Book Review of Goodwood

goodwoodThere has been a lot of buzz about Holly Throsby’s Goodwood (especially as Throsby herself is better known for singing words than writing them).

And the buzz is well worthwhile – Goodwood is a finely crafted read that reflects real and engaging characters living that small-town life. You know the sort – where the local fish and chip shop is the centre of society, and fishing is one of the more popular pastimes.

But this quietness is disturbed when two residents go missing within a week of each other.  One, a young woman, has vanished without a trace, but with plenty of mystery and discussion.  The second, an older man who is well-respected within the town followed after just a week.

Are the two cases connected?  Or is life just not as simple as it appears in Goodwood?

This was a really solid read that made me happy to pick up the book each night.  Definitely worth a look.  Throsby’s move into the literary world is a good one – and I daresay more novels will follow this.

Book Review of 10 Conversations to Have With Your Son

This is a work read – a book used by some high profile schools as part of their pastoral care programs.10 convos

Helping boys to be confident, caring and aware young men who aren’t held back by fear or stereotypes is a big ask – but a worthy one.  And Dr Tim Hawkes recommends some crucial conversations men really should be having.  You can see in the image attached to this post, that it covers everything from love and intimacy, to financial literacy.

There are also some great activities throughout.

My only real concern here is how conservative and hetero-normative it is.  All mentions of sex and romance are male-female – and we know that this approach is now going to alienate a significant proportion of the young population.  Something a little more open about gender identity and sexuality would address a few more issues and be more modern and appealing to all.

Book Review of The Last Garden

last gardenEva Hornung’s The Last Garden is one of those quiet, introspective books in which not much occurs.  And these aren’t bad – they can be very powerful in their quietness and emotional honesty.

This one was a little hard to relate to for me, although not without its pleasures.

Set in a small farming community in rural Australia, a group of religious Germans and their descendants have left the modern world behind to wait for their Messiah.  But the modern world cannot be kept at bay for long – nor can the growing unease of the townsfolk who begin to doubt…

So when a tragic murder suicide occurs on the Orion farm – the populace don’t know what to think.  Nor does Benedict Orion – the young man who arrives home from school and finds his mother and father dead.

Unable to face the family home, he moves into the barn, taking solace in a simple life and the company especially of the horses.

Pastor Helfgott, the son of the original leader of the settlement, has his own doubts.  But amongst this is the tantalising idea that Benedict – wild but insightful – may just be the one they have been waiting for.

Full of unrealised potential in my mind, The Last Garden leaves me wondering if it could possibly have been more…

Impressed Review of Strange the Dreamer

Laini Taylor’s recent trilogy, which began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was a Strange the Dreamerterrific foray into fantasy fiction.  So I grabbed this first in a new series with some interest.  It’s always difficult to begin a new series, letting go of old characters who you might not feel quite finished with, and embracing a whole new world and storyline.. but Taylor has created yet another compelling fantasy world here.

Strange the Dreamer starts with two stories that soon become intertwined.  Laszlo Strange (Strange being the name given to orphans or unclaimed children in his land) grows up in a terrible monastery before finding his first real home in a library.  A lover of stories and fairytales, he makes a particular study of a land known only as ‘Weep’ – the real name being obscured by magic.  So when citizens of Weep appear – he begs to go with them and make his dreams come true.

But Weep has many secrets… including a history of rebellion against evil Gods that threatens to arise as teenage Godspawn test out their powers high above the city.  One has power over dreams…

This is a love story, an adventure and the start of something special.  I loved the story, the characters and the symmetry of not one, but two Strange Dreamers in the novel.  Clever plotting, intricate characters and overall a roaring tale.  You’ll love it.

Book Review of Judas

JudasThere’s a lot to like about Judas, the 2017 Man Booker Prize nominated novel by Amos Oz.  An Israeli, Oz has exceptionally beautiful prose and seems to have mastered romantic longing in his stories.

This one if about Schmuel, a university student dedicated to the study if Jewish views of Christ – and that also if Judas, a largely demonised character in Christian mythology but not so much in historical record. But Schmuel’s life is upended when his parents announce they can no longer afford his school fees, and his girlfriend leaves him to marry her ex.

Schmuel quickly finds himself living as a companion to an old Jewish politician and his daughter-in-law, a sad and mysterious women who quickly he comes to dream about.

Its a book about foolish young hearts, unrequited love, intellectual curiosity, and the ostracising of the Jews for their failure to recognise Jesus as the messiah.  Some of this was deeply religious, and some political and much of it admittedly outside of my sphere of understanding.  And this did slow down my reading of what ultimately is a finely crafted story.

Feeling Nostalgia… Book Review of New Spring

New SpringFor me, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is so many hours of your life well-spent.  I mean, 16 epic books of about a thousand words in length… it really is an investment.

Sadly, the length of the series makes re-reading it a daunting task.  So finding New Spring amongst a pile of unread books (okay, one of many piles) was a delight.  A new chapter as such.

New Spring is a prequel story to that of Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn.  It centres mainly on Moiraine Damodred, the Aes Sedai who found Rand along with fellow tavern Mat and Perrin in the Two Rivers.  Just before Moiraine is raised to full Aes Sedai, she is present when a sister foretells the birth of the Dragon Reborn.  As we know, finding him and training him for the Last Battle again at the Dark One becomes Moiraine’s life purpose.

We delve deeper into her friendship with Siuan Sanche, another Aes Sedai destined to rise to the Amyrlin Seat (their leader for those of you who haven’t read the series) and learn how she comes to bond Lan as her warder.

Reading this was completely wonderful.  I felt like i was visiting old friends – it was warm and familiar and they had new stories to share with me, and new insight ready to offer.  The perfect holiday read.

Book Review of The Left Hand of God

the-left-hand-of-godI’d heard a lot about The Left Hand of God, and had it marked on my to-read list for some time. But I was disappointed with the plot, which wasn’t really epic in scale.

Thomas Cale was raised a Redeemer, a soldier for fanatic religious zealots. He was abused and mistreated from childhood and eventually turns his back on the order when they murder and rape women.

He and his friends make their way to a safe city where he meets and falls for the princess he eventually is sworn to protect.

Cale’s military prowess and the love story dominate the narrative, although interests develops in the very last portion of the text, when the Lord Redeemer most responsible for his mistreatment reveals he is the centre of a prophecy. By forcing the princess to betray him, he lures Cale back to his cause, ultimately leaving the pathway open for more interesting things (hopefully) in subsequent books.