I Am Pilgrim -Terry Hayes

I am Pilgrim

My life has shifted on its axis. I finally delved into Terry Hayes tome, I am Pilgrim and now everything must change. I have to clear out my bookshelf and put this fantastic novel on a shelf all by its self while I ponder everything I just read. So move over Ludlum, shove over Lehane, there’s a new boy on the block and he’s bad (I mean “bad” in the colloquial sense, as in “Damn Good”).

It’s a hefty novel, but that’s no deterrent, as I wish it were even longer. The novel centres on the protagonist Scott Murdoch? (The question mark becomes relevant once you’ve read the novel) who is an American spy, agent, deep, deep undercover operative etc. He is on a race to save the world from a biological attack and time is ticking, and in his spare time he solves a New York murder case –Ha, I love it!

Terry Hayes is a man who knows his craft. This may be his debut novel,but Google his biography and you’ll see he has serious cred. His plotting is very tight and complex; the writing is intelligent and suspenseful. I sat in the waiting room at Toyota while I had new tyres fitted, and my hands were tightly gripping the book as I read the final chapters.

Here’s a puzzle:

How long does it take Toyota to fit two new tyres?

Two hours.

At the end of the two hours I was at a pivotal point in the story, the Toyota man called my name. I put my hand up to silence the annoying man and resumed biting my nails and my eyes continued to rapidly scan the pages. I came to a suitable place to stop, raced home and finished the book.

Like any great book it is still lingering in my thoughts. Hayes has created a hero that we haven’t seen since Jason Bourne, and I hope to see a lot more of him.

This is a suspense novel that deals with sensitive and serious subjects and it is handle with respect, skilled observation and the critique of a good journalist. Hayes doesn’t dictate to the reader he is a masterful storyteller and the reader is taken on a thrilling journey.

NB: This is an adult novel, if considering for a teen reader note that it does contain some torture scenes, although it is not an overly graphic novel.

Catch a Q&A with Terry Hayes here: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/blog/top-writing-tips-from-debut-thriller-writer-terry-hayes-2167.aspx

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We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Another brilliant novel has sailed across my desk – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is a YA novel which stays with you long after the final page has been devoured. The story is told through the central character, Cadence. We follow her summers spent on a family island along with her friends /cousins –The Liars. As the liars hold a mirror to their family, they don’t always like what they see, and this has a disastrous effect.

The narrative of this novel is like a boat on the ocean, the reader is rocked by its undulations, of an idyll childhood spent on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, to the fractures of this Kennedyesq family, which break, heal and break again. The reader is taken on an emotional journey, riding the ups and downs of the waves, which eventually crash to the shore with its stunning conclusion.

Lockhart’s writing is clear and concise but not devoid of description or poetry. It is her writing that first grabbed my attention. Here is an example of the main character describing her cousins and friend.

 

Johnny

He is bounce, effort, and snark.

 Mirren

She is sugar, curiosity and rain.

 Gat

He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

 

The writing was taut and effortless, but it was the plot in the end that won me over. I had to know the secret, the mystery.

Do not go in search of other reviews if you are interested in reading this one, as spoilers will surely ruin the whole experience. I’ll leave the last word to the dust jacket.

“We Were Liars is a modern suspense that will leave you reeling. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.”

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: 2014

Genre: YA/ Crossover

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Alex

One of the fastest moving trends in the YA genre is the crime novel. John Grisham, Harlan Coben and James Patterson, usually write adult crime, are all producing novels aimed at a younger audience. Next week I will review Harlan Coben Shelter, but first, I thought I should indulge in an adult crime novel so I can compare the two. I chose Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex, it was translated into English and re-published last year, and since that time it has received a lot of praise and won the CWA’s International Dagger award for 2013, so I thought it was a good choice.

The first thing I will say about this novel is don’t read anyone else’s review. This might sound arrogant, but I’m giving this warning for your own well being as many of the reviews reveal too much and I found this tainted any mystery the plot may have held. Most of the reviewers have done this inadvertently, but my readers are an intelligent bunch and I know they can read between the lines.

With that in mind, I will give you a very brief plot blurb. The setting is France (mainly Paris), a girl is kidnapped and the police try to solve this and other evolving mysteries- there. I want to mention a couple of things that bugged me about the novel, I don’t usually do this as opinions can be subjective, but I have an uncontrollable compulsion today to put it out there.

First – the cop, he is the stereotype, white, middle aged, pig headed, flawed character we’ve seen time and again in many crime novels. This is a shame as Lemaitre has a talent for characterization. Secondly- the title, it really “had my goat up” as my mother would say. It did the crime genre, which is unpredictable by nature, no justice.

