Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


I am very much a believer that a TVs adaptation can never do a book justice, so when a TV show affects me as much as this one did I have to go to the source material.

The book was certainly traumatic and my mind was filled with anger and  sadness that so many small acts could end in such a way, but I found the book to be somehow less than what I expected. There was no real resolution after such a traumatic evening, Clay seems almost numb, there was no confrontation, no reaction and for me worst of all no consequence.

The acceptance that this was like a documentary, just a linear explanation with no punishment to be meted or culpability owned up to ,just frustrated me and in a way made me less sure that the book would be a positive thing to inform parents or those teens  in the throes of dark times. The show seemed to be more dynamic and thought provoking because it actually showed the horrendous fallout both from the seemingly small acts of selfishness, wilful ignorance or straight out arrogance that led to Hannah's death and the effect that the revelations on the tapes had on those thirteen individuals and Hannah's parents.

Good but not great.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith.

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This is so much more than your average tale of unrequited love between two childhood friends. Suddenly one has the capacity to do whatever he pleases, will they be torn apart as the shared experiences of childhood become overshadowed by endless possibility, can friendships survive such a life changing event?

This is a book that actually packs in a whole heap of themes in one deliciously bite sized portion. I read it in one tremendous gulp and enjoyed it immensely.

Ms Smith has managed to write a wonderfully entertaining story with a trio of central characters that are so thoroughly likeable and relatable that I was disappointed to leave them. At it's heart we see people already at a crossroads in their lives even before the lottery Jackpot muddies the water. Can they let go of the legacy that hard childhoods have dealt them, dare they make the decisions that will change their lives forever and set them potentially on wildly differing pasts, can young love survive or even be kindled when life is so unpredictable rather like the odds of winning the lottery.

The windfall of the title immediately becomes a catalyst for the examination of every aspect of their lives, their fears, their losses and their regrets. It becomes a symbol of potential and of paths to be taken. It becomes a burden and a boon.

It is a hopeful and positive story that left me feeling lifted and convinced that the world is filled with promise and in today's day and age, that can be no bad thing. Just living  Life is the biggest win of all and Love and true friendship the only real jackpot to desire!




Saturday, 20 May 2017

Phenomena - The Lost and Forgotten Children by Susan Tarr


It is hard to put into words how much this book affected me. It is a book that transports, educates and makes you think . As I read I found it hard  not to be infuriated by the injustices of the treatment of those with mental health conditions and the fear and dread that "difference" seems to instill in the human heart.

At the heart of the Story is Malcolm, a inmate/patient of a New Zealand institution for the mentally ill. Here the vulnerable live together in a strange melting pot of archaic treatments, friendships forged and mysteries unravelled.

Malcolm was incarcerated as a child and a rehabilitation process has succeeded in allowing him to live in a halfway house of sorts, where an awful tragedy sends him reeling back into his own black fog and an untimely return to the only home he truly has ever known.

The truths of his story are gradually revealed as he claws his way through the fog of distorted memory caused by emotional trauma and the use of  the ECT  treatment that is in it's infancy.

Malcolm's determination to remember and order his thoughts is  the thread that binds this story and his inate  personal curiosity allows him to be the  conduit for the stories of other poor souls who orbit him at the hospital.

Despite the squalor, the brutality and the tragedy of these people being sequestered away,out of sight and out of mind, there is a beautiful dignity to the subjects of these stories, sadness mixes with small mercies and kindnesses and humanity in all it's forms exists within the community of those left to fester behind closed doors.

There is something so sad about reading a book where people suffering easily identifiable mental conditions are treated uniformly as lunatics, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Post Partum Depression,  and some physical disability and even to some degree,just simple grief all play a part in the condition of these people who were sent away, to be hidden so as not to distress the "Normal People" outside.

That this story is based on the real life patients of a real institution makes it doubly resonant. It seems historically accurate and is  written with an honesty that does not sugar coat, but celebrates the complexity of the human mind, but also the greatness of the human spirit.

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the care of the vulnerable in our society.  It is a hopeful book about those who might have been lost to our sight forever had not Ms Tarr excavated their tales into such stark but beautiful relief.

Easy five stars.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant



This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for some time. It has been languishing on my kindle for months,but after the  news that a television mini series would be shown here in the U.K.   I dragged it to the top of my To Be Read pile. To my shame I have to admit I watched  the Tv show first!

However a novelisation of the life of Dinah, known to Christians as the sister of Joseph (He of the dream coat) and daughter of Jacob was just too intriguing to only allow the screen to tell her story. She is a victim of rape and a forced marriage in the Bible and the reason for a massacre  that creates the fissures in the family that leads to Joseph's exile into Egypt but here in this story reveals a worthy heroine.

