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Home Fire is a powerful reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, a Greek tragedy about the daughter of Oedipus following her father's death. The novel moves the themes of Antigone into contemporary times, and features two Muslim families with very different perspectives on how to display their beliefs.
The novel introduces a young Muslim woman named Isma who has spent many years raising her two twin siblings, Parvais and Anneka, following the death of their mother and grandmother. The family of three has long been under the surveillance of the British security service as their father was a known jihadist. Now that her siblings are old enough to look after themselves, Isma decides to move to Massachusetts to complete her interrupted education.
The novel is narrated in alternating chapters by five main characters, and each succeeding chapter increases its intensity. By the time we hear from Aneeka, the story radically changes, becoming super charged when we learn that Anneka’s twin brother Parvaiz has disappeared to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The novel displays a confidence not only in prose but in how the story is related. Complex issues are explored, including familial love, youthful mistakes, and the power of forgiveness. It also delves into the extreme methods used to recruit young people to the Islamic terrorist cause.
There were some missed opportunities, including conversations and interactions between characters. However, I did appreciate the deep thinking it inspired, and I ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Home Fire has well-deservedly been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
The New York Times bestselling author of Plum Island and Night Fall is back with a fast-paced and action-filled thriller underpinned with an impressive amount of detailed research surrounding Cuba’s history and political relations with the US.
Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a US Army combat veteran turned charter boat captain who is propositioned with an unexpected mission – a dangerous trip to retrieve a huge stash of cash hidden in a Cuban cave since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Mac accepts this mission following the promise of a massive payoff that will see him settle the debt owed on his charter boat, The Maine.
The instigators of the operation are the beautiful Sara, mysterious Cuban exile Eduardo, and Miami lawyer Carlos. As the story progresses, we learn that it is not only money driving these characters on a seemingly suicidal mission. Mac is faced with the decision to either continue on with the job with three million dollars in his sights, or turn back to his home in Key West.
DeMille’s writing is weaved with witty humour that had me giggling throughout. The plot is intriguing, and the characters are well-rounded and dynamic. It is evident that DeMille has spent a great deal of time researching content for The Cuban Affair, and it makes for a very authentic and plausible story.
“We never really talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn't matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe even more intimate than eye contact anyway. I mean, anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”
Turtles All the Way Down is John Green’s follow up to his bestselling and award winning book, The Fault in Our Stars. I couldn’t imagine being in a more high pressure situation as this, but John Green has delivered once again with this beautiful portrayal of mental illness, lifelong friendship and love.
After hearing about the upcoming release of Turtles All the Way Down, I was crossing my fingers that we would be given another gorgeous love story similar to that of Hazel and Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars. After reading it, however, I came to the conclusion that we got so much more than that.
Aza is a teenage girl who ends up in an unlikely and bizarre chase for the truth when her childhood friend Davis’s billionaire father goes missing. From the outside looking in, Aza seems to have it all. She's a good daughter, a good student, and a good friend. But life for Aza isn't what it appears. She struggles every day with invasive thoughts, thoughts which at times leave her unable to focus on nothing but the fear and anxiety they cause.
This is a brave, bold move by John Green who so imaginatively portrays what it is like to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You are not just reading about someone with OCD, you are experiencing what it's like to have OCD while reading this book.
I’m tempted to flip back to page one and read the book again!
Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why meets The Breakfast Club in Karen M. McManus’ debut Young Adult masterpiece, One of Us Is Lying. This mystery thriller is set at Bayview High where five students are sent to detention one afternoon when contraband mobile phones are found in their bags. From there, the story takes us on a whirlwind of twists and turns, leaving us guessing until the end.
When Simon, the school’s gossip app creator and blogger, suddenly dies from anaphylaxis caused by peanut oil, it is initially ruled to be a tragic accident. However, a series of clues leads to police investigating his death as a possible homicide. The other students who were in detention with him that afternoon become caught up in the investigation. What was Simon getting ready to post on his gossip app? Did someone murder him to keep their secrets hidden?