Now for the good- what I love about the novel is Lemaitre’s keen observations on human nature. He manages to create characters that are incredibly believable. His writing pulls out the subtleties and nuances of the everyday, that most of us are unaware. Lemaitre’s talent is in the detail. I’m not talking of the kind of detail that can bore you to tears, I once read a book that described a fob watch for eleven pages, it’s the kind of detail that forms clear pictures in your mind and allows the story to move along seamlessly. It is that talent that leaves me wondering whether Lemaitre should write in a different genre especially literary fiction.

NB: He did win the Prix Goncourt award for an epic novel Au revoir là-haut on WWII; the highest award for literary fiction in France.

In the end I recommend the book for adults who enjoy this genre, as it was enjoyable. I also recommend it to budding writers, as there is much to be learnt from his style, and its what I found to be the most enjoyable part.

 

Title: Alex

 Author: Pierre Lemaitre

 Published: French 2011, English 2013 Maclehose

 Genre: Crime

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
Blurb
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

Another Night, Another Day

Another day another night

Another Night, Another Day is the new novel  by Sarah Rayner bestselling author of One Momnet, One Morning. The novel introduces us to the lives of three main characters; we follow their separate stories until they converge at a pivotal point. We see the effect mental illness has on them and their families, eventually bringing them together at the same treatment centre. Their lives are all different, as are their circumstances, yet they all need help.

What I enjoyed about Sarah Rayner’s book is how she handled this subject authentically. The characters are anyone and everyone. She demystifies mental illness and brings to light how it affects ordinary people living ordinary lives. She successfully strips away the fear that is often associated with mental illness. Rayner does not dwell on the tragedy, but explores the hope that understanding and support can bring.

This was a personal subject for me, and I have also written a short story on manic depression. Mental Illness is a large umbrella term, which I feel Rayner has opened out and let the reader see its many different facets.

Some of the characters in this book are being revisited from Sarah Rayner’s other books One Moment, One Morning and The Two Week Wait. I have not read either of these books and found Another Night, Another Day can standalone.

The official publication date for this book is 17 July, but Waterstones has it available to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

This review was based on a publisher’s copy in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, has influenced the review.

Publisher : Picador

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

ocean end of lane

Neil Gaiman is mostly known for his wonderfully dark, Stephen Kingesq children’s novels, but he does dip his quill into the realm of adult fiction and it’s just as atmospheric and haunting. In his current novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he delves into an adults’ recollection of his childhood. The narrator is a seven year old boy whose name we never learn, while reading the book I didn’t notice the absence of a name, it wasn’t until I finished that I went looking; maybe I missed it. Obviously this was deliberate and I wondered whether Gaiman was either trying to say it was insignificant or, more likely, that the character was unsure who he was.

Through a magically symbolic story, Gaiman explores how our memories of our childhood are perceived differently as an adult and how we are affected by them. The blend of fantasy and realism had me wondering if the boy’s imagination created an unreal world so he could deal with the real problems of his father’s infidelity and a family where he didn’t quite fit.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was Gaiman’s attention to the details of a child’s relationship and observations to the world around him and his interactions with his family. This excerpt shows his ability to capture a world through a child’s eye:

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences”

Bridge of Swords

bridge of swords

Sometimes the name of the leading character in a novel can make all the difference to me –I mean how great is the name Katniss Everdeen? I had one of those ‘name moments’ while reading Bridge of Swords by Duncan Lay. The protagonists name is Sendatsu, his name will not leave my thoughts, I keep saying it over and over again, I try to sleep and his name pops into my mind Sendatsu, Sendatsu! Lay has obviously created a memorable character. Its not just names that makes this fantasy novel memorable, Bridge of Swords is the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy, and it is an epic novel with a tale to tell.

Sendatsu is an elf, who passes through a protective barrier that shields the Elfan world from the human world; he was forced into the unfamiliar world to find the answer to the loss of Elfan magic. Sendatsu becomes involved with two humans named Huw and Rhiannon, these two characters provide the novels subplot. Wars are being fought in the human world and no matter how hard Sandatsu tries to stay uninvolved his warrior skills come to the aid of many and his involvement is set.

The plot and subplot explore the themes of power, greed, family and love. The themes are gently woven between the beautiful, cultural, Japanese like Elfan world to the raw, gritty, rough, medieval human world. Duncan Lay is a talented and skilled writer who manages to bring scenes to life. His action scenes are the breath holding, edge of your seat type, that have you page turning for more.

I have some catching up to do as the third book in the series was recently released, but am looking forward to see how the story unfolds.

Valley of Shields (Book 2 Empire of Bones)

Wall of Spears (Book 3 Empire of Bones)