Sunday, 20 August 2017

The City of Mirrors By Justin Cronin

This final book in this behemoth of a novel series was truly a quest. Characters take journeys often with no plan for return. The final confrontation  builds slowly from a false time of peace for our heroes and the ominous "long game "machinations of Fanning begin to come to bear.

As with all quests the heroes have to trudge through a wilderness while the camera shows picturesque vistas.. here there is an interminable middle section where Fanning waxes lyrical, regards his navel and tells you his entire back story ... it seems to go on just a bit longer than comfortable. I know this is a device to make him sympathetic but I found even young Tim a bit obnoxious.

Amy and Fanning  are two sides of the same coin  and here they battle once more for the fate of humanity ... 

Familiar faces Alicia , Peter,Michael Sarah and their broods are like old friends so meeting them again after quite a break, was so nice. Survival , last stands, bravery and sacrifices aplenty keep the action moving and deep at the heart of it all this is a story of deep all encompassing Love , for family, for friends and ultimately soulmates.

This book was exciting, tense, epic  and deeply moving. I had a lump in my throat and a fast beating heart often.

A fitting end!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Strange Magic by Syd Moore

There is a great deal to like in this the first in The Essex Witches Series, not least  a museum featuring the Tragic History of Essex as a hotbed for witchcraft accusations, and an inheritance  from an estranged Grandfather that is not entirely welcomed by both the remaining staff and by the headstrong recipient.

I enjoyed the numerous historical nuggets thrown liberally about to pepper the story with  historical authenticity which made the story feel more important to me as a bit of a feminist that Witchcraft on the whole was all about the subjugation of women who did not comply with masogynistic norms. The obvious passion for the subject from Ms Moore is evident in the careful way the complexities of the case of a real life woman have been woven into this fictional story.

The central characters of Rosie and Sam are complex and interesting and I was more than happy to tag along on this initial mystery with them. The idea of a Benefits Fraud investigator as a protagonist and her ability to read people is a great lead into her more untapped gifts (rather under utilised here sadly) which link her to a darker heritage I liked the slight frisson of sexual tension between them , but I was gratified that is did not become a romance with mysterious magical elements, but rather the opposite. Their interaction and the way their relationship was not quantified made it the more interesting.

The central possession was macabre but perhaps a little tamer than I was expecting, but as a foundational story  for a series, this was exciting enough to secure my further reading. I look forward to more.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

AARU by David Meredith

This review is born of a rare occurrence. I agreed to review without having the slightest inkling about what the book would be about!  I am a risk taker in my old age it seems!

This presented itself as a story about the longevity of self, of the mind and personality and the falability of the physical body  and it seemed to be a subject I could get my teeth into.

I immediately fell into the lives of Rose the terminally sick leaukemia sufferer and the younger sister she leaves grieving for her, when after a valiant battle the disease robs her of life. The boffins at a clandestine neuroscience lab intervene and have warded off true death by mapping and downloading her consciousness and memories into a mainframe that is designed to allow the cognitive and imaginative parts of a person's life to persist when the flesh has failed.

A utopia is forecast, a place where limitations are only due to a lack of imagination or will. Rose arrives and greeted by a kind of guide who teaches her how to utilise her new unbounded potential and  meanwhile her grieving family are offered wealth and comfort in return for acting as advocate for the project to obtain further funding and for that personal advocacy they get to see Rose on a screen from across the divide between physical and metaphysical existence.

The younger sister becomes the beautiful and innocent face of the company, is she being exploited, does the money and interaction with celebrity enough to justify giving her sister  up for the world to goggle at, to debate the morality

David Meredith treads a fine balance this could have been a book about the cerebral and moral arguments of human intelligence and personality versus the idea of  artificial intelligence being a living entity and I think I would have been content with that.  He touches on some of those issues and the first half of the book really did make me ponder, however the second portion of the book veered of into thriller territory.

A shadowy and sickly delusional  character  arrives on the scene and the story becomes a cat and mouse chase when sisters on both  sides of the divide are in equal peril culminating in a frightening reckoning.

There is some light romance and the creativity of the experience AARU universe is a real draw. It is a really interesting premise and there are a lot of  great ideas here.

