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Well tomorrow night’s the night! I am about to crawl into bed before tomorrow morning’s early start and flying down to Melbourne for the launch of Joe Reich’s I Know Precious Little at 6.30 at Readings, 701 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, East Melbourne.

Oh and I will be presenting the author.

Now as for the future of this blog – I am going to continue writing reviews. Frankly I am having too much fun. I also have some news – Stephanie has set me yet another challenge! This time it is to see just how many books I can read on the 22 hour flight home to Dublin. I decided to visit my folks for a short holiday and she thought this a challenge almost as demanding as my two hundred and eighty seven reviews….well it will mean missing out on the on-flight entertainment.

Looking forward to what the future holds people.

And if you’re around tomorrow night in Melbourne, do drop round to say hello.

Folks I have some exciting news. Author Joe Reich, whose book I Know Precious Little I reviewed for the blog, has invited me to speak at the book’s official launch at Readings Hawthorn in Melbourne.

As you can imagine I am ridiculously excited about this and eager to try out my Irish brogue on a live audience.

The event is set to commence at 6.30 at Readings, 701 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, East Melbourne. So if you’re in town, do come along for chat.

Right I am going to start practicing my vocal projection exercises…

 

Still, to move to Australia…the distance, the cost, the reversal of day and night, summer and winter, left no room for compromise, no room for any semblance of a long-distance relationship.

Hmm, yes, I can relate.

Stephanie and I criss-crossed the world two or three times. That sentence carries associations of whimsy, spontaneity ‘ah sure let’s just hop on the ol’ plane there and fly to Austraaaliah’. The truth was the entire process made for a lot of heartache, a lot of planning, expenditure and of course, it is still not over. So I was delighted to receive this book in the post from author Christine Darcas, accompanied by a lovely note, which addressed the similarities between our situation and the plot of the book.

Hell that note might have led me to give the book a good review anyway! (Fortunately I enjoyed it regardless).

Ginny’s career in New York has just hit a large speed-bump. A personality clash with her boss meant that when a series of firings hit the office her head was on the chopping block. Add to that a problematic relationship with an ex-boyfriend who seems to relish complicating her life, when she calls an old friend in Australia and gets an invitation to visit, there really does not seem like anything is keeping her from going.

Except of course her many unresolved issues with her mother, all bound up in feelings of abandonment courtesy of a long-departed father that still affect both women. For Ginny her prematurely concluded dancing career, following rejection from an elite ballet academy as a teenager, is an event in her past that has crystallized her feelings of resentment towards her mother. Why was she encouraged to dance for so many years despite having the ‘wrong body type’?

Ginny’s friend Eloise is working in Melbourne on assignment from New York. Unlike Ginny, she is confident, professional and focused on her career. Except when the two meet, she finds her formerly unflappable friend devastated by a pregnancy scare. Ginny has left her own life in New York in a shambles and has travelled the world only to find herself involved in a new mess.

However, Australia is the new ‘land of opportunity’. There Ginny finds herself new friends and even a new romantic interest. What’s more she rediscovers her love of dance, this time choosing salsa over ballet. The possibility of a new life in Australia forces her to choose between leaving everything and everyone she knows behind and a fresh start in a place where she has no connections, or real support.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. For one I really enjoyed how the internal emotions of these characters are realized and many of them quite likable too. The loaded exchanges between Ginny and her mother feel very true to life. In fact that was what I enjoyed most about the book – the sense of ordinary realness.

Please do not understand what I mean by that phrase, I am not damning Darcas’ writing with faint praise. I feel Spinning Out does an excellent job of capturing moments in people’s lives. Tragedies occurs in small doses, but can stretch out across a lifetime. The decisions Ginny makes at each turning point have profound effects, even if at first they seem whimsical. Romance too, is not depicted as some cosy end of a narrative. In fact Darcas’ storyline covers material that other writers might stretch out into two, or three novels. Much like Stephanie and my adventures in yo-yoing across the globe, there are no easy endings.

Gentle humour and a sense of what is real combine to make a beautifully understated novel about finding your way in life.

With my thanks to the author for the review copy.

Arthur was also counting on the promised intervention by ‘Will’, who he supposed was the same person or entity as ‘The Will’, that Mister Monday and Sneezer had talked about, who he presumed was also the giver of the Atlas. He figured that if he could get close to the House, it would do something to help him get inside.

So I see from this book’s Author’s Note, that Garth Nix was born in Melbourne. I am of the opinion that many fine things can be found there and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The first in a series of novels called The Keys to the Kingdom, this is the second fantasy franchise by the gifted Nix. A few years ago I began to see copies of his Old Kingdom trilogy – Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen – everywhere in bookstores. Sadly I never tried them out (I was wary due to a glut of Harry Potter imitations at the time), but after I have finished this run, I reckon Mr Nix is going to become a fixture of my bookshelf.

The book opens with an Inspector going about his duties inspecting the security of a very special item. Of course, this being a fantasy novel, the item in question is a paragraph from a very special Will. It is secured locked inside a crystal cage. Surrounded by a number of metal sentinels. On a dead star. The Inspector himself, is no ordinary bureaucrat, but a winged servant of a higher power who is partial to snuff. Shortly after his arrival the living aspect of the Will of creation manages to effect a jailbreak and escape to Earth, with Mister Monday’s determined lieutenants Dawn, Noon and Dusk hot on its trail.

Meanwhile during Arthur Penhaligon’s first day at a new school, he collapses due to an asthma attack. After he is revived by a girl named Leaf, he witnesses the arrival of the strange Mister Monday, who is tricked by the Will into giving the boy a mystical minute hand and a mysterious atlas. Arthur is expected to die soon, so it is hoped that his frail condition will allow the artifacts to revert back to Mister Monday shortly thereafter, neatly allowing the trustee of these objects to avoid any punishment for allowing the Will to escape. The minute hand is in fact a magic key that can effect the will of its user. The atlas can only be read by a bearer of the key and explains the nature of the House, a structure that represents each level of reality. The world Arthur knows is only the second plane of this structure, there are many others above and below, sitting atop the vast chthonic Nothing that spawns the mysterious creatures Mister Monday uses to control his realm.

Arthur is surprised to find his asthmatic condition is relieved whenever he holds the key in his hand. Unfortunately Leaf’s family and a number of other children at school fall victim to a mysterious plague. Learning that the disease is being spread by agents of Mister Monday as they hunt for him, Arthur travels to the weird House that has appeared in his neighbourhood that only he can see. Inside he discovers a world of magic far bigger than the walls that contain it, filled with fallen angels, a talking frog, dog-faced men, dinosaurs and deadly Bibliophages. A world where words have power and little children enslaved by the legendary Piper have toiled for thousands of years. Determined to save the lives of his friends and defeat the corrupt Mister Monday, Arthur strives to find the secret of the Will.

This is an entertaining first chapter in a series of novels for children. Nix drops references to ancient myths, religion and modern day paranoia about disease in order to give shape to his world. Arthur Penhaligon is an orphan whose biological parents died in a flu epidemic. At one point he travels in time to the period of the Bubonic plague. Death is a constant in his life and is used within the book to fuel the mythic fantasy Nix has constructed.

While a Christian God is never explicitly named, the hierarchies of angels, from Seraphim down to Cherubs, resemble the mysterious figures Arthur meets. Nix also draws on Roman myth, as Monday and his servants resemble the quotidian minor gods of days and hours.

I cannot wait to read Grim Tuesday.

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