Monday, 29 July 2013

The Returned - Jason Mott

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Returned was really being pushed at BEA this year and as I thought the concept sounded interesting, especially after having watched the French La Revenants earlier this year, I happily picked it up. I was also told that it had already been picked up as a television pilot. 

I can easily see where this would make a good television show. For one, the French have kind of already done that. Secondly, this story is huge with tons of possibilities for ways to go. When you write a novel that has such a massive scale like this, there are so many stories you can tell. In fact, that was my favorite part of the novel: the short interludes between chapters that would tell you a little bit about another person in the world who had come back. Scenes like the painter who had become famous posthumously, the Nazis that had come back but where just young boys, the parents that couldn't accept their child. I think that was my favorite part of The Returned and a tv show based around that would do well.

The main narrative of the novel, centered around the Hargrave family was both heartbreaking and kind of a lull. The idea behind it, that a son who died as a child comes back when his parents are elderly, is beautiful and painful. The actual execution of it, however, came across kind of, well, not boring but not as deep or meaningful as it could be. I found myself constantly wondering about other characters and what was going on with them. The brief flashes we got of other townspeople dealing with their grief (the pastor who's childhood love came back, the family who came back after being the sole murder of the town) were great and I wish we could have had more with them (especially the family) and a bit less of the Hargraves.

What I found hardest about the novel, though, was the ending. What happened with the returned, as they're called, makes sense and I'm alright with that. It's the other actions of the climax that, when the tension has died down, don't sit right with me. I feel like the ending didn't bring any sense of closure to the Hargraves and actually did them more harm than good, something that seems the antithesis of what the novel wanted to show.

Mott's writing is sparse and lovely, creating mood and atmosphere effortlessly. I would happily read something else by him. This novel is exceptionally well imagined; I simply wish it were better plotted. I love the world he has created, the thoughts he's evoked, the moral quandaries that he's provoked. I just wish he'd spent more time exploring this new and mysterious world.

The Returned comes out in September 2013 from Harlequin MIRA.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Burning Sky - Sherry Thomas

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

The Burning Sky is the first in a new YA trilogy which looks to be very interesting. Iolanthe Seabourne, our herione, is feisty and powerful, just coming to realize what the scope of her powers might be. It's dangerous to be too good a mage in The Realm and when she accidentally summons a bolt of lighting, everything normal in her life comes crashing down around her.

Our other hero, Prince Titus, is refreshing in that he's completely not perfect. Although he's prepared for this his entire life, when he finds out that a girl is the promised mage and not a boy, he freaks out a bit. He'd been preparing all his life for what he thought would be his greatest friend, someone he could finally share his secrets with. A girl was completely unexpected.

The reason Iolanthe being a girl is so pointed is because of where she and the Prince have to go to hide out: non-magical Victorian Eton. I loved this plot point and I feel like it brought a lot to the story. Iolanthe has to pretend to be Fairfax, a boy Titus has manufactured for years, and live up to all the expectations the boys have come up with for him, as well as not give the game away. Beyond that, they have to keep training to be ready to fight the Bane, an evil overlord that has pretty much taken over their Realm. 

One other point I thought was particularly nice was that Iolanthe and Titus don't fall in love, at least right away. Although it's quite clear that that's going to happen eventually, Titus does a few things in the beginning that do not endear him to Iolanthe and her quiet loathing of him was a refreshing twist on the genre. It kept the plot moving and made their burgeoning friendship, once it got started, all the more poignant. 

I really enjoyed The Burning Sky and will be looking out for the next book in the trilogy hopefully next year. The characters are interesting and fresh, the plot is original and it's a great read. Check it out if you fantasy ya.

The Burning Sky comes out September 17 2013 from Balzer and Bray. You can read the first chapter on Thomas's website here.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.


I love Neil Gaiman. He's a great man that writes interesting stories that touch hearts, make you laugh and press buttons. Ocean at the End of the Lane is not as intense as some of Gaiman's other works but its mythic qualities set it apart.

Told in retrospective, the mind of a middle aged man remembering his seven year old self, the story becomes a fable quickly in both plot and style. Emotions run high as they would for a child but the world is quick, unfathomable and immediate, ever changeable. Some moments are truly scary, such as a certain scene between the narrator and his father, while others let you remember the innocence of childhood. 

