Monthly Blog Round up – February

My blog posts from February

9781471149047Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE

I missed this Pulitzer Prize winning novel the first time around and after watching the first 15 minutes of the new HBO mini-series I know I had to read the book. Reading a book whilst simultaneously watching the television show has its own challenges but for the most part I managed to read behind watching the TV show which just finished screening here in Australia. Read more here…

9780385618717Kate Atkinson’s A GOD IN RUINS

My first impulse after starting this book was that I had to go back and read Life After Life again. Kate Atkinson has written an extraordinary companion novel to her previous masterpiece returning us to the world of the Todd family and Fox Corner. This time to tell us Ursula’s brother Teddy’s story. Read more here…

world-gone-byDennis Lehane’s WORLD GONE BY

I have to admit I was a little thrown by Dennis Lehane’s last book in the Coughlin series, Live By Night.The Given Day is Lehane’s best book and when he wrote it  he said it was the first in a series which would follow multi-generations of a police family through Boston in the 20th century. Live By Night took a u-turn and instead followed one of the Coughlin clan as he became an outlaw, a bootlegger and eventually a gangster. It was a great read and Lehane ended up becoming a consultant on Boardwalk Empire because of it…but it wasn’t the book I was expecting. Read more here…

9780575097629Ben Aaronovitch’s MOON OVER SOHO

Peter Grant is beginning to find his feet again after the events of his last case and is more than used to be called up by the Metropolitan Police for any weird cases they come across. With his supervising DCI (and his magic teacher) Thomas Nightingale and his best friend and occasional partner Lesley May still recovering from injuries Peter must juggle two strange cases on his own where magic seems to be involved. Read more here…

9781444782936Jamie Kornegay’s SOIL

There is something about stories set in the American south, particularly those in and around the Mississippi. Whether they are classic American Southern Gothic, contemporary fiction, crime mystery or a combination the confluence of history, atmosphere and long-held beliefs makes for rich, dark, fertile storytelling. Jamie Kornegay digs into this tapestry with a debut about the environment, end-of-the-world paranoia and a family in break down. Read more here…

9780544315495John Vaillant’s THE JAGUAR’S CHILDREN

John Vaillant’s debut novel follows in the steps of two exceptional non fiction books. The Tiger still resonates with me. Not only was he able to recreate the events of a series of tiger attacks in south-eastern Russia with suspense and fear permeating off the page but he also weaved together a history of the region and all the myths that surround tigers in various cultures. Vaillant takes the same skills to his first foray into fiction and the result is remarkable. Read more here…

9780575097667Ben Aaronovitch’s WHISPERS UNDER GROUND

I cannot get enough of this series! It is such a wicked combination of history, police procedural and of course magic. This time we explore London’s underground where not only are secrets buried but something DC Peter Grant can’t even imagine. Read more here…

Ben Aaronovitch’s WHISPERS UNDER GROUND

9780575097667I cannot get enough of this series! It is such a wicked combination of history, police procedural and of course magic. This time we explore London’s underground where not only are secrets buried but something DC Peter Grant can’t even imagine.

Someone being murdered in London’s underground isn’t unusual but there is something off about the crime scene. When the murder weapon turns out to be a shard of pottery reeking of magic Peter is quickly assigned to the murder squad for the case. When the murder victim turns out to be the son of a US Senator and the FBI starts nosing around the case Peter must find his answers quickly without his real role in the investigation being found out. Peter’s enquiries lead him through the markets of London, the streets of Notting Hill and eventually into the sewers and endless tunnels below London.

The magic element to this series is what comes to the fore but they are also brilliant police procedurals. At the same time as guiding you through his magical education and the history and folklore of London Peter also guides us through being a policeman. Everything from dealing with drunks on a Saturday night through to the finer points of suspect interrogation. And as always done with a typically British, self-deprecating sense of humour.

This series is building nicely and with each new case Peter encounters more unanswered questions begin to build including who is the faceless man? I can’t wait to read the next two books!

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ISBN: 9780575097667
ISBN-10: 0575097663
Classification: Fantasy
Format: Paperback (195mm x 128mm x 27mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Gollancz
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 4-Oct-2012
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

John Vaillant’s THE JAGUAR’S CHILDREN

9780544315495John Vaillant’s debut novel follows in the steps of two exceptional non fiction books. The Tiger still resonates with me. Not only was he able to recreate the events of a series of tiger attacks in south-eastern Russia with suspense and fear permeating off the page but he also weaved together a history of the region and all the myths that surround tigers in various cultures. Vaillant takes the same skills to his first foray into fiction and the result is remarkable.

