Friday, 14 February 2020

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

"It still hadn't occurred to me that there was anything strange about dozens of aircraft flying fast and low at night without lights."

I know most kids of my vintage read this teen classic during their school years but somehow, I had to wait until over 40. Seeing as I'm a kid at heart and will always be so, it wasn't such a problem. 

Not having seen the recent movie adaptation I can't speak to its accuracy or anything and yet I feel this story would make a much better Netflix series, especially since I believe it is the first of a series. I would totally watch it in any case! Five minutes after writing these words I've googled and discovered a series exists and features the always brilliant Deborah Mailman, guess I will have to check that out.

One-minute Ellie is just a typical girl going to high school in the country town of Wirrawee. Away camping with her friends in the bush, Ellie and crew are startled to discover their peaceful Australian town has been invaded by forces unknown and their parents are missing.

This is a coming of age story through war which makes for a pressurised environment. The pacing is fantastic, and the sense of impending doom had me flicking pages at an alarming rate. Rather than pure action, the combination of character development and set pieces of action is deftly handled and is just as appealing to a teen as an adult reader. This is action with heart and that makes for a compelling combination.

5 out of 5 things that go boom + a heart that goes boom badda boom.

Strait is the Gate by André Gide

"I meant to fall on my knees before her; I took a step which she heard."

It is fine to love your cousin - but not to Love your cousin; if you catch my meaning. This is a strange tale translated from the French and it is on just about every must-read list there is.
There are moments of beautiful prose but ultimately I was a little unmoved. Everyone loves someone they shouldn't, life is hard, people suffer and then there's death: now if that synopsis has you gravitating towards this, well... more power to you.

I think sometimes these kinds of stories appeal more to someone younger, particularly when I flash back to my early teens and my fixation with Flowers in the Attic (like just about every other girl I knew at that time). This shares the overblown emotional weight of the teenage years, mixed with escaping the pull of hormones through a combination of religion and guilt.  Sexual awakening is a frightening prospect, this is why boy bands remain so popular.

What this slim novella does show is the propensity for children to rebel against their parents by becoming their opposite. Alissa's religious zealotry begins in reaction to her mother's sinful behaviour and is not the path to a happy, healthy life.

4/5 - Courtly love is a drag.

Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux

"Full of ambition but with no sense of direction, I had the strong sense it was time to start my life, and no idea how to do it."

Ladies and Gentlemen forgive me for I have fallen way, way behind on the reviewing front. There's something about this crazy summer - fires, floods, breakups, work deadlines - that has been holding me back and I've yet to complete discussions of event the books I read in 2019 - seriously!  Indulge me as I try to make amends.

Louis Theroux lives among the rarefied air of famous men (or fictional characters) that I would readily drop everything for and run away with. He's in good company with everyone from Doctor Who (in David Tenant form), Angel from Buffy (before the scandals), Benedict Cumberbatch to Alexander Skarsgård, with a few more thrown in for good measure.

My affection for Theroux stems from the persona he puts forward, the juxtaposition between healthy questioning with one eyebrow cocked and the personable rapport he finds with people who hold some truly out-there beliefs. This approach makes for a compelling watch on television and its really interesting to get the voice behind that image in book form.

He is quintessentially British in his self-deprecating recollections, and his career seems to evolve almost in spite of his efforts. His set backs are ones we can all relate to. The exploration of the Jimmy Saville revelations was particularly interesting, but not half as compelling as his emotional adventures at the time, marrying his wife and dining with Jennifer Aniston (clang)!

Just as delightful as watching Louis on the box, his autobiographical delivery of his career to date in television was hard to put down. Keep on looking quizzical Louis.

5 out of 5  Who could forget his singing or jumping in that swinger's pool??

Sunday, 5 January 2020

The Warhound and the World’s Pain by Michael Moorcock

"I wondered now if Lucifer had been defeated and if, in His defeat, He had taken Sabrina's should with Him and would continue to claim mine."

One minute you're a soldier fighting in bloody conflicts. The next minute you're making deals with the devil because you meet a gorgeous lady in a castle and decide she's worth selling your soul for.

That's the basic premise of this tale and I had a difficult time tracking a copy down. I'd seen it on this list of devilish books to read. Thankfully  iBooks provided the goods and I devoured the tale with impish abandon. 

While I enjoy the vast scope of fantasy reads that concern themselves with the ultimate symbol of evil, I was relatively ambivalent about this one.

3 out of 5 fantasy reads are not bound for salvation.

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

“Only when you are grown up, perhaps only when you have children yourself, do you fully understand that your own parents had a full and intricate existence before you were born.” 

I almost take a deep breath before I start one of McEwan's tales. There is the sense of foreboding that emotional torture lies ahead. The Child in Time is true to form in that regard.

Stephen is broken by the disappearance of his young child, Kate. His marriage seems irrevocably damaged by that life changing event. An event that haunts him through his membership of a committee on child care.

As always, McEwan crafts beautiful sentences that have an almost poetic quality and yet I feel I should've  saved this for a time when I was feeling more upbeat because I knew it would be a downer.

4 out of 5 times I visited the supermarket with Mum she would lose me.

Prospero’s Cell by Laurence Durrell

"Across the rich screen of this landscape many names, ancient and modern, offer themselves to the mind like the translation of  flesh into ghostly appearances which still delude the living by their resemblance to them."

I fell in love the with Durrell family watching the tv series and was fortunate enough to visit the gorgeous island of Corfu a couple of years ago. Below you can see the statute of Lawrence's brother Gerald and a delightful view of the sea. I would love dearly to return and, reading the pages of Prospero's Cell,I could almost smell the sea and feel the sun on my shoulders- such is the power of his writing. The evocative prose is impressive, timeless and formed of tiny snippets of delight.

Durrell died in 1990, but thankfully left behind an impressive bibliography. This particular work is in the realm of travel writing and definitely worth reading, along with his brother's My Family and Other Animals,  should you fancy a trip to the beautiful island of Κέρκυρα.

5 out of 5 - take me back there pronto!

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

"I'm letting a crazy boy into the house, a crazy boy that eats birds."

This is basically what Twilight wishes it was. A vampiric tale for young adults with a real sense of danger and great writing. Zoe's mother is dying and she is having a hard time dealing with every day life. As she withdraws she notices a pained youth that seems to haunt the local streets and exhibits some unusual behaviour. Is he responsible for an outbreak of violence in the local areas? Or is he something else?

This was hauntingly beautiful and I'm really glad I discovered it through this Abebooks list. I love a good Vampire tale and this is how one should be done! Girl meets boy, boy just happens to be more than 300 years old - its a tale as old as time.

5 out of 5 silver crosses won't save you from love in the dark.