Lettie Hempstock is great character, full of wit and unplumbed depths, both protecting from and luring our narrator to a mysterious evil that can be found in the most  common of places. Her voice is new and echoes her gran's, Old Mrs. Hempstock, who speaks in a delightful rural accent while summoning great powers to herself. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a modern fairytale, telling a tale of survival while handing out a warning about memory. It lulls you in and doesn't let you back out until you've finished the narrow volume. At less than two hundred pages, the book goes by in a flash but remains in your mind and your memory, as all good tales do.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

My Notorious Life - Kate Manning

his sweeping, evocative, and absolutely unforgettable novel about the charismatic and passionate Axie Muldoon who changed the lives of countless women was inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City.Set in gritty New York City in the last half of the nineteenth century, My Notorious Life is a vibrant portrait of Axie Muldoon, a plucky orphan who becomes one of the most successful—and controversial—midwives of her time. Told in a magnetic voice, pulsing and vivid, Axie recounts how she is separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor and midwife, and how she later parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for female complaints” into a thriving midwifery practice with her husband and fellow orphan friend, Charles G. Jones. But Axie is on a collision course with one of the most zealous, censorious characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of Axie’s power to outwit him and save both herself and her family from ruin. 

A love story, a family saga, and a brilliant rendering of a historical time, this is also a moving and nuanced commentary on an important topic: women’s control of their bodies. But ultimately, it is the story of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world; with her fierce and vibrant spirit, Axie Muldoon is an indelible heroine for the ages.


To be honest, I picked up this book on the character's name alone. I'm Molly Muldoon and it's not often I see my last name in print. As I like to say, Muldoon is stereotypical Irish but not common. I was pretty pumped for a heroine with my last name and settled down to read it.

It's a little hard to get into at first as it's written in a vernacular that tries to place you immediately into Axie's head. It's annoying for the first few pages but you slowly grow accustomed to it and over time, as Axie grows and learns more, the grammar and turns of phrases become more regular. After the first twenty or so pages, I was quite keen on it. It creates character through the experience of reading and I liked that.

Axie is a strong lead and you can't help but feel for her. Put in a tough situation pretty much from birth, she picks herself up by her bootstraps and becomes a wealthy woman, mostly on her own with only a bit of help from her husband. She's vivacious and strong and insecure and tough rolled up into one intense package and I loved her from page one.

All of the characters are unique and lively. From Axie's missing little sister Duchess to her friend and future husband Charlie, to the women that nurture her and teach her the medical ways to the German girl next door that becomes a best friend, all the characters are immediate and real, adding to the narrative and pulling Axie one way or another. 

The story deals a lot with the morality of abortion, not so much through arguments but through actions and characters. Comstock, Axie's rival, as she calls him, becomes a symbol of male patriarchy and misunderstanding of woman and it couldn't have felt more timely. A lot of things Axie finds herself up against are the same sort of things male politicians have been saying in the past year on the same debate. Despite the over hundred year difference, the arguments feel just as fresh and frustrating as if they came off the front page.

Oh! Did I mention this is based on a true story? Axie is fictional version of a real woman and Comsock is almost painfully real which just adds to my argument.

I tore through this book and found the twists and turns not always unexpected but definitely full of impact. Axie's struggles to provide for herself, protect her new family, find her old family and make a life for herself ring true to the reader, despite the Victorian setting. I would recommend this book to any woman who loves strong female heroines and is fed up with the current 'war on women.' It's a timely book with a good message and a kickass female lead.

My Notorious Life comes out in September 2013 from Scribner.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Last Detective - Peter Lovesey

A nude female floats dead in a large reservoir lake south of Bristol. To solve the "Lady of the Lake" mystery, and save a woman unjustly accused, Sussex Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond must find two missing letters attributed to Jane Austen, and defy his superiors.

You may remember that I have a bit of a crush on Peter Lovesey. I fell head over heels in love with The Reaper when I read it out of the blue and also quite enjoyed Upon a Dark Night which turned out to be fifth in a series. The Last Detective happens to be the first in the Peter Diamond and when I saw it at a local bookstore, I snapped it up.

