#BookReview Wolf Country by Tunde Farrand @EyeAndLightning

About the book

London, 2050. The socio-economic crisis of recent decades is over and consumerism is thriving.

Ownership of land outside the city is the preserve of a tiny elite, and the rest of the population must spend to earn a Right to Reside. Ageing has been abolished thanks to a radical new approach, replacing retirement with blissful euthanasia at a Dignitorium.

When architect Philip goes missing, his wife, Alice, risks losing her home and her status, and begins to question the society in which she was raised. Her search for him uncovers some horrifying truths about the fate of her own family and the reality behind the new social order.

Published by Lightning Books

Purchase Links

Publisher Website with 25% off and free P&P

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

I think it’s a scary reflection of the times we live in nowadays when you read a book like this and you’re not left wondering ‘what if’ but ‘when’ this will become a reality – and that’s the clever thing about the way this story is written as there are already glimpses of the world we live in but just taken to the next degree, and it’s a truly terrifying prospect facing Alice and her family as they’re left to justify their ‘Right to Reside’ in a world that wants rid of those people who don’t ‘earn their keep’ – be they the elderly, the sick, the unemployed – and they are left to make a choice as to when they want to die as not to drain the resources enjoyed by the ‘Owners’ and the wealthy.

Life in 2050 is a seemingly simple affair – if you’re one of those working and thus qualify for the free housing, in separated areas linked to the type of job you do, and if you’re married with a family or single.  But most people know no better so they’re happy with a system that rewards them for making a contribution, and they believe the message from those in charge that the retired or sick are just a drain on society and are not worthy of wasting money on.  So their options is to move to a ‘Dignitorium’ where they will live out a period of time before meeting a peaceful end.  It tears families apart, including Alice and her family of her sister, parents and grandmother – it’s heartbreaking seeing how heartless some can be to their own families because they believe what they’re being told.  The elderly remember the world the way it was so only see this new system for how unfair it is and can do very little about it other than comply or go off grid.

When Alice’s husband Philip goes missing after a terrorist explosion, her life is blown apart, and changes beyond recognition.  It’s only then that she starts to see problems with the system and the more she finds out, the more horrified she is about the lies she’s been told.  

She’s also forced to seek out her sister, Sofia, who has a completely different experience of the way this world works, and when the sisters meet up you can’t help but notice how much hostility there is between them and realising how broken their relationship has always been.

I was totally transfixed by this story – horrified too – and it is a fascinating debut from this author.  It’s one of those books that really gets under your skin.  The way the residents are portrayed in their compliance with a system that we see as being so wrong, but they see it as a world with order and purpose and see no reason for why those in charge would lie to them.  A classic case of the ‘Divide and Rule’ way of life and it made for such a chilling and captivating read that I’m eagerly anticipating more from this author in the future!  

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My thanks to the publisher for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

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#BookReview The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey @EyeAndLightning #publicationday

About the book

A found novel

LONGLISTED: OCKHAM NEW ZEALAND BOOK AWARDS

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2017 BY RADIO NEW ZEALAND

Every day for a year, Catherine Chidgey recorded the words and language she came across during her day-to-day life – phone calls, television commercials, emails, radio shows, conversations with her family, street signs and satnav instructions. From these seemingly random snippets, she creates a fascinating portrait of modern life, focusing on the things that most people filter out.

Chidgey listens in as her daughter, born through surrogacy, begins to speak and develop a personality, and her mother slips into dementia. With her husband, she debates the pros and cons of moving to a new town. With her publisher, she discusses the novel she is writing. While, all around, the world is bombarding her with information.

In The Beat of the Pendulum, Chidgey approaches the idea of the novel from an experimental new direction. It is bold, exciting, funny, moving and utterly compelling.

Published by Lightning Books

Purchase Links

Publishers £12.99

hive.co.uk  £10.35

Waterstones  £12.99

MY REVIEW

I can guarantee you won’t have read a book like this before! What a way to start the new year with a whole new reading experience and one that I found to be a wholly unique, quirky, emotional, funny and a very touching read!

The author has been extremely clever with her approach to this book – it’s life! Her life! But told in the random way that life seems to attack us all nowadays – the constant bombardment of information from a variety of sources – be that people around you, the news, things you read,  stuff you hear, things you think – and she has catalogued it monthly to give you an insight into how life evolves for us all.

It did take me a while to get my head around the style of storytelling as it is extremely choppy and random. It won’t be for everyone!  But when you look at the world of social media and 24/7/365 TV coverage we all experience nowadays it is extremely normal to never seemingly have a ‘quiet’ moment.  There is always something happening and her approach to this book was to include everything around her.  Often it is completely insignificant and throwaway, and other times it is completely touching especially when she is discussing events happening to her family and career.  Dealing with her mothers’ dementia really struck a chord with me having had family members go through the same, and the weird conversations that emerge and the amount of time you have to go over the same thing.    But then you get that up against the completely random subjects of things seen on TV shows, poo, parenting, instructions in manuals, funny recollections of times gone by..oh and the Vengaboys!! It’s a weird thing to have stuck with me but I now can’t stop singing the Vengabus song because of this book!