The best way I can sum this book up is to say it is a cross between The Kite Runner and The Tiger’s Wife. Vaillant tells a story that is both suspenseful and deeply moving. The clock is literally ticking but at the same time we get a rich tapestry of characters, cultures and issues that resonate throughout the world today.

The novel is told from Hector’s point of view. Hector is trapped inside an empty water tanker somewhere in the American desert. He and his fellow passengers have been abandoned by the coyotes who have smuggled them across the border from Mexico. Their water and supplies are slowly running out. Hector’s only hope is his friend Cesar’s mobile phone and the only American contact he can find on it.

As the battery dwindles Hector recounts to the unknown “AnniMac” his story of growing up in Oaxaca, a state in south-west Mexico. Hector reflects on his father and grandfather’s stories and how the region and Mexico as a whole has changed over the generations. Through these stories we get a portrait of a people’s hopes and dreams, their myths and legends and the importance of their land. We also begin to see their desperation for something better in the face of western exploitation than has become less visible but even more critical to their way of life.

John Vaillant has written a brilliant novel that will grip you to the final words of the epilogue. The only disappointment is that the book has not found an English language publisher outside of North America. Like The Kite Runner this a beautiful portrait of a father and son that shines a light on a country that we normally read about for all the wrong reasons. And like The Tiger’s Wife it demonstrates the power of story in culture and memory. All told from the claustrophobic inside of a water tanker, stuck in the heat of the desert, in pitch darkness with power, water, food and time running out.

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ISBN: 9780544315495
ISBN-10: 0544315499
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Hardback Pages: 288
Imprint: Houghton Mifflin
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publish Date: 27-Jan-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Jamie Kornegay’s SOIL

9781444782936There is something about stories set in the American south, particularly those in and around the Mississippi. Whether they are classic American Southern Gothic, contemporary fiction, crime mystery or a combination the confluence of history, atmosphere and long-held beliefs makes for rich, dark, fertile storytelling. Jamie Kornegay digs into this tapestry with a debut about the environment, end-of-the-world paranoia and a family in break down.

Jay Mize is convinced the world is coming to a catastrophic end and that he must do something drastic to ensure his family’s future. He quits his job as an environmental scientist and moves his family out into the Mississippi flood basin to start a revolutionary farm. The story begins six months later with everything in ruins. Jay is practically bankrupt, his wife and son have left him and his farm and all his plans and ideas are literally underwater. As the flood waters recede Jay finds a body on his property. With his mild paranoia now full-blown delusional Jay decides he has to get rid of the body rather than report it and that’s when his troubles really start.

Peppered with a great cast of odd and unusual characters, including a bizarrely injured woodsman and a sex-addicted Sheriff’s Deputy, Korengay delivers a novel above and beyond the Coen Brothers comparisons. With just the right amount of wicked humour Korengay tells the story of a man driven to the brink, a brink only he can see coming, which he is determined to slip down.

Moving and affecting this book will suck you in from the opening pages. It will have you wincing and pleading, hoping and laughing and is a highly accomplished debut from a distinctive new voice in American fiction.

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ISBN: 9781444782936
ISBN-10: 1444782932
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Two Roads
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 12-Mar-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Ben Aaronovitch’s MOON OVER SOHO

9780575097629Jazz, magic and murder star in this wonderful follow-up to Rivers Of London.

Peter Grant is beginning to find his feet again after the events of his last case and is more than used to be called up by the Metropolitan Police for any weird cases they come across. With his supervising DCI (and his magic teacher) Thomas Nightingale and his best friend and occasional partner Lesley May still recovering from injuries Peter must juggle two strange cases on his own where magic seems to be involved.

The first involves two men who have both been killed after their appendages have been bitten off (not by teeth in the usual location). While Peter is following up leads he comes across a series of deaths involving jazz musicians. The musicians appear to have died from natural causes but the scent of magic is all over the victims. Something or someone is stalking jazz musicians in Soho and Peter is taking this more than seriously as his father, also know as Lord Grant, is famous in the jazz scene and Peter has no idea who will be targeted next. His investigation takes him through the history of Soho and its music clubs and of course magic is always lurking just below the surface.

