Friday, 17 March 2017

Book Review: Miss Seeton's Finest Hour by Hamilton Crane

Miss Seeton’s Finest Hour. By Hamilton Crane.

Oh my Goodness, I am now a huge Emily Seeton fan.

Having been totally unaware of this series before this last few days , it is fortuitous then that this prequel of sorts was my first adventure in her company.

 Fans of older detectives such as William Murdoch, Father Brown and of course  the canon of “Agatha”  herself will be able to bury themselves in this story of the young  art teacher engaged by the government to winkle out a Nazi collaborator. It is my understanding that all future outings are the adventures of a much more aged protagonist, but this was a delightful introduction.

She is clever, resourceful and observant, she is sweet without being saccharin and she is interesting and a self contained character in her own right rather than just  an observer before whom the action is played out.

The attention to period detail makes this an incredibly immersive read. I liked the way the story often grounded itself in the speeches of Winston Churchill and the title then becomes more resonant.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be making Miss Seeton a constant reading companion.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Book Review: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie was Here. By Fredrik  Backman

By the same author as one of my absolute favourite books discoveries in 2016,,this is another one of the  kind of  books that the Swedish seem to do so  terribly well. Forget Nordic Noir, think Swedish sweet and sour.

 Wry and darkly comic ,Backman writes a sad tale with a hulking great seam of compassion for those on the fringes of society, running through it. The book made me chuckle and weep. There are huge highs and belly laughs but these are punctuated with moments of wonderfully pitched  pathos and loss and grief are beautifully examined in the midst of what seems like a much lighter tale than it actually is.

As with the lovable  Ove before her, Britt- Marie’s own personal idiosyncrasies which might at first glance, seem irritating or odd to the average person, suddenly become charming  as the full scope of Britt Marie’s situation and heartsickness is revealed.

Homeless and jobless in her early sixties, Britt Marie undertakes a dead end job in a town on the cusp of total economic collapse. It  is  there she becomes embroiled in the lives of a motley bunch of black marketeers, alcoholic women with severe vision impairment, jovial policemen with a penchant for evening classes and a number of rag tag children. The only common thread just barely binding this fragile community is the upcoming tournament starting their local youth football team.

Into the chaos,Britt brings two very important  things; an expertise in making a “good impression” and a prestigious amount of bicarbonate of soda with which she gradually begins to clean up the town. Here she forge bonds of friendship and brings light and hope into the hamlet again and with it, a level of self fulfilment that  she has never once experienced in all her life.

This is a wonderful book where again Backman utilises loneliness and missed opportunity as  central themes.  Football takes on a mythical power as a metaphor for so  very much more than boots on leather. It becomes a measure of your personality, your tenacity and your passion.

I still feel a deep empathy  for Britt-Marie who never quite reaches bliss, but I am hopeful for her and this book drew me in from the very start. The  characters are rough around the edges, all are much more than they seem on first viewing , but so utterly lovable and even the least likeable are still relatable. My initial  loathing for husband Kent, was moulded and honed into a sadness that he was just ignorant for too long and that life could have been so different for them both, but that is Backman’s true gift
He presents  things with a stark clarity and allowing things to just develop with contrivance.

He is an exceptional crafter of tales.

Britt-Marie is my favourite sort of heroine, the one who strives for the smallest things but actually is a catalyst for the most amazing positive change. She is the tiny screw that suddenly makes the whole mechanism purr into life.

I must admit to wanting a  slightly different ending, but you cannot always have the  perfect ending even when your strip is spotless, your aim laser-sharp and you turn the game around in the final moments. Life is just is not a game  and you cannot win them all. Sometimes a draw is all you can hope for, but when things get difficult, at least you know you can get the worst of the smuts out with the  liberal application of baking soda!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Book Review: Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster

Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster

Forget about Lenten Fasts, what the heck am I going to do about my involuntary Stanton Fast?

Hot on the tail of Edward Adrift comes Edward Unspooled and all I can say is cripes what a finale… or is it? Edward seems to speak  at random intervals from the recesses of Author Craig Lancaster’s mind. Just when he thinks that this precise and direct man has been silenced, he has a little something more to say, so  let’s hope and pray  there is more!

Now to the book itself, This instalment is slightly different to the previous two as there is less statistical data and more internal dialogue within the pages of the letters that Edward pens to give to his as yet unborn child. The voice of Edward is complimented by the asides and additions of his wife Sheila, for whom Edward fell in Adrift.

