Monthly Archives: January 2012

Quotation of the Day

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Book Review: The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill

This review was first published on 60litres during the summer of 2011

There is nothing better than reading a book set in the place I am travelling.  This California-based book was even more special than that, as I bought it from the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.  As well as falling head-over-heels for the bookstore, I am in awe of the beauty of this book.  Set in the 1970s, it tells the story of Inez, raised in the suburbs by her flamenco dancer-turned-Real Estate Agent mother.  Taking centre stage in her life, and the story, is her bohemian father, Paul, who lives in San Francisco, refusing to conform to society’s norms.  He has clear flaws, and certainly couldn’t be accused of being a responsible father, but you can’t help but admire his stance on issues such as money not leading to happiness, and the freedom of individuality.  As well as the complex and interesting characters throughout the story, the book details a fascinating snapshot of life in the supposed carefree 1970s.  It’s story of relationships, family, and the trials of adolescence and finding one’s place in the world.  Having read the book, it is now ready to be passed to a book exchange, as I always do while travelling, but I am having trouble in passing this one on as I am waiting for a book exchange I feel is truly deserving of this masterpiece!

The City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

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The Literary Owl rating: 4.5/5

Read with: A (very) large glass of Californian rosé wine

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How to read while backpacking

As well as all things bookish, one of my other big loves is travelling.  In 2008, my fiancé and I backpacked around the world for 4 months, and are continuing the adventure at the moment during a working holiday in New Zealand.  We blog about travel at our website 60 litres.  (60 litres being the size of the backpacks all our worldly goods are transported in!)  I did have a ‘books’ page on that site, but now that I have figuratively given birth to The Literary Owl, I am moving its contents here.  So firstly, here is my ‘travelling with books’ philosophy:

When travelling, there are 3 choices for a book lover: (a) Take a larger backpack or skimp on clothes to enable room for more books; (b) Buy a Kindle or other such e-book reader so that thousands of books can be taken with you; or (c) Take one or two books with you and then swap them along the way at hostels or with people you meet.  The last time I went travelling I opted for (c), and despite a brief thought of buying a Kindle after I found out how many books could be stored on them, in the end I couldn’t face the thought of not having a physical book in my hands so I have gone with (c) again.  At some hostels the choice is small and not all of the books you are faced with are in a language you understand, so you end up reading things you may not have picked before and can be pleasantly surprised.  Equally the book may be rubbish and your reasoning for not picking that genre/author before will be reinforced, but that’s okay too!

At the moment we are settled in Auckland for at least the next 2 months so I have been able to take advantage of joining the library.  While I certainly miss being on the open road, I am comforting myself by drowning in books!

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Quotation of the Day

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Book Review: Rupture by Simon Lelic

The Literary Owl rating: 4/5

Read with: A relaxing cup of chamomile tea

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When a teacher fires a gun during a school assembly, killing 3 pupils and a colleague before taking his own life, it appears to be a case that the police can wrap up in a matter of days.  One Police Officer however cannot let go of the investigation, and is determined to find out why: What would drive a teacher to commit such an atrocity?  What was going on at the school that the headmaster and other teachers are helping to cover up?

Rupture follows Inspector Lucia May as she seeks the answers to these questions against the backdrop of her own difficult personal issues, and pressure from senior officers to file her report and move on.

The theme of the novel is bullying: its effect on both adult child victims, and the reasons why so many people fail to act to prevent it.  The subject matter is handled perfectly by Lelic, who weaves a believable plot and realistic characters to a satisfying conclusion.

The character of Lucia May is well-crafted and I was as gripped as she was by the desire to know more about the circumstances of the killings, and the events leading up to the tragedy.  The vulnerability in her personal life made an engaging contrast with her determination in her investigation to find the truth.  At the end of the book I was left wanting to know more about her and find out what happened to her afterwards.

The story itself stayed with me, and made me think back to my own experiences with bullying, mainly as an observer, and wonder whether there was more I could have done to prevent it happening.  Though I’ve classified it as a crime novel, Lelic’s expert handling of the effects of bullying make it stand out as possessing a deeper soul than most books within that genre.  The fact that Rupture is his debut makes it even more impressive.  Highly recommended.

Simon Lelic has now officially made my ‘must read his other books’ list and I will report back when I read more!

Rupture, published as A Thousand Cuts in the US can be bought here at amazon.com or here at amazon.co.uk

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