TBYL Reviewers

Chatter: TBYL Reviewers in July

On the weekend I had a chance to catch up with some of the TBYL Reviewers. It was a chance to have a chat, drink some tea and have them pick a few books they’d like to read and review for the blog. I’m really keen to move That Book You Like… in a really collaborative direction this year, and part of making that happen is catching up with this wonderful group of bookish friends more regularly. I am very excited about being able to bring new voices, new ideas and new reviews to the blog, and just quietly, I think they might be excited too.

chatSo, on a chilly Sunday afternoon, we sat around the fire in my humble ‘library’ and talked about all kinds of things. Here’s a few of the things that we chatted about, I’d love to hear what you think on these topics too…

We talked about what we’d been reading lately, always one of my favourite things to do. Stephanie had just finished Paper Towns, by John Green. She’d been impressed, a fan of young adult lit, and this book didn’t disappoint. This got us on to talking about The Fault in our Stars (as you might expect) and about the target demographic of YA fiction. I wondered out loud if I would ever be able to convincingly write a teenage voice, I feel so far away from 16-years-old at the moment, I think I would be too self conscious to even try. Tam suggested that maybe that that is what it is to be a talented author, the skill and empathy to write in many voices, even ones far removed from yourself.

What do you think? Do you think an adult can authentically write teen?

Tam and Narelle had both been busy reading books from the TBYL Reading Pile, Tam with Crimson Dawn (Allen and Unwin), and Narelle with The Priority List (Allen and Unwin). They’ve since written reviews for me to share, which will be coming up next week.

Carolyn had just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. It broke a bit of a reading drought for her, so I asked her if she’d mind putting a few words down on what she thought of the novel:

the year of the floodThe Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood follows two women, Toby and Ren, who have independently survived a pandemic, each believing that they are the only person left in the world. The story alternates between each woman, both of whom managed to remain barricaded when the waterless flood hit. Both Toby and Ren tell their story, of when they were part of the cult “God’s Gardeners” before the outbreak.

The Year of The Flood is the follow-up book to Atwood’s 2003 novel Oryx and Crake and it is these characters who appear throughout the second instalment but under different names. It is not until the end that you realise who they are and their connection to Toby and Ren.

I loved this book and was gripped until the end. It is set in the future in a world that I personally hope never eventuates, where pigs have been spliced with human brains making them more intelligent, and lions and lambs have been combined, making them appear gentle yet have the ferocity of a lion. Atwood’s storytelling is brilliant and if you are a fan of hers, then I think you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

As for myself, I raved a little more about Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals, which I reviewed last week. I can’t stop recommending it, and I think it’s voices will stay fresh in my mind for a little while yet.

I’d love to hear about what you’re reading at the moment…

We had a bit of a chat about book clubs, about how great they are, but how difficult it can be to keep up the momentum – life gets so busy! Carolyn mentioned that her mum had been going to the same book club for over twenty years! Can you image?!

That got me to thinking about the fact that we’ve not had an online TBYL Book Club book for ages. I’ve been missing it, and so next month I’m going suggest a book for us all to share. Stay tuned next week for details of the what and when…

Are you part of a book club? Do you find it hard to make time to chat about what you’re reading?

Throughout the afternoon a whole bundle of titles were mentioned; The Book of Rachel, which made me think of The Red TentHaruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and The Hottest State, by Ethan Hawke (random, I know). We talked about the scandal that was Judy Bloom’s Forever and Carolyn shared with us how this little book from the 70s managed to sully her reputation at high school (well, almost).

pretty funny tea cosiesOnce we’d finished up, the guys took their picks from the TBYL Reading Pile, all of them walking away with some amazing stories to enjoy. I’m particularly pleased that Narelle took a copy of Pretty Funny Tea Cosies and Other Beautiful Knitted Things, by Loani Prior (Murdoch Books). Just quietly I’m hoping she knits something from it, she’s so wonderfully crafty and these tea cosies could not be cuter!

In short, this all means that we’ve got lots of new reviews in store for you guys. They’ve even agreed to help out with our book clubs in the future, and I’ve invited them to review other lovely things the do and see. I can’t wait to hear what they’re up to!