This is not a bible story, this is a life story imagined in a world where the Patriarchal WORD OF GOD lives in harmony with ancient goddesses of fertility and fecundity. The lunar cycle and the power of women are showcased under the fabric of a tent where women hold court,are honest and unfettered in their speech and opinion.

It is a story of sibling jealousies of a motherhood shared amongst sister-wives and the joys and heartbreaks of  childbirth . Dinah is strong woman who always forges her own path and this was a really enjoyable reimagining of a woman who was merely a side note. Her story is entwined with but mainly runs parallel to that of Jacob and his sons and for my part is just as interesting.

Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge by Bolton Herndon

Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge is the authorised Biography of an extraordinary man. Desmond Doss is the subject of the recent critically acclaimed movie about a conscientious objector who despite never picking up a service weapon managed more feats of bravery and heroism in the field of battle than is believable when you examine how often he placed himself in harm’s way in the service of his fellows.  At face value this is a relatively simply written  book for military enthusiasts, fans of the books of Stephen .E  Ambrose will find it informative and battle packed. The prose is not lyrical, but a group of Concise depictions of actions that Doss was involved in  but it was still a wonderful story.   The movie has obviously been adapted for dramatic purposes as the ill treatment of his platoon was not as blatant and violent as depicted there. He soon earned their trust and respect even before he hit foreign soil because of his application of the idea of others before himself.

He was however heavily penalised for his religious observance of the Sabbath on a Saturday and it was this prejudice that caused him the most consternation . For me it is the vein of dogged faith and belief in the Will of God (and the seemingly miraculous close shaves and near misses that grew  from that unshakeable faith) that intrigued me. Desmond became a hero to me as a man, not as a soldier. His Seventh Day Adventist heritage and his legacy to other non- combative soldiers in later conflicts fascinated me. He was a beacon to those who honoured country, but was held accountable by a higher cause.  Many of the contributors to the account were members of the SDA church who put peace and service before self who honour Desmond for his lifelong service to those beliefs,their support for one of their own is clear throughout  his story .

I was pleased the book delved a little into his later life although I was much saddened to read of his health issues, many of which stemmed from his own lack of self -preservation when others were in need. In a world where media creates stars for notoriety rather than worth, this was a humbling story about a meek man with the hugest heart and a warrior’s spirit, one I am pleased History has remembered both on screen and page.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Summer with the Country Village Vet by Zara Stoneley


This is exactly the kind of book I need when the British Weather is a bit hit and miss, the kind of halcyon British Summer we all crave.

This was like a lovely big hug with a fluffy towel after a warm bath.

What is often called the "Meet Cute" can often seem contrived to get the two potential  lovers together quicker than natural relationships develop  but it is dealt with adeptly here. Despite a chemical attraction, the voracity of that is kept in check by the belief that the other will be  leaving the village after both return to a village life  after different personal difficulties. Both hold back so as not to get embroiled in more complexity.

Lucy and Charlie are nicely matched in the book both in the plot and the amount of time the reader gets to see their points of view as the story progresses. Both troubled by their own personal demons , they are good hearted and kind and perfectly suited to their careers and it was the vet and Primary School Teacher roles that really drew me to this book in the first place..

I love a village setting, it is what draws me to my police detectives, Marple and Barnaby  being prime examples so I was intrigued and delighted to meet the inhabitants of Langtry Meadows. I was not disappointed as the cast of characters are varied, and endearing, the setting familiar enough to feel comfortable, but fresh and authentic too, so whilst the book is a tried and tested formula, it never becomes staid or stale.

Thee are plenty of fun vignettes  with the little humans and feathered, furred  and scaled citizens which will be enjoyed by fans of Herriot and Gervaise Phinn, a book still worth settling down with even if you are jaded by tales of romance. This book was thoroughly enjoyable, wonderfully constructed tale of secrets discovered, sacrifice and hearts mending, oh and Geese!

Many thanks  to Zara and the Publisher for the privilege of reading it.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Jungle by Pooja Puri


The Jungle is a book about one of the most troubling issues affecting huge swathes of the World today, the movement of thousands of souls trying to escape poverty, despots or  early death in the direct path of armed conflict.

What makes this book all the more important is that this is a book written for children and young Adults about Children.  Set in The Jungle, the squalid camp  in Calais where the refugees from many war torn regions congregated in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom, this is the story of a young boy as he waits for something, anything at all , to change to allow him to escape to England.

This is an unflinching examination of the duality of existence in a refugee camp, within spitting distance of the civilised lives of French neighbours and yet people are  cramped in crude tents, fighting boredom, discrimination and each other to stay alive but fighting too to stay  themselves, striving to be individuals in a crowd. A feat in itself for adults, you might think, but even harder for children.

Pooja Puri does a tremendous job in avoiding morality judgements or political bias, she just delivers a startling vignette in the lives of two children brought together in adversity, trying to be adults, dealing with brutality and deprivation years before their time, living on hope and bravado. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.