Some minor issues though, sadly the book was let down by some pretty glaring spelling errors so my hope is that future instalments will be given  slightly more time on the editing and proof reading process as at times the errors took me out of the narrative and I beg Mr Meredith to not give in to the temptation to present a foreign accent phonetically, his Nordic character became strangely Jamaican, whilst other  nationalities accents are left to the reader's imagination! It is an oddity.

I would happily read more and enjoyment overode my subjective quibbles.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Chivalry a Short Story by Neil Gaiman.

This Short Story  from the king of modern British Fantasy was a delight from start to finish!

Neil Gaiman is swiftly becoming one of my very favourite fantasy writers, everything he writes seems to appeal to the whimsy in me!

The little old lady who rather fortuitously finds the Holy Grail in the Oxfam shop is so sweet, her days are bordering on the mundane, reciprocal visits with her friend who brings her own sweetener and the visits to the charity shop to pick up new romances from mills the and boon  stable at bargain prices (Mr Gaiman has heaps of fun on the titles!) all seem to coalesce into one.

The Grail itself is loved not for what it might get her, but for how it augments the shelf where the image of her husband (now passed on) resides.It brings value to her personally so is the more precious

Galahad arrives on a noble white steed on a quest for the cup of Christ but is put to work on the small lonely jobs she might normally have to do alone and despite being offered great treasures, she demurs. She knows what she can make room for in life, it is not great wonders, but ultimately company and someone to take care of.

There is a light Humour at play here that is classic Neil Gaiman, slightly skewed, always exceedingly clever. I loved it.

The experience was enhanced by this version being read by LeVar Burton as part of his new Podcast series of handpicked short fiction. 

LeVar Burton Reads is available on all Podcast platforms and I highly recommend it!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Midnight at the Bright Idea Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

This was not the book I was expecting , but I am very much richer for the experience. This is the story of Lydia a bookseller with a nice boyfriend, with a reasonable apartment in an up and coming part of town. A bibliophile, respected and adored at work, but secretly a piece of human flotsam. Running from a childhood trauma she hides in plain sight with the  “book frogs”, the disenfranchised homeless and friendless who make the bookshop a home away from home.

The death of Joey one of her young regulars by his own hand, there  in the shop where he  and Lydia both had found succour and solace,sets off a chain of events  that will leave Lydia reeling. Joey’s Sudden and rash act whilst in possession  of something he had no earthly business having and the  resulting mysterious messages  seemingly from the grave that he has left for Lydia embedded in books, bring the vivid and terrifying events of another winter night so many years before into vivid relief for Lydia again. 

Lydia and everyone she has sought to avoid or protect are forced into an unavoidable collision, where truths can bring nothing but heartbreak.

I loved this book for its gritty but sympathetic treatment of people kept on the periphery of society. Lydia’s youth was tainted by tragedy, her future is even now foreshadowed because of that and  ultimately no-one truly escapes this story unscathed. The cleverly twisty plot provides a satisfying mystery but also asks the reader to examine  the true nature of cause and effect. The innocent and the guilty are all scalded by the revelations found within.

I was gripped by this story, where nothing is quite what it appears, It is a quest for a catharsis for Lydia. This journey piecing together the tattered remnants of another person’s trauma so intrinsically linked with her own means she is ends up no longer a helpless child  in an adult’s body, but is ultimately a stronger and more emotionally rounded person, ready to embark on life unencumbered by the ominous weight of the past but changed indelibly.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Penguin Random House and author Matthew Sullivan for the privilege of reading this book prior to realease on August the 24th 2017.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Mighty by Michael J Sanford

Subtitle : Book 1 The Druids Guise Trilogy

I found this an absorbing story and I enjoyed the various creatures constructs  and characters very much. I liked the dual realities idea although this first book seemed to move from one to the other in a slightly frenetic way that seemed to interrupt the narrative flow a tiny bit. 

I am not quite sure where it sits in terms of genre, sometimes a little young for a young adult audience, Wyatt seems to be fairly unworldly for a fifteen year old so his innocence in the strangeness of Hagion does not have the degree of contrast that a more considered teen persona might have.

