Choose Your Own Adventure: The Girl With All The Gifts

I have a quandary.  I want to tell everybody about the book I just finished, The Girl With All the Gifts. One of the best things about this book was that I had no idea it was a [insert genre] book.  If I’d known it was a [insert genre] book, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I want to review this book, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t heard of it.

Girl sitting on box trying to keep it shut
Pandora by Frederick Stuart Church

On the other hand I’m thinking: lots of people must know about this book because it’s also been made into a film, released only last year. Maybe these folk would like to read a more extensive review to decide if it’s worthwhile reading.

So to meet these competing reader requirements, this is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, where YOU get to decide which review you read.

If you’ve never heard of this book or the film and you think you might read it, for a no-spoilers review… GO TO OPTION A.

If you’ve heard of The Girl With All the Gifts but haven’t read it yet, and don’t know if you should… GO TO OPTION B.

When the Personal is Political (in Korea): Meeting With My Brother

Interestingly, Australia was threatened by North Korea this week. By toeing the line with US foreign policy, the North Korean foreign ministry is reported to have warned that Australia is ‘coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK’. In its own right that’s pretty interesting, if not downright alarming, but it’s especially interesting for me as I just finished reading Meeting With My Brother by Yi Mun-yol – a literal and allegorical novella about North and South Korea.

The Vegetarian, which I read last year, was my first Korean novel ever. I don’t know how I made it this far in life with so little exposure to Korean literature, especially since I have a degree in Asian Studies! But after a short period of chastisement I set about changing this, requesting a review copy of Meeting With My Brother. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Meeting With My Brother breathes life into the stories we’ve read and the images we’ve seen of North and South Korean families being reunited after decades of separation, as well as shedding light on the deep ideological rifts still obviously at play in this divided nation.

Six reasons to read Come in Spinner

I feel slightly embarrassed that I’ve only read Come in Spinner now and only because of the virtual bookclub hosted by Simon @ Stuck in a book and Karen @ Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings (where for one wonderful week bookish-types review books printed in 1951). Honestly, I should have read Come in Spinner, by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James, years ago – this is an amazing book for a number of reasons.

The first reason: It’s enormous.  When I went to collect it from the library I wasn’t expecting a tome.  Think Half-Blood Prince and you’re nearly there. I actually didn’t think I’d get past the first couple of hundred pages, but not even one of these pages is superfluous because…

Bound and gagged in a boot? That’s not cricket!

I defy anyone to read the first chapter of The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong and not be completely sucked in:

I’m wedged towards the rear corner, driver’s side, so close I can smell the hot plastics of the tail light… The cable ties are drawn tight around both wrists, cutting into the flesh… The feet, from whom I’ve heard nothing lately, must be in a similar predicament; more cable ties drawn around the ankles… My breath is hissing in and out of my nose, my mouth tightly taped.’

 

And there we find Darren, in the boot of a car, on the Geelong to Melbourne road, with a bullet in his right knee, and without any real sense of why he’s there. We traverse through his childhood, growing up in the working-class western suburbs of Melbourne with his brother and his mum, through his rise and fall as a career cricketer, then  back to where we started: a middle-aged man trapped in the boot of a car, with time running out.

I’m going to get straight to the point.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Review: The Magician’s Lie

When I did a quick google of ‘history of magic’, what struck me was: (1) every page was dominated by erstwhile male magicians and (2) I hadn’t heard of any of them (apart from Harry Houdini).  By turning a spotlight on travelling magicians at the turn of the twentieth century America, and then by making the central protagonist a young woman, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister has crafted a unique story.

The opening chapter of this book is absorbing.  We quickly learn there has been a murder and we know that our heroine – the Amazing Arden, the famous female illusionist – is implicated. A local police officer brings her into custody and as he interrogates Arden over the course of one long night, we learn her backstory up to the point of the alleged murder of her husband.

The book provides some insight into this quite niche aspect of America’s cultural history, but at its heart The Magician’s Lie is a romance. If you like plot-driven novels, where the heroine is flawed but likeable, the historical context is a gentle backdrop rather than a character in it’s own right (like say A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, rather than All The Light We Cannot See), the ending has an element of suspense but isn’t a huge surprise, the villain is sufficiently disturbing, and the romance takes a few nervous dips but eventually rights itself – this is the book for you.

The book has sold really well in the US, and I suspect its sales will continue to grow now it’s being distributed more widely. It’s also been optioned for a film, which if done well, could be a visual feast a la Moulin Rouge.

The Magician’s Lie would suit an easy read on a beach if you’re inclined to reside in the northern hemisphere, or, curled up on the couch, if you’re inhabiting somewhere south of the equator. Either option sounds pretty good to me.

 

I received a free copy of The Magician’s Lie from Legend Press, in exchange for an honest review.