I really love this series. Aaronovitch packs the story with the history of London and a wicked sense of humour which is cynical, self-deprecating and quick-witted. I am going to try really hard to ration this series so I don’t just gobble the rest of the books up!

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ISBN: 9780575097629
ISBN-10: 0575097620
Classification: Fantasy
Format: Paperback (196mm x 131mm x 25mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Gollancz
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 13-Oct-2011
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Dennis Lehane’s WORLD GONE BY

world-gone-byI have to admit I was a little thrown by Dennis Lehane’s last book in the Coughlin series, Live By Night. The Given Day is Lehane’s best book and when he wrote it  he said it was the first in a series which would follow multi-generations of a police family through Boston in the 20th century. Live By Night took a u-turn and instead followed one of the Coughlin clan as he became an outlaw, a bootlegger and eventually a gangster. It was a great read and Lehane ended up becoming a consultant on Boardwalk Empire because of it…but it wasn’t the book I was expecting.

This time around I was ready for gangster territory, this time post-Prohibition and the world at war (a great fit now Boardwalk Empire has finished). Joe Coughlin, at the ripe old age of 37, is now the elder statesmen of the Tampa mob. Following the events at the end of Live By Night he no longer runs the show. He has many legitimate businesses and keeps the odd toe in a few illegitimate ones. But his soul focus is now his son. He knows he can never escape the life he has built but he can 9781408706701shelter his son from it. Or at least try. But there is no retiring from Joe’s business and there are always others waiting in the wings, even when there is a war on. When Joe gets word somebody wants him out of the way he can’t for the life of himself figure out why. Out of the way of what?

Lehane brings 1940s Florida to vivid and sweltering life. Boston maybe his literary stomping ground but he shows he can bring all those same skills to wherever he wants. He also returns to the themes he started in The Given Day; fathers and sons. As always with Lehane this is tightly plotted that builds to a blockbuster ending. And you know we haven’t finished with Coughlin Clan yet. And we may even be back onto the original track…

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ISBN: 9780060004903
ISBN-10: 0060004908
Classification: Crime & mystery , Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945) , Historical fiction
Format: Hardback (229mm x 152mm x 33mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: William Morrow & Company
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publish Date: 10-Mar-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Kate Atkinson’s A GOD IN RUINS

9780385618717My first impulse after starting this book was that I had to go back and read Life After Life again. Kate Atkinson has written an extraordinary companion novel to her previous masterpiece returning us to the world of the Todd family and Fox Corner. This time to tell us Ursula’s brother Teddy’s story.

Life After Life detailed the multiple lives of Ursula Todd before, during and after the Second World War. It was dazzling original, wildly imaginative and brilliantly inventive and was an absolute masterpiece of storytelling and writing. I was in awe of the book and am in greater awe as she takes her writing to another level in telling the companion story.

Unlike with Ursula this time Kate Atkinson tells us one life. One rich, long, detailed life. But that does not mean it is any less original, imaginative or inventive as its previous companion. The narrative is far from linear bouncing from Teddy’s experiences as a bomber pilot, to his life as an old man, to before the war and everything in between. We meet Teddy’s daughter and grandchildren long before we learn of his life and relationship with their mother. And with each piece of Teddy’s life that we gather we slowly form his whole, how events have shaped him and how he has shaped events including the choices he makes, the mistakes and the consequences.

In telling Teddy’s story in the order she does Atkinson again fleshes her characters out in a unique and inventive manner which challenges our initial judgements and forces us to make corrections. She has also written a brilliant war novel that not only vividly captures what it was like to fly on bombing raid after bombing raid over Germany in the Second World War but explores the aftereffects of war that stretches well into a new century through two more generations.

Kate Atkinson has written a novel that fits perfectly with her previous one. Each novel can be enjoyed on their own or together and read in any order. I can’t wait to go back and revisit Ursula’s lives with this new layer to enrich it. I was in awe of Kate Atkinson after Life After Life and am further dazzled by the follow-up. A writer truly at the height of her powers and what a pleasure it is to enjoy.

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ISBN: 9780385618717
ISBN-10: 0385618719
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 7-May-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom