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!

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.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse - Review

Whenever I hear about a Amanda Prowse book, the reviewers tend to use the terms, heartbreaking or tear jerking. There is no denying that she is an accomplished writer of what is broadly termed Family Dramas and can certainly harness the essence of the Human Condition in all manner of family settings.

I am certain "The Idea Of You "will join the ranks of her most adored books.

Without giving  too much away, the recent media coverage of  Amanda's own tragic miscarriage  Story has added another dimension to my experience of this story of a loving and devoted couple and the children that never quite made it into this world.

The family dynamic here is all important, this is a story of many strands and about so  much more than pregnancies wished for. The complexity of a modern family is depicted here with a stark honesty and the plot itself evolves too with revelations and developments coming thick and fast.

Whilst it is emotionally ravaging, the story never sinks to mawkishness. The emotions are honest, sometimes unvarnished, always authentic.

The  Idea of You hits you right in the solar plexus, it is written in strong relatable voice which resonates and remains with the reader long after the final page;prompting many questions about the trials of motherhood both realised and thwarted alike but leaving you with a hopeful glow at it's end.

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