The Last Detective was just as great as I wanted it to be. Diamond is already in hot water right off the bat, having been moved to Bath from London due to a scandal what was not really his fault. When a naked woman is found floating in a local lake, Diamond and his anxious team take the case. 

What I love about Lovesey is that he creates so much detail and richness in his plots that it's easy to get lost in them and even forget you're reading a mystery at times. Two whole sections are just witness testimony filled with details that aren't relevant but show a depth that you don't normally get with thrillers. All the characters are real, flawed and have clear motivations. 

The only problem I had with this novel was that the edition I was reading, the Soho Press Twentieth Anniversary Edition, was riddled with typos. I'll forgive a few but one of the subheadings of the section, a page that only has one phrase on it, was titled (instead of 'the men in white coats') the men in white goats. It was pretty embarrassing, especially as I usually really enjoy Soho Press. 

The mystery is delightful enough, though, that I made it through those blunders and found myself quite content with the solution. It wasn't perfect or pretty but it made sense and felt more real than you often find. I look forward to reading more Lovesey in the future. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Life in 1830s Iceland is stark and difficult, but there is a sense of beauty and peace among those hardy enough to make a life there. This peace is disrupted by two brutal murders, news of which travels from settlement to settlement, the frenzy building as a young woman, Agnes, is accused, tried and convicted. She is sentenced to death. 

The governor decides Agnes must wait out her execution on an isolated farm. Her arrival there disrupts the quiet between the farmer, his wife and their two daughters, all of whom are horrified at the prospect of having this woman share their home, their life. Agnes herself is stoic, doing her work as best she can and only slowly letting down her guard to Toti, the young priest she has mysteriously chosen as her spiritual guide. As Toti struggles to guide Agnes towards redemption, the farmer's wife, Margaret, begins to sense that there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.

A suspenseful and riveting novel rich with vivid lyricism and page-turning suspense, Burial Rites evokes a harsh and dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the heartbreaking question: how can one woman endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Based on a real-life story, this is an astonishing debut that heralds the arrival of a great new talent.

Burial Rites is a debut and based on it, I think I need to read everything Hannah Kent plans on writing. It is a stunning debut that had me staying up late and reading when I should have been doing other things. 

Set in Iceland of the early 1800s, Kent takes us through the year or so leading up to Iceland's last execution. Agnes Magnusdottir has had a rough life and is in a horrible state when she is dropped off at the Kornsa farm to await her execution. She's angry at the world for abandoning her and trying to ready herself for a fate that she doesn't feel she deserves.

As she grows accustomed to life on the farm, she warms up a bit and becomes closer than anticipated with the family there. Through talking to the Reverend she has picked to be her spiritual advisor, Toti and eventually opening up to the family, the reader (and the others in the novel) get to hear the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir and not just what all the local gossips have to say about her.

This novel is meticulously researched and it shows with all of the details and impressive setting description that pulls the reader right into nineteenth century Iceland, even if they can't pronounce all the names correctly. There are chapter starters that are actually translated from real letters and documents of the period that add all the more to the story, showing just how much of this novel is created from the true story it documents.

Kent's sparse sense of prose adds to the bleakness of the landscape and of Agnes's mind, briefly colored with the rare happy memory. Each of the characters is vividly painted, from the daughter who wants absolutely nothing to do with Agnes to the Reverend who wants to be there for her even when he's too ill to ride. Despite Agnes clearly being the focus (she's the only character that gets to narrate her own story), all of the other characters are well defined and watching them slowly begin to realize Agnes's true nature adds warmth and tragedy to the narrative.

As the novel drags on to its inevitable conclusion, the reader watches in horror as things continue and reads hastily as she begins to find out the true details of what happened the night of the murders. I read the last hundred pages or so in an hour, so determined to find out what happened and to spend my last moments with Agnes.

This book reads as a love letter to Iceland and a remembrance of a remarkable woman who was perhaps too smart for her time and place. I respect Hannah Kent and look forward to what she decides to tackle in the future. I'm sure it will be magnificent. 

