trail – the Trail of Israel. She drags an old lover, Avram, with her on her journey, and speaks to him about her son – remembering all the moments that make him who he is. Of course, the reader feels they know Ofer almost as well as Ora does by the end. Ora and Avram themselves have a very intriguing story with secrets and pain – Avram was tortured by the Egyptians and came back from that war a broken man – and a fascinating love triangle between them and Ora’s husband, Avram’s best friend Illan. Avram is a shiningly creative and wonderful character, truthful and wise beyond his experience, and a joy to read.
‘To the End of the Land’ is not only about war, but about love, in forms not usually reified in popular culture, about selflessness and its costs, and about Ora’s attempt to rediscover the strength of her personality which has been worn down by the petty battles of the men in her family and by the history of violence and fear which they live within.

 

It’s hard to do this book justice in a review, because it’s a masterpiece. It brings to roaring life a country and a conflict which can often be very difficult to understand, through the eyes of men, women and children. It pays the perfect amount of attention to small detail and its structure is often breathtaking. Grossman jumps easefully between Ora and Avram’s teenhood to the trail they walk, to their romance in their late twenties, to Ofer’s childhood and back again. He never misses a stride whether lightening a torture scene with a comic and oh-so-human touch, tackling the nuances of his incredibly realistic characters, or elucidating a mother’s frenetic grief. ‘To the End of the Land’ is stunning and will appeal to readers of Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), and Hirsi Ayaan Ali (Infidel, Nomad & The Caged Virgin). Its prose absolutely sings, and a metaphor here and there will cry out to you to be read aloud. To me this is near perfect

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is the author of Shiver and Linger, which are hugely popular stories about a couple whose love is threatened by his lycanthropy. Lament is not part of that series, but is a stand alone teen novel about a young harpist called Dee, who meets a gorgeous flute player at a recital. He keeps popping up everywhere, and soon they’re flirting with each other. Problem is, that when Luke showed up, so did a creepy freckled guy who keeps leaving four leafed clovers everywhere. And so did her powers of telepathy and telekinesis. Soon Dee is beginning to see fairies, and things start going horribly wrong for her and Luke and for her best friend, and her family too. Luke isn’t what he seems either.

Whilst this is a well-written fantasy, it didn’t have the same appeal to me as Shiver and Linger as there wasn’t the same depth of character and the peripheral characters were not as involving. Having said this, it is aimed at a younger reader, 13+ whereas Shiver and Linger are probably for older readers 15+. This book still packs a punch and once you’re into it, it’s very hard to put down. Especially good for readers who are into celtic mythology, faeries and romance.

Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi
This is an incredible novel set in the future in America’s Gulf Coast region. Nailer is a young boy whose ability to get in and out of the airducts on old broken ships earns him enough to keep him fed and sheltered. He and his crewmates spend all day every day in the claustrophobic ships, ripping out wiring and other bits of ‘salvage’ which they sell to shipping corporations. Nailer is a bit of a dreamer, but also tough enough to survive. It’s when he nearly drowns in an oil pool inside one of the ships that he earns the nickname ‘Lucky Boy’, but he’ll need more than that to stay alive, especially after getting mixed up with a lost ‘swank’, a dogman, and tangling with his amphetamine-addicted father. This is a dark but ultimately redemptive teen novel which explores themes of comradeship, loyalty, class, environmental degredation and environmental justice. Though the concepts of the book are brilliant and create a seamless future world, it is really the characters which make the book what it is. Nailer is a very realistic character who is constantly wrestling with inner conflicts, deciding what kind of a person he wants to be – and he doesn’t have a lot of good influences to help him. Unfortunately the build-up takes too long in this book and there are things in the second half of the book which should have been given a lot more detail – especially some of the fascinating secondary characters. Hopefully there’ll be a sequel to Ship Breaker where some of these things are explored, because I was definitely left wanting more!

Defile your piggy bank today

•August 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
How do I describe how beautiful this book’s prose is? And how entangled are its characters within their own psyches, tripping all over each other like blind things and all trying so hard to understand why this, and why that and taking so long to answer? It’s very hard to describe, because this is a 600page book that speaks volumes about self-sabotage, both accidental and intentional, about different types of love that aren’t often depicted, and of the mind of a youth in 1970s/80s America. Stop reading this review, apologise to your piggy bank as you stick your hand up his wazoo and grab some cash, and READ THIS BOOK!
And if after that you’d like some literary dessert, follow it up as I did with Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Hell, you’ll all be writers in no time and I’ll be out of a job.

Glory Girl by Peter Yeldham is glorious

•August 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is good old fashioned Australian literary fiction, set for the most part in London during the uneasy peace between World Wars I and II. Sarah Carson, a young, headstrong woman comes to London to escape the dull duties of marriage and children in her small town Australian home, and gets caught up in the fast burgeoning world of commercial aviation.
She finds love with a young aviation journalist, our narrator and hero Daniel, whose loyalty she will rely on for the rest of her life. It’s her complicated and ultimately destructive affair with Captain James Harrington that launches her flying career however, as she accompanies him on his attempt from London to Australia. As you can imagine there are exciting and thrilling hitches along the way! It’s the hint at a murder at the very beginning of the book, that creates the suspense around the wonderfully realistic characters.
I really enjoyed this book, it kept me awake late at night, and it felt like Daniel was an old friend chatting about his life.  Should be a hit with the literary folk. It’s out in late September.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

•August 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A strong re-imagining of the little red riding hood story, this teen novel moves like a hungry wolf, and isn’t afraid to throw a bit of good old fashioned gore around. Scarlett (Lett) and Rosie March are attacked by a tattoed wolf-man during their childhood, and their innocence and Scarlett’s eye are ripped away. Knowing what they know about the clans of wolf men, they train to fight the monsters, learning how to lure them with red cloaks (the colour of lust and sex), swaying hips, and high pitched girlish laughs. They grow up learning axe and dagger craft, and dodging child services in the small town of Ellison. When Scarlett’s fighting partner Silas returns from a trip to San Fran, the numbers of wolf-men take a hike, and the three are thrown into a plot that grows thicker than fur.
The plot is fun, the fight scenes are fast and furious, the romance is kept to a bare minimum and Sisters Red is appropriate for age 12+ (which is actually hard to find in this fast-growing world of paranormal romances. This IS one the younger lasses can read as long as they aren’t easily gorrified).
A fun read for a rainy day, much like Shiver & Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, but with less science and more fairy-tale. And the awesome cover is a bonus.

It’s a book you jackass!

•July 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Our new favourite children’s picture book (which is just as appealing to adults) features a monkey trying to explain to a technology-obsessed donkey that his book does not scroll, or link, or blog, or need charging…Hilarious and timely! Check out the awesome book trailer for “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith!

(Due out September)