That being said in places  the story is a little old for a  younger child audience, it is heavy on the violent death and has some moderate cursing that would be unsuitable for younger readers.

I am sure  that it will find a niche audience however ,It was a strong foundation for what i think is a very promising series, the action ratchets up at a fair pace as the final third unfolds and the cliffhanger will encourage return readers.

Solid three stars.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

What it means when a man fall from the sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

This is an remarkably clever and layered short story, one of the best I have heard in the series that LeVar Burton has given us in his newest podcast venture. Written by a woman of colour of Nigerian descent writing in the USA. It is a great science fiction story, but leaves you ruminating on all manner of modern  issues.

It is described as speculative fiction, the "what if" something happens that we recognise might occur, but is outside our thinking on the current trajectory of our planet..

Here mathematicians have found a formula for Human flight, mathematicians have also discovered the way to recognise and determine how to literally subtract grief from people who have suffered a loss. 

Fabulous one might say, except that it is only a service offered to the most wealthy or from the most respected members of society. So far so familiar, although the Grief equation idea is fresh and vibrant.

What raises this story head and shoulders above others is the way it turns our prejudices on their head. Europe and America have been decimated by floods, the populations of those continents a refugee class seeking sanctuary on the African and Australasian land masses.

The British  are painted as an aggressively demanding minority, seeking reparation and special treatment,demanding to live together to protect their culture. A insightful and cutting commentary on the West's attitude to immigration.

All of the  accepted human faiths are now defunct only the truth of the infinite formula exists. Creation might be scientific, not from deities or Gods.

It made me sit and think for a long time after the reading was complete. A truly great story for the reader who likes to make up their own mind.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Blog Tour - Two Cousins of Azov by Andrea Bennett

Two Cousins Of Azov by Andrea Bennett

It seems there is  nothing I like  more(at least in my more recent book choices)  than a cantankerous and mysterious older gentleman. This startling change in my reading habits, coupled with a Russian setting to gently call to my own Baltic roots, makes my acceptance of the kind offer to take my place  as a reviewer stop on the Blog Tour for the new book "Two Cousins of Azov" a foregone conclusion

This second book by Andrea Bennett, a new release from Harper Collins turns out to be a very intriguing  blend. 

As the title suggests, this story centres around two cousins whose lives are being thwarted by constraint and confusion, hobbled by fear or guilt .

Gov, a conjuror of a “certain age” is  trying to stage a comeback whilst wearing in a new magician’s assistant. Gov has suddenly got quite a bit on his  hereto somewhat bland plate of late. Without fanfare, he is recently alarmed by several unusual occurrences, the unfortunate demise of a rabbit, an inexplicable loss of a boiled egg and shocking appearance of a face at the window when he is four floors up.

This apparition seems inextricably linked to the florid tales  of Anatolya, a  man with no memory of how he got there, but who is now the near silent inmate of an asylum. He remembers his youth however and it is there that  a naive and mildly self serving young doctor must allow him to begin 
as he delves into a search for the catalyst for the man’s current mental malaise. 

This callow youth’s attempt to cash in academically on the events leading to his recent breakdown and hospitalisation, unlocks speech and his cache of memories.

The gradual revelation of a shared youth in a Soviet  Siberia seems to provide the origin story that  both boys shared of The Moth Boy that ominous and spectral face that is making  poor Gov begin to question his sanity. This is a book about curtains being lifted to the past and truths it reveals.This all set against a brave new world in Russia where the Soviet Block is being dismantled and opportunism vies with traditional values and folklore for the upper hand.

The wide variety of supporting characters seem at first glance, to be extreme and outlandish. They are great fun for the reader. A Somewhat hyperactive children, neighbourhood gossips, hypochondriacs, mediums and underhanded connivers all pepper the tale. Spicing the mix like the ginger in the sweet treats that bring memories and a simple joy to Tolya, these characters bring colour and humorous variety.