Burial Rites comes out September 10th from Little, Brown and Company.

Monday, 8 July 2013

I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place - Howard Norman

As with many of us, the life of acclaimed novelist Howard Norman has had its share of incidents of “arresting strangeness.” Yet few of us connect these moments, as Norman has done in this spellbinding memoir, to show how life tangles with the psyche to become art. Norman’s story begins with a portrait, both harrowing and hilarious, of a Midwest boyhood summer working in a bookmobile, in the shadow of a grifter father and under the erotic tutelage of his brother’s girlfriend. His life story continues in places as far-flung as the Arctic, where he spends part of a decade as a translator of Inuit tales—including the story of a soapstone carver turned into a goose whose migration-time lament is “I hate to leave this beautiful place”—and in his beloved Point Reyes, California, as a student of birds. In the Arctic, he receives news over the radio that “John Lennon was murdered tonight in the city of New York in the USA.” And years later, in Washington, D.C., another act of deeply felt violence occurs in the form of a murder-suicide when Norman and his wife loan their home to a poet and her young son. Norman’s story is also stitched together with moments of uncanny solace. Of life in his Vermont farmhouse Norman writes, “Everything I love most happens most every day.”

In the hands of Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and What Is Left the Daughter, life’s arresting strangeness is made into a profound, creative, and redemptive memoir.

I'm normally not a big memoir person but I think I might have to start making exceptions. I was sent this book on the recommendation of a publicist and I thought it sounded interesting enough so I started reading it right away. And then could barely put it down.

I've never read any of Howard Norman's books but I was faintly aware of them, as I had had a professor in college that was very big in the Canadian Literature field. Turns out, the man himself has lived a very interesting life. From growing up in Grand Rapids to working in the Arctic to summers in Vermont to life in Washington, the man leads a very interesting life. It's one of those things where, if you think about, almost everyone has important things happen to them and I think, if almost anyone sat down and wrote about the most interesting events that they feel happened to them, you would have a great book. Which makes this one exceptional is Norman being a gifted writer already. Combined with the personal nature of this book, this is a real treat.

What makes the narrative so strong is that it's not a typical memoir in the style of 'I was born in…' and telling a life story. Instead, Norman takes periods of his life, normally one season in one year, and writes about that. He has chosen five moments that could be seen as turning points, interesting stories and important events to him and has written about those. What could have been an awkward life story instead becomes memories of a life, fascinating events narrated by the man that lived them, reflecting back decades later but not judging his past self but embracing it. From poor decisions he made in the wake of a girlfriend's death to a summer spent battling a fever while somewhat obsessed with the Civil War, Norman shows us glimpses of his life with immediacy and reflection.

The only spot of bother I found with the book is the number of times he uses the phrase "beautiful place." It stuck out like a sore thumb every time and pulled me out of the narrative. However, considering that's really the only  things I can say to its downside is really more of a compliment.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one day, skipping things I normally do on Sundays to sit on the couch and read. I will definitely be lending this out to friends and I think it's a book everyone would enjoy because, honestly, what about other peoples' lives isn't fascinating? If you're curious, please check it out.

I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place comes out July 9th (tomorrow!) from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thanks to Leila for the review copy!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Sleeping in Eden - Nicole Baart

She knew what he wrote . . . 

One little word that made her feel both cheated and beloved. 

One word that changed everything. 


On a chilly morning in the Northwest Iowa town of Blackhawk, Dr. Lucas Hudson is filling in for the vacationing coroner on a seemingly open-and-shut suicide case. His own life is crumbling around him, but when he unearths the body of a woman buried in the barn floor beneath the hanging corpse, he realizes this terrible discovery could change everything. . . . 

Years before Lucas ever set foot in Blackhawk, Meg Painter met Dylan Reid. It was the summer before high school and the two quickly became inseparable. Although Meg's older neighbor, Jess, was the safe choice, she couldn't let go of Dylan no matter how hard she tried. 

Caught in a web of jealousy and deceit that spiraled out of control, Meg's choices in the past ultimately collide with Lucas's discovery in the present, weaving together a taut story of unspoken secrets and the raw, complex passions of innocence lost.

