Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Outlander

Author: Gil Adamson Publication Date: 2007 Category: Startling transformation of the classsic western narrative. Who'll want to read it? Readers who enjoy a haunting tale about passionate crime and retribution, precarious survival, redemption and love. A story of one young woman's deliberate journey deep into the icy wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Along her journey she encounters a handful of odd and eccentric individuals who like her are outcasts surviving against the odds in the harsh frontiers of America but who also offer her kindness, which gives her hope.
'A remarkable first novel, full of verve, beautifully written, and with all the panache of a great adventure' MICHAEL ONDAATJE
Point of no return: "Nineteen years old and already a widow. Mary Boulton. Widowed by her own hand.".pg 4
" The girl stood in a ditch under a hard , small moon. Pale foam rose from where her shoes sank into the mud. No more voices inside her head, no noise but these dogs. She saw her own course along the ground as a trail of bright light, now doused in the ditchwater. She clamboured up the bank and onto the road, her stiff funeral skirt made of breadspread and curtain, her hair wild and falling in dark robes about her face. The widow gathered up her shawl and fled witchlike down the empty road." p 4
Classic Opening Verse:
Now goes the sun under the wood,
I pity, Mary, thy fair face.
Now goes the sun under the tree,
I pity, Mary, thy son and thee.
What's it all about? A young woman referred to as the widow who we later find out is called Mary is being pursued in the night by two vengeful brothers and a pack of dogs. The brothers are tracking her like prey in retaliation for killing their kin. The widow is also suffering the recent loss of her son which fuels her delirium which runs in the recesses of her mind. Glimpses into her past reveal her unhappy marriage, absent and sick parents and her repression by an over bearing grandmother. The widows wintery and intense journey is aided by rogues who help her with food, shelter and safe passage.
This story speaks to the resilence of the female spirit in the early part of the last century. The wild womyn who need to find a way out and seek their own liberation, no matter what it takes.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mystery Man

Author: Bateman... Colin Bateman Publication Date: 2009 Category: Mystery, humour etc etc etc Who'll want to read it? People who need a good laugh Point of no return: Having read the follow-up (The Day of the Jack Russell) a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't wait to go back and read this. I tried to wait a couple of months to have some distance, but reading Colin Bateman is like eating chocolate - if there is one around, you can't resist it. Which is how I ended up reading the follow-up first. Classic line: "It was serial killer week in No Alibis, and thus far the Chianti was proving way more popular than the fava beans." pg 23 "I have made a lifelong study of crime fiction. I have read all of the great works, and most of the middling ones, and many of the minor ones, and a lot of trash besides. There is virtually nothing about the solving of fictional crimes that I do not know, and what are fictional crimes but factual crimes with hats on?" pg 376 What's it all about? "Mystery Man" runs a crime fiction bookshop in Belfast called No Alibis. He is a massive hypochondriac with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or possibly, an obsessive-compulsive with massive hypochondria. Yet he somehow manages to attract the attentions of the very pretty young lady working in the jewellery shop across the road. He inadvertently becomes a Private Eye which leads on to all sorts of dangerous, yet frequently hilarious consequences for himself and his new side-kick Alison. I really loved this book and would have to say it is my new favourite Bateman book. It seems to be part tribute to crime fiction and part spoof. Everyone should enjoy the Agatha Christie style denouement towards the end. All in all it was a fabulous read and one I really couldn't put down no matter how tired I was - it landed on my face as I fell asleep many times. Publisher: Headline Publishing Group

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Disciples

Author: James Mollison Publication Date: 2008 Category: Coffee table book, adult non-fiction, photography
Who'll want to read it? Music fans Point of no return: The very first photo. Have a look at James Mollison's site. What's it all about? If you missed the exhibition you can see the book. James Mollison took these photographs of music fans over a 3 year period. It's such a fun book, guessing which star the fans are paying tribute to. My favourited is a guy dressed as Bob Dylan, although I thought he was trying to be Leonard Cohen. The book itself is wonderful to sit down with and flick through, but the web-site has songs to go with some of the photos. I'd recommend both the book and the web-site.
Publisher: Chris Boot