Andrea Bennett’s obvious affinity with the Russian people, no doubt stemming from her studies, is used great effect here. The early post Soviet years are drawn with wide streak of grim humour always bubbling at the surface of the story. It is a stoicism typical of those who have seen great suffering with no outlet  for  complaint that even when faced with startling and frankly terrifying events they just get on with the daily grind. A place where a piece of cake is the epitome of joy and contentment.

These larger than life folk actually nestle into a much deeper more intelligently layered story punctuated with sweetly melancholic examination of  the true nature of loneliness. It excavates  the burdens of guilt we place on ourselves after a long and eventful, the realities of ageing and the ethereal nature of the memory. 

Andrea Bennett has written a story that made me smile and chuckle but simultaneously made me very sad too. There is a gentle pathos to the story and I applaud her ability to make a story magical and a little mythical and yet also desperately honest and real. 

I travelled alongside these two extraordinary men, for a while and when I left them, I felt compelled to reaffirm and reinforce my own relationships.

When a book’s signature resonates into my real world so loudly and with such clear tones, I know I have discovered a winner. I can offer no greater praise than this, when the final page was turned, I wished for amnesia so that I might read it again.

Oh and one more thing...

For an extra treat and a chance to recreate a taste of the book in your own kitchen:

Here is a recipe for the delicious cake-like biscuits that Tolya loves so much!

Traditional Russian pryaniki use special mounds and stamps, but don’t let the lack of them stop you from trying to make them yourself: traditional cookie cutters do just as well, as does the rim of a glass.
3-cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon of dry ginger
1/2-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4-teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8-teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 knob of fresh ginger:  finely grated
1-cup granulated sugar
1-cup of honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of lemon zest

1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and thick.
3. Gently heat the honey and ginger in double boiler until warmed through. 
4. Stir the honey and vanilla into the beaten egg mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients to form stiff dough. 
5. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Make the icing:  combine confectioner sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together until smooth.  Set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the tack in the middle of the oven.  Butter or grease two cookie sheets.
8. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1cm thickness.   
9. Cut the cookies to roughly 5cm diameter, depending on the shape and cutters you use.
10. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets at 5cm intervals.  Bake for 9 minutes; rotate the sheet, then bake for an additional 9 minutes (total 18 minutes or until the cookies are just golden).
11. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the tray, and then transfer them to a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes.  
12. Glaze cookies with icing.

Priyanogo Appetita!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

YA Fiction - Netgalley Review

I must start this review by simply stating that this is perhaps one of the best YA books of it’s type I have ever read. Here the emotions are truthful and raw without being mawkish. The story approaches loss and grief in such a way that rather than going for the “big weep” as I like to call it, it is more a process of repetitive cracking and solidifying like an ice flow, those fissures creating weaknesses that might be forced open at the slightest pressure of the ocean below.

Juniper is a marvellous character and I loved her unconditionally.  Her love for her sister and theguilt she feels over her own emotional outburst that is the catalyst for her search -not only for answers about her sister’s secret, but her own perceived culpability in her sister’s death, made her desperately relatable to me.

Her previous relationships and  friendships are fragile and brittle, but the collection of outliers she draws close during her personal journey are the seasoning to this glorious ragout. I fell in love with each of them, the dreamers, the thinkers, the geeks and the rebels in any other setting would seem to be overused tropes but here they became vital and fresh additions. There might have been a love triangle, but Julie Israel never allows her Male protagonists to become truly adversarial which for me is such a boon particularly in a genre where this device has been overused.

The book never allows the reader to know the identity of The Secret love, but this reader has her own ideas about the person Camie might have loved.. the bravery of leaving the question unanswered is a master stroke, in the same way that grief cannot be dealt with uniformly,there are no definitives in love either. We know that Camie’s message is conveyed and that brings peace.

Overall this book was a delight and made me very happy that I shared those chaotic mysterious months with Juniper.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred

This is a simple book unadulterated by stylistic twiddles or literary device. It is a love letter to trees and the natural world as a whole. These are the  stories of the monster trees that James climbs to prepare the way for and assist National History filmmakers get the very best vantage points for their programmes.

 James endures weather and even insect infestation of his very flesh to climb these dangerous trees,so that masters of Natural History such as the Greatest TV naturalist alive, Mr David Attenborough himself!