I liken this style of storytelling to if you were flicking through the numerous TV channels and spent about 10 seconds on each, how weird and nonsensical it would all seem, or if you were overhearing conversations while out and about.  You just get a snippet of what is important to that person at that time, and this is what this book brings you over a year of noting down all that is heard and experienced, thought and witnessed.

My overriding thought from reading this is that in amongst the chaos of the world around us, there is life happening to us!  Considering the simplicity of this story it has been an extremely touching and thought provoking read and one I can highly recommend to you all if you’re looking for something just that little bit different to start your new year off with.

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Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill #bookreview

Absurd, original and highly addictive …

In Their Brilliant Careers, Ryan O’Neill has written a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers. Meet Rachel Deverall, who discovers the secret female source of the great literature of our time – and pays a terrible price for her discovery. Meet Rand Washington, hugely popular sci-fi author (of Whiteman of Cor) and holder of extreme views on race and gender. Meet Addison Tiller, the master of the bush yarn, “The Chekhov of Coolabah”, who has never travelled outside Sydney.

Their Brilliant Careers is a playful set of stories, linked in many ways, which together form a memorable whole. It is a wonderful comic tapestry of the writing life, and a large-scale parody in which every detail adds to the humour of the overall picture.

Unpredictable and intriguing, Their Brilliant Careers takes Australian writing in a whole new direction.

Publisher;  Lightning Books

Purchase Links

Book Depository

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support a local bookstore

Waterstones

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryan O’Neill was born in Glasgow in 1975 and lived in Africa, Europe and Asia before settling in Australia.

His short story collection The Weight of a Human Heart was shortlisted for the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards.

His novel Their Brilliant Careers, first published in Australia in 2016, won the Australian PM’s Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

He lives in Sydney.

MY REVIEW

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book – they know my likes and sense of humour well and I devoured it!

This was a bonkers book but brilliant fun to read!

It’s a potted history of 16 Aussie authors you’ve never heard of, because they’re all made up!, and their colourful lives from childhood to beyond and it is so cleverly written that you become completely engaged with these people and I was tempted many times to get out to the bookshop to search for the books they’d all written!

There is an eclectic mix of characters and their lives include so many funny and amazing stories including encounters with beings from outer space, troubled home lives, nobel prize winners, unconventional childhoods and defaced headstones… I found myself laughing out loud at many of the extraordinary escapades that these authors encountered. It really appealed to my twisted sense of humour!!

This book made such a welcome relief from some of the heavier books I’d read recently and the world we live in, and it is one you can dip in and out of and guaranteed to raise many a smile in these troubled times we live in! If you love books, authors and the out of the ordinary then I highly recommend this book!

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The Antipodeans by Greg McGee #BookReview #historicalfiction

THE BLURB

Three Generations. Two Continents. One Forgotten Secret.

 

2014Clare and her father travel to Venice from New Zealand. She is fleeing a broken marriage, he is in failing health and wants to return one last time to the place where, as a young man, he spent happy years as a rugby player and coach. While exploring Venice, Clare discovers there is more to her father’s motives for returning than she realised and time may be running out for him to put old demons to rest.

1942Joe and Harry, two Kiwi POWs in Italy, manage to escape their captors, largely due to the help of a sympathetic Italian family who shelter them on their farm. Soon they are fighting alongside the partisans in the mountains, but both men have formed a bond with Donatella, the daughter of the family, a bond that will have dramatic repercussions decades later.

The Antipodeans is a novel of epic proportions where families from opposite ends of the earth discover a legacy of love and blood and betrayal.

‘Like a Venetian Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. You won’t want to put it down.’ – Simon Edge, author of The Hopkins Conundrum

‘Hugely evocative’ – Sarah Franklin, author of Shelter

 

Publisher Lightning Books

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg McGee is an award-winning New Zealand playwright, television screenwriter, novelist, and biographer.

A promising young rugby player, McGee became a Junior All Black and All Blacks trialist. He graduated from law school, then in 1980 his first play, Foreskin’s Lament, debuted. Centred around rugby, this play became iconic in New Zealand and garnered McGee popular acclaim.

He is a successful screenwriter, writing based-on-true story dramatisations and mini-series based on the Erebus disaster and the infamous Lange Government, as well as contributing to several popular television shows (Marlin Bay, Street Legal, Orange Roughies). He also penned the screenplay for Old Scores, a rugby-based feature film.