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Private Diary of Mr Darcy

Author: Maya Slater
Publication Date: 2009 Category: Fiction Who'll want to read it? Pride and Prejudice fans who are prepared for Darcy to be a real man. Point of no return: I was immediately taken in, mainly because of Darcy's references to Caroline Bingley's attentions, and seeming oblivious to her intentions. Classic line: page 215: "We were discomforted when, after dinner, the 'monks', by now well in their cups, began to throw off their habits, beneath which they were naked as Adam & Eve. It seemed that we were to experience a full-scale orgy. Charles objected that such an event was peculiarly unsuited to the Sabbath. 'That is precisely the point,' retorted Byron." What's it all about? It's exactly what it says it is - the diary of Mr Darcy, from his time at Netherfield to a month before his marriage to Elizabeth. I loved this book, for a variety of reasons. It adds depth to Mr Darcy's character in a manner of surprising ways - his friendship with Lord Byron being one example of these. It also gives insight into what a gentleman of the time was expected to do, by the larger population and by his peers. Slater also placed the novel(s) more firmly in time by mentioning events of historical significance that a gentleman would be interested in. The novel challenges the reader's preconceived ideas of several characters, Darcy included, and goes places that Jane Austen would have been to mortified to tread. Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

The Year of the Flood

Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 2009
Category: Fiction  
Who'll want to read it? Environmentalists, anti-utopia fans, disaster fans, alternate civilisation fans, Margaret Atwood fans. Point of no return: The first page indicates a sinister disaster, with "abandoned towers ... devoid of life" and "the absence of motors", not to mention the presence of vultures. I was drawn in immediately, with the usual 'what happened?', but also 'how did this one person survive when no one else did?'
Classic line: Too many to list here, but I think lots of lines will start turning up on t-shirts soon!  
What's it all about? This is a post apocalypse novel, and it follows two survivors, Toby and Ren, who were previously members of an environmental religious group called God's Gardeners. To combat their loneliness, they relive their past, remembering the lessons the Gardeners passed on, wondering if anyone else survived the Waterless Flood, hoping but not quite believing they could have. Apparently this expands on, and further explains, certain aspects of and characters from Oryx and Crake. I haven't yet read it, so I cannot comment about that, but obviously you do not need to have read Oryx and Crake to understand what is going on in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed The Year of the Flood, as I have enjoyed all of Atwood's books I've read so far. Do not skip the songs, as they are often very dark, and amusing.  
Publisher: Nan A. Talese, Doubleday

Friday, January 01, 2010

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children

Author: Jen Storer; cover and text illustrations by Sonia Kretschmar

Publication Date: 2009

Category: Children's story, adventure, fantasy.

Who'll want to read it? Primary school kids and grownups.

Point of no return: I just had to buy this book when I saw the front cover. About a week before I discovered this book I had a dream that I had masses of curly red hair - just like Tensy Farlow!

Classic line: "At the sound of Albie's tuneless singing the baby gave a tremulous sigh. The droning voice and the dull rattle of the lorry quickly worked their magic and before long she was lulled into a twilight state. By the time Wiggin Row was behind them and they had entered the rolling hills of Mumbles Fell, it was all she could do to stay awake." pg 5

What's it all about?: A baby girl is left in a basket on the steps of the hospital in Wiggin Row. Mistaking her for a basket of linen, Albie Gribble puts her in the back of his lorry, and so begins the adventure. This is a beautiful story featuring GAs (Guardian Angels), an evil spirit, the wicked Matron Pluckrose & Mrs Beadle, some mysterious "watchers" and an abominable orphanage known as "The Home for Mislaid Children". Join Tensy and Albie on their journey and put a little magic back in your life.

Publisher: Penguin. See the book trailer on YouTube.