Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Signature of All Things

Firstly, I wanted to start this post with saying how painful the wait has been for this title to finally publish.  Many in the book industry received their ARCs months and months ago.  It's a big book but we didn't need that much time to read it!  From my notes I finished the book in early July and I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to discuss it with friends, family, industry colleagues but the book still hasn't been released here in Australia! It's kinda killing me.  So I posted my review on our work site and I thought I'd post it here too.  Because at the end of the day, this is a mighty fine book and one historical fiction lovers will enjoy immensely.

Not having read any of Elizabeth Gilbert's previous books, including the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, I didn't know what to expect. I must say I found The Signature of All Things quite an experience! It's an interesting, well researched, fascinating book, an epic novel, and an incredibly engaging read. 
The Signature of All Things introduces us to the life and times of the absolutely amazing Alma Whittaker, daughter of the equally amazing Henry Whittaker who from a poor background in the UK becomes the richest man in Philadelphia. Henry is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer, who crosses the paths of Sir Joseph Banks and Captain Cook, whereas Alma’s mother is a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, "conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones)."

Alma, our main focus of the book, inherits much from her father including her thirst for knowledge and keen intellect. Told in the late 1700s and most of the 1800s, we experience many delights - history, art, travel and science - as we go on a journey of discovery. We uncover much through Alma's eyes and what we see is really quite extraordinary. She's independent but restricted by her sex, she loves wholeheartedly but mistakenly, and she takes a leap of faith to discover herself - travelling to Tahiti to Amsterdam without the luxuries she surrounded herself as she was growing up.  Alma is fascinating. One description described her as "a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern".  She is unforgettable.

If I had to rave about one thing, it would be the research of the author. Outstanding and impressive - five stars to Elizabeth Gilbert!  If I have to complain about something, it would be my own inability to follow some of the scientific discussions. One day I hope to read it again, just to re-discover the woman that was Alma. A strong and interesting character, she made this book an enjoyable and engaging read ...

Bloomsbury is definitely onto a winner with this book. Booksellers, libraries, and readers, get ready! This will be everywhere!!!!

ISBN 9781408850114 | Bloomsbury | October 2013 | Trade Paperback | 512 pages | $29.99

BOOK REVIEW: The Vale Girl

This is a debut? Seriously? The publisher, Pan Macmillan Australia, is passionate about this book and I can see why - it's going to have a great buzz with librarians, booksellers and readers!

Set in Banville, this book was full of Australian characters we can relate to - we know them, we know how they think, and we know how they will act (rightly or wrongly). The story itself is not complex and thankfully didn't develop into something really sinister (for a while I thought we were going down The Lovely Bones path *shudder*).

Sarah Vale is the teenage daughter of the town prostitute. She has gone missing but who really cares about her anyway? We care. And young Tommy cares. (He's in love with her.) Tommy and the local town sergeant go looking for Sarah. And it's in the search we see the town for what it really is, we see the people for who they are, and things slowly unravel so we see them more clearly.

The writing is just beautiful, evocative, reflective, real, compelling. I loved the observations the author has made about small Australian towns, and the way she writes places you there, easily, so you are almost part of the story. You could picture everything clearly and those of us with imagination loved the details she would capture. A real treat, particularly from a debut author.

I found the book intriguing, partly because of the beautiful writing style, and the other because I wanted to know what happened to Sarah. Sarah herself is in the narrative so we get to know her story, what she thinks and feels, but where is she? What's happened to her!? We have to know. Because we find ourselves caring for this girl.

And yes, I still can't believe it's a debut!

Librarians, booksellers and readers you'll want to keep an eye on Nelika McDonald, that's for sure.

ISBN 9781742612423 | Macmillan Australia | August 2013 | Trade Paperback | 310 pages | $29.99  

Introduction to this new blog

Hi and welcome.  I'm really not sure why I started another blog - I'm not that good at keeping my old ones maintained - lol.  I think I've given up on them (well until I return to Venice - then I'll start my Venice blog up again).  But I need to get back into the discipline of writing....so let's give it another go shall we?

As some of you know, I write book reviews on the work page (James Bennett Pty Limited) and on GoodReads but why not have my own site?  Afterall there are some book reviews I don't put on either! (yes erotica I'm looking at you!!)

And while this new book ramble might be review focussed, sometimes it might not be a review but an observation or a discussion I'd like to encourage in the Australian book industry.  Afterall, I've worked in it for 23+ years!  These days I manage publisher relations and marcomms for the country's largest library supplier but they are not affiliated with this blog.  (Yes, these are my opinions not those of the company I've worked for this past decade, yada yada yada). 

At the end of the day I talk print books, I talk ebooks. Somedays I just talk!  Or write here as the case may be.  I love books, I love the local book industry, so let's have some fun - and enjoy the read.