Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Predictions: A Novel by Bianca Zander

The Predictions
The Predictions
A Novel 
by Bianca Zander
Paperback, 400 pages

The Predictions starts off in a hard working commune that doubles as a sort of human experiment in parenting. Or not parenting, as it were.

The kids are left to find out who they are on their own, and form a bit of a clan themselves.
When the hard-working commune has a shift in focus, the young start to scatter to find themselves away from the confines of where they were raised.

Poppy Harvest (a last name they all share) clings to the Predictions that a visitor has made for her and her life.

As she gets buffeted around the real word, her only point of reference to fall back on is the card she was given that night.

An interesting coming of age book. Certainly different context than many have experienced. I am not a stranger to communal life, but this is certainly more extreme than I remember.

More Kibbutz than hippie. Strict. No wonder the kids want out.

I can't say I really connected with the characters, but I found the trip fascinating nonetheless.

An adventurous story of growing up. 

From the Back Flap:

Gaialands, a bucolic vegan commune in the New Zealand wilderness, is the only home fifteen-year-old Poppy has ever known. It's the epitome of 1970s counterculture—a place of free love, hard work, and high ideals . . . at least in theory. But Gaialands's strict principles are shaken when new arrival Shakti claims the commune's energy needs to be healed and harnesses her divination powers in a ceremony called the Predictions. Poppy is predicted to find her true love overseas, so when her boyfriend, Lukas, leaves Gaialands to fulfill his dream of starting a punk rock band in London, she follows him. In London, Poppy falls into a life that looks very like the one her prediction promised, but is it the one she truly wants?
The Predictions is a mesmerizing, magical novel of fate, love, mistakes, and finding your place in the world.

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Bianca ZanderAbout Bianca Zander

Bianca Zander is British-born but has lived in New Zealand for the past two decades. Her first novel, The Girl Below, was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and she is the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary and the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship, recognizing her as one of New Zealand's eminent writers. She is a lecturer in creative writing at the Auckland University of Technology. Check out Bianca's website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Boo: A Novel by Neil Smith

A Novel
by Neil Smith
Trade Paperback, 320 pages

Boo is a strange and magical book. A book about life, death, the afterlife (such as it is), bullying, being weird, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

This all happens in an odd yet compelling format. And Neil Smith pulls it off.

In an afterlife of thirteen year-olds, Boo, ever the scientist, sets out to discover the truth about his surroundings and ultimately himself.

It is odd and oddly real. Touching and funny and heartwarming.

And you will immediately think of all the people that need to read it.

Good for ages 12 to 112, and likely should become part of the curriculum. I just handed it to my 23 year-old son, I hope he recommends it to all his friends.

From the Back Flap:

Boo is the highly anticipated debut novel from one of the most incomparable voices in Canadian literature: Bang Crunch author Neil Smith.
          Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed "Boo" because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school--more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. While he desperately wants to apply the scientific method to find out how this heaven works (broken glass grows back; flashlights glow without batteries; garbage chutes plummet to nowhere), he's confronted by the greatest mystery of all--his peers. With the help of his classmate Johnny, who was killed at the same time, Boo begins to figure out what exactly happened to them (and who they really were back in America) through this story about growing up, staying young and the never-ending heartbreak of being 13.

NEIL SMITH is a French translator and the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller Bang Crunch. He has been nominated for the Hugh McLennan Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize–Best First Book (Canada), as well as the Journey Prize 3 times. He has also won the First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He lives in Montreal.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Harmless: A Novel by James Grainger

A Novel
by James Grainger

Trade Paperback, 288 pages

This is a fascinating book. The genre does seem to twist and turn as you read on, keeping you alert and guessing.

Starting off in a Bill Chill type reunion of old friends, some of which were better at keeping in touch than others. Most, seemingly through becoming parents and maturing (or not), somewhat suspect of each other. Old lusts, judgements, competitiveness and self-doubt surface in this seemingly idyllic setting for a weekend in the country together.

The prose is tight. The pacing as well. It all takes place in seeming real time - in fact in less than 24 hours.

At the end I would say it is a book about one man's personal journey while dealing with the biggest crisis one can imagine - and who he is at the end.


From the Back Flap:

Set over the course of a single day and night, Harmless is a tense, provocative, and psychologically astute first novel in the tradition of Herman Koch's The Dinner, Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, about a weekend reunion of old friends that takes a terrifying turn when two teenage girls go missing.

At a remote farm, a group of old friends gather to catch up, sit by the fire, and forget about their overworked lives. But a long weekend in the country is not Joseph’s idea of a good time -- not when he’s promised his ex-wife he'll use the occasion to talk to their troubled fourteen-year-old daughter, and not when the farm belongs to his former lover and her husband, Alex. Once best friends, Joseph and Alex are now estranged, with much left unspoken between them. As more guests arrive and the reunion unfolds, old rivalries, new pressures, and erotic tensions surface. But things take a terrifying turn when the adults return from a nostalgic drug-fuelled bender at sundown to discover their two teenage daughters are missing. As night descends and the girls remain unfound, Joseph and Alex decide to enter the surrounding woods together in search of their daughters. What the two men encounter in the wilderness will push them to confront how far they are willing to go to protect the ones they love.

By turns blackly comic, thought-provoking, and harrowing, Harmless introduces James Grainger as an unflinching observer of the way we live now, and exposes the dark impulses we conceal beneath the veneer of our modern lives.

JAMES GRAINGER's debut collection of stories, The Long Slide (2004), was the winner of the ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His reviews and articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, Quill & Quire, the Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Men's Fashion, Sharp, and Rue Morgue

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Orient: A Novel by Christopher Bollen

A Novel
By Christopher Bollen
Hardcover, 624 pages

As I lifted this heavy tome (624 pages!) I thought to myself - this had better be good.

It wasn't. It was great! I loved the book right from first page.

The book is chilling. Complex. Intelligent. Thoroughly satisfying. The characters are well developed and the setting is real.

I knew when I was only part way through it that I was going to be sad when it ended. I was. But that did not stop me from carrying it with me everywhere and reading it every chance I got.

A great book is a secret world that you enter. This was such for me. I escaped into this book and was bereft when it was over. I immediately ordered his previous book.

Christopher Bollen has rocketed to the front runners of my favourite authors.

Read Orient!

From the Back Flap: 

As summer draws to a close, a Small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out. Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia. As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself. Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.

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Christopher BollenAbout Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York. Find out more about Christopher at his website.