It is a book of  passionate dedication and the pure joy he experiences when in the canopy. It was a glorious book for anyone who loves to travel vicariously and see the wonders of the world from above.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Kin - a short story by Bruce McCallister

This rather wonderful discovery Is  thanks to the brand new endeavour "read by Levar Burton " in his new Short story podcast which seeks to replicate for adult readers the success of his Reading Rainbow series... Think Jackanory in the U.K.

This inaugural story is simple really, young boy calls on Alien assassin to deal with the man who wants to murder his sister and the ensuing relationship between boy and otherworldly visitor.

For such a short tale it packs in a really good chunk of science fiction in a sophisticated and believable way. The existence of aliens is accepted by humanity, in fact school curriculum involves extra terrestrial history and social study. More sinister than this however  is the idea that population control is part of life and choice is no longer the everyday woman's prerogative but that of Government and big business.

There is a hefty emotional punch too, the final paragraphs create a warm and fuzzy glow, more surprising for what was gritty and visceral at the outset. A thoroughly immersive half hour.

The Postcard by Fern Britton

The Postcard by Fern  Britton

This being my first book by Fern I was not sure what to expect. Having now read the book and read the blurbs of other books by her, I see that this setting is a firm favourite and I can see why as the village and the surrounding environs are delightful.

The motley crew of characters all have distinct voices and personalities and create a cosy and encompassing group into which the individual trials of our main four protagonists fit. That support network is necessary as these somewhat lost souls find their place and to some extent themselves.

I have to admit that I found Penny a little bit jarring in the early part of the book, her behaviour seemed extreme despite the ultimate revelation that explained it to a degree. However this is an ensemble piece and the good very much outweighed what is really a very small and subjective quibble!

I would read more and most certainly probably before much more  time passes.

Darien - ( Empire of Salt 1 ) by C.F. Iggulden

Darien (Empire of Salt book 1)

What a fabulous book from the consummate Historical Saga expert Conn Iggulden, this is a much more whimsical affair of course where magic and Millitary Might meld in equal measure. We are dropped into a world run by twelve ruling families with a nominal head who takes on the role of head of state. This fragile hierarchy is balanced precariously and this book, the first in the Empire of Salt series begins with that hold unravelling after a military coup.

The action revolves around a core group of ordinary folk who turn out to be rather extraordinary and whose personal journeys begin to impact and drive the destinies of the others. The richness of the dynasties are evidence of Conn’s mastery of a long historical view and the battle which takes up the final third of the book is indicative of his skill in military matters.

It is in the addition of the more fantastical elements that makes this sword and sorcery romp so light and frothy. The plot clips along at a fair old pace and the characters are likeable and irksome where necessary.

I thoroughly enjoy it!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Olive Harvest by Carol Drinkwater

The Olive Harvest.

Through some awful accident I have managed to read the third in the trilogy before the second and for that reason I am loathe to provide even a hint of what the story reveals in terms of timeline to those who( more cleverly  than I) ,can actually count years in order and are reading the books chronologically.

Instead I can passionately and unreservedly say that this  book like the 'The Olive Farm' before it,is a true sensory gift. I am a recent convert to these kinds of books. As I hit my late thirties I seemed to have been seeking, even vicariously a simpler and yet richer experience and Carol has provided the most perfect window into that. In fact I think she has probably spoiled me for other authors!

That is not to say that life on the farm was idyllic or perfect by any means and this book in particular reveals some really dark times, where landscape and Mother Nature herself brought down an ominous weight to the story.  It is in contrast though with this darker examination of the land that she loves, that the joys of life are shown more starkly with a sheer brilliance and clarity that burns into the reader's imagination and remains indelibly etched.

To say that Carol writes beautifully about the natural world  is like saying Shakespeare wrote passable plays. Carol has an incredible talent for descriptions of nature at it's most tranquil and delicately exquisite. At the same time though, she exposes the harshness, the raw power and the bitter truths that reliance on the land and the need for balance and sacrifice for the greater good can reap in one's soul. These too achingly beautiful in their ferocity.