If you’d like to find out more about fantastic team of TBYL Reviewers, pop over and read a little more here…

Any of the titles mentioned here tickle your fancy? I’d love to know what’s next on your reading pile…

A Lucky Life: Where Earth Meets Water

It always amazes me how some authors are able to capture colour, movement and feeling, to tell a story so rich and real. Today’s review from Jennie Diplock-Storer tells us of a story that captures all these things and more. Here’s her thoughts on Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone (Harlequin)…

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Pai Padukone’s debut novel, Where Earth Meets Water, takes us to dichotomous parts of the world and introduces us to the lives of four intrinsically linked people. Pia has written a novel that successfully wraps the reader around it’s finger, and all within the first few paragraphs.

where earth meets waterTelling the story of Karom Seth involves more than Karom alone. His life holds several traumatic events, some of which we are made aware of very early in the book. Despite this trauma, if fact almost as a result of it, Karom appears to have lived a very lucky life. As a college student in New York, he remains behind on campus when his class attends a conference at Tower One on September 11th, 2001. That day the world is changed for ever by two planes hitting the Twin Towers. Karom, of course, survives, but loses many friends from his student group.

As a senior at college, with his final exams coming up, a family reunion is organised at the coastal town of Bhupal in India. Seth relatives are flying and travelling from all parts of the world and Karom is excited at the prospect of meeting all of these blood kin, many of whom he has never met before. As fate would have it, he delays his arrival in India by one day, so as to complete his study. When he gets to the airport he finds flights to India cancelled but can find no information as to why. Phone calls to family members are unanswered and he ultimately returns to college.

After a time, Karom is notified by a cousin that a “freak wave”, emanating from an underwater earthquake has hit coastal areas of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka & India, decimating the region. His parents and most of his relatives are lost in this disaster.

Fortunately, Karom’s room-mate, Lloyd, is there for him during this time. He hears the nightmares and Karom’s cries in the night and supports him as best he can. This relationship is a pleasure for the reader to share. The two men become best friends and years later, Karom is to be Lloyd’s best man in his wedding to Malina.

We are introduced to Gita, Karom’s long term girlfriend. Although she wasn’t in Karom’s life during these earth-shattering events, she is certainly impacted by them. They are a very happy couple and enjoy their life together – all but for one behaviour pattern of Karom’s. He plays, with worrying regularity, what he terms “a game”. We see an example of this ‘game’ in the first few pages of the book…

While waiting at a train station in India with Gita, Karom edges himself closer and closer to the edge of the platform until finally, he jumps down onto the track and walks up the train line. It takes some time before Gita realises what he has done and drama ensues as Karom returns to the platform unharmed. His words of reassurance to Gita fall on deaf ears, as she is scared and sick of the game, behaviour which she only sees ending in tragedy.

new york trainWe learn that in New York Karom often stands as close as possible to the edge of the station platform and also plays “chicken” with cars on the road. It appears that in escaping death, dodging terrorists and earthquakes, Karom feels he is either invincible or he is tempting fate.

Where Earth Meets Water is written in components dedicated to the major characters involved in Karom’s world.

We start in India, where Gita and Karom are staying with Gita’s Ammama, her Grandmother. Gita shares her anxieties about Karom’s behaviour to Ammama and Ammama herself sets upon the problem in her own way. There is much love and colour here and we are fortunate to be gifted  by the author, Ammama’s story.

We learn about Lloyd’s relationship with Karom also, how Karom’s fears have influenced their friendship.

Gita’s story shares with us the complexities and vulnerabilities involved in being in a long term relationship with Karom. What does this mean to her? How is his fears and behaviour affecting them as a couple?

As a reader I was grabbed by Where Earth Meets Water in the first paragraphs. Padukone writes with colour, melody, vibrations and deeply exposed emotions. Many sections of the book are pure prose. We, the reader, are where the characters are, at any given moment. On occasions I found myself holding my breath, unable to turn pages fast enough. At other times I was wary moving on, scared to travel with a character on the path they had chosen.

There are phrases of pure beauty, with Padukone having the gift of putting on paper movement and touch that the reader can feel.

Every character is so completely developed, it is impossible not to be fully invested in them. This makes the reading of the last half of this book riveting. Secrets are exposed, fears are shared and feelings confessed. I raced to the last pages and was not in the least bit disappointed.

I highly recommend Where Earth Meets Water. Although intense feelings and events are contained, there is nothing threatening or difficult in the reading of this book. I truly hope that this is the first of many for Pia Padukone.

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You can find out more about Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone here…