Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Chroma- Imogen's Secret by B .Fleetwood. Review.

What a revelation, a  children's fantasy grounded in the  Present Day and the Present Day UK at that.

Anyone who has popped over to my sister blog 

will know that the idea of emotions being read through the medium of colours is an idea close to my heart, but this book, the first in a series, takes that premise to a whole new level. And knocks my little effort into a cocked hat.

I do not want to give away plot, but suffice to say that Imogen's gift and the origins of it will keep you reading from first page to last. 

The story is fast paced, the mythology  and rules of the world(s) Imogen inhabits are solid and intriguing and the romantic elements seem authentic and not forced unlike many of the stories written for younger readers. 

Suffice to say this older reader was equally enthralled by the tale. There is enough tension and mystery in the plot to ensure that readers who pick up this book will thirst to read the next. No one is quite who they seem which makes Imogen's particular skill so central to the narrative .

It is beautifully written with the colour motifs being excellently utilised to represent every facet of human emotion and mood. This attention to fine detail lifts the story into a richer and more cohesive piece that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I happily offer five stars

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Fingers in the Sparkle jar by Chris Packham

I am of a certain age, my childhood viewing was dominated by two things Mr Phillip Schofield  in his pre-greyfox days and the rather interesting spiky hair stylings of one Chris Packham, a young man whose sheer exuberance probably inspired a million child naturalists.

Thanks to the good people at Netgalley, I am privileged to have been given the opportunity to read this memoir by the naturalist best known now for Autumn watch and Spring watch.

This is not a comfortable read by any means, there is a choppiness to the narrative that takes a little bit of getting used to but it is worth the effort. The story of this vulnerable and fragile soul is told often by incidental bystanders, neighbours , shop staff , all the adults whose spheres this rather otherworldly child might have passed through. Often a figure in the distance, always a little too earnest for adults not yet familiar with the (and I hate to use this term) Autism spectrum.

Young Chris is like a much much more intense version of a young Gerald Durrell, a room filled with jars, carcasses and bones, an unlimitless desire to learn and watch every living thing, to see things closer, to exist in the same space as all the wonders of nature is brilliantly demonstrated in the vignettes that make up the book.  His passion is fascinating and the enthusiasm we see on our screens today and what endeared me to Chris back in my childhood, is evident in every description of a fall of light on a leaf or the scents and sounds of the wonders he catalogues and researches with such meticulous attention to detail.

The description of the relationship between the kestrel and Chris is some of the most beautiful writing I have seen in a while. Boy and bird have a symbiosis that just leaps off the page.

What makes this book a little bit sobering , is the distinct emotional disconnect that appears  to have delineated the isolation that seems to have dogged Chris' formative years. The book made me sad and uncomfortable but Chris's story is compelling.

The tragic meeting of circumstances that led to Chris's suicide attempt is still a little bit nebulous, but the bravery it took to expose this part of his life is astounding. In fact the searing honesty that is evident on every page, the unflinching way he reveals himself is what makes this memoir all the more affecting. Where perhaps Chris lacks in what "normal folk" might consider empathy, his acceptance of the condition is what actually makes Chris extraordinary and his book so memorable.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Book Review: Then, Now Always by Isabelle Broom

Having enjoyed Isabelle Broom's previous novel which was set in Prague, I had very high hopes about this offering set in Andalusia. I was not disappointed, Ms Bloom is extremely skilled in evoking the sensual delights of the settings of her novels and here the flavours and scents of Spain provide a wonderfully sensual experience to the reading of the novel.

The relationships explored whilst on a location shoot in the Spain of the holidays of her teenage years are as tangy and complex as the Sangria served in the quaint bars of heroine Hannah's Memory. We have plenty to get involved in here, we have the crush (unrequited ) on the older more sophisticated boss, a glamourous French ingenue, the stalwart best friend who has been around so long that perhaps she is taking him for granted?

Into this mix comes the mysterious British woman who has made the area home for forty years and the step -Sister whose presence in her life has caused Hannah much consternation and resentment at home, so this invasion of her perfect idyll and her interest in best pal Tom are the ultimate betrayals.

This is a glorious story, rather more than a sun, sea aand romance novel. It is  brilliantly nuanced and beautiful whilst still treading familiar  romantic waters so that  it is the book that will  happily grace any lounger next the pool this Summer, and I suspect, brighten a dull day in autumn just as beautifully. With an ending that travels rather differently that I first suspected it might, the story becomes more about Hannah discovering truths about herself rather than a pure romance fantasy, giving the book much more breadth.

I cannot reccomend this any higher than to  simply say I found myself missing Spain the moment I finished and yet I have never myself set foot on it's shores.

Then.Now.Always. Is Published on 20th of April by Penguin U.K. -Michael Joseph

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Book Review: Kate and The Kid by Anne Rothman-Hicks

I thoroughly enjoyed this book...right up until the ending that I found really rushed and a little bit unsatisfactory, but that is testament to the way characters grew on me and I was invested in their evolution within the narrative, there were several strands of the story that needed more development and resolution particularly the fate of The Kid who was the star of the story. 

I was left with more questions than answers, which is sad as it was shaping up to be a corker! In this case I did not want my imagination to have to fill in the gaps.

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!