We are introduced to the first-person perspectives of Bronwyn, a geek who dreams of getting into Yale; Addy, a beautiful homecoming princess; Nate, a former drug-dealing criminal; and Cooper, a baseball player who has been hiding a massive secret from everyone he knows.
Was Simon murdered by one of the members of the “Murder Club”? Or is their something more behind his death?
McManus has successfully created an ambitious and skilfully written high school mystery. I am looking forward to reading more of her work in the hopefully not too distant future!
"I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it may be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth."
More than just a love story, Tin Man is an exquisite piece of art. Sarah Winman captivates readers with a beautifully touching story of three individuals, Ellis, Michael and Annie. The book is a tender portrayal of love, friendship and loss.
The first half of the book is written in third person and tells the story of Ellis. While exploring Ellis's life, we also meet Michael. Their bond and closeness commences instantly, and never leaves either of them, even after Ellis meets Annie. In the second half of the book the writing switches to first person, and we hear Michael's very sad and detailed account of his life with and without Ellis.
A print of one of Van Gogh's paintings, Sunflowers, won in a raffle in the prologue by Ellis’s mother, features strongly throughout the book. It is a perfect metaphor for the freedom of love and the trials of grief experienced by the characters.
Tin Man gets five big shiny stars from me.
Following on from her bestselling memoir The Anti-Cool Girl, Rosie Waterland’s Every Lie I’ve Ever Told is another honest and hilarious account of her journey through life. Trigger warning: This book deals with some difficult issues, including mental health, suicide, abortion, and abusive relationships.
Every Lie I’ve Ever Told reveals the struggles that Waterland faced when she lost her best friend and “soulmate” to a tragic accident while he was on the other side of the world. The friendship they shared is recounted in the most beautiful and blissful way.
Waterland speaks openly about her nervous breakdown and suicide attempt, but the book is also filled with hilarious stories, like the time she posted a naked selfie on social media, and cringe-worthy sexual encounters.
Waterland has the ability to make you cry from both laughter and heartbreak without even turning to the next page. I am eagerly awaiting her next memoir.
If you do read this book and feel triggered, do not be afraid to speak to someone. If you do not feel comfortable with opening up to someone you know and trust, I encourage you to call the amazing people at Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Any book that is endorsed by celebrated author Margaret Atwood already has my tick of approval before I open to page one. Naomi Alderman’s The Power is a genius story that turns society so perfectly on its head. It begins when teenage girls worldwide develop a 'skein', a strip of muscle in their collarbone which conducts electricity, allowing them to instantly inflict pain and death.
Virtually overnight, the world changes beyond recognition. Women are elected as political leaders, the army is almost completely made up of women, God changes gender, and sex-trafficked women break free from their bonds.
The story moves between chapters from the point of view of four very different characters. Allie is an adopted young woman who uses the power to murder her abusive foster father, and becomes “Mother Eve”, the head of a worldwide movement re-writing world religions to emphasise the primacy of women. Roxy is the daughter of a gangland boss. Tunde captures video footage of one of the first manifestations of the power and quickly becomes the reporter on the emerging phenomenon. Margot is an American mayor who gains confidence as the result of her Power, and use that confidence to fuel a rapid rise to power.
The Power is well deserving of the 2017 Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction. Alderman has created a unique world with this clever and thought-provoking story, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves first-class dystopian fiction.
Madame Zero is a short collection of dark and mysterious stories in which prize-winning author Sarah Hall establishes well-developed themes of relationships, sexuality, nature and existentialism. Hall is at it again with an exploration of the connections between the civilized and natural worlds, probing the beast that lies beneath the skin.
In the first story of the collection, “Mrs. Fox”, a woman transforms into a fox and her husband attempts to sustain a relationship with her. In “Wilderness,” a woman on a dangerous hike with her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s friend contemplates her mortality. In “Evie,” a woman’s sexually-charged behavior becomes alarming for her husband.
Hall’s exquisite writing makes for a compelling and rewarding read. It is not difficult to become engulfed in each story as they are so captivating, and leave you wanting more.
I have also read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Hall's The Wolf Border, however, I think the short story format really suits her writing style. I look forward to reading more of her collections.