Things are not plain sailing of course and Edward’s familial problems are expanding as more than growing embryos are joining the clan and his mother is Not best pleased. Everything is changing, from Sheila’s body to their living arrangements and Edward is just trying to juggle all the balls he has in the air to keep everyone happy and contented.

The beauty of the books has always been the human heart of Edward and his interaction with his small band of friends and as Edward has loosened his grip  on the need to regiment every minute of his life, his circle has grown and his attachments have born fruit.

He has a veritable army ready to fight when the unthinkable happens in the final act of the book, a
masterful stroke by Mr Lancaster and a wonderful way to bring the story to a satisfying and beautiful conclusion.

  I have loved these books, they have kept me rapt and made it exceptionally hard to get on with my own life as I travelled with Edward through some of the most important moments of his!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Book Review : Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster

There was no secret that I loved the first book in the series as my original blog below will attest.

‪Screen Wipe... TV ,MOVIE and BOOK Review: Book Review : 600 hours of Edward by Craig Lancast...‬

I thus took a long time to pluck up the courage to read this the second in the series as I did not want to sully the lovely memories of that first meeting with Edward Stanton. I need not have worried in the least. Edward is even more lovable in part two as he is in the first book.

When we meet him again,Edward is a little discombobulated. After his seeming awakening in the first book, he is still coming to grips with his Father’s inability to grasp the nature of His specialness and his subsequent death. Trying to make sense of his loss and the fact he misses his Dad despite their fractured relationship, he is increasingly  disturbed by His mother who  on the other hand seems to have moved on smoothly and without much emotional trauma which of course causes Edward more consternation.

He is learning to adapt, but the hits keep coming.

Breakthroughs with his therapist are thrown into disarray as she retires and a new man must be broken in and taught that punctuality is the mark of greatness in a mental health professional.

His sense of self esteem knocked by his unceremonious sacking despite his diligence and good work, his financial stability is not at stake as of course he is “f***ing Loaded” but his circadian rhythms are out of whack, his health is suffering and into this tumultuous melting pot comes an SOS from his best friend Donna.

The true emotional heart of this book, as in the last; is the relationship with the young  boy across the street who was catalyst for an easing in his obsessive compulsive behaviours, his innocence and own  loneliness and need for friendship struck a chord even in Edward’s regimented thinking.

  It is  a shared feeling of loss of control that again unites and eventually heals them both after Edward drives cross county to help Donna deal with the sudden Wild an belligerent youth who was once a sweet boy. What follows is  the most bizarre road trip of literary record, where comfort stops take on a mythical grandeur and gamesmanship becomes De rigour.

There is also at last romance on the cards when a woman as sweetly different as Edward, strong willed and opinionated falls into his path and begins to work her own magic.

Is the world changing Edward, or is Edward  simply applying his own behavioural processes onto circumstances and making them mould to him?  It is not so much that he changes, I think, it is just he comes to accept himself more and more as he navigates  the chaos around him.

He brings his  world view and coping strategies  into a situation and his very particular ways of dealing with trials, bring understanding, acceptance and peace to those he touches, he is in some respects a human Mirror. He reveals  more to the receiver of his wisdom about themselves than about Edward himself.

 He is a Healer rather than a person needing healing in the end. He is the best kind of hero, he one that does not recognise  that heroism in himself. When he loves, he loves entirely and he is definitely the friend I would want in my corner.

I loved the book and whilst it takes a while to accustom oneself to the patterns of Edwards thought processes, it is well worth he effort. The book is warm, funny, emotionally rich and yet innovative and fresh. There is nothing quite like this series out there in my opinion.

Edward Stanton for President! He cannot be worse than  a certain Mr Trump.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Book Review: Sometimes Moments Len Webster

Sometimes Moments by Len Webster

Romance/ Women's fiction

This was my first book by Ms Wiseman and it was three hours very well spent. This is a really beautiful story that at first glance seems to follow an age old path. Young couple seemingly in love prior to College consummate their relationship one special night,  the boy then inexplicably leaves without giving a reason. Leaving  her to remain in her small time life and to grieve his loss without ever knowing why he left, resulting and bitterness and emotional stasis. He  returns to seek redemption when they are grown up. The truth behind the seemingly selfish act reveals  itself in due course and love is rekindled

So far so formulaic, or so I thought...