I recently received Sleeping in Eden as a gift from a friend as thanks for helping her with her move. When I read the back, I thought it sounded super interesting and decided to start it after I finished Black Swan Green.

The device used in the novel, that of interweaving two disparate stories that eventually come together, is something I always enjoy. Not only do you get two plot lines to enjoy but you also get the pleasure of trying to figure out for yourself where the characters are going to intersect. When I first started the book, I thought I knew for sure what Meg and Lucas's connection was but within the first fifty pages, a wrench was thrown in the works and I didn't know anymore which made me so happy because I love being wrong when reading.

Both Meg and Lucas's stories were really intriguing despite how different they were. Lucas, although slightly boring as a character, had a great character to play off of in ::spoiler::. His dealings with a new person all the sudden in his house and his already complicated life is what made his story interesting. When I thought it was just going to be him watching his marriage crumble, I was a bit depressed. When some spice was thrown in, I was curious.

Meg, meanwhile, is a great lead. We watch her grow up, from a young girl to a young woman and she has such a delightful personality and is super relatable to anyone who wasn't a girly girl growing up that I found myself always going into her chapters with a smile. I didn't always approve of her choices but I loved her inner monologue and the way she came to her decisions. She was believable and that's what made her a great character.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book, however, was the moment when you realize what the novel is building up to. I always compliment a narrative, be it movie, book, or whatever, that knows that its audience is going to figure out the ending before you get there and uses that to build dramatic tension. About forty pages before the end or so, you realize what's going to happen. With that settles in a moment of dread and as you read the plot go on to its inevitable conclusion, it hits you that much harder. I found myself teary eyed as I finished the book, despite the fact that I had known for a hundred pages what the end was going to be. That's the mark of a good storyteller.

Sleeping in Eden is a sad story but it's a good one, marked with interesting characters and a well developed plot. If you don't mind a few tears, you should check it out.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Black Swan Green - David Mitchell

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigrĂ© who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

I love David Mitchell. It's just a fact. Every book of his I read reminds me of that with every word. I picked up Black Swan Green a few nights ago and within a paragraph I thought to myself, 'Why do I read anything by anyone else?' So if you can't tell already, this review is going to be oh so ridiculously positive.

David Mitchell is better known for Cloud Atlas, a remarkable novel fractured into pieces and told from many different points of view. The other novel I've read by him, Ghostwritten, was similar in that it was many different stories put together to form one idea. I fell in love with both of them pretty much immediately which is why it took me a bit to actually read Black Swan Green as it was so different from his two previous novels.

Black Swan Green tells the story of Jason Taylor, a thirteen year old boy growing up in small town England in the early eighties. Each chapter covers a day or two in each month, illustrating different facets in Jason's life and showing a slowly creeping narrative of families, friendships and growth. I was captivated.

Jason is our narrator and an inspired voice it is. Jason is just discovering many things but he has a poetic mind, always fronting but incredibly naive, instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever been thirteen. His voice is easy to fall into and definitely unique, calling to mind childhood and curiosity. His relationships with his friends (and enemies), his parents and just people he meets in the town drive this novel and you find yourself always rooting for him, despite some of the stupid things he does. Deep down, though, he's a great kid that just wants to do the right thing and completely lovable.

Something Mitchell does quite regularly is involve characters from his other novels into new stories. Although I experienced this in Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas, I was not expecting it in Black Swan Green. However, in one of the chapters, Jason gets some tutelage from an elderly woman who some might remember as a young girl in Cloud Atlas. I was thrilled when I put two and two together and it added a whole new dimension to that chapter. Whereas normal readers of the book would have completely enjoyed it regardless, readers who had read his earlier work would have gotten an extra layer of meaning from some of the conversations and that is why I call Mitchell a genius.

Each chapter could be a short story on its own but together they form a lovely mosaic of a young life. Personally, I think everyone should read at least one Mitchell in their lifetime (which hopefully will convince them to read more) and if you're not big on fractured narratives or science fiction, than this one is probably for you. Instantly relatable, painfully real, Black Swan Green is absolutely stupendous. Take a trip down to your local bookstore and treat yourself.