The country people we encounter, the familiar faces and those revealed anew in this third book are realists and stalwarts they have seen it all before and despite several years in situ, Carol was still a newcomer, an innocent and naive of the realities of some areas, the steeling of resolve that is needed to make the hardest decisions and it is her struggles to maintain her principles but be true to the traditions and unspoken rules that have made the time honoured Olive industry so enduring is another interesting facet to a story that truly is about love, the deepening of bonds, the spreading of roots and the joy of seeing the smallest thing grow and thrive  as a reason to celebrate life as a whole.

I adored this book and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried some gentle tears at it's final paragraphs. I suggest you settle down somewhere where flowers grow, perhaps next to your herb garden or lavender bush and just immerse yourself for a while, then pause to see the beauty of your own environs, drink in the scents and sounds and then read on. You will not regret it.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Inevitably this book is going to be compared with The God of Small Things, I think people will either love or hate it, I personally found it to be a deeply textured and thought provoking read. I do not generally précis books in my reviews and this book is so densely packed with brilliantly observed characters that to attempt to distil them down would be a disservice to the skilled weaver of tales that is Ms Roy.

What I can  say is this is a deeply personal book, much as Small Things was before it and that despite certain political leanings, that it is a heartbreaking and interesting examination of conflicts that remain even into modern day between Pakistan and India through the prism of several normal folk who are on the fringes of society. It is a vibrant story, written in beautiful prose even when approaching matters of violence, discrimination and degradation.

Ultimately I left the story feeling uplifted and positive about the human condition and equally entertained and educated about a volatile and intriguing area of the globe.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - REVISITED

I am a proud Dystopian book fan and I think I can categorically say that Margaret Atwood is a prophetic Genius.

Having read The Handmaid's Tale when I was nineteen, given to me by a dear friend who has taught me much  about feminist issues,  the specifics evaded me so after the much lauded Television adaptation hit UK shores, I thought I would revisit the book. My pervading memory from my callow youth was one of  mild outrage at the treatment of women as baby vessels in a distant future, but in actual fact the book is far more disturbing  and infinitely more nuanced.

I am a childless woman entering the age group  when women loose the potential to conceive or carry to term so this now is a much more faceted story for me personally.

Offred is a brilliant central character, she is the epitome of modern woman actively rebelling against efforts to turn women into classifications and destroying every possible way for expressing individuality.  She is a valuable commodity. She has proven fecundity and yet her own child is used as a weapon of manipulation and yet she herself exploits her position as a protected asset and higher in the strata than poor barren women.

The ruling class seemingly powerful are in actual fact beholden to the circadian  and hormonal rhythms of chattels.

However  Offred is not a activist she is a realist,  she knows her room for manoeuvre is limited,which makes her more relatable than her younger modern counterparts Tris and Katniss.

This is not science fiction or Dystopian fantasy, this is modern day global reality showcased in a chilling and resonant story written with a sparse  prose that is at once at once starkly bleak and yet described with such brilliant eye for sensory detail. The use of colour to show rank and standing, the lack of any kind of humanising by the manner of address to the Handmaid's are all brilliant devices to create divides and boundaries to prevent transgressions which might topple what when examined from the reader's outside eye,  is  a somewhat  vulnerable ruling class.

Fear is created through mis informaion and omission and the acceptance of the change for the "Better Good "in the early stage of this patriarchal coup is one of the most disturbing elements.  It is common knowledge that When the book was penned Atwood drew on reserves of knowledge of civil injustices already happening across the globe, but reading the book in 2017 is an even more sobering activity.

Whatever your side of the political spectrum it is hard to avoid the correlations between modern day Pro-lifers in the USA or the teachings of Al Qaeda and Isis, even to some degree the treatement of disabled children in parts of Africa where the weak are deemed devils and destroyed by witch doctors.

What I find most interesting and telling is that even moderate countries are veering into what Atwood cites as triggers for the changes. Women are sold and exchanged on the black market as sex slaves and servants even in modern London and the digitising of finances and the decline of physical currencies all provide a similar Petrie dish for the  more enterprising fanatical puritan group.

This book is a Tour De Force and Margaret Atwood  a literary trailblazer.

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.


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!