In actual fact “ Sometimes Moments” was so beautifully crafted and almost lyrical in the sentiment of it’s prose that I found myself drawn into the lives  and falling in love with all of the characters who make up this complex story of so many different kinds of Love that I found myself emotionally invested until the final bittersweet pages.

The cover art and the floral imagery  adds an additional sensory layer  to the beauty of the story, you can smell the blossom and Lavender fragrances as you read the story and this gave me great pleasure.

This is a book that evokes much  emotion, and a lump formed in my throat on more than one occasion, but the underlying theme that Love is precious not for it’s quantity, but in it’s depth  is just beautiful. That even in the direst of circumstance, the  simple times when Love is present should be cherished  and treasured as, for all  their transience, they are gifts from one heart to another.

A touching read.

Four Stars.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Bali Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Tales for Punjabi Widows. By Bali Kaur Jaswal

Regular visitors to my blog will find that India and Pakistan are settings I gravitate towards when picking a new book to read. Here we are based in exotic Southall and sunny Enfield (The latter a mere stone’s throw from where I currently sit)  yet we still are permitted to learn about  the realities of life for Punjabi women in a modern London

Nikki is concerned that  her sister is settling for less than she deserves by choosing an arranged marriage via the message board at the Temple. She feels deep guilt that her youthful rebellion of throwing away a promising degree in law and desertion of the family home in favour of more literary aspirations forced her traditional Father to an early grave.

This emotional baggage is all the experience that she takes into an evening class where she will be teaching creative writing to a group of traditional Sikh Widows. A more vocal and opinionated bunch you could not find! There initially for  a myriad of reasons, a lack of literacy and fluency in English being the uppermost, Nikki discovers that they believe she will be teaching a English language course and begins the biggest and ultimately most dangerous writer's circle in London.

Nikki is at a loss, she wanted to curate an  anthology of  feminine Sikh voices.  What she ultimately gets is a number of sweetly innocent tales of a mildly raunchy nature, the kind of fantasies and revelations no one expects from women of this community. Through sharing these stories the dynamics of the group and the people in their sphere  shift and secrets long held begin to be excavated, examined and exorcised

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the lighter parts punctuated by the stories, are balanced rather brilliantly with a much darker and very topical undertone of misogyny and extreme traditionalism, where the need to protect respect and honour veers off into a need to blindly control and coerce.

The characterisation is  vivid and varied and each person has their own distinct voice within the narrative as a whole. What is most refreshing for me  is that none of the women  fall into stereotypes making the plot less predictable and their personal stories  show a commonality  between people who at first seem Pole opposite and culminate in a brilliant act of altruism that warrants much praise.

A strong four star read.
Thanks to netgalley for the ARC via publishers HarperCollins

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Book Review: SHTUM by Jem Lester

SHTUM by Jem Lester.

 I caved to popular pressure on this one. I had heard so many positive comments about the book from The Book Club on Facebook, that veritable melting point of literary readership and authorship, that I finally just had to join the gang?

As ever they were correct. Jem Lester has penned a book that grips hold of you by the throat and does not unfurl those clawed fingers until the final word.

 It seems that for me at least, this is the year of the Autism book. This is perhaps one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to read. It is one of those glorious amalgams of searing emotional impact and laugh out loud humour that make it so easy to immerse oneself in. It touched me and tickled me in equal measure.

On paper, the premise of an alcoholic father Ben, left alone to deal with his severely Autistic Son, whilst living with the acid tongued father  who he feels deliberately left him at arm’s length does not seem very jolly at all. This plight, just to use a legal loophole to get Jonah proper Local Authority Care is just one more thing to add to Ben’s self imposed list of frustrations.

This could have been a very different book, but it is as heartwarming and wryly funny as it is (forgive the pun) Sobering. I laughed out loud several times and can officially announce that George  is my spirit animal, his Hungarian gruff wisdom balm for my continued grief for my own Grandfather whose journey appears to have been very similar to that of George and Maurice, two curmudgeonly old geezers who are Heroes through and through. It is through that refracted grief that I found myself viewing the sadness and loss that this family have to endure.

This is not Jonah’s story Persé, but that of the whole family unit. His suffering is of the moment, but theirs for so many reasons are lingering and destructive and self perpetuating and it is the joint fight on his behalf that ultimately brings clarity and resolution.

This is not a linear story and revelation and explanation continue throughout, which like life itself creates a rich tapestry of threads which when unpicked, reveal a raw, but totally satisfying read that lingers well beyond the final page.