As a novelist, McGee first wrote under the pseudonym Alix Bosco, winning the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award for his debut, CUT & RUN. He also wrote All Blacks captain Richie McCaw’s biography, one of the bestselling New Zealand books of recent years.

 

MY REVIEW

Extremely thankful to Lightning Books who made me aware of this book as they knew I loved historical reads – and this was a captivating and compelling story that I’m extremely glad to have had the pleasure of reading.

Mainly set over 2 timelines; 2014 – Clare and her father go to Venice as her father is dying and he wants to revisit his past, while Clare is escaping her present. 1942 – 2 Kiwi POW’s are helped out by an Italian family who hide them from their captors and they become part of the community during their stay. You wonder how the timelines are linked and what has really prompted the trip to Venice now and it is fascinating as the past is revealed and secrets are uncovered leading to Clare finding out so much more about her father than she ever thought possible.

The dual timeline works so well in this story – the present storyline has so many layers to it from the father trying to make sense of his past, alongside Clare dealing with escaping her cheating ex and the let downs she has suffered over the years. When her father is taken ill whilst in Venice, she is then faced with even more revelations that rock her. Her father kept diaries of his time as a rugby coach in Italy and whilst at times I did find these a little confusing as they centred around politics of the time and featured a lot of names, the details soon all came together to help things slot into place and make things clearer.

And the story line throughout the war years was a complex mix of life on the run, the brutal reality of times of war and the relationships built up between soldiers and those they sought shelter with.

This book was such a quality mix of history, family bonds, secrets, loves and lies and I can see why this book was such a big hit in New Zealand where it spent almost a year on the bestseller chart. The short, snappy chapters really helped with the pace of the story as I found myself not wanting to put it down once I’d started it, and for a book of nearly 450 pages that is quite a feat!! I enjoyed the bond between Clare and her father, and the time they spent in Italy was quite a journey for both of them and brought so vividly to life by the author. As were the war years and the horrors that the soldiers witnessed and how they survived by pulling together and relying on the kindness of strangers.

Cannot recommend this highly enough as an absorbing read that will stay with me for some time!

The Shifting Pools by Zoe Duncan – my review

THE BLURB

Fleeing war and the death of her family, Eve has carefully constructed a new life for herself in London.

Yet she is troubled by vivid, disturbing dreams, symptoms of her traumatic past, which intrude increasingly on her daily life. As she is drawn further into her dream world, she finds herself caught up in a fresh battle for survival.

Set between London and an imagined setting of Enanti, The Shifting Pools sees Eve confronting what she has avoided all her adult life – confronting the Shadow Beast that haunts her nightmares. Her energies have been devoted to shutting away the dark events of her past – barricading her into the superficially successful world. Now those walls are crumbling.  She must choose whether to reinforce them, or face the elements again, stand in the wind and rediscover the heart of herself.

Lyrical and insightful, charged throughout with a sense of the beautiful urgency of life, The Shifting Pools offers a unique way of looking at the wounds of war, the act of remembering, the fragmentation of self, the inexplorable seeping of the past into our present, and finding a way home.

Published by Lightning Books

July 2017

Paperback –  350 pages 

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

I found this book to be a seriously stunning debut that took me as a reader on a haunting and spiritual journey, following the story of Eve as she faces her nightmares.  I adored this book!!

It is beautifully written and cleverly split into sections as we see her now in London coming to terms with her past as those nightmares are now consuming her daytime. We get to look back at what she faced as a child and how that severely impacted her and explains why she feels so lost and alone now. And it also introduces a fantasy world element where she escapes to and becomes more aware of how she has hidden too much away and that is why she is struggling in the present.

It really delves into the blurred lines between reality and fantasy and how we all put up barriers to hide our true selves, and that sometimes the nightmares we face are often the key to understanding how to move on.

Eve is such a fascinating character – going from the carefree, happy childhood she shared with her family, through the horrors of war and how that ripped her heart apart, and then how she moved to London to be with her aunt and uncle who weren’t big on sharing their feelings which made her feel closed off and why she now feels the need to see a psychotherapist to try and shed light on the meaning of the nightmares, and her behaviour and her craving for nothingness as she lives life in limbo.

The fantasy world element of Enanti, was one I wasn’t expecting to embrace but it worked so well in this context. It felt surreal but grounded and spoke to me as a reader with its’ messages of how you deal with tragedy in your life, how we all ‘hide in plain sight’ through tougher times and that feeling of letting go and not trying to control every emotion. The fantasy element was part of her coping mechanism and allowed her to see things more clearly and really added emotional depth to the story.

This was a haunting, thoughtful and powerful story that I devoured in one sitting as I just couldn’t tear myself away from Eve and her journey. The imagery really popped off the page too which brought the story to life. A truly memorable reading experience and one I won’t forget for a long while. Highly recommended!!

Thank you to Nudge and the publishers for my copy in return for a fair and honest review